This classic is the only compendium of primary sources about American statements on freedom of the press. Now reprinted with a new introduction and updated bibliography, it covers a range of sources, from Andrew Hamilton's defense of John Peter Zenger in 1735 to Alexander Hamilton's defense of Croswell in 1804. Each document is preceded by a headnote indicating its significance and each chapter is prefaced by an introduction.
The general historical introduction to the book, more than 60 pages long, presents the provocative thesis that until the Jeffersonian reaction to the Sedition Act of 1789, American thinking on freedom of the press was extremely constricted. This thinking was best summarized by Blackstone's notion that the press should be free from prior restraints but otherwise liable for abuses. Many of the docments included by Levy are not otherwise available except in very rare books and include statements by both famous and obscure American philosophers and theorists. Thomas Jefferson — presented as the foremost American libertarian — receives extended treatment in a special section.