Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mark Ellis

Committee Members

Peter Longo, Christopher Steinke, Nathan Tye


Colorado;Elections;First Amendment;Freedom of the Press;Labor;Supreme Court


Against the backdrop of violent labor disputes in Colorado’s mining districts, a pro-labor Democratic candidate in the 1904 gubernatorial race appeared to oust the Republican incumbent by 10,000 votes. But amid widespread allegations of fraud, Republicans used legal and political maneuvers to seize the governorship and establish control over the General Assembly, the state supreme court, and even local offices in the traditional Democratic strongholds of Denver. When U.S. Senator Thomas Patterson, a Colorado Democrat and publisher of two Denver newspapers, reacted with scathing commentary about the Colorado Supreme Court’s role in the takeover, the court fired back, fining Patterson $1,000 for contempt and refusing to allow the publisher to present evidence about the accuracy of the articles. The battle escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. dealt a devastating setback to free speech by taking a limited view of the First Amendment in the 1907 case of Patterson v. Colorado. This helped set the stage for the harsh suppression of speech and other civil liberties a decade later when federal judges backed President Woodrow Wilson in the prosecutions of more than 2,000 people for speaking out against World War I. Shortly after the war ended, however, Holmes reconsidered his view of free speech and, in a landmark 1919 dissent, laid the foundation for a modern interpretation of the First Amendment.



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