Testimony at Her Trial for Sedition
November 30, 1917 — Federal Court, Seattle WA
May it please your Honor and Gentlemen of the jury: I find myself just a little bit overwhelmed by the oratory you have just listened to. If it takes me a little time to recover you will, I know, be patient. I have explained to you before that this is my first appearance in a Court of Law; not only that, but the circumstances of the case make it difficult to conduct it along the lines which might seem easiest and most desirable. I have never been a public propagandist in Seattle, and to a very limited extent only in any other place; therefore it is impossible for me to produce witnesses or evidence to the effect that it was not my habit to advocate lawbreaking either forcibly or by any other means, to bring about any social change that I might consider desirable. The prosecution has not been able to establish either through its witnesses or by any evidence that it has introduced that I have ever at any time advocated forcible resistance to the draft law. The circulars themselves speak eloquently in denial of any suggestions that I would urge conscripts or any one else to make forcible resistance to the draft law. There are suggestions of violence or force contained in some of those circulars. Those suggestions for violence are not from me but are copied from a speech made by Elihu Root, who is lauded as a patriotic and loyal supporter of the administration. What I have done, and what I purposed to do, in the sending out of these circulars was to call attention of drafted men to the fact that they are asked, or rather ordered, to resign their right to think for themselves or the right to judge for themselves what was the best good of the country and what that good demanded in their relation to a question on which they had been given no opportunity to vote; the right to dispose of their own lives, and incidentally, of the lives of others dependent upon them or otherwise closely connected with them, in the manner which might seem to them to the best advantage of all concerned. A very large part of the matter contained in these circulars is copied from books which may be found upon the shelves of the Public Library. The rest is frank discussion by a Conscientious Objector with men who may or may not be likeminded, but who certainly have a right and an interest in knowing the position of such Conscientious Objector.
Because I have not been a public propagandist, and cannot refer you to past public utterances on the subject of war and government, and because I was not allowed to develop what my views as an Anarchist really are on these points, in my examination of the jury, it becomes necessary for me now, in order to establish motive, to set forth in some detail just what I do believe, and why, and the circumstances which caused me to write and send these circulars. First, let me very briefly review the facts of the arrest and attendant circumstances.
You have been informed that I went to Mr. Wright’s office on the morning of Sept. 7 to regain possession, if possible, of certain books belonging to me personally, which were confiscated in the raid on the I.W.W. office at 40 Union Block, Sept. 5. After some discussion, Mr. Wright stated it as his opinion that the books would doubtless be returned to me, since the purpose of the raid did not include the holding of any property other than that belonging to the I. W. W. I have not as yet received the books.
The burden of Mr. Wright’s questions concerning the circulars which he showed me in his office, was, how many had been prepared in and mailed from 40 Union Block; whether I had prepared them there; whether the work had been done on typewriters or mimeographs belonging to the organization, etc.; all of which I was able to answer truthfully in the negative, since nothing of the matter was known to anyone in the office, nor had any of the work been done there.
I had known that the letter to Mr. Leach, in Bellingham, had come to the knowledge of the post office authorities, a very few days after it was written. Allow me to point out that that letter contained one of the alleged seditious circulars, and yet it was delivered to Mr. Leach with the full knowledge of its character, by the post office officials. Knowing that the government was fully aware of what I was doing, and could stop me at any time if they wished, I continued to prepare and send out my circulars, and was not arrested until more than a week after the last lot was mailed. Judging from the persistent effort made by Mr. Wright, Mr. Allen and Mr. Perkins to connect these circulars with the work of the I.W.W. I can only conclude that my arrest was delayed until after the raid in the hope that such a connection could be established.
In a discussion, lasting something like two hours, I quite frankly stated my views on patriotism, violence, obedience to law, and other related subjects, to Mr. Allen, Mr. Wright and Mr. Perkins. My opinions on these matters have never been a secret, though I have not shouted them from the housetops. I have governed my life in accordance with these principles, and never before have they brought me in conflict with the laws of this country. I do not believe they have now brought me in conflict with the law, though they have brought me in conflict with what appears to be, for the time, the governing force of the country. Though Mr. Allen stated that he was uncertain whether I was ‘a harmless sentimentalist or a dangerous woman, it was decided safest to take no risk, and I was held for arrest.
During the progress of the case you have had some opportunity to learn what the philosophy of Anarchism is. In order to refresh your minds as to the points which have been developed, and to connect those points into a coherent whole, let me make a short statement of what this philosophy actually is.
The word itself is from the Greek word ‘arche’, meaning force, power or violence, and ‘an’, without. Anarchy, then is a condition without force or violence. Anarchism is the working philosophy of those who desire to bring about a condition of society in which force and violence will have no place. As a social student, I am convinced that violence breeds violence, war breeds hatreds and fears and revengeful desires which lead to other wars; suppression within a nation or a community results in rebellion, insurrection, revolution. A thoughtful survey of the evolution of life, whether from the point of view of physical or social development, leads inevitably to the conclusion that mutual aid, the communal sense, the social sense, recognition of common interest among individuals, is the greatest factor in the world’s progress, and always has been. Struggle for supremacy between individuals, between tribes, between nations, is a reactionary, destructive force. It wastes energy; it wastes time; it separates and embitters the individuals or nations engaging in such struggle; it prevents progress along constructive lines in any direction.
One of the fundamental necessities for progress in any society is perfect freedom of discussion, and another is perfect freedom of experiment, with various forms of social organization, laws, or other measures connected with community or national life. Ideas occur to single individuals oftener than to masses of people; therefore the right of minorities to propagate their ideas must be inviolate if we are to have a progressive society. In most matters, it is right that the majority should determine the policy of a nation; in almost none is it safe or advisable, for the peace and progress of the nation, for the majority to compel the minority to conform to the will of the majority, or to silence the minority or in any way prevent it from attempting to make itself a majority.
These principles are recognized not only by Anarchists as essential to the fullest and most beneficial development of individuals and nations, but our own government is theoretically founded on these same principles. The rights of free speech, free assemblage, and free press, are guaranteed to the people of this nation in its Constitution; but we have never had really free speech, nor a really free press, nor real freedom of assemblage; it has always been limited to ‘freedom within the law,’ which is not freedom at all. No country with the possible exception of Russia under the old regime, has so sternly silenced minorities and otherwise denied its people these fundamental rights, as the United States. Especially since the declaration of war, the suppression has been so complete, so tyrannical, that thousands of people who are most conservative, who would be horrified at being called ‘radicals’ of any kind, are protesting against the undue severity visited upon those who exercise their supposedly constitutional rights.
The immediate cause of my sending out these circulars was the speech made by Elihu Root, in which he declared that this is no time to think, argue, reason, or do anything but fight. Mr. Root had put into concrete, concentrated form the motive underlying all the emotional appeals made by billboards, music, the press, preparedness demonstrations, denunciation of everybody who was anti-war as ‘pro-German’, ‘Cowards’ , ‘white rabbits’, etc., — all the hysterical jingoism which so often goes by the name of patriotism, and which results in mob violence and such outrages as I shall show you have occurred in this nation since the beginning of the war. Mr. Root’s speech, I repeat, was the immediate cause of my sending out these circulars. I should have infinitely preferred speaking face to face with the men who had been called for war service. That, for various reasons, was impracticable.
I had not money enough to hire a hall and advertise a meeting; I am not accustomed to speaking in halls; there was no doubt in my mind that such a meeting would be prevented or broken up by the police or military authorities; the mails offered the most convenient method of communication available. The purpose was not to send these circulars to men actually in the service; the presumption being that such had given the matter sufficient consideration to know what they were doing. I fully expected that if any of the men who received circulars had enlisted or otherwise become actual members of the service, they would understand that the communication was not to them, but to drafted men, and disregard it. Not that I considered these circulars improper reading for soldiers or sailors; merely that it was not my deliberate intention to send them to such.
The real issue in this case is, have citizens of these United States the right to confer together on the subject of war, and upon other closely related subjects? Have citizens who have been drafted, or who may be drafted, the right to think of their relation to the war and to the government, and of the relation of this government to other governments of the world, in any terms except those of complete acceptance of orders which may be issued to them by the Government? Are the laws of this country at the present time such as to demand for their obedience that citizens resign rights that we have been accustomed to consider fundamental in a democracy — namely, the rights of free speech, free press, and free assemblage? Has there been instituted in this country an autocracy comparable to Russia under the old regime, or Germany under the militaristic system which we officially protest we hate so much that we (officially) have entered the war to destroy it?
These are the questions you must decide before you can decide whether I have broken the laws of this country or not. If we are to take the words of President Wilson at their face value, it becomes at once apparent that the whole matter of the Conscientious Objector and his course of action is very simple, because, in his proclamation of May 18, explaining the Conscription Act, the President distinctly says that this is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling. Now the C.\O. is decidedly unwilling to render military service; therefore, by the terms of the President’s explanation of the act, he should be exempt from military service without further discussion of the matter.
But one who reads carefully must see that these words are not to be taken at their face value, because Mr. Wilson goes on to say that it is rather selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass. Now this nation has not volunteered in mass. This nation has not volunteered at all. If the nation had volunteered, it would never have been necessary to pass a conscription act.
From the beginning of the European war, this nation has been anti-war in sentiment. It has. believed that the quarrel was a purely European one — a struggle for financial supremacy between England and Germany, in its essence — and it has had no wish to take sides, or to become embroiled in the war. President Wilson was elected on an anti-war platform. The slogan “He kept us out of war” was on every tongue — no, not every tongue. There were those who desired that this country enter the war, and they spoke bitterly against the peace program of Mr. Wilson. There were those who saw that, great as their profit was from munitions and war supplies sold to the allies, a still greater profit could be made if munitions and war supplies could be sold to our own government also; and it was from this source that the war agitation came. I have no wish to accuse the President unjustly. I do not know whether during all the time he was winning the confidence of this nation and promising to keep us out of war, he meant to plunge us in, or whether he simply has not been strong enough to resist the pressure brought to bear by the great financial interests of the country; but whatever the cause, the fact remains the same; an unwilling people have been betrayed into a war which they do not believe is a just one.
What should a nation do in such a case? To answer that, we must consider what a government is. What relation does it bear to the people? Such a government as ours, which we are in the habit of calling a democratic government, is, or should be, a means of expressing and carrying out the national will; that is, the will of the majority of the people who make up the nation. If it does not do that, it is not truly a democracy, but a despotism. As a simple matter of fact, whatever may have been true in the past, this government is not today a democracy. We have a machinery of government which on the surface looks representative; we have in fact that machinery so under the control of the financial powers that it is, as President Wilson has himself stated, no longer a government of the people, but of the interests. In his campaign speeches, portions of which have since been published under the title of “The New Freedom”, he points out, over and over again, the necessity this country is under, for the people to regain control of their government.
As means to this end, he urges that the people get together and discuss government matters among themselves, and make the result of their discussions known to the government. He says he would feel it a loss if he were deprived of intelligent criticism of the people. He says we must reorganize our national economic life, even as we once reorganized our national political life; and that the way to do it is for the people to take counsel together and form an opinion as to what they want, and make that opinion known.
The Jails of this country today are full of people who have attempted to act upon President Wilson’s advice. In this country, against whose ‘peace and dignity’ I am charged with offending, we have the preposterous spectacle which I will show to you:
Before war was declared, citizens were forbidden to hold peace demonstrations of any kind, such as peace parades; but preparedness parades, organized for the express purpose of working up war sentiment, were given encouragement and protection. Later, when the matter of conscription was under consideration, there were many arrests in various parts of the country of people who said publicly that conscription is an undemocratic measure, and urged the people to exert themselves to prevent its becoming a fact. We have had, here in Seattle, in the Wells-Sadler-et al case, an example of the treatment accorded people who exercised their rights of free speech, not even in criticism of an existing law, but in criticism of a thing which they saw was in danger of being forced upon this country as a law, and which they believed was contrary to the fundamental principles of our Constitution.
We have had the spectacle of a great representative body of the people, namely, the People’s Council for Democracy and Terms of Peace, hustled about over the country from one city to another, from one state to another, its speakers arrested for inciting to riot and advocating violence, when in fact they had done neither the one nor the other; threatened in Hudson by a mob; in Fargo by the soldiers, though the Governor of Dakota wished to extend the Council his protection; in Chicago given such protection as the mayor could give, but compelled to disperse hastily in order to escape government suppression. Local meetings have fared no better. Scott Nearing, eminent economist, arrested before he had even a chance to speak in Duluth; in Oakland the Dist. Attorney organizing college youths to drown Mr. Nearing’s speech in a flood of ‘patriotic’ songs! We have the spectacle of men being arrested for reading the Declaration of Independence upon the street corners; for circulating quotations from the Bible; for placing stickers upon enlistment posts; for a thousand trivial acts; for nothing at all.
Consider for a moment the labor situation in these United States during the past year. Forty corporations have made a net profit of $677,298,729 out of the war during the year 1916. That is not their total net profit; that is merely the amount by which their profit during the year 1916 is greater than their average profit during the three preceding years. Place opposite this fact the other fact that there have been serious strikes and other labor troubles in practically every great industry in the United States during the last year. When war was declared, there was a demand made by many corporations that all labor legislation be set aside during the period of the war, in order that women and children might be employed in occupations now closed to them, and also in order that employees might be worked an unlimited number of hours. There have been some voluntary advances in wages; but in no case has that advance been commensurate with the advanced cost of living. All attempts on the part of the workers themselves to obtain advances in wages, have been met with most bitter opposition on the part of employers. All attempts to secure better working conditions or shorter hours have also been bitterly opposed. The workers have been told that it was unpatriotic for them to desire more money or more leisure during war time. Nor has the opposition of employers confined itself to peaceful, non-violent methods. We have had forcible deportations, as in Bisbee, Arizona, where some 1500 men, strikers and sympathizers and even some who might be classified as innocent bystanders, having no particular knowledge of or interest in the issue involved, were taken from their homes and left foodless, shelterless and comfortless in the desert. We have had, very close to home, and at an earlier period, an even more serious infraction of the laws and liberties of the people on the part of the employers; I mean the tragic incident of the ‘Verona,’ the ship on which at least five men were killed by officers who were proved to be absolutely under the control of the Lumbermen of the Northwest. We have had the Mooney case, in San Francisco, which is fundamentally a labor case, although the pretext upon which Mooney and his co-defendants were arrested was a bomb which exploded in the Preparedness parade — a crime terrible indeed, but utterly opposed to the character and purposes of the men arrested therefor. We have had the deliberate, cold-blooded murder of Frank Little in Butte, for his activities in connection with the copper strike. We have had the halls and offices of the I.W.W. in all the principal cities of the U.S. raided, its property confiscated, its members jailed, often without any charge whatsoever being made against them. There are several instances of members being held ‘for investigation’ for as long as three months.
Men suspected of belonging to the organization have been arrested while going peaceably about their business over the country. Highly imaginative fables have been circulated to the effect that this organization had for its purpose this year the entire destruction of crops and other property. They have been accused of burning forests, in order to interfere with the production of war supplies. None of these charges has ever been substantiated, but the arrests go merrily on. The popular mind is still being poisoned against that organization by being told that it is a German spy institution; that it seeks to overthrow government and institute ‘anarchy’; and the latest is that it is engaged in the illicit manufacture and sale of liquor and is a part of the great vice trust which is such a menace to the conscript army of the United States.
What has been the attitude of the government during all these troubles? Has it responded to the calls for investigation and relief from the reign of terror instituted by the employers and the ‘patriots’ who have wrought such a havoc among them? What has the government done? The murderers of the Everett victims walk free; so far as I know no investigation has been made of the Butte affair except the one made by Miss Rankin, and it has had no results; the Phelps-Dodge Company may continue to censor telegrams without fear of anything more serious than a reprimand from the government; government investigation of the Mooney case has had to be forced by protests from Russia; the government mediator in the shipyard strike adjusts wages so that they will be lower than before the strike, and gives the telephone girls so extremely small an increase in the beggarly wage they now receive that, here in Seattle at least, the offer is indignantly spurned. Consider that we have had also during the past summer certain race riots in which atrocities were perpetrated quite as horrible as anything of which Germany has been guilty. Consider also that in this democratic country millions of women are denied so simple a democratic right as the ballot, and that women have been jailed and subjected to personal indignity and the bodily violence of forcible feeding for demanding the right to vote. Consider also that other women have been jailed and similarly treated for advocating that women should have the right of voluntary motherhood, and for teaching the women of the very poor how to lessen their misery and the misery of the children they already have, by limiting the size of their families. Consider that 17 men were recently lynched in Tulsa for no other crime than that they belonged to an unpopular labor organization. Consider that only the other day, in Montana, a secretary of this same organization was bastinadoed and two other members of the same organization hung by the neck until they lost consciousness. Other lynchings have been advocated as a necessary and patriotic measure. Consider the outrageous treatment of the Rev. Mr. Biglow; the frenzied discharging of German College professors; the unutterable silly prejudice against every thing German. Consider these things, and then decide whether the condition of peace and dignity in these United States has been, or is, such that it can be offended or endangered by urging men to think of their duty to their country and their relation to a government which has so far shown itself unable, or unwilling, to safeguard its citizens against mob violence and other unlawful interference. The life of citizens in these States today is at the mercy of war-mad fanatics. We, who have boasted of being the land of the “free and the home of the brave, must, if we would preserve our lives and remain out of jail, seal our lips and lay our pens aside and submit to seeing our dearest and most cherished ideals of freedom and human dignity dragged through the blood and dust of war for the financial profit of those who keep us economically, mentally and spiritually enslaved. No, the United States Government today is not a means for expressing the will of the people of the nation. Yet, even in the face of these terrible facts, I have never counseled any man to forcibly resist the government in any way whatsoever. I have understood that such a condition as now obtains in the relations between this people and the Government of the United States, might breed violence. I have feared it, because I have believed, and now believe, that anything we as a people might gain by forcible overthrow of the existing government, would be less, and less enduring, than the results to be obtained by persistent, organized efforts to bring about the great economic and the social changes which naturally accompany economic changes, through means not involving violence.
I was opposed to military preparedness in this country for the reason that I understand that preparedness for war breeds war. If a nation learns to think in terms of war-preparedness, it is extremely unlikely that that nation will be able to see clearly that there are other ways of settling national difficulties than by wars. Furthermore, wars do not really settle anything. We are fond of saying that we gained our freedom from Great Britain by a war; but we are not, and have never been, quite free from Great Britain. Canada, which never went to war with the mother country, has been quite as independent as we; and today, as the ally of Great Britain, we certainly cannot claim freedom from her powerful influence. We also tell ourselves, and teach our children, that chattel slavery was abolished in this nation by means of a war. But the fact is that chattel slavery was becoming economically impossible in this country, and would have soon disappeared, war or no war. And even though we had gained perfect freedom from England, and even though we could have abolished chattel slavery only by a war, of what avail either of these accomplishments unless we, bettered the condition of the nation thereby? During the days of chattel slavery, one portion of the population was enslaved. Today practically the whole nation is in a condition of economic slavery, and, since the declaration of war, in a condition of military slavery as well. Plunged into war against our wills, we are compelled to support that war with every penny we spend, with every stroke of work we do, almost, I might say, with every breath we draw. Our every attempt to free ourselves from this slavery is met with violence often of the most extreme character.
Gentlemen of the Jury, you have heard read a circular in which patriotic duty was analyzed, and the good of the country placed above obedience to its laws. This, says the prosecution, is treason, disloyalty, ‘anarchy.’ It is not treason to the best good of the people, whatever it may be to the established government. When the government deliberately, as in this case of declaring war upon Germany, violated the will of the nation; when there is no provision made for the people to make their opinion known officially — as, for instance, by a referendum vote — when the necessity is urgent for making that opinion known, lest irreparable damage be done, what course is left except for citizens to remain loyal to the principles of freedom and democracy for the perpetuation of which this nation is supposed to have been founded, even though it be at the expense of breaking a law in the making of which the people had no part? Is there anything sacred about “e.w, just because it is law? Is there no place in this free country for those citizens who can not act as the lawmakers would have them act, without violating their own consciences? Can it ever be to the best interest of any nation that its citizens should resign their freedom of conscience? I think not.
There are thousands, yes, millions, of citizens in this country whose conception of patriotism, of loyalty, immeasurably transcends mere obedience to law. These citizens have come to realize the interdependence of all nations. No nation can exist unto itself alone. Just as the family conserves the interests of its members, just as the nation conserves, or should conserve, the interests of the States and communities of which the nation consists, so a world-state, a recognition on the part of all the peoples of all countries of common interest, is necessary to conserve the best interests of separate nations. Wars do not conduce to a furtherance or early realization of such a world-state. Industry today is international; art, music, culture, all phases of education, are international; the interests of the workers of all the world are identical, and the interests of all owners of industry, the financial powers, in all countries, is directly opposed to the interests of those workers. An early realization of a world state can be possible only when these facts are known and understood, and the old idea of national antagonism abandoned. Germany and England today are struggling for industrial supremacy. The workers of Germany and the workers of England will not be relatively much affected, no matter which country is victorious. The United States has entered the war on behalf of England, France, and the other allied powers, but the workers of the United States will not be much benefited by the war, no matter who may be victorious.
Wars tend to intensify national hatreds to a high degree. We hear much of this war as the last war — the war which will bring the people of the world together in love and amity. I have not much faith in the love and amity the German people and the French people and the English will have for each other when this war is over. It does not make us love our enemies to have those enemies murder our brothers and fathers, ravage our wives and sisters and daughters, and lay waste our homes. These things are being done on both sides. Germany has no doubt perpetrated atrocities; so has every nation that ever went to war. That is the nature of war. It is a horrible intoxication. In India, not so long ago, British soldiers tossed infants into the air and caught them on their bayonets. It is not that horrible people make war, but that war makes people horrible, that I find objectionable. I do not know how American soldiers may conduct themselves in this regard, but when I recall the atrocities perpetrated in these States, not upon battle fields, but in supposedly peaceful communities, I am not at all sure we shall not have some atrocities to answer for, equally with Germany.
I believe that the United States has thrown away the greatest opportunity to make the world safe for democracy that any nation has ever had. To America have come the peoples of all the earth; believing it to be a land of equal opportunity, where the freedom of which they had dreamed was an actuality. America has been aptly called the melting pot of the nations; a place where the various races were to be fused, and out of which was to come an understanding nation — a people unique in the history of the world, whose country should be, not like the old countries, a Fatherland, but a Brotherland — its people alone of all the peoples of the earth capable of understanding and loving all other nations, capable of using all that was good in the accomplishments and institutions of other nations, able and ready to lend aid whenever trouble arose between other nations; able because of its deep understanding, and ready because it would realize that only by safeguarding the rights and interests of each nation could the best good of all be secured. Practically unlimited resources, a clear field, untrammelled by tradition, immigrants in whom the love of liberty and the desire for a world-nation was strong — all these we had, and we have not used them wisely enough to avoid the horrible degradation and slavery into which we have fallen today.
Perhaps the most horrible thing about it all is that the great mass of citizens do not really know just where the trouble lies. They are well-meaning, they wish to be free, and wish others to be free; but they do not know who it is that has placed the chains upon us. Many of them do not even know that we are in chains. They have been so thoroughly taught reverence for constituted authority, and to believe whatever is told them by those in power, that they actually believe it is necessary, in order to be a loyal American citizen, to be the enemy of the rest of the world if ordered to do so by a few people whom we have allowed to gain control of the government. I am an American citizen, and I love this country. But I do not and can not love it to the exclusion of other countries from my affections. To me England, which I never saw, but whose poets and scientists I know and love and recognize my indebtedness and the indebtedness of the world to, is as dear to me as Florida, which I also never saw, but whose culture and whose scientific attainments I also love and know myself indebted to. German music, German science, German industrial efficiency, command my admiration and respect, and those German people whom I have known average neither better nor worse than those of other nationalities. France, from which country my parents came, has contributed her art, music, science, her gaiety, her splendid revolutionary spirit, to enrich my life and the lives of us all. Russia — ah, Russia is today a glorious figure in the world, advancing with proud and confident step toward the rising sun of freedom, her voice lifted in the most wonderful song ever heard during the ages. I love Russia as if she were my mother country, yet I have never seen Russia, and have known but a few of her people. I might continue thus, naming every country of the globe; each has contributed something indispensable to the life of our nation, and to the life of all the other nations. And just as I love each of these countries, so I hate in each of these countries the forces that keep them from attaining the perfect state of freedom of which all peoples in all stages of the world’s history have dreamed. I hate the economic system which decrees that millions shall toil for a bare living while the few accumulate wealth and power which destroys them even while they struggle still further to oppress the multitudes for their own so-called benefit; I hate the stupidity of the masses, which keeps them enslaved not only to their economic masters, but to Custom, that cruelest and most exacting tyrant of all — that tyrant which blinds their eyes to the facts of their mental, moral and spiritual slavery as well as to their economic slavery. These things I hate, and against these things I must direct my force and energy, such as it is, so long as I live. If to do this is to be disloyal to America, then the greater must be preferred above the less. I have no desire to maintain my citizenship in these United States if to do so I must relinquish my citizenship in the Human Family.
Finally, it does not make an atom of difference whether you decide that I am innocent of any violation of the law or guilty of a crime. America will continue to be a country without dignity, without peace, and an offense to humankind, just as long as the present policy of tyrannical oppression and suppression is continued. So long as the people are denied the right to take counsel together, the right to make their wants and desires known to the governing bodies they elect, and the right to demand that those governing bodies act in accordance with the wants and desires of the people who elect them; so long as hysteria is our motive force rather than reason; so long as tyranny and force are used against the many for the aggrandizement of the few — just so long will America be a proper subject for scorn and abhorrence with all thinking people, unless their pity for its abjectness is so great that they cannot hate it.”
And regardless of what your decision with regard to me may be, the principles for which I stand, the ideas which I have in a very limited way advocated, the work which I have tried to further, will be carried on, by more and more people, with a greater intensity and effectiveness; will those in power never learn that ideas can not be imprisoned? Will they never learn that, on the contrary, a vital idea only grows the faster when its suppression is attempted? It has been argued that the tremendous force and vitality of the Russian Revolutionary Movement was due to the fact that all propaganda had to be carried on secretly. Russians have said to me recently, now begins to be some hope for a real revolutionary movement in this country. ‘Now, when people are denied the right to think, now at last will they insist upon doing so.’ I believe they are right in this prophecy. The people of America are awakening as never before. They have heard the first notes of the great hymn of freedom — and it is not a battle song. They are seeing clearly at last, that to be free means something more than the Revolutionary Fathers were even capable of imagining much less incorporating into the Constitution by which our liberties are supposed to be guaranteed to us today. They are seeing, these people of the United States, and the people of all the rest of the world are seeing it too, that there can be no equality, no liberty, no fraternity, so long as there is economic inequality, so long as any individual or group of individuals has the power to determine the terms upon which other individuals may live.
Political government is seen to be an empty shell, which has already lost its once-living tenant, political freedom. Industrial Government has moved into the empty tenement, and the iron hand of industrial power, of financial power, is our present ruling force. The only way in which the people can regain control of their government, the only way in which they can make the government democratic, is to gain ownership and control of the industries. Our government will then continue to be an industrial government; but instead of being controlled by a small group of people for their own advantage, it will be the expression of the necessities and desires of the whole people. None of us can forecast exactly the final form of that industrial government; it is hardly possible that we shall choose to retain the cumbersome, expensive, inefficient machinery of political government which today serves only as a disguise for the actual governing body of the nation. But of this we may be sure: that government will serve the best interests of the whole nation, and that without prejudice to other nations.
There is a sense in which this is all aside from the question before you — namely, whether I did or did not advocate forcible resistance to the draft law, and whether in so doing I violated the postal laws. But I repeat that the real question at issue is not whether I did or did not advocate forcible resistance — the circulars show plainly that I did nothing of the kind — but whether it is unlawful to urge men to think on the most serious subject which can possibly affect their lives. With the contents of those circulars carefully borne in mind, and considering the fact that the prosecution has failed to prove any advocacy of force by me, it appears impossible to me that you should return any verdict except one of ‘not guilty.’ However, be that as it may, I have this further to say, and I am done:
The present war will settle nothing. The struggle for industrial supremacy will go on after this war in Europe is over; it will be settled by superior industrial efficiency, and industrial efficiency cannot be settled by force of arms. It must be settled by the application of intelligence to the needs and resources of the country, and by the conditions of the market. Ultimately, the highest degree of efficiency will be seen to be incompatible with production for profit.
Then production for profit will cease, and production for use take its place. Competition between nations will likewise cease. The greatest of all causes for war will be eliminated. The best brains of all nations will be set free by this termination of the economic struggle, for labors of science, art, and culture of all sorts. Then we may perhaps attain to a civilization of which mankind need not be ashamed.
These things will go on, whether I am in prison or out of it. They will go on, even though every Conscientious Objector, every pacifist, every I.W.W. and every member of any other union who endeavors to secure better conditions for the workers and freer atmosphere for thought and personal life, be thrown into jail. In a great world movement like this, the individual is of little importance; it is the propagation of the idea which is important. And all who are thus thrown into prison for the crime of loving humanity and working for its emancipation, will know that they are in good company; to them there will come the spirits and the memory of not only our own Revolutionary forefathers, and the Abolitionists, breakers of the laws of their times, but of all the great host of free-souled thinkers of all ages, from Jesus to Frank Little- revolutionists from England, France, Russia — there is no lack of good company for those whom we imprison today. And when they look out — if indeed they can see out of their prisons to where the ‘free’ citizens go their ways to and fro, they will not envy those outside knowing that a freedom of body which can be secured only by enslavement of the spirit is not worth having. Knowing, too, that every worker jailed means a quickening of the spirit in those outside, and increased determination to redouble our efforts to bring about the reality of freedom of which the world has dreamed from the beginning, and which now, in spite of the horrible nightmare of war into which we are plunged, seems on the verge of realization.
Source: The Louise Olivereau Case: Trial and Speech to the Jury in Federal Court of Seattle, Wash., November 1917 (Seattle: Minnie Parkhurst) 1917, pp. 12-18.