What methods did government use to counter the loss of enthusiasm and opposition to World War I at home?
Jeanette Keith wrote a great book on this subject it is called “Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight.” The Wilson administration was so concerned about opposition to U.S. entry into the raging European conflict that it pushed through Congress the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which were vigorously used against people who spoke out against the war. Neither the effusive pro-war rhetoric of Wilson and his allies nor the crackdown on civil liberties was, however, able to extinguish the sentiment among many Americans that the war was a horrible blunder. “Within days of its enactment, a barber in Roanoke, Virginia, was arrested by federal agents for having distributed a flyer entitled “A Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight.” Freedom of speech was unimportant to Wilson and his backers. Maximizing the war effort trumped every other consideration, including the Constitution.”
The Espionage Act of 1917 was one of the strongest methods employed by the government against dissent. The law prohibited interference of armed forces operations by those opposing the war efforts. The Act did not deter some of those opposing the war and Socialists such as Kate O’Hare and Eugene Debs served long prison sentences for speaking up against the war efforts.
Local militias and state police forces were also employed in stopping public marches. Opposition groups in such situations were met with extreme violence and brutality. Known opposition groups were also kept under constant surveillance by different state organs.
Some of the men drafted for the war openly opposed the war. As punishment, they were sent to military prisons and forced to endure extremely harsh conditions.
At home Americans rationed food to support the troops abroad. Ladies also donated their hosiery for use in parachutes, and other materials needed for war. Women worked in factories to keep munitions coming and other items needed both at home and abroad. Woodrow Wilson turns to the media for positive propaganda ads and posters to bolster the mood and change attitudes toward the war. The Espionage Act was also passed which made it illegal to say, do or publish anything which hurt the war effort.