Congress Arresting People For Sedition, Questioning Government

Congress Arresting People For Sedition, Questioning Government

The air has been so crowed with fluff and propaganda from the debased media about the so-called MAGA Capitol “insurrection”, you probably missed what Congress did.

They only passed a law against “publishing…false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government.

Who gets to decide what “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” is? Not you, not I, that’s who.

One of the bill’s sponsors was John Allen of Connecticut. He justified his support by saying “Liberty of…opinion is calculated to destroy all confidence between man and man. It leads to the dissolution of every bond of union.” Best not to have liberty of speech, then!

How he got away with saying “man and man” and not “man and woman” or “those with one sexual-desire-based identity and those with another sexual-desire-based identity” is a separate question.

It didn’t take long from the passing of this act before they hauled in one James Thomson Callender—have you even heard his name?—who said the Congress was a “continual tempest of malignant passions” and that our upcoming President was a “repulsive pedant, a gross hypocrite and an unprincipled oppressor.”

Callender got nine months jail for this!

The Act was the Sedition Act, passed in 1798 as part of a series of similar measures to protect the sensitive government from having its feelings hurt. That’s humor. The real motivation was that government officials wanted to protect themselves from feeling danger.

Congress hadn’t forgotten the time they had to flee the Capitol when it was under siege—for real.

Revolutionary War veterans surrounded the Capitol in 1787, then in Philadelphia, demanding their back pay. Soldiers jammed their muskets through the windows and said “Pay us or else”. Congress ran away and negotiated from afar (Princeton). Instead of money, Congress gave the soldiers IOUs.

As sometimes happens, the government came to it senses, and the Act was allowed to expire in 1801.

But, as happens much more frequently, government lost its memory and its mind once again. In 1918, having learned nothing from its earlier failure, Congress passed a new Sedition Act.

This new Act “forbade the use of ‘disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language’ about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt.”

A few people took it in the neck because of this new Act, too. Example: “In April 1918, the government arrested industrialist William C. Edenborn, a naturalized citizen from Germany, at his railroad business in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was accused of speaking ‘disloyally’ when he allegedly belittled the threat of Germany to the security of the United States.”

Again, as before, overblown fears by government officials, that sensitive set, abated. The second Act was repealed in 1920.

This was before a second “siege” of unarmed soldiers, incidentally, who, in 1932, once again surrounded the Capitol demanding their back pay for WWI. The Senate refused, the soldiers dispersed.

Enter 2021. The government, and the elites buzzing about government, once again fears its people.

Take the nervous Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. He said about the election, “This idea that saying that Pennsylvania was ‘rigged’ or that we were ‘trying to steal the election’ — that’s a lie. And you do not have the right, that is not protected speech.”

Nancy Pelosi, true to form, coming down on the wrong side of every question, wants members of Congress who she deemed “accomplices” to the Capitol protest, hunted down and “prosecuted.”

Joe Biden, narrowly avoiding Godwin’s Law, likened Ted Cruz to “Nazi propagandist Goebbels for helping Trump spread [the] ‘big lie’ about election fraud”.

Big Tech immediately began to purge dissenters, including President Trump, and Big Corporate promised to withhold donations from those who question the election. But there’s much more brewing.

We also have the media and academia supplying ammunition to politicians who want to crack down on free political speech about the election.

The New York Times has an in-depth analysis on the subject, distilling arguments from our top academic minds, who conclude, most reluctantly, that people can’t be trusted with speaking freely.

“Instead of protecting speech, the First Amendment might need to be invoked now to constrain certain forms of speech”. What’s more important? Liberty, or the government feeling safe? That semi-rhetorical question proves, once again, it’s not the Constitution that rules, it’s those who interpret it.

It’s too early to tell if Congress will pass another Sedition-like Act. They’re certainly frightened enough.

This originally appeared, in edited form, at The Stream.

Bonus Roger Kimball takes note: A Party of Faction and Fantasy.

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  1. Everything changes at noon today. Everything.

  2. Michael Dowd

    Very good Mr. Briggs. Trump 2024 needs to start soon sponsored by a 3rd Party.

    Getting government suppression out in the open may be the best strategy at the present moment. The more exposure to truth the better.

  3. Dean Ericson

    ”One of the bill’s sponsors was John Allen of Connecticut. He justified his support by saying “Liberty of…opinion is calculated to destroy all confidence between man and man. It leads to the dissolution of every bond of union.” Best not to have liberty of speech, then!”

    Quite agree. Dogmatic adherence to free speech sheltered the nest of vipers dedicated to our destruction. It has lead to the dissolution of every bond of union. John Allen of Connecticut, vindicated.

    Liberalism is a sin.

  4. Kathleen

    >> Quite agree. Dogmatic adherence to free speech sheltered the nest of vipers dedicated to our destruction. It has lead to the dissolution of every bond of union.

    >> Liberalism is a sin.

    Absolutely. It has been a demonically inspired set up from the start.

    Error has no rights.

  5. Sheri

    “Everything changes at noon today. Everything.” You mean like at noon January 20, 2017?

    “likened Ted Cruz to “Nazi propagandist Goebbels” Cruz is going to the inauguration. He’s (Cruz, or Goebbels propagandist, whichever version you buy) a traitor and an idiot. Supporting a cheat and a liar that Cruz supposedly would have gone to the Supreme Court over. Not a good example. Admittedly, there appear to be zero principled right-wingers. They all kiss back sides now.

    Yes, the government is terrified. Now, use the fear to drive them out.

  6. Hun

    MD, there is not going to be Trump 2024. Wake up!

  7. Hun

    Ugh, “Patriot Party”. So Trump is thinking about it, considering it, while he monitors the situation…

    Will you plan trusters ever wake up and understand the reality of the situation? There is no democratic way forward. Elections are meaningless and Trump nor any other populist will ever be allowed to win. He wouldn’t be able to do anything anyway. Haven’t the past 4 years thought you anything?

  8. Dennis

    This country is about to install the most corrupt and objectively evil President and administration in its history (there really is no other word to describe a man who endorses pre-pubescent trannies, nominates anti-white racists to high positions, nominates a deranged transvestite mental case with one of the worst records on Covid to help lead national Covid policy, and is the most enthusiastically pro-abortion President ever – all while masquerading as a faithful Catholic, which makes his acts even more scandalous, though few in the milquetoast modernist episcopacy of today have the guts to call him out and rain down anathemas!). At least Stalin and others were, at bottom, basically just old-fashioned murderous tyrants. Biden and his ilk want to modify, pervert, and corrupt human nature and moral order itself.

    One can only hope that by installing this illegitimate fraud as Commander-in-Thief, it will help hasten the downfall of this corrupt and sick regime, this failed state with its sick culture that deserves every punishment that can be meted out, and hopefully will before long be swept the dustbin of history along with other corrupt and evil regimes. The USSR disbanded itself on Christmas Day 1991…an even 30 years on is it too much to hope the USA will offer the world a similar Christmas present later this year?

  9. Sheri

    Hun: No, people refuse to see that reality…..

    Dennis: I have said basically the same thing–Stalin, Lenin and others were just tyrants. The evil that is the Democrats today far exceeds these historical tyrants. The evil today kills under the guise of “for your own good” and other lies, and it’s never direct and open. These are truly evil rulers we now have.

    I notice that some of the problem in history that lead to the Sedition Acts was not paying your troops. Interesting.

  10. Liberty Mike

    Individualism did not yield The Alien and Sedition Act abominations.

    Individualism does not recognize the fears and concerns of tyrants and would be totalitarians. Those bitter clingers to authority and obedience to authority have a history of entertaining and considering the fears and concerns of their overlords as legitimate and entitled to deference. The mad asseverations of a John Allen are therefore given respect when they should be dismissed and held in contempt.

    In fact, those bitter clingers who worship authority and, most of all, obedience to authority, disparage Jesus Christ who, in the tribute episode, informed us that Caesar owns nothing, including one’s fidelity to him.

  11. JohnK
  12. Rudolph Harrier

    There is one “democratic” way forward: organize voter fraud at the local level. It is an acknowledged part of the process so there is nothing dishonorable in taking part in it, and at this point victory over the fraud of the enemy won’t be possible without fraud of your own.

    You may detest taking part in it and you may have the first action of those you elect to make fraud impossible (a goal I would support!) but if you want to change the system from the inside you have to play by the rules, and those rules now include fraud.

  13. deb

    they should be fearful of their conscience, like the telltale heart the nation beats and they cannot get it out of their heads that WE do NOT want what they want to do to us.

  14. Sheri

    Just wanted to thank Briggs for reminding us this is not the first time things have run amok. The biggest difference now is more experience. However, since Antifa is already carrying signs that say “We do not want Biden” and smashing windows in the DNC offices in Portland (I think), the experience may not have been interpreted properly and the outcome will not be what the Dems were hoping for.

  15. DAV

    Attributed to Huey Long 1935: “we’ll have fascism in this country, and we’ll call it anti-fascism”.

  16. DAV

    Antifa carrying signs that say “We do not want Biden” will be interpreted as Antifa being pro-Trump and will be used to explain Antifa presence at the Capitol Jan 6. Not to mention proving that the riots last summer were all Trump’s idea.

  17. Grima Squeakersen

    Dean Ericson – Then please emigrate to some nation that lacks a practice or tradition of the liberties you so despise. There certainly is no lack of options. I think that China would be a good choice at the moment. Or possibly Hong King, where you could become a well-kept Occidental shill for the CCP while it strips what few liberties those poor souls have remaining to them.

  18. Grima Squeakersen

    Dennis – to assume that Biden is/will be motivated by ideology is, I believe, a mistake that could lead to ineffective opposition to the Beltway initiatives of the next four years. Biden is nothing but a career politician, who never accomplished much in four decades in Congress, and has risen far above any reasonable expectations for his career in being installed as POTUS. I suspect he is quite aware of his over achievement, and that his primary personal motivation will be to avoid any behavior that might jeopardize his position. He *will* be susceptible to being pushed around by his advisors for just that reason, and some of those advisors *do* have agenda beyond personal enrichment or aggrandizement, but, in the interests of making the most effective response(s) to the clusterf**k that will inevitable ensue, we should be careful about confusing and conflating motivations.

  19. Grima Squeakersen

    Um, “Hong Kong” not “Hong King”. I have frequently wished for an edit function in comments here…

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