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Misattributed: 'Dissent Is the Highest Form of Patriotism'


Google the phrase "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" along with the name "Thomas Jefferson" and you'll find thousands of websites attributing the sentiment to the third president of the United States.

The trouble is, notes reader Dave Forsmark, who has been waging a one-man campaign to correct what he believes to be a blatant misattribution, "the quote is about two years old, not 200. It was made by [historian] Howard Zinn in an interview with TomPaine.com to justify his opposition to the War on Terror." Someone erroneously attributed the quote to Jefferson soon after, and now seemingly everyone is doing it.

Based on some rudimentary checking, it appears Mr. Forsmark may be correct. Can anyone out there cite an original document or speech in which Thomas Jefferson actually wrote or uttered these words?

UPDATE: New information uncovered by the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia suggests that Howard Zinn wasn't the originator of the phrase either:

The earliest usage of the phrase we have found is in a 1961 publication, The Use of Force in International Affairs: "If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, is dissent the highest form of patriotism?"


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