The "Psychology of Freedom"
T he introductory clause of the preamble to the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, as originally drafted by Jefferson, was: "Well aware that the opinions and beliefs of men depend not upon their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds...."1Professor Mark Howe has suggested that this Jeffersonian thought provides a clue which might enable us to understand the original meaning of the First Amendment, not by a textual analysis but by examining a presupposition of the generation that bequeathed it to us. Howe's hypothesis is that the amendment, having been broadly intended to protect belief by granting its expression immunity from government penalty, embodied a "psychology of freedom" which, valid or not, was popular at the time. "Beyond the constitution," he declared, "lay a rationalized body of experience known as the common law and a theory of knowledge, conceived by John Locke. The body of experience and the theory of knowledge, in combination produced a theory of liberty, or if you will, a psychology of freedom, outside the Bill of Rights."2____________________