Press and Speech Under Assault: The Early Supreme Court Justices, the Sedition Act of 1798, and the Campaign against Dissent by Wendell Bird

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

byWendell Bird

Hardcover | February 18, 2016

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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 JohnMarshall, 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 dominatedthe 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 justicesdivided 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 constitutionalityof 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.

About The Author

Wendell Bird is a Visiting Scholar at Emory Law School and a partner at the Atlanta law firrm of Bird, Loechl, Brittain, and McCants.

Details & Specs

Title:Press and Speech Under Assault: The Early Supreme Court Justices, the Sedition Act of 1798, and the…Format:HardcoverDimensions:568 pages, 9.41 × 6.42 × 1.5 inPublished:February 18, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190461624

ISBN - 13:9780190461621

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsAbbreviationsIntroduction1. The Right to Dissent, and the Growth of Freedoms of Press and Speech in the Eighteenth Century2. The Crime of Seditious Libel, and England's Limitation of Freedoms of Press and Speech3. The Collision of Seditious Libel and Freedoms of Press and Speech in America's Constitutional Period4. The Initial Supreme Court Justices and Their Views on Freedoms of Press and Speech5. The Successor Supreme Court Justices and Their Views on Freedoms of Press and Speech6. The Sedition Act and the Assault on Freedoms of Press and Speech: The Sitting Supreme Court Justices and the Trials7. The Sedition Act and the Assault on Freedoms of Press and Speech: The Missing Half of the Sedition Act Cases8. The Sedition Act and the Assault on Freedoms of Press and Speech: The Remaining Supreme Court Justices on the Sedition Act9. The Federalist Justices and the Republican Critics: Historical Misconceptions About FreedomIndex