At the time Milton made his plea to the British Parliament, colonists were already arriving in America. The Pilgrims had landed at Plymouth Rock nearly twenty-five years before.
First Amendment freedoms certainly did not exist in America in those early days. Although colonists wanted freedom for themselves, their leaders had little tolerance for freedom of expression. As long as ideas about religion and life meshed with the ideas of those who ruled, life was fine. If not, consequences were dire.
When the founding fathers signed the U.S. Constitution, their intent was to create laws that would allow a free people to live within a system of government they could themselves control. If we study the constitution, however, we can see why the framers also signed a Bill of Rights.
Despite its genius of government, the Constitution has gaps. Considering countless examples of ruthless government over centuries of abuse, the framers knew the people's rights needed to be specifically spelled-out. At least in America, systematic burning of books and flagrant censorship would be proscribed.
One would have thought such activity would be proscribed everywhere in the modern world. Not so.
Government-ordered book burning, like that of the Middle Ages, did not resume until the 20th century. A frightening event foreshadowed the Dark Age of the Modern World.
On May 10, 1933 Nazis burned stacks of the greatest books ever written. Never were Heinrich Heine's words more accurate:
Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.