The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

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...no ground of support for the Executive will ever be so sure as a complete knowledge of their proceedings by the people; and it is only in cases where the public good would be injured, and because it would be injured, that proceedings should be secret. In such cases it is the duty of the Executive to sacrifice their personal interests (which would be promoted by publicity) to the public interest. If the negotiations with England are at an end, if not given to the public now, when are they to be given? and what moment can be so interesting? If anything amiss should happen from the concealment, where will the blame originate at last? It may be said, indeed, that the President puts it in the power of the Legislature to communicate these proceedings to their constituents; but is it more their duty to communicate them to their constituents, than it is the President's to communicate them to his constituents? And if they were desirous of communicating them, ought the President to restrain them by making the communication confidential? I think no harm can be done by the publication, because it is impossible England, after doing us an injury, should declare war against us, merely because we tell our constituents of it; and I think good may be done, because while it puts it in the power of the Legislature to adopt peaceable measures of doing ourselves justice, it prepares the minds of our constituents to go cheerfully into an acquiescence under the measures, by impressing them with a thorough and enlightened conviction that they are founded in right The motive, too, of proving to the people the impartiality of the Executive between the two nations of France and England, urges strongly that while they are to see the disagreeable things which have been going on as to France, we should not conceal from them what has been passing with England, and induce a belief that nothing has been doing.

to George Washington, 2 December 1793