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Fact check

Dear Editor:

Regarding your letter to the editor last week entitled “Republic,” and to my point about your “D” in Civics, please, Mr. Cotton, if you are going to cherry-pick quotes to back up your finger-pointing and arguments for why you think Town Council should keep power out of the hands of the town residents, and why you think people exercising their rights under the law is “mob rule,” do your homework.

The desperation of your opposition to the Reservoir Hill ballot alone should be reason enough for people on the fence to vote yes.

From the Jefferson Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia:

Your quote, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49 percent.”

Variations:

1. “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”

2. “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

Sources consulted: Searching on the phrase “mob rule.”

1. Monticello website.

2. Ford’s Works of Thomas Jefferson.

3. UVA EText Jefferson Digital Archive: Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, Thomas Jefferson on Politics and Government, Texts by or to Thomas Jefferson from the Modern English Collection.

4. Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress.

5. Retirement Papers.

6. Quotable Jefferson.

7. Bartleby.com: Quotations.

Earliest known appearance in print: 2004[1][2].

Other attributions: None known.

Status/Result: We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49 percent” or any of its listed variations. We do not know the source of this statement’s attribution to Thomas Jefferson.

Footnotes

1. Ken Schoolland, The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey (Cape Town, South Africa: Leap Publishing, 2004), 235. PDF version available online.

2. To establish the earliest appearance of this phrase in print, the following sources were searched for the phrase, “democracy is nothing more than mob rule”: Google Books, Google Scholar, Amazon.com, Internet Archive, America’s Historical Newspapers, American Broadsides and Ephemera Series I, Early American Imprints Series I and II, Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, American Periodicals Series Online, JSTOR.

Ann Bubb

This story was posted on April 18, 2013.
  • Doug

    Nice work Ann!!!