Wilson and Censorship of the Press

President Wilson hopes the press will observe a "patriotic reticence"

Wilson's position on censorship following the United States' entrance into the Great War was a complicated one. He could "imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people . . . their indisputable right to criticize their own public officials," but he also felt strongly that his administration should have the power to censor information in the interest of national security.

The letter to Representative Webb represents Wilson's argument for the inclusion of a censorship provision in the Espionage Act that would prohibit the dissemination of information deemed "to be useful to the enemy" in times of national emergency. An amendment to that effect passed in the House but did not make it into the Espionage Act voted into law on June 15, 1917.

In May of 1918, Wilson was successful in getting the Sedition Act passed as an amendment to the Espionage Act. It became a crime to "utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane...or abusive language" about the United States government or to disagree with its actions abroad. The act was repealed in 1921.

View the original document
View the letter in the eLibrary

Sections


did you know?



Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation