Tag Archives: mdeia
During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the Press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever it’s licentiousness [without moral or legal restraint] could devise or dare. these abuses of an institution [a stable and productive government], so important to freedom and science, are deeply to be regretted … they tend to lessen it’s usefulness and to sap it’s safety. they might perhaps have been corrected by the wholsome punishments [of] … the laws of the several states against falsehood & defamation. but public duties more urgent press on the time of public servants and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public indignation.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know there will always be serious detractors!
Thomas Jefferson’s naturally thin skin was rubbed raw by the unceasing attacks of his political opponents in the Federalist press. He thought their baseless charges were disrupting and degrading, an attempt to undermine the people’s government.
There was no pretense of an “objective press” in Jefferson’s time. To be fair, there was a Republican press sympathetic to the President that could be equally savage toward its opponents.
The First Amendment protected the press from any federal action, but there were state laws against libel. Those might have been used to correct an abusive press, but public servants had more important things to do than to pursue them. “Public indignation” would be the newspapers’ only punishment.