Schenck v. United States

PETITIONER:Charles Schenck
RESPONDENT:United States
LOCATION: District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

DECIDED BY: White Court (1916-1921)
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

ARGUED: Jan 09, 1919 / Jan 10, 1919
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1919

Henry J. Gibbons – for the plaintiffs in error
Henry John Nelson – for the plaintiffs in error
John Lord O’Brian – for the defendant in error

Facts of the case

During World War I, Schenck mailed circulars to draftees. The circulars suggested that the draft was a monstrous wrong motivated by the capitalist system. The circulars urged “Do not submit to intimidation” but advised only peaceful action such as petitioning to repeal the Conscription Act. Schenck was charged with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act by attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment.


Are Schenck’s actions (words, expression) protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment?