When Elon Musk declared, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy,” and finalized his purchase of Twitter, the Left in America experienced a meltdown. The internet lit up with outrage, accusations, crying, and predictions of doom and gloom.
But why? And why did America’s Founders harbor no such fear of freedom of speech? They were the ones, after all, who formulated the First Amendment in which they guaranteed, not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press.
The answer to our question lies in the very different worldviews of America’s founders and the modern Left. Here are 3 reasons America’s Founders had no fear of free speech.
They Believed Truth Would Always Win on an Even Playing Field
America’s Founders did not fear free speech because they believed in the inherent power of truth. They believed in real, objective truth because they believed in the God of the Bible as the Creator of all things. They, therefore, believed truth to possess inherent power and agreed with John Milton who had said,
Let Truth and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in free and open encounter? She needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious . . . Give her but room.
Those on the Left fear free speech because in their atheistic worldview, objective truth does not exist. Since their humanistic belief system contains no transcendent moral value or inherent power, it must be maintained by force in the use of bans, censorship, and government oversight. Their secularist worldview leads to fear of a free and open society.
America’s Founders, on the other hand, believed in the God of the Bible who has revealed truth to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ and in Holy Scripture. Discovering real, transcendent truth is the key to a prosperous and happy life, which is why James Madison wrote,
The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 111).
America’s Founders had no fear of free speech because of their Christian worldview. Thomas Jefferson clearly expressed this when he wrote,
Truth can stand by itself. If there be but one right religion and Christianity that one, we should wish to see the nine hundred and ninety-nine wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free inquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves (Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage, 97).
Compare this attitude to Marxist regimes and the Big Tech, woke culture in modern America that seeks to suppress all opposing views. It is obvious that proponents of these belief systems do not have confidence that their ideas would fare well on a level playing field where free speech is a reality.
They Believed a Virtuous People Would Use Their Freedom Wisely
The Founders, without exception, believed morality and religion to be the basis of freedom. Without a national morality to guide the populace from within, freedom would be turned into avarice and anarchy. This, in turn, would destroy the free Republic they had formed.
This was clearly articulated by John Adams in a 1798 address to the officers of the Massachusetts Militia. Adams made clear his belief in a national Christian morality as the only hope for the survival of the free American Republic. He declared,
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious [Christian] people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 168).
For the same reason, George Washington, in his Farewell Address after serving two terms as the nation’s first president, exhorted the new nation to cling to “morality and religion” which he described as “indispensable supports” for human happiness and national prosperity. He also cautioned against the supposition that “morality can be maintained without religion.”
When the Founders use the word “religion” they are referring to Christianity. This is made clear throughout their writings and speeches. Thomas Jefferson, for example, in his 1777 “Bill for Religious Freedom,” referred to Jesus as “The Holy Author of our Religion” (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 148).
Although Jefferson questioned certain points of Christian doctrine, he too was convinced that only the teachings of Jesus could undergird a free and open society. This is why he made Washington’s Farewell Address required reading at the University of Virginia and is why he declared, “I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus” (Hyatt, 1726:The Year that Defined America, 149).
Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, made the same point as Washington and Jefferson, declaring,
The only foundation for a Republic is to be laid in Religion [Christianity]. Without this there can be no liberty, and liberty is the life and object of all republican governments (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 163).
Because the Left has rejected Jesus and any transcendent moral authority, their only option is to use government force to control speech. This is why the Biden administration has just established the "Disinformation Governance Board" to combat speech it considers harmful and dangerous. This is what William Penn was referring to when he said, "Those who will not be governed by God, must be ruled by tyrants."
The founders believed that a vibrant Christianity was necessary for the ongoing success of the Republic they had formed. They were right and this is why we must ask God to send another Divine Awakening across this land, for as the Catholic scholar, William Novak, has said,
Far from having a hostility toward religion, the founders counted on religion for the underlying philosophy of the republic, its supporting ethic, and its reliable source of rejuvenation (Hyatt, 1726: The Year that Defined America, 171).
They Believed Free Speech to be a Necessary Component for a Functioning Republic
The U.S. Constitution begins with the words, “We the people.” America’s Founders rejected the idea of a nation being ruled by an elite aristocracy such as Plato’s philosopher-king, or medieval Europe’s monarchs, or the Roman Church’s monarchical bishops, or the Big Tech, woke aristocracy that has emerged in our day wanting to control every area of our lives.
In Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, the Founders forbade the American government from issuing honorific titles and they forbade any government employee from receiving a title or office from a foreign power without the consent of Congress. In other words, they banned an aristocratic, privileged class in this nation. They were serious about a government of "we the people."
Those on the Left who are ranting against free speech are spouting Marxist and Bolshevik ideology. They despise "we the people" and in their arrogance think they should have the right and power to control speech in America. You cannot get more un-American than this!
In his Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln described the American government as being “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is not a government of any elite group. It is a government of “we the people” and in such a government, the people’s voices must be heard.
Freedom of speech is an absolute necessity in a functioning Constitutional Republic such as our Founders left us. If this free American Republic is to survive, “we the people” must arise and let our voices be heard.
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's books, 1726: The Year that Defined America and America's Revival Heritage. These books are available on Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.