Salmon Oliver Levinson to Jane Addams, May 24, 1921


May 24, 1921

Dear Miss Addams: --

Thanks for your good letter of the 23rd instant.

I hasten to correct one error with reference to myself under which you seem to be laboring. I am not against any other beneficial international reform. The point I make is this: that all other reforms are negligible and almost useless unless and until we get rid of the monster of war. Nothing contained in the proposal prepared by Senator Knox and myself militates against the advisability of international groups for conference on all manner of subjects and for action of almost every kind.

It has been my attempt to follow the evolution of civilization along the lines of law and away from the state of nature representing force and power. It has seemed to me -- That war being legal and being the only known method of enforcing the settlement of international disputes it has been open to ambitious men, kings and what-not, to avail themselves of this legal instrument for purposes of aggrandizement, the fulfillment of ambition and the satisfaction of the love of power, which as Ruskin says, is the greatest motive in the world. I want to de-throne war. I want to reduce it to the basis of [dueling], piracy and murder in the eyes of the law. I want to prevent the next Napoleon or the next Kaiser from being able to deceive his people to the end of war. I have been one of those who, while always against the Kaiser and his myrmidons, have not blamed the Kaiser so much as the war system itself. [page 2]

That the entente nations were not on the square about prosecuting the Kaiser and other war criminals is shown not only by the manner in which that prosecution has been handled but more particularly by their failure at Versailles to create or adopt any law which would make the starting of war such as is charged against the Kaiser a crime. Indirectly I helped to get Lord George to make this announcement in June, 1918 "I have stated -- as have all the political leaders in this country, what our aims are: * * * * ABOVE ALL MAKING SURE THAT WAR SHALL HENCEFORTH BE TREATED AS A CRIME, PUNISHABLE BY THE LAW OF NATIONS."

But when the devil got well he was a very poor monk indeed on this question.

I have an ambition for women, as I stated to you, which you can be very helpful in aiding me realize. I believe that women can, vastly better than the men, force the adoption of the basic principles set forth in the Knox program.

I approve with highest appreciation your address on Patriotism and Pacifists in War Time. I agree heartily with you that a mere declaration "that war hereby cease," "that the world is hereby federated" ↑is↓ a mere brutum fulmen. It is my hope to have law substituted for force and to put these desirable things into a code agreed to by all the nations.

I should be honored if you will call me up some day, preferably in the morning, and we can arrange for a meeting.

Sincerely yours,

S. O. Levinson [signed]

Miss Jane Addams,
c/o Hull House,
Chicago, Illinois