John Nicholas (congressman)
|Member of the New York Senate from the Western District|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Virginia's 18th district
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1801
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Philip R. Thompson|
|Born||January 19, 1764|
Williamsburg, Virginia Colony, British America
|Died||December 31, 1819 (aged 55)|
Geneva, New York, U.S.
|Political party||Anti-Administration (1793–95)|
Democratic-Republican (after 1795)
|Education||College of William & Mary|
|Occupation||attorney, farmer, judge|
In 1798, before the enactment of the Sedition Act, which made it a crime to publish "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government or its officials, Nicholas declared the proposed Act to be unconstitutional. The Act was inconsistent with the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment, Nicholas said, because the press could be punished for publishing true statements if it were not possible to prove the truth of the statements, which is often the case. In 1799, when Republicans in the House proposed to repeal the Sedition Act, a party line vote resulted in the rejection of the proposal. Nicholas wrote a minority report describing the policy goal of the Act as being related to Great Britain's form of government: "The King is hereditary, and according to the theory of their Government, can do no wrong. Public officers are his representatives, and derive some portion of his inviolability." Nicholas distinguished this form of deferential respect for public officers to the level of respect owed to their American counterparts, who serve the people and can be removed from office during elections.
State Senator Robert C. Nicholas (1801–1854) was his son.
- Pultney Street Cemetery, Geneva, NY
- Lewis, Anthony (1991). Make No Law: the Sullivan case and the First Amendment. Random House, Inc. pp. 60. ISBN 0-394-58774-X.
- United States Congress. "John Nicholas (id: N000084)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- John Nicholas at Find a Grave