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Open Letter from Victor L. Berger . . . Addressed to his Colleagues in Congress, April 1919

Representative Victor L. Berger of Wisconsin wrote this letter to members of Congress after his conviction under the Espionage Act. In it he claimed that his right to speak or write the truth had been denied. Berger took his case to the Supreme Court, which eventually overturned the verdict. Wisconsin citizens subsequently elected Berger to three more terms in the House.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

I am one of the founders of the Socialist Party of America. I was the first Socialist elected to Congress (a member of the 62nd congress). I have always prided myself on strict obedience to laws, even when I did not like them.

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The Espionage and Sedition Acts

Two months after the United States entered World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act, making it a crime to convey information that could interfere with military efforts to defeat Germany and the Axis powers. In 1918 Congress added a new provision, known as the Sedition Act, which prohibited the public use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States, its military, or its flag. Congress repealed the Sedition Act in 1920, but portions of the Espionage Act remain in effect today.

When this country made its decision and went into this war, it was the duty of every American citizen to loyally support the Government of the United States in the prosecution of the war.

Representative Frederick W. Dallinger of Massachusetts, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, November 10, 1919