During the past two decades, and especially since 1970, there has been a steadily growing interest in American legal history, including the work of nineteenth-century legal figures, including Thomas M.Cooley. Most scholars once dismissed Cooley as a simplistic apologist for laissez faire economics and late nineteenth-century capitalism. Recently, however, legal and constitutional historians have realized that his legal thought was much more complex. In part, this article seeks to extend recent work on Cooley and to examine his ideas and judicial opinions on freedom of expression and the law of libel. Cooley's views about free expression, defamation law, and American journalism are excellent examples of the development and transformation of liberal ideas in the mid-to-late-nineteenth-century legal community. In addition, Cooley's attempts to resolve the problems raised by some of the earliest mass media libel cases offer some historical perspective on recent efforts to sort out the conflicting issues and interests in political and public libel cases.
Norman L. Rosenberg, Thomas M. Cooley, Liberal Jurisprudence, and the Law of Libel, 1868-1884, 4 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 49 (1980).