FIRST AMENDMENT FREEDOMS
DURING THE LONG PERIOD BEtween 1787 and World War I, the First Amendment served as little more than a historical reminder of the lively concern for personal freedom expressed during the formative years of the nation. Since the Court revolution of 1937, however, the First Amendment has been the focal point of our constitutional jurisprudence.
At the very inception of our national government, the federalists had, it is true, thought it necessary to curb the speech of their political opponents. Under the Alien and Sedition Acts scandalous criticism of the President or Congress with intent to bring them into disrepute was proscribed in sweeping terms. These laws, generally considered unconstitutional, were never tested because Jefferson and the Republicans feared that the federalist Supreme Court would declare the laws valid, thus establishing an unfortunate precedent. It is noteworthy that the federalist proponents of these laws, many of whom had played leading roles in the drama of Constitution-making, used an argument that has become familiar as a