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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
For the Liberty of Printing
By John Milton (1608–1674)
 
From the ‘Areopagitica

FOR, as in a body, when the blood is fresh, the spirits pure and vigorous not only to vital but to rationall faculties, and those in the acutest and the pertest operations of wit and suttlety, it argues in what good plight and constitution the body is, so when the cherfulnesse of the people is so sprightly up, as that it has not only wherewith to guard well its own freedom and safety, but to spare, and to bestow upon the solidest and sublimest points of controversie and new invention, it betok’ns us not degenerated, nor drooping to a fatall decay, but casting off the old and wrincl’d skin of corruption to outlive these pangs and wax young again, entring the glorious waies of Truth and prosperous vertue destin’d to become great and honourable in these latter ages. Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant Nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks. Methinks I see her as an Eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazl’d eyes at the full mid-day beam, purging and unscaling her long abused sight at the fountain itself of heav’nly radiance, while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amaz’d at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticat a year of sects and schisms.  1
  What should ye doe then, should ye suppresse all this flowry crop of knowledge and new light, sprung up and yet springing daily in this City, should ye set an Oligarchy of twenty ingrossers over it, to bring a famin upon our minds again, when we shall know nothing but what is measur’d to us by their bushel? Beleeve it, Lords and Commons, they who counsell ye to such a suppressing doe as good as bid ye suppresse yourselves; and I will soon shew how. If it be desir’d to know the immediat cause of all this free writing and free speaking, there cannot be assign’d a truer then your own mild and free and human government; it is the liberty, Lords and Commons, which your own valorous and happy counsels have purchast us, liberty which is the nurse of all great wits: this is that which hath rarify’d and enlightn’d our spirits like the influence of heav’n; this is that which hath enfranchis’d, enlarg’d and lifted up our apprehensions degrees above themselves. Ye cannot make us now lesse capable, lesse knowing, lesse eagarly pursuing of the truth, unlesse ye first make your selves, that made us so, lesse the lovers, lesse the founders of our true liberty. We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formall and slavish, as ye found us; but you then must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitrary, and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have free’d us. 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 owne vertu propagated in us; ye cannot suppresse that unlesse ye reinforce an abrogated and mercilesse law, that fathers may dispatch at will their own children. And who shall then sticke closest to ye, and excite others? Not he who takes up armes for cote and conduct and his four nobles of Danegelt. Although I dispraise not the defence of just immunities, yet love my peace better, if that were all. Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.  2
 
 
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