This is a snip from my series on The Wanderer
The Wanderer at 140 . . .
Editor Struggled under Burden of Trading with the Enemy Act
On the eve of Der Wanderer‘s 50th anniversary, the United States Congress passed, on October 6, 1917, the Trading With The Enemy Act, which not only required editor Joseph Matt to seek a special license to publish his German-language newspaper, but required him to present an English translation of each issue that contained “original” news and views pertaining to the Great War to the Post Office prior to publication.
Matt complained that the wording of the act was so bureaucratically impenetrable that he could never know with certainty if he were in violation. Contemporary Wanderer readers might wonder the same, and with good reason: the law as originally enacted is still in effect, though it has been revised from time to time as presidents see fit: Franklin Roosevelt, for example, used the Trading With The Enemy Act to outlaw the ownership of gold — which was not excised from the Act until 1975!
For example, with more than a thousand subscribers to Der Wanderer in Germany, Matt had to navigate his way through one provision of the Act which prohibited “doing business” inside any territory with which the United States was at war. Also, the president had the power and authority to designate any individual or citizen living inside a territory with which the United States was at war as an “enemy,” and if a United States’ citizen “did business” with him, could be prosecuted under the terms of the Act.
Under Section 3 of the act, parts c. and d. declare that any person (except those “exempted by Government officials) may not:
” . . . send, or take out of, bring into, or attempt to send, or take out of, or bring into the United States, any letter or other writing or tangible form of communication, except in the regular course of the mail; and it shall be unlawful for any person to send, take, or transmit, or attempt to send, take, or transmit out of the United States, any letter or other writing, book, map, plan, or other paper, picture, or any telegram, cablegram, or wireless message, or other form of communication intended for or to be delivered, directly or indirectly, to an enemy or ally of enemy: Provided, however, That any person may send, take or transmit out of the United States anything herein forbidden if he shall first submit the same to the President, or to such officer as the President may direct, and shall obtain the license or consent of the President, under such rules and regulations, and with such exemptions as shall be prescribed by the President . . .
“Any person who willfully evades or attempts to evade the submission of any such communication to such censorship or willfully uses or attempts to use any code or other device for the purpose of concealing from such censorship the intended meaning of such communication shall be punished as provided in section sixteen of this Act.”