The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 2/Bohemians in the Third Liberty Loan

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Bohemians in the Third Liberty Loan
By Vojta Beneš
Secretary, Bohemian National Alliance.

Before the Third Liberty Loan campaign opened, committees were organized in Chicago and several other cities with a large Bohemian population to ensure that citizens of Bohemian birth did their share in furnishing the government with the money needed for the prosecution of the war. The Bohemian National Alliance, the principal organization of the Czechs in America, put forth its whole influence on behalf of the loan and in particular saw to it that the smaller scattered settlements of Bohemians did their duty. Speakers were sent out from the headquarters and from the district centers to urge upon every man of our race that he had a double motive to contribute liberally to war funds—as a loyal American and a son of Bohemia. It is possible now to give some idea of the participation of our people in the loan.

I have at hand reports from about 100 Bohemian settlements. I left purposely aside figures from the larger cities, Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Omaha, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore, Cedar Rapids, Pittsburgh, etc. The figures which are the basis of my calculation are from small mining centers and from remote farmer settlements.

One hundred of these communities of Bohemian immigrants reported 7701 subscriptions. It is necessary to keep in mind that in the very nature of things my statistics cannot include all the subscriptions made by our people even in these settlements, for the subscriptions of many did not pass through the hands of our committees. Bohemians did undoubtedly better than figures given here indicate. The total amount subscribed by these 7701 individuals was $1,154,150, an average of approximately $150 to a subscriber. There are many variations between different states.

Take Texas with some 100,000 people of Czech descent, mostly immigrated from Moravia. Some of our people there own their own farms, but more are renters. Last year was a year of poor crops in Texas—some of the counties inhabited by Bohemians had a poor crop of cotton, some had a total failure. Places like Bucholts, Cameron, Holland, Ennis, West and other Bohemian settlements, did not raise enough to support the farmer and his stock. But when the government issued its third loan and when the Bohemian National Alliance made its special appeal, these poor renters tried to do their share. I have a letter telling how our people who had a failure of crops last year went to the banks at Shiner and other places and borrowed money at six per cent, so that they might buy bonds paying 4 1/4 per cent. Reports from 28 Texas communities give a total of 3103 subscribers buying $320,000 worth of bonds. This covers hardly a sixth of the total number of settlements in Texas, so that a conservative estimate of what the Bohemians in Texas did for the third loan would be two million dollars.

Now from a farming state let us look at Pennsylvania, a mining state, as far as our people are concerned. The Bohemians there are largely socialists. They were coal miners in Bohemia, exploited victims of German capital. But while so many of them are socialists for economic reasons, they are anything but German socialists and they abhor the stand of the American Socialist party as to the war. They have been most zealous supporters of the Bohemian National Alliance in its work of liberating Bohemia from German domination and they proved their sentiments in the Liberty Loan campaign. I have figures for nine of these coal mining settlements; 4789 men subscribed $54,000, an average of about $114 to a person. I know my people in Pennsylvania. I have been through all their settlements several times, and I am sure that not ten per cent failed to buy a bond.

In seven Bohemian colonies in Minnesota 430 farmers bought bonds to the extent of $144,250. That is an average of $335, showing that our people there are comparatively well off. In Nebraska our farmers from ten settlements for which I have figures subscribed $121,500 which makes an average of $309 to each of the 393 individuals. In South Dakota apparently the Bohemian farmers have the most money; in two districts 256 of them gave the government $80,950, an average of $460.—Everywhere the Bohemians did better than they were asked to do. In Wisconsin county committees invariably found that townships with population of Bohemian descent subscribed two hundred and three hundred per cent of their quota. And in Chicago they landed first after a hot contest among a large number of foreign races, several of which were both numerically and financially stronger.

To sum up my figures: If 100 settlements for which incomplete figures are available subscribed $1,154,150, then the 600 settlements may be conservatively allowed a total of close to ten million. Add to it the few large Bohemian settlements in the cities—six million from Chicago alone—there would be at least ten million more. The share of our people in the Third Liberty Loan may be safely placed at twenty million dollars.

Now that is about half a per cent of the total amount subscribed, and Bohemians number just about half a per cent of the entire population. One would think that the Bohemians did just about their share and no more. But that would be a very superficial estimate. To size up properly the situation, one must have regard not merely to the population, but to the wealth. I do not know, how much of the total sum subscribed was bought by banks, industrial concerns and corporations in general, but it was a considerable proportion of the whole. No part of that vast sum, of course, goes to the credit of the Bohemians. And even when subscriptions by individuals are used as a basis of comparison, no one doubts that the average wealth of the Bohemian immigrant, if one may speak of wealth at all in connection with him, is far below the share of the average citizen. We have no millionaires among us; the great majority are either ordinary workmen with a few prosperous business men, or small farmers and renters. I doubt, whether all that our people in this country possess amounts to one tenth of one per cent of the national wealth of the United States. The truth is that the Bohemian immigrant in the United States gave the government not a part of his surplus wealth, but what he managed to save on his living expenses and perhaps on what he earned in excess of his former earnings by working harder. His heart is in this war and he is resolved to give everything and to do everything in order that our cause may win.

After such a record of loyalty it is a counterclimax to have the Governor of Iowa with its large Bohemian population issue a proclamation prohibiting the use of any foreign language in the state, except in the bosom of one’s own family. Governor Harding would condemn the immigrants who come here to a mere animal existence. The majority of them on account of age and the imperative requirements of their arduous daily toil cannot acquire command of English. The Iowa statesman would not allow these people to read newspapers, would not let them use the telephone, go to church or to a meeting where they would hear an address in the only language they comprehend. That is not Americanization, that is Prussianism. America has no cause to worry about the loyalty of most of the races that come here, surely not of the loyalty of the Bohemians. Children that grow up here are Americans, and their parents could not, even if they wanted to, make anything else of them but Americans. And if the older people cannot forget the land in which they were born and where they spent the happy days of childhood, if they are unable to master a strange speech, is it in harmony with American ideals to repress them, to place fetters on men and women who by their acts have shown to be more loyal to the cause of America than the English-speaking Americans?

I cannot believe that Governor Harding represents the true spirit of America or that he will have imitators.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1951, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 71 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.