Surprise, Surprise: Rand Paul Has A Fake Thomas Jefferson Quote Problem
Kentucky senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul’s first two books contain several statements falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures, Buzzfeed reported.
Records from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation indicate that “there is no evidence” Jefferson was responsible for five statements Paul included in his work, and that two other statements were taken out of context.
For example, Paul claimed to cite Jefferson while criticizing the Patriot Act in his 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.
“This sort of invasiveness is also precisely the reason we have a Second Amendment protecting our right to keep and bear arms,” he wrote at the time. “Or as Jefferson wrote ‘The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.'”
But according to the Jefferson Foundation, “this quotation has not been found in any of the writings of Thomas Jefferson,” though it is allegedly often paired with the phrase, “No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms,” which is taken from his draft of the Virginia state constitution.
Paul explains his opposition to the Affordable Care Act in the same book in part by stating, “When Thomas Jefferson wrote that a ‘government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have,’ he could have easily been referencing Obamacare.”
The foundation noted that, while the quote has appeared in print as far back as 1953, it was not attributed to Jefferson — erroneously — until 2005.
“Neither this quotation nor any of its variant forms has been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson,” the foundation stated, adding that it “became a popular saying among Republican politicians” after being copyrighted in 1957 by the General Features Corporation.
According to Buzzfeed, Paul also mischaracterized a statement by Benjamin Franklin in not only that book, but his follow-up, Government Bullies.
“Who’s to say the Tea Party won’t become the government’s next target under the PATRIOT Act?” Paul stated in the first book. “Benjamin Franklin once wrote, ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,’ and Americans who continue to support unconstitutional intrusions into the private lives of their fellow citizens will inevitably learn the same lesson.”
But, as NPR reported this past March, Franklin’s words are frequently taken out of context, since he was writing in support of defense spending and taxation in a dispute between Pennsylvania lawmakers and relatives of the Penn family, the “proprietary family of the Pennsylvania colony.”
“The legislature was trying to tax the Penn family lands to pay for frontier defense during the French and Indian War,” Brookings Institute senior fellow Benjamin Wittes told NPR. “And the Penn family kept instructing the governor to veto. Franklin felt that this was a great affront to the ability of the legislature to govern. And so he actually meant purchase a little temporary safety very literally. The Penn family was trying to give a lump sum of money in exchange for the General Assembly’s acknowledging that it did not have the authority to tax it.”
The senator has also attributed the following statement to George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force … Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” However, editors at the Yale Book of Quotations have stated that there is no evidence that Washington ever made the “undoubtedly apocryphal” quote.
Paul has come under criticism for his sourcing before. MSNBC host Rachel Maddowridiculed him on-air in October 2013 after portions of one of his speeches appeared to have been copied from the Wikipedia page for the film Gattaca.
He later blamed the criticism on “haters,” without mentioning Maddow by name.