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This is the creed of democracy. Against it
autocracy opposes the traditions of power, the
sophisms of sovereignty, the keen edge of the
drawn sword. Above all human rights it places
the interests of the state as supreme power, with
its pretended right of conquest and subjugation,
derived from some mysterious mandate of deity
in whose name it claims the exclusive right to
speak. It boasts of the gleam of its shining
armor. It hides its schemes of dishonor behind
the mask of virtue. It promises glory and plun-
der. It tramples the breasts of women under the
feet of its horses. It rains fire from the clouds,
desolates fair landscapes, mutilates temples, car-
ries whole populations into slavery, and adds to
the natural terrors of the sea the diabolical con-
trivances of human ingenuity dedicated to the task
of wholesale destruction.

While humanity shudders, democracy goes
forth to the rescue. It is the battle of St. George
and the dragon multiplied by all the powers of
strong nations. But it is not a contest of ma-
terial forces only. It is a struggle of principles.
How can Europe be reconstituted? How can
civilization be restored? How can the world


resume its task of culture and social develop-

Autocracy has no answer. Triumphant, it
would cause all nations to pass under its yoke and
yield to its exactions. Only half defeated, even
in its death-throes it would invoke new wars,
dream of more cruel barbarities, plan still wider
devastations. Let the battle, then, be fought out
now. But first it must be won in the thoughts
of men. Who is it who speaks for humanity?
Is it autocracy or is it democracy? What can
end triumphant tribalism? What can establish
universal humanism? It is man and not the state
that can give the answer.

But the state must continue to exist. The na-
tions are persistent realities. They may be deci-
mated in numbers and impoverished in their pos-
sessions, but they cannot be destroyed. Ruined
in fortune, broken and mutilated in person, men
may enclose themselves in trenches and fortifica-
tions with death in perpetual command of their
frontiers, but they will still cling to their national-
ity; in their desperate extremity they will learn
more and more to love it, and as long as a shred of


the riddled and blood-stained banner of their
country flutters above the field of carnage, they
will still feel that they belong to a nation.

What, then, is a nation, but a group of men
with common traditions, common memories, com-
mon interests, and common aims? But there is
also the larger community. The traditions, the
memories, the interests, and the aims may be very
different, but beneath them all and over them all
is the community of rights. These are not tribal.
They are not national. They are human and

Between democracy and the fiction of unlimited
sovereignty there can be no logical alliance. If
the postulates of democracy are true, then the pre-
tension to unlimited sovereignty is false. A state
has no rights that are not derived from the rights
of the persons who compose it. The government
they create has no other source of authority. But
even the sum of all such rights does not create an
unlimited sovereignty. By virtue of their origin,
the just powers of the state are limited both as
respects its citizens, and as regards all other
states; for the inherent rights of its components,
on which the whole structure of its authority


rests, may not justly be taken away and other
states, like itself, represent with equal clearness
the rights of other nations which therefore cannot
justly be denied.

Thus understood, the value of democracy as a
basis for international law is apparent. As the
just powers of separate states are derived from
the personal rights of their constituents, so the
idea of international rights arises from the rela-
tions of independent states. They, too, thus be-
come endowed with rights of existence, of inde-
pendence, of just treatment, of self-defense; but
the attribute of an unlimited sovereignty is not
among them. It cannot be deduced from any
source whatever except physical power, and mere
physical power, apart from principles of justice,
is not legal authority in any sense which scientific
jurisprudence can maintain.

Autocracy, based on no distinction of right and
wrong, asserts the absolute subjection of some
persons to the will and dictation of other persons,
and without inconsistency affirms also the ab-
solute subjection of some nations to other nations,
the test of superiority being merely their relative
strength. He who has the power to do so has the


right to rule; and the only limit to this right,
according to autocracy, is in the power to resist it.

What this signifies for democracy is evident.
It means that however unwilling to do so, peace-
able nations must arm themselves and prepare all
the vast and complicated enginery of war on land
and sea in order to preserve their existence. It
means that as long as autocracy has plans of con-
quest democracy is in danger. In vain it elab-
orates constitutions for the guarantee of individual
rights. In vain it convokes international confer-
ences. In vain it signs treaties and conventions.
At some unexpected moment, perhaps in the midst
of delicate negotiations, it suddenly hears the
tramp of invading armies, it sees the sky dark-
ened with innumerable air craft, while demons
of the deep strew the seas with shattered ships and
mutilated corpses.

What is the object of these terrors? It is that
the authors of them may impose their will upon
others. The truth is that imperialism is not so
much a form of government as a system of forci-
ble exploitation. No modern nation supports
autocratic rule merely out of deference to a
dynasty. The dogma of divine right is held


chiefly by the rulers who are its beneficiaries ; but
whole peoples, consciously or unconsciously, are
their business partners in predatory exploits.
The motive of these nations is national enrich-
ment. Trade, colonies, mineral resources, to be
exploited in the interest of the commercial class
these are the real pillars of autocracy, resting
upon the interests of a military caste the brood
of younger sons, too proud to work, who must be
provided with a gentleman's career. Autocracy
flourishes nowhere without the stimulus of pros-
pective war, and it is in modern times a people's
war, of which Hohenzollerns and Hapsburgs are
the unhappy instruments quite as much as they
are the personal authors. Imperialism has be-
come a national predatory enterprise far more
than it is a political conviction, and the evidence
of this is so overwhelming that it cannot be de-
nied. The imperialistic organizations in Ger-
many that urged on the war under the preposter-
ous representation that the empire was attacked
are now declaring that there can be "no peace
without indemnities for the enormous sacrifices
Germany has made, and to develop her economic,
cultural, and social life." "Germany," it is de-


clared, "must secure better protection for its
frontiers, land for settlement and food produc-
tion, the strengthening of its naval position, and
the improved condition of its industries by greater
supplies of raw materials." Failing these, it has
been openly announced in the Reichstag that Ger-
many must be indemnified for her sacrifices by the
people of the United States of America.

With the political preferences of a nation, other
nations have no right to interfere; but when im-
perial exploitation is convicted by its own words
of predatory designs, when it wantonly destroys
the independence of small states, expropriates
their resources and carries into captivity their van-
quished populations, interference becomes an in-
ternational duty.

In a war alleged to be one of defense, the armies
of the German Empire are encamped on the terri-
tory of twelve independent nations, nine of which
are the victims of its depredations, and three of
which are its partners in crime. After acts of
piracy unknown in the history of civilized coun-
tries, including the wanton murder of innocent
men, women, and children on the high seas, it


has taken complete possession of the Atlantic
Ocean, so that no ship of any nation is anywhere
safe from destruction. But even these enormities
did not set a limit to the arrogance and outlawry
of the imperial spirit; and as a punishment for
the resentment felt because of the injuries endured
the territory of the United States was to be in-
vaded and dismembered by means of a subsidized
coalition to be used as an instrument for a blow
at our national life.

Not only is autocracy organized for war with a
design to subsist upon it, but it carries an infec-
tion that penetrates to the heart of bodies politic
that shrink from contact with it. Some form and
degree of it is forced upon any nation which, how-
ever unwillingly, seriously undertakes to act in
its own defense. All actual war measures, to
some extent, denature democracy. Enforced
military service, exorbitant taxation, the sup-
pression of a free press, the dictatorial powers of
the executive, the constraint placed upon legisla-
tive action in time of war all these, though un-
avoidable, are encroachments upon the immuni-
ties of the individual person, suspend the full en-


joyment of his personal freedom, and temporarily
assimilate even a democratic government to the
rule of an autocrat.

In order to preserve their existence democracies
must submit for a time to this sacrifice, but in do-
ing so they risk the permanent loss of some of
their liberties, for in a protracted war these are
partly forgotten, and if this condition endures,
they may never be wholly recovered. When a
government is obliged in self-defense to take over
all the people's industries, to organize all their
activities, to regulate all their earnings and ex-
penditures, democracy can hardly distinguish it-
self from autocracy except by the purity and ele-
vation of its purpose in rendering effective its
means of military defense. The present war has
demonstrated that this is no unfounded inference.
" England," wrote a German historian in the first
year of the war, "if she would play any part what-
ever in the world's future, must rebuild her po-
litical structure from the ground up, and adopt a
state organization such as prevails on the con-
tinent, and which has found its fullest develop-
ment, and therefore its highest efficiency, in the
German State."


This prediction has been already in part ful-
filled, and it has proved that the very existence of
free governments depends upon the suppression
of that type of imperialism which menaces the
independence of all nations.

There can therefore be no permanent peace
until autocratic power is ended. It is futile, it is
grossly inconsistent and reprehensible, for those
who love peace to demand it until the conditions
for its permanence can be established.

Can democracy ever establish it? It must
either do so or itself be overcome. It alone pos-
sesses the constructive power to impose peace by
the extension of the universal principles of justice
from which it derives its own existence. If it
should prove false to them, its historic mission
must end in failure. It has no quarrel with the
idea of nationality; but the problem of national-
ity, with its serious geographic complications, can
never be solved by any mere barter and sale of
nations or by any process of national vivisection.
Its only solution is in the souls of the people.
Render them free to choose, give them their rights
of unrestrained affiliation, cultural development,
local legislation, federation according to their


native affinities, the assured independence of the
groups thus formed, and just economic advan-
tages, and no serious problems of nationality will

But this involves a reconstruction of the idea of
sovereignty. In its dynastic sense the word must
be eliminated from the vocabulary of international
politics. No ruler should be the possessor of
whole populations merely because he has con-
quered them. For democracies the word sover-
eignty in its absolute sense has no meaning.
What remains of it and all to which constitutional
states can lay claim is merely the right of a free
and independent nation to exist, to legislate for
itself, to defend itself, and to enter into relations
with other similar states on the basis of juristic
equality, under principles of international law
which respect its inherent rights as free constitu-
tions respect the rights of the individual persons
who live under them.

With this high purpose of establishing law and
liberty, young men and old may well gird them-
selves for the conflict. Whoever does so may rest
tranquilly under the gaze of the eternal stars that
shine in the wide firmament over his bivouac at


midnight, and may firmly face the curtain of fire
in the deeper night of beclouded battle, for he will
be in communion with all that is noblest in the
past and all that is greatest in the future. And
if he fall in this struggle, he may close his eyes
with the assurance that his act of sacrifice will
open to him a deeper sense of communion with the
Being that has placed in his keeping for immortal
uses the powers of a mortal life.


VITAL as the principles of democracy are be-
lieved to be to the independence of nations
and the ultimate peace of the world, the United
States of America would never have entered the
Great War for the purpose of imposing a demo-
cratic form of government upon any people.
What makes the present struggle in a real sense a
battle for democracy is the fact that the exposure
of imperial designs has produced a conviction
that if these designs should prove successful, de-
mocracy would ultimately be rendered impossible
anywhere in the world. Confronted by a trium-
phant imperialism, self-governing nations would
be obliged to protect themselves against aggres-
sion by arming themselves to the full extent of
their resources, and to resort to a permanent cen-
tralization of public powers that would divest
them of their democratic character. Even with

the utmost precautions the weaker independent



states, if left to defend themselves unaided, would
eventually be compelled to yield to imperial domi-
nation, thus progressively augmenting the re-
sources of arbitrary power and proportionally
weakening the forces of the independent self-gov-
erning states. If, for example, Central Europe,
as conceived by Naumann, should be consolidated
as the result of the Great War, it would be only a
question of time when not only Belgium, but Hol-
land, Switzerland, the Scandinavian kingdoms,
possibly France itself, and certainly the Balkan
States, would fall under imperial rule. A great
maritime power, such as would then come into
existence, with naval stations on all the sea-coasts
of Europe and acquired colonies, could proceed
to the conquest of the world. If the Imperial
German Government can at present interrupt and
imperil the commerce of the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean, what might be expected of it when
it possessed well-furnished naval stations on the
channel and the Adriatic, not to mention the wider
possibilities ?

It was not, however, the fear of German ex-
pansion in Europe that induced the United States


to abandon its policy of neutrality. So long as
the war was considered as a merely European
conflict of power, it was to be expected, following
the American tradition of non-interference in
European affairs, that the contest would be re-
garded as foreign to the interests of the American
people. But in the course of its progress it came
to be vaguely realized that a struggle so wide-
spread in extent and so far reaching in its conse-
quences must profoundly affect the whole world.
Even a long succession of incredible outrages
upon the citizens of the United States, accom-
panied with almost open interference with its in-
ternal affairs, did not move the American Govern-
ment to abandon the resolution to remain neutral,
nor did it awaken the American people to a full
realization of the peril to which they were ex-
posed. Hundreds of American men, women, and
children, innocently traveling upon the high seas
in the faith that they were under the protection
of laws and customs which all nations had agreed
to respect, were mercilessly slaughtered under the
orders of the Imperial German Government.
Repeated protests were followed by the continued
destruction of non-combatant lives and the sink-


ing of ships without search or warning, in viola-
tion not only of established laws of the seas, but
of the principles embodied in treaties that had
been solemnly entered into and that the Imperial
Government insisted were still binding upon the
United States.

When the American Government finally an-
nounced that unless the Imperial Government was
disposed to conform to the established rules of
international law, diplomatic relations between
the two'countries must cease altogether, a promise
to pursue thenceforth a legal course was made,
but qualified by the demand that the Government
of the United States should serve the purposes of
the Imperial Government with other powers
friendly to the United States. That the restric-
tion placed upon the devastations of submarine
torpedo-boats was intended to be only temporary,
and that these devastations were intended to be
resumed when a sufficient number of boats should
be constructed to become really effective in sup-
pressing American commerce, is now established
in a manner that exposes the utter insincerity of
the Imperial Government in all its professedly
friendly negotiations with the United States.


On January 24, 1917, the Imperial German
Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Herr Zimmermann,
used the following language for publication in
the United States:

In the message which President Wilson addressed to the
Senate (January 22, 1917) the Imperial German Gov-
ernment recognizes with extreme satisfaction the fact that
the aspirations and thoughts of the President continue to
occupy themselves with the question of the restoration of
permanent peace. The exalted moral earnestness in the
words of the President insures them an attentive ear
throughout the world. The Imperial German Government
earnestly hope that the untiring efforts of the President to
restore peace on earth may be crowned with success.

Apparently believing in "the exalted moral
earnestness" of the President of the United States
in his "untiring efforts to restore peace on earth,"
Herr Zimmermann, in the midst of these efforts
for peace, was not only meditating war, but five
days before using these expressions he had com-
municated by secret code through the German
ambassador at Washington the following instruc-
tion to the German Minister in Mexico:

Berlin, Jan. 19, 1917.

On the 1st of February we intend to begin submarine
warfare unrestricted. In spite of this, it is our intention


to endeavor to keep neutral the United States of America.

If this attempt is not successful, we propose an alliance
on the following basis with Mexico. That we shall make
war together and together make peace. We shall give
general financial support, and it is understood that Mexico
is to reconquer the lost territory in New Mexico, Texas,
and Arizona. The details are left to you for settlement.

You are instructed to inform the President of Mexico
of the above in the greatest confidence as soon as it is
certain that there will be an outbreak of war with the
United States, and suggest that the President of Mexico, on
his own initiative, should communicate with Japan sug-
gesting adherence at once to this plan. At the same time,
offer to mediate between Germany and Japan.

Please call to the attention of the President of Mexico
that the employment of ruthless submarine warfare now
promises to compel England to make peace in a few


One week after expressing his hopes that the
President's efforts for peace "would be crowned
with success," on January 31, the Imperial Ger-
man Government formally announced, as was in-
tended before and during this whole period, that
on and after February 1 it would adopt a policy
of ruthlessness in the use of submarines against
all shipping seeking to pass through certain desig-
nated areas of the high seas.


This violation of a previous agreement to ob-
serve the rules of international law, the Imperial
German Government well knew was equivalent
to a declaration of war upon the United States,
made in the midst of "the untiring efforts of the
President to restore peace on earth." It was the
German way of expressing "hopes" that these ef-
forts might "be crowned with success." The
pledge to observe the law had lasted until hun-
dreds of submarine-boats were ready to perform
their task of wrecking the commerce of the world,
as an essential preliminary to "the restoration of
peace on earth"! The intention had long been
kept a secret, which the German proposal of peace
negotiations had aided in concealing. On Janu-
ary 19 the Imperial Foreign Office knew that this
vast flotilla of submarines would be ready by
February 1, and that its mission would impose
measures of war upon all neutral nations; yet
when on February 3 diplomatic relations with the
Imperial German Government were severed by
the United States, Berlin naively professed to be
"astonished" !

Not until April 6, however, when overt acts had
demonstrated the fixed purpose of the Imperial


Government to sink American ships, was the
state of war officially declared to exist.

It was with truth that the President said to the
American people, "The wrongs against which we
are now arraying ourselves are no common
wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life."

It is German violence that, notwithstanding our
peaceable purposes, has made this our war. That
the United States would ultimately be involved
in it was inevitable, for it was conceived and pro-
moted in arrogant contempt of everything for
which the American people stand sponsors. We
have accepted the challenge thrown down to us,
as the President has said, "to vindicate the prin-
ciples of peace and justice in the life of the world
as against selfish and autocratic power, and to set
up among the really free and self-governed peo-
ples of the world such a concert of purpose and of
action as will henceforth insure the observance of
those principles."

It was at last made evident that geographic iso-
lation is no longer a sufficient guarantee of Ameri-
can security, and that it is with a world problem
that we now have to deal. Until this fact was es-
tablished by indisputable evidence, and rendered


undeniable by a prompt confession that saw in
this hypocrisy nothing that called for shame, few
of our citizens could have believed that it would
ever enter into the plans of the Imperial German
Government to propose the dismemberment of the
United States, and that it would even designate
and portion out whole States as the spoils of a
war of conquest to be promoted by German gold
paid to mercenary armies under the command of
German officers, as the forces of the Ottoman Em-
pire are already commanded by them, for the pur-
pose of rendering the will of Germany supreme
through the conquest of Europe and the mastery
of the sea.

Fortunately, this secret purpose was disclosed
in time to lay bare at a critical moment the real
attitude of the Imperial Government toward the
United States, and thus to reveal to the American
people unmistakably the degeneration of the
Prussian official mind. Happily, also, both the
Japanese and the Mexican governments were re-
sentful of the insult offered to them by the infamy
of this proposal. Even the citizens of the United
States whose racial affinities led them at first to


sympathize with the German cause on account of

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Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 12 of 15)