in any case, it is extremely difficult to define freedom of speech, but as courts and judges applying the law, they cannot avoid and have no duty to shirk. Therefore, for more than 200 years, the Supreme Court and other courts have been struggling with how to interpret the first amendment.

reading history is like watching movies, “The boundary of speech: a brief history of the first amendment of the United States Constitution” can be called an authentic American blockbuster. Anthony Lewis is a two time Pulitzer Prize winner (1955, 1963). He has been a special contributor to the New York Times for more than 30 years (1969-2001). He has taught “news constitutional law” at Columbia University for 20 years. These resumes of the author have created a vivid style and rich news color of the book, It is quite different from the rigid sketching method of American academic case textbooks.




but when reading such legal works, the line of sight will become a little trance. Even wearing 3D glasses is useless. It is difficult to distinguish whether it is novel literature, historical books or pure academic. However, just as a book has a cover and a back cover, the advantage is that the panoramic shooting of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is more than 200 years old, must be carefully prepared. In particular, it must be carefully arranged to help the audience understand the background, props and music of the plot. With the “action” of the author, that is, the director It’s on.

the national value of freedom of speech

for the United States, which forged the world’s first written constitution, has always had a strong sense of psychological superiority and honored it as “seamless heavenly clothes”. However, the Federal Constitution of 1787 did not give citizens rights and freedoms, which is a great omission, even Massachusetts Both New York and Virginia tended to oppose ratification of the constitution until the federal promised that the first Congress would immediately add a bill of rights. Therefore, in 1791, “Congress shall not legislate… Restrict freedom of speech or freedom of the press…” became the protagonist of this blockbuster – the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

in fact, the founding of the people’s Republic of America is, in a sense, a fierce resistance to the brutal oppression of the freedom of speech and publication of their parents by Britain since the 16th century. At that time, the suppression of speech and way of expression was manifested as follows: first, the licensing system for all publications (prior restriction); Second, the anti inflammatory defamation act criminalizes any disrespect to the government, the church or officials of the above-mentioned institutions (subsequent conviction).

on the contrary, Madison defined freedom of speech as “the right to freely inspect public figures and public affairs”, which accurately spelled out the premise of the American political system. In addition, “the people, not the government, have absolute sovereignty”, which is “completely different” from the British system, Freedom of speech and the press are the strongest guardians of the Republic. Therefore, the first amendment clearly shows the difference between the foundation and national value of the United States and Britain. In fact, this kind of almost deliberate opposition can be found everywhere when the United States was founded. For example, Britain is a monarchy and the United States is a republic; Britain is the supremacy of Parliament, and the United States is the separation of powers; British judges wear wigs and red robes, while American judges wear clothes on their heads.

ironically, however, the United States anti Sedition Act, which was adopted by the Federalists in 1798 in ten days, gave the first amendment a slap in the head, almost pulling the American people back to the autocratic rule of George III. therefore, the act became the target of public criticism of the protest movement, He helped Jefferson defeat Adams in the presidential election in 1800. Since then, the Federal Party has lost control of both houses of Congress, and then fell back to oblivion. It is awesome that only the rulers can freely speak and publish freely.

as the first law issued by the United States because of fear, it is not lonely. Recently, the Patriot Act of 2001 took only four days to pass “lightning”, which makes the world more stunned. The provision that the government has the right to steal the telephone calls of American citizens based on the needs of public security has become a good defense for suppressing freedom of speech, But as judge Jackson once wrote, “security is like freedom. How many sins do in your name!”

explain and criticize the freedom of the government

in any case, it is extremely difficult to define freedom of speech, but as the courts and judges applying the law, they cannot avoid and have no duty to do. Therefore, the Supreme Court and other courts have been struggling to explain the first amendment for more than 200 years, At the same time, it also bears the strong doubts of “law makers” and “Judicial Activism”. When the claim of freedom of expression was brought to the Supreme Court in the 19th century, the Supreme Court just extended its back to welcome it, agreed to abolish all prior censorship, but allowed to suppress any speech with “bad tendencies”, that is, unpleasant speech that may offend normal people. It was not until 1919 that the Supreme Court officially launched the first amendment to support freedom of speech for the first time. This is the principle of “obvious and immediate danger” put forward by judge Holmes, who is closest to the poet, and finally limited to “imminent” and “urgent”.

we have to talk about how judges interpret the first amendment. It seems that the most natural way should be to look back and understand the thoughts and thoughts of the drafters and voters. However, in this regard, the number of documents that history can leave to judges is extremely scarce and the definition is not accurate. It seems that this road is impassable. Then, the judicial wisdom and courage of judges have become equally important, and the changes in the social environment often affect the fluctuations of the “ideological market”. It is not difficult to understand why courts in different periods have different understandings of freedom of speech, and even the judgments of the same judge on the same issue are inconsistent.

until 1964, the New York Times v. Sullivan case realized the revolutionary change of American anti defamation law. Judge Brennan “formed a national consensus on the essence of the first amendment for the first time”, that is, the right to criticize Madison’s so-called “public figures and public affairs”, and the boundary is that unless the published articles are proved