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her history; offering up the blood of her children to save her honor. And England, unshakable as we were, because her signature was on a treaty and she would not betray her faith, she also rose with us.
But in the early days of the campaign we, the children of France, almost alone bore the onset of the avalanche. We do not pretend not to have yielded physically for a short space — Yes, ever fighting, struggling against overwhelming odds, scattering the corpses of our sons on the roads, we retreated along. We retreated tactically until the day when, under my Premiership, the Marshal, who was then a General only, warned us, as early as the 23rd of August, that his battle plan was fixed, and that he had communicated it to his Generals; until the 4th of September (and by one of those happy coincidences of history that date the birthday of the Third Republic) when our troops received the order to march forward, to march forward against the enemy, the invaders of our territory.
And then our poor soldiers, worn out by twenty consecutive days and nights of fighting, exhausted, without sleep, without proper food, after fighting day and night for all that period, answered the call of their chief. They rallied to his call and with smiling lips and radiant eyes along
the fighting line, to the sound of the drum and clarion, marched against the enemy. And in the space of a few days fifty kilometers of French territory were freed.
And do you know why the soldiers of the Marne fought as they did? It is because they were the soldiers of a democratic army, in which the most capable man can climb to the top, in which the highest officers are the friends and comrades of their soldiers. And if they fought thus it was, let me tell you, because all the history of France was behind them, and was familiar to them, because they were the descendants of the soldiers of Valmy who under the French Revolution had already saved France and the liberty of the world; because they were also the descendants of Charles Martel's soldiers who in the Plains of Poitiers stayed the avalanche of the Barbarians, and thus fulfilled the historic mission of France.
Doubtless, like ourselves, you entered this war under the sting of German insults, in order that the honor of the nation formed by Washington should suffer no humiliation, in order to avenge your dead and dying, the children and the women murdered on the desolate, bleak, high seas, at night, in winter, by the criminal hands of those we are fighting against together. You went into this war for that. But not for that alone.
Was it possible for you to see through the immense distances that separate us the frightful spectacle which unchained Europe shows; possible to see all the blood spilt; so many martyrs falling in a sacred cause; possible to count the thousands of dead, wounded, and sick; possible to count the mourning women, whose pride and sorrow are hidden under their black veils; possible to count one by one all our orphans; possible to contemplate such sights without deep emotion and a revolt of your souls; possible to see the Marne, the Ypres, the Somme, Verdun, where a fraction of the French Army held back a million men; and see, from far away, the lightnings of the tremendous battle rise above the immortal city to form the luminous beacon-light which illuminates the whole world; was it possible, I say, to see all this and not feel your hearts thrill and burn? No; it was not possible. And for months past I have been saying to myself that it was not possible.
When French democracy, which made the French Revolution, which gave directing thoughts to all Europe, which long ago sent its flags, its generals and its soldiers to fight for independence; when that democracy was struggling for its life, could you stand aloof? No; that was the one thing impossible.
Come to us, then: come as brothers to the
fight we are fighting for right and truth and justice. But remember well that out of this war must come the great lesson it holds. I have already said it is an empty and deadly dream for democracies to imagine they can live under purely ideal conditions and that they are threatened by no evil or perverse powers.
If the democracies do not arm themselves for their defense; if they do not possess free men ready to seize the sword, not for conquest, but for the defense of their native land; sooner or later the imperial eagle will swoop down on them at an hour when it will be too late to organize resistance.
Consider our example. We are a people of forty millions of men. What are forty millions in comparison with the one hundred millions of the American people? But we were organized; but we had a national force; but we had officers, generals; but we had a chief; all was ready, so far at least as any democracy can be ready; and notwithstanding, by a fatality, for some days it seemed as if we might be annihilated.
Therefore, let democracies arm in their own defense so long as in the wide world there remains a threatening autocracy. But it shall not long threaten. It is not to be believed that with all our coalized forces we cannot crush an autocracy at which we have in these last years struck such powerful blows; it is not possible that the abso