The most stringent protection
of free speech
would not protect a man
in falsely shouting fire in a theatre
and causing a panic.
It was a time of extreme turmoil. The world was at war for the first time.
The precipitating event occurred in Bosnia, when a Serb (Gavrilo Princip) assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne (Archduke Ferdinand). Following that June 28, 1914 event, countries (mostly governed by cousins from the same family) lined up on opposite sides and, in a domino effect, the Guns of August erupted on the European continent.
Eight months later, in the spring of 1915, a German U-boat sank the Lusitania, killing thousands of innocent civilians. Germany’s warnings, against sea passage in the waters surrounding the British Isles, had gone unheeded.
Meanwhile, as starving Russians grew increasingly upset with their country’s involvement in the war, Vladimir Lenin spread the concept of socialism and a “worker’s state,” based on Marxist thought. He and his Bolshevik comrades comrades engineered Russia’s October Revolution of 1917.
Nicholas II, the Russian Tsar earlier forced to abdicate the throne his Romanov family had held for hundreds of years, would soon meet an unspeakable fate. So would his wife and children.
Against this backdrop of fear and uncertainty, the United States Congress passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 respectively. Free speech in America, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the country’s Constitution, would soon be put to the test.
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Bos, Carole "Schenck and Abrams: Free Speech Under Fire" AwesomeStories.com. Date of access
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