What Is Seditious Speech?


Quick Answer

Seditious speech is speech that opposes the government, the President or the congress. The Sedition Act of 1798 made malicious speech against the government a criminal offense.

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Full Answer

The Sedition Act of 1798 was originally enacted to silence newspapers that opposed the government or its actions. In a way, the act was an interpretation of the original meaning of the First Amendment. The Federalists defended the act by stating that the truth may be used as a defense. Furthermore, they argued that it was the government's burden to prove malicious intent and hold a jury trial. Despite their best efforts, the Sedition Act of 1798 came under heavy fire in the case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.

The case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan fought for the rights of Americans under the First Amendment. It was argued that the act was inconsistent with the centralized meaning behind the First Amendment. The premise behind the First Amendment allows Americans the right to speak freely, even if the speech is seditious. As the act was clearly oppressive, many found a correlation between the Sedition Act of 1798 and British rule during the American Revolution. The case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan has helped form America's view of free speech today.

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