In an effort to end obstruction of the US military, President Wilson passed a law which would limit the opinions of anyone against the war. This law enforced drafts and would result in a fine and imprisonment for 20 years if anyone chose to speak against the war or US military. The Espionage and Sedition acts imposed limitations on one of America’s basic constitutional rights, Freedom of Speech.

The Espionage acts gave extreme power to the government in terms of censor ship, and resulted in almost complete limited speech on government affairs. An excerpt from the Sedition states “shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any language intended to incite, provoke, or encourage resistance to the United States… he doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated...or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war...shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or the imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both....” This statement, allows the US to essentially censor any controversial opinion against the US and furthermore allow the US to punish the speaker for obeying one of their basic rights as an American citizen. Secondly, the Act also states “When the United States is at war, the Postmaster General may, upon evidence...that any using the mails in violation...of this Act, instruct the postmaster at any post office at which mail is received addressed to such return to the postmaster at the office at which they were originally mailed all letters or other matter so addressed...” With the act giving the US the right to view all mail, the US government would be able to see search all private documents without the need for a warrant. This would be like President George Bush’s decision to illegally wire tap people who could be a potential threat to national security. Although it was argued it was in an effort to maintan safety, the US constitution first amendment is freedom of speech, and to prosecute a US citizen for expressing their views on the war, is unconstitutional and completely ludicrous.

The best way to illustrate the irrelevancy of this act would be to tie it to the attempts to enforce the law. The best example would be poet E.E. Cummings, who was arrested upon speaking out against his lack of hatred for the Germans, he was held in a prison camp for 3 months in which time he wrote his autobiography “The Enormous Room”. The most this act ever did was arrest a poet, who was only exercising his right to free speech, furthermore, at the time he was arrested, he was volunteering as an ambulance driver in France. What is so perplexing is how the US managed to think that a poet was somehow a threat to the national security. Also another classic example of how the law did absolutely nothing beneficial is the arrest of presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs who ran as the Socialist Party. He ran in 1904, 1908 and in 1912, where he was arrested after making a public statement which was considered to be an “obstruction to recruitment” In 1920, he ran for president again, from his jail cell. Of all the people who could be harmful to the US, a presidential candidate? The Espionage and Sedition acts clearly did not benefit the US in anyway, if anything it probably made the US more of a laughing stock while under Wilsons control, due to the decision to arrest a poet volunteering as an ambulance driver, and a presidential candidate who chose to speak out in favor of peaceful communication as an alternative to war.

Lastly, if we look at the Espionage and Sedition acts individually, it is nearly impossible to tell which is which. Many historians have attempted to understand the differences between them, and it is completely impossible. The Sedition acts were considered the “amendments” to the Espionage act, which were constantly growing and often times creating new arbitrary laws which were unnecessary which in result gave the right for the Government to arrest innocent civilians for virtually anything that was spoken against the US. In a case of 1500 arrests, the warrant stated they held a pamphlet which spoke out against the US invasion of Russia. This isn’t to be confused with the openly opposed the war with Russia; it was because they had a single piece of paper in their possession, and yet somehow, they were deemed dangerous and each served a range of 5 to 10 years in prison. Very few managed to take it to the court due to lack of money to pay a lawyer, but in rare accounts, the winning argument was "a silly leaflet by an unknown man" could not be construed as a consequential threat. This argument had been made by countless numbers of people, and yet the argument was not accepted until it was held in front of a judge.

The attempt at maintaining security in the US wound up being the laughing stock of President Wilson. The law obviously had its flaws, which resulted in countless numbers of innocent arrests and ultimately more effort to fight then it would have been just to recognize the stupidity of the law. The law was poorly written, and allowed the government to much power in terms of censorship, even more upsetting is the fact that the law never had any strict guide lines as to what was considered to be a threat or reasonable suspicion, that decision was left in the hands of government reinforcement such as the United Stated postal service and the Local Sheriff. Clearly, this law was a force to be reckoned with, and it was only a matter of time, before the right of free speech would again be a basic right for every US citizen.

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