1922 June 11

Joint Amnesty Committee Formed to Seek Release of Imprisoned WWI Dissidents


The ACLU, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Federal Council of Churches, Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and other organizations formed the Joint Amnesty Committee to coordinate the campaign for amnesty for people who were convicted for their political views during World War I. The campaign included the Children’s Crusade on April 29, 1922. There was never any precise figure of the number of people convicted and imprisoned strictly because of their views during World War I.

The most famous case involved Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs, convicted under the Espionage Act for a June 16, 1918 speech against war, whom President Warren G. Harding pardoned on December 25, 1921.

The quest for justice for victims of the World War I suppression of dissent took many years. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on December 23, 1933, finally pardoned all victims of Espionage Act prosecutions who were still in prison. And on May 3, 2006, the Governor of Montana pardoned 79 residents of the state who had been convicted in 1918 under the state Sedition law.

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

Read the ACLU report on political prisoners in 1922: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31175035184301;view=1up;seq=1

Learn more about the WW I prosecutions: Stephen Kohn, American Political Prisoners: Prosecutions Under the Espionage and Sedition Acts (1994)

Read the important new book on free speech: Timothy Garton Ash, Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World (2016)

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