Page:War Prisoners (Darrow).djvu/24

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WAR PRISONERS.

In the midst of it all, those who can think, and those who dare think, above everything else that man can strive for, ought to keep alive the spirit of liberty and the enthusiasm for liberty! For it is only in the open discussion and the free expression of views, that there is a chance to find the truth. No man can speak his convictions, no man can write them, and no man can print them, with the fear of the jail in his heart! He must speak them freely and unafraid. Even if he speaks extravagantly and wildly and foolishly, he must be left to do it freely, or the world will lose his thought; and it will lose the thought of the greatest and bravest who have done the most for the civilization of the world!

I never was a superpatriot—whatever it means. For me, this country is the best. I was born here. I have lived here all my life. I know its peoples; was raised under its institutions; I know its opportunities are greater; its freedom has been better; for me, it is the best country in the world! But that does not make me close my eyes to the defects in this country! Neither does it make me close my eyes to the virtues of other countries! There is no nation so wise that it cannot learn from others. There is no individual so well educated that he cannot learn from the humblest if he will keep his eyes open and his mind free. But you cannot speak in the face of the prison, and you cannot write with chains around your wrists! And we had better give up every institution or system that we strive for, rather than give up liberty!

All that this country has had in the past; all that it has stood for; all that makes life worth while, came from freedom. And it will be a sad day, indeed, when the minds of the people shall be so deadened, and the blood of our people shall flow so sluggishly that they will forget the old traditions and safeguards that have made us great. It will be a sad day, when for gold or power or institutions or social systems, we will give up that freedom, without which human life is of no avail!