Skip to main content
LETTERS FROM PRISON
LETTERS FROM PRISON
SOCIALISM A SPIRITUAL
Pcutor of the Church of the Social Revolution
AUTHOR OF "THE CALL OP THE CARPENTER," "THE
CARPENTER AND THE RICH MAN," ETC.
BOSTON: RICHARD G. BADGER
TORONTO: THE COPP CLARK CO., LIMITED
Copyright, 1915, by Richard G. Badger
All rights reserved
Bouck White was born in Middleburg, a village in the
Catskill Mountains, October 20, 1874. His father was a
retired merchant. On both sides he came from work-
ing class stock; his paternal grandfather was a farmer,
his maternal grandfather a blacksmith. On his father's
side he is of Scotch and English descent ; his mother, Mary
Bouck, was Holland Dutch.
It is of interest to note that the charge of alien blood
brought against so many Socialists here in America, does
not apply in Bouck White's case. He not only traces his
ancestry through a long line of New England's strain, but
on his mother's side goes back through many years of
Dutch ancestry in the valleys of the Hudson and the Mo-
hawk. Furthermore, one of his ancestors in the primeval
Catskill woods fell in love with an Indian maid and mar-
ried her. Therefore there is a strain of aboriginal stock
in him. In the person of this ancestor he is American of
the Americans. In them as his representative he stood
on Plymouth Rock and welcomed the Pilgrims; further
back still, he was on the shores of San Salvadorc and wel-
comed Columbus to these shores. This Indian strain in
his blood perhaps accounts for some of the native poetry
in his composition; a poetry not so much in the faculty
of the rhymester as in that gift of imagination which vivi-
fies whatever it touches.
The Middleburg of his birth is a town in the western
foothills of the Catskill region, a typical rural center en-
vironed with picturesque mountains and yet in a valley
so fertile that the wealth of it removed his boyhood from
the most pressing stress, and gave him educational oppor-
tunities. He was graduated from the high school in that
mountain village; and later from Harvard University at
the age of twenty-one years, being well nigh the youngest
in the class.
While in college he trained himself for a career in jour-
nalism. It is significant to bear this in mind, as indicat-
ing, back in that formative period, the natural bend of his
mind. After his graduation, following up this plan, he
became a reporter on the Springfield Republican, choosing
a paper of so high a journalistic character because of the
educational opportunities offered thereby. Nor was he
mistaken in this. He makes the remark that he counts
that year of daily journalism one of the most important
in all the years of his mental training and civic discipline.
It was while in Springfield that there came to his soul
the call to the ministry. He had previously received the
religious training found in rural districts generally, but
was without any special bias in that direction. Calls to
the ministry from an unseen Power, are supposed to be-
long to an ancient and now quite overpast day. In his
case that notion is disproved. The call that came to him
was sudden, unexpected, and of almost dramatic intensity.
It had in it, moreover, a number of features that were un-
welcome to him. There had come to him the temptation,
and from the worldly point of view, the opportunity of
his life: a successful career as a lawyer for a great cor-
poration, wealth, and with these the fulfillment of Love's
young dream, all were his for the taking. But when he
realized that this meant a service, not to protect the poor
from the injustice of the law, but to protect the great cor-
poration from paying to the poor what they would justly
receive under the law, he made his final choice, and decided
to serve his Master in the ministry. Yielding to that
inner Voice, he gave up also his career in journalism, and
took up his ministerial studies, first in Boston Theological
Seminary, and later in the Union Theological Seminary in
New York City.
In the late twenties of his life, while at the latter insti-
tution, he had a missionary field, which he tended during his
vacations, in the Ramapo Mountains back of West Point.
Here was a mountaineer community which had been for-
gotten by the tides of civilization setting in on every side.
Realizing their spiritual and social needs, he stayed with
them for more than a year after his graduation, living in
a wood chopper's cottage, in a clearing in the forest far
from railroads and quite shut in. That year of com-
parative solitude, following his life in daily journalism
and in study at Union Seminary in the heart of the me-
tropolis, deepened his life appreciably. From there he
went to the Thousand Islands, and became pastor of the
Congregational Church of the Thousand Islands at Clay-
ton, New York. The St. Lawrence River people are much
behind in the march of progress, and Bouck White, be-
cause of his exceedingly advanced ideas, quickly became
a conspicuous figure on that frontier post. He organized
the Clayton Boys' Club. It had what would be known
now as institutional features, added to his regular pas-
torate. The dwellers thereabouts were astounded to see
a bowling alley put into the basement of the church, along
with a shower bath, a printing press, a library and other
similar features. However, the people in the summer col-
ony most loyally cooperated with him, and the work be-
came a pronounced success.
After nearly four years at Clayton he returned to New
York, and took a position as head of the Men's Social
Service department in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church,
Brooklyn. Here he remained five years. These were five
years of intense mental activity, and of spiritual develop-
ment. Until this experience he had been only in long
range contact with the social problem in our great cities.
Now he saw the thing at first hand. The tenement dis-
tricts of the metropolis, with their alien hordes and their
unceasing round of privation, contrasting so sharply as
in New York, with rich, broad avenues where the moneyed
mighty live sumptuously, gave him a new slant on the so-
cial question. It quickly modernized his conception of
the task of religion in the terrific day that is upon us.
A work from his pen entitled, " The Book of Daniel
Drew," published about this time, hastened this transition
of his mind and spirit into the modern era. That book
is a freely rendered biography of Daniel Drew, the foun-
der of modern Wall Street finance. It is a study in the
psychology of that money mart, and afforded abundant
play for Bouck White's power of humor and subtle irony.
This same Daniel Drew, who made his millions by crook-
edness on the " Street," was likewise the founder of Drew
Theological Seminary, a Methodist institution in Madi-
son, New Jersey. Drew Seminary writhed under the irre-
pressible shafts of sarcasm; yes, still writhes; for the
book is a standing arraignment of a state of religion that
will use the name of perhaps the most iniquitous man the
Western hemisphere has produced ; the behest of the money
powers speaking with the note of entreaty. In order to
curry favors with mammon, the Methodists have thus far
evaded the issue presented by that book. But it is doubt-
ful if they will succeed permanently in this conspiracy of
silence, now that Bouck White and his message to the
world are entering into a prominent place in the minds of
Another book written by him during his work at Holy
Trinity was " The Call of the Carpenter." " In the ' Call
of the Carpenter,' " he states, " we address ourselves to
view Jesus of Nazareth from the viewpoint of economics;
a different viewpoint from that usually held. But we shall
be rigorously historical. This is not a work of the im-
agination; it is a piece of cool scientific history. If the
portrait of the Carpenter here unearthed differs from the
one commonly viewed, may it not be because accretions
of time have defaced the picture, blurring its aforetime
sharpness? incrustations that are now peeling off by
grace of the critical scholarship of our day, revealing
some vivid tints in the portrait. This is an attempt at a
restoration. It follows closely the ancient records, and
only attempts to retrace the picture as it was at first."
These writings, and the study that led up to them, as
well as his daily work in caring for the social debris thrown
down by the grinding of the economic machine, rapidly
brought Bouck White into the Socialist position. He
joined the movement and quickly became one of its speak-
ers. His work soon attracted the attention of the press.
He became a target for attack. The vestry of Holy Trin-
ity Church became alarmed at his uncompromising
position, and when he refused to yield to their request that
he soften his attacks upon the moneyed oligarchy, his
resignation was asked for.
Removing to New York he completed a work partly
beg;un at that time, " The Carpenter and the Rich Man."
This is a companion book to the " Call of the Carpenter,"
and carries the message of that work into the deeper teach-
ings spoken by Jesus. The earlier book is a biography
of Jesus as a working man; this is a study of his words
from the same point of view, the economic. Jesus was
as interested in bread and butter questions, labor and
capital, taxes, social revolution, as we are to-day. Bouck
White shows in vivid and absorbing fashion Jesus as the
leader of the great proletarian surge of his time. The
immorality of being rich when other people are poor, is
the keynote of this book, and the author bases it on the
message of the Carpenter as found in the parables.
Another book finished about this time was " The
Mixing; Tale of a Town that Found Itself." Published
serially in Country Life in America, it is the narrative
of the civic and social regeneration of a rural village.
The author took his native town in the Catskills as the
scene of his narration ; and pictured it fictionally as aris-
ing from a state of lethargy into a thriving and wide-
awake country district. The inhabitants however re-
sented the pictures made of them in the pages of this book,
and no little stir was caused by its publication. Indeed
so violent was the hostility against the book and its au-
thor, in his native town, that he has been warned by
friends not to return there until the excitement has had
time to settle itself.
The principal work of Bouck White, however, after his
removal to Manhattan, when Brooklyn would no longer
shelter so intense a foe of our present social system, was
the founding of the Church of the Social Revolution. Be-
ginning with a few who met to sing some Socialist songs
on Sunday afternoons in a studio on West Twelfth Street,
the Church held its first public meeting in Berkeley
Theatre, Easter Sunday, April 5th, 1914*. Deep interest
was manifested from the start. It was felt that here was
something new and of large significance in the social move-
ment of the day. The congregation grew and the in-
terest deepened, until a thriving Sunday afternoon gather-
ing was built up.
Just at this time, however, occurred the Ludlow tragedy
wherein one hundred and forty-seven of the miners and
their wives and children were shot down by the armed
gunmen of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. A Con-
gressional investigation traced the controlling ownership
of this Company to John D. Rockefeller and his son, of
the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church of New York. This
church is not far from the Berkeley Theatre. The
former represents the richest of the world; The Church
of the Revolution, the poorest. Perceiving the turbulence
that was being aroused by the excitement of the masses
when the news from Colorado came tingling over the
wires, and deploring their lack of a constructive pro-
gram (their sentiment was purely a resentment against
the Rockefellers, personally), Bouck White proposed to
the Fifth Avenue Church a joint meeting of the two con-
gregations for the discussion of the situation, in order
if possible to lift the affair out of the hands of wild com-
mittees in the street, into a spiritual plane where some
peaceable and permanent remedy for what was going to be
a grave situation, might be found. Receiving authority
from his Church so to do, Bouck White wrote a letter to
that Fifth Avenue pastor, Dr. Woelfkin, stating that he
would visit them in person on the following Sunday morn-
ing and convey this greeting and invitation. Mailing this
letter by special delivery two days ahead, and receiving no
reply, he went the following Sunday to the Fifth Avenue
Church and at the time set down for notices in the printed
service, he arose and began to convey the greeting and
invitation from his Church. (It was later perceived that
a room adjoining the auditorium of the Church was
packed with a platoon of police, numbering over a score
of uniformed men, besides plain clothes detectives scat-
tered through the audience.) Bouck White rising to his
feet and addressing the pastor said, " Dr. Woelfkin, as
the pastor of a neighboring church I am here to " when
he was seized by the detectives, dragged from the church
and placed under arrest. The following Tuesday he was
tried in a police court, wherein he was given but slender
opportunity for defense. After a farcical hearing he was
found guilty of disorderly conduct, and given the
maximum penalty of the law six months at hard labor
on Blackwell's Island.
Without opportunity to consult his friends, or settle
his affairs, he was thrust into a prison van with other
convicts and was taken to the Island. There he was
locked in a cell with forty criminals the sweepings and
refuse of the streets of the great metropolis, with its
hordes of mental and moral deficients from all parts of
the earth. After some weeks at Blackwell's Island he
was transferred to Queens County Jail, on the mainland
Efforts were made to secure an appeal from the de-
cision which Magistrate Campbell had pronounced
against him. Amos Pinchot, a wealthy and public
spirited citizen, enraged at so manifest a perversion of
justice and of all equity, interested himself in the case.
Through his generosity, former District Attorney Os-
borne, the greatest criminal lawyer in New York, was re-
tained on the case. A number of other citizens of stand-
ing in the community also joined in the effort to secure
his release. Re-trial was sought in a higher court; but
to no avail. The powers political, the powers financial,
the powers ecclesiastical, united to deny him a hearing;
and he was condemned to prison for the entire term.
When all legal attempts had proved in vain, his friends
without his knowledge commenced a nation-wide move-
ment to petition the Governor for his pardon. As soon
as the prisoner heard of this however, he refused to permit
it, and wrote the letter to the Governor which appears in
the correspondence hereinafter given.
On the 13th day of May, 1914, Bouck White was
sentenced ; six months later on the twelfth day of Novem-
ber, he was released. A company of his loyal followers
meanwhile had kept the church going during his absence.
The loyalty of the members to the Church in the absence
of their leader is shown by the fact that during his im-
prisonment the membership increased from less than two
hundred to over five hundred. A Church whose pastor is
in prison and in disgrace with the powers that be, is
supposed to be in the hour of its destruction and dissolu-
tion. But not so The Social Revolution Church. Perse-
cution did but cement the fellowship more firmly and in-
flame the zeal of its people the more brightly. Therefore
it was a large and enthusiastic company that welcomed
him at the gates of the jail on the morning of his re-
A taxicab, owned by a workingman who had followed
the story in the papers, was loaned for the occasion. It
bore the banner of the Church in front and in the rear,
and to this waiting vehicle Bouck White was earned by
his followers. The next night, November thirteenth, he
was given a reception in Carnegie Hall, and spoke the ad-
dress given later in this volume.
When it was found that his term of imprisonment had
not taken the spirit out of him, but that he was deter-
mined to continue his work as pastor of the Church of the
Social Revolution, the ruling class, through their official
organs, the public press, began a campaign of vituperation
and misrepresentation against him. This has proceeded
to the present time and promises to continue. The tide
of invective has not been permitted to alter Bouck White's
determination, or to embitter his spirit. With poise and
power he has continued the work, and now he is in demand
from outside places to tell the message with which he is
so highly charged. Inquiries are also coming in as to the
possibility of forming branches of the Church of the Social
Revolution in other communities. The efforts made in
New York to stamp out the fire of this Church have but
scattered the sparks ; and now that which was but a local
name, has become known over a wide area. Already the
Church is showing a missionary spirit, and is reaching
out a hand to those communities where the literature of
this new kind of Church is in demand.
The Church of the Social Revolution has its meetings
on Sunday afternoon at three o'clock at Bryant Hall,
725 Sixth Avenue, between Forty-second and Forty-first
Streets, New York. Sunday school at half-past two. On
Sunday evenings from seven o'clock till nine a meeting is
held at the Church headquarters, 165 West 23rd Street,
at which all are welcome.
While in prison Bouck White wrote the latest produc-
tion from his pen, entitled " Church of the Social Revolu-
tion," in which he gives a " Message to the World," as fol-
" The nowaday world is topsyturvydom. That is on
top which ought to be at the bottom; and that is at the
bottom which ought to be at the top. The object of this
Church is to turn the world upside down, to the end that
it may go thereafter right side up. The true God is God
of fellowship and is a mighty terrible one against them that
drive down the poor.
" Let not the word ' Revolution ' make you afraid.
Revolution is normal. Both evolution and Revolution are
heaven's way of getting mankind forward.
" Our Church is a foreordination. In this black and
dark night we are fashioning a world-order to take the
place of this world-chaos. We are creating a new thing
in the earth, a race that shall rejoice in fellowship as
misers in their gold, as a drunkard in his cups. Impos-
sible to change human nature ? To achieve the impossible
has the Revolution Church been born. In our singing you
will detect a joyousness to tingle the ears of the Eternal.
Ofttimes impoverished, yet we are rewarded with a more
pleasant and precious riches. Obscurity, houndings, im-
prisonment, find us to be comrades knit for adversity. A
Corpus Christi are we, to get the hell out of this earth and
let a little of heaven in.
" There shall be no folk of the common sort. Our God
has grace enough to make every man a nobleman, every
woman beautiful. The off-scouring and the refuse shall
have inheritance with us.
" Bad are the pains of poverty. Bad, the ennui of
riches. Both shall be done away. We exalt the laborer
and abase the leisurist. The producer shall not as now
bring his neck under the yoke of an owning class. In glad-
ness shall he create, and seek his immortality in what his
hands have wrought. The toiler shall eat and be satis-
fied. But idlers, be they in rags, be they in tags, be
they in velvet gowns, shall have hunger of bread. The
craftsman shall be in great praise. Honor and majesty
shall be laid upon him. Man shall not labor to be rich.
Man shall labor to be creative. And earth shall be quick-
ened to a rebirth in beauty. Beyond all conjecture is the
sumptuousness that is laid up for earth, when man shall
have dilated to the dimensions of an industrial democrat.
" With a plea for beauty, then, this message takes leave
of you. It has brought you by now to see that the Church
of the Social Revolution is not a disintegrator. We are
pathmakers, preparing a way for mankind when, from its
orgy of blood, it awakes in a bewildering to-morrow. For
the religion of dogma, we give the religion of democracy.
For superstition, we give science. For the creeds, we give
the Carpenter, cornerstone of romance and divine adven-
ture. For war, the pure, the gracious, the plentiful arts
of peace; and God, Friend of Freedom, shall be prince
On the day of the formation of the Church of The Social
Revolution, a street meeting was held, which is known to
the Church and the public as the Mud-Gutter Meeting of
the Church of the Social Revolution. They are usually
held in much frequented districts, as Times Square and
Broadway, and at other points.
Those desiring to take part come to the Church about
an hour before the indoor meeting takes place. We form
a line behind the standard bearer; a scarlet banner with
the inscription upon it in white letters " Church of the
Social Revolution," and the other an American Flag. A
signal for a marching song is given by the leader, and
the procession of men, women and children join in singing,
and march to the assigned corner. When the place is
reached the participants form a circle and one of the
speakers begins to tell the purpose of the meeting to the
crowd that invariably gathers.
As soon as the address is delivered, another song is sung
and the crowd thus gathered is requested to take part.
Speaking and singing continue from twenty to thirty
minutes, while the crowd attracted by the songs and
speeches is ever increasing. The last speaker then an-
nounces the indoor meeting at Bryant Hall, and invites
the listeners to fall in line and march thither. As a mat-
ter of fact they do fall in line regardless of their previous
state of mind in respect to the teachings of the Church
of the Social Revolution. It thus happens that when the
little group which started out for the Mud-Gutter Meet-
ing returns, it succeeds in bringing back from five to six
times the number which left the church.
An estimate of our leader by Lee Mitchell Hodges in
the Philadelphia North American is of value as showing
the spirit that animates the Church.
" Bouck White is a Thinker the capital letter is
used purposely and a leader. Also as a necessary
premise to these two achievements he is a worker. He is
one of those social service captains who are helping
mightily to lead us into a real land of promise where we
shall be fed upon the milk and honey of Justice, that's all.
Seven letters that would solve all our problems if only we
would let them. Bouck White lives in New York, where
Justice is supported on one side by Harry Thaw of Pitts-
burgh and on the other side by the estimable owners of
the Triangle Shirt Waist factory who have settled for
the lives lost in their famous fire at $75 per soul
any one will admit that this is a bargain for the
estimables. But when Bouck White's books have been
more widely read one of them now is in its tenth edition
and the seeds of Justice by them planted have sprouted
in men's minds and hearts, such bargains will not be in
good form. The book in question is " The Call of the
Carpenter." It is a life of Jesus ; but not like any other
such life ever written. It is a biography of the working-
man. All I have said thus far is intended as a sort of
preface to the presentation of the Creed which White has
written. Here it is:
" * I believe in God, the Master most mighty, stirrer-up
of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus the Carpenter of
Nazareth, who was born of proletarian Mary, toiled at
the work bench, descended into labor's hell, suffered under
Roman tyranny at the hands of Pontius Pilate, was cruci-
fied, dead and buried. The Power not ourselves which
makes for freedom, he rose again from the dead to be
lord of the democratic advance, sworn foe of stagnancy,
maker of folk upheavals. I believe in work, the self-re-
specting toiler, the holiness of beauty, freeborn producers,
the communion of comrades, the resurrection of workers,
and the industrial commonwealth, the cooperative king-
dom eternal.' '
LUCY WEEKS TRIMBLE.
WHY HAVE THEY PUT ME INTO A CAGE? . . . .21
BOUCK WHITE'S LETTER TO THE FIFTH AVENUE CHURCH 24
WHY I AM IN PRISON 28
LETTER TO Gov. GLYNN 33
LETTERS TO His CHURCH
No. 1. He Wishes No Pardon 35
No. 2. An Unspiritualized Revolution Will Go
Off into Violence 38
No. 3. Socialism is a Fellowship 42
No. 4. A Socialism of the Heart 45
No. 5. Outbreak of the War in Europe ... 49
No. 6. Call to a Dangerous and Divine Adventure 54
No. 7. In Place of Bloodshed We Give Brother-
No. 8. Prison Pictures 59
No. 9. The Progressive Party Belongs in Our
No. 10. Socialism Set to Music 64
No. 11. The Strong Contagion 69
No. 12. Missionary Measures 72
No. 13. Man is God's Younger Brother ... 78
No. 14. America's Blending of the Races . . .81
No. 15. A French Revolution in Berlin? ... 84
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK INDEPENDENT 88
AN OPEN LETTER 91
THE COMRADES SEND GREETING 93
THE RELIGION OP REVOLUTION 97
BAPTISTS DIVIDE ON THE SOCIAL ISSUE 107
How TO SOLVE UNEMPLOYMENT 110
BOUCK WHITE ON BLACKWELL'S ISLAND 114
THE CHURCH AND THE CRISIS 123
REVOLUTION RITUAL 140
REVOLUTION MARRIAGE RITE 142
CONSECRATION OF CHILDREN 145
REVOLUTION CATECHISM , 14-7
LETTERS FROM PRISON
LETTERS FROM PRISON
WHY HAVE THEY PUT ME INTO A CAGE?
Why have they put me into a cage?
I am shut up as a predatory beast.
You have been to the park where animals are kept;
The quadruped house is known afar by the smell.
There entering, you gasp at the stench. But you harden
'Tis the animals' native odor, against which no cleanliness
Between the barred pens on either side, you pass;
Where within, beasts of the jungle look forth.
They are wild things. Hate is in their eye.
A growl menaces. They will not be tamed.
But you are unaffrighted. They cannot harm.
Bars separate sturdily between you and them;
Tested bars of wrought iron; flawless.
Also the door of each den is of stalwart stuff;
It swings on huge hinges ; and is padlocked.
He is well fastened in, that four-foot from the jungle.
Restive, he treads the narrow cell with lithe eager pace;
But makes no effort to break through. The walls are
They pass food in to him daily. And in the corner,
A heap of straw is for a bed at night.
Tiger-like, I also am locked in.
His imprisonment and mine have much in common ;
Except that his cell is roomier than mine;
And the huge sirloin they toss to him each day,
22 LETTERS FROM PRISON
Costs the city, I'll bet, more than the food they serve to
Yes, and they have clothed me in parallel stripes,
The bands passing around my body tiger-fashion.
To and fro, like him, I pace the stone floor,
With springy tread; for I no sooner start than I must
Both he and I were built for wide spaces ;
And this pent inclosure frets the soul.
I am sloughed in like a ravening beast.
My cell-neighbor on the one side is a forger;
On the other side, down the tier, three burglars.
And the other day a murderer joined us.
Into society's lowermost hell, I am thrust.
Here are the very sweepings of the city.
Amid walking disease I pass my days
The pick of an international host for vileness.
The stink is everywhere; filth of body;
Tongues unpurified since the primal birth.
Girt with garbage, I eat the food of felons.
At night I lie on my bunk. I hear padded steps draw-
It is the soft-footed keeper. As he passes my den,
He looks in, and flashes a light in my face.
A shriek tears the air. I think I know whence it comes.
It is from the plumber they brought in yesterday after
a long spree.
He told me the Horrors were coming to him ;
And asked me to stay near him, for he dreaded the night.
I hear his yelp of terror now, but cannot get to him.
On another tier, a drug-diseased man is calling for cocaine.
Why have I been decreed unto a descent into hell ?
" A dangerous man," spoke the judge, pronouncing
" Dangerous ? " I cried aloud the miseries of the poor.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 23
I pointed to vast fortunes piling up ;
Rich revenues that grandest foe of fellowship.
For voiceless ones, I lifted up my voice
For Colorado miners coldbloodedly shot down.
Unto an America grown fat and cowardly,
I evoked a remembrance of oldtime valiant days.
Is that dangerous?
I taught the strong teachings of the Carpenter,
Expounding from the mud-gutter the record holy.
Time was when, to follow him, meant fetters.
Is it that once again an era of the masterclass approaches,
When to proclaim the wrongness of extortionate wealth,
Shall loose upon a man the terrors of the state?
The religion of the rights of man, I propagated.
From their dividends, I called men to democracy.
I announced an age when workers shall be great.
Toilers I called to grandeur and to freedom ;
Expanding the hearts of men with impulses to liberty ;
Into the beautiful kingdom of God, recasting society.
Of a gospel thus patterned I am the evangelist.
The keeper closes the door with clangor of iron;
I hear the chain clink, with which he makes it fast on the
Then the sound of his feet retreating down the corridor.
I am alone. I pass to the grating.
I put my face against the bars, and peer out.
Why have they put me into a cage?
BOUCK WHITE'S LETTER TO THE FIFTH
My dear Dr. Woelfkin:
This resolution was passed by the Socialist Church, of
which I am pastor :
" Resolved, That we extend to the Fifth Avenue Baptist
Church, in person of its pastor, a request to meet our
pastor in joint debate on this topic: ' Did Jesus Teach
the Immorality of Being Rich? ' we to uphold the affirma-
tive and assume all financial responsibilities. Resolved
further, that we attend that Church this coming Sunday
morning, May 10th, to present this. And that we request
our pastor, because of the spirit of evasion shown in that
Church when our members attended their Friday meeting,
May 1st, to request an answer in open meeting."
I am sending you this, my dear Dr. Woelfkin, ahead
of time, in order to assure you of the very real friendliness
with which we are coming to you. We are quite aware
that a visitation from a church to its neighbor is a bit
unusual, and that the presentation of a greeting in open
service is likewise something out of the ordinary. But
we submit to you that the times just now are quite extraor-
dinary and demand extraordinary modes of meeting the
issues presented for solution. The topic in our meeting
Sunday afternoon, in the Berkeley Theatre, is to be,
" Galilee and Colorado." That will open up the entire
question of riches and the industrial situation in our coun-
try at the present time. Furthermore, I am sure you will
agree with me that the findings of the Congressional In-
vestigation Committee, of recent date, connect some in
your church membership in a quite intimate way with the
Ludlow Massacre. Therefore, the issue is one which we
LETTERS FROM PRISON 25
do not think you will wish to evade, when you have
thought it over with regard to all the tremendous conse-
I am one that holds and that is what makes of me a
kindred spirit with yours that the arbitrament of this
entire revolutionary upheaval should be lifted into the
religious realm. There alone, as you and I both know,
can it find constructive treatment. It is to that end that
the church of which I am pastor was formed. We feel
that the Carpenter of Galilee was never more needed
in the world than at the present moment. Therefore, we
are organizing ourselves with the purpose of making him
the avowed leader and inspiration of this labor agitation.
Inasmuch as your church and ours together bow before the
same Master, it surely would be advantageous if we could
establish something of a fraternal relationship one with the
other. I am not concealing from myself or from you
that we probably hold different views as to the teaching of
that Carpenter. On the contrary, it is for that reason
that we wish the joint debate. We can think of no surer
and happier way of arriving at the truth than by such an
orderly exchange of opinions. And we believe that you
and yours are as sincerely desirous of the truth as we are.
It may not be out of place for me to state that our Social-
ist Church holds most enthusiastically to the modern
Biblical science as it was taught me at Harvard and at
the Union Theological Seminary. And it will surely be
helpful to some in the churches of the older school to get
our viewpoint as to the discoveries which scholarship is
making concerning the economic side of the teaching of
I beg you to believe that I am one who holds a high
opinion of the good will of many in the privileged class.
It is not at all true to say that the industrial troubles of
our time are due to the personal cruelty of the masters in
control. At our Church of the Social Revolution, we
proclaim the doctrine that the present deplorable situation
26 LETTERS FROM PRISON
is not due to individuals, but to the system wherein individ-
ual rich men are hopelessly enmeshed. Therefore, we
feel that if they could be made to see the situation from
this point of view, together with the economic message of
the Galilean, it might be the means of winning them to
the cause of social reconstruction. For not all of them
are wedded to their dollars. And these would prefer the
riches of fellowship to riches of silver, if persuaded that
the Master unconditionally and for statesmanly rea-
sons demands it.
I beg leave to state that one of the purposes of the
Socialist Church is to constitute itself a center of media-
tion and mutual understanding between the warring
classes. And I submit to you that this friendly visitation
of our church to yours might be the means of a concilia-
tory work of perhaps far-reaching consequences. We are
very near neighbors; our church holds divine services at
the Berkeley Theatre, West 44th Street, and yours at
West 57th Street. Furthermore, we represent the down-
most man, whereas your church represents the wealthiest
of the world. Therefore, in this social crisis which is
gathering its thunder so menacingly to-day, it is entirely
thinkable that, by some relationship that will permit an
interchange of views, a friendliness of feeling could be
brought about that might be the means of a happy issue
out of all our social afflictions. We are bold to go to you
this Sunday morning for a further reason, and one more-
over of so recent discovery as to have precluded much
preliminary consultation with you and yours: words have
reached us from more than one source that some of the
wilder spirits in the revolutionary movement are planning
some kind of concerted affront to you and your church.
We of the Socialist Church deeply regret these turbulent
committees that so evilly obscure the large principles, and
drag the issue into the mire of personal animosities and
vituperations. Therefore we are offering you Sunday
morning our assistance in quelling, so far as we are able,
LETTERS FROM PRISON 27
any wildness that might be maturing. And this we do,
not altogether out of friendliness to you, but out of
loyalty to the Socialist movement, because that movement
has everything to gain by being kept in the realms of or-
derliness and constitutional procedure.
Indeed, it is in part because of these wild suggestions so
abundantly proffering themselves, that we have been
stirred to make you the offer of a joint debate on the
fundamental issues involved. We hope thereby to satisfy
the turbulent spirits. You and yours occupy a semi-pub-
lic position because of the exemption of your church prop-
erty from taxation (and this makes us all, to some degree,
supporters of your church). If you are persistent in
your attempt to avoid an issue now so critically come to
a head, it is entirely thinkable that the wild element re-
ferred to will be stirred perhaps to desperate means and
will attempt to justify violence by the assertion that a ra-
tional and orderly exchange of views was not possible.
I ask you to believe that we come to you in all comity.
The hand we hold out bears no weapon ; but is open in an
earnest desire to clasp that of a sister church, in all friend-
liness and courtesy.
I beg to be, fraternally yours in the fellowship of the
WHY I AM IN PRISON *
Issues of some magnitude were involved in my visit to
the Fifth Avenue Baptist (the Rockefeller) Church, and
for which I am now in prison stripes.
The exemption of church property from taxation, the
rights of the public in a tax-exempt church, the status of
absentee landlordism in the light of our country's official
ethics, were some of the questions interwoven with the
Yet Magistrate Campbell, in a New York police court,
entertained no doubt of the competency of his tribunal to
pass upon these issues. He devoted the whole of nearly
twenty minutes to the trial. He found me instantane-
ously and heinously guilty ; pronounced me " a dangerous
man " because I had dared to raise these questions into the
glare of publicity.
I have been sloughed into a prison cell. Appeal to a
superior court has been hilariously denied me. My finger
prints have been taken. I am numbered with the felons.
For the space of 185 days I am being fed with the bread
of affliction and with the water of affliction.
Did I have a right in that church? That depends in
part upon the announced somewhat ostentatiously an-
nounced policy of brotherliness by the Baptist Church
to other congregations. (I am a minister ordained by the
Congregational denomination.) It depends also on the
legal standing of the public in tax-exempt churches. The
consolidated property of the Baptist Church in question
amounts to well toward a million dollars. Its freedom
from taxation now through long years of its life means
that all the people of New York City have been compelled
* Reprinted from the New York Independent.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 29
by statutory enactment to contribute to the support of
that church a sum aggregating many ten thousands of
dollars. For years, therefore, I have been a financial con-
tributor to the upkeep of that place of worship. In re-
turn for my monetary support (I mentioned this fact in
my letter) I asked the right, once in a lifetime, to bring
before that church a matter which I deemed of ethical and
spiritual import. I am in felon stripes.
A convict locked in a cell near to mine was arrested for
selling fraudulent butter. Brought before a police court,
the magistrate informed him that the case would have
to be tried before a higher court. Police courts are
adapted for " drunks," horse beatings, window breakings
and vagrancy cases. In an affair involving several pounds
of butter, the law provides that the accused is entitled to
be heard in a court whose procedure is sufficiently ma-
jestic to give him a patient and respectful hearing. Since
my imprisonment, also, I have seen pickpockets come in,
stay a few days, and be released by writ, or go for a new
trial. The law notoriously is tender toward butter cases
and pickpockets, dignifying them with a hearing at the
bar of an august and learned tribunal. In public interest,
at least, the deed for which I am jailed was not inferior to
theirs. It was telegraphed very widely. It even got onto
the cables and was sent to far coasts of the earth. But
the only hearing that has been permitted me was twenty
minutes in a police court, amid a calendar of " drunks "
and " found sleeping on doorsteps." I understand that
the magistrate who so expeditiously found me guilty and
sonorously sentenced me, is being put forward this fall for
the Supreme Court, by a political party that is peculiarly
tender to magnates of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Com-
pany sort, and grateful to " serviceable " handlers of the
A debate between our church and the Rockefeller church
on the thesis, " Did Jesus teach the immorality of being
rich? " was a suggested form of the relationship we cov-
30 LETTERS FROM PRISON
eted to establish, and for proposing which I am in jail.
The query presents itself, Would it not have been wiser
in Dr. Woelfkin to give the knockout to religious radical-
ism once for all, by accepting the challenge? The debate
would have furnished him a resounding platform from
which to triumph over us and establish for all time hence-
forth scriptural sanction of vast private possessions. Of
a surety the occasion would have been dignified with con-
siderable publicity. The mere challenge to it as I
stated got onto the ocean cables. The event itself
would have opened to the Rockefeller theologian a wide
auditory. It would have made the New Testament a news
item of double column, front page importance. And his
demolition of our arguments would have been a historic
event, incalculably buttressing the conservative school;
'twould have asserted the divine right of riches in the hear-
ing of tens of thousands reached by Associated Press dis-
Can it be that Dr. Woelfkin and his supporters feared
the issue? Some of the facts in the case give color to the
suspicion. Platoons of police, the extreme sentence of the
law, and now a triple row of prison bars between me and
freedom, suggest in them a state of mind far from one of
poise; yes, one of near-panic. Hardly could the pastor
of that church contemptuously have accounted me an an-
tagonist unmeted for a learned man to encounter. The
pronunciamento of the magistrate against me is clear on
that point : " A man the more dangerous because of his
education and churchly orders." My books on the eco-
nomic interpretation of the life and message of the Gali-
lean bear the imprint of publishers one of whom is Amer-
ica's ambassador to England. My academic standing is
officially certified by our country's oldest university and
her premier school of divinity.
The inference is unavoidable that organized Christianity
is afraid of the Bible. Modern scholarship is making that
book, in these times of social break-up, what James Rus-
LETTERS FROM PRISON 31
sell Lowell declared it to be toward the slave system, " the
most revolutionary book in literature." To dampen down
the explosiveness so thickly strewn through it, the pulpi-
teers who preach for hire and look to millionaric support,
are put to more and more desperate shift, stopping not at
bonds and imprisonment of those who ask embarrassing
questions. No one more than they realizes the extent to
which the churches to-day are honeycombed with doubt
and open skepticism. I have a letter recently sent to me
by a member of the Baptist Church in question, in which
he admits the hollowness of the whole institution. I quote :
" Christianity (when it produces anything, for it usually
leaves a person with his moral, intellectual and spiritual
aspirations untouched, or in a state of decay) produces
weaklings, people not interested in government, poor
fathers, missionaries doing ridiculous things, people who
have never had their proper development of mind." I am
quoting one of the milder passages in his letter, lest I
should seem to be overstating. And the writer of it is not
only a member of the Rev. Dr. Woelfkin's Baptist Church,
but is a teacher of a class in the Sunday school there,
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., being another of the teachers.
To this pass of insincerity, the established religion of
Christendom is come. It has long been known, even con-
ceded, that the Church of Rome operated on a principle
of suppression, permitting only the portions of truth to
percolate to the masses which she thinks safe and expedi-
ent. It may come, however, as a surprise to many to
learn that the Protestant Church she who was founded
to blab the words of truth utterly has switched over
and is now a zealous adjutant of Rome in keeping the
verities of scholarship from the populace. And the Bap-
tists are not alone in the business.
" We are due for the greatest spiritual crisis in the his-
tory of mankind," states Professor Eucken, of Jena. To
prepare for that crisis, by organizing the new order of in-
telligence and the new spiritual understanding that will be
32 LETTERS FROM PRISON
requisite in the world of to-morrow, is the purpose of the
Church of the Social Revolution, of which I am the pastor.
We hold service in a hired hall in New York, for we own
no sanctuary. A quality of fearlessness, so visitors say,
attaches to our meetings and activities. Over two hun-
dred new members have been added since I have been be-
hind prison bars. This is the covenant we take : " I en-
list under the Lord of the blood-bright banner, to bring
to an end a scheme of things that has enthroned Leisure
on the back of Labor, an idle class sucking the substance
of the poor. I will not be a social climber, but will stay
with the workers in class solidarity till class shall have
been done away in fellowship's glad dawn. I will seek re-
cruits for the Church of the Social Revolution, unto the
overthrow of present-day society and its rebuilding into
comradeship." We hold that religion and economics are
terms that have grandest agreement; conjoined, they make
a live organism ; divorced, they are a soul without a body
and a body without a soul. On my release, November 12,
I shall resume my work as leader of this church ; to lay the
mudsill, as it were, for the new heaven and the new earth
that are preparing. I shall go out of the prison gate
with more endurance for the task than when I came in.
And with more certitude likewise. The breaking down of
present-day civilization, in the catastrophic clash in Eu-
rope, tells that we have no moment to lose in beginning
preparations for the new spiritual order. Though prison
continue to menace me, I cannot give up my work.
Queens County Prison, New York.
LETTER TO GOVERNOR GLYNN
To His Excellency, Governor Glynn,
Executive Mansion, Albany, N. Y.
Word has just reached me that petitions are being made
to you for my pardon. A New York weekly paper urges
it editorially, on the grounds of humanity ; intimating that
I have suffered enough, and that imprisonment has now
wrought in me the hoped-for repentance and amendment.
I am indeed desirous of freedom. Life in an iron cell is
not to my liking. Nevertheless, honesty requires me to
inform you that I am not repentant. The deed for which
I am jailed, broke no law either of God or man. As a
financial supporter through many years now of the Bap-
tist Church that has put me behind the bars (the exemption
of the churches from taxation makes every resident of the
city a contributor to their upkeep), I was within my legal
rights in carrying to that Church a greeting at the time in
their service set apart for " Notices." And as to the moral
right : sir, I could not look my God in the face, had I as
one of the citizen-rulers of this country permitted one
hundred and fifty of my fellow-workingmen to be shot
down at Ludlow, Col., without making effort to bring the
thing home to the conscience of the absentee landlordism
that did the shooting and to the Church that solaces those
absentee landlords with spiritual consolation.
" Repentant ! " I am, sir, the most unrepentant pris-
oner a New York City jail ever sloughed into a cell. Let
another Ludlow massacre happen, I would repeat my deed
to-morrow. So far from life in prison having wrought in
me a penitential work, it has tightened and reenforced in
me a remonstrant mood.
I am glad of friends that so fervently covet my release
34 LETTERS FROM PRISON
as to petition you for a pardon. Nevertheless, honor
forbids me, by keeping silent, possibly to lure you into
granting their request, in ignorance of my mind and will
toward the deed I committed. In a political offense
and mine is such a pardon implies that the offender has
turned from his former way and will be favorable hence-
forth to the state. But I have not turned from my for-
mer way; nor am I favorable to the state as at present
constituted. I am holding with a certitude which aug-
ments daily that our present ordering of human affairs
is uncivilized and uncivilizing. When I am released from
prison, I expect to resume the leadership of the Church of
the Social Revolution of which I am pastor; whose pur-
pose is to agitate and educate for the overthrow of pres-
ent-day society, and its rebuilding into fellowship.
I cannot ask favor of a foe. Nevertheless there is some-
thing that you ought to do in this affair; something
necessitated by the rules of the game that this civilization
you uphold professes to play. It is, that you use influ-
ence with the appellate division of the Supreme Court of
this State to get my case on the calendar before my sen-
tence expires. I desire a trial. I have not had one as
yet. The only hearing I have had has been in a police
court twenty minutes, sandwiched in between " drunks "
and " found sleeping on doorsteps." Thus far the powers
ecclesiastical, financial and political, in league against
me, have combined to deny me a hearing in a superior
court. When the Appellate Division re-sits in October,
it will be too late to save me from nearly six months of
imprisonment. But it can vindicate my name and that of
the Church. Vindication is what we desire. And to it
we are entitled.
I am, sir,
LETTERS TO HIS CHURCH
HE WISHES NO PARDON
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL,
NEW YORK CITY.
I wonder if you know what it means, that this Church
is going on so prosperously, barely a jar when I was
suddenly lifted from you and clapped into prison? It
means this : that a Power other than Bouck White brought
you together into a church, and now that Power is carry-
ing you on, quite without my presence. To some this
phenomenon may seem a slight thing. But I say unto
you, historic meanings are wrapped up in it. Not the
executive committee with all of their enthusiasm, nor Sol
Fieldman and his capabilities are keeping you together in
so compact and effective a fellowship. The Unseen is the
operating Hand back of and behind it all. And, when
that Power begins to work, history begins to be written.
It is a Pentecostal time here in my prison cell, whenever
tidings reach me of the Church's concord and prosperity.
For you are my life henceforth. Friends of former time
write me, asking for permission to visit me. I reply by
referring them to you and stating that you, and not I,
have that and kindred matters in hand. Dearer to me
than flesh and blood, are you. To-day I got a letter
from my sister. She signs herself, " One of your people,
and incidentally your sister."
These conversions that are being wrought and these
enthusiasms and loyalties are no human doings. And I
bow my head in awe and adoration.
36 LETTERS FROM PRISON
Concerning a practical matter. I am affrighted at
the petition to the Governor for pardon. Of course you
have taken pains to safeguard it from any hint of suppli-
cation. But the newspapers will give it that squint.
Furthermore, news reaches me that some Baptist con-
vention is planning a like petition. You know a plea was
already made to the Mayor, on the grounds " that Bouck
White has now been punished sufficiently."
Would it not be better to concentrate our fight on the
Court of Appeals? A pardon! I wish no pardon. A
trial is what I want. Clemency! We ask no clemency
from this ungodly civilization. We ask justice. Six
months in prison ! I'll stay sixty times six months rather
than make terms with the rulers and magistrates that own
this present world. Between them and us a great gulf
sunders. We will neither truckle nor fawn nor suppli-
cate. The God I am revealing unto you is a Man of
War, a Captain, a fighter and the Leader of fighters.
Were we to knuckle under for the sake of material gain,
such as a shorter prison term, He would avert His face
from us in sorrow, or spurn us from Him in anger.
A pardon implies that I am in a chastened mood, re-
gretting at last my deed. But I do not regret my deed.
I'm the most impenitent prisoner the New York jails ever
clanged their doors upon. And I grow more impenitent
daily. I am entreating you to a gentle and forgiving
spirit toward one another. But that is in order that you
may be a more effective fighting instrument against this
mammonism which is our common and terrible enemy.
When I find in you this no-surrender mood, then I skip
for joy, and my sleep is sweet unto me.
Life in jail is worse than I had conceived it to be. The
indignities we receive as our daily lot bring one down very
near to the animal estate. None the less, I'd rather en-
dure prison life a hundred fold than be released on terms
that would sacrifice in the slightest degree the principle
I'm here for. Woelfkin is in Europe; I'm in prison. He
LETTERS FROM PRISON 37
is at the summit of human comfort and luxury and bliss ;
I am in society's lowermost hell. But I'd rather be where
I am at this moment, than where he is.
The daylight that filters into my cell is now dying, and
very quickly I'll be in darkness. But the bars that screen
me in from the world outside do not screen me in, Above.
And, from there, comes down the light that never was on
sea or land. And my cell is quite flooded then with
AN UNSPIRITUALIZED REVOLUTION WILL GO
OFF INTO VIOLENCE
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL,
NEW YORK CITY.
An event has happened, I read, since my last letter,
which casts a revealing light on the fermentation that is
loose in the land, and which by the contrast discloses the
essentially conservative and constructive quality of our
church. I mean the bomb tragedy of July 4. It ap-
pears that the protest against the money lords, and in
especial the money lord of the Colorado Fuel and Iron
Company, has darkened off into a sanguinary thing,
wherein the misadvised protesters have followed a steeply
descending course, until their inflamed mentalities came to
believe that blood-letting is the only cure for the social
malady. And in maturing which, they met their death.
Why this mournful happening, that has draped the radi-
cal movement in black? I will tell you why. That wing
of the revolution divorced themselves from God. Openly,
or in secret, they scoffed at things unseen and spiritual.
This affair of last Saturday was being engineered by the
same folk who conducted the unemployment gatherings at
Rutgers Square the past winter, and who more recently
have carried through a series of agitations at Tarrytown
and affiliated places. Beyond doubt, those leaders were
moved by a sincere pity for the poor of the land, and by
a fine indignation against the arrogance of power. But
they incorporated into their doings no recognition of a
spiritual kingdom overlying the world of outward deeds.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 39
They and their followers beheld not the unseen causes of
the despotism that is upon us. They beheld only the out-
ward incarnations of that despotism. Accordingly they
directed their wrath against persons rather than against
principles. They thought to take the kingdom of heaven
which is within by force. And the blow, aimed at
another, has landed on themselves.
Violence is an inevitable accompaniment of revolution
propagated along irreligious lines. Irreligion means
blindness to powers that are invisible a holdfast only in
things that the eye can discern and the fat hands of flesh
can handle. Therefore when a sorrow like the Ludlow
sorrow transpires, people of this materialist cast of mind
see only an individual as the cause, and aim their fury
against the Tarrytown magnate. As though a bomb ex-
ploding him and his estate into hell would remedy the
Colorado crisis one iota, or make a repetition of Ludlow
impossible. It's a terrible thing to foment revolutionary
passions, without coupling up those passions with the de-
votional spirit, which alone can keep them sweet and con-
structive. A church without social revolution is to-day
a toy and dilettante thing; so in the opposite direction
social revolution without church is a snake-haired, bomb-
The violence and slaughter into which this school of
revolutionists inevitably runs off, disgust the other wing
of Socialism with revolution, and drive them into " safe
and sane Socialism " that is to say, political reform.
And the terminus where they end is equally depressing.
They go off into that politician's paradise dickering
for votes, the emoluments of public office. Both wings
are destitute of a spiritual discipline and insight. There-
fore they both come to sorry pass.
To each of these abortive policies, the Church of the
Revolution comes with a program different from either.
We refuse to lose faith in the revolution, and permit this
mighty folk uprising to flatten off into only a reform party
40 LETTERS FROM PRISON
of office-hungry politicians. Neither will we suffer the
revolution to inflame into a delirium of wildness and blood.
We will persist in revolution. But it shall be a revolution
in the awful kingdoms that are within, and from whence
are the issues of life. As I said in my letter to Woelfkin,
our warfare is not against John D. Rockefeller. Our
warfare is against principalities and powers in the realm
invisible. Not against flesh and blood fight we; but
against wrong ideals and principles and beliefs, a devil's
brood of distorted, timorous, crawling ideas that have
taken possession of man's mental universe and now are
nagging the entire human family into insanities and self-
ishnesses without number.
Comrades, I say it unto you, the Church of the Social
Revolution is going to prove itself the most statesmanly
thing that has happened in many generations. We are
radical of the radicals ; and yet are safer, we are actually
more conservative than Bill Taft himself. We are the
saviors of the state. And will be so recognized when at
last the dust of battle shall have lifted, and our methods
and motives shall come to be judged in the calmness and
sunlight of r .son.
Which le^as me to a practical point. I am dawning
to the fact that my life here in prison is bringing as one
of its by-products some fine economies. I'm not spending
any money. New York City is spending it for me. Yes-
terday my total outlay was one cent, for an evening paper.
Board and clothes and laundry and barber and soap and
lodging the tax-payers of New York City supply me
with these. Not very elaborate board, to be sure; and
as to the clothing and bedroom accommodations, the less
said about these, the better. But I'm not spending money
for other board, that's the point. And I wish the Church to
be the gainer our church, where alone resides the secret
for a happy issue out of the afflictions now upon society.
I'll keep some track of what I save every week, and send it
to you. " Self-denial money," I'll call it. 'Twill be fun.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 41
The unspeakable clothes I wear will transform into a
modish suit, if I know that you all are the gainers ; and
the prison fare (it almost chokes me at times) will take
on a flavor of honey dew and milk of paradise. So here's
my check. I figure that, by cutting out butter and eggs
and sugar and steaks and cake and pies and car fare this
past week, I've saved about $3.65. Also, as I was plant-
ing grass seed under the warden's apartment yesterday,
some one opened a window and, apparently taking com-
passion on the poor convict toiling down there in the yard,
threw me a quarter. I took it in silence, for convicts
are not permitted to talk back. And am sending it on to
you my check for $3.90.
Yours for the Revolution Church, where alone is revolu-
SOCIALISM IS A FELLOWSHIP
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL,
NEW YORK CITY.
On his visit to me the other day, Comrade Fieldman
said, " There's something strangely unique about this
church, Bouck White. When I speak to them, I get a
response that I've never received from a Socialist audi-
ence. They are not the ordinary Socialist crowd. With
their Socialism they blend something else. Or rather, it is
Socialism of an emotional swing and sweep. It is what
we have long been in need of."
From a full heart, I echoed the sentiment back to him.
Comrades, we are building up a new thing in the world.
Fieldman, with his fine sensitivity, and coming freshly to
us, has perceived it; and with sound judgment has weighed
it. This union of Socialism and song is promissory of
something mightily worth while. It has long been admit-
ted that Socialists are an intellectual set, very much awake
on the brain side; but alas, the heart within them was not
equally developed. Hence their hard contentious quality,
and the monotonous intellectualism of their meetings.
With our appearing, however, this criticism no longer
obtains. Now, the heart within us is obtaining its quota
of attention and nutriment. We yield not to the most
mentalized Socialist anywhere, in the tightness and firm-
ness of our intellects. But we don't stop there. We
carry that intellectualism to its fruition in emotion, and
imagination's divine leap and play ; as the stalk of a plant
is little interesting or beautiful until it has climbed into
flower. Socialism in bloom that's what we are. The
phrase hits us off patly.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 43
And the immediate effect of it is to be found in the
warmth and fellowship we cherish one to another. To be
sure there still are scrappy spirits in our number; which
introduce sometimes a note of discord. But this is be-
cause we are as yet a youngling. We have not had time
to develop our type of Socialist. These contentious
spirits are no product of ours, but have been handed over
to us ready made. We shall transform them, however,
into our own image. Or else as I guess is already hap-
pening they drop away one by one and go to their own.
Which loss to us is no loss. Our church is at this moment
bearing the battle's brunt. We are at grips with this
devil's civilization that now controls the world. They own
the judges, the police, the law courts, the jails and jailers.
And all this organized might is arrayed against us. A
glow of solidarity welding us each to the other is now of
the first importance. And to it every other issue must
give way. At a time like this, discordant spirits within
our group could strike a mortal blow. In the gracious
and heart quality which our meetings should display, a
genial and sympathetic camaraderie, Besides our dis-
The church program will go limpingly, without money.
By skimping on my diet and clothes, I've saved this
past week about $3.30. Furthermore, I have cut out
a visit to Coney Island, which I usually pay about this
time every year. (Not altogether voluntarily, you un-
derstand; the warden stated that prisoners are not per-
mitted to go near the place strict orders from the de-
partment.) The trip, counting car fare both ways,
admission to Steeplechase, pop corn cakes, Shoot the
Shutes, Trip to the Moon, and the Fat Family, would
esaily have cost me a dollar. So here's my Self-denial
Money for the week $4.30.
In a letter from one of our members recently, and I
value these letters from you all, for they tell me of the
matters I should touch upon in my letters to the church
44 LETTERS FROM PRISON
week by week I have been asked, " What is the rela-
tion of our church to the organized Socialist movement? "
I will try to answer this query in my note to you next
May our God of the Social Revolution keep us in the
A SOCIALISM OF THE HEART
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL,
NEW YOKK CITY.
From one of you has come the query : " What is the
relation of our Church to the Socialist Party?" The
comrade stated that it had been put to her by an outsider
with whom she was doing propaganda work for the Church.
Indeed, the matter suggested itself also to Comrade Field-
man's active mind. In his visit to me he said, " Bouck
White, this Church is destined to growth beyond what
you dream. It will go wherever the Socialist Party has
gone ; it will be a sister movement to the Party."
That image of " brother and sister " is not bad. It
pictures the two walking side by side, each holding the
hand of the other; mutually aiding, counseling, comfort-
ing in a word, supplementing each other ; as do brother
and sister, when knit in the glow of sweetest fellowship,
each being stronger because of the other ; therefore I was
grateful to him for the figure. But I expressed the rela-
tion more intensively still. " Yes," said I to him, " you
have hit it patly : the two are to be side-partners ; but it
is more than a pal-ship; something even closer than that
of a sister to a brother. The Church of the Revolution
is destined to be the soul, of which the Socialist Party is
What the body is without a soul, that is what Socialism
was before we appeared; which confirms the word with
which Fieldman followed up his declaration. " As soon
as I saw this Church," said he, " I discerned that it is the
thing we have for long time been needing." And his dis-
46 LETTERS FROM PRISON
cernment was sound. The body, when there is no soul
inside, begins to die. And in like manner unmistakable
tokens of mortality had been manifest of late in the So-
cialist movement. Not in loss of numbers. No; nu-
merically her growth has been astounding. But it has
been attended by a loss of conviction. She has been de-
clining into a reform party. More and more, she has
waged her campaigns by promising to the electorate, if
put into power, to tinker up many a weak place in the
Now I am a believer in political action. The settle-
ment of a dispute, in the orderly method of counting
noses votes dropped in a hat is the one civilized and
civilizing mode. We need to capture the political ma-
chinery. But we need likewise to capture humankind's
mental machinery. A Socialism of the hand, and a So-
cialism of the heart there is the full-orbed program
which now for the first time we offer to the world. Until
the Revolution Church, Socialism hobbled like a man with
one leg. Now the other leg is added; and will more than
double his speed and strength and usefulness. The ma-
terial-minded crowd, therefore, who hail with joy our
church's advent as a means of rounding out and illuminat-
ing the party's economic propaganda, are wise and of great
But as the body is dead without a soul inside to shine
through, so in the contrary direction the soul is helpless
without a body as its organ and instrument. This puts
a difference between us and churches of the old sort. The
religion they foster is a disembodied thing, having no con-
tact with actuality; it is thin, anemic, ghost-like, hover-
ing over the habitation of men, but eluding all attempts
to harness it to the uses of the world. Therefore the
spiritual-minded crowd are rallying to the Revolution
Church as the channel through which their pent-up ideal-
ism can flow down into the thirsty landscape of earth.
Will the Socialist Party take kindly to this attempt to.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 47
put a soul under its ribs, that shall intensify it into a
non-compromising revolutionary stand at every moment?
Well, some of them will not. Already they are fighting
us. They perceive in us something new in the history of
the world, and are distrustful. They would be content
to capture merely a man's vote. We go gunning to cap-
ture the man entire, from toe to top, inside and out. We
insist that a man's Socialism must be as big as the uni-
verse. It is not something he can put on and off for elec-
tion day only, like a suit of clothes ; but is a new outlook
upon life, and must affect all his acts, and every thought
he thinks. Perhaps this kind of Socialism will not win
mayoralty campaigns as quickly as the other kind. But
it will be a victory worth the winning when it does arrive,
instead of the commonplace and disillusioning thing some
of our premature victories on election day have been.
Others in the party, perceiving this need for a redder
and deeper Socialism, are welcoming our church. I per-
ceive that the party in New York is thinking of naming
me as candidate for Congress. That is a tribute to our
church; and as such I am glad. My ideals for my own
life-work are not at all in the direction of political office.
Politics does not create. It merely expresses the view-
point that has already been created in the mind of the
people. I am ambitious of having a part on the creative
side, leaving to others to write it into laws and acts of
state. None the less, I should be happy at the honor paid
to our church if I were named for the office. Because it
would demonstrate that the Socialists, even in infidel New
York, are perceiving the substantial contribution that will
come to the movement when, to the party of social revo-
lution is added the Church of the Social Revolution; a
combination that will spell revolution indeed.
There is still a further way, and a most direct one,
wherein our church will help the Socialist Party and the
movement for social reconstruction generally ; that is, by
connecting this movement with the positive, the believing,
48 LETTERS FROM PRISON
the faith side of human nature ; and so redeeming it from
the squint of irreligion and infidelity that has formerly
attached to it. But this is a big subject, and I'll try to
devote an entire letter to it, unless you send me queries
covering other points you wish me to touch.
My self-denial check this week is for $3.95. Fifty
cents of it was real self-denial, for the other of course is
only make-believe, since I couldn't buy butter or sugar or
eggs if I tried. The mosquitoes of the night have been
very predatory in this neighborhood of late. Our cells were
not exactly architectured to promote ventilation or cool
slumbers on a hot night, being dry goods boxes of plate
iron, open at one end; tier upon tier, like cells in a honey-
comb. (Whenever a prisoner turns over in his cell at
night and hits the plate-iron siding, the reverberation
booms through the whole prison. ) Well, the only protec-
tion one has from mosquitoes is to cover himself, head and
all, under the blanket; which, being a thick coarse horse
blanket, makes the hot cell hotter. (If only we had a
sheet to crawl under, it wouldn't be so bad ; but it has been
so long since I've seen a bed with a sheet on it, I've forgot-
ten what they look like.) Therefore I was planning to
invest fifty cents in some citronella, to rub on me as pro-
tection from the winged visitors, and so be able to lie all
uncovered. Then I thought, " Here's a chance the first
you've really had, Bouck White, to save some money
by real self-denial." So I turned the temptation down.
And would you believe it, that next night it turned cool
and delightful. Not a mosquito sang in my cell all night ;
and I had the first good sleep in several days. Which
shows that it is profitable to save and turn money into the
Church. And now comes word that some mosquito netting
is being sent me by mail. So even this self-denial didn't
prove to be the real thing.
Yours for the sacred rebellion, and the Church that is
to ignite and protect and control it,
OUTBREAK OF THE WAR IN EUROPE
NEW YORK CITY.
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL,
The news from Europe must have put to every one of
you the query, What bearing has it on our Revolution
Church? It is a fact of high significance, that we and our
church program are concerned whenever an event trans-
pires in the world. A bomb explosion, an election, a war
whatever it be, we instinctively ask, What light does this
throw on the soundness and, permanency of the principle
around which our church fellowship is organized? It is a
sign that we are square in the explosive center of twentieth
century affairs. Lines of contact radiate from us to
every department of life. Whatever touches humanity
touches us. Modern of the moderns, the cross currents in
this rushing, impetuous age sweep upon us. For we are in
the midmost thicket of affairs. We refuse to be cloistered
in monastic aloofness. In reverence I say it: the news-
paper is our bible; the God of our worship is the Spirit
of the time, the Soul of this wonderful, tumultuous To-day.
The war that embroils Europe is nothing less than the
breaking down of European civilization. We Socialists
have long been saying that this thing called civilization
was not civilization at all. Based on competitive strife,
it was purely the law of the jungle taken over by humans
as their rule of action. Laughed to scorn, we persisted
in our affirmation. And now the scoffer turns to us with
apology ; he scoffs no longer. In one week the mask with
which commercialism had for so long disguised itself, is
rent asunder. And the savagery underneath comes hide-
50 LETTERS FROM PRISON
ously to vision. Nations which plumed themselves to be
of Christ, are seen to be anti-Christ ; their civilization was
veriest uncivilization ; that which called itself Christendom,
was in reality devildom. Long back we were saying this ;
and were the world's derision. Now hell has burst out,
and all the devils are loose.
This discovery of how thin and insubstantial a thing
is present-day civilization, brings home the necessity of
our church, as nothing else that has happened in a hun-
dred years could have done. Sooner than was expected,
the old order is breaking up. And with a crash that lends
almost a note of melodrama. We looked for a long and
slow decline in the patient. His end promises to come,
the rather, in fashion brusque and thrilling.
With the passing of the old, a new order of intelligence
will be needed. The Revolution Church came up not a
moment too soon. For we are the constructors of the
humanity of to-morrow. The Socialist Party will build
the new economic system. We in turn are building the
new type of man to work that system. Our appearing
is a promise that the world will not be left void and naked ;
titanic war is stripping from the human race its old and
tattered clothes ; we meanwhile are sewing a new garment,
when the old shall have been rent away. As a tree de-
nuded of leaves by the winds of winter, the tree leafless
would present a bleak appearance; but inside, a tide of
strange warm sap sets in; green buds appear; and the
tree is raimented anew. What springtime is to a forest
worn by the decays of autumn and desolated by the wild
gales of winter, our Church of the Revolution is to human-
kind in this hour of her bereavement and crisis.
That this nine-power war in Europe sounds the passing
of the old regime and the coming of a new and democratic
ordering, is the testimony even of so conservative an or-
gan as the New York Times. Many of you read those
editorial words in it this morning. From such a source
they are of premier importance; and I quote them here:
LETTERS FROM PRISON 51
" The war is the direct and apparently the inevitable re-
sult of competitive armament. Such armament has been
dictated in large part by the ruling classes, who are least
exposed to the terrible consequences of war, and who have
conceived or inherited ambitions, animosities, appetites, in
which the common people do not consciously share. It is
not at all beyond the limits of reasonable speculation to
infer that by this lesson the general mind of the world
may be so deeply revolted that the political systems in
Europe that have left the precious welfare of the common
people to a class that do not share the common burdens,
may be cast off."
Positively, we are living in the most wonderful age in
history. It is a culminating era. The old is dying. The
new is struggling to be born. In a theater wide as the
world, the drama is being staged ; and amid an impressive
setting of properties and scenery. To be living at a time
like this, is privilege. But to have a part in the drama
that is very heaven. This joy is the possession of
every member of the Revolution Church. We are in the
middle of the stream; are caught in the eager, splendid
current. On this account, people of low mental and spirit-
ual vitality are frightened away from us. They desire
a church where they won't have to think and they can
find that sort a-plenty. Our conception of Church is an
engine that gears onto the time's centermost machinery.
We alteringly affect the flow of the ages. We are making
new ideals for a new world that is hastening to birth. We
will recast humankind, when it shall have been dismem-
bered and shattered by the strife of nations.
Signs are many that the general war now at blaze across
the ocean is going to shift the center of civilization from
Europe to America. It is a melancholy way in which to
lift oneself at the cost of another's downfall. But facts
will be what they will be. Already in the space of a week
we are becoming chief among the nations as carrier of the
world's commerce. With the stoppage of industry abroad,
52 LETTERS FROM PRISON
our factories will belch an augmented breath of flame and
smoke. The world's banking center will shift to our
shores. And this probably for all time. The war will
lay Europe panting in the dust ; whichever side wins, there
will be a legacy of sores and hates and envies that will
perpetuate the sadness and the prostration.
This shift to us of the world's center of gravity in
things material will be accompanied by a like shift in things
in the empire of the mind. The universities of Europe,
her schools of every kind and degree, her halls of science,
her art and literature, all the finer flowerings of the mind
of man, will suffer eclipse in the night of blood that is
darkening over her. Her Socialism will share in the same
fatal collapse. Hitherto we have looked to Europe as
the guide and formative influence in the Socialist move-
ment. But the comrades there are going to be sucked
down in the whirlpool that is engulfing every other part
of Europe's life. Witness the taking off of Jaures, not
least of last week's packed and crowded sorrow.
This means thai as America henceforth will take a world
leadership in nearly all things else, so she will be called
upon from this time forth to be the leader in Socialism
also. We will no longer be able to look to Europe to
formulate our doctrines. Europe, and the rest of the
world as well, will begin to look to us. And what shall be
America's contribution to the theory and practice of So-
cialism? Something in the realm of the economic? Hardly
shall anything new be added to the ground plan in the
realm dealt with by Lassalle and Engel and Marx. I am
clear that America's distinctive contribution is going to be
in things of the spirit. The genius of America anyway
is shot through with a religious tang and coloring. It is
our mission, now that world leadership is being thrust upon
us, to summon Socialism out of the low ground of a purely
materialistic program, to the uplands of aspiration,
where the spirit can stretch its wings in its native ether.
Comrades, the Church of the Social Revolution, from New
LETTERS FROM PRISON 53
York City as its cradle, and in this most important era
in history, is of parentage other than mortal ; she has been
born to fulfill a large destiny.
I have saved $4.00 this week and gladly contribute it
to her treasury.
CALL TO A DANGEROUS AND DIVINE
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
I'm wondering if you appraise as weightily as it de-
serves, the fact that every week since my arrest has seen
new members signing The Covenant and j oining themselves
to our church. It means courage and no trivial degree
of determination. To be sure, even from our first meet-
ing we emphasized the dangerousness of the mission into
which our church summoned the people. But by some
this was not taken seriously. They joined the Church
lightly, as one joins a social club. Then came our first
clash with the rulers of this present world. Instantly,
the faces of some in our membership went pale as an oys-
ter. One, holding official position, made feverish haste
to resign, and ran to cover, out of the reach of peril that
might be impending. And a number of the others caught
a severe cold in the feet.
Now at last the perilous and contraband quality of the
movement we are initiating is known of all. Heroism is
positively an essential in any one entering our church.
Without any help on our part, the standard of entrance
has been automatically tightened. Some no doubt pre-
dicted to themselves that, with its leader in prison, our
church was as good as killed; for no one would dare to
But what say the facts? On the first Sunday of the
prison chapter in our history, two score valorous souls
fought their way to the platform in their eagerness to join.
And altogether over two hundred have added their splen-
did names to our roll in these last three months.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 55
Had a like number joined one of the middle-class
churches, the fact would have received headlines in their
denominational paper. The contrast gains an augmented
significance when it is remembered that to join a middle-
class church is to enter the ranks of respectability.
Whereas to join us means to make oneself of no account,
renounce social climbing, and embrace danger, even out-
lawry, in the terrific pathway of revolution.
Say I not rightly, therefore: They who join our church
now, and the aforetime members who have not faltered in
this our march into the danger zone, are a choice and
sifted company. Great events are impending upon earth.
The Revolution Church shall have a part therein. Our
membership is made up of those who dare to stand for the
right when the right is unpopular. Souls of that texture
are the makers of history.
A greeting, therefore, to all the former comrades that
have stuck, and to the newcomers among us. Of refined
and tested metal you are compounded. It will be a high
moment in my life when I am permitted to feel your hand
in mine. In the testing time you have not been found
wanting. Together we shall do a day's work of some
greatness, for our God and his blood-bright banner.
It must be increasingly clear to all of us, that the Con-
tinental War now ablaze in Europe, makes the Revolution
Church not only possible but imperative. For a few
weeks, probably, our path will be made more thorny. We
shall share in the eclipse that overtakes all things of the
spirit and of mental culture, when war smoke rolls up and
cannons boom. But the net result is going to be favor-
able to us. The war is training the imagination of men
to vision things on a scale of some scope and grandeur.
That is a direct preparation for our gospel ; for our gospel
is not understandable except by minds of wide outlook,
and disciplined to think in world terms.
Also the passing of the old order ("passing" is too
mild a term ; this present world is being exploded from off
56 LETTERS FROM PRISON
the face of the earth; victim of its own inventiveness, in
devising high-powered methods of cutting each other's
throat), the passing of old institutions, will make new ones
requisite. Have you noticed how negligible has been the
Roman Catholic Church in this business? The crisis has
published to the world the impotency of that hierarchy, as
an influence longer in human affairs. An old man sits in
the Vatican, pathetic in his powerlessness, as he sees mil-
lions of his own people on each side prepare bloodily to
exterminate each other. It declares that, over large areas
of the earth, and areas once ultra-Romanist, the Church of
the Tiber is a spent force, living in the past ; an old age of
decline and swift decrepitude. We shall be well advised
to gird ourselves to take over the spiritual guardianship
and moral nurture of the peoples, when the Roman Church
with dying hand lets go. When this catastrophic war is
terminated, we shall hear not only the cry of kings upon
their crumbling thrones ; the noise of falling may be heard
also from the papal monarch. In this war the passing of
Roman Catholicism is foreshadowed. Of that) world-wide
institution we shall be the supplanter.
My self-denial check this week is for $4.05.
Your leader in the perilous, the sacred, the glorious
Don't send me any more Calls. It seems that the
warden has stopped daily papers. But magazines are
reaching me. The covers are stripped away, so that I
know not the senders. Please thank the Comrades, for
me and for the other grateful convicts here, to whom I
pass the good things along.
IN PLACE OF BLOODSHED, WE GIVE
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
I have a few minutes in my cell, after the noonday meal,
ere the keeper calls our gang to the afternoon's work.
Am seizing the moment to telj you that I am thinking of
you; and often.
Indeed, the news from Europe [the war] throws me back
upon our church and the Revolution, as the one release
from the mess capitalism has made of things. Moreover,
there is a family connection between the Colorado war and
the European war. Both had their rootage in economic
causes. Both were inevitable, so long as civilization is
permitted to remain on a basis of competition. Throat-
cutting is the term business men apply to their trade
rivalries. And that is also war's exact picture and defini-
The world-conflict now at rage promises to get
worse before it can get better. It will continue to suck
in to itself the interest of every intelligent intellect, ab-
sorbing the lion's share of attention.
Here is a difference between us and the churches of
capitalism. To them this war is humiliation unspeakable.
They have been the moral monitors, the ethical teachers
of Christendom. And this is the outcome of the brand of
morality they have handed out. With us, on the other
hand, the war is a vindication. It attests the sureness of
our prophecy and the wisdom of our course. I tell you
truly, more minds than we realize are turned toward us
to-day and to our proposal to revolutionize the basis of the
58 LETTERS FROM PRISON
world's life; and they are some of the soberest and bril-
liantest minds in the country. There is nothing now can
keep our church from victory, if we will but hold fast our
fellowship one with another, and be loyal. Every shot
fired on the battlefields of Europe, every life that is taken,
every house that is demolished, every harvest field that is
trampled, every bridge that is destroyed, is an argument
for the Church of the Social Revolution. And brings our
Check of self-denial, $4.00.
Yours for the Overturn, that shall supplant this world
of bloodshed with a world of brotherhood.
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL,
NEW YORK CITY.
Have just opened the basket of fruit brought to me in
your name this morning. Naturally, therefore, am writ-
ing this in a most cheery state of mind. The basket
contains nine oranges, three pears, six bananas, and two
packages of raisins. Who wouldn't be happy? Of
course, this will be the only basket allowed me for the next
ten days. I will have to go a bit miserly with it. But it
divides up into one orange and twelve raisins each and
every day, with sometimes an extra.
It would astonish you, when one is deprived of sugar
whole months at a time, how toothsome is a piece of fruit.
The other day one of the convicts that works in the
kitchen had some prunes in his pocket and gave me some.
I guess the keeper must have locked the storeroom now,
for he never appears with any more. Once a week we
have a supper of five prunes apiece, a hunk of dry bread,
and black unseasoned coffee. The only other sign of
sweets in the whole week is dried apple sauce the
teeniest, weeniest portion for supper on Sunday nights.
A report was spread from one of the prisoners in the store-
room gang, last week, that maggots had got into the dried
apples. But I couldn't find one in mine Sunday night;
the dish tasted perfectly fine. Dried apple sauce is looked
down upon, by people out in the world. But I can tell
you, we don't despise it here. Why, that Sunday night
supper of apple sauce and dried bread is looked forward
to the whole week long. I sometimes wish, on cold fall
or winter nights, they would give me more bed clothing.
60 LETTERS FROM PRISON
All we have is two blankets each. One of them you have
to fold up to sleep on, as a bed. Which leaves only one
solitary blanket to cover you. And you can't get out of
your cell to shut windows, if a cold windy wave should come
up in the night. You just have to lie still and take it;
unless you are able to get a keeper to shut it for you.
Keepers are not very popular among prisoners. Not al-
together a keeper's fault either. He has a thankless job.
Suspiciousness is his normal state of mind. Sometimes
when I am awake at night, and the keeper coming along on
his rounds steers a flash light in on me, and into my eyes,
I get enraged enough to hit him plumb in the face, if I
could only reach him through the bars. But then, on
reflection, I am compelled to admit that he is in the right.
His job is to see that we are all here. And he has to pry
with his searchlight into every cell.
Comrades, in some way we have got to reach the pris-
oners now in a thousand prisons. Our church believes in
getting down to the lowermost man. We are not strong
on kid gloves, but are strong on a warm hand held forth to
the people struggling at the bottom. I am sure I shall
never forget the prison lad, now that I am in contact with
him on so friendly and constant a footing. Perhaps that
was one of the purposes of the Most High, in causing me
to enter into this place. Sights are searing themselves
into my brain, that will be with me at all times henceforth.
Our church is called to a many-branched and marvelous
work. And one of these must be to " them that are in
prison." For the most part they are normal. Circum-
stances, more than aught of incurable badness within, have
brought them here. Many of them, I am certain, will re-
spond to an appeal such as our church will know how to
frame. I am not now suggesting methods. I wish the
rather to get your minds working along this line; to the
end that some helpful sparks may be struck. Self-denial
this week, $3.75. Yours in the Faith,
THE PROGRESSIVE PARTY BELONGS IN
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
Comes a request this morning that I deny a statement
which seemingly has been put in circulation, that I have
accepted the nomination of the Progressive Party, for
Congress. I here make the denial. Even the news of
such a thing had not reached me.
The affair brings to my pen a matter of which I have
been wishing to write you for some time. The Progressive
Party is dying. Those of you who have been following
the newspapers (every member of our church should read
a daily newspaper) know that evidences of the death agony
of the Bull Moose are plentiful. A vote fast dwindling
to the vanishing point; the Hinman fiasco at Saratoga;
the resignation of their candidate for Governor in Pennsyl-
vania, in favor of an old Party nominee; fusion in New
York City these are the death rattle of the Progressive
Party as a political entity.
Which event has, if you will consider attentively, an
immediate bearing on our church. For these Progres-
sives, when the tree-trunk now bearing them falls to earth,
must go somewhere. Some of them will go over to the
Party of President Wilson. Some few will go back to the
Republicans. A great mass of them ought to drop into
the Socialist basket. Provided And here is where the
Revolution Church enters the transaction.
The Progressive Party is made up in large part of
people who are essentially religious. Their first conven-
tion in Chicago, where they sang hymns and proclaimed
62 LETTERS FROM PRISON
themselves an Armageddon host battling for the Lord,
gives vivid and unmistakable evidence. Their numbers
were swelled, to be sure, by many disgruntled politicians
that had failed of preferment in the old parties. But,
making every deduction, it is safe to say that no politi-
cal movement in our history ever assembled so many of
the devoutly idealist temperament, as did the National
Progressive Party. The natural path for these to take,
now that their present campi is breaking up, is Socialism.
But Socialism, to their mind, has come to be coupled with
an anti-religious temper. Nor can one blame them for
such a notion. Many a, Socialist speaker and writer has
given the world full reason to hold such a belief concerning
us. They have gone out of their way to affront the
deeper, the reverential instinct in the human heart. So
that Socialism, in the minds of the outside world, has come
to be identified with a hard and doctrinaire materialism,
sordid and graceless.
At no time did such a picture do us more harm than it
is doing at present. For it is likely to keep thousands of
Progressives out of our ranks, now at a time when natu-
rally we could look for them to turn their faces hither-
ward. At present they are attracted by Socialism's politi-
cal idealism; but are repelled by the materialist meta-
physic with which we have coupled up that politicalism.
It is in such a juncture our church can render to
Socialism a memorable service. We are a refutation of
the libel that Socialism and infidelity are natural-born
mates. Our existence declares to the world that the red
host international is very God of very God. We deny
that Socialism is anti-religious. We go further. We
deny that it is even non-religious. Basing our position
upon modern biblical scholarship, and the most recent
findings of psychologists and historians, as well as the
testimony spoken by our own souls within us, we affirm
Socialism to be the lineal offspring of the worthiest re-
ligious tradition of the ages ; and that it is pioneering
LETTERS FROM PRISON 63
the path which mankind to-day must take, in order to re-
gain unshakable foundations for faith, and a spiritual
understanding and vision.
Comrades, it is the psychological moment for such a
proclamation. The Progressive Party is looking for a
new home, a new expression of its spirit. If we can utter
our message with a continental voice, we shall turn thou-
sands of them into the Socialist fold. We have not a
moment to lose. Their minds now are at teeter, in the
crisis of indecision. If we keep silent, or utter our message
feebly, most of them will go over to the Democratic Party,
that hopeless home for their spirits; there the fine flame
of idealism now glowing within them will by little and little
be quenched. And the world will be defeated of the con-
tribution to its aspiration and upreach, which they had it
in them to make.
From a hundred directions, signs and voices are con-
verging to declare that the Church of the Social Revolu-
tion has come to birth at an opportune hour. Never did
the interests of mankind speak more loudly. Never was
a Church called into being by needs so manifold and so
piteously pleading. The call presented to us by the crisis
at this moment in the Progressive Party, is the one to
which I confine my pen this week. And it is not a slight
call. Some of the ablest intelligences and finest spirits in
America joined the Bull Moose movement. Their inclu-
sion in Socialism would bring to the comrade cause an
accession of brain and heart and executive power, beyond
Self-denial check this week, $4.05.
Yours in the Holiest and Highest task of our Genera-
tion, BOUCK WHITE.
SOCIALISM SET TO MUSIC
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
" Tell us, Bouck White our leader^ what you desire ;
and what we can do for you," is the proffer that comes to
me by letter and word of visitors. All right, I'm going to
tell you: I greatly desire that, when I go back into the
world of the free, I shall find you a Church of singers.
I shall not care a hill of beans about the artistic quality
of it. But the volume and heartiness and spontaneity
in a word, the folk-singing fire and sweep in it is what
I shall look for. And I entreat you not to disappoint me.
Singing is our distinction. It redeems us from the
commonplaceness of the platform pattern of meetings.
If the Revolution Church had been nothing but a lecture
center, how suddenly would it have disorganized when I
was taken from you! I am not sure but the speaking is
the subordinate side of our movement. To be sure we
couldn't get along without it. The intellect must be fed.
But neither could we get along without the singing. For
the emotions too have claims and must be fed. Singing
has been lamentably tossed into the discard by Socialism
of late. And it is a sign of her slump from the inspira-
tions of former times, down into the glamour of materialism
and a politician's paradise.
Music is wing power. Working with me in the prison
yard is an old German, who was in the Franco-Prussian
War of 1870. Telling me of his experiences, he related
the other day how, when they went into the battle, " the
music," as he termed the military bands, kept in a safe
place. " Because," he explained, " if the music should be
LETTERS FROM PRISON 65
killed, what should we do? On a long day's march when
we were ready to drop, the music would start up ; and then
we could step twice so well as before."
Comrades, unto a great work have we separated our-
selves. We proclaim a Socialism big and deep and many-
sided as the soul of man. Economic theory is all right
for the brain. But the human animal is gifted also with
a heart. Music is the language of the heart. Always,
when the feelings mightily are stirred, music is the vehicle
of expression. The dirge for sorrow. The joy song, for
the lyric expansive hour. The trumpet tones for battle.
The paean, to celebrate a victory. And marching music
in our journey ings.
I know, there is in Socialist Party circles an assembly
of mockers. They deride aught that savors of sentiment.
But we heed not their scoffing. We will not permit them
to outface us. A songless Socialism is a wrangling, con-
tentious, dismembered thing. A singing Socialism will be
a socialism triumphant.
Song means that the depths within have been reached.
It is peculiarly fitting for a world movement such as ours.
And particularly in the day of crisis and culmination that
is now upon us. Have you noticed, since the war now at
blaze, the increase in the output of poetry in the news-
papers and magazines? And the prose too, has taken on
a tone of solemnity and exaltation that is near kin to
poetry. It is because mankind is so profoundly moved.
What poetry is to prose, music is to the spoken word.
Poetry and music are natural mates. They signify that
the soul is functioning that divine agitation from which
alone proceed all work of genius, and all changes of per-
manency in human affairs.
Of all mankind, we of the Revolution Church have the
most right to sing. We are the light of the world. In
this bewildering day, we alone have the clew, and the sure
authentic pathway. Defenders of this present order are
in dire perplexities. Listen to these words from Ex-
66 LETTERS FROM PRISON
President Eliot of Harvard, in this morning's New York
Times: "Thinking people in all the civilized countries
are asking themselves what the fundamental trouble with
civilization is, and where to look for means of escape from
the present intolerable conditions." We of the Revolu-
tion Church are the means of escape for which he and his
are eagerly looking. In a day of spoiling and slaughter,
and the tempest of death, we are in possession of the
serene secret. It ought to make us joyful with a joy
raised to the singing point.
The Churches of the old school are harassed by doubt.
Their theologies don't square with science. They are in
collision with the universities. So that they recite their
creeds more and more stutteringly. And in all their chant-
ing there is a suggestion of the minor key. We, on the
contrary, are delivered from doubt. Those interior con-
flicts ravage us not. We are in unison with science. The
colleges and universities are in partnership with us, pre-
paring ten thousand minds to receive our gospel. Isn't
that an occasion for song?
And then see how wonderfully our church in its short
six months of history has flourished. We are known.
California has heard about us. Florida has heard about
us. The city and the countryside have heard about us.
Said Howard Crosby, " Woe to the Cause that has not
passed through a prison ! " We have met the test of
prison, and have not been found wanting. Of all the
protesters against the Ludlow business, our Church has
been in the forefront. For all time henceforth, our church
is implicated with the sorrows and the strivings of the dis-
inherited. And all of this only in the initial six months
of our history. We have withstood antagonism from
without, disruption from within. And we are, in every
essential point, stronger to-day than we were at any other
moment. The gate of the prison, that seemed at the time
so grievous, is turning out rather unto the progress of our
gospel. It has served to concentrate public opinion, and
LETTERS FROM PRISON 67
focus public interest. Comrades, if we haven't the right
to sing, who has?
Then let us lift up our voice, as the noise of a host.
"Boldness, and joy and zeal" that is our trinity of
blessedness and triumph. All things are ours. Our ap-
pointed time is accomplished. Unto us is this world given
for a possession. The old order passes. The depths are
breaking up. Unto our cause of industrial democracy, the
day of glory dawns. With such a message sending its
fire into our bones, we cannot be silent. We will shout
it from the tops of the houses. Let scoffers scoff. We
are stiffhearted. We are as adamant harder than flint.
They that strive against us shall perish. We go forth
into the mudgutter. Our lips disperse knowledge to them
that are ignorant. We awaken the sleeper.
I do not write this, to persuade you to sing. Music is
of its nature spontaneous. It cannot be made to order.
But the music is already in your hearts. I am entreat-
ing that you take off the lid and let the music out. Give
your soul a chance. In this day of decorums and stiff
proprieties, the feelings have been too much repressed.
Commercialism and middleclassdom are stifling to the soul.
Shake off these weights. Let the stifled spirit free. We
have the greatest, grandest message that has come to earth
for two thousand years. The Revolution Church is So-
cialism set to music. Ours it is, to open the blind eyes
and unstop deaf ears. The days, one by one, bring us
good tidings. Our wagon is hitched to the stars in their
courses. And upon truth our feet are planted, a fir-
mament that shall not be moved.
Then let our spirit rise up in all its might. Lift up
your voice with strength. The world will take account
of us when they perceive that our message has kindled
into song. In this so memorable day, it is fit that the
fountains of the great deep inside of us should break up.
Once let Socialism begin to sing, Capitalism will tremble.
Music is the deeps calling to the deeps. And will do more
68 LETTERS FROM PRISON
to arouse a generation of shop-keepers, than carloads of
logic and forensic oratory. Comrades, I speak the truth :
If, when I come out, I find you a singing church, these
months of imprisonment will be accounted the most fruit-
ful of my life ; and the happiest.
Check this week, and for the next six weeks, will be
$3, or $30 in all. Which I'll send to treasurer Wheelock,
in order that he may square the office rent at 48 Wash-
ington Square for this month and next. The faithful
ones there toiling are under a heavy load. If I take the
rent anxiety from off them, it will ease the pressure a little.
Yours for a Church bursting with music,
THE STRONG CONTAGION
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
From Connecticut and New Jersey, letters reached me
last week, stating that the writers are desirous of starting
a branch of the Revolution Church in their town.
This is of interest. The fact that already, whilst the
parent church in New York is itself but a babe in arms,
the contagion of the idea is spreading to other places, tells
of hot high-pressured vitality in the seed we are ripening.
The fact that we are doing our deeds in the metropolis,
in part accounts for this. New York is a city set on a
very high hill of publicity and popular interest. Small
goings-on in New York bulk bigger than a large doing in
Augusta, Georgia. Whether we wish it or not, our work
cannot be hid. More eyes than we believe, and across a
wider sweep of country, are observantly upon us.
But the contagiousness of our Church is not explain-
able purely on those mechanical grounds. The idea
around which our doings crystallize, is big and alive and
timely. For one thing, we bring the revolutionary move-
ment of the day to self-consciousness. Had you ever
thought of it, we are the only organization that puts the
word revolution boldly in its title. There are other bodies
that propagate revolution. But they don't say so ap-
parently they don't dare to say so in the name by which
they designate themselves. With us there is no conceal-
ment. We do our doings in the daylight. We proclaim
revolution. And with so forthright and open a spirit as
to write it in the very signboard that we tack up over the
entrance to our shop, where every passer-by can see.
70 LETTERS FROM PRISON
I predict that this fact of itself is going to have conse-
quences which perhaps may get into history. It is dis-
tinctly a point gained, when a combat gets out from cover
and lines up in the open. What was until then a guerrilla
affair, shifty and uncertain, elevates itself now into de-
clared warfare, with the dignity and manlier stouter
nobler tone which characterizes war when it is formally
announced and openly entered upon.
That is the service our Church is rendering to the social
war. For some time now a revolution has been in prog-
ress. But it wasn't recognized as such. We come upon
the scene, and tag the thing with its true label. Thereby
we lift it from an affair of bushwhackers into a line-up
of two contending world-philosophies. So that they that
take part, do so now with understanding and a heart of
It is an enormous advantage gained when a revolution
reaches the point where it calls itself by that name. Few
people are able to know their own day. As when passing
judgment on a mountain or a huge building, distance is
necessary for perspective. Always an age of revolution
is one of confused and perplexing tendencies. It is a
time of cross-currents. In this kind of a day, thousands
of people live and die without knowing that a revolution
has been taking place. In the Paris of 1793, life in the
main went on in customary grooves. The bakers baked,
and housewives washed each week their basketful of
soiled linen. Dullards lived in that mighty day, all blind
to the grandeur of it. They merely paused to note that
politics were more stormy than usual, and the guillotine
was claiming a larger number of victims than for some
time past. Then they returned to their humdrum, and so
missed participation in one of the most momentous eras
that ever came to awaken the race.
Such another age is ours. And many thousands in like
fashion are dull to the majestic meanings of it. Our
church comes to such with a lantern to light up the dark-
LETTERS FROM PRISON 71
ness of their minds. Picture what happens inside of them,
when their eye lights on our name in a news column or on
a throw-around : " Church of the Social Revolution."
Without a word of argument, it infects them with the
idea that a revolution is either in process already, or is
imminent. They may not accept the idea. Nevertheless
they can't shake it off. And a ferment is set going in
their brain tracts that soon or late will land tens of thou-
sands of them in the revolutionary camp.
Yes, we are in possession, comrades, of a big and thun-
dering idea. If we did nothing more than just keep going
and hold up that name, " Church of the Social Revolu-
tion," before the eyes of the people, we would be doing a
day's work fruitful of largest consequences.
Therefore it is not to be marveled at that people out-
side of New York are catching the splendid contagion, and
are asking, " Why not a Church of the Social Revolution
here in my town too? "
I'm going to suggest the steps to take and methods to
pursue, in starting a branch Church in one's own locality.
But that will have to be in a letter by itself.
Yours in the great and holy work,
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
I spoke last week of the letter that had just come from
a comrade in New Jersey who wishes to organize a branch
of our church in his town. In replying I mentioned to
him some practical ways of going about such an under-
taking. It may be of worth to repeat them here. For
we have in our New York meetings, to a degree, a migra-
tory audience. The industrial break-up sends our people
hither and yon. They who, in our New York City center,
have caught fire with our flame, will on moving elsewhere
wish to carry the burning coals to that new habitation.
What are the steps to take?
Well, in the first place let the missionary who thus starts
out to plant the powerful seed in any city or town, be as-
sured that he has hold of a live wire. " Church of the
Social Revolution " is a name that will make a community
sit up and take notice. Probably some reports of us have
already reached their ears. For in a short six months,
tidings of us have traveled across many hundreds of miles
of the map. Therefore, let the name be blazoned across
every move that is made. Print it large on any cards that
are issued. Let the letters stand out in white, against a
field of red, to be the banner in all assemblings.
In the next place, don't try to get the Socialist Party
officially to help you. The trend of an institution, once
it attains to some establishment, to harden into con-
servatism, is terribly, terribly real. The Socialist Party
is not escaping that trend. From raising up a generation
that shall be Socialists every day in the year, they are
LETTERS FROM PRISON 73
more and more content to raise up a generation that shall
be Socialists only on Election Day each year. It is easier
to socialize a man's ballot than to socialize him in heart
and mind and spirit. Therefore the Party tends nat-
urally to go off into the easier and quicker job, and looks
with coolness on us ; lest our propaganda of a Socialism of
the heart, cut in on their propaganda of a Socialism only
of the ballot. It will take time to show them that we
are the best friend and coadjutor that ever arose to help
their cause. Meanwhile we shall have to go ahead on our
own initiative. We shall have to save the Socialist Party
in spite of itself. The time will come when they will rise
up and call us blessed.
In starting the propaganda, bear in mind that our
church is founded on a great idea, and a new idea.
Namely, that the Power of the universe is passionately on
the side of the toiler, against the idler. That puts a dif-
ference between us and the churches of the Respectability,
a difference great as day from darkness, or summer's fruit-
ful heat from winter's driving cold. It is a difference
furthermore that is structural and fundamental. It puts
life and the universe in a wholly changed and fresh aspect ;
a change so deep and central that it reaches an altering
hand into every department of existence, and makes all
things new. We cannot compromise, therefore. Nor tin-
ker up the present establishment. New wine demands new
This gospel of ours, while new to men to-day, is not
however an innovation or an adventurous untried experi-
ment. It was fundamentally the viewpoint of the great
spirits that wrought the deeds recorded in the Bible and
wrote its pages. The discovery of this fact is known as
the higher criticism; the scientific mind and the scientific
spirit, applied to the study of the Bible. Therefore we
enter a town, not as emotional fanatics, decrying the in-
tellect and directing our appeal purely to unthinking
minds. We have a message that is adapted to the most
74 LETTERS FROM PRISON
highly educated intellects. We demand a hearing, not
only from the man in the street but from the college profes-
sor as well. We speak the word of historical science and
sound scholarship. They who seek to refute us are the
ignoramuses. For they know not modern science. Their
viewpoint is that of a European peasant to-day, or of
people in the dark ages ten full centuries ago. Therefore
both dignity and invincible boldness should characterize
As a practical method of getting this new and revolu-
tionizing message into the hearts of the people, the " Call
of the Carpenter," and its recent companion book, are in-
valuable. Every copy of those books let loose in a neigh-
borhood, is a missionary active in our behalf. A low-
priced edition, practically at cost price, has been issued.
From some particular street corner, on certain nights
every week, the book should be sold. With the banner
of the Church afloat. And with spoken words ex-
planatory of the gospel we are preaching and the world
movement we are organizing.
With that book circulating in the community, it will
not be long before individuals will become interested in us.
The message uttered in its pages has a way of dyna-
miting the mind and spirit. It starts a flood of questions.
Provokes to conversings and discussions. And a Sunday
afternoon conference, in some private house at first, and
advertised in the papers or by throw-arounds, can easily
be made to follow.
From then on, the way is clear. It is only the first
step that costs. After that, helpers volunteer. And un-
suspected avenues of opportunity open up. Public de-
bates with ministers and Catholic priests can be arranged.
Because we tap all the sources of contemporary life, we
can use the columns of the local newspapers, by means of
articles about timely happenings, and leading up to the
message our church is propagating. Many boys and
young men are floating away from the old-time Sunday
LETTERS FROM PRISON 75
Schools teaching an antiquated creed. With us, however,
they will find a tightness and soundness of intellect, an
up-to-the-minute mind, and a virile participation on life's
dangerous firing line. Therefore a class of young people,
to study these great new truths, will be ofttimes a possi-
bility. Also, classes for children. Children make ardent
propagandists. Let one true-spirited boy or girl in a
sleepy, middleclass home become inoculated with our gos-
pel, he or she will overset the entire household, and be a
light bearer of no mean capacity. All the time, song
as soon as an earliest group has been gathered, after the
initial seed-sowing must be a part in our assemblings to-
gether. Music keeps a meeting from going off into dry
intellcctualism or harsh and futile wranglings. Music has
power to sooth the savage ; split the heart of hardest rock ;
melt heads that are a very cabbage. Yes, let us be known
as a singing people. It will give wings to our propa-
ganda, to carry it into places little dreamed of, and to
hearts that hitherto were inaccessible to Socialist teach-
Is it worth while to take the pains thus to start a branch
of the Revolution Church in a community? Well, each
heart must answer that for itself. The person who prefers
to give his off time and strength to croquet or bridge or
checkers, tango teas or the baseball bulletin, will be un-
magnetized by the offer of service we hold out. Friv-
olously they live, frivolously they will die, and frivolously
be snuffed out hereafter. To them however that weigh
their lives earnestly, work of this kind offers a harvest
richer than any other I know of or can think of. Picture
the average town and city now : sunk in middleclassdom ;
without idealisms; engrossed in money-grubbing; the old
religions ebbing; life going ever and ever more flat, more
meager, more unprofitable; the workers declining into a
serfdom that deepens and darkens at every minute ; no out-
look ahead; the universe shrinking into a cellar of muck
and spider webs.
76 LETTERS FROM PRISON
With the coming of the Revolution Church, however,
notice the change that takes place. We proclaim an over-
setting of the false philosophies that were holding the
people back. Boldness takes the place of fear. The
workers straighten up their backs. The mudgutter, for-
merly a spot for senseless profanity and more senseless
obscenities, echoes with a chorus of full-hearted, full-
throated singers. Eyes once dull in torpor, become phos-
phorescent with hope. Interrogation awakes. The intel-
lect comes to birth. Life takes on significance. Why?
Because from highest heaven a mighty Overturn is prom-
ised, that shall turn the universe right side up at last, and
permit the natural beauty and joy and splendor of life to
Yes, comrades, to spend and be spent in such a work, is
worth while. Impoverishment shall not stay us, nor shall
defeat discourage us. Many ten thousands of hearts are
hungering for the gospel that has been entrusted unto us.
If we were slothful in carrying it to them, how could we
escape condemnation. Since beginning this, a letter has
just come. Listen to it:
Bouck White Dear Comrade :
I have read your books and know of your church,
and I am interested. I think more such churches should
be established. I am a member of the First Baptist
here, but have talked with the pastor about a change.
I would like to know more about your church and be a
member " at large," perhaps, and turn in what little
support I can for the cause and not against it.
Yours for the Social Revolution,
GEO. E. ALLEN,
S. State St., Painesville, Ohio.
An appeal so genuine and spontaneous must not go un-
heeded. We and we alone have the words of eternal life,
LETTERS FROM PRISON 77
unto this lost generation now upon earth. There is cheer
in that thought. And also, what a responsibility !
MAN IS GOD'S YOUNGER BROTHER
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
The newspapers announce bomb attacks on two New
York churches. And that, as a consequence, a guard has
been placed over the Fifth Avenue Baptist (the Rocke-
feller) Church. Inasmuch as I am in prison for having,
as your minister, sought to call the attention of the
churches to their responsibility in the social war whose
skirmishes are so ominously setting in, I deem that a state-
ment from us would be timely. Assure the Baptist Church
in question that they are in no peril physically from
us. We deplore recourse to dynamite as much as they.
Indeed, to elevate the social question out of the realm of
violence into the plane of reason and light, is a chiefest
objective for which our church of the proletary masses
Thus, though we yield to no one in condemning recourse
to dynamite, nonetheless that event in St. Patrick's Ca-
thedral this week is prodigiously significant. It tells
if revolutionists were the doers of it that the people are
at last awaking to the part theology is playing in the
social war. Members of the red host international have
been arguing that the churches are a negligible factor in
the battle for freedom we are waging. Ritual and altar
and pulpits they have pooh-poohed, as a force too remote
from every-day affairs to merit our notice.
The St. Patrick's bomb, on the anniversary of Ferrer's
assassination, is evidence that a change of mind in this
matter is taking place. The organized religion of a peo-
ple is the one most potent factor in shaping that people.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 79
Theology and sociology are brothers, and linked by as
vital a ligature as were the Siamese twins. One affects
the other. The position our church has taken is invinci-
ble, namely: the religious life tells energetically on the
economic life. And the latter cannot be altered until the
former is altered.
Herein stands the fundamental mischief of our time.
We have a democratic state and a monarchical religion.
And it is a dislocation that is perverting and enflaming
every function of the organism. The Catholic Church is
not alone in displaying an anti-democratic pattern of the-
ology. The Protestants to the extent that they still
retain any tenacity and consistency of belief preach
equally a monarchical potentate over the universe; and a
groveling posture by man towards that potentate.
The Fifth Avenue Baptist people were in panic when
we suggested a conference with them on this theme. These
six months of felon stripes for me bespeak in them nought
else than a delirium of terror. And with reason. They
knew they could not meet the issue. More truly than the
people know, the Ludlow massacre in Colorado was ripened
in that church where Mr. Rockefeller receives religious
nurture. Not consciously, of course, either on his part,
or the pastor or people. Exactly in the subconscious-
ness of the process, resides the deadly efficacy of it. Every
hymn and sermon, every prayer and chanting and recital
of the creed, was a factor whereby in Mr. Rockefeller was
wrought a state of mind of despotism towards his work-
men in Colorado. He was desirous, of course, to make it
into a benevolent despotism; just as the god that was fig-
ured before his vision was a benevolent despot, using his
absolutism for the good of his subjects. But a despotism
nevertheless. And it was against despotism, even of the
benevolent kind, that those Ludlow miners revolted. The
Fifth Avenue Baptist people little realized it, but every
prayer from that pulpit was a cartridge in the guns of
them that slew the one hundred and forty-seven working
80 LETTERS FROM PRISON
folk in Colorado. We in New York have to aid that kind
of church with our taxes. And, if we question, so much
as by a friendliest word, we are cast into jail, without trial
and without redress.
That bomb in St. Patrick's cathedral is going to
reverberate a sound that may get into history. The re-
ligious realm is ever the area where revolutions flame the
most vehemently. And it is going to be so also with the
revolution to-day. The mission of our church is to carry
the issue over into this religious field; and then, to keep
it from going off into violences. We have not a moment
to lose, to speak the sobering word to those now going
off into these mad excesses. I thirst for my November 12
day of release, that I may get by your side once again in
St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Fifth Avenue Baptist
Church are indeed enemies to industrial freedom. They
are two armored strongholds squarely blocking the path
that leads to liberty. And they must be reduced before
the armies of the light can appreciably advance. But
here the military likeness ceases. For, unlikei a fortress
of steel and concrete, these spiritual towers of menace and
slavery can not be reduced by gunpowder.
Bombs explode in a backward direction; and hurt the
attacker more than they hurt the attacked. Ideas can
only be combated by ideas. Let us proclaim more loudly
and energetically than ever our gospel of a consecrated in-
dustrialism ; a religion of valor to supplant the exist-
ing religion of toadyism and fear. In order that there
may be engendered a liberalism of the spirit to companion
the liberalism in our forms of government. And so the
present dislocation of a monarchical soul in a democratic
body may be remedied and for all time done away.
Yours in the Carpenter, that strong red god of Galilee.
AMERICA'S BLENDING OF THE RACES
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
I took a census of the nationalities of some of the pris-
oners here, the other day. Each tier has seven cells. Tak-
ing my tier, I found that the other six prisoners were as
follows : One Russian Jew, one Greek, two Irish, a Swede,
and an Italian. We were six different nationalities. Yet
all melting into one citizenship and speaking or trying
to speak one language. Taking the entire prison, we
have, or have had this summer, representatives of well nigh
every race and nation north of the equator. Medley of
Poles and Germans and Polacks and Negroes, Scotch and
Irish and English, French and Italians, the Mongolian
and the white man, Jews from the Orient and Scandinavi-
ans you never saw a more miscellaneous lot.
They are a cross section of the American-race-that-is-
to-be. No better place than a j ail, to visualize the migra-
tion of mankind hither to these shores in the West.
Strangers in a strange land, they are what the French
call deracinees. They live all uprooted from the associa-
tions that in the old country held them to a moral life.
Their ignorance of this new country, also, is a contributing
factor. So that they are enmeshed in the police court's
dragnet to an unusual degree. Indeed the other day in
the mess hall I got talking with a poor devil of an Italian
from Southern Italy who got into jail largely because his
English was inadequate to defend him.
I am focussing your attention on this, because of a very
practical bearing it has on our work.
This transplantation of peoples from all the earth is the
82 LETTERS FROM PRISON
most stupendous movement of populations ever witnessed,
and will have consequences for a thousand years to come.
Historians trace the modern era in Europe to the blending
of the peoples that took place in the Teutonic invasion of
the ancient Latin world. Italy, France and Spain were
the result, as well as the Anglo-Saxon nations. In Amer-
ica a new blending is in progress. And as it is on a larger
scale than that earlier transmigration, its effect promises
to be proportionately greater.
Well, we as a church are in the midmost thick of this
business. New York is the cosmopolis of the world. Her
geography, at America's port of entry for the racial tides
from Europe, makes of her a gathering place for the na-
tions. New York is the largest Jewish city on earth.
And I bet the figures would show few Italian or Polish or
German or Irish cities in the home countries that would
total more than those racial ingredients within New York's
To mingle these in a new and mighty citizenship is a
commanding need of the times. Herein I see where the
Church of the Social Revolution can do a day's work that
nobody but us can do, in reaching these divergent peoples
and blending them. For one thing, in their transfer to a
new continent, the social revolution has already taken
place with them. The old has perished for them irre-
vocably; mental furniture left behind, when they tore up
their stakes and came to this new world. Therefore our
church with its name and covenant announcing an Over-
turn that shall make all things new, frightens them not.
Their physical migration has wrought in them readiness
for a mental migration. They are in a condition of
spiritual preparedness. It is a priceless moment for plant-
ing in them our seeds of a world-changing reconstruction.
We come to clarify before their vision and consecrate
the revolution through which they, each of them person-
ally, have been passing.
I am bold in pressing this upon your thought. Because,
LETTERS FROM PRISON 83
so far as I know, the point has never before been touched
upon by Socialist thinkers. They dwell much and justi-
fiably on the change brought to pass in the economic
world by machine production supplanting the hand method
of old, necessitating a like revolutionary change in man's
mental processes and possessions. The American migra-
tion has wrought in many millions of people a physical
transition and upheaval in some respects more compre-
hensive, and certainly more swift and dramatic, than the
change in the world industrial. An emotional stress of
this intensity heats the soul into a molten state; man's
nature can then be run into new and wonderful molds,
and so remodel human clay into patterns impossible in
the old unplastic state.
No other church than ours is fitted for reaching this
incoming host. The Roman Catholic is shut out from Jew
and Protestant and the Greek and Russian peoples, by the
animosities bred in their bone through long centuries in
the old land. The Greek Catholic is limited in like fashion.
And the Protestant churches also. A new people, in the
new land, and under new industrial conditions, have need
of a new religion. To such we come with a new and living
gospel. Shall we not take inspiration from the world
movements in the thick of which we have our being, and
propagate our message with unquenchable zeal?
Yours in the holy task,
A FRENCH REVOLUTION IN BERLIN?
QUEENS COUNTY JAIL.
My Comrades :
At present the doings of our church are little heeded.
It is the day of the cannon. The howitzers' loud roar
swallows all other voices. Sweet reason pines, when guns
begin. And we shall have to abide in loneliness and neg-
lect for a season. But the drama that is developing is
going to prosper our gospel. Lest you go bewildered and
blinded by the swift march of events to-day, I desire you
to see with me some of the salient features.
War is pregnant with surprises. And it is within the
possibilities that Germany shall win. That outcome would
make the Church of the Social Revolution a prime neces-
sity. True, it would then be a most dangerous cult to
avow. For Deutschland, flushed with victory, would be
a military power in the world, and would repress mightily.
But ofttimes an open foe is for democracy an asset. Not
tyranny's overt enmity, but mercantilism's polite chloro-
form, is freedom's fatalest danger. And the call to make
stand against Prussian militarism would kindle the fires of
the spirit in many breasts, and prepare them for the com-
ing of our church.
But I predict that Germany is not going to win. At
present writing, many of the facts are against me. But
I offer the statement : The war will terminate either in a
draw, or in Germany's downfall. In either case, I look to
see a second French Revolution, but in Berlin this time.
The outraged German people, after burying three million
of her sons, and after the bankruptcy of her once proud
commercialism, and the loss of colonies which were begin-
LETTERS FROM PRISON 85
ning to belt the globe, will awake with indignation in their
marrow. And they will make Wilhelmstrasse and Unter
den Linden scarlet with the blood of their autocratic blun-
That revolution will spread its fires to every horizon.
A hundred years ago the nations were but slenderly teth-
ered one to the other. Yet the doings in Paris reverber-
ated to all corners of the globe, and shook monarchy
everywhere on its base. To-day the nations are well nigh
as one. Communication is swift and manifold. With the
lighting of the flame in Germany, instantaneous will be the
report in all parts of the earth. A popular awakenment
will billow like a tide coming in from the sea, and will fill
many an inlet in the recesses of human minds now closed
The tidal wave thrown up by that eruption will prove
an irrigation for the seed our church is sowing. " Church
of the Social Revolution " sounds terrifying to many. But
in that awakenment we will appear what we really are, the
savior of a world in dissolution, the healer of a civiliza-
tion sick unto death.
I send a cheer to you, O comrades. In an opportune
moment we are come up. Big is the outlook, and cries for
bigness in us, who are to meet it.
Yours in the sacred task,
(And let me send also, as to Germany's part in prepar-
ing the way for us, some verses that have come to me in
the silent hours of the night, with, I'll bet, something of
truth in their foreshadowings.)
DEUTSCHL.AND USER AI/LES
Launch now our thund'ring host.
In men of iron we boast.
Up, helmets ! Shout the toast
Deutschland uber Alles.
86 LETTERS FROM PRISON
We can no longer rest.
Our Destiny, supprest,
At length is manifest
Deutschland iiber Alles.
Our poor, brought to a crust,
Share not the battle lust,
Drive them with saber thrust
Deutschland iiber Alles.
Brass buttons here bear rule.
Civilian ! He's a fool ;
We'll use him for our tool
Deutschland iiber Alles.
Our culture must prevail.
Spread it with fire and flail.
We virile are, and male
Deutschland iiber Alles.
Sheer force alone is law.
Weaklings we overawe,
Full sharp th Eagle's claw
Deutschland iiber Alles.
For treaties give no thought.
Moralities are naught.
A higher code we're taught
Deutschland iiber Alles.
Victoriously we go.
We'll push a fleeing foe.
Old Sky-King wills it so
Deutschland iiber Alles.
Base unbelievers laugh ;
God and the General Staff
LETTERS FROM PRISON 87
Shall scatter them like chaff
Deutschland uber Alles.
The cannon shall be king ;
Fodder for it we'll bring.
Empire ! Empire ! we sing
Deutschland uber Alles.
What! 'Gainst us an earth arrayed!
Our ranks give ground, dismayed.
War's bitter price is paid
Deutschland nieder Alles.
Now kings and kaisers pine.
Is the chorus on the Rhine
Deutschland lebt fur Alles.
The people take control ;
Seek empiry of the soul ;
Veto the warrior role
Deutschland beliebt bei Alles.
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK INDEPENDENT
QUEENS COUNTY PRISON,
NEW YORK CITY.
SIR: The elevated tone for which the Independent has
become renowned, ill prepared me for the low editorial
level you were content to occupy in discussing our Colo-
rado protest at the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church. You
condemn my deed as a violation of " law and order." I
am prepared to waive all defense on that point. The case
is new in jurisprudence. We have no precedents. While
there concededly was legal color for my arrest and im-
prisonment, there are so many and so weighty considera-
tions on the other side, that the courts, had they been so
minded, could have found ample grounds for an acquittal.
But neither my article in your magazine stressed the
legal side, nor does our case rest upon it. Legality ? All
the loftier deeds produced by history have been illegal.
The doings of Garrison and Lovejoy and Phillips were
supralegal and ofttimes contralegal. " The higher law,"
said Seward, defending these lawless agitators. And the
New York Independent in that day echoed his fine defiance
of the sordid prudences of mercantilism, so that your
journal became well nigh a folklore throughout the
Law is always a standpatter. It consecrates the status
quo. It is the clearing in the forest, the outpost to which
civilization thus far has reached. Every advance of the
moral frontier has been extralegal; a journey forward into
the unmapped ; and with the law-abiders sputtering them-
selves red in the face. Show me a land where everybody is
legal, and I will show you a land sunk in stagnancy and
slothful satisfaction. There are times when to be illegal
is the ethical categorical imperative. And this fat and
LETTERS FROM PRISON 89
coward day is such a time. Not that this is to be cheap-
ened into mankind's customary and common code. I ex-
pressly wrote to Dr. Woelfkin beforehand, explaining that
the times, being extraordinary, demanded extraordinary
Amos Pinchot, defending our deed in the public press,
drew the parallel of the temple-cleansing in the gospel nar-
rative. Was that purging of the money-changers accord-
ing to "law and order"? "John Brown's body lies
a-mouldering in the ground ; but his soul goes marching
on " so we sing, and so sang and exulted the New York
Independent in that heroic day. Was John Brown's pro-
test at Harper's Ferry a notable addition to the chronicles
of " law and order "?
Jesus, when uttering the Parable of the Illegal Steward
who confiscated the property of a rich man and divided
it up with the poor was he therein a tower of strength
for " law and order " ? And how about that Parable of
the Agricultural Magnate who tore down his barns to build
bigger? Revolution thunders along in it so ominously,
that even the Revised Version dares not print the Car-
penter's language nakedly, but falsifies the translation.
The magnate in that parable was handed over to be dealt
with by the populace, and met his death by an armed up-
rising in the night. " Law and order? "
As to Dr. Woelfkin's apologetic that he received not my
letter announcing our visit until a few minutes before the
service, the plea was accounted by me unworthy of serious
rebuttal. During half a week preceding, the New York
dailies teemed with the announcement of our proposed visit
and of the letter I was sending. That Sunday morning
accordingly saw an expectant throng around the church.
Reporters had cameras ready focussed on tripods. Plain
clothes men sentinelled the doorway. Inside the church
were thirty or forty policemen in uniform. The congre-
gation was electric with expectation. That the receipt
in these circumstances of a special delivery letter from me
90 LETTERS FROM PRISON
was sincerely deemed by him a thing whose perusal could
fitly be deferred till after the morning was over, is beyond
credence. The mystery of the letter's delay in reaching
him has not been cleared up. We have been denied a trial.
I have been sloughed in prison after only a " hearing " in
a police court, and without any privilege of appeal. Tak-
ing Dr. Woelfkin's plea at its face value, does it seem in
accord with America's spirit of fair play, that I should be
sloughed in jail for six months because of a mistake by
the New York postoffice in delaying a special delivery let-
ter nearly forty -eight hours?
" We Preach Christ Crucified," stands carven in bold
letters on the facade of the church in question. They stop
not at prison fetters and the heaping of infamy, to defend
the master class in our day, which did the Golgotha busi-
ness in that day. Their fellow Protestant Christians of
all denominations approve their deed by tacit consent or
open plaudit, and organize conferences meanwhile to dis-
cover why spirituality is so alarmingly at ebb in the mod-
Yours, etc., BOUCK WHITE.
AN OPEN LETTER
To the Pastor and Members of the Fifth Avenue Baptist
Church, New York City.
The imprisonment of our pastor, Bouck White, will end
November the twelfth. The Church of the Social Revolu-
tion will publicly celebrate his homecoming at Carnegie
Hall on Friday evening, November the thirteenth, at eight
o'clock. Naturally on that occasion your church will be
in the minds of many. Lest you should fear some mood
of bitterness on our part, we write this to assure you.
And if you care to be represented at that service, we will
accord to such a person a place in the evening's pro-
gram. Your personal card will admit you and your
friends to our platform.
In the letter sent you last May after the Ludlow mas-
sacre in Colorado, we stated : " We are very near neigh-
bors, our church and yours. Furthermore, we represent
the downmost man, whereas your church represents the
wealthiest of the world. Therefore in this social crisis
which is gathering its thunder so menacingly, it is entirely
thinkable that by some relationship that will permit an
interchange of views, a friendliness of feeling could be
brought about that might be the means of a happy issue
out of all our social afflictions."
Your answer to that was to clap our minister in prison.
We refuse to believe that such a reply represents your
loftiest and ripest judgment in the matter. Since then
nearly six months have elapsed months of felon pun-
ishment for our pastor, months of mellower rumination
by you. It cannot be that you will reject forever the
hand we hold out.
There is an added reason why we extend this invitation.
92 LETTERS FROM PRISON
The Colorado insurrection is yet far from settled. The
news columns report a degree of heat on both sides that
may blaze into a flame angrier than the first. The atten-
tion of the people is at present drawn to another part of
the world. But the Colorado fires have lost none of their
potentiality for mischief; and whose spread might make
even the war in Europe of the lesser importance.
Our minister is now in prison garb because he cried
aloud that the social war is a religious question and must
religiously be settled. When he rejoins us on November
the twelfth the issue will have to be reopened. (As you
must certainly know by now, prison bars never solve an
issue ; they but postpone its solution with interest.)
We deem it seemly and just that you be represented at a
meeting where in all likelihood reference to you will have
to be made.
Fraternally yours in the fellowship of the Carpenter,
Committee, Church of the Social Revolution.
THE COMRADES SEND GREETING
My Dear Comrade White :
Greetings to you on your release ! My hand is in yours
and I hold you in comradely embrace. You have borne
yourself with supreme credit to yourself and to us all and
every true comrade in the land joins in the celebration of
your splendid victory. Truly, you have conquered, for
you have upheld the cause in a trying hour and borne the
brutal persecution to which you have been subjected in the
serene spirit of the Nazarene comrade, which can never
I am extremely sorry not to have been able to be in New
York to greet you at the prison door. It would have been
a joy to me indeed. Comrade Fieldman did all he could
to arrange a date that would enable me to be there, but the
fates willed otherwise. Yet my heart, you may be sure,
was there as you walked into the outstretched arms of your
comrades. Henceforth the prison house wherein you
served is a holy shrine.
I am just leaving for the West. This note is hurried,
but I am always with you, as I know you are with me.
Dearer than ever are you to us now for the price you have
paid and the fitness you have shown in an hour of real
trial, to worthily serve the great cause.
With increasing regard and attachment I am,
Yours always, EUGENE V. DEBS.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.
My dear Comrade Bouck White:
I am unknown to you personally, that is a detail, but
I want to be one of the great host who will greet you with
words of welcome as you return to the fighting line, where
94. LETTERS FROM PRISON
foundations of a new heaven and earth are to be estab-
lished, nay, are being established.
I have read and re-read your clarion " Call," and other
books, I am one with you through and through, I admire
your invincible courage, your uncompromising, irrecon-
cilable spirit, and, above all, the really, vitally, religious
element which permeates your social revolt.
This seems to me the only Gospel which meets the mod-
ern situation, philosophically, socially, and economically,
the great mystic Humanism focussed in the Galilean Car-
penter. Thanks, a thousand times; it has been a mighty
stimulating vision to many of us ; Godspeed to you all
With all good wishes,
Yours in the Social Upheaval,
H. J. ADLAND.
Adams Memorial Church, Dunkirk, N. Y.
PS. I spoke for one hour and forty minutes last night
on " The Call of the Carpenter " in a small town near
here your work goes on.
Mr. Bouck White,
New York City.
Dear Comrade :
I wonder if you know that out here on this wind-swept
prairie, in this little unattractive town, many hearts looked
forward eagerly to the morning of the twelfth, when Com-
rade White would be liberated from his prison cell, and I
write in behalf of our local to tell you how through the
long days of waiting our hearts were with you in your
prison, and were proud to know that for the truth's sake
you had not only obeyed Christ's injunction to visit him
in prison, but had gone in and stayed with him, and shared
with him, and fared with him his lonely prison life. We
wrote the Governor, and have bought your books, and
LETTERS FROM PRISON 95
helped spread the message you have given, but it seems that
was all we were allowed to do. It would do your heart
good, though, to know how many people accept your mes-
sage so readily and gladly, and are finding in your re-
discovered Carpenter a new meaning in his life and mes-
sage which will fill their lives forevermore.
In the article which you wrote in the Independent, in
giving the vow taken by members of your church, you
say it is the duty of each member to bring others to the
Church (I am quoting from memory and may not have it
exact). That is what I am writing you for information
about. Will you tell us what we may do in the thousand
little towns and villages which are longing to have such
a church, and yet are so far away from our magnetic
gifted leader. I left the church I was raised in because
of its narrow sectarianism. I cannot endure the Sunday
Schools, because if you take any modern scientific view-
point of the bible in their so called bible study lesson you
are branded as a heretic and unbeliever and are plainly
informed that if you want to worship in their church you
must keep your views to yourself. I have a little four-
year old boy who should have some spiritual instruction,
but I will not send him to the church at hand. I have
been told that somewhere in Chicago is a Christian So-
cialist paper which interprets the Sunday-school lesson
from a modern scientific standpoint am trying to lo-
cate it to-day by mail and I am wondering why Com-
rade Bouck White could not write a service every week to
be used in the churches of the Revolution which would
spring up all over the land at his call. The message might
be written a month ahead, one for each service weekly
or whatever would seem best to the wisdom of our leader;
this in connection with a bible study not always neces-
sarily from the bible, but a story from any great or lowly
life, nation or civilization would make a service that
with local talent in music could be inspiring and helpful,
not only to ourselves but the children for after all that
96 LETTERS FROM PRISON
is the bitter part. Many comrades have severed! all rela-
tions with the old churches and are bringing up their chil-
dren without any spiritual or moral guidance, and it surely
can not be good in the long run. Of course we would
want it to be thoroughly remunerative to you, to com-
pensate you for your time and effort but think, Com-
rade White what a field for labor! The harvest is
I trust my suggestions may not seem ill-timed to you.
Yours for the Revolution, with greetings from all the
MRS. LlLIIAN K. Bui/LARD.
THE RELIGION OF REVOLUTION *
The editor asks me for an account of the Church of the
Social Revolution, and of my imprisonment on Black-
well's Island, which followed so promptly the founding of
The Church of the Social Revolution announces a pur-
pose audacious in the highest degree; namely, to revolu-
tionize the world's idea of religion. The accepted notion
is that religion has to do with the weakness that is in the
world. We propose a religion that shall have to do with
the strength that is in the world. The two ideas are in
flat opposition. They cultivate opposite traits of char-
acter, and with widely different methods. Between the
religion of weakness and the religion of strength stands no
reconciliation. They travel in opposite directions, seeking
opposite goals two trains on the same track and speed-
ing to fateful world-transforming collision.
The religion of weakness is established in the churches
of the traditional type. It sings in their hymns, speaks
through their sermons, dictates their prayers, and breathes
its breath into every chant and collect and liturgy. It is
a whining, suppliant, belly-crawling spirit. It stands not
with straight back, on two feet, upright; it grovels, wor-
ships a god that can be coaxed. It imagines it will be
heard for its much begging.
As I write this in my cell, the Sunday morning church
service is being held in the corridor outside. The preacher
is sincere according to the lights that are in him. But
there is scripture for it that sometimes the light that is
in a man is darkness; which is to say, the steam in the
engine is of excellent power, but is being used to draw the
* Reprinted from the Christian Socialist.
98 LETTERS FROM PRISON
train in the wrong direction. What wretches in prison
stripes need, is not weakness, but strength. Weakness has
been their undoing. The more I rub up against them the
more I am persuaded that the criminal is essentially a
weakling weak in mind, weak in imagination, weak in
will. Above all things else, he needs vigor, snap, grit, in-
tensity, self-respect. But the religion being handed out
to him at this moment the songs and prayer and sermon-
izing seeks still further to soften him : and if it should
gain any proselytes this morning, would make them tenfold
more children of the devil of flabbiness than they now are.
This glorification of weakness has brought it to pass
that religion is thought of by the world generally as some-
thing softish, a mendicant mood of soul and an unbraced
attitude of the intellect. It is presented as a resting place
for the tired, an asylum for the broken, an opiate for the
oppressed, a lifeboat of escape from a shipwrecked world.
So that the religious area of the population is reduced to
those of slender understanding; or, when a religious man
of intellect is found, he defends religion half cynically as
an engine of social control to keep the masses quiet.
Now it is an axiom that when religion becomes shame-
faced, it is in process of extinction. Boldness is its vital
breath. Let it cease to be bold, it ceases to be vital.
When men of mind can no longer be devout, except in slink-
ing and furtive fashion, religion is on its deathbed ; though
its dying agonies may be prolonged, its demise with certi-
tude is decreed.
FOUNDED ON STRENGTH, NOT WEAKNESS
To do away this apologetic brand of devotion, and
breed' a race that shall combine spiritual-mindedness with
force, is the purpose of the Revolution Church. We seek
the revolution of religion, in order to a religion that shall
breed revolution. Strength, not weakness, is the founda-
tion on which it builds. And this determines every part
of the structure. We intend to change the world's idea
LETTERS FROM PRISON 99
of God. The one whom we worship is not a fatherly po-
tentate dispensing titbits to those who beg the loudest.
Our God is a Man of War ! He has a fight on his hands.
Things as at present constituted are not at all to his
"The world is very evil;
The time is waxing late;
Be diligent, keep vigil,
The Judge is at the gate,"
sang Bernard of Clairvaux as the middle ages were draw-
ing to an end and the new era was making its first feeble
birth movements felt in the womb of time. Once again
we are in one of the world's transition moments. And the
manifest token that the old era is playing out is the moral
slump so visible to-day. Not that it shows itself mainly
in a tidal wave of crime and open sinning, though some
appalling statistics could here be marshaled. The dark-
ness rather is taking the form of a let-down in moral hero-
isms. Men no longer stand and fight and die for principle,
as they did in the heroic time. A day of Philistinism is
upon us, a lowering of standards, a debasement of tone, a
letting-down of the spiritual level. " In Gold we trust,"
is the new rendering. There is a weakening of confidence
in the Unseen; and a terrible turning of the population
towards the kind of salvation promised by Mammon a
salvation in terms of pleasure and comfort and animal se-
curity purchased at any price ; for to-morrow we die.
Thus the Unseen Leader we follow is a warrior. He is
opposed by a doughty foe and is in the midmost of a
crucial and hard-fought conflict. Therefore his call for
volunteers is couched in terms of hazard and trial and
hardship. No longer that old invitation :
" Art thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distressed?
Come to me," saith One,
" And coming, be at rest." ,
100 LETTERS FROM PRISON
The call of our Lord God to those who would follow him,
is in a different key:
" Art thou valorous, art thou willing,
Art thou leal and true?
Come to me," saith One,
" I'm fighting, and need you."
" But how can we be sure that this God will win the
victory ? " inquires some one. " If we enlist under Him
we may be enlisting under a losing leader and will have
given our lives to a lost cause." Precisely, and it is ex-
actly that element of risk which constitutes for us the at-
tractiveness of the service. If the battle were predestined
to victory it would be no battle, but a mere sham affair, a
stage performance. In the uncertainty as to the outcome
lies the zest of the conflict, its piquancy and pungent joy.
This universe does not as yet belong to God. But we are
determined that it shall. We are capturing it for him,
with him personally in the field as our Commander. All
the discoveries of science, all contributions of knowledge,
the splendor and majesty of the intellect's advance, every
triumph in the realm of morals, all achievements of eco-
nomic and political betterment, progress in the industrial
arts, the beautifying of the world, growth in the graces
that polish and adorn life these are all parts of the
campaign of conquest whereby our God is wresting the
universe out of the control of chaos and making it his own
possession. To have a conscious part in that campaign
is deemed by us the glory of life, its excellency and coro-
Manifestly, thus to couch God's invitation to man in
the language of strength and service, rather than of weak-
ness and safety, is a revolution in the idea of religion.
Therefore we call our church The Revolution Church.
We spread the name on our signboard, blazon it on our
banners, publish it widely as the name by which we delight
to be known. It is not a mere revamping of the religion
handed down. Rather, it is a religion new-modeled in
LETTERS FROM PRISON 101
every part and feature, and demands for its expression a
new type of song and sermon and ritual, a new kind of
devotion, a new conception of prayer. The change is so
fundamentally altering, with such implications wrapped
up in it, that no other word than revolution can ade-
quately phrase it.
MUST CHANGE IDEA OF MAN
But for another reason also are we a Revolution
Church. This change in the idea of God carries over im-
mediately into the human area and involves a change in
the idea of man. The old-type religion let human society
pretty much alone. The salvation offered by it was in
terms of escape from a wicked world : " Come ye apart
and be ye separate. O, think of the home over there."
Their Father in heaven paternally stretched out arms of
refuge to shelter them snugly from the wickedness and the
sorrow and the casualties.
But when God is seen as a Man of War who sallies forth
and offers battle to the evils that are in the world, straight-
way a new type of the religious life results. It translates
devotion no longer in terms of the passive, but of an ac-
tive, energetic career. Now the man of God, instead of
enduring the ills of life with patience, goes out against
those ills with militant zeal ; for this type does not under-
stand religion as merely a contemplative life, but a career
When this religion of strength turns its attention to
human society what does it discern? A society whereof
Mammon is in control. It needs no unusual gift to per-
ceive that money is the master of the world. Food and
raiment, houses and lands and good books and schools, all
products of science and the beautiful arts ; marriage and
children and the joy of a home; doctors for health, recrea-
tion for the mind, amusement and travel, friends and in-
fluence ; these are in Mammon's right hand for him to dole
out to those who serve him best.
102 LETTERS FROM PRISON
Gold, Gold, tyrannous Gold!
A god that is growing ever more bold.
Foe of virtue from days of old;
For it our souls in the gutter are rolled.
On history's page loud its sinnings are told;
In the marriage mart our daughters are sold.
A master whose heart is ruthless and cold;
Gathering men into Satan's own fold
Gate of a prison, to pen and to hold;
Fashioning men into hell's brutal mould.
God will not rest till its passing is told.
Hateful, defiling, omnipotent Gold !
At present, God is at the bottom, and Gold is at the
top. To reverse that ordering, whereby God shall be on
top and Gold at the bottom could there be a blesseder,
Exactly that is what is meant by social revolution.
And it is the creed of our church.
" Lord of the blood-red banner " may need a word of
commentary because many have got the notion that So-
cialism's flag of red is symbolic of a bloody assault against
the upholders of the present order. The truth is quite
the contrary. The red in our banner emblemizes the one
blood that is in the veins of all the people of the earth.
Outwardly the nations and tribes in the world are
of different aspect. Color and features and hair and stat-
ure and manners and speech are so many wedges doing a
divisive work. But prick under the skin and you will find
in them all a blood of one and the selfsame color. So that
it becomes the natural emblem of unity, a scarlet thread
internationalizing the tribal banners now so bloodily ar-
rayed each against the other, and forecasting a day when
the world family will be a fact and not purely a fiction
of the poets. Could the Democrat of Galilee, who left
his carpenter's bench to lead his fellows to freedom, find
a fitter employ to-day than as Captain of this red-ban-
nered host, whose battlewords are peace and justice and
Which is not to say that Socialism is a movement of
LETTERS FKOM PRISON 103
universal, unenquiring amiability. The Irishman who an-
nounced that he meant to have peace in his house if he
had to fight for it, displayed therein a very real measure
of insight and philosophic grasp. " Peace at any price,"
is a counterfeit thing; an affair of outward profession and
inward aversion. We of the Revolution Church recognize
the presence of economic classes terribly in the world; a
presence which makes for discord and not for harmony.
Never were inequalities of human fortune more steep than
to-day. And hourly they are becoming steeper. To sing
" God's in His heaven, all's right with the world " is to
stamp oneself a lying prophet. God's in his heaven
quite true. But all is not by any means right with the
world; and it is becoming more unright with each day that
adds its fatal quota to the calendar. Rich and poor is a
relation of master and slave. To-day the rich are becom-
ing richer with fatalest momentum. Thereby they are
growing more masterfully master, and the poor are going
into an ever more cruel and desperate bondage. And this,
notwithstanding the personal kindliness of many in the
master class. Charity covers a multitude of economic
sins, has been the principle of these. But it is fast losing
its power to hypnotize. The people are waking to the
deadly workings of an unjust economic law. And no
amount of benevolence in the disbursement of an income
will much longer atone for extortion in the origin of that
Therefore the militant clauses in the covenant one signs
upon joining the Revolution Church. We are hostile to
the present scheme of things, for it is a scheme that makes
for the survival of the brutalest. A competitive civiliza-
tion glorifies the acquisitive type of man and makes for
the extinction of the type in whom altruism and a regard
for the gracious, kindly, unselfish arts are uppermost.
Against such a civilization we are in utter antagonism.
And this, out of a passionate affection for fellowship.
The Prince of Peace we follow is for that very reason a
104 LETTERS FROM PRISON
Captain of War. He is of sagacity to know the folly of
attempting to live on peaceful terms with the federated
destroyers of the public peace.
Ours, therefore, is the Church of Social Revolution.
We purpose an alteration in society's structure from the
ground up. The fault is not in this feature or in that.
The very plan upon which the present edifice was built is
the devil's plan. All against each, and each against all.
Therefore the change must be radical, extending clear
down to the foundation upon which the building reposes.
Reform will not avail. You can't change a gatling gun
into a printing press by piecemeal process. The two ma-
chines are designed on a different pattern, to turn out a
different product. An attempt to alter the gatling gun
into a printing press would only result in spoiling it as a
gun without making it into a press. There is a way
whereby the transformation can be effected. The gatling
gun must be melted up and its metal poured into new
So with the attempt to cure our ills by tinkering up the
present order. Social reformers have been at the task
now for long years. And with what result? Steadily
the social distress has been mounting. The chasm be-
tween the Haves and the Have-nots is widening. Widen-
ing, moreover, at a constantly accelerating rate. The
only performance accomplished by the school of social re-
formers has, been to create a wide amount of friction in
the workings of the present machine, without giving us
any other. Reform is powerless. Competition as the
formative idea for human society has come to its perfect
work. It was the devil's idea and has been found want-
ing. It must give way to God's idea, cooperation, let the
cost be what it will.
To organize the world's life upon a principle so squarely
different from the one now in use, means a tremendous
change. And that is why we call ourselves Church of the
Social Revolution. No other word is strong enough to ex-
LETTERS FROM PRISON 105
press the intensity and extensity of the alterations that
are required. " Revolution " has in many minds an as-
sociation of blood and turbulence and all manner of wild-
ness. But this quality of rashness and headlong fury is
not essential to it. The word is exactly used when it is
made to mean a deed of completion and thoroughgoing-
ness, wherein no compromise is accepted and no distraction
permitted. To such a work of completedness, a mood of
poise and circumspection is not only possible but essen-
Indeed, it is in order to assure that poised and orderly
state of mind in the work, that we couple together the two
parts in our name, " Church " and " Social Revolution."
Each needs the other. Too much has the Church in times
past withdrawn its mellow richness of dream-power and
its sobering weight, from contact with the tumults and the
rcugh-and-tumble of folk uprisings. On the other hand,
the uprisings of labor in the past have withdrawn them-
selves too much from the ripe historicity and stern sobrie-
ties of the Church. And the divorce has told miserably on
both parties to the estrangement, blasting the Church with
sterility and abandoning the folk movement to wild and
The Church of the Social Revolution seeks to reunite
the divorced couple. To the folk uprising it brings divine
sanction and enriching gifts from the kingdom that is
spiritual. To the Church, in the contrary direction, it
brings fructifying contact with, the world of living men,
the solid wholesome realities of the life industrial; over-
laying the earthliness of things economic, with the halo of
a light that never was on sea or land.
In so doing we believe we shall accomplish a dual
purpose. We shall both make the social revolution a
certainty, and at the same time steer its energies into
beneficent constructive channels. Religion is always a
principle of intensity. Coupled up hitherto with the con-
servative faction, it has made that conservatism into a con-
106 LETTERS FROM PRISON
servatism indeed, solemnizing the status quo into a sacra-
mental and fire-girt Sinai, whither the impious feet of the
innovator dare not come. Coupled up with revolution,
its intensifying power will be equally manifest. It will
consecrate the revolution against all thought of compro-
mise or surrender, and gear it to the omnipotent enginery
of the skies.
But precisely in so doing it will take from revolution
the conflagrating fury that hitherto has made it a menace.
A revolution that has Lord God in it will be a revolution
indeed. But it will be a beneficent revolution a jolly
earthquake, if the reader will permit the phrase ; an intelli-
gent cyclone, directing its tempestuousness against the
refuse and sparing the beautiful things that life has erected
through a long succession of experimenting and fine en-
deavors. The revolution is going to come. Be very sure
of that. The only question is, shall it be a revolution up-
ward into the light, or a backward lurch to savagery and
primeval dark? The Church of the Social Revolution is
an attempt to bring the former of those alternatives to
pass. We are summoning the people of education and
talents and culture and social position to enlist in class
alignment in whole-hearted self-commitment to labor's
high redemption. There are times when social reconstruc-
tion is the holiest task in which a man can invest his ener-
gies and his influence.
City Jail, New York City.
BAPTISTS DIVIDE ON THE SOCIAL ISSUE
Reverend Dr. Cornelius Woelfkin,
Church, 57th St., at Sixth
Avenue, New York City.
The announcement that the Fifth Avenue and Calvary
Churches are to sunder relations, has been made the occa-
sion by the papers once more to couple my name with
yours. I see that they are attributing to my six months'
imprisonment one of the causes for the failure of the plan
to merge your two churches and with the present decision
that your church shall go back to its Fifth Avenue site in
order that the Calvary Church may be unencumbered by
associations with the name of the rich. It is also being
hinted that such a move is a moral victory for me.
I beg you to believe I am moved by no spirit of gratifica-
tion. Rather I am writing this letter to suggest a way
out of a situation that apparently is proving to you more
and more embarrassing. I have been told that you made
the statement while I was serving my Blackwell's Island
term that if it were possible you would gladly serve three
of my six months yourself. Naturally such a remedy of
that grave miscarriage of justice was and is impracticable.
There is, however, a way in which you can atone for the
sadness of that whole affair, and that is by accepting now
the request I made to you last spring, namely, that your
church and ours hold a joint session at some time and
place to be mutually agreed upon, in friendly conference
on the subject: Did Jesus Teach the Immortality of Be-
I repeat here what I said in my letter to you last May :
It is the firm belief of our Church of the Social Revolution
108 LETTERS FROM PRISON
that the tragic situation in which our industrialism finds
itself to-day is not due to the personal malice of any in
the masterclass, but rather to a false and pernicious sys-
tem in which the rich are hopelessly entangled. I am an
ardent disciple of Jesus the Carpenter; his teachings as
rediscovered by modern biblical scholarship hold the key
to the solution of this entire problem.
If you grant this request, I shall be glad to forgive and
forget my six months behind prison bars. Indeed I would
then count them six months of valuable service rendered
by me to the social problem. For your church represents
the richest of the world ; our church represents the poorest
of the world. We are near neighbors. The chasm be-
tween the rich and the poor is each day growing more
portentous. It is not at all an idle dream that if we
could get together in a joint meeting such as I have
pleaded with you to grant, and so lift this at present angry
situation into the realm of the spiritual, a happy issue
out of our social unblessedness might be the result.
In so doing you as the pastor of some of the master-
class of our day could perhaps relieve them from a situa-
tion which they are finding progressively uncomfortable.
The discovery that riches and poverty side by side in the
same society means mastership for the rich and servitude
for the poor, is growing very widespread; resentment
against those who consent to be rich in a world where
other people are poor, is augmenting daily. Great lone-
liness on the part of the rich is resulting. I know of few
spectacles more piteous than of that home at Pocantico
Hills so sorrowfully debarred from contact with their fel-
low human beings. If they could once learn that The
Carpenter of Galilee unto whom they are so devoutly at-
tached, taught the immorality of great riches side by side
with great poverty, they would surely turn from their
idolatry of money and employ their wealth to transform
our society into one of fellowship instead of as at present
one of cleavage and dismemberment.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 109
I would gladly come before your congregation this com-
ing Sunday morning and convey to them in person (as I
was going to do last Spring) this invitation to a joint
meeting of our church and yours. However, remember-
ing Sunday, May 10, last, of course I will not present my-
self unless you invite me so to do. Kindly note my change
of address. Also of my phone number, Chelsea 3738. I
ask leave to remain,
Faithfully yours in the fellowship of The Carpenter,
HOW TO SOLVE UNEMPLOYMENT
CHURCH OF THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION
165 West 23rd St., New York City.
To the Mayor, John Purroy Mitchel,
City Hall, New York City
Honorable and dear Sir:
An imperfect report of my address on the unemploy-
ment situation, at the Church of the Social Revolution last
Sunday afternoon, has got into the papers. By resolu-
tion of the Church I am directed to send to you an au-
thentic abstract of my words: The proposal I brought
forward is a remedy for unemployment by Municipal In-
dustries. It is, that New York City shall establish a
Department of Municipal Industry, and through this shall
take over as many of the idle factories as shall be neces-
sary, run them at full time, pay the current rate of wages,
and distribute the product with the motive of social bene-
fit rather than primarily profit. The City through pub-
lic and private channels is preparing to spend a large
sum of money to cope with the unemployment problem.
I beg leave to state that in no other way could that money
be disbursed with as efficient a return in the shape of social
peace and human well being.
There are two other methods of meeting the unemploy-
ment evil. One is by the method of relief, such as soup
kitchens, free lodgings, and bread line; and secondly, mu-
nicipal works, by which is meant out-of-door tasks, like
sewers, water works, and streets. The latter is imprac-
ticable; the great bulk of the unemployed are industrial
workers ; to ask indoor workers to undertake out-of-doors
tasks, particularly in the winter season, is impossible.
Many stenographers for example are on the verge of desti-
tution ; to ask one of these to take a pick and shovel and
LETTERS FROM PRISON 111
earn her living in a sewer trench the public work solu-
tion is hardly a rational thing for a modern municipality
seriously to propose. As to the other alternative, soup
kitchens, I say to you that we have passed the stage in
democratic development when charity can take care of an
industrial breakdown. The unemployed ask not for free
soup. They ask for work.
I recognize that municipal industries at first hearing
strike the listener as a most revolutionary proposal. But
we are in the midst of a situation quite out of the ordi-
nary; and extraordinary measures are demanded. In an
address before the ministers of Baltimore a week ago I
brought forward the question along the lines I am here
stating it. If you will consult the Baltimore American of
the last few days, you will perceive that Municipal In-
dustries are being seriously discussed as the remedy for
Baltimore's unemployment. The situation in our City at
this moment probably surpasses in the extent of unemploy-
ment and in the degree of misery caused, any previous
condition New York has known. The war in Europe
which is partly only partly responsible for the situa-
tion, means the breakdown of large areas of our civiliza-
tion. In a crisis of this kind, I submit to you, sir, that
the time has come to break with traditional modes of
thought and approach the problem with a totally fresh
I need not remind you of the dangerous quality in the
present situation. I am the minister of a church that is
in close contact with the workers. I speak therefore with
the authoritative note that comes from first hand knowl-
edge ; and I say to you that unless something is done,
danger is threatened. Tens of thousands of self-respect-
ing citizens at the present moment are in destitution and
degradation, that is not only deteriorating the moral char-
acter, but is proving and is going to prove a fertile seed-
bed of many kinds of criminality. I am informed that the
armories in our city have received instructions from the
LETTERS FROM PRISON
Governor of the State to bring their regiments and equip-
ment up to a fighting force of one hundred per cent,
efficiency; the reason being that the social disturbances
that this winter of unemployment is likely to bring forth
will perhaps make unusual demands upon the military arm
of the city and state. I appeal to you, Sir, and through
you to the civic mind and social heart of this metropolis,
that repressive force is not the proper approach to the
handling of this question.
It would indeed require a broad sentiment among the
people to back you and your advisors in undertaking
municipal industries. But I believe the time is ripe for
such a sentiment to focus. The ministers of the various
churches are rapidly awakening to the fact that social
conditions are a legitimate and necessary field for min-
isterial activity. The moral decadence resulting from the
present unemployment is breaking down the standards of
order and decency in wide areas of our population. With
the churches ready to back you and with the civic agencies
of a voluntary sort likewise tired of the old remedies which
do not remedy, the moment is psychological for a construc-
tive method at last to be undertaken.
In my address last Sunday, after pointing out the dan-
gerousness of the present situation, I stated that if New
York City refuses to undertake the opening of these idle
factories and has nothing better to offer than apathy and
the blunderings of previous years, the workers would be jus-
tified in entering an idle factor}*- and setting it in operation
themselves. True, this seizure of a dead industrial plant by
workers, though for purposes of constructive activity and
not at all for purposes of devastation, would be extra-legal ;
but that such a seizure by a band of the unemployed would
be anti-legal, I do not believe. Suicide is forbidden by
statutory enactment. The slow suicide which is taking
place on the part of many thousands of our people at this
moment, through cold and privation and famine, is dis-
tinctly unconstitutional and illegal. For a man to starve
LETTERS FROM PRISON 113
to death peaceably, is a crime against himself and against
society. But that is quite what is taking place. If to
prevent that large and wide-spreading illegality, the en-
tering of a factory by force and the starting of its wheels
without the consent of the established authorities, should
be undertaken, the worst that could be said against it
would be that it was the lesser of two illegalities.
I recognize that such an entrance of an idle fac-
tory might have consequences as far reaching as the as-
sault upon the Bastille in Paris, July 14, 1789. But I
am compelled by the sights that I daily witness, to per-
ceive the slow starvation and the consequent moral de-
cadence of tens of thousands of our people. And in pres-
ence of this awful fact I am bold to urge measures that
are unconventional but are not unrighteous. I ask you
to believe, sir, that I am animated by a constructive spirit.
New York City has brains enough, and money enough and
heart enough to establish a Department of Municipal In-
dustries if it will but once awaken to the terrible need.
Take shoes as a type. The people need shoes. The ma-
chinery is here for the making of shoes. The workers are
dying for the privilege of entering and starting the idle
machinery. To ask that New York City set itself at once
to bring these three facts together and thus transform a
situation which is now a social hell into a vivified orderly
and industrious society, is not to ask aught unreasonable.
An awakened civic conscience is all. If I and the Church
of the Social Revolution can be of any assistance to you
in bringing to pass this awakening, we are at your service.
BOUCK WHITE ON BLACKWELL'S ISLAND*
I remember as an undergraduate in Harvard, going
one day on a tour of investigation down to Deer Island,
your Boston penal colony, here in the harbor. On the
boat were a batch of prisoners being taken down ; the grist
of that day's grinding by the Boston police courts. As
I passed by the pen in the boat where the prisoners were
herded, I looked in. The sight of that mass of humanity,
unkempt, unwashed, in every stage of vagabondage and
decrepitude and disease and filth, massed together in a
room four times too small to accommodate them, for all
the world like dogs in a kennel (except that dogs in the
kennel have more breathing space than these), the sight
made on my young mind an impression of horror and re-
vulsion. That I should myself ever be thrown into such
a den, as a part of that human wreckage, was unthinkable
And yet that was the fate that awaited me when I was
taken from the New York City Jail over to the penal
colony on Blackwell's Island in the East River. A steam-
boat of about the same size as the one that plies in Bos-
ton Harbor awaited us at the City Dock.
We were marched down the gangplank; a great iron
door rolled back upon its hinges; and we were thrust
into a pen amidships in the boat, a room about half the
size of this platform from which I am speaking to-night ;
it was fifteen feet square and about eight feet wide. In
that tiny room, a room too small to be the bedroom for
two persons, we were thrust in, forty of us. Locked in,
we were left to steam and stew in there for a space of two
* From an address entitled " Prisons and Progress," delivered by
him in Tremont Temple, Boston, December 21, 1914, under the auspices
of the Boston School of Social Science.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 115
hours. It was the worst single experience of all of my
six months' imprisonment.
After the prisoners get over on the Island, and have
had the bath with hot water and soap which is given to
every comer, they get rid of the old clothing, and put on
the prison uniform, which at least has the merit of clean-
liness. The conditions then are tolerable. But this,
you will remember, was on the way to the prison. Those
forty in there with me were the sweepings and refuse of a
metropolitan city, representing many nationalities, and
all degrees of dirt and drunkenness and social disease.
Some were on the verge of delirium tremens, the result
of a prolonged spree, which the strong but kindly arm of
the police had abruptly terminated, to the regret of the
poor chap himself, but in some cases to the saving of his
life. The filth was indescribable. One poor fellow, a vic-
tim of drugs (I believe he died in the prison hospital
the next day), was stretched out on a bench in a state
of dying stupor. Vermin was on the clothing of a num-
ber, the result of days and nights of vagabondage, wherein
they had had no place to sleep, or to remove their clothing,
to say nothing about taking a wash.
To touch the garments of these was to be infected with
the vermin that were crawling over them. Yet one could
not help touching them, for we were so closely crowded
that we had not even room to turn around, so thickly were
The worst part of the whole experience, however, was
the absence of ventilation. There may be some pretext
of an excuse offered for the neglect of the authorities in
failing to provide a larger room for the prisoners.
(What excuse can be offered I know not, for the boat was
big enough to have provided ample quarters.) But no
excuse whatever can be advanced for the absence of ven-
There were two small windows, the sash opening
slightly from the top. We tried desperately to open the
116 LETTERS FROM PRISON
lower sash, but found that no provision had been made
for that possibility. The danger of escape cannot be
pleaded, for ample bars were across the window on the
outside. Furthermore, the absence of knowledge of the
unhygienic conditions cannot be pleaded; apparently
warnings had been issued to the authorities in time past;
for on one side of the room, on a shelf, was an electric fan.
Apparently, in warm weather, so many of the prisoners
had fainted from lack of air that the authorities had been
stirred to the point of installing this fan. But a fan
does not bring in new air; it merely stirs up the air that
is already in there. Outside of that room, sweeping up
and down the East River, were life-giving currents of air
from the great ocean. Tides and tides of oxygen, but we
were effectively shut from it; and it seems never to have
occurred to the politician mind of the New York City
Department of Correction to open a space and let in the
air. The only remedy was the costly one of providing
an electric fan to stir up the dead air inside. A carpenter
in half a day could fix those windows so as to open them
top and bottom, and thus provide a circulating current.
But in all the years that New York City has been trans-
porting prisoners to Blackwell's Island it has never oc-
curred to the authorities to set that carpenter at work.
I am bold to state that diseases were contracted, during
these two interminable hours in that worse-than-the-Black-
Hole-of-Calcutta, which remained with some of those poor
wretches to contaminate all the rest of the years of their
lives. Moreover the reason for the imbecility of the au-
thorities in this matter is not far to seek. Prisoners are of
a class that have no voice to articulate their wrongs in the
public press, and therefore the condition goes on without
amelioration. One of the best pieces of social service
which a person of intelligence can render, is to get him-
self arrested occasionally, in order that he may experience
prison life from the inside, and bring the situation into
articulated form before the public.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 117
Arriving at the Island we were marched two and two
across the yard, and into the great prison. There we
were stripped and given the bath; and then clad in
prison garb; even the underclothing was of prison make.
The garb, as you know, is of horizontal stripes, thus
giving to the chap who wears it a very good resemblance
to a hyena. These horizontal stripes extend even to the
cap which is given him. And inasmuch as all other cloth-
ing is forbidden him, this garb provides a very effective
safeguard against escape.
The shoes present the one unhygienic feature, since
they are not changed after each individual's use of them,
but are thrown back into the common pile. The shoes
that I drew were in a condition of dilapidation quite be-
yond description. They had been worn by I know not
how many generations of feet, before they were handed on
to me. No attempt apparently is made to sterilize the
shoes, and they present an uncleanly spectacle that is bet-
ter not described, if any of you have tender ears. A pass-
ing incident while I was trying to fit my feet into shoes
mateless and matchless from the pile, remains with me.
At my side on the bench was an elderly man, white of hair,
and showing even in the ruins the marks of a once fine
manhood. The prison doctor had apparently detected
the need of attention in his case, and had sent him a po-
tion from the hospital.
It came by the hand of an attendant while I was at his
side. The man however was so far gone in the early
stages of delirium tremens, that he could not pick up the
glass, his hand being too unsteady to lift the liquid from
the tray to his mouth. He therefore had to ask the at-
tendant to do it for him. That was a sample of the dis-
eased mass of humanity that is packed together in that
den of a prison ship, nearly half a hundred men, in a
room only large enough for ten.
From the bath and dressing room we were taken to our
cells. Mine was No. 79, up on the top tier. It was a
118 LETTERS FROM PRISON
room of some capaciousness, and contained thirty-eight
or forty prisoners besides myself. Iron shelves let down
from the wall on hinges, swinging from a chain, and on
these we slept; except that some of the floor space in the
middle was taken up with iron cots. Mattresses of course
are out of the question in prison. Our bedding consisted
of two blankets, one to sleep on to cover the springs, and
the other to cover oneself with. There seems to be no
attempt made to wash the blankets after one prisoner is
discharged, and the blankets are handed on to another.
Therefore those that I slept in had been used by I know
not how many criminals before me, and their state of un-
hygienic dirt is quite beyond proper narration. I
speedily caught an infectious disease around my neck, ap-
parently from these blankets, which eruption lasted with
me off and on during most of my six months in jail.
Why an incoming prisoner is not given a clean set of
blankets is a mystery that the authorities should be called
upon to explain. Hot water is in abundance, laundry soap
in this day is not costly. The bringing together of these
filthy blankets and hot water and soap ought not to be an
undertaking beyond the mentality of those in charge of our
prisons. But it seems to be so at present. An explana-
tion may be found in the political control of our great
cities to-day ; they are run by the master class for the
benefit of the master class ; and the poor dogs at the bottom
get but scant attention. Unless public rumor is a public
liar, the present head of the prisons in New York City,
Miss Katherine Davis owes her appointment to John D.
Rockefeller who contributed a large sum of money to the
election of the present mayor, and in return asked the
mayor to appoint his personal friend, Miss Davis, to be
the head of the present department.
In saying this I do not mean to indicate that Miss Davis
is personally incompetent. I do say, however, that in any
point where there would be a clash between the interests
of the rich at the top and the interest of the wretches at
LETTERS FROM PRISON 119
the bottom, the wretches at the bottom would be the losers.
The motley crew who were my cellmates in No. 79 there
in the Blackwell's Island prison, would demand the pen of
a Tolstoi or Gorki competently to describe. They repre-
sented many phases and degrees of criminality. There
were drug fiends, pick-pockets, sex criminals, wife beaters,
drunks, forgers, gunmen; indeed nearly the whole gamut
of crime in its picturesque and unpicturesque phases;
many nationalities, colors and ages, youths and old men,
men from refined families and wretches from the mud gut-
ter we were all huddled together.
There was no toilet, and no drinking water. Locked
in that cell all night as we were, the only toilet facilities
consisted of filth buckets, and the only drinking water was
in a wooden pail which we filled each evening before the
great iron gate was shut upon us. The state of that
room with those filth buckets, by the time morning came,
can only be arrived at by those with a realistic imagina-
Ventilation was by means of windows ; but this was most
inadequate, for the reason that while those whose bunks
were near the slop buckets would plead incessantly through
the night for the windows to be opened because the stench
was beyond human endurance, those convicts whose cots
were near the windows in many instances refused to have
them opened, pleading that they could not stand the
The vermin were not so bad for those whose beds were
the movable cots on the floor. Their method of steriliza-
tion, while primitive, was more or less effective. The oc-
cupier of the bed would build a fire of old newspapers on
the cement floor of the cell, and then hold his bed over the
flame until the bugs had been roasted. But we who had
bunks on the shelves fastened by hinges to the wall one
above the other, could not adopt this method, and the
state of our bunks after generations of prisoners had oc-
cupied them, was such as would perhaps better not be
120 LETTERS FROM PRISON
described before an audience where some nerves are per-
The conversation among my cell mates was one of the
redeeming features of the whole affair, for it was of a
profanity picturesque beyond anything I have ever known
elsewhere. Profanity, when it is of an original sort, in
a way ceases to be profane, and mounts into the realm of
literary creation. Their phrasings were not so much pro-
fanity as the poetic imagery of minds primitively en-
vironed, and for the most part devout believers in saints
and angels and deity and devils. Had I but had the leis-
ure to take notes, I could have gleaned from the pro-
fanities, which swirled and flowed round about me, a har-
vest of literary gems that would make the fortune of a
fiction writer. When it is remembered that a good part
of the time inside their cell is spent by the prisoners in
quarreling with each other (for the confinement produces
a state of irritability which the prisoners vent on each
other when the jailers are not available), it will be seen
that the opportunity for the creation of profane phrases
In the daytime we go to work. Roused in the morn-
ing at 5.30, we put on our shoes, and are then ready for
the day ; for as you have probably guessed, we sleep in our
clothes, and thus are not out of our clothing day or night.
When the cell door is opened we troop down to the wash
room, and there in long trenches perform a hasty wash
of face and heads and hands. Then comes breakfast,
which sometimes consisted of nothing but dry bread and
undrinkable coffee, served in a tin can. Then to work,
in whatever gang one happened to be. Mine was the
baker gang, and my work consisted of passing the dough
over from the kneading board to the oven. Also I as-
sisted in carrying the loaves to the store room as they
came from the ovens. Part of the time also I was in the
wood gang, and chopped wood for the ovens. Towards
the latter part of my imprisonment I did some carpenter
LETTERS FROM PRISON
work. That always gives me pleasure, the experience
which taught me the feel of the same kind of tools in the
same kind of work as was done by the Galilean carpenter
whom I have chosen as the Master of my ways and works.
After some time on BlackwelFs Island I was trans-
ferred to Queens County Jail on the mainland. Here
each prisoner had a cell by himself. In the adjoining cell
on one side of me, I remember, was a check forger, and
the three cells on the other side were occupied by bur-
glars. Murderers were also a part of the composite
medley that made up our prison personnel. The solitary
cell has advantages, in that it permits of privacy after the
day's work is done ; but it has the disadvantage of cramped
quarters. Let those, who think that their hall bedroom
is too small for them, imagine that space reduced nearly
one hundred per cent., and they will get an idea of the
amount of space in a prison cell ; the narrowness of which
is augmented by the fact that the iron door which is the
only means of egress is slammed shut by the jailer out-
side, and is clamped by chains, the clanging of which one
can hear ominously from within.
I remember getting on rather intimate terms with the
chap in the cell adjoining mine. He had been a New York
gangster for many years and knew the underworld. Rec-
ognizing the gigantic powers that were arrayed against
me, and coming to take a personal interest in me,
he pleaded as I was about to leave prison at the end of
my term, that I take care not to go unnecessarily into
danger. I asked him what he meant, ano! he intimated
that there were alliances between wealthy predatory in-
terests and the gangster crowd in the underworld. Fol-
lowing up the clew, I asked him point blank one day if
he meant that it is possible to hire men in New York City
to commit murder ; he said it was not only possible, but had
become reduced almost to a commercial commodity. He
said he knew leaders of gangs who controlled in the ag-
gregate something like four or five hundred followers,
122 LETTERS FROM PRISON
any one of whom would take a man's life for a stipulated
sum. " What is that sum? " I asked him; and he replied:
" Anywhere from twenty-five dollars up, according to the
risk involved and the amount of protection which the fel-
low could expect after he had done the deed."
It is a pleasure to me to report that part of my time at
Queens County Jail was engaged in making flower beds,
and in beautifying the prison yard. Also I obtained the
Warden's permission to bring in some of the flowers in
boxes, when the time of frost came in the autumn. I like
to think of these flowers as now relieving to a slight extent
the tedium of life there this winter, for those sad-faced,
homeless, friendless chaps I left behind there, when the big
gate opened, November 11, to let me out.
THE CHURCH AND THE CRISIS *
My friends: Last spring in the coal mining region of
Colorado, there took place the most pitiful and momentous
event in America's social history. At present the drums
and tramplings in Europe hold the popular mind. But
though national war be more spectacular, it is the social
war that is writing the real and permanent pages of his-
tory. It highly befits us, therefore, amid the tumult
and the glare and the shouting, to pause and give thought
to these deeper currents. The event referred to was the
combat between the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and
its employees, wherein seven score and over of the latter
were slaughtered by hired gunmen of the company.
The insurrection arose through restiveness of the miners
and their families, in giving their bodies and their brains
and their health, to enrich a group of absentee owners
whom they had never seen, of whom they rarely heard,
and who appeared in the life of Colorado purely as a huge
grasping palm, getting ever, giving never ; a vast tentacle,
fastened upon every miner's home, and sucking into itself
all the richness and marrow and joy of their existence.
A Congressional investigating committee traced the larg-
est of these absentee landlords, in fact the controlling
ownership of the company and therefore the chief extor-
tioner of them all, to a man of colossal wealth living here
in the East, in his Pocantico Palace. This Croesus is a
leading member of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church on
West 57th Street in this city. The Church of the Social
Revolution, of which I am pastor, was at the time on West
44th Street, a very near neighbor of that other church,
and representing the workmen's side in the Colorado af-
fair. For as the Fifth Avenue Church included in its
* Carnegie Hall, Dec. 13, 1914.
LETTERS FROM PRISON
membership this richest man in the world, we in turn are
of the poorest in the world. Therefore we thought to
help the situation by establishing an interchange of views
with that neighbor church. It is here we enter the nar-
We of the Revolution Church take the matter of re-
ligion seriously. We hold that a man's religion, and there-
fore his view of the universe, is the most important thing
about him. For it is the mold in which his thinkings are
shaped. And thinking is the root of all doing.
We did this Baptist Church, therefore, the honor to
believe that the type of religion it propagates is influ-
ential in modeling the type of conduct lived by its mem-
bers. That is a point indeed upon which they them-
selves put much stress. " Join our Church," say they ;
" and it will pattern you into its likeness." You can de-
termine what a Church teaches by what its people prac-
tice. In this I am not saying that a Church can be held
chargeable for the deeds of all of its members. To infer
from an intoxicated man that the church of which he might
conceivably be a member inculcates intoxication, would
be obviously unjust. When, however broadly all the mem-
bers of a church, not in one place or time but in all places
and at all times, pursue a course of conduct, it is valid to
infer that the church teaches that course of conduct.
Yes, it is complimentary so to infer. Otherwise that
church would be ineffective in getting its doctrines in-
carnated in the lives of its people; and therefore would
forfeit its right to existence.
Extortion is, among the Baptists, a course of conduct
thus broadly universal. Among the Methodists likewise,
for that matter ; also among Episcopalians, Congregation-
alists, Presbyterians, and the residue. But it is a Baptist
Church that has figured in my life during these last six
months. Therefore I confine the narrative to her.
In bringing the charge of extortion, believe me I
am. speaking neither in malice nor vituperation. The
LETTERS FROM PRISON 125
Baptists themselves admit the charge. Yes, they take
glory in it. Extortion means, squeezing all you can out
of the other fellow. Go to any business man who is a
Baptist, and he will plead to the indictment. " Most as-
suredly I get all I can," he will tell you. " Do you think
I'm in business for my health? I buy in the cheapest mar-
ket, and sell in the dearest. If I didn't I'd be in the re-
ceiver's hands quick. Business is so organized that one
is obliged to be an extortioner. It's a game of dog eat
dog. Naturally I choose to be the eater rather than the
eaten. Nothing illegal about it. It is quite within the
bounds of statutory procedure. To overreach, is com-
mercialism's a b c, and x y z. Yes, I'm an extortioner."
This is the business code taught by the Fifth Avenue
Baptist Church. Successful extortion is the type of con-
duct she delights to honor. The Standard Oil magnate
is a case in point. By squeezing every cent he could out
of the other fellow that is, by extortion he has
amassed the most far-extending private fortune known to
history. And he is also clothed by his Church with every
preferment in its power to bestow. His membership on
their roll is celebrated with anthems of joy. Not a post
of honor in that organization but would be conferred upon
him with bell-ringings of delight. The Fifth Avenue
Church has given to extortionate riches a clean bill of
health. Yes, has enhaloed it with a radiance from the
heaven of the highest; consecrating the code with sanctions
the most holy within the mind of man to conceive or within
the heart of man to cherish.
I would not that there should seem to attach to my
tones any suggestion of bitterness. Therefore I make
haste to soften the guilt. It is only within recent date
that extortion has come to light as one of the cardinal
wickednesses forbidden by the Bible. Before the era of
modern scholarship religion, even the religion of Prot-
estantism was an affair of fog and unrealism. The Bible,
read with uncritical gaze, was deemed a book of conso-
126 LETTERS FROM PRISON
lation; a means rather of emotional detachment from the
scenes of time and space, than of civic duty and austere
It is scientific scholarship that is disclosing the indus-
trial note sounding through every page of the scripture
record. Thanks to scholarly research, we now know that
the bible is not primarily a book of religion. It is pri-
marily a book of economics. Or, more correctly, the two
are fused into an organic blend, so that the religion of the
bible mobilized its energies unto economic tasks ; and eco-
nomics drew its inspirations from the vital breath of re-
Jesus, we now know, was a workingman. His spiritual-
ity was inseparably interwoven with the carpenter's bench
where he spent his young manhood. A toiler, and of a
nation of toilers, the life industrial was woven into the
bone and brain of him. His thought apparatus was de-
termined on the side of the working poor and against the
exploiting rich. His life coincided with the formative era
of the Roman Empire. That empire was a coalition of
the master-class in all of the countries against the working-
class in all of the countries. The extension of that em-
pire to Palestine menaced him and his fellow toilers with
slave status. Long he endured the threat and the increas-
ing degradation. Then his forbearance came to an end.
He laid aside his carpenter's tools, surrounded himself
with twelve other workingmen, and stepped 1 forward into
a campaign of agitation the equal of which for popular
arousement has nowhere else been marked down in his-
tory. " The common people," we are definitely informed,
" heard him gladly." So gladly, in truth, that the wrath
of the privileged orders swiftly flamed against him. From
Galilee to Golgotha they hounded him. When finally they
had him in Pilate's court, the indictment drawn against
him was, " he stirreth up the people." Nor did he at-
tempt to deny it. Amply his guilt was established. He
was convicted as an inciter of the populace. He met an
LETTERS FROM PRISON 127
" The most inHammatory book ever written," exclaimed
James Russell Lowell of the bible. And exact scholar-
ship is confirming the pronouncement. I have some ac-
quaintance with the writings of such men as Karl Marx,
Ferdinand Lassalle, Mazzini, Proudhon, and Henry
George. Yet I say unto you, never in any of them have
I found so vehement an indignation against swollen for-
tunes, and so invariable a class-conscious fellowship with
the toiling poor, as in the recorded utterances of Jesus the
carpenter of Nazareth.
But these researches of scholarship have not as yet
reached Churches of the old school. So that they with
entire innocence are teaching an outworn ethics in a day
of modern illumination. Here is one of the tragedies of
our time. The age demands a social morality. But the
Churches are hammering along with the old private moral-
ity. So that we see men who are personal saints and pub-
lic sinners. Thereby religion is made a laughing-stock;
and the whole idea of a spiritual life is brought under
In these circumstances, we of the Church of the Social
Revolution sought to extend to the Fifth Avenue Baptist
Church the light of modern biblical scholarship, in con-
nection with the social crisis that is gathering its menace
so portentously to-day. In a letter to its pastor I an-
nounced our visit, to invite their congregation to a joint
conference with ours, at some time and place to be mu-
tually agreed upon.
Dr. Woelfkin states that, for some mysterious reason,
this special delivery letter was delayed nearly two days,
so that it reached him only a few minutes before the morn-
ing service, and too late for him to read. An intimation,
is it not? that if he had received it and thus had
known of the friendliness of our intentions, a different
sort of reception would have been ours. In which case
I ask him why, in the police court the following Tuesday,
128 LETTERS FROM PRISON
after he had had two additional days to read and re-read
the letter, his attitude was still one of hostility? One
word from him, or from his Church board, would have
changed the tenor of the entire court proceedings. Not
only did they refuse to utter that word, but they assisted
the prosecution and helped powerfully to convict me.
A question is perhaps in the minds of some of you:
What right had we to pay that visit? Was it not a
strange procedure; illegal, an act of wildness, savoring
rather of barbarism than of the pleasant usages of culti-
My friends, when I recall the circumstances amid which
our visit was paid, that methodical massacre at Ludlow,
I marvel at the restraint we showed on the occasion of our
visit to that church. In Colorado, one hundred and forty-
seven of our fellow members of the disinherited class lay
dead. Life was as dear to them as to any. They in-
cluded men and women, boys and girls, and babes. I have
received from there the picture of a rag doll of one of the
girl victims, that had come out of the inferno of fire well
enough preserved to be photographed. They were fel-
low humans, those people that were slain. As you and I,
so they had their hopes, their day-dreamings, their thirst
for a home and for happiness and for love. In the vigor
of health, they planned their days; they looked forward
into the coming years with expectation. Then the blow
descended. Upon their camp the hired assassins of the
Colorado Fuel and Iron Company fell. The torch was
applied. The report of guns rang out. And when the
smoke cleared, there the bodies lay; among them women
holding infants in arms that, mother-fashion, had sought
to defend them first of all. Meanwhile the instigator of it
was safe in his palace here on the Pocantico Hills, amid
a lavishment of wealth huge beyond estimation. And his
Fifth Avenue Church was assembling at stated intervals
in the name of the crucified Carpenter, to chant the praises
of the rich and to inculcate upon the poor a proper do-
LETTERS FROM PRISON 129
cility of subordination.
Wildness on our part, that visit of ours to the Church
that had nurtured him into this grotesque and hellish
code? I say unto you, as over against that Ludlow busi-
ness, our deed was of lamblike sweetness and moderation.
Not the wildness of it, but the mildness of it, excites my
astonishment. Had we gone and stormed that church
level with the ground so as to drive a plowshare through
the ruins, it would have been a tame affair in comparison
with Ludlow. For how should a few stones be held in
the same reckoning with living, sentient beings in Colo-
rado dashed to death?
No, my brother, tax us not with exaggeration in our
deed. If you chide us at all, chide rather the too, too
gentle procedure in the face of a massacre that called
to highest heaven for protest. We to hide our heads !
Let those the rather hide their heads who lived contempo-
rary to such a happening, and uttered no syllable of re-
monstrance. And if any of you were in that number,
this night pray the piteous Heart-of-God to forgive you
for being a coward and a nonentity and a blank ; and to
make you from this time forth a figure that shall count
in your day upon earth.
I referred a moment ago to the Tarrytown magnate
as the instigator of the Ludlow slaughter. Possibly that
provoked a mood of query in some of you. This man, you
say, was two thousand miles from the scene. His prop-
erty in Colorado was managed by agents on the spot.
These, and not he, hired the gunmen and are chargeable
for the tragedy.
My friends, if you say that you know not social ethics.
He who receives the profits of a business, is answerable for
the methods employed in running that business. And
now we are cutting close to the heart of the economic
issue of these times. Great wealth means absentee own-
ership. Here is the boundary line between a proper and
an improper fortune. Wealth becomes swollen wealth,
130 LETTERS FROM PRISON
when the owner of it is no longer able personally to super-
intend and administer it. When a man no longer can
know each of his workmen by name, with the wife and
children of each, he has too many workmen. Absentee
ownership, always and everywhere, is inhuman ownership.
Such wealth becomes terribly depersonalized; a machine
for grinding out profits. There are no human sympathies
to temper it, no tenderness to soften the harshness of its
exactions. Therefore it extorts with a perfect extortion.
There is nothing so merciless under the stars of heaven,
as a property administered by agents. The owner is at
a remove. He sees not the cruelties that are enacted.
And the agent is but a hired man. Where then shall be
found chords of sensibility to feel the tragedy ; or a voice
to uplift, and stay the devastation ? A popular song tells
of a lonely girl : she lived in the city that is without pity ;
the city that has no heart. But more pitiless than an
alien city, is absentee wealth. It has a gigantic brain,
but no feelings. Which is exactly the definition of a
The Colorado Fuel and Iron Company is a pat illustra-
tion. I am told that the owner in Tarrytown is a man of
quick and tender heart. The superintendent in Colorado
is also, most like, a man of family, and with natural hu-
man sympathies. But this finer and human side of neither
of them was permitted to be operative.
Says the owner to the superintendent, " I have pro-
moted you to this coveted post. Now it is up to you to
make good. The superintendent before you jacked the
dividend up from 4% to 6 per cent. See if you can do as
" Will do my best," replies the superintendent. " I '11
keep an eye on the dividend; be sure of that. Of course
there is er the workmen and their families. Just
what procedure do you er think "
" What procedure? " exclaims the owner. " Adopt the
Christian procedure. I've got a heart, I have. Be good
LETTERS FROM PRISON 131
to the workmen."
" Er even at the expense of er lowering the
dividends, sir? "
" Now, see here, Mr. Superintendent, I've appointed
you to the management of an industrial plant, not to the
head of a charity. I keep my business and my philan-
thropy distinctly separate. Business means dividends."
" And the heads of families? "
" Give them all you can. But don't reduce the divi-
" Treat the women well. But don't reduce the divi-
"The boys and girls?"
" Be tender towards them. But don't reduce the
The Dividend is the one deity in the business kingdom.
To that, every eye looks up, in all homage, all worship.
That superintendent in Ludlow knew that a cut in the rate
of the dividend would cost him his job. Therefore he
turned heaven and hell to maintain it. The dividend de-
manded that he debauch politics. Therefore he debauched
the politics of the entire State of Colorado. The dividend
demanded that he employ children of school age. So he
cast schoolhouses on the scrap heap. It demanded finally
that he commit wholesale murder. Here likewise he hesi-
tated not a moment. Maintain the dividend even at the
price of massacre, was the order that came, directly or
indirectly, from Tarrytown. He did as he was told. He
multiplied murder 147 times. Thus he kept his job. Po-
cantico Hills got its dividends. And the Fifth Avenue
Church, its pew rent and missionary contribution.
But, they tell us, there wasn't any provision in law for
your visit to the Fifth Avenue Church. Well, was there
any provision in law for the slaughter of those 147 people
in Ludlow? An unprecedented situation demanded of us
unprecedented measures. And it is the lawlessness of
132 LETTERS FROM PRISON
wealth, continued now through a course of years, that has
brought to pass this unprecedented state of affairs. It is
a proverb, " Law is a spider's web that catches the little
flies, and lets the bumblebee break through." Money has
debased the electorate, corrupted our legislatures, bedev-
illed our courts, besmirched our municipalities, polluted
all the springs of our civic life.
" Law and order " is their cry to us and their everlast-
ing exhortation. Yes ? Harry Thaw's escape from Mat-
teawan, and subsequent residence amid luxury in New
Hampshire was it according to law and order? The
pardon of Morse from the Federal prison in Atlanta, per-
mitting him to regain his forfeited millions according
to law and order? The lobby at Washington that so
powerfully dictates some desired decree of Congress
according to law and order? The State government in
Colorado, is it at the present hour according to law and
order; or has it been for one moment since the Colorado
Fuel and Iron Company engaged in politics? The motor
rides of a millionaire convict in Sing Sing according to
law and order? Law and order, my friends, has come to
be largely a formula for excusing the rich and powerful,
and for accusing the lowly.
But I wish to take higher ground than this, in justify-
ing the deed where I, and the Church of which I am leader,
have been brought in question. Statutory enactment is
not for ethics the court of last appeal. Time was, when
chattel slavery stood legislated into our federal constitu-
tion. Against it, the doings of Lovejoy and Garrison and
Phillips were avowedly illegal. But to-day those men are
glorified. John Brown's deed at Harper's Ferry was
hardly a contribution to the chronicles of legality. But,
though his body lies a-moldering in the ground, his soul
goes marching on. Jesus when he entered the Jerusalem
temple and with whips drove out the gang of extortioners
there confederated, was a law breaker. There are times
when, to break the law, or rather, to go beyond the law, is
LETTERS FROM PRISON 133
man's divinest duty.
By temperament I am disposed to the pathways of or-
derly procedure. And if I seem to speak slightingly of
man-made statutes, it is out of reverence to heaven-made
statutes which man-made laws were stupidly ignoring or
openly contradicting. One of these laws engraved on the
statute books eternal, is the law of truth. Which law the
Fifth Avenue Church in question was grievously violating.
And is. It teaches the righteousness of swollen fortunes,
and affects to base that teaching on the life and words of
the Carpenter of Nazareth. A more perfect falsification
was never fabricated to mislead the children of men.
" Once upon a time," said that Carpenter, " there was
a certain rich man that was clothed in purple and fine
linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And a certain
beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate full of sores,
and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the
rich man's table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his
sores. Now it came to pass that the beggar died and was
carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich
man also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up
his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off,
and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said,
' Father Abraham, I pray thee have mercy on me, and
send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water
and cool my tongue. For I am tormented in this flame.'
But Abraham said, ' Son, between us and you is a great
gulf fixed.' "
Jesus, you will take note, does not send him to hell be-
cause he was an immoral rich man, an uncharitable rich
man, or an illegal rich man. To the contrary, all the
intimations in the parable portray him as a good rich
man, more than commonly high-minded and tender of sensi-
bility. None the less, for him the abode of the damned
swings wide its gate. And all prayers, all supplications
to the heart of heaven, were unavailing to mitigate the
dread sentence so much as by one cooling drop of water.
LETTERS FROM PRISON
Do you recall the parable of that other rich man? he
who gave himself up to the lust of acquisition, joining
field to field and property to property until he had not
where to bestow his goods. " This will I do," said he ; " I
will pull down my barns and build greater ; and there will
I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to
my soul, * Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many
years ; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.' ' Well,
that same night he met his death. And do you know to
what kind of a death Jesus surrendered him? Both the
accepted and the revised versions purposely soften it. The
real translation is, " Thou fool, this night they are de-
manding thy life of thee." In other words, he was put to
death by an uprising of the populace.
Nor are these exceptional or isolated passages. The
speech of the Carpenter is pregnant with the economic
upheaval of the time. This Jesus, whose birthday all
Christendom will in a few weeks celebrate, who has redated
the calendar and whose personality is the cornerstone of
cathedrals and churches girdling the globe, was the most
uncompromising foe of private riches that ever trod this
planet. Wheresoever he passed, an uprising of the multi-
tude was not long in following. He touched the times to
revolutionary hope and high expectancy. For the toiler
he had beatitudes. But to the privileged classes living
at ease on the backs of the poor, he portioned out earth-
quake and eclipse in this world, arid a gehenna of destruc-
tion in the world to come.
To take the name of such a one, and pervert it to a
glorification of the money caste, is the ungodliest, the in-
decentest piece of business the sun has looked down upon
in many a year. Yet that is what our Fifth Avenue
Church has done. It has put its O. K., its official im-
primatur, on the perpetrator of the Ludlow slaughter.
And then has the effrontery to engrave on its front, in
letters sunk into the solid stone, " We Preach Christ Cruci-
fied." It's a lie. And if they will not change it, some-
LETTERS FROM PRISON 135
body will have to change it for them. " We Preach Christ
Falsified," is what it will have to be altered into.
No right to carry the light of truth to that Church!
If by that they mean that there is no statutory provision
for such a deed, or that it is contrary to custom, they per-
haps are right. But the statute book does not contain
the whole duty of man. And as to the unusual and dis-
turbing quality in our deed, I say unto you, This age
needs to be disturbed. To stir up this dull and soggy
generation, is quite the most salutary deed that could be
wrought. And if thus to awaken a world sunk in com-
fortable slumber, carries with it a jail sentence, we will
take the consequences. When human law clashes with
divine law, prison becomes a house of prayer, and they
alone are truly free, who are fast behind the bars.
But wait a moment. Our deed was outside the law.
But was it contrary to the law? I beg to remind you
that churches are a semi-public institution. Not fully
public, as is a park or a highway. Nor yet fully private,
as is a residence or a clubhouse. In our jurisprudence
they occupy a status between. And for this reason:
churches are exempt from taxation. Which means, to
that extent they are subsidized by society. Every one
of us is a contributor.
Now taxation without representation is inimical to the
spirit and history of American institutions. To be sure,
the point is too nebulous a one to establish for our deed a
legality beyond all peradventure. But I do say that it
makes it a debatable issue, a case distinctly with two sides.
The public, contributing of its taxes to the maintenance
of a church, acquires thereby an equity in that church.
So that our visit, whatever else it may have been, was not
an intrusion. And the judges who hilariously refused to
listen to our defense and who bundled me off to prison
without any privilege of appeal and practically without
a hearing, added no luster to the New York courts nor re-
deemed the bench from the suspicion of subserviency to
136 LETTERS FROM PRISON
wealth, which is creeping into many minds to-day.
But, legally or illegally, the Christian Church has got
to be shamed out of its attitude of a coward and skulker
on these economic issues. It must be dragged into the
open. Some weeks ago, one of the Socialist Party leaders
in New York wrote to Dr. Woelfkin, offering to arrange
a public debate between him and me on the question, " Did
Jesus Teach the Immorality of Being Rich? " That min-
ister wrote back refusing, on the ground that he was by
no means a defender of riches ; in fact, was not sure of his
mind on this matter. But that was not the question.
The subject proposed was not as to Dr. Woelfkin's atti-
tude towards wealth, but as to the attitude of Jesus of
Nazareth toward wealth a historical question purely,
and verifiable from the records. What pitiable, pitiable
spirit of evasion ! And from Protestantism, which once
stood forth the champion of truth to all the world, and
challenged the devil to his face.
Strangely enough, the gentleness of tone in the letter
sent to the Fifth Avenue Church has been made the ground
of an additional accusation against me insincerity.
" Bouck White did not mean a word of his letter," ex-
claim a chorus of carping critics. My friends, I ask
you to have faith enough in me to believe that I both am
capable of sincerity, and that I displayed the trait on that
occasion. There is a group of agitators who lay the eco-
nomic sinnings of our day at the door of rich men in-
dividually. But we of the Socialist creed hold differently.
All the rich men in the world could renounce their incomes
to-morrow; the game would be taken up by others, and
the extortion go on. Not individuals, but the system, is
at fault. We must lay the ax at the root of the poison
tree. To lop off branches here and there is futile.
Therefore in our efforts to find a remedy for the sick-
ness of society as seen in the Ludlow breaking out, we
went beneath all personalities, all surface cures, to bed-
rock, namely, the false religion and ethics, from which all
LETTERS FROM PRISON 137
other falsenesses flow.
Consider the situation: Agitators were holding the
Standard Oil magnate individually responsible for the Lud-
low affair. There was an invasion of the privacy of his
home. There were threats against his life ; so that he was
a prisoner in his own house, venturing forth only in a fast
automobile, and with curtains drawn. Efforts were being
made also to organize a committee in New York to pur-
chase rifles and ship them to the miners in Colorado, to
foment a civil war. In such a juncture, we wrote to the
Fifth Avenue Church, saying: " Let us get together, and
lift this entire question out of the realm of personalities
into the realm of eternal principles, whence alone deliver-
ance can flow." Their reply was to clap me into prison.
Disorderly ? I say unto you, that Fifth Avenue Church
was the true disorderly one. And we were the people of
orderliness and elevated decorum. I do not blame the
rich for their covetousness. I blame the Church that has
taught them the falsified gospel that covetousness is ethi-
cal and christianly. There is going to be more hope for
John D. Rockefeller at Judgment Day than for Cornelius
Woelfkin. Rockefeller is an offender against humanity.
But he doesn't know it. Jesus in his day sentenced rich
men to hell without reprieve. That was because in that
era the commandment to a life of democracy and human
fellowship was clear. So that the rich in that day sinned
against noonday light. But to-day the plain mandates
of the bible against swollen fortunes have been covered
up and softened down and explained away by a convenient
and decorous clergy. So that right and wrong have been
made veritably to change places.
Rockefeller is a moral idiot. He is not accountable
for his acts. And therefore will be tenderly dealt with
when he comes to his final account. I mean that in all
kindness. Through the perverted religious teachings in
which he has been immersed since boyhood, he is stone
blind to the price in the misery of multitudes, that has
138 LETTERS FROM PRISON
been paid for his wealth. Ruthless as Attila or a Genghis
Khan, he has trampled upon others, leaving behind at
every step a trail of bankrupts. As Indians used to deco-
rate their wigwams with the skulls of the vanquished, so he
could paper all the walls of his house at Tarrytown with
the bankruptcy proceedings of his victims. But he doesn't
perceive it. He and his master-class group, with their
commercial warfarings, avarice internationalized, cov-
etousness magnified to a cosmic diameter have let loose
the thunderclouds that now are clashing in Europe. And
thereupon, with entire innocency, an absence of the sense of
humor, he sends over shiploads of food for the districts
ravaged by the war. Millions for philanthropy, but not
a cent for justice. And why, this spectacle so sublimely
ridiculous? It is because the Christianity that has nur-
tured him has made of him, as to his moral judgments, an
imbecile. For it has preached almsgiving instead of
equity. Upon her, therefore, and not upon him, must fall
This, my friends, is the history of that Fifth Avenue
Church affair, told in all candor, all truth. What of the
future? The newspapers at the time of my conviction
last spring prophesied that it would work in me a whole-
some amendment; and that I would come back, when the
sentence had expired, to be a chastened and docile member
of society thenceforward.
The prophecies were outside the facts. They thought
that half a year in prison would take the speed out of
me. It has not taken the speed out of me. Six months
of fettered inactivity detaches a prisoner as in a sort of
watchtower, from which he can observe the world's drift
and trend with a truer perspective than those who are in
the thick of it. Twenty-seven weeks spent in that watch-
tower have persuaded me, with a more grounded certitude
than ever in the past, that this present order of society is
doomed. It makes not for peace but for war. Its seed
LETTERS FROM PRISON 139
and root is the avaricious instinct, which instinct makes
for conflict inevitable. Given that root, the cataclysm
which is now destroying Europe is the natural growth and
fruitage. Competition, the cornerstone; world war, the
culmination. Capitalism's back is broken. Social sur-
gery may devise some kind of a splint to keep the patient
going for a while. But it will be on a descending path-
way. Its vitality will be charted on a falling curve,
The spinal column is fractured.
When a world is hell-bent, Revolution, that is to say, a
right-about-face, is the only thing that can save it. Ac-
cordingly, to that holy task of social overturn, I dedicate
my life. Nor in this stand I solitary. Protestantism is
not wholly given over into the money power. That group
of ministers who dared to defend me when I was in felon
stripes, are a saving remnant about which a new spiritual
formation shall gather. We have, furthermore, in a con-
gressman-elect on this platform to-night, the evidence of
a new type in America's political life, that shall be an in-
calculable security in the troubled times that are ahead.
Civilization is in the melting pot. The hour has struck to
recast mankind into a nobler mold. " I enlist * under the
Lord of the blood-red banner, to bring to an end a scheme
of things that has enthroned Leisure on the back of La-
bor, an idle class sucking the substance of the poor. I
will not be a social climber, but will remain with the work-
ers in class solidarity till class shall have been done away
in fellowship's glad dawn. I will seek recruits for the
Church of the Social Revolution, unto the overthrow of
present-day society and its rebuilding into fellowship.
* Covenant of the church.
CHURCH OF THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION
ORDER OF SERVICE
1. Song (People seated).
2. Song (Seated).
3. Leader : " To sing the folk upheaval and grow a
Socialism of the heart, we are assembled. Unto us
has been entrusted the high glad gospel of de-
mocracy. Therefore with joy, with beauty, with
strong devotion, let all the doings of this hour pro-
ceed. That so the revolution may be wrought in
sweetness and in majesty. Till the Lord-of-the-
uprising-of-labor shall have been enthroned o'er all
the earth, and the people be established."
4. Song (Seated).
5. The Covenant in unison (Standing).
6. Song (Seated).
7. Notices (by the Leader and the heads of committees
8. Treasurer : " Church-of-the-Revolution comrades :
The holiest cause that has come to earth in eighteen
hundred years, asks you for a money offering. The
martyrs that have gone before prepared for this
day, by their faithfulness even unto impoverish-
ment and death. Let us in this our time give with
(Consecration of children to the Cause of Human
9. Song (Standing).
LETTERS FROM PRISON 141
11. Invitation into the Fellowship; and singing the Cove-
12. Song (Standing).
14. Leader: " And now may the Lord-of-the-uprising-of-
labor keep us in the Fellowship."
15. Congregation: " Forevermore."
REVOLUTION MARRIAGE RITE
Church of the Revolution, Comrades:
We are about to consecrate the joining of two souls in
wedlock. Marriage is a joyful event. It adds to the man
and to the woman fullness of living, and to society the
blessedness of an unending perpetuity. It is not good for
man to be alone. It is not good for woman to be alone.
Each has need of the other. Each rounds out the other.
Many lives have come to a day of downfall, because they
attempted to go solitary through the wilderness of this
world, and in loneliness wandered astray. By cosmic de-
cree, man and woman are fractional parts of a human
being. In each other they find their completeness.
Therefore we should glorify their union. We should lift
it into the light of recognition; and rejoice on an occasion
like the present, with a public rejoicing. The ongoings
of life and of civil society shall not fail, so long as wed-
ding bells shall ring and man and woman join themselves
in splendid dedication.
This occasion, while it has its joyous side, must also not
be divested of the solemnity that befits it. The uniting
of two lives is a matter in which not alone the partners are
interested, but is an event likewise in which society is vitally
concerned. Therefore, they who have a sense of civic re-
sponsibility will neither lightly renounce marriage nor
lightly enter marriage. Frivolously to refuse it, frivo-
lously to undertake it, is equally a sorrow to the race.
Therefore abating no part of the joyousness of this event,
we must in like measure deepen our thoughts to the pro-
found significance of the deed we are here enacting.
To the Man and to the Woman
You have come to me as the leader of this Church, that
I may unite you in matrimony. It is incumbent upon me
LETTERS FROM PRISON 143
however in all candor to inform you that no word that I
may speak or rite that I personally can celebrate, is of
power to bring that state of affairs to pass. Marriage
is an interior uniting, or it is not a marriage. A joining
of spirit to spirit, alone can make you husband and wife.
Because of forgetfulness of this fact, marriages more than
one have come to disastrous termination. The divorce
courts testify with pathetic abundance that a marriage
which is consecrated only by exterior celebration and not
by spiritual union, is no marriage but is a mockery and a
sorrow. Where love is, marriage abides. Where love is
not, marriage is not. No clergyman has the right to bind
a man and a woman together so long as life shall last ; but
rather, so long as love shall last. Neither wedding day
solemnities nor offices of earnest friends, nor all the power
of Heaven itself shall be of* potency to keep together two
souls that are not themselves resolved to be one. There-
fore if the marriage here beginning is to be permanent,
you yourselves must make it permanent. I need not tell
you of the tragedy that is inflicted upon personal life and
public well-being, by the sundering of homes and the break-
ing up of families. I rather devote this moment to a word
of caution and exhortation. To the end that love may
last as long as life shall last, and marriage be coterminous
with them both.
Happy marriages are a growth; and are the result of
that indwelling affection which leads to constant compro-
mises one to the other, whereby with the passing of the
years the soul of the man and the soul of the woman ad-
just themselves mutually; like twin vines which have en-
wrapt each other for so long that now any tearing of them-
selves apart would be fatal to them both. Only in this
will-to-permanency, can an enduring tie be wrought.
Therefore I ask you now, are you determined each of you
to make this marriage so far as in your power shall lie, an
institution that by its lastingness and wholesomeness shall
bless mankind long after your day is done?
14*4 LETTERS FROM PRISON
The man and the woman answer each:
" I am so resolved."
Do you cheerfully undertake the duties that come from
the uniting of two lives and the setting up of a home in
the midst of society?
The man and the woman each:
" I undertake those duties."
In sickness as well as in health; in poverty as well as
in plenty ; in dark hours as well as in the day of prosperity,
will you cleave to one another and by your mutual faith-
fulness lighten the common sorrow?
The man and the woman each:
" I will."
[The leader places the right hand of the man in the right
hand of the woman, and with his left hand upon their
joined hands, says] :
With this clasp of the hand, under the heaven of The
Highest and in the presence of this company of witnesses,
I pronounce you husband and wife. From this hour may
holy thoughts attend you, and faithful friends enfold you,
and the Everlasting Arms be round about you. Forever-
CONSECRATION OF CHILDREN
Church of the Revolution, Comrades :
We are about to celebrate the rite of infant consecra-
tion. From immemorial antiquity, the coming of a child
into the world has been made the occasion of a stated and
sacred ceremony. Such a celebration is eminently befit-
ting 1 . In the animal kingdom the coming of an individual
into existence, and his passing out, receive no recognition.
Man has differently ordained, and thereby has invested
human life with dignity. We of the new age and order
depart widely from the old. But we do not destroy the
old. Rather, founding upon the past, we carry the build-
ing to a nobler and more glorious height. The morbid
fear of the universe upon which the ancient rite of baptism
was based, is forever passed away. But the beauty and
utility of celebrating the advent of a new soul into the
abode of the living, shall never pass away. It is not upon
the child but upon us, and particularly upon the parents,
that the present service is of value. I entreat you, there-
fore, to give to this rite your cooperating aid, and to the
child, from this time forth, your neighborly thought and
To the Parents : -
You have brought this child for consecration. Do you
hold with us that the present ordering of the world is evil,
and needs to be supplanted by a new?
" I do."
Will you strive by precept and example, to rear up this
LETTERS FROM PRISON
child into moral courage, into self mastery, and into de-
votion to the commonwealth?
" I will."
Leader (addressing the child, or children) : We wel-
come you into life. A dark day is upon the world; may
you be a light in the darkness. A day of bloodshed is
upon the world; may you be a herald of peace. A day
of hate is upon the world; may you be a bringer of fel-
Will the congregation stand; and let us remain for a
moment in silence. Leader [placing both palms on the
head of the infant].
Russell Palmer, under the heaven of the Highest, and
in the presence of this company of witnesses, I dedicate
you to the cause of human freedom. From this hour may
faithful guardians instruct you. May Heaven tenderly
cherish you. And the Everlasting Arms be round about
Q. In what sort of an age are we living?
A. We are living in an age of Revolution.
Q. What is the nature of the present Revolution?
A. It is a Social Revolution.
Q. How does Social Revolution differ from political
A. Political revolution is confined within national boun-
daries ; Social revolution disregards national boundaries.
Q. Is the social revolution something tJiat is going to
A. It is not something that is going to come; it is al-
Q. Are there visible signs by which its presence can be
A. Social revolution has no visible signs. Unlike po-
litical revolution, it is a combat of ideas.
Q. How then can we know tliat The Revolution is taking
A. We know that The Revolution is taking place be-
cause of the change in the thoughts and habits and lives of
Q. 7* Social Revolution accompanied by bloodshed, as
A. Bloodshed is not an essential accompaniment of So-
cial Revolution. Its domain is the invisible realm of
thoughts and customs and institutions.
Q. Is Social Revolution ever accompanied by the taking
of life, or the destroying of property?
A. Social revolutions in the past have been thus ac-
companied. But these are not necessary parts of social
Q. What is the difference between social evolution and
148 LETTERS FROM PRISON
A. Revolution is evolution hurried up.
Q. Are both evolution and revolution normal?
A. Both evolution and revolution are normal, each being
a part in nature's ongoing.
,Q. Why is our time a time of revolution and not of
A. Ours is a time of revolution rather than evolution,
because of the extent of the changes and the rapidity with
which they are taking place.
Q. What is the fundamental fact of The Revolution?
A. The fundamental fact of The Revolution is the
change from a civilization of and for the idle class, to a
civilization of and for the workers.
Q. Who are the workers?
A. The workers are all who do productive toil.
Q. Does this include brain workers, as well as hand
A. Yes; brain workers are a part of the producing
class, and therefore are a part of the working class.
Q. Who are not included?
A. The kept people are not included ; by which is meant
all able bodied people who consume without producing.
Q. Does this change from a leisure class to an industrial
class civilization, cause many consequences?
A. Yes, the revolution of our time is causing an altera-
tion in most of the departments of life.
Q. What are the departments of life affected by the
A. Besides industry, the departments affected by the
revolution are the home, art, education, and statecraft.
Q. What is the revolution that is taking place m the
A. It is a revolution whereby the private family is being
merged in the human family.
Q. What is meant by this merging of the private family
into the human -family?
A. It means that people shall no longer think of their
LETTERS FROM PRISON 149
household first, but shall think of the human family first.
Q. Who are your brothers and sisters?
A. My brothers and sisters are all the people of all the
Q. Does this supremacy of the human family do away
with the need of private families?
A. No. Marriage and private homes are necessary;
but we must no longer limit our fellowship to blood rela-
Q. What does this supremacy of the human family mean
as to children?
A. It means that every child which comes into the world
has a claim upon society, for its support, education and
proper upbringing. We are no longer permitted to care
only for children of our flesh and blood ; all children are
our flesh and blood.
Q. Does this conception of the human family alter the
A. It alters the marriage relation to this extent that
love and not financial support is to be henceforth the only
basis of union between man and woman.
Q. Does this mean then that marriages other than love
marriages are unrighteous?
A. It means that marriages other than love marriages
are utterly unrighteous.
Q. Is divorce then a good institution?
A. Neither a loveless marriage, nor the divorce of peo-
ple held in a loveless marriage, is good. Divorce is a sor-
row to mankind; but when it is the only alternative to a
marriage that has become loveless, it is the lesser of two
Q. // then neither a loveless marriage nor divorce is
good, how shall marriage be made a thing of love and
A. Marriage can be made a thing of love and perpe-
tuity, only if the husband and wife resolve to maintain
watchcare continually, and by constant compromises one
150 LETTERS FROM PRISON
unto the other, to blend their natures and so keep love
Q. Is an unbroken 'marriage preferable?
A. Unbroken marriages are always preferable, provided
love is a dweller in that home.
Q. What is the change that The* Revolution makes m
A. The Revolution is changing art from fine art to
Q. What is meant by fine art?
A. Fine art is that which is decorative without being
Q. What is applied art?
A. Applied art is that wherein useful things are
wrought into a shape of beauty.
Q. How can applied art come to pass?
A. Applied art can come to pass only when the work-
ers are free and thus are permitted to be artists ; finding
in one and the same task self-support and self-expression.
Q. Which will beautify the world, fine art or applied
A. Applied art. Fine art is for the leisure class. But
applied art means the beautifying of the work and the
lives of the workers.
Q. What is the change that The Revolution is making
in the realm of education?
A. The Revolution is changing education from a
preparation for a life of leisure to a preparation for a life
of joyous work.
Q. What will this demand, as to the training the
schools shall give?
A. It will demand that the schools shall train people
for creative labor either with the hand or with the mind
or with both, instead of training people away from labor,
as much of the education now trains them.
Q. How is The Revolution changing statecraft?
A. The Revolution is changing statecraft by making
LETTERS FROM PRISON 151
government a thing of and by and for the workers, instead
of, as at present a thing of and by and for the well-to-
Q. What does that mean as to politics?
A. It means that politics is a necessary field of activity
for every member of the working class.
Q. Name again the departments of life that are changed
by this social revolution?
A. The home, art, education, statecraft, and industry.
Q. What is the fundamental cause of the social revolu-
tion that is thus changing life so profoundly?
A. The fundamental cause is twofold: First, the in-
dustrial change that is coming to pass by machines, sup-
planting hand labor. And second the advent of science.
Q. What is meant by the first change machine in-
A. Machine industry means that hand labor is for the
most part gone. But machinery is a thousand fold more
expensive than the old hand tools. Therefore workers no
longer own their tools as they did in the former age.
Q. What has happened by this loss of the ownership
of his tools by the workman?
A. This loss of the ownership of his tools, has made the
workman the chattel slave of the man who owns the ma-
chine. He who owns the means whereby I earn my daily
bread, owns me.
Q. What then is the cure for this industrial slavery?
A. Ownership of the machinery is alone the cure.
Whereby the workers shall once more own the tools they
Q. How is this industrial change bringing to pass a
A. This industrial change is bringing to pass a revolu-
tionary era, because the workers, awakening to the fact
that they are slaves, are banding together to socialize the
ownership of the machinery. This uprising of labor
means the downfall of the leisure class, that formerly
152 LETTERS FROM PRISON
dictated laws for the home, for art, and for education and
Q. In what way has science become the other factor in
introducing the folk upheaval?
A. Science has become the other factor in introducing
the folk upheaval, by revealing the economic root of all
Q. What is meant by the economic root of history?
A. It means that in all ages the working class has been
the important factor. Thus the history of the world will
have to be rewritten from the point of view of labor, in-
stead of as at present from the point of view of leisure.
Q. Does this mean that biblical history will also have to
be rewritten from this point of view?
A. Yes, biblical history will also have to be rewritten
from this economic point of view.
Q. What is this materialistic conception as applied to
biblical history called?
A. It is called modern biblical scholarship.
Q. What is another name for it?
A. The higher criticism.
Q. What is the higher criticism?
A. It is a scientific study of the way the bible came to
Q. What is the bible as reinterpreted by scientific
A. The bible as it is thus reinterpreted, is the record of
an industrial people called the Jews to maintain their
freedom against the oppression of masterclass empires
from without and of a masterclass forming within.
Q. Who was Moses?
A. Moses was the organizer of the brickmakers in the
brickyards of Goshen in Egypt.
Q. What did he do?
A. He stirred in them a sentiment of self-respect,
whereby they refused any longer to be the slaves of
Pharaoh, and went forth in search of industrial freedom.
LETTERS FROM PRISON 153
Q. Where did they go?
A. They went to a land in Western Asia called Pales-
tine, and there set up an industrial nation called the
Q. Did the working-class nation thus set up mamtam
its freedom forever?
A. No. Some of the Jews became rich and formed an
owning class, which began to enslave their fellow country-
Q. Who then arose to protect the poor of the nation?
A. Statesmen arose, commonly called prophets.
Q. Who were some of the prophets?
A. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Hosea, and others.
Q. Did these men have an easy time?
A. They had a most difficult time. They were treated
with neglect and with persecution, much as agitators are
Q. Who was Jesus?
A. Jesus was a carpenter of Nazareth, a village in Gali-
lee, in the land of Palestine.
Q. How long did he work m a carpenter shop?
A. He worked in the carpenter shop until he was about
the age of 30, when he became an agitator.
Q. Why did he not continue as a carpenter all of his
A. Because of the coming of the Roman Empire, in-
vading his nation.
Q. What was the Roman Empire?
A. The Roman Empire was an alliance of the master-
class in all of the countries, against the working class in
all of the countries.
Q. What were the workers under Roman rule?
A. Under Roman rule the workers were slaves.
Q. Why was the Roman Empire formed?
A. The Roman Empire was formed in order that the
owning class in all of the countries could merge their
separate armies into a united military force, that could
154 LETTERS FROM PRISON
be sent in its entire strength to put down an uprising of
the slaves in any country.
Q. Was the extension of the Roman Empire to Pales-
tine welcomed by the people?
A. It was not welcomed by the people but it was wel-
comed by the Jewish millionaires in Jerusalem.
Q. Why did the Jewish workers refuse to welcome the
A. They refused to welcome the Roman Empire, be-
cause it meant their degradation, from free workers to
Q. Was Jesus also in this danger of slavery?
A. Yes, the iron collar of slavery was riveting about his
Q. What did he do?
A. When the Roman invasion had become unendurable,
he left his carpenter's bench, surrounded himself with
twelve other workmen, who were called apostles, and
started forth to arouse the people against the Roman
Q. Did he succeed in arousing the people?
A. Yes, he was greatly successful. The common peo-
ple heard him gladly.
Q. Did all in the Jewish nation hear him gladly?
A. No. The millionaires in Jerusalem hated him and
sought his life.
Q. What was the event that brought upon him their
A. His cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Q. What was this cleansing of the Temple?
A. The Temple was the Capitol building of the nation.
It was in the possession of a band of robber nobles, who
from that as a center pillaged the people by unjust taxa-
tion ; and in return for the support of the Roman Armies
in this pillaging, permitted the Roman conquerors to an-
nex the nation.
Q. What did Jesus do?
LETTERS FROM PRISON 155
A. Entering Jerusalem at the head of a band of his
working class followers, he went into the Temple and
drove out those pillagers.
Q. What did they do?
A. They formed an immediate conspiracy against him.
Q. Was this conspiracy sue cess fid?
A. Yes. They caught him one Thursday night when
the people were asleep and rushed him to death early the
next morning, before the people had heard of it, and
could come to his rescue.
Q. Was it then the Jewish nation that put Jesus to
A. No. It was a band of renegade Jewish millionaires
in league with the Roman invaders, that put Jesus to
Q. Who sentenced Jesus?
A. Pilate the Roman Governor, at the request of the
Jewish robber nobility, gave the death sentence.
Q. In Pilate's court, who were those who shouted
against Jesus, " Crucify Him "?
A. They were a crowd of court hangers-on, who were
coached by their rich employers to make this demonstra-
Q. How was Jesus put to death?
A. By crucifixion.
Q. Was this the Jewish method of capital punishment?
A. No. The Jewish method of capital punishment was
by stoning to death.
Q. Of what people then was it the form of capital pun-
A. With the Roman people. Crucifixion was Rome's
method of putting rebellious slaves out of the way.
Q. What happened after the death of Jesus?
A. After the physical death of Jesus his spirit still
animated his followers. And they went throughout the
world, apostles of social revolution; preaching an over-
throw of the world whereby the masters at the top should
156 LETTERS FROM PRISON
be dethroned and the workers be in the seats of power.
Q. Did they meet with opposition?
A. Yes. First the Jewish millionaires in Jerusalem
sought to stamp out the Revolution. Then the Roman
authorities took up the task.
Q. In Rome where did this persecution of the early
Christian revolution take place?
A. In the Coliseum.
Q. In what form was the persecution inflicted?
A. The Christian revolutionists were put to death in the
Coliseum by fire and by sword and by crucifixion and by
Q. Did this persecution stamp out the movement?
A. No. The death of a martyr raised up others to take
his place. Thus the movement spread.
Q. How then was the revolution finally put down?
A. It was put down when a Roman citizen by the name
of Paul annexed himself to the movement and reinterpreted
the life of Jesus from that of a workingman into the career
of a mystical personage aloof from the economic facts of
Q. Did Paul have opposition in thus reinterpreting the
work and message of Jesus?
A. He had much opposition from Peter and the other
Galilean workingmen with whom Jesus had surrounded
himself from the beginning.
Q. Which side in this controversy finally triumphed?
A. After 200 years of struggle, the school of thought
started by Paul vanquished.
Q. What happened then?
A. Christianity having become a system of philosophy
instead of a social revolution, was accepted by the Ro-
man Empire and became the official religion. The Ro-
man Empire then transformed itself into the Roman Cath-
Q. Is the Roman Catholic Church founded on Jesus?
A. No. It is founded on the Roman Empire which
LETTERS FROM PRISON 157
Q. What is the Social Revolution of our time in its
A. The Social Revolution of our time, is the rediscovery
of this economic basis beneath the religion of the bible.
Q. Does the Social Revolution destroy religion?
A. No. It renews and revitalizes religion.
Q. What is true religion?
A. True religion is democracy touched with emotion.
Q. What is meant by democracy?
A. Democracy is self-rule, as distinguished from rule
Q. When we die, do we die as a dog or a horse, and pass
A. No. They who serve the cause of human freedom
are conquerors over death. They enter the realm of the
Q. What is another name for this realm of the immor-
A. Another name is heaven.
Q. Is heaven a place?
A. No, heaven is not a place.
Q. What then is it?
A. Heaven is that spiritual order which overhangs the
world of sense and with which the higher self in each of us
Q. Does the Social Revolution destroy the idea of God?
A. No. The Social Revolution gives to the world a
true idea of God.
Q. What is the true God?
A. The true God is the power not ourselves that makes
Q. What is another name for God?
A. The name for God in the bible is, The River of Life.
Q. What is this River of Life?
A. It is the totality of all the heroic spirits that have
158 LETTERS FROM PRISON
Q. Does this River of Life increase with the passing of
A. Yes. Each new heroic life that is lived upon earth
flows into God, and finds therein its immortal continuance.
Q. Does this heaven or God that overlays the world of
sense, speak to us by outward audible sound?
A. No. It speaks to us with the inner voice, whose
other name is conscience.
Q. Did this God we worship, create the universe out of
A. The universe has always been here.
Q. What then is the relation of God to the Universe?
A. God is the industrial leader of the human race in
rebuilding the universe out of chaos into a cosmos.
Q. What is chaos?
A. A chaos is disorder.
Q. What is a cosmos?
A. A cosmos is what the universe will be, when the dis-
order has been changed into beauty and orderliness.
Q. In making the universe over from chaos into cosmos,
does God proceed by miracles?
A. No. Miracles are the interruption of natural law;
and science teaches that there are no interruptions of nat-
Q. How then does God proceed in his efforts to rebuild
A. He proceeds by working through human beings,
operating in the inner parts, their mind and their heart.
Q. What are some other names for God?
A. The other names for God are, the Great Com-
panion, The Most High, The Unseen Comrade, The Mas-
ter of the Democracy, The Lord-of-the-Uprising-of-La-
bor, The Foe of Stagnancy, The Stirrer-up of the people.
Q. What is this Unseen Power trying to do for the
A. He is trying to establish his heaven upon earth.
Q. What is earth at present?
LETTERS FROM PRISON 159
A. The earth at present is the abode of a disorderly
and uncivilized mass of people, fighting each other in a
strife after material goods.
Q. Is such a strife necessary?
A. It is not necessary. The earth produces enough
food, clothing and shelter for all.
Q. Why then do all the people clash one against the
other in these fierce competitions?
A. It is because they have not been taught the true re-
Q. What is the true religion?
A. The true religion is fellowship, whereby under the
leadings of the Great Companion, all the members of the
human race shall become a united band, conquering the
elements and building a world whose riches shall be owned
by all the people in common.
Q. What is another name for such a world?
A. Another name for such a world is, the Cooperative
Q. What does cooperative mean?
A. Cooperative means a state of society where people
work with and for each other, rather than a competitive
state of society wherein each works for himself.
Q. Are all the people of the earth eager' for this co-
A. No. The idle class is fighting every attempt to
establish the commonwealth.
Q. Why are they thus fighting it?
A. Because in the commonwealth they will be put to
Q. Is work a curse?
A. No. Work is not a curse. It is a blessing.
Q. Why then do the idle object to work?
A. Because of the false education, whereby they have
been taught that leisure and not labor is the goal of hu-
Q. What then is to be done if this idle and privileged
160 LETTERS FROM PRISON
class oppose The Commonwealth?
A. The Commonwealth must be established against their
Q. How can the workers establish the commonwealth
against this opposition?
A. By standing together in solidarity.
Q. What is another word for this clash of interest?
A. Another word for it is the class struggle.
Q. What is the class struggle?
A. The class struggle is the fight of the workers to
establish the Cooperative Commonwealth upon earth,
against the leisure class who wish to preserve their pres-
ent comfortable position of privileged idleness.
Q. Is it our duty to take part in the class struggle?
A. It is our duty to take part in the class struggle on
the side of the workers.
Q. On which side is God in this class struggle?
A. God is on the side of the workers, and is vehemently
against the idlers.
Q. What is a social climber?
A. A social climber is a person born among the com-
mon people, who climbs out of it into a position of com-
fort and security among the leisure class at the top.
Q. Is a social climber a noble figure?
A. A social climber is an ignoble figure, hated by God
Q. Does this mean that we must not strive to attain
power and influence?
;,- A. Power and influence are good, if so be that we still
Iteep comradeship with the common people, and use our
power and influence on their side in the class struggle.
Q. What is the masterclass?
A. The masterclass are those few who own the bulk of
the land and buildings and machinery and produce of the
Q. In taking sides in class struggle against the master-
class, do we hate the masterclass?
LETTERS FROM PRISON 161
A. We hate the system on whi<jh a masterclass is based,
but we do not hate individuals in the masterclass.
Q. Why do we not hate individuals?
A. Because individuals in the masterclass are not per-
sonally responsible for the system. No change of them
individually would avail. The system must be changed.
We war not against personalities, but against principle.
Q. What is the Church of the Social Revolution?
A. The Church of the Social Revolution is a band of
men and women, who have signed the following covenant:
I enlist under the Lord of the bloodred banner,
to bring to an end a scheme of things that has en-
throned Leisure on the back of Labor, an idle class
sucking the substance of the poor. I will not be a
social climber, but will stay with the workers in class
solidarity, till class shall have been done away in
Fellowship's glad dawn. I will seek recruits for the
Church of the Revolution, unto the overthrow of
present-day society and its rebuilding into comrade-
Q. What is the bloodred banner mentioned m that
A. It is the banner of the International Host of Free-
Q. 7* it bloodred because it seeks to shed blood?
A. No. It is the bloodred banner of brotherhood ; and
is red because red is the common color of the blood of all
races and tribes and nations on the face of all the earth.
Q. What does the Revolution Church strive to do?
A. It sings the folk upheaval, and grows a Socialism of
Q. What is meant by a Socialism of the heart?
A. A Socialism of the heart is an enthusiasm for hu-
manity and a zeal for fellowship, implanted in the thoughts
and habits of each individual, in order that the socialism
of the ballot box may be reenforced and beautified.
Q. What is the object of the Revolution Church?
162 LETTERS FROM PRISON
A. The object of the Revolution Church is to gather up
the spiritual unrest, and turn the times to fellowship.
Q. Why is there spiritual unrest to-day?
A. Because the established religions have lost their
Q. How does the Revolution Church give to the world
once more a religion of power?
A. By connecting the life spiritual with the life
Q. What is meant by connecting the life spiritual with
the life economic?
A. It means that the idealism and aspiration of the
human soul shall express itself in bettering the world in
which we live and the society of which we are a part.
Q. What is the prevailing form of spirituality in the
A. It is a spirituality that is unconnected with material
Q. What is the prevailing principle in the radical move-
ments of our time?
A. It is of a materialism unconnected with spiritual
Q. Which of these two forms is correct?
A. Neither is correct; spiritual power without a ma-
terial objective, and a material objective without spiritual
power to inspire it, are equally helpless.
Q. Can you point to an example of their helplessness?
A. Yes ; the war of the nine nations, now raging in Eu-
rope. Materialistic Socialism as found in Germany was
not courageous enough to oppose the war. The worldly
religion, as found in the churches, also was not courageous
enough to oppose the military spirit.
Q. Which then was to blame for the war?
A. Both materialistic socialism and unmaterialistic
Christianity were at fault.
Q. What tlien is needed?
A. There is needed a union of the two, spirituality and
LETTERS FROM PRISON 163
socialism. Now they are sundered, as a body without a
soul and a soul without a body.
Q. Where is this union of the material and the spiritual
side to be found?
A. In the Church of the Social Revolution.
Q. Does the Church of the Social Revolution commit
the mistake of established churches in developing a reli-
gious life separated from this world?
A. No. It seeks a religious life that shall express it-
self in terms of this world.
Q. What is another illustration of this union of the ma-
terial and the spiritual?
A. An illustration of it is a bird, which cannot fly if
either wing is cut off. Both a person who lacks the spirit-
ual, and a person who lacks the material vision, is lop-
sided; and, like a bird with only one wing, cannot fly.
Q. Is the Church of the Revolution necessary then in
A. It is very necessary. From no other quarter comes
the light ; here only is the blending of the material and the
spiritual, which is needed to make a balanced man and a
perfect social order.
Q. Is it our duty then to belong to this Church?
A. It is the duty of every public spirited man and
woman, boy and girl, to belong to this church, and to work
for its welfare and extension. To the end that the folk
upheaval may be wrought in sweetness and in majesty,
till the Lord-of-the-uprising-of-labor shall be enthroned
over all the earth and the people be established.
14 DAY USE
RETURN TO DESK FROM WHICH BORROWED
This book is due on the last date stamped below, or
on the date to which renewed.
Renewed books are subject to immediate recall.
..nn a 1Qfc fi6
University of California