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The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind--and Changed… (2013)
by Thomas Healy
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805094563, Hardcover)
A gripping intellectual history reveals how conservative justice Oliver Wendell Holmes became a free-speech advocate and established the modern understanding of the First Amendment
The right to express one’s political views seems an indisputable part of American life. After all, the First Amendment proudly proclaims that Congress can make no law abridging the freedom of speech. But well into the twentieth century, that right was still an unfulfilled promise, with Americans regularly imprisoned merely for protesting government policies. Indeed, our current understanding of free speech comes less from the First Amendment itself than from a most unlikely man: the Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. A lifelong conservative, he disdained all individual rights. Yet in 1919, it was Holmes who wrote a court opinion that became a canonical statement for free speech as we know it.
Why did Holmes change his mind? That question has puzzled historians for almost a century. Now, with the aid of newly discovered letters and memos, the law professor Thomas Healy reconstructs in vivid detail Holmes’s journey from free-speech skeptic to First Amendment hero. It is the story of a remarkable behind-the-scenes campaign by a group of progressives to bring a legal icon around to their way of thinking—and a deeply touching human narrative of an old man saved from loneliness and despair by a few unlikely young friends.
Beautifully written and exhaustively researched, The Great Dissent is intellectual history at its best, revealing how free debate can alter the life of a man and the legal landscape of an entire nation.
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:32:52 -0400)
Based on newly discovered letters and memos, this riveting scholarly history of the conservative justice who became a free-speech advocate and established the modern understanding of the First Amendment reconstructs his journey from free-speech skeptic to First Amendment hero.
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