Speech at Auditorium Recital Hall, February 22, 1920 (excerpts)


Reds Better Americans [than] Prosecutors, Says Jane Addams

Jailed Agitators More True to Flag Than Men Who Raid Them

Miss Jane Addams of Hull House, speaking yesterday afternoon in Recital Hall at the Auditorium Theater, (Chicago, Feb. 22) [branded] the activities of the federal government in the suppression and deportation of foreign-born radicals as a form of intolerance. She called the reds in jail and under suspicion more American in their basic ideals and thought than the agents of the government which is sending them to banishment.

These Socialists, Communists, members of the I.W.W., or whatever they may be, she said, are being persecuted for no other reason than that they represent the voice of the majority of the people and the constitutional right of free speech, free thought, and free press.

Suffrage Leaders Speak.

Miss Addams, Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, Miss Grace Abbott and other suffrage leaders spoke to more than 300 men and women as a part of the program of a school of political education being conducted during the convention of the National American Suffrage Association.

"This wholesale and so-called deportation of radical thinking and speaking peoples is very disconcerting to those working for the Americanization of alien-born citizens," said Miss Addams. "It is significant that since the so-called red raids began more than 1,500,000 aliens have applied for passports back to their native lands. They feel America no longer is a safe place to live."

Trying to Deport Party.

"Hundreds of poor laboring men and women are being thrown into jails and police stations because of their political beliefs. In fact, an attempt is being made to deport an entire political party.

"These men and women, who in some respects are more American in ideals than the agents of the government who are tracking them down, are thrust into cells so crowded they cannot lie down. I know of one batch of radicals, thirty-two in all, who faced this situation in an American jail. They were huddled together like rats and treated as criminals because of their political opinions.

"And what is it these radicals seek? It is the right of free speech and free thought; nothing more than is guaranteed to them under the Constitution of the United States, but repudiated because of the war."

Dangerous Situation.

"It is a dangerous situation we face at the present time, with the rule of the few overcoming the voice of the many. It is doubly dangerous because we are trying to suppress something upon which our very country was founded -- liberty.

"The government is proceeding on the theory that because these thinking aliens demand an end of class struggle and equal rights for all they are plotting to overthrow the United States. So it was said of suffrage years ago. Anything that is radically new to the established order of things is revolution in the eyes of many.

"But, I tell you, these radicals simply are struggling for equal rights; to down the spirit of intolerance which has crept into our government.

"They are proceeding as they are simply because in no other way can they gain attention."

Speech a Safety Valve.

"The cure for the spirit of unrest in this country is [conciliation] and education -- not hysteria. Free speech is the greatest safety valve of our United States. Let us give these people a chance to explain their beliefs and desires. Let us end this suppression and spirit of intolerance which is making of America another autocracy."

Carrie Chapman Catt was almost equally vehement in denunciation of what she termed the attempt of the federal government to curb free speech and free thought.

"If all the talk -- even the pro-German talk -- had been out in the open before and during the war, we would have had a chance to answer in the open and so clear away misunderstanding," said the suffrage leader. "As matters stand, there is danger we may lose what has been our proudest boast -- our republican form of government."

Rule of the Few Now.

"Because of the political corruption in the United States -- corruption which began fifty years ago, and included the buying and selling of votes -- we have come to a form of government that is not of a class or classes but a rule of the few."