Young man, the lowest aim in your life is to be a good soldier. The good solider never tries to distinguish right from wrong. He never thinks; never reasons; he only obeys. If he is ordered to fire on his fellow citizens, on his friends, on his neighbors, on his relatives, he obeys without hesitation. If he is ordered to fire down a crowded street when the poor are clamoring for bread, he obeys, and sees the gray hairs of age stained with red and the life-tide gushing from the breasts of women, feeling neither remorse nor sympathy. If he is ordered off as one of a firing squad to execute a hero or benefactor, he fires without hesitation, though he knows the bullet will pierce the noblest heart that ever beat in human breast.
A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless, murderous machine. He is not a man. He is not ever a brute, for brutes only kill in self-defense. All that is human in him, all that is divine in him, all that consitutes the man, has been sworn away when he took the enlistment oath. His mind, conscience, aye, his very soul, are in the keeping of his officer.
No man can fall lower than a soldier--it is a depth beneath which we cannot go.
Censored by the Postmaster General
Here is "A Good Soldier," by Jack London, which has aroused the militarists of this nation to the extent that Postmaster General Burleson has barred from the mails envelopes containing this article. The Appeal to Reason was threatened with a "fraud order" if it persisted in sending envelopes through the mails containing London's article. The Postmaster General did not even give the Appeal a chance in the courts. He said: "Either stop circulating 'A Good Soldier' on envelopes or we will close up your doors by refusing to deliver a single piece of mail "to you." So in "Free America" the Appeal has been forced by a War Censor to take this means to circulate Jack London's criticism of the soldier profession:
27 Mar 1918
"Have you seen an envelope printed by the APPEAL JOB PRINTING DEPARTMENT, Girard, Kansas the back of which is covered with an article or essay entitled A GOOD SOLDIER by Jack London. It is stated that envelopes like these can be furnished at low prices, giving prices. This certainly violates the Espionage Act. I have wired the Unites States Attorney at Muskogee, Oklahoma, for Eastern District of Oklahoma, who sent this in, to institute prosecution against any person distributing such envelopes. The responsibilty for getting out and distributing these envelopes should be run down and prosectutions instituted."
Topic DetailsAdd Facts
Looking for more information about Jack London's "A Good Soldier"?
Search through millions of records to find out more.