Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
“The infamous Alien and Sedition Acts of 1789 must be seen in the context of the time, and the context was tumult and fear. Adams later spoke of the Alien and Sedition Acts as war measures. It was how he saw them then, and how he chose to remember them. There was rampant fear of the enemy within. Beyond that, the United States was at war-declared or not-and there were in fact numbers of enemy agents operating in the country. The Alien Acts included a Naturalization Act, which increased the required period of residence to qualify for citizenship from five to fourteen years, and the Alien Act, granted the President the legal right to expel any foreigner he considered ‘dangerous.’ Of greater consequence was the Sedition Act, which made any ‘False, scandalous, and malicious’ writing against the Congress, or President, or any attempt ‘to excite against them the hatred of the good people of the United States, or stir up sedition,’ crimes punishable by fine and imprisonment. Though it was clearly a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech, its Federalist proponents in Congress, insisted, like President Adams, that it was a war measure.”
1. What were the provisions of the Alien and Sedition Acts?
2. According to historical events and facts, what do you believe was the reasoning behind Adam’s approval of the Alien and Sedition Acts?
3. Do you believe the provisions set forth in the Alien and Sedition Acts impede civil liberties? Defend your opinion.
According to Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." During the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. Habeas Corpus is the protection from unlawful detainment and being given the right to know why you are being detained.
“Receiving word that the mobs intended to destroy the train tracks between Annapolis and Philadelphia in order to prevent the long-awaited troops from reaching the beleaguered capital, Lincoln made controversial decision. If resistance along the military line between Washington and Philadelphia made it ‘necessary to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus for public safety,’ Lincoln authorized General Scott to do so. In Lincoln’s words, General Scott could ‘arrest, and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to public safety.’ Lincoln later defended his decision in his first message to Congress. As chief executive, he was responsible for ensuring ‘that the laws be faithfully executed.’ An insurrection ‘in nearly one-third of the States’ had subverted the ‘whole of the laws…are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?” His logic was unanswerable, but as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued in another context many years later, the “grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when Constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.”
Facts of the Case
During World War I, Schenck mailed circulars to draftees. The circulars suggested that the draft was a monstrous wrong motivated by the capitalist system. The circulars urged "Do not submit to intimidation" but advised only peaceful action such as petitioning to repeal the Conscription Act. Schenck was charged with conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act by attempting to cause insubordination in the military and to obstruct recruitment.
Are Schenck's actions (words, expression) protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment?
Decision: 9 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 1917 Espionage Act; US Const Amend 1
Holmes, speaking for a unanimous Court, concluded that Schenck is not protected in this situation. The character of every act depends on the circumstances. "The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent." During wartime, utterances tolerable in peacetime can be punished.
Facts of the Case
During World War II, Presidential Executive Order 9066 and congressional statutes gave the military authority to exclude citizens of Japanese ancestry from areas deemed critical to national defense and potentially vulnerable to espionage. Korematsu remained in San Leandro, California and violated Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of the U.S. Army.
In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the United States. Justice Black wrote the majority opinion. The majority concluded that the President and Congress did not act outside of their constitutional authority, and that the exclusion order did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Murphy dissented, arguing that the exclusion order was primarily based on racism. Justice Jackson and Justice Roberts also dissented.
According to this reasoning, the power of Congress and the President are greatly expanded during wartime, in which “the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger.”
The Court decided that the exclusion order did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. While the justices acknowledged that “all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect,” they determined that all such restrictions were not necessarily unconstitutional. The Court ruled that even though the exclusion order only targeted a specific racial group, it was not based on hostility towards those of Japanese ancestry. Rather, it was because military authorities did not have the time or resources to efficiently separate those who were disloyal from those who were loyal that all people of Japanese ancestry as a group were subject to the exclusion order. If the exclusion order had been based solely on racial prejudice, however, it would be unquestionably unconstitutional.
"Waiting for a Signal From Home..."
What is happening in this cartoon? Describe what you see.
USA PATRIOT Act
The purpose of the USA PATRIOT Act is to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and other purposes, some of which include:
To strengthen U.S. measures to prevent, detect and prosecute international money laundering and financing of terrorism;
To subject to special scrutiny foreign jurisdictions, foreign financial institutions, and classes of international transactions or types of accounts that are susceptible to criminal abuse;
To require all appropriate elements of the financial services industry to report potential money laundering;
To strengthen measures to prevent use of the U.S. financial system for personal gain by corrupt foreign officials and facilitate repatriation of stolen assets to the citizens of countries to whom such assets belong.
Below is a brief, non-comprehensive overview of the sections of the USA PATRIOT Act that may affect financial institutions.
1. What is the purpose of the Patriot Act?
2. What are the positive and negative implications of the Patriot Act?
3. Does the Patriot Act impede civil liberties? Defend your judgment.
PROMPT: Choose and discuss three historical instances when the American government has suspended or limited civil liberties in times of war or conflict. Then evaluate whether or not the United States government was justified in suspending or limiting civil liberties in each instance.