Free speech

"Free speech is to a great people what winds are to oceans and malarial regions, which waft away the elements of disease and bring new elements of health; and where free speech is stopped, miasma is bred, and death comes fast."

Henry Ward BEECHER
American Congregational preacher, orator, and lecturer (1813-1887)

"Without free speech no search for truth is possible... no discovery of truth is useful... 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."

British social reformer (1833-1891)

"Everybody favours free speech in the slack moments when no axes are being ground."

Heywood C. BROUN
U.S. journalist and author (1888-1939)

"Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom."

Benjamin Nathan CARDOZO
American jurist (1870–1938)

"Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason…
There can be on right of speech where any man…[is] compelled to suppress his honest sentiments.
Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."

Frederick DOUGLASS
In famous plea for free speech in Boston 1860
American abolitionist, author, orator (

"Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning."

Frederick DOUGLASS
American abolitionist, author, orator (

"We who officially value freedom of speech above life itself seem to have nothing to talk about but the weather."

American writer, political activist (1941-)

"Freedom of speech and freedom of action are meaningless without freedom to think. And there is no freedom of thought without doubt."

Bergen EVANS

"The Freedoms of Speech and Press are the necessary Conditions for the Enlightenment of Human Life, which again is the only Thing, that can save Peoples and Nations, and Experience teaches, that where these Freedoms exist, one will find comfort from much other Burdensomeness and Unpleasantness; but where it is not, and in particular where one feels deprived from it, the People either descends to the Beast or cut up rough like the Wild Animals, and in both Cases it is indeed the End to Human Life."

Niels Frederik Severin GRUNDTVIG
Danish social reformer and educationist, 1845 (1773-1872)

"To limit the press is to insult a nation; to prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves."

Claude Adrien HELVÉTIUS
French philosopher (1715–71)

"To speak his thoughts is every freeman's right, in peace and war, in council and in fight."

The Iliad
Principal figure of ancient Greek literature (before 700 B.C.)

"The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."

Hubert Horatio HUMPHREY
U.S. Vice President 1965–69 (1911–78)

"It is clear that the freedom of expression and opinion is a fundamental right, the mother of all rights."

Speech in Sri Lanka, 1999
UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Information

"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid."

Danish philosopher and religious thinker (1813-1855)

"Free speech is a bourgeois prejudice."

Vladimir Ilyich LENIN
Explanation to Emma Goldman in 1920
Russian revolutionary (

"Freedom to speak... can be maintained only by promoting debate."

American journalist (1889-1974)

"Freedom of expression must be considered sacred and thought can only be corrected by counter thought."

Egyptian novelist and screenwriter (1911-)

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."

English poet (1608-1674)

"A people which is able to say everything becomes able to do everything."

NAPOLEON Bonaparte
French general and emperor of France (1769-1821)

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Eric Arthur Blair or George ORWELL
British novelist and essayist (1903-1950)

"Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4. If that is granted, all else follows."

Eric Arthur Blair or George ORWELL
British novelist and essayist (1903-1950)

"Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself."

Indian-born British novelist (1947-)

"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."

Indian-born British novelist (1947-)

"The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism."

Nigerian playwright, poet, novelist, and political activist (1934-)

"In America - as elsewhere - free speech is confined to the dead."

Samuel Langhorne Clemens or Mark TWAIN
Notebook, 1904
American author (1835-1910)

"The essential support and encouragement comes from within, arising out of the mad notion that your society needs to know what only you can tell it."

American author and  poet (1932- )

"I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it."

Francois Marie Arouet VOLTAIRE
The Friends of Voltaire, 1907
French philosopher and writer (1694-1778)

"We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard."

Francois Marie Arouet VOLTAIRE
Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764
French philosopher and writer (1694-1778)

"I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking."

Woodrow WILSON
28th President of the United States (1856-1924)

Last update: 26 January 2007

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