Unsafe for Democracy: World War I and the U.S. Justice Department's Covert Campaign to Suppress Dissent (Studies in American Thought and Culture)
During the First World War it was the task of the U.S. Department of Justice, using the newly passed Espionage Act and its later Sedition Act amendment, to prosecute and convict those who opposed America's entry into the conflict. In Unsafe for Democracy, historian William H. Thomas Jr. shows that the Justice Department did not stop at this official charge but went much further paying cautionary visits to suspected dissenters, pressuring them to express support of the war effort, or intimidating them into silence. At times going undercover, investigators tried to elicit the unguarded comments of individuals believed to be a threat to the prevailing social order. In this massive yet largely secret campaign, agents cast their net wide, targeting isolationists, pacifists, immigrants, socialists, labor organizers, African Americans, and clergymen. The unemployed, the mentally ill, college students, schoolteachers, even schoolchildren, all might come under scrutiny, often in the context of the most trivial and benign activities of daily life. Delving into numerous reports by Justice Department detectives, Thomas documents how, in case after case, they used threats and warnings to frighten war critics and silence dissent. This early government crusade for wartime ideological conformity, Thomas argues, marks one of the more dubious achievements of the Progressive Era and a development that resonates in the present day.
An Important Analysis of a Government Crusade to Enforce Wartime Ideological Conformity
By Roger D. Launius - June 23, 2009
In crisis the citizens of the United States have too often allowed their baser instincts to take over and curtail our normal emphasis on civil liberty. We did it in with the Alien and Sedition Acts during the presidency of John Adams and during the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks during the presidency of George W. Bush. This fine account tells the story of one instance in which we also enthusiastically curtailed civil liberties through the passage of the Espionage Act and the later Sedition Act during World War I to enable the prosecution and jailing of those who opposed U.S. entry into the war. These acts served as cover for a series of more aggressive actions, cautionary visits to suspected dissenters, pressure tactics on groups to support the war effort, and intimidation to silence of those thought not fully committed to the war.
Author Williams H. Thomas Jr. describes how this expansion of authority was used with abandon to go after marginalized groups,... read more
litle-known government surveillance in World War I
By Henry Berry "Henry Berry" - January 6, 2009
Using scores of individual cases, the independent scholar Thomas records the varied ways U.S. Justice Department agents tried to intimidate dissenters and suspected traitors into silence during World War I and the years after it when Wilson was promoting the League of Nations. The more sensational Palmer raids rounding up masses of immigrants on the basis of little more than rumors or vague suspicions are known as the standard example of government wartime practices going to excesses. But the scale of these and related, longlasting controversy obscured the widespread questionable practices Thomas relates in this work. The "focus on prosecutions had the effect of understating the scope of the department's activities. Far more commonly, department investigators watched, warned, and reprimanded suspected seditionists." In this, the Justice Department agents had a "tremendous degree of latitude" in making individual decisions about "speech [which] interfered with the war effort."... read more
This book provides a constitutional prospective
By The Perapatetic Reader "The Reviewer Previous... - January 13, 2011
Do you think you live in times that do not respect constitutional rights? Well, try reading this book.
How would you like to be visited by a government agent, by someone who identifies himself as a government agent, identifies the agency he (back then it was always a "he") works for who then commences to convince why you should buy war bonds, or why you should not speak any language but English, or why you should be in favor of the war, or why you should never say anything against the president or against the war, or ask you questions like, "Are you patriotic?" "Do you love this country" "Why don't you go to church more often?" or "Why don't show some respect for that American flag?"
This government agent could show up at your home, at your work, or at your church. And in the course of that visit, that government agent would end his visit by saying something like this, "Remember, you're not doing anything wrong now, ... but don't make me show up again; we're... read more
In the years before the First World War, the great European powers were ruled by three first cousins: King George V of Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Together, ...