Finding, Framing, and Hanging Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and Freedom of Speech in an Age of Terrorism

Finding, Framing, and Hanging Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and Freedom of Speech in an Age of Terrorism

by Alan Dershowitz

Paperback(First Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, September 23


The #1 New York Times bestselling author, Harvard Law School professor, and tireless defender of civil liberties unearths a little-known letter by his hero, Thomas Jefferson, and shares its secrets. The letter illuminates Jefferson’s views on freedom of speech in a way that has important implications for the country today, particularly in the struggle against terrorism. This book is about the remarkable letter Dershowitz found, how he found it, and why it matters not only to him, but to us today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470450437
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Publication date: 04/27/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Alan Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, is one of the country's foremost appellate lawyers and a distinguished defender of individual liberties. His many books include the #1 New York Times bestsellers Chutzpah and The Case for Israel. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Click to read or download

Table of Contents



1 My Passion for Collecting.

2 My Passions for Freedom of Speech, Criminal Law, and Thomas Jefferson.


3 Finding the Jefferson Letter.

4 The Provenance of the Jefferson-Boardman Letter.


5 Where We Have Come since 1826.

6 Jefferson’s First Argument: An Expressed Opinion Can Never Constitute an Overt Act.

7 Jefferson’s Second Argument: If Conscience Will Govern.

8 Jefferson’s Third Argument: "We Have Nothing to Fear from the Demoralizing Reasonings of Some, if Others Are Left Free to Demonstrate Their Errors".

9 Jefferson’s Fourth Argument: "The Law Stands Ready to Punish the First Criminal Act Produced by the False Reasoning".

10 Jefferson’s Fifth Argument: "These Are Safer Correctives than the Conscience of a Judge".


11 Jefferson’s Views on the "Terrorism" of His Era.

12 Jefferson’s Actions in the Burr Case.

13 Jefferson’s Views on Torture, Habeas Corpus, and Other Issues Currently Debated in the Context of Terrorism.

14 How Would Jefferson Strike the Balance between Freedom of Speech and Prevention of Terrorism.

15 My View, as Influenced by Jefferson and the Experiences of Our Time.

Appendix A A Transcript of the Jefferson Letter and Letterpress Copy.

Appendix B Excerpted from "Discourse: Truth Its Own Test and God Its Only Judge".



What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"What a treasure this book is, just like the stuff Dershowitz scours the old archives for. It is unexpected, revealing and resonant with a central fact of our Republic -- we are still stitched together by words, and their complicated progeny, idea. From a simple, fortuitous discovery, Dershowitz has fashioned an elaborate and engaging argument, one we will be thinking about for ages."
--Ken Burns, director and producer of Thomas Jefferson

"Alan Dershowitz lives and breathes history. With the gleeful purchase of a relatively obscure letter from Jefferson, he time-travels back 200 years to write a reply to his hero that brings the debate over free speech from the imperfect past to the deeply troubled present. The book is both a warm personal insight into Dershowitz, the grown-up whiz kid still fuming because his mother threw out his comic books and baseball cards, and a great lesson on democracy from one of its wisest and most articulate advocates."
--Harold Ramis, film director, screenwriter, and actor

"The 1801 letter of Thomas Jefferson to Elijah Boardman is of tremendous interest and importance as is the remarkable story of its discovery by Alan Dershowitz."
--David McCullough, Pulitzer prize-winning author

"Finding Jefferson is terrific on every level - as a memoir of a passionate collector it is delightful; as an account of an important historical discovery it is riveting; as a defense of free speech it is brilliant."
--Doris Kearns Goodwin

"Alan Dershowitz found an important letter from his hero that relates to freedom of speech, incitement, and terrorism -- subjects about which Alan has thought and taught for decades. This book is a wonderful adventure story that uses Jefferson's arguments and Dershowitz's counters to illuminate issues that were important and difficult when the U.S. was a new nation and that remain so today. I recommend it to every citizen concerned with preserving our liberties and combating terrorism."
--President William Jefferson Clinton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Finding, Framing, and Hanging Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and Freedom of Speech in an Age of Terrorism 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
stypulkoski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the first act of Mr. Dershowitz's book, where he recounts the story of how he came to possess the Jefferson letter. However, when he begins to dissect the letter, it becomes a bit dry for my taste. If you're a legal scholar you might disagree, but for the rest of us it's something of a chore.In Dershowitz's defense, the "dry" part of the book is well written and very well argued. That being said, he doesn't make any ground-breaking points.I'd recommend this book to Constitutional scholars, Jefferson fans and those interested in legal history. Otherwise, you'll probably lose interest about halfway through.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read 'FINDING JEFFERSON' and have found it well written and interesting. However, Dershowitz states on page 53 that Jefferson's 'god was the god of nature rather than the god of the bible.' I agree with Jefferson's view of god as I know of Jefferson's god, and I find Dershowitz's statement to be incorrect. As support of my viewpoint, I refer the reader to: 'THE JEFFERSON BIBLE, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,' Beacon Press, Boston, 1989, preface by Forrest Church. In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Jefferson described his thoughts as, â¿¿the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity, I am indeed opposed: but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.'