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America Safe (1918)

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In this wartime speech, former ambassador James W. Gerard warned the nation about the "coming conflict with the Bolsheviki." After the revolution in Russia, powerful elements within the American government and vigilantes throughout the nation waged near war against radicals because of fear that they might channel social unrest in revolutionary directions.


"America Safe!"

If any man is afraid of bolshevism in America, I know how to cure him. Let him visit a few schools. Then let him talk to a few farmers. He will quickly discover that good old-fashioned Americanism is not dead. The farmer, in spite of the fact that he does not get a fair return on the product of his labor, is faithful to the principles on which this country was founded. School children are still taught the fundamentals of constitutional democracy. As long as this is so, we are far from danger of revolution.

Our national life is disturbed because of the high cost of living, industrial unrest, and political conflict. These are temporary problems if they are handled intelligently. Anybody has the right to advocate anything whatever, except a forcible change in our government by violent means. I know of no greater safety valve than to let a man talk. The dangerous ones are the ones who don't do any talking, at least in public.

The unrest in this country today is psychic as well as industrial. We are in a fair way to cure the latter problem by creating a practical partnership between capital and labor. Both sides realize that there is greater profit in working together, than in fighting. Labor will always get more than it has in the past, and that is as it should be. Labor unions are here to stay. The right of collective bargaining and the right to strike to enforce demands must in the future be taken for granted. Practically everything which labor has won in the last half century has been secured through unions, which have not been conciliatory, but have fought for what they got. You cannot make men work by threatening them with jail. You cannot govern the country industrially by injunction.

The high cost of living is due to our wasteful system of distribution. Food products pass through too many hands between the farmer and the consumer. Every unnecessary middle-man should be eliminated. No one should be allowed to take a profit, and thereby increase the cost of a product, unless he performs a legitimate service to the consumer.

Another cause for the high cost of living is our present taxation system. The excess profit tax places every businessman under an artificial and illogical restraint. If you have a piece of property which has increased in value and sell it, you are taxed on the profit, with a result that no businessman closes any sale nowadays if he can avoid it. Business ought to be as easy to transact as possible, but the present condition is just the reverse. Why should a man embark on a new enterprise today? If he does so and loses, he loses. If he wins, the government takes nearly all of it away from him, and so he loses anyhow.

In the coming conflict with the Bolsheviki, the Allies need the aid of Germany, who is in a position geographically and otherwise to be a strong bulwark against the Russian hordes. It would be a great mistake to destroy Germany. That she should be punished for inaugurating the war goes without saying, but punishment should not mean annihilation.

The Democratic party in office has been a party of achievement. Victory will be ours in the coming election, if we will firmly uphold our ideals. Let us restore goodwill among the nations of the earth, and advocate freedom for subject people everywhere. Let us stand for freedom of business and for the freedom and happiness of American homes.

Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You (1916)

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This song instructs immigrants on the proper behavior and attitudes toward their new country, warning them not to disrupt the nation that has taken them in.


Don't Bite the Hand That's Feeding You

Last night, as I lay a sleeping, A wonderful dream came to me. I saw Uncle Sammy weeping For his children from over the sea; They had come to him, friendless and starving, When from tyrant's oppression they fled, But now they abuse and revile him, Till at last in just anger he said:

If you don't like your Uncle Sammy, Then go back to your home o'er the sea, To the land from where you came, Whatever be its name, But don't be ungrateful to me! If you don't like the stars in Old Glory, If you don't like the Red, White and Blue, Then don't act like the cur in the story, Don't bite the hand that's feeding you!

You recall the day you landed, How I welcomed you to my shore? When you came here empty handed, And allegiance forever you swore? I gathered you close to my bosom, Of food and of clothes you got both, So, when in trouble, I need you, You will have to remember your oath:

If you don't like your Uncle Sammy, Then go back to your home o'er the sea, To the land from where you came, Whatever be its name, But don't be ungrateful to me! If you don't like the stars in Old Glory, If you don't like the Red, White and Blue, Then don't act like the cur in the story, Don't bite the hand that's feeding you!

Samuel Gompers on Labor’s Service to Freedom (1918)

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In this wartime speech, Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor, described World War I as a war for freedom and argued that the labor movement should support the president and the war. Many labor leaders, including Eugene Debs, spoke out against the war and served long jail sentences as a result. But the allegiance of moderates like Gompers was of crucial importance to President Wilson.


"Labor's Service to Freedom"

Fellow countrymen, our republic, our people, are at war. Whatever individuals may have thought upon the European situation before the Congress of the United States declared war against the Imperial German and Austrian governments, that must now be laid aside. War means victory for our cause or danger to the very existence of our nation.

The World War in which we are engaged in is on such a tremendous scale that we must readjust practically the whole nation's social and economic structure from a peace to a war basis. It devolves upon liberty-loving citizens, and particularly the workers of this country, to see to it that the spirit and the methods of democracy are maintained within our own country while we are engaged in a war to establish them in international relations. The fighting and the concrete issues of the war are so removed from our country that not all of our citizens have a full understanding of the principles of autocratic force which the Central Powers desire to substitute for the real principles of freedom.

In addition to the fundamental principles at issue, labor has a further interest in the war. This war is a people's war -- labor's war. The final outcome will be determined in the factories, the mills, the shops, the mines, the farms, the industries, and the transportation agencies of the various countries. That group of countries which can most successfully organize its agencies of production and transportation, and which can furnish the most adequate and effective agencies with which to conduct the war, will win.

The workers have a part in this war equal with the soldiers and sailors on the ships and in the trenches. America's workers understand the gravity of the situation and the responsibility that devolves upon them. They are loyal to the republic. They have done and are doing their part.

There was struggle for freedom and for a better life -- gives them a keen appreciation of the opportunities and privileges of free, the free government has given them. They are demonstrating their appreciation and loyalty by war work, by loaning their savings, and by the supreme sacrifice. Labor will do its part in every demand the war makes. Our republic, the freedom of the world, progress, and civilization hang in the balance. We dare not fail. We will win.

From Eugene V. Debs's, Speech to the Jury before Sentencing under the Espionage Act (1918)

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In every age there have been a few heroic souls who have been in advance of their time, who have been misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, sometimes put to death. . . . Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and their compeers were the rebels of their day. . . . But they had the moral courage to be true to their convictions. . . . William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Elizabeth Cady Stanton . . . and other leaders of the abolition movement who were regarded as public enemies and treated accordingly, were true to their faith and stood their ground. . . . You are now teaching your children to revere their memories, while all of their detractors are in oblivion. This country has been engaged in a number of wars and every one of them has been condemned by some of the people. The war of 1812 was opposed and condemned by some of the most influential citizens; the Mexican War was vehemently opposed and bitterly denounced, even after the war had been declared and was in progress, by Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Daniel Webster. . . . They were not indicted; they were not charged with treason. . . . I believe in the Constitution. Isn't it strange that we Socialists stand almost alone today in upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States? The revolutionary fathers . . . understood that free speech, a free press and the right of free assemblage by the people were fundamental principles in democratic government. . . . I believe in the right of free speech, in war as well as in peace.