Leonard Levy
Leonard W. Levy was the Andrew W. Mellon All-Claremont Professor of Humanities and Chairman of the Graduate Faculty of History at Claremont Graduate School, California. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, and educated at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, where his mentor for the Ph.D. degree was Henry Steele Commager
Henry Steele Commager
Henry Steele Commager was an American historian who helped define Modern liberalism in the United States for two generations through his forty books and 700 essays and reviews...


Levy's first book was a revision and expansion of his doctoral dissertation on Lemuel Shaw
Lemuel Shaw
Lemuel Shaw was an American jurist who served as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court...

, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Law of the Commonwealth and Chief Justice Shaw was first published by Harvard University Press in 1957, and has regularly been reprinted.

Levy's most honored book was his 1968 study Origins of the Fifth Amendment
Origins of the Fifth Amendment
Origins of the Fifth Amendment by Leonard W. Levy Oxford University Press, 1968, won the Pulitzer Prize for 1969. It followed in the wake of the 1966 United States Supreme Court Opinion Miranda v. Arizona. The book was reissued in 1986 and 1999....

, focusing on the history of the privilege against self-incrimination. This book was awarded the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for History
The Pulitzer Prize for History has been awarded since 1917 for a distinguished book upon the history of the United States. Many history books have also been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography...

. He wrote almost forty other books, such as The Establishment Clause, Treason Against God: A History of the Offense of Blasphemy, Blasphemy: Verbal Offenses Against the Sacred, from Moses to Salman Rushdie, and Religion and the First Amendment. He also was editor-in-chief of the four-volume Encyclopaedia of The American Constitution. In his 1999 Origins of the Bill of Rights he described the political background and intent of most of the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Levy's most controversial work focused on the early history of freedom of the press
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

 in colonial and revolutionary America. In 1960, he published Legacy of Suppression: Freedom of Speech and Press in Early American History, in which he argued that the law governing freedom of the press, and thus the original intention of the First Amendment's free-press clauses, was narrower than the generally libertarian views held by James Madison -- and, in particular, that the law of freedom of the press included the old English common-law crime of seditious libel
Seditious libel
Seditious libel was a criminal offence under English common law. Sedition is the offence of speaking seditious words with seditious intent: if the statement is in writing or some other permanent form it is seditious libel...

. Levy's work challenged the prevailing views codified in the work of Zechariah Chafee
Zechariah Chafee
Zechariah Chafee, Jr. was an American judicial philosopher and civil libertarian. An advocate for free speech, he was described by Senator Joseph McCarthy as "dangerous" to the United States...

, who had long taught at the Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

. As a pendant to his 1960 monograph, he published Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side in 1963; this book offered a vigorous critique of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 for holding narrower views of freedom of speech and press than has long been believed. Jefferson and Civil Liberties began the modern reconsideration of Jefferson's historical reputation. In the 1973 paperback edition, Levy added an extensive preface discussing and responding to the criticism that the book received for being critical of Jefferson.

In 1985, after nearly two decades of research, Levy published Emergence of a Free Press, a thorough and wide-ranging revision of Legacy of Suppression. While maintaining that his earlier views of the state of the law were correct, Levy acknowledged the criticisms posed by historians of journalism, who stressed the difference between "law on the books" and "law as applied." Thus, Levy conceded that in actuality freedom of the press may well have been wider and more generous than his earlier book had posited.

In 1990, Levy was appointed a Distinguished Scholar in Residence; Adjunct Professor of History and Political Science at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland, Oregon
Ashland, Oregon
Ashland is a city in Jackson County, Oregon, United States, near Interstate 5 and the California border, and located in the south end of the Rogue Valley. It was named after Ashland County, Ohio, point of origin of Abel Helman and other founders, and secondarily for Ashland, Kentucky, where other...

. He died August 24, 2006 in Ashland.

External links

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