The First Red Scare

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As World War I was heading towards its end Russia was focusing on internal issues. Led by Vladimir Lenin the Bolsheviks embarked on a campaign against the war. Using propaganda which focused on trying to turn the allied troops against their officers Lenin looked to inspire a socialist revolution. The Bolsheviks were also fueled by the poor conditions of the Russian Army. Nicholas II, in a letter to his wife Alexandra, admitted the obstacles that the Russian Army faced, "Again that cursed question of shortage of artillery and rifle ammunition - it stands in the way of an energetic advance." Czar Nicholas tried to deny the fact that his Army was in no condition to continue the fight. Lenin and the Bolsheviks used this information to gain the support of the Russian people who had grown to resent Russian involvement in the war. With the constant failures the Russian military faced the Bolsheviks took this opportunity to take action. On 25 October 1917 the Lenin-led Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian government. This Russian revolution had little effect on America until 1919. With the war over Americans began to focus more on domestic matters, the biggest issue being the fear of communism in the United States. 1919 Marked the beginning of the first Red Scare. This was a period of extreme fear of communism in America. One of the main missions of the Bolsheviks was to spread Communism around the world. Americans, against the idea of government controlling every aspect of its citizens' lives, took any action they could to prevent it from spreading to the United States. The main leader of this state of hysteria was A. Mitchell Palmer, President Wilson's Attorney General. Palmer feared that communist agents were trying to infiltrate the US government. Palmer believed that most of the threat came from those who were not natural born Americans. "Fully 90 percent of the Communist and Anarchist agitation is traceable to aliens." Through the use of the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 Palmer began his campaign against this threat against our government. Palmer used this legislation as justification of his actions. The best example of Palmers manipulation of the law to take normally illegal action against suspects was on January 2nd 1920. Palmer had federal agents round up thousands of suspected subversives without respecting those individuals' constitutional rights as American citizens. This was not the first time in our history that the government has backed the unnecessary persecution of a group of people based on fear that they would eventually take over the United States and change the American way of life. One event in history that has similar attributes to this period is the passing of the Chinese exclusion act. These two occurrences, although for different reasons, were very similar in the tactics that were employed to enforce and justify superfluous panic.

Around the late 1870's the country was beginning to worry about the constant immigration of aliens into the Untied States. This frightened Americans. Widespread worry infected the country. The biggest fear was that America would lose its identity and be run over by the ideas of these immigrants and the nations they came from. One of the largest groups of immigrants into the United States was the Chinese, California having the largest Chinatown outside of China itself. As a response to the excessive immigration of Chinese workers into America, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion act. Under this legislation Chinese immigrants would no longer be allowed to come to America, 90 days after the passing of the act. American justification for this act was the fact that jobs were scarce and the Chinese were stealing the few that were available because they would work for next to nothing. The Chinese were also targeted by other immigrants from the east coast of America. Much like the poor white farmers of the south as America was coming out of slavery,...
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