100 years ago in The Record

Wed­nes­day, Nov. 14, 1917

The Record (Troy, NY) - - COMMUNITY - — Kevin Gil­bert

An at­tempt to form a Troy branch of the anti-war Peo­ple’s Coun­cil of Amer­ica gets a hos­tile re­cep­tion from The Record, which calls tonight’s meet­ing at So­cial­ists’ Hall on River Street “an ex­cur­sion in prac­ti­cal dis­loy­alty.”

The main speaker is Elis­a­beth Free­man, the PCA’s or­ga­niz­ing sec­re­tary. The prom­i­nent New York suf­frag­ist is omi­nously iden­ti­fied as an “alien,” but she’s a na­tive of Great Bri­tain, one of Amer­ica’s al­lies in the war against Ger­many.

Speak­ing to an au­di­ence of 48 peo­ple, with De­tec­tive Bernard J. Far­rell “present in his of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity,” Free­man’s remarks “were for the most part con­fined to the aims of the Peo­ple’s Coun­cil.” Un­der ques­tion­ing from So­cial­ists in the au­di­ence, she ex­presses more “rad­i­cal views.”

Asked what the PCA would do if this coun­try were in­vaded, Free­man an­swers, “That ques­tion is so far-fetched that I do not see any need of mak­ing a state­ment re­gard­ing it. It is next to im­pos­si­ble for this coun­try to be in­vaded. We are in­vaders. We have in­vaded Europe for war.”

Free­man de­scribes U.S. in­ter­ven­tion in the Euro­pean war as part of “what looks to be a move­ment to or­ga­nize cap­i­tal in­ter­na­tion­ally.”

Does the PCA have a re­al­is­tic chance of stop­ping the war? Free­man her­self might not, but “the one sure, quick way to stop it is to have the sol­diers in the trenches stand up on their haunches and refuse to fight.”

That’s enough to per­suade our edi­to­rial writer that “This or­ga­ni­za­tion has as its ob­ject the end of the war on terms fa­vor­able to Ger­many, al­though it tries to veil its de­sire by ver­bal cam­ou­flage.” Ac­cord­ing to his logic, “As Ger­many is fight­ing on al­lied ter­ri­tory [in France and Bel­gium],

“for sol­diers to stop fight­ing “would mean a Teu­ton [i.e. Ger­man] vic­tory, and the lead­ers of the Peo­ple’s Coun­cil are not only aware of this, but are de­sirous of gain­ing that end.”

While “thus far no ev­i­dence has been made pub­lic” of Ger­man fund­ing, “the ob­jects it seeks are the iden­ti­cal with the so­ci­eties or­ga­nized un­der the af­fec­tion­ate, but silent, pa­tron­age of the Teu­ton spy who called him­self Ger­man am­bas­sador to the United States. The idea of all these trai­tor­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions is to end the war now, be­fore Ger­many gets beaten.”

The Record claims that “Any man or woman who will en­ter into the or­ga­ni­za­tion and ac­tiv­i­ties of such a body as this is men­tally awry or pa­tri­ot­i­cally ef­fi­cient.” Echo­ing a warn­ing from an anony­mous au­di­ence mem­ber, our edi­tor writes that “The po­lice will do their share to curb this of­fen­sive move­ment; the peo­ple can be counted on to fin­ish the job.”

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