Describe some wartime attacks on civil liberties (WWI).



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pohnpei397's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

The main attack on civil liberties in the US during WWI was the passage and enforcement of the Espionage and Sedition Acts.  These acts made it illegal, in effect, to criticize government leaders and/or the war effort.  It also allowed, for example, the postmaster-general of the US to bar anything from the mail that would violate the act.  This law was used to imprison Eugene V. Debs for speaking out against the draft.  The law was also used to obtain more than 1,000 convictions against people like Socialists.

Another possible candidate for an attack on civil liberties was the attack on all things German.  For example, the teaching of German in public schools essentially disappeared during the war.  This is, however, a less clear-cut case of infringement on civil liberties because there is no constitutional guarantee that any language can be taught in schools.

gsenviro's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

The Espionage and Sedition Acts were at the forefront of curbing civil liberties during World War I. The Espionage Act, 1917, was enacted shortly after the US joined the war and prohibited the insubordination of armed forces, targeting those who refused to serve and those who influenced them, thereby ensuring total control of liberties and uninterrupted military duties. Key political figure Eugene Debs, a three-time presidential candidate, was arrested and sentenced to prison. The Postmaster General ordered the censorship of mail to ensure the success of the government in its military campaign.

The Sedition Act of 1918 broadened the purview of the Espionage Act to prohibit speech and opinions that cast aspersion on the government's war efforts. Sentences of up to 20 years were provided to people arrested under this act.


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