Freedom of Speech - Louis Brandeis


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In a famous U.S. Supreme Court opinion, Justice Louis Brandeis wrote about the role and function of freedom of speech.

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Freedom of Speech - Louis Brandeis

  1. 1. “… freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery andspread of political truth …”
  2. 2. 274 U.S. 357 Whitney v. California BRANDEIS, J., Concurring OpinionSUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES Argued: October 6, 1925 Decided: May 16, 1927
  3. 3. “Miss Whitney wasconvicted of the felony ofassisting in organizing, inthe year 1919, theCommunist Labor Party ofCalifornia, of being amember of it, and ofassembling with it. Theseacts are held to constitutea crime because the partywas formed to teachcriminal syndicalism.”
  4. 4. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the California court, whichfound Whitney guilty. Justice Louis Brandeis concurred with the majority opinion, writing:“The right of free speech, the right to teach, and the right of assembly are, of course, fundamental rights. … These may not be denied or abridged. But … they are not absolute.”
  5. 5. In his concurring opinion, Mr. Justice Brandeis went on to write one of the greatest defenses everof the right to freedom of speech:
  6. 6. “… Those who won our independencebelieved that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary.
  7. 7. “They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be thesecret of happiness, and courage to bethe secret of liberty.
  8. 8. “They believed that freedom to think as you will andto speak as you think are means indispensable to thediscovery and spread of political truth;
  9. 9. “That, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; that, with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine;
  10. 10. “… that the greatest menaceto freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.
  11. 11. “… they knew that order cannot be securedmerely through fear of punishment for its infraction;that it is hazardous to discouragethought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate;
  12. 12. “that hate menacesstable government;
  13. 13. “that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discussfreely supposed grievances and proposed remedies,and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is goodones.
  14. 14. “Believing in thepower of reasonas applied throughpublic discussion,they eschewedsilence coerced bylaw – theargument of forcein its worst form.
  15. 15. “Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.”
  16. 16. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis b. 1856, d. 1941