1925 May 1

ACLU to Seek Repeal of Espionage Act


The ACLU announced on this day that it would seek repeal of the 1917 Espionage Act, which had been one of the major tools of repression during World War I. It would also seek the release of 98 federal prisoners who had been convicted during the war.

The Espionage Act was passed on June 15, 1917, and became one of the principal instruments of the suppression of freedom of speech and press during World War. See the prosecution and imprisonment of Eugene V. Debs during World War I (June 16, 1918).

Other issues in the ACLU program included opposition to a deportation law which would expand the power of the federal government to depart aliens for minor offenses; enact a law granting U.S. citizenship to all residents of the Virgin Islands; repeal of a passport control law which empowers the Secretary of State to control the granting of visas, which the ACLU argued, had been used to deny visas to people because of their political views.

Read: Geoffrey Stone, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (2004)

Learn about the suppression of dissent in World War I: Paul L. Murphy, World War I and the Origin of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

Read: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read the ACLU FBI File (not the complete file): http://vault.fbi.gov/ACLU

Learn about the ACLU today: www.aclu.org

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