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Was Charles Schenk a free speech fighter?

2020-06-19 来源: 51Due教员组 类别: Paper范文

Was Charles Schenk a free speech fighter?

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下面为大家整理一篇优秀的essay代写范文,文章讲述人们普遍承认,申克诉美国一案无疑为理解《第一修正案》提供了一些线索,更确切地说,是对言论自由的理解。这起案件成为一股令人信服的力量,促使公民对宪法第一修正案的解释进行更深入的思考。

It would be generally acknowledged that the case Schenck v. United States unquestionably sheds some light on the understanding of the First Amendment, to be more exact, the freedom of speech. This case becomes a compelling force to lead citizens to think deeper about the interpretation of the First Amendment.

First and foremost, it is necessary to briefly review the case Schenck v. United States. Charlies Schenck, as the secretary of the socialist party of America, was responsible for printing, distributing, and mailing leaflets to prospective military draftees during World War I. The 15,000 leaflets distributed advocated opposition to the draft. In particular, the content included "Do not submit to intimidation", "Assert your rights"," if you do not assert and support your rights, you are helping to deny or disparage rights which is the solemn duty of all citizens and residents of the united states to retain".  Considering the fact that the leaflets urged men not to submit to the draft, not surprisingly, Schenck was indicted and convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Then Schenck appealed to the United States Supreme Court, strongly arguing that the court decision violated his First Amendment rights. However, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes maintained that Schenck's criminal conviction was constitutional and the First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging insubordination.

To better understand the case Schenck v. United States, it is of great necessity to mention the First Amendment, which explicitly "prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances". It would be not difficult at all to find the fact that Schenck relied heavily of the text of the First Amendment, arguing that his conviction was contrary to the First Amendment. As can be readily seen, this case sheds particularly important insights on freedom of speech. Nevertheless, what is the freedom of speech? Is Schenck a fighter of the freedom of speech? Put another way, does this publication have a right to free speech? And more significantly, what should be covered by this freedom? 

Firstly, what is the freedom of speech?  Does this freedom solely mean the assumption that any citizen can say anything at anytime without any restrictions? Does that claim make any sense? According to my own limited understanding, freedom of speech is far from a simple matter and it is inextricably entwined with other factors. It would be pathetically wrong to understand this freedom simply according to its superficial literal meaning. Furthermore, this freedom has to be considered differently under different circumstances.  In other words, our interpretation of the freedom of speech has to keep up with the social and historical development, since this freedom is dynamic rather than static. It is probably true to say that the case Schenck v. United States sets a good example. In order to better interpret this case, attention also needs to be paid to the fact that United States experienced complicated domestic and international situations, Russian revolution took place in 1917 and socialist leaders running twice for the presidency, to name just a few. On the whole, the political environment in the United States at that time was chiefly characterized by the First Red Scare.

Taken all these backgrounds into consideration, it would probably be much easier to accept the court decision. Obviously, the American administration as well as the Supreme Court overemphasized the national interest, especially during the wartime. As a result, they were over-sensitive to the socialist behaviors. Then it is not surprising at all to accept their unanimous opinion that attempts made by speech or writing could be punished like other attempted crimes. The Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. argued that the First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging men to resist induction, because, "when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right." It should be noted that this short comment underpinned the primacy of timing when carrying out the freedom of speech. Put it simply, the court believed that “the circumstances of wartime must allow greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowed during peacetime”, for new and greater dangers are present.

 By far, the court decision seems to be acceptable if taking the historical backgrounds into account. Still, what consists of the freedom of speech? In lay man words, it simply refers to the fact that each individual has the right to express his or her own idea freely without ant other external intervention. It goes without saying that this freedom plays a crucial part in our daily and political life and we citizens are protected by the First Amendment from losing this solemn right. Follow this line, it is of great necessity to ask a question, that is, what should be covered by this freedom of speech? What kind of speech is protected by the First Amendment? To be more specifically, does this publication have a right to free speech?

In terms of the question that what should be covered by this freedom of speech, there is a general acceptance that the freedom of speech consists of both the freedom of the oral speech and that of writing. As a corollary, citizens not only can talk freely but also are free to write at their will. However, does it necessarily mean that this publication have a right to free speech? The answer has to be viewed with skepticism. Just as the aforementioned, the publication, without any doubt, has the right to free speech by writing and distributing their own leaflets according to the First Amendment. In spite of this, once again, we have to admit that they chose the wrong time to do the right thing. Confronted with the perplexing situations and under the potential tremendous pressure from the socialist countries, the court convincingly showed that Schenck’s behaviors present a clear danger to the country during the wartime and claimed that he was convicted of violating the Section 3 of the Espionage Act of 1917 which was intended to prohibit interference with recruitment to prevent insubordination in the military, and to prevent the support of U.S. enemies during wartime.

As for the question what should be covered by the freedom of speech, we are suggested to adopt a cautious and tolerant stance in the sense that the content of the freedom of speech has to keep up with the social development. By “cautious” we mean it would be much better for individuals to conduct one’s behavior with caution, at least doing things that are congruent with the First Amendment. On top of that, one thing we have to be born in mind is that the national interest far outweighs the personal rights. Suppose Schenck mailing the 15,000 leaflets in the peace time rather that during the wartime, the situations would inevitably be a turnover. Under that circumstance, he would be really admired as a fighter of the freedom of speech.

 

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