Gitlow v New York summary: State of New York accused Gitlow of violating state law, according to which propaganda to overthrow the government is considered to be a crime.


Many people still wonder why was the supreme court’s ruling important in Gitlow v. New York. The use of the First Amendment as a constitutional principle for the protection of self-expression was greatly facilitated by the case against Communist Benjamin Gitlow. In 1925, he published and distributed a pamphlet promoting the strikes and class struggle to advance the cause of socialism. So, what was Benjamin Gitlow convicted for? State of New York accused Gitlow of violating state law, according to which propaganda to overthrow the government was a crime. It was ruled that the provisions of the First Amendment to protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press were among the fundamental freedoms that could not be limited to both the states and the government. In Gitlow v. New York, the supreme court held that this was right. The creators of this amendment had in mind the following: after its adoption, the states would be obliged to respect the fundamental freedoms of the individual as well as the government of the country, and freedom of speech and freedom of the press were fundamental freedoms.

This way, the process of applying the 14th Amendment began as a kind of lever guiding the protection guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in favor of individuals in their clash with state power. The Gitlow v New York ruling effectively overturned the Supreme Court’s decision of 1833 and established that the states were not bound by the Bill of Rights. It was the beginning of a trend that continued for over 40 years when other forms of protection of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution were selectively included in the system, protecting individuals against infringement of their rights by the state or the federal government. This trend supported the right to expression at the local level. It is now known as Gitlow v. New York selective incorporation.

It should be stressed that initially, in 1868, after the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was adopted. In the 1890s, an idea came up that the adoption of the 14th Amendment meant that the Bill of Rights now applied to the states. This is a frequently observed situation in jurisprudence when, at first, the idea of many people was quite frightening, but gradually the judges of the Supreme Court and the US judicial system, in general, bowed to it. However, the majority did not incorporate the entire Bill of Rights against the states. The first lawsuit applied the First Amendment to the states regarding freedom of speech and was Hitler v. New York in 1925.

Thus, it can be concluded that as a result of the case, the US Supreme Court interpreted the First Amendment in view of the Fourteenth Amendment, according to which the first one would apply to both the federal government and state authorities. The first amendment, along with the rest of the content, was proposed by Congress and then ratified. All five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment — freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly, and freedom to file complaints should be considered fundamental rights of all US citizens.