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other side is silenced almost as much as if its members were prosecuted. The problem of free speech is not adequately considered unless some attention be paid to the opportunity which all sides have to express themselves in open forums, street meetings, a fair minded or varied press, and radio stations open to all-comers who will pay a reasonable price. The next few years may see increasing attention paid to measures, taken by government or private enterprise, to ensure that all views have access through these channels to the public. The free speech controversy has thus extended to a new ground, which the debaters who use this volume should not neglect.

January 7, 1927.







If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.


The country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. . . If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution-certainly would if such a right were a vital one. . . A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. . . At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court the instant they are made,

1 From the Inaugural address of 1801. In Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History. B. J. Lossing, editor. Vol V. p. 134. Harper. New York. 1912.

2 * Excerpt from the First Inaugural address, March 4, 1861.

in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned the government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.


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.

We have lived to hear the strange doctrine, that to expose the measures of rulers is treason; and we have lived to see this doctrine carried into practice. The cry has been that war is declared, and all opposition should therefore be hushed. A sentiment more unworthy of a free country could hardly be propagated. If the doctrine be admitted rulers have only to declare war and they are screened at once from scrutiny. . . Our peace and all our interests require that a different sentiment should prevail. We should teach our present and all our future rulers that there is no measure for which they must render so solemn an account to their constituents as for a declaration of war; that no measure will be so freely, so fully discussed; and that no administration can succeed in persuading this people to exhaust their treasure and their blood in supporting war, unless it be palpably nec

American preacher and author, whose grandfather, William Ellery, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

essary and just. In war, then, as in peace, assert the freedom of speech and of the press. Cling to this as the bulwark of all your rights and privileges.-From "The Present Age"; address delivered before the Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia, May 11, 1841. In Works of William Ellery Channing. 11th ed. Vol. 6. p. 149. Geo. C. Channing. Boston. 1849.

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.

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 exposure of time-sanctioned abuses, which cannot be touched without offending multitudes, 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 right of free discussion is therefore to be guarded by the friends of mankind with peculiar jealousy. It is at once the most sacred and most endangered of all our rights. He who would rob his neighbor of it should have a mark set on him as the worst enemy of freedom.-From "The Abolitionists"; a letter to James G. Birney, editor of the "Philanthropist": an anti-slavery paper in Cincinnati. In Works of William Ellery Channing. 11th ed. Vol. 2, p. 159-60, 161. Geo. C. Channing. Boston. 1849.

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