1928 February 26

Civil Liberties Have “Lost Ground” in U.S., Says ACLU Official


Rev. Harry Ward, chair of the ACLU Executive Committee, declared on this day that civil liberties in the U.S. had “lost ground.” His views on the importance of civil liberties were rebutted by J. Robert O’Brien, chair of the Americanism Committee of the local American Legion Post in New York City. The exchange occurred in a debate on “Education and Free Speech.”

If Ward was wrong about anything, it was that protection of civil liberties was so lacking in the courts and in public opinion in the 1920s that there was hardly any ground to lose.

Read: Paul F. Murphy, The Meaning of Freedom of Speech: First Amendment Freedoms from Wilson to FDR (1972)

Learn more about civil liberties in the 1920s: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

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