1919 November 9

WWI Veterans Told to “Put Down Enemies at Home”


One year after the Armistice ending World War I, veterans were advised to “put down” the “enemies at home.” In a memorial service at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue in New York City, Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler warned of the enemies of America who use hate, anarchy and disorder” to attack American institutions. He called on the veterans to “put forth every energy” to “crush these enemies of our nation.”

Butler’s speech was characteristic of the anti-radical mood during the 1919-1920 Red Scare. The first of the two notorious Palmer Raids occurred only two days earlier, November 7, 1919 (which the Justice Department had chosen because it was the second anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia). The second and larger Palmer Raids began in January 2, 1920. In both raids, alleged radicals, and particularly members of foreign-language labor unions were arrested without warrants and in many cases held without bail and unable to contact family or friends.

As President of Columbia University, Butler had violated academic freedom by firing two faculty member because of their anti-war views in 1917 (see October 1, 1917).

Read: Christopher M. Finan, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America (2007)

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