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Freedom of speech, 1500-1850$
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Robert Ingram, Jason Peacey, and Alex W. Barber

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526147103

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526147110

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 17 May 2022

Swift and free speech

Swift and free speech

(p.119) Chapter 6 Swift and free speech
Freedom of speech, 1500-1850

David Womersley

Manchester University Press

Swift frequently fell foul of the post-publication censorship regime of Hanoverian England, yet notwithstanding these collisions with authority he was no advocate of free speech. This chapter positions Swift’s resistance to free speech against the backdrop of assertions of the principle of parrhesia from antiquity to the mid-twentieth century. It identifies Swift’s age as a moment when vindications of the right to free speech began to be couched in ever more absolute and unconditional forms. The underpinnings of those gradually more expansive claims (as they arose in an English context) in positions associated with nonconformity and forged in the heat of the mid-seventeenth-century conflict between Crown and Parliament goes some way towards explaining Swift’s suspicion of them and his tendency to characterise those engaged in free speech and free thinking as chaotic and confused. By contrast, Swift tended to characterise his own outspokenness before authority as a special kind of constrained speech, and hence not vulnerable to the accusations he levelled against the free and irresponsible speakers whose actions he deplored and despised.

Keywords:   Jonathan Swift, parrhesia, censorship, John Milton, US Constitution, Thomas Hobbes

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