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Letter May 4, 1919 to Senator Robert M. La Follette
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May 4th 1919
Ft. Leavenworth Deluge.
Senator Robert M La Follette
Washington, D C
Many thanks for your telegrams and assurances. Perusal of the various reports, received through different channels, would consume too much of your precious time; a resume may prove lengthy enough. The facts which you already have I will amplify by quotations, and by analysis make them intelligible.
The Post Guard House is a jail intended for the confinement of petty offenders and military prisoners awaiting trial. It is not within the walls surrounding the Disciplinary Barracks, but about a half-mile distant. It is not under D B jurisdiction.
The cantonments are also outside the prison walls, but enclosed by a stockade, and are under D B jurisdiction.
In one of these cantonments – No 7 – under endurable conditions were confined 56 Conscientious Objectors, who took care of themselves and their quarters in a manner to elicit favorable comment from inspectors. They were objectors on religious and political grounds, about equally divided. All are “absolutists” and refuse to obey all military commands, as a protest against organized murder.
On April 22nd, during Commandant Rice’s absence in Washington 23 political and 2 religious objectors were suddenly transferred to the Post Guard House, already overcrowded with 25-30 General Prisoners and 33 Absolutists, recently released from solitary confinement. On the evening of the same day 119 “Working Conscientious Objectors” were transferred from the Disciplinary Barracks (within the walls) to Cantonment 6 within the Stockade. The latter was an improvement, the former was not.
The removal of the 119 cleared the D. B. of C. o’s; it spared them from contact with the criminal and the diseased, it also saved the Military Morale.
But moving the 25 could only result in complications; it meant disturbing a tranquil and tolerable situation at the Guard House.
There was no necessity for this move. The cantonment contained only 56 prisoners; it could accommodate 150. Those emerging from Solitary should have been placed there instead of in the Guard House. A possible fear, that the non-working C O’s would influence those working, would be groundless. The absolutists are not propagandists and were once voluntary workers, who earned the good will of their overseers. But as voluntary work dispensed with military commands and the exercise of authority, this arrangement was not to be tolerated, and so, Col J C Waterman, at Ft Riley was delegated to make conscripts of these volunteers. – It was this wholly unnecessary application of coercive measures, which forced the issue and compelled the absolutist attitude. Wilson’s and Baker’s orders, to place these men under “A specially qualified officer of tact and judgment”, may have been sincerely conceived, but their