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'Revolutionary Dissent': The Origins Of Free Speech In The U.S.46:22
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The raucous politics at the very beginning of the American Republic, and what we have now. Stephen Solomon, author of the new book Revolutionary Dissent joins us.

Andrew Hamilton, the attorney ofor John Peter Zenger, convinced a jury in New York in 1735 to rebel against the oppressive law of seditious libel and free the printer from jail. (Courtesy St. Martin's Press)
Andrew Hamilton, the attorney ofor John Peter Zenger, convinced a jury in New York in 1735 to rebel against the oppressive law of seditious libel and free the printer from jail. (Courtesy St. Martin's Press)

You look at the campaign in 2016 and sometimes the craziness on the campaign trail seems like it could not be any worse. The taunts, the slurs, the body parts. Big hands, little hands, little whatevers. But look back, says my guest today, historian Stephen Solomon. Back to the origins of the country. To Revolutionary War days and before. American political discourse and dissent in the time of the founders was wicked, rugged, wild. This hour On Point: rough politics at the birth of America.
-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Stephen Solomon, professor of journalism at New York University specializing in First Amendment freedom of speech and press. Associate director of the Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute. Author of Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech. (@stsolomon)

From Tom's Reading List

What does free speech mean?  — "Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not." (US Courts)

Timeline: a history of free speech — "399BC Socrates speaks to jury at his trial: 'If you offered to let me off this time on condition I am not any longer to speak my mind... I should say to you, "Men of Athens, I shall obey the Gods rather than you."' (The Guardian)

Paul Revere: Revolutionary Dissent — "On a copper plate he engraved a political cartoon for printing and distribution far and wide. Calling the engraving “A Warm Place—Hell,” Revere heaped scorn on the rescinders. Two devils with pitchforks prod the lawmakers into the cavernous jaws of a fearsome dragon that breathes fire and represents the Puritan idea of a forbidding Hell. A snake writhes at their feet. The engraving makes some of the rescinders, who are dressed in colonial garb, identifiable to citizens of Boston." (Huffington Post)

Read an excerpt from "Revolutionary Dissent" by Stephen Solomon

This program aired on May 12, 2016.

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