Michael Ceraolo in Strongsville [photo by John Burroughs]

Free Speech Canto XXV

Before he was elevated to the Supreme Court,

Oliver Wendell Holmes was busy abridging free speech

in his service in the Massachusetts courts,


in the case of 

                       John J. McAuliffe vs.

Mayor and Board of Aldermen of New Bedford

McAuliffe was a former policeman

who was fired February 3, 1891


“he had engaged in political canvassing

at two elections of the previous year . . .

in the interests of certain political parties

and candidates for political office”


there was no evidence presented

that any of the politicking

was when McAuliffe was on-duty,

that mattered not at all,


“A municipal regulation . . .

is not unconstitutional

as invading the rights

of the members of the police force

to express their political opinions”


showing he had a ways to go before

he would be as wittily imbecilic

as he would be on the Supreme Court,

                                                         Holmes said

“The petitioner may have a constitutional right

to talk politics,


he has no constitutional right

to be a policeman”


showing the slant of his class

and thus of the law,

“The servant cannot complain”


so it was for many years,


                  and so it still is

to this day in some places

* * * * *
This poem comes from Michael Ceraolo’s Free Speech Cantos, a history of the abridgment of free speech by various entities.  We also recommend these Michael Ceraolo poetry collections:
Euclid Creek – available from
Deep Cleveland Books
Cleveland Scores Early – from Kendra Steiner Editions
Cleveland Haiku – from Green Panda Press