1918 October 30

Roger Baldwin, ACLU Founder, Sentenced to Prison; Delivers Famous Statement of Conscience


Roger Baldwin, then Director of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (July 4, 1917) and future director of the ACLU (January 19, 1920), was convicted of refusing to cooperate with the draft and sentenced to prison. His statement to the judge at the time of his sentencing was published as “The Individual and the State,” widely circulated in liberal circles, and established Baldwin’s reputation as a person of great integrity.

Following his release from prison, Baldwin reorganized the National Civil Liberties Bureau into the ACLU, on January 19, 1920, and served as its director until his retirement in 1950.

Baldwin to the court (excerpt):The compelling motive for refusing to comply with the draft act is my uncompromising opposition to the principle of conscription of life by the State for any purpose whatever, in time of war or peace. I not only refuse to obey the present conscription law, but I would in future refuse to obey any similar statute which attempts to direct my choice of service and ideals. I regard the principle of conscription of life as a flat contradiction of all our cherished ideals of individual freedom, democratic liberty and Christian teaching. I am the more opposed to the present act, because it is for the purpose of conducting war.”

Learn more about Baldwin: Robert Cottrell, Roger Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (2000)

Watch the documentary on Baldwin, Traveling Hopefully: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND_uY_KXGgY

Read about Baldwin’s “The Individual and the State”: http://debs.indstate.edu/i39i5_1918.pdf

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