Letter March 13, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents




Letter March 13, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents




WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Eichel, David


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


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However the militaristic clique of Russia insisted on having them take part in military training. The Huttrians reminded the Tsar of his promise. The Tzar found that he could do nothing for them - so he advised them to sell their possessions and emigrate to some other country where they would be guaranteed religious freedom and right here in the most remarkable piece of liberality that ever a despot did show! He ave them six years time in which to make all the necessary arrangements!

Their priests came to the U.S, and called upon Pres. Grant and he gave them all the desired guarantees. The country was just recovering from the terrible civil war and the Huttrians were just the type of thrifty and industrious people necessary to put it on its legs again. I do not wish to impugn the motives of Pres. Grant. He was a soldier and soldier know no perfidy, It is only liberals that make promises that mean nothing.

The Huttrians came here in 1974. They started to farm on a wild prairie in So. Dakota. They are practically responsible for the prosperity of this section of the country - by prosperity I mean that they have contributed as much as any farmers to the grain and food sharks [?].

I don't propose to explain this religion - nor how they lived. Suffice it to say that they made the most peaceful and industrious citizens any country can boast of.

The war came - Liberty bonds were floated. Agents demanded that these Huttrians, whose sect forbade their taking part is aiding in war - buy bonds. They refused because the bonds were aids to war. They were willing to go along as they had hitherto and made no protest against increased taxes but they rebelled at direct contribution to the war.

They had their enemies in the neighboring farmers. The latter were jealous of the prosperity of the Huttrians. Hear [sic] was an opportunity for them to perpetuate a crime and shield themselves under the guise of patriotism. So these scoundrels organized into a patriotic league - invaded the colony, and drove off about 500 head of thorough bred cattle and 1000 head of sheep. These were sold and the proceeds, which amounted to 1/3 of the actual value of the stock was sent to the Govt. I draw my own conclusion as to who benefited by the remaining 2/3. Probably the patriots.

Our honest gov't could not of course accept this stolen money. So it returned it in the form of a check to the colony. The colonists did not want any money - they wanted their cattle returned,

so they sent the check back to the authorities. Is it part of the creed of the Huttrians never to resort to court- or prosecute others. Hence, tho they knew full well who the plunderers were - they brought no action against them. But our idealistic government knew the details of this high-handed robbery and sale - and knew too who the offenders were. But these men were patriots! And patriots can do no wrong! Hence the gov't did nothing to punish these men. This shows you how safe it is for you to commit any crime you wish - just so long as you have the good sense to commit it in the name of patriotism and love of country.

But the Huttrian colony continued to prosper, despite the patriotism of their neighbors. This was adding insult to their great crime of opposition to war.

"So there [sic] patriotic neighbors made desperate plans. Some friendly neighbors warned the colonists that the Knight of Liberty were planning to make a raid during some farmable night and burn down their barns. So they kept a night watch.

One night two autos drew up. The night watch recognized their occupants and asked them what they wanted. "We are lost" came the reply - but of course watchers knew this to be a lie, since the occupants were thoroughly familiar with the country - and they naively told them so. This was unheard of presumption, so the men got out of the auto and assaulted the watch most viciously. One of the patriots has brass-knuckles which he employed most effectively, even tho in the darkness, he assaulted some of his compatriots. To finish the job they decided to cut off the beards of some of the Huttrians. They happened upon one of the colonists, but he was so badly beaten up that they decided to leave him alone. They did catch one howerver who was in good shape - and they valiantly gave him a haircut and shave. I might add that it is contrary to the Huttrians custom to shave. Similar outrages were repeated later on.

The story of the drafting of these men - their torture at Alcatraz and the death of the two Hofers you are already familiar with. Every one of these men is married - and has one or more children. According to the draft law they should never have been drafted. Yet a spite-ful draft board disregarding all regulations did draft them - and the Gov't has done nothing to right this wrong. The Huttrians , I mean those who are not in confinement are moving to Canada - thus they are fleeing from a democracy and taking up shelter w monarchial gov't. Quite a commentary upon democracy!

So you see, you are not the only ones suffering from this injustice. When a Gov't is so engrossed in the holy task of protecting the rights of other and giving freedom of conscience to some down-trodden people in Africa - it must naturally forget its own people.

But as I have said the worst is past. This country is about as bad now as it will ever be. I feel that a reaction will now set in - and there will be a semblance of liberty - with which Americans prided themselves previously to the war - restored to the people.

Again I wish you would'nt [sic] despair so on our account. We are in prison - and it is beyond our power to do anything about it. But the amnesty movement is growing and I feel confident - that eventually everything will be nice and rosy. Then will we all be happy - for it is only after suffering that a person can appreciate happiness.

Our love and regards to Pril, Clara, baby - Will Abe and Rose. Remember us to our friends.


David Eichel


Eichel, David, “Letter March 13, 1918 from David Eichel to Parents ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed September 22, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/45.

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