Assess the validity of the following statement:  

One of the ironies of World War I was that in a war 'to make the world safe for democracy,' the government attacked the civil liberties that make democracy possible.


To understand the Everett Massacre it is first necessary to look at the beginning of the free-speech movement in Everett. The IWW made their first serious attempt to expand into Everett when they recruited veteran speaker James Rowan to go and speak in Everett, and report back on the type of reception he received from the townsfolk. At that time, Everett law allowed anyone to publicly speak their peace so long as they spoke at the Hewitt Avenue crossroads, and remained fifty feet back from the road to prevent a blockage of traffic. On June 31, 1916, Rowan spoke at the crossroads until an argument started between Rowan and a spectator. Sheriff Donald McRae then arrested Rowan, warned him to leave the city, and then released him. Instead of heading back to Seattle, Rowan returned to Hewitt Avenue to continue speaking. Again Rowan was arrested, but this time Sheriff McRae held him overnight, and upon his release the next morning Rowan was given the choice of returning to Seattle, or facing 30 days in the county jail. Rowan returned to Seattle. Immediately following Rowan's experiences, the IWW sent Levi Remmick to Everett with instructions to open up a union office. This set the stage for the free-speech conflict.

The impetus for the IWW activities was the shingle workers' strike that had started on May 1, 1916. The Everett mills, with other area mills, made an earlier promise to raise wages once prices rose. Once that happened, the Everett mills were the only local mills to deny the wage increase. Whenever the picketers marched, the police were always nearby to maintain order. For a time the strike was non-violent, but that all changed on August 19, 1916. After weeks of picketing, strikebreakers hired by the mill owner, Neil Jamison, entered the picture. The strikebreakers attacked the picketers and beat them with clubs and fists. Throughout the entire melee, the police just watched claiming no jurisdiction because the beating took place on Federal land along the waterfront. That same night the picketers retaliated by attacking the scabs who were leaving work. However, this time the fight crossed the imaginary line between federal and city jurisdiction, and the police entered the fray.

On August 22, 1916, Sheriff McRae ordered the IWW to vacate their office and return to Seattle. In defiance the union men went instead to the Hewitt Avenue crossroads to speak. One by one they stepped up onto a wooden soapbox to speak, and one by one they were hauled down and arrested regardless of what they were actually saying. Tensions mounted as the police became more violent in each of their encounters. Between August 29, and October 30, 1916, the police were constantly arresting and beating the IWW activists. Patrols walked the roads entering Everett from Seattle to prevent the Wobblies from entering the city. Events peaked with the beating that took place on the night of October 30. Instead of traveling by road to Everett, 41 Wobblies volunteered to take the ferry into Everett and try to speak to the crowds. When the ferry arrived at the city docks, the Wobblies found the sheriff and his deputies waiting. The Wobblies demanded their right to speak at the intersection of Hewitt and Wetmore, the prime speaking location, but McRae would only allow them to speak at the intersection of Hewitt and Grand, which offered much less room for spectators. The speakers vehement denial sparked the allegedly drunken deputies to violent action. The deputies beat the speakers, and then transported them to Beverly Park, a remote railroad crossing in the south end of town. Here the Wobblies were again beaten and forced to run down a gauntlet of armed "citizen-deputies" who whipped, tripped, and kicked the IWW men the entire way. At the end of the gauntlet was a spiked cattle guard to prevent lose cattle from straying onto the tracks. The spiked guard proved impossible for many of the men to avoid. Once the beating ended, the IWW men were left to stumble their way back to Seattle along the tracks. The beating was so violent that the road was still stained with blood the next morning.

In response to the Beverly Park beatings, the IWW publicly called for an Everett meeting for Sunday Novemeber 5. In Everett, the police started signing on new duputies expecting trouble. On the night before the meeting in Everett, two Wobblies paid thirty dollars to rent the ferry Verona for passage to Everett. The next morning the Verona left the Seattle docks with approximately 250 IWW activists on board. A second ferry, the Calista left Seattle a short time later carrying 40 Union men along with the regular passengers. Once again, the union men docked to find the sheriff and his deputies waiting on the docks, however this time there were over 200 deputies present, many of them armed. As the Verona was secured by bowline to the dock, Sheriff McRae stepped up to the edge of the dock and called out to the passengers. McRae asked who the leader of the group was, and the union men responded yelling "we all are." The sheriff then told the men that they could not land. A yell of "the hell we can't" rang out followed by a gunshot. Suddenly the air was full of bullets coming from both sides. The deputies had a poor line of vision since the the boat was raised high upon the tide, and many fired indiscriminately at the boat. When the firing started, many of the passengers scrambled to the opposite side of the boat nearly causing it to capsize. When the Verona was finally able to break the bowline and back away from the dock, seven people were dead or mortally wounded, approximately 50 were wounded, and an unknown number missing. Among the dead were two deputies, C.O. Curtis, and Jeff Beard, and five Wobblies, John Looney, Felix Baran, Abe Rabinowitz, Hugh Gerlot, and Gus Johnson. On the way home the Verona came upon the Calista and warned them of what awaited in Everett. Both boats returned to Seattle to find more police waiting on the docks. Everyone aboard both boats was arrested with no further complications.

The Everett Massacre was the bloodiest single event in Pacific Northwest labor history. Each of the IWW members were charged with murder. No-one is really sure who fired the first shot, but each side blamed the other. Witnesses to the event also paint a contradictory picture of what actually happened. The city of Everett tried to forget the entire affair, and Everett became the last major free-speech fight for the IWW.

SOURCE:  The Everett Massacre, Bloody Sunday, 1916.


We ask that good Americans...uphold the hand of the government at every point efficiently and resolutely against our foreign and domestic foes, and that they constantly spur the government to speedier and more effective action. Furthermore, we ask that, where government action cannot be taken, they arouse an effective and indignant public opinion against the enemies of our country, whether these enemies masquerade as pacifists, or proclaim themselves the enemies of our allies, or act through organizations such as the I.W.W. and the Socialist Party machine, or appear nakedly as the champions of Germany. Above all, we ask that they teach our people to spurn any peace save the peace of overwhelming victory in the war to which we have set our hands.

SOURCE: Theodore Roosevelt's Pledge of Loyalty, September 11, 1917.


Onward, Christian soldiers! Duty's what is plain;
Slay your Christian neighbors, or by them be slain.
Pulpiteers are spouting effervescent swill,
God above all is calling you to rob and rape and kill.
All your acts are sactified by the Lamb on high;
If you love the Holy Ghost, go murder, pray and die.

Onward, Christian soldiers! Bligting all you meet,
Trampling human freedom under pious feet.
Praise the Lord whose dollar sign dupes his favored race!
Make the foreign trash respect your bullion brand of grace.
Trust in mock salvation, serve as pirates' tools;
History will say of you: "That pack of...fools."

SOURCE:  Christians At War, October 20, 1917.




On the morning of June 16, Emma Goldman...was brought before the United States Commissioner Hitchcock..."These two Anarchists," he said. "are the leading spirits in this country in a countrywide conspiracy to spread anti-registration propaganda."...attorney for the defendents, made a motion for dismissal on the ground that advising anybody not to register is not a violation of law. "Failing to register, no doubt, is a crime, said Weinberg, "but telling people not to do so is certainly not a viloation of the law."
...the members of the jury filed out of the court-room...Judge Mayer came into the court-room...The clerk called the roll of the jury, and then...asked him if a verdict had been agreed upon...the jury had agreed.
"What is your verdict?" the Clerk asked.
"Guilty," the forman replied...
"I move," Emma said, "that this verdict be set aside as absolutely contrary to the evidence."
"Denied," replied Judge Mayer
"I then ask that sentence be deffered for a few days, and the bail be continued in the sum already fixed in our case," Miss Goldman added.
"Motion denied," said the Judge.
SOURCE:  The arraignment and verdict of Emma Goldman, 1917.




 Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports of false statements with intent to interfere with the operations or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements....or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or...shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States...or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully...urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production...or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more then twenty years, or both....         

SOURCE:  The Espionage Act, May 16, 1918.


This is an indictment under the Espionage Act of June 15, 1917....The defendent was found guilty and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment on each of the two counts...The main theme of the speech was Socialism, its growth, and a prophecy of its ultimate success. With that we have nothing to do, but if a part or the maifest intent of the more general utterances was to encourage those present to obstrust the recruiting service and if in passages such encouragement was directly given, the immunity of the general theme may not be enough to protect the speech...who had been convicted of aiding and abetting another in failing to register for the draft...
There followed personal experinces and illustrations of the growth of Socialism, a glorification of minorities, and a prophecy of the success of the international Socialist crusade, with the interjection that "you need to know that you are fit for something better then slavery and cannon fodder." ...that is to be found in the usual contrasts between capitalists and laboring men, sneers at the advice to cultivate war gardens, attribution to plutocrats of the high price of coal, &c., with the implication running through it all that the working men are not concerned in the war, and a final exhortation...        

SOURCE:  Debs. v. United States, 1919.


This is an indictment in three counts. The first charges a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act...by causing and attempting to cause insubordination...in the military and naval forces of the United States, and to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States...when the United States was at war with the German Empire...that the defendants willfully conspired to have printed and circulated to men who had been called and accepted for military service under the Act of May 1917....The count alleges overt acts in pursuance of the conspiracy, ending in the distribution of the document set forth...According to the testimony Schenck said he was general secretary of the Socialist party and had charge of the Socialist headquarters from which the documents were sent....leaflets...to be mailed to men who passed exemption boards, and for distribution. Schenck personally attended to the printing....Of course the document would not have been sent unless it had been intended to have been sent unless it had been intended to have some effect, and we do not see what effect it could be expected to have upon persons subject to the draft except to influence them to obstruct the carrying of it out....The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent....When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right. It seems to be admitted that if an actual obstruction of the recruiting service were proved, liability for words that produced that effect might be enforced. The statute of 1917...punishes conspiracies to obstruct as well as actual obstruction. If the act, (speaking, or circulating a paper,) its tendency and the intent with which it is done are the same, we perceive no ground for saying that success alone warrants making the act a crime....

SOURCE:  Schenck v. United States, 1919.


The indictment is found wholly upon the publication of two leaflets...The first count charges a conspiracy pending the war with Germany to publish abusive language about the form of government of the United States...The second count charges a conspiracy pending the war to publish language intended to bring the form of government into contempt...The third count alleges a conspiracy to encourage resistance to the United States in the same war and to attempt to effectuate the purpose by publishing the same leaflets. The fourth count lays a conspiracy to incite curtailment of production of things necessary to the prosecution of the war and to attempt to accomplish it by publishing the second leaflet....In this case sentence of twenty years imprisonment have been imposed for the publishing of two leaflets that I believe the defendants had as much right to publish as the Government has to publish the Constitution of the United States....

SOURCE:  Abrams v. United States, 1919.


"President Wilson is deceiving the world when he apprears as the prophet of democracy. President Wilson has opposed those who demand democracy for this country. He is responsible for the disfranchisement of millions of Americans. We in America know this...The world will find him out."        

SOURCE:  Standing at Armageddon, Nell Painter.


 The night before [Wilson] asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany he sent for me [Frank Cobb, of the New York World]. I was late getting the message somehow and didn't reach the White House till one o'clock in the morning. "The old man" was waiting for me, sitting in his study wit the typewriter on his table, where he used to type his own messages.
          I'd never seen him so worn down. He looked as if he hadn't slept, and he said he hadn't. He said he was probably going before Congress the next day to ask a declaration of war, and he'd never been so uncertain about anything in his life as about that decision. For nights, he said, he'd been lying awake going over the whole situation -- over the provocation given by Germany, over the probable feeling in the United States, over the consequences to the settlement and to the world at large if we entered the melee. 
...He said he couldn't seen any alternative, that he had tried every way he knew to avoid war..."What else can I do?" he asked. "Is there anything else I can do?"
...He said war would overturn the world we had known; that so long as we remained out there was a preponderance of neutrality but that if we joined with the Allies the world would be off the peace basis and on to a war basis.

It would mean that we should lose our hesd along with the rest and stop weighing right and wrong. It would mean that a majority of people in this hemisphere would go war-mad, quit thinking, and devote their energies to destruction. The President said a declaration of war would mean that war would mean that Germany would be beaten and so badly beaten that there would be a dictated peace, a victorious peace.
....He went on to say that so far as he knew he had considered every loophole of escape, and as fast as they were discovered Germany deliberately blocked them with some new outrage....He thought the Constitution would not survive it, that free speech and the right of assembly would go. He said a nation couldn't put its strength into a war and keep its head level; it had never been done.
...The President didn't have illusions about how he was going to come out of it, either. He'd rather have done anything else than head a military machine. all his instincts were against it. He foresaw too clearly the probable influence of a declaration of war on his own fortunes, the adulation certain to follow the certain victory, the derision and attack which would come with the deflation of excessive hopes and in the presence of world responsibility. But if he had it to do over again he would take the same course. It was just a choice of evils.
SOURCE:  John L. Heaton, Cobb of The World.






A "The Industrial Workers of the World." July 1999. 15 April 2000. <http://fletcher.iww.org/history.html>
B Newman, John J. and Schmalbach, John M. United States History. New York: Amsco, 1998.
C Painter, Nell. Standing at Armageddon. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.
D "Trial and Speeches of Emma Goldman." 9 Sept. 1997. Sunsite Manager. 15 April 2000. <http://sunsite.berkely.edu/Goldman/Writings/Essays/TrialSpeeches/trialandconviction.html>
E Steele Commager, Henry (editor). Documents of American History. New York: Appleton Century Cofts, Inc., 1949.
F Perno, Anthony. "Advanced Placement United States History." 15 April 2000. <http://members.icanect.net/~tincat/2000/lesson/debs.htm>
G Steele Commager, Henry (editor). Documents of American History. New York: Appleton Century Cofts, Inc., 1949.
H Steele Commager, Henry (editor). Documents of American History. New York: Appleton Century Cofts, Inc., 1949.
I Painter, Nell. Standing at Armageddon. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.
J Steele Commager, Henry and Nevins, Allan (editors). Witness To America. United States: Barnes and Noble Books, 1949.


DBQ Question created by:
Ms. Marissa Larca
Class of 2001
Maria Regina H. S.
Hartsdale, NY
created in:  April, 2000