Eric Furuseth

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Jerome Tweton


The period of World War I is also the time of Nonpartisan League control in North Dakota. The period is of extreme interest to historians of the state as North Dakota's:experiment with the radical government was unique in the nation at the . time and a marked departure from the state's own political traditions. On both sides of the political fence, Nonpartisan and conservative, a kind of extremism existed which was unusual within the state.

The United States government passed the Espionage and Sedition acts of 1917 and 1918 as a means of legally ensuring the patriotism of its citizens; anti-war talk and, particularly, efforts to block recruitment or conscription could be punished with stiff prison sentences. Many private citizens took up the challenge to guard the nation against disloyalty; censorship and vigilanteism became common throughout the nation.

Most North Dakotans were staunchly opposed to entrance into the conflict, and the state's new NPL government shared that position. The problem of the period is: how well did North Dakota handle the divisive pressures of intense local political battles coupled with the conformist. demands of unrestrained patriotism. Opposing viewpoints exist: on this question. Dr. Edwin F. Ladd, the president of North Dakota.Agricultural College at the time and later a United States Senator, claimed that North Dakota was an "oasis of sanity in a desert of hysteria". To that,' historian. Kenneth. I, Smemo., in his study. of Judge Charles F. Amidon, responded, "The state actually saw little sanity and a lot of hysteria at that time." This study reexamines the issue.

Most of the research previously done involved the transcripts of the sedition trials, official documents of the state and nation, and the extant correspondence of a few of the leading figures. This paper uses many of those same sources but emphasizes research from newspapers because they include many minor incidents that give the period its flavor and cumulatively suggest a conclusion. The most important newspapers were the ultraconservative Grand Forks Herald, the moderately conservative Bismarck Tribune, and the Nonpartisan League's Fargo Daily Courier-News. Other dailies and a handful of weekly newspapers were also used.

This study concludes that North Dakota survived the strain of the war years with a minimum of violence and hysteria. The Nonpartisan League's deliberate government and Judge Charles F. Amidon's refusal to use his bench to advance the conservative view of patriotism acted as restraints on hysteria.

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