One of the most influential legal articles ever written — and an article I keep running into since I’m working on an essay about political scandal — is Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis’s “The Right of Privacy” (1890). “The Right of Privacy” still surfaces in even non-academic settings, as in this recent New York Times Magazine story on privacy in the Internet age:
Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis complained that because of new technology — like the Kodak camera and the tabloid press — “gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and of the vicious but has become a trade.” But the mild society gossip of the Gilded Age pales before the volume of revelations contained in the photos, video and chatter on social-media sites and elsewhere across the Internet.
You can make a strong case that the shameless coverage of political weddings — Warren to Mabel Bayard (daughter of Senator Thomas F. Bayard); Grover Cleveland to Frances Folsom (a friend of Mabel’s); and several others within Warren’s family — led to the writing of “The Right of Privacy.” In fact, Amy Gajda makes precisely this case in “What if Samuel D. Warren Hadn’t Married A Senator’s Daughter?” [pdf]. Gajda’s essay makes for a fascinating and accessible read — especially in the context of all this saturation-point publicity surrounding Chelsea’s wedding.