In 1791, when Congressman James Madison was drafting the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — which would become known as the Bill of Rights — he insisted that the most prominent amendment among them restrain the government from interfering with the freedom of speech. After various versions of the First Amendment had been drafted and debated, the committee that he chaired settled on the iconic language: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”
Madison insisted upon referring to speech as the freedom of speech, not for linguistic or stylistic reasons, but to reflect its pre-political existence. Stated differently, according to Madison — who drafted the Constitution as well as the Bill of Rights — because the freedom of speech pre-existed the government, it does not have its origins in government. The use of the article the reflects that pre-existence.
The First Amendment also reflects the framers’ collective belief that the freedom of speech is a natural
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