The Sedition Act

The Sedition Act was passed in May 1918 in the United States, and it forbade an American to use "disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive" language about the United States government, the flag, or the armed forces during war. As an afterthought it allowed the US Postmaster General to deny mail delivery to dissenters and objectors during war time.

The law was used to persecute those who disagreed with congressional or presidential policy. The earlier Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime to help wartime enemies of the United States, but the Sedition Act took it further and made it a crime to utter, print, write or publish any disloyal words about the US government or its policies. As such, it was the most recent attempt of the US government to directly curtail freedom of speech.

Repealed in 1921, the act was deemed antithetical to the spirit and letter of the US Constitution - but not before many had been arrested under its powers.

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