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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 20, No. 1
March, 1942
THE OKLAHOMA COUNCIL OF DEFENSE AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR*

By O. A. HILTON

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The history of the Oklahoma State Council of Defense is closely linked up with that of the Council of National Defense, particularly its State Councils Section. Its organization was due directly to a request from the National Council that such a body be created, and if possible be given statutory power and adequate financial aid. The Oklahoma legislature had adjourned before war was declared and did not meet again until January, 1919. Consequently the State Council was created by Governor Robert L. Williams and possessed only the legal authority which he could delegate to it and that which was inherent in the war time situation.

Lack of legal authority was not of primary importance to the Oklahoma Council, nor to those of the many other states in the same situation. During the war years, lack of statutory powers was a bar to "patriotic effort" only where official organizations lacked the imagination or the audacity to accomplish those things which they considered desirable. With the great majority determined that everything possible should be done to win the war, and with emotions so aroused by propaganda and the whole effects of the war that any except the mildest questioning of the acts of officially or semi-officially constituted war boards was likely to relegate the offender to the ranks of the "disloyal," the question of legal authority was of academic importance, only. The lack of an appropriation to support the Council's activities was a handicap, however. In some states to finance the councils, certificates of indebtedness were taken by wealthy individuals who expected to be repaid when the legislature met. But in Oklahoma it was done more simply. After the county councils were organized, each was assigned a quota of money to be paid to the state organization.1

Because of the great diversity of interests and duties imposed upon the Council of National Defense by the act creating it, its





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work had generally been studied in connection with the physical requirements of the war and the organization of munitions and supplies. Students of propaganda and public opinion have generally neglected it as an agency for arousing public opinion in support of the war and wiping out opposition. Yet the national-state council organization was one of the most important agencies in this respect. Perhaps it is incorrect to speak of it as one organization. Each state had its own organization and all were loosely dovetailed into some semblance of unity through the State Councils Section of the National Council.2 The State Councils Section itself sought little publicity. Operating with the maximum of anonymity expected of a bureau in one of the large war organizations and without a publicized personality to attract the notice of the public, it presents a great contrast to the Committee of Public Information, with George Creel as Chairman. The Section attempted to provide a needed stimulus and leadership to the state bodies for a multiplicity of activities, chief of which were related to public morale and public support of the war efforts of the government. Recognizing and accepting the fact that the interests and traditions of the different states required the encouragement of local initiative and practices in conformity with the mores of the people of the various sections, this system offered one of the best examples of the operation of the dual system of government during the war years.

The Council of National Defense, composed of the Secretaries of War, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, was established by the National Defense Act passed in August, 1916,3 but it was not fully organized until March 3, 1917, slightly more than a month before war was declared. Four days after we entered the war the Council issued a call to the states in which it stated that it was "engaged in the work of preparation for the war and in the coordination of the resources and energies of the nation." It signified its readiness to cooperate with the states in the prosecution of the war, and recommended that each state create a committee with broad powers which were representative of the state's resources. It suggested that these committees be known as State Councils of Defense.4

To stimulate the states to act, the National Council invited the governors of all the states to attend or send representatives to a national conference in Washington on May 3 and 4. Governor Wil-







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liams directed J. M. Aydelotte, Chairman of the Board of Affairs, and "member National Defense Committee," to attend as the Oklahoma representative.5 The conference apparently was stimulating, since Aydelotte stated that he made his report immediately after returning to the state and the Governor "immediately appointed a committee of twelve to represent the citizens of Oklahoma for the State Council of Defense." The committee perfected its organization on May 16, and reported that it was awaiting "further instructions or advice from the Council of National Defense."6 J. M. Aydelotte was made Chairman, President Stratton D. Brooks of the University of Oklahoma was selected Secretary, and Chester H. Westfall of the University's school of journalism was placed in charge of publicity.7

The committee on organization recommended the appointment of eleven committees of the Council, namely: transportation and communication; munitions, manufacturing, including standardization and industrial relations; supplies, including food, clothing, etc.; raw materials, minerals and metals; labor, including conservation of health and welfare of workers, subdivided into (a) industrial and (b) farm; medicine, including general sanitation; sciences and research, including engineering and education; publicity and preservation of national sentiment; legal advisory; finance; and recruiting and exemption.

The merits of the council system for the United States lay not so much in its doing original work, although the "Phi Beta Kappa boys," as one admirer termed the young men who directed the State Councils Section, spent much of their effort in trying to stimulate the state councils to develop initiative and direct their efforts to







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meeting local situations. Its great value lay, as the Washington office early perceived, in organizing the entire United States from the Capital to the grass roots into a vast chain of state, county and community councils which would be available for every kind of war work in which the support of the people was desired—and there were few aspects of the war in which it was not felt that the people should be aroused to wholehearted support with money, physical effort or moral backing. The State Councils Section envisioned a system so thorough in its organization that it could be used to "put over" any kind of war drive for the Federal Government: Liberty Loan, War Savings, Red Cross, increased food production, conservation of food, recruiting for the army and navy, securing binoculars for the navy, and speeding up ship-building; or distributing printed propaganda, and organizing public speaking campaigns and the Four Minute Men for the Committee on Public Information. "Co-operation" and "co-ordination" were the magic words. However, the words seemed somehow to lose their magic effect when the Washington bureaucrats planned their own particular drives. So many wanted their own organizations developed independently of all other organizations down to the local communities.8 This led to considerable friction with some of the state councils, but apparently not in Oklahoma. In Illinois, for example, the chairman of the state council, Samuel Insull, the utility magnate, tried to run the war activities of the state more or less as he would one of his corporations. He complained bitterly because several federal agencies ignored his council organization and established duplicate machinery which he believed his group was organized to do. In Oklahoma the state heads of the various agencies were brought into the council and, so far as records examined show, cooperated with it and used it in their drives.

It has already been indicated that the National Council considered the job of organization one of the first and most important tasks for each state. Without the organization, other plans could not be carried out effectively. And on the whole the Oklahoma Council followed the leadership of the national body, though it did pursue some independent trails of its own which did not arouse the enthusiasm of the Washington office.

The first step in the organization of the State was the appointment by the Governor of an executive committee for each county. On July 3, 1917, a letter was sent to the postmaster in each county seat town asking them to suggest from among the leading men



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of their counties men for the committees.9 On the executive committees the Governor appointed the leading banker, editor and attorney of the county, and in most cases the county agent.10 The committees were informed that the purpose of the county council was to "provide a medium through which the citizens of each community can co-operate in the task of 'helping to win the war.' " It was to be a "kind of county chamber of commerce, with its activities directed to some extent by state and federal organization, but free to take up whatever emergencies may arise in the county." The first task of the committee was to organize the county council.11 The executive committees were slow to report on their organization activities, and early in August the State Council was exhorting them to complete their organizations and get down to work:

You men are fighting the Kaiser, just as truly as if you were wearing a uniform. Your place is to fight at home, AND THE TIME TO FIGHT IS NOW.

The Governor and the war organizations of the country are depending upon you to care for the work in your section.

If you have completed plans for the work in your county, push them with all possible speed. If you do not have them completed, get together at once and make your report to the State Council of Defense.12

The State Council gave the county executive committees detailed instructions as to organization and the activities which they should undertake. They were responsible for completing the organization of county councils according to the method they deemed most satisfactory—either by simply appointing sufficient personnel to increase the number to twenty-five, or by calling a mass meeting of the leading men in the different vocations, professions, businesses and industries of the county to elect the additional members:

THE ORGANIZATION MUST BE NON-PARTISAN IF IT IS TO BE SUCCESSFUL. And it must have behind it the men of the county who command the respect of the citizens.

The county councils should take account of the active organizations already in existence, and perhaps give them representation on the council. They were enjoined particularly to cooperate with the extension divisions of the A. and M. College and the State University. The women were to form a separate organization, but the two groups should work together closely; and those in charge of women's work should be represented on the council. Regular meetings should be held, perhaps every two weeks, to discuss the problems of the county, and to "take up the problems and tasks passed on to you by state and national defense councils." The most detailed instructions were related to production, conservation and preservation of farm crops, improving marketing facilities for agricultural products, securing as low an interest rate as possible for farmers, etc. But the functions of the county councils were much









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broader than this. They were to see that the schools were kept up to present standards, at least, and encourage parents to keep their children in school. They were to take account of labor, road work, public improvements, public health, morals, making of county surveys, aid recruiting, etc.; and under the heading of "Campaigns," they were reminded that "The next Liberty Loan must go to every home in the county."13

Organization work was speeded up and by late August Aydelotte reported jubilantly that "the county council of defense is the organization of the hour in Oklahoma." About fifty of the seventy-seven counties had perfected organizations "that are actively taking charge of all war organization work." They were cooperating with the Red Cross and other organizations, aiding in conservation and production and organizing home guards, "holding patriotic demonstrations throughout their counties," and in many other ways forming a link between the State Council and the people.14

It was the community council organization, however, rather than the county councils, that gained most attention to Oklahoma. In December 1917, it was reported that local organizations had been effected in every county in the state, of which "About half of them are fairly active, about a fourth of them have done nothing and about a fourth have been of great service."15 This type of organization spread rapidly in the early months of 1918, and before the end of the war comprised almost a million members. On different occasions the Council of National Defense gave Oklahoma as an example for other states to follow in this respect. In a postwar appeal to the Oklahoma State Council to keep its community council system intact for post-war adjustment work, it paid tribute to this phase of the state's effort:

We have always been proud of the way in which you set about organizing your State, practically on your own initiative. On quite a number of occasions we have pointed to your local organization and its extensive membership when we have found it necessary to encourage some other State Council which is lagging in organization matters.16

In the final report of the State Council, Westfall summed up the organization features as follows:

The first contribution of the Oklahoma State Council of Defense to Oklahoma's part in the war has been its co-ordination of the energies and resources of the two million citizens of this State. When the State Council of Defense began its work it found each community broken up into a vast number of organizations and movements, each one attempting to obtain results, each one duplicating the efforts of most of the others,









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the people a great mass of misdirected energy and duplication of effort. Within a short time after our organization began we had almost every county in Oklahoma systematically organized from the county seat town clear down to the most remote school district. This organization of county and community councils of defense had altogether more than ten thousand units and a total membership of approximately one million men and women. When the armistice was signed we had a county council in each of the seventy-seven counties in Oklahoma. This machinery provided the framework on which every campaign that has been attempted in this state has been put across. Where the county was well organized everything has gone well, where the county was not well organized every county experienced difficulty.

The Oklahoma State Council of Defense provided a net work or organization by which we have been enabled to take any message or any plan to practically every man, woman and child in this state within a maximum of seven days.17

Technically speaking the State Councils Section did not prepare propaganda, but acted instead as a clearing house for the dissemination through the state councils of propaganda issued by other agencies, such as the Food Administration, Liberty Loan and War Savings committees in the Treasury Department, the Shipping Board, and particularly for the Committee on Public Information. The CPI pamphlets were distributed for some months through the state councils, and after this method was discontinued the latter aided in compiling mailing lists. The Four Minute Men and the Public Speaking Divisions in the various states were generally financed and largely managed by the councils, although they were also under the jurisdiction of the CPI. On the whole the state councils assured the success of these phases of the CPI's work, a fact which George Creel was reluctant to recognize. Most of the state councils, in addition, did issue propaganda in one form or another on their own initiative.

Almost to the end of the war all bodies which were officially delegated (or who assumed) the task of leadership in war activities apparently assumed that the people did not understand what the war was about. Those who considered themselves leaders in the war effort felt that the people must be, "educated" to the great and noble issues involved in the war. Publicity and propaganda were the magic media through which the enthusiasm of the masses, their money, labor, hates and loves were to be mobilized to Make the World Safe for Democracy and a decent place to live in, to drive the monster Wilhelm II off the Prussian pedestal, and bring about permanent peace, international good-will and the brotherhood of man. Publicity must be obtained for every act of every government agency even remotely related to the war. As a result a great stream of "paper bullets" flooded the editorial sanctums, until from all over the country came the wail of editors which reached into the offices of the State Councils Section in Washington.



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"Enough," they cried in effect. "Reduce the amount of propaganda emanating from Washington and from the states. Our waste paper baskets are overflowing, and still the stream shows no sign of ceasing."18 Added to the output of federal agencies and state councils of defense, were the productions of private individuals who felt that their glowing speeches contained such a touch of fire that all who read them would be heated to fever pitch, propaganda of patriotic organizations numerous in number, trade associations, and industrial corporations. Thus the Oklahoma Council was not unique in believing that one of its greatest tasks was that of "educating" the people to the causes and issues of the war. It does appear strange, however, that if the war was for the purposes so often stated, that the people were unaware of its causes and issues after having followed the slow drift into the struggle and having been subjected to all the Allied propaganda regarding it for more than two years. But despite their professions of supreme love for democracy, the so-called leaders demonstrated a vast lack of faith in the common sense and sound judgment of the people.

In the final report of the State Council, it is stated that:

When the State Council of Defense first began its work the public sentiment of this state was in the same condition as in other states. It is safe to say that barely fifty per cent of the people were in an attitude to give their whole-hearted co-operation, as we think of it now, to their government.

. . . At the time of the declaration of war the people of this state, just as the people of every other state, had been flooded systematically with the greatest campaign of carefully organized propaganda that has ever been thrown into any country. German newspapers and socialist newspapers and workers for the German Red Cross, and a large number of agitators that may or may not have been backed by German money, and a large number of national associations covered the country with pro-German pamphlets presented a condition that had to be met at once.19





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The Oklahoma Council first attempted to meet this "condition," which if true was alarming, by assembling an army of public speakers to address mass meetings, "the purpose of which is to educate the people to the real causes and the real needs of the war. This system of patriotic meetings will be extended eventually to every school district in the counties."20 The organization was named the Oklahoma Speakers' Bureau, and the members agreed "to donate their time to spreading the gospel of Americanism throughout the State of Oklahoma." The Committee on Public Information had not yet organized an effective speakers' bureau, nor had it yet produced much propaganda for the use of speakers. Due to the difficulty experienced by the speakers in securing information from which to prepare their speeches, President Brooks of the University released Dr. A. C. Scott to spend several weeks examining official documents and publications and preparing a pamphlet "which would show just why it was necessary for America to enter the war, just how enormous were the crimes of Germany and how essential it was for each citizen to give his government thorough support."21

It was claimed that the speakers' bureau furnished a patriotic speaker "to anybody, anywhere for any kind of an occasion," and that "there is not a man, woman or child in Oklahoma who has not been reached" by the bureau "not one but many times." To reach the outlying districts, county bureaus were organized "to go to the cross-roads, villages and into the school houses to carry the messages of patriotism." From the CPI the State Council obtained as speakers foreign army officers sent over by the British, French and Italian governments for speaking tours, as well as some of the more popular American speakers. Probably the most sought after and the greatest emotion-arousing speaker of all was the soldier-priest, Lieutenant Paul Perigord, who toured the country from coast to coast, and was always unable to fill but a small percent of the demands for his time. He spent fifteen days in Oklahoma.22 Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, was among the most popular American speakers. He was given a gala welcome when he came to the state in September, 1917, and spoke to a gathering in Oklahoma City which included representatives of most of the county councils.23









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Of course before the era of the radio, public speaking was more essential than at present in arousing public opinion. The Council's effort in this direction, and a small amount of "pamphleteering" was necessary before George Creel got his battalion of college professors busy grinding out learned treatises for the edification of the ignorant, and the huge army of public speakers who were to educate them. After that the speakers were well provided with an imposing array of pamphlets and hand-made speeches which required little more than inserting the proper words for the local audience. More important from that time on was the job of feeding war-work publicity and propaganda to the state press.

In December 1917, the State Council began publication of a monthly newspaper, Sooners in the War, and before that had begun to provide publicity matter to the newspapers. Plans were made for a weekly summary to the press, which the papers were requested to run in a fixed place and under the fixed heading of "WE MUST WIN THE WAR," a cut for which was supplied all the papers. The state editors were appealed to for patriotic aid. "It is our task," stated the appeal, "to aid citizens to do all of which they are possibly capable in bringing the war to a speedy and victorious end." The aid of the newspapers was necessary to accomplish this purpose which required "enlisting every citizen, in whatever industry, in office, factory, field and home," to do whatever would "be of best service to the Nation."

Few of us realize that we people in the peaceful little communities of Oklahoma, together with other Americans, are already in the most terrible war in history—a war on the outcome of which depends the safety of our very homes and the homes of our children. Only by the greatest self-sacrifice and energy can we hope for victory.24

After it got into full swing, the propaganda bureau furnished two columns of material each week "that helped to educate the people on why America entered the war and what were Oklahoma's tasks." It was estimated that more than ten thousand columns of news and propaganda were provided the papers by this agency. "When we began sending it out, the Oklahoma State Council of Defense was the only source from which editors could obtain such material." As soon as the CPI began publishing its pamphlets, the Council "obtained thousands of copies of these pamphlets and flooded Oklahoma with them."25

The straight propaganda in the news releases relating to the causes of the war and the issues involved were largely the stereotyped explanations emanating from all propaganda machines: that Germany deliberately caused the war, that Germany was cruel and barbaric, and that unless she was "whipped" on European soil she would have to be beaten on American soil. Shailer Matthews was





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quoted in one release, as having given this reason for our entering the war:

Failure to beat him [Germany] over there will expose our own people here in the United States, to outrages and atrocities probably worse than those which have been perpetrated in Belgium, in northern France and on the seas, "acts," as one speaker put it, "that will make Satan shudder in hell."26

In the light of all the arguments in the United States since the outbreak of the second World War as to whether Germany could attack us, it is interesting to note the confidence with which propagandists cited what could happen in 1917.

Evidence is in the hands of authorities in Washington that the Prussian war plan included making peace with our Allies, obtaining possession of the British fleet as part of the peace arrangement, then coming to America and demanding the cost of the war from the United States under threat of laying waste our fields and cities.

Military authorities state that had this plan worked out, or if it should still develop, 300,000 German first line troops could be landed in America in six weeks. Two million could be here in three to six months. That's one reason why we're in the war.27

Other press releases dealt with subjects of practical application, rather than ideas, such as: how to plant home gardens, taking of farm censuses, securing of binoculars for the navy, volunteers for the shipyards, the Red Cross, Liberty Loan, War Savings Stamps, Y. M. C. A., and numerous other campaigns. In other publicity the Council attempted to eliminate fake oil promotion schemes, the soliciting of funds without approval of local councils, and the exchange of Liberty Bonds for merchandise or trading in the bonds. Still other appeals had to do with securing recruits for the army, stimulating canning and preserving food, the patriotic duty of stockmen to hold their breeding stock which the drought of 1918 was almost compelling many to sell, etc.28

Despite the predominant agrarian interests of the state, a rather strong strain of socialism permeated the thinking of many Oklahomans. The socialist thesis that this was "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight" found rather wide, if scattered, acceptance. The agitators who, stirred up the so-called "Green Corn Rebellion" in southern Oklahoma during the summer of 1917 were imbued with this philosophy. Hence it is not surprising to find some of the State Council propaganda striking at this argument. One press release under the title "IS IT TREASON?" used the atrocity theme as a counterweight. Referring to one who could still believe that American dollars caused the war, that the draft was the beginning of oppression of the poor man by a military machine, that the Liberty Loan was a scheme by which the rich would get the poor man's







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coin, and that this was a useless fight which was none of our affair, the publicity declared:

The fact that the women and children of Belgium are starving under orders from the Prussian government has no effect on this man's attitude, nor the fact that bleaching bones remain to tell the tale of the murder of women and children in Poland. . .

Must this man's wife or daughter be outraged before he will realize the menace of the Prussian advance? Must the children of his neighbors be starved, the old men in his own home town be killed in cold blood, their homes pillaged and their fields laid waste?

Must he see it with his own eyes before he realizes that, with a turning point in the struggle less unexpected than have taken place in the past, Germany can have an invading force on American soil in less than two months? . . .

America is not safe, a free people are not safe, not homes nor women nor children, so long as Prussian autocracy holds the balance of the world's military power. . .

American dollars had no part in bringing on this war. The draft is above all the poor man's friend. . . The Liberty Loan marked the beginning of a new era in America, more than ever before the farmer and the laborer and the clerk have a part in national affairs. And above all this is America's war, the fight for "Our Man" and his neighbors. It is a fight for self-preservation.29

Stories of personal atrocities committed by German soldiers had an immense appeal in this country. Undoubtedly the people as a whole wanted to believe them. Perhaps it was because belief would be verification that the Germans were barbarians, and give additional proof that our entry into the war was justified. The French had used the stories of German brutality in the August 1914, invasion of Belgium and northern France with telling effect. The British had capitalized on the stories by attaching the name of Lord (later Viscount) Bryce to a famous report on German atrocities. But there had been counter stories from newspaper correspondents and others who had tried unsuccessfully to track these stories home, and had concluded that they were nothing more than fabrications of the French and British propaganda bureaus. However the stories had given vicarious pleasure to the sadistically minded of this country, and the editors cried for more. Those who had opposed our entry into the war had refused to accept the atrocity stories, and the Washington officials had been extremely reluctant even under great pressure to issue them under their own stamp. Well authenticated accounts of the Huns cutting off the breasts of women, bashing in the heads of babies, raping women and girls, etc., would be worth a gold mine in arousing an overwhelming war psychology. Impatient at the lackadasial actions of the government propaganda agency in this matter, the Oklahoma Council passed a resolution calling upon the State Department to publish from its records an official account of German atrocities. The council also circularized other state councils to take similar action. The circular letter stated that the Oklahoma Council had been hampered by its



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inability to "obtain authoritative statements of German atrocities. . " This information it considered "vitally necessary because . . very few people yet understand the real nature of the enemy and the real danger to America."30.

Such a wonderful opportunity had not been overlooked by the Committee on Public Information, but obtaining reliable accounts was something else. The CPI went as far as it could in some of its early pamphlets, such as German War Practices, and German Treatment of Conquered Territory. These of course gave such a picture of the German system as to make belief in personal atrocities somewhat easier. In addition the CPI sometimes replied to inquiries by stating that the Prussian system was the greatest atrocity of all. This was a clever use of the technique of association. Undoubtedly aware that the stories in current circulation were probably false, and being unwilling to risk the success of their work by issuing matter which might be disproved, the CPI did not issue outright atrocity stories. Instead, by referring inquirers to the French and British propaganda offices where they could obtain the publications, by quoting rather vague statements by Americans of the terrible things they had seen (usually too terrible to describe), and by approving allusions to the French and British compilations they accomplished something of the same result as if they had circulated the stories, even if their works did not satisfy the more vigorous Hun haters. Furthermore President Wilson was severely opposed to teaching doctrines of hate. He kept a close check on the Committee on Public Information, and called to account some officials who proposed to start another propaganda agency. The Food Administration was to some extent an exception. It had its own propaganda bureau, and its speakers went further perhaps, than any other government officials in the use of atrocity stories. Neither the CPI nor the State Councils Section was disposed to deny the atrocity stories, however, and their replies to requests for information were masterpieces of evasiveness. For example, in a reply to the request of the Arkansas Council for a statement as to whether it should support the move made by the Oklahoma Council, the Chief of the State Councils Section wrote:

The general matter of furnishing information to the State Councils and to the country generally on the causes and magnitude of the war, and what must be done by every American for its successful prosecution, is receiving the earnest attention of the Council for we believe it to be of great importance. In this connection the resolution of the Oklahoma State Council will be considered.31

The Committee on Public Information evaded the question in similar fashion. The Director of the Division of Civic and Educa-





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tional Cooperation, which had charge of compiling the pamphlets, wrote Aydelotte:

A recent resolution of your council concerning the publication and distribution of the official account of German war practices has been referred to the Committee on Public Information. You will be glad to know that we have in publication several pamphlets which bring out their plan of conquest and their military theory and practice. This should be ready in a few weeks.32

Though this was not what the resolution called for, presumably the Oklahoma Council had to be satisfied.

Persuasion through propaganda is only one of the two general approaches used to bring people to support or oppose a given idea or movement. The other is coercion, either through force and violence or by the use of pressures of various kinds. When people become greatly excited or emotionally aroused it is relatively easy to use coercion effectively. In other words, the greater the success of the propaganda, the more likely the exercise of coercion. In the history of this country tolerance has been a matter of compromise because of division, rather than a thing of the spirit. When fundamental differences of opinion on important questions which arouse the emotions are eliminated, tolerance toward small minorities is likely to disappear. The appeal to force and use of moral and economic pressures has never been far beneath the surface in American life. This tendency toward direct action is probably more quickly manifested in regions which are closest to the frontier conditions where vigilanteism so recently was a respected method for improving society. During the war years there was a strong disposition to coerce people into silence if they questioned the war or government policies, and to compel individuals to subscribe to Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps, and contribute to various gift campaigns, all in amounts fixed by local committees. It appears that these tendencies were much more pronounced in the Middle West and Rocky Mountain states. Probably one reason for this is the fact that more people there were more lukewarm in their support of the war, and more were farmers who were not so susceptible to propaganda and who could not be intimidated by more invisible pressures so easily as industrial workers in the northern and eastern cities. Whatever the reason the greatest open intolerance, and even violence, was manifested in the part of the country lying roughly west of the line of the Mississippi. At the same time that tremendous appeals were being made for national unity, coercive tactics did much to defeat the ends sought, for they left bitterness and ill-feeling where propaganda and persuasion would have accomplished the same purposes in most cases, without leaving a trail of bad blood behind.

In all funds drives quotas were fixed for states, counties, municipalities, rural districts, and ultimately for the individuals. Though



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the quotas were generally allocated by some rule of thumb method, particularly for the individual, the system put committees and councils of defense under considerable pressure to raise the amount for fear of having the loyalty of the community questioned. Local committees often simply decreed what the individual should do. For example, a citizen of Nardin, Oklahoma wrote the Council of National Defense that the people of his district were dissatisfied with the way the United War Work campaign just concluded had been carried on. He continued:

Have the Committees the right to demand a certain amount of money regardless of what you wish to give and threaten to arrest you etc. if you do not give what they say.

I have bought bonds and stamps to the amount of $600 and my property valuation about $7000.00.

I offered $10.00 to the last drive and they would not accept less than $20.00 and threaten to arrest me.

Have they the right to proceed that way?

The National Council referred the letter to the Oklahoma Council, with what result is not known.

Often the county or local council was not actually a participant, or at least an active party, in applying illegal or extra-legal measures, but under the organization which existed in Oklahoma these bodies could have regulated the activities of the particular committees which drew complaints. An individual from Catesby complained to the National Council of the tactics used by the local War Savings Committee. The stamp division of the Treasury Department opposed coercion, but it had no means of controlling the local committees. The Catesby letter was also referred to the Oklahoma Council. Westfall in commenting on it admitted that there had been considerable trouble in Oklahoma over the War Savings pledges because definite quotas were given to school districts, and then local committees made assessments on individuals to meet these quotas. "Of course those in charge of the local organization were often over zealous and often made statements that should not have been made and could not be backed up." The evils of the method were accentuated by the extreme drought which had left many of the farmers with "75% more pledges hanging over them than they can pay." He concluded:

Of course you know that in every community there are always some people who understand just one method of appeal, that is, they MUST do their part.33

Community pressure was exerted with great force and by unique methods. The Daily Oklahoman, in describing the plans of the war loan committee of Oklahoma City for the First Liberty Loan, headlined the story as follows:



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BUY BONDS LEST SLACKER WAGON WILL GET YOU

and sub-heads stated "Tidal Wave of Patriotism Arouse City's Business Men to Action. Employees Must Buy or Quit Their Jobs. Emotion Touches Hearts of Men Gathered to Plan Fund Campaign." The story then explains that the committee had agreed that those who did not take the amount of bonds they were able to buy would be "subpoenaed" by a "strong arm" committee, placed in the "slacker wagon," and hauled to the Chamber of Commerce where the war loan executives would be in continuous session to receive them.34a The next day headlines in the same paper stated that "Bond Sales Must Increase or City Pass for Slacker," and "Determined Methods to be Used to Compel Quota to be Taken." Though the committee continued to threaten to give rides in the "slacker wagon" the press fails to record any instances of its use. Perhaps the threat was sufficient, for the city did raise its quota. The Cleveland County Council announced that those who were slow in doing their duty were going to be brought to time. And for the War Stamp drive they erected a "slacker pen" on the main street, and stated that those who failed to "do their duty" would be thrown in it and held until they made up their minds to do what they were asked to do.34 The exemption board of Alfalfa County laid down the dictum that the young men who had been exempted from the draft in order to grow crops should either "Buy a Bond or Fight." The board, it was stated, had been forced to call in many young farmers and asked them to explain why they had not bought bonds. When the choice was put to them, every one bought bonds. The success of the various methods used in the county is attested by the fact that with a county quota of $297,000, subscriptions totalling $650,000 were secured.35

Somewhat like the "Great Fear" which swept over Paris in the Revolution was the great fright in much of the United States during the war that disloyalty, sedition and spies were threatening the country on every hand. The State and many local Councils were very active in arousing the people to be on constant watch for disloyal and seditious persons and acts. Since the State Council did not define "disloyalty," however, each person or committee was elected to use the accusation against whomsoever in their opinion fell within the category. This was a rather important omission, since in time of war even legitimate criticism of government may







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be regarded by super-patriots as acts of sedition. A loyalty pledge was widely circulated through the councils and schools. Though the pledge itself contained nothing that any loyal American could object to, the campaign naturally served to arouse greater fear and produce an atmosphere where intolerance was likely to arise against innocent persons. The pledge read as follows:

I recognize the danger that arises from the slacker who opposes the country. I realize that every breeder of sedition is as great a menace to our homes and our freedom as are our armed enemies across the sea. I therefore pledge myself to report to the chairman of my school district council of defense or to my county defense chairman any disloyal act or utterance that I may at any time know of. I will stamp out the enemies at home whose every act or word means more American graves in France.36

The anti-sedition campaign was pushed actively. A news release of February 6, stated that:

The message of patriotism and the nation's needs will be carried into thousands of school districts in Oklahoma as the result of the general response to the call of county councils of defense for district representatives to meet in convention at the various county seats on February 1.

A campaign of rigid law enforcement against sedition has been launched by the Oklahoma State Council of Defense which has created and will maintain throughout the war a "Loyalty Bureau." With thousands of signers of loyalty pledges in the school districts of Oklahoma and the admonition of the State Council of Defense to report to it every act or word of disloyalty in Oklahoma, the necessity for such a bureau was felt. The names of disloyal persons, the charges supported, where possible by two affidavits, should be reported to the Loyalty Bureau. . .37

Mr. G. B. Parker, editor of the Oklahoma News, was placed in charge of the Loyalty Bureau, and the plan called for the appointment of a "loyalty chairman" in every county in the state. "The object is to seek out systematically disloyal people, educate those who are ignorant and jail those who are persistently disloyal." Upon the chairman was imposed the duty of carrying out "a systematic campaign to get cities to pass ordinances" and to "work through the Speakers Bureau for the education of those people who have not yet been reached."38







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Even though Oklahoma had a small foreign born population, few war industries of importance, and was far removed from the center of the war, yet its authorities were more fearful of seditious activities than those of some of the Eastern states. Probably one reason for this was the fear of the I. W. W. activities, particularly in the oil fields.39 The Tulsa County Council of Defense, which was described as "the most active" county council in the state,40 was especially energetic in investigating and prosecuting cases deemed seditious, and in effecting a secret organization throughout the county to watch disloyal persons. "They have worked with other organizations to develop a really effective plan."41 A mob of vigilantees who styled themselves "Knights of Liberty took seventeen alleged I. W. W.'s from the custody of the Tulsa police, beat them, drove hot tar into the wounds, covered them with feathers and drove them from the city. This occurred on November 9, 1917.42

Upon what evidence we do not know, but in the spring of 1918 the State Council became convinced that a widespread, well-organized and "flagrant" campaign of German propaganda was being promoted in the state. At the monthly meeting in March, it announced that local patriotic organizations must take immediate measures to smash the movement. A resolution was adopted calling








42See Tulsa World, Nov. 10, 1917, and Daily Oklahoman, same date; also report made by John B. Meserve, "I. W. W. and pro-German Activities in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Surrounding Territory Coming to the Attention of the Tulsa County Council of Defense." CND. The report and Meserve's letter accompanying it, dated Jan. 17, 1918, shows strong emphasis by the Tulsa County Council on investigative work. He complained that though the council employed two investigators, they were not able to keep up with the work, and urged that the Council of National Defense impress upon the Department of Justice the necessity of providing an assistant to the local representative of the department. The uneasiness regarding the activities of the I. W. W. was not confined to Oklahoma nor to the oil fields. Trouble occurred in mining towns, logging camps, etc, Federal officials were alert to the possibilities of danger from this source, and it was at their request that Meserve sent a copy of his report to Washington.

In accordance with its policy of "let no guilty man escape" the Tulsa Council investigated a wide range of cases, many of which were offenses covered by no law, state or federal. The list includes Liberty Bond "slackers," questionable corporations, exchanging stock in unreliable concerns for Liberty Bonds, and of men evading their duties (whatever that may mean). A partial list of the docket disposed of includes the following: 84 cases of disloyalty (several of those investigated were sent to the insane asylum); 18 deserters, 24 applications for Red Cross; 81 cases of failure to register under the draft; 4 men in the draft for failure to support their families; 20 Liberty Bond "slackers" ("These were made to see the light."); 13 cases of defrauding soldiers' families; and 17 questionable stock corporations which had the sale of their stock stopped. A total of 319 cases were made in which full reports were filed, while many petty cases were investigated but no record made. Tulsa County in the World War, compiled by William T. Lampe. An authorized history, published by the Tulsa County Historical Society, Tulsa, 1919.

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upon the county councils to deal with sedition locally. The Council believed that the federal laws were not sufficient to cope with the situation and again called upon all cities and towns to enact anti-sedition ordinances.43 At the same time the Oklahoma County Council was stirred to fearful activity against seditious persons. John R. Boardman, chairman of the county council's investigative committee, (his committee was popularly known as the "strong-arm squad") announced that a great drive would begin on June 1 against German propaganda. This drive, he said, was the result of investigations of several cases reported of pro-German meetings and disloyal conversations. Boardman stated flatly that "Nothing but the English language was going to be spoken in this county until the war is over." He declared that teams of loyal citizens, endowed with authority to ask as many questions as they pleased and to find out what they pleased, would start out in a systematic crusade to stamp out every particle of German propaganda.44

The state of mind reflected in the above mentioned activities could easily lead to violence against suspected persons. And in many communities such violence did occur. The office of a dentist in Oklahoma City was wrecked. Windows of tradesmen in Collinsville were broken and the life of one man threatened by a mob. At Shattuck the local council compelled one man to kiss the flag and swear allegiance. At Bessie, a farmer was taken from his bed at three o'clock in the morning and given a coating of tar, presumably for protesting against the action of a self-appointed committee which had refused to allow John A. Simpson of the Farmers' Union to speak. It had been rumored that the latter was disloyal. A mob at Elk City took the Socialist lecturer, William Madison Hicks, from the police, coated him with tar and feathers and ordered him to leave the country. The greatest outbreak of all in Tulsa has been mentioned previously. There were perhaps other instances of no less reprehensible actions, but apparently most cases were settled by more peaceable pressure methods. Governor Williams, in discussing the famous Praeger lynching in Illinois, half-way condoned the actions of the mobs in Oklahoma, at the same time insisting that the law must be respected. "Patriotic ardor must not be allowed to become a license for lawlessness," he said. However, the law had not been inclusive enough to handle effectively many enemies, and consequently the efforts of the loyalists should not be condemned too severely. But where drastic action was necessary, it should be left to the county councils.45







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Until records of investigations made by the Department of Justice and by semi-official and private bodies become available for study of the exact nature of the evidence against those who were often classed as disloyal, but against whom no legal charges were ever brought, it will be impossible to know just how much disloyalty did exist in Oklahoma and the nation during the war. In the heat of war time a mere charge that a certain person is disloyal is of itself no major worth in evaluating the question. Too many charges were spread by rumor, too many generalizations were made that pro-German activities were rampant. Many of those suspected were undoubtedly not Pro-German, but by the standards of the extremists they were not pro-American. Evidence available indicates that there was little actual sedition and relatively little actual sympathy for the enemy which was expressed in tangible form. Political, economic and social views were at the bottom of most of the trouble. An emotionally aroused populace, however, made little distinction between acts committed to aid the enemy and those committed to further unpopular views which had been held long before war was declared. In the popular view all were equally seditious. Federal officials frowned upon the threats and agitation of the super-patriots as likely to encourage lawlessness and mob violence, but few of them had the courage to denounce such actions; their views lie buried in confidential correspondence and inter-office memoranda.46

As a central point to which all sorts of complaints could be brought, no matter how petty they might be, if they represented the views of patriots, the state councils were unexcelled. Hundreds of these reports ultimately found their way into the files of the Council of National Defense, either directly from the complainants or by being referred from state councils. For example, one Oklahoman complained about an advertisement for Fatima cigarettes, one of the popular brands of the time, in which was reproduced a facsimile of one side of the regular wrapper. Though the Turkish star and crescent was the most conspicuous feature, he was particularly incensed at what he took to be a German cross on the picture.47 The National Council apparently ignored this complaint, but not so another one from Oklahoma, which brought about an extensive investigation. The Oklahoma County Council complained of a Jersey City manufacturer who sold bags of candy, in which was a premium consisting of a little ribbon with a pin to fasten it to the clothes, and from which hung a crude replica (apparently) of the





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German Iron Cross. The complaint and exhibit the Oklahoma Council sent to Washington with the injunction that "It seems to us that a practice of this kind should not be permitted." The National Council referred the matter to the Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice and asked them to give it prompt attention, "as we feel that this is a procedure which is entirely detrimental to the public welfare." They also requested the New Jersey Council of Defense to investigate. The two agencies failed to locate any disloyalists. Instead they found that the offender was a little manufacturer who had an assortment of premiums of various nations on hand, and that he sometimes used one then another as bait, but no evidence of disloyalty.48

The Oklahoma Council, as did those of most of the states, cooperated in organizing the state for the American Protective League, an organization which claimed a membership of 250,000 watchers for disloyalty, and which had the approval of the Department of Justice. Though not generally known at the time, the League worked through the National Council, and through it the state councils, particularly in the selection of its personnel.49

Oklahoma was one of the more radical states in attempting to eliminate the use of the German language from the schools and public places. The Oklahoma Council approved of the campaign against the language as part of its general campaign against disloyalty, but to what extent it initiated the movement is not clear. Use of the language aroused anger in many communities and it was partly for this reason that many officials favored abandonment of its use. In its final report the State Council stated:

The elimination of the German language also had a hearty effect in many, many communities where loyal citizens in some instances would probably have resorted to mob violence had not the Germans ceased to speak the German language in their churches and meetings.50

Though the State Council was obsessed with the sedition mania and through its agitation stimulated lawless acts by extremists, on the whole it showed restraint in dealing with the problems of disloyalty. It claimed that it "always attempted, usually succeeding, to educate the people to the right attitude rather than to prosecute or ostracize them among their neighbors." This was, of course, in accord with the policy of the Wilson administration, but some of the local communities were less tolerant.

In some other respects the State Council resorted to more direct action. Oklahoma went to greater extremes than any other state in prohibiting traveling shows from exhibiting. Fearing this was part of a general movement sweeping over the country to bar them as non-essential industries, the shows poured protests and pleas for







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their protection into the offices of the Council of National Defense and the Committee on Public Information.51

In its final report the State Council summed up the situation thus:

Many county councils of defense called for help in eliminating the traveling tent shows of the poorer class. They argued that the shows were a real detriment to the community, and in addition they took out a large amount of money for which [they] returned nothing. An order from the State Council and a short publicity campaign caused this class of people to pass by the State of Oklahoma, leaving the money to go into War Savings Stamps and other war campaigns.52

The report might have added that where other means failed force was used. After he had ignored a warning by the Mayes County council not to show in the county, the manager of one show was arrested by the chairman of the county council and the sheriff, and the State Council approved the action.53

Falling within the same category as the above, so far as legal power is concerned, were the activities of the county councils in restricting bond salesmen and forcing men into war time jobs. From Stephens County came the report that the chairman of the county council was going to make it his duty to determine if securities offered for sale in the county were necessary to the conduct of the war, and where he found they were not, the salesmen would either find other jobs or be asked to leave the county. He was quoted as saying that until the legislature enacts a law that will weed out unnecessary and unreliable corporations, which it surely will do at its next session, it is the duty of patriotic men of Oklahoma to defend their neighbors against misguidance.54









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As the war progressed, the induction of men into the army and the demands of war production created a labor shortage which became serious in many sections of the country. Like so many other aspects of human behavior, it was no longer a matter of individual choice as to whether a man should work or remain idle. Despite any constitutional objections that forced labor, except in punishment for crimes, was slavery the people could not regard idleness with equanimity when they thought their national existence was at stake, and when young men were being drafted into the army where they might be forced to give their lives. In a few states, as West Virginia and Maryland, state vagrancy laws were passed. The Arkansas State Council urged municipalities to enact ordinances which would in effect outlaw idleness. Following General Crowder's "Work or Fight Order," which decreed that those who were not usefully employed would have their deferred classification cancelled and be inducted into the army immediately, the states cooperated in enforcing the order; and also acted to end idleness of men not of military age. On October 10, 1918, the Oklahoma Council ordered the county councils to take immediate action to round up loafers to fill quotas of men needed in munition plants. They were instructed to get in touch with community labor boards and get the men. Loafers of draft age who refused to comply with the work order were to be taken before the draft boards and certified for military service. Others should have vagrancy orders filed against them. Every unemployed man who was able to work was to be forced to useful employment regardless of his financial status.55

Next to the war itself, one of our greatest tragedies, perhaps, was the disintegration of the great war machinery at the end of hostilities. When real reconstruction was needed, the organizations through which it might have been accomplished had disappeared. The way the war machine crumbled after the Armistice was signed has been compared to the dispersion of a football crowd after a game. And the simile is a very apt one. Reaction set in immediately. Those who had felt uplifted by the call of national service suddenly suffered a great nostalgia for home. Clerks on the job one day simply failed to appear for work the next, often leaving without even so much as cleaning off their desks. Where organization and unity of purpose had been the accepted goal and method, now the individual reverted to his own. Though it can remain only a conjecture, it is interesting to speculate upon what might have been done to prevent the great failure of the 1920's if the war machinery which had been constructed to maintain public opinion and public morale had been kept functioning during the post-war years. If the Committee on Public Information could have been continued with a sensible propaganda to guide those who in their



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confusion were seeking guidance, aided by the National State Councils System which covered the United States like a web to act as a clearing house, certainly policies of reconstruction, had there been any could have been transmitted quickly to every individual to counteract the narrow reaction which swept the country.

The Field Division of the National Council (the State Councils Section had been absorbed into this division in a reorganization effected in October, 1918) had been studying the effects of the coming of peace for some time before the Armistice brought fighting to an end. Immediately after hostilities ceased the Division officials began attempts to hold the council system together. For some months a semblance of organization was maintained, but in most states the organization consisted of little more than an understaffed office force to handle the mail. Oklahoma was appealed to keep together its community council organization, particularly, in order to care for returning soldiers and sailors, keep the counties alert to the detection of deserters, and to supervise the solicitation of funds for post-war relief so as to protect the public from spurious organizations.56 It appeared, however, that the Oklahoma Council believed that it had been created to do war work only and wanted to disband.57 A change in the state administration may possibly have contributed to the disbanding of state and county organizations. Governor J. B. A. Robertson succeeded Governor Williams on January 13, 1919. In the absence of the official records the exact facts relating to the winding up of the Council's affairs remain somewhat obscure. The press seems to have given no attention to the matter. It appears that two days after his inauguration, Governor Robertson ordered the state and local councils to disband. The handling of post-war work was to be left to whatever local organizations would assume the responsibilities. The new governor seems to have favored the creation of a new statutory agency which would resemble more state and county welfare boards.58

In summary it may be said that certain conclusions may be expressed rather hesitantly, because evidence admittedly is not complete. That the State Council attempted to carry out most of the plans and policies and suggestions submitted to it by the National Council seems certain. That it furnished wise and aggressive leadership of its own initiative, which the county and community councils







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followed, is less certain. Perhaps in the more rural counties, local councils looked to the state body for guidance. In others, such as Tulsa, where an aggressive leadership was in control, the State Council passed on suggestions received from Washington, and perhaps aided in correlating national programs into a state campaign, but hardly provided the leadership. Until more evidence to the contrary is produced, the belief must stand that much of the scare that widespread disloyalty and sedition existed was due to fear and the excited state of public opinion. This condition was exaggerated by extremists, who in time of excitement are likely to achieve positions of importance. At the same time those who are less extreme in their views, but probably just as patriotic, are silenced by fear of being charged with disloyalty if they oppose the extremists. On the one hand the State Council did seek to restrain the more extreme elements, thus following the policies emanating from Washington; but on the other hand, through embracing the spy mania, publicizing the need for alertness in reporting seditious utterances, and circulating loyalty pledges with all the implications contained therein, it contributed to the state of mind which made intolerance and lawless coercion arise. It seems a truism that democracy can last only when the people follow the rule of law. Danger arises when small groups, whether they be official or private, take the law into their own hands, and, even though the motives may be considered worthy, dictate to individuals what ideas, and even property rights, they may have. To quote an inscription on the Department of Justice Building in Washington: "Where law ends tyranny begins." Yet in numerous cases, county and local councils, and in fewer instances the State Council, admittedly acted to control matters not covered by law, justifying themselves on the grounds of national needs and patriotism. The experiences of the last war may prove helpful in the present World War.

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