Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley misquoted Benjamin Franklin at Sunday evening's Democratic presidential debate.
"I also agree with Benjamin Franklin who said no people should ever give up their privacy or their freedoms in a promise for security," the former Maryland governor said when asked about encryption at the Sunday debate.
The quote from Benjamin Franklin, "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety," was used out of context by O'Malley. In the context of the quote as it was said in the 1750s, Franklin was actually speaking in support of not only taxation but also defense spending.
As noted by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor of Lawfare blog, the letter from Franklin concerned a dispute between the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Penn family.
"He was writing about a tax dispute between the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the family of the Penns, the proprietary family of the Pennsylvania colony who ruled it from afar," Wittes said recently on NPR.
"And the legislature was trying to tax the Penn family lands to pay for frontier defense during the French and Indian War. And the Penn family kept instructing the governor to veto. Franklin felt that this was a great affront to the ability of the legislature to govern. And so he actually meant purchase a little temporary safety very literally. The Penn family was trying to give a lump sum of money in exchange for the General Assembly's acknowledging that it did not have the authority to tax it."
A study of the misquote, by Tech Crunch linked the changed context to the rise of the fear of big brother.
Wittes also dinged O'Malley for the misquote during the debate.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.