member Charles Schenck
's pamphlet on the illegal nature of the draft and the immorality of America's involvement in World War I
. His conviction under the Espionage Act of 1917
for conspiracy against the draft incited the Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States
, an important look at the First Amendment and the source of the saying "You can't shout fire in a crowded theater
." Interesting as a historical document
: realize that our government was so weak it had to put the author of this relatively unoffensive document in jail for the ideas contained within. Unfortunately, this is only one side of the leaflet. The only available description of the first side comes from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
's affirming opinion in the case.
The document in question upon its first printed side recited the first section of the
Thirteenth Amendment, said that the idea embodied in it was violated by the
conscription act and that a conscript is little better than a [249 U.S. 47, 51] convict. In
impassioned language it intimated that conscription was despotism in its worst form and
a monstrous wrong against humanity in the interest of Wall Street's chosen few. It said,
'Do not submit to intimidation,' but in form at least confined itself to peaceful measures
such as a petition for the repeal of the act.
Bolded emphasis personally added.
Assert Your Rights
The Socialist Party says that any individual or officers of the law
intrusted with the administration of conscription regulations violate
the provisions of the United States Constitution, the supreme law
of the land, when they refuse to recognize your right to assert your
opposition to the draft.
In exempting clergymen and members of the Society of Friends
(popularly called Quakers) from active military service the
examination boards have discriminated against you.
If you do not assert and support your rights you are helping to
"deny or disparage rights" which it is the solemn duty of all
citizens and residents of the United States to retain.
In lending tacit or silent consent to the conscription law, in
neglecting to assert your rights, you are (whether knowingly or
not) helping to condone and support a most infamous and insidious
conspiracy to abridge and destroy the sacred and cherished rights
of a free people. You are a citizen: not a subject! You delegate
your power to the officers of the law to be used for your good and
welfare, not against you.
They are your servants; not your masters. Their wages come from
the expenses of government which you pay. Will you allow them
to unjustly rule you?
No power was delegated to send our citizens away to foreign
shores to shoot up the people of other lands, no matter what may
be their internal or international disputes.
To draw this country into the horrors of the present war in Europe,
to force the youth of our land into the shambles and bloody
trenches of war crazy nations, would be a crime the magnitude of
which defies description. Words could not express the
condemnation such cold-blooded ruthlessness deserves.
Will you stand idly by and see the Moloch of Militarism reach
forth across the sea and fasten its tentacles upon this continent?
Are you willing to submit to the degradation of having the
Constitution of the United States treated as a "mere scrap of
No specious or plausible pleas about a "war for democracy" can
becloud the issue. Democracy can not be shot into a nation. It
must come spontaneously and purely from within.
Democracy must come through liberal education. Upholders of
military ideas are unfit teachers.
To advocate the persecution of other peoples through the
prosecution of war is an insult to every good and wholesome
You are responsible. You must do your share to maintain,
support, and uphold the rights of the people of this country.
In this world crisis where do you stand? Are you with the forces of
liberty and light or war and darkness?