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Civil Liberty After the War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Linden A. Mander
University of Washington


In his presidential address delivered before the American Political Science Association in January, 1944, Professor Robert E. Cushman set forth clearly and convincingly the dilemma which confronts contemporary democratic nations. If they suppress discussion out of fear of fifth column and other subversive elements, democracy may perish from within, since constructive critical forces will in all probability be suppressed along with the elements of danger and dissatisfaction. If they permit freedom of discussion and propaganda, those hostile to democracy may use freedom of speech to gain control of the democratic processes for the purpose of suppressing the very democracy which has permitted them to ride to power.

The world has seen this process at work both in Spain and in Germany, where the abuse of parliamentary immunity helped to hasten the overthrow of free peoples. And this type of danger will face the democracies after the present war at a time when emotional attitudes will be marked by greater intolerance. The danger may possibly come from those who desire internal reaction, from those who are members of fifth column groups, or possibly from a combination of both; for in an age of confused purposes national groups willing to link themselves with foreign elements for the forcible suppression of parties and groups of which they disapprove have come to be not uncommon.

American Government and Politics
Copyright © American Political Science Association 1946

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1 In his March 26, 1944, broadcast, Mr. Churchill told the British people that they must expect a number of false alarms which, he said, would be designed to mislead the enemy. At what point does this necessary deception of a people by the government for the people's good merge into something very different? Elsewhere I have put the matter in the following words: “Who in the present war can separate the necessary arbitrariness of governments for urgent military reasons from the type of executive arbitrariness against which Anglo-Saxon countries have fought for centuries and against which they have erected the careful legal procedures known especially to and valued by the legal profession? If today an objection is raised against some official action, the reply is made that the action is dictated by military necessity. If people suspect that there has been unjustified encroachment or inefficiency in one of the government services, they find it difficult to obtain full information because the government will say that the publication of information will be of more value to the enemy than it will be to its own democracy. Who shall judge whether this explanation is true? Thus democracy runs the risk of a progressively diminishing control over its officials; for uncontrolled power is alleged to be necessary to wage war, but uncontrolled power is very difficult to reconcile with the institutions of law which have been so carefully built up over the centuries. One may fairly conclude therefore that in the conduct of the present war lie many dangers to free institutions and that certain bureaucratic top-heaviness and habits may well persist, and that if the growing impact of international affairs upon national affairs continues in a war world we may expect to see an expanding area of official discretion under cover of military necessity or reasons of state. If we are to reverse this tendency we must constitutionalize what has traditionally been called foreign relations; otherwise the constitutionalism of domestic life will be swallowed up in the crisis government resulting from international instability.” Mander, L. A., “National Law and International Order,” Washington Law Review and State Bar Journal, Vol. 19, p. 74 (Apr., 1944).Google Scholar

2 L. A. Mander, op. cit., pp. 77–78. I wonder if many people appreciate how organization for total war has affected the civil rights of citizens; and yet surely the evidence before us needs no elaboration. The American-born Japanese citizens of the West Coast, many of them loyal beyond question, have been compulsorily shifted from their homes, have suffered economic loss, and face the prospect that, owing to the growth of race prejudice, they may not be permitted to resume their normal life on the West Coast. We may indeed have created a second class of American citizenship. No one, I think, would deny the military factors involved in shifting the population (though whether the move was undertaken primarily to prevent sabotage or primarily to protect the Japanese themselves may be open to question). What has happened to the American Japanese may happen to others, for owing to the ingenious and multifarious methods now possible in total war, every person belonging to a minority group may be a potential enemy, and thus those with “double loyalties” may find themselves in a tragic and impossible position…. The United States comprises one of the most imposing collections of minorities under one government in the history of humankind, but the position of minorities in their civil, cultural, religious, and legal relations tends to become worse because of the need of taking no chances in an age of war and the consequent redoubled surveillance over such minorities. Stern action toward and persecution of minorities, however, has seriously affected the spiritual and political unity of many a country and produced disastrous results, as the history of Austria-Hungary and of Turkey has clearly shown.

3 McWilliams, Carey, Prejudice; Japanese-Americans (1944)Google Scholar, presents documentary evidence of a conclusive nature to show that anti-Japanese groups on the West Coast, and particularly in California, used the international situation to indulge their race prejudices against Japanese-American citizens and to demand their removal from the West Coast areas.

4 As a member of the Mayor's Civic Unity Committee of Seattle, the writer has had opportunity to see something of the problems arising out of discrimination practiced against Negroes, particularly those who migrated into the war industries.

page 77 note 1 The war was still in progress when this article was written, Man. Ed.

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