Smith Act

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The Alien Registration Act, popularly known as the Smith Act, is a U.S. federal law passed in 1940 that made it a criminal offense to advocate the violent overthrow of the government or to organize or be a member of any group or society devoted to such advocacy. It also required all non-citizen adult residents to register with the federal government. Approximately 215 people were indicted under the legislation, including alleged communists, anarchists, and fascists. Prosecutions under the Smith Act continued until a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 1957 reversed a number of convictions under the Act, as unconstitutional. The law has been amended several times.

"Great Sedition Trial"

Thirty prominent individuals were indicted in Washington, D.C., in July 1942, accused of violations of the Smith Act. After delays while the government amended the charges and struggled to construct its case, the trial, expanded to 33 defendants, began on April 17, 1944. The defendants were a heterogeneous group that held either "isolationist" or pro-fascist views. In the case of U.S. v. McWilliams, the prosecutor, O. John Rogge, hoped to prove they were National Socialist propaganda agents by demonstrating the similarity between their statements and enemy propaganda. The weakness of the government's case, combined with the trial's slow progress in the face of disruption by the defendants, led the press to lose interest. A mistrial was declared on November 29, 1944, following the death of the trial judge, Edward C. Eicher. Defendant Lawrence Dennis mocked the affair by subtitling his account of the trial The Great Sedition Trial of 1944.

"The prosecutor, O. John Rogge, accused the defendants of membership in a world-wide Nazi conspiracy. His case consisted largely of out-of-context quotations from the writings of the defendants. These quotations were supposed to show that the defendants agreed with Nazi criticisms of Communism, democracy, Jews and/or the warmongering Roosevelt regime. Thus, agreement with the Nazis on one or more points was made out to be the equivalent of full-fledged, conscious participation in a conspiracy to Nazify the planet. Dennis and St. George painstakingly debunk this ludicrous attempt to prove guilt-by-association."[1]

See also

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Encyclopedias

References

  1. A Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944 https://codoh.com/library/document/2111/?lang=en
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