Teaching With Documents, Volume 2

Contents:

Rights in Times of Crisis: American Citizens and Internment

"Real democracy is not hereditary. It is a way of living."

—Student government page, Memoirs, 1944
Hunt High School yearbook, Minidoka
Relocation Center

As we were commemorating the bicentennial of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, we also celebrated 200 years of the most complete, thorough protections enjoyed by citizens anywhere in the world. But we cannot let our pride in this accomplishment obscure the many instances when Federal officials, sworn to uphold the Constitution, have restricted the rights guaranteed to the American people, citing national interest as their justification. One of the most disturbing patterns in American history is that of Government suspension of personal liberties during times of national crisis or war.

During the Presidency of John Adams, when war with France appeared imminent, the Federalists in Congress stifled dissent and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, thereby curbing the rights of free speech and free press. Ten individuals were convicted under the provisions of the Sedition Act and sentenced to pay fines, serve prison sentences, or both. In the 1860s the dissolution of the Union and the outbreak of the Civil War resulted in the enactment of numerous measures that violated citizens’ liberties. The press was censored, the writ of habeus corpus was suspended, and more than 13,000 persons were arrested and held without trial. Again, during the crisis of World War I, Espionage and Sedition Acts were adopted that resulted in the conviction of nearly 1,000 dissenters. Religious pacifists and critical journalists were among those punished. In considering six different cases, the Supreme Court upheld these Federal acts in decisions that have never been overturned.

The 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor not only thrust the United States into a conflict of unprecedented magnitude, but it also precipitated the suspension of U.S. citizens’ rights on a larger scale than had ever occurred before in the Nation’s history, this time based on race rather than dissent. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing military commanders to exclude civilians from military areas; the language of the order, however, did not specify any ethnic group. Nevertheless, based on this authority, Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt of the Western Defense Command announced curfews that were directed solely at Japanese Americans. Next, he encouraged voluntary evacuation by Japanese Americans from a limited number of areas; about seven percent of the total Japanese American population in these regions complied. On March 19, 1942, under the authority of the Executive order, DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 4, which began the controlled, involuntary evacuation and detention of west coast residents of Japanese descent on a 48-hour notice. On March 21, only a few days before the posting of DeWitt’s proclamation, Congress had passed Public Law 503, which made violation of Executive Order 9066 a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. From the end of March to August, approximately 112,000 persons left their homes for civil control stations, proceeded peaceably to assembly centers, and then were moved by the military to relocation centers across the interior of thecountry. Nearly 70,000 of the evacuees—62.5 percent—were American citizens. No charges of disloyalty were ever filed against any of these citizens, and no means of appealing their loss of property and personal liberty were available to them. Only Americans of Japanese ancestry were interned; those of Italian and German descent were not.

The Government’s actions were challenged in three major Supreme Court cases: Hirabayashi v United States (1943), Ex parte Endo (1944), and Korematsu v United States (1944). The Korematsu case challenged the constitutional validity of internment. Fred Korematsu was a nisei (an American-born individual of Japanese ancestry) who wished to join the Army and fight America’s foes. He eluded internment by going into hiding, but he was caught, tried, and convicted under Public Law 503. He received five years probation and was sent to the Topaz, UT, relocation center. His lawyers, from the American Civil Liberties Union, took the case to the Supreme Court. They argued that his conviction should be overturned because internment violated the following parts of the Constitution:

Article I, section 1—by delegating unlimited legislative powers to courts, juries, and military commanders;

Article III, section 1—by delegating unlimited judicial power to military commanders;

Amendment 5—by depriving Korematsu of liberty and property without recourse to due process of law;

Article I, section 9—by creating, in effect, a bill of attainder;

Amendment 8—by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment;

Amendment 4—by sanctioning unreasonable search and seizure;

Amendment 6—by interning him without a charge of crime; and

Article III, section 3—by attaining Korematsu with treason on the basis of racial ancestry.

In spite of these arguments, the Court upheld the legality of internment.

After many years of struggle by Japanese- American groups, Congress enacted Public Law 100-383 on August 10, 1988, which recognized that "a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation and internment of civilians during World War II," and "for these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of those individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation." Nevertheless, Korematsu, along with the World War I sedition decisions, remains the standing legal precedent, sanctioning the right of the Government to curtail American citizens’ liberties in times of crisis.

The featured document is a page from Minidoka Community Analysis Report No. 2, compiled at the relocation center at Hunt, ID. Data pertaining to age, sex, religion, geographical origin, and other topics was collected at all sites by the Government to compile community profiles. The document is located in the Records of the War Relocation Authority, Record Group 210, Community Analysis Reports and Community Analysis Trend Reports from the Minidoka Relocation Center, Hunt, ID. It is also available on roll 22 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M1342, Community Analysis Reports and Community Analysis Trend Reports of the War Relocation Authority, 1942-1946.

TEACHING ACTIVITIES

Interpreting a Graph

1. Prepare the following worksheet for each student to complete:

Examine the Minidoka Project Community Analysis Section graph to answer the following questions:

a. What time period does this graph cover?

b. What aspect of the community at Minidoka is analyzed in this graph?

c. In actual numbers, how many persons were at Minidoka on November 10, 1942? On September 8, 1943?

d. What percentage of persons at Minidoka were citizens on November 10, 1942? On September 8, 1943?

e. Were there more citizens or more noncitizens at Minidoka on November 10, 1942? On September 8, 1943?

f. In actual numbers, calculate the number of citizens at Minidoka on November 10, 1942, and on September 8, 1943.

g. What is the percentage decline in citizens at Minidoka between November 10, 1942, and September 8, 1943?

h. What is the decline in actual numbers of citizens at Minidoka between November 10, 1942, and September 8, 1943?

i. Suggest at least one reason to account for the decline in the actual numbers of citizens at Minidoka between November 10, 1942, and September 8, 1943. Suggest at least one reason for the decline in the actual numbers of noncitizens at Minidoka during this same time period.

j. Suggest at least one reason why the Community Analysis Section wanted to know the percentage of citizens and noncitizens at Minidoka.

Rights in Crisis

2. The 1988 congressional apology and act to compensate citizens was not the first instance of apology and restitution by the legislative branch. For example, in 182 5 printer Thomas Cooper was granted restoration of the $400 fine he had incurred in 1800 for violating the Sedition Act, plus interest. Assign the students a paper expressing what value, if any, such acts of compensation have for the individuals involved and for a democratic society in general.

3. The Supreme Court has handled cases pertaining to the conflict of individual rights and national security in times of war on numerous instances. Ask students to analyze one of the following:

Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wallace 2 (1866)
Ex parte Merryman, Fed Case 9487 (1861)
Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919)
Debs v United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919)
Korematsu v United States, 323 U. S. 214 (1944)
Hirabayashi v United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943)
Ex parte Endo, 323 U. S. 283 (1944)
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969)

Students should read about the case, arguments, and opinions and then analyze the case based on the following questions:

a. What crime was the individual accused of committing?

b. What constitutional rights issue does the Supreme Court have to decide?

c. What arguments does the accused offer? What arguments does the Government offer?

d. What is the Court’s decision and upon what reasoning does the Court base that decision?

e. What is the effect of the decision on the accused? On national security? On personal liberty? Does the decision stand?

For Further Research

4. The experiences of Japanese Americans in the wartime internment camps make for compelling reading. Ask students to do research in primary and secondary sources about one of the following topics and then to present their findings in the form of an oral report or short dramatic presentation:

a. Living conditions and daily life in Minidoka or one of the other camps

b. The debate over loyalty oaths in the internment camps

c. Contribution of Japanese Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces and on the homefront in war production

d. Internee’s exercise of first amendment rights of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition

e. Economic or educational effects (or both) of internment on opportunities for Japanese Americans during and after the war

For Further Documents

Three related articles that touch on the topic ofrights in wartime appear in volume 1 of Teaching with Documents: " Interned Japanese-American Theme, 1943 "; "Black Soldiers in World War I Poster, 1919"; and "Ex parte Milligan Letter, 1865." A fourth article, "The First Amendment: The Finished Mystery Case and World War I, 1918," originally appeared in the October 1990 issue of Social Education and is reprinted in this volume.


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Chicago: "Rights in Times of Crisis: American Citizens and Internment," Teaching With Documents, Volume 2 in Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, ed. Wynell B. Schamel (Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board for the National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, 1998), 178–182. Original Sources, accessed October 16, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YQ5523Z1N255129.

MLA: . "Rights in Times of Crisis: American Citizens and Internment." Teaching With Documents, Volume 2, in Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, edited by Wynell B. Schamel, Vol. 2, Washington, D.C., National Archives Trust Fund Board for the National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, 1998, pp. 178–182. Original Sources. 16 Oct. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YQ5523Z1N255129.

Harvard: , 'Rights in Times of Crisis: American Citizens and Internment' in Teaching With Documents, Volume 2. cited in 1998, Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, ed. , National Archives Trust Fund Board for the National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, Washington, D.C., pp.178–182. Original Sources, retrieved 16 October 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YQ5523Z1N255129.