A Worthy Tradition: Freedom of Speech in America

Harry Kalven, Author HarperCollins Publishers $35 (698p) ISBN 978-0-06-015810-1
This juggernaut of a book is introduced movingly by its editor as the product of 12 years' work, after his father's death in 1974 while working on this study. Completed by the son, it is a nonpareil examination of the ""American constitutional experience under the First Amendment''an assessment of the ways in which the American tradition of free speech has been defined, refined and elucidated by the Supreme Court through our history. Explored in case-by-case detail are the Court's decisions on censorship and Civil Rights cases; the 1952 Dennis v. United States ``great confrontation'' on the issue of the right to advocate the violent overthrow of the Government; on sanctions against groups, chiefly the U.S. Communist Party and its individual members, which brought on the heyday of the House Un-American Activities Committee that, in effect, according to the book, made a de facto attempt to outlaw the Party. The sophistication, subtlety and depth of the discussion of this era of the loyalty oath and McCarthyism, as Justices Frankfurter, Douglas, Black, Harlan et al weighed First Amendment issues, is impressive scholarship that makes the reader keenly aware of how imperiled free speech in America is at all times. (January)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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