John Milton’s written oration, the Areopagitica, promoted the liberty of unlicensed printing, and is more generally a bold defense of freedom of the press.
Milton prepared the oration in response to Parliament’s Order of June, 1643 regulating printing. The Order provided, among other things, that no “book, pamphlet, [or] paper . . . shall from henceforth be printed, bound, stitched or put to sale by any person . . . unless the same be first approved of and licensed under the hands of such person . . . as either of the said Houses [of Parliament] shall appoint for the licensing of same.”
As Milton wrote in Areopagitica, “if you would crush the knowledge thus daily springing up, you must first suppress yourselves. . . . If you would have us slaves, you must be tyrants. . . . Leave Truth free to fight, and do not doubt the issue. . . . A system of suppression is always apt to put down truth.”
Our Areopagitica is dedicated to freedom of speech for all views. Truth in any absolute sense is elusive. For Areopagitica the pursuit of truth is a faithful dedication to accuracy where empirical data is applied. It is also a dedication to consistency and honesty in subjective expression, and to challenge and questioning.