Quotations about   civil liberties

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Who are those who are really disloyal? Those who inflame racial hatreds, who sow religious and class dissensions. Those who subvert the Constitution by violating the freedom of the ballot box. Those who make a mockery of majority rule by the use of the filibuster. Those who impair democracy by denying equal educational facilities. Those who frustrate justice by lynch law or by making a farce of jury trials. Those who deny freedom of speech and of the press and of assembly. Those who press for special favors against the interest of the commonwealth. Those who regard public office as a source of private gain. Those who would exalt the military over the civil. Those who for selfish and private purposes stir up national antagonisms and expose the world to the ruin of war.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“Who Is Loyal to America?” Harper’s Magazine #1168 (Sep 1947)
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Added on 5-Jan-22 | Last updated 5-Jan-22
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The Bill of Rights was not written into the Constitution in order to protect governments from “trouble,” but so that the people might have a legitimate method of causing trouble to governments they no longer trusted.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
Letter to the Editor, New York Times (17 Jun 1971)
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Added on 15-Dec-21 | Last updated 15-Dec-21
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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)
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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 right to think, to know and to utter,” as John Milton said, is the dearest of all liberties. Without this right, there can be no liberty to any people; with it, there can be no slavery.

John A. Andrew (1818-1867) American lawyer, politician, abolitionist
Letter (1860)
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Letter written after his election as Massachusetts governor. referencing Milton's Areopagitica. Quoted by Wendell Phillips in his "Mobs and Education" speech (16 Dec 1860), and often attributed to Phillips.
Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 22-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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Let us shun extremes, not only because each extreme is in itself a positive evil, but also because each extreme necessarily engenders its opposite. If we love civil and religious freedom, let us in the day of danger uphold law and order. If we are zealous for law and order, let us prize, as the best safeguard of law and order, civil and religious freedom.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
Speech on re-election to Parliament, Edinburgh (2 Nov 1852)
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Added on 21-Jan-20 | Last updated 21-Jan-20
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If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it’s no longer the United States of America as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.

Garrison Keillor (b. 1942) American entertainer, author
“Congress’s Shameful Retreat From American Values,” Chicago Tribune (4 Oct 2006)
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Added on 8-Jan-15 | Last updated 8-Jan-15
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It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“The History of Freedom in Antiquity,” Speech, Bridgenorth Institute (28 Feb 1877)
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Added on 18-Feb-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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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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[T]he price of freedom of religion or of speech or of the press is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.

Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) US Supreme Court Justice
United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944) [dissent]
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Aug-15
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If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) American linguist and activist
The Late Show, TV interview with John Pilger, BBC2 (25 Nov 1992)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Apr-21
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This Nation, I suspect, can live in peace without libel suits based on public discussions of public affairs and public officials. But I doubt that a country can live in freedom where its people can be made to suffer physically or financially for criticizing their government, its actions, or its officials. … An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment. … I regret that the Court has stopped short of this holding indispensable to preserve our free press from destruction.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) – concurring opinion
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Dec-21
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