1775 November 11

“They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”


Benjamin Franklin’s famous statement about liberty and security has been quoted many times, and it is perhaps the best declaration of the importance of maintaining civil liberties in times of national crisis. Franklin made the statement in a letter to the governor of Pennsylvania on this day.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has violated this principle on many occasions: by suppressing dissent in World War I, evacuating and interning the Japanese Americans in World War II, violating freedom of speech and association during the Cold War, and violating a range of civil liberties in the war on terrorism after 9/11.

Learn more about the violations of civil liberties in times of national crisis:

In World War I: Paul L. Murphy, World War I and the Origins of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

In World War II: Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases (1983)

In the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

In the war on terrorism: Susan Herman, Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy (2011)

In all wars: Geoffrey Stone, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (2004)

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