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for yourself and your friends and put as many handicaps on your enemies and rivals as the traffic will bear. Thus you prepare yourself for the competitions and the wars which are certain to ensue. Anything else is what a French royalist paper has called “vnut'rinnus idealism," or what an insubordinate American military politician has described as “verbal massage.”
The Revolution is equally convinced that anything else is highfalutin nonsense. Lenin and his followers in all countries say quite frankly that liberalism is dying and should be exterminated, that the “idealogy" of the Wilsons merely confuses and blurs the issue which is about to be fought out between the old order resting on violence and the new order created by violence. Lenin has no doubts that if ever the choice is narrowed so that the masses must choose between him and the reaction, his own victory is assured. He is quite right. Men will prefer a violent hope to a terrible despair.
The old order which so many of the statesmen at Paris are trying so earnestly to maintain is utterly incapable of creating the security, the well-being and that temper of reconciliation which alone can avert a universal revolution. There is one chance, and a somewhat slim one, that the purposes which Wilson has voiced can, if honestly applied, open an orderly road to revival and freedom. I call it a slim chance, because moral fervor can easily lose itself in a world where needs are stark and scruples few. Many who have supported Mr. Wilson and still support him in all loyalty, know that his ideas have never had the precision and downrightness which characterizes both the Reaction and the Revolution. Those who have said “ We demand this territory” have known just exactly what they wanted, as have those who say “We demand the complete overthrow of existing governments.” But the Wilson movement is an effort to temper the policies of existing governments in order to justify their existence. That is an immensely difficult thing to do, requiring the most persistent education, and the shrewdest use of opportunities. One thinks then of the Committee on Public Information and the American diplomatic service abroad, and of the innumerable occasions when responsible American
officials in Europe derived their notions of American official policy by reading the morning newspapers. I think especially of the discomforting remark made to me by the diplomatic agent of one of the smaller nations shortly before the President arrived in Paris: “If he knows exactly what he wants, he can get it. Does he know? He has an ideal; but has he a program?"
This much is certain. From the day of Am-7 erica's entrance into the war to the day of the armistice, the chance to lead Europe to a liberal reconstruction was completely in the hands of the President. With the end of the war, as my Italian friend remarked, this chance diminished, and the winter in Paris has been spent wrangling over points that could have been settled with marvelous ease at any time during the course of the war. But only those who feed on prejudice, and those who wish to see failure at Paris, can do anything now but pray anxiously that they will still be settled, and that the peace which emerges from the secrecy of Paris will represent the faith that has been proclaimed to all the world.
For permission to reprint the text which follows I am indebted to the New Republic, where it first appeared. An address delivered before the American Academy of Political Science in April, 1917, is included in the Appendix.
W. L. New York City,
March 23, 1919.