A few months after our return from Europe the annual meeting of the Woman's Peace Party was held in Philadelphia, again at the Friends' Meeting House. The reports showed that during the war the state branches had modified their activities in various ways. The Massachusetts branch had carried on war relief of many kinds, such as the operation of a plant for desiccating vegetables. The New York Branch on the other hand, had become more radical and in defense of its position published a monthly Journal entitled The Four Winds, which was constantly challenged by the Federal authorities. The annual meeting adopted the somewhat formidable name of Woman's International League for Peace and Freedom, Section for the United States, the Zurich resolutions were accepted for substance of doctrine and recommended for study.
We made a careful restatement of our policies, but the bald outline gave no more than a hint of the indomitable faith of the women gathered there who, after nearly five years of anxiety and of hope deferred, still solemnly agreed to renew the struggle against the war system and to work for a wider comity of nations.
Two of the new officers, Mrs. Lucy Biddle Lewis and Mrs. Wm. I. Hull, belonged to the Society of Friends, without whose help it would have been hard to survive. It is difficult for me adequately to express my admiration for Mrs. Anna Garlin Spencer who was president of the National League during the most difficult period of its existence. With the help of two able executive secretaries, she deliberately revived an organization devoted to the discredited cause of Peace at a moment when the established peace societies with which she had been long connected had carefully stripped themselves of all activity.
In some respects it was more difficult at that time to be known as a pactfist than it
had been during the war, and if any of us had ever imagined that our troubles would be
over when the war ended, we were doomed to disappointment. There were many illustrations
of our continued unpopularity. In the early days of the armistice, for instance, a group
of German women, distressed over such terms as the demand for the immediate restoration of
3000 milch cows to Belgium, cabled to Mrs. Wilson at the White House and also to me. My
cable was never delivered and I knew nothing but what the newspapers reported concerning
it, although the incident started an interminable chain of comment and speculation as to
why I should have been selected, none of which stumbled upon the simple truth that I had presided over a Congress at The Hague attended by two of the signatories of the cable.
The incident, however, was but a foretaste of the suspicions and misinterpretations resulting from the efforts of Miss Hamilton and myself to report conditions in Germany and so far as possible to secure contributions to the fund the Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia was collecting for German and Austrian children. There was no special odium attached to the final report which we made to the Friends upon our return nor upon its wide distribution in printed form; it was also comparatively easy to speak to the International Committee for the Promotion of Friendship between the Churches and to similar bodies, but when it came to addressing audiences of German descent, so-called "German-Americans," the trouble began. The first Chicago meeting of this kind was carefully arranged, "opened with prayer" by a popular clergyman and closed by a Catholic priest, and it went through without difficulty although, of course, no word of it appeared in any Chicago newspaper printed in English. Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cleveland, however, were more difficult, although my theme was purely humanitarian with no word of politics. I told no audience that our passports had been viseed in Frankfort in the city hall flying a red flag, that housing space was carefully proportioned with reference to the need of the inhabitants and other such matters, which would have shocked the audience of prosperous German-Americans quite as much as any one else. We always told these audiences as we told many others who invited us, about the work of the Friends' Service Committee in Northern France and over widespread portions of Central and Eastern Europe irrespective of national boundaries. Some money was always sent to Philadelphia for Germany but quite often it was carefully marked for one of the Allied countries in which the Friends' Service Committee was also at work. I was equally grateful for those contributions but I often longed to hear some one suggest that "to feed thine enemy if he hunger" might lead us back to normal relations with him, or to hear one of the many clergymen pray that we might forgive our enemies. No such sentiment was uttered in my hearing during that winter, although in the early Spring I was much cheered at a meeting in Denver when a club woman quoted apropos of feeding German children, from Bojer's "The Great Hunger": "I sow corn in the field of mine enemy in order to prove the existence of God."
It was a period or pronounced reaction, characterized by all sorts of espionage, of wholesale raids, arrests and deportations. Liberals everywhere soon realized that a contest was on all over the world for the preservation of that hard won liberty which since the days of Edmund Burke had come to mean to the civilized world not only security in life and property but in opinion as well. Many people had long supposed liberalism to be freedom to know and to say, not what was popular or convenient or even what was patriotic, but what they held to be true. But those very liberals came to realize that a distinct aftermath of the war was the dominance of the mass over the individual to such an extent that it constituted a veritable revolution in our social relationships. Every part of the country had its own manifestations of suspicion and distrust which to a surprising degree fastened upon the immigrants. These felt, some of them with good reason, that they were being looked upon with suspicion and regarded as different from the rest of the world; that whatever happened in this country that was hard to understand was put off upon them, as if they alone were responsible. In such a situation they naturally became puzzled and irritated. With all the rest of the world America fell back into the old habit of judging men, not by their individual merits or capacities, but by the categories of race and religion, thrusting them back into the part of the world in which they had been born. Many of the immigrants, Poles, Bohemians and Croatians, were eager to be called by their new names. They were keenly alive to the fresh start made in Poland, in Czecho-Slovakia, in Jugo-Slavia and in other parts of Eastern and Southern Europe. They knew, of course, of the redistributions in land, of the recognition of peasant proprietorship occurring not only in the various countries in which actual revolutions had taken place as in Hungary and Russia, but in other countries such as Roumania, where there had been no violent revolution. These immigrants were very eager to know what share they themselves might have in these great happenings if they returned. They longed to participate in the founding of a new state which might guarantee the liberties in search of which they themselves had come to America. They were also anxious about untoward experiences which might have befallen their kinsfolk in those remote countries. For five years many of them had heard nothing directly from their families and their hearts were wrung over the possible starvation of their parents and sometimes of their wives and children.
Had we as citizens of the United States made a widespread and generous response to this overwhelming anxiety, much needed results might have accrued to ourselves; our sympathy and aid given to their kinsmen in the old world might have served to strengthen the bonds between us and the foreigners living within our borders. There was a chance to restore the word alien to a righteous use and to end its service as a term of reproach. To ignore the natural anxiety of the Russians and to fail to understand their inevitable resentment against an unauthorized blockade, to account for their "restlessness" by all sorts of fantastic explanations was to ignore a human situation which was full of possibilities for a fuller fellowship and understanding.
It was stated in the Senate that one and a half million European immigrants had applied in the winter of '19 and '20 for return passports. In one small Western city in which 800 Russians were living, 275 went to the Western Coast hoping for an opportunity to embark for Siberia and thus to reach Russia. Most of them were denied passports and the enforced retention of so many people constantly made for what came to be called social unrest. We would sometimes hear a Russian say, "When I was in the old country I used to dream constantly of America, and of the time I might come here, but now I go about with the same longing in my heart for Russia, and am homesick to go back to her." In Chicago many of those who tried in vain to return, began to prepare themselves in all sorts of ways for usefulness in the new Russian state. Because Russia needed skilled mechanics they themselves founded schools in applied mathematics, in mechanical drawing, in pattern work, in automobiling.
It was one of these latter schools in Chicago, where they were so cautious that they did not teach any sort of history or economics, which was raided in the early part of January, 1920. A general raid under the direction of the federal Department of Justice "ran in" numbers of Chicago suspects on the second of January, but an enterprising states attorney in Chicago, doubtless craving the political prestige to be thus gained, anticipated the federal action by twenty-four hours and conducted raids on his own account. The immigrants arrested without warrant were thrust into crowded police stations and all other available places of detention. The automobile school was carried off bodily, the teachers, the sixty-four pupils, the books and papers; the latter were considered valuable because the algebraic formulas appeared so incriminating.
One Russian among those arrested on January 1st, 1920, I had known for many years as a member of a Tolstoy society, which I had attended a few times after my visit to Russia in 1896. The society was composed of Russians committed to the theory of non-resistance and anxious to advance the philosophy underlying Tolstoy's books. I knew of no group in Chicago whose members I should have considered less dangerous. This man, with twenty-three other prisoners, was thrust into a cell built for eight men. There was no room to sit, even upon the floor, they could only stand closely together, take turns in lying on the benches and in standing by the door where they might exercise by stretching their hands to the top bars. Because they were federal prisoners the police refused to feed them, but by the second day coffee and sandwiches were brought to them by federal officials. But the half-starved Tolstoyan even then would not eat meat nor drink coffee, but waited patiently until his wife found him and could feed him cereals and milk. As a young man he had edited the periodical of a humanitarian society in Russia and it was as a convinced humanitarian that he began to study Tolstoy. Because the grand jury held him for trial under a state charge he could not even be deported if the federal charge were sustained. It was impossible, of course, not to "stand by" old friends such as he and others whom I had known for years, but the experience of securing bail for them; of presiding at a meeting of protest against such violation of constitutional rights; of identification with the vigorous Civil Liberties Union in New York and its Chicago branch, did not add to my respectability in the eyes of my fellow citizens.
And yet the earlier Settlements had believed that the opportunity to live close to the people would enable the residents to know intimately how simple people felt upon fundamental issues and we had hoped that the residents would stand fast to that knowledge in the midst of a social crisis where an interpreter would be valuable. Could not such activity be designated as "settlement work?" It was certainly so regarded by a handful of settlement people in Boston and New York as well as Chicago. There were two contending trends of public opinion at this time which reminded me of the early Settlement days in the United States, one the working man's universal desire for public discussion and the other the employer's belief that such discussion per se was dangerous.
In the midst of the world-wide social confusion and distress, there inevitably developed a profound scepticism as to the value of established institutions. The situation in itself afforded a challenge, for men longed to turn from the animosities of war and from the futility of the peace terms to unifying principles, and yet at that very moment any attempt at bold and penetrating discussion was quickly and ruthlessly suppressed as if men had no right to consider together the social conditions surrounding them.
This dread and fear of discussion somewhat accounted for the public sentiment exhibited toward the hundred members of the I.W.W. who were tried in Chicago for sedition. They were held in the Cook County jail for many months awaiting trial. Our jail conditions, which are always bad, were made worse through the inevitable overcrowding resulting from the addition of so many federal prisoners. One of the men died, one became insane, one, a temperamental Irishman, fell into a profound melancholy after he had been obliged to listen throughout the night to the erection of a gallows in the corridor upon which his cell opened where a murderer was "to meet the penalty of the law at dawn." Before the drop fell the prisoners were removed from their cells, but too late to save the mind of one of them. Eleven of the other prisoners contracted tuberculosis and although the federal judge who was hearing the case lowered the bail and released others on their "own recognizance" in order to lessen the fearful risks, the prisoners were then faced with the necessity for earning enough money for lodging and breakfast, before the long day in court began. Fortunately the judge allowed them a dinner and a supper at the expense of the government. Some of us started a "milk fund" for those who were plainly far on the road to tuberculosis and perhaps nothing revealed the state of the public mind more clearly than the fact that while we did collect a fund the people who gave it were in a constant state of panic lest their names become known in connection with this primitive form of charity. The I.W.W.'s were not on the whole "pacifists" and I used to regret sometimes that our group should be the one fated to perform this purely humanitarian function which would certainly become associated with sedition in the public mind. We should however logically have escaped all criticism for at that very moment the representatives of "patriotic" societies working in the prison camps of the most backward countries at war, were allowed to separate the tubercular prisoners from their fellows.
The Berger trial came in January of the wretched winter. I had met Victor Berger first when as a young man he had spoken before a society at Hull-House which was being addressed by Benjamin Kidd, the English author of the then very popular book on "Social Evolution." I had seen Mr. Berger occasionally during the period when he was in Washington as a Congressman, and knew that many of the Socialists regarded him as slow because he insisted upon proceeding from one legislative measure to another and had no use for "direct action." And yet here he was indicted with three Chicago men, one a clergyman whom I had known for years, for "conspiring to overthrow the government of the United States."
Later there was the sudden rise of "agents provocateurs" in industrial strikes, and the strikers believed that they were employed at Gary, by the secret service department of the government itself. The stories that were constantly current recalled my bewilderment years ago when the Russian exile Azeff died in Paris. He was considered by one faction as an agent provocateur, by another as a devoted revolutionist. The events of his remarkable life, which were undisputed, might easily support either theory, quite as in a famous English trial for sedition a prisoner, named Watts, had been so used by both sides that the English court itself could not determine his status. It was hard to believe the story that a Russian well known as of the Czar's police, had organized twenty-four men in Gary for "direct action," had supplied them freely both with radical literature and with firearms but that fortunately just before the headquarters were raided the strike leaders discovered "the plot," persuaded the Russians that they were being duped by the simple statement that any one who gave them arms in a district under military control, was deliberately putting them in danger of their lives.
So it was perhaps not surprising that the Russians became angry and confused and were quite sure that they were being incited and betrayed by government agents. The Russians were even suspicious of help from philanthropists because a man who had been head of the Russian bureau in the Department of Public Information and who had stood by the discredited Sisson letters, had after the discontinuance of the Department been transferred to the Russian Section of the American Red Cross; it was suspected that the Settlements even, although they were furnishing bail, might be in collusion with the Red Cross Society.
I got a certain historic perspective, if not comfort at least enlargement of view, by being able to compare our widespread panic in the United States about Russia to that which prevailed in England during and after the French Revolution. A flood of reactionary pamphlets, similar to those issued by our Security Leagues, had then filled England, teaching contempt of France and her "Liberty," urging confidence in English society as it existed and above all warning of the dangers of any change. Hatred of France, a passionate contentment with things as they were, and a dread of the lower classes, became characteristic of English society. The French Revolution was continually used as a warning, for in it could be seen the inevitable and terrible end of the first steps toward democracy. Even when the panic subsided the temper of society remained unchanged for years, so that in the English horror of any kind of revolution, the struggle of the hand-loom weaver in an agony of adjustment to the changes of machine industry, appeared as a menace against an innocent community.
Was this attitude of the English gentry long since dead, being repeated in our so-called upper classes, especially among people in professional and financial circles? Among them and their families war work opened a new type of activity, more socialized in form than many of them had ever known before, and it also gave an outlet to their higher emotions. In the minds of many good men and women the war itself thus became associated with all that was high and fine and patriotism received the sanction of a dogmatic religion which would brook no heretical difference of opinion. Added to this, of course, were the millions of people throughout the country who were actually in the clutches of those unknown and subhuman forces which may easily destroy the life of mankind. A scholar has said of them, "morally it would seem that these forces are not better but less good than mankind, for man at least loves and pities and tries to understand." Such forces may have been responsible for the mob violence which broke out for a time against alien enemies and so-called "traitors," or it may have been merely the unreason, the superstition, the folly and injustice of the old "law of the herd." There was possibly still another factor in the situation in regard to Russia,--the acid test, a touch of the peculiar bitterness evolved during a strike where property interests are assailed. That typical American, William Allen White, once wrote, "My idea of hell, is a place where every man owns a little property and thinks he is just about to lose it."
Was the challenge which Russia threw down to the present economic system after all the factor most responsible for the unreasoning panic which seemed to hold the nation in its grip, or was it that the war spirit, having been painstakingly evolved by the united press of the civilized world, could not easily be exorcised? The war had made obvious the sheer inability of the world to prevent terror and misery. It had been a great revelation of feebleness, as if weakness, ignorance and overweening nationalism had combined to produce something much more cruel than any calculated cruelty could have been. Was the universal unhappiness which seemed to envelop the United States as well as Europe an inevitable aftermath of war?
So far as we had anticipated any contribution from the non-resistant Russian peasant to the cause of Universal Peace, the events in militarized Russia during the years after the war threw us into black despair. Not only had the Bolshevist leaders produced one of the largest armies in Europe, but disquieting rumors came out of Russia that in order to increase production in their time of need the government had been conscripting men both for industry and transportation. It was quite possible that the Russian revolutionists were making the same mistake in thus forging a new tool for their own use which earlier revolutionists had made when they invented universal military conscription. An example of the failure of trying to cast out the devil by Beezlebub, it had been used as a temporary expedient when the first French revolutionists were fighting "the world," but had gradually become an established thing, and in the end was the chief implement of reaction. It alone has thrown Europe back tremendously, entailing an ever-increasing cost of military establishment and consequent increased withdrawal of manpower from the processes of normal living. The proportion of soldiers in Europe has enormously increased since the middle ages; then out of every thousand men four were soldiers, now out of every thousand men a hundred and twenty to a hundred and fifty are soldiers. These were the figures before the great war.
Even the League of Nations, during the first year of its existence brought little comfort. Incident to the irritating and highly individualistic position which the pacifist was forced to assume throughout the war, was the difficulty of combining with his old friends and colleagues in efforts for world organization which seemed so reasonable. Before I went to The Hague in the spring of 1915 I had known something of Mr. Hamilton Holt's plan to organize a league whose propaganda should relegate the use of military force to an international police service. It was while we were at The Hague that the great meeting was held in Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the League to Enforce Peace was organized. The program did not attempt to outlaw war but would allow it only under certain carefully defined conditions. It was difficult to resist an invitation to join the new league, and I refused only because its liberal concessions as to the use of warfare seemed to me to add to the dislocation of the times, already so out of joint. Had I yielded to my joining impulse I should certainly have been obliged to resign later. The League to Enforce Peace held a meeting in New York City soon after the United States had entered the war and put forth a program hard to reconcile even with its first statement of principles. But after the armistice had been signed, at a meeting held in Madison, Wisconsin, in the winter of 1919, their clear statement of a League of Nations program brought to their banner many of the doubtful, myself among them.
The later winter and spring of 1919 afforded a wonderful opportunity to talk about the League of Nations. It was all in the making and we, its advocates, had the world before us with which to illustrate "the hopes of mankind." Among my audiences in the half dozen states in which I lectured there would often be a Pole who rejoiced that after a hundred and fifty years of oppression Poland would be free; an Italian longing impatiently to welcome back Italia Irredenta; a Bohemian exulting that the long struggle of his fellow-countrymen had at last reached success; an Armenian who saw the end of Turkish rule. Conscious at moments that all this portended perhaps too much nationalism, I could only assure myself and an audience absorbed in animated discussion, that such a state of mind was inevitable after war, and would doubtless find its place in the plans being developed in Paris.
I had a sharp reminder in the midst of this halcyon period of hope and expectation that a pacifist could not acceptably talk even of the terms of peace to those who most ardently promoted the war. I had accepted an invitation from a program committee to address one of the long established woman's organizations of Chicago upon the League of Nations, only to find that there was a sharp division within the membership as to the propriety of allowing a pacifist to appear before them. The president and the board valiantly stood by the invitation and the address was finally given on the date announced to the half of the club and their friends who were willing to hear. But the incident gave me a curious throw-back into a state of mind I was fast leaving behind me, and although fortunately a day or two later I spoke in Chicago under the direct auspices of the League to Enforce Peace with ex-President Taft presiding, which I afterward learned somewhat restored me among the doubting, I concluded that to the very end pacifists will occasionally realize that they have been permanently crippled in their natural and friendly relations to their fellow citizens.
The League of Nations afforded an opportunity for wide difference of opinion in every group. The Woman's Peace Party held its annual meeting in Chicago in the spring of 1920 and found our Branches fairly divided upon the subject. The Boston branch had followed the leadership of the League to Enforce Peace throughout the year and after the Madison meeting others had also, always with the notable exception of the Philadelphia branch, composed largely of clear-sighted Quakers and of two other branches which were more radical. The difference of opinion was limited always as to the existing League and never for a moment did anyone doubt the need for continued effort to bring about an adequate international organization. Some of our members cooperated with the League of Free Nations Association (now the Foreign Policies Association) which had been organized by liberals in order to keep the democratic war aims before the public. Even when peacemaking was going forward at Versailles the association pointed out vulnerable points in the draft at cost of being roundly denounced.
We all believed that the ardor and self sacrifice so characteristic of youth could be enlisted for the vitally energetic role required to inaugurate a new type of international life in the world. We realized that it is only the ardent spirits, the lovers of mankind, who can break down the suspicion and lack of understanding which have so long prevented the changes upon which international good order depend. These men of good will we believed, would at last create a political organization enabling nations to secure without war those high ends which they had vainly although so gallantly sought to obtain upon the battlefield.
From Jane Addams, Peace and Bread in Time of War, Chapter 9 - "The Aftermath of War." Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1960, (originally published by The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1922-1945), pp. 178-198.
Forward to Peace and Bread, Chapter 10 - "A Food Challenge to the League of Nations."
Back to Peace and Bread, Chapter 8 - "In Europe During the Armistice."
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