The time of America’s founding was full of raucous debate and widespread dissent. Americans built effigies, wrote pamphlets, sang songs, and gathered at liberty trees to protest British rule.
But while citizens of the 13 colonies, and later the United States, might have acted like they had a right to express themselves in the myriad ways that they did, the spectre of seditious libel—illegal statements criticizing the government—often hung over their heads.
In Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech, New York University journalism professor Stephen D. Solomon chronicles how early Americans such as Paul Revere, James Madison, Alexander McDougall, and others fought seditious libel laws and developed their understanding of the right to freedom of speech along the way.
We sit down with Professor Solomon in today’s episode of So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast to discuss his new book. We also learn why anyone who cared about free expression at the time of America’s founding associated it with the number 45.
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