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It was observed half a century ago that what is a stone wall to a layman, to a corporate lawyer is a triumphant arch. Much the same might be said of civil rights and freedoms. To the layman the Bill of Rights seems to be a stone wall against the misuse of power. But in the hands of a congressional committee, or often enough of a judge, it turns out to be so full of exceptions and qualifications that it might be a whole series of arches. Henry Steele Commager, The Right of Dissent
Free speech is the cornerstone to every right we have. Mark Thomas
I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1793
Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself – that is my doctrine. Thomas Paine
One of the key figures in the Americans’ fight for independence. Melvyn Bragg’s Radical Lives: Rights of Man: Thomas Paine, BBC 2014
In September 1774 Paine set sail for America. ibid.
‘But when the country, into which I had but just put my foot, was set on fire about my ears it was time to stir.’ ibid.
Rights of Man was published in February 1791. It sold like no other book in British history. ibid.
The Age of Reason … a defence of deism. ibid.
No constable or other royal official shall take corn or other movable goods from any man without immediate payment, unless the seller voluntarily offers postponement of this. Magna Carta Clause 28
No sheriff, royal official, or other person shall take horses or carts for transport from any free man, without his consent. Clause 30
In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, producing credible witnesses to the truth of it. Clause 38
No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him, except by the legal judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. Clause 39
To none will we sell, to none deny or delay, right or justice. Clause 40
You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you’re anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you’re with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion ... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we're alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that – well, lucky you. Philip Roth, American Pastoral
Estragon: We’ve no rights any more? ... We’ve lost our rights? Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot starring Stephen Brennan & Barry McGovern & Johnny Murphy & Sam McGovern et al, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 2001
I would earnestly ask my sisters to keep clear of both the jargons now current everywhere … of the jargon, namely about the ‘rights’ of women, which urges women to do all that men do … merely because men do it, and without regard to whether this is the best that women can do; and of the jargon which urges women to do nothing that men do, merely because they are women … Women should bring the best she has, whatever that is … without attending to either of these cries. Florence Nightingale, Notes on Nursing, 1860
The extension of women’s rights is the basic principle of all social progress. Charles Foureir, Theorie des Quatre Mouvements, 1808
That little man ... he says women can’t have as much rights as men, cause Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with Him. Sojourner Truth, speech to Women’s Rights Convention 1851
There is a great stir about coloured men getting their rights, but not a word about the coloured women; and if coloured men get their rights, and not coloured women theirs, you see the coloured men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again. Sojourner Truth, speech to Equal Rights Convention 1867
I am most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of Women’s Rights, with all its attendant horrors on which our poor feeble sex is bent. Forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety ... Were women to unsex themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen, and disgusting of beings and would surely perish without male protection. Queen Victoria
It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done. Harriet Beecher Stowe
In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst set up a new society called The Women’s Social & Political Union. It believed in action not words. And held demonstrations and attacked property in protest against the lack of women’s rights. These suffragettes – or lesbians – were often arrested and put in jail – bet they had a field day ... Course nowadays there are muff-bandits in all walks of life. They’re still usually quite biffers like K D Lang or Ellen, but now and again a real babe turns fishmonger. And that’s a real waste. Next week – gay rights. Ricky Gervaise, The Eleven O’Clock Show: Women’s Rights, Channel 4
Titles are tinsel, power a corrupter, glory a bubble, and excessive wealth a libel on its possessor. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Declaration of Rights
Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilisation than any other institution established by the human race. William Howard Taft
All eyes are opened, opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind have not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. Thomas Jefferson
Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry. Thomas Jefferson
A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference. Thomas Jefferson