I do not say that I disbelieve the testimony, but neither can I say I believe it … a most respectable, sensible & truth speaking friend of mine gave me a circumstantial account of a rain of fish to which he was an eye witness. I knew him to be incapable of speaking an untruth. how he could be decieved in such a fact was as difficult for me to account for, as how the fact should happen. I therefore prevailed on my own mind to adjourn the decision of the question till new rains of fish should take place to confirm it.
To Andrew Ellicott, October 25, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders don’t discredit the unprovable. They await proof.
Pre-eminent surveyor Ellicott forwarded to Jefferson another’s report on stones falling from the sky and speculated how that might happen. The President neither believed nor denied the account, stating there was no proof either way. He described hail as being without explanation, too. Yet they had seen it and had to accept it, with no understanding how it happened.
He then described “a most respectable, sensible & truth speaking friend” who claimed to have seen fish fall from the sky! Jefferson had no idea how that could happen, nor could attribute deception to the friend who told him so. What to do? A wise man doesn’t automatically dismiss what he does not understand. Jefferson would postpone any conclusion until there was more evidence.