Reclaim America Now Motto Is Falsely Attributed To Thomas Jefferson

On November 19, Larry Klayman’s Reclaim America Now engaged in a “second American revolution” protest. The goal of the protest was to force Obama, Reid and Boehner out of office. Obviously, they didn’t succeed.

Lots of tea party people attended the rally and the organizers and speakers wrapped themselves up in the founders, even employing an actor to portray George Washington (see the picture below). Also in that picture is the likeness of Thomas Jefferson on a poster with the motto:

When the government fears the people, there is liberty.

While Jefferson’s name is not on the poster, it seems clear that they believe Jefferson was responsible for the quote.

However, according to the Monticello Foundation, this is a quote often falsely attributed to Jefferson. The good folks at Monticello tell us:

We have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny,” or any of its listed variations.

Rather, the quote appears to come from John Basil Barnhill, in a published 1914 debate with socialist Henry Tichenor. On page 34, Barnhill says

Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.

Barnhill does not attribute the quote to anyone and the Monticello researchers were unable to find it in any of Jefferson’s writings.

I don’t know, of course, if the false attribution is purposeful or due to ignorance. In either case, the organizers have misled their followers in order to whip up revolutionary sentiment. I hope Klayman’s rhetoric of revolution and false attribution of the founders doesn’t tip somebody over the edge.



  • Tom Van Dyke

    “Misled” implies dishonest intent. Using “misled” here is misleading. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    “I don’t know, of course, if the false attribution is purposeful or due to ignorance. “

    Then “erroneous” attribution would be more judicious at this point. “False” also implies dishonest intent.

    In either case, the organizers have misled their followers in order to whip up revolutionary sentiment.

    Unnecessary to “mislead” them. If they wanted to “whip” people up, Jefferson actually said stuff like

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”


    • ken

      “”False” also implies dishonest intent.”

      No, an intentional falsehood is a lie. Further, “erroneous” implies that it is NOT a lie, and as Warren pointed out, he isn’t clear which it is, a lie or an error. However, in either case it is false.

      • Tom Van Dyke

        Obama misled; Klayman simply erred.

        Dr. Jon Gruber, MIT economics professor and the architect behind the drive for the individual mandate, concluded a day where he was seen and/or heard everywhere on cable news outlets and radio to defend Obamacare, knock down criticism, and in some cases, like Hugh’s show, call for dissent to stop and just let it roll out unfettered.

        Dr. Gruber responded to noted Obamacare critic Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute this way.

        HH: Okay, so when he says that the forty percent premium increase is coming, he’s wrong, or he’s deceptive, or he is simply not informed as to how the program works?

        JG: Oh, he knows how it works. He’s just being deceptive.

        HH: All right.

        JG: I mean, now basically, now there will be differences across people, but on average, people will pay less. And we’re only, once again, we’re only talking about a minority of people, where I’m talking about the majority of Americans who have insurance from their employer.

        • ken

          And once again the diversionary tactics start.

          What is your evidence that “Klayman simply erred” ?

          • Tom Van Dyke

            “Misled” implies intent. Where is your evidence of intent? Clinton: “I misled people.”


            See, that’s what “misled” looks like.

          • ken

            I have no evidence, because I am not making any accusations. You are. So again, what is your evidence that “Klayman simply erred” ?

    • Gregory Peterson

      I think that when “mislead” is used to imply dishonest intent, it’s often paired with the word “deliberately,” as in “deliberately mislead.”

      My guess is that “Reclaim America” just can’t be bothered with intellectual integrity, so it essentially misleads itself.

      The name of the organization reminds me of what the pompous bigot D. James Kennedy apparently said in 2005.

      Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice
      regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over
      our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts,
      our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our
      scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of
      human society.”

      “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference February, 2005,+2005&source=bl&ots=TtxJGTINHQ&sig=3GmqjwTJQgBSN0wG5aQ4P3iIuP0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sHCWUrj8OYbyoAS1oIKoDQ&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=%22Reclaiming%20America%20for%20Christ%22%20conference%20February%2C%202005&f=false

      • Tom Van Dyke

        “Falsely” and “misled” are accusations, not neutral words. Let’s be real, bro. When it’s unintentional, “inadvertently misled” is proper if “misled” is used at all when there’s an innocent misunderstanding. “Misled” is not used innocently here–the intent in this post is to make Klayman look bad, let’s be honest.

        I would not say Democrats “misled” the American people on Obamacare screwing millions of people unless there was evidence they knew that it would screw people.

        On Sunday, appearing on ABC’s This Week with fill-in host Martha Raddatz, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) admitted that Democrats knew full well that Americans would be booted from their health insurance plans as an effect of Obamacare implementation.

        When asked whether Democrats were misled by President Obama about whether Americans would be able to keep their plans in the individual insurance market, Gillibrand answered: “He should’ve just been specific. No, we all knew.”

        • ken

          “”Falsely” and “misled” are rhetorical accusations, not neutral words.”

          In your mind tom, but not in the context Warren was using them. These claims are just you re-interpreting what was said into your own views rather than basing it on what was actually said. As I previously pointed out, Warren made it clear in the original post he didn’t know whether they were lying or mistaken.

        • $2268610

          Such a reliable source.

          • Tom Van Dyke

            Typical. You should care whether it’s true, not play the source game.

          • $2268610

            Absolutely. You couldn’t be more right.