From the Revolution to the First Amendment
S peech and press were not free anywhere during the Revolution. A long war for independence is scarcely a propitious time for the birth and nurturing of freedom of expression or any civil liberties. Everywhere there was unlimited liberty to praise the American cause; criticism of it brought the zealots of patriotism with tar and feathers. Even on the rare occasion when some revolutionist might ritualistically reaffirm devotion to freedom of expression, there was a tacit understanding that "liberty of speech," as Professor Schlesinger has so aptly said, "belonged solely to those who spoke the speech of liberty."1
The Continental Congress offered an illuminating example. In presenting its case before the inhabitants of Quebec, Congress on the eve of the Revolution had made a great statement on the function of a free press:
The last night we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of gov
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Publication information: Book title: Legacy of Suppression:Freedom of Speech and Press in Early American History. Contributors: Leonard Williams Levy - Author. Publisher: Bleknap Press of Harvard University. Place of publication: Cambridge, MA. Publication year: 1960. Page number: 176.
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