Posted by: Tom Owen | August 18, 2009

Freedom of Expression (1981) – Archibald Cox, SPS 1958

Freedom of Expression

ArchibaldCox

Image: Wikipedia.

Biographical Notes (from Wikipedia)
Archibald Cox, Jr., (May 17, 1912 – May 29, 2004) was an American lawyer and law professor who served as U.S. Solicitor General under President John F. Kennedy; he became best known as the first special prosecutor for the Watergate scandal. In his scholarly career, he was a pioneering expert on labor law and also an authority on constitutional law.

Cox, the Senate Watergate committee, and U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica battled with the Nixon Administration over whether Nixon could be compelled to yield up those tapes in response to a grand jury subpoena. In an event widely dubbed the Saturday Night Massacre, President Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Rather than comply with this order, Attorney General Richardson resigned, leaving his second-in-command, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus in charge of the Justice Department. Ruckelshaus likewise refused to fire Cox, and he, too, resigned.

These resignations left Solicitor General Robert Bork as the highest-ranking member of the Justice Department; insisting that he believed the decision unwise but also that somebody had to carry out the president’s orders, Bork fired Cox. Upon being fired, Cox stated, “whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people to decide.”

Summary
“Only by uninhibited publication can the flow of information be secured and the people informed concerning men, measures, and the conduct of Government. Only by freedom of expression can the people voice their grievances and obtain redress. Only by speech and the press can they exercise the power of criticism. Only by freedom of speech, of the press, and of association can people build political power including the power to change the men who govern them.”

Freedom of Expression primarily concerns itself with the First Amendment.  Cox explains the history of this unalienable right – from the framers’ early days of protesting to the right to petition government for the redress of grievances.  He notes how the democratic system of majority rule implies a number of dissenters, and freedom of expression is therefore necessary to the entire process.  Cox examines the judgments by the Supreme Court regarding the First Amendment, and the fine balance between individual rights and the good of the nation.  Finally, Cox shows how the Court has progressed over the years in terms of the Amendment, and if the current views on freedom of expression are what the founding fathers envisioned.

In 1971, as a Harvard law professor, Cox gave a speech defending the Constitutional rights of pro-war speakers.  His ideology was clearly not what the audience wanted to hear – he was shouted off stage, assailed with flying objects, and later was forced to escape with the other speakers through the building’s steam tunnels.  Cox’s passion for this topic should be duly recognized.

Trivia
Cox is the nephew of Maxwell Perkins, editor of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe.

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