Quotations about   freedom

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We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
“The Sinews of Peace,” speech, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri (5 Mar 1946)
Added on 17-Sep-14 | Last updated 17-Sep-14
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A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves.

George Sutherland (1862-1942) Anglo-American jurist, Supreme Court Justice (1922-1938)
Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233, 250 (1936)
Added on 16-Sep-14 | Last updated 16-Sep-14
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The real test of any claim about freedom, I’ve decided, is how far you’re willing to go in letting people be wrong about it.

Bruce Baugh (b. 1965) American writer, game developer
(Attributed)
Added on 15-Sep-14 | Last updated 15-Sep-14
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The free way of life proposes ends, but it does not prescribe means.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
The Pursuit of Justice, “Berlin East and West” (1964)
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Political sovereignty is but a mockery without the means of meeting poverty and illiteracy and disease. Self-determination is but a slogan if the future holds no hope.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, UN General Assembly (25 Sep 1961)
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Added on 8-Sep-14 | Last updated 8-Sep-14
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I believe we are descendid from the Puritins, who nobly fled from a land of despitism to a land of freedim, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but prevent everybody else from enjoyin his.

[I believe we are descended from the Puritans, who nobly fled from a land of despotism to a land of freedom, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but prevent everybody else from enjoying his.]

Artemus Ward (1834-1867) American humorist, editor, lecturer [pseud. of Charles Farrar Browne]
“Is Introduced at the Club,” The Complete Works of Artemus Ward (1898)
Added on 2-Sep-14 | Last updated 2-Sep-14
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He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in an other hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of an other.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Declaration of Independence [draft] (1776)

This anti-slavery clause was removed from the Declaration at the behest of the representatives of South Carolina as a requirement for their vote.
Added on 26-Aug-14 | Last updated 26-Aug-14
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Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English modernist writer [b. Adeline Virginia Stephen]
A Room of One’s Own, ch. 4 (1929)
Added on 28-Jul-14 | Last updated 28-Jul-14
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We seem to have forgotten that the expression “a liberal education” originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
“The Last Days of John Brown” (1860)
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Also known as "A Plea for Captain John Brown".
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Our nation was founded to perpetuate democratic principles. These principles are that each man is to be treated on his worth as a man without regard to the land from which his forefathers came and without regard to the creed which he professes. If the United States proves false to these principles of civil and religious liberty, it will have inflicted the greatest blow on the system of free popular government that has ever been inflicted.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
“Americanism,” speech to the Knights of Columbus, New York (12 Oct 1915)
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Added on 4-Jul-14 | Last updated 4-Jul-14
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July 4, 1776 was the historic day on which the representatives of three millions of people vocalized Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill, which gave notice to the world that they proposed to establish an independent nation on the theory that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The wonder and glory of the American people is not the ringing Declaration of that day, but the action then already begun, and in the process of being carried out, in spite of every obstacle that war could interpose, making the theory of freedom and equality a reality.

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) American lawyer, politician, US President (1925-29)
Equal Rights (1920)
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G’KAR: No dictator, no invader, can hold an imprisoned population by the force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments, and tyrants, and armies can not stand.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 2×20 “The Long, Twilight Struggle” (1995)
Added on 17-Jun-14 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
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A free America, democratic in the sense that our forefathers intended it to be, means just this: individual freedom for all, rich or poor, or else this system of government we call “democracy” is only an expedient to enslave man to the machine and make him like it.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) American architect, interior designer, writer, educator [b. Frank Lincoln Wright]
The Future of Architecture (1953)
Added on 17-Jun-14 | Last updated 17-Jun-14
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I may stand alone,
But would not change my free thoughts for a throne.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Don Juan, 11.90 (1819-1824)
Added on 13-May-14 | Last updated 13-May-14
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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.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“A Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston,” speech (9 Dec 1860)
Added on 12-May-14 | Last updated 12-May-14
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But we ask neither for power nor for riches, the usual causes of wars and strife among mortals, but only for freedom, which no true man gives up except with his life.

[At nos non imperium neque divitias petimus, quarum rerum causa bella atque certamina omnia inter mortales sunt, sed libertatem, quam nemo bonus nisi cum anima simul amittit.]

Sallust (c. 86-35 BC) Roman historian and politician [Gaius Sallustius Crispus]
Catiline’s War [Bellum Catilinae] pt. 33 (42 BC) [tr. Loeb (1921)]
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Alt. trans.: "But at power or wealth, for the sake of which wars, and all kinds of strife, arise among mankind, we do not aim; we desire only our liberty, which no honorable man relinquishes but with his life."
Added on 8-May-14 | Last updated 8-May-14
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To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“A Plea for Freedom of Speech in Boston,” speech (9 Dec 1860)
Added on 30-Apr-14 | Last updated 30-Apr-14
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Mankind are apt to be strongly prejudiced in favor of whatever is countenanced by antiquity, enforced by authority, and recommended by custom. The pleasure of acquiescing in the decision of others is by most men so preferred to the toil and hazard of inquiry, and so few are either able or disposed to examine for themselves, that the voice of law will generally be taken for the dictates of justice.

Robert Hall (1764-1831) English Baptist minister
“Fragment on Village Preaching,” sec. 2
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Added on 22-Apr-14 | Last updated 22-Apr-14
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I believe in an America where the rights that I have described are enjoyed by all, regardless of their race or their creed or their national origin — where every citizen is free to think and speak as he pleases and write and worship as he pleases — and where every citizen is free to vote as he pleases, without instructions from anyone, his employer, the union leader or his clergyman.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Philadelphia (31 Oct 1960)
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Added on 21-Apr-14 | Last updated 21-Apr-14
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It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the motherland; but something in the Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Independence Hall, Philadelphia (22 Feb 1861)
Added on 1-Apr-14 | Last updated 1-Apr-14
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A slave is one who waits for someone else to free him.

Ezra Pound (1885-1972) American expatriate poet, critic, intellectual
“Gists,” Impact: Essays on Ignorance and the Decline of American Civilization, ed. Noel Stock (1960)
Added on 27-Mar-14 | Last updated 27-Mar-14
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You get to say the world is flat because we live in a country that guarantees your free speech, but it’s not a country that guarantees that anything you say is correct.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958) American astrophysicist, author, orator
Interview, “The Colbert Report, (10 Mar 2014)
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Added on 21-Mar-14 | Last updated 21-Mar-14
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By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion. The State is competent to assign duties and draw the line between good and evil only in its immediate sphere. Beyond the limits of things necessary for its well-being, it can only give indirect help to fight the battle of life by promoting the influences which prevail against temptation, — religion, education, and the distribution of wealth.

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 11-Mar-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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The public use of a man’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment among men.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
“An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment? Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?]” (1784)
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Added on 6-Mar-14 | Last updated 25-Sep-15
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If the people cannot govern themselves, they must be governed by somebody.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Annajanska (1919)
Added on 11-Feb-14 | Last updated 11-Feb-14
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Liberty, next to religion, has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime.

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 11-Feb-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) Russian anarchist, political theorist
“Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism” (Sep 1867)
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Added on 24-Jan-14 | Last updated 24-Jan-14
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Force can overcome force, but a free society cannot long steel itself to dominate another people by sheer force.

Dean Acheson (1893-1971) American statesman
Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (1969)
Added on 21-Jan-14 | Last updated 21-Jan-14
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Our discontent begins by finding false villains whom we can accuse of deceiving us. Next we find false heroes whom we expect to liberate us. The hardest, most discomfiting discovery is that each of us must emancipate himself.

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004) American historian, professor, attorney, writer
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, 6.5 (1961)
Added on 15-Jan-14 | Last updated 15-Jan-14
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America wasn’t founded so that we could all be better. America was founded so that we could all be anything we damn well pleased.

P.J. O'Rourke (b. 1947) American humorist, editor
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Jan-14 | Last updated 8-Jan-14
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Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realisation the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“Nationality,” Home and Foreign Review (Jul 1862)
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Added on 7-Jan-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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Do the people of this land — in the providence of God, favored, as they sometimes boast, above all others in the plenitude of their liberties — desire to preserve those so carefully protected by the First Amendment: liberty of religious worship, freedom of speech and of the press, and the right as freemen peaceably to assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances? If so, let them withstand all beginnings of encroachment. For the saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.

George Sutherland (1862-1942) Anglo-American jurist, Supreme Court Justice (1922-1938)
Associated Press v. National Labor Relations Board, 301 U.S. 141 (1938) [Dissent]
Added on 30-May-13 | Last updated 19-Jul-14
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Anarchy is the sure consequence of tyranny.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“A Conversation Between Mr. Abraham Cowley and Mr. John Milton,” Knight’s Quarterly Journal (Aug 1824)
Added on 21-Mar-13 | Last updated 15-Jan-20
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Freedom for the pike is death for the minnow.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Equality (1931)

Sometimes cited an English proverb, or attributed to Isaiah Berlin.
Added on 11-Jan-13 | Last updated 4-Sep-16
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We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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See Gladstone.
Added on 24-Feb-12 | Last updated 7-Dec-15
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When we lose the right to be different, we lose the right to be free.

Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. (1862-1948) American statesman, politician, Supreme Court Justice (1910-1916, 1930-1941)
Speech, 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, Boston (17 Jun 1925)
Added on 4-Jan-12 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Spurious)

A common "inspirational" quote, frequently attributed to Twain, but not found in writings. Earliest found is in H. Jackson Brown, P.S. I Love You (1990), attributed to Brown's mother. More info here.

Added on 13-Jun-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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I conceive of God, in fact, as a means of liberation and not a means to control others.

Baldwin - God liberation - wist_info

James Baldwin (1924-1987) American novelist, playwright, activist
“In Search of a Majority,” Speech, Kalamazoo College (Feb 1960)
Added on 10-Dec-10 | Last updated 18-Dec-19
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When opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The Age of Reason, Closing Words (1796)
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If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (1929) [Dissent]
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Added on 20-Jul-10 | Last updated 14-Jun-16
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Freedom is not a gift received from a State or a leader but a possession to be won every day by the effort of each and the union of all.

Camus - freedom is not a gift received - wist_info quote

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Bread and Freedom” (1957), Resistance, Rebellion, and Death [tr. O’Brien (1961)]
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Bear with the faults and frailties of others, for you, too, have many faults which others have to bear. If you cannot mold yourself as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking? For we require other people to be perfect, but do not correct our own faults.

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) German monk, author
The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, ch. 16 (c. 1418) [tr. L. Sherley-Price (1952)]
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Alt trans.: "Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure. If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing."

Alt trans.: "Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be."
Added on 2-Jun-10 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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I am unalterably opposed to communism because it exalts the state over the individual and the family, and because of the lack of freedom of speech, of protest, of religion, and of the press, which is the characteristic of totalitarian states. The way of opposition to communism is not to imitate its dictatorship, but to enlarge individual freedom, in our own countries and all over the globe. There are those in every land who would label as Communist every threat to their privilege. But as I have seen on my travels in all sections of the world, reform is not communism. And the denial of freedom, in whatever name, only strengthens the very communism it claims to oppose.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
“Day of Affirmation,” address, University of Capetown, South Africa (6 Jun 1966)
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Added on 12-May-10 | Last updated 19-Jul-14
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I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous — if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Ghosts” (1877)
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Added on 14-Aug-09 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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My own belief is no rule for another.

John Wesley (1703-1791) English cleric, Christian theologian and evangelist, founder of Methodism
Sermon #39, “Catholic Spirit,” 1.11
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Added on 3-Aug-09 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Henley - master of my fate - wist_info quote

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) English poet, critic, editor
“Invictus” (1875)
Added on 15-Jul-09 | Last updated 12-Feb-16
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No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historic, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) American physicist
The Meaning of It All, “The Uncertainty of Values” (1999)
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Added on 17-Nov-08 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Quincy Adams (13 Nov 1816)
Added on 1-Aug-08 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves.

Samuel Adams (1722-1803) American revolutionary, statesman
Essay, The Advertiser (1748)
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Added on 16-Jul-08 | Last updated 29-Sep-16
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Cities may be rebuilt, and a People reduced to Poverty, may acquire fresh Property: but a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (17 Jul 1775)
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Power is so apt to be insolent and Liberty to be saucy, that they are very seldom upon good Terms.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Prerogative, Power and Liberty,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
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Added on 1-Jul-08 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Journal, notes for an oration at Braintree (Spring 1772)
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There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces — and that cure is freedom!

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“John Milton,” Edinburgh Review (Aug 1825)
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Review of John Milton, A Treatise on Christian Doctrine.
Added on 25-Apr-08 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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You cannot change the conclusion of the brain by torture; nor by social ostracism. But I will tell you what you can do by these, and what you have done. You can make hypocrites by the million. You can make a man say that he has changed his mind; but he remains of the same opinion still. Put fetters all over him; crush his feet in iron boots; stretch him to the last gasp upon the holy rack; burn him, if you please, but his ashes will be of the same opinion still.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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Added on 29-Feb-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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There is only one success … to be able to spend your life in your own way, and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957) American journalist, novelist, essayist, poet
Where the Blue Begins, ch. 8 (1922)
Added on 5-Feb-08 | Last updated 18-Nov-14
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