Friday, May 5, 2017

A Hundred Years Ago in America

Gossips continues to search newspapers from 1917 seeking items that give a sense of what life was like in Hudson during the time that the United States was involved in World War I. The plan was to share each day an item from the newspaper that appeared on that same day a hundred years ago. We've lagged a week behind, and we've already published an item from April 28, 1917, but I cannot resist sharing another. It's not local news, but, given our current president's attitude toward the press and its coverage of him and his talk of changing the libel laws, it is very compelling.

WASHINGTON, April 28--President Wilson in a letter to Arthur Brisbane, of New York, declared that he is opposed to any system of censorship that would deny the people of the United States "their indisputable right to criticise their own public officials." He wrote that whatever action Congress may decide upon he will not expect or permit any law to shield him against criticism.
Replying to a letter from Mr. Brisbane on the espionage bill now pending in Congress, the President wrote:
"I sincerely appreciate the frankness of your interesting letter of April 20 with reference to the so-called espionage bill now awaiting the action of the Congress.
"I approve of this legislation, but I need not assure you and those interested in it that whatever action the Congress may decide upon, so far as I am personally concerned, I shall not expect or permit any part of this law to apply to me or any of my official acts or in any way to be used as a shield against criticism.
"I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticise their own public officials. While exercising the great powers of the office I hold, I would regret in a crisis like the one through which we are now passing to lose the benefit of patriotic and intelligent criticism.
"In these trying times one can feel certain only of his motives, which he must try to purge of selfishness of every kind and await with patience for the judgment of a calmer day to vindicate the wisdom of the course he has tried conscientiously to follow."
The Espionage Act of 1917, which was passed on June 15, made it a crime, "when the United States is at war," for any person to "willfully make or convey false reports or false statements 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." 

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