Abrams v. United States

250 U.S. 616 (1919)


The United States sent a military expedition to Russia after the Marxists took over. The Marxists signed a peace treaty with Germany. The Marines landed in Siberia. Abrams (D) and others circulated an anonymous leaflet calling for a general strike by U.S. workers to protest the U.S. invasion. The leaflets were distributed to munitions workers and urged them not to aid the intervention claiming that the workers were not only working to murder Germans but to murder those in Russia fighting for freedom. The leaflet also made it clear that they were also vehemently anti-German and they denounced German militarism more forcefully than the cowards in the White House. D feared that the U.S. intended to intervene against the Marxists. Defendants were charged with conspiring to unlawfully utter, print, write and publish: in the first count, 'disloyal, scurrilous and abusive language about the form of Government of the United States;” 'intended to bring the form of Government of the United States into contempt, scorn, contumely, and disrepute;' and 'intended to incite, provoke and encourage resistance to the United States in said war.' The charge in the fourth count was that the defendants conspired, to urge, incite and advocate curtailment of production of things and products, to-wit, ordnance, and ammunition, necessary and essential to the prosecution of the war. Ds were convicted of 'publishing materials with the intent to hinder American war efforts' under amendments to the Espionage Act. Ds appealed contending that their speech was protected by the First Amendment and the Act was unconstitutional.