FREEDOM OF SPEECH: THE "INDISPENSABLE" LIBERTY
Freedom of expression has been described in various ways and at various times as the most essential constitutional guarantee. Typifying its special esteem in the constitutional order is the Supreme Court's characterization of freedom of speech, in Palko v. Connecticut, as "the matrix, the indispensable condition of every other form of freedom." Recognition of the nexus between freedom and general liberty predated the First Amendment. John Milton, in 1644, wrote that "the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, [is] above all liberties." The natural law theories of John Locke, which were especially influential in the development of the Declaration of Independence, also emphasized freedom of expression as a crucial liberty that facilitated the enjoyment of other rights.
Unlike the Fourteenth Amendment, freedom of speech and the press was not an immediate subject of litigation and interpretation. Not until the twentieth century, as expressive freedom was included within the meaning of liberty secured by the Fourteenth Amendment, did the Court seriously probe its significance, develop pertinent principles and amplify its content. Belated jurisprudential attention to the First Amendment did not indicate a record free of official speech management and control. Suppression of expression is a tradition that evolved coextensively with methodologies for efficient reproduction and mass dissemination of printed information. English licensing laws, which governed the printing industry
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Publication information: Book title: Foreshadows of the Law:Supreme Court Dissents and Constitutional Development. Contributors: Donald E. Lively - Author. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1992. Page number: 113.