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power of the State is being used for the purpose of preventing it. What is important is that our welfare and freedom really do depend upon our preserving this right of the individual conscience to the expression of its convictions; this right of the heretic to his heresy. And I base the claim, not upon any conception of abstract "right"-JUS, DROIT, RECHT-but upon utility, our needs of heresy, upon the fact that if we do not preserve it, it is not alone the individual heretic who will suffer, but all of us, society. By suppressing the free dissemination of unpopular ideas, we render ourselves incapable of governing ourselves to our own advantage and we shall perpetuate that condition of helplessness and slavery for the mass which all our history so far has shown. (p. 27)
The need of individuality in thought increases in direct ratio to the increasing complexity of our social arrangements. The very fact that we do need more and more unity of ACTION—regimentation, regulation—in order to make a large population with many needs possible at all, is the reason mainly which makes it so important to preserve variety and freedom of individual thought. If ever we are to make the adjustments between the rival claims of the community and the individual, between national sovereignty or independence and international obligation, between the need for common action and the need for individual judgment, if ever our minds are to be equal to the task of managing our increasingly complex society, we must preserve with growing scrupulousness the right of private judgment in political matters. Because upon that capacity for private judgment, a capacity that can only be developed by its exercise, depends the capacity for public judgment, for political and social success, success, that is, in living together in this world of ours, most largely and most satisfactorily. (p. 29)
JOHN MILTON (1608-1674)*
Give me the Liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to Conscience, above all Liberties. . .
And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by Licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter?... What a collusion is this, whenas we are exhorted by the wise Man to use diligence, to seek for Wisdom as for hidd'n treasures early and late, that another Order shall enjoyn us to know nothing but by statute? When a man hath bin labouring the hardest labour in the deep mines of Knowledge, hath furnisht out his findings in all their equipage, drawn forth his reasons as it were a battell rang'd, scatter'd and defeated all objections in his way, calls out his adversary into the plain, offers him the advantage of wind and sun, if he please, only that he may try the matter by dint of argument; for his opponents then to sculk, to lay ambushments, to keep a narrow bridge of Licencing where the challenger should passe, though it be valour anough in souldiership, is but weaknes and cowardise in the wars of Truth. For who knows not that Truth is strong, next to the Almighty? she needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licencings to make her victorious, those are the shifts and the defences that Error uses against her power: give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she speaks not true, as the old Proteus did, who spake Oracles only when he was caught and bound, but then rather she turns herself into all shapes, except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to the time, as Micaiah did before Ahab, untill she be adjur'd into her own likenes. Yet is it not impossible that she may have more shapes than one.
4 From Areopagitica: a Speech to the Parliament of England for the Liberty of Unlicenc'd Printing, by John Milton, with preparatory remarks by T. Holt White, Esq. p. 171, 174, 175, 176. Printed for R. Hunter. London. 1819.
JEREMY BENTHAM (1748-1832) *
In all liberty there is more or less of danger; and so there is in all power. The question is-in which is there most danger-in power limited by this check, or in power without this check to limit it. In those political communities in which this check is in its greatest vigor, the condition of the members, in all ranks and classes taken together is, by universal acknowledgment, the happiest. (p. 13)
Necessary to instruction-to excitation-in a word, to a state of preparation directed to this purpose [that of changing a government when necessary, and of preventing individual cases of abuse] is-(who does not see it?) the perfectly unrestrained communication of ideas on every subject within the field of government; the communication, by vehicles of all sorts-by signs of all sorts; signs to the ear-signs to the eye-by spoken languageby written, including printed, language-by the liberty of the tongue, by the liberty of the writing desk, by the liberty of the post office-by the liberty of the press. The characteristic then of an undespotic government-in a word, of any government that has any tenable claim to the appellation of a good government is, the allowing, and giving facility to, this communication, and this, not only for instruction and excitation, but also for correspondence; and this again for the purpose of affording and keeping on foot every facility for eventual resistance— for resistance to government, and thence, should necessity require, for a change in government. (p. 24)
As to the evil which results from a censorship, it is impossible to measure it, because it is impossible to tell where it ends.
5 English_philosopher and jurist. From his On the Liberty of the Press and Public Discussion. Printed for William Hone. London. 1821.
LESLIE STEPHEN (1832-1904)*
I, for one, am fully prepared to listen to any arguments for the propriety of theft or murder, or if it be possible, of immorality in the abstract. No doctrine, however well established, should be protected from discussion. The reasons have been already assigned. If, as a matter of fact, any appreciable number of persons are so inclined to advocate murder on principle, I should wish them to state their opinions openly and fearlessly, because I should think that the shortest way of exploding the principle and of ascertaining the true causes of such a perversion of moral sentiment. Such a state of things implies the existence of evils which cannot be really cured till their cause is known, and the shortest way to discover the cause is to give a hearing to the alleged
CHARLES BRADLAUGH (1833-1901) '
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 thousand-fold 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.
WILLIAM E. H. LECKY (1838-1903) *
If persecution is unnecessary in the defense of truth, it has a fearful efficacy in preventing men from discovering it; and when it is so employed, as infallibility does not exist among mankind, no man can assuredly decide. For truth is scattered far and wide in small portions among mankind, mingled in every system with the dross English biographer and literary critic.
English free-thinker and social reformer.
8 Irish historian and publicist. From his History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe. 7th ed. Vol. II. p. 77-8, 87. Longmans, Green and Co. London. 1875.
error, grasped perfectly by no one, and only in some degree discovered by the careful comparison and collation of opposing systems. To crush some of these systems, to stifle the voice of argument, to ban and proscribe the press, or to compel it to utter only the sentiments of a single sect, is to destroy the only means we possess of arriving at truth. . .
For the object of the persecutor is to suppress one portion of the element of discussion; it is to determine the judgment by an influence other than reason; it is to prevent that freedom of enquiry which is the sole method we possess of arriving at truth. The persecutor never can be certain that he is not persecuting truth rather than error, but he may be quite certain that he is suppressing the spirit of truth.
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW'
It is not possible to make the ordinary moral man understand what toleration and liberty really mean. He will accept them verbally with alacrity, even with enthusiasm, because the word toleration has been moralized by eminent Whigs; but what he means by toleration is toleration of doctrines that he considers enlightened, and, by liberty, liberty to do what he considers right: that is, he does not mean toleration or liberty at all; for there is no need to tolerate what appears enlightened or to claim liberty to do what most people consider right. Toleration and liberty have no sense or use except as toleration of opinions that are considered damnable, and liberty to do what seems wrong.
The most capital advantage an enlightened people can enjoy is the liberty of discussing every subject which can
From the preface to The Showing-up of Blanco Posnet. Brentano. New York. 1913.
10 English divine and orator. From his "An Apology for the Freedom of the Press." In his Works. 9th ed. Vol. III. Henry G. Bohn. London. 1845.