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It is a great comfort for one thing to realize that you all understand the language I am speaking. A friend of mine said that to talk through an interpreter was like witnessing the compound fracture of an idea. But the beauty of it is that, whatever the impediments of the channel of communication the idea is the same, that it gets registered, and it gets registered in responsive hearts and receptive purposes.
I have come back for a strenuous attempt to transact business for a little while in America but I have really come back to say to you, in all soberness and honesty, that I have been trying my best to speak your thoughts.
When I sample myself I think I find that I am a typical American, and if I sample deep enough and get down to what is probably the true stuff of a man, then I have hope that it is part of the stuff that is like the other fellow's at home.
And, therefore, probing deep in my heart and trying to see the things that are right without regard to the things that may be debated as expedient, I feel that I am interpreting the purpose and the thought of America; and in loving America I find I have joined the great majority of my fellowmen throughout the world.
Pbesident Wilson's Address At New York On March 4, 1919, in Further Explanation of the League of Nations
Y Fellow Citizens: I accept the intimation of the air just played; I will not come back "till it's over, over there." And yet I pray God, in the interests of peace and of the world, that that may be soon.
The first thing that I am going to tell the people on the other side of the water is that an overwhelming majority of the American people is in favor of the League of Nations. I know that that is true; I have had unmistakable intimations of it from all parts of the country, and the voice rings true in every case. I account myself fortunate to speak here under the unusual circumstances of this evening. I am happy to associate myself with Mr. Taft in this great cause. He has displayed an elevation of view and a devotion to public duty which is beyond praise.
And I am the more happy because this means that this is not a party issue. No party has the right to appropriate this issue, and no party will in the long run dare oppose it.
We have listened to so clear and admirable an exposition of many of the main features of the proposed covenant of the League of Nations that it is perhaps not necessary for me to discuss in any particular way the contents of the document. I will seek rather to give you its setting. I donot know when I have been more impressed than by the conferences of the commission set up by the Conference of Peace to draw up a covenant for the League of Nations. The representatives of fourteen nations sat around that board—not young men, not men inexperienced in the affairs of their own countries, not men inexperienced in the politics of the world; and the inspiring influence of every meeting was the concurrence of purpose on the part of all those men to come to an agreement and an effective working agreement with regard to this League of the civilized world.
There was a conviction in the whole impulse; there was conviction of more than one sort; there was the conviction that this thing ought to be done, and there was also the conviction that not a man there would venture to go home and say that he had not tried to do it.
Mr. Taft has set the picture for you of what a failure of this great purpose would mean. We have been hearing for all these weary months that this agony of war has lasted of the sinister purpose of the Central Empires, and we have made maps of the course that they meant their conquests to take. Where did the lines of that map lie, of that central line that we used to call from Bremen to Bagdad? They lay through these very regions to which Mr. Taft has called your attention, but they lay then through a united empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose integrity Germany was bound to respect, as her ally lay in the path of that line of conquest; the Turkish Empire, whose interests she professed to make her own, lay in the direct path that she intended to tread. And now what has happened? The AustroHungarian Empire has gone to pieces and the Turkish Empire has disappeared, and the nations that effected that great result—for it was a result of liberation—are now responsible as the trustees of the assets of those great nations. You not only would have weak nations lying in this path, but you would have nations in which that old poisonous seed of intrigue could be planted with the certainty that the crop would be abundant; and one of the things that the League of Nations is intended to watch is the course of intrigue. Intrigue cannot stand publicity, and if the League of Nations were nothing but a great debating society it will kill intrigue.
It is one of the agreements of this covenant that it is the friendly right of every nation a member of the League to call attention to anything that it thinks will disturb the peace of the world, no matter where that thing is occurring. There is no subject that may touch the peace of the world which is exempt from inquiry and discussion, and I think everybody here present will agree with me that Germany would never have gone to war if she had permitted the world to discuss the aggression upon Serbia for a single week. The British Foreign Office suggested, it pleaded, that there might be a day or two delay so that the representatives of the nations of Europe could get together and discuss the possibilities of a settlement. Germany did not dare permit a day's discussion. You know what happened. So soon as the world realized that an outlaw was at large, the nations began one by one to draw together against her. We know for a certainty that if Germany had thought for a moment that Great Britain would go in with France and with Russia she never would have undertaken the enterprise, and the League of Nations is meant as a notice to all outlaw nations that not only Great Britain, but the United States and the rest of the world will go in to stop enterprises of that sort. And so the League of Nations is nothing more nor less than the covenant that the world will always maintain the standards which it has now vindicated by some of the most precious blood ever spilled.
The liberated peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and of the Turkish Empire call out to us for this thing. It has not arisen in the council of statesmen. Europe is a bit sick at heart at this very moment, because it sees that statesmen have had no vision, and that the only vision has been the vision of the people. Those who suffer see. Those against whom wrong is wrought know how desirable is the right and the righteous. The nations that have long been under the heel of the Austrian, that have long cowered before the German, that have long suffered the indescribable agonies of being governed by the Turk, have called out to the world, generation after generation, for justice, for liberation, for succor; and no Cabinet in the world has heard them. Private organizations, pitying hearts, philanthropic men and women have poured out their treasure in order to relieve these sufferings; but no nation has said to the nations responsible, "You must stop; this thing is intolerable, and we will not permit it." And the vision has been with the people. My friends, I wish you would reflect upon this proposition; the vision as to what is necessary for great reforms has seldom come from the top in the nations of the world. It has come from the need and the aspiration and the self-assertion of great bodies of men who meant to be free. And I can explain some of the criticisms which have been leveled against this great enterprise only by the supposition that the men who utter the criticisms have never felt the great pulse of the heart of the world.
And I am amazed—not alarmed, but amazed—that there should be in some quarters such a comprehensive ignorance of the state of the world. These gentlemen do not know what the mind of men is just now. Everybody else does. I do not know where they have been closeted, I do not know by what influence they have been blinded; but I do know that they have been separated from the general currents of the thought of mankind.
And I want to utter this solemn warning, not in the way of a threat; the forces of the world do not threaten, they operate. The great tides of the world do not give notice that they are going to rise and run; they rise in their majesty and overwhelming might, and those who stand in the way are overwhelmed. Now the heart of the world is awake, and the heart of the world must be satisfied. Do not let yourselves suppose for a moment that the uneasiness in the populations of Europe is due entirely to economic causes or economic motives; something very much deeper underlies it all than that. They see that their Governments have never