Literature Study GuidesSchenck V United States

Schenck v. United States | Study Guide

United States Supreme Court

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United States Supreme Court

Year Decided



Primary Source


U.S. Supreme Court Case

At a Glance

  • Charles T. Schenck, a Socialist Party member, printed and distributed protest pamphlets to men who had been drafted into the U.S. military during World War I (1914–18). He was convicted of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which prohibited interfering with military enlistment.
  • The Supreme Court ruling in Schenck v. United States addressed the limits of free speech. In presenting the majority opinion, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935) affirms Schenck's conviction because Schenck's dissemination of his printed words constituted a "clear and present danger."
  • The "clear and present danger" standard for restrictions on free speech would remain in effect until Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), since which time the court has gone by the "imminent lawless action" standard.


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