Printers and Press Freedom: The Ideology of Early American Journalism

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, May 24, 1990 - History - 248 pages
0 Reviews
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.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction
3
Part One Philosophies and Practices
15
Part Two Political and Legal Questions
55
The Case of Franklin and His Partners
93
Conclusion
162
A Note on Sources
168
List of Abbreviations
173
Notes
177
Index
225
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

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.

References to this book

All Book Search results »

Bibliographic information