Espionage and Sedition Acts
In times of war there are many different opinions expressed by the people of the country. Some people would support the decision of war, while some people would strongly agree with the concept of war. The question is, is there a limit to what is allowed and is not allowed when discussing opinions of war. In June 1917 Congress passed the Espionage Act, and in May 1918 it passed the Sedition Act. Under this act any individual could be fined up to $10,000, and be sentenced to 20 years in jail for interfering with the war effort or for saying anything disloyal, profane, or abusive about the government or the war effort. The problem with these laws was that they violated the First Amendment. It ended up leading to over 2,000 prosecutions for loosely defined antiwar activities, and over half of them resulted in convictions. Any newspaper or magazine that opposed the war or made fun of or criticized the war effort would lose their mailing privileges. Another occurrence regarding this Act was when The House of Representatives refused to seat Victor Berger, a socialist congressman from Wisconsin, because of his antiwar views. Another example was when Columbia University fired a distinguished psychologist because he opposed the war. The Espionage and Sedition Acts targeted socialists and labor leaders. Eugene V. Debs was handed a ten-year prison sentence for speaking out against eh war and the draft. The anarchist Emma Goldman received a two-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for organizing the No Conscription League.
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