Printers and Press Freedom: The Ideology of Early American Journalism
In the United States, the press has sometimes been described as an unoffical fourth branch of government, a branch that serves as a check on the other three and provides the information necessary for a democracy to function. Freedom of the press--guaranteed but not defined by the First Amendment of the Constitution--can be fully understood only when examined in the context of the political and intellectual experiences of 18th-century America. Here, Jeffery A. Smith explores how Madison, Franklin, Jefferson, and their contemporaries came to see liberty of the press as a natural and vital part of a democratic republic. Drawing on sources ranging from political philosophers to court records and newspaper essayists, Printers and Press Freedom traces the development of a widespread conception of the press as necessarily exempt from all government restrictions, but still liable for the defamation of individuals. Smith carefully analyzes libertarian press theory and practice in the context of republican ideology and Enlightenment thought--paying particular attention to the cases of Benjamin Franklin and his relatives and associates in the printing business--and concludes that the generation that produced the First Amendment believed that government should not be trusted and that the press needed the broadest possible protection in order to serve as a check on the misuse of power.
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Amendment April Assembly authority Autobiography Bache Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin Bache Bill of Rights Boston Bradford Cato Cato's Letters century Colonial Constitution Courant Court Craftsman criticism David Hall debate defamation defended Early American editor eighteenth-century England English Enlightenment essay February Federalist free press freedom of expression Gazette Hamilton History Howell's State Trials ibid Ideology impartiality issue James Franklin James Parker January John Journal journalists Junius jury Levy libertarian press liberty London Madison Massachusetts ment Mercury New-York newspaper November NYPB October opinions pamphlet paper Parliament party Pennsylvania Philadelphia political Poor Richard Post-Boy press clause press freedom printers printing prior restraint prosecutions published radical Whig Republican reputation restraint Revolution Samuel Sedition Act seditious libel September Smith Stamp Act Star Chamber suppress Thomas Jefferson Timothy tion trial truth University Press vols Wilkes William writings wrote York Zenger
Page 4 - On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.