Skip to comments.The Hater’s Guide to Woodrow Wilson
Posted on 03/16/2022 2:41:56 PM PDT by george76
America’s most toxic two-term president left a lasting welt on the nation.
If you were dragging getting out of bed to start this week, thank Woodrow Wilson. Daylight saving time is just one of a battery of ways that Wilson and his presidency changed America, most of them for the worse.
I come now not to explain Wilson, but to hate him. A national consensus on hating Wilson is long overdue. It is the patriotic duty of every decent American. While conservatives have particular reasons to detest Wilson, and all his works, and all his empty promises, there is more than enough in his record for moderates, liberals, progressives, libertarians, and socialists to join us in this great and unifying cause.
The roll call of the worst presidents in American history includes some consensus top choices. James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce both contributed mightily to the nation’s slide into the Civil War, and Andrew Johnson did enduring harm to Reconstruction in the war’s aftermath. But all three of those men were repudiated by the end of their single term in office. They left no heirs who would acknowledge their influence, no fleet of academic hagiographers who could see themselves reflected in those presidencies.
Wilson, by contrast, served two full and consequential terms. He was the only Democrat re-elected to the job during the century between 1832 and 1936. He was lionized by liberals and progressives in academia and the media for most of the century after he left office in 1921. In my youth, and perhaps yours, Wilson was presented in history books as a tragic hero whom the unthinking American people didn’t deserve. He was often placed highly on academics’ rankings of the presidents. Princeton University named its school of international relations for him. Even in rescinding that honor in June 2020, the university’s press release declared: “Though scholars disagree about how to assess Wilson’s tenure as president of the United States, many rank him among the nation’s greatest leaders and credit him with visionary ideas that shaped the world for the better.”
Nah. Wilson was a human pile of flaming trash. He was a bad man who made the country and the world worse. His name should be an obscenity, his image an effigy. Hating him is a wholesome obligation of citizenship.
Racism, Segregation, and Eugenics..
Probably the broadest ground for modern agreement on the awfulness of Wilson is in his disgracefully racist treatment of African Americans. The only president to grow up in the Confederacy, the Virginian Wilson ordered the resegregation of the entire federal government. He required photographs on job applications to screen out black people. The Army under Wilson was so segregated that some black units fought under French command in the largest battle of the First World War. (Naturally, black men who were banned from being hired for peacetime federal jobs were still subjected to the draft.) When you read about Harry Truman’s courageous desegregation of the Army, remember whose work he was undoing. Wilson screened the pro–Ku Klux Klan film Birth of a Nation at the White House; the film quoted pro-Klan passages from one of Wilson’s books. He backed legislation making interracial marriage a felony in the District of Columbia.
Dylan Matthews of Vox concluded that “Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time”:
In a 1913 open letter to Wilson, W.E.B. DuBois — who had supported Wilson in the 1912 election before being disenchanted by his segregation policies — wrote of “one colored clerk who could not actually be segregated on account of the nature of his work [and who] consequently had a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions of many years.” That’s right: Black people who couldn’t, logistically, be segregated were put in literal cages. . . . At the Versailles Convention in 1919, Wilson helped kill a proposal from Japan calling for the treaty to recognize the principle of racial equality. . . .
Too racist for Imperial Japan is pretty racist. Wilson wasn’t just pandering to public racist sentiment; he was acting on his own racist convictions set forth in his scholarly works:
Historian Wesley Moody describes Wilson’s most famous book as an academic, A History of the American People, as “steeped in Lost Cause mythology.” The book was generally sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan, describing them as “men half outlawed, denied the suffrage, without hope of justice in the courts, who meant to take this means to make their will felt.” . . . In an 1881 article that went unpublished, Wilson defended the South’s suppression of black voters, saying that they were being denied the vote not because their skin was dark but because their minds were dark.
As president of Princeton, Wilson kept the college segregated, unlike some other Ivy League colleges at the time. When a black student in 1909 inquired about attending the college, Wilson retorted “that it is altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter Princeton.” Princeton did not have a black graduate until two decades after Wilson’s death.
One of Wilson’s key Senate allies, “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, was the most openly pro-lynching figure in American political history and also an anti-business populist and gun grabber (only from black people, of course) who wrote the first federal campaign-finance law. After Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House, Tillman remarked that “entertaining that n***** will necessitate our killing a thousand n*****s in the South before they learn their place again.” Wilson did not extend such invitations to his White House, but he gladly shook hands with Tillman.
Wilson’s biases did not end with black people. As George Will has noted, “In 1902, when Wilson became Princeton’s president, the final volume of his ‘A History of the American People’ contrasted ‘the sturdy stocks of the north of Europe’ with Southern and Eastern Europeans who had ‘neither skill nor energy nor any initiative of quick intelligence.’” During the First World War, Wilson railed that “any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.”
As governor of New Jersey, Wilson was also pro-eugenics: He signed into law a bill to forcibly sterilize “the hopelessly defective and criminal classes.” Before entering politics, Wilson had campaigned for the nation’s first such law, in Indiana in 1907. Jonah Goldberg:
Dr. Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen . . . was a member of the Eugenics Research Association. . . . When Woodrow Wilson was elected governor of New Jersey, Katzen-Ellenbogen was hired as the chief eugenicist of his administration. Wilson asked him to draft the forced-sterilization law, which created Wilson’s Board of Examiners of Feebleminded, Epileptics, and Other Defectives. Katzen-Ellenbogen ended up working at Buchenwald where he killed thousands.
Presidents are not solely responsible for everything afoot in the country, but there was a visible upsurge in dramatic racial violence during Wilson’s presidency, including widespread anti-black race riots in the summer of 1919 that killed hundreds. That included as many as 200 killed by the Army in suppressing black sharecroppers in Elaine, Ark. The mob attack on Tulsa’s Greenwood district happened less than three months after Wilson left office. Wilson also left behind a nation with a rising and newly politically respectable Klan, greatly aided by Birth of a Nation. Wilson himself refused to publicly denounce either lynching or the Klan.
Wilson’s record on antisemitism is hotly debated, given the attitudes toward Jews of some members of his administration, but he can be defended on that front: He ultimately supported the Balfour Declaration, appointed Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court, and joined his predecessor, William Howard Taft, in a public 1921 protest against antisemitism. Then again, alongside Brandeis, Wilson put his own attorney general, James McReynolds, on the Court. McReynolds, in addition to being a racist, was such an antisemite that he refused to speak to Brandeis for years and would walk out of the room when Brandeis was talking.
The Income Tax..
The day you turn the clocks ahead isn’t even the worst day on the calendar for resenting Woodrow Wilson. In his first year in office, he also signed into law the first permanent, peacetime federal income tax in U.S. history. Every April 15, you should think of Wilson.
The Faculty-Progressive Democrats..
Wilson matters so much because he was, in so many ways, the founder of the Democratic Party as we now know it. The Democratic Party of the 19th century had some important similarities with its modern descendant. It was, from the 1830s on, the party of the big cities and the urban political machines, and the party of immigrants. Then, as in recent decades, the Democrats were more a coalition of special-interest groups than a party animated by a single, coherent philosophy. Michael Barone has described the Democrats as historically the party of people who see themselves outside the American mainstream, which is how they managed a marriage of urban immigrants with the lords of slave plantations. Democrats by tradition were the party that railed against banks and big business.
Still, Democratic leaders in the 19th century were ideologically all over the place, and some — such as Grover Cleveland, the only president elected as a Democrat between Buchanan in 1856 and Wilson in 1912 — were quite conservative. During the Teddy Roosevelt and Taft years, progressivism was a strain within both parties.
Wilson changed all that. The overweening progressivism of the Wilson presidency catalyzed a reaction, with progressive theorists streaming into Democratic senior ranks, while Wilson’s Republican successors (Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge) led a conservative, small-government counterrevolution. After the wipeout of the John W. Davis campaign in 1924 showed the dead end of conservatism in the Democratic Party, the Wilsonites staged a comeback under Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal was explicitly intended as a continuation of Wilsonism. The Democrats have never turned back and have been systematically turning away the conservative elements of their voting base since 1938.
Moreover, when Democrats began their progressive turn in 1894–96, they were led by a Bible-thumping prairie populist, William Jennings Bryan, who ended his career as a caricatured hate object for progressives in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Bryanite progressivism was the opposite of cultural elitism. It was Wilson — the “schoolmaster in politics,” our only Ph.D. president, a former president of Princeton University, past president of the American Political Science Association — who took the self-identified workingman’s party and began its romance with the academy. The faculty-lounge cultural and intellectual hothouse of today’s Democratic Party is the legacy of Wilson. Wilson’s vision of education was a preview of his overbearing statism. As he wrote in 1909, “The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible.”
Wilson’s academic profile allowed him to ascend to the presidency with an unusually thin résumé of public service. When he was elected president, he had been governor of New Jersey for less than two years. Naturally, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize during his presidency. The modern fad of overhyped, underexperienced celebrity-politicians running for president owes much to Wilson.
The Living Constitution and the Administrative State..
Wilson didn’t initiate a revolution in just the culture of his party, but also in its approach to the Constitution and the structure of American government. As I have detailed at length before, Wilson was not just the father of the theory of the “living Constitution,” malleable rather than fixed in writing, that “is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.” He was also the great champion of the administrative state. He notoriously referred to public opinion as “a clumsy nuisance, a rustic handling delicate machinery.” These were ideas that he drew from a mixture of the wartime Confederacy and German academia, and they continue to plague us today, drawing the power of constitution-making and lawmaking away from the people and their elected legislatures.
That subversion of Congress undermined the bipartisan pro-democratic reforms of the Wilson era, such as the direct election of senators, the ballot initiative and referendum, and the vote for women. Wilson also initially opposed a federal right for women to vote but came around in support during the First World War.
Wilson’s presidency gave us the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Reserve. One can make the case that creating the Fed was Wilson’s most positive achievement in office. It was probably inevitable that America would have a central bank by the mid 20th century. Still, he saddled us permanently with an opaque, unaccountable institution that holds vast sway over the economic fortunes of our people and is capable of the usual run of human error with major consequences and little accountability. The Fed’s mistakes played an outsize role in giving us both the Great Depression and the 2008 credit crisis. Some gift.
As Goldberg argues, Wilson’s racism and his mistrust of democracy went hand in hand:
Wilson believed democracy wasn’t an abstract system but a racial endowment of the Saxon people carried forward genetically through our germ plasm (the conduit of heredity according to German scientists in the late 19th century). The democracy of the American colonists [was] . . . the result of letting their “race habits and instincts have natural play.” . . .
Wilson was openly hostile to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “No doubt,” he wrote, “a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual, and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle.” He railed against “Fourth of July sentiments” and believed that our constitutional system of checks and balances had “proven mischievous just to the extent to which they have succeeded in establishing themselves as realities.”
War and More War..
The most consequential decision of Wilson’s presidency was launching the United States into the First World War in 1917. Despite the origins of the war in European power politics and the presence at the time of Tsarist Russia as one of the major combatants among the Entente Powers, Wilson pitched the war as an effort to “make the world safe for democracy.”
It didn’t. Even aside from the enduring controversies over how the war was sold to the American people and what its vast mobilization cost in American lives, treasure, civil liberties, and constitutionally limited government, it remains questionable to this day whether the world would have been better off with America staying out of the war. A war that ended with an exhausted stalemate or even a German victory on the Western Front — following the Russian collapse in the east — would not have triggered the collapse of the German state and civil society that gave us Nazism, and might have resulted in a European order better situated to isolate and resist Soviet Communism as well as less susceptible to fascism.
The Great War was not the first example of the messianic Wilson’s foreign military adventures. He sent the military into Mexico in 1914 and Haiti in 1915, in the latter case inaugurating a 19-year U.S. occupation. Wilson’s wars eventually drove his pacifist secretary of state, Bryan, to resign.
In his famous “Fourteen Points” speech in early 1918, after the Bolshevik revolution, Wilson called for “evacuation of all Russian territory” and sermonized that “the treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.” He ended up, instead, sending American soldiers to the frigid north of Russia in Archangel and Murmansk, a deployment that was the worst of both worlds: It antagonized the Russians (who had been largely pro-American in their orientation for over a century) and gave the Bolsheviks a longstanding source of propaganda, yet accomplished nothing to prevent a Communist Russian empire.
A Bad Peace..
The Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War was a fiasco. It imposed punitive war reparations and an assignment of war guilt on Germany. The treaty was followed by the creation of the League of Nations, an ineffectual forerunner to the United Nations, which the United States never joined but which set the template for the idea of sovereign states as being subordinated to some form of world government. The treaty led to an embittered and revanchist Germany and dissatisfied victors in Italy and Japan. The settlement at Versailles left all sorts of other trouble spots unresolved or aggravated, from Vietnam to Iraq to Israel.
Wilson was by no means solely responsible for the mess, but the League of Nations was his idea — which he characteristically tried to impose on Americans with no regard for the sentiment of the voters or Congress — and he was frequently a posturing, naïve, and troublesome presence at the peace conference. (French president Georges Clemenceau remarked of the Fourteen Points, “God Almighty has only 10!”).
Wilson is also often credited with championing the idea of economic sanctions as a substitute for war. Even if this is overstated — blockades and embargoes have a long history — this is yet another innovation whose record is spotty at best.
Wartime America and Civil Liberties..
Leading the nation to war also meant creating a wartime nation, and (as Goldberg argues in Liberal Fascism), beginning the long progressive romance with “moral equivalent of war” efforts to replicate national mobilization. Wilson oversaw the creation of the first formal American wartime propaganda agency, the Committee on Public Information.
Before he took the nation to war, Wilson warned: “Once lead this people into war, and they’ll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance. To fight you must be brutal and ruthless, and the spirit of ruthless brutality will enter the very fiber of our national life, infecting congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street.” His administration seemed devoted to proving that point.
Wilson signed the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. Magazines were banned from the mail for departing from the president’s line on the war. Some critics were jailed, including Eugene V. Debs, who had run for president against Wilson and drew over 900,000 votes in 1912. It is not a coincidence that the Supreme Court’s landmark First Amendment cases trace to the Wilson years: in Schenck v. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes cited the “clear and present danger” of obstructing military recruitment to uphold a conviction under the Espionage Act. As Goldberg notes, “more dissidents were arrested or jailed in a few years under Wilson than under [Benito] Mussolini during the entire 1920s.”
“Freedom fries” and canceling Tchaikovsky were merely the descendants of the anti-German hysteria of the war, which led to rechristening sauerkraut as “liberty cabbage” and, more gravely, the Wilson administration’s interning of thousands of Germans. The German conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra was investigated by the Justice Department after he was accused (falsely) of refusing to play the “Star-Spangled Banner”; he was ultimately interned and deported.
The attacks on civil liberties weren’t just aimed at Germans. During the anti-Communist “Red Scare,” Wilson’s notorious attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, conducted the infamous “Palmer Raids,” rounding up suspected radicals. Not for nothing was the ACLU founded during the Wilson years. The first Red Scare was the forerunner of the Joe McCarthy era.
Wilson gave us J. Edgar Hoover, too. Palmer hired him. In 1917, age 24, Hoover was put in charge of the Justice Department’s Enemy Alien Bureau. He later oversaw the Palmer Raids. The experience launched a long career of abuses of civil liberties. His name is still on FBI headquarters.
Wartime regulation by the Wilson administration was shockingly heavy-handed, full of price-fixing and rationing, and caused economic chaos, including runaway inflation. (Fittingly, the only U.S. currency to depict Wilson was the $100,000 bill printed during the Great Depression.) He nationalized the telegraph, telephone, and railroad industries. Unlike Franklin D. Roosevelt, he shut down baseball with a “work or fight” order. Daylight saving time was one of those wartime measures aimed at saving fuel, which somehow is still with us over a century after the war ended.
Another wartime measure that has long outlived its usefulness: the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, popularly known as the Jones Act, which Wilson signed into law in his final year. The bipartisan law grew out of wartime edicts designed to protect American shipping from German submarine warfare. Its protectionist policies restrict cargo between American ports to ships built here and crewed with Americans. Critics in recent years have blamed the Jones Act’s restrictions for exacerbating problems with relief to Puerto Rico, the supply-chain crisis, and our ability to produce and ship enough domestic energy to wean ourselves from Russian oil and gas.
Wilson’s peacetime economic legislative agenda was mixed at best. True, he lowered tariffs and went after child labor. The Clayton Antitrust Act, however, ushered in the modern era of antitrust law by banning “monopolization” and “predatory pricing” (where the prior Sherman Act had simply banned illegal agreements such as price-fixing cartels), the pursuit of which has often led to counterproductive government investigations. When the Justice Department went after Microsoft for trying to deprive the world of Netscape Navigator, it was walking in Wilson’s footsteps.
While the Wilson years also gave us Prohibition, I don’t blame Wilson for that one, given that he vetoed the Volstead Act on federalism grounds.
Oh yeah, his administration also mishandled a global pandemic. Wilson never mentioned the Spanish flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans at a time when our population was less than a third of today’s. True, the federal government was not expected to play much role in health care in 1918, and true as well, there were neither treatments nor vaccines to stop the spread of the pandemic. But the Wilson administration made it worse. The Justice Department, pursuing wartime censorship, threatened newspapers that covered it. Large crowds gathered at draft offices were super-spreader events. And “the U.S. Surgeon General, Rupert Blue, assured Americans that ‘there is no cause for alarm if precautions are observed.’ . . . Colonel Philipp [sic] Doane, who led health and safety at the military shipyards where the disease first spread, dismissed the ‘so-called Spanish influenza’ as ‘nothing more or less than the old-fashioned grippe.’”
One part of the wartime atmosphere, promoted by the Wilson administration, became a tradition much hated by some progressives: “The Star-Spangled Banner” being played customarily at baseball games. Wilson anointed the song, which became the national anthem in 1931, to be played at military events starting in 1916, elevating it over better patriotic songs. The lords of baseball, cooperating with military-recruitment drives, expanded its appearances in 1918, and the tradition stuck. At the end of that road, we find the Colin Kaepernick protests.
Wilson was also a vocal defender of college football in 1890, when it was literally killing its players:
“The religious press declares the game to be dangerous because of the ‘mass plays,’” he told a group of alumni in Maryland. But “the men who were killed last year playing football were not killed in mass plays, but in open plays.” During the course of his remarks he described the precedence of football in academic life by saying that “Princeton is noted in the wide world for three things: football, baseball, and collegiate instruction.” Besides, “if the men don’t play football, they will play less legitimate games.”
Only after a public uproar in 1909, a season that saw 18 deaths and 159 serious injuries and the sport at risk of being banned, did Wilson lead a group to reform the rules to ban “mass plays” (such as the “flying wedge”), under the careful watch of then-president Teddy Roosevelt.
False Advertising, Overreach, Deception, and the Imperial Presidency..
Do you dislike politicians who promise one thing, then get elected and do something completely different? Do you complain when presidents govern as if they had a vast popular mandate even when the majority of the voters were against them? Do you loathe the imperial trappings of the presidency?
All of that is Wilson, too. In 1912, he postured as the more conservative candidate in the race, received just 41.8 percent of the vote, and defeated Taft only because Teddy Roosevelt split the Republican coalition in half. He won popular majorities only in the eleven states of the old Confederacy, all of which massively disenfranchised black voters. Yet Wilson governed as a transformational progressive.
It was Wilson, in 1913, who revived making the State of the Union a live speech to a joint session of Congress, rather than a written report, as it had been since Thomas Jefferson. Blame Wilson for that whole spectacle.
In 1916, he ran on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War.” He again won just a little less than half of the popular vote (49.5 percent), claiming a nail-biter that was decided only when California, which Wilson won by 0.38 percent and which he seemed to be losing when everyone went to bed, finished counting its votes nine days later. Wilson would be the first president reelected with fewer electoral votes than he won initially (Barack Obama was the second). He reacted by asking Congress for a declaration of war less than a month after being sworn in for his second term.
If it wasn’t bad enough that Wilson pulled one over on the voters in his campaigns, his White House itself was a massive fraud for months after the president suffered a debilitating stroke in October 1919. His condition was concealed from the public and Congress, and his unelected second wife, Edith, effectively ran the presidency.
The result of all this was a political catastrophe for Wilson’s party. Republicans gained 16 Senate seats, 87 House seats, and 11 governorships between 1918 and 1920. Harding in 1920 won by the biggest popular-vote margin in American presidential history. The voters couldn’t be rid of Wilson and Wilsonism fast enough.
Since George Washington, we have revered our tradition of presidents returning to civilian life. Wilson is the only president, besides those who died in office, to settle for his entire post-presidential life in D.C. He is buried in the National Cathedral. He simply couldn’t leave the federal government.
Every decent American should hate him.
Woodrow Wilson was the first fascist - when people merely called them “progressives.” Many of the notions he represented ended up first with Mussolini, then Franco and especially, Hitler.
He also used the Lusitania to send military grade arms to Europe.
Worst President ever
The Tsar abdicated in March 1917. Wilson asked Congress to declare war the following month, by which point Russia was a democracy.
In fact, one reason Wilson waited until April 1917 was because he couldn't easily claim it was a war to save democracy while the Tsar ruled Russia. Nicholas's abdication presented the opportunity for Wilson's declaration.
Regarding our entry into WW1, to be fair, it was unrestricted U-boat warfare and mainly the Zimmerman telegram; OTT I agree Wilson was not a nice person.
Not sure about that. He wasn’t a good president but he did have a lot of help when it came to screwing things up. He’s the one that started up interventionism and globalism. FDR brought about modern big government and the welfare state. LBJ brought about identity politics. Obama oversaw the further radicalization and dominance of these elements into mainstream society.
Read it all. Great column.
Wilson’s War reveals the horrifying consequences of our twenty-eighth president’s fateful decision to enter the fray in Europe. It led to millions of additional casualties in a war that had ground to a stalemate. And even more disturbing were the long-term consequences—consequences that played out well after Wilson’s death. Powell convincingly demonstrates that America’s armed forces enabled the Allies to win a decisive victory they would not otherwise have won—thus enabling them to impose the draconian surrender terms on Germany that paved the way for Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
Powell also shows how Wilson’s naiveté and poor strategy allowed the Bolsheviks to seize power in Russia. Given a boost by Woodrow Wilson, Lenin embarked on a reign of terror that continued under Joseph Stalin. The result of Wilson’s blunder was seventy years of Soviet Communism, during which time the Communist government murdered some sixty million people.
Progressive Utopians - bump for later...
Because Britain had a naval blockade against Germany. A true neutral would have told Britain, that we wouldn't ship anything to them and risk our ships while they were blockading Germany.
Great article. Those who don’t know the history of Progressivism put our country at great risk.
While there are several things I take issue with in the article, overall, it’s a great summary.
Arguably the biggest thing Wilson should be known for is his role in introducing America in general and America’s progressives in particular to the concept of centralized planning. Most people believe progressives learned of planning from the USSR. They didn’t.
I’m working on addressing that.
Woodrow Wilson had no qualms about jailing people he disagreed with. His persecution of the Hutterites can attest to that.
The Sedition Act of 1918 curtailed the free speech rights of U.S. citizens during time of war.
Passed on May 16, 1918, as an amendment to Title I of the Espionage Act of 1917, the act provided for further and expanded limitations on speech. Ultimately, its passage came to be viewed as an instance of government overstepping the bounds of First Amendment freedoms.
Sedition Act passed during World War I
President Woodrow Wilson, in conjunction with congressional leaders and the influential newspapers of the era, urged passage of the Sedition Act in the midst of U.S. involvement in World War I. Wilson was concerned about the country’s diminishing morale and looking for a way to clamp down on growing and widespread disapproval of the war and the military draft that had been instituted to fight it.
Targets of Act were typically individuals who opposed the war effort
The provisions of the act prohibited certain types of speech as it related to the war or the military. Under the act, it was illegal to incite disloyalty within the military; use in speech or written form any language that was disloyal to the government, the Constitution, the military, or the flag; advocate strikes on labor production; promote principles that were in violation of the act; or support countries at war with the United States.
The targets of prosecution under the Sedition Act were typically individuals who opposed the war effort, including pacifists, anarchists, and socialists. Violations of the Sedition Act could lead to as much as twenty years in prison and a fine of $10,000. More than two thousand cases were filed by the government under the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, and of these more than one thousand ended in convictions.
Court upheld Sedition Act convictions against First Amendment challenges
The Supreme Court upheld the convictions of many of the individuals prosecuted. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. established the “clear and present danger” test in Schenck v. United States (1919). In upholding Socialist Charles Schenck’s conviction, Justice Holmes wrote that “the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.” The Court also unanimously upheld convictions in Debs v. United States (1919) and Frohwerk v. United States (1919).
In Abrams v. United States (1919), the Court reviewed the conviction under the act of Jacob Abrams, who, along with four other Russian defendants, was prosecuted for printing and distributing leaflets calling for workers to strike in an effort to end military involvement in the Soviet Union. The Court in late 1919 upheld the conviction.
However, in this instance Holmes, along with Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissented from the majority, arguing that the “clear and present danger” test was not met under the circumstances arising in the case. Specifically, Holmes felt that Abrams had not possessed the necessary intent to harm the U.S. war effort. In contrast to his majority opinion in Schenck, Holmes’s dissenting opinion in Abrams urged that political speech be protected under the First Amendment.
The Sedition Act of 1918 was repealed in 1920, although many parts of the original Espionage Act remained in force.
UN Agenda 21 / Great Reset . ( Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from the list.)
“Woodrow Wilson was the first fascist - when people merely called them “progressives.”
If I’m not mistaken, Wilson was the one that brought about the term/label “progressive”, and made it a part of “acceptable society” because Fascism/Socialism, etc. wouldn’t fly with the general public. In other words, he put a “happy face” on it.
In 1916, he ran on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War.” He again won just a little less than half of the popular vote (49.5 percent), claiming a nail-biter that was decided only when California, which Wilson won by 0.38 percent and which he seemed to be losing when everyone went to bed, finished counting its votes nine days later.
This has an oddly familiar ring to it.
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