Fake News. We hear about it all the time. It makes you wonder if the press can be trusted. Does a free press still serve the purpose our forefathers intended? Certainly truth and freedom are deeply connected.
Americans think speech should come naturally, freely. We take a lot for granted when it comes to communication. Probably because we’re spoiled rotten by the blessing of free speech.
But let’s think about Johannes Gutenberg’s experience? When he invented the printing press, around 1439, he was creating innovations in the traditional methods of book technology.
There was money to be made in better technology then, as now.
Can you imagine carving wooden blocks for each page to print a book? Or hand copying and adding artists’ illustrations individually page by page? No wonder books were a luxury only the most elite could afford.
Interestingly, almost simultaneously, a movement developed that seemed like anarchy at the time. Why would anyone translate the Bible from Latin, the traditional language, into the languages of the common people? Yet, throughout Europe, a wave of brave souls risked their lives to translate the scriptures into the languages of the common folks. English, Czech, and German were among the first, to name a few. The political and religious elite were horrified.
The printing press made these translations readily available.
A new middle class developed throughout Europe, yearning for freedom.
To me, the most remarkable thing about the invention of the printing press was the timing. A mere fifty years later, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. We all know what happened next. A whole continent of possibility opened up for any courageous souls brave enough to crave freedom, and with freedom, a birth of religious freedom.
Is it any coincidence that the pioneers and pilgrims of the new world brought their Bibles, their independent spirit, and their devotion to freedom of religion with them?
In fact, many colonies, including Maryland (Catholic), Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina (all Anglican), Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut (all Congregational), spelled out their religious beliefs so specifically that American denominations can trace their roots right back through American history.
One could easily argue that the American Revolution depended on the printing press to spread ideas and unite the otherwise religiously diverse colonies around the idea of personal liberty. Thomas Paine’s 1775 flyer, labeled Common Sense, stands out as an example of writing for liberty, but no one could overlook Benjamin Franklin’s Almanac either. Both are great examples of how the printing press technology expressed American attitudes.
Our forefathers cherished the inherent value of the printed word. They intended to populate their new land with generations of citizens who could obtain books and read them.
With freedom ringing all around us, we never want to take for granted freedom of speech or freedom of the press, brought to us courtesy of the First Amendment.
Cathy Primer Krafve, aka Checklist Charlie, lives and writes with a Texas twang. Contact her at CathyKrafve.com.