The Way Things Were
Here’s an interesting letter from Louis Marshall I came across relating to politics in 1922. It shows an interesting side to those politics and how things were done back in Weird Old America. It might be of historical interest, after all it was written 82 years ago and has no relevance today. Italics are mine. Mr. Marshall was President of the American Jewish Committee.
From Louis Marshall, Champion Of Liberty: Selected Papers And Addresses, Edited by Charles Reznikoff, Jewish Publication Society Of America, 1957. vol I, pp. 389-91.
November 24, 1922
To Judge Aaron J. Levy
While in Washington yesterday I read in the New York Times the articles to the effect that the Order Brith Abraham is to open a fight against the Ku Klux Klan and purposes to invite various other Jewish fraternal organizations to join in the movement.
You will permit me to say that I think that you are making a grave mistake and that the method you are choosing would be most unfortunate. I have given much thought to this subject, as you may surmise, and recognize the fact that it is necessary to use discretion in a conflict of this kind; otherwise much more harm can be done than good.
In the first place, you are trying to bring together the various Jewish secret organizations to fight another secret organization. There is at once manifested an element of weakness. The evil of the Ku Klux Klan lies in the secrecy of its methods. It gains numbers because of the attractiveness of a secret ritual. To a rightly-constituted mind the very fact of secrecy and mystery betokens an element of danger to the public. We are becoming more and more accustomed to fight out our matters in the daylight. It is only those who work in secrecy who are feared. A Jewish secret organization, however harmless its ritual may in fact be, however meritorious its general objects and purposes may be, nevertheless possesses outwardly the same defect as does the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan attacks the Knights of Columbus because that is a secret organization. The London Morning Post and those who have disseminated the protocols have been trying to identify the Jews with the Masonic Order and have made an impression in many quarters, based on the idea that the powers of darkness are conspiring against the public welfare. You know very well that at the time of the Morgan episode, anti-masonry became so important an issue in this country that a Presidential campaign was conducted upon it and that Governors were made and unmade upon the issue. The Order B’nai B’rith, also a secret organization, has recently taken action similar to yours, and subjects itself to precisely the same criticism. Whatever you say, whatever you may do, will bear the hallmark of a secret organization and the American people may easily get it into their heads that this is a conflict between secret societies, as to the outcome of which they are entirely indifferent.
The most effective way of fighting the Ku Klux Klan is through the Protestant Church and through the moral influence which it can exert upon the millions who are affiliated with the churches. I have taken the position that this is not a Jewish or a Catholic issue. It is one which relates to the well-being of our country, to law and order, and the churches have imposed upon them particularly a duty to disavow the purposes of the Ku Klux Klan and to counteract its nefarious activities. The churches are beginning to recognize this fact. The Federation of the Churches of Christ in America, representing a constituency of good men and women connected with various denominations, has on its own accord taken up this matter and is using its powerful influence to impress upon the public and upon those who mgiht be induced to join the Ku Klux Klan what a serious menace that organization is to good government and decency and to the cause of peace. I would rather have one resolution from the Federation than all the speeches and demonstrations of all the secret Jewish organizations in the world.
An appeal to the conscience of the church-going people by their leaders is the normal, ethical and effective method of overcoming the evils threatened by the Ku Klux Klan.
Let me urge you with all the earnestness in my power to give up this idea of fighting the Ku Klux Klan through the Jewish secret organizations.
That’s how things were in those days. Thank god we have progressed beyond that today when everything is open and above board. God bless us every one.