Publication information

Law Notes
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Must We Suppress Free Speech Because of Anarchy?”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: November 1901
Volume number: 5
Issue number: none
Pagination: 142

“Must We Suppress Free Speech Because of Anarchy?” Law Notes Nov. 1901 v5: p. 142.
full text
Virginia Constitutional Convention; freedom of speech (restrictions on); anarchism (government response: criticism); William S. Cowherd (public statements); the press (freedom of).
Named persons
William S. Cowherd; William McKinley.

Must We Suppress Free Speech Because of Anarchy?

     THE effects of the murder of President McKinley are still to be seen in the actions of grave assemblies over proposals looking to the extinction of anarchists. The Virginia Constitutional Convention has removed from the constitution of that State the guaranty of freedom of speech—a hasty action, out of line with the traditions of the State. Now that the action is irrevocable, we imagine in the light of calmer days its expediency will be doubted. Anarchy can be dealt with effectually without undermining our traditional principles of liberty. The wise words of Congressman Cowherd in addressing the Kansas City Bar Association are in point: “Of course,” said he, “there should be laws, municipal and State, for the punishment of those who advocate crime; and I doubt not that one who incites an audience to murder or theft can be punished in every State in the Union. The teacher is as guilty as the thief; and he who preaches murder is as guilty as the murderer. But, in legislating, it is well to remember that liberty is as precious as law, and we do not mean to trample upon it in order to protect society. The action of the Virginia convention in striking from the constitution of the State the guaranty of a free press only can be excused on the ground of emotional insanity. While I have no sympathy for the yellow journal, I have still less sympathy for the press censor. It is not only the right, but the duty, of the press to criticise the public acts of public men. The electric light of publicity is the best regulator of official conduct, and a guaranty of official good behavior. In a government of the majority the best results are obtained where the widest latitude is given to the discussion of public measures and the conduct of public officers. The laws of libel and slander are not so efficacious in controlling an unbridled press as the moral sentiment of a community that refuses to support a paper that oversteps the limits of truth or decency. And the most unfortunate results of an irresponsible public press are not the assaults it may make upon good men, but the loss of its ability to present bad men in their proper light before the public.”