Concept

Abrams v. United States

Résumé
Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States upholding the 1918 Amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917 which made it a criminal offense to urge the curtailment of production of the materials necessary to wage the war against Germany with intent to hinder the progress of the war. The 1918 Amendment is commonly referred to as if it were a separate Act, the Sedition Act of 1918. The defendants were convicted on the basis of two leaflets they printed and threw from windows of a building in New York City. One leaflet, signed "revolutionists", denounced the sending of American troops to Russia. The second leaflet, written in Yiddish, denounced the war and American efforts to impede the Russian Revolution. It advocated the cessation of the production of weapons to be used against Soviet Russia. The defendants were charged and convicted of inciting resistance to the war effort and urging curtailment of production of essential war materiel. They were sentenced to 10 and 20 years in prison. The Supreme Court ruled, 7–2, that the defendants' freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment, was not violated. Justice John Hessin Clarke in an opinion for the majority held that the defendants' intent to hinder war production could be inferred from their words, and that Congress had determined such expressions posed an imminent danger. Their conviction was accordingly warranted under the "clear-and-present-danger" standard, derived from the common law and announced in Schenck v. United States and companion cases earlier in 1919. Opinions for a unanimous Court in those cases were written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. In the Abrams case, however, Holmes dissented, rejecting the argument that the defendants' leaflets posed the "clear and present danger" that was true of the defendants in Schenck. He suggested that the 10-20 year sentence was "...not for what the indictment alleges but for the creed that they avow." In 1969, Abrams was largely overturned by Brandenburg v.
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