Here now is the text of the first amendment in full:
“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.”
Some notes from the founding fathers
This comes from Thomas Jefferson, scribe of the Declaration of Independence.
The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
This also comes from Mr. Jefferson, in a letter to fellow founder Eldridge Gerry.
I am … for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.
More from Mr. Jefferson, who wrote this in 1786:
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
Yeah, that about sums it up. But, I’d like me, you’d like to hear from another founder, here’s one.
From James Madison, who helped bring forth the Constitution. It’s kind of an important document.
This security of the freedom of the press requires, that it should be exempt, not only from previous restraint by the executive, as in Great Britain, but from legislative restraint also; and this exemption, to be effectual, must be an exemption not only from the previous inspection of licensers, but from the subsequent penalty of laws.
Oh, and the General has something to say about freedom of speech.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
Oh, and of course, Dr. Franklin had something to say.
Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.
Some favorite hits from the Supremes
Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, in 1931 in Near v. Minnesota:
It is no longer open to doubt that the liberty of the press, and of speech, is within the liberty safeguarded by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by state action. It was found impossible to conclude that this essential personal liberty of the citizen was left unprotected by the general guaranty of fundamental rights of person and property.
Associate Justice Hugo Black.
Both the history and language of the First Amendment support the view that the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints. In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.
Oh, and The Great Dissenter has weighed in:
If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate.
Lastly, let’s toss in a little something from the inimitable Bill Brennan.
Thus we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks
on government and public officials.
So yeah, President Herr Trump isn’t going to win his attempt to halt the publication of Michael Wolff’s book.
And he looks like a cowardly horse’s ass trying.