Wise Words

Commentary on free speech from some of America's most illustrious thinkers.

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800)
(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ”
—Constitution of the United States

"If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed." - Benjamin Franklin, 1731

"Of that freedom [of thought and speech] one may say it is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom." - Benjamin N. Cardozo, 1937

"If nothing may be published but what civil authority shall have prevously approved, power must always be the standard of truth." - Samuel Johnson, 1781

"My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular." - Adlai E. Stevenson, 1952

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson, 1787

"Systems political or religious or racial or national — will not just respect us because we practice freedom, they will fear us, because we do." - William Faulkner, 1956

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