Letter August 27, 1920 from Roger Baldwin, ACLU




Letter August 27, 1920 from Roger Baldwin, ACLU




letter calling attention to case of Benjamin Salmon, a C.O. put in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane by the War Department, after his hunger strike in prison


WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Washington, D.C.


Baldwin, Roger; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


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American Civil Liberties Union

138 West 13th Street, New York City

August 27th, 1920

We call to your attention the case of Benjamin Salmon, a conscientious objector, now held by the War Department in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Insane, Washington, D. C.

Salmon is a Roman Catholic, opposed to war on religious grounds. His home is in Denver, Colorado, where he has a mother, wife and baby.

He fought the draft act from the beginning, and was involved in a number of cases in the courts. While these cases were pending the military authorities took him to camp and court-martialled him. His original sentence of twenty-five years, reduced finally to five years, expires on February 10th, 1922.

At Ft. Douglas, Utah, where Salmon was imprisoned, he finally came to the conclusion that even quiet acquiescence to his imprisonment was morally wrong, and he therefore started a hunger-strike on July 13th. After refusing to take food for two weeks the authorities transferred him to Washington, D.C. for observation on the ground that his refusal to take food under those conditions raised a presumption of insanity.

For the War Department to hold a man for observation as insane because he undertakes a hunger-strike for such reasons is obviously a move which no liberal-minded citizen can support. Salmon is continuing his hunger-strike and is being forcibly fed. He is in a weak condition. It probably will be some months before his sanity will be officially determined.

The War Department ought to act speedily on Salmon’s case and release him or remove him from an institution for the insane. If he is held to be insane, we will proceed at once to test that finding in the courts.

Will you write today your opinion on the matter, addressed to Secretary of War, using your personal letter-head? Will you kindly advise us when you have done so?

With appreciation.

Sincerely yours,

[signed Roger Baldwin]



Baldwin, Roger; American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Letter August 27, 1920 from Roger Baldwin, ACLU,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed September 21, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/1725.

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