What laws have limited Americans’ (or certain groups’) freedoms?

Expert Answers
pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

American freedom has been checked by certain events in history. In 1798, John Adams signed The Sedition Act, which made it illegal to speak out against the government or print criticisms of the administration. The act aimed to remove anti-Federalist sentiment from the press. While this act was repealed before Adams left office, it damaged the Federalist party and made John Adams appear paranoid to voters.  

During the Civil War, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus, meaning the Federal government did not need to have a reason to jail someone, only a suspicion that the person was engaged in anti-government activities. Lincoln also instituted martial law to keep Maryland in the Union.  

In 1917, Woodrow Wilson brought back the Sedition Act and also created the Espionage Act. Wilson's Postmaster General A. Mitchell Palmer created a system where international mail was highly scrutinized and made it illegal to speak out against the war, the draft, or war industries. The most notable person arrested in this sting was Eugene V. Debs, who ran on the Socialist ticket for president in 1916.  

In 2001, George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act into law. This Act allows the government to access cell phone records and internet searches to put people on terrorist watch lists. So far, the Act is controversial among privacy advocates and has sparked debate about cell phone and internet rights.