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The Story of The American Legion Part 9

Mr. Shank of Ohio, thought that the American Legion did not convey a sufficient meaning to the average civilians. "The American Legion might be an organization of street cleaners, it doesn't signify soldiers. It isn't comprehensive enough," he said. Mr. Larry of Florida countered with, "Go ahead and call it American Legion, we will soon show them what it means."

Mr. Walsh of Pennsylvania, suggested that the A.E.F. knew what it was doing when they called it the American Legion. "Let us honor them and respect them by calling it the American Legion," he urged. Colonel E.

Lester Jones, of Washington, stated the name had been considered by the committee most carefully and--

But why go into all the arguments. The motion to call it the American Legion was carried amid cheering and as such the name will go down into the history of things well done for America.

CHAPTER VII

THE LEGION WON'T MEET AT CHICAGO

We have arrived at what is the most significant event of this session of the caucus, if not of the entire gathering. The caucus has already shown its spirit in ousting the Soldiers and Sailors Council because, in its opinion, it could not measure up to one hundred per cent.

Americanism, and now we shall see what the same simon-pure brand of red, white, and blueism is demanded of the second largest city in the United States.

It came about in the most dry, matter-of-fact way. Let the minutes of the meeting form the introduction for it.

THE CHAIRMAN: "Next is the report of the Committee on the Next Meeting Place and Time."

SECRETARY WOOD (reading): "From the Committee on Next Meeting Place and Time, to the Chairman of the American Legion; action of the Committee.

"Meeting called to order at 10:30 A.M. this day at the Shubert Jefferson Theater.

"Charles S. Caldwell, of New Mexico, unanimously elected chairman.

"Frank M. Ladd, Jr., of Alabama, Secretary.

"The majority of the States being represented as per attached list voted unanimously for Chicago as next meeting place. Date being set as November 10, 11, and 12, 1919.

"Respectfully submitted, "CHARLES S. CALDWELL, _Chairman_, "FRANK M. LADD, JR., _Secretary_."

MR. SEXTON (of Illinois): "When you consider your place for your next convention tell Chicago what you want, and in response to that Chicago will answer you. 'We will give you whatever you want.'"

Then the excitement started. Mr. Dietrick of Pennsylvania moved to amend the report of the committee. "By striking out the word Chicago and substituting therefore the city from the State which furnished more soldiers than another state--the city of Pittsburgh."

This elicited great applause--especially from the Pennsylvania delegation. Mr. Stems of Louisiana got the floor--

"I want to tell you what took place in that committee," he said. "The committee selected a place to the best interest of this organization and not to the best interest of any one specific locality, and the question was argued in a very quiet, organized, gentlemanly manner. A number of the delegates put up towns that did not get enough support to get the meeting, so they withdrew their names. It was all to the interest of the organization so it was unanimously adopted by that committee, without any dissenting vote, that Chicago be unanimously adopted as the place for the next convention for the best of all interests concerned. I am from New Orleans, Louisiana, which is a convention city and I will not offer my city to you as a convention city at this time because I do not think it is to the best interest of your country."

[Illustration: Bennett C. Clark Who presided at the Paris Caucus]

[Illustration: Eric Fisher Wood Secretary]

When Mr. Stem took his seat at least a dozen delegates clamored for recognition from the chair. Colonel J.F.J. Herbert succeeded in getting it. It was he who then fired the gun which, if not heard around the world at least made Chicago's ear drums rattle.

"Mr. Chairman," he began--

Colonel Lindsley rapped for order.

A man near me whispered, "There's Herbert of Massachusetts. I think Boston is too far east for this convention, at least for the first one."

Colonel Lindsley got order, and you could have heard a pin drop, while the following statement was made by the Massachusetts leader:

"As the spokesman for my delegation on this question of next meeting place I want to say that if no other body and if no other party of this caucus wants or believes it is its duty to rebuke any city or the representative of any city for Un-Americanism during the time when the soldiers of that city were offering their lives in defense of the world, then Massachusetts stands ready to offer that rebuke.

Massachusetts will not agree willingly to having a convention of soldiers and sailors in the Great War, go to a city that has as its first citizen, by vote, one who can not measure up in any small part when the test is one hundred per cent. Americanism."

When Colonel Herbert reached this point one delegate with a big voice from a big State (Texas) let out a loud yell of approval. This was the signal for blast after blast of vocal vociferousness which fairly raised the roof. Men stood on their seats, and cheered. "You're dead right" and "Get a new mayor, Chicago," while others began to point at placards advertising Chicago which had been placed on the walls of the theater by members of the Illinois delegation. Colonel Herbert stood for fully five minutes before order was sufficiently restored for him to proceed.

"The hall has been placarded with invitations, reading, 'The American Legion, Chicago wants you in November,'" he said. "I believe that this convention, this convention of soldiers and sailors should say, 'Chicago, you cannot have American soldiers in Chicago when there is a possibility that the chief representative of that city may not believe it is his duty to come before the Convention and welcome it.' If these placards read, 'American Legion, Chicago _soldiers_ want you in November,' our answer might be different. The answer of Massachusetts would be different but when your placard reads, 'Chicago wants you in November' the answer of Massachusetts is, 'Chicago cannot have us in November'--or any other time until Chicago has an American for Mayor in an American city.

"The literature circulated through the caucus reads, 'Chicago pledges itself to go any other city one better on anything this convention requires.' This convention first requires that Chicago shall reach a standard different from the standard of being the most despised city in America, and when it has reached that standard, it is then in a position to say whether it can go one better. It has not yet reached par. Until Chicago reaches par, Massachusetts votes no!"

A large poster reading "Chicago bids you Welcome," had been placed over the seats directly in the center of the stage; Captain Osborne pulled it down. This was the signal for similar action all over the house. Chicago banners, dropped from the boxes, were hurled to the floor. Other banners which had been on the theater walls just out of reach were torn down by men who climbed on the shoulders of their fellow delegates in order to reach them. Only during the ovation given Colonel Roosevelt, did the cheering reach such intensity.

These men were cheering for Americanism. They wanted one hundred per cent. Americanism, untainted and unvarnished by a hyphen or an "ism,"

especially when the word pacific precedes the latter. Everyone felt sorry for the Illinois delegation, for it was realized that Colonel Herbert's remarks were intended solely to reflect upon the person he specially mentioned and not upon the thousands of soldiers and sailors who went from Illinois and Chicago and did more than their part in writing glorious history.

Just how this was impressed upon the men from Illinois let the minutes show. The chairman recognized "the gentleman from Chicago."

MR. CUMMINGS (of Chicago): "Gentlemen, I don't believe there is a single delegate to this caucus who would be so unfair as to impugn the patriotism of 650,000 men who rallied to the colors of this country by saying: 'Because Chicago had a mayor of which they are all ashamed that they are not patriotic.' Had the men who were serving the colors in France been in Chicago, they would have had no apology to offer for their mayor. (Applause.) He was elected in a three-cornered fight where he did not receive a majority vote in Chicago, but had the opposition to him been solidified he would have been snowed under, for Chicago is patriotic. I consider that an insult has been handed to every man in Illinois who rallied to the colors.

"The Tank Corps of which I am a member, and an enlisted man originally, gave from Chicago 11,250 enlisted men, volunteers in the most hazardous branch of the service. They gave 11,250 men as against 11,000 which the rest of the country contributed. If that doesn't bespeak patriotism for Chicago, I don't know how you are going to gauge it. I am saying that in the invitation which was extended to you we are speaking for the boys of khaki and blue who rallied to the colors from Illinois, and who are here to-day, extending the invitation to you notwithstanding the fact that we are cursed by a mayor who is not our choice. We would throw him out if we had the chance, but we are extending the invitation to you on behalf of 750,000 men from Illinois and we do not feel that you are going to impugn their patriotism, that you are going to insult them by saying they are members of an unpatriotic community."

MR. HAWKINS (of Oklahoma): "The great State of Illinois stands unchallenged in the patriotism of its soldiers throughout the world. I am only sorry that you didn't leave enough patriots at home to elect a patriotic mayor of that great city. You are in the embarrassing position of having a man who has repudiated the things we went out to die for. Either you have got to repudiate us or repudiate him."

"We'll repudiate him next time when the boys get home," shouted several of the Illinois crowd.

Then other speakers tried to make it plain that the Legion's attack was solely against the municipal head of Chicago, but some of the men of Illinois let the incident rankle. How it came out (and it was ended happily) will develop. Meantime the attention of the caucus was diverted from the Chicago incident by the manifestation of that desire which is in every true American's heart, namely to be a booster for his own home town. In less time than it takes to tell it, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlantic City, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Chicago were being voted upon. While the delegates were voting, a small body of soldiers and sailors were gathered together in a wing of the theater, seriously discussing the incident which was developed by Colonel Herbert's speech. They desired that it should be made more plain to everyone just what Colonel Herbert meant and that the millions of patriotic simon-pure Americans who live in Illinois should not take undue umbrage of the incident. Therefore while the vote on the convention city was being counted, Colonel Luke Lea was recognized by the chairman and asked unanimous consent to present for consideration the following resolution:

"RESOLVED, That the action of the caucus of the American Legion in refusing to accept the invitation to hold its next convention in Chicago is no reflection upon the splendid patriotism of the men and women of that great city, who have loyally proved their Americanism by supporting our Army and Navy and all war activities.

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this caucus records its admiration of the valor and heroism of the thousands and thousands of Chicago's sons whose pure patriotism has been proven on the battlefields of France."

"I would like to say something in support of the motion," Colonel Lea said. "It is very proper for me to offer it for I had the privilege of serving for three months with the great Thirty-third Division of Illinois and I know what wonderful soldiers they are."

The resolution was adopted by unanimous vote.

No booster ever had a better time than had those who attended the St.

Louis Caucus. Local pride assumed its highest pitch during the vote, and at length Minneapolis won it. The date was set for November 10-11-12th.

Just before adjournment Colonel Herbert arose to a question of personal privilege.

"I would like, if possible," he said, "to have the attention for a few minutes of every man that is in this theater. Intentionally or otherwise, and I think it was otherwise, the soldiers of Illinois have felt that I was not just to them in the remarks that I made bearing on the report of the Committee on the Next Meeting Place. I meant to say, and I believe now that I did say, that if those banners that were hung in this theater had read, 'American Legion, Chicago's _soldiers_ invite you next November.' Massachusetts' answer would have been 'Yes.' I believe I said that. The men of Illinois believe I did not say it. The men of Illinois believe that when I sat down after making the few remarks I did, that I had a sardonic smile on my lips and they say that I have insulted them to the heart and I say to them: 'If there is anything that I can say, anything that I can do, as soldier to soldier to remove from your mind, or from the minds of any man who may have been in this theater, any belief that there was any feeling except of highest admiration, the highest respect, and the deepest affection on the part of the soldiers of Massachusetts for the soldiers of Illinois, then I want to correct that impression, because I want you, the soldiers of Illinois, to know that we recognize in Massachusetts that no better soldiers wore the khaki, no better sailors wore the blue, than the men of Illinois. My remarks were, as I stated, for the purpose of saying Massachusetts would, if no other State would, take such action to rebuke the city of Chicago; would say to Chicago that if it would have the right to invite Americans to meet in that city, first Americanize the City Hall. That was my chief purpose of rising to my feet. If Chicago's soldiers, if Illinois'

soldiers still think that I have not made reparation for what they believe was the intention of my remarks, then I say to them that no higher respect, no deeper affection exists for them than in the hearts of the men of Massachusetts."

Colonel Herbert's assault upon Chicago's mayor in itself is only half significant. It is only wholly so when its reception is considered.

Chapter end

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