“Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations” — Thomas Jefferson
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This quote suggests that Thomas Jefferson believed commercial dealings between nations were driven primarily by financial interests rather than moral concerns. He appears to be making the observation that in practice, “civilized nations” prioritized making money through trade and economic partnerships over other considerations like human rights, ethics or social impacts.
Jefferson seems to have felt that moral standards often took a backseat to the goal of profit or monetary gain when countries interacted and conducted business with each other. The quote provides an insight into Jefferson’s perspective that pragmatic monetary priorities tended to outweigh principles of morality in international commerce.