FACT CHECK: Did Thomas Jefferson Say ‘Those Who Hammer Their Guns Into Plows Will Plow For Those Who Do Not’?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

A viral Facebook post shared over 500 times claims founding father Thomas Jefferson once said, “Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.”

Verdict: False

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

Fact Check:

Two mass shootings occurred in one week — one on March 16 in Atlanta, Georgia that left eight people dead and one on March 22 in Boulder, Colorado that left 10 dead, according to The New York Times.

Since those shootings, there has been a renewed debate on gun control, with some social media users sharing quotes about guns that are allegedly from the founding fathers. This particular March 24 Facebook post claims Jefferson said, “Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.”

There is, however, no record of Jefferson authoring the statement attributed to him in the post. A search of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson did not yield any similar or matching phrases. Neither did a search of his collected letters and quotes. (RELATED: Did Thomas Jefferson Say That Citizens Are ‘Obligated’ To Obey Unjust Laws?)

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which maintains his estate at Monticello, has an encyclopedia that keeps track of quotes falsely attributed to Jefferson. The foundation labeled the statement as a “spurious quotation.”

“We have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote, ‘Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not,’ or any of its variations,” research librarian Anna Berks wrote in 2015.

Etymologist Barry Popik also wrote in an April 2013 blog post that Jefferson “never said” the quote, finding that the expression likely originated from or is a variation of a quote in the Bible’s Book of Isaiah. It has been incorrectly attributed to Jefferson since at least 2007, according to Popik’s research.

Falsely attributed quotations, including the one in the Facebook post, were used by Washington state lawmakers in a 2016 gun-rights bill, according to The News Tribune.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to clarify the media source in the final paragraph

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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