Quack Quack Honk Designs Presents Free Speech Friday: John Adams Hated Bad Press.

Welcome to the second in an installment series here on Lawyers & Liquor where I, the bloviating blowhard that is the Boozy Barrister, become your cut rate Ms. Frizzle as we go on a magical journey of learning together about the First Amendment and, more specifically, the freedom of speech that it guarantees.  This month we have a new sponsor hanging around here, the lovable and talented Quack Quack Honk Designs!  A lovely artist from the cold regions of the world…like…those places north of Ohio, QQH is a wonderful artist who appears at art fairs all over the place selling their work, and right now if you jump into the fray at their website you can even use them to design your holiday cards!  HOP TO IT, because Art is a form of speech, and my speech says you should buy shit from them!

As I told you last time, myself and Constitutional Law had a love/hate relationship in law school, in no small part because it was a two hour class very fucking early in the morning and I wasn’t ready for any of that deep thought at that point.  As a result, while I certainly understand and know con law, I never really got into the in-depth study of it.  There’s just not a lot of call for constitutional arguments in the course of keeping a person’s home or defending a DUI, and to the extent there are you pick up that part of it on basic principles and practice, not by the in-depth study of the issuance of letters of marque and shit like that.

Now, as I may have said in the past, the principles of the freedom of speech were basically considered so non-controversial that, in debating the meaning of them, Congress essentially went “that’s really verbose for something we all know what it means, so we’re just gonna pare that shit right there down a bit.”  Fuck, as I pointed out last time there was pretty much no discussion about this shit on the floor of the Congress at all at the time it was passed other than someone taking out the red marker and pulling the old Hemingway “say more with less” approach to cutting out what they determined were superfluous words.  However, as we now know, the founding fuckers were being a little optimistic in their estimation of mankind’s intelligence in taking this tack, as what happened thereafter was a hodgepodge of judicial determinations as to what the limits and benefits of free speech actually were under the Bill of Rights, leading to the modern interpretation of the short amendment (shorter, in fact, than this post to this point) and its guarantee of basic liberty for the people that live under its rule.  And, with the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791, it wasn’t even a full decade before the first major challenge to free speech came to national prominence.

You know, because President John Adams really fucking hated criticism.  Enough that he made it a jailable offense.

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Free Speech Friday: The First Amendment – One Sentence, 10,000 annotations

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.

U.S. Const. Amend. I

Welcome to the first of a new monthly series here on Lawyers & Liquor, which we’re calling “Free Speech Friday.”  I’m your host, the Boozy Barrister.  Over the next however long it takes us, we’re gonna take one Friday a month to discuss legal issues of free speech and constitutional law here, both areas that I, as a shitty shit lawyer in Shitadelphia, Shitsylvania am not overly familiar with.  So, this will be a learning experience for both of us, as Boozy pursues edification and then, like the loving momma bird that I am, promptly turns to vomit up the knowledge into your eagerly cheeping mouths.

Yes, I know, that’s probably someone’s fetish.  Put it back in your pants, Pete.  We got law to talk about.

More specifically, we have one specific law to talk about, being the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  You can see the whole fucking text of the thing above, one sentence that lasts 45 words and has caused more goddamn trouble to the courts than anything else.  One sentence that has been used to guarantee the rights of everyone from activists marching for racial equality to assholes picketing funerals.  45 words that have been interpreted to allow folks to spout 14 words in city center when they seek to do so.  Often contentious, and always loud, the First Amendment is, as author and Huffington Post journalist Naomi Wolf said, “designed to allow for disruption of business as usual. It is not a quiet and subdued amendment or right.”

In other words, it is the right to be fucking loud and, in general, do so without fear of restriction from the government.  But how, exactly, did we come about gaining that right, written into the very foundational documents of our nation’s history?  And why?

That’s what we’re talking about today on Free Speech Friday:  the birth of the First Amendment and the why of why we have it.  So sit back, grab some popcorn, and let’s get going with an impromptu legal history lesson.

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