Jonah House logo

"I have been illegally imprisoned because I refused to kill or help to kill"

Ben Salmon, U.S. War Prisoner

                                                                                                      U.S. War Prison
                                                                                                      Fort Douglas, Utah
                                                                                                      July 17, 1920

Hon. Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:
Major William 11. Gooaale, Commandant, U. S. War Prison, Port Douglas;
Captain Fred Walters, Executive Officer ,   U.S. War Prison, Port Douglas.


Far more than two years I have been illegally imprisoned because I refused to kill or help to kill. I will not at this time, however, mention legal details. Rather I will touch upon the moral phase.
First of all, I wish to inform you that I am on a hunger strike for liberty or death. I have already conveyed this information to Captain Walters verbally, with the request that he transmit the facts to each of the others addressed.
Because I am opposed to militarism — wholesale murder — you have tortured me in divers ways for twenty six months, and you now have me in the prison guard house, an unhealthful abode of solitude where one keenly feels the want of fresh air and sunshine. I have missed my meals for four days, and I will continue to starve until released by a discharge from prison or by death.
You have already indirectly murdered one man in this guard house. Last Christmas morning, prisoner Hanf's dead body was cut down from the pole beside which I am sleeping. Hanf was demented, he threatened to hang himself. He was consigned to this barred den of solitude, and a certain officer said: "Let him hang himself." And he did.
I am not demented, but I tell you that unless you relieve me from the assistance that my imprisonment gives to militarism, you will thereby cause my death from starvation, for I cannot honestly continue to support Mars as I have in the past, since I now fully realize that even the tiny bit of assistance that I was rendering in the way of accepting your food, was too much.
America is now not at war, which makes it more sinful than ever to maintain a wholesale killing machine. You are extending the scope and efficiency of the killing machine as a preparation against war, yet there is not an instance in the world's history where military preparation against war resulted in peace. War is the inevitable sequence of military preparation. "As you sow, so shall you reap," said our Lord Jesus Christ. And the greater the military preparation against war, the greater the sequential bloodshed.
Eventualities of the "War for Democracy" vindicate the Conscientious Objectors. The "War to crush Militarism" was won, but this monster is enthroned more securely than ever. America's army is now approximately three times its pre-war size, and while only 4,000 officers were feeding at the public crib in 1916, there are now more than 15,000 Americans thus disserving humanity. The "War to end War" was won almost two years ago, but today war is raging fiercely upon a considerable portion of the earth's surface, and other armed conflicts of an appalling magnitude are in process of incubation. The "War to establish Freedom For All Forever" was won, yet subject nations are more subject than ever. Super-militarism has moved its castle from Berlin to London, and since confiscating more than million square miles of new territory to prove that he fought for Democracy, our good friend Johnny Bull now proves his love for subject peoples by coercing them with the mailed fist, in Ireland alone, England is maintaining an army equal in numbers to that of the entire United States army, Of course England is doing this for Freedom's Sake.
The "War for Democracy" produced 17,000 new millionaires in America, but these good citizens suffered this influx of gold all on behald of the dear soldiers who were being paid $50 a month for spilling their blood on foreign soil.
Gentlemen, the C.0. stand is practical as well as Christian. Why not help us in place of persecuting us?
Christ's doctrine "overcome evil with good" is the most effective solvent for individual and societary ills that has ever been formulated. It is a practical policy, because Christ is God, and God is the supreme personification of practicality.
My hunger strike is not a negative program, but a positive appeal to humanity that they substitute Love for Force. If I succumb in this attempt to hold myself aloof from Militarism — organised murder — I hope that you gentlemen, who are mainly responsible for my predicament, will, with your co-murderers, make some provision for the needs of my widowed-mother, wife and ohild. whom you have thus far robbed of their breadwinner, and whom, in the event of my demise, will be prevented from obtaining the support that I could otherwise provide.
As military men, and as persecutors of Conscientious Objectors and their families, you have in deed repudiated Christianity, dealt with the United States Constitution as a mere "scrap of paper," disgraced the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and trampled under foot the most fundamental tenets of Americanism. Is it any wonder that I pray to God to give you light to see the Truth, and grace to follow it? May He forgive you for past offences!
My life, my family, everything is now in the hands of God. His will be done.
                                                                      Sincerely yours.
                                                                      (Signed) Benjamin J. Salmon


(Forwarded by Wm. Nye Doty, Sunday July 18, 1920)