Document 18: Excerpts from "Statements by Members of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom on Reduction of the Army," in War Department Appropriation Bill, 1923: Extract from Hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations, United States Senate (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1922). The Records of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section, 1919-1959, Swarthmore College Peace Collection (Microfilm, reel 33, frames 662-63).
Harriet Connor Brown also testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations on April 18, 1922, expressing WILPF's opposition to the buildup of the United States military. She again argued that the $500,000 allotted for the Chemical Warfare Service should be eliminated entirely from the military budget, even if the money was only to be used for development of defenses against poison gas. Although the U.S. Section of WILPF advocated complete disarmament, Brown did not argue that the entire military should be abolished but simply scaled down, betraying her particular horror of chemical weapons.
STATEMENT OF MRS. HARRIET CONNOR BROWN.
Mrs. BROWN. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, as the last speaker, I want to make it perfectly clear that we women in coming here desire to ask that you return to the pre-war basis for the Army or make it very clear to us--the burden of proof seems to me to lie with you--why we should not go back to the old Army standard as it was before the war.
The House bill provides for 11,000 officers and 115,000 men, and we think that is too much. I think we see very clearly why it is General Harbord, according to the newspapers, was before this committee last Saturday and said something that interested me immensely. He said:
It is the work outside of the actual Army functions that requires the extra personnel.
That is very interesting, I think, because I have felt and contended for a long time that it was not the huge expense of the Army that was the worst feature of it, but the fact that we have been spending billions of appropriations every year for war and that out of that immense sum of money we had only something like $500,000,000 left to spend for the purposes of agriculture and commerce and education and public welfare and the things that mean so much to us women, nor was it the fact that we were building up in this country a caste system that was the worst menace of militarism, but the fact that we were encroaching on the civil functions of government through our military organization, and that the Army was doing all sorts of things that the civilian departments ought to do.
The adherents of the Army are using that fact as an argument for large appropriations. They are telling us what good roads the Army builds and what wonderful maps it makes and what wonderful things it does for the health of the country. But all those things could be done and should be done by the Department of Agriculture, for instance, which should make the maps, or the Public Health Service, which should take care of the public health, and not the Army, as we see it.
The objections, it seems to me, are perfectly clear--at least, there are two objections that are perfectly clear to my mind, to the militarization of our civil functions. One is that it costs a great deal more for an Army officer to do a definite piece of work than it does for a civilian officer, if you consider the difference between the salaries and pensions of those two different sets of people. It is perfectly apparent that it costs more to have a bridge built by an Army engineer, whose salary is twice that of a civil engineer in a civil branch of the Government, and whose pension is from $3,000 to $6,000 a year, as against $720 a year. It is more expensive to have the Army do those things. And what is more important, it is certainly against the spirit of our institutions. It was for that very reason that we went to Europe and entered into this war, was it not, to break down the German system of militarism? And now we certainly stultify ourselves when we build up a system of government in this country based on militarism. And when you stop to think of it, and realize that the American people were willing to spend thirty-three and a half billions of dollars in breaking down such a system, and were willing to put 4,000,000 boys under conscription, I think that you ought to feel pretty sure that the people are back of you before you ask for change of the whole system of government.
Now, if that is the only reason General Harbord wants 11,000 officers in the Army, I do not think it is a good reason. I have seen people who have been around Washington for about 20 years, as I have, and know something about what is going on in the departments, and know very well that there are a good many captains and majors in this city who are doing nothing more than messenger work; and if you gentlemen do not know it, I suggest that you take the pains to investigate and find out. And it is not right, with the unemployment there is in the country, 5,000,000 of people out of work, and with general unrest, that sort of a privileged class should be maintained for doing things that the civil officers of the Government can do.
We want to ask definitely that you go back to 5,000 officers instead of 11,000, and we want to ask you that you cut down that House provision of 115,000 men to approximately 80,000, which is enough now, if it was enough before the war.
And I want to say that we have not the least bit of enthusiasm for your citizen army; that we think that you have circumvented us women. We felt very hostile to the idea of conscription or universal military training, and you realized that we did feel hostile to it, but you have accomplished what is practically conscription under your Army reorganization act.
We are going to look into the federalization of the militia, too, the more so because the question has been raised. The constitutionality of that provision was raised in the minority report at the time of the presentation of the Army reorganization act.
Then we are dead against that item of $500,000 for chemical warfare. In fact, I do not see how any Member of the Senate can defend that item, any Member of the Senate who voted for that treaty which condemned asphyxiating gases.
Senator WADSWORTH. Do you know what that money is going to be used for?
Mrs. BROWN. I suppose that it is for research.
Senator WADSWORTH. It is to be used largely for defensive purposes, for the making of gas masks which will protect our men.
Mrs. BROWN. But the understanding is that the enemy, all the other nations of the world, will proceed on the same theory, will they not?
Senator WADSWORTH. Now, let us be sensible about that. There are many nations that are not parties to that treaty.
Mrs. BROWN. Well--
Senator WADSWORTH (interposing). Would you appear before a committee of Congress and denounce an appropriation which would make it possible to supply our men with defensive masks?
Mrs. BROWN. I do not believe we are going at it in the right way, Senator Wadsworth, when we say we can not do anything until everybody else does--anything that is in a positive direction toward amelioration of these terrible world conditions until everybody else agrees to be just as good as we are. I am willing, myself, and many people feel the same way, to take a slight risk.
Senator WADSWORTH. You will take a chance?
Mrs. BROWN. Yes. And it seems to me the part of wisdom to do it. It seems to me that we stultify ourselves and make that treaty “a scrap of paper” and little else. We have signed that treaty with the nations--the only nations, practically--that we fear, have we not?
Senator WADSWORTH. I am not talking to-day.
Mrs. BROWN. If it meant anything, what does it mean? Was it just an idle gesture, a piece of rhetoric? I do not see how Senator Lodge and Senator Underwood who helped negotiate that treaty can possibly vote for the item of chemical warfare in this bill. I do not see but that you other gentlemen are just as responsible, you Senators who ratified it. I can forgive the Members of the House for putting in that item because they were not parties to that treaty; but the Senate was. You might--you could afford to--be generous. It would make an awfully good talking point for you.