5. The German Farmer's Debt to the United States
There are literally thousands of small German colonies in different parts of this country. In one far distant State is a community settled by about two hundred German families, who took up the land immediately after the Civil War.
By some good fortune they settled in what is now one of the very richest sections in the United States. Land that they bought for $1.25 an acre is now worth $250 an acre. In that community there are two German churches.
Both pastors came from Germany, both were educated in German colleges, both read German newspapers and both insist upon carrying on a colloquial German school, with German teachers, German text-books and German standards.
Little pressure was brought to bear upon these farmers during the First Liberty Loan. By many devices they succeeded in getting their boys away before the draft registration. While it was never proved technically that they had all pledged themselves not to oppose Germany, morally this is known to be the fact.
October of 1917 came and the Second Liberty Loan was on. One day all these farmers received a printed card, saying there would be a meeting on Monday night, in connection with the Second Liberty Loan. "I find you made no subscription whatsoever to the First Liberty Loan. There are reasons why I think it best for me to advise you to attend this meeting."
Every German farmer read that card several times. Who was this stranger who was coming into the community? Was he a Secret Service man? How did he find out that there had been a secret meeting of the Germans immediately after war had been declared against Germany? Each farmer began to ask himself: "Has any one quoted me?" Each one decided to attend that meeting.
The meeting began at precisely seven o'clock. Only one man who had received the notice was absent, and his son brought a message concerning his father's absence. The stranger arose in his place, but left it uncertain as to whether he was a Secret Service man, a banker or a patriot interested in his country. He began with substantially these words:
"Men, you are all German-Americans. I find that not one of you subscribed to the First Liberty Loan. You came to this country poor men. This Government sold you Government land for from a dollar and a quarter to two dollars and a half an acre. But you seem to have forgotten one thing. Your title deed to your farm rests upon your loyalty as citizens of the Republic. Whenever you refuse to support the people of the Republic you have by your own act annulled the title deed of your land.
"If you refuse to support your Government in this war, you are a traitor, and when this is proved you will be shot. If secretly you have been sending money to the Kaiser to buy guns with which to kill American boys you have forfeited the title deed to your farm. Your property has become again the possession of the Government and people of the United States."
By this time these farmers had their mouths open, and their faces became tense and alarmed. When his words had had time to sink in, the stranger went on: "I have here a statement as to the number of acres in each farm owned by each man in this room. The first man's name is Heinrich ——; you own 320 acres of land. It is worth at least $75,000. There is no mortgage on this farm. Heinrich, I think you had better buy $2,500 worth of Liberty Bonds. I am simply advising with you as a friend. I have made out an application for you, and all you have to do is to sign it.
"My advice to every one of you is that you buy from three to five per cent, of the value of your farm. I want to say incidentally that I trust that there will never again be held a secret meeting of the Germans in this room to discuss the best way to avoid supporting the United States Government in this war against Germany, and how you can best help the Kaiser."
That little sentence worked like magic. Every farmer in the room rose to his feet in his anxiety to rush forward to the table. Men literally struggled to see who should sign up first. Their enthusiasm for the United States Government was as boundless as it was sudden in its manifestation.
Remember that there were only two hundred farmers in the room. And yet there are the best of reasons for believing that the men in that room bought that night nearly $200,000 worth of Liberty Bonds.
6. "Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" Is an Ungrateful Immigrant
One of the things that no patriot can ever understand is the ingratitude of the Germans who fled from the Fatherland to escape German militarism and autocracy.
Lecturing in a Western State, I met a banker who had returned from a schoolhouse in a rural district where he had been talking about the Liberty Bonds to a German audience. One old German refused to attend this meeting. He was very bitter in his attacks upon our Government. He had made no subscription to the first two Liberty Loans; he had refused to help in the campaign for the Red Cross Fund; he insisted that he paid his taxes and that was all that the Government had any right to demand from him.
He went one step further: The old man said that he had not read a single American newspaper since the war began, and that nothing but a German newspaper should cross his threshold until the war ended. Not until that banker descended upon this pro-German with the indignation of an outraged patriot did the rich old farmer capitulate.
The story of that German is typical. He came to this country about 1859. When the homestead act was passed he received from the United States one hundred and sixty acres of land in the very centre of one of the richest States in this Union, and his one hundred and sixty acre farm is now worth about $100,000.
When he ran away from Germany he was receiving twenty cents a day. He rose at daybreak, cleaned stables, milked cows, toiled in the field, began his milking after dark, worked sixteen hours a day, had nothing to eat except what could not be sold by his employer. He was a German plebeian, with no chance ever to improve his condition. He was ignorant, stupid, a mere beast of burden.
So the German boy slipped across the line into Holland, came steerage to this country, slept among the rats of the ship, but the people of the United States welcomed that miserable refugee. The American school, without any charge, gave him four months' instruction every winter until he was twenty. The American people gave him a farm as a free gift. This Republic educated his children, his grandchildren and enriched them with land, office, honours and wealth. Once he hated autocracy and militarism in the Fatherland—but in 1918 he loved them.
No sooner did the Kaiser invade Belgium and commit rape upon that land than this German farmer passed through a revulsion. Whatever the Kaiser did was right. If Germany did a thing it was proper. Germany had a right to break her solemn treaties; Germany had a right to sink the Lusitania; if Germany was out of iron ore she had a right to invade France and steal her iron mines. What had been crimes suddenly became virtues.
Fleeing from the German tyrant in 1859, in 1918 the old farmer turned upon the United States that had befriended him.
"If I have to make my choice, I choose the Kaiser."
Mentally, it seems absurd. Morally, his was a monstrous position. But blood was thicker than water. Gratitude had no place in his heart.
This old German regarded the gift of his farm by our people as a sign of weakness. The Republic gave him a homestead because he was a superior man. He actually had a belief that Germany would soon overrun the world; that the Kaiser would soon be enthroned in Washington; that some German in Iowa would supersede the Government in Des Moines, and he was simply getting ready, having made friends with the Kaiser's Government, to receive reward when the United States became a German colony.
Who can explain the obsession?
It is clear that the German-Americans had been drilled for forty years through their German newspapers in these ideas. Little by little they have been alienated from the institutions of the Republic. Slowly they have been led to believe that Berlin is soon to be a world capital and Kaiser Wilhelm the world emperor, while only Germans shall be allowed in this country to hold office or land, while all Americans become tenants and servitors thereto.
Plainly this is what Siebert meant in his book, published five years ago in Berlin:
"When we have reached our goal Germany must see to it that no race save the German race can have a title deed in land or carry weapons, just as in the first world empire no one but a Roman was allowed to own land or have a sword or spear."
7. In Praise of Our Secret Service
Of necessity our Secret Service work is carried on in silence and without blare of trumpets. The achievements of the Department of Justice cannot be proclaimed from the housetops. Everybody knows something about the crimes committed by the German agents. These spies, loyal with their lips, have in their hearts plotted innumerable crimes against our Government. They have dynamited our factories and warehouses; they have burned shops and planted bombs on ships; they have thrown trains from the track; they have poisoned the horses and mules upon the transports en route to France; they have fouled the springs of knowledge through their hired reporters; with all the cunning developed by long practice, they have spread their insidious and perilous influences into the remotest regions of the land. But over against these spies and secret agents have stood the United States Secret Service men, and with everything in favour of the German plotter, our defenders have beaten the German at his own game.
War was declared against Germany on April 6, 1917. One Sunday night two or three weeks later a large company of German-Americans belonging to the secret German league met in their accustomed place of assembly. There were several hundred Germans present, but among them were three Secret Service men. The German lawyer who opened the meeting was very bitter. Having made certain that only German sympathizers were present, he went on to say that the occasion of this war could be traced to Wall Street. Certain rich bankers and American plutocrats had loaned perhaps a billion dollars to England. Since the war was going against England, these rich men were afraid that they would lose their investment. In their emergency they forced war upon Congress. The speech was clever, specious, cunning, shrewdly calculated to stir up passion. And the speech was applauded to the echo. The second speaker made a no less skillful appeal to the prejudices of the members of the secret German-American league. Since the war was a money war, originated by Wall Street, the Government could be defeated as to its plans only by money. Therefore, every member of the league must make his contribution; no one present but must give at least ten dollars. And, he added, in view of the fact that it was Sunday night and that some might be without money, and since no checks could be accepted, there were several German bankers present, who would be glad to advance money to the members who wished to make cash contributions. The Germans had provided in advance against every possible emergency.
Then came the opportunity for the Secret Service men. The first one arose and began with an apology for a German brogue that in reality he was assuming. He spared no words in praising the first two speakers. "What a wonderful man was the Kaiser! What victories von Hindenburg had achieved! The Fatherland was standing with back against the wall. How wicked a nation was France, and Poland! What a black heart England had!" He pictured Germany as a lamb with fleece as white as snow, and a huge Belgian wolf jumping at the lamb's tender throat. "What an ambitious man was President Wilson. How eagerly had Congress waited until Germany was weak, and then rushed in to grab the fruits of war!" When this man sat down his hearers were in a state of rapturous upheaval. But scarcely had his voice ceased echoing in the air when the second Secret Service man arose. Having complimented the first two speeches by the German plotters, he said that he thought he represented the members in expressing the judgment that the third speaker had made a speech that was unrivalled in its statement as to the duty of the members toward the Kaiser and the beloved Fatherland. The second Secret Service man, therefore, moved that it be the sense of the meeting that the member who had just spoken be made secretary of the meeting, be custodian of the funds just contributed. In five minutes he had all the secrets of the meeting safely lodged in the hands of the first Secret Service man. At this point the third representative of the Government arose and nominated the second Secret Service speaker, who had just taken his seat, as teller to count the funds, and in recognition of this man's gifts the teller immediately afterwards appointed the third Secret Service man assistant teller. During the next three hours, in the secrecy of their own meeting, over twenty prosperous and influential Germans committed themselves against this Government.
About midnight the secretary and the two tellers turned over to the two Germans who had made the two big speeches at the opening of the meeting the entire collection, which amounted to thousands of dollars. But at half-past twelve, as these two Germans were entering their hotel, four Secret Service men tapped them on the shoulder and promptly relieved them of the aforementioned thousands. One of these men is now working out his sentence in a Southern penitentiary and the other in a Western penitentiary. Their sentences were for twenty-eight years. The other men who defended Germany and attacked the United States are serving terms—some long and some short. It is a proverb that the wicked flee when no man pursueth. But Dr. Parkhurst coined a striking sentence when he added: "The wicked man makes better time in fleeing when the righteous Secret Service man pursues him with a sharp stick."
Printed in the United States of America
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Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.