Emergence of a Free Press

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"What did "freedom of the press" really mean to the framers of the First Amendment and their contemporaries? This book by historian Leonard W. Levy answers that question. In Emergence of a Free Press (a revised and enlarged edition of his Legacy of Suppression), Mr. Levy argues that the First Amendment was not designed to be the bulwark of a free press as many thought, nor had the amendment's framers intended to overturn the common law of seditious libel that was the principal means of stifling political dissent. Yet he notes how robust and
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Overview

"What did "freedom of the press" really mean to the framers of the First Amendment and their contemporaries? This book by historian Leonard W. Levy answers that question. In Emergence of a Free Press (a revised and enlarged edition of his Legacy of Suppression), Mr. Levy argues that the First Amendment was not designed to be the bulwark of a free press as many thought, nor had the amendment's framers intended to overturn the common law of seditious libel that was the principal means of stifling political dissent. Yet he notes how robust and rambunctious the early press was, and he takes that paradox into account in tracing the succession of cases and reforms that figures in the genesis of a free press." Whatever the intentions of those who framed the First Amendment, Mr. Levy observes, later opinion has evolved in a more libertarian direction. "We may miss the comforting assurance of having the past's original intentions coincide with present preferences," he writes. "Yet the case for civil liberties is so powerfully grounded in political philosophy's wisest principles, as well as the wisest policies drawn from experiences, that it need not be anchored to the past."
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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
[Levy shows a] devotion to the most rigorous standards of restrained, careful scholarship.
— Harold M. Hyman
Henry Steele Commager
A wonderful combination of judiciousness and vigor.
American Historical Review - Harold M. Hyman
[Levy shows a] devotion to the most rigorous standards of restrained, careful scholarship.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195042405
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1985
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Leonard W. Levy, whose Origins of the Fifth Amendment won the Pulitzer Prize in history, is formerly Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional History at Brandeis University and Andrew W. Mellon All-Claremont Professor of Humanities and History at the Claremont Graduate School. His other writings, many of which have also won awards, include The Palladium of Justice, Blasphemy, The Establishment Clause, Freedom of the Press from Zenger to Jefferson, Original Intent and the Framers' Constitution, and Jefferson and Civil Liberties. He lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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Table of Contents

I Seditious libel versus freedom of expression 3
II The American colonial experience 16
III A free press in the controversy with Britain 62
IV Early English theory : from Milton to "Cato" 89
V The free press theory of the Zenger generation 119
VI On the eve of the American Revolution 144
VII From the revolution to the First Amendment 173
VIII From the First Amendment to the Sedition Act 220
IX The gestation of an American libertarian theory 282
X The emergence of an American libertarian theory 309
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