Does “Freedom of Speech” mean you can say anything you want about anyone you choose? Our Founding Fathers would certainly not agree! You can, of course, say anything you want but there must be consequences for malicious defamation of individuals and even in revolutionary America libel and slander laws were enforced. There is, however, one group of people, one institution that deserves no such protection and that is the government. Whether you support the divine rights of kings or the republican privilege of elected officials, none shall be above the scrutiny and criticism of the Press and Public Speakers.
America came to its independence largely because of the outspoken voices of orators like Patrick Henry, John Dickinson, and Roger Sherman. Men like these, and many others and many who wrote rather than spoke their views, shaped the political opinions and galvanized the revolutionary resolve of the people not just to rebel but to create a new nation, a new world order. Without these voices focusing the people’s ambition toward creating a better country rather than just tearing down the relationships with Brittan, America’s revolution would not likely have survived the end of the war and certainly never have creating a long-lasting permanent union. True revolution is fought with words not bullets, and it’s the pamphleteers and orators who were the vanguard in sustaining revolutionary spirit.
Born of the tradition of the Greek Forum where men argued points of politics and philosophy, orators would come to wherever people congregated (churches, taverns, meeting halls, the public market; and yes, even protests) to lend a voice to the gathering on the issues of the day. Most of these speeches were quite pedestrian. Perhaps they read the news, announce some decision or proclamation by the Governor or Legislature, or announce some noteworthy event. These, however, are not the speeches we remember. Its in times of crisis that we count on voices like Peyton Randolph to calm the people’s fears or Samuel Adams to incite them into action. True revolution is fought with words not bullets.
In my interpretive program, I take a position in the public
square and read or announce a significant proclamation. My goal is to engage the public is a debate
on topics like Independence[i],
Action Against Tyranny[iii],
and news of the war[iv]. My goal is to get people to see the
revolution from more perspectives than just military action.
[i] Declaration of Independence is read then debated, especially if I portray John Dickerson or Thomas Paine
[ii] Proposed Bill of Rights (14 amendments) is read and each individual article (now amendments) discussed.
[iii] Nonimportation Agreements are discussed
[iv] Reports on the war – Boston Massacre, Siege of Charlestown, Burning of Newport, Liberation of Boston, etc.