- Paperback: 800 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (October 17, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393327450
- ISBN-13: 978-0393327458
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism 1st Edition
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By Geoffrey R. Stone's estimate, America has lived up to the ideals encapsulated in the First Amendment about 80 percent of the time over the course of its history. Perilous Times's focuses is on the remaining 20 percent, when, during war or civil strife, the better instincts of the public and its leaders have been drowned out by a certain kind of repressive hysteria. Stone, the former dean of law provost at the University of Chicago, identifies six periods of widespread free-speech repression, dating back to the administration of the nation's second president, John Adams, and continuing through the Vietnam era. In between, two of history's greatest presidents, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, were involved in constitutionally questionable efforts to suppress dissent.
Stone examines these pivotal episodes with a lawyer's attention to detail and precedence and a writer's focus on character and story structure. From Adams's secretary of state, the "grim-faced and single-minded" Timothy Pickering (who scanned the papers daily looking for seditious language) through John Ashcroft on one side, and the cheeky late-18th-century congressman Matthew Lyon and the Yippies of the 1960s on the other, there are plenty of characters enlivening these pages. Given its publication during the War on Terror, Stone's work feels particularly timely and vital. He devotes only a few pages to the post-9/11 environment, crediting George W. Bush for his refusal to scapegoat Muslims in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but castigating his administration for "opportunistic and excessive" actions centering around the Patriot Act. One wonders if Stone will some day be forced to update Perilous Times with a full chapter on the early 21st century. --Steven Stolder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
Stone's history examines America's tendency in wartime to compromise First Amendment rights in the name of national security. During the Civil War, a former congressman, Clement Vallandigham, was imprisoned and nearly executed for objecting to the conflict as "wicked, cruel, and unnecessary" in the First World War, the anarchist Mollie Steimer was sentenced to fifteen years for calling capitalism the "only one enemy of the workers of the world." Each of these measures seemed essential to victory at the time; later, however, pardons were issued. We may one day feel the same about Guantánamo and the Patriot Act, but not all wrongs are immediately remedied. In 1971, Attorney General John Mitchell tried to use the contentious Espionage Act of 1917 (which, largely forgotten, had never been revoked) to prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers. It is still law today.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
When we live through events like the consequences of the Patriot Act, and many different modern events that come from fear and a search for security, political correctness, and a variety of other elements, we assume they are new to the country since they are new to us.
Any of these incredible infringements on our perception of what should be basic freedoms seems aberrant to the ideals and history of American Freedom. In this fascinating book Stone shows us how these very freedoms, which we assume as permanent ideals, have frequently been more aspired to than quite achieved.
So whereas today we have the 24 news cycle generating scandal for a variety of crisis, or non-crisis, we forget that even popular presidential candidates in America were arrested for their opinions. Stone remembers us of the incredible powers, vague mandate, and absurd enforcement of laws which makes the American current reality considerably less worrying.
The book isn’t truly concerned with describing our current reality. It deals from revolutionary times, the civil war, world wars, and ends by Vietnam. The target audience of this book are people with some knowledge of American history, otherwise you may miss much of the context of what is being said. I found this an illuminating and very timely book on how the current failures of liberty are not new, and therefore probably not enduring, as the others weren’t. In a strange way the frequent failure and recovery in the past gives us some hope for the present.
Highly recommend. 4 stars. Great read for a college course where we get tired of the same boring monotone monologues of the typical wartime stories.
Geoffrey R. Stone has put together a well-written account of American constitutional history from the time of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the Patriot Act of 2001. His focus is First Amendment Freedoms. In 1798, ostensibly to guard against the threat of a counterpart "French Revolution" spearheaded by imagined American Jacobins from emerging on American soil, Federalist Party officials marshaled the Alien and Sedition Acts as an effective counterpoise. Its constitutionality was clearly suspect. In reality, it was a shameless partisan attempt to prosecute and suppress critics of the Federalist administration. Virginia and Kentucky responded by protest and state interposition through their Resolutions of 1798, which threatened state nullification of unconstitutional acts.
With much of the major wars throughout American history from the Civil War of the 1860s to the Great War, World War II, Vietnam, and now the Iraq War, shameless attempts emerged to intimidate, stifle and suppress political dissent. Lincoln was the precedent setter for unconstitutionally suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and found a follower to his dubious doctrines in George W. Bush. During the Great War, resident aliens were deprived of the right to due process prior to deportation. The Cold War paranoia was so absurd that the FBI drew up reports citing the classic 1946 Frank Capra movie like It's A Wonderful Life as being evidence of subversive communist propaganda. And thus began the McCarthy era. The 1970s felt the tragedy of the Kent State Massacre in Ohio as National Guard troops shot and killed students protesting the war in Vietnam. In the 1970s, ostensibly the FBI and CIA were reigned in on by Congress for running astray in anti-war activities, but those restrictions came loose following 9/11 when somehow unbridled federal power became more trustworthy.
James Madison judiciously reminds us: "The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences of the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle." It was to secure against suppression of freedom of conscience that the First Amendment was framed. It was flatly a negative against Congress to legislate on such matters, hence the interpretative keystone, "Congress shall make no law..."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a splendid book and given today's politics,truly timeless