Monday, April 4, 2016

Local History, the First Amendment, and Due Process of Law: Props to Tracy Edwards-Warren and the Students in Her New Vision Government and Law Class

            Let’s be honest. Many people find local history interesting at times, but overall, largely irrelevant to their lives and immaterial to the future of their community, state and nation. Tracy Edwards-Warren, teacher of the New Vision Government and Law class offered by the Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES in Malone, New York, begs to differ on that point.

Tracy Edwards-Warren

            A trustee of the Franklin County Historical and Museum Society, and an editor of the Society’s Franklin Historical Review, Tracy recently introduced her twelfth grade students to modern issues concerning the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and due process of law, by assigning them to read my article “The Arrest of the Flanders Brothers in Malone: Lincoln’s Attack on Freedom of the Press.”

            Printed in the 2010 issue of the Franklin Review, the article is about President Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and arrest of two prominent Franklin County Democrats on October 22, 1861, for opposing his Civil War policies. The article raises questions about the protection of civil liberties in wartime and during times of national emergencies.

            Tracy arranged a FaceTime session for her students, sitting at their desks in a classroom in the North Country, near the Canadian border, to meet and talk with me, sitting at my desk in my office on Long Island. Her students were well-prepared and asked excellent questions.[1] We talked for over two hours, mostly about the case and its relevance to First Amendment and due process of law issues, but also about whom they were supporting for president; their decision to work as official poll watchers in the upcoming New York State primary on April 19; and their plans to attend college.
            Tracy said her students are also gathering materials about the First Amendment that will be put on display in an 8-foot high by 10-foot long glass case in the Franklin County courthouse.

            Kudos to Tracy Edwards-Warren and her students! Indeed, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

[1] For example, Kirstin and Natasha wanted to know about Lincoln’s motives and what action the arresting officers took. Alexah and Danielle raised several legal questions about how and why First Amendment and Due Process rights were violated. Kayla asked why the Republican and Democratic parties have changed so much since the Civil War and Kiara wondered what the families did after the arrests.

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