Libel In Early America

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Before America gained independence and established the Constitution, the freedom of speech and press and its scope started to be explored and discussed in England. The English writers Milton, Blackstone, and Cato wrote about the flaws in the previous restraints, dangers of libel, and the importance of the freedom of speech and press. Seeing this, the Founders of America incorporated their thoughts on previous restraints, libel, and freedom of speech and press into early documents such as the Aliens and Sedition Acts and several state constitutions. Milton in Areopagitica focuses on the previous restraints mainly on publishing documents and importance of the freedom of press. During the 17th century, publications had to be approved by a licenser,…show more content…
15 and No. 32. The freedom of speech and liberty come hand in hand. Those who try to oppose this freedom is attacking liberty itself and should be stopped. According to him, “There are some truths not fit to be told; where for example, the discovery of a small fault may do great mischief; or where the discovery of a great fault can do no good, there ought to be no discovery at all…” (Cato No. 32 pg 1). Libel is libel, regardless of its validity, and should be punished. The possible consequences of libel could result in disturbances in society that could be detrimental for the general…show more content…
These acts made it harder for immigrants to become citizens and allowed the president to deport immigrants deemed dangerous. More relevantly, the acts made it a crime to publish anything wrong and scandalous/malicious writing against the government, specifically Congress and the President. Libel, according to the English writers, is language usually written to defame another’s opinions. Therefore, writing that is wrong and scandalous about the government can be classified as libel. Like the previous writers, the writers of the act found that words can be detrimental to the trust and welfare of the people, which is worthy of punishment. The Aliens and Sedition Acts formally added punishment to such language against Congress and the
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