“Gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered within our own borders.” President Woodrow Wilson
With the progressives making a headway, and women trying to take charge of their own lives, so comes the question what other injustices affected our civil liberties. WWI created one of the biggest dissonances take will take away people’s civil liberties relating to how/when we would enter the war, and if you were forced to by getting drafted. President Wilson would then enact the Espionage Act of 1917 which created a lot of dissent.
The Espionage Act was designed to protect our country by defining situations that would then in returned harmed our country and its progress in winning the war. The biggest problem the Espionage Act created was the act that tagged along with it. The Sedition Act of 1918 made itself own as a way to criminalize people by their basic liberties of freedom of speech and their freedom to protest against the war. According to ShareAmerica’s article, President Wilson said:
Many citizens argued that the goal of the United States was not to “make the world safe for democracy,” but to protect the investments of the wealthy. President Woodrow Wilson had little patience for such dissent. He warned that disloyalty “must be crushed out” of existence and that disloyalty “was … not a subject on which there was room for … debate.” Disloyal individuals, he explained, “had sacrificed their right to civil liberties.” (ShareAmerica)
The act sentenced citizens to 20 years in jail and fines up to ten-thousands dollars for interfering with the draft. Which uprooting thousands of people from their homes to fight for the war without even their say.
The act itself took away men’s civil liberties. If you thought about loving and supporting any Germans at the time, you would be wrong and more than likely going to jail. That ideal is taking away your freedom of speech but is supporting the enemy country, without taking actions, only with words really treason? The focus of WW1 for the Supreme Court wasn’t to make sure Germany didn’t win but to keep their convictions that if you dissented the draft meant “Un-American”, it meant they were disloyal to America , and they had to be punished. The government prosecuted two-thousand plus dissenters who opposed the draft. It created fear and people started to question is this moral or a real benefit to ending this war. It wouldn’t be until 10 years later, Roosevelt became President, that all of those people would be given back their civil liberties
Schenck vs United States
Charles Schenck was in charge of mailing the draft letters, and he refused, during his trial he fought for his first amendment right. The court felt his conviction was constitutional but the first amendment did not protect against speeches that encouraged insubordination of the Sedition Act. He only had to spend 6 months in jail.
Eugene V. Debs
Eugene V. Debs was the first Socialist Party of America candidate to win over one-million votes for the American presidency, was sentenced ten years in jail for protesting any involvement in WW1 under the Espionage Act.
As a Veteran of the US Navy, the “draft” is outdated and should never be used again because it does take away people’s civil liberties, when we already have people who want to serve this country. Everyone has a place and something they can contribute to society. Not everyone has to be on the ground fighting. These are the freedoms everyone fights for when we signed up, so other people can have their liberties.
Butler, Ted. “Upton Sinclair.” World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 28 Sep. 2017.
“Espionage Act of 1917.” Espionage Act of 1917. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sep. 2017. <http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1344.html>.
Fisher, Louis. “civil rights and liberties during wartime.” American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 28 Sep. 2017.
ShareAmerica. “Civil Liberties in Wartime.” ShareAmerica, 26 June 2017, share.america.gov/civil-liberties-wartime/.