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Gulflight and the Falaba and the Persia and the Arabic and the Sussex and the Lusitania had been torpedoed without warning in contempt of law and of humanity, when the German embassy at Washington had been found to be the headquarters of a vast conspiracy of corruption within our country inciting sedition and concealing infernal machines in the cargoes of our ships and blowing up our factories with the workmen laboring in them, and when the government of Germany had been discovered attempting to incite Mexico and Japan to form a league with her to attack us and to bring about a dismemberment of our territory, then the question presented to the American people was not what shall be done regarding each of these specific aggressions taken by itself, but what shall be done by America to defend her commerce, her territory, her citizens, her independence, her liberty, her life as a nation against the continuance of assaults already begun by that mighty and conscienceless power which had swept aside every restraint and every principle of Christian civilization and was seeking to force upon a subjugated world the dark and cruel rule of a barbarous past.

The question was how shall peaceful and unprepared and liberty loving America save herself from subjection to the military power of Germany. There was but one possible answer. There was but one chance for rescue and that was to act at once while the other democracies of the world were still maintaining their liberty against the oppressor, to prepare at once while the armies and the navies of England and France and Italy and Russia and Roumania were holding down Germany so that she could not attack us while our preparation was but half accomplished, to strike while there were allies loving freedom like ourselves to strike with us, to do our share to prevent the German kaiser from acquiring that domination over the world which would have left us without friends to aid us, without preparation, and without the possibility of successful defense.

The instinct of the American democracy which led it to act when it did arose from a long delayed and reluctant consciousness still vague and half expressed, that this is no ordinary war which the world is waging. It is no contest for petty policies and profits. It is a mighty and all-embracing struggle between two conflicting principles of human right and human duty.

It is a conflict between the divine right of kings to govern mankind through armies and nobles and the right of the peoples of the earth to toil and endure and aspire to govern themselves by law in the freedom of individual manhood. It is the climax of the supreme struggle between autocracy and democracy. No nation can stand aside and be free from its effects. The two systems cannot endure together in the same world.

If autocracy triumphs, military power lustful of dominion, supreme in strength, intolerant of human rights, holding itself superior to law, to morals, to faith, to compassion, will crush out the free democracies of the world. If autocracy is defeated and nations are compelled to recognize the rules of law and of morals, then and then only will democracy be safe.

To this great conflict for human rights and human liberty America has committed herself. There can be no backward step. There must be either humiliating and degrading submission or terrible defeat or glorious victory. It was no human will that brought us to this pass. It was not the President. It was not Congress. It was not the press. It was not any political party. It was not any section or part of our people.

It was that in the providence of God the mighty forces that determine the destinies of mankind beyond the control of human purpose have brought to us the time, the occasion, the necessity, that this peaceful people so long enjoying the blessings of liberty and justice for which their fathers fought and sacrificed shall again gird themselves for conflict, and with all the forces of manhood nurtured and strengthened by liberty offer again the sacrifice of possessions and of life itself, that this nation may still be free, that the mission of American democracy shall not have failed, that the world shall be free.


Woodrow Wilson

[address Before The American Federation Of labor Delivered At Buffalo, New York, Nov. 12, 1917]

I esteem it a great privilege and a real honor to be thus admitted to your public councils. When your executive committee paid me the compliment of inviting me here I gladly accepted the invitation because it seems to me that this above all other times in our history is the time for common counsel, for the drawing not only of the energies but of the minds of the Dation together.

I thought that it was a welcome opportunity for disclosing to you some of the thoughts that have been gathering in my mind during the last momentous months.

I am introduced to you as the president of the United States, and yet I would be pleased if you would put the thought of the office into the background and regard me as one of your fellow citizens who has come here to speak not the words of authority but the words of counsel, the words which men should speak to one another who wish to be frank in a moment more critical perhaps than the history of the world has ever yet known, a moment when it is every man's duty to forget himself, to forget his own interests, to fill himself with the nobility of a great national and


world conception and act upon a new platform elevated above the ordinary affairs of life, elevated to where men have views of the long destiny of mankind.

I think that in order to realize just what this moment of counsel is, it is very desirable that we should remind ourselves just how this war came about and just what it is for. You can explain most wars very simply, but the explanation of this is not so simple. Its roots run deep into all the obscure soils of history, and in my view this is the last decisive issue between the old principles of power and the new principles of freedom.

The war was started by Germany. Her authorities deny that they started it. But I am willing to let the statement I have just made await the verdict of history. And the thing that needs to be explained is why Germany started the war.

Remember what the position of Germany in the world was—as enviable a position as any nation has ever occupied. The whole world stood at admiration of her wonderful intellectual and material achievements, and all the intellectual men of the world went to school to her. As a university man I have been surrounded by men trained in Germany, men who had resorted to Germany because nowhere else could they get such thorough and searching training, particularly in the principles of science and the principles that underlie modern material achievements.

Her men of science had made her industries perhaps the most competent industries in the world, and

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