Blogs > HNN > Herbert Mitgang reviewed Geoffrey R. Stone's Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (W.W.Norton, 2004)

Oct 31, 2004 11:29 am


Herbert Mitgang reviewed Geoffrey R. Stone's Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (W.W.Norton, 2004)




According to Herbert Mitgang, author of Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America’s Greatest Authors, the new book Perilous Times is “a cautionary tales for our times.” In it, Geoffrey Stone, who teaches law at the University of Chicago, centers his argument on six wartime “episodes” in which the federal government punished people for their political beliefs.

He discusses the Sedition Act, when it was a crime to criticize the government, congress or the president; Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas which punished Northern Democrats – the Copperheads; Woodrow Wilson’s vindictive jailing of Eugene Debs and others opposed to the draft and World War I’; the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese during World War II; the post-WWII Cold War loyalty oaths, HUAC, Joe McCarthy and others, which Stone considers “perhaps the most repressive” in our history, and the Vietnam War years when Hoover’s FBI and the government spied on and sought to prosecute antiwar dissenters while the government tried to prevent the Washington Post and the NY Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers.

Thankfully, Mitgang writes, some Supreme Court justice were memorable, “whose opinions, often in dissents, went against flag-waving martial sentiments and upheld the tight of free speech.”

Concludes Stone: “If free speech is essential to self-government in ordinary times, it is even more critical when citizens must decide whether to let the Southern states secede, withdraw our troops from Vietnam, or launch a regime change in Iraq.”

Los Angeles Times, 0ctober 24, 2004



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