Two Commanders-in-Chief: Free Expression’s Most Severe Test

By Betty Houchin Winfield

A paper by Betty Houchin Winfield, spring 1991 fellow, examines free speech and press freedom in the U.S. during wartime. If wartime governments are more autocratic, writes Winfield, then it is assumed that presidents will take a more authoritative stance concerning free expression. This paper looks at two presidencies that inflicted “extreme infringements” on civil liberties: President Lincoln during the Civil War, and President Wilson during World War I. Both stretched legal parameters to suppress and control information deemed damaging to the war effort; Winfield discusses how they did it.

Download the paper (PDF).