Liberty of speech
LIBERTY OF SPEECH. The right given by the constitution and the laws to
public support in speaking facts or opinions.
2. In a republican government like ours, liberty of speech cannot be extended too far, when its object is the public good. It is, therefore, wisely provided by the constitution of the United States, that members of congress shall not be called to account for anything said in debate; and similar provisions are contained in the constitutions of the several states in relation to the members of their respective legislatures. This right, however, does not extend beyond the mere speaking; for if a member of congress were to reduce his speech to writing and cause it to be printed, it would no longer bear a privileged character and he might be held responsible for a libel, as any other individual. Bac. Ab. Libel, B.* See Debate.
3. The greatest latitude is allowed by the common law to counsel; in the discharge of his professional duty he may use strong epithets, however derogatory to other persons they may be, if pertinent to the cause, and stated in his instructions, whether the thing were true or false. But if he were maliciously to travel out of his case for the purpose of slandering another, he would be liable to an action, and amenable to a just and often more efficacious punishment inflicted by public opinion. 3 Chit. Pr. 887. No respectable counsel will indulge himself with unjust severity; and it is doubtless the duty of the court to prevent any such abuse.