1917 April 7

President Wilson Issues Secret Loyalty Order


One day after Congress declared war on Germany, President Woodrow Wilson issued secret Executive Order 2587A, authorizing federal agencies to dismiss employees for disloyal statements or beliefs. The Order has been largely forgotten by historians, but it is both an indication of his intolerant attitude toward dissent during World War I and a precedent for the attack on unpopular views during the post-World War II Cold War.

See President Harry Truman’s more famous Federal Loyalty Order of March 21, 1947, which sought to eliminate disloyal employees from government service, but swept much further and was a massive violation of civil liberties.

Wilson’s Order: “The head of a department or independent office may forthwith remove any employee when he has ground for believing that the retention of such employee would be inimical to the public welfare by reason of his conduct, sympathies or utterances, or because of other reasons growing out of the war. Such removal may be made without other formality than that the reasons shall be made a matter of confidential record, subject, however, to inspection by the Civil Service Commission.”

Read Wilson’s secret Executive Order:

Learn more about Wilson’s intolerance for dissent: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Obama (2012)

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