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Quotes of the day: William O. Douglas
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Published Wednesday, October 15, 2014 @ 11:53 PM EDT
Oct 15 2014

William Orville Douglas (October 16, 1898 – January 19, 1980) served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Douglas was confirmed at the age of 40, one of the youngest justices appointed to the court. His term, lasting 36 years and 209 days (1939–75), is the longest term in the history of the Supreme Court. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

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A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purposes when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.

Absolute discretion is a ruthless master. It is more destructive of freedom than any of man's other inventions.

All executive power- from the reign of ancient kings to the rule of modern dictators- has the outward appearance of efficiency.

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to efficiency of operation, to scientific advancement and the like.

Christianity has sufficient inner strength to survive and flourish on its own. It does not need state subsidies, nor state privileges, nor state prestige. The more it obtains state support the greater it curtails human freedom.

Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience... that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance.

If discrimination based on race is constitutionally permissible when those who hold the reins can come up with "compelling" reasons to justify it, then constitutional guarantees acquire an accordion-like quality.

It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies. We need all the ingenuity we possess to avert the holocaust.

Literature should not be suppressed merely because it offends the moral code of the censor.

Man is about to be an automaton; he is identifiable only in the computer. As a person of worth and creativity, as a being with an infinite potential, he retreats and battles the forces that make him inhuman.

No matter what the legislature may say, a man has the right to make his speech, print his handbill, compose his newspaper, and deliver his sermon without asking anyone's permission. The contrary suggestion is abhorrent to our traditions.

Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others.

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.

The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments could mean only one thing- one person, one vote.

The Constitution favors no racial group, no political or social group.

The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.

The critical point is that the Constitution places the right of silence beyond the reach of government.

The dissent we witness is a reaffirmation of faith in man; it is protest against living under rules and prejudices and attitudes that produce the extremes of wealth and poverty and that make us dedicated to the destruction of people through arms, bombs, and gases, and that prepare us to think alike and be submissive objects for the regime of the computer.

The Fifth Amendment is an old friend and a good friend, one of the great landmarks in men's struggle to be free of tyranny, to be decent and civilized.

The law is not a series of calculating machines where answers come tumbling out when the right levers are pushed.

The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.

The purpose of the University of Washington cannot be to produce black lawyers for blacks, Polish lawyers for Poles, Jewish lawyers for Jews, Irish lawyers for Irish. It should be to produce good lawyers for Americans and not to place First Amendment barriers against anyone.

The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.

The right to dissent is the only thing that makes life tolerable for a judge of an appellate court... the affairs of government could not be conducted by democratic standards without it.

The rules when the giants play are the same as when the pygmies enter the market.

The struggle is always between the individual and his sacred right to express himself and the power structure that seeks conformity, suppression, and obedience.

The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth.

The whole, though larger than any of its parts, does not necessarily obscure their separate identities.

Violence has no constitutional sanction; and every government from the beginning has moved against it. But where grievances pile high and most of the elected spokesmen represent the Establishment, violence may be the only effective response.

We must realize that today's Establishment is the New George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.

We need to be bold and adventurous in our thinking in order to survive.

When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen's constitutional right to free speech, it acts lawlessly; and the citizen can take matters in his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all.

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(October 16 is also the birthday of Oscar Wilde and Eugene O'Neill)


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