New York Times
SEDITION BILL SENT TO WILSON BY HOUSE
Conference report Adopted After a Short Debate Over Mail Censorship
MEYER LONDON PROTESTS
Socialist Objects to Elimination of Amendment Exempting Critics Who
Speak the Truth
WASHINGTON, May 7 --- Final legislative action was taken today on the Sedition bill, giving the Government broad new powers to punish disloyal acts and utterances. Adopting a conference report already approved by the Senate, the House sent to the President for his signature the measure which has been before Congress for weeks.
The President is expected to sign the bill promptly, and through vigorous enforcement of its provisions officials of the Department of Justice say they will be able to do much toward checking the wave of mob outbreaks for which unpunished disloyalty and enemy activity are blames.
Penalties of twenty years imprisonment or a fine of $10,000, or both, are both provided in the bill for those convicted of uttering or printing disloyal, abusive, profane, scurrilous, contemptuous, or abusive language about the United States or the Government, or the flag, and for those who are convicted of favoring Germany or her allies in the present war.
Only Representative London of New York, the Socialist, voted against the conference report on the final test. Representatives Lundeen of Minnesota, Republican, and Church of California, Democrat, voted present.
Representative London sought vainly to send the report back to conference because of the elimination of the Senate amendment exempting those who in criticism of the Government speak the truth with good motives and for justifiable ends. Representative Gordon of Ohio, Democrat, declared the Senate place language in the bill "which plainly is in violation of the Federal Constitution guaranteeing free speech."
Others opposed the bill largely because of the objection to conferring new censorship powers on the Postmaster General who is authorized to refuse the service of the mails to any person or concern using the mails in violation of the proposed act.
Representative Johnson of Washington attached Representative London's criticism of the provision against using abusive language against the Constitution of the United States, and wanted to know whether the Socialist member approved of the activities of the I. W. W.
"When a group of conscienceless employers refuse to recognize the right of people to organize, they will have to deal with the I. W. W.," Representative London replied. "I believe the I. W. W. is the working out of the law of compensation."
"I am eternally opposed to having the Constitution made over along the lines of a Karl Marx book on socialism," reported Mr. Johnson, "and I am also opposed to making the Stars and Strips into a red flag of revolution for the anarchists, of the the I. W. W., or the Socialists."
Representative Webb of North Carolina, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Representative Graham of Pennsylvania, Republican, who led the fight for the report, insisted that the powers proposed were necessary and would not be abused.
Representative Wood of Indiana and Representative Green of Iowa, Republicans, objected to the powers given the Postmaster General. The mail censorship section reads as follows:
"The Postmaster General may upon evidence satisfactory to him that any person or concern is using the mails in violation of the provisions of this act instruct the Postmaster at any Post Office at which mail is received addressed to such person or concern to return to the Postmaster at the office all letters or other matter so addressed with the words, 'Mail to this address undeliverable under Espionage act,' plainly written or stamped upon the outside thereof, and all such letters or other matters so returned to such Postmasters shall be by them returned to the senders thereof under such regulations as the Postmaster General may prescribe."
Penalties under the bill would apply to those who make false reports or 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, or say or do anything with intent to obstruct the sale of government securities during the war. They would apply to those who attempt to incite insubordination or mutiny or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces, or retard recruiting, or to those who speak, write, or publish abusive language against the uniform of the soldier or sailor or the flag or the Constitution.