Justice Civility: William J. Brennan Jr.’s Free Speech Jurisprudence

  • James C. Foster


The analyses in this book make abundantly clear that First Amendment speech and press guarantees did not spring fully grown— Athena-like—from the collective brow of the Founding generation.1 On the contrary, despite the foremost placement and categorical 1 anguage of those fourteen little words—“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”—the Founders, along with their political allies and their political enemies, often opted to punish instead of protect oppositional speech. During the raucous, freewheeling early decades of the American Republic, the First Amendment was disregarded and irrelevant.2 It was not until well after the Civil War, the abandonment of Reconstruction, and almost two decades into the twentieth century, that the US Supreme Court turned its attention to free speech concerns. During the First Red Scare (1917–1920), when the justices eventually addressed the range, scope, and content of First Amendment speech and press safeguards, they initially narrowed these paired provisions almost to the vanishing point.3 In effect, constitutionally protected civic discourse was reduced to toothless discourse.


Human Dignity Free Speech Fourteenth Amendment Amendment Protection Civil Discourse 
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© Helen J. Knowles and Steven B. Lichtman 2015

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  • James C. Foster

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