Early English Theory: from Milton to "Cato"
T he philosophical principle of freedom of the mind had merely a slight influence on the expansion of freedom of speech and press, at least through the eighteenth century. Libertarian expositions were abundant enough, but in England until about 1776 and in America until about 1798 their libertarian quality was nearly as narrow as the common law in crucial respects. Until those late dates freedom of discussion, particularly in the realm of politics, had almost no history as a broad concept.
To be sure, one can go all the way back to the ancients, especially the Athenians and the Romans of the early Republic, and discover a few statements favoring an undefined broad liberty of expression. The plays of Euripides, for example, are a storehouse of allusions to the glories and values of free speech. The hero of Ion, to cite an instance, hopes that his unknown mother may be Athenian so that "by my mother may free speech be mine," else he "bears a bondman's tongue"; and a passage between Jocasta and Polyneices, in The Pheonissae, demonstrates the Greek understanding that unwise government results from a curb on the tongues of citizens. Demosthenes declared that no