Two Repressive Laws During WWI and Senator George Norris

Here are measures that became law in 1917 that Senator George Norris voted against:

The Espionage Act contained provisions that placed limits on free speech.  The Postmaster General, under Trading with the Enemies Act, could prevent a publisher from engaging in business without even being guilty of any specific crime against the United States.  The Sedition Act enabled the Postmaster General, in secret, without notice, without a trial or charge, to deprive people of getting letters or anything else through the mail.

Senator Norris  wanted to fund the war through taxes on excess profits on corporations and on those making over $5,000  per year. He was only partially successful in adding more progressivity  to the tax code.   If we had followed Norris’ ideas,  we would have curtailed  the suffering  of the Post War Depression.  George Norris simply wanted to take the profit out of war.  He won reelection over the Democratic Candidate John Morehead, 120,000 to 98,000.  This was a reaction, Norris reasoned,  to the repressive policies of the Wilson Administration which were slanted to the wealthy.

After arriving in France  for the Peace Conference, President Wilson toured Europe to impressively large  crowds at each location.   The press coverage  in both Europe and the United States was generous in its praise for Wilson.   The Allied Powers saw Wilson as a savior and were no doubt hoping for large amounts of aid in the future.   President Wilson’s tour left Senator Norris disgusted and angry.  Famine and disease always follow a major war and this time was no exception.  The war overburdened the average wage earner and more taxes would follow as War Bonds became due.  Amidst these conditions, Norris said that Wilson was carrying on like a “drunken sailor.”  More hard times would follow.    


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