NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
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Volume 78, Number 1

April 2003

Abraham Lincoln’s First Amendment

Geoffrey R. Stone

As we confront the challenges of the “War on Terrorism,” it is useful to look back at our own history to understand how in past crises we have struck the balance between liberty and security. In this Essay, Professor Geoffrey Stone considers how Abraham Lincoln dealt with the conflict between free expression and military necessity during the course of the Civil War. Although we tend to think of Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus as the paramount civil liberties issue in this era (apart from slavery), Professor Stone explores how Lincoln, facing often severe criticism of his administration, struggled to balance free speech rights against the imperiled security of the Union.