HILL: Who’s afraid of free speech?

This image shows an 1876 engraving titled "Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776" made available by the Library of Congress. On that day, the Continental Congress formally endorsed the Declaration of Independence. Celebrations began within days: parades and public readings, bonfires and candles and the firing of 13 musket rounds, one for each of the original states. Nearly a century passed before the country officially named its founding a holiday. ( J. Trumbull, W.L. Ormsby via AP)

The only people who are afraid of free speech are those who cannot support their views with facts and reason. 

I have never seen anyone in public life who was confident in their ability to understand the issue at hand and use facts, reason and a winsome manner to persuade others try to shut the other side up and not allow them to speak their minds. 

Restricting the number of amendments offered on the floor of the U.S. Senate or House or abolishing the filibuster restricts free speech. So do university restrictions on who can be hired or who can speak on campus. 

Liberal socialist progressive Democrats from President Biden to AOC want to crush free speech on major public-policy issues simply because they can’t explain what they want to do in public and get away with it. Silencing the opposition is the only way they can succeed. 

Polished and skilled leaders welcome the arguments of the other side. Points made by the opposition can be used to buttress the points the skilled leader is making. The opposition usually makes preposterous arguments which diminishes their position, not enhances it.  

Free speech is as crucial to the American experience as oxygen is to fire, as James Madison alluded in Federalist Paper #10, an abridged version of which is printed nearby. 

Progressive liberal Democratic socialists are the intolerant ones today when it comes to free speech. Conservative right-wing Southern Democrats were the intolerant ones in the 1950s and 1960s in North Carolina when it came to the “Speaker Ban” at Chapel Hill, when the NCGA prevented communists from speaking on campus. 

Neither progressive socialist Democrats today nor right-wing Southern Democrats then must have known very much about the Sedition Act signed by President John Adams on July 14, 1798. President Adams was a prickly sort, the kind of person who doesn’t mind being prickly towards others but hates it when they are prickly in return. 

You know the kind. 

The Sedition Act made it a crime, a punishable offense, only nine years after the new Republic was founded on the pillars of free speech and liberty, to make “false, scandalous and malicious” comments in print or in-person against the government, the president or Congress. Since John Adams was a Federalist and Vice President Thomas Jefferson was an ardent Republican, the Sedition Act conveniently left insults and invective hurled against the vice-president as legal and, therefore, encouraged because there was a presidential election coming up in 1800. 

Talk about selective principles. Republicans have been attacked for their speech and ideas for as long as the United States has existed. 

As Lynne Cheney recounts in “The Virginia Dynasty,” a homeless man in Massachusetts was found guilty as he spouted off Republican principles as he wandered about the state. He was deemed a “threat” to the young republic by the Federalists then in control of government. 

A New Jersey garbage barge driver who was drunk in a Newark bar was sent to prison for two months by saying he didn’t care if a cannonball was “fired through {the president’s} arse!” as he heard a cannon tribute announcing the arrival of the president and Abigail Adams down the street. He too was considered a “threat” to the young republic. 

University presidents and faculty who seek to exclude conservative professors from employment on their campus or who prevent conservative speakers from speaking on campus look about as ridiculous as Federalists did back then barring homeless people and drunks from speaking their minds.  

If opposition views are so stupid and their ideas are so bad for America and its people, why not encourage them to keep talking? There is nothing worse or more embarrassing to a public figure than being proven wrong in public with the facts and the truth. 

In the new year, let’s all resolve to be speak more freely and to challenge authoritarians at every level of government, academia or business if they seek to restrict speech one tiny bit.  

Let people talk. Let everyone talk and say their piece. It really is the heart of being an American anyway.