Freedom of Speech
Some of the republican papers are
suggesting limitations upon the freedom of speech as a cure for
anarchy. The editor of T
has as much reason as any living man to know of the abuse sometimes
heaped upon candidates for office. He has been the victim of as
much malice and vituperation as have ever been employed against
an American, and yet he is opposed to placing any additional restriction
upon the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press.
First, because the evils of restriction
are greater than the evils of freedom, and, second, because abuse
does not hurt the man or the party made the subject of attack. The
death of President McKinley can not be traced to anything ever spoken
or written against him. The assassin spoke affectionately of his
victim and said that he killed him not because of his dislike for
the man but because of his opposition to government of any kind.
Some who are engaged in schemes which will not bear the light will
shield themselves behind the murderous deed of the assassin and
denounce freedom of speech because they do not want the public to
be informed of their doings. Others, stirred by a righteous indignation,
strike at free speech because some have abused the latitude allowed.
It is time for liberty-loving citizens to protest against the attempt
to suppress free speech. The warfare must be against anarchy, not
against freedom of speech. Anarchy is an European product and thrives
most where there is least freedom of speech and least freedom of
the press. Let us not make the mistake of undermining our institutions
under the delusion that we are thus protecting those institutions.
Free speech and a free press are essential
to free government. No man in public life can object to the publication
of the truth and no man in public life is permanently injured by
the publication of a lie. That much is published that should not
be is only too evident, but let public opinion correct the evil;
that will be more effective than law and will bring no danger with
it. If a paper abuses a political opponent stop your subscription
and teach the editor to conduct his paper on respectable lines.
There is a sense of justice in the human heart and he who violates
it violates it at his own peril. This sense of justice ultimately
turns abuse to the benefit of the man abused. The present laws against
slander and libel are sufficient; leave the rest to a healthy public
sentiment—and then help to create the sentiment.