Ain’t it grand to read about our history on the internet? Alas, conservative writers like Mencken are indeed Gone with the Wind.
In 1918, The journalist H.L. Mencken, who himself fell under government suspicion for his German descent and unabashed love of German culture, commented on the folly of trading fundamental liberties for security. He wrote of the Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “clear and present danger” opinion:“In the three Espionage Act cases (before the High Court), one finds a clear statement of the doctrine that, in war time, the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment cease to have any substance, and may be set aside by any jury that has been sufficiently inflamed by a district attorney itching for higher office. … I find it hard to reconcile such notions with any plausible concept of liberalism. … If I do not misread his plain words, he was actually no more than an advocate of lawmakers. There, indeed, is the clue to his whole jurisprudence. He believed that the law-making bodies should be free to experiment almost ad libitum, that the courts should not call a halt upon them until they clearly passed the uttermost bounds of reason, that everything should be sacrificed to their autonomy, including, apparently, even the Bill of Rights…”