In fact, the most prominent free press debate of the years immediately following the Framing—the Sedition Act controversy—illustrated that there was little consensus on even as central an issue as whether the free press guarantee only prohibited prior restraints on publications critical of the government, or whether it also forbade punishment for "seditious" speech once it was made.
The question in Mc Intyre was whether the government could outlaw anonymous electioneering.
The majority dealt with the question based on the Court's twentieth-century case law and twentieth-century First Amendment theories.
Instead, Scalia turned to American practices of the 1800s and the 1900s, a source that he considers authoritative where the original meaning is uncertain. Commercial advertising: Commercial advertising is constitutionally protected, but less so than other speech (political, scientific, artistic, and the like).
A consensus on the original meaning on this subject thus remains elusive. Misleading commercial advertising may be barred, whereas misleading political speech cannot be.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What exactly did the Framers mean by "freedom of speech, or of the press"?
This may but does not necessarily mean that such speech was broadly believed to be constitutionally protected; then as today, the government did not ban all that it had the power to ban.
But the paucity of such bans meant that few people in that era really had occasion to define what the constitutional boundaries of speech and press protection might be.
Several publishers were in fact convicted under the law, often under rather biased applications of the falsity requirement.
Then Federalist Congressman John Marshall, although doubtful that the Sedition Act was wise, nonetheless argued that the free press guarantee meant only "liberty to publish, free from previous restraint"—free of requirements that printers be licensed, or that their material be approved before publication.