September 1997


In Europe, World War I was entering its second year in 1915, and in such times, the use of the law as a weapon of defense and security increases.

The United States not only had the war in Europe to worry about. When on July 28th, Haitian president Guillaume Sam orders the execution of 167 political prisoners and the island explodes in rebellion, threatening U. S. business interests there, the Marines are sent into Port-au-Prince. By early September the entire island is under martial law. Sound familiar?

But the main threat to U. S. security seems to come from Europe. On July 24th, Dr. Heinrich Albert, German director of propaganda in the U. S., rides a New York subway, exits at his stop, but leaves his briefcase behind. When it is examined by the U. S. Secret Service, the documents it contains are found to be details of German sabotage plans. These documents next surface in mid-August, when the New York World begins publishing them. Possibly the Secret Service has taken this long to determine that the information is accurate and not a deliberate plant by the Germans. With the horse well out of the barn, Secretary of State Robert Lansing, new to the job, informs the president of the espionage plans the next day.

The law swings into action. A German spy is arrested in Washington, D. C. on August 24th. Two months later several Germans in New York City are arrested and charged with plotting to blow up departing war supply ships. And on December 1st, the U. S. government expels two German attachés on espionage charges.

Germany also begins wielding the legal weaponry. On the fourth day of this year Belgium's Cardinal Mercier is arrested. His crime - publishing his pastoral letter entitled Patriotism and Endurance , condemning the war in Europe. On August 6th many of the staff of the Birkendael Medical Institute in Brussels are placed under arrest. A training school for nurses, it has become a hospital where anyone is treated, no matter their nationality or politics. But that's not all; it's become a depot where British and French soldiers are hidden away until thy can make their way across German lines into the Netherlands. While awaiting their opportunity to escape, the more daring ones will enter the taverns of Brussels. Liquor loosens lips, leading to the August arrests.

On October 12th, Germany executes the school's head of nursing, 50-year-old British subject Edith Cavell. Today she is remembered mainly by a 1939 film and a mountain peak in Alberta, Canada. Those who had best cause to remember her, have made their final escape.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte