Commonplace Book #42

In 1644, the Puritan poet John Milton–later the author of Paradise Lost–published a pamphlet in which he argued against a law passed by Parliament requiring printers to secure licenses from the government for everything they printed.  No book should be censored before publication, Milton argued (though it might be condemned after printing), because truth could only be established if allowed to do battle with lies.  “Let her and falsehood grapple,” he urged, since “whoever knew Truth to be put to the worst in a free and open encounter?”  This view depended on an understanding of the capacity of the people to reason.  The people, Milton insisted, are not “slow and dull, but of quick, ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to.”

Jill Lepore, These Truths, 49.