Reflections on Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment

Reflections on Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment

Reflections on Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment

Reflections on Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment


The guarantee of free speech enshrined in the U.S. Bill of Rights draws upon two millennia of Western thought about the value and necessity of free inquiry. Acclaimed legal scholar George Anastaplo traces the philosophical development of the idea of free inquiry from Plato's "Apology to Socrates" to John Milton's "Areopagitica. "He describes how these seminal texts and others by such diverse thinkers as St. Paul, Thomas More, and John Stuart Mill influenced the formation and the earliest applications of the First Amendment. Anastaplo also focuses on the critical free speech implications of a dozen Supreme Court cases and shows how First Amendment interpretations have evolved in response to modern events. "Reflections on Freedom of Speech and the First Amendment" grounds its vision of America's most basic freedoms in the intellectual traditions of Western political philosophy, providing crucial insight into the legal challenges of the future through the lens of the past.


It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to
the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the
important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of
establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they
are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions on accident
and force.

The Federalist, No. 1

At the foundation of the series of reflections (or constitutional sonnets) offered in this volume is my treatise The Constitutionalist: Notes on the First Amendment, published by the Southern Methodist University Press in 1971 and recently republished, in an enhanced form with its 2004 foreword, preface, and addenda, by Lexington Books. That treatise examines at length the sources, meaning, and applications of the First Amendment text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of re
ligion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of griev

The Constitutionalist is itself a much-expanded version of my 1964 University of Chicago doctoral dissertation, with substantial additions (drawing on instructive texts ancient and modern) in hundreds of pages of notes. Laurence Berns, the author of the 2004 foreword to The Constitutionalist, has suggested:

Judging roughly from the frequency of references, Anastaplo
seems to have learned most from Shakespeare, from his fellow Il-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.