Rembrandt Peale/New York Historical Society/AP
In his second inaugural address, delivered inside the US Capitol on March 4, 1805, Thomas Jefferson touted some of his first-term accomplishments, including the Louisiana Purchase and lowering taxes while reducing the debt.
“In giving these outlines, I do not mean, fellow citizens, to arrogate to myself the merit of the measures,” he said.
Jefferson then took the time to berate the press for printing scandalous stories about his alleged affair with his slave Sally Hemings.
“During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare,” he said.
Though disturbed by the slanderous nature of the press, the author of the Declaration of Independence knew that a free press was an important tool for a democracy.
“These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety. They might, indeed, have been corrected by the wholesome punishments reserved to and provided by the laws of the several States against falsehood and defamation, but public duties more urgent press on the time of public servants, and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public indignation.”
The scurrilous press may have been right: 1998 DNA tests showed that Ms. Hemings' descendants did have genetic material from a Jefferson male.