The Constitution for the United States, Its Sources and Its Application
Our Enemy, The State by Albert J. Nock
The Classic Critique Distinguishing 'Government' from 'STATE'

United States Constitution Amendments
Article I of the Bill of Rights


This excerpt from the Constitution of the United States of America is taken from the book:
"The Constitution of the United States, Its Sources and Its Application"
by Thomas James Norton,

Published by the Committee for Constitutional Government.
First printed circa 1922, last known publishing date circa 1969.

It is well to remember the words of James Madison as we search for truth in government and understanding in this excerpt.

"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."


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.

The operative words in this Article are "Congress shall make NO law", which includes but is not limited to "laws, rules, regulations, proclamations, etc."

Let it be borne in mind that ALL of the first ten Articles of Amendment are of national effect, are declaratory and restrictive, superceding all contravening portions of the national and state constitutions..

Any and all laws, rules, regulations, proclamations, etc., Pro or Con, which may be entered in the record, addressing or contravening these freedoms are UNCONSTITUTIONAL and therefore NULLITIES.

Each phrase of this succinct statement of purpose and restriction upon the Congress and upon the Federal Government is re-stated below with definition and explanation of its sources and its application.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

In the reign of Charles II, Parliament, for the purpose of compelling all persons to attend the established Church, passed (1665) The Conventicle Act making every one over sixteen years of age who attended a conventicle (any meeting for religious worship at which five persons were present besides the household) subject to imprisonment, with transportation beyond seas for the third offense. During the same reign it passed the Test Act requiring oaths in support of the established religion. Under those acts, which were not repealed until recent times, all nonconformists of whatever religious belief were very severely dealt with. Those acts hastened emigration to America, as did intolerance in continental countries.

"It is strange indeed," says Ridpath (Popular History of the United States, p. 128), "that the very men who had so recently, through perils by sea and land, escaped with only their lives to find religious freedom in another continent, should have begun their career with intolerance and persecution."

The established Church of England had been set up in several of the Colonies and taxes were levied for its support.

Madison and Jefferson had waged (1784) a battle in Virginia against the establishment, finally securing the passage of a law declaring that any interference by the civil authority with religious opinion is against natural right.

A clause like this failed of adoption in the Constitutional Convention. As a member of the first House of Representatives under the new Constitution, Madison brought up this Amendment. After the House had adopted it the Senate rejected it, but it was later re-instated by that body.

When Madison became President he vetoed (1811) a bill passed by Congress for incorporating a church organization because he held it contrary to this Amendment, and shortly thereafter he vetoed another which would make a gift of public lands to a church.

Before the Constitutional Convention sat several of the States had put in their constitutions clauses for religious freedom. All of them have such clauses now. The prohibition under consideration is against the Nation and not the State.

In 1890 the Supreme Court of the United States, concluding a great contest begun in the District Court of the Territory of Utah in 1887, held that the National Government had "a perfect right to prohibit polygamy and all other open offenses against the enlightened sentiment of mankind, not withstanding the pretense of religious convictions by which they may be advocated and practiced."

"or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;"

"The liberty of the press consists, in the strict sense," says Hallam ("Constitutional History of England"), "merely in an exemption from the superintendence of a licenser."

He states that when, in the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), the political importance of the art of printing began to be apprehended, that monarch thought it necessary to take absolute control of it. Not only did he limit the privilege of keeping a press, but he also required previous inspection of the matter by a licenser. The same authority states that "the Long Parliament (1640-1660) did not hesitate to copy this precedent of a tyranny they had overthrown."

What our forefathers meant by the liberty of the press was defined by Blackstone (1758) two centuries after the time of Henry III as ...

"in laying NO previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. EVERY FREEMAN has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; ..... but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous, or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.

That is, he will be held accountable, by criminal proceeding or in civil action for damages, should he slander or libel another. And his oral and written speech is subject to restriction by the police power for the protection of the moral health of the community. Nor is he free to advocate the overthrow of civil order." ...

In 1771, following the publication of imperfect reports of the debates in Parliament, the sessions of which were then in secret, the House of Commons issued a proclamation forbidding the publication of debates. A printer who disobeyed and who ignored a summons to appear at the bar of the House was arrested by its messenger. The magistrate of London released him on the ground that the proclamation was without legal force. Then the House sent the lord mayor of the city to the Tower, but the crowds that followed him showed the Parliament that public opinion was against it. Further attempt to prevent reports was not made. "The first English Journals," says Green (The English People, Vol. 5, sec. 1504), "date from this time."

By the Sedition Law of 1798, which expired by limitation on March 3, 1801, the end of Adam's administration, Congress, in the opinion of many, went to the limit of its power under this clause: but in the cases which arose at the time the courts sustained the legislation. The law was designed to suppress seditious newspapers which were attacking the Government chiefly because it had, upon the declaration of war against England by the new Republic of France, issued a proclamation of neutrality, declaring a policy which has ever since been followed. There was such a widespread sympathy in the United States with the French Revolution that people exulted in the guillotining (1793) of Louis XVI and of Queen Marie Antoinette, whose assistance had made American independence possible. The belief was that the United States should become involved in the European conflict and many foreigners were publishing papers assailing the Government for not doing so. The first minister from the French Republic and other emissaries had taken advantage of this sentiment and openly worked against our policy of neutrality. The Sedition Law forbade the publication of matter which was intended to defame the Government or to bring its officers into disrepute. The fact that Washington favored it explains the fear which was entertained by sober men that the end of all government and law which had come in France would eventually destroy the United States.

Freedom to speak and freedom to print, guaranteed by this clause, must be considered in the light of other clauses for the Constitution is to be read as a whole and effectuated in all its parts as nearly as may be done. Thus another clause empowers Congress to raise armies. May speaking or writing under the former clause impede or cripple the Nation in its measures of defense under the latter clause? The Supreme Court has answered No. And so a Federal court remarked (1921) that while it is very desirable to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment, that end must not be accomplished by searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment, or by making a citizen bear witness against himself in violation of the Fifth. And while under the clause respecting the post office the Government has almost absolute power and may exclude objectionable matter from the mails, it may not, in disregard of the Fourth Amendment, search or seize letters to find whether the sender has committed a crime. Those examples show how the various clauses of the Constitution must be coordinated and applied together.

Freedom of speech is not abridged by the prohibition of addresses in public parks or of the publication of libelous, indecent or blasphemous articles or matter injurious to public morals or private reputation.

In many States it has been held under similar constitutional provisions (for, as before mentioned, the First Amendment here restricts Congress only) that freedom of speech and printing is not abridged by State laws for the censoring of moving pictures.

Among the laws of Congress springing from the World War was the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, which forbade any one willfully to cause and attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States. Every one of those who spoke and wrote against our being in the war or who tried to dissuade men from enlisting, promptly invoked in self-defense this constitutional provision for free speech. But the Espionage Act was upheld by the Supreme Court in the first case to reach it, and that declaration was repeated in many following cases of varying facts and circumstances. On March 1, 1920, affirming a sentence to the penitentiary of the editor of a foreign language newspaper who had, during recruiting, published articles against our action in the War, abusing and belittling the American and his government, and showing up what he called "the failure of recruiting", the Supreme Court said:

"But simple as the [Espionage] law is, perilous to the country as disobedience to it was, offenders developed, and when it was exerted against them challenged it to decision as a violation of the right of free speech assured by the Constitution of the United States. A curious spectacle was presented: that great ordinance of government and orderly liberty was invoked to justify the activities of anarchy or of the enemies of the United States, and by a strange perversion of its precepts it was adduced against itself."

In March, 1921, the Supreme Court upheld the action of the Post Office Department in excluding from the mails during the World War a newspaper which had denounced our government as a "plutocratic republic", a financial and political autocracy, which denounced the Selective Service Law of Congress as unconstitutional, arbitrary, and oppressive, which denounced the President as an autocrat, and the war legislation as having been passed by "a rubber stamp Congress", and which contended that soldiers could not legally be sent outside of the country and that the United States was waging a war of conquest. The National Defense Act of 1917 said that any newspapers published in violation of its provisions should be "non-mailable" and "should not be conveyed in the mails or delivered from any post office or by any letter carrier." Pointing out that the published matter "was not designed to secure the amendment or repeal of the laws denounced .... but to create hostility and to encourage violation of them", the Supreme Court said:

"Freedom of the press may protect criticism and agitation for modification or repeal of laws, but it does not extend to protection of him who counsels and encourages the violation of the law as it exists. The Constitution was adopted to preserve our government , not to serve as a protecting screen for those who, while claiming its privileges, seek to destroy it."

In and earlier case (1892) it was held to have been no abridgment of the freedom of the press for Congress to exclude from the mails newspapers containing advertisements of lotteries, as the government can not be "compelled arbitrarily to assist in the dissemination of matters condemned by its judgment."

The State supreme courts, under State constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of speech and of the press, have stated the doctrine as it has been expressed in the foregoing decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States . Thus the Constitution of New York provided for freedom in speaking and writing and prohibited restraint of the "liberty of speech or of the press"; but it made the citizens "responsible for the abuse of that right." The court of last resort in that State held (1902) that a seditious publication instigating revolution and murder and suggesting the persons in authority to be murdered was not protected by the State constitution, which the court said, places "no restraint upon the power of the legislature to punish the publication on matter which is injurious to society according to the standard of the common law -- it does not deprive the State of the primary right of self-preservation."

And in 1918 the Supreme Court of Minnesota upheld a law of that State (1917) which had been passed in aid of the Nation and which made it unlawful "for any person to print, publish, or circulate in any manner whatsoever" anything "that advocates or attempts to advocate that men should not enlist in the military or naval forces of the United States or of the State of Minnesota." Persons had been convicted of violating the Act and circulating a pamphlet asserted that "this war was arbitrarily declared without the will of the people": that "the President and Congress have forced this war upon the United States."; that now "they are attempting by military conscription to fight a war in which we are opposed"; that "the integrity of the country is being menaced" ; that "this war was declared to protect the Investments"; and so on. The Supreme Court of the State said that the Act was not in conflict with the Espionage Law of Congress because the citizens of the State (who are also citizens of the United States) owe a duty to the Nation to support, in full measure, the efforts of the national government." It was specifically held that the State statute did not abridge the freedom of National citizenship in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

In President Jackson's seventh annual message (December 1835) he took cognizance of the abolitionist newspapers and magazines and called upon Congress to prevent the transmission of them by the Post Office Department, "under severe penalties," as they were "intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection." Although many in Congress shared his view, no bill was passed.

(((Is that what I am doing by putting these truths on the web ---- Stirring the slaves to insurrection? I would hope not. I would hope to stir concerned FREEMEN to take a stance against the usurpation of the freedoms of all men by the STATE, and take the action necessary for a quiet revolution of return to Constitutional Government to re-establish the Ideals and Restraints on the STATE contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.)))

"or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This right already existed in customary law. In the colonial Declaration of Rights of October 19, 1765, it was said "that it is the right of British subjects in these Colonies to petition the King or either House of Parliament"; and in the Declaration of Rights of October 14, 1774, it was complained that "assemblies have been frequently dissolved, contrary to the rights of the people, when they attempted to deliberate on grievances." It was further said "that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations and communications for the same are illegal." It was declared also that "their dutiful, humble, loyal, and reasonable petitions to the Crown for redress have been repeatedly treated with contempt by His Majesty's ministers of state."

In the Declaration of Rights submitted by Parliament to William III and Mary (1689) and accepted by them, it was said that the right to petition the King existed and that the prosecution of petitioners which had taken place was illegal. It was considered so valuable by our forefathers that it was protected by this express provision. Assemblies for the discussion of their rights and petitions for the correction of their wrongs had been repeatedly employed by the colonists.

"In every stage of these oppressions" says the Declaration of Independence, "we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered by repeated injury." When this Constitution was written the right of assembly and petition was preserved in the constitutions of the several States.

Van Buren's administration was marked by a struggle to prevent the receipt and consideration by Congress of petitions for the abolition of slavery. Senator Calhoun declared such petitions a violation of the Constitution.

The people must assemble "peaceably." Regulations for the preservation of order are not a denial of the right. Nor can the right to petition be employed for the purpose of visiting malice upon others. The petition must be for something within the authority of the body addressed, or the petitioners must in good faith believe it to be.

The petition in England was based on the fact that Parliament was a court as well as a legislative body. Indeed, at first it was more of a court than a legislature.

In 1839 the English Chartists (seeking an extension of suffrage, vote by ballot, pay for members of Parliament, and an abolition of property qualifications for suffrage) presented to the House of Commons a petition having 1,250,000 signatures.

While this First Amendment, and the nine following it are prohibitions against encroachments upon liberties by the Nation, it was held by the Supreme Court in 1937 that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, written against the States after the Civil War, protects from infringement by a State "the right of the people peaceably to assemble". Holding the Syndicalism Act of Oregon of 1933 violate of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to a man who attended a meeting "under the auspices of the Communist Party" but said nothing toward "effecting industrial or political change or revolution." forbidden by the Act, the Court declared that "peaceable assembly for lawful discussion cannot be made a crime".

"It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error."--- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson

For a more complete discussion of the First Amendment to the Constitution see
"The Constitution of the United States, Its Sources and Its Application"

Reproduction of all or any parts of the above text may be used for general information.

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