Episode 23 – Expert Opinion with Stephen Solomon


The First Amendment of the US Constitution was adopted as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791. This “Great bulwark of liberty” provides that

“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.”

In this conversation with professor Stephen Solomon we will explore the origins and drafting history of the First Amendment including:

  • The inspiration from early state constitutions and declarations in Virginia and Pennsylvania
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • The fierce debate surrounding the Constitutional Convention and ratification process.
  • How Federalists and anti-Federalists clashed over the necessity of a bill of rights
  • How some Federalists used the Heckler´s Veto to silence anti-Federalists
  • James Madison´s first draft bill of rights and why Madison thought that the American conception of freedom of speech differed substantially from the British conception
  • Whether Freedom of Speech is really “the First Freedom”
  • What were the essential justification for freedom of speech envisaged by the Founders
  • Whether the Founders would agree with 21. Century standards of free speech as developed by the Supreme Court

Stephen D. Solomon is a professor at New York University. associate director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and founding editor of FirstAmendmentWatch.org.
Author of Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created The Freedom of Speech.

Why have kings, emperors, and governments killed and imprisoned people to shut them up? And why have countless people risked death and imprisonment to express their beliefs? Jacob Mchangama guides you through the history of free speech from the trial of Socrates to the Great Firewall.

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