By Daniel Werheimer
From the Author: This paper is the culmination of a semester of study in the Frontiers course on Free Speech. Throughout the semester, the class explored both theoretical, normative concerns, as well as real-world case studies involving one of our most cherished civil liberties. A recurring source of controversy in the modern history of this right is the suppression of domestic dissent during periods of war. At the time of writing, the Patriot Act and other Bush Administration war-time measures remained highly controversial. However, many Americans are unaware that the policies of the previous president were far from unprecedented in our nation’s history. This paper relates the seldom discussed narrative of the Lincoln administration’s attitude towards anti-war publications in the North during the period of the Civil War. The fact that Abraham Lincoln routinely ranks as the most popular American president in national surveys, as well as the minefield of racial issues related to the Civil War, have likely prevented additional scrutiny of this episode. But despite the complexity of issues related to the freedom of expression, it is clear that the fragile nature of this right requires us to closely analyze every instance in which our government places limits on speech; Lincoln, our most popular president, may have been right to suppress anti-war sentiment in the North, but it is vital that his policies continue to receive scrutiny.
Read: Abraham Lincoln and the Northern Anti-War Press
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