Manuscript/Mixed Material Image 3 of Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 11, 1807
Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this. Divide his paper into 4 chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2d, Probabilities. 3d, Possibilities. 4th, Lies. The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information from such sources as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The 2d would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The 3d & 4th should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.
Such an editor too, would have to set his face against the demoralising practice of feeding the public mind habitually on slander, & the depravity of taste which this nauseous ailment induces. Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance to their auditors, and instead of the abhorrence & indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, tho they do not themselves. It seems to escape them, that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is it's real author.
These thoughts on the subjects of your letter are hazarded at your request. Repeated instances of the publication of what has not been intended for the public eye, and the malignity with which political enemies torture every sentence from me into meanings imagined by their own wickedness only, justify my expressing a solicitude, that this hasty communication may in nowise be permitted to find it's way into the public papers. Not fearing these political bull-dogs, I yet avoid putting myself in the way of being baited by them, and do not wish to volunteer away that portion of tranquillity, which a firm execution of my duties will permit me to enjoy.
I tender you my salutations, and best wishes for your success.
About this Item
- Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 11, 1807
- Created / Published
- Subject Headings
- - Correspondence
- Call Number/Physical Location
- series: Series 1: General Correspondence. 1651-1827
- Microfilm Reel: 038
- Source Collection
- The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
- Manuscript Division
- Digital Id
- Online Format
- online text
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The following items are included in this Collection with permission:
The essay "American Sphinx: The Contradictions of Thomas Jefferson" by Joseph J. Ellis was originally published in the November-December 1994 issue of Civilization: The Magazine of the Library of Congress and may not be reprinted in any other form or by any other source.
The essay "The Jamestown Records of the Virginia Company of London: A Conservator's Perspective" by Sylvia R. Albro and Holly H. Krueger was originally published in a slightly different form in Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference of the Institute of Paper Conservation, 6-9 April 1997 and may not be reprinted in any other form or by any other source.
Rembrandt Peale's 1800 Thomas Jefferson portrait on the Thomas Jefferson Time Line is from the White House Collection, courtesy of the White House Historical Association.
The image of Thomas Jefferson on the home page is from a photomechanical print held in the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division, Presidential File, and is a reproduction of the popular 1805 Rembrandt Peale portrait in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.
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Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell. -06-11, 1807. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mtjbib017268/.
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(1807) Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell. -06-11. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mtjbib017268/.
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Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell. -06-11, 1807. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/mtjbib017268/>.