H.L. Mencken? Gerald W. Johnson? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: Oppressive laws are sometimes promulgated to target unsavory individuals. The opposition to these laws requires defending these individuals. The famous Baltimore journalist and commentator H. L. Mencken apparently said something like the following:
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels.
Did Mencken really say this? Would you please help me to find the correct phrasing together with a citation?
Reply from Quote Investigator: H. L. Mencken died in January 1956, and shortly afterward his colleague Gerald W. Johnson published an essay about his life in “The Saturday Review”. Both Mencken and Johnson worked at “The Baltimore Sun” and “The Evening Sun” newspapers of Maryland for many years. Johnson presented remarks he had heard directly from Mencken. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1956 February 11, The Saturday Review, Henry L. Mencken [1880-1956] by Gerald W. Johnson, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Column 2, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)
“The trouble about fighting for human freedom,” he remarked once, “is that you have to spend much of your life defending sons-of-bitches; for oppressive laws are always aimed at them originally, and oppression must be stopped in the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
In this version of the quotation, the term “sons-of-bitches” occurred instead of “scoundrels”. The bowdlerized variant with “scoundrels” began circulating by 2003.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
|↑1||1956 February 11, The Saturday Review, Henry L. Mencken [1880-1956] by Gerald W. Johnson, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Column 2, Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)|