First Inaugural Address "Error Of Opinion May Be Tolerated Where Reason Is Left Free To Combat It"

Thomas Jefferson

"Error Of Opinion May Be Tolerated Where Reason Is Left Free To Combat It"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In his first presidential speech, Jefferson eloquently defends a form of government in which every man has the right to speak and worship as he sees fit, without fear of reprisal. He calls upon the people to unite "in common efforts for the common good," to obey the constitution, the law of the land, which represents the consensus of the nation's thought. Nevertheless, he cautions that, while the will of the majority is to prevail, the view of the minority–the right to disagree–must be defended uncompromisingly. "And let us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions." That opinions should differ as to the proper role of the government is not strange after the long struggle of "infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty." Toward those who disagree with the established law, he shows no fear:

. . . If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.