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Thomas Jefferson

1743–1826
Thomas Jefferson, 1800, by Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860). (White House Historical Association; public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Major works:
A Summary View of the Rights of British America • The Declaration of Independence • Notes on the State of VirginiaAutobiography

Read an excerpt from

A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1777)

Thomas Jefferson

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord of both body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as eccelesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time.

Read a passage from A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1777) by Thomas Jefferson
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