|Long title||An Act to amend section three, title one, of the Act entitled "An Act to punish acts of interference with the foreign relations, the neutrality, and the foreign commerce of the United States, to punish espionage, and better to enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and for other purposes," approved June fifteenth, nineteen hundred and seventeen, and for other purposes.|
|Enacted by||the 65th United States Congress|
|Effective||May 16, 1918|
|Statutes at Large||40 Stat. 553|
|Acts repealed||December 13, 1920|
|United States Supreme Court cases|
| Abrams v. United States |
Brandenburg v. Ohio
The Sedition Act of 1918 (Pub.L. 65–150 , 40 Stat. 553 , enacted May 16, 1918) was an Act of the United States Congress that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds.
An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the United States Congress. It can either be a Public Law, relating to the general public, or a Private Law, relating to specific institutions or individuals.
The United States Statutes at Large, commonly referred to as the Statutes at Large and abbreviated Stat., are an official record of Acts of Congress and concurrent resolutions passed by the United States Congress. Each act and resolution of Congress is originally published as a slip law, which is classified as either public law or private law (Pvt.L.), and designated and numbered accordingly. At the end of a Congressional session, the statutes enacted during that session are compiled into bound books, known as "session law" publications. The session law publication for U.S. Federal statutes is called the United States Statutes at Large. In that publication, the public laws and private laws are numbered and organized in chronological order. U.S. Federal statutes are published in a three-part process, consisting of slip laws, session laws, and codification.
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
It forbade the use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. Those convicted under the act generally received sentences of imprisonment for five to 20 years.The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that met those same standards for punishable speech or opinion. It applied only to times "when the United States is in war." The U.S. was in a declared state of war at the time of passage, the First World War. The law was repealed on December 13, 1920.
The Postmaster General of the United States is the chief executive officer of the United States Postal Service; Megan Brennan is the current Postmaster General.
A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another. The document Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications gives an extensive listing and summary of statutes which are automatically engaged upon the US declaring war.
World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.
Though the legislation enacted in 1918 is commonly called the Sedition Act, it was actually a set of amendments to the Espionage Act.Therefore, many studies of the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act find it difficult to report on the two "acts" separately. For example, one historian reports that "some fifteen hundred prosecutions were carried out under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, resulting in more than a thousand convictions." Court decisions do not use the shorthand term Sedition Act, but the correct legal term for the law, the Espionage Act, whether as originally enacted or as amended in 1918.
The Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime to interfere with the war effort, disrupt military recruitment, or to attempt to aid a nation at war with the U.S. Wartime violence on the part of local groups of citizens, sometimes mobs or vigilantes, persuaded some lawmakers that the law was inadequate. In their view the country was witnessing instances of public disorder that represented the public's own attempt to punish unpopular speech in light of the government's inability to do so. Amendments to enhance the government's authority under the Espionage Act would prevent mobs from doing what the government could not.
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code (War) but is now found under Title 18, Crime. Specifically, it is 18 U.S.C. ch. 37
A vigilante is a civilian or organization acting in a law enforcement capacity without legal authority.
President Wilson and his Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory viewed the bill as a political compromise. They hoped to avoid hearings that would embarrass the administration for its failure to prosecute offensive speech. They also feared other proposals that would have withdrawn prosecutorial authority from the Justice Department and placed it in the War Department, creating a sort of civilian court-martial process of questionable constitutionality.The final vote for passage was 48 to 26 in the Senate and 293 to 1 in the House of Representatives, with the sole dissenting vote in the House cast by Meyer London of New York.
Thomas Watt Gregory was a political progressive and American attorney who served as United States Attorney General from 1914 to 1919, during President Woodrow Wilson's administration.
Meyer London was an American politician from New York City. He was one of only two members of the Socialist Party of America elected to the United States Congress.
While much of the debate focused on the law's precise language, there was considerable opposition in the Senate, almost entirely from Republicans like Henry Cabot Lodge and Hiram Johnson, the former speaking in defense of free speech and the latter assailing the administration for failing to use the laws already in place.Former President Theodore Roosevelt voiced opposition as well.
Henry Cabot Lodge was an American Republican Senator and historian from Massachusetts. A member of the prominent Lodge family, he received his PhD in history from Harvard University. As an undergraduate at Harvard, he joined Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. He is best known for his positions on foreign policy, especially his battle with President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 over the Treaty of Versailles. The failure of that treaty ensured that the United States never joined the League of Nations.
Hiram Warren Johnson was initially a leading American progressive and then a Liberal Isolationist Republican politician from California. He served as the 23rd Governor of California from 1911 to 1917 and as a United States Senator from 1917 to 1945. He was also Theodore Roosevelt's running mate in the 1912 presidential election on the Progressive ticket.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, sportsman, conservationist and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He previously served as the 25th vice president of the United States from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore, alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. In polls of historians and political scientists, Roosevelt is generally ranked as one of the five best presidents.
Officials in the Justice Department who had little enthusiasm for the law nevertheless hoped that even without generating many prosecutions it would help quiet public calls for more government action against those thought to be insufficiently patriotic.
Most U.S. newspapers "showed no antipathy toward the act" and "far from opposing the measure, the leading papers seemed actually to lead the movement in behalf of its speedy enactment."
The legislation came so late in the war, just a few months before Armistice Day, that prosecutions under the provisions of the Sedition Act were few.One notable case was that of Mollie Steimer, convicted under the Espionage Act as amended by the Sedition Act. U.S. Attorneys at first had considerable discretion in using these laws, until Gregory, a few weeks before the end of the war, instructed them not to act without his approval. Enforcement varied greatly from one jurisdiction to the next, with most activity in the Western states where the Industrial Workers of the World labor union was prevalent. For example, Marie Equi was arrested for giving a speech at the IWW hall in Portland, Oregon, and was convicted after the war was over.
In April 1918, the government arrested industrialist William Edenborn, a naturalized citizen from Germany, at his railroad business in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was accused of speaking "disloyally" when he allegedly belittled the threat of Germany to the security of the United States.
In June 1918, the Socialist Party figure Eugene V. Debs of Indiana was arrested for violating the Sedition Act by undermining the government's conscription efforts. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served his sentence in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary from April 13, 1919, until December 1921, when President Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served, effective on December 25, Christmas Day.In March 1919, President Wilson, at the suggestion of Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory, released or reduced the sentences of some two hundred prisoners convicted under the Espionage Act or the Sedition Act.
With the act rendered inoperative by the end of hostilities, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer waged a public campaign, not unrelated to his own campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, in favor of a peacetime version of the Sedition Act.He sent a circular outlining his rationale to newspaper editors in January 1919, citing the dangerous foreign-language press and radical attempts to create unrest in African American communities. He testified in favor of such a law in early June 1920. At one point Congress had more than 70 versions of proposed language and amendments for such a bill, but it took no action on the controversial proposal during the campaign year of 1920. After a court decision later in June cited Palmer's anti-radical campaign for its abuse of power, the conservative Christian Science Monitor found itself unable to support him any more, writing on June 25, 1920: "What appeared to be an excess of radicalism...was certainly met with...an excess of suppression." The Alien Registration Act of 1940 was the first American peacetime sedition act.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Sedition Act in Abrams v. United States (1919),although Oliver Wendell Holmes used his dissenting opinion to make a commentary on what has come to be known as "the marketplace of ideas". Subsequent Supreme Court decisions, such as Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), make it unlikely that similar legislation would be considered constitutional today.
As part of a sweeping repeal of wartime laws, Congress repealed the Sedition Act on December 13, 1920.
The Alien and Sedition Acts were four laws passed by the Federalist-dominated 5th United States Congress and signed into law by President John Adams in 1798. They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen, allowed the president to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed dangerous or who were from a hostile nation, and criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government.
The Internal Security Act of 1950, 64 Stat. 987, also known as the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 or the McCarran Act, after its principal sponsor Sen. Pat McCarran (D-Nevada), is a United States federal law. Congress enacted it over President Harry Truman's veto.
Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent towards, or resistance against established authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interest of sedition.
Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652 (1925), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States holding that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution had extended the reach of certain limitations on federal government authority set forth in the First Amendment—specifically the provisions protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press—to the governments of the individual states. It was one of a series of Supreme Court cases that defined the scope of the First Amendment's protection of free speech and established the standard to which a state or the federal government would be held when it criminalized speech or writing.
Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States upholding the 1918 Amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it a criminal offense to urge curtailment of production of the materials necessary to the war against Germany with intent to hinder the progress of the war. The 1918 Amendment is commonly referred to as if it were a separate Act, the Sedition Act of 1918.
The First Red Scare was a period during the early 20th-century history of the United States marked by a widespread fear of Bolshevism and anarchism, due to real and imagined events; real events included the Russian Revolution and anarchist bombings. At its height in 1919–1920, concerns over the effects of radical political agitation in American society and the alleged spread of communism and anarchism in the American labor movement fueled a general sense of concern.
Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), was a United States Supreme Court decision, relevant for US labor law and constitutional law, that upheld the Espionage Act of 1917.
"Shouting fire in a crowded theater" is a popular metaphor for speech or actions made for the principal purpose of creating panic. The phrase is a paraphrasing of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, which held that the defendant's speech in opposition to the draft during World War I was not protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Sedition and seditious libel were criminal offences under English common law, and are still criminal offences in Canada. Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order: if the statement is in writing or some other permanent form it is seditious libel. Libel denotes a printed form of communication such as writing or drawing.
Freedom of the press in the United States is legally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment is generally understood to prevent the government from interfering with the distribution of information and opinions.
Anti-patriotism is the ideology that opposes patriotism; it usually refers to those with cosmopolitan views and is usually of an Internationalist and anti-nationalist nature as well. Normally, anti-patriotism stems from the belief that patriotism is wrong since people born in a country, whether they like it or not and regardless of their individuality, are encouraged to love the country or sacrifice themselves for it; consequently, people who oppose patriotism may oppose its perceived authoritarianism, while others may believe that patriotism may lead to war because of geopolitical disputes. Usually, this term is used in a pejorative way by those who defend patriotism or nationalism, and terms such as cosmopolitanism or world citizenship may be used to avoid the bias that comes from the typical usage of the words anti-patriot or anti-patriotism. Sometimes anti patriotical groups and individuals are often used as a form of Active measures against own country by other country or some third side, especially during Cold war. The idea of multiple cultures intertwined has also been questioned as anti-patriotic, but mainly in smaller social communities: colleges, universities, etc.
Zechariah Chafee, Jr., was an American professor of law, judicial philosopher and civil rights advocate. Defending freedom of speech, he was described by Senator Joseph McCarthy as "dangerous" to America. Legal scholar Richard Primus called Chafee "possibly the most important First Amendment scholar of the first half of the twentieth century."
Geoffrey R. Stone is an American law professor and noted First Amendment scholar. He is currently the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School.
The Food and Fuel Control Act, Pub.L. 65–41, 40 Stat. 276, enacted August 10, 1917, also called the Lever Act or the Lever Food Act was a World War I era US law that among other things created the United States Food Administration and the Federal Fuel Administration.
The Alien Registration Act, popularly known as the Smith Act, 76th United States Congress, 3d session, ch. 439, 54 Stat. 670, 18 U.S.C. § 2385 is a United States federal statute that was enacted on June 29, 1940. It set criminal penalties for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force or violence and required all non-citizen adult residents to register with the federal government.
Frederick Krafft (1860–1933) was an American socialist political activist and politician. Twice nominated by the Socialist Party of America as its candidate for Governor of New Jersey and twice a candidate for United States Congress, Krafft is best remembered as the defendant in a 1918 trial for alleged violation of the Espionage Act. Krafft later was the only person convicted under this law to receive a full executive pardon from President Woodrow Wilson.
Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment is a 2007 non-fiction book by journalist Anthony Lewis about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of thought, and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The book starts by quoting the First Amendment, which prohibits the U.S. Congress from creating legislation which limits free speech or freedom of the press. Lewis traces the evolution of civil liberties in the U.S. through key historical events. He provides an overview of important free speech case law, including U.S. Supreme Court opinions in Schenck v. United States (1919), Whitney v. California (1927), United States v. Schwimmer (1929), New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), and New York Times Co. v. United States (1971).
Criminal syndicalism has been defined as a doctrine of criminal acts for political, industrial, and social change. These criminal acts include advocation of crime, sabotage, violence, and other unlawful methods of terrorism. Criminal syndicalism laws were enacted to oppose economic radicalism.
John Lord O'Brian was an American lawyer who held public offices in the administrations of five U.S. presidents between 1909 and 1945. O'Brian has been recognized by scholars for his commitment to civil liberties. At the time of O'Brian's death at the age of 98, Chief Justice Warren Burger described him as the "dean" of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.
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