FROHWERK v. UNITED STATES
From July 6 to December 7, 1915, the Missouri Staats Zeiung, a newspaper published in Kansas City, Missouri, issued a series of twelve editorials written by Jacob Frohwerk denouncing involvement by the United States in World War I. Frohwerk was charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it a crime to "willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States." A trial court found Frohwerk guilty and sentenced him to a fine and imprisonment. On appeal, Frohwerk challenged the statute on the ground that it violated his right to free speech under the First Amendment.
Did Frohwerk's conviction under the Espionage Act of 1917 violate his right to free speech under the First Amendment?
No. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Court reasserted its conclusion in Schenck v. United States (1919) that the First Amendment does not "give immunity for every possible use of language." After noting that the federal government has a valid interest in protecting the recruitment of members of the armed forces, and that in publishing the articles, Frohwerk engaged in such a conspiracy, the Court concluded that Frohwerk's conviction was legal. The Court dismissed the argument that Frohwerk's intention was never to obstruct recruitment, noting that "conspiracy to obstruct recruiting would be criminal even if no means were agreed upon specifically by which to accomplish the intent."