While Elihu Root is advising
the new Russian democracy,
you can come over and advise
the new American autocracy.
–Appeal to Reason to Czar Nicholas II
Hellraisers Journal, Thursday July 12, 1917
Girard, Kansas – Invitation Sent to “Mr. Nicholas Romanoff”
From the Appeal to Reason of June 30, 1917:
The Appeal Invites “Czar Nick”
to Come to America
Girard, Kansas, June 27, 1917.
Mr. Nicholas Romanoff, Care Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, Petrograd, Russia.
Dear Nick: Not knowing just how to reach you directly, we are sending this letter in care of the Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates, who are doubtless keeping an eye on you and whom we trust to deliver this message uncensored as the mail of other private citizens is now being delivered-in Russia.
We expect you to be surprised at hearing from us, but not more surprised than we are at finding ourselves writing to you, a perfect stranger, you might say. Still, we feel that we have had an introduction to you after a fashion, having read about you a great deal and followed your recent career with much interest; so we think, Nick, that you’re the very man for a job that is now open over here in this land of the recently free. Here is a new and promising field for the exercise of your peculiar talents.
You will drop your hoe and come over on the next ship when we tell you that Czarism has been introduced in America, that the United States has taken the place of Russia with a vengeance that is rather characteristic of your own past rule.
No doubt you have noticed indications of this in American papers that reach you. You have read, of course, about how the United States was plunged into war by the acts of a handful of men in Washington, D. C., who were supposed to represent the people (one of our little jokes that you will get used to when you have been in this country a few weeks) but who didn’t consult the people at all. You have also read about the conscription law which is designed to force American boys into the European trenches against their will-that has a familiar, homelike sound, eh, Nick? And you have read about the censorship bill, and the war tax bill, and the creation of something suspiciously resembling an autocratic bureaucracy composed of big business men who hold all sorts of illegal offices with unconstitutional powers.
This is enough to convince you that we are handing it to you straight when we say that Czarism has been introduced in this country; but to make the evidence overwhelming, we will tell you a few things that will leave no room for doubt-things that you don’t read about in the American capitalist papers that reach you.
Free speech has actually been made a “crime” in certain parts of the country. Anywhere, at any time, an American citizen may be arrested, thrown into jail and charged with treason for peaceably exercising his legal and constitutional rights. Many American citizens have already received this Czar-like treatment.
In New York City, the metropolis of the nation and the headquarters of the nation’s exploiters, meetings of protest against the war and conscription have been broken up by the police and the soldiers, and citizens clubbed for exercising the right of free assemblage that is guaranteed by the constitution. Women who assembled in front of the City Hall to petition the mayor were dispersed by the police and beaten and bruised with clubs; and several of these women have been thrown into jail and charged with disorderly conduct. Can you beat it, Nick? Several citizens have been sentenced to penal servitude for refusing to register for conscription, and others are being held for the same offense. Worse still, citizens have been arrested and charged with conspiracy for advocating the repeal of the conscription law and circulating petitions for this purpose.
In Detroit, Mich., a number of citizens, among them the editor of a Socialist paper and an organizer of th Socialist party, were jailed for attacking the conscription law. These citizens are held incommunicado and are virtually denied release pending trial because of the excessive and unreasonable bail demanded. A mass meeting which had been arranged was prevented when the proprietor of the meeting hall was prevailed upon to prohibit peace meetings there-in, and the crowd which had come to the hall to attend the meeting, not knowing of this treachery, were driven away with clubs by the police.
In Seattle, Wash., prominent Socialists and labor union leaders were arrested and charged with conspiracy for circulating literature attacking the conscription law and calling upon the people to peaceably protest against undemocratic and unconstitutional war legislation.
In Kansas City, Mo., citizens were arrested because they would not register as conscripts, being firmly convinced that the whole scheme of conscription is unconstitutional and a violation of the rights of citizens. Prison sentences face these opponents of militarism.
In Elizabeth, New Jersey, citizens have been seized by the authorities for distributing a leaflet against conscription.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, sixteen socialists are in jail and their attorney writes that they are “charged by the federal authorities with the high crime of treason, the maximum punishment for which is death”. The offense of these citizens is that they circulated literature and delivered speeches attacking the conscription law.
In Grand Rapids, Mich., indictments were issued against thirteen citizens, among whom is the national secretary of the American Socialist party [Adolph Germer]. The “crime” for which they were indicted is that of circulating a leaflet containing the anti-war proclamation of the Socialist party.
In St. Louis, Mo., six thousand petitions asking for the repeal of the conscription law were held up by the postal authorities. Reads like Russia, doesn’t it, Nick?
The Rebel, a Socialist paper published in Hallettsville, Texas, has been excluded from the mails by the federal postal authorities.
The thing we wish to impress upon your mind, Nick, is that nearly all of these citizens who have been subjected to arrest and persecution have violated no law, have committed no act of treason, have been engaged in no form of conspiracy, have done nothing and said nothing that they have not a clear legal right to do and say. Their arrest and persecution means the denial of free speech and the suppression of the commonest features of liberty and democracy. The punishment visited upon these citizens, as well as that visited upon those few citizens who technically violated the law by opposing registration, goes to show the ruthless Czarism being practiced by the “democratic” officials here in “free” America.
These things should remove any hesitation you might naturally feel in accepting our invitation to come to America, Nick. You can plainly see that conditions here are good for your line of business. They are better than you can imagine. We have told you only a little of the story. Such things as we have described to you are happening almost everywhere and no one knows where they will happen next. With your skillful assistance and expert advice, our authorities can undoubtedly make their Czarism even more sweeping and effective. Who knows?-with your hand at the helm America might be completely converted to Czarism by the gentle persuasion of autocratic force. While Elihu Root is advising the new Russian democracy, you can come over and advise the new American autocracy. Would not that be a grand joke? And so perfectly fitting!
Come on over, Nick. Our official imitators of Czaristocratic tactics will welcome you with open arms. They will give you the best persecuting job in sight. They may even insist that you accept the position of Chief High Persecutor, with a good salary and a liberal expense account-and with powers fully as absolute as those you formerly enjoyed in your own land.
We are confident, from our knowledge of conditions here, that you will be given the widest latitude and will not be bound down and hedged in by any fantastic rules or foolish restrictions. You will be given a free hand. You won’t need to worry about the constitution-our own officials will attend to that, and thus give you time for your more pressing duties.
All you will be required to do is to deliver the goods in your particular line, which is to suppress free speech, prevent the circulation of Socialist and radical literature and run down all persons who are suspected of favoring peace and democracy. It will be left to you to deal out fitting punishment. Our authorities have punished these persons as severely as they knew, but they are entirely willing to treat them more severely if somebody will only show the way. So bring over your most effective devices of torture, your best methods of espionage, your time-tried schemes for suppressing liberty; bring them all over, and if you can think up any new ones on the way over, do so.
Cheer up, Nick! Free Russia is not the only country on earth! Come over to Darkest America and enjoy the blessings of autocracy! Sincerely yours,
APPEAL TO REASON.
P. S.-We hadn’t any more than finished penning-or, rather, typewriting-this invitation to you when in came the telegraph girl with a telegram telling us that last week’s issue of St. Louis Labor was suppressed by the postal authorities and copies of the issue confiscated. Now, Nick, will you believe us when we say that the climate of America at the present time is delightfully suited for unemployed Czars and other autocrats with a pleasant penchant for cruelty and cussedness?
[Photograph and emphasis added.]
A POPULAR catch-phrase of the jingo press is that we are in the war because we are against war. If the jingoes are for the war because they are against war, does it follow logically that pacifists who are against the war are really for war? And should we forthwith engage in robbery because we are against robbing and want to see it stopped? Should we express our opposition to law-breaking by proceeding to break the laws? How illogical jingo logic can be!
Appeal to Reason
-June 30, 1917
Czar Nicholas II, March 1917, wiki
Hellraisers Journal, Tuesday July 10, 1917
Chicago, Illinois – Official Organ of the Socialist Party Suppressed
The American Socialist Banned From the Mails, Issues Statement to Readers
Hellraisers Journal, Wednesday July 11, 1917
Hallettsville, Texas – The Rebel Suppressed
The Rebel of Hallettsville, Texas, Suppressed & Socialist Editor Red Tom Hickey Arrested
Tag: Espionage Act of 1917
Tag: World War I Repression
“Yours for the Revolution”:
the Appeal to Reason, 1895-1922
-by John Graham
University of Nebraska Press, Jun 1, 1990
Page 249 states that this issue-June 30, 1917-was: “refused use of the United States mails.”
Labor and World War I, 1914-1918
-by Philip S Foner
International Publishers, 1987
Chapter 15: Wartime Repression, The Socialist
-page 318, “Suppression of the Socialist Press
Page 319 states: “Faced with stern suppression, the Appeal to Reason deserted the cause supported the war.” -Stay tuned to Hellraisers for further developments.
Nicholas II of Russia
For more on Root Commission to Russian:
Elihu Root, World War
For more on World War I Repression in cities mentioned above:
New York Times of June 16, 1917:
SOLDIERS FACE RIOTS IN SEIZING SLACKERS; Angry Audience Overwhelms Them at Anti-Draft Meeting– Women to Appeal to Mayor. Lamented Goldman Arrest. Thirteen Under Suspicion
WOMEN ATTACK POLICE IN ANTI-DRAFT RIOT; Forbidden to Parade in Front of City Hall, They Bit and Used Hat Pin on Their Captors.
City Hall Park was the scene yesterday afternoon of the first anti-draft riot since the passage of the Selective Draft law. That the disorder was not more serious was due to the coolheadedness and forbearance of the police in meeting and overcoming the situation.
Charges Police Clubbed Women.
Re Detroit Socialists indicted:
See American Socialist of June 23, 1917
For more on suppression of Socialist and other anti-war protestors in
Detroit, Seattle, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids, see:
“Antiwar efforts and repression in 1917 U.S.”
-posted by Juan Conatz
Re the St Louis Petition, see:
The St. Louis Star and Times of June 7, 1917
5,000 SOCIALIST CIRCULARS HELD AT POSTOFFICE HERE, Literature Mailed by Party’s Secretary [William M. Brandt] Regarded as Opposing the Draft.
Re suppression of St. Louis Labor:
The St. Louis Star and Times of June 28, 1917
SELPH ORDERS TWO SOCIALISTS TO GET OUT OF HIS OFFIC; Editor Will Risk Seizure and Print Paper With Slur on War bonds.
William M. Brandt, Socialist editor, who yesterday was ordered out of Postmaster Selph’s office together with G. A. Hoehn, also a Socialist, said today he will print this week’s St. Louis Labor despite the fact that the issue of June 23 and that week’s issue of the German language paper, Arbeiter Zeitung, now are held in the Postoffice undelivered.
Six thousand referendum petition forms sent out by the Socialists a month ago, with requests for signers to urge repeal of the conscription act, were held up by the Postmaster, on orders from Washington…..
Note: On Elizabeth, New Jersey, I could find nothing concerning arrests for anti-war activities, more research needed.
We Will Sing One Song – Six Feet In the Pine
Lyrics by Joe Hill