1939 June 5

Freedom of Assembly! Supreme Court Rules in Famous “Hague” Case


The Supreme Court decision in Hague v. C.I.O. on this day was a landmark victory for freedom of assembly. The case arose out of a labor union-organizing campaign in Jersey City, New Jersey. Mayor Frank (“Boss”) Hague fought to keep unions out of the city with massive repression including denial of basic First Amendment rights to workers, union organizers, and their allies.

The Jersey City police, for example, evicted from the city ACLU General Counsel Arthur Garfield Hays on May 19, 1938, and Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas on June 4, 1938. Boss Hague’s tactics were so repressive that critics began comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini.

The Court affirmed freedom of assembly under the privileges and Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment:

The Court: “Freedom to disseminate information concerning the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, to assemble peaceably for discussion of the Act and of the opportunities and advantages offered by it, is a privilege or immunity of a citizen of the United States secured against state abridgment by § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . ”

Learn more: Steven Hart, American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine (2013)

Learn about freedom of assembly at the First Amendment Center: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/assembly

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