The First Amendment at Home and Abroad

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1991




American Bar Association




The powerful appeal of the First Amendment flows from the rhetoric it has inspired. Holmes's "[W]hen men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe ... that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market"; Brandeis's " ... the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; ... order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; ... it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; fear breeds repression; ... repression breeds hate; ... hate menaces stable government"; Douglas's "the function of speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are or even stirs people to anger"; Brennan's "debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open, ... it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials"; Harlan's "That the air may at times seem filled with verbal cacophony is ... not a sign of weakness but one of strength" and "... one man's vulgarity is another's lyric."

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