The Schenk case began when the draft was going to be put into action. Charles Schenk believed that the draft goes against the 13th Amendment, “no involuntary servitude unless except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction“. The men, who could be drafted, had committed no crimes and they still could be drafted into the military, into involuntary servitude. So, Charles Schenk sent out pamphlets to all the men, who could be drafted. The pamphlets stated the men’s rights, especially the 13th Amendment. Schenk was trying to persuade them to “dodge” the draft. The local government put Schenk on trial and ruled against him. Not satisfied with the ruling and complaining that it went against his freedom of speech and that the draft went against the 13th Amendment, Schenk took his case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court did not overturn the local court’s decision. Instead, it agreed with the local court’s decision and ruled against Schenk. With the Supreme Court’s agreement to the local court’s ruling, Charles Schenk was charged with conspiracy for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. The reason for this charge was that he attempted to cause noncompliance in the military and to obstruct recruitment.
This case is very important to the United States because of the new standard – clear and present danger – that it put into action. The Court stated that there are certain circumstances where the rights of speech and all of the other rights as well, are legal and illegal. What Charles Schenk did with the pamphlets had been illegal. The Supreme Court Justices told Charles Schenk that if he had printed and sent out the pamphlets during a time of peace in the United States, then he would have had the right to send the pamphlets out. It put a limit on the right to free speech during wartime. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. stated that the United States puts a greater restriction on what is said during war time and that if the speech hinders the war effort then the speech is not under constitutional protection.
If the Supreme Court had overturned local court’s ruling of the Schenk v. United States case, World War I may not have gone as well for the Allies. More men might have “dodged” the draft, which would have caused the United States to send a lot less soldiers to Europe. This would have given the Allies hardly any support to defeat the Axis. The Axis might have defeated the Allies and created a German Europe and possibly a German Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, and North America! Society and the World today would be a lot different from what they are.