De Jonge v. Oregon
Court Finds Freedom Of Assembly Protected From State Infringement
Writing for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Hughes found that De Jonge, who had done no more than participate in a meeting called to air grievances, not to advocate government overthrow, had been wrongfully convicted. His rights to freedom of assembly, guaranteed at the federal level by the First Amendment, could not, because of the Fourteenth Amendment, be abridged by the state. Freedom of assembly, Chief Justice Hughes pointedly said, was as fundamentally important to our republic as freedom of speech.
The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights if free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government . . . It follows from these considerations that, consistent with the Federal Constitution, peaceable assembly cannot be made a crime.
De Jonge was the first case to make freedom of assembly applicable at the state level, thus contributing to the movement to incorporate the Bill of Rights into the Fourteenth Amendment, which assures that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or due process of law." The decision was in fact a harbinger; it was not until later in 1937, with Palko v. Connecticut that the Court formally announced its belief that some of the privileges and immunities of the Bill of Rights were so fundamental that states were obliged to respect them under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.