The Freedom to Think

A son of Rhode Island who was educated at Brown University and Harvard Law School. ZECHARIAH CHAFEE. JR., was appointed to the law faculty at Harvard in 1916. Since 1950 he has been one of Harvard’s University Professors. A most trenchant defender of civil rights, he is best known for his authoritative book. Free Speech in the United States (1941). a subject which he has been studying intensively since 1916. The article which follows contains the gist of a recent address delivered at the University of Oregon.


IF THE universities had not recently brought the social sciences into the curriculum, they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble. Their freedom would have been attacked very little in the twentieth century. The struggle between the natural sciences and religion ended in an armistice decades ago. Geology no longer battles against Genesis, and evolution can be taught with impunity outside Tennessee and Mississippi. New theories and discoveries in physics, chemistry, and biology are enthusiastically heralded. They may enable us to save sick men by the hundreds or slaughter well men by the hundreds of thousands. They may bring about inventions which will add to our comfort and help the advertising business. As for the humanities, innovation has always been welcome since Homer said, “Men ever love the song that rings newest in the ear.”

The professor who indulges in heterodox views about economics, government, international affairs, and law, on the other hand, occupies the front page of newspapers beside bank robbers. Columnists bracket him with spies. The lightning he keeps attracting does not spare the university where he works. If it protects itself from the storm by sending him away, it will often lose the teaching and research of a distinguished scholar, and it will surely demoralize his colleagues and lessen its future power to recruit a strong faculty. Yet, if the university dares to retain the unpopular professor, it too will become a favorite target for professional patriots. The sources of indispensable funds may perhaps dry up, and many parents of desirable undergraduates, present or potential, will be honestly disturbed. One of the great calamities of these angry attacks on disliked ideas in universities is that they distract the heads of an institution from their vital task of facilitating thought and ask them to stifle thought.

People are inclined to regard the multiplication table as characteristic of all education — something which is just so and not otherwise, which once learned stays with you through life. When a professor expresses to his class ideas about politics or economics with which the critics disagree, they think it just as bad as telling boys and girls that seven times nine is sixty-one. Of course there is a core of indubitable knowledge in education, but most of the teacher’s task consists in imparting methods for understanding what is still unknown and for dealing with it wisely. The best kind of education was what Mark Twain got as an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi. After he had learned all the shoals and points in the river from St. Louis to New Orleans, he found that many of them had changed. He had to learn them all over again; and better yet, he had to know how to be perpetually acquiring information through which he could predict those changes.

Mistakes are easier to make in such a process than in the communication of an established body of knowledge. Yet it is absurd to assume that such mistakes will warp the minds of students for life.

Copyright 1954, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston 16, Mass. All rights reserved.

This is one reason why citizens at large are scared about teachers. They think that students believe what they hear in college. Did these anxious folk do that when they were in college themselves? They are like Mr. Dooley—“I remember when I was a little boy, but I don’t remember how I was a little boy.” They have forgotten what it was like to be young.

Undergraduates do not believe all that their professors tell them, even if it happens to be right. A great many teachers of economics in colleges in my boyhood were for low tariffs, but students who went out of their classrooms into business were soon protectionists. A former Secretary of Stale told me, while he was in law school, that what worried him about education at Yale was that most of his classmates were rapidly becoming just like their fathers. The frequent fear of citizens that radical professors produce radical students is not borne out by my experience. The most fertile nursery of Socialists I have known was the classroom of Professor Thomas Nixon Carver, a conservative of the toughest fiber. The reaction against his teaching produced the flourishing Harvard Socialist Club around 1910. One of its members, John Reed, is buried in the walls of the Kremlin. Another Socialist Club member was Walter Lippmann. Boys and girls do not really think always like their teachers, nor do they necessarily go on thinking like themselves when in college. Life wears us all down.


THE capacity of citizens to adjust themselves wisely to changes is particularly urgent in matters of government, law, economic transactions, and other areas of the social sciences. Even if there were no new inventions, we should be foolish to expect ideas to stay as they are, however satisfactory we now find them. Sometimes it is hard for a community to see the need for new methods of conducting its affairs even though that need is great. The Industrial Revolution caused an immediate, enormous, and never-ending growth of metropolitan areas, whose problems could not possibly be handled efficiently by the old simple, overlapping governments of counties, townships, and cities in a particular region like Greater New York. And yet it was decades before men began asking what kind of government ought to replace those which had hopelessly broken down.

In the United States today institutions are not frozen, nor are they so anywhere in the free world from which we must seek allies. As the newly independent nations of Asia plan their governments, we ought not to be shocked if they decide to govern themselves in ways which are somewhat unfamiliar to us. The numerous problems the American people face at home or in their relations with other countries call for inventiveness and wisdom on the part of the few who propose solutions and of the many who decide whether to accept or modify or reject them. Devotion to tradition is useless here. The inevitability of change requires our unyielding maintenance of the principle of open discussion, not only for ideas and persons we like but also for those we detest.

This brings me to what I want to say most. The universities of the United States are taking an indispensable share in the work of continuously testing, readjusting, and improving the machinery of human relations, and nobody else can do what they do. Of course, a great deal of this work will always be carried on by the active men in the field such as politicians, journalists, lawyers, judges, and businessmen. They have an experience, a sense of what is possible and other qualities of mind which are rare among professors.

Still, no matter how shrewd the practical men are, they are absorbed in a crowded succession of immediate tasks; and this leaves them far less time than professors have for taking long views. Few social problems are wholly novel. One may seem so to the man in the field, but the professor is likely to have encountered something resembling it during his researches. At least he knows where to look for it. He is like a specialist consulted by a family doctor about a baffling illness. The specialist hunts up medical case-records of decades ago. He discovers how similar symptoms were diagnosed and treated, and what was the outcome. Moreover, the teacher’s task of making difficulties plain to undergraduates fits him to translate technicalities into language which is intelligible to any thoughtful layman.

In former times in England and the United States there were a considerable number of able men outside universities who had sufficient leisure to take long views of society and put them into books. Remember the influence exerted by Jeremy Bentham and Walter Bagehot. John Stuart Mill did not even go to college. Most of the great American historians of the nineteenth century held no professorships. However, with high taxes and modern pressures we can no longer count on getting the help we need from such independent men. No doubt, there will still be an occasional farsighted columnist like Walter Lippmann, an occasional part-time historian like Douglas Southall Freeman. But the major contributions to comprehensive thinking about the problems of society will have to come from the universities. Think of Adam Smith at Glasgow, Blackstone at Oxford, Wythe the teacher of John Marshall at William and Mary, Thomas Cooley at Michigan, William Graham Sumner at Yale, Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, Frank Taussig at Harvard, to mention a few.

The professor in a social science performs his indispensable task in several different ways. He writes himself. He teaches the writers of the future. Still more important, he trains potential politicians and voters to deal wisely and well with the problems which they will have to face. And the classroom discussions teach him as well as his students; he discovers the weak spots in his views and puts them into print more clearly than if he wrote in isolation.

What I am saying about the indispensable task of a university applies to all universities in the United States, public or endowed, and particularly to the former. As taxes rise, endowed universities lose and state universities gain. The fact that these public universities are ultimately controlled by legislatures ought to be irrelevant to their performance of the indispensable task of supplying long views about the problems of society. The government pays judges, but it does not tell them how to decide. An independent state university is as essential to the community as an independent judiciary. Legislatures make it possible for scholars to think and teach. There the political part in education should end. When he who pays the piper insists on calling the tune, he is not likely to get much good music.

For many decades the American universities have been performing their indispensable task. All of a sudden they are gravely hampered in carrying it out by current fears of radicalism. There is no class of people more injured by repression than teachers. If you confine the teacher in his thinking, what do you leave him? That is his job, to think. Universities should not be transformed, as in Nazi Germany, into loudspeakers for the men who wield political power. If they are deprived of freedom of thought and speech, there is no other place to which citizens can confidently turn for long views about public issues. Here and there some courageous writer or speaker may still make himself known, but such men are no substitute for the present systematic creation and communication of ideas which take place in our universities.


WITHOUT attempting any exhaustive presentation of current efforts to block the indispensable task of universities, I want to speak of three kinds of attacks on professors who express unwelcome views about the social sciences. Right away let me make it plain that I am not writing about professors who are really Communists. Only a handful of such men have been discovered among university teachers during all the investigations by Congress and state legislatures. Many university presidents have announced that they will not hire or keep a Communist on their faculties. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is well informed about members of the Communist Party. There is plenty of federal legislation to take care of dangerous revolutionaries on or off the campus.

What began years ago as an onslaught on a few Communist scholars has been long since transformed into an onslaught on a great many scholars who are not Communists, but who are suspected of holding views which happen to be unpopular with an influential number of citizens.

Let me give some concrete illustrations. The University of Colorado was urged to dismiss an economist for favoring a Missouri Valley Authority like the TVA. A prominent alumnus of Harvard Law School refused to give any money for its new dormitories unless the leading American astronomer was turned out of Harvard Observatory for presiding over a meeting at the Waldorf of scientists and other thinkers from all over the world, including (with our government’s definite sanction) some from the Soviet Union. No evidence was offered that the astronomer was a Communist. The Regents of the University of California expressly said that none of the numerous distinguished professors they discharged were Communists. In California too, a professor’s textbook on American history was denounced because he wrote that the Supreme Court reacted to the wishes and thinking of the people when it eventually held New Deal legislation to be constitutional. This, said the critic, was subtly hidden Communist propaganda; in fact the Court decides cases free of such pressures.

The first and most far-flung attack on freedom in the social sciences is modeled on The Red Network by Elizabeth Hilling, who ended her career by being tried under the Smith Act among a mass of anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers. The attack takes the form of an enormous amount of talk about the membership of professors in so-called subversive organizations. The word “subversive” has no precise definition in American law. It is as vague as “heretical” was in the medieval trials which sent men to the stake. Some government official or some group of politicians classifies an organization as subversive, and a university is thereupon urged to dismiss every professor who ever had any connection with that organization.

Aside from the harm to teaching, there are great dangers to our national life in this endeavor to interfere by law with freedom of discussion through organizations. We are engaged in twisting out of all recognizable shape one of the leading traditions of American life: the possibility of freely forming associations for all sorts of purposes — religious, political, social, and economic. If we look back over our national history, we see that many of the most significant political changes began with the efforts of some informal group which was much disliked by the ordinary run of citizens— for example, Abolitionists, women suffragists, and Populists, who advocated the election of Senators by the people and a federal income tax. The appearance of a group favoring one side of an issue often aroused a group of opponents, and the public profited from its opportunity to judge between competing presentations of both sides of an important national problem. Under modern conditions, freedom of speech under the First Amendment is likely to be ineffective if it means only the liberty of an isolated individual to talk about his ideas.

When it comes to depriving professors of their lifetime careers because of membership in a “subversive” organization, there are often weak links in the chain of reasoning of the attackers.

First, the characterization of the particular organization as subversive is a delicate task, which is rarely undertaken in a judicial manner. Clearly legitimate purposes may be mingled with purposes which are objectionable to many Americans. Some men join for the legitimate purposes and others for the objectionable purposes. Legislative investigating committees tend to assume that a few Communists in the organization are enough to condemn it as a whole. One of them remarked, “How much poison does it take to make a cup of coffee harmful?” In fact, the mere membership of a professor in an organization has little significance until one knows whether he was one of the radicals or one of the conservatives or simply mailed a small check to further the legitimate purposes and went back to reading a learned book.

Anything can happen when people get started on this business of outlawing groups, not for any crimes committed by either the group or any of its members, but for having some vaguely bad ideas or some vaguely bad members.

Another weak link is the determination of the professor’s membership in a stigmatized organization. It is not a matter of record like being a stockholder in a business corporation. Or take a club. A man is elected to it, he pays regular dues, he resigns in order to stop his dues; but in these propaganda enterprises, joining and leaving are very informal and dues are either loosely collected or nonexistent. If one comes to dislike new associates or new purposes, he just stops doing anything; there is no particular reason for taking the time and trouble to write a letter of resignation. Often the alleged member has no knowledge of belonging to the organization at all. Somebody inside it put his name on its mailing list, which gets into the hands of a legislative committee, and that’s enough. I am red-listed by the House Un-Ameriean Activities Committee in the National Federation of Constitutional Liberties and the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. My only relation with these two groups was to open some envelopes and put the stuff right into my wastebasket without bothering to reply.

Finally, I come to the worst weakness of this red network. Suppose a professor did undoubtedly sign a petition to the President to pardon some Communist whom he thought to be unjustly imprisoned, or joined the National Lawyers Guild when he was too young to get into the American Bar Association, or gave twenty dollars to help refugees from Franco Spain get medical care. This is only one aspect of that professor’s activities. It took only a small fraction out of one working day. You need to know a great deal more about the man before you can determine his real outlook on politics and society.

The legislative investigating committees rarely bother to find out this “great deal more” about the man they classify as subversive. Take just one example. They red-list the late Charles A. Beard the historian. He was so objectionable a man that the California schools were urged to throw out a textbook on Our Constitution because the bibliography cites Beard, who “has been affiliated with (five) Communist-front organizations.” One was the Non-Partisan Committee for the Re-election of Vito Marcantonio to Congress. The others were equally short-lived affairs, gotten up to file a petition in Washington or appear at congressional hearings on a specific subject. No mention of Beard’s long membership in the American Political Science Association and the American Historical Association; he was one of only two scholars who served as president of both these learned societies. No mention of The Rise of American Civilization or his dozen other books. Yet these lists are used, with no independent verification, by columnists and infuriated alumni as if they possessed the accuracy of a financial rating by Dun & Bradstreet.

It is high time for a group of trustworthy men to evaluate this red network. Let them take all the non-Communists who have been labeled as “fellow travelers” and “subversive” on these lists. Tell American citizens how many persons are really dangerous to the safety of the nation out of a total which includes Beard, Ed Murrow, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank P. Graham, Lin Yutang, Roscoe Pound, and James Bryant Conant.

The whole thing ought to be put into the incinerator. No more government by gossip.


THE second attack on universities is the rapidly increasing practice of singling out teachers in public and endowed institutions for test oaths and compulsory declarations of loyalty. Thus to regard all professors as potential transgressors is an insult to law-abiding and hard-working men and women. Teachers were once esteemed in American communities, but now they are treated en masse as if they were peculiarly inclined to betray their country. Alexander Hamilton, whom nobody would call a radical, denounced the expurgatory oath which was designed to root out Tories in New York:

It was to excite scruples in the honest and conscientious, and to hold out a bribe to perjury. . . . Nothing can be more repugnant to the true genius of the common law than such an inquisition . . . into the consciences of men.

These test oaths for teachers are a subtle way of enforcing upon them the view which happens to be dominant for the time being. They revive a detested practice used in England and Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to impose religious uniformity upon teachers. They combine insult with futility. No really revolutionary professor would boggle at taking them. If they get rid of anybody, it is “the honest and conscientious” as Hamilton said.

The Massachusetts Loyalty Oath, enacted in 1935 in response to assertions that the schools and colleges of the Commonwealth were riddled with Communists and traitors, has not ferreted out a single teacher with the slightest taint of disloyalty. In the subsequent nineteen years, only five teachers and professors have failed to take the oath. What is especially significant is that these five men and women had served for years with unquestioned devotion. They stopped their lifework because they were sensitive people who thought it wrong to be forced to swear that they possessed the common virtues of decent citizens.

Some supporters of loyalty oaths cannot understand why professors who are far from being Communists should object to swearing, “I am not a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which advocates the overthrow of the government by force and violence.” If it’s true, why not say so? Why all this fuss?

Scholars object to being forced to plead “Not guilty” before any evidence of guilt is produced. They object to making a public avowal of their loyalty and their allegiance to the pursuit of truth, when these qualities ought never to have been doubted. Picture the parallel situation of a loyal wife whose suspicious husband demands a public assertion — at a dinner party in their home — that she has never been unfaithful to him. “ If it’s true, why not say so?”

If we are going to revive the abomination of expurgatory oaths, why stop at one profession and one kind of objectionable behavior? Why not extend the device to other occupations and other offenses? Let us require every Congressman to swear that there were no illegal practices at his election and that he has never accepted a bribe or taken a kickback out of the salary of his secretary. Let us require every lawyer to swear that he has never solicited clients by ambulance-chasing, every doctor that he has never performed an abortion, and every businessman that he has never violated the antitrust laws. Imagine the indignation which these proposals would raise from men who see no harm in teachers’ oath laws. Yet these offenses are far more frequent in the respective occupations than disloyalty among teachers, and they are at least as injurious to society.

It is high time to stop this persistent probing of the patriotism of professors and schoolteachers. We teachers have a difficult job and perhaps we are not doing it very successfully, but we shall surely do it worse when misguided people are constantly tearing us up by the roots to see whether we are growing straight or crooked.


LASTLY, I want to speak of the attack on scholars at the frontiers of the United States. Our government, six years ago, signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims “freedom . . . to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas . . . regardless of frontiers.” This freedom embodies the experience of centuries. Many notable contributions to the art and literature of the world have been made by men who wrote or published in countries not their own — Dante, Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Heine, and Mazzini. Foreign scholars have enriched thought at universities ever since Erasmus sojourned at Cambridge. Of late years, they have gathered at many international conferences with great benefit to intellectual and practical progress.

The values just described will be hard to obtain if our government continues its present inhospitality to traveling thinkers on the ground of their real or supposed political opinions. Men with original ideas to give the world do not fall into orthodox patterns. If they did, they would probably be unable to tell us anything new. The writer who complies strictly with established views is usually not worth listening to.

We have come a long, long way from Thomas Jefferson, whose name is so frequently invoked by the politicians who have brought about the present laws of the United States. He invited professors from abroad to the University of Virginia, which the wrote) “will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” Our government is repudiating the spirit of Jefferson just at the time when it is more important than ever before that the free countries of the world should pool their intellectual resources for the sake of preserving their freedom and increasing human welfare.

The doors of the United States are now locked on both sides. When American scholars are asked to lecture at European universities or attend important conferences, their passports may be denied by subordinate officials or delayed so long that the object of the journey is wrecked. Linus Pauling, former president of the American Chemical Society and winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was invited to take part in a discussion of the structure of proteins at the Royal Society in London on May 1, 1952. Pauling applied for a passport on January 24. Through the efforts of Senator Wayne Morse, he finally got it — on July 15. Ten weeks too late for the Royal Society meeting!

Meanwhile, some of the most distinguished thinkers in free countries have been refused visas to enter the United States and help us advance our knowledge. According to a very measured and painstaking examination of such cases in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists for October, 1952, none of the many excluded foreign scholars there discussed would have been dangerous to the United States if admitted, and not one had the remotest tinge of Communism. The natural sciences are the chief sufferers from this policy, but the social sciences are by no means left free. Michael Polanyi, for example, is Professor of Social Studies at Manchester in England. Polanyi was among the distinguished scholars whom Princeton gathered at its bicentenary in 1946, but in 1951 he was not allowed to return to the United States to occupy the chair of Social Philosophy at the University of Chicago. The adamant American consul never looked at any of Polanyi’s writings.

Visas are not always denied, only delayed without reasons. “I waited, but nothing happened.” “Weeks and months elapsed without an answer.” Anybody who has been shocked by Menotti’s opera The Consul will find its scenes re-enacted in offices which fly the Stars and Stripes.

The restoration of freedom of movement for journalists, creative writers, scientists, and other scholars can be accomplished without modifying the general immigration laws of the United States. These are primarily designed to determine the character of our permanent population. The restrictions are framed with regard to aliens who wish to settle in new homes here for the rest of their lives and eventually become citizens. The present national policy as to such persons is that they must not differ very much from the mass of our population. It was not the policy which brought over Roger Williams and built up the colonies and the states, but it is firmly established now. My point is that restrictions which may be suitable for intending settlers are undesirable and needless for scholars who wish to come here for a short time.

The obstacles to free trade in ideas are not satisfactorily removed by the provision of the existing law which allows the Attorney General to issue exceptional dispensations to a few temporary visitors. Such special favors take a long time, and they are a shabby recognition of the good which distinguished thinkers and writers from our side of the iron curtain can bring to the intellectual life of the United States. Each proposal to disregard our immigration laws for the sake of benefiting some individual may possibly raise an outcry among Congressmen and columnists.

Consideration of this matter by intelligent writers in the press with the help of our leading learned societies might shape public opinion and eventually persuade Congress to place temporary visitors to the United States in a separate category from permanent settlers. When a foreigner is not going to stay here, we do not really need to worry about his present or past political and economic views or his present or past membership in various organizations, so long as he himself will not do any bad acts during his visit. The only real question is, Will this scholar endanger the public safety if we let him in? Proof submitted directly to high authorities in Washington by an American university or learned society that it has arranged for the scholar to give lectures or attend conferences here ought to go a long way to satisfy this test. The institution which thus sponsored the visa would feel a moral responsibility for the proper behavior of its guest. There would be no need for a distinguished scholar to be grilled by a consul, no need for long delays while many letters crossed the Atlantic, little or no occasion for publicity.

Anybody who regards this simple procedure as perilously hospitable to “subversive” foreigners ought to remember that Great Britain, France, Italy, and most other countries of free Europe require no visas whatever for a visiting American. He just needs a passport to get in and stay in, so long as he behaves himself, Yet those countries are three thousand miles nearer to the Soviet Union and its satellites than we are. If they are willing to take a chance on our citizens, why are we afraid to take a much smaller chance on theirs?

But that is not the way things are now. Today we, the people of the United States, are shutting out quiet thinkers who are anxious to come among us to help us treat leukemia and breast cancer, and to aid us in many different ways to develop valuable ideas for our industry and our welfare. Russia has hung an iron curtain along its frontiers and China a silken curtain. The government of the United States is doing its best to put around our shores a curtain of solid ivory.


I KEGUET that I have not the space to deal with a fourth current attack on teachers through legislative investigations and subsequent prosecutions for perjury or contempt. The professors put under questioning have not always acted wisely, but those who have not been under fire (as I was years ago) can have no understanding of the mental turmoil it causes to a teacher and the difficulty of keeping one’s poise. I shall simply say of these cases that they are striking illustrations of the words of Spinoza: —

Laws directed against opinions affect the generousminded rather than the wicked, and are adapted less for coercing criminals than for irritating the upright. . . . What greater misfortune for a state than that honourable men should be [treated] like criminals . . .?

The public has worried far too much about a single objection to professors; it applies at most to only a handful of them, whom the federal government can catch through its own machinery if that be necessary. There are many reasons besides Communism which make a professor a poor teacher. Most important of all, the public would do well to think about the kind of professors we do want in a university.

Professors are different from the general run of people. They ought to be different. Most people think in order to take action. Professors ought to think for the sake of thinking.

The real danger to our colleges and universities is not from radical teachers — or conservative teachers — but from uninspiring teachers, men who can’t get over the footlights, dispensers of branded canned goods. The greatest need is for teachers who will produce eagerness of spirit among young men and women and the ability to deal in after life with what is around the corner. Such a spirit is best nurtured by a teacher who can have untroubled periods of time when “The wind bloweth where it listeth” and, in the words of Hobbes, “Thoughts run [seeking] as a spaniel ranges in the field, till he finds a scent.” Helmholtz, the great scientist, declared on his seventieth birthday, “Happy ideas have never come to me at my working table. They come particularly rapidly during the slow ascent of wooded hills on a sunny day.”

Nothing kills such a spirit in a university like a systematic campaign of suppression. Thinking and research stop while everybody discusses the latest investigation or the next. Grief over the dismissal of friends, efforts to protect other friends from being the next victims, trying to raise money to pay lawyers to defend a colleague who is under fire, drafting and redrafting a faculty statement of principles, going to alumni for support, interviewing trustees or regents, fears for one’s own prospects, lengthy examination of old letter-files and diaries and account books to disprove alleged affiliations with subversive groups, loss of faith in the educational authorities who are saving themselves by more and more concessions to the foes of freedom — how is an untroubled mind possible any longer? “The quiet and still air of delightful studies" has been transformed into the shouts of the battlefield.

A Czech said after the Communists took over his country, “We must be neither good nor bad, we must be careful.” Most unhappy of all are those professors and administrators who keep aloof from the campus conflict and play safe. They become ashamed of themselves for doing nothing to maintain what, in their hearts, they know to be a great principle.

Thirty years ago I was on the receiving end of an academic investigation for heterodox writing, and I know what a great encouragement it has been to feel absolutely assured that the authorities of Harvard will never dismiss a professor because of his honestly held opinions, whether expressed in or out of the classroom. For the sake of having a university do its special and essential work well, it is worth while to run the risk of whatever injuries may come from a few men on its faculty with objectionable ideas.

As it was declared by Justice Robert Jackson, whose death is a bitter loss: —

Our forefathers found the evils of free thinking more to be endured than the evils of inquest or suppression. This is because thoughtful, bold and independent minds are essential to wise and considered self-government.

The time has come to strike back. Not just individual professors brought, under fire and easily picked off like an isolated sentry. They ought not be allowed to feel like the young State Department man in Europe who explained to me why he was resigning. “I haven’t been attacked yet, but I know that if I am attacked, not a single person in Washington will raise a finger in my defense.” In contrast I thought of what Mr. Lowell told me, after he had warded off the Wall Street lawyers who sought my dismissal: “I had to protect my front.”

To presidents, trustees, regents, alumni, I say, “This is your fight.”

Despite proper anxieties about future gifts and student enrollments, I believe a university which proclaims its devotion to freedom and lives up to it. will attract farsighted givers and young men and women who are worth teaching. It is easy to underestimate the admiration which American citizens feel toward courage.

The issue is whether the unusual man shall be rigidly controlled by the usual men.

No more concessions. We will not bow down in the House of Rimmon. We will not take breakfast in the Schine apartment.

The time has come for the universities of the United States to stop retreating and carry the war into Africa. We ought to educate more than our students. “We must educate our masters” — the legislators and the citizens who in the end make educational institutions possible. We need to persuade them to minimize the dangers of heterodoxy and be ready, as Jefferson was, to take a calculated risk. We need to convince them of what they have forgotten — the importance of intellectual freedom, if we are to have the kind of country most loyal Americans desire. We need to make our fellow citizens realize that freedom is not safety, but opportunity.