The Montana Sedition Project


Imagine going down to your local brewpub or coffee shop. You meet some friends. The talk turns to the war. You criticize the President and his wealthy supporters. Next thing you know, a couple of husky fellows at the next table grab you, hustle you out the door and down to the local police station. You are arrested on a charge of sedition. Within months you are indicted, tried and convicted. The judge sentences you to 5-10 years in prison — and off you go! Think this could never happen? Well, it happened not that long ago — during World War I — to scores of ordinary people in Montana. They discovered very painfully that their free speech rights had been stripped away by the state legislature.

This site is about the 76 men and three women convicted of the crime of sedition in Montana in 1918 and 1919. The law they ran afoul of was possibly the harshest anti-speech law passed by any state in the history of the United States. Forty of those men — and one woman — served prison terms at the state penitentiary in Deer Lodge under sentences of up to 20 years. They were sent there for simply expressing their opinions — about President Wilson, about America’s entry into World War I, about the armed forces, or about some other government agency. One man was sentenced to 7 – 20 years for saying the wartime food regulations were a “big joke.” Others were convicted but only fined. A handful were found not guilty.

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