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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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908. BOOKS, Censorship of.—
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908. BOOKS, Censorship of.—

I am mortified
to be told that, in the United States of America, the sale of a book [54] can become a
subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry
too, as an offence against religion; that a
question like this can be carried before the
civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of
religion? And are we to have a censor
whose imprimatur shall say what books May
be sold, and what we may buy? And who
is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for
our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure
to which ours are all to be cut or
stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or
shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up
his reason as the rule for what we are to read,
and what we must believe? It is an insult to
our citizens to question whether they are
rational beings or not, and blasphemy against
religion to suppose it cannot stand the test
of truth and reason. If M. de Becourt's book
be false in its facts, disprove them; if false
in its reasoning, refute it. But, for God's
sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we
choose. I know little of its contents, having
barely glanced over here and there a passage,
and over the table of contents. From this,
the Newtonian philosophy seemed the chief
object of attack, the issue of which might be
trusted to the strength of the two combatants;
Newton certainly not needing the auxiliary
arm of the government, and still less
the Holy Author of our religion, as to what
in it concerns Him. I thought the work
would be very innocent, and one which might
be confided to the reason of any man; not
likely to be much read if let alone, but, if
persecuted, it will be generally read. Every
man in the United States will think it a duty
to buy a copy, in vindication of his right to
buy, and to read what he pleases.—
To M. Dufief. Washington ed. vi, 340.
(M. 1814)


A work in French by M. De Becourt entitled
“Sur la Création du Monde, un Systême d'Organisation
Primitive”.- Editor.