There is a specific quote about big government that has been widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson. However, Radical Reference indicates that the quote may not actually be attributable to Jefferson at all, despite widespread belief that Jefferson said the words.
The famous quote widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson regarding big government reads:
"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have."
This quote has been attributed to Jefferson not only on numerous websites, but also by South Carolina Senator, Jim DeMint. Jim DeMint included the quote in a paragraph on his blog as part of a lament against nationalized health care. When DeMint includes the quote, he attributed it to Jefferson.
However, on DeMint's page and other websites, the quote is not generally sourced and there is no indication of when, where or why Jefferson actually said the words, if he in fact did say them.
Because of the lack of proper source information or background, some doubt whether Jefferson actually was the one who made this particular comment about the danger of big government.
Replies on Radical Reference, for example, instead attribute the quote to Gerald Ford and report that it can be found in Public Papers of the Presidents: Gerald R. Ford, 1974.
Ultimately, the pervasiveness of conflicting information on the Internet has made it difficult to determine what the truth is regarding the quote and who actually said the words in the first place. Despite this confusion, however, this is the quote that most people refer to when they discuss "Jefferson's" quote about big government.