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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

At Enmity with Truth

       The following is from Cato's Letters #15.

     "Freedom of speech is the great bulwark of liberty;  they prosper and die together:  And it is the terror of traitors and oppressors, and a barrier against them.  It produces excellent writers, and encourages men of fine genius.  Tacitus tells us, that the Roman commonwealth bred great and numerous authors, who writ with equal boldness and eloquence:  But when it was enslaved, those great wits were no more.  Postquam bellatum apud Actium;  atque omnem potestatem ad unum conferri pacis interfuit, magna illa ingenia cessere. Tyranny had usurped the place of equality, which is the soul of liberty, and destroyed publick courage.  The minds of men, terrified by unjust power, degenerated into all the vileness and methods of servitude:  Abject sycophancy and blind submission grew the only means of preferment, and indeed of safety;  men durst not open their mouths, but to flatter.
       Pliny the Younger observes, that this dread of tyranny had such effect, that the Senate, the great Roman Senate, became at last stupid and dumb:  Mutam ac sedentariam assentiendi necessitatem.  Hence, says he, our spirit and genius are stupified, broken, and sunk for ever.  And in one of his epistles, speaking of the works of his uncle, he makes an apology for eight of them, as not written with the same vigour which was to be found in the rest;  for that these eight were written in the reign of Nero, when the spirit of writing was cramped by fear;  Dubii sermonis octo scripset sub Nerone--cum omne studiorum genus paulo liberius & erectius periculosum servitus fecisset.
       All ministers, therefore, who were oppressors, or intended to be oppressors, have been loud in their complaints against freedom of speech, and the licence of the press;  and always restrained, or endeavoured to restrain, both.  In consequence of this, they have brow-beaten writers, punished them violently, and against law, and burnt their works.  By all which they shewed how much truth alarmed them, and how much they were at enmity with truth."

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