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Original document housed
in the Records of the
Department of War and
Military Intelligence Division,
Record Group 165,
Once the United States entered World War I in April 1917, President
Wilson signed a Draft Bill setting June 4th as Registration Day
for men aged twentyone to thirtyone. Emma Goldman
and her colleague Alexander Berkman helped organize the NoConscription
League which held a series of antiwar rallies to discourage young
men from registering for the draft. There follows a copy of the
manifesto that the group circulated to over 100,000 people. On
June 15, 1917, Goldman and Berkman were arrested and charged with
conspiracy to obstruct the draft. After they were found guilty,
the judge sentenced them to two years in prison and recommended
their deportation once they had served their sentence.
CONSCRIPTION has now become a fact in this country. It took England fully 18 months after she engaged in the war to impose compulsory military service on her people. It was left for "free" America to pass a conscription bill six weeks after she declared war against Germany.
What becomes of the patriotic boast of America to have entered the European war in behalf of the principle of democracy? But that is not all. Every country in Europe has recognized the right of conscientious objectorsof men who refuse to engage in war on the ground that they are opposed to taking life. Yet this democratic country makes no such provision for those who will not commit murder at the behest of the war profiteers. Thus the "land of the free and the home of the brave" is ready to coerce free men into the military yoke.
No one to whom the fundamental principle of liberty and justice is more than an idle phrase, can help realize that the patriotic claptrap now shouted by press, pulpit and the authorities, betrays a desperate effort of the ruling class in this country to throw sand in the eyes of the masses and to blind them to the real issue confronting them. That issue is the Prussianizing of America so as to destroy whatever few liberties the people have achieved through an incessant struggle of many years.
Already all labor protective laws have been abrogated, which means that while husbands, fathers and sons are butchered on the battlefield, the women and children will be exploited in our industrial bastiles to the heart's content of the American patriots for gain and power.
Freedom of speech, of press and assembly is about to be thrown upon the dungheap of political guarantees. But crime of all crimes, the flower of the country is to be forced into murder whether or not they believe in war or in the efficacy of saving democracy in Europe by the destruction of democracy at home.
Liberty of conscience is the most fundamental
of all human rights, the pivot of all progress. No man may be
deprived of it without losing every vestige of freedom of thought
and action. In these days when every principle and conception
of democracy and individual liberty is being cast overboard under
the pretext of democratizing Germany, it behooves every libertyloving
man and woman to insist on his or her right of individual choice
in the ordering of his life and actions.
The NOCONSCRIPTION LEAGUE has been formed for the purpose of encouraging conscientious objectors to affirm their liberty of conscience and to make their objection to human slaughter effective by refusing to participate in the killing of their fellow men. The NOCONSCRIPTION LEAGUE is to be the voice of protest against the coercion of conscientious objectors to participate in the war. Our platform may be summarized as follows:
We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, antimilitarists, and opposed to all wars waged by capitalistic governments.
We are not unmindful of the difficulties in our way. But we have resolved to go ahead and spare no effort to make the voice of protest a moral force in the life of this country. The initial efforts of the conscientious objectors in England were fraught with many hardships and danger, but finally the government of Great Britain was forced to give heed to the steadily increasing volume of public protest against the coercion of conscientious objectors. So we, too, in America, will doubtless meet the full severity of the government and the condemnation of the warmad jingoes, but we are nevertheless determined to go ahead. We feel confident in arousing thousands of people who are conscientious objectors to the murder of their fellowmen and to whom a principle represents the most vital thing in life.
Resist conscription. Organize meetings. Join our League. Send us money. Help us to give assistance to those who come in conflict with the government. Help us to publish literature against militarism and against conscription.
Document maintained at: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/Curricula/AntiMilitarism/manifesto.html by the SunSITE Manager.