Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege," Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History

By Teeter, Dwight L., Jr. | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege," Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History


Teeter, Dwight L., Jr., Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege," Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History.

Michael Kent Curtis. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2001. 520 pp. $32.95 hbk.

American scholars describe freedom of expression by dissecting efforts to destroy it. That generalization by John D. Stevens of the University of Michigan is again borne out by Michael Kent Curtis's interconnected essays, Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege. " Curtis is one of a number of legal scholars, including David Anderson and David Rabban, who-fortunately-find First Amendment history irresistible.

Professor Curtis, of Wake Forest University, has a gift for aphorism and provides a distinctive voice in studying the rise and fall of free expression in times of crisis. This book, despite some unevenness, belongs on civil libertarians' bookshelves, along with Zechariah Chafee's classic Free Speech in the United States, Leonard Levy's Emergence of a Free Press, and Norman L. Rosenberg's study of political libel, Protecting the Best Men.

Curtis, aining at both scholars and a lay audience, presents a quick survey of the English and American colonial backgrounds, including an over-view of the Zenger sedition trial in colonial New York in the 1730s. This is one of the few accounts of the Zenger trial that mentions neither attorney James Alexander nor Zenger's "Philadelphia lawyer," Andrew Hamilton.

Like the Rosenberg book, there is irony in the title Curtis chose. To those of us who bridle at the use of privilege rather than right to describe freedom of expression, "The People's Darling Privilege" is a disquieting title. The actual phrase came from Federalist congressman Harrison Gray Otis of Massachusetts during the Sedition Act debate. Otis complained that Jeffersonian Republicans were deluding the people with claims that the Sedition Act was threatening the "darling privilege."

As Otis saw the Act, it would punish only those publications with a tendency to do harm. Professor Curtis, it should be added, provides examples indicating that the terms privilege and right were used to describe freedoms guaranteed against the central government by the First Amendment and variously provided by provisions of state constitutions. To Curtis, the 1798 "Sedition Act is not simply an artifact from a bygone era.... The issues raised by the Act go to the very heart of freedom of speech in a democracy."

Perhaps what is most important about Free Speech: "The People's Darling Privilege" is the author's evocation of American abolitionists' dual fight against slavery and for freedom of expression from the 1830s through the 1850s. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege," Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.