Page:War Prisoners (Darrow).djvu/20

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WAR PRISONERS.

Why? Somebody wanted them. Maybe they ought to get them. I don't know. But if they do, it ought to be done in the clear light of day! It ought to be under statutes fitted to their case and not as a war necessity, like prohibition!

The Espionage Act has done its work and is now a nuisance and a menace and should be promptly repealed.

There is one other class that I want to speak about. They are the conscientious objectors! There are a good many of them in jail. I think they should be released, too. Of course, you have to remember in all this discussion my premise—the war was right, and necessity knows no law. I just read yesterday a very able address on the conscientious objectors, which was full of poor philosophy. The government thought it necessary to have conscription; it had the power to have it and did have it. Of course, they had the power to say who should go to war, provided people would obey it and go; which they did. The statement I read said the law exempted only conscientious objectors who belonged to churches. And that this was because they thought a church member could be better trusted if he was a conscientious objector than others. That was not the purpose of the law. The government had the power to make any provision about men who should go to war that it wanted to. The government of the United States provided that only conscientious objectors in regular standing, in some well known religious organization, could be exempt. Why? Because, of course, there were tens of thousands of people in the draft who would not want to go, and would have said they were conscientious objectors when they simply did not want to go. Had the government provided that no conscientious objector could be sent to war, of course, it would have been a loop-hole for tens of thousands to get out of the terrible burden and danger of going to fight. Of course, I would not blame any of them for doing it; although I am glad they went.

That law, to my mind, was absolutely reasonable. There is no reason for exempting a conscientious objector. I remember having a talk with one of the government officials about it, in reference to pardoning some of them. He said some of them used it because they were afraid to fight. Well, I said, if I was doing it, I would pardon a man who believed in war and who was afraid to fight, sooner than I would a man who was not afraid to fight but had some foolish notions about it. I think the fact that a man is afraid to fight is about the best reason he can give. It is a reason that appeals very strongly