Thomas Jefferson Quote – The Rest Of The Story

We often see or hear a quote attributed to Founding Father Thomas Jefferson.

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

But what we hardly ever see or hear is the full context of that quote.

The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.

I get it that some people have stopped reading already. Shoot, some stopped as soon as they saw the words Founding Father. We have become so polarized as a nation that the famous flag from yesteryear with the image of a snake and the words “don’t tread on me” no longer is historical. Today, it’s political.

But if we can take the politics out for a second . . . there’s some weird stuff going on. Yeah, yeah, do me a favor and tune out the Trump devoted fanatics and the Trump haters. You’ll never get an accurate picture of reality from either one.

And try, just try, to listen with an open mind for a moment. This is not a conspiracy theory. Shoot, for years I heard that the media was in cahoots. I always laughed at that one. Heck, I know these folks and believe me when I say we are nowhere near smart, or organized enough, to pull anything that complex off.

The thing is that our world is upside down today. We have a federal government spending money that not only they don’t have but our grandchildren won’t have. We have a president who might be a crook, has dementia or is just completely incompetent – and I honestly am not sure which. We had a (insert adjective here) event on Jan. 6 that put a blinding spotlight on increasing frustration with business as usual inside the beltway (from all sides). We just decided to hire thousands upon thousands of men and women who will have the job of checking up on all of us and our taxes (and if anyone tells you that’s not the job they are either a liar or a fool). That aforementioned federal government is publishing material aimed at emboldening adolescents into the world of transgenderism while at the same time somehow turning the notion that men might not be men and women might not be women .

And this doesn’t even touch on questions like how Joe Biden got more votes than any president in history, including the popular Barack Obama. It doesn’t touch on the unprecedented raid on an ex-president’s home and it certainly doesn’t touch on the third rail of politics right now, abortion and guns.

The world, our all-American-red-white-and-blue world, is upside down.

And yet if we go back, oh, 250 years or so, Founding Father Thomas Jefferson suggested that newspapers were a perfect watchdog to help keep things straight. Yet the hired hands in Indiana and other states are doing their best to kill the Fourth Estate.

For the record, and let me be emphatic here, I am about as biased as biased gets when it comes to newspapers. But the crazier things get the more important newspapers are. Yes, we share with you who passes away and a gazillion other things that make up our community. But more important, most of us are not in bed with the hired hands we’re supposed to be watching. And most of us (yes, “most”) take an approach to this that pretty much stays in the middle and doesn’t stray too far right or left. Before anyone loses their minds on that, let me repeat the word “most.” No one, no group, is perfect. There are always outliers. But overall, in my heart of hearts I believe we are doing our best to be fair and honest.

The simple truth, dear reader, is that we need you. And, as Mr. Jefferson so eloquently wrote, the nation has always needed us. We’re not perfect in the newspaper world, and maybe some have lost their way. From this little corner of God’s country, I hope you will support the ones who haven’t.

The bottom line is we’re trying. We’re really, really trying. When the legislature heads back in January it’d be great if you would help remind them exactly what Mr. Jefferson was talking about.

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at