3⋆
The Issues of Peace, 1919

WITH the Armistice, the ranks of the prewar progressives in Congress began to close again. Robert La Follette, George Norris, Fiorello LaGuardia, James Frear, and others would now find themselves voting the same way, speaking the same language in relation to the issues of postwar America. With the magnitude of the Republican congressional victory (Republicans now held 239 seats in Congress to 190 for the Democrats) the Progressives could not be said to hold the balance of power, but they resumed their battles with the old militancy. LaGuardia now left the comfort of the uniform and the war and joined the unpopular little band which began hammering against the stone wall of postwar reaction. Together they protested against profiteering, denounced special privilege, and defended the exercise of free speech, with LaGuardia using the House floor as his personal proving ground.

Resuming his interrupted term in the lame-duck Sixty-fifth Congress, LaGuardia promptly introduced a resolution for the repeal of the Espionage Act at a time when prosecutions of radicals under the Act were multiplying every day. He defended his resolution before the conservative Midtown Republican Club of Manhattan by arguing that the Espionage Act was only serving to cover up the inefficiency of the administration. If it had been justified in wartime, he asserted, it certainly was not necessary in the postwar period, adding: "I suppose what I have said is indictable under the Espionage Law."1

____________________
1
New York Times, Feb. 9, 1919.

-34-

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