The Art of "Quotemanship" and "Misquotemanship"

Quoting people accurately is really hard — and you can quote me on that.

Jefferson’s Second-Amendment “Quote” Demands a Second Opinion

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A letter in today’s Financial Times draws attention to a shopworn “quote” that’s often attributed to Thomas Jefferson (right) and used to buttress arguments for a broad application of the right to bear arms (or brandish automatic weapons). The letter-writer (Dennis Oveis of Tampa, Fla.) takes a previous letter-writer to task for invoking what that previous letter-writer called a “timeless quote from Thomas Jefferson.” The alleged statement is:

The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.

Oveis checked with web site for Jefferson’s Monticello for help in authenticating the quote. The site says:

We currently have no evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote ‘The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it’ or any of its listed variations.

Wikipedia’s entry on the Second Amendment says the quotation is one of many misattributed to Jefferson. It says the quote can’t be found before 2007, the year it surfaced in a book by Matt Carson, On A Hill They Call Capital: A Revolution Is Coming.

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