counter create hit The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind--and Changed the History of Free Speech in America - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind--and Changed the History of Free Speech in America

Availability: Ready to download

A gripping intellectual history reveals how conservative justice Oliver Wendell Holmes became a free-speech advocate and established the modern understanding of the First AmendmentThe 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 spe A gripping intellectual history reveals how conservative justice Oliver Wendell Holmes became a free-speech advocate and established the modern understanding of the First AmendmentThe 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.


Compare

A gripping intellectual history reveals how conservative justice Oliver Wendell Holmes became a free-speech advocate and established the modern understanding of the First AmendmentThe 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 spe A gripping intellectual history reveals how conservative justice Oliver Wendell Holmes became a free-speech advocate and established the modern understanding of the First AmendmentThe 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.

30 review for The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind--and Changed the History of Free Speech in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I learned so much from this book. I must admit I had not read or studied anything about the history of the first amendment before. This absorbing book is about the law and also about change, how one man's thinking evolved nearly 100 years ago. For 125 years the first amendment was essentially dead until Holmes wrote his dissent in 1919. Thomas Healy shows us how Holmes was educated/persuaded to change his mind about the meaning and reach of our most fundamental safeguard. His friends, Justice Br I learned so much from this book. I must admit I had not read or studied anything about the history of the first amendment before. This absorbing book is about the law and also about change, how one man's thinking evolved nearly 100 years ago. For 125 years the first amendment was essentially dead until Holmes wrote his dissent in 1919. Thomas Healy shows us how Holmes was educated/persuaded to change his mind about the meaning and reach of our most fundamental safeguard. His friends, Justice Brandeis, Judge Learned Hand, Harold Laski, Felix Frankfurter, Zechariah Chafee (all teachers at Harvard) and others had discussion, letter exchanges and loaned or gave him books to read. Holmes was a voracious reader and during his summer breaks he devoured books that challenged his thinking. Holmes also had a habit we should all learn he listened to people who didn't agree with him and set about to learn more about the topic from all view points. Stare decisis at the time, borrowed from British practice, was that you could speak and publish freely without fear of prior restraint, but once you had spoken, the State had the freedom to prosecute you. Holmes had written the majority opinion in Debs V U.S. upholding the conviction. Eugene Debs was the Socialist candidate for President. He gave a campaign speech and was arrested after for violation of the Sedition act and sentence to 10 years in prison. I found this interesting because via Audio-books I had read "1920: The year of six Presidents" by David Pietrusza and "Clarence Darrow" by John A. Farrell. Darrow was Debs attorney. Both these books provided a great deal of information about Debs and the above mentioned case. Holmes had been a defender of the power of government to punish controversial speech. He was a Boston Brahmin and his friends were owners of big business so he dismissed the fight of and for unions and the problems of the workers. I found it fascinating how Holmes's friend educated him at age 78 to change his mind. . When the Court reconvened in the fall they heard the case Abrams V U.S. Holmes decided to write the dissent opinion in the case and changed the First Amendment forever. He provided guidelines to help determine when the speech crossed the line, he stated "clear and present danger of public harm" to be the key. The Abrams case is covered in-depth in the book so I will not spoil it by going into it. Danny Campbell did a good job with the narration of this audio-book. This is a book I am going to read again.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    The premise of free speech is one that remains central to many of the constitutional documents in democratic societies. That being said, the current form that many cite when wishing to express themselves was not generally held until the past century, at least in the United States. As Thomas Healy recounts in this comprehensive book, free speech in America drastically changed at the hands of one man in particular, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Healy effectively argues that Holmes—l The premise of free speech is one that remains central to many of the constitutional documents in democratic societies. That being said, the current form that many cite when wishing to express themselves was not generally held until the past century, at least in the United States. As Thomas Healy recounts in this comprehensive book, free speech in America drastically changed at the hands of one man in particular, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Healy effectively argues that Holmes—long given the moniker as the ‘Great Dissenter’—radically changed his views on speech and the First Amendment of the US Constitution over a nineteen month period, forever altering how America (and the world) saw free speech. Early in his legal career, Holmes held what legal scholars call the Blackstone approach to free speech, one in which citizens had only limited rights to expression of their beliefs, protected in verbal expression. When these views were published and distributed or expressed in large settings, free speech was nullified and government laws could hold citizens accountable. Many Americans found that they walked a thin line and cowered when the courts became involved in adjudicating expressions of free speech. However, with the Great War in full swing and the Americans on the battlefield, something drastically changed. Healy discusses a number of legal friends that Holmes encountered throughout his life, a handful of men whose views helped expand those of the great Justice. These men pushed some of the beliefs that Holmes held about speech, forcing him to express himself and explain how he could hold so narrow a set of views. It was only when the US Supreme Court heard a number of cases related to the Sedition and Espionage Acts that Holmes began to see new ways of understanding free speech. The two acts in question sought to punish those who would dare speak out against America, particularly if they criticised government decisions or sided with America’s enemies. This, in conjunction with the rise of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, saw the rise of groups with a socialist leaning becoming increasingly critical of America’s capitalist views, including their fuelling the ongoing war in Europe. Holmes and his colleagues heard arguments about those who would express themselves, speaking against the state or simply stating views that may not align with American core values. In drafting decisions surrounding these cases, Holmes did craft a few tests by which free speech could be judged. His ‘clear and present danger’ test would require the courts to weigh expressions of speech against whether those sentiments posed and clear danger to the general public, one that was immediate and detrimental. Out of this test came the sentiments around ‘a man yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre’, now part of the everyday discussion around free speech. Holmes felt that these limited on speech were both sound and provided justifiable leeway. These series of cases, many of which riled up the public, helped Holmes see that free speech was not meant to be a leash on what people could say, but should permit maximum expression, save when doing so would harm the core of national security. To oppose the majority opinion should not be punished, but rather added to the larger discussion, whereby truth would prevail, however, flavoured it might become by a number of perspectives. By the time Holmes was ready to extol his greatest views, he found himself as the only Justice willing to speak out against the common beliefs. His colleagues went so far as to beg that he fall into line, for the good of the country, freshly healed from the horrors of the Great War. However, Holmes could not silence himself, even if his views would be a cry in the wilderness. His published dissent caused major waves in the legal communities, which saw him mocked by many, alongside some of those closest to him. Holmes, an old man by then, would not stand down and, as Healy presses in the closing chapter of the book. Free speech would forever be changed by his sentiments in dissent and a new view of the First Amendment soon came to be accepted, as expression became more accepted in a world that had fought for democratic freedoms. That being said, reasonable limits on free speech are still a matter of much debate, as society grapples with what is acceptable and what crosses the line. Surely not entirely in line with what the Founding Fathers had in mind at the time the Amendment was included in the constitutional document, Healy effectively expresses that Holmes sought to pull constitutional interpretation into a ‘current day’ understanding, which is how it continues to evolve today. Highly recommended for those who love constitutional books seeking to explore the nuances of societal rules that hold a country together. While some of the discussion above may seem a little dense, I applaud Healy for presenting his arguments and substantiating many of the cases effectively. One of the underlying themes of the book remains that free speech, while simple on the surface, is highly complicated in its interpretation. Healy takes the concentrated period of 1918-19 and weaves an effective legal narrative to show how Oliver Wendell Holmes was faced with several important cases that sought to expand the basic understanding of the First Amendment, particular when faced with strong anti-socialist (read: Bolshevik) sentiments. Healy not only lists the cases under consideration, but offers an excellent backstory to give context to the reader before trying to sift through the US Supreme Court sentiments around the case and the current laws of the land. Healy also utilises parts of the book to explore those who influenced Holmes and his views, including Judge Learned Hand (you cannot make up a name like that!). By offering some mini-biographies of these men, as well as the history of their interactions, Healy shows how thoughts on free speech evolved for the Justice, leading to his great dissent in November 1919. Healy builds his case for free speech and shapes how Holmes came to understand the First Amendment in such a way that modern American jurisprudence takes these views for granted. In an easy to understand narrative that builds chronologically, Healy captures the reader’s attention from the outset and continue to pull them in with sound legal arguments and detailed analyses, permitting an overall understanding of the issues up for discussion. While I will admit that parts can be somewhat complex, most readers can grasp the legal arguments that serve to enshrine the core values of free speech in use today. Kudos, Mr. Healy, for this thoroughly entertaining piece that pushed me outside my comfort zone as we explored the birth of modern free speech. A must-read for those who like to hide behind the First Amendment without understanding its core principles. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    First audiobook I’ve ever listened to- I normally listen to meditation videos to fall asleep so I just swapped this out. Took me FOREVER because obviously I kept falling asleep (but that was the intention, naturally). The audiobook was 10 hours long. TEN HOURS. This book would have taken me max three hours to read normally. This is why I’m not an audiobook person. It’s so inefficient. That said, the voice reader was great. Even ten hours later, his voice wasn't annoying, which is a damn miracle. First audiobook I’ve ever listened to- I normally listen to meditation videos to fall asleep so I just swapped this out. Took me FOREVER because obviously I kept falling asleep (but that was the intention, naturally). The audiobook was 10 hours long. TEN HOURS. This book would have taken me max three hours to read normally. This is why I’m not an audiobook person. It’s so inefficient. That said, the voice reader was great. Even ten hours later, his voice wasn't annoying, which is a damn miracle. Anyway, to the content. Holmes is an asshole. He’s probably the worst justice (or second worst, after McReynolds). I don’t get why people lionize him, *especially* here in Boston where he’s the second coming of Jesus. He hated constitutional rights for most of his career, despised minorities and everyone else too. But this is a pretty interesting account of how he became a defender of the First Amendment, the different influences (including writers he read, wars he observed in between, and political movements) which contributed to that change. Doesn't really answer why Holmes changed, but that's perhaps too high a bar, since Holmes may be the only one who could answer that, and he's dead.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cora

    Freedom of speech is as American as apple pie. It's not only a central safeguard in the Bill of Rights, it's central to American self-identity as a democratic nation. When college students criticize freedom of speech, national pundits must weigh in on what it all means. Hucksters like Sarah Palin use the First Amendment as a shield against any criticism whatsoever, because it speaks to a deep-seated conviction that in America, you can say what you like. That's what it _means_ to be American. So i Freedom of speech is as American as apple pie. It's not only a central safeguard in the Bill of Rights, it's central to American self-identity as a democratic nation. When college students criticize freedom of speech, national pundits must weigh in on what it all means. Hucksters like Sarah Palin use the First Amendment as a shield against any criticism whatsoever, because it speaks to a deep-seated conviction that in America, you can say what you like. That's what it _means_ to be American. So it's curious that this sentiment is less than a century old. At the same time that the Framers adopted the Bill of Rights, every state in the Union adopted the British common law, where sedition and blasphemy were crimes. Famously, the Federalists enacted the Sedition Act of 1798 to indict their Democratic-Republican opponents; less famously, Thomas Jefferson quietly arranged for his press critics to be charged with sedition laws in Democratic-Republican jurisdictions. Sedition would remain crimes in America until well into the 20th century, frequently upheld by state courts as consistent with freedom of speech. This was not hypocrisy, as it's sometimes presented now. A consensus once existed in this country that freedom of speech was solely the absence of prior restraint of publication, and that it did not conflict with prosecution of already-published speech when it had a 'pernicious tendency' to degrade social welfare. This was popular with the public, and even with the media, as applied to radicals and dissidents. Even in law schools, the First Amendment was rarely an object of study or scholarship. The fact that Americans see their history differently has little to do with the Founding Fathers, and everything to do with Woodrow Wilson's WWI-era Espionage and Sedition Acts. The federal crackdown on radical speech caused a counter-reaction with a small group of progressive intellectuals and jurists who were close to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. THE GREAT DISSENT is the story of how they managed to convince Holmes, a hard-nosed cynic who had had little use for individual rights, to champion the right to dissent even during war-time, even for anarchists and immigrants and other undesirables. THE GREAT DISSENT is written like popular history, and yet it's so granular in its approach (Healy wants you to know how many books that Holmes read from 1918 to 1919, and his capsule reviews of each--which I realize I can't complain too much about as a long-time Goodreads reviewer) that I can't imagine that it has a large potential audience. And yet I enjoyed the careful focus on Holmes' intellectual evolution, which doubles as a look at an audacious project to re-orient American values. It's a fine-grained legal and intellectual history, but I found it fascinating and I think it tells a story that is criminally unappreciated.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I’m such a law nerd for reading this book. But a law nerd who very much enjoyed reading about an important moment in building and establishing modern First Amendment law. With a style somewhere between general nonfiction and a law review article, The Great Dissent is an odd book. I liked it, but, unfortunately, I think the weird hybrid style means it will have a smaller audience than it deserves. Tracking Oliver Wendell Holmes’s shift on free speech, the event at the center is an intellectual rat I’m such a law nerd for reading this book. But a law nerd who very much enjoyed reading about an important moment in building and establishing modern First Amendment law. With a style somewhere between general nonfiction and a law review article, The Great Dissent is an odd book. I liked it, but, unfortunately, I think the weird hybrid style means it will have a smaller audience than it deserves. Tracking Oliver Wendell Holmes’s shift on free speech, the event at the center is an intellectual rather than physical event. That could make for an unbearably dry read, but Healy does a good job of keeping it interesting. It has a few rough spots, but, on the whole, my only big wish is that more pages had been spent on the state of the law at the start of the book. I overly relied on my fuzzy recollection of Constitutional Law in the early twentieth century to help orient the book in its proper historical context. But overall, what a fascinating read. Recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Abhi Gupte

    In any course/book on US Constitutional History, Oliver Wendell Holmes' Abrams v. US dissent is considered epochal - the founding document of the free speech era. In most of these books that I'd read, Holmes' preceding and dare-I-say antipodal opinion in Debs v. US is mentioned merely to dramatize the Abrams dissent. "In just one year, Holmes went from a free speech recluse to a full throated champion of the First Amendment" - is how most books and articles would put it. In Healy's Great Dissent, In any course/book on US Constitutional History, Oliver Wendell Holmes' Abrams v. US dissent is considered epochal - the founding document of the free speech era. In most of these books that I'd read, Holmes' preceding and dare-I-say antipodal opinion in Debs v. US is mentioned merely to dramatize the Abrams dissent. "In just one year, Holmes went from a free speech recluse to a full throated champion of the First Amendment" - is how most books and articles would put it. In Healy's Great Dissent, I could finally look past the drama into the actual fascinating story of how exactly my intellectual hero changed his mind - a no mean feat to achieve for anyone, but especially an Octogenarian jurist. The week by week, month by month events, readings and debates that impressed upon Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. are fascinating to read not for because they are examples of soaring intellectual ism but because they are so easily relatable and commonplace. A happenstance meeting on a train with a colleague, the lively weekend chats with friends, vacation-long reading stints - all these made an impact on Holmes as much as they would have on any of us. In today's climate of entrenched political positions at every dining room chair, I found Holmes' journey incredibly inspiring and educational. Healy clearly meant to write the book as a paean to free speech. But to me, it was the message of evolution of thoughts and character that struck deep.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    I entered the Goodreads early reader giveaway for The Great Dissent for my husband so this is really his review: He told me that the book was utterly fascinating. He had a hard time putting it down. He is a retired attorney so the subject matter was immediately interesting for him. He said the book read more like a novel than like a non-fiction book. In fact he's got me so intrigued I'm going to add it to my reading pile! He said the writing style is very easy to read and the details are well res I entered the Goodreads early reader giveaway for The Great Dissent for my husband so this is really his review: He told me that the book was utterly fascinating. He had a hard time putting it down. He is a retired attorney so the subject matter was immediately interesting for him. He said the book read more like a novel than like a non-fiction book. In fact he's got me so intrigued I'm going to add it to my reading pile! He said the writing style is very easy to read and the details are well researched.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Jenkins

    I just finished tis book today. I loved every bit of it from the authors writing style to the information within. I recommend giving it a read. I won this book from Goodreads First Read Givaways!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Frank McGirk

    As I get older, I am more and more impressed by people who are able to adapt their views even slightly, let alone allow for a radical shift based on careful consideration and research. The story of Holmes' shift shows the importance of both surrounding yourself with thoughtful, challenging people, and avoiding dogmatism when communicating with others. The fact that there once was a time in America where you could be imprisoned for just praising politicians who voted against "the draft" (not even As I get older, I am more and more impressed by people who are able to adapt their views even slightly, let alone allow for a radical shift based on careful consideration and research. The story of Holmes' shift shows the importance of both surrounding yourself with thoughtful, challenging people, and avoiding dogmatism when communicating with others. The fact that there once was a time in America where you could be imprisoned for just praising politicians who voted against "the draft" (not even advocating people to resist the draft), should caution us when we want to start banning/cancelling speech that we disagree with. The postscripts on one of the judges who influenced Holmes was important as well to counter the idea that all change is growth towards the "truth" (assuming that the move towards more protections of speech was "good"), as that judge became less a defender of free speech as he started to believe his role as a judge was more to enable current legislatures, rather than stymie them with the decisions of their predecessors.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samcwright

    Fascinating story about the expanded interpretation of the freedom of speech. Also an example of always being open to considering new perspectives.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bob Schmitz

    If you are looking for a light or exciting read don’t read this book. If you want to know in tremendous detail Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s life, friends, letters, thoughts regarding his 1919 Supreme Court dissent which established a new interpretation of the 1st Amendment this is the book for you. But you better be ready to slog through long quoted letters and minute legal arguments. Prior to 1919 the US Supreme Court had never reversed a lower court decision impinging on any type of spe If you are looking for a light or exciting read don’t read this book. If you want to know in tremendous detail Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s life, friends, letters, thoughts regarding his 1919 Supreme Court dissent which established a new interpretation of the 1st Amendment this is the book for you. But you better be ready to slog through long quoted letters and minute legal arguments. Prior to 1919 the US Supreme Court had never reversed a lower court decision impinging on any type of speech. Consistently the court voted that the First Amendment did not protect speech that was harmful to the public morals or was threatening or even critical of the government. Holmes’ earlier decisions had followed this pattern. Unlike today the right of free speech was not considered an important issue. First Amendment courses were not even offered in law school. The 1918 Sedition Act made it a crime to say almost anything against the wall. Free-speech could be limited on the basis that it had a chance at some vague point in the future of causing someone to do something wrong. Homes wrote the dissent which would change the American view of the First Amendment in the1919 case of Abrams vs. United States in which a group of Russian immigrants had printed leaflets opposing President Wilson's sending American troops into Russia and thrown them from rooftops. They were arrested and sentenced to 15 to 20 years in jail. Holmes in his dissent made the argument that society was better served by letting ideas compete in the “market place of ideas” unless there was a “clear and present danger.” "When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe . . . that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes can safely be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment." The book discusses in tremendous (boring?) detail the influence on Holmes that led him to this new view. Holmes was friends with many young liberal thinkers of the time including Louis Brandeis another justice, (the first Jew on the court and first in his class at Harvard,) Felix Frankfuter, Harold Laski, a Harvard professor and perhaps Holmes closest friend. For instance Laski had supported a Boston policeman’s strike and was threatened with expulsion from Harvard by wealthy alumni and Holmes may have taken this attack on free speech personally. Holmes also helped start the liberal magazine The New Republic which was started by Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, and Walter Weyl in 1914. In the nine months since his previous decision in which he supported the government’s ability to limit free speech Holmes had been the target of an intense lobbying effort by these friends to broaden his view of free speech. Interesting tidbits: - During the war Wilson ordered 5,000 US troops to Northwest Russia and another 7,500 troops Kamchatka ostensibly to help some checks soldiers return to the battle against Germany that had been stranded when Russia made a truce with Germany. Many suspected that the true reason was to interfere with the Bolshevik Revolution. This led to Russian anarchists setting off many bombs in the US - J Edgar Hoover put himself through law school by working at the National Library and had great expertise at filing and cataloging which he put to you use in making thick dossiers on suspected radicals when put in charge of investigating Russian anarchists. His round up of hundreds of people many of whom were innocent was praised by the press as stopping anarchists before they did harm. - Oliver Wendell Holmes fought in the Civil War, his grandfather in the French and Indian wars. In 1919 Supreme Court justices did not have offices but did their work at home exchanging messages and opinions by courier. - Dean Acheson was one of the Brandies’ clerks. - Learned Hand, a prominent jurist at the time full name was Billings Peck Learned Hand. Unfortunately his family called him Bunny. He encouraged his friends to call him Buck. - Holmes’ friend Laski was the model for Ayn Rand’s socialist hero.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bill Wilson

    Fabulous book. A very rare bird - a book that layman and lawyer will enjoy equally. Part biography, part history, part social commentary, all incredibly readable, interesting, engaging. Professor Healy seamlessly weaves together several disparate influences, both people and events, on Justice Holmes, who starts the book as something of a curmudgeon not at all a fan of free speech with definite and limited ideas of what it meant. Healy charts his grudging progress, nudged inexorably toward a more Fabulous book. A very rare bird - a book that layman and lawyer will enjoy equally. Part biography, part history, part social commentary, all incredibly readable, interesting, engaging. Professor Healy seamlessly weaves together several disparate influences, both people and events, on Justice Holmes, who starts the book as something of a curmudgeon not at all a fan of free speech with definite and limited ideas of what it meant. Healy charts his grudging progress, nudged inexorably toward a more liberal view that emerges in his dissents to cases that in later years became the law of the land protecting free speech. Healy makes it almost effortless for the reader to follow the logic and the competing forces that shaped Holmes thinking. He is a writer with the gift to simplify the complex, while crafting literate, entertaining prose that ultimately paints terrific pictures of the times and the people in them and just tells a great story. His accomplishment is that you won't see this book as a legal book, you'll see it instead as something you enjoyed reading and darn it, learned a thing or two along the way, important things at that. I certainly did.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Li

    An "insider" book similar to Wild Justice (at least the part of Wild Justice I've read so far) recommended to me by a good friend who's essentially a first amendment scholar (name dropping here). Similar to Wild Justice, The Great Dissent tries to provide to the layman a narrative to explain a turning point in constitutional law. The Great Dissent focuses on Holmes's Abrams dissent. Healy establishes the mystery of Holmes seemingly changing his mind at the Abrams dissent. As Healy describes very An "insider" book similar to Wild Justice (at least the part of Wild Justice I've read so far) recommended to me by a good friend who's essentially a first amendment scholar (name dropping here). Similar to Wild Justice, The Great Dissent tries to provide to the layman a narrative to explain a turning point in constitutional law. The Great Dissent focuses on Holmes's Abrams dissent. Healy establishes the mystery of Holmes seemingly changing his mind at the Abrams dissent. As Healy describes very cleanly in the book, Holmes was no great proponent of individual rights (despite his dissent on Lochner, which progressives took as a victory even though he was not particularly sympathetic to the progressive cause). This story along with his conversion to Abrams by Holmes's progressive friends is described in the White monograph on Holmes, so the story isn't necessarily original scholarship, though obviously the story is more well fleshed out here. Additionally, Holmes ascribed to the dominant view at the time that the first amendment only prohibited Congress from "prior restraint". Early in English law, parliament controlled the content of printing presses through a licensing system that would only allow printing of material that passed through a state censor. Blackstone, an English jurist who was influential on colonial/revolutionary legal thought, argued that this kind of prior restraint should be prohibited but expressly argued that seditious libel (punishment for speech after it was published) should be legal. In fact, Holmes had written Patterson, a decision that had affirmed this view as the law of the land. Healy tries to explain the shift from this Holmes to Abrams, which introduced the concepts of a marketplace of ideas, where the truth wins and the idea that the government should not punish speech except where it imminently creates a danger that the government may seek to stop. Healy discusses the evolution of Holmes's thought from Patterson to Abrams. Healy conjectures that Holmes's story starts with a chance encounter with Learned Hand on a train, who criticized Holmes's view on freedom of expression (Hand himself wrote the opinion in Masses, a decision that narrowly construed a congressional act to only punish speech if it directly called for law breaking, rather than just general criticism). While Hand argued that tolerance was needed for speech because it was necessary in case the suppressor was wrong (a natural extension of Hand's self-doubt and skepticism). Holmes argued back that though it was true that one could never be sure about one's opinions, it was legitimate for someone to pick a belief and provided they believe enough to suppress what they saw was falsehood. Through Holmes's progressive friends such as Laski, and scholars such as Chafee, Holmes was gradually persuaded to adopt the Abrams stance. Laski and Holmes were incredibly close. Healy argues that the two shared a father-son relationship. Holmes never got along with his famous withholding father, and never had any children of his own (a source of regret later in life), while Laski's father disowned him for marrying a gentile woman. Healy implies that the persecution of Laski for his defense of the police in the disastrous Boston police strike struck an emotional chord with Holmes who wrote Abrams a call for tolerance (Healy uncovers a newly discovered letter from Frankenfurter asking Holmes to write a piece on tolerance, while Holmes turned down the request, Healy implies this was related to Holmes's Abrams dissent). Laski also fed Holmes books on expression and speech (including books that argued that toleration is a positive value), most importantly On Liberty by Mill. Apparently, Holmes had met Mill in person before (but was unimpressed), but on Laski's recommendation re-read On Liberty. Healy argues that On Liberty supplied the argument that Hand could not, that even if a person knew his stance was correct, he can only know that it's correct because it is openly challenged (a precursor to the marketplace of ideas). Healy argues that Chafee played a vital role in shaping Holmes's opinion. Chafee first attacked the assumption that the first amendment codified the Blackstonian prior restraint concept. Chafee argued that the first amendment actually was a ban on ex post speech punishment as well, as evidenced by Madison and Jefferson's argument against the Sedition Acts passed by the federalists. Madison and Jefferson had argued that the first amendment protected criticism of the government as a means to secure self-rule. Additionally, the act ended when the federalists faced a resounding defeat in 1800, and Jefferson pardoned those convicted under the act. Chafee then argued cleverly that Holmes actually created a new test for speech in Schenck by requiring that the speech be a "clear and present danger". Healy argues that Holmes actually had meant to restate the "bad tendency" test, which only required intent and the possibility that the speech cause harm (a test that Hand argues gives a jury too much power since it is so subjective, allowing the jury to punish speech they disagreed with). Certainly, the way the test was applied in Schenck and its companion cases including Debs did not seem very pro-speech (apparently Holmes's famous formulation that freedom of expression does not protect the act of a man shouting fire at a crowded theater was lifted from the prosecutor's closing argument at Debs). However, this gave Holmes cover to claim that Abrams was consistent with Schenck. The book of course is so much more than that, a character study of Holmes, Brandeis, Laski, Frankenfurter, and the defendants in the various speech cases as well as a historical narrative of the prevailing attitudes and strife (racial and labor) of the era. Worth a read, though frequently repetitive and overly explanatory (in particular, who cares about Holmes's love life? or the backgrounds of each speech defendant?). The book just did not strike the right chord with me, perhaps the White monograph already took the steam out of the "plot" of the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Gunther covers this topic in pretty thorough detail in his fine bio of Learned Hand .Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge, but I gather that Healy has broadened scope of OWH's evolving view on free speech by including letters previously unknown. (Who writes letters like this nowadays, I wonder? Do current Justices debate one another via email instead? Wonder how that might change one's sense of audience? Does it make Scalia more or less likely to "flame" a colleague in a personal correspondence?) Gunther covers this topic in pretty thorough detail in his fine bio of Learned Hand .Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge, but I gather that Healy has broadened scope of OWH's evolving view on free speech by including letters previously unknown. (Who writes letters like this nowadays, I wonder? Do current Justices debate one another via email instead? Wonder how that might change one's sense of audience? Does it make Scalia more or less likely to "flame" a colleague in a personal correspondence?)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    The writings of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes are the basis of contemporary interpretations and applications of freedom of speech, but it took many years for great minds to convince him of its value. This fascinating, insightful story chronicles the unfolding of Holmes’s change of heart and mind on the First Amendment. A remarkable, engaging work of intellectual and legal history.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paul Mullen

    So those famous phrases, "Clear and Present Danger," and "Marketplace of Ideas" -- Now we know where they came from. This history of the Supreme Court's approach that led to our nation's current ethos around free speech. At times I got lost in the names and places, but the overarching view of how we got to a liberal sense of free speech was really helpful. So those famous phrases, "Clear and Present Danger," and "Marketplace of Ideas" -- Now we know where they came from. This history of the Supreme Court's approach that led to our nation's current ethos around free speech. At times I got lost in the names and places, but the overarching view of how we got to a liberal sense of free speech was really helpful.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    The Great Dissent, by Seton Hall Law School professor Thomas Healy, is a wonderfully researched re-creation of the social and legal interactions among Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Zechariah Chafee, Harold Laski, and Learned Hand aimed at nudging Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes from a position of crisply affirming Eugene Debs's guilt in urging young men to dodge the WW1 draft to one of affirming the right of Russian immigrants in NYC to distribute pamphlets opposing the US incur The Great Dissent, by Seton Hall Law School professor Thomas Healy, is a wonderfully researched re-creation of the social and legal interactions among Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Zechariah Chafee, Harold Laski, and Learned Hand aimed at nudging Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes from a position of crisply affirming Eugene Debs's guilt in urging young men to dodge the WW1 draft to one of affirming the right of Russian immigrants in NYC to distribute pamphlets opposing the US incursion into northern Russia in 1918. Healy's (and his research assistants') digging up of correspondence to and from Holmes brings the characters to life, giving the reader a real feel for who they were, what they thought, and even how the younger folks buttered-up the mustachioed old Civil War veteran. Healy's premise is that these legal upstarts (Brandeis, Frankfurter, Chafee, and especially Laski) --sincere and devout liberals intellectuals all--played upon Holmes's intellectual appetite and perhaps his loneliness to feed him a diet of intellectual stimulation, hero worship, and probably sincere friendship, moving him inexorably to a defense of free speech that would have been unthinkable earlier in Holmes's career, a defense offered as a dissent that became the gold standard as the years rolled on. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I must offer a dissent of my own. Healy makes much of Holmes's mastery of the art of writing and Holmes's pride in it, especially as demonstrated in his legal opinions and the correspondence that often served as a first draft for turns of phrase in those opinions. Maybe so. But in the courtroom of my mind, John Henry Wigmore, a contemporary law professor at the Northwestern University Law School, sets the record more accurately when he shreds Holmes's so-called Great Dissent. Healy writes, ". . . the dissent was so elliptical and obscure that [now quoting Wigmore] 'that its exact point is difficult to gather.'" Indeed. "The Great Dissent" rendered by Holmes is, as per my reading of it, a hodgepodge of contradictions with more attention to style than substance. In it, Holmes wrote, "Only the emergency that makes it immediately dangerous to leave the correction of evil counsels to time warrants making any exception to the sweeping command, "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." A translation is needed here, and it thus fails to qualify as good writing, or even consistent logic. Holmes is saying "Yeah, there is a Constitutional prohibition on making laws that limit or prohibit free speech. But if there is an emergency, well, yeah, sure. Go ahead and limit free speech." Geesh. Earlier in that same "Great Dissent" opinion, Holmes wrote, "Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical," an apparent softening of a decades earlier opinion he expressed (in correspondence) as, "I agree that the logical result of a fundamental difference is for one side to kill the other--and that persecution has much to be said for it." One also finds earlier in this "Great Dissent" these words in apparent defense of Aw, let 'em say whatever they want. It's good for us: "The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution." His naivete here is stunning, or perhaps just seen differently through a 21st century Internet lens. Healy mentions that Holmes seldom read the news. So Holmes might not have known that industrial barons were already buying public opinion, or that Mark Twain (or someone) had already written, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Healy has assembled and written a fine story about an important dissent. But a Great Dissent? I'm not so sure. POST SCRIPT: Since writing this review, I came across another piece of writing by O.W. Holmes. It shows how little Holmes actually did change from a “government can do anything it wishes” position to that of being a champion of individual liberties. Bear in mind Holmes wrote his “great dissent” in favor of freedom of speech in 1919. He wrote the following eight years later: Society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v Massachusetts, 197 US 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. 1927 Supreme Court decision in Buck v Bell

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jim Angstadt

    The Great Dissent. How Oliver Wendel Holmes Changed His Mind - and Changed the History of Free Speech in America I love the way Thomas Healy tells this story. Each chapter is digestible on it's own. Each adds color and style to our understanding of Oliver Wendell Holmes (OWH). Each builds our understanding of free speech before and after Holmes. Put them all together for a great read, and a fascinating look at how far we have come in less than 100 years. ===== Table of Contents and My Notes. Prolog The Great Dissent. How Oliver Wendel Holmes Changed His Mind - and Changed the History of Free Speech in America I love the way Thomas Healy tells this story. Each chapter is digestible on it's own. Each adds color and style to our understanding of Oliver Wendell Holmes (OWH). Each builds our understanding of free speech before and after Holmes. Put them all together for a great read, and a fascinating look at how far we have come in less than 100 years. ===== Table of Contents and My Notes. Prologue: An Unexpected Visit In 1919, three Supreme Court justices visit OWH in his home office to discuss his dissenting opinion on Abrams v. United States. Why had OWH apparently changed his mind on the First Amendment, freedom of speech? 1. Train Fever June 1918, the Supreme Court is in summer recess. OWH and wife Fanny are en-route to their summer home in Beverly Farms, MA. A chance encounter with Judge Learned Hand leads to an exchange of letters on patience, killing, unknowability, restraint, and the rightness of the majority. This was a beginning. 2. A Smart Chap In 1918, OWH (77), and Harold Laski (24), the 'smart chap' mentioned by Judge Hand, begin a series of discussions on free-speech, pluralism, law, and morality, among other topics. 3. The Habit of Intolerance The New Republic magazine, founded in 1914, was progressive, supporting "labor unions, higher taxes, women's suffrage, and the regulation of trusts" in a socialistic and pragmatic way. As the war progressed, dissenters were increasingly targeted. In early 1918 the Sedition Act tightened the screws on "anything 'disloyal' or 'scurrilous' about the ... government". The New Republic was bothered, but had a close relationship with Wilson's administration; how can the issues be presented? Lansky recommended Zechariah Chafee Jr, who agreed to write an article. Chafee's article explained the rational of the English and US heritage of free-speech, the current value of free-speech, i.e. getting to the truth, and the non-absolutist nature of free-speech. Chafee argued that the 1917 Espionage Act got the balance right; the 1918 Sedition Act did not: "We have made a mistake under the pressure of a great crisis." "We should admit it frankly before intolerance becomes a habit in our law." 4. Catspawned Emanual Baltzer et al. v. United States concerned 27 socialists from South Dakota who were concerned with war draft quotas for their county. They were charged with draft obstruction, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms. The Supreme Court reviewed Baltzer. Supreme Court Judge Louis Brandeis made a private appeal to OWH. Holmes considered the evidence 'thin', the action not an obstruction of the draft, and there was no threat. According to the author, this was not an about face for OWH; it was about tolerance and balance. Strangely, the Justice department claimed an error in the original trial. Everything was reset to zero. But why? Perhaps to avoid opening the door for free-speech changes. 5. The Old Ewe and the Half-Bakes The Supreme Court hears 4 more appeals with respect to (wrt) the Espionage Act. - Schenck v. United States, Socialist Party officials in Philadelphia, - Abraham Sugarman, Socialist Party organizer, - Jacob Frohwerk, editor of a German language newspaper, - Eugene Victor Debs, leader of the national Socialist Party. 6. "He Shoots So Quickly" wrt Sugarman, the court lacked jurisdiction. wrt Schenck, was Blackstone's view (prior restraint only) still authoritative? If so, then free-speech is not a factor. If not, then a possible conflict with Patterson v. Colorado, which OWH had somewhat supported prior. How to thread the needle? With careful wording. "... never again would a federal court dismiss a free speech claim on the ground that the First Amendment guards only against prior restraints." But then, how far does free-speech go? To OWH "the right of free speech was not absolute." OWH cites "falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic" as not covered by free speech. OWH did not apply the idea of imminent harm as a limit. He "fell back on his old belief that individual rights are subordinate to the state." wrt Frohwerk and Debs, OWH found no compelling reason to overturn. 7. Defending Sophistries Public reaction to these opinions was varied. The mainstream press concurred. "Progressives were outraged." OWH's friends were supportive, generally. Judge Hand, on the other hand, was so frustrated that he quit the discussion. The author points out that the OWH "test focused on predictions about the likely effect of speech. Hand's test focused on the words actually spoken. ...Hand's test was designed to give speakers greater protection by limiting the ability of judges and juries to act on their prejudices." 8. Dangerous Men Laski and Frankfurter are threatened by anti-semitic 'dangerous men.' OWH provides some assistance. 9. "They Know Not What They Do" A New Republic article by Ernst Freund is critical of Debs. Laski urges OWH to "try something new, study some domain of fact." Like "the textile industries in Massachusetts." 10. The Red Summer Summer 1919, has riots on a variety of subjects: Bolshevist sympathizers, immigrants, socialism, local officials, and black vs. white. Fanny was sick. The author recaps the romantic and flirtatious tendencies of OWH. Lanki sets up a discussion with Holmes, Chafee, and himself re freedom of speech. 11. "Workers - Wake Up!" Two 'free speech' cases were before the court: - Schaefer v. United States, concerned a German-language newspaper, which made minor changes to stories written by others. - Abrams v. United States, concerned 5 Russian Jews who joined the anarchist movement. They wrote, printed, and distributed fliers about US efforts toward the Bolshevik government. Both lower court trials were bogus. 12. A Plea for Help Lanski is in trouble at Harvard due to his position on unions wrt the Boston PD proposed union. OWH wants to help but feels restrained. For once, OWH see freedom of speech in personal terms, his friend Lanski, versus intellectual terms, as he had prior. This maybe/probably/really was the push he needed toward a broader definition of free speech. 13. "Quasi in Furore" (as if possessed) wrt Abrams, tore through the "usual tall talk", and distinguished legal intent from lay intent. Even if guilty under the Sedition Act, had the 1st amendment been violated? "In the nine months since Schenck, Frohwerk, and Debs Holmes had come under considerable pressure to rethink" freedom of speech: - attacked by the New Republic and the Harvard Law Review, - challenged by Judge Hand, - confronted by Chafee, - feed books by Laski, - Frankfurter on tolerance, - Brandeis on studying facts, - Laski under attack. "Holmes's embrace of the clear and present danger test was a triumph for free speech." Then OWH emphasized the social value of free speech. Leaning on John Stuart Mill in On Liberty: "Since we can never be sure we are right, we can only rely on the fact that we have heard every argument and considered all points of view." But, will truth emerge from conditions of free speech? Milton in Areopagitica said so: "Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?" So has Lasti in Authority in the Modern State. Finally, OWH drew on the arguments of Adam Smith, e.g. free trade became free trade in ideas. OWH wrote: "But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more that they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas - that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out." 14. Adulation The dissent is greatly appreciated by friends, colleagues, and observers. 15. "Alone at Laski" Others disagree with the OWH dissent. Laski realizes his time at Harvard is over; He accepts an offer from the London School of Economics. A sad time for OWH. Epilogue: "I Simply Was Ignorant" The principal characters gradually die off, but the free speech legacy of OWH grows and gradually changes with the times. Notes Bibliography Acknowledgments Index

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steven Meyers

    Mr. Healy introduces Oliver Wendell Homes at the judge’s age of 77 in June 1918. ‘The Great Dissent’ is not a biography or even an abbreviated one. You’ll need to look elsewhere for such a book. The author does skim over some nonessential material such as the judge’s infatuation with a married woman when he was 55. I was confused as to why this bit of gratuitous gossip was in Mr. Healy’s work. The author does insert some colorful background history of the times that helps to understand why most Mr. Healy introduces Oliver Wendell Homes at the judge’s age of 77 in June 1918. ‘The Great Dissent’ is not a biography or even an abbreviated one. You’ll need to look elsewhere for such a book. The author does skim over some nonessential material such as the judge’s infatuation with a married woman when he was 55. I was confused as to why this bit of gratuitous gossip was in Mr. Healy’s work. The author does insert some colorful background history of the times that helps to understand why most people were open to the government jailing others for speaking or writing material that even hinted towards criticism of the war or public officials. Prejudice towards Jews, Germans, socialists, Bolshevist supporters, African-Americans, unions, and professors not towing the government’s or popular opinion’s line were rampant. Mob violence against perceived “unpatriotic” citizens was common. Many bombs disguised as plain boxed packages were being left at high-profile public and private citizen’s doorsteps. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed 675,000 Americans. It eliminated one-third of the planet’s population. Living under such conditions, I can understand why people might have been skittish and did not care too much about free speech rights. In this environment, Supreme Court Justice Holmes wrote one of our nation’s now most celebrated opinions that eventually broadened our free speech rights. Mr. Healy’s story tells how the justice evolved in his legal attitude from tolerating the government’s heavy hand towards detractors to addressing democracy’s need for tolerance towards unpopular forms of speech. The author does a very good job explaining the circumstances and the key people who nudged the judge into changing his outlook. It was no small feat. For most of his life, Judge Holmes derided all individual rights, including the right to express one’s views. The book is a mixture of legal theory written for the general reader to understand as well as some interesting background information about the times. Mr. Healy’s book helps to understand that much of the law is philosophical arguments that are shaped not only by precedent but also by a person’s own experiences. Judge Holmes was shown to be brilliant, sensitive, and even resorted to legal sophistry in an effort to avoid appearing to contradict his previous rulings. ‘The Great Dissent’ is yet another fine book that shows judges are all too human and a few who should never had sat behind the bench. While Mr. Healy’s nonfiction work is easy to read, it does require the general reader to wrestle with legal quandaries. If you are looking to give your brain a little bit of a workout, ‘The Great Dissent’ is a nice low-impact exercise. You will not find any suspenseful material between the covers of this thing, but it might broaden your outlook at how the law works. The political hypothesis known as our Constitution has always been a work in progress. Judge Holmes’s pivot towards a wider tolerance for free speech “… gave the movement its legitimacy and inspiration.” As Mr. Healy notes in his conclusion, “(Today) Without even knowing it, we have internalized his words and come to regard them as our own.” We should be thankful.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    While this seems to be a fairly thorough examination of the various reasons that Holmes changed his mind (many of which seem somewhat petty - though to be fair even the most apparently noble decisions probably frequently have many base components to them as well), I did not get a great sense of why Holmes' dissent in this particular case was so great. From the way Healy talks in many places, it would seem like this particular dissent - which, by the nature of being a dissent, is not binding law While this seems to be a fairly thorough examination of the various reasons that Holmes changed his mind (many of which seem somewhat petty - though to be fair even the most apparently noble decisions probably frequently have many base components to them as well), I did not get a great sense of why Holmes' dissent in this particular case was so great. From the way Healy talks in many places, it would seem like this particular dissent - which, by the nature of being a dissent, is not binding law - was some sort of touchstone for free speech and that Holmes was a major figure in the development of our modern conception of freedom of speech, but honestly it seems that Holmes' dissent was a symptom, not a cause, of changing attitudes towards government censorship. Healy goes into great detail as to the social pressures Holmes was under, but rushes through an explanation of the consequences of "the great dissent" - I had to jump back actually when I got to the "epilogue" because I was sure that there would have been more there - I didn't even think I had gotten to "the dissent" because of how quickly it went by and how it seemed to be such a non-event. I'm certainly interested in a historical view of first amendment jurisprudence (which this book provides, in its limited way), but I think something broader in scope would be preferable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jo Stafford

    In this very fine account of how Oliver Wendell Holmes altered his position on free speech and the First Amendment, Thomas Healy skillfully interweaves biography and a history of Supreme Court free speech decisions. The tight-knit intellectual circle that Holmes came to rely on for stimulating and thought-provoking conversation and the exchange of ideas was comprised of some of the sharpest minds in the United States at the time: Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and especially Harold Laski. (T In this very fine account of how Oliver Wendell Holmes altered his position on free speech and the First Amendment, Thomas Healy skillfully interweaves biography and a history of Supreme Court free speech decisions. The tight-knit intellectual circle that Holmes came to rely on for stimulating and thought-provoking conversation and the exchange of ideas was comprised of some of the sharpest minds in the United States at the time: Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and especially Harold Laski. (The author’s examination of the close bond between Holmes and Laski is a sensitive exploration of friendship.) Healy shows how these young progressive thinkers challenged the much older man’s opinions on free speech and the right to dissent, thereby laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court justice’s change of heart. While I needed to concentrate in order to understand the rationales underlying some of the Supreme Court rulings discussed in The Great Dissent, I never felt lost. Healy’s explanations make the language of judicial reasoning accessible to the layperson. As well as being very informative, this book is a pleasure to read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Browne

    Healy examines the road that Holmes took to get to the "clear and present danger" requirement in judging protected speech. Encouraged by friends, including Felix Frankfurter, Harold Laski, Learned Hand, Zacharia Chafee, and Louis Brandeis, Holmes' views on free speech evolved and his dissent in the Abrams case eventually became the standard by which protected speech is determined. Healy points out that the First Amendment, up until Holmes and his contemporaries, received very little attention in Healy examines the road that Holmes took to get to the "clear and present danger" requirement in judging protected speech. Encouraged by friends, including Felix Frankfurter, Harold Laski, Learned Hand, Zacharia Chafee, and Louis Brandeis, Holmes' views on free speech evolved and his dissent in the Abrams case eventually became the standard by which protected speech is determined. Healy points out that the First Amendment, up until Holmes and his contemporaries, received very little attention in the country. It was a part of the Constitution that existed but that the courts litigated almost not at all. We can be grateful to Holmes and his co-horts for their dedication and work to the concept since it is now clear that the First Amendment is the bedrock for all our rights and its protection immensely important. This is a well-written and researched book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Willis

    I love a book like this. A fairly straightforward subject (how Holmes changed his mind on free speech) but with plenty of fun anecdotes to spice it up, which makes it a lively read. Holmes is a complicated guy. I can't imagine he would be highly thought of today if it wasn't for his two l dissents in Lochner and Abrams, he had some chilling views on civil liberties and his commitment to judicial restraint is not in vogue. Yet, he is a fascinating character and biographical splotches Frankfurter, I love a book like this. A fairly straightforward subject (how Holmes changed his mind on free speech) but with plenty of fun anecdotes to spice it up, which makes it a lively read. Holmes is a complicated guy. I can't imagine he would be highly thought of today if it wasn't for his two l dissents in Lochner and Abrams, he had some chilling views on civil liberties and his commitment to judicial restraint is not in vogue. Yet, he is a fascinating character and biographical splotches Frankfurter, Hand, and Brandeis are nice bonuses. Very entertaining and much learned.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lisarzheng

    A good read for the history of freedom of speech through the story of Holmes. It provides good coverage for the history till Holme's dissent in Abrams. What happened after and up until 1950 were only briefly mentioned. It will be interesting to cover freedom of speech in workplace or perhaps how the notation of hate speech comes into being. The writing style is generally engaging except for some long quotes from his exchanges with other people. A good read for the history of freedom of speech through the story of Holmes. It provides good coverage for the history till Holme's dissent in Abrams. What happened after and up until 1950 were only briefly mentioned. It will be interesting to cover freedom of speech in workplace or perhaps how the notation of hate speech comes into being. The writing style is generally engaging except for some long quotes from his exchanges with other people.

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Hoole

    Tell Americans that the First Amendment doesn't give them the right to yell fire in a crowded theater and you might expect to hear in response "Well... how big is the theater? Is it a first run movie or an oldie?" or even "Can you please hold my beer for a minute?" This book does a great job of setting out the chain of events and the personalities that got us from the English common law standard where government is not allowed to censor in advance (prior restraint) to our uniquely American posit Tell Americans that the First Amendment doesn't give them the right to yell fire in a crowded theater and you might expect to hear in response "Well... how big is the theater? Is it a first run movie or an oldie?" or even "Can you please hold my beer for a minute?" This book does a great job of setting out the chain of events and the personalities that got us from the English common law standard where government is not allowed to censor in advance (prior restraint) to our uniquely American position that the government has basically no authority to regulate speech (Yay, Citizens United!).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Brought to life wonderfully not only the big ideas behind freedom of speech, but the big personalities as well behind this remarkable landmark Supreme Court opinion. Written with great narrative flourish and entertaining character sketches, extremely well researched but for the most part breezily written. Worth reading for anyone interested not just in free speech, but American history at the turn of the 20th Century, and the nature of the law and the highest court!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Al Towers

    This was an excellent book on the history of free speech jurisprudence during the time when many of the standards still used today were set. I thoroughly enjoyed it. For a careful reader of history, many of the characters will be familiar, and it only deepens the reverence one will have their legacy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Al Menaster

    Terrific book. Holmes upheld a conviction against a free speech challenge, then 9 months later issued his dissent in Abrams, leading to ultimate adoption by the US Supreme Court of the "clear and present danger" test. This books tells the story of how that happened, mostly through letters to and from Holmes. Utterly riveting. Terrific book. Holmes upheld a conviction against a free speech challenge, then 9 months later issued his dissent in Abrams, leading to ultimate adoption by the US Supreme Court of the "clear and present danger" test. This books tells the story of how that happened, mostly through letters to and from Holmes. Utterly riveting.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Walker

    If you are into history, philosophy, free speech, or getting a glimpse into the lives of great men this is a book for you. It's definitely a history book but it is an engaging one. It is truly remarkable to learn more about the early approach to the first amendment and the issue of free speech and how one very influential man morphed our public conceptualization of modern free speech. If you are into history, philosophy, free speech, or getting a glimpse into the lives of great men this is a book for you. It's definitely a history book but it is an engaging one. It is truly remarkable to learn more about the early approach to the first amendment and the issue of free speech and how one very influential man morphed our public conceptualization of modern free speech.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joshua James

    This was a great, if short, review of the events that led to Holmes' dissent in Abrams v. United States. The author does a good job explaining all of the moving parts that led to Holmes becoming the great champion of the First Amendment that we know him as today. The Abrams dissent is as much the work of Holmes as it is of those who influenced his thought--Harold Laski, Felix Frankfurter, Zechariah Chaffee, and, in many ways, Learned Hand. In the summer of 1919, the time between Holme's majority This was a great, if short, review of the events that led to Holmes' dissent in Abrams v. United States. The author does a good job explaining all of the moving parts that led to Holmes becoming the great champion of the First Amendment that we know him as today. The Abrams dissent is as much the work of Holmes as it is of those who influenced his thought--Harold Laski, Felix Frankfurter, Zechariah Chaffee, and, in many ways, Learned Hand. In the summer of 1919, the time between Holme's majority opinion in Schenck v. United States and his abrupt face in Abrams, each pushed Holmes to reconsider his stance, to adapt his thinking, and to deepen his commitment to the First Amendment. It is rare to have a case where a Justice's thinking has been so clearly influenced by his friends. The insight this book provides about the circumstances that led to the great dissent add meat to an already great opinion, the words of which have become almost commonplace in constitutional discourse—"The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. . ."

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.