1933 December 23

President Roosevelt Pardons WW I Espionage Act Victims


President Franklin D. Roosevelt, exercising the traditional Christmastime practice by presidents, pardoned all persons who had been convicted under the Espionage Act and the Selective Service Act during World War I. Amnesty (as opposed to pardon) for WW I political prisoners had been an issue for civil libertarians since the end of the war. (In fact, the term “political prisoner” is itself a political term that has no standing in the law.) Led by the ACLU’s Roger Baldwin, a coalition of groups created the General Amnesty Campaign on June 11, 1922.

There is a long history of presidents granting pardons or amnesty to men still in prison following major wars. President Harry Truman, on December 24, 1947, granted pardons to 1,523 men still in prison for refusing to cooperate with the draft in World War II. President Gerald Ford, on September 16, 1974, granted conditional amnesty to people convicted in anti-Vietnam War protests. And President Jimmy Carter, who succeeded Gerald Ford, went even further in the direction of amnesty for war protesters in one of his first acts as president (see January 21, 1977).

Roosevelt: “Now, Therefore, Be it known, that I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, in consideration of the premises, divers other good and sufficient reasons me thereunto moving, do hereby declare and grant a full pardon to all persons who have heretofore been convicted of a violation of any of the foregoing statutory provisions or of a conspiracy to violate the same, and who have complied with the sentences imposed on them; provided, however, that such pardon shall not be construed to pardon such persons for any offenses other than those designated herein, whether committed prior or subsequently to the offenses herein designated.”

Read President Roosevelt’s complete pardon proclamation: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=14589&st=&st1=

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

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