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    U.S. Government Limiting Free Speech Lesson Plan

Grade Level 10-12

    John Lindeman- Lakota East High School, Lakota Local Schools

     Miami University TAH Class

U.S. Government Limiting Free Speech Lesson Plan

    Central Historical Question:

    How does the Political Climate affect the rights of Citizens?

    Total Time Frame: 3-4 50 minute class periods.


    ;; Copies of Documents A: Classroom Textbook Excerpt on Seditious speech and Schenck v US.

    ;;Copies of Document B: Espionage & Sedition Acts (Modified).

    ;;Copies of Document C: Supreme Court Case of Eugene Debs v United States. ;;Copies of Document D: Eugene Debs speech 1918.

    ;;Copies of Document E: Political Cartoon Eugene Debs in Jail.

    ;;Copies of Written Document Analysis Worksheet (wdaws), Cartoon Analysis Worksheet. Plan of Instruction:

    NOTE: This lesson should follow a more thorough lecture on the US Limiting free speech through the Alien -Sedition Acts during WW I, including:

    1. Introduce topic: Today we’re going to look at why the U.S. stopped citizens from giving

    speeches against the US Government and Anti-American Ideals.

    Mini-lecture on Schenck v US:

    2. Pass out Document A. Have students read the classroom textbook excerpt on Seditious speech and Schenck v U.S. and complete Written Document Analysis sheet. Class Discussion Questions:

    What reasons does the textbook give for why the U.S. limited free Speech? Do these reasons line up with the Schenck case ruling?

    3. Pass out Document B and have students read and Written Document Analysis sheet. Class discussion:

    How are these Acts related to the Schenck case?

    Do they go against our rights to Freedom of Speech in the U.S. Constitution? Why would Congress pass such measures?

    Could they pass these types of acts today?

    4. Discussion:

    Hand out Documents C and D along with Written Document Analysis sheet. Allow students sufficient time to read the document and complete the worksheet. Class Discussion over the following: According to the Supreme Court decision in Debs v US:

     How did they rule on free speech issues?

    How did this limit free speech in the US?

    Does the Government have a right to do this?

    How does this ruling compare with Schenk decision?

    Does the Supreme Court use any parts of the Alien or Sedition Acts to make their decision? What would happen if someone gave this type of speech today? Would they be arrested? 5. Hand out Political Cartoon Eugene Debs and Cartoon Analysis sheet. Class discussion Questions:

    How is this cartoon an example of Free Speech or Press?

    Why isn’t this considered Libel?

    What does this have to do with the Deb’s V. United States case?

    Can someone still run for Presidency if they are in jail? strd6. Using 1-3 order documents students should write a one page typed essay answering the central question. After students have completed the essays have the class discuss and debate their findings.

Document A

Magruder’s Textbook, American Government, copyright 2003, Page 547

Document B The Espionage and Sedition Acts (Modified)

    THE ESPIONAGE ACT (Modified)

    The Espionage Act dealt with a wide range of issues, from criminalizing various acts of espionage to protecting shipping. Mostly it was uncontroversial. The act is remembered, however, for those provisions that affected civil liberties.

    First, Title 1, section 3, of the act made it a crime, punishable by up to twenty years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, to "make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States" and to "cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces ... or ... willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States."

    Second, title 12 empowered the postmaster general to declare any material that violated any provision of the Espionage Act or that urged "treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States" unmailable. Use of the mails to transmit such materials was punishable by imprisonment and a fine.

    Finally, as originally introduced, the bill gave the president the power to censor publication of material that he deemed potentially useful to the enemy. The censorship provision faced stiff opposition from the press and from across the political spectrum. Opponents included Republicans from the progressive wing of the party, such as Senators William Borah and Hiram Johnson, as well as Wilson's constant critic from the party's conservative wing, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. Despite a direct appeal by Wilson to Congress to enact this provision, Congress removed it from the bill.

    THE SEDITION ACT (Modified)

    At the urging of Attorney General Gregory, Congress enacted the Sedition Act (40 Stat. 553), which amended the Espionage Act, on May 16, 1918. Most notably, it added a variety of prohibited acts to Title 1, section 3, including writing or uttering:

    any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy of the United States, or any language intended to bring [any of the above] into contempt, scorn, contumely, or disrepute.

    The Sedition Act also amended the Espionage Act to enhance the postmaster general's powers. PROSECUTIONS UNDER THE ACT

    During the war not a single person was convicted of spying or sabotage under the Espionage Act. However, federal prosecutors used the act to bring over 2,000 cases, mostly under section 3, and at least 1,055 convictions resulted. Representatives of the American political Left were especially targeted. The government prosecuted leaders and members of the American Socialist Party, including its leader and perennial presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. They also targeted the leadership of the militant left-wing Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), then the

    largest industrial union in the United States. Both groups had publicly opposed U.S. entry into the war.

    Some prosecutions involved antiwar or anti-conscription speech that was at least partly directed at soldiers or potential conscripts. But much more innocuous speech that had little chance of causing disloyalty among the troops also prompted prosecution. In United States v. Nagler

    (1918), the defendant was convicted of publicly stating that the YMCA and the Red Cross are a "bunch of grafters." In another case, Stokes v. United States (1920), Rose Pastor Stokes, even

    though she rejected the Socialist Party's stand against the war, was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for writing in a newspaper, "I am for the people, while the government is for the profiteers." And in a case resplendent with irony, United States v. Motion Picture Film "The

    Spirit of '76" (1917), a federal court upheld government seizure of a film about the

    Revolutionary War because it depicted atrocities committed by British soldiers and might therefore undermine support for an ally. The producer received a ten-year sentence. Attorney General Gregory sent mixed messages about aggressive use of the Espionage Act. Although he cautioned against interference with civil liberties, he also directed the prosecution of Debs and orchestrated raids on IWW offices. He gave federal prosecutors broad discretion, which resulted in a varied pattern of prosecution. Nearly half of the prosecutions occurred in just thirteen of eighty-seven federal districts, mostly those located in Western states where the IWW was most active. For instance, there were five prosecutions in Massachusetts, whose population was over 3 million people. At the same time, in North Dakota, which had less than one-sixth of Massachusetts' population, 103 people were prosecuted.

    Unlike Attorney General Gregory, the next postmaster general, Albert S. Burleson, had few reservations about using the Espionage Act to its fullest repressive potential. Within a month of its enactment, Burleson had censored fifteen publications. In addition to the radical press, he censored journals that criticized the administration's method of financing the war or British policy in Ireland. Burleson also revoked the second-class mailing privileges of such journals as The Masses, a radical literary and political journal, and the Milwaukee Leader, a socialist

    newspaper. Burleson reasoned that the interruption of their circulation caused by his seizure of a particular issue meant they were no longer periodicals entitled to the mailing privilege and the

    low postal rates.

    Robert N. Strassfeld

Document C

    U.S. Supreme Court

    Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919)

    Debs v. United States

    No. 714

    Argued January 27, 28, 1919

    Decided March 10, 1919

    249 U.S. 211




    The delivery of a speech in such word and such circumstances that the probable effect will be to prevent recruiting, and with that intent, is punishable under the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, c. 30, ? 3, 40 Stat. 217, as amended by the Act of May 16, 1918, c. 75, ? 1, 40 Stat. 553. P. 249 U. S. 212.

    Such a speech is not protected because of the fact that the purpose to oppose the war and obstruct recruiting, and the expressions used in that regard, were but incidental parts of a general propaganda of socialism and expressions of a general and conscientious belief. P. 249 U. S. 215.

    In a prosecution for obstructing and attempting to obstruct recruiting, by a speech in which defendant expressed sympathy with others, imprisoned for similar offenses, the ground for whose convictions he purported to understand, held that the records in the other cases were admissible as tending to explain the subject and true import of defendant's remarks and his intent. Id.

    In such prosecution, held that a document -- a so-called "Anti-War Proclamation and Program" -- expressing and advocating opposition to the war was admissible against the defendant as evidence of his intent in connection with other evidence that, an hour before his speech, he expressed his approval of such platform. Id.

    Semble that persons designated by the Draft Act of May 18, 1917, registered and enrolled under it and thus subject to be called into active service, are part of the military forces of the United States within the meaning of ? 3 of the Espionage Act. P. 249 U. S. 216.


    The case is stated in the opinion.

    Page 249 U. S. 212

    MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

    This is an indictment under the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917, c. 30, Tit. 1, ? 3, 40 Stat. 219, as amended by the Act of May 16, 1918, c. 75, ? 1, 40 Stat. 553. It has been cut down to two counts, originally the third and fourth. The former of these alleges that, on or about June 16, 1918, at Canton, Ohio, the defendant caused and incited and attempted to cause and incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States and with intent so to do delivered, to an assembly of people, a public speech, set forth. The fourth count alleges that he obstructed and attempted to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United

    States and to that end and with that intent delivered the same speech, again set forth. There was a demurrer to the indictment on the ground that the statute is unconstitutional as interfering with free speech, contrary to the First Amendment, and to the several counts as insufficiently stating the supposed offence. This was overruled, subject to exception. There were other exceptions to the admission of evidence with which we shall deal. The defendant was found guilty and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment on each of the two counts, the punishment to run concurrently on both.

    The main theme of the speech was Socialism, its growth, and a prophecy of its ultimate success. With that we have nothing to do, but if a part or the manifest intent of the more general utterances was to encourage those present to obstruct the recruiting service, and if, in passages, such encouragement was directly given, the immunity of the general theme may not be enough to protect the speech. The speaker began by saying that he had just returned from a visit to the workhouse in the neighborhood where three of their most loyal comrades were paying the penalty for their devotion to the working class -- these being Wagenknecht, Baker, and Ruthenberg, who had been convicted of aiding and abetting another in failing to register for the draft. Ruthenberg v. United States, 245 U. S. 480. He said

    that he had to be prudent, and might not be able to say all that he thought, thus intimating to his hearers that they might infer that he meant more, but he did say that those persons were paying the penalty for standing erect and for seeking to pave the way to better conditions for all mankind. Later he added further eulogies, and said that he was proud of them. He then expressed opposition to Prussian militarism in a way that naturally might have been thought to be intended to include the mode of proceeding in the United States.

    After considerable discourse that it is unnecessary to follow, he took up the case of Kate Richards O'Hare, convicted of obstructing the enlistment service, praised her for her loyalty to Socialism and otherwise, and said that she was convicted on false testimony, under a ruling that would seem incredible to him if he had not had some experience with a federal court. We mention this passage simply for its connection with evidence put in at the trial. The defendant spoke of other cases, and then, after dealing with Russia, said that the master class has always declared the war and the subject class has always fought the battles -- that the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose, including their lives; that the working class, who furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in declaring war and never yet had a voice in declaring peace. "You have your lives to lose; you certainly ought to have the right to declare war if you consider a war necessary." The defendant next mentioned Rose Pastor Stokes, convicted of attempting to cause insubordination and refusal of duty in the military forces of the United States and obstructing the recruiting service. He said that she went out to render her service to the cause in this day of crises, and they sent her to the penitentiary for ten years; that she had said no more than the speaker had said that afternoon; that, if she was guilty, so was he, and that he would not be cowardly enough to plead his innocence, but that her message that opened the eyes of the people must be suppressed, and so after a mock trial before a packed jury and a corporation tool on the bench, she was sent to the penitentiary for ten years.

    There followed personal experiences and illustrations of the growth of socialism, a glorification of minorities, and a prophecy of the success of the international socialist crusade, with the interjection that "you need to know that you are fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder." The rest of the discourse had only the indirect. though not necessarily ineffective. bearing on the offences alleged that is to be found in the usual contrasts between capitalists and laboring men, sneers at the advice to cultivate war gardens, attribution to plutocrats of the high price of coal, &c., with the implication running through it all that the working men are not concerned in the war, and a final exhortation, "Don't worry about the charge of treason to your masters; but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves." The defendant addressed the jury himself, and while contending that his speech did not warrant the charges said, "I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war. I would oppose the war if I stood alone." The statement was not necessary to warrant the jury in finding that one purpose of the speech, whether incidental or not does not matter, was to oppose not only war in general, but this war, and that the opposition was so expressed that its natural and intended effect would be to obstruct recruiting. If that was intended and if, in all the circumstances, that would be its probable effect, it would not be protected by reason of its being part of a general program and expressions of a general and conscientious belief.

    The chief defenses upon which the defendant seemed willing to rely were the denial that we have dealt with and that based upon the First Amendment to the Constitution, disposed of in Schenck v. United States, 249 U. S. 47. His

    counsel questioned the sufficiency of the indictment. It is sufficient in form. Frohwerk v. United States, ante, 249 U.

    S. 204. The most important question that remains is raised by the admission in evidence of the record of the conviction of Ruthenberg, Wagenknecht, and Baker, Rose Pastor Stokes, and Kate Richards O'Hare. The defendant purported to understand the grounds on which these persons were imprisoned, and it was proper to show what those grounds were in order to show what he was talking about, to explain the true import of his expression of sympathy, and to throw light on the intent of the address so far as the present matter is concerned.

    There was introduced also an "Anti-War Proclamation and Program" adopted at St. Louis in April, 1917, coupled with testimony that, about an hour before his speech, the defendant had stated that he approved of that platform in spirit and in substance. The defendant referred to it in his address to the jury, seemingly with satisfaction and willingness that it should be considered in evidence. But his counsel objected, and has argued against its admissibility at some length. This document contained the usual suggestion that capitalism was the cause of the war and that our entrance into it "was instigated by the predatory capitalists in the United States." It alleged that the war of the United States against Germany could not "be justified even on the plea that it is a war in defense of American rights or American honor.'" It said:

    "We brand the declaration of war by our governments as a crime against the people of the United States and against the nations of the world. In all modern history there has been no war more unjustifiable than the war in which we are about to engage."

    Its first recommendation was, "continuous, active, and public opposition to the war, through demonstrations, mass petitions, and all other means within our power." Evidence that the defendant accepted this view and this declaration of his duties at the time that he made his speech is evidence that, if in that speech he used words tending to obstruct the recruiting service, he meant that they should have that effect. The principle is too well established and too manifestly good sense to need citation of the books. We should add that the jury were most carefully instructed that they could not find the defendant guilty for advocacy of any of his opinions unless the words used had as their natural tendency and reasonably probable effect to obstruct the recruiting service, &c., and unless the defendant had the specific intent to do so in his mind.

    Without going into further particulars, we are of opinion that the verdict on the fourth count, for obstructing and attempting to obstruct the recruiting service of the United States, must be sustained. Therefore it is less important to consider whether that upon the third count for causing and attempting to cause insubordination, &c., in the military and naval forces is equally impregnable. The jury were instructed that, for the purposes of the statute, the persons designated by the Act of May 18, 1917, c. 15, 40 Stat. 76, registered and enrolled under it, and thus subject to be called into the active service, were a part of the military forces of the United States. The government presents a strong argument from the history of the statutes that the instruction was correct and in accordance with established legislative usage. We see no sufficient reason for differing from the conclusion, but think it unnecessary to discuss the question in detail.

    Judgment affirmed.

Document D

     Eugene Debs, speech in Canton, Ohio (16th June 1918)

    The other day they sentenced Kate Richards O'Hare to the penitentiary for five years. Think of sentencing a woman to the penitentiary simply for talking. The United States, under plutocratic rule, is the only country that would send a woman to prison for five years for exercising the right of free speech. If this be treason, let them make the most of it.

    Let me review a bit of history in connection with this case. I have known Kate Richards O'Hare intimately for twenty years. I am familiar with her public record. Personally I know her as if she were my own sister. All who know Mrs. O'Hare know her to be a woman of unquestioned integrity. And they also know that she is a woman of unimpeachable loyalty to the Socialist movement. When she went out into North Dakota to make her speech, followed by plain-clothes men in the service of the government intent upon effecting her arrest and securing her prosecution and conviction - when she went out there, it was with the full knowledge on her part that sooner or later these detectives would accomplish their purpose. She made her speech, and that speech was deliberately misrepresented for the purpose of securing her conviction. The only testimony against her was that of a hired witness. And when the farmers, the men and women who were in the audience she addressed - when they went to Bismarck where the trial was held to testify in her favor, to swear that she had not used the language she was charged with having used, the judge refused to allow them to go upon the stand. This would seem incredible to me if I had not had some experience of my own with federal courts.

    Rose Pastor Stokes! And when I mention her name I take off my hat. Here we have another heroic and inspiring comrade. She had her millions of dollars at command. Did her wealth restrain her an instant? On the contrary her supreme devotion to the cause outweighed all considerations of a financial or social nature. She went out boldly to plead the cause of the working class and they rewarded her high courage with a ten years' sentence to the penitentiary. Think of it! Ten years! What atrocious crime had she committed? What frightful things had she said? Let me answer candidly. She said nothing more than I have said here this afternoon. I want to admit - I want to admit without reservation that if Rose Pastor Stokes is guilty of crime, so am I. If she is guilty for the brave part she has taken in this testing time of human souls I would not be cowardly enough to plead my innocence. And if she ought to be sent to the penitentiary for ten years, so ought I without a doubt.

    What did Rose Pastor Stokes say? Why, she said that a government could not at the same time serve both the profiteers and the victims of the profiteers. Is it not true? Certainly it is and no one can successfully dispute it. Roosevelt said a thousand times more in the very same paper, the Kansas City

    Star. Roosevelt said vauntingly the other day that he would be heard if he went to jail. He knows very well that he is taking no risk of going to jail. He is shrewdly laying his wires for the Republican nomination in 1920 and he is an adept in making the appeal of the demagogue.

    Rose Pastor Stokes never uttered a word she did not have a legal, constitutional right to utter. But her message to the people, the message that stirred their thoughts and opened their eyes - that must be suppressed; her voice must be silenced. And so she was promptly subjected to a mock trial and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years. Her conviction was a foregone conclusion. The trial of a Socialist in a capitalist court is at best a farcical affair. What ghost of a chance had she in a court with a packed jury and a corporation tool on the bench? Not the least in the world. And so she goes to the penitentiary for ten years if they carry out their brutal and disgraceful graceful program. For my part I do not think they will. In fact I feel sure they will not. If the war were over tomorrow the prison doors would open to our people. They simply mean to silence the voice of protest during the war.

Document E

Washington Star newspaper, Clifford Berryman's cartoon depiction of Debs' 1920 presidential run

from prison. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

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