FACT CHECK: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘If You Want Something You’ve Never Had, You Must Be Willing To Do Something You’ve Never Done’?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims that founding father Thomas Jefferson said, “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

Verdict: False

There is no evidence Jefferson said or wrote the statement. His estate at Monticello labels it a “spurious quotation.”

Fact Check:

Jefferson served as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, the first secretary of state and the nation’s second vice president prior to becoming president. During his presidency, he brokered the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, doubling the size of the U.S.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which maintains his estate at Monticello, keeps a running list of “spurious quotations” frequently attributed to the nation’s third president. A quick internet search revealed that the saying ascribed to Jefferson in the Facebook post appears on that list.

“This quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson,” wrote Anna Berkes, a research librarian at Monticello, in a 2013 entry. (RELATED: Did Thomas Jefferson Say, ‘Nothing Can Stop The Man With The Right Mental Attitude From Achieving His Goal?’)

The Daily Caller didn’t find any record of Jefferson ever saying or writing the expression either. It appears nowhere in his writings nor his collected correspondence.

The quote has been attributed to Jefferson since at least 2012, according to Berkes.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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