Read CHAPTER VI - “OVER HERE” of The Blot on the Kaiser's 'Scutcheon , free online book, by Newell Dwight Hillis, on ReadCentral.com.

1. The Redemption of a Slacker

Out on the Ohio River there is a large steel town. During the last few years many foreigners who have the Bolsheviki spirit have crossed the ocean and found work in the great shops and factories. Little by little the foreign newspapers have developed the spirit that has now ruined Russia, and is here under the American name of the I. W. W. movement. In this steel city was an anarchist, with real power to move the mobs. The mere mention of the name of Carnegie or Rockefeller was to him like waving a red flag in the face of a bull. In the evenings it was his custom to climb upon a box at the corner of the street, close to a little park, and tell his hearers that all the wealth in the rich man’s house was created by the workman’s muscle. He made no allowance for the inventor, for the organizer, for the risks taken by the man who built a factory. A few weeks ago this anarchist laid down a newspaper, containing an account of the trial of the I. W. W. leaders in Chicago. That night, becoming alarmed, lest he himself be caught in the drag-net, and perhaps forced to enlist as an enemy alien, this agitator disappeared, leaving behind him his board bill, laundry bill, tailor’s bill, not to mention many other forms of indebtedness a disappearance that led every one of his creditors to give up any and all faith in the American Bolsheviki movement.

Now there was a young boy of about twenty-three who had long been listening to this agitator. When, therefore, the second night after the anarchist’s disappearance came, this young man, who aspired himself to be a leader of the mob, climbed up on the soap box, at the corner of the little park, and began to speak to the same old crowd.

“Think of it, my friends! Just think of it! Think of some soldier coming in here and making me enlist! I have no grudge against the Germans. I don’t want to kill them. My forefathers were all German! My name is German. And I am an American all right, all right! Still, I don’t propose to have anybody tell me what I must do. If I want to enlist, I will enlist, and if I don’t, I won’t! I’d like to see some Government agent come along and grab me for the draft! When he comes, he’ll hear a few things from me, and then some!”

At that point a man lifted up his hand and said: “Now you may stop right there!” Throwing back his coat collar, he showed a little metal badge. Climbing up on the box, the stranger took the young anarchist by his shoulder and half choked him, saying: “So you want to have the people see some one take you to the draft office? Well,” said the officer, “now’s the time for them to see him, and I’m the man. And you people,” he went on, “just take a good look at this fellow. It’ll be the last chance you’re going to have, for he will be in jail to-night, and to-morrow we will decide whether or not he has been opposing the draft. If he has, he stands a good chance of being shot.” Blowing a little whistle, the officer dragged the young anarchist to the edge of the street, half lifted and half kicked him into the police wagon, which soon disappeared. The enemy aliens who remained behind were stupefied, partly with astonishment and partly with terror. Aliens began to say, “What will come next?” That night a number more of pro-Germans disappeared from this town with its steel mills.

The next morning, at ten o’clock, the officer entered the jail. “Get a move on you, young man!” he said brusquely. “You’re going up to the court to be examined to see whether you are a slacker or a traitor. In the one case you will be interned and in the other case you will be hanged or shot.”

The young anarchist was on his feet in a moment. “But, officer, aren’t you going to give me a chance to enlist?”

“Young man, this Government does not want traitors to enlist, nor pro-Germans.”

“I am not a pro-German this morning,” cried the excited man. “I have thought the whole thing over last night. I did not sleep a wink. I think this Government is the best government in the world. And I am willing to fight for it.”

The officer was astounded. “Well, my young enemy,” he exclaimed, “a dungeon seems to have had a good effect upon your mind. What has regenerated you? Was it the cold water or the corn bread? Or the steel door before your dungeon? Or was it the bad air in your cell? Or possibly it was the fear of death, or God Almighty, or future punishment. Come now, out with it!”

It was a thoroughly frightened boy who stood half an hour later in the prisoner’s dock. “Give me some book on the Government of the United States,” he exclaimed to the judge. “And give me a week in which to show that I am in earnest, and I will then volunteer.” The judge was very grave. “Young man,” he said sternly, “any boy that will eat the bread of the United States, that will enjoy the liberty of this country, and has had all the chances to climb to place that have come to you, and refuses to enlist, has something wrong with him, and it is only a question of time when he comes to the judgment day.” To this the young man made the answer that he had been lazy, careless and ignorant; that he had allowed himself to become the tool of the runaway agitator, and then once more he asked that he might have a chance to enlist. With the help of friends, the judge and the draft board finally let him off and sent him to a camp for three months’ intensive training. Then came the news that his company had been sent over seas, and within a short time thereafter in the list of casualties the name of this young foreigner appeared. But one letter reached this country, and that letter was notable for this sentence: “For the first time in my life I have had young Americans for my companions. The boys in my company have had a college education and they have taught me bravery, truth, self-sacrifice, kindness and chivalry. I have learned more in two months at the camp than in all the rest of my life put together. The companionship in my company and in my camp have saved my soul.” It is this that explains the redemption of the slacker.

2. Slackers versus Heroes

Going through the long communication trench, between the ruined city of Rheims and an observation lookout, with its view of the German front trench, we passed several soldiers digging an opening in the soft white marl, into a parallel trench. The captain in charge called my attention to a French poilu. His hair was quite black, save for the half inch next to the scalp and that was white as snow. If one had lifted up his hair and estimated his age by the last two inches of the jet locks the poilu would have been about thirty-five, but the hair, pure white at the roots, and a glance at his face told us that he was fifty-five to sixty.

“He passed inspection,” said the captain, “by dyeing his hair, and several weeks ago he broke the bottle of dye. Now he is half scared to death for fear he will be thrown out, because he is at the beginning of old age. Still I have no better soldier, no stronger, braver man. But I am hoping much from a friend in Epernay, to whom I sent for a bottle of black hair dye.”

So long as the Frenchmen have that spirit France will never be defeated.

Many weeks ago I was in a manufacturing town near Pittsburgh. The wind was sharp and chill. All overcoats were turned up at the collar. On a box stood a young Australian lieutenant. His cheeks held two fiery spots. He was telling the story of the second battle of Ypres. While he talked you walked with him the streets of the doomed city, you heard the crash of the great shells as they smashed through the public buildings; you witnessed the burning of the Cloth Hall and shivered as the noble structure fell. One laughed with him in his moments of humour and wept over the sorrows of the refugees. He pleaded with the Welshmen and the Cornishmen, and told them that the motherland was bleeding to death and that now every boy counted. He flogged his hearers, scoffed at them, praised them, wept, laughed, reviled, transformed and finally conquered them.

At the close, shaking hands with him, lo! he was burning with fever, with skin hot and dry. “Lieutenant, you should be at the hotel, in bed. You will kill yourself speaking in this cold air.”

“Well,” he answered, “there are plenty of our boys who are perfectly sound who will be killed inside of three months. I have the t. b., (tuberculosis), but I believe that I can pull through a year. I have enlisted over one hundred coal miners from Wales and iron-workers from Cornwall. I am willing to die for the motherland, after a year of t. b., since my pals will be dead within three months through bullets. And when I die I want to die with the consciousness that I have kept my manhood.”

I left that poor, wounded, half-dead young soldier with the feeling that I had been in the presence of a superior being.

Over against these heroes stand the slackers. There are hundreds and thousands of young men from allied countries who are of draft age, who find refuge in this land. There are other thousands who have been exempted, one because he has a flat instep, another because he has had trouble with his eyes or his teeth; or has tuberculosis, in its initial form, or is a victim of bronchitis. Most of these men owe it to their country and themselves to tear up their exemption papers. They earn their living in this country, working ten hours a day, but they will not work six or eight hours a day for Old England, thus releasing some young man to go to the front.

The question is not whether the youth has an exemption paper. The heart of the question is, Has he any moral right to accept an exemption? This war is being fought by untold thousands of soldiers who could obtain half a dozen exemptions. They prefer to run the risk of death in six months, to looking after their own hides and keeping well away from danger for the next six years or sixty. No one who has been in the coal regions or in the great mines of the Rocky Mountains but realizes that there are an enormous number of allied slackers in this country. They have left their country to its dire peril at a moment when Old England is bleeding to death when every man counts and when the cripples, the invalids, the old men, the women, everybody who can give four hours or eight of work a day should enter the great war offices or commissary departments and do office work, and thus release the stronger men for their work at the front.

The time has fully come when Americans should ask themselves the question whether or not they have a moral right to support with money that could be far better used, in the war stamp purchases or Red Cross work, all these slackers and cowards, at a time when the motherland asks them to throw away their exemption papers, in an hour when civilization, liberty and humanity are treasures trembling in the balance.

3. German Stupidity in Avoiding the Draft

Following the revolution of 1848 in Germany, multitudes of people fled from Prussia and Bavaria, and these fugitives, settling in the United States, organized colonies that grew until there were often one hundred families in a single community. Strangely enough, as the years went on, these Germans forgot the iron yoke they once had borne, until, when many years had passed by, it came about that time and distance lent a glamour to the landscape of the far-off Fatherland. Occasional letters from their relatives kept them in touch with the old German home. At last they quite forgot the militarism, the poverty, the cruel limitations and the hypocrisy of Germany. Familiarity also with the institutions of the Republic bred a kind of contempt. Through the imagination Germany became an enchanted land. When, therefore, war was declared these German-Americans came together in their clubs, beer gardens and German churches, to pledge unswerving fealty to the Kaiser and to the militarism from which once they had fled as from death itself.

Last summer brought the Government draft to the young men of one of these German colonies. The week was approaching when the German boys must have their physical examination. American officers, American physicians and the members of the draft board were already in session in a certain town. One Sunday a German-American physician appeared in that community. That night some twenty or more young German-Americans met that physician. He told them plainly how deeply he sympathized with their unwillingness to turn their guns against their own German cousins and relatives in the Fatherland. Out of pity and compassion had been born his plan to save their limbs and perhaps their lives, and also to serve the Fatherland and the beloved Kaiser. “I have here,” said the physician, “a certain heart depressant. It will slow your heart like the brake on an automobile. It is a simple coal-oil product. It is quite harmless. It was made by the well-known German firm of Baer & Company, chemists, and it is so cheap. I shall see to it that you are rejected for the draft. And think of it! only twenty-five dollars! For that little sum I will keep you from being wounded or killed. You will each one give me twenty-five dollars; then I will give you this bottle, holding five grains for Monday, ten grains for Tuesday, fifteen grains for Wednesday, twenty grains for Thursday, twenty-five grains for Friday, and on Saturday you will be rejected.” Ten minutes later the necromancer had juggled twenty-five dollars out of the pocket of each newly drafted boy and into his own right-hand pocket.

On Saturday these young men appeared before the draft board and the Government physicians. All the boys were in a dreadful condition nervously. Now the heart would drop to forty, and then at the slightest exertion run up to two hundred and twenty. All were dizzy, nauseated, yellow and green, feverish. But the Secret Service men knew every detail of what had taken place, and all the facts were in the hands of the draft board. A certain farmer’s son, young Heinrich H , was first examined. The United States physician counted a pulse that varied from forty to two hundred and twenty. The physician kept his face perfectly straight. “Marvellous heart! Regular as a clock! Strong as the throbbing of a locomotive. Seventy-two exactly! Absolutely normal. I congratulate you, young men, upon your fine heart action. A man is as old as his heart engine. A boy with a heart like yours ought to live to be a hundred years old. All you need is a change of climate. France will do the world for you. You may need a little heart stimulant, but I think that nothing hastens the pulse beat like a few rifle balls and bomb shells from Hindenburg.” He sent every one of the twenty boys into the service, but separated them, one going to Camp Ayer, in Massachusetts; one to Camp Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, and the rest to camps in States between. In one Middle West community a German father and son went so far as to deaden pain through cocaine and then cut off the finger of the right hand. It is generally understood that both the father and son are now in two widely separated penitentiaries, reflecting each in his own cell upon the folly of treason and the crime of becoming a traitor to the kindest and best Government that has ever been organized upon our earth.

4. “I’m Working Now for Uncle Sam”

The long transatlantic train came to a dead stop at the division station in that great Southwestern State, where one was surrounded by sage-brush, the sand, the distant foot-hills and the far-off mountain range.

One of the Pullman cars showed signs of a hot box, and a moment later the wheel burst into a mass of flame. In the thirty minutes’ wait for repairs I made my way into the room where the conductors, engineers and firemen met. On a little table I found a copy of the address given before the railroad men of El Paso, Texas, by Secretary McAdoo.

I called the attention of the different men to the address, to the clarity of the reasoning, the simplicity of the argument, the strength of the appeal and the glowing patriotism that filled all the pages. The pamphlet had been worn by much reading. It was covered with the black finger prints of busy men who had been working around the locomotives and tenders.

Plainly Mr. McAdoo’s speech had made a profound impression upon these employees. Having first of all called the attention of the large group of men to the creative work of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, who struck, as Daniel Webster said, “the dry rock of national credit and abundant streams of revenue gushed forth,” I asked these men whether there had been in one hundred and twenty-five years any forward movement in finance that was comparable to the benefits derived from the national reserve bank law, under Secretary McAdoo, a law that not only had prevented a panic in this country during this war, but had raised more billions within four years than the total cost of the Government in the first century of our existence.

Late that afternoon, on the train, the conductor sought me out. In the midst of the discussion he drew out a roll of bills. He told me that in those mountain towns many of the ranchers did not buy their tickets at the stations.

To use his expression, “They had it in for the railroads.” “They pay me their fare in cash, and when I give them the receipt they tear up the receipt and wink at me. I always feel,” he said, “like resenting these actions, because I know that they are incitements to petty theft, but now,” he said, “I have my chance. I always tell them,” said the conductor, “that money belongs to Uncle Sam. He runs this railroad, Uncle Sam takes this money.

“With it he will buy guns for the American boys at the front and build ships to carry food that will feed these soldiers. I would rather lose that right arm than take one penny of money that belongs to Uncle Sam. This is my job to run this train. I tell my crew every day that we must make the coal produce every possible pound of steam, that every waste must be saved, and every pound of energy used and that we must run this train so as to help win this war.”

From morning till night I found that conductor was preaching that sentiment. His words were directly traceable to the words of Secretary McAdoo at El Paso, Texas. That single speech transformed these men.

Measured by the results truth that transforms life and changes conduct and character that was a truly great speech. We must all hope much from this new sense of devotion to the interests of Uncle Sam.

5. The German Farmer’s Debt to the United States

There are literally thousands of small German colonies in different parts of this country. In one far distant State is a community settled by about two hundred German families, who took up the land immediately after the Civil War.

By some good fortune they settled in what is now one of the very richest sections in the United States. Land that they bought for $1.25 an acre is now worth $250 an acre. In that community there are two German churches.

Both pastors came from Germany, both were educated in German colleges, both read German newspapers and both insist upon carrying on a colloquial German school, with German teachers, German text-books and German standards.

Little pressure was brought to bear upon these farmers during the First Liberty Loan. By many devices they succeeded in getting their boys away before the draft registration. While it was never proved technically that they had all pledged themselves not to oppose Germany, morally this is known to be the fact.

October of 1917 came and the Second Liberty Loan was on. One day all these farmers received a printed card, saying there would be a meeting on Monday night, in connection with the Second Liberty Loan. “I find you made no subscription whatsoever to the First Liberty Loan. There are reasons why I think it best for me to advise you to attend this meeting.”

Every German farmer read that card several times. Who was this stranger who was coming into the community? Was he a Secret Service man? How did he find out that there had been a secret meeting of the Germans immediately after war had been declared against Germany? Each farmer began to ask himself: “Has any one quoted me?” Each one decided to attend that meeting.

The meeting began at precisely seven o’clock. Only one man who had received the notice was absent, and his son brought a message concerning his father’s absence. The stranger arose in his place, but left it uncertain as to whether he was a Secret Service man, a banker or a patriot interested in his country. He began with substantially these words:

“Men, you are all German-Americans. I find that not one of you subscribed to the First Liberty Loan. You came to this country poor men. This Government sold you Government land for from a dollar and a quarter to two dollars and a half an acre. But you seem to have forgotten one thing. Your title deed to your farm rests upon your loyalty as citizens of the Republic. Whenever you refuse to support the people of the Republic you have by your own act annulled the title deed of your land.

“If you refuse to support your Government in this war, you are a traitor, and when this is proved you will be shot. If secretly you have been sending money to the Kaiser to buy guns with which to kill American boys you have forfeited the title deed to your farm. Your property has become again the possession of the Government and people of the United States.”

By this time these farmers had their mouths open, and their faces became tense and alarmed. When his words had had time to sink in, the stranger went on: “I have here a statement as to the number of acres in each farm owned by each man in this room. The first man’s name is Heinrich ; you own 320 acres of land. It is worth at least $75,000. There is no mortgage on this farm. Heinrich, I think you had better buy $2,500 worth of Liberty Bonds. I am simply advising with you as a friend. I have made out an application for you, and all you have to do is to sign it.

“My advice to every one of you is that you buy from three to five per cent, of the value of your farm. I want to say incidentally that I trust that there will never again be held a secret meeting of the Germans in this room to discuss the best way to avoid supporting the United States Government in this war against Germany, and how you can best help the Kaiser.”

That little sentence worked like magic. Every farmer in the room rose to his feet in his anxiety to rush forward to the table. Men literally struggled to see who should sign up first. Their enthusiasm for the United States Government was as boundless as it was sudden in its manifestation.

Remember that there were only two hundred farmers in the room. And yet there are the best of reasons for believing that the men in that room bought that night nearly $200,000 worth of Liberty Bonds.

6. “Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth” Is an Ungrateful Immigrant

One of the things that no patriot can ever understand is the ingratitude of the Germans who fled from the Fatherland to escape German militarism and autocracy.

Lecturing in a Western State, I met a banker who had returned from a schoolhouse in a rural district where he had been talking about the Liberty Bonds to a German audience. One old German refused to attend this meeting. He was very bitter in his attacks upon our Government. He had made no subscription to the first two Liberty Loans; he had refused to help in the campaign for the Red Cross Fund; he insisted that he paid his taxes and that was all that the Government had any right to demand from him.

He went one step further: The old man said that he had not read a single American newspaper since the war began, and that nothing but a German newspaper should cross his threshold until the war ended. Not until that banker descended upon this pro-German with the indignation of an outraged patriot did the rich old farmer capitulate.

The story of that German is typical. He came to this country about 1859. When the homestead act was passed he received from the United States one hundred and sixty acres of land in the very centre of one of the richest States in this Union, and his one hundred and sixty acre farm is now worth about $100,000.

When he ran away from Germany he was receiving twenty cents a day. He rose at daybreak, cleaned stables, milked cows, toiled in the field, began his milking after dark, worked sixteen hours a day, had nothing to eat except what could not be sold by his employer. He was a German plebeian, with no chance ever to improve his condition. He was ignorant, stupid, a mere beast of burden.

So the German boy slipped across the line into Holland, came steerage to this country, slept among the rats of the ship, but the people of the United States welcomed that miserable refugee. The American school, without any charge, gave him four months’ instruction every winter until he was twenty. The American people gave him a farm as a free gift. This Republic educated his children, his grandchildren and enriched them with land, office, honours and wealth. Once he hated autocracy and militarism in the Fatherland but in 1918 he loved them.

No sooner did the Kaiser invade Belgium and commit rape upon that land than this German farmer passed through a revulsion. Whatever the Kaiser did was right. If Germany did a thing it was proper. Germany had a right to break her solemn treaties; Germany had a right to sink the Lusitania; if Germany was out of iron ore she had a right to invade France and steal her iron mines. What had been crimes suddenly became virtues.

Fleeing from the German tyrant in 1859, in 1918 the old farmer turned upon the United States that had befriended him.

“If I have to make my choice, I choose the Kaiser.”

Mentally, it seems absurd. Morally, his was a monstrous position. But blood was thicker than water. Gratitude had no place in his heart.

This old German regarded the gift of his farm by our people as a sign of weakness. The Republic gave him a homestead because he was a superior man. He actually had a belief that Germany would soon overrun the world; that the Kaiser would soon be enthroned in Washington; that some German in Iowa would supersede the Government in Des Moines, and he was simply getting ready, having made friends with the Kaiser’s Government, to receive reward when the United States became a German colony.

Who can explain the obsession?

It is clear that the German-Americans had been drilled for forty years through their German newspapers in these ideas. Little by little they have been alienated from the institutions of the Republic. Slowly they have been led to believe that Berlin is soon to be a world capital and Kaiser Wilhelm the world emperor, while only Germans shall be allowed in this country to hold office or land, while all Americans become tenants and servitors thereto.

Plainly this is what Siebert meant in his book, published five years ago in Berlin:

“When we have reached our goal Germany must see to it that no race save the German race can have a title deed in land or carry weapons, just as in the first world empire no one but a Roman was allowed to own land or have a sword or spear.”

7. In Praise of Our Secret Service

Of necessity our Secret Service work is carried on in silence and without blare of trumpets. The achievements of the Department of Justice cannot be proclaimed from the housetops. Everybody knows something about the crimes committed by the German agents. These spies, loyal with their lips, have in their hearts plotted innumerable crimes against our Government. They have dynamited our factories and warehouses; they have burned shops and planted bombs on ships; they have thrown trains from the track; they have poisoned the horses and mules upon the transports en route to France; they have fouled the springs of knowledge through their hired reporters; with all the cunning developed by long practice, they have spread their insidious and perilous influences into the remotest regions of the land. But over against these spies and secret agents have stood the United States Secret Service men, and with everything in favour of the German plotter, our defenders have beaten the German at his own game.

War was declared against Germany on April 6, 1917. One Sunday night two or three weeks later a large company of German-Americans belonging to the secret German league met in their accustomed place of assembly. There were several hundred Germans present, but among them were three Secret Service men. The German lawyer who opened the meeting was very bitter. Having made certain that only German sympathizers were present, he went on to say that the occasion of this war could be traced to Wall Street. Certain rich bankers and American plutocrats had loaned perhaps a billion dollars to England. Since the war was going against England, these rich men were afraid that they would lose their investment. In their emergency they forced war upon Congress. The speech was clever, specious, cunning, shrewdly calculated to stir up passion. And the speech was applauded to the echo. The second speaker made a no less skillful appeal to the prejudices of the members of the secret German-American league. Since the war was a money war, originated by Wall Street, the Government could be defeated as to its plans only by money. Therefore, every member of the league must make his contribution; no one present but must give at least ten dollars. And, he added, in view of the fact that it was Sunday night and that some might be without money, and since no checks could be accepted, there were several German bankers present, who would be glad to advance money to the members who wished to make cash contributions. The Germans had provided in advance against every possible emergency.

Then came the opportunity for the Secret Service men. The first one arose and began with an apology for a German brogue that in reality he was assuming. He spared no words in praising the first two speakers. “What a wonderful man was the Kaiser! What victories von Hindenburg had achieved! The Fatherland was standing with back against the wall. How wicked a nation was France, and Poland! What a black heart England had!” He pictured Germany as a lamb with fleece as white as snow, and a huge Belgian wolf jumping at the lamb’s tender throat. “What an ambitious man was President Wilson. How eagerly had Congress waited until Germany was weak, and then rushed in to grab the fruits of war!” When this man sat down his hearers were in a state of rapturous upheaval. But scarcely had his voice ceased echoing in the air when the second Secret Service man arose. Having complimented the first two speeches by the German plotters, he said that he thought he represented the members in expressing the judgment that the third speaker had made a speech that was unrivalled in its statement as to the duty of the members toward the Kaiser and the beloved Fatherland. The second Secret Service man, therefore, moved that it be the sense of the meeting that the member who had just spoken be made secretary of the meeting, be custodian of the funds just contributed. In five minutes he had all the secrets of the meeting safely lodged in the hands of the first Secret Service man. At this point the third representative of the Government arose and nominated the second Secret Service speaker, who had just taken his seat, as teller to count the funds, and in recognition of this man’s gifts the teller immediately afterwards appointed the third Secret Service man assistant teller. During the next three hours, in the secrecy of their own meeting, over twenty prosperous and influential Germans committed themselves against this Government.

About midnight the secretary and the two tellers turned over to the two Germans who had made the two big speeches at the opening of the meeting the entire collection, which amounted to thousands of dollars. But at half-past twelve, as these two Germans were entering their hotel, four Secret Service men tapped them on the shoulder and promptly relieved them of the aforementioned thousands. One of these men is now working out his sentence in a Southern penitentiary and the other in a Western penitentiary. Their sentences were for twenty-eight years. The other men who defended Germany and attacked the United States are serving terms some long and some short. It is a proverb that the wicked flee when no man pursueth. But Dr. Parkhurst coined a striking sentence when he added: “The wicked man makes better time in fleeing when the righteous Secret Service man pursues him with a sharp stick.”