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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » Schenck v. United States

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

During World War I, Charles Schenck circulated literature that urged people to resist the military draft. He wrote that the draft amounted to a form of slavery, in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. The Wilson Administration charged Schenck under the Espionage Act with “obstruct[ing] the recruitment and enlistment service of the United States, when the United States was at war with the German Empire.” Schenck argued that the prosecution violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction unanimously. Justice Holmes wrote the majority opinion.

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