Riley's Reviews > The Fear Within: Spies, Commies, and American Democracy on Trial

The Fear Within by Scott Martelle
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May 28, 11

Read in May, 2011

This book is an account of the marathon 1949 Smith Act trial of eleven American Communist leaders for their abstract advocacy of revolution. Even taking into perspective the time, it is still amazing that the law and their convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court.

The case, Dennis v. United States, had one of Justice Hugo Black's sparkling dissents, quoted as an epigraph by author Scott Martelle:

"Public opinion being what it now is, few will protest the conviction of these Communist petitioners. There is hope, however, that in calmer times, when present pressures, passions, and fears subside, this or some later Court will restore the First Amendment liberties to the high preferred place where they belong in a free society."

Black wrote that in 1951. By 1957, the court had gutted the law, which hasn't been used since.
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