I am grateful also to the co-editor of the series, Richard Kearney, for a helpful reading of the manuscript.
This essay, which derives from a seminar presentation at the Center in the spring ofis an edited and expanded version of the third annual Ralph Gregory Elliot First Amendment Lecture that Professor Blasi delivered at Yale Law School in March The traditional liberal argument for free speech is now under fire from several directions.
Critics from the left, the center, and the right find simplistic the claim that unregulated expression promotes the search for truth, the project of self-government, the autonomy of individuals, or the control of concentrated power. Even if free speech does serve these values to a considerable degree, critics say, there are costs associated with liberty that are not sufficiently recognized or valorized in the standard liberal accounts.
Liberalism is seen as too doctrinaire, too optimistic about human capacities and intentions, too complacent, too inattentive to questions of responsibility and virtue.
It is condemned, moreover, as elitist in its regard for intellectual inquiry and disregard for faith, affection, tradition, security, and sense of place.
The liberal view of the First Amendment is said to ignore the badly skewed distribution of communicative power, the impact of technology, and the harm speech can do to a person's or group's civic standing and self-esteem. Some or all of these criticisms may be true, but we cannot evaluate them if the liberal tradition regarding free speech is known only in its reductionist version, stripped of its moorings in actual historical struggles, flattened out by accumulated summation and extraction.
Few liberal arguments for free expression have suffered more from this reductionism than John Milton's tract, Areopagitica. In some respects the foundational essay of the free speech tradition, Areopagitica is a subtle, richly textured polemic that displays not only the wit, eloquence, and dense, evocative imagery one expects from its author but also considerable political and theological sophistication, as well as cunning and passion born of Milton's active engagement in the revolutionary struggles of his day.
Yet modern lawyers encounter the essay primarily in two of its passages: And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength.
Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter? Together, these excerpts can be read to encapsulate much of what seems wrong with the liberal case for free speech: But Milton's tract is more complicated than this, and so is the tradition it helped to spawn.
A fuller acquaintance with the Areopagitica, particularly with its context and some of its neglected themes, can bring to the fore certain arguments for freedom of expression that have not been given their due in recent years, and push to the rear other arguments that have received excessive attention from defenders and critics alike.
Of course, no matter how perceptive and how astute, no seventeenth century pamphlet will answer all the objections that critics writing in the s can muster.
Such a work nevertheless can interrogate a later age. It can ask modern critics of the free speech tradition to confront, as by and large they have yet to do, some of the enduring concerns about censorship that Milton expressed. When King Charles I was forced by financial exigencies to convene the Long Parliament in November ofhe set in motion a political dynamic that led to civil war less than two years later and his own beheading within the decade.
One of the first actions of the new Parliament was to abolish the Court of Star Chamber, the infamous offshoot of the King's Privy Council which had served as the principal forum for calling to account political opponents, religious dissenters, and those who defied crown-granted monopolies of the printing trade.
The abolition of Star Chamber meant, in effect, suspension of the licensing system that had been in operation for over a century, a regulatory hiatus that was more a byproduct of the attack on royal prerogative than a deliberate policy in favor of a free press. The immediate result was a flourishing of political and religious ideas the likes of which England had never before experienced.
Tudor and early Stuart licensing had been variable though sometimes draconian, often corrupt, and usually porous. The elimination in of the institutions of press control caused a dramatic increase in both the volume of advocacy and the range of views expressed.
By one count, the number of pamphlets published during the year was 22; in it was 1, In this atmosphere of excited disputation among antiroyalist factions, King Charles raised his standard at Nottingham in August of Civil war was at hand.
The royalist prospect was by no means bleak. Throughout the yearas various schemes for accommodation failed, about two-fifths of the House of Commons and most of the Lords chose to side with the King. The early skirmishes of the war were indecisive. In mid the parliamentary armies suffered serious setbacks.
Those who believed the parliamentary cause to be the work of divine providence began to have doubts. Concerned both about disunity in its own ranks and the effectiveness of Crown propaganda, Parliament in June of decided to reinstate government control over printing.
A small number of master printers was authorized to operate presses. Those who held printing patents were enlisted, through their trade organization the Stationers' Company, to search out and bring to justice all who printed without a license.
The economic self-interest of monopoly privilege was thus united with the demand for religious and political conformity. Specialized licensers were appointed to examine writings in specified categories.
Four censors were named, for example, to scrutinize law books, three for books of philosophy and history, one for "mathematics, almanacks, and prognostications.
Not only miscreant authors and printers but also licensers who had been too permissive were subject to imprisonment. During the period of low military morale when the Licensing Order was enacted, the leaders of Parliament decided they could no longer postpone coming to grips with the volatile religious issues they had to that point shrewdly kept off the agenda for fear of dividing the antiroyalist coalition.
Now, however, they needed a Scottish alliance. In return for lending their military resources to the parliamentary cause, the Scots wanted a religious settlement in England along strict Presbyterian lines, a prospect that drew mixed reviews among the rank and file in Parliament.History,Mystery our Story Back to homepage.
HISTORY MYSTERY OUR STORY. Exposing the Greatest Cover- ups in “His-Story”. Lomond was born in Chicago and grew up in New York City.
He served as a paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II and was awarded three Purple Hearts and both the Silver and Bronze Stars.
After the war, Lomond went to New York University, where he received a master of . A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z. A. Cezarija Abartis. Cezarija Abartis’ Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press.
Her. Presidents of the United States must not be encouraged to make Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, nor to fancy that they can establish a New World Order through eliminating dissenters. in the same way in view of the work of Tandy80 on the power of the market. 72 They are .. troups of any importance during the Thirty Years War (â 48), that.
But of this Lord Stanley being ignorant, he sat silent under the rebuffthe most mortifying condition imaginable to so eager and vain a wrangler. The two lords are well matched for a couple of quiet ones.
The war of words, thus begun, is not likely to terminate here.