History Shows How Rare and Valuable Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Are

George Washington's picture

The Founding Fathers protected freedom of speech and freedom of the press as the most important liberties.

They are protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  And as discussed below, the Founders recognized that the ability to speak freely was the foundation for all other freedoms.

Thousands of years of history shows how rare and valuable such freedoms really are …


Socrates was killed in 399 BC for “failing to acknowledge the gods that the [government] acknowledges”.

Using the Printing Press

Before the invention of the movable type printing press by Gutenberg, the church controlled the production of books.

Gutenberg’s invention allowed cheap production of books. This challenged the monopoly on books by the church, and thus allowed different viewpoints to be heard.

For example, when Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" on a church door in Germany criticizing the corrupt Catholic practice of selling "indulgences" - paying the church in return for a reduction of your time in purgatory - the printing press spread his writings throughout all of Germany in 2 weeks, and throughout "all of Christendom" within a month.   This launched the Protestant Reformation, and challenged the power of the Catholic church.

So Pope Alexander VI issued an edict against unlicensed printing in  1501.

And in 1535, Francis I of France prohibited – under penalty of death – the printing of any books.

William Tyndale

William Tyndale was killed in 1536 for translating the Bible into English so that everyone could read it for themselves, and no longer had to rely on the clergy to tell them what it said.

Unlicensed Printing

In 1585, the Star Chamber assumed the right to confine printing to London, Oxford and Cambridge, to limit the number of printers and presses, to prohibit all publications issued without proper license, and to enter houses to search for unlicensed presses and publications. The search for unlicensed presses or publications was entrusted to an officer called the ” messenger of the press.”

In 1557, Henry II made the collecting of prohibited books punishable by death or imprisonment.  An in 1559, he made it punishable by death to print without royal authority.


In 1616 and 1633, Galileo was tried for saying that the Earth revolves around the Sun, instead of agreeing with the church’s “mainstream” view that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

Heretics and Critics

Many people have been killed over the centuries for saying anything that the church authorities of the day disliked.

And the British monarchy punished anyone caught with materials criticizing the monarchy, which they labeled as “libelous” or “scandalous”, even if what was written was true.

(Indeed, the ransacking of houses by authorities searching for “heretical” and “libelous” material was so common that it was the main reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting unreasonable “search and seizure”).

Benjamin Franklin

In 1773, Ben Franklin was fired as colonial Postmaster General for informing the American Colonists about what the British were really doing.


Strongmen of all stripes have cracked down anyone who insults the strongman or criticizes his policies.

Book Burnings

In 1933, the Nazis carried out numerous book burnings of authors such as Einstein, Freud, Kafka, Hellen Keller, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Proust, Upon Sinclair and H.G. Wells because their writing book “acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home and the driving forces of our people…”

There have been many other book burnings throughout history.


Mussolini had around 2,000 people killed because they challenged the dictator.

Stalin and the Soviet Union

Stalin murdered or through into insane asylums countless people who criticized the Soviet government or Communism.

Other Communist Regimes

China’s Mao and other Communist leaders killed people who failed to sign the Great Leaders’ praise.


In 1972, CIA director Richard Helms relabeled dissenters as “terrorists”.


The extremely popular tv personality Phil Donahue’s show – the most popular on MSNBC – was canceled for questioning the wisdom of the Iraq war.

Indeed, many reporters have been fired, harassed, spied upon and even accused of terrorism for reporting stories critical of government actions or policies.

Protect What Makes Us American

Those in power are always tempted to censor and punish critical speech and reporting.  George W. Bush said “You’re either with us or your against us”, and cracked down on criticism and protest.

Some powerful Democrats now want to suppress right-wing speech.

But freedom of speech and of the press – no matter how much we may disagree with and even hate what someone else says – is the bedrock of America.

"If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."
- George Washington

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.”
- Ben Franklin

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.”
- Ben Franklin

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
- Ben Franklin

“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.”
- John Adams

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
-Thomas Jefferson

"I am ... for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents."
-Thomas Jefferson

"The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments."
-George Mason

"[The] power [to censor,] more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right."
-James Madison

“If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

“Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom.”
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo

“The framers of the constitution knew human nature as well as we do. They too had lived in dangerous days; they too knew the suffocating influence of orthodoxy and standardized thought. They weighed the compulsions for restrained speech and thought against the abuses of liberty. They chose liberty."
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglass

“If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

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Dyspeptic Curmudgeon's picture

In 1557, Henry II made the collecting of prohibited books punishable by death or imprisonment.  An in 1559, he made it punishable by death to print without royal authority.

Uhhh, Henry VIII....


And this para should be ahead of the previous para, about the Star Chamber 1585...


Griffin's picture

Gag orders are quite popular in the western world to limit freedom of speech and freedom of information.



Sometimes in the old days, religious texts and stories were sometimes converted to poetry to save them from being destroyed by certain maniacs who burned everything that opposed them. Books and even people.

The Eddas are a good example of this.

rphb's picture

Don't forget copyright, the true purpose of that is to limit the spread of information and censor people that commits crimethink

flaminratzazz's picture

make sure when building your AR to equip it with an adjustable gas block.. very important as you want to be able to reduce recoil to be able to keep your scope picture on target while firing

let a rifle with a high cap mag do the talking.. enough bitching to the deaf leaders.

dexter_morgan's picture


People are stupid. Look how many right people give up voluntarily.


More Ammo's picture

I have a very nice set of older encyclopedias in storage for the next big book burning:  Shutting down the internet.

George Washington's picture

I meant "Threw" ... Typing too fast

Bobrsta's picture

And now we have a generation of government educated snowflakes that not only accepts restrictions on the free expression of ideas, but demands it.

The solution will not be easily realized. Unfortunately, our choice is between bloodshed or chains at this point.

Pickleton's picture

and unfortunately, the forces of freedom (FoF) cannot do a damned thing until the bloodshed starts in earnest by the snowflake armies since they control the levers of information and govt in our society and they will brand the FoF and the entire movement into little more than domestic terrorists.

chiaroscuro's picture

Christ was also killed for speaking truth that challenged the status quo. And he never tried to force religion on anyone, only to persuade through reason and love.

VooDoo6Actual's picture

Whenever & wherever there is a Censorship of Truth it is tyranny.

Swamidon's picture

In 1993 volumes of the Norton Anthology of World Classics, a college Humanities staple, were rewritten and many historically meaningful parts were removed or rewritten in order to "make it easier for current students to understand."  In short, those truths were gutted and lost to 25 years of students who didn't benefit from them.

giatny1's picture

Why doesn't the article mention the "Countering Disinformation & Propaganda Act" just signed by Obama? Is a bipartisan bill that gives "proactive" control over "news" to government agencies, NGOs, civil orgs, think tanks & other 3rd party groups. It is censorship on steroids especially since the judges of "fake news" are mostly leftwing fascists.  It is tragically unConstitutional & must be repealed immediately.  The GOP Congress is terminally stupid. GOP gave the left the control over free speech it has always dreamed of.  Why aren't Americans screaming in opposition???

DeathMerchant's picture

"Why aren't Americans screaming in opposition???" Because the Kardashians were not involved.

More Ammo's picture

bipartisan  Another one of those progressive euphemisms...

jughead's picture

are screams that go unheard still screams?

unsafe-space-time's picture

Freedom to speak the truth. Liars need to be executed.

jughead's picture

one man's truth is another man's lie

iAmerican3's picture
iAmerican3 (not verified) jughead Dec 29, 2016 2:18 PM

They who would conquer Americans would first divide us through Satan's moral relativism.

One Creator - One Creation - One Creed

One Truth, with Justice, Reason, and Honor:

Annuit Coeptis - E Pluribus Unum - Novus Ordo Seclorum

America - True Israel

Those who commit, seek, or condone injustice; and lie, are satanic and not American.

scaleindependent's picture

Excellent post with great authentic and credible references.

Thank you! 

MaxThrust's picture

The ears of many wish not to hear the truth. Their "rose tinted" view of the world is how they sleep soundly at night.

Truth be dammed.


Came across Chris Brown at ows.org five years ago. I found it interesting.

The Greater Meaning Of Free Speech


p.s. his evidence of cognitive infiltration into ows.org's blog is revealing ; )

Pickleton's picture

I find it interesting that anybody talking about any form of freedom would quote or utilize OWS as a tool.


scaleindependent's picture

Because the powers that be restricted, penalized and destroyed moderate and rational criticism of themselves (the elite), vis a vis The Tea Party and the rational parts of the Occupy Wall Street movement, they then will reap the whirlwind of irrational violence and hatred that will tear them apart.


I argued vehemently with the anarchists and infiltrators that a National General Assembly drafted 'petition for redress of grievances', served on the three branches was the way to take the fight to the next level. OWS kept taking the Working Group down lol

"NGA NOW! All roads lead to Philadelphia July 4 2012"

DirtySanchez's picture

Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Barret Brown are all patriots bringing to light the dirty dark secrets that journalists used to do.

Smiddywesson's picture

Censorship is a poison which always leads to the destruction of a nation, and usually comes with a well argued excuse to do something which always has predictable results.

Pickleton's picture

"usually comes with a well argued excuse "



"Common sense regulation/restiriction/legislation" is typical and most often asserted to subvert the 2nd amendment.


The ever dangerous sentiment of "Security" is prolly second most used and applies more to both parties.

Luc X. Ifer's picture

A fact of history - tiranies never last forever, and with the advancement of time actually it is possible to observe how the duration of tiranic regimes drops at high pace. The Soviet peaked and lasted for about 50 years, US maybe 25. The reason being - the power of information, it has become harder and harder to control and suppress exchange of real information.

More Ammo's picture

That is why the internet will be squashed one way or another.

Pickleton's picture

"Net Neutrality".


Because imbeciles cant have Netflix bogging down the system.

centerline's picture

Tough to put that genie back in the bottle.  They are trying though.  In the meantime, they are trying to drown the truth in a sea of lies and misdirection.  Working pretty well considering the nation is largely spit (which indicated even fewer are really doing enough due dillegence to even get a sense of when they are being lied to). 

My guess is that information does in fact win in the end.  Consensus will eventually occur... which is akin to the herd finally turning.  In our case, the next major turning point is likely going to be a big one.

VWAndy's picture

 Its a concept that cannot stand up to even the most basic questions. They simply plan to ram it down out throats if we dont speak up about it.

VWAndy's picture

 They will prolly be killing most of us anyway.

peddling-fiction's picture

Careful with Sister GwenDolyn


<-- GWEN towers butthurt

DuneCreature's picture

Speaking of freedom of the press:

~~~~~~~~~~~ (((((( Pete Santilli's RAW fucked up DEAL )))))) ~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don't care what you think of Pete Santilli's politics or approach to reporting (I have no problem with either myself) We the People need to give Trump and his new DoJ twenty kinds of grief and get Pete out of jail.


Pete Santilli is press. He was in Oregon and Nevada reporting. Sure he has his bias and abrasive methods but that really doesn't matter. ... He is press and really needs to be compensated for his 18 months in the federal pen on trumped up charges. .. No Bail! ..... Fucking, really? ... Really? .. That's not due process and a timely trial, that is BULLSHIT!.... Vindictive dot gov corrupt low-life BULLSHIT!

Live Hard, The Press And The Media Gets A Big Fat Pass In Trumpster America, Die Free

~ DC v4.0

DuneCreature's picture

The 1st Amendment is a use it, or lose it, right.

It is important to say what you think, to blazes with being polite.

Live Hard, No Safe Places Where I Hang Out, Die Free

~ DC v4.0

DaBard51's picture

A four-star post.






When nine hundred years old you become, look this good you will not.

Pickleton's picture

History show how rare and valuable FREEDOM in general is, but that doesn't stop economically and historically illiterate imbeciles from subverting the US Constitution at every turn "progressing" us towards tyrannical neo-feudal fascism either.


Reaper's picture

A government prohibiting free expression is always corrupt and a tyranny.

Luc X. Ifer's picture

Free expression criminalization is the first factual evidence of a tiranic system owned by an aristocratic oligarchy.

Richard Chesler's picture

Where are all the Clintons' "associates"?