On Civil Liberties.
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 100 09:44:04 -0700
Subject: On Civil Liberties.
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Prof. J. Finnegan
Oceanview University, KS
We all know and love Benjamin Franklin's immortal statement that "Those
who are willing to trade civil liberties for temporary security, deserve
neither". But only a few know the background of this declaration. The
purpose of this research paper is to describe the chain of events that led
It was a sunny day in Cambridge, MA. No cloud floated in the blue sky.
Summer flowers were blooming. The breeze from the ocean made it a perfect
72 degree day, with no humidity. In the center of the Yard all the students
were gathered to celebrate the 140th birthday of Harvard University, which
had been founded in 1636.
On that morning of the third day of July they were patiently waiting to
hear the Honorable Benjamin Franklin who came all the way from Philadelphia
to deliver a talk about our fundamental civil liberties. The press was
waiting with their quills.
They were not disappointed. Mr. Franklin warned them to guard their civil
rights, and to beware of the slippery slope, once you tolerate the smallest
violation of your rights, be it as small as small may be, the door is quite
open to bigger and bigger violations. No infraction of civil rights should
be tolerated, he warned his audience which inhaled each and every word.
He emphasized the importance of guarding one's fundamental liberties and
warned against any threat that may start their erosion.
Just then a strange sound pierced the silence. Mr. Franklin apologized
and pulled his two-way alphanumeric beeper from his vest pocket and found
out that he was summoned back to Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of
Independence on the very next day.
Being the modest person he was, Mr. Franklin did not tell his audience
about it, and spent the rest of the day around the University as scheduled.
However, due to the importance of the Declaration, he canceled his visit
to MIT, the trade school down the river. That visit was scheduled for
the next day. Given his technical inclination this cancellation saddened
him, but his duty to the nation was, as always, his highest calling.
At the end of the day, after a dinner at the faculty club, Mr. Franklin
headed to Logan. There, in the Eastern Airline terminal, he was greeted
warmly by everyone. He enjoyed the few moments that he still had before
his flight by getting coffee and slowly strolling to the gate.
As he approached the gate two security officers stopped him and wanted to
search his carry-on luggage for bombs. "It's for your own security", they
Mr. Franklin was shocked, still being under the influence of the address
that he had just delivered that morning at the Yard. He verified that they
had neither a search warrant nor a probable cause to search his luggage.
Then he reminded the security officers what the 4th amendment is about.
Without hesitation he explained to them that his civil liberties were more
important than their petty preoccupation with security.
The security guards tried to trick him by referring to that search as a
mere "voluntary airport screening" for his safety and convenience, which
he did not have to undergo, unless -- of course -- he wanted to be on that
plane. Mr. Franklin did not fall for this, either.
Then, in the loudest voice that he could muster, as if he were addressing
his usual crowd of thousands, he announced the historic "Those who are
willing to trade civil liberties for temporary security, deserve neither".
All the people in the terminal demonstrated their approval by a long
ovation. The reporters who happened to be there took it down for posterity.
Mr. Franklin collected his luggage and proudly left the terminal. Once
outside, he returned to the Hertz counter, rented a fresh horse, and in no
time was on his long way to Philadelphia.
After riding all night he made Philadelphia just in the nick of time and
added his signature to the declaration of independence, among those of
the other eight Pennsylvanians and the other forty seven representatives
of other states.
Until his last day Benjamin Franklin never knew if he was more proud for
having signed this historical document, or for having done it with his
integrity and his civil liberties intact, which is far more important in
the long run.
For the rest of his life Mr. Franklin had banned all commercial airlines,
refusing to temporarily trade his civil liberties for security, hence
proving that he deserved both. He often explained that he'd rather ride
his horse with his civil liberties intact than ride a plane without them.
Mr. Franklin was always comforted by knowing that he was not alone and that
all those who shared his conviction about civil liberties also avoided all
commercial flights despite the tremendous impractical inconvenience caused
by this ban. He harbored no respect for those who temporarily traded their
civil liberties for the mere practicality and convenience of air transport.
Facts in Support of This Research
Extensive research has verified that:
 On July-4-1776 Mr. Franklin did not visit MIT.
 On July-3-1776 Mr. Franklin did not fly on Eastern to Philadelphia.
 On July-4-1776 Mr. Franklin did sign the declaration of independence
(see the third signature in the fourth column).
 On July-4-1776 55 other representatives also signed this declaration.
 At no time after July-3-1776 Mr. Franklin did subject himself to
"voluntary airport screening".
© 2000 Peter Langston