Primary Sources: Freedom of Speech

Primary Sources: Freedom of Speech

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech

Freedom of Speech in the First Amendment

Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) – President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts into law in 1798. They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen, allowed the president to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed “dangerous,” and criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859) – On Liberty is one of the seminal texts on the topic of free speech and has remained the basis of much political thought concerning the subject. It has remained in print since its initial publication and has been studied the world over.

“Freedom of Speech” by Norman Rockwell (1943) – This painting is one of the most iconic depictions of free speech ever put to canvas. Painted by the famous American painter Norman Rockwell, it powerfully depicts free speech in a way that art historians have dissected and debated since its original release in 1943.

Freedom of Speech and Its Relation to Self-government by Alexander Meikeljohn (1948) – Meiklejohn was known as an advocate of First Amendment freedoms and was a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. In Free Speech, Meikeljohn argued that an informed electorate is necessary to a functioning democracy, And to be appropriately informed, there must be no constraints on the free flow of information and ideas.

Case Syllabus: Morse v. Frederick (2007) – In 2002, an Alaskan high school principal, Deborah Morse, suspended a student named Joseph Frederick after he displayed a banner reading “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” across the street from the school during the 2002 Winter Olympics torch relay. Frederick sued, claiming his constitutional rights to free speech were violated. The case went to the Supreme Court to decide.