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Jailed for Sedition

July 17, 1917 — Bowman ND


In this, the most trying hour of the life of not only this nation but of the human race, I am glad that I am to have the privilege of speaking to this audience of sober, thinking men and women. These are days that try men’s souls; and, if ever in all the history of the world the need for deep, clear and heartseeking thought has been necessary, it is necessary today. I shall discuss with you the effect that I think that this world-war is having and will have on the great world movement to which I have given my life — the International Socialist Party.

It is a comfort to me to know that in the last few months, for the first time in all my life, I have been able to give my whole time and energy to a rational discussion of Socialism, its principles, its aims and its ultimate goal. I have been in the Socialist movement for a long time, more years than I like to contemplate or to admit. I am not going to tell you just how many years, for you know that when women get along to my age they are just a bit sensitive about having you men begin to figure on how old they are. Suffice it to say, that for many years I have traveled up and down this earth preaching the gospel of Socialism. Until within the last few months I have always been required to give at least threefourths of my time and energy, not to teaching Socialism or expounding its theories and ideals, but to discussing and answering certain prejudices carefully planted in the minds of the people by the capitalist-controlled means of public expression.

Cultivated Prejudices.

I have found, in my long years of work, that it did not matter where I spoke, or to what manner of audience, this condition existed. Before I could begin to explain what Socialism really means and what goal we Socialists really have in mind, I had to deal with these carefully planted and cultivated prejudices. If I started on a discussion of the fact that all experiments so far tried seem to prove that the collective ownership and public control of public utilities are more efficient and economical, more just and righteous than the private ownership and irresponsible control of men actuated only by hunger for profits, and that we Socialists feel that all the things used by the people collectively would be better owned by the people and controlled by them, then some good, staunch Democrat or Republican would at once interrupt —

“Say, do you mean that the Government should confiscate and run all of the great public utilities?”

I would reply that we Socialists are not saying how the Government should get the public utilities, but that we want it to get them in the most fair and just way, then to own and operate them to serve the people and not to make profits for a few bondholders.

Then my good Democratic or Republican friends would shout:

“Sure! We know that the public ownership of public utilities has proven best; but you must remember that these great profit paying industries are owned by the capitalists; they bought and paid for them; they are private property, protected by the laws of the country, and if you Socialists try to take that property away from them, you will plunge this country into a bloody war.”

This charge that the Socialists would plunge the world into war has been a stock argument against Socialism. It has been hurled at us from every quarter in all manner of forms. We have been called violent and blood-thirsty breeders of war and disorder so often that we have become quite hardened to the cry.

There is a certain clergyman in my home town who has made a hobby of this cry that Socialism would plunge the world into war. This poor, timid gentleman was particularly sure that I was a dangerous woman, and that, if I were allowed to preach my gospel of social righteousness and industrial and political democracy, war and social revolution would blast our fair city. I think he shuddered every night in the grip of nightmare wherin he saw me riding on the wings of inflamed human passions and leading the workers of St. Louis in bloody revolution.

Editors of capitalist newspapers were also subject to this strange fear. I remember that, about four years ago, I was billed to speak in a western city. On my way there I bought a newspaper on the train, and was startled to see my name in flaring headlines of great red letters at least six inches high. With convulsive shudders the editor of this paper told his unsuspecting readers that “Red Kate” was coming to town. In fevered and anguish-inspiring words he begged the people to awaken to their danger. He said that I was a wondrous creature; that I had the magic voice of the Lorelei, and that I could lure men’s souls to the shores of hell. He was very sure that if I were allowed to mount my little soapbox and deliver my speech on the street corner, I would arouse the evil passions of the men of that city, and send them out slay and kill. He insisted that, unless I were arrested and thrown in jail, the blood of citizens would be upon the head of the police department, and that there would be an awakening to the crime of inaction when the sewers ran red with blood and the gutters were choked with dead men’s bodies.

And plunging the world into was was not the only crime with which Socialists were charged with seeking to blight the world. We were called anarchists who sought to destroy governments and laws and courts and all orderly processes of life. We were charged with having fell designs on the Constitution of the United States, and with seeking by violence and bloodshed to overthrow civilization and replace it with red-handed anarchy and chaos.

Socialism Would Destroy Religion, Etc.

Nor was that all. We were not only very bad people, but marvelously powerful, as well. There was another nightmare which haunted the dreams of clergymen and nervous old ladies of both sexes. That was that we Socialists are atheists, agnostics, irreligious, impious and un-Christian. In every campaign in which I have taken part, this cry has been raised in all its variations. We asked the voters to vote for social righteousness, for industrial and political democracy. We asked them to choose their public servants from among their own class instead of the class that preyed upon them. When we made this appeal the cry was always raised that Socialism would destroy Christianity. About a week before election the clergymen would preach impassioned sermons in which they would call upon the voters to save Christianity from the menace of Socialism. With anguish shaking their voices, and with tears in their eyes, they would declare that, if a Socialist mayor or governor should be elected, the next day after that ungodly man took his seat, the blood-thirsty Socialists would go out and burn all the churches and hang all the preachers, and utterly destroy Christianity.

I could never quite grasp the logic of these timid Christians. According to their faith, Christianity is the divinely ordained institution of an all wise and all powerful God. God is absolute; He speaks to the winds and they are still; He speaks to the tossing storm waves and they are at peace; He holds the destiny of mankind in His grasp; yet, according to the wail of these timid Christians, a handful of wildeyed, wicked Socialists can destroy God’s divinely ordained institution and eliminate God from the universe. I could not quite decide where they thought God would be and what they thought He would be doing while we worked such havoc with His institutions. Perhaps they think He has lost interest in this foot-stool of His.

Nor was this all the danger that lurked in Socialism, according to the capitalist mouthpiece. There was a danger so frightful and loathsome that it would only be discussed in whispers. It was said that we Socialists were immoral; we did not believe in marriage; we would replace the Christian home with illicit sex relations; we would debase womanhood, degrade motherhood, debauch childhood; we would usher in an orgy of lust and passion, rapine and free love, and people the earth with illegitimate children.

And there were yet other dire dangers lurking in Socialism. I presume that Bowman has not suffered a visitation of Peter Collins or Davy Goldstein. They rarely visit a town of this size. However, you are all quite familiar, through the press, with the particular scarecrow which these gentlemen were wont to dangle from the string of their oratory. These self-appointed protectors of public morals insist that we Socialists teach that the child is the property of the state, and not of its parents. They shudder over the fact that we hold the state superior to the individual, and that the state has a right to demand of the individual any service needed by the state-even to the bearing of children to serve the State on demand. There is no doubt that many a poor mother’s heart has been torn as she realized what it means to her to have
the state demand her child for its service, and enforce that demand by law and court and military power.

There was one more crime that we were alleged to seek to commit, which makes our black record complete in essentials. That was that Socialists believe in confiscation; that we hold that the property needed by the whole people should belong to the nation. These gentlemen declared that we Socialists maintain that if the private owners of public property will not sell their property at a fair price, and relinquish it willingly, that it should be taken from them by force if necessary.

So, for years, we Socialists went about our work, always having to meet these ignorant prejudices and explain why the capitalistic interests of the country were so eager that these prejudices should be insistently planted and so tenderly cultivated. Over and over again we had to meet the charge that the Socialists would plunge the world into war, destroy civilization, tear down Christianity, degrade womanhood, debase motherhood, people the world with illegitimate children, take the child from the parent and give it to the State, and confiscate the property of the industrious and frugal. I am sure that I have answered every one of these charges at least a thousand times.

II. The World War Comes.

Three years ago I was working in the great Socialist encampments of Oklahoma. I spoke day after day to crowds varying in size from five to twenty thousand people. At every meeting I had to control my temper and maintain my sweetness while I answered all of these charges. I finished my work and came home to rest. I had been home just about twenty-four hours. I picked up the morning newspaper, and behold! In screaming headlines I read the soul-sickening announcement that the war had come. Friends, it was not a strike; it was not a mere social revolution; it was a world war. The greatest was, the most brutal and unjustifiable war that the world has ever known. Like a thundebolt out of a clear sky this war crashed down on a world at peace bringing waste and ruin, misery and suffering, bloodshed and death such as mankind has never known.

Almost with the rising and the setting of the sun we found the greatest continent on earth, the continent where science and learning, culture and Christianity, had done their most for mankind, turned into a bloody shambles. The maddest dream of the most hysterical editor came true, multiplied a thousandfold. Then the rivers did run red with blood; then the gutters were choked with dead men’s bodies; then the villages were laid waste; then the homes were destroyed; then the cities were razed; then the churches were beaten down and all Europe was plowed with cannon and sown with death. War in all its horror swept down to curse the earth; to make a mockery of civilization, and a lie of the message of Jesus.

For a few weeks we were all too horror-stricken to think or reason clearly. Then a strange fact was thrust upon our understanding. For years and years we have been told that Socialism would plunge the world into war. Socialism had never been realized, and yet the war was here.

When the first shock and horror [of the war] had passed, men began to reason clearly, and it suddenly dawned on us that, though the Socialists had been charged with seeking to provoke war, they could not be held guilty of causing this war. The only thing that could be said against them was that they had not done their utmost to keep the world out of the war.

I remember that just a few days after the war came I met the clergyman who had been most insistent that I was a dangerous person who would sooner or later bring about a war by preaching Socialism. He was white and quivering with excitement, and he stopped me with an imperative wave of his hand. He said:

“I thought you said there would never be another war. I thought you declared that the Socialists of Germany would not slaughter the Socialists of France. I have heard you insist that Socialists were opposed to war. Why in the name of God did not the Socialists stop this war?”

I replied:

“Sir, I understand your feelings, for they are my own. But I also thought that Christians were opposed to war. When I attended Sunday School I learned the Ten Commandments. One of them, I think, is ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ I have read my Bible and I know that the prophets say: ‘Beat your plowshares and your spears into pruning-hooks.’ I know that Jesus said: ‘A new message I bring, love thy neighbor as thyself, and do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.‘ And, sir, are these not the teachings of Christianity?”

“Most assuredly,” he answered.

“Are they not the very foundations of the Christian religion, and if you take from Christianity these things, is there much left of value to the human race?” I asked.

He replied: “These are the very heart and soul of Christianity.”

“Then,” I said, “if this be true, I am sore perplexed. Every king was a Christian king, every government was a Christian government, every army was a Christian army, every general was a Christian general. Why, in the of God and religion and humanity, did not the Christian church take some steps to stop this war?”

He did not answer my question and I have not had it answered to this day. But this fact is so apparent that it can never again be questioned. There was not a single nation on earth where Socialists had the power to stop the war. They were a minority party in every nation. If we are to blame any for not stopping the war it must be the Christian rulers; and the particular ruler, who is most certain that he and God are partners in this war, must bear the heavier load of blame.

Not Caused By Socialists.

I shall not at this time discuss the real cause of the war; but if we take the newspaper statements that it was forced on the world by the lust for power and greed for territory of certain kings, then there are two kings that must be held responsible. One of them is the deposed Czar Nicholas, and the other Kaiser Wilhelm. And, friends, I want to impress upon your minds this fact-that neither Czar Nicolas nor Kaiser Wilhelm ever carried a red card in the Socialist Party. These gentlemen were no friends of ours, I assure you. In the realm of Nicholas, for persons to have a scrap of Socialist literature meant arrest, prison, dungeon, Siberia and death. Why, that long, bitter, ice-bound, blood-stained path to Siberia was paved with the bones of Socialists. In the kingdom of Wilhelm there was nothing feared and hated so much. Long ago, in the lifetime of Wilhelm’s father, the iron hand of Bismarck had been used with brutal and tyrannical power to crush out the growing power of Socialism. For more than forty years all the power of autocratic Germany was used to destroy the Socialist party. Its teachers were jailed and thrown into dungeons; its editors were imprisoned and exiled; its publications were barred; but Socialism grew and grew, until it was the only thing on earth that the Kaiser feared with a deadly fear. He said just before the war came that the greatest danger to his empire was the ungodly, unpatriotic Socialist party which was seeking to overthrow the emperor, destroy the empire and build a co-operative republic on the ruins of Imperial Germany. He said that, if nothing else would stop the growth of Socialism a war would be necessary, and he knew that if he could employ the people in waging a defensive warfare they would have no time to study Socialism.

The one big, outstanding, undeniable fact brought home to men’s minds is that this war was not caused by Socialists or Socialism. It did not come because of us; it came in spite of us; it did not come because we had taught the gospel of industrial and political democracy, it came because there were so many blind, ignorant fools in the world who would not try to understand these things, or help to make them possible.

Not only did we discover in the first few days of the war that the Socialists were not responsible for it, but, when the black cloud settled down over Europe, there was just one group, one organization, one voice that dared to cry out for peace and sanity and civilization in the midst of madness and slaughter.

In that hour of world tragedy, who was it that took their stand with Moses who said: “Thou shalt not kill!” Was it the Rabbi? Not if he numbered capitalists among his synagogue. Who was it lifted up the cry of the prophets: “Beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning-hooks?” Was it the priests? It was not. Who was it that raised the cry of Jesus: “Love thy neighbor as thyself and do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you?” Was it the preachers? Not so you could notice it! When the war god sounded his brutal blast; when a mad Kaiser and greed-crazed capitalists were willing to plunge the world into war to sate their insane lust for power and hunger for profits, so far as we have any record, priest, rabbi, and preacher forgot their gospels, turned their back upon the teachings of Moses and Jesus and the prophets, and they seem to have with one accord espoused the cause of the god of war. When a mentally diseased and powermad king sought to make a shambles of the earth, we must admit that church and clergy aided and abetted him. There is no record, so far as we have been able to find, where in any nation at any time the Christian church and the Christian clergy made the slightest protest against the world being blasted by war. So far as we know, almost without an exception, the church became a recruiting office, the clergy became recruiting officers; and, dressed in the vestments of the Church of God, they took their places before the altars and called to the men of Europe: “Shoulder your guns, unlimber your cannons and go forth to wage this holy war God and the king is calling you, it is your Christian duty to obey.” According to the clergy of every nation it was a holy war of defense, and in no country could they discover that it was an unholy war of robbery and plunder. In that dark hour, the only men who dared to proclaim the commands of God, to uphold the message of the prophets and take their stand by the side of Jesus were the ungodly, irreligious, warlike, brutal, un-Christian Socialists.

Socialists Stand True to the Ideals of Jesus.

The brutal hand of tyrannical power fell with crushing force upon those men who remained true to the ideals of Jesus and the prophets. In Germany hundreds of Socialists were stood up against the wall and shot for opposing the war. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were too powerful to shoot, so they were thrown in prison. In France, Jean Jaures, the greatest orator and the greatest statesman of this generation, was murdered by a hired assassin because the forces that hoped to fatten on war in France dared not let Jean Jaures live and speak for peace. In every nation in Europe the Socialists were cursed and reviled; they were called seditious, traitorous enemies of their country because they dared to oppose human slaughter as a method of solving the problems of the race.

In the few weeks that marked the beginning of the war, we saw the non-Socialists perform some wonderful mental gymnastics. A week before the war came we were damned for wanting to start a war; a week after it came we were damned for not stopping it; then a week later we were damned just as bitterly for wanting to stop it. It seems that we can’t possibly please you non-Socialists, no matter what we do or don’t do. Possibly because your mental processes are such that you never quite know just what you do want.


This is a bloody, brutal war. We had no part in bringing it, but it has performed a mighty service for us. Never again will any human being be so stupid or so ignorant as to say that we are the provokers and defenders of war. Why, even Postmaster General Burleson admits that much. We are branded now. Like Cain, we were a brand upon our brow: the brand of being the followers of the Prince of Peace. We could not lose that brand if we would, and would not if we could. The cry that we would plunge the world into war is stilled forever. Now we can turn our attention to the work of building a world democracy.

Thankful as we are, that we are forever freed from the false charge of seeking to create war, we must count the price that the world has paid for our vindication. No doubt the contemplation of that price is more vivid to me than to many others here. I had the wonderful privilege of visiting Europe just a few months before the war and of learning to know and love many of the men who have died on the battlefield, and many of the women whose lives have been utterly shattered.

My memories of Europe are all such beautiful memories! I remember the great, teeming cities; the perfect roads; the tenderly tilled fields; the quaint cottages of the workers; the stately castles of the ruling class; the beautiful churches; the treasures of art and the busy marts of trade. All of these things I remember vividly. But nearest and dearest to my heart, of course, are the memories of the people I learned to know and love. I remember those men of master mind from every country of Europe with whom I worked in the International Socialist Bureau, meeting men whose names are known all over the world as the leaders of statesmanship, literature, science and art.

I remember the unique group of British labor members of Parliament, from John Burns to the newest member who had been quite recently elected from a Scottish mining community. I remember that thrilling meeting of the British trades union conference in London where I met the men who have guided the destinies of the working class mass-action in Great Britain, from Bob Smilie, the canny, shrewd Scotchman who rules the coal miners like a father, to Jim Larkin, the wild Irishman, who keeps Ireland in a turmoil and the British government in a stew of apprehension.

I remember the women also; that marvelous group of organized women known as the Woman’s Labor League, and counting among its members the most cultivated and high-born women of Great Britain as well as the poverty-stricken, illiterate jam boiler from Bermondsy.

I remember the sturdy workingmen who attended my meetings; I remember their rosy-cheeked wives and bright-eyed children who clattered about at work and play in quaint costumes and sabots and clogs. I remember the might meetings that I addressed where thousands of workingmen, many of whom could not understand my language, come to greet me as the representative of the working class of that land of promise, America. I remember the thrill of that great strike meeting in Dublin where I spoke to ten thousand Irish people from the foot of the Parnell statue. I remember the meetings in Wales where the Welsh miners sang for me as I had never heard men sing.

Sweet and Sacred Memories.

All of these sweet and sacred memories to me, and I hold them as part of my very life. These memories sweep over me, and then — I try to imagine what Europe must be like now. I know that beautiful cities, with their busy marts of trade, are either blackened ruins, or given over wholly to the grim and wasteful trade of making war. I know that the wonderful roads are scarred by cannon and exploding shell, and deeply rutted by the traffic of war. I know that the tenderly tilled fields are ruined wastes that can never be brought back to fertility. I know that the quaint cottages of the workers are shattered; that the castles have been turned into hospitals; that the churches are battered down and the priceless works of art destroyed. I know that the Europe that I loved is but a howling wilderness now, a blackened, war-scarred ruin, an inferno such as Dante never painted.

 I know that, in this blood-stained hell which war has made, death has come in most frightful forms to men whom I knew and loved, and worse than death to women they loved. I know that on the bloody fields of France and Belgium, Serbia and Poland, there is festering in the July heat the bodies of millions of men. I know that, scattered there, are the bodies of the boys with whom I worked in Dublin; there are the miners who sang for me in Wales; there are the Scottish Highlanders and the London newspaper men. I know also that it is not only the workers who have died, but the men of brains and learning and culture as well. I know that, side by side with the humblest peasant, or the most illiterate serf, there lies the artist and the musician; the doctor and the scientist; the college professor and the inventor. Dead and decaying on these battlefields are the pick and flower of modern civilization. In the masses of corrupting human flesh there lies all that ten thousand years of civilization, of science, of knowledge, of culture, and all that two thousand years of Christianity could do for the human race.

 I know also that it is not alone the achievements of the past that decay there, but the hopes of the future as well. When I picture the bearded face of a man, swollen and bloated in the July heat, it is not only the man I see, but the women he left behind. Oh! I see his wife the victim of invading soldiers, his children starved and maimed and mutilated; and I wonder what hope the future holds for that man’s wife and children?

When I see the downy face of a boy upturned in death on the battlefield, I see not only the young life wasted, but I see back of that boy the mother who gave him life. I know that the mother endured the long, long months of weary waiting for that life. I know that she divided her flesh and blood with him; I know that she went down to face the tortures of hell and came back to face the long, weary, unselfish struggle to rear that boy to manhood. I know that when the boy died there on the battlefield, the hope of the mother’s life ended as well.

I can sense the agony and hopelessness and despair of the mother whose boy lies dead on the battlefield, for I am a mother and I have sons. True, none of my sons are old enough to be drawn into this war, and I pray God that, long before they are old enough to be sent to the battlefield, the workers of the world shall have learned their bitter lesson. I hope that they will have thrown territory mad kings and profit mad capitalists into the scrapheap of discarded things, and established a social and economic system to which wars will never come.

 And it is not alone the wife and mother that I see when I look upon the battlefields. When I think of the lusty young man destroyed in the flower of his youth, I think also of the girl who loved him more than her life. I think of the young war bride, who knew for an hour, or a day, or a week, the supreme joy of loving and giving, then watched her mate go forth to die, leaving her to face the horrors of war that always fall heaviest on the women at home. I think of the fear of invasion, the dread of rapine, the suspense of waiting for news from the front, and the agony of waiting for the new life, unprotected by a husband’s love and care.

And bitter, more tragic still, is the fate of the sweetheart who was not even a war bride. The fate of the girl who loved and never knew the joy of giving herself to the man she loved, who never felt and never can feel the thrill of joy that lifts us above the common things of life and links us with the infinite. The thrill of the first stir of life within her own body. Great God! We women are willing to pay the price for love, but with all our souls we rebel against the crime of being denied the right to love and pay.

The Price of Our Vindication.

Heavy as are our hearts, sick as we are with the appalling price that mankind has paid and will pay for the vindication of the Socialist position, we do find some comfort in the fact that the lies and the vilifications of the capitalist-controlled means of public expression are being thrown back into their teeth with the vengeance of outraged justice. And we do know that the price of this war will not be paid in vain, that the world purified by the flames of war must be a cleaner world than existed before the test of fire.


Our traducers have declared that we would destroy civilization, tear down constitutions, abolish courts and laws, prostitute ethics and morals, and bring anarchy and chaos to the world. Socialism never came, but the world-war did come, and remember — we did not bring it. Strange to say, when the war came all of these things happened. Civilization was destroyed wherever battles raged. The first thing to go down under the shock of war was international law. It was declared a “scrap of paper” by the Kaiser who shouts so loudly that he and God are running this war and whose position is so ably supported by the church and clergy of his empire. The sacredness of treaties was found to be only as sacred as the corrupt heart of a king and the greed for profits of the capitalists of his kingdom.

It has long been known that democracies are poor war makers, and that just as soon as war comes to any nation, democracy must be laid on the shelf and autocracy takes its place. Constitutions, civil laws, individual rights, justice and humanity are clogs of war-making powers, and must be placed in cold storage until the war is done, in order that the war makers may have the power to wage a successful war.

War can have but one aim and that is victory. Victory can be achieved under the operation of but one law and that is the law of military necessity. Military necessity does not concern itself with constitutional or civil laws, individual rights or individual wishes. All things must of necessity become secondary to the laws of military necessity when for any reason a war for victory becomes imperative.

We find that grim necessity turns our standards of ethics and morals all topsy-turvy also. In Europe on month before the war came, if a man had plunged a bit of steel into the heart of another man (citizen of another nation or not), that man would have been a murderer. He would have been convicted of a capital crime; he would have been antisocial, unethical, immoral and un-Christian. The state would have sentenced him to the hangman’s noose, and public opinion would have consigned his soul to hell. One week after an insane Kaiser had loosed the dogs of war on Europe and had been supported in the act by the clergy and the capitalists of his nation, if then thousands of men took pieces of steel and thrust them into as many hearts as they could reach, why the men who did the thrusting were noble heroes, the government decorated them with the iron cross if they lived, and the priest was quite sure that if they died they went to Heaven on a through
ticket and with a pass that St. Peter must honor, no matter what their lives had been.

Just as strangely do our concepts of morality as related to our sex relations change overnight when war comes. In Europe before the war if a woman loved a man so completely that she was willing to give herself without marriage, the woman was a harlot, she was a scarlet woman, and a thing to be spat upon and spurned. If perchance a child should result, it was an ill-begotten, illegitimate child. The mother was an outcast, and the child was cursed by God and man because of the mother’s sin. Then war came, and millions of men were dying. The birthrate was falling far behind the deathrate; there was great need of babies to replace the waste of war. Then, if a woman gave herself to a man that he might “breed before he died.” she was not a harlot or a scarlet woman, she was a perfectly honorable heroine and her child was a patriotic “war baby.”

We know now that when war came civilization was beaten down into the blood-stained mire. We know now beyond any doubt that war and civilization cannot both occupy the same battlefield at the same time, that when battles rage civilization flees away to await the dawn of peace.

The Church Suffered First.

As the war progressed, we learned also it was not Socialism but war that fell with such crushing weight upon Christianity. War and Christianity cannot exist on the same battlefield at the same time. So, when battles rage, Christ and Christianity must flee before they can live in the hearts of men. We found that, when invading armies swept Europe, the first thing that was battered down by machine gun and cannon was the church. We found that when rapine and outrage ran riot it was the nuns in the convents who suffered first and most. In fact, there is nothing in Europe that has suffered so much as the institution of Christianity. And there is no doubt that one of the most crushing blows from which Christianity has suffered is the fact that the church and the clergy did not raise a protesting voice against the hell of war, and so must stand convicted, it seems, of aiding and abetting the slaughter of the human race. I think that old theology is dead. Mr. Wells says so. He has written a most wonderful book in which he tries to tell us what kind of a religion and what sort of conception of God we will have after the war is done. Mr. Wells seems to agree with me that the old conception of Christianity has died on the battlefields of Europe, shot to death with gun and cannon, drowned in human blood.

You may say that I don’t know what is happening on the battlefields of Europe because I have not been there. No, but I have read everything that I could secure dealing with conditions there, and all eye witnesses tell the same story. Certainly we can from our reading reconstruct the scenes that took place on a French battlefield today, in our imagination, at least.

We know that on one side there is the army of the Allies and on the other side the army of the Central Powers, while between is that bloody strip of No Man’s Land. All day long the battle has raged, cannnons have roared, machine guns spat their message of hate, musketry rattled, poison gas and hand grenades have done their deadly work. As evening came the ground was strewn with maimed, dead and dying. The men who still lived sank down among their dead comrades to snatch a few hours of hate-and-horror-infested sleep that they might be strong enough to rise and slay again on the morrow. As the night fell the vespers of war arose to the ears of the Loving Father. And the vespers of war are the shrieks of the wounded, the moans of the dying, and the weeping and wailing of the women and children bereft. While these cries go up to the heart of God, the Father, the clergy play their little part in the drama. Behind the German army walks the German chaplain. He reads his Bible, cons his prayer book, and kneels down on the blood wet earth and prays. He beseeches: “O God! Thou God of war and battles. Be Thou with the German forces. Make strong our arms O God! so we may thrust our bayonets straight into the hearts of our French brothers.” At that very moment behind the French army walks a French chaplain. He reads the same Bible, cons the same prayer book, and prays to the same loving Father. He parys: “O God, Thou God of war and battles, be Thou with the French forces. Make clear our eyes O God! so that we may send our bullets straight into the hearts of our German brothers.” I do not feel that it is necessary for me to advance any arguments to prove that real Christianisty is dead when the clergy of one nation prays God to help them slaughter
the men of another nation — it seems to me to be self-evident.

But don’t go away from this hall and say that I said that the word of God had been destroyed, or that the message of Jesus was dead in the hearts of men. No! I know that is not true. Never have the hearts of the masses turned with such longing to the command of Moses; to the message of the prophets; to the tender, loving message of Jesus as they do today. And never in all the history of mankind have men and women longed so for a righteous, just, lasting peace as they do at this time.

My faith is great enough to make me know, though I feel that the old theology has been destroyed on the battlefields of Europe, that the real religion of Jesus must come as the result of this war. The war must end and peace must come, and the sacrifice will not be in vain. A new world will be born of our travail, a United States of the World, based on democracy and social justice; and in that new world we shall live the religion that John foretold; the religion that needs neither priest nor temple for, it lives in the hearts of men.

Outrage Ran Riot.

I wonder how many of you men in my audience ever went about saying that Socialism would degrade womanhood, debase motherhood, debauch childhood and people the world with illegitimate children? If any of you did say these things your words have come home to you with brutal, chilling force. For our souls sicken when we think of how these things have come to pass. Never in all the history of the human race, not even among our cave dwelling ancestors or the Indians who lived on these plains, has womanhood been so degraded, and motherhood so debased as in the most civilized and cultured countries of Europe. No language can tell the tale; no brain can grasp the horrors and no soul can sense the degradation that has come to the women of war scarred Europe. Lust and rapine and outrage ran riot. The women have not only been forced to endure the horrors of unleashed passion; of blood drunken lust; of the unholy embrace of enemies; they have not only been forced to pay the price of millions of men being forced to live unnatural lives; but they have had a great degradation forced upon them by state and clergy.

When the governments of Europe, and the clergy of Europe demanded of the women that they give themselves in marriage, or out, in order that men might “breed before they die,” that was not the crime of maddened passion, it was the cold-blooded crime of brutal selfishness, and by that crime the women of Europe were reduced to the status of breeding animals on a stock farm.

You sneered at us and said that Socialism would people the world with illegitimate children. Socialism never came, but the war did, and our faces scorch with shame when we think of the illegitimate children of the war zone. In Europe there are thousands of babies, and thousands more will be. These are illegitimate children; they are ill-begotten children; they are children whose fathers they will never know; whose fathers’ language they will never speak. These children are not the fruits of marriage; they are not the flowers of love; they were not begotten in wedlock and decency. These are the children of invasion and rapine and outrage. They were convinced in lust, nurtured in hate, born to poverty and pestilence and famine. All of you know something of the laws governing the coming of a human life, and you know that children so conceived and so nurtured and so born cannot be normal human beings. I have talked with physicians who have been in the war zone, and they tell me that the very sight of these children is enough to turn the soul sick with horror. They are deaf, dumb, blind, idiot, imbecile and deformed monstrosities that can be nothing but a burden to themselves and a curse to the race. And remember, you dear old, rock-ribbed, hide-bound, moss-backed democrats, these are not Socialist babies–they are war babies.

The State Has a Right to Your Service.

Again, do remember, you perfectly respectable, smug, self-righteous gentlemen, you men who sit about on dry-goods boxes and grocery store counters, do you remember the dire threats you used to make of what an awful fate would befall “them durned Socialists.” You were wont to get a stick and a jack-knife and a generous chew of tobacco and expound thusly:

“Ya, them durned Socialists, they think that our children ort to belong to the government, by Jimminey! They say that the government has got a right to take our children away from us and make `em serve the state, if the state needs `em and we ain’t got a right to say a word. But, by cracky! if any low-down Socialist official ever tries to come inside my door and take one of my boys away from me, I’ll fill his dirty hide so full of buckshot that it won’t hold corn shucks.”

Well my dearly beloved, Socialism never arrived. We never elected a President and only achieved one lone, lorn congressmen, but strange to say, on the fifth of June, your Democrats who voted for Wilson because “he kept us out of war,” suddenly awakened to the fact that your sons did not belong to you. You also discovered that they did not belong to themselves; they were the actual, physical property of the United States, and its Government had a perfect right, and exercised that right, to come into your home and take your sons and demand their service, even to the giving of their lives. Not only did the Government exercise that right, but enacted stringent laws, punishing with the utmost severity any one who made the slightest protest against it.

If your wife, the woman who gave life to that boy, so much as suggested that before the state should have the right to demand the life of her son, she at least should be given a vote in the government, if your wife should make this statement and a Federal officer should overhear her, legal authorities tell us that she can be arrested, convicted of a crime, sent to prison, dressed in stripes, forced to do the most menial and degrading labor for a long term of years.

This is not the time or place to argue the question of whether the conscription law is right or wrong, moral or immoral, constitutional or unconstitutional. I am not making any argument whatever, I am just telling you what happened to you, that is all. Of course, I want to impress upon your mind at this time the fact that this principle was not enunciated and this law was not enacted or enforced by a Socialist administration, but a Democratic administration.


When we have reached the point in the survey of the world war and its effects on mankind, we are forced to realize that it has ceased to be a European war and has become an American war as well.

It is but natural, in a great world convulsion which shattered the very foundation of our lives, that there should be grave differences of opinion and that prejudices and passion should run rampant. In a time like this it is very hard, indeed, for any one to keep a firm hold upon sanity and retain the ability to think clearly and to a purpose, without bitterness or bias.

I don’t think for a moment that I am superhuman, but I do earnestly try to keep my poise and balance. We have been told that the time for reason and consideration is past, and that we must perforce shut our eyes, stop the processes of our brains, and let our divinely chosen politicians and editors to do all our thinking and reasoning for us. The time may come in this country when we will be forced to turn the wheels of progress backward, and enthrone again the old, discarded theory of the “divine right” of rulers to act and think for us, but at this time I cannot feel that it is either wise or necessary. I think if ever there was a time that demanded that we all think for ourselves, it is now.

I feel that it is the very highest and most intelligent sort of patriotism for the people of this country and of all countries to seek with intense earnestness the cause of this war. It is only in knowing the cause, in analyzing and scrutinizing the hidden forces that direct nations in time of war, that we can hope to make this the last of wars.

There is no man or woman, with an atom of reason or logic or common sense, who believes that this war was brought about merely by the inflated ego of a half-insane Kaiser, or the maudlin weakness of a neurotic Czar. Not that Kaiser and Czar are not mad enough to provoke a war, but we all know that no Kaiser or Czar has the power in modern society to cause or to wage a war. War in these modern times is not the mere waving of plumes, brandishing of swords and sounding of trumpets. War is a highly organized, and very businesslike bit of business that can be carried on only by the business forces of a country. Before a war can be waged, the bankers must provide the money for war bonds; the manufacturers must provide the munitions of war, and the business men must provide the business management for this highly organized business venture. Bankers and manufacturers and business men are hard-headed, far-sighted, keen-minded men, and, before they give the necessary sanction to a war, it is evident that they must see very clearly just what profits they can hope to secure.

It seems quite evident to me that, in consideration of this war, we can look upon the Kaiser and Czar principally as the spectacular figure-heads who furnish the theatricals while the business men furnish the money and the brains with which to wage the war. A family squabble between Cousin Nickie and Cousin Willie is hardly sufficient to explain the world tragedy.

The Time to Discuss Causes.

There must be some mighty fundamental, economic, financial cause behind the quarrel of Kaiser and Czar to induce the business men to take the mighty risks that a war entails. This economic cause is not hard to discover. The capitalist and trading interests of the European nations have been rapidly expanding for several decades. The traders of each nation have exhausted the trade possibilities of their own land, and have been forced to reach out for the trade of weaker and less developed nations. They have also developed a ravenous hunger for colonies in out-of-the-way places of the earth. This hunger was no doubt whetted by the gratifying profits made by King Leopold of Belgium in the Congo. It is but the natural result of trade expansion, that the traders of the different nations should have encroached upon each other’s trade territory. It is perfectly natural that they should battle for each other’s trade, and fight tooth and nail to grasp each other’s profits. In the battle for trade and profits, wars and armies have always played an important part. The musket has always followed the drummer’s grip, and the warship the trader’s sloop. When the titanic struggle of the European trades for world commerce had reached its apex, it was but natural that a war of guns and cannons should follow the war of trade. “Cannons are the last argument of kings,” you know–political kings or industrial kings. So, in the fullness of time, the ego-mad kings and the profit-hungry traders joined in an unholy league and the world war was the result.

When it comes to a discussion of our part in the war, human nature is just the same on one side of the ocean as on the other; and it seems logical that the same conditions must exist. We have been fortunate enough to stay out of war for almost three years; we elected our president on the slogan–“he kept us out of war.” It is evident by this that the hearts of the people are against war and for peace, yet we are at war.

Our politicians and editors tell us that we must not reason, or think, or discuss, but this is not possible. No human being can stop the processes of mind and live; and we must think, and must reason, and must grope through the darkness that encompasses us, for that is the law of life.

Thrice armed is that man or nation whose cause is just, and if this war is a just war there is no surer method of securing the solid, self-sacrificing, loyal support of every man and woman than by an intelligent discussion which will satisfy our reason. We are asked to reverse every one of our well loved principles of Americanism, and that cannot be done without thought and study and a sure sense of the necessity of such reversal.

We women feel that, particularly, we have the right to weigh and consider, discuss and understand, for we are called upon to make the supreme sacrifice. It is not enough for us to be told by a lot of politicians that they will do our thinking for us. We know to our sorrow that the politicians have told us many things that were not true. They have told us that we did not need to vote, because they, out of the greatness of their hearts and the ponderosity of their wisdom, would care for our interests, and we know that they have often betrayed us.

They tell us that the war in which we are engaged is a war for humanity and democracy. God knows, we hope this is true. Humanity has suffered long and bitterly enough that some great power should become her knight. Democracy is a principle big enough and noble enough to live for; to fight for; to die for. Real democracy is all that we women have ever desired when we demanded the vote. But we cannot deny that we women could give more loyal and more whole-hearted support to a war for democracy in Germany, if we had a little of it at home.

We have been told that this war has been entered into with no consideration for the profits of the capitalist class. If this is true then the capitalist class must be made up of a choice lot of doddering idiots. The whole war itself is the supreme struggle of the capitalist class to decide which group of capitalists should rule the world markets. When the German U-boats began to sink the ocean liners laden with food and munitions of war, they struck a death blow at the very heart and soul of the capitalist system–the right to trade whenever profits can be made. If that right of free and unrestricted trade can be denied, the whole fabric of capitalism crumbles like a house of sand. The man who believes that capitalism is right and just, and the only system under which the race can exist, would be a fool if he did not demand that war at any cost of life and blood should be invoked to protect the fabric of civilization.

Of course, I don’t believe that capitalism is either right or just, or that it is the only system under which the race can survive; so the only quarrel between the capitalists of this country and your humble servant is not whether this war shall protect the capitalist system but whether the capitalist system should be protected. If the capitalist system is right, then the war is right; and on the basis I am sure we can find agreement. We have been told that nothing but service to humanity is involved in this war. Once again I say that, if by humanity you mean the humanity of the capitalist system, again we agree that war is the only possibility. If you mean by humanity, the lives and happiness and welfare of the whole human race, than we feel that there is room for discussion. You know we women have long, long memories–you men have not. You never remember longer than the day before yesterday. That is the reason why the corrupt politicians fool you so easily. When we think of humanity, we don’t think of barter and trade, ocean liners, and traffic in munitions. We think of living, breathing, suffering human beings.

Women Have Long Memories.

We women can’t forget the invasion of Belgium; the sinking of the Lusitania; the desolation of France and Serbia and Poland; or the crushing of the Irish republic; and we do feel that if justice and right had a sacred right to demand our service, that they called long and hopelessly for three bitter years.

I remember that we Socialists protested against these horrors, and that we were sharply rebuked. I was billed to speak at a meeting to protest against the invasion of Belgium and memorial meetings for Jim Connolly, who was so wantonly murdered. I was requested by Government Officials not to speak at these meetings because they said to do so would be unneutral. I remember that, as I traveled, I found over every postoffice window and on every bank tellers’ counter a placard that said: “We must be neutral in word and thought,” and it was signed–Woodrow Wilson.

You say: “Oh yes! We know; but President Wilson is a patient man–patient and long suffering.”

I answer: “Yes, I know he is patient. But sometimes I have wondered if a little less patience would not have better protected the working class. I remember that when women were brutally murdered at Ludlow; I remember that when more than fifty children were murdered by hired thugs of the copper trust in Calumet; I remember that when the coal miners were shot down in West Virginia and Arkansas; I remember that when the employees of the Standards Oil Co. were killed in cold blood at Bayonne, that we workers of the country appealed to President Wilson for protection for the lives of these American citizens, and we found that he was patient and long suffering with the outrages of the capitalist class. I cannot help but wonder if a righteous anger in these cases would not have been more noble than patience.”

We know from the study of all past history that the flag, and the army, and the navy have always followed bonds and investments; and we know that it is an inevitable part of the capitalist system that they army and the navy should follow the investment of more than four billion by the house of Morgan in British war bonds. That is why we felt a throb of fear when that investment was made.


And now, friends, since we must face the tragedy and the misery and the soul-searching questions that must come to us, I am glad that I can close with a great message of hope and cheer. Under all the horror of this war there is a divine comedy. It is this — the world has been plunged into this bloody abyss, not by Socialism, but for a lack of it. We Socialists have ballots instead of bullets; but, nevertheless, this war is bringing Socialism a hundred times more quickly and decisively than we ever hoped to bring it by education. This war has proved that individualism, run amuck, can plunge a world into war, but only intelligently applied Socialism can save the race from suicide.

The Nations Turn to Socialism.

Every nation that has entered this war has been compelled to junk the capitalist system and make use of a least a modified form of Socialism. This has been true in Germany and France and England, and it is rapidly coming to pass in the United States.

Germany had more State Socialism than any other country in the world, and it was in this that her efficient preparedness lay. So Germany got into the war in about fifteen minutes after war was declared. France had less State Socialism than Germany, but vastly more than Great Britain, and France got into the war in about fifteen days. Great Britain was the last stronghold of individualism. She has eyes in the back of her head, drew her inspirations from graveyards, and took her political economy from John Stuart Mill. Britannia did not bother with such new-fangled notions as State Socialism; so, when the war came, she was frightfully handicapped. It was really about fifteen months before she got into the war with any degree of efficiency. This was not because her sons were not brave or her statesman loyal, but because she had not machinery with which to make war.

The first thing that broke down in Great Britain was the railroad system; and she was compelled to take over the railroads and put them under government control before she could mobilize her troops

The next thing that broke down under the strain of war was the coal production. It was a strike of the Welsh miners, led by Bob Smilie, that forced Great Britain to take over the coal supply and make it possible for the war to be carried on. This strike, and the government control of the coal supply, teach a very necessary lesson which this country will be forced to learn before we can meet the demands of a successful managed war. When the war came the private owners of the coal miners (who were, of course, all good patriots) raised the price of coal to the government from about two dollars and fifty cents a ton, to five dollars. And at this price it was impossible for the operators to supply sufficient coal and keep the men at work. Finally, labor unrest became so acute that the miners went on strike, and their demand was not for more pay or shorter hours, but for government control of the coal industry. This was finally agreed upon by the government; and, when the private coal operator was displaced by the government co-operator, the hours of labor for the men were reduced, wages were substantially increased, production almost doubled, and the price of coal was reduced.

The food situation was the same. Just as soon as war was declared, the profiteers hoarded the food, raised the prices, and starved the people. In those first dark days of the war, when the British army was suffering such heart-breaking reverses, we know now they failed not because they were bad soldiers, but because they had no ammunition with which to wage the battle. While the soldiers died in the trenches for lack of ammunition, the ammunition makers dropped in front of their benches in the exhaustion of starvation. Their wages could not reach the extortionate prices of food. While the soldiers died and the ammunition makers starved, the warehouses of Great Britain were crammed to bursting with the food that the profiteers had hoarded and were holding for blood-wet profits. When the condition became unbearable, Great Britain was forced to turn to the Socialists for a remedy. The government took over the food supply, eliminated profiteers, and set just prices for food as well as searched the earth for food supplies.

The results were amusing to us Americans, if we have any sense of humor. For instance, last winter in St. Louis potatoes reached the amazing price of four dollars a bushel. I suppose it is unnecessary to tell you that the little O’Hares did not have potatoes in their Irish stew–not at four dollars a bushel. When I was at my wits ends to know what to give the children to eat, our divinely inspired editors told us to eat rice. Now, just imagine telling any one by the name of O’Hare to eat rice instead of potatoes! But we have to have something to eat, and I went shopping for rice. I found that it was twelve cents a pound. At the very time that we were paying four dollars a bushel for potatoes in St. Louis, the British food commission came over here, brought potatoes by the train load, shipped them to London, and sold them for one dollar and seventy-five cents a bushel. While we paid twelve cents for rice grown in Texas, the British food commission bought the rice, shipped it across five thousand miles of submarine-infested sea, and sold it for four cents a pound. We paid ten cents a pound of sugar; and sugar grown in the same beetfield was shipped to London and sold for five.

War Brings Socialism.

We are in the war now, and every single step we take towards winning the war is a mighty step towards Socialism. We did not want Socialism to come by war, but “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform” and it may be that “He doeth all things well.” Does it not seem strange that you men would listen to us; that you would not reason or think or educate yourselves; that you rejected Socialism when were offered it to you in peace, by means of the ballot; and that now you are having it thrust into you on the end of a bayonet? Well, if it suits you better that way, we are not to blame.

They have told you that we Socialists are unpatriotic, seditious and treasonable. I will simply leave you to judge from what I have said whether you think this true or not.

They have told you that we were hindering the President in waging a successful war. That is not true. We hoped that Socialism would come without war. It did not, but it is coming just the same. A successfully waged war will mean a war waged by Socialist methods, and certainly that means success for us. If you are willing to pay the price of a world war for Socialism, we must submit.

They tell you that we are attempting to hinder the draft. That is not true. Once again I say that it would not have been our method, but the draft is forcing on every human being, in the most striking manner, the fact that the State is superior to the individual. Of course, since the conscription of life had been demanded, we are going to demand the conscription of wealth. I am free to confess that we don’t relish the idea of having a small group of men pass on the matter of life and death for millions of other men, particularly when the men who do the passing also pass up the fighting, because they are either too old, or too fat, or too busy to go to war.

They tell you that we are opposing enlistment. This is not true. Please understand me now and do not misquote what I say. If any young man feels that it is his duty to enlist, then with all my heart I say —”Go and God bless you. Your blood may enrich the battlefields of France, but that may be for the best.”

There is just one other point that I want to touch upon, then [I] shall have finished this long lecture. They told you that Socialists would bring confiscation. Socialism never came, but confiscation is here in full force. The mighty mountain of war debts that have been and will be piled up by this war, can be paid only by confiscation. It will mean the confiscation of the workers’ very bread and butter, but it will also mean the confiscation of the profiteers’ unholy war profits. They may escape for at time, but it must come eventually.

When we used to suggest that the Government should buy the railroads, you would shout: “Ya, but where are you going to get the money?” Gentlemen, the price of this war would buy the railroads and almost everything else in sight; and the Government will get the money by frying it out of your dear old Democratic skins. Certainly we Socialists can smile as the aroma of the frying is wafted to our noses.

The United States of the World.

I shall close now, Comrades, and I wish to leave this thought with you. Dark as are the days, heavy as are our hearts, sick as are our souls, we are not hopeless. We know that out of this war must come peace; let us hope it will be an everlasting peace. We know that out of this struggle will come strength; let us hope it will be righteous strength. We know that out of this clash of the capitalist struggle will come co-operation; let us hope it will reach around the earth until every land is welded into the great United States of the World.

I have finished now, Comrades, and the last message that I want to leave with you. the last prayer in my heart, is that you will think and reason and seek diligently for light that you may know that only through intelligence, and co-operation, and brotherhood, and faith, and loyalty to God, and country, and fellowman, can salvation come for this war-sick world.



Source: How Did Kate Richards O’Hare’s Conviction and Incarceration for Sedition During World War I Change Her Activism?, by Lubna A. Alam and Elizabeth I. Perry, (Binghamton, NY: State University of New York at Binghamton), 2004.