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Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition

This is a guide to the Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition. The essay competition was endowed in 1997 and was designed to have students reflect on the principles and ideals in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

2005 Carret Essay Prompt

From the beginning of the American experiment, Thomas Jefferson insisted upon the freedom of the press, confiding in 1786 to John Jay that "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press." This same advocate of an unfettered press later took an apparently contradictory view of American newspapers. He went so far as to label them "chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smokes" and, in 1804, even suggested that state governments might claim an exclusive "right to controul the freedom of the press." What, exactly, did Jefferson mean by "the press"? And what role did he believe that the press should serve in a free and republican nation? What role did it play in Jefferson's own political experience?

2005 Essay Winners