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“This sacred Privilege is to essential to free Governments, that the Security of Property, and the Freedom of Speech always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing the Fteeness of Speech; a Thing terrible to Publick Traytors.”

In 1722, sixteen year old Benjamin Franklin served as an apprentice printer for his brother, James, at the New England Courant. Franklin dreamed of being more than a typesetter. He suspected that his brother would refuse to print anything he wrote, so he decided to submit his work under a pseudonym. Publishing under a pseudonym was common place at that time, and Franklin eventually penned fourteen letters which were reprinted in the Courant using the name Silence Dogood. Mrs. Dogood was purportedly a widow who enjoyed commenting on a variety of topics from the frivolity of fashion to the religious practices of her fellow Bostonians. Franklin disguised his handwriting and slid the letters under the door of the print shop after it closed for the night. James was angry with Franklin after he learned who actually wrote the letters. The brothers’ discord grew to the point that eventually their father intervened, and sided with Franklin, to resolve the conflict that had arisen.  

The above quote was taken from the eighth of Franklin’s Silence Dogood letters. The material was actually an abstract of a letter written by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, under the pseudonym of Cato, which was published in the London Journal. Cato was a Roman who advocated republican principles. Trenchard and Gordon published 144 essays which espoused principles such as those written about by John Locke including freedom of speech. Cato’s 15th letter, published on February 4, 1720

I will continue to highlight material from Cato’s 15th letter throughout the week, and then move on to other writings which involve Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Speech. If we are to band together, engage others, and work to enact the changes that we seek, we must be able to think for ourselves and voice our opinions. These key freedoms are the essence of What IS Right With America.

Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.
Everyone’s Guide to the Constitution: