espionage-actAround 1917 social tensions were high mainly due to the united states entering the first world war and the two acts that came along with it in order prevent interference. These two acts were the espionage act of 1917 and the sedition act of 1918. One laid the groundwork for governments power over civil rights when at war and the other only expanded upon it.

Starting with the espionage act of 1917 this was put in place giving government the ability to prevent any kind support given to their enemies by united states citizens. This ended up being interpreted by the government by authorities throwing anyone in jail that opposed the “American way of life” or the war. Leading to many draft protesters, anti-war activists, and people who supported other forms of government being thrown into jail. This included the supreme court case of Schenck vs United States where Schenck was given the job to mail out draft letters, but refused instead. Leading to him spending 6 months in jail.

Then came the sedition act of 1918 which “forbade the use of disloyal, profane, or abusive language about the U.S. government or military”. Giving the government more power over civil rights, allowing authorities the ability to throw people in jail for anything considered disloyal towards the government. This included anything that spoke against the united states or its allies during the war. This included any type of media such as newspaper, books, or the early film industry. This included “the spirit of 76” which depicted the American revolution, which in turn depicted the UK one of the US’s allies at the time in a bad light.

Both of these acts limited free speech one of unalienable rights given to the people of America by the bill of rights which should be taken away during wartime, especially when people are protesting in a peaceful manner.