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Freedom of Expression
When men can freely communicate their thoughts and their sufferings, real or imaginary, their passions spend themselves in air, like gunpowder scattered upon the surface; but pent up by terrors, they work unseen, burst forth in a moment, and destroy everything in their course. Let reason be opposed to reason, and argument to argument, and every good government will be safe.—Thomas Erskine (1810).
All the great movements of thought in ancient and modern times have been nearly connected in time with government by discussion. Athens, Rome, the Italian republics of the Middle Ages, the communes and states-general of feudal Europe, have all had a special and peculiar quickening influence, which they Owed to their freedom, and which states without their freedom had never communicated. And it has been at the time of great epochs of thought-at the Peloponnesian War, at the fall of the Roman Republic, at the Reformation, at the French Revolution—that such liberty of speaking and thinking have produced their full effect.-Walter Bagehot (1873).
The sun could as easily be spared from the universe as free speech from the liberal institutions of society.-Socrates (399 B. C.).
Of all the miserable, unprofitable, inglorious wars, the worst is the war against words. Let men say just what they like. We have nothing to do with a man's words or a man's thoughts, except to put against them better words and better thoughts, and so to win in the great moral and intellectual duel that is always going on, and on which all progress depends.-Auberon Herbert (1893).
Liberty of speech inviteth and provoketh liberty to be used again, and so bringeth much to a man's knowledge.-Francis Bacon (1605).
Freedom of opinion, of speech, and of the press is our most valuable privilege, the very soul of republican institutions, the safeguard of all other rights. Nothing awakens and improves men so much as free communications of thoughts and feelings.
If men abandon the right of free discussion ; if, awed by threats, they suppress their convictions; if rulers succeed in silencing every voice but that which approves them; if nothing reaches the people but what would lend support to men in power-farewell to liberty. The form of a free government may remain, but the life, the soul, the substance is fled.-William E. Channing.
Liberty is the nurse of all great wits. Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.John Milton (1665).
Without free speech no search for truth is possible; without free speech no discovery of truth is useful; without free speech progress is checked and the nations no longer march forward toward the nobler life which the future holds for man. Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech. The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people and entombs the hope of the race.-Charles Bradlaugh (1879).
The best legacy I can leave my children is free speech, and the example of using it.-Algernon Sidney (1683).
I do not believe in a word that you say, but I will defend with my life, if need be, your right to say it.--Francois Voltaire (1759).
•I say discuss all and expose all-I am for every topic openly ;
I say there can be no safety for these States without innovators—without free tongues, and ears willing to hear the tongues ;
And I announce as a glory of these States, that they respectfully listen to propositions, reforms, fresh views and doctrines, from successions of men and women.
Each age with its own growth !—Walt Whitman (1882).
To limit the press is to insult the nation; to prohibit the reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves. Should we to destroy error compel it to silence? No. How then? Let it talk
Error, obscure of itself, is rejected by every sound understanding. If time have not given it credit, and it be not favored by government, it cannot bear the eye of examination. Reason will ultimately direct wherever it be freely exercised.—Claude A. Helvetius (1765).
When public discontents are allowed to vent themselves in reasoning and discourse, they subside into a calm ; but their confinement in the bosom is apt to give them a fierce and deadly tincture.-Robert Hall (1793).
No matter whose the lips that would speak, they must be free and ungagged. Let us believe that the whole of truth can never do harm to the whole of virtue; and remember that in order to get the whole of truth you must allow every man, right or wrong, freely to utter his conscience, and protect him in so doing. Entire unshackled freedom for every man's life, no matter what his doctrine-the safety of free discussion no matter how wide its range. The community which dares not protect its humblest and most hated member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves. If there is anything in the universe that can't stand discussion, let it crack-Wendell Phillips (1855).
You tell me that law is above freedom of utterance, and I reply that you can have no wise laws nor free enforcement of wise laws unless there is free expression of the wisdom of the people--and, alas, their folly with it. But, if there is freedom, folly will die of its own poison, and the wisdom will survive. That is the history of the race. It is the proof of man's kinship with God.
You say that freedom of utterance is not for the time of stress, and I reply with the sad truth that only in time of stress is freedom of utterance in danger. No one questions it in calm days, because it is not needed. And the reverse is true also : only when free utterance is suppressed is it needed, and when it is needed it is most vital to justice. Peace is good. But if you are interested in peace through force and without free discussion—that is to say, free utterance decently and in order—your interest in justice is slight. And peace without justice is tyranny, no matter how you may sugar-coat it with expediency. This State today is in more danger from suppression than from violence, because in the end suppression leads to violence; indeed, is the child of suppression. Whoever pleads for justice helps to keep the peace, and whoever tramples upon the plea for justice, temperately made in the name of peace, only outrages peace and kills something fine in the heart of man which God put there when we got our manhood. When that is killed, brute meets brute on each side of the line.
So, dear friend, put fear out of your heart. This Nation will survive, this State will prosper, the orderly business of life will go forward if only men can speak in whatever way given them to utter what their hearts hold-by voice, by posted card, by letter or by press. Reason never has failed men. Only force and oppression have made the wrecks in the world.—William Allen White (1922).
The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure.—Thomas Jefferson (1823).
The greatest truths are often the most unpopular and exasperating; and were they to be denied discussion till the many should be ready to accept them, they would never establish themselves in the general mind. The progress of society depends on nothing more than on the promulgation of principles, which are in advance of public sentiment and practice, and which are consequently at war with the habits, prejudices, and immediate interests of large classes of the community.
The defenders of freedom are not those who claim and exercise rights which no one assails, or who win shouts of applause by well turned compliments to liberty in the days of her triumph. They are those who stand up for rights which mobs, conspiracies, or single tyrants put in jeopardy; who contend for liberty in that particular form, which is threatened at the moment by the many or the few.-William E. Channing.
Government is the creature of the people, and that which they have created they surely have a right to examine. The great Author of nature, having placed the right of dominion in no particular hands, hath left every point relating to it to be settled by the consent and approbation of mankind. In spite of the attempts of sophistry to conceal the origin of political right, it must inevitably rest at length on the acquiescence of the people.—Robert Hall (1825).
The struggle for freedom of speech has marched hand in hand in the advance of civilization with the struggle for other great human liberties. History teaches that human liberty cannot be secured unless there is freedom to express grievances.—Floyd E. Thompson (1923).
The liberty of speaking and writing guards our other liberties...—Thomas Jefferson (1808).
Liberty of speech is justified on three grounds: First, if the opinion be true, the world reaps a benefit to be derived from the truth; secondly, if the opinion be false, truth is the more strengthened by contest with it, and lastly, if it be partly true and partly false, our opinions, if they do not entirely lose their weakness, at any rate gain the corrections which have greatly improved them.—John P. Poole (1862).
The Declaration of Independence declares liberty to be a right given to us by God. There can be no liberty without freedom of speech and the right of assembly to petition the government.-Alfred E. Smith (1940).
It is more dangerous to shut people's mouths than to stop the waters of a river. To stop the progress of a river means to force it to expand and thus do more harm than if it had been allowed to take its natural course. Such is the case with people. If you want to prevent the damage threatening from the inundation of a river, you have to lead it into a proper bed which will hold all of its waters;
if you want to make an impression on the people, let them have perfect liberty of speech.—A Chinese philosopher (2000 B. C.).
Once again, people realize that without personal liberty and the right of selfexpression, life itself is hardly worth the living.–James A. Farley (1940).
We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe. ... Americans have a genuine passion for liberty and a genuine passion for justice.-Wendell L. Willkie (1940).
Every national emergency puts a strain upon the democratic process. At the heart of that process is the principle of free speech and free political action.Paul V. McNutt (1939).
All our Presidents since the foundation of the republic have repeated their faith in the right thinking of the people. That is what our theory of government is based on. If at this moment people need a deeper consciousness of their heritage of freedom and their own responsibilities, why not let them get it through the old tried and true American processes of education and discussion among themselves? To my mind, they must grow into it rather than be pushed inlest they might balk.-Anton Lang (1940).
Political liberty implies liberty to express one's political opinion orally and in writing, and a tolerant respect for any and every individual opinion.Albert Einstein (1933).
Freedom of Conscience
A church is "a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord, in order to the public worshipping of God in such a manner as they judge acceptable to him and effectual to the salvation of their souls.” It is voluntary, because no man is by nature bound to any church. The hope of salvation is the cause of his entering into it. If he finds anything wrong in it, he should be as free to go out as he was to come in.—Thomas Jefferson (1776).
The right of every citizen to worship as he pleases and to aspire to hold any office within the gift of the people must be preserved and maintained inviolate.Alvin Tufts Fuller (1928).
I could never discriminate against a man because he embraced the religion that came to him with his mother's milk.—Theodore Roosevelt (1893).
In this country I have no fear that liberty will be destroyed, that tryanny can ever take the place of democracy, that intolerance will again assume power. The pioneer spirit of liberty still lives here, the traditional policy of civil and religious liberty still animates our people.
We are a nation born of a great ideal and as long as the nation survives, that ideal must and will be cherished and preserved. Other nations may reject that ideal and temporarily turn back to the darkness of the Middle Ages. All the more need that we hold the torch of liberty aloft so that others may see its light.
Dark though these days are in some countries of the old and new worlds, yet everywhere there are men who still find light in religion; and tyranny is forced to recognize that men of sincere religion are its most dangerous foes.Herbert H. Lehman (1935).
The whole freedom of man consists either in spiritual or civil liberty. As for spiritual, who can be at rest, who can enjoy anything in this world with contentment, who hath not liberty to serve God, and to save his soul, according to the best light which God hath planted in him to that purpose, by the reading of His revealed will, and the guidance of His Holy Spirit?—John Milton (1670).
Long ago George Mason in the Virginia Declaration of Rights voiced what has become one of the deepest convictions of the American people; "Religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience.”
In the conflict of policies and of political systems which the world today witnesses, the United States has held forth for its own guidance and for the guidance of other nations, if they will accept it, this great torch of liberty of human thought, liberty of human conscience. We will never lower it. We will never permit, if we can help it, the light to grow dim. Rather through every means legitimately within our power and our office we will seek to increase that light that its rays may extend the further; that its glory may be seen even from afar.-Franklin D. Roosevelt (1935).
The forcing of a man to support this or that teacher even of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind.—Thomas Jefferson (1779).
When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.-Benjamin Franklin (1783).
I would not persecute even the Atheist. I think he has a right to toleration and, for my own part, I pity him, for he wants the consolation which I enjoy. Religion should teach us the most refined humanity, and all her ways should be peace.
The bigot is seldom the virtuous, the meek, the amiable, or the learned character.—John Wilkes (1796).
All religions must be tolerated. In this country every man must get to heaven in his own way.-Frederick the Great (1740).
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be deprecated.-George Washington (1789).
Religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience. - James Madison (1776).