Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – In other words, if you don’t like the war that we’re currently involved in, you’re not allowed to speak out against it. People were prosecuted for opposing. I told you this the other day. People were prosecuted, number one, for opposing the draft, the Military Service Act of 1918, and then for opposing the war outright. The American people did not want Woodrow Wilson’s war. This is what they put on the books to prosecute people that didn’t go along with the government’s plan. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: In Kevin Gutzman and Thomas Woods’ phenomenal book Who Killed the Constitution?, the first chapter of the book, the entire first chapter, is about the Espionage Act of 1917. What followed it was the Sedition Act of 1918. Both of these acts together combined to conspire to deny American citizens their First Amendment protection, First and Ninth Amendment as Jefferson said, but their First Amendment protection from prosecution and persecution from the federal government over their rights to speech, peaceably assemble, petition for redress of grievance, freedom of worship. You know the drill on the First Amendment.
Again, if you’re not an incorporationista, then you know that the federal government cannot circumscribe speech in any manner, it just can’t. As Jefferson pointed out, and Gutzman and Woods pointed out in the first chapter of Who Killed the Constitution?, the state governments could. That was the power they retained, they reserved it, but the federal government could not. In Chapter One, “The Greatest Danger,” you’ll find this: -- Andrew, this is what the Department of Justice is citing that they used. This is the justification for the Obama administration’s surveillance of those AP reporters and of James Rosen of Fox News, precisely what it is. That’s according to them, not me.
It was precisely this climate that the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act had either created or aggravated. The first of them was passed in June 1917. Section 3, the relevant part of the legislation, instructs:
“Whoever, when the United States is at war, willfully make or convey false reports or false statement with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, to the injury of the service or of the United States, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.”
Mike: In other words, if you don’t like the war that we’re currently involved in, you’re not allowed to speak out against it. People were prosecuted for opposing. I told you this the other day. People were prosecuted, number one, for opposing the draft, the Military Service Act of 1918, and then for opposing the war outright. The American people did not want Woodrow Wilson’s war. This is what they put on the books to prosecute people that didn’t go along with the government’s plan. Gutzman and Woods write:
The Espionage Act also gave the postmaster general the discretionary authority to remove from the mails any material that he believed would hamper the war effort.
When Congress passed the legislation, its members did not understand themselves to be approving an open-ended power to prohibit a wide range of expression. [Mike: See: James Rosen. See: Judith Miller. See: AP reporters.] Criticism of the war as such was not being criminalized. In fact, the version of the bill that Congress approved was more lenient than the original proposal, which among other things would have authorized censorship of the press. But this caveat does not exonerate Congress, since it should have been obvious that a zealous executive could simply interpret the legislation’s key phrases so as to allow the kind of censorship and control that President Wilson had been disappointed to see missing from the final version of the legislation. What, exactly, would constitute an “attempt to cause insubordination”? What kind of activities would be viewed as tending to “obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States”? Would a speech or article against the war qualify as doing either of these things? It would surely be difficult in practice to keep such phrases from reaching an ever-wider range of activities, particularly in the hands of a crusading president.
The Sedition Act, passed the following year, was an amendment to the Espionage Act that authorized precisely the press censorship that Congress left out of the first piece of legislation, and criminalized still more activities. It imposed potentially heavy fines and lengthy prison terms on anyone who should “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag.” [Mike: You couldn’t even say anything about the flag.] It also gave the postmaster general even broader authority to intercept and return mail. One of the arguments in favor of the Sedition Act was that if the federal government punished war critics more severely and effectively, enraged mobs would consider it less urgent to take the law into their own hands—and there would be thus fewer lynchings and other acts of summary justice.
Senator Joseph France of Maryland tried without success to insert an amendment into the act to the effect that “nothing in this act shall be construed as limiting the liberty or impairing the right of any individual to publish or speak what is true, with good motives, and for justifiable ends.” Assistant Attorney General John Lord O’Brian strongly opposed the amendment on the grounds that it would make prosecuting people more difficult. [Mike: In other words, they wanted their scalps on the wall.] It would be especially challenging to prosecute clergy who favored pacifism, since their appeals to the Bible would make it hard to show bad motive. And that would not do, since according to O’Brian, the “greatest danger to the country, internally, to-day is the use of different sorts of seditious propaganda, particularly in the false pacifist propaganda.”
Mike: Then they get into the courts stepping in and the court cases that were fought over this. Here’s their conclusion, Professors Gutzman and Woods in Who Killed the Constitution? Chapter One:
“Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” says the First Amendment. The enumerated powers of Congress, given in Article I, Section 8, do not include a power to suppress any kind of speech under any circumstances. According to Thomas Jefferson, if any governmental body might possess a power to interfere with free speech, it was the states. Whether the states would be wise or warranted in exercising such a power is of course a separate matter, but that is all the Constitution has to say about the subject.
As usual, though, government officials did what they wanted to do.
Mike: That’s Chapter One of Who Killed the Constitution?, written by Kevin Gutzman and Tom Woods. You can find it in the library tab at the top of any page at MikeChurch.com. So all this justification of the snooping and the attempts to suppress the press, whether it’s the AP, whether it’s the New York Times, Fox News and James Rosen, all of this is illegal. It is punishable by the federal government’s own laws. It is prohibited. They have no statutory authority whatsoever, none. That’s why Gutzman and Woods start Chapter One of Who Killed the Constitution? with a rundown of exactly when it all began to unravel in the 20th century. The Espionage Act of 1917, which is now being cited by Attorney General Eric Holder and his underlings in the Obama administration, as the law that they’re using. I assume that they’re also using the Sedition Act part of it, which to my knowledge has never been repealed. Those two laws are now what are on the books and are now being illegally and in an invalid manner being used to justify and provide legal cover for the tyrannical actions of the federal government.
Folks, this should be settled. We should all agree on this, lib, communist, socialist, conservative, libertarian. All of us should agree on this. There is some broad agreement, but because incorporation of the first ten amendments for use against the states is just about complete. Most people won’t approach the subject from that angle. That’s the fatal flaw. Incorporation is complete. Isn’t it funny that the Constitution is seemingly always used to justify and expand government power today, instead of the inverse, which would be to restrict it and limit it? That is the true purpose of a written constitution; it is to limit what these clowns can do, especially in times of war. Alas, that’s not the situation we are living under today, now is it?
End Mike Church Show Transcript