Americans are more supportive of free speech than anyother people. 95 % of Americans think it’s “very important” to be able tocriticize the government without censorship and 77% support the right to offendreligious feelings. But in 17th Century colonial America,criticizing the government, officials or the laws was punishable as seditiouslibel and could result in the cropping of ears, whippings, boring of the tongueand jail time. Religious speech was also tightly controlled. Blasphemy waspunishable by death in several colonies and religious dissenters such asQuakers were viciously persecuted in Puritan New England. Despite the harshclimate of the 17th century, the boundaries of political speech andreligious tolerance were significantly expanded. In this episode we’llexplore:
How thecrime of seditious libel was exported to colonial America
- Why peddlers of “fake news” were seen as enemies of the state
- Why a Harvard student was whipped for blasphemy
- Why four Quakers were hanged in Boston and many more whipped, branded and jailed
- How colonies like Pennsylvania, Carolina
andMaryland combined religious tolerance with laws against religiousoffense,
- HowRoger Williams´ ”Rogue Island” and West New Jersey adopted policies of radical religious toleration
- The dangers of mixing alcohol and politics in Maryland
- How William Penn promoted religious tolerance and political intolerance
- How the colonies operated a strict licensing regime to suppress printing
- HowJohn Wise protested taxation without representation and became “America’s First Great Democrat”
Email us feedback at email@example.com.
- Bejan, T.M. (2017): Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration. Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.
- Brown, E.N. (2018, March 5): “$20 Fee for Porn Access Proposed in Rhode Island”. Reason: Free Minds and Free Markets, accessed 22 January, https://reason.com/blog/2018/03/05/20-fee-for-porn.
- Brown, R.D. (2007): “The Shifting Freedoms of the Press in the Eighteenth Century”,
in:Armory, H. & Hall, D.D. (eds.): A History of the Book in America, vol. 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World. University of North Carolina Press.
- Corrigan, J. & Neal, L.S. (2010): Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History. University of North Carolina Press.
- Curtis, M.K. (1991): “In Pursuit of Liberty: The Levellers and the American Bill of Rights”. Constitutional Commentary, p. 801, 1991; Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 956931.
- Curtis, M.K. (2000): Free Speech, “The People’s Darling Privilege”: Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History. Duke University Press.
- Deazley, R., Kretschmer, M. & Bently, L.(eds.): Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright. OpenBook Publishers.
- Eldridge, L. (1995): A Distant Heritage: The Growth of Free Speech in Early America. NYUPress. Kindle Edition.
- Hall, D.D. (2007): “The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century” and “Readers and Writers in Early New England”, in: Armory, H. & Hall, D.D. (eds.): A History of the Book in America, vol. 1: TheColonial Book in the Atlantic World. University of North Carolina Press.
- Harvard University: “Henry Dunster”, accessed 22 January 2019, https://www.harvard.edu/about-harvard/harvard-glance/history-presidency/henry-dunster.
- Juster, S. (2014): “Heretics, Blasphemers, and Sabbath Breakers: The Prosecution of Religious Crime in Early America” in Beneke, C. & Grenda, C.S. (eds.) (2014): The First Prejudice: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America. University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Kopan, T. (2013, October 10): “Student stopped from handing out Constitutions on Constitution Day sues”. Politico, accessed 22 January 2019, https://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2013/10/student-stopped-from-handing-out-constitutions-on-constitution-day-sues-174792.
- Laskow, S. (2017, July 10): “The Hidden Rules of the Puritan Fashion Police”. Atlas Obscura, accessed 22 January 2019, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/sumptuary-laws-puritan-fashion-colonies-modesty.
- Leff, L. (1990, April 28): “MD. Court Hearts Appeal of Oral Sex Conviction”. The Washington Post, accessed 22 January 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1990/04/28/md-court-hears-appeal-of-oral-sex-conviction/461dfed1-8669-4a5e-b0cc-2967c25f179c/?utm_term=.0208e444ed44.
- Levy, L.W. (1985): Emergence of a Free Press. Oxford University Press.
- Levy, L.W. (1995): Blasphemy: Verbal Offense Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie. University of North Carolina Press.
- Morgan, E.S. (1975): American
slavery– American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
- Neal, L.S. & Corrigan, J. (2010): Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History. The University of North Carolina Press.
- New England Historical Society: “Harvard Student Beaten in 1674, President Takes Fall”, accessed 22 January 2019, http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/harvard-student-beaten-1674-president-takes-fall/.
- Rossiter, C.L. (1949): “John Wise: Colonial Democrat”. The New England Quarterly 22(1). pp. 3–32.
- Smolenski, J. (2001): “William Bradford”. In: Derek, J. (ed.): Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
- Solomon, S.D. (2016): Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech. St. Martin’s Press.Kindle Edition.
- Taylor, A. (2002): American
colonies: The Settling of North America, Vol. 1. Penguin Books.
- “Act for Free Conscience (Pennsylvania)”, 1682. Online Library of Liberty, accessed 22 January 2019, https://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/1682-act-for-freedom-of-conscience-penn.
- “Acts and Orders (Rhode Island)”, 1647. Online Library of Liberty, accessed 22 January 2019, https://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/1647-acts-and-orders-rhode-island.
- Alice Morse Earle, “Curious punishments of bygone days”, 1896. Chicago: H. S. Stone & company, 1896. Hathi Trust Digital Library, accessed 22 January 2019, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003338145.
- “Charter of the Liberties and Frame ofGovernment of Pennsylvania”, 1682. Online Library of Liberty, accessed 22 January 2019, https://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/1682-charter-of-the-liberties-and-frame-of-government-of-pennsylvania.
- “Charter of Liberties and Privileges (New York)”, 1683. Online Library of Liberty, accessed 22 January 2019, https://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/1683-charter-of-liberties-and-privileges-new-york.
- “Facts and Case Summary – Snyder v. Phelps”, 2 March 2011. United States Courts, accessed 22 January 2019, http://www.uscourts.gov/educational-resources/educational-activities/facts-and-case-summary-snyder-v-phelps.
- “Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania, from the organization to the termination of the proprietary government”, 10 March 1683 – 27 September 1775. Hathi Trust Digital Library, accessed 22 January 2019, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007821310.
- “Parliamentary Patent”, 1643. Rhode Island State Archives, accessed 22 January 2019, http://sos.ri.gov/assets/downloads/documents/Parliamentary-Patent.pdf.
- Sir Edward Coke, Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, vol. I. . Steve Shepherd, ed., accessed 22 January 2019, https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/coke-selected-writings-of-sir-edward-coke-vol-i–5.
- “The Charter of Fundamental Laws, of West New Jersey, Agreed Upon”, 1676. The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, accessed 22 January 2019, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/nj05.asp.
- “The Declaration of the Reasons and Motives for the Present Appearing in Arms of Their Majesties Protestant Subjects in the Province of Maryland” , 1689, C.M. Andrews, ed.. Hathi Trust Digital Library, accessed 22 January 2019, https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000364102.
- ”The Social System of Virginia”, 1848. Making of America Journal Articles 14(2), 65-81, accessed 22 January 2019, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moajrnl/acf2679.0014.002/76:1?page=root;size=100;view=text.
- Thomas Jefferson, Writings (New York: Viking Press, 1984), 283, quoted in L.S. Neal & J. Corrigan, Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History (The University of North Carolina Press, 2010).