by Morley Evans
“Congress shall make no law…
abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press…”
— First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
When James Madison agreed be the scrivener at the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787, he could not have known that just three years later he’d be the chair of the House of Representatives committee whose task it was to draft the Bill of Rights.
In doing so, he insisted that the word “the” precede the phrase “freedom of speech” in what was to become the First Amendment, so as to reflect its preexistence; meaning, the freedom of speech preexisted the United States. Madison believed that the pre-political rights, which he enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are natural to our humanity and he articulated as much in the Ninth Amendment, and in his speeches in support of the ratification of what would become the first 10 amendments.
What Happened to the Freedom of Speech?