Political and Civil Rights in the United States

By Thomas I. Emerson; David Haber | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

This is the only comprehensive collection of cases and materials on the most important subject in the world today.

The editors have taken soundings in all the areas in which the freedom of individuals and of private groups is in controversy. They have not limited themselves to the decisions of courts. The reader will find here questions raised and answers given by philosophers and journalists, politicians and businessmen. The collection amounts to a complete bibliography. It portrays the state of the discussion as it is today; it includes such recent material as the Dennis case, the Miracle case, and the opinions of the United States Supreme Court on the Feinberg law.

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the law in this field is that it is unsettled. Even the question whether the first eight Amendments are made to apply to the States by the Fourteenth has not yet received a unanimous answer from the Supreme Court. The law is being made now; the Gitlow case, which is cited in almost every discussion of the subject, was decided only a little more than twenty-five years ago. Just yesterday motion pictures were brought under the First Amendment.

The number and vigor of opinions concurring in the result, to say nothing of the number and vigor of dissents, suggest that anything may happen when a case involving civil liberties gets before the Supreme Court. Five-to-four decisions, with the majority splitting on the reasons, are the order of the day; and some of the most important cases have been "decided", when one justice was absent or disqualified, by a court that was equally divided and that could only affirm the holding of the court below.

If there ever was a branch of the law that was "developing", this is it. This collection should assist development by showing citizens, scholars, judges and future judges, lawyers and future lawyers in one comprehensive view what the issues are. If they understand what the issues are, we may have some hope that even the Cold War will not indefinitely postpone a rational settlement.

Everybody knows by now that this subject affects the position of the United States in the world just as much as it does that of the American citizen at home. The fact that civil liberties do not exist in Soviet Russia has not prevented the propagandists of that country from exploiting the failure of America to make good the promise of the Bill of Rights and of the Thirteenth

-iii-

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