Jane Addams to Edward Scott Beck, February 23, 1920


February 23, 1920.

My dear Mr. Beck:

May I protest against the flagrant misrepresentation in the report of my address as given in this morning's Tribune, and may I beg the courtesy of a correction.

The subject of the meeting held in Recital Hall yesterday afternoon was "Americanization." At the end of my address I said that those of us who had lived in industrial neighborhoods for thirty years were finding the immigrants much disturbed and [frightened] by the recent wholesale raids and deportations. They feel so [uncertain] as to their rights in this country that thousands are constantly adding their applications to the million and a half who have already applied for return passports to return to Europe. I contended that while many of these arrested aliens might be legitimately liable to deportation, that the methods employed were not those to give them an impression of even-handed justice and of lawful procedure; that the entire situation was a dangerous departure from the Anglo-Saxon tradition of arresting a man for his overt act and not for his opinions.

The Department of Justice, which arrested approximately four thousand men in the early days of January 1920, in what the New Republic described as an attempt to deport a political party, had at the same time failed to arrest men guilty of the "overt act". On the Fourth of last July a dozen bombs had been sent through the United States mail to various governmental officials and members of Congress. Several of these bombs had exploded destroying property and inflicting personal injuries. Although this [occurred] in war time, with many secret service men available, no one had ever been arrested or indicted in connection with this abominable outrage, the perpetrators of which certainly deserve severe punishment. [page 2]

Our own States Attorney who had made numerous arrests on January 1st, had never caused to be arrested nor indicted a single person connected with the throwing of twenty bombs in Chicago during the last eight months, bombs which had been planted in order to destroy the homes of colored people or of white men who had rented houses to colored people.

Of course, We as Americans have inevitably found it difficult to explain this situation and have been put upon the defensive.

It would of course have been most absurd to have said, as I was reported, that the majority of the American people are represented by the minority industrial and political groups enumerated in this report. In point of fact, I did not mention any of those groups by name except the Communist Labor Party, and that only by way of illustrating the point of view of an alien, that when that party had been organized in Chicago at the end of August, secret service men and the City police were both present at the hall and made no protest. Four months later, during which time no new legislation had been passed, solely on the charge that they belonged to the Communist Labor Party these men were arrested for deportation. The aliens contended that in Russia, for instance, the governmental officials would have warned them or arrested them on the spot, and would not have allowed them to meet unmolested during all those months only to be brutally arrested in the end.

It seems to me, Mr. Editor, that if experience has any value one is under an obligation to set it forth at a time like this, that we may if possible prevent a grave and far-reaching mistake. As I reminded my audience yesterday, a protest has recently been issued by distinguished bishops in the Episcopalian Church, including Bishop Brent, formerly of the [Philippines], Bishop Lawrence of Massachusetts, and Bishop Brewster of Maine, and many others. One of them has recently stated that if men are arrested [page 3] for political opinions, there is no guarantee for freedom of religious opinion.

We come around to the old situation, that an injustice against the most wretched man in the community is in the end an injustice against all of us.

Faithfully yours,

Jane Addams [signed]