Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Henry Steele Commager

American Historian

"Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies in dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive."

"Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change. Education is essential to change, for education creates both new wants and the ability to satisfy them."

"Who are the really disloyal? Those who inflame racial hatreds, who sow religious and class dissensions. those who subvert the Constitution by violating the freedom of the ballot box. Those who make a mockery of majority rule by the use of the filibuster. Those who impair democracy by denying equal educational facilities. Those who frustrate justice by lynch law or by making a farce of jury trials. Those who deny freedom of speech and of the press and of assembly. Those who demand special favors against the interest of the commonwealth. Those who regard public office as a source of private gain. Those who exalt the military over the civil. Those who for selfish and private purposes stir up national antagonisms and expose the world to the ruin of war."

"Freedom is not a luxury that we can indulge in when at last we have security and prosperity and enlightenment; it is, rather, antecedent to all of these, for without it we can have neither security nor prosperity nor enlightenment."

"If our democracy is to flourish, it must have criticism; if our government is to function it must have dissent."

"Allow the state to invade the areas of thought, of education, of the press, of religion, of association, and we will have statism... For if once we get a government strong enough to control men’s minds, we will have a government strong enough to control everything."

"A free society cherishes nonconformity. It knows from the non-conformist, from the eccentric, have come many of the great ideas."

"The justification and the purpose of freedom of speech is not to indulge those who want to speak their minds. It is to prevent error and discover truth. There may be other ways of detecting error and discovering truth than that of free discussion, but so far we have not found them."

"Censorship always defeats it own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. "

"Our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past while we silence the rebels of the present."