Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Freedom of the Press

Too many people today have either forgotten, or never understood in the first place, what "freedom of the press" was intended to guarantee:
I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like. I discussed this in great detail in my article on the history of the free press clause.
After explaining that the freedom of the press is not redundant with the freedom of speech, Professor Volokh continues:
Likewise, George Hay — who was soon to become a U.S. Attorney, and later a federal judge — wrote in 1799 that “freedom of speech means, in the construction of the Constitution, the privilege of speaking any thing without control” and “the words freedom of the press, which form a part of the same sentence, mean the privilege of printing any thing without control.” Massachusetts Attorney General James Sullivan (1801) similarly treated “the freedom of speech” as referring to “utter[ing], in words spoken,” and “the freedom of the press” as referring to “print[ing] and publish[ing].”

And this captured an understanding that was broadly expressed during the surrounding decades. Bishop Thomas Hayter, writing in 1754, described the “Liberty of the Press” as applying the traditionally recognized “Use and Liberty of Speech” to “Printing,” an activity that Hayter described as “only a more extensive and improved Kind of Speech.” (Hayter’s work was known and quoted in Revolutionary era America.) Francis Holt (1812) defined the liberty of the press as “the personal liberty of the writer to express his thoughts in the more improved way invented by human ingenuity in the form of the press.” William Rawle (1825) characterized “[t]he press” as “a vehicle of the freedom of speech. The art of printing illuminates the world, by a rapid dissemination of what would otherwise be slowly communicated and partially understood.”
Remember, Thomas Paine published Common Sense as a pamphlet.  He was not a newspaperman, but he used the "press" to create his work for distribution.

1 comment:

Auntie Ann said...

It's also important to remember that the Bill of Rights doesn't *grant* rights, it recognizes the rights that all human beings have with or without a written law.