2018-08-10 / Letters

Free speech and freedom of the press are foundation pieces

To the editor,

The Kennebunk Post is to be commended for providing citizens a forum to express their views on a wide variety of topics from the actions by boards of selectmen to the quality of leadership exercised by the executive office of the United States. The letters to the editor section evolved out of the Committees of Correspondence from the 1760s to 1770s.

Americans engaged in politics in a variety of ways. That rabble rousing Samuel Adams in 1772 created a colony-wide level of Committees of Correspondence, a communication network as effective as tweets and instant messaging.

The committee’s first assignment was to prepare a series of reports outlining colonists’ rights and Parliament’s infringements upon those rights. This model was adopted by the House of Burgess in Virginia and soon after by the other colonists.

In 1773 after Parliament passed the onerous Tea Act, the Committees of Correspondence were quick to share their thoughts on this “impending evil” and raised the question: Will their vitriol be enough to stop the tea from coming? The answer came April 19, 1775 with a shot heard ’round the world on Lexington Green. That vitriol against an unjust and immoral government became the fuel to throw off the oppressors.

The rights of free speech and freedom of the press are two precious foundations of our democracy. Today’s letters to the editor follow in the tradition of the Committees of Correspondence “to encourage residents to become active, or at least more informed colonial citizens” (Massachusetts Historical Commission).

It is a good exercise for citizens to express their views and opinions in letters to the editor, for, as Dante allegedly observed: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Robert Lyons
Kennebunk

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