- Sep 23, 2005
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
So much for the US being a "free country." If the US was a "free country" then none of these things would have happenned, but the US is not a "free country" and that is why these things did happen and continue to happen. The laws discussed here are still in effect today that were passed by Congress:
Students Seek Pardons for WWI Seditionists By SARAH COOKE, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jan 10, 3:21 AM ET
HELENA, Mont. - It took just two words to land Polish immigrant Ben Kahn in prison for nearly three years during World War I.
The 38-year-old traveling liquor salesman called wartime food regulations in the United States a "big joke" while talking with a Montana hotel owner as he waited for breakfast in March 1918.
By lunchtime, Kahn had been arrested for violating Montana's Sedition Act. Less than a month later, he was in prison in Deer Lodge, sentenced to 7 1/2 to 20 years.
Nearly 90 years later, law students at the University of Montana are combing old court records and archive collections across the state to clear Kahn and 73 other Montanans convicted of sedition in 1918 and 1919.
The effort, known as the "Montana Sedition Project," was sparked by University of Montana journalism professor Clem Work's new book, "Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West."
Montana's Sedition Act was passed by a special session of the Legislature in 1918, but has since been repealed. It was one of the harshest in the country, Work said, and was the basis for a national sedition law passed by Congress the same year. An armistice ended the war later that year.
The laws sprang from a climate of mass panic and hysteria, in which German spies were feared around every corner and political dissidents were deemed a threat, Work said. German books were banned and burned, and preaching in German from church pulpits was forbidden.
"When the war came, all of those fears were ratcheted up," Work said. "This fear of Germany and German spies kind of dominated the consciousness of the state."
Many of the law students said they were shocked by the number of farmers, miners and other blue-collar Montanans convicted of making anti-government statements, and the comments that landed them in prison.
"You never know when those rights can be infringed on," said Katie Olson, 26, of Great Falls. "Even though this is something that happened almost 100 years ago, I definitely think it's still important."