emperor knows how to govern when poets are free to make verses, people to
act plays, historians to tell the truth, ministers to give advice, the poor to
grumble at taxes, students to learn lessons aloud, workmen to praise their
skill and seek work, people to speak of anything, and old men to find fault
(Address of the Duke of Shao to King
Li-Wang, ca 845 B.C.)
liberty is established by law, we must be vigilant, for liberty to
enslave us is always present under that very liberty. Our Constitution
speaks of the "general welfare of the people." Under that phrase all
sorts of excesses can be employed by lusting tyrants to make us bondsmen.
long have we said to ourselves "intolerance of another's politics is
barbarous and not to be countenanced in a civilized country. Are we not
free? Shall a man be denied his right to speak under the law which
established that right?" I tell you that freedom does not mean the
freedom to exploit law in order to destroy it! It is not freedom which
permits the Trojan Horse to be wheeled within the gates. He who is not
for Rome and Roman Law and Roman liberty is against Rome. He who
espouses tyranny and oppression and the old dead despotisms is against
Rome. He who plots against established authority and incites the
populace to violence is against Rome. He cannot ride two horses at the
same time. We cannot be for lawful ordinances and for an alien
conspiracy at one and the same moment.
Cicero (106–43 BC) Second Oration before the Roman Senate
men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master.
alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit
of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries
has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful
despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent
despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the
minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an
individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more
able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the
purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's
time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive
laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is
to be stopped at all.