Podcasts | Constitutionally Speaking

Episode 31: Freedom of Speech! (Plus Press, Petition, and Assembly)

Engraving of James Madison by David Edwin, 1809-1817 (Library of Congress)

This week, Jay and Luke dig into the second part of the First Amendment. They show how Congress curtailed Madison’s original protections for free speech and a free press, while taking a look at what these freedoms meant as a practical matter to the founding generation. Politics was pretty wild in late eighteenth century. America had a robust publishing culture that mainly churned out pamphlets and broadsheets — most famously Common Sense in 1776. Heated pamphleting mirrored and fed a robust protest culture. Rioting was common, and wasn’t universally frowned upon, meaning the Framers understood “peaceable assembly” in broad terms. Hanging and burning effigies was common; people raised maypoles. There was a lot of fist-fighting and pretty much everybody was drunk. So the point of the freedom to assemble was a way of creating the latent potential for escalation, which the state would seek to avoid by coming to terms with the assembled. Petition, similarly, would allow the people to make a demand of government. The government might not do anything per se, but the government would face political pressure to give an account of itself. The colonists famously petitioned George III and used his indifference to their remonstrances as justification for revolution.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Origins of Progressive Agony

What has transformed the Democratic party into an anguished progressive movement that incorporates the tactics of the street, embraces maenadism, reverts to Sixties carnival barking, and is radicalized by a new young socialist movement? Even party chairman Tom Perez concedes that there are “no moderate ... Read More
Elections

How Will the Senate Races Break?

How will the Senate races break? We have less public polling to go on than in recent years, so answering that question is harder than ever. But the news is more optimistic for Republicans than it was a month ago.   Waves and Breakers Four years ago, I projected in mid September that if “historical ... Read More
U.S.

The Media Fell for Elizabeth Warren’s Spin

Do you want to know what media bias looks like? Earlier today, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren released DNA test results that confirmed that she misled employers, students, and the public about her Native American heritage for years. Bizarrely, all too many members of the media treated the results as ... Read More
U.S.

Native Americans React to Warren’s DNA Test

Many in the Native American community reacted angrily Monday after Senator Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test showing that she has a distant Native American ancestor. Warren has long said she is part Native American, prompting mockery from Republicans and President Trump, who nicknamed her ... Read More
Loading...