1968 June 14

Dr. Spock, Three Others Convicted of Conspiracy to Obstruct the Draft

 

Dr. Benjamin Spock and three co-defendants were convicted on this day of conspiracy to obstruct the draft during the Vietnam War. Author of Baby and Child Care (1946), Dr. Spock was the most famous pediatrician in the U.S. He first became an anti-nuclear weapons testing and then a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. Also convicted were Michael Ferber, Mitch Goodman, and Rev. William Sloane Coffin. Co-defendant Marcus Raskin was found not guilty.

One of the principal documents offered by the prosecution was “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” published on September 27, 1967, a widely circulated statement that expressed perhaps better than any the moral revulsion against the Vietnam War by many of the war’s opponents. The convictions were subsequently reversed on appeal, although on largely technical grounds that did not reach the principal issues raised by the defense.

In addition to the Spock case, the Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Read about the case: Jessica Mitford, The Trial of Dr. Spock (1969)

Watch Dr. Spock debate the Vietnam War: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVzM-efsxw0

Learn more: Lynn Bloom, Doctor Spock: Biography of a Conservative Radical (1972)

Learn more about the anti-Vietnam War movement: Thomas Powers, The War at Home: Vietnam and the American People, 1964–1968 (1973)

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