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The Firstborn Liberty : John Milton (of ‘Paradise Lost’ fame) urged Parliament not to fall into bad old habits of censorship, whatever their fears may be.
The Firstborn Liberty

From ‘Areopagitica’, by John Milton(1608-1674).

In 1643, early in the Civil War, Parliament passed a law allowing it to censor and license pamphlets, hoping to silence critics. John Milton protested, reminding Parliament that in their campaign against Charles I’s tyranny they themselves had begotten the country’s love of free speech. Would they now take it away, like pagan fathers who slay their newborn child?

IF it be desired to know the immediate cause of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot be assigned a truer than your own mild and free and humane government.

It is the liberty, Lords and Commons, which your own valorous and happy counsels have purchased us, liberty which is the nurse of all great wits; this is that which hath rarefied and enlightened our spirits like the influence of heaven; this is that which hath enfranchised, enlarged and lifted up our apprehensions, degrees above themselves.

That our hearts are now more capacious, our thoughts more erected to the search and expectation of greatest and exactest things, is the issue of your own virtue propagated in us; ye cannot suppress that, unless ye reinforce an abrogated and merciless law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own children. Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

From ‘Areopagitica’, by John Milton (1608-1674).

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Picture: By Annibale Gatti (1828-1909), via the Wellcome Trust and Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 4.0. View original
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