“Greater Freedom in Europe Than U.S.A.” from the Elizabeth City Independent, April 11, 1919
Here is food for thought for readers of The Independent—
Frederic C. Howe, commissioner of immigration of the port of New York, who returned last week from three months in Paris, England, Belgium, Germany and Italy, told of condition in Germany and the difficulties involved in bringing about a stable condition in Europe. He said the thing that struck him most forcibly on returning was the difference between America and the countries visited in regard to the free discussion of economic and political problems. Over there, he said, even the allied commanders of the American, French and British armies of occupation permit the Germans “to express their opinions, publish proclamations and discuss their affairs with freedom.”
‘It was like a plunge into cold water to come home and find freedom of speech under the ban and the press and government agencies sitting on the throttle as though some terrible calamity would happen if people got together and discussed things which some other people in authority thought ought not to be talked about,” said Mr. Howe.
“This is the most depressing thing about America and the most extraordinary thing about Europe where one would have supposed free discussion to be under police and official surveillance. There people discussed problems of economics, industry, and politics with the utmost freedom.
“In England public meetings were being held from one end of the country to the other. I found the English press discussing subjects more frankly than the American press, and public opinion accepting such discussion by labor, socialists, or any group whatsoever, as perfectly natural and proper. England seemed ashamed of the few instances of suppression of freedom of speech which had occurred, and did not like to talk about the illegal imprisonment of the Irish who were being held, even though elected to Parliament. That’s the way England treats political questions. She has so much sanity, and believes that orderly development can only come about thru the old Anglo-Saxon method of discussion and debate on the part of all classes. And while relatively few person were in jail or political offenders or conscientious objectors there was a strong movement, backed by some of the most influential and conservative people, to bring about their release.
“All parts of Europe which I have visited seemed to have a higher regard for the rights of free speech and assemblage and for a free press than does America.”