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Abrams v. United States

Significance

In his dissent, Holmes advanced a revised version of his own "clear and present danger" standard in Schenck v. United States The new standard gave greater protection to political speech, even during wartime. Holmes's reasoning was adopted by the Court during the 1930s and serves as the basis for legal doctrines upholding freedom of expression.

During World War I, the Supreme Court, for the first time, debated the meaning of the First Amendment's freedom of expression section, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . " President Abraham Lincoln's government had sternly subdued opposition during the Civil War. Rather than passing laws to suppress free speech, however, Lincoln had issued presidential decrees enforced through military power. After declaring martial law in an area, the army shut down or censored the newspapers. Habeas corpus was suspended, and persons accused of disloyal utterances were jailed without trial in military prisons.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Abrams v. United States - Significance, In Uncharted Territory, Creating The Surveillance State, Anarchists And War, Trial And Appeal