1st amendment? Project!?

1st amendment? Project!?
I am doing a project for school. its about the 1st amendment. i need to write an essay about it. i mostly need to write about the freedom of speech part. and i have some questions, how did the 1st amendment influence society in the late 1780’s amd what impact does it have on our society today>


In Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), the Supreme Court was first requested to strike down a law violating the Free Speech Clause. The case involved Charles Schenck, who had, during the war, published leaflets challenging the conscription system then in effect. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Schenck’s conviction for violating the Espionage Act. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., writing for the Court, suggested that “the question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

The “clear and present danger” test of Schenck was extended in Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), again by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The case involved a speech made by Eugene V. Debs, a political activist. Debs had not spoken any words that posed a “clear and present danger” to the conscription system, but a speech in which he denounced militarism was nonetheless found to be sufficient grounds for his conviction. Justice Holmes suggested that the speech had a “natural tendency” to occlude the draft.

Thus, the Supreme Court effectively shaped the First Amendment in such a manner as to permit a multitude of restrictions on speech. Further restrictions on speech were accepted by the Supreme Court when it decided Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925). Writing for the majority, Justice Edward Sanford suggested that states could punish words that “by their very nature, involve danger to the public peace and to the security of the state.” Lawmakers were given the freedom to decide which speech would constitute a danger.

Freedom of speech was influenced by anti-communism during the Cold War. In 1940, the Congress enacted the Smith Act. The Smith Act made punishable the advocacy of “the propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force and violence.” The law was mainly used as a weapon against Communist leaders. The constitutionality of the Act was questioned in Dennis v. United States 341 U.S. 494 (1951). The Court upheld the law in 1951 by a 6-2 vote (Justice Tom C. Clark did not participate because he had previously ordered the prosecutions when he was Attorney General). Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson relied on Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “clear and present danger” test when he wrote for the majority. Vinson suggested that the doctrine did not require the government to “wait until the putsch is about to be executed, the plans have been laid and the signal is awaited”, thereby broadly defining the words “clear and present danger.” Thus, even though there was no immediate danger posed by the Communist Party’s ideas, the Court allowed the Congress to restrict the Communist Party’s speech.~