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ple would have followed the President in whatever he
did then. He only protested, and it may yet appear
that his course was wise. Then followed other evi-
dences of what the Hun intended — until finally the
Essex was torpedoed. Then our President spoke in
different terms. Germany promised to sink no more
American ships without observing the rules of inter-
national law, intimating, however, that she might re-
turn to her barbarous methods if w^e failed to make
England cease certain practices. Meantime, as the
Allies fought on, they came to understand — to grasp
the full significance of Germany's intentions; they came
to see that Serbia and Belgium were merely incidents
in a larger issue; they understood what the sneer that
reduced a solemn treaty to a scrap of paper meant,
what the shooting of Edith Cavell and Captain Fryatt
meant. They slowly recognized that this was the great
fight between forces that have been irreconcilable from
the beginning, the death grapple between Democracy
and Autocracy. At first the Allies understood and

174 Let Us Have Peace

approved our neutrality. Then, as the contest devel-
oped and the real issues emerged, they said: "Where
is America? This is her fight. She above all nations
has been the beneficiary of the Democratic principle.
Can it be that she will not defend it in its hour
of peril?"

Gradually, as we stayed neutral, there grew up, and
particularly among our Canadian friends, a feeling of
bitterness; we were held in an increasing contempt.
We were in danger of being rated a people which,
favored above all others by nature and benefited above
all others by the Democratic impulses of the world,
nevertheless became poltroons at the supreme crisis.

Our own mental readjustments can best be illus-
trated by contrasting two utterances made by Presi-
dent Wilson within four months:

As lately as December 16, 1916, the President of the
United States, through his Secretary of State, said in a
note addressed to all the belhgerents:

"He (the President) takes the liberty of calling
attention to the fact that the objects which the states-
men of the belligerents on both sides have in mind in
this war are virtuall}^ the same, as stated in general
terms to their own people and to the world."

President Wilson did not mean to create the impres-
sion that he thought and we thought that the cause of
each side was equally just, but the language used made
that impression. Forces dangerous to Anglo-Saxon soli-
darity began to stir when we seemed to say that we saw
no difference in the two causes. Within a few days
after that message was sent to the powers, we hadn't a
friend left amongst the nations. We who ought to have
reacted quickest when this great assault on Liberty was

Why We Shall Fight 175

made, continued to hesitate, while Frenchmen and
EngHshmen and Canadians died by thousands.

Then came the logical conclusion of the Hun's pro-
gram. On January 31, 1917, we were in effect told to
get off the seven seas. We were told that we must fly
on our ships a new and prescribed emblem, that we
must keep Old Glory in a place named and nowhere
else, that we must sail along a certain parallel of lati-
tude, and could send one passenger ship a week to
Falmouth. We were told that every other American
ship not so decorated found within a huge section of
the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean would be
sunk without warning. We disregarded these insult-
ing directions and the Hun sank our ships in violation
of every rule of international law and civilized warfare.
Out of the bloody struggle itself there came suddenly
to us a definition of what the Allies were fighting for.
We saw the issue at last. It was translated into words
b}^ the same man who spoke on the 16th of December,
1916. Speaking to the Congress on April 2, 1917,
President Wilson finally said:

"The present German submarine warfare against
commerce is a warfare against mankind. It is a war
against all nations * * * . The challenge is to all
mankind * * * . We are now about to accept the
gage of battle with this natural foe to liberty and shall,
if necessary, spend the whole force of the nation to
check and nullify its pretensions and its power. We
are glad now that we see the facts with no veil of false
pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate
peace of the world * * * . The world must be made
safe for democracy * * * . We have no selfish ends
to serve, we desire no conquest, no dominion."

176 Let Us Have Peace

This utterance shocked a self-satisfied and still leth-
argic people into some measure of action. It stated the
only cause that seemed great enough for us to fight
for. What Belgium and Serbia and the Lusitania
and the cruel slaughter of American citizens could
not do, this call accomplished. There is and has
been nothing the matter with our patriotism; but
the old war cries do not easily stir it now. Ours has
come to be the larger patriotism of true democracy.
We are slow to fight. We will not fight for conquest
or trade; but we will fight for liberty. We will rather
suffer much and even endure being misunderstood.
We struck the true note when we freed Cuba and left
her mistress of her own destiny.

We enter this war now because we "can do no other".

If we do our share in defending the hberty of the
world, in restoring a peace that wiU mean peace and
not a period of preparation for another war, we shall
have accomplished four great practical things, all for-
warding a world democracy and the estabUshment of
the principles of our Federal Constitution:

1st. We shall secure universal training and ser\ace,
and shall have taken the first definite step in the
production of a disciplined citizenship. A disci-
plined citizenship is more necessary in a democracy
than in an autocracy.

2d. We shall have reunited the Anglo-Saxon world,
how closely I don't know, but let us hope suf-
ficiently to nullify in large measure the fatuity
and folly of King George III and his ministers,
which split that world in twain almost a hundred
and fifty years ago.

Why We Shall Fight 177

3d. We shall have earned the approval and confi-
dence of all Central and South America where we
have always been feared and misunderstood; that
will be an achievement of great value to democracy.

4th. We shall have helped to unite all democratic
peoples in a League or Federation so mighty that
no man or group of men obsessed by ambition and
an insane belief in rule by Divine Right will ever
again be able so nearly to crucify humanity.

As we face sufferings of which we have no conception,
we remember that little band of our forebears — our
political if not our lineal forebears — who stood by that
rude bridge in Concord in April, 1775, and "fired the
shot heard round the world". We enter this war in
their spirit, the

" Spirit that made those heroes dare
To die and leave their children free ".





"I approve most heartily your suggestion that the life insurance
"agents devote one or two days to the sole work of placing Liberty
"Bonds. * * * * W. G. McADOO, Secretary"

to Life Underwriters

EFORE Rhode Island entered the Federal
Union it had existed as a ci\'ic entity for
137 years under a charter granted to Roger
Williams. That instrument was so Hberal
and advanced in its theories of human
rights, so entirely in harmony with the doctrines of the
great charter of 1787 that when the State entered the
Union no change in its already ancient fundamental
law was necessar3^

Roger Williams was one of freedom's great prophets;
yet because of his theories of individual liberty and of
government he was persecuted and banished from
Massachusetts Bay where freedom is supposed to have
been cradled.

When our Federal Constitution was written men
began to understand that Roger Williams was an
earher if not a greater prophet than Thomas Jeffer-
son. He had prepared the way.

We are now at war. We are at war for reasons so
unselfish that the average citizen needs to be quickened,
to be quickened morally and mentally in order to react


"A Knock at the Door" 179

to the standards which the nation has set up under
the leadership of Woodrow Wilson.

In the labor of that quickening what group of our
citizens is most certainly, most completely equipped for
service? Who have prepared the way? Who can best
preach this relatively new gospel: the gospel of war
without hate or desire of conquest or indemnities or
material gain? the gospel of war not for peace first but
for justice first ? WTiat men by training, by convic-
tion, by the principles which they have advocated,
have taught the world constantly and mightily the
truths for the wider establishment of which we as a
nation are now about to fight : individual responsibility
and sovereignty, liberty with justice, the economic
power of co-operation and the supreme value of all
human life? Who have labored to erect certain great
peaceful fabrics of faith and credit and values which
have become in effect International Republics limited
by no savage frontiers? Who have labored success-
fully in the development of world-wide enterprises which
long since foreshadowed the post-bellum dream of uni-
versal justice and permanent peace?

Before we as a people undertook to make the world
safe for democracy, who had already long labored to
make it safe for the defenceless?

To all these queries one answer:

You and thousands of others like you who carry the
Rate Book — the Bible of true democracy and of sound
economics. You have had this equipment, you have
preached these doctrines, and you have done these things.

Your business is teaching men — indi\'iduals — to do
their duty. You constantly fight the natural inertia of
selfishness. Men know that all must die, but most

180 Let Us Have Peace

men think that the other fellow will be the one to go.
Endowed with good health, busy at his appointed work,
death seems far off and no man hkes even to discuss it.
"Why worry? Why surrender time or money as
against a contingency that of course threatens others
but not me?" is about the train of thought of the
average man.

There is a striking similarity between this mental
attitude and the attitude of the American people to-
ward war, — toward this war. "Why should we worry?
We are protected against invasions by two great oceans.
We love peace and hate war. We want no other
people's territory. We have no designs on other people's
rights. War may come to others; it may come to us
some time but not now." That fairly expressed our
feelings up to April 2, 1917.

Then something happened. Just as there comes a
day to every man when he realizes that death is for
him as well as for his brother, so on the second of April
we — some of us at least — realized that war meant no
longer to make favorites of us but in its hideous activi-
ties would thereafter have no regard for our high pro-
fessions and love of peace. But not all of us under-
stood that instantly. Some do not grasp the truth now.

Your ordinary work as life insurance men is rendered
very easy when your prospect has squarely confronted
his duty, when he has either mentally worked the
problem out under your tutelage or has been shocked
by some physical circumstance into a realization of his
indi\'idual weakness. Then he responds. Then he
gets ready.

The nobility of your work day by day, in the undra-
matic times of peace, lies in this: You persuade men

"A Knock at the Door'' 181

to think when the natural tendency is not to think.
You persuade them to face duty — when the call of duty
is uncomfortable, when it seems indeed almost an ab-
straction. You persuade them to prepare for loss and
to make sacrifices in that preparation when no sense
of danger lives in their consciousness. You labor to
make men a little bigger, a little more unselfish, a little
more heroic, a little more rational, a little less pro-
vincial and a little more God-Uke than the average man
naturally is. Who attempts daily a more difficult or a
nobler task? What other training so perfectly equips
men for the labor that confronts us all to-night, as
patriots? This particular call of the nation finds you
so ready that you have only substantially to go on doing
your usual work. The charter which controls your
activities needs no change.

The day has come when America — generous but self-
centered, idealistic but intensely practical, peace-loving
and war-hating — must be shaken from her lethargy,
must be taught that in this little world rivers of human
blood cannot flow without draining her veins also.

There is nothing the matter with the patriotism of
our people; they have lost none of their idealism, none
of their love of liberty — just as there is nothing the
matter with the individual man's love of his family.
Your task as life insurance men with the individual, is
to make him appreciate the obvious; your task as
patriots with the nation, is exactly the same. The
first task ought to be easy, but we know that it is not;
the second task must be performed however difficult
it may be.

On the 5th and 6th of June you and your fellows will
sell Liberty Loan Bonds exclusively (I hope you'll sell

182 Let Us Have Peace

them incidentally every day) — bonds which rest on
the faith of a free and mighty people. Why does the
Government sell these pledges? Because it believes
and on our behalf has declared that the natural, the
inalienable rights of humanity are desperately assailed
and that even our own liberties are imperiled. Unless
the people can be made to see that, they will not buy
these bonds. Until a man has been shocked into an
appreciation of his inability to carry the risk of his own
mortahty you can't insure his life. Until a peace-
loving nation has been shaken out of its natural leth-
argy it is difficult to make it understand that a given
condition is a deadly menace, when that condition is
physically a long way off.

Later on many of you may take your places under
the flag in the trenches or on the sea. Once the nation
is aroused there can be but one result. These, how-
ever, are the days of hesitation. It all seems so horrible,
so impossible. To arouse our people Paul Revere must
again go thundering through the countryside. Signals
of great danger have been flashed to us from the watch
tower as they were to him, and there must be riders or
the people will not be awake and ready. And what do
the signals tell? They tell that a great nation drunk
with power has forsworn itself; that the Lusitania has
been sunk in such \'iolation of every natural impulse of
civihzed men that it is clearly a case of conscious
barbarism; that Edith Cavell has been shot; that
Belgium has been outraged again and again; that the
young womanhood of Northern France has been de-
bauched by savages more ruthless than the Huns ; that
a power is raging through the land and lurking under-
sea as sharks lurk, in order to strike as sharks strike, a

"A Knock at the Door'' 183

power which jeers at the principles of our Declaration
of Independence and mocks at government by the
people. If the true significance of those danger signals
can be driven home, there will be no trouble about the
bonds nor about the other bilHons yet to come ; but on
June 5th and 6th Paul Revere must ride again; there
must come to every home in the Nation as there came
to every home in Concord and Lexington on that April
morning in 1775:

"A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
"And a word that shall echo forevermore."

On June 5th and 6th you will ride to help quicken
the patriotism, the idealism of the nation. You are
already organized; you are veterans in a like ser\ice;
you know what the signals mean and you know your
duty. You can qualify in this fight for Liberty as
completely as Rhode Island did under Roger WiUiams's
charter. You will thereby help to win from the people
assent to the high and unselfish purpose which has made
our Government denounce and attack this Prussian

During our Civil War — the wounds of which are now
happily healed — the plain people — always more or less
mute — expressed their loyalty to their great weary
Leader in the White House through song. In one of
these songs they said:

"We are coming Father Abraham."

The message so sent reached Lincoln and he was
cheered and strengthened by it.

The masses are mute to-day. They have no me-
dium through which to express to our war-worn Allies
their wonder, their admiration, their affection, and

184 Lei Us Have Peace

their devotion. By your work on these appointed
days 3^ou will help to give these emotions a voice: a
voice which will daily rise in volume and power, a
voice which when full-throated will sound round the
earth bringing hope and courage to all lovers of liberty,
a voice which shall say to our comrades over the sea:

"We are coming 0! glorious sister, France!

"We are coming O! great Mother England!

"Coming because Liberty is assailed and we have not

"forgotten that our fathers did not fear death, for

"liberty's sake.

"Coming because we have highly resolved anew that

"government of the people, by the people, and for the

"people shall not perish from the earth."




jINCE the Greeks stood at Thermopylae
and stopped the rush of the Persian hordes
there has been no parallel to what the
world saw on the three fateful days in
early August, 1914, when Belgium chose
death rather than dishonor.

Since Joan of Arc faced her accusers and stood un-
dismayed while the fagots were lighted about her the
world has seen no more heroic and pathetic figure than
Belgium personified in her youthful and intrepid leader.
King Albert.

Belgium has quickened the soul of the world. She

has made us put a new estimate on men and events.

We see John Brown of Ossawatomie in a new and

glorious light; we catch a new inspiration from the

martyrdom of John Huss.

Power of arms, masses of wealth, vast territories,
millions of people shrink and shrivel when there blazes
out in the consciousness of men a recognition that after
all the only great thing in the world is self-respect, the
Divine fearlessness which sustained Jesus Christ and
Socrates and all the saints, religious and political, who
have died for humanity. The power that has periodi-
cally requickened the conscience of the world has some-

13 185

186 Let Us Have Peace

times found expression through a man and sometimes
through a people.

Since 1832 Belgium has been the keystone in the
arch of international good faith. On the physical in-
tegrity of Belgium all the great European sovereignties
agreed. Her soil was to be as sacrosanct as the sol-
emnly pledged word of great nations could make it.

All the powers, including Belgium, beheved in Ger-
many's good faith. The pledge held through the war
of 1870. Few doubted that it would hold always.
Then under the high-sounding phrase of "military ne-
cessity", Germany proceeded to smash the one great
compact under which sovereign states had estabhshed
the higher law of internationality. And what was
Germany's necessity? The necessity of the burglar
and the assassin — no more. A nation cannot be assas-
sinated and leave ''no trace". The record in Belgium
will endure to the last syllable of recorded time.

Little Belgium defied the perfidious monster and
therefore it is that Belgium has become the monitor of
the self-respect of men. She met the first rush of the
new Attila, the organized forces of barbarism, the lust
of power, the demands of a monster criminal, almost
alone, almost unaided.

She had to decide quickly. She w^as first taken up
into a high place, shown the riches of the world, prom-
ised ease and recompense and safety if she would bow
down. And what a temptation it must have been!
How it must have appealed to her practical statesmen!
How such an appeal made here would go home to
certain United States Senators! If she resisted she
couldn't stop Germany. She knew that. Germany
would pass through with or without her consent. Ger-

Belgium 187

many would probably do all she planned to do in any
event. Therefore why hesitate? If she resisted she
had ever}d:hing to lose and for that loss no reasonable
prospect of gain. By yielding she would lose no ma-
terial thing, she would undertake no quixotic enter-
prise; she would simply step aside and let the monster
attack its real objective.

But Belgium had a soul as high and serene as the
soul of the Maid of Orleans. Between dishonor and
death she chose death, and her land has been a Calvary
from that day to this.

The shame of the assault, the moral heroism of the
resistance, we did not as a people grasp. It was all so
far away and the Beast that outraged Belgium lived
and worked insidiously in our very midst, and cleverly
dulled our moral sense. He was very busy, and, as
always, very efficient. His appeal was cunning and it
was effective for nearly three years. Without any
real appreciation of whether or not it was morally
infamous for us to be "in" or "out" we elected a
President on the cry "He has kept us out of war".
In the light of President Wilson's later action, in view
of his splendid leadership, I wonder whether he now
remembers that cry with any satisfaction. But we
were then all — or nearly all — alike. We couldn't
clearly see Belgium; we didn't understand the situation
even when the unspeakable Brute sank the Lusitania.
We are only beginning to understand Belgium now.
We must understand her or we are lost.

Belgium is the Light of the World. Belgium is the
Hope of the World unless hope is to die.

In a physical sense Belgium cannot be restored.
Morally she needs no restoration. We are they who

188 Let Us Have Peace

need moral reconstruction. We are climbing now
slowly toward the heights where Belgium stands with
glorious France and mighty England. We are begin-
ning to understand that we cannot share in the moral
regeneration of the world unless we unite in its sac-

We cannot win a share in Belgium's moral grandeur
by restoring her cities, for the same reason that Ger-
many could not sully that grandeur by destroying her
cities. If we rise to Belgium's level, we must pay the
price: that price is primarily spiritual. It calls us
now. As Antony exhibited to the Romans Caesar's
bloody mantle and showed the ugly sht made by
Casca's dagger so Conscience and Human Pity show
us the wounds of Belgium, and France and Poland and
Serbia, and wait to see whether we are that Antony
that will put a tongue in every gaping wound to stir
the world for vengeance and for justice.

Our moral test in one sense was not quite so high as
that applied to Belgium. She had no time to organize
her soul. We had nearly three years. But in another
sense our test was severer than Belgium's. No savage
was knocking at our doors; we did not suddenly have
to become either serfs or heroes; our decision was
made deliberately; we had time to count the cost.
When the average American citizen decided last April
to support President Wilson, that citizen climbed to
heights never before trod by free men. He showed
himself a statesman; he showed himself a worthy de-
scendant of the men who stood at Concord and "fired
the shot heard around the world".

And therefore it is that we are now mobilizing our
power. In spite of politicians and their ambitions, in

Belgium 189

spite of slackers and traitors, in spite of an espionage
which penetrates even the remote corners of our Gov-
ernment, in spite of the yellow streak in many of us, in
spite of our horror of war, in spite of everything, and
without regard to any costs, we are gathering our
power. Not alone our material power but our moral
consciousness. We are seeing Belgium as she is. We
are seeing Germany as she is. We are beginning to
understand what each stands for.

The peoples that hesitate after getting a clear vision
of the issue before mankind to-day deserve to perish.
Oceans may protect them for a time, but who or what
shall protect them from themselves? A correct moral
vision for us at least made all the rest ine\dtable. Men
who get that \dsion no longer count the cost; neither
shall we. Women do not weep when their sons march
away; ours will not. If to assert our moral standards
it is necessary that a million of our boys die — so be it.

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Online LibraryDarwin Pearl KingsleyLet us have peace and other addresses → online text (page 12 of 28)