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Letter against the Comstock Act

Letter against the Comstock Act/tiles/non-collection/c/c_019imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


Anthony Comstock campaigned for anti-obscenity laws as a private citizen in the 19th century. The Comstock Act of 1873 banned mailing of obscene materials, which ranged from contraceptives to art and novels. In response to the act, the National Defense Association formed to restore civil liberties. Association members sent a petition with more than 70,000 signatures to Congress, asking for the law to be repealed or modified. But Comstock undermined the petition, alleging that many of the signatures were forgeries. As this House record shows, the National Defense Association fought back in 1879 by submitting affidavits to New York Representative Samuel S. Cox, attesting that the original signatures were legitimate. The association proved persistent in its demands for freedom of speech: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” reads its motto, encircling the face of a tenacious pug.

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