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Montana Sedition Act-Montana Council of Defense

Page history last edited by Marcella Walter 3 years ago


During World War I, the Montana Legislature passed the Montana Sedition Act, which made it illegal to criticize the armed forces, the constitution, or the state and federal government.  That legislation--though designed to curtail opposition to the war--reflected and encouraged statewide bullying of people of German descent.  Why did the Montana Legislature take a stand that infringed on the rights of its state's citizens? What leads individuals and governments to such hostile conflicts with people of other cultures especially in wartime?  What happens when civil discussion and exchange of ideas, beliefs, and cultures is forbidden in local, state, and national politics?  What happens when we are not allowed to explore a wide range of opinions and ideas, to use diplomatic tools, compromise.  How did Montanans of German descent face this conflict--this discrimination? Can you find documentation of those efforts?


Secondary Sources

"Chapter 16: Montana and World War I, 1914 - 1918," Montana: Stories of the Land (Helena, MT, 2008).  Read the chapter on-line (good brief background)


Fritz, Nancy, "The Montana Council of Defense," MA Thesis, 1966, University of Montana.


Clemens P. Work, Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West (Albuquerque, NM, 2006) (extensive background, including the national context)


Anna Zellick, "Patriots on the Rampage: Mob Action in Lewistown, 1917-1918," Montana The Magazine of Western History 30 (January 1981): 18-29. (A local episode)


Primary Sources at the Montana Historical Society

Montana Council of Defense records, 1916-1921, Montana Council of Defense, RS 19, Montana Historical Society Archives. (For details, see the on-line finding aid for this collection of historical records) (Unavailable October 15, 2013-April 15, 2014)


Report of the Montana Council of Defense to the 16th Legislative Assembly, Published by the Montana Council of Defense, 1919, Helena, MT.


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Web

Montana Sedition Project: http://www.seditionproject.net/ ("This site is about the 76 men and three women convicted of sedition in Montana in 1918 and 1919.... Here you can read their stories and learn about the conditions that led to this dark period in Montana's history").


Letter to Charles Greenfield, State Defense Committee, from Terry, MT. 1918. Read the letter on-line (The Montana Memory Project has posted a scan of this letter, which is part of the Montana Council of Defense records, 1916-1921. Record Series 19. [box 2 folder 22]. Montana Historical Society Research Center.)


Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society

Campbell, William C.

Crum, Charles L.

Montana Council of Defense

Sedition Law, Montana


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