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Freedom of Speech

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Imagine a time when one could be fined,
imprisoned and even killed for simply speaking
one’s mind. Speech is the basic vehicle for
communication of beliefs, thoughts and ideas.
Without the right to speak one’s mind freely one
would be forced to agree with everything society
stated. With freedom of speech one’s own ideas can
be expressed freely and the follower’s belief will
be stronger. The words sound so simple, but
without them the world would be a very different
place. Without the right to speak freely one would
not be able to debt, nor would one be able to
receive full coverage on world issues. There would
be no interesting newspapers, no free religion and
no free thoughts. This amendment seems so simple
but, the boundaries of which issues and incidents
are covered are so complex and varied. What is
legal and illegal? What can be said and cannot be
said? Does this amendment include spoken word only
or does it include action also? What, if any,
limits should be put to this amendment?
As long as the government has existed, people
have battled over censorship. Censorship takes on
all different shapes and forms: banning of books,
television guidelines, laws that curb specific
types of speech, and imprisonment or even death for
openly speaking. For example, in sixteenth century
England, a loyal subject of Henry VII was
imprisoned for saying, “I like not the proceedings
of this realm.”1 In earlier times this would have
been punishable by death for treason.

The need for freedom of speech was first
brought up in Massachusetts Body of Liberties in
1641. After the Revolutionary War in America, many
states recommend that free speech be put in the
United States Constitution. Nevertheless, freedom
of speech was written into the Bill of Rights and
was ratified in 1791.

A few years after the First Amendment was
ratified, the government passed the Sedition Act of
1798. This was to help prevent resistance or
rebellion against the government. It also made it
illegal to print, write or say “any false,
scandalous and malicious” things against the
government. One person was convicted under the act
for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish
avarice.”2

This was never challenged by the
Democratic-Republicans because of the
Federalist-dominated the court rule. The act
eventually ended the Federalists in 1800 an...


... middle of paper ...


.... Or
is it? Should people be able to choose for
themselves? Oliver Wendell Holmes said:
Words can be weapons...the
question in every case is
whether the words are used in
such circumstances and are of
such a nature as to create a
clear and present danger that
they will bring about the
substantive evils that Congress
has a right to prevent.8
The basic idea on the Freedom of Speech is
counteract whatever one says or does. With the
Nazi march in 1977, instead of protesting, have an
anti- Nazi march. The most vulnerable people will
pave the road for the speech laws. Ku Klux Klan
marches are protected as well as civil rights, Gay
and Lesbian marches.

There are many ways to interpret the First
Amendment, but as long as one used good sense and
can justify ones’ actions then there would be
fewer conflicts. Protest and fight back only when
necessary and not when someone offends someone for
petty little criticisms. Use common sense and
remember the harder one makes it on another, it
makes it just as hard for oneself. As proven over
and over History does repeat and the heated debt on
the boundaries of this amendment will continue
until the end of time.


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