Letter March 5, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel




Letter March 5, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel




WWI conscientious objection / objectors


Eichel, David


Swarthmore College Peace Collection


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March 5, 1920 Letter [#7] by David Eichel, Fort Douglas, Utah

Dear Juluis [sic] [Eichel]:

I have your letter #8, of the 25th of Feb. We learned thru a telegram from the Wortsmanns that Ben is to start for Ft. Douglas on the 10th of this month. We were hoping that Washington would show some human qualities, and make it unnecessary for him to return. But it seems that enlightened and liberal governments of today fear to betray any signs of such qualities; it might be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Strength you know lies in not permitting yourself to be swerved from your duties by any display of compassion. Yet they don't hesitate to avail themselves of the opportunity to work on our human foibles, on our love for our folks to make us go to work. They might come across and show that what's good for us is also good for them. Heavens know that Ben has had his share if misfortunes, and to release him would hardly be an act of weakness for which the War Department could be held up for contempt.

I am again experiencing that feeling of restlessness, of mental and physical inability to stay at one thing for any length of time. Quite a few things have happened, and there is a sufficient surcharge of expectancy in the air calculated to produce such a feeling of instability. But I don't believe that that is exactly my case. You know I'm a short-timer and can't be worried by any rumors. I think its simply a spell; they come quite frequently in confinement, as you know. The only cure is to do nothing and let it pass of. A change of atmosphere would help materially. Why I think a lecture on the fourth dimension by Harry would work wonders.

Salmon and Locosale are now confined in the guard house as a result of an inconsequential altercation with Serg't Jim. The road leading to the coal-pile is a very bad one. A cinder-path had been built to it, but our men took no part in its construction. They did however, according to Salmon, build a small by-path. Some time ago, Serg't Jim told them to keep of the path, since they did not help in building it. I understand that they kept off the path for a time, but on the 2d of March, the road being very bad because of recent rains, they used the path. The Sergeant ordered Salmon off; Salmon refused to go, and when the Sergeant persisted in ordering to take the wheel-barrow of coal off the path, Salmon told him to take it off himself. The sergeant did so and dumped the coal into the road. Salmon was then called to see Col. Graham. I don't know precisely what happened there, but Salmon said that he was sent to the guard-house for disobeying an order.

Locosale straightway went to the Colonel and told him that if he could not use the road, he would not work at all. He also pointed out to the Colonel that the others in the compound were using the small path that the C.O's had built. The Colonel ordered him placed in the guard-house.

Fred saw the Colonel about the matter, and the Colonel answered in his usual calm and affable manner that he takes as much impudence from the men as he can stand, and when he can stand it no longer, he puts them in the guard-house. These are the facts of the case as nearly as they are known here. The matter is at most trivial. The boys are not confined in cells. They are in an open space about as large as the marshall's [sic] quarters. They have their beds and bedding, and get their full diet. I've carried their food to them on several occasions and I assure you that they are fairly comfortable. In fact they are just as comfortable as we are, except that they have to forgoe [sic] out-door exercise. They are not confined for any definite period

but according to the colonel, they are to stay there until they take a different attitude.

Colonna finally decided that he too would be better off if he went to work, and he joined the workers on the first day of this month. Two days later Maki saw the light and he too went to join the sane men. You know the sanity commission is here and his now concentrating its efforts on the enemy aliens, or as Colonels Byram and Loving would have it known, the respectable and honorable portion of the compound. Of course while the "nut doctors" are attempting to discover idiosyncracies [sic] and peculiarities in the prisoners, all sorts of wild rumors are rampant; rumors ranging from the most favorable to the most unfavorable, while the favorite past-time, as usual, is to speculate on the possible results of the examination. Speculation, is often ruinous and very often interesting and exciting. Ask any Wall Street man and he'll tell you that we are all speculators by nature. That being the case, I too have had my share in speculating on this matter, although I'm not really vitally concerned by the outcome. In any event I shall be home soon, and whatever the purpose or effect of the commissions visit I shall not be affected much.

Bernstein read me an article, from the Jewish Forward, wherein it was stated that a committee of the Federation of Labor had been promised, by the War Department that all military prisoners who were taking care of themselves, -- that is doing such things as looking after their own beds and washing the dishes they eat in, etc., would be released within two weeks. If Washington actually means what it says, the we come under that classification.

We read an article in some San Francisco paper to the effect that Symmons, the negro religious objector, who was confined in the cages, at Alcatraz has been released. He was discharged on the grounds that he took his punishment with too much levity; that he was too stoical under the most severe punishment meted out to him. From that it is implied the Grocer who is similarly confined and who according to reports is being affected mentally by this confinement, is going to be held, for his is taking his confinement in the proper spirit.

We saw another article about Clark Getts. Some lawyer, who claims to have used his influence in obtaining Getts' release, regrets his action deeply, and feels that Getts ought to be rearrested and confined for the remainder of his natural life. I have no sympathy with Clark. His lack of appreciation was inexcusable. This influence was doubtless exerted in the hope that Clark was of a sedate and respectable turn of mind -- that his C.O.ism was only a reflection of unsettled and spectacular times, and that now that things were normal once more, Getts, too, would regain his senses. But apparently he is irretrievably lost. But there is an astounding implication that influence was used to obtain Getts release. How rediculous [sic]! I'm quite certain that the War Department does not permit private interest to govern it. I'm absolutely convinced that it works purely on principle. How often have we been assured that each case is judged on its individual merits. Getts must have been deserving of a discharge. The absurdity of speaking of influence! That lawyer aught to be reminded that in this government we are all equal; that there is the basis of our institutions and that such statement from him, are nothing less than malicious slander.

I've received a number of letters that I'd wish you to acknowledge. I have a letter from Agusta Lerner. In the light of your description of her I'm beginning to understand her compositions better. Tell her I'll write her just as soon as I get an opportunity.

I have another letter from Anna Wenger. It was written about the same tie as I wrote her mine. She tells me all about you. She expected that you would be a flaming rebel, but she finds you just as docile and retiring as ever. She's surprised to find that you are not a "Wobbly". Why dont [sic] you tell her why you are not? I could’nt [sic] very well do it from here.

I also have a letter from George Robinson. He tells me that he has not heard from you as yet. He is under the impression that you are afraid of him. If I were you, I'd prove to him that he is wrong.

I just received a package of cookies you sent me. I've just passed them around. Just tell Mama they were certainly appreciated.

At the same time we got the good news that Colonel Graham has decided to leave Salmon and Locosale out of the guard-house. That helps things somewhat.

Coming back to your letter. Your mention of Miss Krause was a surprise. I don't suppose you spoke to her. She was Dr. Dublin's secretary and was an excellent sort. I must have spoken to you of her occasionally. She's the one who tried to sell me a liberty bond, and to whom I was compelled to give evasive promises. But I do know that at heart she was a Pacifist. I know she carried on a prolonged discussion with a Miss Donovan on the efficacy of Pacifism in settling international disputes. I never was in on any of these discussions, although some of the other men were, but I did catch fragmentary utterances to prove to me that she was a Pacifist.

We are having some very interesting discussions on the controversy taking place between Prof. Morris Cohen, or Philonous as he signed himself, and a group of New York Socialists. Roderick feels the matter so keenly that he's almost tempted to write on it. I'm agin Prof. Cohen's theory in so far as it might be adduced [sic] a guiding rule of conduct for all, but I do agree that "Indifference" is doubtless the best thing for him. I agree with the Socialists in their fundamental arguments, but I feel they treated him shamefully. They attacked him like a pack of hounds. I haven't read Prof. Cohen's reply but someone has it here.

You'll remember me to Harry and Eddie when you see them again. I'm planning to write Harry one of these days.

I wrote Trix two days ago. I hope to write some of the boys soon.

My love to All,


David Eichel (84)



Eichel, David, “Letter March 5, 1920 from David Eichel to Julius Eichel ,” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed June 25, 2021, https://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/97.

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