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A perplexing feature of the recent suppression of civil liberties in America is the tenacity with which the suppressive spirit has held over since the war. One expects, in a time of public danger, attitudes of intolerance to be developed which prevent and punish the expression of opinions or the commission of acts which interfere with the immediate interests of the state. That such suppression should be so vigorous and the intolerance which provoked the suppression so vast in a country three thousand miles removed from the conflict is extraordinary. But that such intolerance should continue in the same country for a half dozen years after the conclusion of hostilities is little short of inexplicable. In this chapter an attempt at description is made of the operation of the suppressive forces since the year 1921. It is to be regretted that the author was unable to collect complete material for the discussion of intolerance as evidenced by the impairment of civil liberties for the years of 1920 and 1921.
The Condition of Civil Liberty in 1922
The year 1921 had shown, according to the records of the American Civil Liberties Union, that in that year there had been prosecutions in 289 cases involving civil liberty; that there had been 123 cases of mob violence and 64 lynchings; and that 82 meetings had been stopped by police officers.
1. The substance of this chapter is drawn from the records of the American Civil Liberties Union.
is not a complete record of civil liberties in that year but represents the most important violations collected by an organization specialized in the defense of civil liberties.
In 1922 the number of prosecutions had increased threefold to 846, and there were 225 cases of mob violence, 61 cases of lynching, and 28 cases of meetings stopped.
At the end of 1921 there were 113 men in Federal prisons who were convicted for the expression of opinions or industrial activities in violation of the Espionage Act. As a result of considerable agitation the President released 25 of these prisoners on Christmas Day of 1921. Among those released was Eugene V. Debs. The President's action in releasing so few of the 118 prisoners was a disappointment to those favoring amnesty. As a result of further agitation during the year 1922, of which an important feature was a "Children's Crusade" composed of the families of thirteen imprisoned men, the number of political offenders against the Federal government in prison was reduced to 63 by the end of the year 1922.
In this year the Post Office Department showed a spirit of tolerance in cleaning up the difficulties established under the administration of Postmaster General Burleson when scores of books and periodicals were barred from the mails and second class mailing privileges were taken away. By the end of the 1922 there were no books or periodicals barred from the mails as a result of their expression of economic or political opinion. The last periodicals against which discrimination had been made because of economic or
political opinion were restored to the mails in November,
There was a marked decrease in the number of deportations of radicals by the Department of Labor in 1922. The deportations were confined with few exceptions to expolitical prisoners and to those taken in the Palmer raids of 1920 whose cases had been held up in the courts.
Although the Espionage Act was suspended on March 3, 1921, prosecutions which were begun under the Act were carried forward in the courts. Attempts to persuade the Department of Justice to dismiss these cases were futile. About thirty cases in which indictments were brought were not yet tried. Since the Department of Justice had no Federal law for the prosecution of radicals for the expression of opinion a resort was occasionally made to stimulating state authorities to prosecute under state criminal syndicalism and sedition laws. The most conspicuous case of this kind was a raid directed by William J. Burns, chief of the Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice, on a secret convention, of communists at Bridgeman, Michigan.
Few efforts were made during 1922 to pass new
restrictive measures. The thirty-five state criminal syndicalism