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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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Press and Speech Under Assault: The Early Supreme Court Justices, the Sedition Act of 1798, and the Campaign Against Dissent


ISBN13: 9780190461621
Published: February 2016
Publisher: Oxford University Press USA
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Hardback
Price: £47.99



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The early Supreme Court justices wrestled with how much press and speech is protected by freedoms of press and speech, before and under the First Amendment, and with whether the Sedition Act of 1798 violated those freedoms. This book discusses the twelve Supreme Court justices before John Marshall, their views of liberties of press and speech, and the Sedition Act prosecutions over which some of them presided.

The book begins with the views of the pre-Marshall justices about freedoms of press and speech, before the struggle over the Sedition Act. It finds that their understanding was strikingly more expansive than the narrow definition of Sir William Blackstone, which is usually assumed to have dominated the period. Not one justice of the Supreme Court adopted that narrow definition before 1798, and all expressed strong commitments to those freedoms.

The book then discusses the views of the early Supreme Court justices about freedoms of press and speech during the national controversy over the Sedition Act of 1798 and its constitutionality. It finds that, though several of the justices presided over Sedition Act trials, the early justices divided almost evenly over that issue with an unrecognized half opposing its constitutionality, rather than unanimously supporting the Act as is generally assumed.

The book similarly reassesses the Federalist party itself, and finds that an unrecognized minority also challenged the constitutionality of the Sedition Act and the narrow Blackstone approach during 1798-1801, and that an unrecognized minority of the other states did as well in considering the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.

The book summarizes the recognized fourteen prosecutions of newspaper editors and other opposition members under the Sedition Act of 1798. It sheds new light on the recognized cases by identifying and confirming twenty-two additional Sedition Act prosecutions. At each of these steps, this book challenges conventional views in existing histories of the early republic and of the early Supreme Court justices.

Subjects:
Legal History, Other Jurisdictions , USA
Contents:
PREFACE
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
ABBREVIATIONS
INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER 1 THE RIGHT TO DISSENT, AND THE GROWTH OF FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
CHAPTER 2 THE CRIME OF SEDITIOUS LIBEL, AND ENGLAND'S LIMITATION OF FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH
CHAPTER 3 THE COLLISION OF SEDITIOUS LIBEL AND FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH IN AMERICA'S CONSTITUTIONAL PERIOD
CHAPTER 4 THE INITIAL SUPREME COURT JUSTICES AND THEIR VIEWS ON FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH
CHAPTER 5 THE SUCCESSOR SUPREME COURT JUSTICES AND THEIR VIEWS ON FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH
CHAPTER 6 THE SEDITION ACT AND THE ASSAULT ON FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH: THE SITTING SUPREME COURT JUSTICES AND THE TRIALS
CHAPTER 7 THE SEDITION ACT AND THE ASSAULT ON FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH: THE MISSING HALF OF THE SEDITION ACT CASES
CHAPTER 8 THE SEDITION ACT AND THE ASSAULT ON FREEDOMS OF PRESS AND SPEECH: THE REMAINING SUPREME COURT JUSTICES ON THE SEDITION ACT
Chapter 9 THE FEDERALIST JUSTICES AND THE REPUBLICAN CRITICS: HISTORICAL MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FREEDOM
INDEX