Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties Under the Law

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ABC-CLIO, 2003 - 395 pages
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An innovative narrative approach combines history, politics, and legal doctrine to explore the origin and evolution of Americans' constitutional right to free speech.
In a field dominated by jargon-filled texts and march-of-progress treatments, this book presents an insightful introduction to freedom of speech, skillfully blending legal analysis with accounts of how staunchly contested historical, political, and cultural issues often influenced legal reasoning.

The volume traces the origins of the freedom in English law and its development through the founding of the United States, and examines how the unique struggles of 19th century Americans over such issues as political parties, slavery, women's rights, and economic inequality transformed this traditional English right into a distinctively American one. The book outlines the ways in which the U.S. Supreme Court became the prime interpreter of the meaning of free speech and introduces readers to current court rulings on the First Amendment. It also speculates about the political and legal developments likely to emerge in the new century.

  • A-Z entries survey key individuals, laws, events, judicial decisions, statutes, institutions, organizations, and concepts
  • Four narrative chapters examine constitutional history, evolution of ideas in this area, contemporary concerns and controversies, and prospects for the near future based on today's challenges to the status quo

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Selected pages


Origins and Early Development
Freedom and Civil War
The Twentieth Century
The Future of the Freedom of Speech
Key People Cases and Events
Benjamin Franklin An Apology for Printers
Carolene Products Co v United States 304 U
New Hampshire 315 U S 568 1942
United States 341 U S 494 1951
United States 354 U S 476 1957
Connecticut 302 U S 319 1937 296
Des Moines 393 U S 503 1969
California 413 U S 15 1973
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms

Resolution 1800
Alexander Hamiltons Speech in Harry Croswells
Fourteenth Amendment U S Constitution Section 1
Its Theory and Practice
Zechariah Chafee Jr from The New Republic
New York 268 U S 652 1925
Table of Cases
About the Author

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Popular passages

Page 286 - We admit that in many places and in ordinary times the defendants, in saying all that was said in the circular, would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater, and causing a panic.
Page 333 - It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.
Page 237 - I deny not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the church and commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors...
Page 316 - All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance — unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion — have the full protection of the guaranties, unless excludable because they encroach upon the limited area of more important interests. But implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance.
Page 305 - If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
Page 32 - The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.
Page 288 - I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.
Page 135 - The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be (a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards...

About the author (2003)

Ken I. Kersch is assistant professor of politics at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

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