Areopagitica is a 1644 prose polemic by the English poet, scholar, and polemical author John Milton opposing licensing and censorship. Areopagitica is among history's most influential and impassioned philosophical defenses of the principle of a right to freedom of speech and expression. Many of its expressed principles have formed the basis for modern justifications.
The previous year, Parliament's had passed an Ordinance for the Regulating of Printing, requiring authors to have a license approved by the government before their work could be published. Milton speaks most respectfully to the MPs, and appeals to their better reason. He appeals to the Bible and references ancient Athens as well.
And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter.
Note: I have only recently discovered Milton, because the subject matter of Paradise Lost never was part of my reality. When I listened to Thomas Copeland's reading of PL last fall, I was enchanted by Milton's mastery of language. -- JJM
Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely
according to conscience, above all liberties. -- John Milton
Postscript: Milton's Areopagitica didn't have the desired effect on Parliament, and the licensing provision remained in force. However, in the longer course of history, his essay has had a powerful influence establishing the central importance of freedom of speech in a democratic society.