A WORTHY TRADITION: Freedom of Speech in America by

A WORTHY TRADITION: Freedom of Speech in America

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A posthumous study, edited by Kalven's son, of 20th-century First Amendment cases; from the author (12 years deceased) of The Negro and the First Amendment and Delay in Court (with Hans Zeisel). Over some 40 chapters, Kalven practically readjudicates most of the great freedom of speech cases since the 1920's, arguing a central principle: that criticism of government and government officials should never be a crime. ""Political freedom ends when government can use its powers and its courts to silence its critics,"" he writes. Kalven's task is Herculean. To compare: when Chafee wrote his famous Free Speech in the United States in 1920, there were some 20 First Amendment cases ruled on by the Supreme Court; when Meiklejohn wrote his seminal Free Speech and its Relation to Self-Government in 1949, there were about 100. After the revolutionary Warren Court, though, Kalven has over 400 to consider. But he sees this as a good sign, evidence of the vitality of the tradition. Kalven is not an absolutist; he feels that ""speech is 'almost an absolute'. . .a result to be won by sweat in the individual case, time after time."" Kalven's book is divided into two large sections--the first dealing with the content of speech, the second with freedom of association. Despite its dealing with decades-old cases, the work has a futuristic sense to it--the promise of the future resonating from the voices of the past whose struggles Kalven studies. Legal scholarship on a grand scale--and particularly timely given the recent Bork/Supreme Court debates.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row