American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases

By Alpheus Thomas Mason; William M. Beaney | Go to book overview

livered in an auditorium in Chicago under the auspices of the Christian Veterans of America. The meeting commanded considerable public attention. The auditorium was filled to capacity with over eight hundred persons present. Others were turned away. Outside of the auditorium a crowd of about one thousand persons gathered to protest against the meeting. A cordon of policemen was assigned to the meeting to maintain order; but they were not able to prevent several disturbances. The crowd outside was angry and turbulent.

Petitioner in his speech condemned the conduct of the crowd outside and vigorously, if not viciously, criticized various political and racial groups whose activities he denounced as inimical to the nation's welfare.

The trial court charged that "breach of peace" consists of any "misbehavior which violates the public peace and decorum"; and that the "misbehavior may constitute a breach of the peace if it stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance, or if it molests the inhabitants in the enjoyment of peace and quiet by arousing alarm." Petitioner did not take exception to the instruction. But he maintained at all times that the ordinance as applied to his conduct violated his right of free speech under the Federal Constitution. . . .

The argument here has been focused on the issue of whether the content of petitioner's speech was composed of derisive, fighting words, which carried it outside the scope of the constitutional guarantees. See Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568; Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 310. We do not reach that question, for there is a preliminary question that is dispositive of the case.

As we have noted, the statutory words "breach of the peace" were defined in instructions to the jury to include speech which "stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance. . . ." That construction of the ordinance is a ruling on a question of state law that is as binding on us as though the precise words had been written into the ordinance. . . .

The vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion. As Chief Justice Hughes wrote in De Jongc v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, 365, it is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsive to the will of the people and peaceful change is effected. The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes.

Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. See Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 262; Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 373. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.

-616-

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American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays & Selected Cases
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Source Materials ix
  • Contents xi
  • One - The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and Judicial Review 3
  • Marbury V. Madison 30
  • Eakin V. Raub 34
  • Cohens V. Virginia 39
  • Luther V. Borden 46
  • Coleman V. Miller 50
  • Colegrove V. Green 55
  • Yakus V. United States 57
  • Two - Congress, the Court, and the President 62
  • Mississippi V. Johnson 75
  • Mcgrain V. Daugherty 77
  • Hampton & Co. V. United States 81
  • Panama Refining Co. V. Ryan 85
  • Opp Cotton Mills V. Administrator 89
  • The Prize Cases 91
  • Myers V. United States 96
  • Humphrey's Executor V. United States 102
  • Ex Parte Grossman 105
  • United States V. Curtiss-Wright 108
  • Youngstown Co. V. Sawyer 112
  • Three - Federalism 120
  • Chisholm V. Georgia 135
  • Texas V. White 142
  • Mcculloch V. Maryland 146
  • Collector V. Day 158
  • Helvering V. Gerhardt 162
  • Graves V. New York Ex Rel. O'Keefe 164
  • New York V. United States 168
  • Ex Parte Siebold 174
  • Missouri V. Holland 176
  • Four - Commerce Power and State Power 178
  • Gibbons V. Ogden 193
  • Cooley V. Board of Wardens 202
  • Brown V. Maryland 206
  • Brown V. Houston 211
  • United States V. South-Eastern Underwriters Association 213
  • Leisy V. Hardin 221
  • Plumley V. Massachusetts 224
  • Best & Co. V. Maxwell 228
  • Henneford V. Silas Mason Co. 230
  • Parker V. Brown 232
  • Southern Pacific Co. V. Arizona 235
  • Hood V. Dumond 239
  • Morgan V. Virginia 245
  • Five - Congressional Power Under the Commerce Clause 248
  • United States V. E. C. Knight 266
  • Champion V. Ames the Lottery Case) 271
  • The Shreveport Case (houston, E. & W. Texas Ry. Co. V. United States) 276
  • Hammer V. Dagenhart 278
  • Stafford V. Wallace 282
  • Schechter Poultry Corporation V. United States 284
  • Carter V. Carter Coal Co. 290
  • National Labor Relations Board V. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation 297
  • Mulford V. Smith 303
  • United States V. Darby 305
  • Wickard V. Filburn 308
  • Six - National Taxing and Spending Power 311
  • Hylton V. United States 319
  • Pollock V. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company (rehearing) 321
  • Mccray V. United States 326
  • Bailey V. Drexel Furniture Company (child Labor Tax Case) 328
  • United States V. Butler 330
  • Steward Machine Co. V. Davis 337
  • Seven - The Contract Clause and State Police Power 343
  • Calder V. Bull 355
  • Dartmouth College V. Woodward 360
  • Charles River Bridge V. Warren Bridge 365
  • Stone V. Mississippi 372
  • Home Building & Loan Association V. Blaisdell 373
  • Eight - The Development of Due Process 380
  • Slaughterhouse Cases 389
  • Munn V. Illinois 397
  • Mugler V. Kansas? 404
  • Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Co. V. Minnesota 408
  • Nine - The Application of Due Process After 1890 411
  • Lochner V. New York 424
  • Bunting V. Oregon 429
  • Block V. Hirsh 430
  • Green V. Frazier 434
  • Wolff Packing Co. V. Court of Industrial Relations 437
  • Adkins V. Children's Hospital 439
  • Nebbia V. New York 446
  • West Coast Hotel Co. V. Parrish 450
  • Ten - Equal Protection of Laws 454
  • Civil Rights Cases 465
  • Plessy V. Ferguson 472
  • Truax V. Raich 476
  • Truax V. Corrigan 479
  • Liggett Co. V. Lee 485
  • United States V. Classic 490
  • Smith V. Allwright 494
  • Sweatt V. Painter 498
  • Brown V. Topeka Briggs V. Elliott Davis V. Prince Edward County Bolling V. Sharpe Gebhart V. Belton - The Public School Segregation Cases 501
  • Eleven - Civil LIberties -- Criminal Procedure 505
  • Hurtado V. California 514
  • Olmstead V. United States 521
  • Powell V. Alabama 525
  • Palko V. Connecticut 530
  • Chambers V. Florida 532
  • Adamson V. California 535
  • United States V. Rabinowitz 542
  • Ex Parte Milligan 546
  • In Re Yamashita 551
  • Twelve - Civil LIberties -- the First Amendment Freedoms 558
  • Schenck V. United States 571
  • Meyer V. Nebraska 572
  • Gitlow V. New York 574
  • Whitney V. California 580
  • Near V. Minnesota 585
  • Cantwell V. Connecticut 590
  • Minersville School District V. Gobitis 593
  • Korematsu V. United States 602
  • Mccollum V. Board of Education 607
  • Zorach V. Clauson 612
  • Terminiello V. Chicago 616
  • American Communications Association V. Douds 622
  • Dennis V. United States 631
  • Appendix - The Constitution of the United States of America 643
  • Justices of the Supreme Court: 1789-1954 660
  • Table of Cases 663
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