Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Thomson, 10 August 1801

From John Thomson

No 102 Pearl Street.
New York 10th. August 1801.

Respected Sir,

If amidst the numerous and important duties of the high station to which you have been called by the voice of your country, you should ever find leasure to peruse the Pamphlet herewith sent; it will be a circumstance highly gratifying to me: But infinitely more so, should the sentiments which it contains meet with your approbation.

With the most profound respect, I am, Sir, Your Most Obdt. Humble Servant

John Thomson

RC (MoSHi: Jefferson Papers); at foot of text: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 28 Nov. and so recorded in SJL with notation “on Liberty of the press.” Enclosure: John Thomson, An Enquiry, Concerning the Liberty, and Licentiousness of the Press, and the Uncontroulable Nature of the Human Mind: Containing an Investigation of the Right Which Government have to Controul the Free Expression of Public Opinion, Addressed to the People of the U. States (New York, 1801). See Sowerby description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends , Nos. 3280, 3533.

John Thomson, a New York lawyer, held strong and distinctive views in support of freedom of speech and of the press. He believed that opinion, being involuntary, should be protected from prosecution (Donna Lee Dickerson, The Course of Tolerance: Freedom of the Press in Nineteenth-Century America [Westport, Conn., 1990], 6–9; Leonard W. Levy, Freedom of the Press from Zenger to Jefferson: Early American Libertarian Theories [Indianapolis, 1966], 284).

TJ replied to Thomson on 2 Dec., and expressed “thanks for his book on the freedom of the press, which he shall peruse with pleasure. the subject is one of the most interesting to man, and it is hoped that the attentions of those who are able to elucidate it by doing away all protests for it’s suppression, will force it’s enemies to avow that their object in wishing it done, is sheer tyranny” (PrC in MoSHi: Jefferson Papers; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso).

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