Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, stumbled Tuesday over basic American history, crediting Thomas Jefferson for authorship of the Bill of Rights during a debate over the First Amendment and campaign finance.

“I think if Thomas Jefferson were looking down, the author of the Bill of Rights, on what’s being proposed here, he’d agree with it. He would agree that the First Amendment cannot be absolute,” Mr. Schumer said.

While Jefferson is deemed the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, he was not intimately involved in the writing of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, which is the first 10 amendments to that founding document.

Indeed, Jefferson was out of the country, serving as minister to France at the time of both the Constitution convention and the congressional debate over the Bill of Rights. His fellow Virginians, James Madison and George Mason, are usually credited with being more influential in the process — Mason for being among the most forceful in demanding the protections of such a Bill of Rights, and Madison for being the political muscle that got them approved.

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