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Letter 1918 from David Eichel to ____ Langman
Letter 1918 from David Eichel to ____ Langman
WWI conscientious objection / objectors
DG 131: Eichel Family Papers
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
My dear Mr. Langman:
You are probably speculating as to what is happening to me. Strange to say, I have’nt been transferred yet altho I feel that we are to be moved from camp any day.
On June 18 [?] 2 o’clock in the afternoon the War [illegible word] newly appointed commission consisting of Major Stoddard of Crowders Office, Dean Stone of Columbia Law School & Judge Mack, came to held their “inquest” at this camp. Major Gen. Bill was actively present while the Colonel of the Depot Brigade and officers of lesser rank came as silent spectators. The examination was held on the
ground floor of our barracks. We had spent a rather expectant morning, for we had been worried of the Commision’s purported visit, and we were primed for the occasion. We were introduced before their august presence one by one. I can only give you a rather superficial insight to the affair since my description depends entirely upon my own personal experiences and impressions.
I was among the very last to be called. I entered and gazed at the solemn faces of the committee & officers. The [illegible word] recording clerk invited me to a seat. Directly in front of me I surmised sat Judge Mack since he seemed to be the central figure of the group. At his right in army uniform sat Major Stoddard and by a process of
elimination I figured the civilian at Mack’s left to be the remaining member of the Com. Dean Stone. Judging by the corpulence of the commision they appeared in no wise effected by the high cost of living, nor by Hoover's’ efforts [?]. Mack who did all the talking seemed to regard the matter lightly and undulged in witticism and humorous remarks at every opportunity. He began in the [illegible word] way by asking [illegible] and then completely upset me by asking What’s your trouble? I hesitated and then gave the most natural answer. Nothing save that because of socialist and humanitarian doctrines, I hold conscientious scruples against war.
I was then asked whether or not my religion in any way interfered with my participating in war. I assured them that it did not. He then argued that all socialist are not opposed to war. I agreed with him but informed him that this was an individual stand. That I could never justify force and murder.
Do you believe in the class struggle? Yes sir, but that does not imply the use of force. I believe in accomplishing all our ends peaceably, thru the use of the ballot.
Well how would you bring about a rev.
This question followed after I had in answer to other questions informed him that at no times are revolution necessary, that change in gov’t was a natural & inevitable progress. I answered that I would bring about a successful bloodless revolution by so educating the people that I’d be assured an overwhelming majority, and that those who opposed me would be so far in the minority that bloodshed would not be necessary, altho I might have to resort to some method of restraint.
I then upon request offered as a solution to the war problem, an immediately negociated peace. He insisted that I take it for granted that the other fellow refuses to negociate. I insisted that such was not the actual fact, but granting for the sake of argument that it were so, I’d refuse to fight & permit the other fellows men come here, and thru example show them [illegible word] that are mislead into fighting people who are friends disposed and have no personal animosity or desire to attack them. Teach them by a non –resistant attitude that they are committing a crime and they will see their mistake stop.
I was asked whether or not I believed in maintaining a police force. I answered that personally I could do without it, but I realized that because of economic conditions the struggle for existence is so intense that some naturally fall by the wayside. They are therefore caused to resort to immoral methods in order to live.
Well if an army is a national police force, why don’t you believe in maintaining one. Simply because nations do not act as individuals. The great mass of people is just and righteous. Hence a representative [?] nation will commit no criminal act. But you allow the criminal element of the nation to gain control and you must have an army.
They showed unusual interest and surprise when I informed them that I worked in the [illegible word] Stats bureau.
I was then offered farm work which I refused on the ground that I would do nothing under dictation.
The general then gave a laudation [?] commented upon my sincerity and read a letter I had sent him at one time setting forth my attitude on the war & conscription. He informed me that all these records would follow me to Leavenworth
This is as briefly as I can make the salient features of the inquest. There was a single man who consented to accept farm work. One Quaker accepted Friends Reconstruction work.
Remember me to E.F. I hope he will pardon me for not writing to him personally.
Numerous regards from the boys to you & E.
- As ever
I understand the commission is misrepresenting the offer to the radicals minds at large. To them this imparts [?] the impression that we are to be furloughed as civilians, but to us the offer is made as soldiers, at soldiers pay and subject to military rule and all is [illegible word] and rules of discipline. You retain your status of civilian only in so far as you may wear civilian clothes. They are attempting to create the impression that we are stubborn and obstinate, unappreciative of the administration efforts at conciliation and fairness. You can imagine how much you are clothed [?] in civilian [?] status if you consider that one of our men
…when you take into account the com. statement to one of the men – that they might decide to send him to do farming in China or France, in short anywhere they pleased.
Personally it does’nt matter to me whether the offer is made farming is under civilian and [?] military jurisdiction. It had never been my intention to become a farmer and I certainly won’t think of becoming one because I am given that as an alternative to a prison sentence. I insist upon retaining my right of choice or occupation. If I can’t have that right of choice, well, it’s up to them.
Eichel, David, “Letter 1918 from David Eichel to ____ Langman ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed November 25, 2020, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/23.