New York Bureau of Legal Advice

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The Bureau, first known as the New York Bureau of Legal First Aid, operated from April 6, 1917 to the autumn of 1919 when its assets were turned over to the People's Freedom Union. The Bureau assisted men who were subject to the draft process, defended the legal rights of conscientious objectors, many of whom were socialists and foreign-born aliens from combatant nations. The Bureau fought against the deportation of members of the International Workers of the World. It predated the similar National Civil Liberties Bureau and confined its activities to New York conscientious objection cases.

From the description of Collection, 1917-1920. (Swarthmore College, Peace Collection). WorldCat record id: 28871062

The New York Bureau of Legal Advice was organized as the New York Bureau of Legal First Aid in 1917 to furnish free legal advice and counsel to anyone who came into conflict with the new wartime laws. The Bureau provided information, investigative assistance, publicity, and free legal aid.

From the description of Records, 1917-1919. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 82511651

First known as the New York Bureau of Legal First Aid; operated from April 6, 1917 to the autumn of 1919 when its assets were turned over to the People's Freedom Union; assisted men who were subject to the draft process, defended the legal rights of conscientious objectors, many of whom were socialists and foreign-born aliens from combatant nations; fought against the deportation of members of the International Workers of the World; predated the similar National Civil Liberties Bureau; confined its activities to New York conscientious objection cases.

From the description of Records, 1917-1919. (Swarthmore College, Peace Collection). WorldCat record id: 52209275

The New York Bureau of Legal First Aid was organized on May 11, 1917 with a one hundred dollar grant from the Women's Peace Party. Individuals contributed to the treasury and in August the People's Council, the Socialist Party, the Civil Liberties Bureau and the Workmen's Council all became sponsoring affiliates. A few months later the People's Council and the Civil Liberties Bureau withdrew their support, but a strong Executive Committee continued the organizing work. In May 1918, the organization changed its name to the New York Bureau of Legal Advice (NYBLA). During that year, the Bureau estimated that it aided at least 5,000 clients. In September 1918, a raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation disrupted organizational functioning temporarily. NYBLA continued with its anti-war campaigns and only ended its work in the autumn of 1919, shortly before the Armistice.

NYBLA was the first organization to furnish free legal advice and counsel to anyone who came into conflict with the new laws related to America's entry into World War I, including draft resisters, conscientious objectors, and deserters. The Bureau sought to gather information and investigate and publicize war-related instances of infringements of First Amendment rights. The Bureau campaigned for amnesty for conscientious objectors and also monitored their treatment in military prisons. Lobbying by NYBLA was instrumental in forcing Secretary of War Newton B. Baker to order an end to the practice of holding conscientious objectors in manacles. The Bureau cooperated actively with the Industrial Workers of the World and other radical groups in defense of free speech and in opposition to the deportation of immigrant radicals.

Charles Recht, a Czech-born attorney, was the General Counsel of the Bureau. As Secretary of the Bureau, Frances M. Witherspoon, an ardent feminist and socialist peace activist, carried on the daily work of the Bureau, including fundraising, working with attorneys and volunteers, organizing lobbying campaigns, maintaining correspondence, and interviewing clients. She worked with the leading socialists, anti-war activists and civil libertarians of the time, including Roger N. Baldwin, Ella Reeve ("Mother") Bloor, M. Eleanor Fitzgerald, Albert De Silver, Jacob Hillquit, and Scott Nearing.

From the guide to the New York Bureau of Legal Advice Records, 1917-1919, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf New York Bureau of Legal Advice. Records, 1917-1919. Churchill County Museum
creatorOf New York Bureau of Legal Advice. Collection, 1917-1920. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
creatorOf New York Bureau of Legal Advice. Records, 1917-1919. Swarthmore College, Peace Collection, SCPC
referencedIn John Reed papers, 1903-1967. Houghton Library.
creatorOf New York Bureau of Legal Advice Records, 1917-1919 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Civil Liberties Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Baldwin, Roger Nash, 1884- person
associatedWith Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958, person
associatedWith Bloor, Ella Reeve, 1862-1951. person
associatedWith Caffey, Francis G. person
associatedWith Cleghorn, Sarah Norcliffe, 1876-1959, person
associatedWith DeSilver, Albert, 1888-1924. person
associatedWith Fitzgerald, M. Eleanor 1877-1955. person
associatedWith Flynn, Bina. person
associatedWith Flynn, Elizabeth Gurley, person
associatedWith League for the Amnesty of Political Prisoners. corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951, person
associatedWith Magnes, Judah Leon, 1877-1948, person
associatedWith Mencken, H. L. 1880-1956, person
associatedWith Mygatt, Tracy D. 1885-1973, person
associatedWith Nelles, Walter. person
associatedWith New York Bureau of Legal Adivce. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Bureau of Legal First Aid corporateBody
associatedWith New York Bureau of Legal First Aid. corporateBody
associatedWith Recht, Charles. person
associatedWith Recht, Charles. person
associatedWith Reed, John, 1887-1920 person
associatedWith Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Smedley, Agnes, 1892-1950, person
associatedWith Swarthmore College. Peace Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Tamiment Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Untermeyer, Louis, 1885-1977, person
associatedWith Veblen, Thorstein, 1857-1929, person
associatedWith Wise, Stephen S. 1874-1949, person
associatedWith Witherspoon, Fannie M. person
associatedWith Witherspoon, Fannie M. person
associatedWith Witherspoon, Frances, 1886-1973, person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (N.Y.)
United States
Subject
Amnesty
Draft resisters--History--Sources
Deportation--United States
Legal aid--United States
Draft resisters
World War, 1914-1918--Conscientious objectors--Sources
Desertion, Military
Legal cases
Desertion, Military--United States
Amnesty--United States
Conscientious objectors--United States
Political prisoners--History--Sources
Amnesty--History--Sources
Deportation
Legal aid
Conscientious objectors
Conscientious objection--History--Sources
Legal aid--History--Sources
Civil rights--History--Sources
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1917

Active 1920

Information

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