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Constructing Freedom: Discourses of Freedom of Speech in the Early Republic

Juhani Rudanko

The research project investigates the emergence of freedom of speech in the early years of the American Republic. Major research questions include the following: how was it possible for the Bill of Rights, with its famous First Amendment, to be proposed and to be adopted as part of the United States Constitution in 1789-1791? Was there opposition to the enactment of the Bill of Rights, and if so, what was the nature of the opposition? How did freedom of speech evolve in the years after the enactment of the Bill of Rights? How and why was the Sedition Act of 1798 enacted and how were its provisions perceived in relation to the Bill of Rights? How did freedom of speech evolve during the War of 1812, the first war of the new Republic? How is the First Amendment regarded today?

The project focuses on discourses of the period 1787-1815 in American history, taking their historical context into account. Such discourses include debates in Congress, newspaper writings, pamphlets, and other surviving records and documents from the period, and they are investigated in order to find answers to the research questions listed. The investigation is conducted making full use of the framework of argumentation theory. Such an approach is novel and methodologically innovative in the study of early American history. However, it is shown that analytic concepts of argumentation theory often shed new light on the nature of political rhetoric.

The project enhances our understanding of important events and debates from a period of American history when the foundations of American political culture were forged. The application of methods of argumentation theory to actual political debates also leads to the further refinement of such methods.


Listed below are some publications by Rudanko that have originated from this project so far:

2011 "'[T]his most unnecessary, unjust, and disgraceful war': Attacks on the Madison Administration in Federalist newpapers during the War of 1812", Journal of Historical Pragmatics, volume 12, number 1/2. Amsterdam/Philadelhia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 82-103.

2010 "Reinstating and Defining Ad Socordiam as an Informal Fallacy: a Case Study from a Political Debate in the Early American Republic." In: J. Ritola, ed., Argument Cultures: Proceedings of OSSA 09. Windsor, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation OSSA, ISBN: 978-0-920233-51-1, 8 pp.
Reply to My Commentator. In: J. Ritola, ed., Argument Cultures: Proceedings of OSSA 09. Windsor, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation OSSA, ISBN: 978-0-920233-51-1, 2 pp.

2005 “The Fallacy of ad socordiam and Two Types of Speaker Intentions: a Case Study from the First Congressional Debate on the Bill of Rights in 1789” Journal of Pragmatics 37, 723-736, 14 pp.

2005 “Freedom of Speech at Stake: Fallacies in Some Political Discourses in the Early Republic,” in Janne Skaffari, et al. eds., Opening Windows on Texts and Discourses of the Past, Amsterdam: J. Benjamins, pp. 53-63, 11 pp.

James Madison and Freedom  of Speech

2004 James Madison and Freedom of Speech: Major Debates in the Early Republic. University Press of America.

The Forging of Freedom of  Speech

2003 The Forging of Freedom of Speech: Essays on Argumentation in Congressional Debates on the Bill of Rights and on the Sedition Act. Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Oxford: University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-2613-01, v + 148 pp.

Published assessments of this book: 2005 by Samuel B. Hoff, George Washington Distinguished Professor of History and Political Science, Delaware State University, International Social Science Review, volume 80, numbers 3 & 4, pp. 181-182

1995 "The Bill of Rights in the Balance: the Debate of June 8, 1789”, Multilingua. Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication 14, 391-409, 19 pp.

Conference papers

2008 “We Shall Lose Our Labor”: on an Aspect of Deceptive Political Philosophy in the summer of 1789,” Poetics and Linguistics Association PALA 28, July 23-26, 2008, University of Sheffield.

2006 “‘A Mere Waste of Time’: on Some Arguments against Considering a Federal Bill of Rights,” Organization in Discourse 3: the Interactional Perspective, August 9-13, 2006, Turku, Finland. The paper was presented on August 11, 2006.

2006 "How to Restrict Freedom of Speech,” The Eighteenth-Century Now: Recent Trends and Directions, June 23-24, 2006. University of York, England. The paper was presented on June 24, 2006.

Muutettu: 9.12.2011 12.29 Muokkaa

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