That last sentence, of course, changes the entire meaning of the thing. To the extent that Jefferson was talking about newspapers in his observation to Carrington, he was also talking about Americans’ ability to read them in the first place. The Founder was defending not just the right to free expression, but also—and, apparently, more so—literacy itself (and the connected institutions of public education and civic conversation) as bulwarks against tyranny. Which is a great sentiment, to be sure (and still frighteningly relevant today)…but one quite different from the glib and misleading “Jefferson liked newspapers!” line of logic that is now so common as to be a matter of cliché.
So, to repeat: could we please (please, please) collectively agree to put the kibosh on Jefferson’s quote? Or, at least, to stop using it so misleadingly? Because each time the line is run—truncated, out of context—it serves as an indictment, rather than an endorsement, of the Fourth Estate.