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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1298
AUTHOR: Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
QUOTATION: The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water…. I set out on this ground, which I suppose to be self evident, “that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living:” that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it.
ATTRIBUTION: THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789.—The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. 15, p. 392 (1958).

In an editorial note, Boyd states that “This concept of political relativism was the one great addition to Jefferson’s thought that emerged from his years of residence at the center of European intellectual ferment” (p. 384).
SUBJECTS: Past and present