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?