Americas Puritan Press, 1630-1690: The Value of Free Expression.Report as inadecuate

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During the period from 1630 to 1690, the Puritans were not arbitrary oppressors of free speech. They believed that public expression was valuable and necessary. They restricted only ungodly print or speeches by heretics and blasphemers. Within the boundaries of godly expression, Puritans encouraged discussion for the better enlightenment of mankind. The rule that free expression should be a blessing to society occasionally backfired as people such as John Palmer accused them of silencing free speech. However, Palmer was supporting a governor whose basis for governing was the squelching of political expression and the silencing of Puritan religious ministry. Puritans did restrict the press enough so that Quaker prints which lashed out against New England had to be printed in Philadelphia or London. However, the Puritans allowed the press at Harvard College, which they controlled, to publish other opposition pieces. Although historians sometimes jump to the conclusion that the Puritans had no interest in free expression, the Puritans' printed works show toleration and encouragement of free speech and free press within certain limits. So long as free speech did not abridge religion, free expression was both a treasure and a prize, a tool for learning and a means of debate. (Sixty-seven notes are included.) (RS)

Descriptors: Censorship, Colonial History (United States), Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Journalism History, Persuasive Discourse, Puritans

Author: WIlliams, Julie Hedgepeth


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