1918 April 27

Hung Jury: “The Masses” Editors Not Convicted


During World War I, the Justice Department twice tried to prosecute the editors of The Masses magazine on Espionage Act charges. The Masses was one of the most important pre-war radical magazines in the country, and it immediately became a leading anti-war voice when the U.S. entered the war. The trial, the first of the two trials, ended in a hung jury, as did the second trial in October 1918.

The government also attacked The Masses by banning from the mails during the war. In 1917, the Post Office had banned The Masses from the mails because of its anti-war views on July 7, 1917. The U.S. District Court overturned the ban on July 24, 1917;  but the Court of Appeals upheld the government’s ban on November 2, 1917.

The editor of The Masses was Max Eastman, whose sister Crystal Eastman founded the American Union Against Militarism in 1915, and with Roger Baldwin created the Civil Liberties Bureau when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. The Civil Liberties Bureau was reorganized as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on January 19, 1920.

Read all the issues of The Masses (NOTE: individual issues are slow to load; be patient): http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/masses/index.htm

Learn more: William L. O’Neill, ed., Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911–1917 (1966)

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

Read editor Max Eastman’s memoirs: Max Eastman, Love and Revolution (1964) [NOTE: Eastman became quite conservative in the years after World War I]

Learn more about Max Eastman: Christopher Irmscher, Max Eastman:  A Life (2017)

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