what was the first instance of a free thought court decision in america?

I can't find any information..seems like the Martin v City of Struthers was the first...that doesn't seem right..Any one know off the top of their head? hahah thanks


anything involving book censorship would be good

3 Answers

  • BigD
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    There was a early case about the book Ulysses:

    Ulysses by James Joyce was selected by the Modern Library as the best novel of the 20th century, and has received wide praise from other literature scholars, including those who have defended online censorship. (Carnegie Mellon English professor and vice-provost Erwin Steinberg, who praised the book in 1994, also defended CMU's declaration that year to delete alt.sex and some 80 other newsgroups, claiming they were legally obligated to do so.) Ulysses was barred from the United States as obscene for 15 years, and was seized by U.S Postal Authorities in 1918 and 1930. The lifting of the ban in 1933 came only after advocates fought for the right to publish the book.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The Everson decision (1947) that people coudn't be forced to salute the flag, that eloquently stated that the government is not to prescribe what is orthodox in politics or religion. It led to further decisions maintaining the wall between church and state. Radicals who don't feel bound by precedent (meaning Clarence Thomas) have spoken out agaisnt the Everson decision, but we abandon it at our peril.

  • 1 decade ago

    You need more research.

    Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919), was a decision of the United States Supreme Court involving the 1918 Amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it a criminal offense to criticize the U.S. federal government. The Court ruled 7-2 that the Act did not violate civil rights under the First Amendment, with Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis dissenting. The case was overturned during the Vietnam War era in Brandenburg v. Ohio.

    Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931), was a United States Supreme Court decision that recognized the freedom of the press to be free from prior restraints on publication, a principle that was applied to free speech generally in subsequent jurisprudence. The Court ruled that a Minnesota law that targeted publishers of "malicious" or "scandalous" newspapers violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (as applied through the Fourteenth Amendment). Legal scholar and columnist Anthony Lewis called Near the Court's "first great press case"

    In cases such as Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919) and Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925) and others, the United States Supreme Court struggled to draw the line between politically unpopular speech and actual threats to national security. One federal case, Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1917, greatly influenced the Court’s eventual adoption of the “incitement test” for advocacy of law violation.

    Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), was a historically important case argued before the United States Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had extended the reach of certain provisions of the First Amendment — specifically the provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press — to the governments of the individual states.

    And of course, the VERY FIRST free speech suit brought before the U.S. Supreme Court was a loss for individual freedoms and a win for state rights.

    The Supreme Court held, in Barron v. Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833), that the Constitution's Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government, and that, consequently, the federal courts could not stop the enforcement of state laws that restricted the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.


    Well now, if you want to talk about book banning...

    Twenty years after Johann Gutenberg’s invention, the first popular books were printed and sold in Germany; within another 20 years, Germany’s first official censorship office was established when a local archbishop pleaded with town officials to censor “dangerous publications.” In England, Henry VIII established a licensing system requiring printers to submit all manuscripts to Church of England authorities for approval and in 1529, he outlawed all imported publications. In 1535, the French king Francis I issued an edict prohibiting the printing of books.

    By 1559, in reaction to the spread of Protestantism and scientific inquiry, the Roman Catholic Church issued the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, likely the first published and most notorious list of forbidden books. The purpose of the Index was to guide secular censors in their decisions as to which publications to allow and which to prohibit, since printers were not free to publish books without official permission.

    At a time when society was dominated by religion, religious and secular censorship were indistinguishable. The Catholic Church continued to print this Index, which grew to 5,000 titles, until 1966, when Pope Paul VI terminated the publication.

    Censorship followed the European settlers to America. In 1650, a religious pamphlet by William Pynchon was confiscated by Puritan authorities in Massachusetts, condemned by the General Court and burned by the public executioner in the Boston marketplace. The incident is considered to be the first book-burning in America.

    It is also the very first book banning case as the author, Pynchon, was brought before the court of Boston on charges of sedition and lost.

    The pioneer of modern American censorship was Anthony Comstock, who founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1872. In 1873, using slogans such as “Morals, not art and literature,” he convinced Congress to pass a law, thereafter known as the “Comstock Law,” banning the mailing of materials found to be “lewd, indecent, filthy or obscene.” Between 1874 and 1915, as special agent of the U.S. Post Office, he is estimated to have confiscated 120 tons of printed works. Under his reign, 3,500 people were prosecuted although only about 350 were convicted. Books banned by Comstock included many classics: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Authors whose works were subsequently censored under the Comstock Law include Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo, D.H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill and many others whose works are now deemed to be classics of literature.

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