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100 years ago in Spokane: Thousands turn out to hear Taft speak on League of Nations at Armory

Between 5,000 and 6,000 spectators crowded the Spokane Armory to hear former President William Howard Taft extol the League of Nations, the international organization intended to ensure peace in the world, reported The Spokesman-Review on Feb. 16, 1919. (The Spokesman-Review Archives)
Between 5,000 and 6,000 spectators crowded the Spokane Armory to hear former President William Howard Taft extol the League of Nations, the international organization intended to ensure peace in the world, reported The Spokesman-Review on Feb. 16, 1919. (The Spokesman-Review Archives)

Between 5,000 and 6,000 spectators crowded the Spokane Armory to hear former President William Howard Taft extol the League of Nations, the international organization intended to ensure peace in the world.

“Thank God the league has been adopted by 14 nations who have met at the conference table at Paris,” Taft said. “President (Woodrow) Wilson is to be congratulated on his real league of nations with a clinch and a cinch to it.”

He urged U.S. Senate action on the league and the peace treaty, and told the crowd to let their senators know that “you are watching them … and if they vote the wrong way against public sentiment such actions will have consequences.”

Taft cut his remarks short because his voice was worn out due to a solid schedule of speeches. Speeches were also made by other League of Nations supporters, including Henry Morgenthau.

The Spokesman-Review noted that “Taft looked little changed from the time he addressed the great audience on his former visit at the Interstate Fair Grounds in 1912.”

The Armory was jammed 90 minutes before the speech began, and thousands had to be turned away.

From the immigration beat: The region’s congressman-elect J. Stanley Webster also gave a fiery address to the Armory throng. He denounced immigrant “slackers” and “traitors.”

“If, when these men came here they left their hearts in Europe, let us send their bodies back to it,” Webster said to applause. “One of the duties of the next Congress will be to enact legislation ridding the country of men of that ilk.”

Webster also applauded the people of Seattle for holding firm during the recent general strike. “They resolved to suppress the bolsheviki if it became necessary to use a lamppost, a wall and a rifle to do it,” he said as the crowd applauded.

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