The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States

The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States

The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States

The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States

Excerpt

This book was born out of war and ignorance. During the War and post-War years in the United States (1917-1921), the phenomena of conscription and the punishment of conscientious objectors, of the postal censorship, of new laws that sent economic or social radicals to jail for twenty years or more, of the "deportation delirium" challenged liberal-minded men to a new study of the meaning of civil liberty. Their ignorance made them believe that they had only to turn to American history to prove to the prosecuting agents and courts that they were violating our most sacred traditions. They sought the noble precedents of the past with which to confound the present intolerances. They did not know much about liberty or its preservation for they had indolently taken liberty for granted.

But they discovered that we had never enjoyed the full and beneficent liberty of which we had boasted. There were as many precedents for intolerance as for liberty. The events of 1917-1921 were not new. They had all happened before. Certain students of liberty, and the American Civil Liberties Union, then commissioned the author to examine the history of civil liberty in this country, and make a record of the cases that might throw light upon their problem. They wanted to know where our ideals and guarantees of liberty had come from; what they actually meant; and how they had been put in practice in the past. The present grim and sometimes bloody story is the result.

The first step clearly was to define American Liberties as they were conceived when the United States came into being. That definition demanded such fulness that it became a separate volume on the origins and meanings of the constitu-

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