Protesting the war became dangerous, once the Sedition Act of 1918 made it a crime to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" in describing the federal government or the military.Bettmann/Corbis

Many intelligent persons, as well as the great mass of the unthinking, would, now that war is on, have us surrender some of the normal constitutional safeguards of free speech; they would have the plainclothes men and police officials, our district attorneys, juries, and judges, exercise new vigilance in their control of meetings and public speeches. The excuses for this are the activities of German agents and sympathizers, the encouragement which slackers may receive, and the depressing effect upon our troops of tolerated pacifists and conscientious objectors.

The people, speaking through their duly appointed representatives—the president and Congress—have, after the most atrocious provocations and reiterated attacks upon our national honor, deliberately and with the general sanction of the nation decided to enter the war in defense of the highest ideals of democracy and of world peace. The minority, who are still unreconciled with this decision or are not yet fully persuaded, must, it is urged, yield to the majority and keep their mouths shut. For them to continue their protests when the boys are in the trenches is giving aid and comfort to the enemy; it is essentially disloyal, if not downright treasonable …

In the first place difference of opinion is not necessarily disloyalty …

Those … who continue to say that they wish we had not entered the war; that some other less horrible policy might have been selected; that war has never yet begotten lasting peace but only new war; that some men loathe shooting their fellow men under government auspices in the same sickening way that they would loathe private murder—such persons are in no way treasonable, and disloyal only in the sense of failing eagerly to cooperate with the majority in a crisis …

It is this confusion between real traitors on the one hand, and on the other hand those persons whose human sympathy and idealism outrun the common bounds, that fills many of us with dismay.

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