The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.
A. Fick of Gaylord, MN Opposes the War
Despite his well-established support of the war, Senator Knute Nelson received numerous letters from constituents urging him to change his position. In one of these letters, A. Fick of Gaylord, Minnesota included a variety of arguments against American participation in the First World War. He referenced the war’s lack of popularity, England’s breaches of the laws and customs of war, the innocence of most German soldiers, and the immorality of forcing a nation to adopt a democratic system. Yet Fick’s most developed argument concerned the war’s disproportionate benefit for wealthy Americans. He argued that the United States’ decision to enter the war had been motivated primarily by American millionaires’ financial losses due to German submarine warfare. According to Fick, the war represented a campaign for the rich to grow ever richer. In his letter, Fick expresses admiration for Robert La Follette, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who had proposed an anti-war resolution earlier in August 1917. Fick encouraged Senator Nelson to support this resolution, as “everybody everywhere [was] clamoring for peace.”
Gaylord, Minn., August 30, 1917.
Mr. Knute Nelson,
U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
I am taking the liberty to write you concerning the question nearest every American heart, the question of peace and war. In every hamlet, in every village, in every city, the people are overwhelmingly opposed to the war we are waging. They all agree that it is the most unjust of wars. They say we can not be fighting for our rights when we do no slso [sic] declare war on England who first violated our rights. England was the first who violated international law. She spread explosive mines all over the North Sea up to Iceland as early as November, 1914, and sand [sic] three American ships with loss of life, the Greenbriar, the Evylin, and the Carib. [...] And is it fighting for democracy when we by the point of the bayonet impose a government upon aforeign people they do not want. Let us look out for our own democracy first. President Wilson's statement that we are fighting the government and not the people is absurd. Who does our cannon fire rake down? The Kaiser or the people? Everybody knows and agrees that this war was caused by greed. The German submarines knocked the bottom out of the American millionaires' immoral profits. Now the country is torn assunder, now the people are at war so that the 2% who own 60% of our wealth may still further swell their pockets to bursting. [...] You as a Senator can do your utmost to bring abour [sic] Peace. Think of your responsibility not alone to your constituents, your country, but also to your God. [...] Accept La Follette's peace resolution. I am a civil engineer and my business takes me over much territory and in every state everybody welcomes La Follette as the hero of the day. [...] In Minnesota as well as in other states the anti-war feeling is very strong especially in Minneapolis and in St. Paul. Governor Burnquist acted unwisely when he listened to a few unAmerican citizens, unpartiotic [sic] citizens when he forbid the peoples council to hold their convention in Minnesota. [...] Of course I realize you do not get in touch with your constituents, you get your news from the papers, which are owned by the Morgan interests. They tell nothing but lies, and try their best to produce a wrong sentiment. The people do not believe the papers anymore. Take a vote or write to your constituents and you will find that 95% of them are opposed to this war, the conscription, etc. You were elected by these people, you are their servant and you are bound by oath to respect their wishes. Peace! Peace! Everywhere everybody is clamoring for Peace.
In humanity's sake,
Very truly yours,
(signed) A Fick.
Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 26