What About The 9 Most Evil Laws in American History?
Most Americans cannot listen to the rhetoric coming out of Washington without getting sick to their stomachs. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle a speaker represents; all of them use the very same slight of verbiage double talk that exits to a talking point — leaving the question unanswered.
This is why many of us tune them out and turn them off. While understandable, this is the worst thing we could do because it doesn’t hold them accountable and leaves us uninformed.
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If we need to be reminded of the disgusting level of depravity that our lawmakers are capable of achieving, take a gander at the disgusting laws they’ve passed throughout our history. Just as citizens can become angry, dangerous mobs, Congress can become an even more dangerous mob — because they have far more power.
Here are nine pathetic examples of what lawmakers have done with their power.
Indian Removal Act
The Indian Removal Act has remained an ugly stain on the presidency of Andrew Jackson. He was an outspoken advocate of removing Native Americans. As a general in the Army, he fought several battles against many different tribes, took their lands, and gave them to white farmers.
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After he was elected president, Jackson continued this crusade against Native Americans. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act into law¹. This law allowed the federal government to take all Native American land that was located east of the Mississippi. And also to give them land that was located west of the river (aka Reservations).
Although this law required authorities to negotiate with tribes without using violence, it was often ignored. This resulted in the heartbreaking “Trail of Tears,” which is the most famous of these expulsions. Some 15,000 Choctaws were driven from their ancestral lands, and around 2,500 of them died along the way.
And lawmakers dared to believe that they had implemented a “wise and humane policy” because they saved Native American tribes from becoming extinct.
The Black Codes were an assortment of laws that were enacted throughout several Southern states during the years 1865–66². These codes were a precursor to the Jim Crow laws. Even though blacks had won their freedom over slavery, there was still constant racism.
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These codes required that blacks had to sign annual labor contracts. If these contracts weren’t signed, violators were arrested as vagrants and forced to work once again for free. Additionally, these laws also prevented blacks from serving on any jury and restricted their travel.
President Andrew Johnson, who became president after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, was a Southerner and a devout believer in the rights of states. His view of the situation was that Southern states were entitled and had the right to treat blacks as they wished, as long as they weren’t slaves.
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The treatment of blacks in the South didn’t improve until the official Reconstruction period began. This was when the Republicans continually overruled President Johnson and eventually passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 along with other similar laws.
Public Law 503
As World War II became imminent, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized military officials to detain any person they believed would harm the US war effort. His administration was fully aware that this order would eventually need to be codified. This action led to a shameful period in all of US history, which was the unlawful internment of some 127,000 innocent Japanese-American citizens³.
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This law was based on the mistaken belief that every Japanese-American would ally with their ancestral country should the US get invaded. This belief was strengthened by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Japanese-American resided on the West Coast — which was closest to Japan.
Roosevelt’s administration set up internment camps in the middle of the country. Another alarming fact of this internment was that almost two-thirds of these Japanese-Americans were born and raised in America. Many had never even been to Japan.
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Public Law 503 was later challenged in the Supreme Court, but it was upheld, as the Court claimed it was a necessity during wartime. When the war ended, many of these former interns could not even return home as some cities put up signs to keep them away. Congress refused to even apologize for this action until 1988 when they offered each intern survivor $20,000.
Alien Registration Act Of 1940
When it was certain that the United States would enter World War II, US lawmakers tried to ward off any internal rebellion that might take down the nation from within. As usual, even when lawmakers correctly anticipate a future problem, their solution falls way short. This time, their solution was the Alien Registration Act of 1940⁴.
This law made it a crime to advocate a government overthrow or belong to a group that seeks to overthrow the government. Additionally, all noncitizens that lived in the US were required to register with the government, get fingerprints taken, and keep ID papers with them at all times. They also had to update their living situation annually with the US government.
And if a noncitizen did have ties to a questionable organization, he or she could be deported. This law has never been repealed but has been amended several times.
Fugitive Slave Act Of 1850
During the 1830s, Northern abolitionist groups got much stronger, which greatly concerned Southern slave owners. At the same time, a Fugitive Slave Act was already on the books that allowed local governments to capture runaway slaves and give them back to their owners.
However, many people from the South believed the existing law wasn’t strict enough. They were concerned about people in the North hiding their runaway slaves. To appease Southern slave owners, a new version of the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850⁵. This proslavery measure forced people to assist in capturing runaway slaves.
If someone refused to help with a slave capture or aided a runaway slave, they could be fined $1,000 and serve six months in jail. This act also denied slaves from having a jury trial. After the Civil War started, the law was shelved until 1864, when Congress finally took it off the books.
Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act
The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (also called the Tariff Act of 1930) intended to protect American farmers and businesses from economic ruin⁶. The act raised tariffs on some 20,000 products by as much as 20%.
Out of desperation, over 1,000 economists signed a petition trying to persuade President Herbert Hoover to veto this bill. He refused this request because of the campaign promises he had made to increase agricultural tariffs.
The financial markets had crashed, and the world was embarking on the dark time known as the Great Depression. Rather than insulating the US as intended, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act forced the US economy down the drain — right along with everyone else in the world at that time.
Many historians believe that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act eventually led to the rise of Adolf Hitler because of the desperation it created throughout Europe.
Espionage Act And Sedition Act
The Espionage Act of 1917, along with the Sedition Act of 1918, was enacted right after the United States entered World War I⁷. The Espionage Act was established to be a compromise between the US and Great Britain. At the time, US citizens were strongly tolerant of free speech, while the Brits had passed a huge ban on speech involving national secrets a few years earlier. This law made it a crime for anyone to send information that could compromise the war effort for either country or help its common enemies.
In 1918, the Sedition Act was created to expand the scope of the previously passed Espionage Act. This new act made it a crime to make false statements that would hinder the war effort or disturb the manufacture of “war” items. It eventually became illegal to insult the United States government, its flag, the Constitution, or even the military. And any defense of such actions was also a crime.
The real problem regarding these laws came during the Red Scare, which happened after the war. A US Attorney General named A. Mitchell Palmer took these two laws to extremes, and he used FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover to fiercely enforce them. The Sedition Act was finally repealed a few years later, but several parts of the Espionage Act are still part of today’s law.
The Patriot Act was passed just a few weeks after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001⁸. This law was created to allow the US government to locate suspected terrorists and prevent them from carrying out any attacks against Americans. However, in reality, it gave the government the power to spy on any American and to violate their privacy rights.
Even the usefulness of the Patriot Act has also been called into question. For instance, in 2015, the FBI admitted to the Department of Justice that the law had not helped them uncover a single case of terrorism.
Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution
The Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution from 1964 has been often used by several US presidents as a precedent for engaging in military conflict. Before the United States had entered the Vietnam War, the military forces of the North Vietnamese opened fire on two US ships on two different occasions in the Gulf of Tonkin. And this hostile action was allegedly unprovoked.
While facing intense criticism from his Republican opponent, President Lyndon B. Johnson looked for the approval of Congress to have broader powers in order to protect and secure US interests within the region. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed nearly unanimously (except for 2 Senate votes) and gave the president the powers to wage war in the absence of a formal declaration from the legislative branch⁹.
This resolution was later repealed in 1971 because President Richard Nixon wanted to escalate conflicts within Cambodia. When the Gulf of Tonkin incident was later investigated, it was revealed that much of the information Congress received was untrue, yet they allowed the nation to enter a war with North Vietnam based on lies.
: Kathy Weiser. (December 2019). Indian Removal Act of 1830. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-indianremovalact/.
: History.com. (June 1, 2010). Black Codes. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-codes.
: History Unfolded. FDR Authorizes Incarceration of Japanese Americans. https://newspapers.ushmm.org/events/fdr-authorizes-incarceration-of-japanese-americans.
: John Simpkin. (September 1997). Alien Registration Act. https://spartacus-educational.com/USAalien.htm.
: Catherine A. Paul. (July 9, 2020). Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/federal/fugitive-slave-act-of-1850/.
: Will Kenton. (Septemnber 5, 2019). Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/smoot-hawley-tariff-act.asp.
: Eddith A. Dashiell. Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917–1918. https://immigrationtounitedstates.org/482-espionage-and-sedition-acts-of-1917-1918.html.
: Dara Lind. (June 2, 2015). Everyone’s heard of the Patriot Act. Here’s what it actually does. https://www.vox.com/2015/6/2/8701499/patriot-act-explain.
: Scott Bomboy. (August 7, 2020). The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the limits of presidential power. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/the-gulf-of-tonkin-and-the-limits-of-presidential-power.