Advocacy chain letter. Instructions for conscientious objectors.
"Please make as many copies of this letter as you can ..." US, 1917.
Dear Friend - I am sending you
this information for conscientious objectors anonymously because there are
many spies watching our movements in order to prevent an organized demonstration
of the objectors. There must be an organized movement or our stand will be
Obey the registration order, for you will be compelled to register
anyway after a prison sentence. At the time of registration, when asked if
you wish to serve in the military forces, reply, "No, I am a conscientious
objector to war." Insulting, abusive remarks will be made to you. Do not
reply to them, for they are traps of the recruiting officers. Keep cool at
all times. Make no resistance to abuse or violence.
When receiving a conscript's order to report to military headquarters,
refuse to respond. If arrested, notify a lawyer at once. He will make an
effort to free you and look after your interests while you are jailed.
The most important thing to do now is to visit a lawyer who is in
sympathy with conscientious objectors and agree on some method of notification
when you are arrested. Hundreds of lawyers throughout the Nation are giving
their services to the cause. Get in touch with one of them at once.
President Wilson has said conscientious objectors will not be conscripted,
but the military authorities will do their best to send objectors to prison.
As the bill stands, the penalty for refusing to serve is a year in prison.
The penalty for urging a conscript to refuse to respond is ten years in prison.
So be careful in your remarks and in your letters.
I warn you again not to reply to abuse or violence from the military
authorities If reviled by the conscription authorities, make no reply. If
struck, meekly submit, for if you try to defend yourself the military authorities
have an excuse to shoot to kill for they will clear themselves with the explanation
that you were shot down "resisting arrest" or "attacking an officer." A feeble
old man was slain in New York for disobeying a guardsman, so there will be
no hesitation at shooting a conscientious objector.
All sorts of tricks will be used to get you to take the military oath
and sign the roll of conscripts. Carefully read everything you sign, for,
if you sign the roll and take the oath, you are subject to military law and
out of the power of the civil courts, and your lawyer will not be able to
Please make as many copies of this letter as you can at once and send
them in plain envelopes, unsigned, to as many persons as you can. Don't send
them only to men of conscript age, for everyone can assist in this chain
letter of warning to conscientious objectors.
Published: The Brooklyn Daily
Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), June 5, 1917, p. 1. "Conscientious Objectors"
Urged to Oppose the War. "A Brooklyn business man has received from one of
his agents in this city a copy of an anonymous letter which, according to
the letter itself, is being sent out in an "endless chain" to men of military
age instructing them to register but declare themselves conscientious objectors.
The letter has apparently been sent out generally through the lower East
Side of Manhattan. A copy follows:" Entered by DWV, July
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