The Vinson Court (1946–53)

First Amendment

Which two justices dissented in the Dennis case?

Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas, the two greatest defenders of First Amendment freedoms on the Vinson Court, dissented. They believed that the majority had watered down the clear-and-present-danger test. Black concluded: “Public opinion being what it now is, few will protest the conviction of these Communist petitioners. There is hope, however, that in calmer times, when present pressures, passions and fears subside, this or some later Court will restore the First Amendment liberties to the high preferred place where they belong in a free society.” Douglas echoed similar sentiments in his opinion: “Yet free speech is the rule, not the exception. The restraint to be constitutional must be based on more than fear, on more than passionate opposition against the speech, on more than a revolted dislike for its contents. There must be some immediate injury to society that is likely if speech is allowed.”


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