With the exception of ancient Greece, the pre-democratic period, in world history, existed prior to July 4, 1776 and the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
The U.S. Bill of Rights was enshrined in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791. All Americans are guaranteed the right to "freedom of speech" by the 1st amendment.
The idea of "freedom of speech", most probably, originated with the renowned French political philosopher, Voltaire (1694-1778). Voltaire shocked (pun intended) the educated people, of his day, by saying: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.". "Just whose death?", I am wondering. Although, Voltaire gets the credit, the remark originated with the less well known C. S. Tallentyre. Apparently, as Groucho Marx,viewing this quote,might have said:"A more forgettable historical figure I can't recall".
More recently, as some assert, America has entered into another post-democratic period as the result of the ongoing War-On-Terror. This may be true. If true, then every American should hope for the time when some of our, allegedly, "abridged" civil rights, contained in the U.S. Bill of Rights, are more fully restored.
Like the present time, it is during these difficult periods when many Americans will favor practicality over principle. In other words, the "Spirit Of 1776" may not be fully embodied in or by the "Spirit Of 2006". It may also be said thatbetween 1776 and 1791, it was not much in evidence then either. What a difference 15 or230 years can make "in the ways of the people and things."(George M. Cohan: "45 Minutes From Broadway" 1905).
In their thoughts and for the present, many Americansmay choose toparaphase Votaire (and Tallentyre) by telling themselves: "While I may approve of what you say, under these circumstances,I will not lift a finger to defend your right to say it.".
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