FAN 103 (First Amendment News) Coming Soon: New Book by Stephen Solomon on Dissent in the Founding Era
→ The book is Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech (St. Martin’s Press, 368 pp.)
→ The author is Stephen Solomon (NYU School of Journalism)
→ The pub date is April 26, 2016 (Aside: It was on that same date in 1968 that Robert Cohen was arrested for wearing his infamous jacket as he walked through the Los Angeles County Courthouse.)
→ His last book was Ellery’s Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle over School Prayer (2009)
When members of the founding generation protested against British authority, debated separation, and then ratified the Constitution, they formed the American political character we know today-raucous, intemperate, and often mean-spirited. Revolutionary Dissent brings alive a world of colorful and stormy protests that included effigies, pamphlets, songs, sermons, cartoons, letters and liberty trees. Solomon explores through a series of chronological narratives how Americans of the Revolutionary period employed robust speech against the British and against each other. Uninhibited dissent provided a distinctly American meaning to the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and press at a time when the legal doctrine inherited from England allowed prosecutions of those who criticized government.
Solomon discovers the wellspring in our revolutionary past for today’s satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, and protests like flag burning and street demonstrations. From the inflammatory engravings of Paul Revere, the political theater of Alexander McDougall, the liberty tree protests of Ebenezer McIntosh and the oratory of Patrick Henry, Solomon shares the stories of the dissenters who created the American idea of the liberty of thought. This is truly a revelatory work on the history of free expression in America.
“Solomon’s compelling stories of the raucous political speech of the founding generation give us a ringside seat to the protest rallies, provocative cartoons and clever rhetoric that forever embedded freedom of expression in our national character. Revolutionary Dissent is a must-read for all who want to understand the birth of free speech and press in America and how essential it is to continue protecting these freedoms in our democracy.” ―Nadine Strossen
“Stephen Solomon has with singular creativity and command of an elusive subject crafted in Revolutionary Dissent a masterful account of how the nation’s founding generation secured constitutional protection for free speech and press. What emerges in this seminal work is a four-century account of a uniquely American doctrine of free expression, at a time when no other nation – even those as close as Canada and Australia and all other Western democracies – remotely matched the U.S. example in this regard. Solomon has distilled the remarkably varied commitment to enduring core values of free expression by those patriots who comprised the “founding generation.” A masterful “Afterword” reminds us that, despite its sharp divisions, even an otherwise contentious high Court retains such a consensus.” ―Robert O’Neil
Excerpts from the book
- The Liberty Tree
- Alexander McDougall: Martyr to Free Speech
- The Paul Revere You Didn’t Know
- Madison’s Great Defense of Free Speech
Note: I plan to post more about this book in a future issue of FAN.
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