In addition to a massive government propaganda campaign, Congress passed laws designed to silence dissent.
In addition to a massive government propaganda campaign, Congress passed laws designed to silence dissent. Newspapers were censored, politicians were jailed, and mobs attacked those suspected of disloyalty. Some Americans organized to protest the erosion of democratic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, a group of rights that they called "civil liberties.
When President Woodrow Wilson called on Congress to declare war on Germany in Aprilthe government faced a formidable task.
Millions of young men had to be drafted, equipped, trained, and shipped an ocean away. To accomplish this in time to break the military stalemate on Europe's western front, Wilson demanded unprecedented powers to mobilize American society.
In addition to drafting men and directing the economy, Wilson took steps to control public opinion, encouraging patriotic support for the war effort. The task was made more urgent because Americans remained deeply divided about the conflict.
When Germany invaded France inmost Americans shared Wilson's desire to remain neutral. His reelection in was widely considered a vote for the man who "kept us out of war. Some German immigrants remained sympathetic to their ancestral home; socialists thought the war was inspired by capitalist greed; and various religious sects opposed all war on principle.
Considering national unity essential to military success, Wilson took steps to silence these critics, guarding American society from what he called "the poison of disloyalty. A year later, the more restrictive Sedition Act outlawed "disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language" against the flag, the Constitution, and even the uniform of the armed forces.
Those who continued to speak against the war risked heavy fines and jail sentences of up to twenty years. The Espionage Act gave the U. Burleson, the power to deny mailing privileges to any newspaper or magazine that seemed to give comfort to the enemy.
The Trading-with-the-Enemy Act gave Burleson additional powers over America's foreign-language press. The postmaster wielded these censorship powers enthusiastically, and by war's end many of the nation's radical newspapers and magazines had been driven into bankruptcy.
Those that survived agreed to toe the government's line on the war. Liberal and radical journalists complained to Wilson that his postmaster was violating the First Amendment guarantee of a free press, but the president generally supported Burleson's decisions.
As one historian argues, during the war "only the administration's views of the larger issues found their way into print.
Federal agents arrested hundreds for making anti-war speeches, and sometimes for informal and private remarks. Eugene Debs, four-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party, was arrested in June for suggesting during a speech that young American men were "fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder.
During the war, more than 2, men and women were arrested for "disloyal" speech, and over went to jail. In addition to these attacks on free speech, the government violated basic legal protections in other ways. Some conscientious objectors were court-martialed and mistreated in military prisons.
A law sanctioned the deportation of any non-citizen suspected of belonging to a revolutionary group; hundreds were deported without the benefit of a hearing. And on September 5,federal agents raided the offices of the Industrial Workers of the World IWWa radical labor union, and arrested hundreds, including most of the union's leadership.
Although the IWW was neutral on the war, business leaders considered the union to be dangerously subversive. Following mass trials, hundreds of IWW members, including most of the leadership, were sent to federal penitentiaries, convicted not for their actions but for their ideas.
The government's disregard for the civil rights of dissenters encouraged private citizens to express their patriotism by attacking those they suspected of disloyalty. Citizen groups such as the National Security League and the American Protective League broke up anti-war meetings, assaulted speakers, and conducted illegal "slacker raids" to round up young men who had failed to register for the draft.
Mobs attacked and in a few cases even lynched innocent German-Americans, their rage fueled by a steady diet of government propaganda against the "Huns.
While Wilson and other federal officials denounced mob violence, they also encouraged citizens to spy on their neighbors, and gave official sanction to some vigilante groups.
United Stateswhen the country faces "a clear and present danger. Raising public concern about government's new powers to regulate opinion, the ACLU and other groups pressured the government to grant an "amnesty" to many convicted under the wartime laws.
As Americans tried in the early s to "return to normalcy," most of those convicted under the Espionage and Sedition laws were released. World War I serves as a stark warning that the stresses of modern warfare pose a threat to America's tradition of civil liberties.
But this period also inspired what historian Eric Foner has called "the birth of civil liberties" in American society. First united in their opposition to government attacks on anti-war protesters in World War I, the ACLU and other rights groups have since won landmark cases that have helped to establish greater protections for dissenting voices in American society during times of war.Below are some of the ways in which World War I had an impact onAmerican civil liberties: Committee on Public Information propaganda effectively castGermans as evil force in World War .
The story of civil liberties during World War I is, in many ways, even more disturbing. When the United States entered the war in April , there was strong opposition to both the war and the draft. During World War I, civil liberties in America were denied to many, especially those suspected of disloyalty.
Know Wilson's 14 points This was a speech Wilson gave to Congress on Jan. 8, to keep America confident, inspire the Allies to keep fighting. Civil Liberties during WWI By Monica Harvey -Civil liberties is defined as the basic rights guaranteed to individual citizens by law-During world war 1 individuals rights were being taken away by the government.
The overall impact of World War II on civil liberties confirmed two major long-term trends. First, the protection of personal liberty had become the primary responsibility of courts, rather than of legislatures or local communities.
As others have written, the government cracked down on civil liberties during World War I. There was widespread dissent related to entering the war and to the draft, and, in response, the.