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9780197509197


Parution : 03/2020
Editeur : Oxford University Press
ISBN : 978-0-1975-0919-7
Site de l'éditeur

The Revolution in Freedoms of Press and Speech

From Blackstone to the First Amendment and Fox's Libel Act

Wendell Bird

Présentation de l'éditeur

This book discusses the revolutionary broadening of concepts of freedom of press and freedom of speech in Great Britain and in America in the late eighteenth century, in the period that produced state declarations of rights and then the First Amendment and Fox's Libel Act.

The conventional view of the history of freedoms of press and speech is that the common law since antiquity defined those freedoms narrowly, and that Sir William Blackstone in 1769, and Lord Chief Justice Mansfield in 1770, faithfully summarized the common law in giving a very narrow definition of those freedoms as mere liberty from prior restraint and not liberty from punishment after something was printed or spoken.

This book proposes, to the contrary, that Blackstone carefully selected the narrowest definition that had been suggested in popular essays in the prior seventy years, in order to oppose the growing claims for much broader protections of press and speech. Blackstone misdescribed his summary as an accepted common law definition, which in fact did not exist. A year later, Mansfield inserted a similar definition into the common law for the first time, also misdescribing it as a long-accepted definition, and soon misdescribed the unique rules for prosecuting sedition as having an equally ancient pedigree. Blackstone and Mansfield were not declaring the law as it had long been, but were leading a counter-revolution about the breadth of freedoms of press and speech, and cloaking it as a summary of a narrow common law doctrine that in fact was nonexistent.

That conflict of revolutionary view and counter-revolutionary view continues today. For over a century, a neo-Blackstonian view has been dominant, or at least very influential, among historians. Contrary to those narrow claims, this book concludes that the broad understanding of freedoms of press and speech was the dominant context of the First Amendment and of Fox's Libel Act, and that it enjoyed greater historical support.

Wendell Bird is the author of Press and Speech under Assault: The Early Supreme Court Justices, the Sedition Act of 1798, and the Campaign against Dissent (2016); and of Criminal Dissent: Prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (2020). He earned a D.Phil. degree in legal history from University of Oxford, and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School. He is a Visiting Scholar at Emory University School of Law.

 

Sommaire

Introduction

Part I The Devising of Narrow Liberties of Press and Speech

Chapter 1: Blackstone's and Mansfield's Narrow Liberties of Press and Speech, and Broad Crimes of Seditious Libel and Seditious Words: Summaries or Misdescriptions of an Ancient Common Law?

Chapter 2: The Crimes of Seditious Libel and Seditious Speech: Weapons for Suppressing Dissent in Britain and America?

Part II The British Broadening of Liberties of Press and Speech

Chapter 3: The Emerging Broad British View of Freedoms of Press and Speech, Before the Colonial Crisis

Chapter 4: The Prevailing British View of Freedoms of Press and Speech, in the Decade Before the American Revolution and Declarations of Rights

Chapter 5: The Dominant British View of Freedoms of Press and Speech, in the Decade Before Fox's Libel Act and America's Bill of Rights

Part III The American Development of Broad Rights of Press and Speech

Chapter 6: The Emergence of Expansive American Views of Freedoms of Press and Speech, Before the Colonial Crisis

Chapter 7: Reasons for the Spread of Broad Views of Liberties of Press and Speech in America, During and After the Colonial Crisis

Chapter 8: The Prevailing Broad View by the Popular Party of Freedoms of Press and Speech, in the Prerevolutionary Decade Before the American States' Declarations of Rights

Chapter 9: The Dominant American View of Freedoms of Press and Speech, in the Decade Leading up to Ratification of the Federal Bill of Rights

Chapter 10: The Constitutional Understanding of Freedoms of Press and Speech, and of Seditious Libel, in Discussions of State and Federal Bills of Rights

Epilogue

408 pages.  $99.00


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