"If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty
of discussing the propriety of public measures and political
opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means
the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another,
I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it,
whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and
shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others
for the privilege of not being abused myself."
Benjamin Franklin
(1706-1790) US Founding Father
An Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz. The Court of the Press, 12 September 1789, Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 1152.
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Reader comments about this quote:
Good idea but seems to be a zillion miles from reality.
 -- Waffler, Smith     
  • 1
    I disagree that there should be a law. We should just practice "self restraint!"
     -- cal, lewisville, tx     
  • 3
    As to character assassination, it was just fine for liberals to call Bush every name in the book , but if you criticize the supreme leader for his dangerous policies, you are automatically a racist.
     -- jim k, Austin,Tx     
  • 1
    Not exactly sure how to rate this. With cal's statement here, the overall would get a low rating. It sounds like Franklin is speaking of a specific trade journal or something of the sort. If it is a trade journal of sorts addressing a specific audience or topic, it would get a higher rating. "the propriety of public measures" could be equated to a very broad or narrow interpretation. I don't know enough here to rate it, even on its face.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 2
    For goodness sakes, you don't really think Franklin was proposing a 'law' do you? Maybe formal English is not easily understood. The litmus test for analyzing any statement from the press is to determine if the debate is about a person or a principle. Rarely does the media actually debate principles, they usually are trying to 'expose' someone. Then look at all the people a reporter is exposing -- it will not be hard to determine his prejudices. There is so little fact in news today -- it is mostly 'opinion-making' to further the goals of the ruling class.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 3 1
    Jim K has it absolutely right, and very well said.
     -- L.P., Kirkland, WA     
  • 1
    Yes, Archer, Franklin was proposing speech control through law enforcement. How else would someone "restrain liberties"?

    "(...) whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law"

    The problem with Mr. Franklins idea is: who decides what is affronting, calumniating, and defaming? To a lot of "righteous" minds, from past and present, anything and everything that disagrees with their ideas.
     -- Felipe, So Paulo     
  • 1
    Liberty is made a sham when legislators change the law in favor of chains. Smear tactics, lies and deceit, games to confound and amuse some of the public. Franklin is always on point !
     -- Ronw13, Oregon     
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