Free Speech v. Slavery

Fergus Bordewich reviews a rather interesting book by Jefferson Morley, Snow Storm in August (Doubleday, 2012),  about an incident in ante-bellum Washington. In the clash of slavery and the abolitionists, Bordewich comments

The author rightly underscores the fact that, throughout the antebellum period, “the need to defend the slave system overwhelmed the protections written into the Bill of Rights.” In Francis Scott Key’s case against (abolitionist Rueben) Crandall, the slave-owning district attorney charged, for instance, that the mere possession of abolitionist publications was “always indictable” because they were intended to “produce excitement, tumult, and insurrection.” In other words, even white men were not to be allowed to own, read or distribute documents that offended slave owners.

Wall Street Journal, July 16 2012.


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