Stone and Bollinger's The Free Speech Century Reviewed in New York Law Journal

Free Speech Is Part of Our National Identity

Freedom of speech is more than just a mere legal principle. It is a part of 'our national identity, and in so many ways we have learned to define ourselves as a people through the process of creating the principle itself.'

The Free Speech Century

Edited by Lee C. Bollinger & Geoffrey R. Stone

Oxford University Press, New York, 376 pages, $21.95

From its adoption in 1791 until 1919, the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was largely dormant. During World War I, however, it sprung to life in response to the federal government’s program to stifle dissent against the war. Passing judgment on that program, the Supreme Court began to decide cases that have since elevated the free speech guarantee to a special place in our democracy.

In commemorating the centennial of this emergence, editors Lee C. Bollinger and Geoffrey R. Stone have produced a powerful book that analyzes both the evolution of free speech jurisprudence and the future challenges of this signature constitutional right, which is globally recognized as quintessentially American.

The book is arranged into sixteen chapters, each authored by a leading constitutional scholar. Written primarily for lawyers, the book analyzes the controversies that have transformed the first amendment’s significance, discusses the historical events that have affected its development, examines the luminaries who have provoked thought, discloses surprising insights that have arisen from campaign finance case law, explains how the first amendment has influenced other constitutional democracies and dissects the misconceptions that plague current disputes over free speech rights on college campuses. Given the stature of Bollinger and Stone, the editing of the book is predictably excellent.


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