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The First Amendment, "refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and of tyrants," 1 guarantees us the right to speak; as citizens of this democracy we have an obligation both to speak and to act when fools and demagogues endanger our welfare and liberty. We must be careful to recognize that the substance of much speech that today is taken for granted was, within living memory, and despite the black letter of the Bill of Rights, effectively illegal, for which the speaker, author, printer and publisher could be fined and imprisoned.
That the battle for free speech is going on now and will continue forever has been illustrated not only by the Reagan and Bush administrations' apparent hostility towards the very idea of the Bill of Rights, as manifested in efforts to restrict, control and manipulate information that should without prejudice be available to the public, but in a recrudescence of arrests and convictions for images, words and actions displeasing to the reactionary sensibility, as well as a galloping erosion of the entire Bill of Rights under these administrations' Supreme Courts.
This account of the Free Speech Movement can be introduced with the historical case of the colonial printer John Peter Zenger. The charge of seditious libel did not concern itself with the truth or falsehood of what had been said; if the sentiment endangered popular respect for the government, it was punishable. Indeed, "the law. On the contrary, the theory of the law was, the greater the truth, the greater the scandal against the government.
Second, that citizens have a right and a duty to defend the state against corrupt officials and unjust laws. Third, that the jury has a right to judge the law as well as the facts of a case. The governor and council then ordered "burning by the common hangman, or whipper, near the pillory, [of] the libelous papers. Zenger's attorney, Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia, admitted that Zenger had printed and published the papers. Hamilton then introduced the argument that what had been said was true, giving it some strength by going on to point out that corrupt officials dishonored the Crown, and that it was a service to King and Country to expose them.
The Court did not admit the validity of his case, which indeed at the time had none. The Court instructed the jury to find Zenger guilty or innocent of having published the papers, and to leave it to the Court to determine the extent of the libel. The eloquent Hamilton told the jury that, despite the instructions of the Court, they had a right to pass judgment on the law itself. The jury retired for only a short time, and returned with a verdict of not guilty. Though this case had no immediate influence on common law, it captured the popular imagination and became a rallying point for Americans concerned with freedom of the press.
What this meant was that Americans were, in principle, free to say or print anything, even to the point of being offensive or seditious. Until , the First Amendment essentially did not exist, because nobody was around to stand up for it. The point concealed in this pre-ACLU decision is that—with a little imagination— any form of speech can be interpreted to be "a clear and present danger," and what actually emerged from this decision was a prohibition against shouting "Fire!
In this celebrated suit, Charles T.
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Schenck and Elizabeth Baer, two New York Socialists, were on trial for opposing Selective Service law and for distributing pacifist literature decrying military conscription as "despotism arranged in the interest of Wall Street" to draftees and members of the armed forces. Like Zenger, they were accused of "seditious libel"; the difference was that instead of being brought before the hated representatives of a puppet government, Schenck and Baer were tried and convicted in an American court.
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If the same measure had been extended fifty years later to protesters of the Vietnam conflict, many Americans honestly opposed to what they felt to be an unjust, illegal war would by the same logic have been convicted of "conspiring to cause insubordination in the Armed Forces. When Tennessee's new law prohibiting the teaching of evolution became effective in March of , the ACLU at once sought a test of the statute's attack on free speech and secured John Thomas Scopes, a science teacher, as the defendant. William Jennings Bryan, three times the Democratic candidate for president and a rock-ribbed fundamentalist, volunteered to serve as chief counsel for the prosecution; Clarence Darrow, a member of the ACLU's National Committee and an agnostic, headed the volunteer defense team.
Scopes was convicted and fined one hundred dollars. On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the statute but reversed the conviction, which made it impossible to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The trial, however, played a major part in hastening the departure of religious indoctrination from the public schools.
By the U. Justice Louis Brandeis, in his concurrence in Whitney v California , made an eloquent defense of free speech in which he explained. Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative force should prevail over the arbitrary.
They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.
But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones.
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Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law—the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed. On an everyday level, however, free speech still struggled. Of his critics he said,.
McCarthy announced to the Republican Women's Club,. He offered no further proof and showed no one the list.
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During the stifling era of McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Americans became afraid to speak their minds, and the First Amendment was eroded on the campuses of the University of California, as elsewhere, to the point of nonexistence. Dramatic change came in the s, when citizens again awakened to their rights and duties. The history of the city of Berkeley is inseparable from that of the University of California. To insure the isolation of the University from partisan influence, it was to be administered by a board of titular owners, called the Regents.
The Regents of the University of California, UC Photo.
enter site The atmosphere of idealism and utopianism that surrounded the "Athens of the West" was reflected in the larger community. In such matters as progressive zoning regulations, a city-manager form of government to eliminate machine politics, vigorous public health measures and a forward-looking police force and fire department, the city was in the vanguard of civic consciousness from its earliest beginnings.
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In matters of race relations, Berkeley was neither better nor worse than most other American cities. There were anti-Asian riots around the turn of the century, and as late as almost no Black employment in good mercantile or civic jobs. When, however, the civil-rights movement at last sparked the conscience of the community, Berkeley made dramatic, sweeping changes far in advance of others. In Berkeley elected Wilmont Sweeney, its first Black city councilman.
Berkeley schools had never been overtly segregated, and the city was in the vanguard of bussing to rectify racial imbalance in public schools. University students and citizens picketed and boycotted downtown businesses that refused Black trade and did not employ Black people in good, conspicuous jobs, thereby forcing considerable change. Berkeley's liberal, if not to say off-beat, leanings are rooted in the history of the city as well as that of the University. Radicals won office in the first city election of In , quite counter to the surrounding area, the city voted in favor of women's suffrage and elected J.
Stitt Wilson, a Canadian Socialist, as mayor. Adherents to the Menshevik line, the "White" Finns, built a competing, though much less splendid, Finnish Brotherhood Hall up the road. In the "Red" Finns, with their history of socialism, had a large share in founding the Consumer's Cooperative of Berkeley. In that same year, University students founded the cooperative living group Barrington Hall. Part of the larger student co-op movement, it was one of the few places that provided housing for minority students. The International House, established in , was the other important residence for foreigners studying at UC, which in the late twenties had in attendance some 10 percent of all foreign students in the United States.
In the late s and early s the intellectual climate was one far more tolerant and welcoming of change than that of surrounding municipalities. Somewhat isolated geographically as well as culturally, the city is cut off by the San Francisco Bay from its glittering big sister, and from the mono-culture suburbs to the east by a high hill range.
Despite apparent blurring of civic boundaries to the north and south, Berkeley almost aggressively holds itself separate and maintains a clear civic identity, conspicuously contrasting itself to both the characterless bedroom communities of Albany and El Cerrito and the proletarian miasma of Oakland. Even the climate is distinctively its own; directly in line with the Golden Gate, Berkeley is cooler and foggier than the rest of the Bay Area. Note the Regents' plaque near his right knee indicating the boundary of the campus.
During the early years of Robert Gordon Sproul's UC presidency in the s, left-wing student movements arose and proliferated in the United States and on the Berkeley campus. Their primary target was the escalating arms buildup, and the student peace movement, imitating the techniques of organized labor, made extensive, though ultimately ineffectual, use of rallies and brief strikes. These rallies were dispersed by the police. Real involvement in real social causes was in every sense contrary to the underlying philosophy of the University of California, whose charter echoes Cardinal Newman's belief that a university should be "the high protecting power of all knowledge and science, of fact and principle, of inquiry and discovery, of experiment and speculation; it maps out the territory of the intellect, and sees that.
Accordingly, Sproul did not believe that the University was the appropriate platform for social protest, and took steps to isolate the campus from radical influence. Another aspect of Sproul's opposition to campus radicalism was the then generally current notion that a public university was a place to train those less fortunate children who were not of blue blood. Those born to the purple attended prep schools, Stanford University, and Ivy League colleges for the elite who would after four jolly years of football and clambakes take their rightful places as the lords and masters of creation.
Cal was for earnest climbers, honest sons of toil, and UC's constant uphill struggle for acceptance among the Eastern colleges could easily be tarnished by grimy bohemians.
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To allow students to blow their narrow chances through a lax administration's permissive tolerance of alien, dangerous thoughts could be seen as neglect of duty in the preparation of UC's students to take their places in society. The first major change in University policy toward student political activity came in , when the Berkeley Associated Students of the University of California ASUC , previously opposed to antiwar rallies, sponsored a speech by the Socialist Norman Thomas on the Berkeley campus.
Two weeks later Rule 11 appeared, requiring presidential approval of off-campus speakers as well as for use of campus facilities by nonapproved groups. After this, flatbed trucks were pulled up to Sather Gate, then the entrance to the campus, to act as platforms for speakers.
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