Reflections from Benjamin Candee

Reflections from Benjamin Candee

The following is from a transcript of a conference of Quaker conscientious objectors that took place at Pendle Hill in 1996. This excerpt from Benjamin Candee is taken from a panel discussing the prison experiences of conscientious objectors:

"After being [at Byberry] awhile the opportunity opened up to be part-time in a jaundice experiment and so I joined that. And this again seemed work of national importance but the idea of being under civilian direction, if I'd already had that idea, went out the window because Dr. Neefe was also Captain Neefe, US Army.

By about 1945 all these good speakers we had on Wednesday nights to help educate us had had an effect on me. Now the speakers that made the most impression on me besides Dr. Kinsey were probably Dorothy Day and Scott Nearing. And the things I seemed to be reading were not Emerson but Pacifica Views, the Conscientious Objector, and what else? The journal Politics that Dwight Macdonald was running in New York City.

But I gradually got to feel that we were part of a slave labor system, that was evil both for us--more especially for those who had wives and dependents, and even more for its precedent for conscription in the future. I don't know if you remember, but Senator Austin, I think from Vermont or someplace, used CPS as an example of how they could get away with drafting civilians in the future. So at that point I decided to walk out and did it in the traditional way. You know, writing a letter to the Attorney General.

Oh, before we left, another fellow and I walked together--Tom Leonard--we did want to make it clear that we weren't walking out because we didn't think the work was important so we wrote the superintendent of the hospital suggesting that we would walk out and we would be glad to come back as regular employees doing the same job but we would want to be paid. He didn't feel this would be very politic since he already had fifty or so free laborers there, I guess.

While I was out I was picked up by the FBI and while I was out on bail I was allowed by the district attorney to make a cattle boat trip to Europe--the war had ended by this time--with the Brethren group. I came back and had my trial and pled no defense and was surprised when they only gave me four months. About two years later I finally decided that really conscription was evil and at that time I wrote a letter to President Truman returning my draft card and so forth (in pieces as I recall). I guess that's the bare bones."


--Taken from Friends in Civilian Public Service: Quaker Conscientious Objectors in World War II Look Back and Ahead. Wallingford: Pendle Hill, 1998. Pp. 76-7.