Tag Archives: Truth

THIS is the experiment that IS America!

we are going fairly through the experiment whether freedom of discussion, unaided by coercion, is not sufficient for the propagation & protection of truth, and for the maintenance of an administration pure and upright in it’s actions and views.
To Volney, April 20, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
It is the rare leader who freely limits the scope of his leadership.
Volney (1757-1820) was a French historian and political philosopher. He and Jefferson were friends and of one mind on many social, political and religious issues. Jefferson even translated most of one of Volney’s books, Ruins of Empires, into English.

In this long letter, Jefferson wrote of his own philosophy, the accomplishments of his new administration and the fury of his political foes. He summed up much of the letter in this excerpt about the American experiment: Can open, free, unforced, rational discussion be all that is required to promote and protect the truth and to maintain a government devoted to that truth?

“…thank you for your enlightening and educational presentation …”
Office of the Lieutenant Governor, State of Missouri
For the enlightenment and education of your audience, you know what to do.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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How reliable is the “news” you receive?

To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, `by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.’ Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers … I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
To John Norvell, June 14, 1807

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders can get a little cynical after years of criticism.
The somewhat jaded Jefferson was near both the end of his Presidency and decades as a public man. In last Friday’s post, July 12, 2013, he revealed 18 years earlier how painful criticism was to him, even that without basis. Much of that criticism had come through the press.

Elsewhere in this letter, Jefferson explains that “general facts” can be obtained from the papers, such as “Bonaparte has been a successful warrior.” He warned, though, “no details can be relied on.” Since those who read the newspapers tended to believe both the general facts and the details, they were worse off than those who didn’t read the papers at all.


There was no such thing as an objective press in Jefferson’s day. Newspapers were mouthpieces for political parties, causes and individuals. The press was far nastier than anything we know today.

“… your presentation brought to life not only the spirit of Thomas Jefferson,
but also the sense of commitment to discovery and exploration …”

Executive Director, Association of Partners for Public Lands

Bring a challenge of “discovery and explanation” to your audience!

Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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