Perhaps a little Vague, Intentional or not?

Please think this ideology – defining freedom – as thoroughly and critically as possible. We hear people almost seven days a week talk about their various freedoms, their lost liberties, and the entire gambit of “my rights.” All one needs to do is look at the front page of this blog for an examination of how the United States is dealing with those various freedoms of due-process, citizenship, and a quick look at just below the header where the separate pages are to look at Freedom of Speech. That is where we want to start today with a brief history of that portion of the 1st Amendment that entails that:

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.”

We will be looking primarily at years’ worth of Supreme Court rulings, as well as some original intent and original meanings as set forth by the Framers of our Constitution. We believe that many of you will be outright surprised at how little was originally done with this provision; furthermore, we are sure you will be excited to find out where notions such as expression, lying, slander, libel, and other matters of free speech have come into fruition.

Interestingly we start in the year 1931 when a majority on the Supreme Court began enforcing the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech primarily during the case of Stromberg v. California. A California law forbade the display of a red flag “as a sign, symbol, or emblem of opposition to organized government.” The Court held the statute unconstitutional: the first time it had ever done so in the name of the First Amendment.

Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had joined the Court a year earlier, wrote the opinion for a 7-to-2 majority.

”The maintenance of the opportunity for free public discussion to the end that government may be responsible to the will of the people and that changes may be obtained by lawful means,” Hughes wrote, “is a fundamental principle of our constitutional system.” The rhetoric did not have the thrill of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes or of Justice Brandeis, yet it operated from their premise: that free speech was a basic American value that repression was not to be tolerated to prevent some dim and distant bad tendency.

Just in case you missed it – Justices’ Holmes and Brandeis – through their discussion, writings, interactions with others, perhaps did more to advance the understanding and morality of the First Amendment than even George Mason and James Madison did.

Once the Court embarked on enforcing the First Amendment as law, it faced a whole new task: defining it from case to case what the words of the amendment mean. Sure, that sounds simple right? Seriously what could be more direct than the command, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”? However in fact, giving concrete meaning to those words was a daunting, and endless job.

For our part as writers, we have decided to keep each one of the series installments short, succinct, and to the point; therefore, they will all be about this length. In addition, we would like to ask you (as well as to inform) why some amendments are so precisely enacting while others may contain ellipses’.


One Response

  1. […] Perhaps a little Vague, Intentional or not? ( […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: