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more conscious than it ever was before of the majority of right. People that were suspicious of one another can now live as friends and comrades in a single family, and desire to do so. The miasma of distrust, of intrigue, is cleared away. Men are looking eye to eye and saying, 'We are brothers and have a common purpose. We did not realize it before, but now we do realize it, and this is our covenant of friendship.'"
President Wilson's Address At Boston
On February 24, 1919, on the Subject of the Constitution of the League of Nations
GOVERNOR COOLIDGE, Mr. Mayor, Fellow Citizens: I wonder if you are half as glad to see me as I am to see you. It warms my heart to see a great body of my fellow citizens again, because in some respect during the recent months I have been very lonely indeed without your comradeship and counsel, and I tried at every step of the work which fell to me to recall what I was sure would be your counsel with regard to the great matters which were under consideration.
I do not want you to think that I have not been appreciative of the extraordinarily generous reception which was given to me on the other side. In saying that it makes me very happy to get home again I do not mean to say that I was not very deeply touched by the cries that came from the great crowds on the other side. But I want to say to you in all honesty that I felt them to be a call of greeting to you rather than to me.
I did not feel that the greeting was personal. I had in my heart the overcrowning pride of being your representative and of receiving the plaudits of men everywhere who felt that your hearts beat with theirs in the cause of liberty. There was no mistaking the tone in the voices of those great crowds. It was not a tone of mere greeting; it was not a tone of mere generous welcome; it was the calling of comrade to comrade, the cries that come from men who say, "We have waited for this day when the friends of liberty should come across the sea and shake hands with us, to see that a new world was constructed upon a new basis and foundation of justice and right."
I can't tell you the inspiration that came from the sentiments that came out of those simple voices of the crowd, and the proudest thing I have to report to you is that this great country of ours is trusted throughout the world.
I have not come to report the proceedings or the results of the proceedings of the Peace Conference; that would be premature. I can say that I have received very happy impressions from this conference; the impression that while there are many differences of judgment, while there are some divergencies of object, there is nevertheless a common spirit and a common realization of the necessity of setting up new standards of right in the world.
Because the men who are in conference in Paris realize as keenly as any American can realize that they are not the masters of their people; that they are the servants of their people and that the spirit of their people has awakened to a new purpose and a new conception of their power to realize that purpose, and that no man dare go home from that conference and report anything less noble than was expected of it.
The conference seems to you to go slowly; from day to day in Paris it seems to go slowly; but I wonder if you realize the complexity of the task which it has undertaken. It seems as if the settlements of this war affect, and affect directly, every great, and I sometimes think every small, nation in the world, and no one decision can prudently be made which is not properly linked in with the great series of other decisions which must accompany it, and it must be reckoned in with the final result if the real quality and character of that result is to be properly judged.
What we are doing is to hear the whole case; hear it from the mouths of the men most interested; hear it from those who are officially commissioned to state it; hear the rival claims; hear the claims that affect new nationalities, that affect new areas of the world, that affect new commercial and economic connections that have been established by the great world war through which we have gone. And I have been struck by the moderateness of those who have represented national claims.
I can testify that I have nowhere seen the gleam of passion. I have seen earnestness, I have seen tears come to the eyes of men who plead for downtrodden people whom they were privileged to speak for; but they were not the tears of anguish, they were the tears of ardent hope.
And I don't see how any man can fail to have been subdued by these pleas, subdued to this feeling, that he was not there to assert an individual judgment of his own but to try to assist the case of humanity.
And in the midst of it all every interest seeks out first of all, when it reaches Paris, the representatives of the United States. Why? Because, and I think I am stating the most wonderful fact in history—because there is no nation in Europe that suspects the motives of the United States.
Was there ever so wonderful a thing seen before? Was there ever so moving a thing? Was there ever any fact that so bound the nation that had won that esteem forever to deserve it?
I would not have you understand that the great men who represent the other nations there in conference are disesteemed by those who know them. Quite the contrary. But you understand that the nations of Europe have again and again clashed with one another in competitive interest. It is impossible for men to forget those sharp issues that were drawn between them in times past.
It is impossible for men to believe that all ambitions have all of a sudden been foregone. They remember territory that was coveted; they remember rights that it was attempted to extort; they remember political ambitions which it was attempted to realize, and, while they believe that men have come into a different temper they cannot forget these things, and so they do not resort to one another for a dispassionate view of the matters in controversy. They resort to that nation which has won the enviable distinction of being regarded as the friend of mankind.
Whenever it is desired to send a small force of soldiers to occupy a piece of territory where it is thought nobody else will be welcome they ask for American soldiers, and where other soldiers would be looked upon with suspicion and perhaps met with resistance the American soldier is welcomed with acclaim.
I have had so many grounds for pride on the other side of the water that I am very thankful that they are not grounds for personal pride, but for national pride. If they were grounds for personal pride I'd be the most stuck up man in the world, and it has been an infinite pleasure to me to see those gallant soldiers of ours, of whom the Constitution of the United States made me the proud commander.
You may be proud of the Twenty-sixth Division, but I commanded the Twenty-sixth Division, and see what they did under my direction, and everybody praises the American soldier with the feeling that in praising him he is subtracting from the credit of no one else.
I have been searching for the fundamental fact that converted Europe to believe in us. Before this war Europe did not believe in us as she does now. She did not believe in us throughout the first three years of the war. She seems really to have believed that we were holding off because we thought we could make more by staying out than by going in. And all of a sudden, in a short eighteen months, the whole verdict is reversed.
There can be but one explanation for it. They saw what we did—that without making a single claim we put all our men and all our means at the disposal of those who were fighting for their homes, in the first instance, but for a cause, the cause of human rights and justice, and that we went in not to support their national claims but to support the great cause which they held in common.