Freedom of Speech: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution

By Keith Werhan | Go to book overview

SERIES FOREWORD

JACK STARK

One can conceive of the United States Constitution in many ways. For example, noting the reverence in which it has been held, one can think of it as equivalent to a sacred text. Unfortunately, most of its devotees have had less knowledge and even less understanding of the document than they have had reverence for it. Sometimes it is treated as primarily a political document and on that basis has been subjected to analysis, such as Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. One can plausibly argue that the Constitution seems most astounding when it is seen in the light of the intellectual effort that has been associated with it. Three brief but highly intense bursts of intellectual energy produced, and established as organic law, most of the Constitution as it now exists. Two of these efforts, sustained over a long period of time, have enabled us better to understand that document.

The first burst of energy occurred at the Constitutional Convention. Although some of the delegates' business, such as the struggle between populous and nonpopulous states about their representation in Congress, was political, much of it was about fundamental issues of political theory. A few of the delegates had or later achieved international eminence for their intellects. Among them were Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Others, although less well known, had first-rate minds. That group includes George Mason and George Wythe. Many of the delegates contributed intelligently. Although the Convention's records are less than satisfactory, they indicate clearly enough that the delegates worked mightily to constitute not merely a polity but a rational polity—one that would rise to the standards envisioned by the delegates' intellectual ancestors. Their product, though brief, is amazing. William Gladstone called it “the most wonderful work ever struck off.”

Despite the delegates' eminence and the Constitution's excellence as seen from our place in history, its ratification was far from certain. That state of affairs necessitated

-xi-

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Freedom of Speech: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Foreword xv
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • 1: A History of Freedom of Speech in the United States 1
  • 2: What Makes Freedom of Speech Special? 27
  • 3: The Problem of Subversive Advocacy and the Central Meaning of Freedom of Speech 43
  • 4: The Central Organizing Principles of Free Speech Jurisprudence 69
  • 5: The Codified First Amendment 81
  • 6: The Procedural First Amendment 129
  • Afterword 149
  • Bibliographical Essay 151
  • Table of Cases 167
  • Index 173
  • About the Author 177
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