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Case Studies: Civil Liberties in World War 1

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1 Case Studies: Civil Liberties in World War 1

2 Case Studies: Civil Liberties in World War 1
The Espionage Act, passed in 1917 made it a crime to obstruct military recruitment and it authorized the Postmaster General to deny mailing privileges to any material he considered treasonous or harmful to the war effort The Sedition Act, passed in 1918, made it illegal to “utter, abusive language” about the government, the Constitution, the flag, the armed forces or even the “uniform of the Army or Navy.”

3 Case Studies: Civil Liberties in World War 1
Considering the two mentioned Acts, decide whether or not the defendants in the cases are “guilty” or “not guilty” Your job is NOT to interpret the law in terms of its constitutionality, but to apply it to the cases in question. Be prepared to explain your decision. If “guilty” determine a sentence and/or fine.

4 Civil Liberty Cases Case #1: U.S. vs. Spirit of ’76
The American Revolution Movie: The Movie portrayed the British as the enemy in the American Revolution.

5 Civil Liberty Cases Case #2: Schenck vs. U.S.A - The Anti-Draft Circulars Schenck mailed circulars to draftees. circulars suggested the draft was a monstrous wrong motivated by capitalism. circulars urged “Do no submit to intimidation” but advised only peaceful action such as petitioning to repeal the Conscription Act.

6 Civil Liberty Cases Case #3: Abrams vs. U.S.A, The Leaflets Dropped from a Window Two leaflets (the Defendants) printed and threw from windows of a building. First signed “revolutionists” denounced the sending of American troops to Russia. Second leaflet written in Yiddish, denounced the war and US efforts to impede the Russian Revolution.

7 Civil Liberty Cases Case #4: U.S. vs. Debs, The Anti-Draft Speech,
Eugene v. Debs, an avowed socialist gave speech urging people to work against US War efforts June 16, 1918 compared the business men of Wall Street to the Kaisers Junkers “… the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariable do both.”

8 Civil Liberty Cases Case #1: U.S. vs. Spirit of ’76 Guilty
Producer was fined $10,000, 10-year prison sentence (later commuted to 3 years.) Note: The judge supported the jury’s decision stating that the film might cause Americans “to question the good faith of our ally, Great Britain.”

9 Civil Liberty Cases Case #2: The Anti-Draft Circulars Schenck vs. U.S.A Guilty 10-year sentence upheld by the Supreme Court, est. the “clear and present danger” doctrine for the boundaries of permissible speech. Note: “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.” Justice Holmes

10 Civil Liberty Cases Case #3: The Leaflets Dropped from a Window, Abrams vs. U.S.A Guilty 20-year sentence upheld by the Supreme Court. Later released from prison on the condition that he emigrate to the Soviet Union. Majority reasoning: Based on Schenk, this speech is clearly prohibitable. Even if primary purpose was pro-Russian, still has anti-American effect by urging strikes. Dissent Reasoning: [Holmes] Abrams did not intend to interfere with the war against Germany. No clear and present danger present because the leaflet was silly and posed no immediate danger to the U.S. government. Free speech is necessary because it is the “marketplace of ideas” that generates what the truth really is. Suppression of free speech should only be permitted when necessary to immediately save the country.

11 Civil Liberty Cases Case #4: The Anti-Draft Speech, U.S. vs. Debs
Guilty 10 year sentence, disenfranchised for life Note: Although Debs made sure speech avoided words that would make him guilty of Sedition/Espionage Act, Justice Holmes, speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court, upheld the verdict, on the ground that Debs’ speech was intended to obstruct military recruiting. When war was over, President Wilson rejected the Attorney General’s recommendation that Debs be released, (he was sixty-five and in poor health) 1921, President Warren Harding said sentence served, but gave no pardon

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