1918 November 4

“Disloyalists United:” Justice Department Slurs Anti-War Groups


In the last days of World War I (the war ended exactly one week later), the Justice Department on this day issued a statement slurring all of the groups that had protested the war and had been the victims of the governments repression of dissent. The department warned people against “contributing to so-called ‘civil liberties,’ ‘liberty defense,’” or anti-war organizations. The headline in The New York Times, reflecting the government’s point of view, read “Disloyalists [are] United” in their efforts.

The Justice Department pointed out that one of the “principal federating agencies” of the anti-war movement [it was referring to the National Civil Liberties Bureau] was led by Roger Baldwin, who, the statement added, had just been sentenced to a year in prison for refusing to be drafted into the army (see October 30, 1918). A little more than a year later Baldwin was out of prison, and he reorganized the NCLB into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on January 19, 1920.

Learn more: Paul Murphy, World War I and the Origin of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

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

Watch a documentary on Roger Baldwin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND_uY_KXGgY

Learn about the ACLU during times of national crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-defending-liberty-times-national-crisis

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