The English Parliament and The Freedom of Unlicensed Printing

John-Milton - National Portrait Gallery - CC.jpg

John Milton, 1629

National Portrait Gallery, London, CC

John Milton

John Milton was a highly regarded English poet who provide foundational principles of the Freedom of The Press and Freedom of Speech. He was born on December 9th, 1608 in London, England. He was fascinated by poetry ever since he was a child and later attended Christ's college in Cambridge to study poetry. He was a brilliant student who eventually captured the ability to be able to write in the three different languages of English, Latin, and Italian ("About John Milton").

Milton was an emphatic believer in the Freedom of the Press, so naturally he was very against the English Parliament's Licensing Order of 1643 ("About John Milton"). The Licensing Order of 1643 gave parliament the power to regulate every type of printing. They were manipulating the type and amount of information the public were able to see. Parliament's reasoning for this was because they did not want there to be a widspread amount of misinformation or seditous thinking.

Milton believed the order did not achieve its goals and limited the amount of valuable information to the public. Milton found this to be profoundly immoral. These events led him to give his speech to parliament and later publish his book entitled, Areopagitica. 

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This book by John Milton was published on November 23rd, 1644. This was written for the English Parliament regarding the Licensing Order of 1643. The licensing order of 1643 gave parliament the power to regulate every book that was to be published. The goal of this power was to prevent the spread of misinformation and seditious writings. This limited the spread of information and Milton argues that in order to achieve civil liberty we must have unlicensed printing. 

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On page one of the book Milton is quoted saying, 

"Let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and freely reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained, that wise men look for.”

Milton is saying here that freedom of the press is essential to the growth of human civilization and that in order to achieve civil liberty it must be accessible to all.  Milton was a very strong advocate of the freedom of the press and speech. He is actually considered to be one of the founding fathers of these humanistic principles. He argues that in order to maximize the overall knowledge of the average person, all pieces of literature are to be printed and examined by the public.