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CHAPTER VI

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

The Alien and Sedition Laws have always been regarded as an unwelcome blot upon the tolerant character of the American people. For over a century previous to the great war it was unthinkable that in the land of the free one should not enjoy his civil liberties to the full. Since the war, as has been

shown, there has been a surprising about-face in this attitude. Although the nature of this discussion is descriptive, for completeness it is necessary to attempt an interpretation of the causes of this change.

Were these suppressions the arbitrary acts of an autocratic government in opposition to the opinions of the public the explanation would be relatively simple. But the public was not only acquiescent to the suppression of radical thinking, it also clamored with gusto for such repression. Since the public not only permitted but abetted the suppression our problem swells to something like this: In the last dozen years the pictures in our heads have changed and that some thing or things have brought this about. The public actually believed that the common safety was endangered by the expression of radical ideas and the advocating of certain kinds of theories and changes. Believing this they advocated the restriction of civil liberties to prevent such expression. To solve the problem it is necessary to discover what factors could affect the public to bring about such a vast change.

1

Holcombe lays this change to three causes.

First,

the "growing antagonism" between capital and labor "resulting from the rapid development of large-scale industry and classconscious labor organizations". He adds that this "led to new applications of old rules of law, designed to prevent what seemed to the capitalist class and at least a portion of the disinterested public new abuses of the liberty of public discussion". Second, the increase in the number of agitators who advocated "political and social revolution by physical force or violence". The alarm at this was accen

tuated by the success of the Bolshevists in Russia.

the public danger springing from the recent war.

Third,

These reasons, while indubitably affecting the change of public sentiment, do not suffice for a complete explanation. What is needed, in the author's opinion, is a sharper historical analysis with particular attention to the concatenation of events in the concluding year and the year following the war, a deeper probing behind the causes given, and careful attention to the organs of information affecting public opinion. A further explanation than Holcombe gives is necessary to explain the tenacity with which the intolerance has held over since the war.

When the United States entered the conflict its situation was peculiar. During the period when we were the interested spectators of the holocaust opinion was sharply divided. Millions favored the side of the Allies and other millions the side of the Central Powers. However, as the issues of the struggle became clearer sentiment crystallized

1. Holcombe, A. N., "The Foundations of the Kodern Commonwealth" pp. 374-387.

to a large degree in favor of the Allies. But when the United States entered the conflict, a vast polyglot nation that had taken to its bosom millions of people diverse in racial and cultural background, and that had within it confines many millions of foreign-born extracted from the enemy countries, the danger of internal difficulties became plain. The newspapers, thriving on sensational news, keyed the country to a high pitch of excitement on the dangers from enemies within. The efforts of the government in informing the people on the issues of the war were directed against the autocratic government of Germany. The Committee on Public Information, our propaganda bureau, made no attempt that the author has been able to discover to prejudice the public against the aliens within. The first Espionage Act was aimed largely at the suppression of disloyalty on the part of alien enemies within our gates. The development of sentiment against alien enemies to a wider sentiment against any opposition to the war was shown by the Espionage Act of 1918. The overthrow of the autocratic government of the Czar and the triumph of the Bolsheviki in the interim between the two Acts gave the fillip to the more repressive character of the Act of 1918. The fear of Bolshevik propaganda was spread by means of the press and made excellent "news".

The fear of alien enemies within our doors was transmuted into the fear of all sorts of "radicalism". "Bolshevik" became a word of scorn and a communistic theory became an anathema connoting many evil things. Liberals and radicals alike were conveniently dubbed "Bolsheviks" by those of reactionary purposes. The psychic current against "radicals"

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