"The time has come for the liberal forces of the United States to organize a propaganda
for a democratic peace and reconstruction. [...] This is not an invitation from the People's Council
but from a group of liberals who feel that the time has come to crystallize sentiment into action."
I found this letter to be an interesting contrast to the numerous invitations HWLD received to seemingly more formal and "respectable" conferences. Indeed, the writers very plainly differentiate themselves from the People’s Council of America for Democracy and Peace. Ironically (or perhaps unironically), it was his association with this organization that led to his dismissal from Columbia in 1917. The authors of this letter draw a distinction between liberal sentiment and action, alluding to an urgent sense of activist militancy.
This letter was written on November 1st, 1918 – two days after Turkey signed an armistice with the Allies, becoming the second of the Central Powers to quit World War I. It was also the day that Allied armies resumed their eastward march as the U.S. 1st and 2nd Armies attacked remaining German positions. However, I wasn't sure as to the relevance of these facts to this "call to action."
I was also unclear as to what "junker forces of the country" were, but a quick etymological search yielded the pejorative sense of junker – a "reactionary younger member of the Prussian aristocracy." How was this relevant? After more investigation, I came across the German Revolution that happened at the end of the war, the first stage of which encompasses the date of HWLD's letter. During this time, the monarchies of Prussia were abolished and the nobility lost its political power, leading to the establishment of a republic – the Free State of Prussia. The German Revolution also gave rise to the Weimar Republic – which, in my mind, has always been associated with a culture of sexual liberation and Berlin, the short-lived "Gay Capital" of the world. But I digress.
So, World War I exacerbated class tensions because the Junkers and bourgeoisie were profiting off conflict while those in poverty went off to fight (a tale as old as time). This "Junker-bourgeois imperialism” was, therefore, being associated with prominent Republican politicians in the United States ("Roosevelt, Penrose, Lodge, Knox and Weeks") by the letter's writers. TR was a staunch supporter of the Allies and harsher policy towards Germany; his attacks on Woodrow Wilson helped the Republicans win control of Congress in 1918. Boies Penrose was the Senator of Pennsylvania at the time and from Philadelphia. Henry Cabot Lodge was a Senator of Massachusetts during the War and a long-time friend and confidant of TR. Frank Knox was an advocate of U.S. military preparedness and of participation in the war. John W. Weeks was also Senator of Massachusetts at the time who, while defeated for re-election to the Senate in 1918, remained an active and influential participant in the national Republican Party.
As a point of comparison, I tried to "decipher" the signatures of the letter's authors to find names and some preliminary background information. It seems "the forces of liberalism" encompassed this diverse group of people who wrote to HWLD. I'm sure further investigation will demonstrate that they each had some investment in the social and economic politics of the German Revolution and its consequences.
Joseph D. Cannon – a union organizer and politician from New York
Elisabeth Freeman – a suffragist and civil rights activist
Gertrude Kelly – a labor radical and ardent feminist
Scott Nearing – a member of American Union Against Militarism (who delivered speeches against Wilson's "Preparedness" campaign) and a founding member of the People's Council
Frank Stephens – a political activist and co-founder of a utopian single-tax community in Arden, Delaware
Harriet Park Thomas – a suffragist (close friend of Jane Addams) and active member of peace organizations
Louis P. Lochner – a political activist and leading figure in the anti-war movement
Box 1 [Reel 71.1] Folder 1, Page 139: Correspondence from "a group of liberals,"
in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana Papers (DG 011), Swarthmore College Peace Collection.