April 28, 1917: Executive Orders


It is sometimes assumed that executive orders are only a feature of modern American life.  Actually they have existed since the beginning of the Republic.  A century ago two war related executive orders were issued by President Wilson:

Whereas, the existence of a state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government makes it essential to the public safety that no communication of a character which would aid the enemy or its allies shall be had,

Therefore, by virtue of the power vested in me under the Constitution and by the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on April 6, 1917, declaring the existence of a state of war, it is ordered that all companies or other persons, owning, controlling or operating telegraph and telephone lines or submarine cables, are hereby prohibited from transmitting messages to points without the United States, and from delivering messages received from such points, except those permitted under rules and regulations to be established by the Secretary of War for telegraph and telephone lines, and by the Secretary of the Navy for submarine cables,

To these Departments, respectively, is delegated the duty of preparing and enforcing rules and regulations under this order to accomplish the purpose mentioned.

This order shall take effect from this date.

April 28, 1917.


Under authority contained in the Naval Appropriation Act approved March 4, 1917 (Public No. 391, 64th Congress) it is hereby ordered that the provisions of the Eight-Hour Act of June 19 1912, are suspended with respect to persons engaged upon work covered by contracts with the United States, made under the War Department, for the construction of any military building or for any public work which in the judgment of the Secretary of War is important for purposes of national defense in addition to the classes of contracts enumerated in Executive Order of March 24, 1917.

It is further declared that the current status of war constitutes an “extraordinary emergency” within the meaning of that term as used in the Eight-Hour Act of March 3, 1913 (37 Stat., 726), and that laborers and mechanics employed on work of the character set forth above, whether employed by government contractors or by agents of the government, may when regarded by the Secretary of War as necessary for purposes of national defense, be required to work in excess of eight hours per day, and wages to be computed in accordance with the proviso in the said Act of March 4, 1917.

This order shall take effect from and after this date and shall be operative during the pending emergency or until further orders.

April 28, 1917.


The Great War would leave few facets of American life, and these executive orders were early harbingers of this new reality for an America in a World War.


Published in: on April 28, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 28, 1917: Executive Orders  
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