Front cover image for Free speech and the suppression of dissent during World War I

Free speech and the suppression of dissent during World War I

Eric Thomas Chester (Author)
World War I, given all the rousing "Over-There" songs and in-the-trenches films it inspired, was, at its outset, surprisingly unpopular with the American public. As opposition increased, Woodrow Wilson's presidential administration became intent on stifling antiwar dissent. Wilson effectively silenced the National Civil Liberties Bureau, forerunner of the American Civil Liberties Union. Presidential candidate Eugene Debs was jailed, and Deb's Socialist Party became a prime target of surveillance operations, both covert and overt. Drastic as these measures were, more draconian measures were to come. In his absorbing new book, Eric Chester reveals that out of this turmoil came a heated public discussion on the theory of civil liberties--the basic freedoms that are, theoretically, untouchable by any of the three branches of the U.S. government. The famous "clear and present danger" argument of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the "balance of conflicting interest" theory of law professor Zechariah Chafee, for example, evolved to provide a rationale for courts to act as a limited restraint on autocratic actions of the government. But Chester goes further, to examine an alternative theory: civil liberties exist as absolute rights, rather than being dependent on the specific circumstances of each case. Over the years, the debate about the right to dissent has intensified and become more necessary. This fascinating book explains why, a century after the First World War--and in the era of Trump--we need to know about this. -- publisher's website
Print Book, English, 2020
Monthly Review Press, New York, 2020
504 pages ; 24 cm
9781583678695, 9781583678688, 1583678697, 1583678689
The British experience in suppressing dissent
Stifling the National Civil Liberties Bureau
Quashing the Socialist Party and targeting Eugene Victor Debs
The struggle to free Eugene Victor Debs
Traitors, spies, and military tribunals
The IWW and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus
Herbert Croly, The New Republic, and the "clear and present danger" doctrine
Zechariah Chafee Jr. and the "balance of conflicting interests" doctrine
The "clear and present danger" doctrine in historical context
Free speech as an absolute right