Civil Liberties During WWI

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11030

War threatens each part of life, including civil liberties, rights granted to citizens by the Constitution. Is it right and fair for government to limit rights for the sake of safety? Read and decide!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Civil liberties are certain rights protected by law, usually guaranteeing safeguards against a governing body.

  • During times of war, should Americans be willing to give up some civil liberties?

Before exploring this question, watch the quick video below to better understand the relationship between freedom and security.

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During wars before and since WWI, laws that curb Americans' civil liberties have been passed.

While the government has not shied away from restricting individual rights during wartime, many Americans question if some of these laws are unconstitutional.

Shortly after the United States entered WWI, Congress passed the Espionage Act.

Read U.S. Congress passes Espionage Act to learn more about the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Now, study this piece of WWI propaganda and explain how it supports what you know about the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

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Political cartoons were often used to express favor for or concerns regarding a current action.

Use these steps to Analyze a Cartoon to practice reading at least one of the two cartoons below.

  • If laws appear to be unfair, what, if anything, can a regular citizen do?

One choice is to challenge the law and hope the courts rule in your favor.

Think of a law that you feel is unfair or that should be altered. Think about how you would present your appeal to the courts.

Continue to the Got It? section to learn about the court case that challenged the Espionage Act.

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