Typical Case of War Department Oppression, A. Letter Undated from Charles Dole to the Editor of <i>The Nation</i>.

Date

1919-07-31 [circa 1919]

Title

Typical Case of War Department Oppression, A. Letter Undated from Charles Dole to the Editor of <i>The Nation</i>.

Date

1919-07-31 [circa 1919]

Description

Newsclipping with Letter to the Editor re: C.O. Philip Grosser

Subject

WWI conscientious objection / objectors

Coverage

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas; Alcatraz, California

Creator

Dole, Charles F.

Source

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Publisher

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Rights

Copyright for this material may have been transferred to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection or may have been retained by the creators/authors (or their descendants) of this set of papers or records, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Please contact SCPC staff for further information.

Format

image/jpg

Language

English

Type

text

Transcription

A TYPICAL CASE OF WAR DEPARTMENT OPPRESSION

TO THE EDITOR OF THE NATION:

SIR: Early in 1918 I had the unhappiness of attending for the first time in my life a court matial, held in Boston. I saw there the glaringly inevitable difference between the ordinary jury trial and the military court. Whereas no man who cherishes prejudice against the accused can sit on a jury, the court martial is necessarily composed of officer-judges instinctively possessed with the prejudices against the accused can sit on a jury, the court martial is necessarily composed of officer-judges instinctively possessed with the prejudices of their caste or profession, to whose minds any offense against military regulations, and especially the offense of pacifism, takes on egregious importance. The prisoner before this court was Philip Grosser, a conscientious objector. The fact that he was born a Russian Jew and avowed himself a socialist probably created extra prejudice against him. No one who witnessed the trial can have been surprised at any scandal in the conduct of army courts. Already before the trial, and while the War Department had not formulated its policy toward the C. O.s, the prisoner had been sent to a fort in Boston Harbor and subjected to torture in order to break his will. The court airily assumed that he was an ordinary soldier deliberately guilty of disobeying military commands, ignored his status as a prisoner in a special class awaiting a general decision by the Government to cover his case, and sentenced him to thirty years of imprisonment. The court was composed mostly of young Americans, and the young man whom they thus doomed to ruin gave the impression of unusual ability and bore an excellent character.

When at last the Administration formulated rules for the treatment of the C. O.’s, Grosser, with other men who had been variously abused in the interim (for example, a fine young Irishman of my neighborhood was driven to the verge of insanity), was transferred to Fort Leavenworth. Something of the cruelties perpetrated there, in that utter disrespect of the human spirit which is the essence of the criminality of the war system, has already become known. Let no one complacently believe that the cruelties have been stopped. As before, Grosser, while willing enough to work as a helper, for instance in the dining-room, quite refused to accept the status of a soldier. I am told that he made friends in the prison and that the chaplain reported him as “one of the finest fellows there.

For many weeks, however, his Boston friends have heard nothing directly from him – a fact which, coupled what we knew about the Fort Leavenworth punishments, caused increasing anxiety. It appeared finally, for reasons which no inquiries so far have discovered, that he has been sent to the Alcatraz military prison in California, the very name of which arouses suggestions of horror. We learn that he has passed through a penal period of fourteen days in “the hole” or dungeon, a place of darkness and damp, of rats and filth. Kind people would gladly visit him, but permission is “refused.” Word comes that he is recovering sufficiently to be scheduled for another fortnight in the dungeon, beginning soon. We used to be shocked at the doings of the German war-machine; it looks as if all war-machines were much alike. We cry out at Bulgarian cruelty, largely, I fear, because Bulgarians fought on the other side in the great war. It is doubtful whether Americans, on their cruel side, are very different from the Balkan people.

It is not possible that letters and telegrams to Washington, urging that officials cannot wish to be responsible for any more cases of insanity or death, may penetrate the folds of their red-tape and touch their inconsiderate hearts? I believe this case merits wide publicity, not merely for Mr. Grosser’s sake, who has never wished exceptional favors, but for the sake of scores of other young men still imprisoned.

Charles F. Dole

Southwest Harbor, Me., July 31

Citation

Dole, Charles F., “Typical Case of War Department Oppression, A. Letter Undated from Charles Dole to the Editor of <i>The Nation</i>.,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed October 19, 2020, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/1726.

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