MIA : Early American Marxism : Government Interaction With the Workers and Socialist Movement

U.S. Government Interaction With the Workers and Socialist Movement


Most documents scattered throughout the rest of the EAM



“Diary Entry Regarding the Possible Pardon of Eugene V. Debs and Other Political Prisoners by Woodrow Wilson," by Josephus Daniels [August 10, 1920]  In August 1920, with World War I over for nine months, the question of a Presidential pardon for Eugene V. Debs came up at a meeting of Woodrow Wilson's cabinet. This brief exerpt from the diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels indicates that a majority of the cabinet offering opinions, notably including Attorney General Mitchell Palmer, favored the granting of a presidential pardon for Socialist leader Gene Debs and others jailed under the so-called Espionage Act, with Postmaster General Albert Burleson opposed. Woodrow Wilson emphatically shot down this suggestion, Daniels indicates, thereby dooming Debs and the others to imprisonment for the duration of his administration.

“Letter to President Woodrow Wilson from Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson, with Enclosure by Post Office Solicitor William Lamar Regarding Postal Censorship, September 3, 1920." Letter from head of the US Post Office Department Albert Burleson to President Wilson seeking guidance on whether to continue to make use of the Espionage Act against radical publications. Burleson attaches an opinion by Post Office Solicitor William Lamar that a provision of the Espionage Act declaring all matter “advocating or urging treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States” to be nonmailable and opining that the recent decision of Judge William Hitz in the recent New York Call case striking down the Post Office's power to completely deny second class mailing rights was wrongly decided and advocates a continued hard line against the radical press. “In nearly every case there is an insidious attempt to keep within the letter of the law,” Burleson acknowledges of the radical press, but he charges that in practice this propaganda attempts to instill “a belief that this Government should be overthrown by force, to encourage a belief in modern communism, to hold up as an ideal government the Soviet system in vogue in Russia,” and to induce “direct action...to aid in wresting the control of government from the so-called capitalistic class.” Burleson seeks a policy decision from Wilson, either in writing or verbally at the next meeting of the administration's Cabinet.

Exchange of Communications between Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and President Woodrow Wilson Regarding the Case of United States v. Rose Pastor Stokes [October 1 & 4, 1920] With the November election of a new President barely a month away and the European war almost 11 months done, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer seeks direction from Woodrow Wilson as to whether he should retry prominent New York Communist Rose Pastor Stokes under the Espionage Act. Wilson declares Stokes to be “one of the dangerous influences of the country” and hesitates to encourage dropping the charges against her, but notes that public sentiment has turned against further use of the emergency powers of the Espionage Act. He declares no exception to Justice Department policy should be made for Stokes -- who was ultimately not returned to trial by Attorney General Palmer.