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SCOTUS 1929: United States v. Schwimmer, Dissenting
An excerpt from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' dissenting opinion.
When Hungarian immigrant Roskia Schwimmer applied to become a U.S. citizen in 1926, she was denied. Schwimmer was a pacifist and, in response to the question “If necessary, are you willing to take up arms in defense of your country?”, she answered, “I would not take up arms personally.”
The court ruled that her citizenship should be denied, but Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. penned an infamous dissent with a strong defense of free speech principles. Here is an excerpt:
Surely it cannot show lack of attachment to the principles of the Constitution that she thinks that it can be improved. I suppose that most intelligent people think that it might be. Her particular improvement looking to the abolition of war seems to me not materially different in its bearing on this case from a wish to establish cabinet government as in England, or a single house, or one term of seven years for the President. To touch a more burning question, only a judge mad with partisanship would exclude because the applicant thought that the Eighteenth Amendment should be repealed.
[ . . . ]
Some of her answers might excite popular prejudice, but if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought-not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate. I think that we should adhere to that principle with regard to admission into, as well as to life within this country. [Emphasis Ours]