The Espionage Act of 1917 was a set of amendments that prohibited certain types of free speech. This included speech such as displeasure and disloyal speech toward the United States Government. The Sedition Act of 1918 furthered this agenda by adding more amendments. This was in response to the first Red Scare happening in Russia, and the government was cracking down on potential communists and traders to the United States.
As you could imagine, civil rights were hit huge by these new acts. Attorneys could prosecute whomever, whenever they wanted because they had full desecration. One of the most famous cases is Mollie Steimer, who was convicted for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act for intent to interfere with operations of the United States armed forces. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and deported back to Russia. Kate Richards O’Hare gave speeches in multiple states, but was arrested and convicted after giving a speech in North Dakota.
The Red Scare was a terrifying time for the United States. The government did all that they could to make sure that communism wouldn’t spread internally, meaning they would try to stop it at all costs, no matter who was affected through the acts and amendments passed. While it wouldn’t be justifiable if past President Obama or current President Trump attempted to pass laws to imprison/deport anyone who could potentially threaten our freedom, communism was a horror tale from hell in 1917. I’m sure then-President Woodrow didn’t have a hard time passing these amendments and laws into effect quickly with little resistance.
Many criticisms came out of these sets of amendments. Many people believed that the Espionage Act was used inappropriately, mainly for intimidation and was unconstitutional. Legal defense costs totaled between one to three million dollars. I personally believe that this is the definite start of distrust between the American people and their government that continues throughout today.