IWW memo

Washington, D.C., December 22, 1917

          Some time ago I received a letter from President Perkins of the Cigarmakers' International Union in regard to a confidential piece of information that had come to him regarding the statement made by one of the confidential agents of the Department of Justice regarding the prosecution of the I.W.W.'s in their alleged treasonable conduct toward the government in which it was shown that there was confusion on the part of Mr. Clabaugh of the Department of Justice connecting bona fide unions with the I.W.W. and that Claybaugh asserted that in many instances our prominent trade unionists were members of the I.W.W.

           About that same time I received a letter from John Fitzpatrick of Chicago making the same statement and then submitting a copy of a letter  addressed to him, Fitzpatrick, under date of October 6 in which Nelson obtained the information as the representative of the Department of Labor of the state of Illinois, and it was not known by Mr. Clabaugh that Mr. Nelson was a trade unionist. The same charge was made in that. Then also a copy of the weekly news letter of the Illinois State Federation of Labor in which the same state of affairs; also copy of a letter sent by a member of the Illinois labor movement to the President in which the situation was presented.

          When this matter came to me I had an interview with the Attorney General Mr. Gregory. I wanted to know what information there was in the Department in which that connection or confusion was contained. I insisted that no injustice be done to any man; that no malicious prosecution or persecution should be conducted by the government; that I was opposed to the I.W.W., their tenets, their purposes, and their methods but so long as they were conducting their affairs without being engaged in treasonable conduct they were entitled to as much consideration as any other body. He assured me that there was no such intention on the part of the Department and that great care would be exercised in differentiating the bona fide and normal activities of workers to organize and [the] evidence that the Department has against the I.W.W. was overwhelming as being treasonable, treacherous to a very marked degree. He said he would give me every opportunity of learning for myself as to the connection between the I.W.W. and active or prominent men in the trade union movement, and that he would let me go through the documents that he had.

          Of course, I told him there was no opportunity for me to do that or to have any one else do it. He then said he had cards of membership of the I.W.W.

          Yesterday December 21 he called me up over the telephone and asked me to come to see him. I saw him at 1:45 just preceding his going to the cabinet meeting. He assured me that in the prosecution of the I.W.W. and any of them it is not intended at all to be an attack directly or indirectly upon organized labor but the prosecutions against these men is for treasonable conduct toward the government of the U.S. I said that if the prosecution is to go ahead that it was my judgment that the government's attorneys should emphasize that fact; otherwise, it would be likely to be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

         He told me that he had card of member in various offices, the cards containing the names and addresses of the men and stated that he would send me either the originals or copies of the originals cards of these names and addresses.

TD, Files of the office of the President, General Correspondence, reel 90, frames 878-79, AFL Records. Typed notation: "(Dictated by President Gompers to Miss Guard)." Handwritten notation: "These cards are in Mr. Gompers' safe. A large box of documents from Dept of Justice bearing on this case is in basement of Bldg. addressed to Mr Gompers."