in propria persona

Histories of law & technology by Kristopher A. Nelson, JD, MA (ABD)





The telegraph and the domestic home


“American District Telegraph Company was originally conceptualized as a business service, but it quickly began to sell itself as a service for the home as well.”

  • The telegraph and business invasions of privacy
  • The “third-party problem”: one reason telegrams were not constitutionally protected


  • Locke: “where there is no law, there is no freedom”


    In 1689, John Locke wrote that “the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”

  • Privacy, autonomy, and birth control in America, 1860-1900
  • Women, public health, and the police power


  • Thoughts on Meyer v. Nebraska and its connection to Griswold v. Connecticut


    In the 1923 case of Meyer v. Nebraska, which grew out of the anti-German sentiment of World War I, the Supreme Court “upheld the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children by striking down … a state statute prohibiting the teaching of any modern language other than English in any public or private grammar school.” How does this relate to Griswold v. Connecticut, which created a “right to privacy” (at least in terms of marital relations)?

  • Griswold v. Connecticut, privacy, and the home
  • Surveillance and Sodomy in 1918 Sacramento


  • Griswold v. Connecticut, privacy, and the home


    Griswold v. Connecticut is one of the foundational cases of a constitutional “right to privacy” in the United States – though, as many have pointed out, the word “privacy” does not appear in the text of the Constitution itself. The precedent in the majority opinion by Justice Douglas is nonetheless strong and deeply rooted in tradition.

  • Thoughts on Meyer v. Nebraska and its connection to Griswold v. Connecticut
  • Surveillance and Sodomy in 1918 Sacramento


  • The Supreme Court and James Q. Whitman’s “The Two Western Cultures of Privacy: Dignity Versus Liberty”


    James Q. Whitmore reveals an interesting contrast: whereas American law and rhetoric is strongest when privacy is approached as a protection against state interference, privacy protections in Germany and France are at their peak when the dignity of the individual is at stake. Justice Kennedy, interestingly, emphasizes this more European approach in a number of his Supreme Court decisions.

  • Ben Bratman on the First Amendment and Brandeis & Warren’s “The Right to Privacy”
  • Griswold v. Connecticut, privacy, and the home


  • Thoughts on the Power and the Limits of Presidential Pardons


    Was President Trump right when he tweeted that “all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon”? It is true that the power of the President of the United States to issue pardons is indeed one of the president’s most powerful Article II powers – but, it is also, despite the implication of President Trump’s tweet, limited.

  • Thoughts on Meyer v. Nebraska and its connection to Griswold v. Connecticut
  • Griswold v. Connecticut, privacy, and the home


  • Publishing leaked materials: the Pentagon Papers case


    Within a month of taking office, President Donald Trump announced his desire to go after “leakers” who have helped embroil his administration in controversy. He also declared many traditional news outlets to be “enem[ies] of the American People!” What does this mean for those who publish such material?

  • Jurgen Habermas on the public sphere, the state, and the private sphere
  • Thoughts on Meyer v. Nebraska and its connection to Griswold v. Connecticut


  • Promoting involuntary sterilization: early hints of problems in the 1930s


    A 1930s article published in The Journal of Heredity, “Beginnings of Sterilization in America,” is notable for the way it portrayed sterilization, particularly when it is compared to an earlier account of the same interview with Dr. Sharp that formed the basis of the article and that has been preserved in the archives of California’s Human Betterment Foundation.

  • Eugenic sterilization in California: practicing “good medicine”
  • Sex and Eugenics Sterilization


  • Fake news, libel, and press protections against executive power


    The press serves an important role in checking executive power in the American system. The first article in this series deals with libel suits against newspapers; the second will cover the publication of leaked materials (the so-called “Pentagon Papers”).

  • Thoughts on Meyer v. Nebraska and its connection to Griswold v. Connecticut
  • Surveillance and Sodomy in 1918 Sacramento


  • More articles