The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States

By Leon Whipple | Go to book overview
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THE climax of the struggle for liberty has the conflict during the last fifty years between reformist and radical groups seeking to change society by some definite theory, and on the other hand, the police power of the state. Since the chief way to change society is by changing its mind, these groups need the widest freedom of organization and propaganda--the right to what Mill called "freedom of communication," and which is here roughly termed "freedom of social thought." This is a complex modern need, and includes freedom of belief and of research, freedom to organize and agitate in every way with protection against mob violence and any arbitrary interference. This chapter lists denials of these rights.

These social reformers believe that eugenics or anarchism or universal suffrage for example, will work a conscious amelioration in man's lot. They are moved often by humanitarian benevolence; more recently by a serious design to reform mankind by science. They are not new; their first activities in the United States were discussed in chapter III. After about 1825 they preached Utopianism, the rights of labor, sex equality, and the like. Then, one movement-- the abolition of slavery--came to overshadow the others for half a century, though temperance and the rights of women were not neglected. Meanwhile, exiles from the older European civilizations, from about 1848 on, had brought more sophisticated ideas on social progress,--in anarchism and Marxian socialism. Then came the theory of evolution to give the social reformers a philosophy on which to base their hope of directing change. Thus, when the national intellect


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The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States


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