First Amendment Law in the 20th Century Argumentative Essay by Nicky

A review of First Amendment law and the defense of free speech during the early 20th century.
# 146645 | 916 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2011 | US
Published on Jan 09, 2011 in Law (Constitution) , Law (Historic Trials)

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The paper looks at the First Amendment in 20th century Supreme Court interpretation, and illustrates how it functioned in a far more restrictive fashion. The paper specifically looks at the cases "Schenck v United States", "Whitney v California", "Gitlow v. NY" and "Dennis v. The United States". The paper discusses the 'clear and present danger' rule and the subsequent 'grave and probable danger' standard. The paper notes that today, the court has tended to use the 'clear and present danger' standard in favor of greater openness regarding freedom of speech. The paper concludes with the contention that restricting speech more often protects the party in power, rather than the American public.

From the Paper:

"While the First Amendment is often invoked in the popular media as an absolute defense of free speech, in 20th century Supreme Court interpretation, it functioned in a far more restrictive fashion. Specifically, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his decision regarding Schenck v United States (1919), which involved the conviction of the general secretary of the American Socialist Party for distributing 15,000 leaflets urging young men to resist the draft, that the words within the pamphlet created a "clear and present danger that they will bring about substantive evils Congress has a right to prevent" and were not protected by the Constitution (Linder 2009). Holmes's 'clear and present danger' test did not demand that the words "actually persuaded anyone to evade the draft, or even that they were highly likely to have that effect" (Linder 2009). The government only had to prove that the might have a bad effect. The leaflet merely (and ironically) urged readers to "assert your rights--do not submit to intimidation" (Linder 2009)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bellnap, Michael. Dennis v. United States. Law Encyclopedia. March 19, 2009.
  • "Introduction to the court opinion of the Whitney v. California case." U.S. Embassy. March 19, 2009.
  • Linder, Douglas. "The clear and present danger test." Exploring constitutional conflicts. 2009. March 19, 2009.

Cite this Argumentative Essay:

APA Format

First Amendment Law in the 20th Century (2011, January 09) Retrieved August 08, 2022, from

MLA Format

"First Amendment Law in the 20th Century" 09 January 2011. Web. 08 August. 2022. <>