1st Amendment and Congress

David Thuita I Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The beginning of the second amendment finds its root in Athens, Greece during the 400s B.C., where free men were allowed to freely speak. Athen theaters, writings, and educational institutions all explored the freedom of speech. However the rights to free speech and public order were often debated for the extent it reached, this debate would carry on for millennia up to present-day countries.

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One such instance of the clash between free speech and its effect on society was with the prominent Athens philosopher Socrates hailed as the father of western philosophy, whose philosophical teachings and religious perspective infuriated some people. In 399 B.C., Socrates was put on trial for impiety for the Greek gods and corruption of Athens youth. He was given a choice to be exiled from Athens or executed. Sticking to his principles, Socrates chose execution by hemlock poisoning.

Marcus Cato or Cato the younger, another example of the limit of free speech, was one of Julius Caesar’s main opponent in the Rome Senate, who openly criticized Julius Caesar. This eventually led to Cato’s exile and suicide. For the next few centuries nothing similar to the rights Athens provided appeared until on England in 1215, people under King John’s rule were becoming restless. In the years king John had ruled he had imposed heavy taxes on barons in order to pay for foreign wars and completely disregarded the law. Failure to pay was met with brutal punishment and the seizing of property. The barons, churchmen, and businessmen used London as a bargaining chip and struck an agreement with the king. Thus the Magna Carta was created, which forced the king to obey laws and among other things gave English noblemen the right to justice and a fair trial. Though it said nothing of the freedom to speak, it did establish the end of an absolute powerful monarch, now that the king was under the law, and was a major milestone in the history of the people’s’ struggle against monarchies. As the world entered the seventeenth century, development of science was increasing and with that people started to look at issues methodically.

Philosophical and political thinkers began to see a relationship between the governors and the governed, this became known as the social contract. The “social contract theory” stated that man created societies in an attempt to escape his natural state of savagery and individual care disregarding others. John Locke, an English philosopher believed that man was no savage but compassionate by nature and suffered only due to self-governance. Locke continued saying that man, therefore, agreed to unite with others and give up the power but only if they were able to keep their natural rights. One of Locke’s rivals Thomas Hobbes, also an English philosopher, disagreed with Locke. Hobbes believed that man ultimately sought safety and security, things that Hobbes believed could only be provided by a strong government. Although both Hobbes and Locke disagreed their ideas contributed to the larger picture of the natural law In 1721 within the British colonies on America, the publisher of the New English Courant, James Franklin went to jail for criticizing the British government in a newspaper. His younger brother Ben Franklin took over.

A popular series of articles Ben would publish from Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard called Cato’s Letters, in which the two under the pseudonym of Cato and wrote about liberties. The fifteenth letter entitled “of freedom of speech” stated that there’s ” no such thing as publick liberty, without freedom of speech” explaining that all liberties depend on the ability to openly speak out. Gordon and Trenchard go on to say that “in those countries where a man can not call his tongue his own, he can scarce[-ly] call anything else his own”. Due to such outcries of injustice censorship of speech in American colonies was tightly enforced. The Virginia code of 1610 included the death penalty for those who spoke against Christianity and government. Through the seventeenth century, thousands of people were tortured for minor criticisms of public officials. In 1787, delegates from every state except Rhode Island met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. The delegate that met decided that rather than revise the articles they should draft a new one, this became the constitution.

The opposition complained that the constitution lacked protections for people’s individual rights and gave the government too much power. To offer such, the Bill of Rights written by James Madison during the first United States Congress,1798 -1791 included the first ten amendments. The Bill of Rights was to states for ratification 1789 and adopted in 1791. In the current age of technology the first amendment, like so many other amendments, is being pushed to their limits. One such instance is with our President Donald Trump. In a court case earlier this year, President Trump was accused of breaking the first amendment by blocking twitter followers that spoke out about their criticism of him. The suit was filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, as well as seven other plaintiffs blocked by Trump. The New York federal judge ruled that Trump blocking people from his account was unconstitutional on the grounds that social media is a place for people to consume data and offer feedback. A public official blocking accounts is similar to limiting the rights of their speech. Buchwald didn’t give any compensation but instead stated “[N]o government official ” including the President ” is above the law,” she continued with, “and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.” The first amendment vitality is shown in its power to affect even the mightiest in power and like the Magna Carta, all men use obey under this amendment.

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