Compare And Contrast The Freedom Of Speech And The Press

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The passing of the law Sedition Act of 1798 created a great debate over the meaning of freedom of speech and the press because it limited what people could say. The two opposing views were crafted by Henry Lee and James Madison. Lee believed that freedom of speech and the press meant exactly what it did when Blackstone wrote it for England, which is that it is a freedom from prior restraint and nothing more. However, Madison stated that the American concept of freedom of the press and speech went beyond what is stated in the common law of England, it protects a person’s right to criticize the government and government officials. Both sides have well thought out reasons as to why their view is correct, however I strongly believe that Madison’s …show more content…
Freedom of expression supports a new system- a republican form of government, not the monarchy rule that England had. Lee believes that England’s common law is correct and it should stay exactly how it is, but that is illogical. England has an absolute monarchy, with parliament to check their power, but a monarchy is not the same thing as a democracy which is what we have in the United States. Madison says, “In the British Government the danger of encroachments on the rights of the people is understood to be confined to the executive magistrate… but are considered as sufficient guardians of the rights of their constituents against the …show more content…
Still, Lee would point out that abridging means the exercise of prior restraint. The government can’t stop someone from publishing a malicious article, but the person can be punished after. However, to combat Lee’s argument Madison states that certain powers -enumerated powers- are given to the government, which is what they have total control over. There is no enumerated power in the Constitution for Congress to claim that they can control the press, therefore they shouldn’t be able to punish people even if it is after the article had already been published. In fact, the First Amendment added an express denial of any such power. Also, why would the government and the people go through all of the effort of passing the Sedition Act of 1798 if the 1st amendment only protects people from prior restraint, the English common law. If this were true, then there would be no need to enact anything else because then the act would add nothing to the laws that were already put in place. Thus, the first amendment is meant to protect the people from all branches of government, so they cannot limit our opinions. The Sedition Act of 1798 was put in place to combat and further the power and role of the government since they had no power over the press

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