Free Expression in the Early Years

in Free Expression and Democracy in America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780226240664
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226240749 | DOI:
Free Expression in the Early Years

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Before the 1760s, newspaper printers and editors rarely proclaimed strong partisan views on political issues. Instead, authors would pay papers to print essays, sometimes criticizing and sometimes praising public policies and officials. The press believed it enjoyed liberty because it could remain neutral in controversies while allowing others to express their views. A young Benjamin Franklin, writing in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1731, expressed the pragmatic business-oriented approach that typified many contemporary printers. Franklin explained that printers “chearfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute.” Yet, he encouraged printers to censor themselves by refusing to print “bad things,” including “[t]hings as usually give Offence either to Church or State.” Such American attitudes would shift, however, during the Revolutionary and framing periods, when the three components (or axes) constituting free expression—the tradition of dissent, the tradition of suppression, and the legal doctrine regarding a free press and free speech—would solidify with the emerging nation.

Keywords: press freedom; revolutionary period; dissent; suppression; free speech

Chapter.  10305 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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