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Letter November 27, 1918 from John Nevin Sayre to Editors of "The Dial"

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November 27, 1918

To the Editors of The Dial:-

Your editorial on amnesty to political prisoners in the November 30th issue of The Dial gives me hope that perhaps you will print a letter telling of the present status of conscientious objectors in the prisons of the United States. As a minister of the Gospel believing in the hope of social progress through enlightenment by individual conscience, I have followed the history of conscientious objection with some care. I beg to submit the following facts which I think can be proved:

When the armistice was signed conscientious objectors in the United States roughly fell into the following groups:

1. Those who had accepted noncombatant service in the army, perhaps 4,000 men in all.

2. Those who had accepted farm furlough or furloughs for work in the Friends’ Reconstruction Unit, after their cases had been passed upon favorably by the Board of Inquiry of the War Department. These men numbered roughly some 1,000 or 1,200. They were under military control, but were furloughed from the army and did not wear uniform.

3. Men still held in camp pending hearing before the Board of Inquiry. A few of these men were in guardhouse awaiting ultimate trial by courtmartial.

4. Men sentenced to military prisons.

Secretary Baker’s demobilization order apparently provided for all but this last group, and so the numerous unsolved problems connected with the third group more or less disappear.

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