“Be not intimidated, therefore, by any terrors, from publishing with the utmost freedom, whatever can be warranted by the laws of your country; nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretences of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice.” John Adams – A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law.
A bit of a break from the gems found in the state constitutions…. This particular passage in Adams’ dissertation was directed at publishers of the Colonial period. Many printers, of what were known as “broadsides,” were willing to print news items in an effort to publicize actions of the British Parliament that many colonists considered to be unconstitutional (with the British Constitution). They also published highly critical editorials penned by fellow colonists who used pseudonyms. Other publishers, however, were fearful of the repercussions from British officials and refused to publish anything which might be viewed negatively. It was to those publishers who Adams directed his comments. He could certainly challenge others to bravely speak their minds. Although he had used a pen name for several of his writings, which otherwise might well have resulted in his arrest, he willingly signed his name to many public documents he co-authored including the Braintree Instructions.
More notably, Adams volunteered to serve as the lawyer for British soldiers being tried for their part in “the incident on Kings Street.” Americans often refer to that incident as the Boston Massacre. Adams represented the British soldiers because he felt they had been provoked into firing at a crowd of colonists rather than callously killing innocent bystanders. Adams believed that the officers deserved to be defended. However, he acted as the lead attorney at two trials, over the protestations from other notable Whig activists.
Adams’ words remain sage advice for us today. In the digital age, we all have the potential to speak out, to make our thoughts known to others, and to impact people we have never met in a way that would have been unimaginable to the Founders. Unfortunately, we also live in a time when voicing a difference of opinion is often denigrated as having a sinister or ill-intent. How often do we hold our tongues under the guise of being politically correct? Many times there may also be an underlying fear of what repercussions may ensue after our opinions have been expressed. This is not an suggestion to begin launching into tirades filled with hateful words, profanity, or suggestions of violence. Instead it is a challenge to speak your mind even though others may disagree with your opinion. The First Amendment specifically guarantees your right to voice your ideas, thoughts, and opinions, even if those opinions are in opposition to the stance taken by others or those in power. What might happen if we all began to speak our minds? An honest and open discourse on topics of the day just might be What IS Right With America!
The attached image is of the Adams National Historical Park which is on the birth site of both John and John Quincy Adams.