Quotations by Phillips, Wendell


The time to assert rights is when they are denied; the men to assert them are those to whom they are denied. 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.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
“Mobs and Education,” Speech, Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society, Boston (16 Dec 1860)
    (Source)

As reported in the Liberator (21 Dec 1860).

Note: There is a synthetic quotation frequently attributed to Phillips that is a actually combination of this one, and these three others:

No matter whose lips that would speak, they must be free and ungagged. 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.

While Phillips often reused rhetorical elements (as most orators do), this particular combination appears to be combination not actually found in his speeches or writing.
Added on 24-Feb-21 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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The last lesson a man ever learns is, that liberty of thought and speech is the right for all mankind; that the man who denies every article of our creed is to be allowed to preach just as often and just as loud as we ourselves. We have learned this, — been taught it by persecution on the question of slavery. No matter whose lips that would speak, they must be free and ungagged. Let us always remember that he does not really believe his own opinions, who dares not give free scope to his opponent. Persecution is really want of faith in our creed.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
“The Boston Mob,” speech, Antislavery Meeting, Boston (21 Oct 1855)
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"On the Twentieth Anniversary of the Mob of October 21, 1835."
Added on 8-Aug-07 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
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Men are educated and the State uplifted by allowing all — every one — to broach all their mistakes and advocate all their errors. The community that will not protect its most ignorant and unpopular member in the free utterance of his opinions, no matter how false or hateful, is only a gang of slaves.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
“The Scholar in a Republic,” Speech, Centennial Anniversary of the Phi Beta Kapa of Harvard College (30 Jun 1881)
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Added on 17-Feb-21 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
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Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
Speech in Boston (28 Jan 1852)
Added on 8-Dec-07 | Last updated 8-Dec-07
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Goethe says that, if you plant an oak in a flower-vase, either the oak must wither or the vase crack; some men go for saving the vase. Too many nowadays have that anxiety; the Puritans would have let it crack. So say I. If there is anything that cannot bear free thought, let it crack.

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) American abolitionist, orator
Speech, Pilgrim Society, Plymouth (21 Dec 1855)
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Added on 15-Sep-10 | Last updated 17-Feb-21
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