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German power inserted into the heart of the world. If she can keep that, she has kept all that her dreams contemplated when the war began. If she can keep that, her power can disturb the world as long as she keeps it, always provided, for I feel bound to put this proviso in, always provided the present influences that control the German Government continue to control it. I believe that the spirit of freedom can get into the hearts of Germans and find as fine a welcome there as it can find in any other hearts, but the spirit of freedom does not suit the plans of the PanGermans.5 Power cannot be used with concentrated force against free peoples if it is used by free people.
You know how many intimations come to us from one of the Central Powers 6 that it is more anxious for peace than the chief Central Power, and you know that it means that the people of that Central Power know that if the war ends as it stands, they will in effect themselves be vassals of Germany, notwithstanding that their populations are compounded of all the peoples of that part of the world, and notwithstanding the fact that they do not wish in their pride and proper spirit of nationality to be so absorbed and dominated. Germany is determined that the political power of the world shall belong to her. There have been such ambitions before. They have been in part realized, but never before have those ambitions been based upon so exact and precise and scientific a plan of domination.
May I not say that it is amazing to me that any group of persons should be so ill-informed as to suppose, as some groups in Russia apparently suppose, that any reforms planned in the interest of the people can live in the presence of a Germany powerful enough to undermine or overthrow them by intrigue or force? Any body of free men that compounds with the present German Government is compounding for its own destruction. But that is not the whole of the story. Any man in America, or anywhere else, who supposes that the free industry and enterprise of the world can continue if the Pan-German plan is achieved and German power fastened upon the world, is as fatuous as the dreamers in Russia. What I am opposed to is not the feeling of the pacifists but their stupidity. My heart is with them, but my mind has a contempt for them. I want peace, but I know how to get it, and they do not.
You will notice that I sent a friend of mine, Colonel House, to Europe, who is as great a lover of peace as any man in the world, but I did not send him on a peace mission. I sent him to take part in a conference as to how the war was to be won. And he knows, as I know, that that is the way to get peace if you want it for more than a few minutes.
All of this is a preface to the conference that I have referred to with regard to what we are going to do. If we are true friends of freedom — our own or anybody else's — we will see that the power of this country, the productivity of this country, is raised to its absolute maximum, and that absolutely nobody is allowed to stand in the way of it. When I say that nobody is allowed to stand in the way, I do not mean that they shall be prevented by the power of the Government but by the power of the American
spirit. Our duty, if we are to do this great thing and show America to be what we believe her to be — the greatest hope and energy of the world — is to stand together night and day until the job is finished.
While we are fighting for freedom we must see, among other things, that labor is free; and that means a number of interesting things. It means not only that we must do what we have declared our purpose to do, see that the conditions of labor are not rendered more onerous by the war, but also that we shall see to it that the instrumentalities by which the conditions of labor are improved are not blocked or checked. That we must do. That has been the matter about which I have taken pleasure in conferring from time to time with your president, Mr. Gompers ;9 and if I may be permitted to do so, I want to express my admiration of his patriotic courage, his large vision, and his statesmanlike sense of what has to be done. I like to lay my mind alongside of a mind that knows how to pull in harness. The horses that kick over the traces will have to be put in corral.
Now, to stand together means that nobody must interrupt the processes of our energy, if the interruption can possibly be avoided without the absolute invasion of freedom. To put it concretely, that means this: Nobody has a right to stop the processes of labor until all the methods of conciliation and settlement have been exhausted. And I might as well say right here that I am not talking to you alone. You sometimes stop the courses of labor, but there are others who do the same, and I believe I am
speaking from my own experience not only, but from the experience of others, when I say that you are reasonable in a larger number of cases than the capitalists. I am not saying these things to them personally yet, because I have not had a chance; but they have to be said, not in any spirit of criticism, but in order to clear the atmosphere and come down to business. Everybody on both sides has now got to transact business, and a settlement is never impossible when both sides want to do the square and right thing.
Moreover a settlement is hard to avoid when the parties can be brought face to face. I can differ from a man much more radically when he is not in the room than I can when he is in the room, because then the awkward thing is, he can come back at me and answer what I say. It is always dangerous for a man to have the floor entirely to himself. Therefore we must insist in every instance that the parties come into each other's presence and there discuss the issues between them and not separately in places which have no communication with each other. I always like to remind myself of a delightful saying of an Englishman of the past generation, Charles Lamb.10 He stuttered a bit, and once when he was with a group of friends he spoke very harshly of some man who was not present. One of the friends said, “Why, Charles, I didn't know that you knew So-andso.” “O-o-oh," he said, “I-I d-d-don't; I-I can't h-h-hate a m-m-man I-I know.” There is a great deal of human nature, of very pleasing human nature, in the saying. It is hard to hate a man you know. I may admit, parenthetically, that there are some politicians whose methods I do not at all believe in, but they are jolly good fellows, and if they only would not talk the wrong kind of politics with me, I should love to be with them.
So it is all along the line, in serious matters and things less serious. We are all of the same clay and spirit and we can get together if we desire to get together. Therefore, my counsel to you is this: Let us show ourselves Americans by showing that we do not want to go off in separate camps or groups by ourselves, but that we want to coöperate with all other classes and all other groups in the common enterprise which is to release the spirits of the world from bondage. I would be willing to set that up as the final test of an American. That is the meaning of democracy. I have been very much distressed, my fellow citizens, by some of the things that have happened recently. The mob spirit is displaying itself here and there in this country. I have no sympathy with what some men are saying, but I have no sympathy with the men who take their punishment into their own hands; and I want to say to every man who does join such a mob that I do not recognize him as worthy of the free institutions of the United States. There are some organizations in this country whose object is anarchy and the destruction of law, but I would not meet their efforts by making myself a partner in destroying the law. I despise and hate their purposes as much as any man, but I would respect the ancient processes of justice; and I would be too proud not to see them done justice, however wrong they are.