1919 April 4

Government Drops Espionage Act Charges Against Radical, Author John Reed


The U.S. Attorney, with the approval of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, dropped Espionage Act charges against the noted radical and author John Reed. The motion to the federal court stated that because of the end of World War I in November 1918, the possibility of a conviction was unlikely.

Reed had become an avowed supporter of the Soviet Union following the Bolshevik Revolution on November 7, 1917. He witnessed the dramatic events of the revolution while spending several months in Russia in 1917-1918. Upon his return to the U.S., he wrote a first-hand account, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), which gained immediate fame as the best source on the Bolshevik triumph.

The dismissal of the charges against Reed was only a temporary respite from the political repression that prevailed during the war. After a series of anarchist bombings in Washington, DC, on June 2, 1919 (along with other related events),  repression returned with a vengeance, in the form of the Red Scare. The most infamous events were the Palmer Raids, named for Attorney General Palmer, first on November 7, 1918 and then on a larger scale on January 2, 1920.

Reed soon returned to the Soviet Union, but died in 1920 because of a serious illness.

Learn more about John Reed: Robert A. Rosenstone, Romantic Revolutionary: A Biography of John Reed (1975)

Read John Reed’s famous book: John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919)

Learn more about John Reed: http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/reed_john_jack_1887_1920_/#.V3Bv3jX3hbU

And more about Reed: Jeremy McCarter, Young Radicals in the War for American Ideals (2017)

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