EMBARGO POWER RESTORED TO PRESIDENT IN ESPIONAGE ACT
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) One hundred years ago today, May 7, 1917, the United States Senate restored to the Espionage Act the power of the President of the United States "to proclaim it unlawful to export articles....when the public safety shall so require."
The restoration came after Democratic leader Thomas S. Martin* "explained behind closed doors" that the President feared he would be unable to achieve the ends desired under the section (of the act) as it had been modified.
Before the Senate acted, however, Republicans criticized the President in five hours of debate for failing to consult with Members of Congress about the proposed legislation.
Although the new section was approved without one dissenting vote, Republican Senator Charles E. Townsend** said he understood the purpose of the legislation was to force neutral nations into the war. The Senator argued that if this was true, the United States had abandoned 'the high ideals we have set as a reason for entering this war.'
*Thomas Staples Martin (1847-1919) was born in Scottsville, VA & served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. TSM attended the University of Virginia after the war & served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 25 years.
**Charles Elroy Townsend (R-Michigan) was born in Concord, MI & attended the University of Michigan. He was admitted to the bar in 1895 & served in the US House of Representatives 1903-1911 & in the United States Senate 1911-1923.
"Wilson Is Given Embargo Power; Debate Bitter, Many Senators Attack His Refusl to Ask For Advice," The Chicago Daily Tribune, May 8, 1917, www.archives.chicagotribune.com/
Thomas S. Martin
Charles E. Townsend