Of Speech, Politics, and Circular History

Reviewing Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, by Geoffrey R. Stone

Geoffrey Stone’s most recent contribution to our understanding of the First Amendment is at once important, current, and fatalistic. It is important in that it meticulously chronicles the ways in which wartime American governments have trampled free speech rights. For instance, when dealing with the Sedition Act of 1798, Stone deftly introduces the complicated politics and personalities of the time, explaining the developing system of political parties, the expanding feud between John Adams (leading the Federalists) and Thomas Jefferson (leading the Republicans), and the myriad influences on the young United States generated by the French Revolution and the associated war between England and France.

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