1929 May 27

“Freedom for the Thought We Hate”

 

Rosika Schwimmer was a Hungarian immigrant and pacifist who refused to take the oath of citizenship because she felt it committed her to taking up arms. The 1906 Naturalization Act required applicants for citizenship to swear that they “will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” The Supreme Court rejected her appeal in Schwimmer v. United States on this day.

In his dissent, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes defended her right to refuse and wrote the now-famous phrase defending “Freedom for the thought we hate.”

Justice Holmes: “ . . . 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.”

Learn more about Rosika Schwimmer: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/schwimmer-rosika

Read: Peter Irons, A People’s History of the Supreme Court (1999)

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