What are some examples of coercive patriotism during World War I?

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World War I was underway in Europe for more than two years before the United States declared war on Germany in 1917. During that period of buildup to entering the war, the US government established mechanisms that would ensure citizens’ cooperation with the war effort. These efforts accelerated after war was declared. Because pacifism in general and opposition specifically to this war were widespread, there were significant government efforts to identify and weaken that opposition. These included the 1917 Espionage Act and the 1918 Sedition Act. The powers of the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, which later became the FBI, included enforcement of both acts.

One central target for this enforcement was the International Workers of the World (IWW), a socialist union, whose offices were frequently raided. Under the Sedition Act, one hundred IWW members were arrested and tried en masse in Chicago in 1918. A private organization, the American Protective League, was established with the authorization of the Justice Department; the APL specifically targeted Germans and German Americans.

In addition, conscription was instituted through the 1917 Selective Service Act. Draft registration was mandatory for eligible men, and failure to register was punishable by fines and imprisonment. Application of the provisions of these acts varied widely, with minorities and activists more likely to be jailed.

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Most patriotism in WWI was not coerced.  It might have been encouraged by the government's propaganda efforts, but it was not coerced.  However, there were some incidents of people being coerced to at least act in ways that were outwardly patriotic.

Perhaps the most coercive tactics were aimed at selling war bonds.  Loaning money to the government was seen as a way of showing one's patriotism while giving financial support for the government's war efforts.  People were severely pressured to buy these bonds.  In other words, they were coereced into acting patriotically.  As one textbook (The American Pageant 11th Edition, p. 730) tells us, German-Americans might have their houses defaced with paint if they did not buy bonds.  At least one person was threatened with being hung if he did not buy a bond.

One can also say that many immigrants were coerced into giving up their native cultures so as to appear more American.  My maternal grandfather was of German ancestry, born in 1911.  His parents spoke German to one another before the war, but then stopped during the war and never started again because they did not want to seem unAmerican.

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