The Kingfish and the Constitution: Huey Long, the First Amendment, and the Emergence of Modern Press Freedom in America

By Richard C. Cortner | Go to book overview

stand out as the high point of my professional career." "I am deeply gratified," Hanson added, "for such an opportunity to be of service to the people and the press of this country."60

The ANPA's Editor & Publisher had consistently encouraged the Louisiana dailies in their attack on the advertising tax, and it was predictably effusive in its praise of the Grosjean decision. In its opinion in the case, it said, the Court had "dipped deeply into the pages of history, and wrote into the law of the land what is probably the most comprehensive outline of what is embraced in the press freedom clause of the Constitution that has been judicially pronounced in the history of the United States." J. D. Barnum, publisher of the Syracuse Post-Standard and ANPA president, fully concurred in Editor & Publisher's assessment of the importance of the Grosjean case. "The Supreme Court," he said, "has lighted a torch for the oppressed peoples of the world and rekindled the fires of liberty in the United States." The ANPA itself also subsequently adopted a resolution commending the Louisiana dailies "for their courageous and successful resistance to the attempt of a corrupt government to suppress that dissemination of information on public questions which is the first duty of a free press; and . . . for obtaining the statement of the highest court of the land of the principle that the freedom of the press includes freedom from unjust and discriminatory taxation by which hostile political factions may seek to stifle criticism through attempting the economic destruction of their critics."61

Ruminating subsequently on the events that had led to the Grosjean case, Editor & Publisher observed that the Supreme Court's "brilliantly incandescent" opinion in the case had repudiated a measure deliberately designed by a leader "mad with power" to destroy newspapers that opposed a "brazen dictatorship." But the victory of the press left in its wake disturbing questions regarding the American political system. Huey Long was "dead, his un-American machine well-nigh broken," Editor & Publisher observed, but how "citizens of Louisiana could have supinely permitted the upstart arriviste, whose conduct revolted the sensibilities of normal free people, to disgrace them and their commonwealth by vandal assaults upon the pillars of American life, is a question left unanswered. How can patriotism run so thin, intelligence run so small?" Today, as in 1936, the career of Huey Long still raises the same troubling questions. Perhaps, however, Cassius was correct: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."62


NOTES
1.
Felix Frankfurter and James M. Landis, The Business of the Supreme Court ( New York: Macmillan, 1928), pp. 56-102.

-171-

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The Kingfish and the Constitution: Huey Long, the First Amendment, and the Emergence of Modern Press Freedom in America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Notes xiv
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction: Huey Long, the Press, and the First Amendment in 1930 1
  • Notes 16
  • Chapter 2 - The Kingfish and the "Lying Newspapers" of Louisiana 19
  • Notes 44
  • Chapter 3 - The Kingfish Goes National 47
  • Notes 64
  • Chapter 4 - Guiding the Newspapers in the "Path of Rectitude": Censorship by Taxation 67
  • Notes 92
  • Chapter 5 - The Press Counterattacks 95
  • Notes 116
  • Chapter 6 - The Grosjean Case before the Three-Judge Court 119
  • Notes 148
  • Chapter 7 - The Appeal to the Supreme Court 149
  • Notes 171
  • Chapter 8 - Epilogue 175
  • Notes 185
  • Bibliographical Essay 187
  • Index 191
  • About the Author 197
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