Legal Brief Essay

436 WordsMar 21, 20122 Pages
Schenck v. United States (1919) Facts of the Case: When America entered WWI, Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, which said that during wartime obstructing the draft and trying to make soldiers disloyal or disobedient were crimes. Charles Schenck, who served as general secretary of the Socialist Party, was vehemently against the war. He mailed thousands of pamphlets to men who had been drafted into the armed forces. These pamphlets said that the government had no right to send American citizens to other countries to kill people. As a result, the government charged Schenck with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act by attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment. Arguments for Schenck: The Espionage Act was unconstitutional. Schenck and the Socialist party were persecuted for opposing what they felt was an “immoral war.” The First Amendment was specifically included in the Constitution to protect political speech, and to prevent a “tyranny of the majority.” The First Amendment protections would be meaningless if Congress could choose where and when citizen's rights may be diminished. Arguments for the United States: A nation at war is justified in taking steps to insure the success of its effort to defend itself. The case involves congressional draft policy, not the First Amendment. Statements critical of the government cannot be tolerated during a time of national crisis. The nation cannot allow an effort to deprive the armies of necessary soldiers. The actions and words of the Socialist party were a danger to the nation. The Espionage Act by contrast, was legitimate and appropriate in a time of war. Result/Significance: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the opinion for the unanimous Supreme Court. The Courts decision upheld Schenck's conviction, saying that it did not violate his First Amendment right

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