And the world listened; Peter Wentworth: Freedom of speech
Truly Mr Speaker his House of Commons the whole trust and confidence by the people and turned conscience in this place are grounded by his law without which and the state cannot be maintained for nor state will stand where it will not be governed by advice. I will discharge my conscience and duty to God and country not without. No not. Peter and the world. And the world listen. Program to my series dramatizing Brave
Horatius. The man and the age that created them. These programs are produced by Radio Station W.H. University of Wisconsin under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters a consultant for the series is Frederick W. Habermann chairman of the department of speech at the University of Wisconsin. Here is Professor Habermann. Peter Wentworth speech on February the 8th 15 76 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth is the first instance of reasoned discourse on the subject of freedom of speech delivered in the House of Commons. When he was preparing his speech he suspected that it would carry him to the tower. Nor was he wrong. Peter Wentworth life we have little information. The best evidence sets his dates at fifteen twenty four and fifteen ninety seven a span of seventy three years. A contemporary says that he was a gentleman
of a good house and of good breeding. We know from the records that Peter studied law at Lincoln's Inn and from his speeches that he was an educated man strong in the Bible the classics and constitutional history. His father was knighted by Henry the eight. There were two sons Peter and Paul both destined to become disciples of liberty of speech. Peter Wentworth was an ardent Puritan. He was in the vanguard of the Puritan revolt against the prerogative of the crown and he further incurred Elizabeth's displeasure because he wanted her to marry or at least to name a successor to the throne. If Elizabeth were to produce an heir or if she were to name a successor. England would be assured Wentworth thought of a continuation of Protestant rule. He was strongly opposed to a Catholic monarch. Yet it is ironical to observe that Wentworth
suffered more at the hands of a Protestant queen than of those of Mary the Catholic queen who preceded Elizabeth from fifteen fifty three to fifteen fifty eight. I will bless the Lord at all times his praise shall continue in my mouth. Oh magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD and He heard me. Master peace peace. We are reading scripture Joshua. He heard me and delivered me from all my fears. But. The angel of the Lord and with fear and to liberate them. The name of the Lord Joshua Oh I mean the queen is dead. He'll make a bonfire in the courtyard circ such good do we know and give thanks. As for the
bonfire why not make a brother. No bonfire. We've had enough of burning. Go instead Joshua and ring the bell of our tower. Ring it joyfully to drown out the tolling of the church then tell all of our household we should have a thanksgiving service after breakfast on the morrow. If you will. Please be willing to talk. I see no harm in a bonfire brother. I cannot stomach it. Flames bring back the stench of the martyrs. If you forgot Ridley Rogers named Peter better we should remember them in our prayers and pray too that Elizabeth brings happier freer days to England. They say she's young and yet wisely and will listen to good counsel. We must see to it there are good men aplenty to guide her. You'll go to London for the Coronation Street way I can set the house in order for my absence.
I would God had spared father lived to see this day. He'd serve Elizabeth Well if he served king Henry as we must serve in his place. Peter I shall stand for Parliament. You boy. You're old enough no no Wentworth name is known well enough and known to be honest Puritan mock me when Elizabeth calls parliament to be full of new faces and a new spirit too. There's a wind blowing through England brother and it blows strongest from the farms and villages. It will bring new voices to be heard in London. We must stay too close to home Peter by the cares of our father's death. And that too of your own wife now is an end to grief and mourning. There is work to be done God will it and to him how head of this family Peter. Think you not of a new marriage but a wife and I but it is time this night there is joy in England for Mary dead. Photo Elizabeth the Queen and the House of Wentworth begin this night to live
again Peter. The majesty Queen Elizabeth to hear some of this is our Majesty's wish that the log keeper of the great alchemy of commands to the Commons here assembled to support the cross and defend considering such ways as may be for our country's losses to work diligently to fly or of contentions reasoning captures Senate approval this argument. This new parliament petition and speak freely of its mind. What think you brother
all goes well Peter it will go well. Proof proof what proof what replied the Lord Keeper to the petition of the commons for freedom of speech while our gracious reply that Her Majesty is right will content to grant it as amply and there's liberal ears everywhere granted as it were granted by whom. Why buy any of the Queen's no blue print genitives then tis not granted Elizabeth grants no more than did her father. And how did they start with this. The men of Commerce ended too early to tell but they be a goodly lot. Francis Walsingham among them and from him I bring you greetings and almost fear invitation to call upon his sister. As you will. You do wish it Peter. Give thanks that was in him approved. This summer he himself will marry the daughter of the Lord Mayor of London are rising man are also known and soon to be a part of me thinks God grant he uses POA to bring God's will to England. And why was not the petition heard it was the will of Commons it was her majesty's will
that we not even discuss in the Queen's We are the Queen's. What if the people's will the people demand Elizabeth name her successor their the Queen say Carmen shall not discuss her you know my feelings know how I spoke against this stand you for parliament to and fight with us what of her marriage with the queen forbid Commons to discuss the need for that newly married yourself. You know I think it good lever the queen do it. Do not jest take it unseemly that you do a poor I meant no offense but says my brother in law feels he the queen. Francis Walsingham feels only for her safety. He pleads in the Privy Council itself against plots and the dangers of Mary Stuart. He would have her back in Scotland or dead anywhere out of England. But come yourself to London stand for Parliament. Trust not myself to be your ears and tongue. If I would not speak to the queen's will nor should you. There stands a vacancy in Barnstable. Shall I tell them to post your name for it.
All right. Tell them. Say Wentworth is come up out of the country and will speak for the people and God. I learned no tongue to flatter the court and no brother to prayers to ask God to be with us. Reputation for my bishop of Canterbury gentlemen I will be seated please. I will be brief. I have seen the Articles of Religion passed by your House of Commons and I would have answers to questions on them now. Who speaks for you. My Lord Bishop Peter Wentworth member from Barnstable. You have bravely in your works. We are displeased. Good. I cannot think it an oversight and would fain know your reasoning reasoning on what matter my lord.
Yeah in the book of homilies there is no mention of the consecrating of Bishops hall. So grievous and or excuse so grave an omission. Oh surely because we were so occupied with other things we had no time to examine these issues. We must wait to study how they agree with the Word of God. Then we must examine why not. You mistake the matter consecrating of bishops. Surely you believe that to Austin leave it. No I the faith I bear to God we will pass nothing until we understand what it is. Understand that this is not it is not. That would make you Pope's. Mick pope sir if you will. By parliament will make you not take Wentworth. Take care. Will I take care of the rights of Parliament and the will of God and the people. Bob and I found the buckle from your shoe.
Well my son you're sharp but I did not know I had lost it. Nor did I see you playing in the garden. It came up when you kick the stone into the rose bushes. I can fix it. I'm good at fixing things. You are Nicholas ever a good lad. Your grandfather would be proud to see you bear his name. Oh I thought you'd gone fishing though with the other boys. No father. Look at me my son. Why you've been crying a great lad like you not fishing but hiding there in the summer house which they did and for what cause. I'm afraid I'm afraid my son afraid there's not to fear but God's judgment. Nicholas look at me. No tears but speak the truth what's been frightening you. Everyone you say you go to the Dow should lock you up in the dark. So I'm to be cast in prison and why and for what crime. For speaking in parliament. Oh father don't go to London keep away from London.
Don't let the queen catch you and lock you up in the tower. Nicholas nobody is going to hurt me in London. Let us sit here in the summer house and reason on this thing. It all may be set right by reason you know that my boy. Now you say the danger to me is speaking in parliament. Yes father. Ever. One says it isn't safe to speak and why am i sent there. Why am I sent there to speak the will of the people our friends and neighbors throughout the countryside. How else would the queen know what her subjects are thinking. I don't know. Then the men of Commons must tell her and it will help her in the state to govern more wisely. Emma I think you are a selfish man and even. Oh of course not. Father then if I and other men who try to live good lives if we are allowed to speak freely Surely the good God will not let us speak harmful things he will put only good thoughts and ideas into our minds. Is that not so. Like Solomon Solomon as God to give him wisdom about Ruby a good
lead. I don't know as there is scripture but to reason this further. Now suppose a bad man sits in the Commons and were he to speak freely of evil things. What then. God would strike him dead. Even if the Almighty did not surely truth would come to light. But it's like your mother's needle work in a piece of fine needle work a false stitch will be found out so in free speech will truth and ever be found out. But the queen has many gods and a whole tower full of dungeons. She could catch you and shut you up and nobody. Ammons would get you out Nicolas even the Queen must live under the law and there is a special law without which the Queen and all the government would come tumbling down like a pack of cards. Are you sure truly big not big enough to keep you safe all right. Dear lad safe as in the bosom of our Lord. It is not a law or writ with ink and quill nor scratched on a long piece of paper. It is God given
not man made. It is the law of contracts. Maybe the Queen doesn't know about this. By God's grace she will as God speaks to every godly man and each man answers to his God. So must man speak openly and freely in public matters. For not to speak to fear or to forbid free speech may be to silence the will of God. We are his instruments out of us. His words may come. And how can Queens or governors or or bishops or guards stop the free speech of a good man serving God. I don't know if you are there. They set out for you in the garden. Uncle. Your saying God you are back watching him. Did you see the fighting in France uncle was there. But such tales are not for your ears. Run tell your mother I shall stay to dinner. Peter I must talk with you. I would have it so run Nicholas as you have been
going. But quickly man quickly one of the Huguenots where so many killed as we have heard more the massacre began one simple problem use even Paris. It spread through the countryside. My own life was in danger of four days the blood ran. They say the king himself has gone mad. I must be mad to water such a massacre I had with remorse and haunted by the sights and screams of the dying. But it was his mother said humanity. What will England do come here to St. Louis to ask you that question. How blows the wind in England. If you mean in commons it blows not it drops to scarce a breath. Not more than would lift a feather. No talk of war against Spain and all means to save the Huguenots in France or break the rule of Rome elsewhere. Carmen speaks only of what Elizabeth wills and you should know better than I. Our fair queen sits and does nothing. Elizabeth fears war and maybe she is right. Yes. Now two days before the massacre she entertained the French and battered doors and accepted their
proposal of marriage with the French King's brother. Even now she does not reject it yet secretly she sends you do you cannot. I myself gave out the moneys in Paris yet. Will this double dealing Queen permits no member of parliament to speak. No not about her marrying nor naming a successor nor even of putting an end to the Popish Queen of Scots Mark you waltzing him. The time has come to break silence. Start up a wind in parliament. Send it shrieking across the Commons to shake the very throne itself God's name went with fake will I do in God's name forsooth. Much thought have I given to it and it seems at the root of all our evils lies the silence of the people. If we speak not freely and commons how will we stir the Queen to to fight the fires that circle England. Dare we not say to her you must act. Be Queen or the nation perishes. She likes not the smell of such freedom. She is Henry's daughter well we are not Henry's
parliament. We are free men of reason who answer first to our Lord love Peter for the conscience and courage. Do not look to me to help if I went into the tower. I ask no help save gobs and no man not even the Queen's own minister can turn to rage if it strikes at the light. Only last week my Lord Essex of the court Francis please I've no stomach for them. No I'd rather take you in for a good country supper. But what say you to milk and honey and a brace of ducks I shot myself to supper. Part of this business in Commons though will take care of my family my sister her children my children and we are all God's children. He will have care of us. God's will be done in
commons. Come. Check. Out. How. I would want to know when for the kids you were playing a piece of this hoss or he would be son take the seat. How would you continue in modest class and continue to speak the words of the Prophet which has no bend and breaks the best. Therefore I will speak that I may have a band. No man will lies to please men. I know not how many will take me
away. His mistress beat me for saying. Two things are great heard in this place. One is a rumor that runs about the house saying Take heed what to do. The queen like you not much matter who ever speaks of it will be open soon to the Queen. Such rumors do hurt and so if your messages are messages brought to this house either commanding or inhibiting it and so hurting our freedom of speech and consultation I would to God Mr Speaker that rumors and messages were burning in hell for wicked. They undoubtedly are. Here are my reasons. If we come here for the Advancement of God's Glory is it not wicked to say the queen likes it not and is open ended to buy off. All we could to say she commands us not to work
for God greatly is this to Her Majesty's Dear Santa and we must especially have regard for the matter of the business and works wherein we shall serve both God and our Queen and state most faithfully. We must proceed in each discussion according to its subject and matter and not according to the Queen's mind. For a queen may favor a cause that is harmful to the throne to herself and the whole state. Should we then be unfaithful to her and fail to protect or rather let her majesty wish that all things dangerous to herself should be laid open before us assuring herself that loving subjects as we are what without schooling and directing with careful mind to our powers prevent all perils that might happen unto her majesty. So he that spreads rumors and brings messages only seeks to
sow such difference between our merciful queen and us her faithful subjects. Let him spit out all his venom and show his malicious heart he is a Judas. To our noble queen. Mr. Speaker I would recall the last session and the message from the bishop that we should not deal in any matters of religion not deal in dogs causes well beyond even the Great and Mighty God whose name is The Lord of hosts who is the only good director of all heart. God love them I say sure one shot goal. I miss. My country. Oh certainly Mr. Speaker that night you know I mean we
didn't come in to break even. The memo nothing close to the close. No Professor Habermann Peter Wentworth did not remain silent for a long released from the tower after a brief stay. He was imprisoned for a short while and 15 86 for again pressing a matter of freedom of speech. Wentworth's last parliament was Elizabeth's 8. He wasted no time in
introducing a petition to the Queen to name a successor. He was forthwith confined to the tower where he remained for five years. In his last days this stiff necked 73 year old Puritan asked the Queen to mitigate the severity of his imprisonment it would pity your heart he wrote to see my condition. But the heart was not pity. He died in prison on November 10 15 97. And the world listen. Program for a radio series of great
orations. The man and the age that created them. These programs are produced by Radio Station W.H. the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center Frederick W. Habermann chairman of the department of speech at the University of Wisconsin is the consultant production by Carl Schmidt. Music by Don vaguely. The series is written by Jay Helen Stanley. The cast included Carl Schmidt cliff Roberts Ed Marcus Norman McKee leader Stuart Madeline's and kennels. These programs are distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
- And the world listened
- Producing Organization
- University of Wisconsin
- WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Peter Wentworth's speech to the Commons in 1576 in the Parliament is the first extended discourse on freedom of speech. It earned him a stay in the Tower of London.
- Series Description
- This series presents dramatizations of famous speeches.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Actor: Schmidt, Karl
Actor: Roberts, Cliff
Actor: Marcus, Ed
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Speaker: Haberman, Frederick W. (Frederick William), 1908-1995
Writer: Wentworth, Peter, approximately 1530-1596
Writer: Stanley, J. Helen
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-5-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “And the world listened; Peter Wentworth: Freedom of speech,” 1959-01-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 24, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-h98zdz25.
- MLA: “And the world listened; Peter Wentworth: Freedom of speech.” 1959-01-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 24, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-h98zdz25>.
- APA: And the world listened; Peter Wentworth: Freedom of speech. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-h98zdz25