Is this a real quote?

I saw it on a t-shirt: “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” - Thomas Jefferson

That doesn’t sound like something that was written in the eighteenth century. I looked it up online and I’ve seen it attributed to Jefferson. But it’s also attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan.

Does anyone know if any politician actually said this or was it just made up by some ad department?

President Gerald Ford’s address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974.

Yup, it was Ford.

And that’s why he was a Ford, not a Lincoln.

Pity. I was looking forward to having a T-shirt made, attributing this quote to “anonymous T-shirt company employee.”

Actually, that quote was probably written by Robert T. Hartmann, the speechwriter for Gerald Ford. But Ford was the one who said it to Congress.

Next, on Dead Founding Fathers Puppet Theatre, we’ll have the corpse of John Adams expound on the evils of Obamacare.

On of my pet peeves is people who spout “great” quotes that are wrongly attributed or just plain wrong. The most annoying one for me is Franklin’s “liberty” quote.

Well, now that it’s been typed out it’s a real quote, isn’t it?

Actually, it’s a fairly inept statement no matter who said, or says, it. Any government, no matter how too small to give one anything one needs, is still big enough to take everything through the application of superior force.

Even to take money from hard-working tax-payers and give it to parasitic government propagandists such as political speech-writers…

If anything, this is a nihilist anarchic call to have no government whatsoever. Not even the tea-partiers are that stupid.

This one?:

Yeah. Many people leave out the words “essential” and “a little temporary” to try to make it fit almost any scenario.

Here’s what you do for the t-shirt:

“‘A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.’ - Thomas Jefferson”

I always liked the version that goes, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have. Of course, so are six guys with guns and a truck”.

I like that. You’d really learn who pays attention around you.

Or the “My country, right or wrong” quote. There’s actually two versions of the original, both of which have been truncated.

The first was Stephen Decater, who said, “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be right; but our country, right or wrong.” The later version was Carl Schurz, who said, “Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.”

You’ll notice in that both men refered to “our country” not “my country”. And more importantly, both men qualified their support - they weren’t offering blind loyalty that implied right or wrong were equal alternatives. Decatur and Schurz both knew we’re supposed to fix wrongs not accept them.

Or as someone put it, read it as “my mother, drunk or sober.”

Sadly, there’s plenty of this around. Last year on this Board I tracked down the source of a quote from Sarah Palin. She attributed it to Plato (admittedly not a founding father), but it clearly was not, and I finally traced it to an obscure religious writer from a century ago.
Of less moment, the quote frequently attributed to Franklin that “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” doesn’t appear among his writings, despite the fact that I saw a T-shirt with it for sale at a National Historic Site last weekend.

Too many places on the internet collect such spurious quotes without checking on them. It’s not that the internet is worse about this than books were (lotsa incorrect quotes in books, too), but they make it easier to spread the misinformation around.

What does appear in B. Franklin’s quotes is the following, which I kinda like and think bears repeating in its entirety…

*We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

To confirm still more your piety and gratitude to Divine Providence, reflect upon the situation which it has given to the elbow. You see (Figures 1 and 2) in animals, who are intended to drink the waters that flow upon the earth, that if they have long legs, they have also a long neck, so that they can get at their drink without kneeling down. But man, who was destined to drink wine, must be able to raise the glass to his mouth. If the elbow had been placed nearer the hand (as in Figure 3), the part in advance would have been too short to bring the glass up to the mouth; and if it had been placed nearer the shoulder, (as in Figure 4) that part would have been so long that it would have carried the wine far beyond the mouth. But by the actual situation, (represented in Figure 5), we are enabled to drink at our ease, the glass going exactly to the mouth. Let us, then, with glass in hand, adore this benevolent wisdom; – let us adore and drink!* - It’s in a letter written circa 1779 while Franklin was in Paris.

Hmmm…does this mean ol’ BF was an advocate of intelligent design?