1968 January 5

Dr. Spock, Four Others, Indicted for Anti-War Conspiracy


On this day, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Rev. William Sloan Coffin, Michael Ferber, Marcus Raskin, and Mitch Goodman were indicted on charges of conspiracy to obstruct the draft during the Vietnam War. Four (with the exception of Marcus Raskin) were convicted in June 1968. The indictments were based in part on “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority,” published on September 27, 1967, one of the most important documents of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Dr. Spock and three of his co-defendants were convicted on June 14, 1968, but had their convictions reversed on July 11, 1969.

Dr. Spock was arguably the most famous pediatrician in America at the time. His 1946 book, Baby and Child Care, was the most popular and influential book on the subject in the 1950s. In the 1960s, conservatives blamed his child-rearing theories, which they inaccurately labeled “permissiveness,” for the breakdown of morality among young people.

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)

Read “A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority”http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/resist.html

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

Watch a 1966 interview with Dr. Spock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTDBL_U68XM

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

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