Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Mackey, Thomas C.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Harrison, Benjamin

Committee Member

Harrison, Benjamin

Committee Member

Farrier, Jasmine

Author's Keywords

Louis Brandeis; Free speech; Abrams v. United States; Gilbert v. Minnesota; Whitney v. California; Civil liberties


Brandeis, Louis Dembitz, 1856-1941; Freedom of speech--United States--History--20th century


This study argues that Associate Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis played a key role in shaping the jurisprudence of free political speech in the United States. Brandeis's judicial opinions on three freedom of speech cases in the post-World War I era provide the evidence for this argument. This thesis demonstrates how the Espionage and Sedition Acts of World War I allowed Brandeis the opportunity to reflect and rule on the Founding Fathers' meaning of free speech in a political democracy. Chapter I offers a detailed historiography of the Progressive Era and World War I. Chapter II provides a biography of Louis D. Brandeis and a historiography of civil liberties during World War I. Chapter III analyzes Associate Justices Holmes and Brandeis's shifting opinions on free speech in the 1919 cases of Schenck v. United States and Abrams v. United States. Chapter IV breaks down Brandeis's dissenting opinion in Gilbert v. Minnesota (1920). Chapter V examines Brandeis's solidified stance on free speech in the case of Whitney v. California (1927). In conclusion, this study finds that Brandeis's opinions created the language and support to apply the federal First Amendment to the states and to apply the "imminent threat" standard to free political speech cases.