Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Charles Slack gives presentation on Fair Haven founder’s effect on First Amendment

Saturday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.—FAIR HAVEN—Join the Friends of the Fair Haven Free Library and the Fair Haven Historical Society as they celebrate Fair Haven’s Charter Day with a visit from author Charles Slack. The event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. at the Fair Haven Free Library.
Charles Slack is the author of “Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech.” The title of his presentation is “The Fair Haven Firebrand: How Matthew Lyon Helped Save Free Speech, Our Most Important Right.”
Just seven years after the First Amendment was passed as part of the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Congress and President John Adams passed and approved the Sedition Act of 1798, an extreme piece of legislation that made criticism of the government and its leaders a crime. Punishment included heavy fines and jail time.
In this talk, Slack zeroes in on one of the most fascinating Sedition Act characters, Matthew Lyon. Lyon, a founder of Fair Haven, Vt., was an immigrant from Ireland and an outspoken critic of President Adams and the Federalists. A boisterous, headstrong business owner and politician, Lyon became one of the most controversial men of his generation after arriving in Philadelphia as the newest congressman from Vermont. Arrested for sedition for criticizing Adams in campaign speeches, Lyon continued to speak out from his jail cell in Vergennes. Reelected from prison, Lyon triumphantly returned to Philadelphia as a martyr to the cause of freedom. His courage helped America come to its senses and preserve our most basic right—that of free expression—before it was too late.
In a talk followed by Q&A, Slack discusses the Lyon case and other crucial events taking place around the U.S. in the Founding Era.

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