"Laws Against Spies and Traitors"

IT WAS A VERY ENGROSSING WORLD IN 1917, WITH SCARCELY A dull moment in which to think about long-term results. So engrossing to Americans was the world scene during World War I that, apparently, they were never aware of piece after piece of federal legislation which, when fitted together, made the mosaic of censorship. In addition to criminal laws already upon our statute books, liberties of persons who would have been untouched by those laws, were circumscribed by at least three executive orders and three federal statutes, all six of which were produced as war measures. Although, as each of the sextet was pending, there was articulate opposition, when the order or law became a reality, there were other incidents, or omens of coming legislation, of much greater news value.

There is another side to this seeming indifference on the part of Americans toward federal restriction of their civil liberties. The United States was at war with a nation whose secret agents in this country, the American people thought, were present in every key city and key industry, striving to hinder the war effort of the United States. Closely related to and explaining the presence of Teutonic spies and saboteurs was the fact that the war was not waged on the battlefield alone, but by the people as a whole. And, as individual liberty was restricted in the combat zone corresponding restriction was necessary with the entire nation a theater of war, "in which," as Zechariah Chafee Jr., points out in Freedom of Speech, "attacks upon our cause are as dangerous and unjustified as if made among the soldiers in the rear trenches." It was for the sake of strengthening the "inner lines" that these six measures were enacted. Also, these federal regulatory laws and orders must be considered as a part of American life itself, a

-39-

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Censorship, 1917
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Our Censorship Heritage 3
  • The Seed of Censorship 24
  • Laws against Spies and Traitors 39
  • The Censorship Board 55
  • Cables and Telegrams 73
  • Soldiers, Sailors, and Censors 94
  • Protective Custody in the Post Office 110
  • Banned Books 153
  • Scissors and Films 172
  • No More Soap-Boxes 190
  • Aftermath or Prologue 213
  • Notes on Sources 233
  • Index 241
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