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David Lloyd George

[address Delivered At The American Club In London,

APRIL 12, 1917.]

I am in the happy position of being, I think, the first British Minister of the Crown who, speaking on behalf of the people of this country, can salute the American Nation as comrades in arms. I am glad; I am proud. I am glad not merely because of the stupendous resources which this great nation will bring to the succor of the alliance, but I rejoice as a democrat that the advent of the United States into this war gives the final stamp and seal to the character of the conflict as a struggle against military autocracy throughout the world.

That was the note that ran through the great deliverance of President Wilson.1 It was echoed, Sir, in your resounding words today. The United States of America have the noble tradition, never broken, of having never engaged in war except for liberty. And this is the greatest struggle for liberty that they have ever embarked upon. I am not at all surprised, when one recalls the wars of the past, that America took its time to make up its mind about the character of this struggle. In Europe most of the great wars of the past were waged for dynastic aggrandizement and conquest. No wonder when this great war started that there were some elements of suspicion still lurking in the minds of the people of the United States of America. There were those who thought perhaps that Kings were at their old tricks—and although they saw the gallant Republic of France fighting, they some of them perhaps regarded it as the poor victim of a conspiracy of monarchial swashbucklers. The fact that the United States of America has made up its mind finally makes it abundantly clear to the world that this is no struggle of that character, but a great fight for human liberty.


They naturally did not know at first what we had endured in Europe for years from this military caste in Prussia. It never has reached the United States of America. Prussia was not a democracy. The Kaiser promises that it will be a democracy after the war. I think he is right. But Prussia not merely was not a democracy. Prussia was not a State; Prussia was an army. It had great industries that had been highly developed; a great educational system; it had its universities, it had developed its science.

All these were subordinate to the one great predominant purpose, the purpose of all—a conquering army which was to intimidate the world. The army was the spear-point of Prussia; the rest was merely the haft. That was what we had to deal with in these old countries. It got on the nerves of Europe. They knew what it all meant. It was an army that in recent times had waged three wars,2 all of conquest, and the unceasing tramp of its legions through the streets of Prussia, on the parade grounds of Prussia, had got into the Prussian head. The Kaiser, when he witnessed on a grand scale his reviews, got drunk with the sound of it.3 He delivered the law to the world as if Potsdam was another Sinai, and he was uttering the law from the thunder clouds.

But make no mistake. Europe was uneasy. Europe was half intimidated. Europe was anxious. Europe was apprehensive. We knew the whole time what it meant. What we did not know was the moment it would come.

This is the menace, this is the apprehension from which Europe has suffered for over fifty years.* It paralyzed the beneficent activity of all States, which ought to be devoted to concentrating on the well-being of their peoples. They had to think about this menace, which was there constantly as a cloud ready to burst over the land. No one can tell except Frenchmen what they endured from this tyranny, patiently, gallantly, with dignity, till the hour of deliverance came.' The best energies of domestic science had been devoted to defending itself against the impending blow. France was like a nation which put up its right arm to ward off a blow, and could not give the whole of her strength to the great things which she was capable of. That great, bold, imaginative, fertile mind, which would otherwise have been clearing new paths for progress, was paralyzed.

That is the state of things we had to encounter. The most characteristic of Prussian institutions is the Hindenberg line. What is the Hindenburg line? The Hindenburg line is a line drawn in the territories of other people, with a warning that the inhabitants of those territories shall not cross it at the peril of their lives. That line has been drawn in Europe for fifty years.

You recollect what happened some years ago in France, when the French Foreign Minister8 was practically driven out of office by Prussian interference. Why? What had he done? He had done nothing which a Minister of an independent State had not the most absolute right to do. He had crossed the imaginary line drawn in French territory by Prussian despotism, and he had to leave. Europe, after enduring this for generations, made up its mind at last that the Hindenburg line must be drawn along the legitimate frontiers of Germany herself. There could be no other attitude than that for the emancipation of Europe and the world.

It was hard at first for the people of America quite to appreciate that Germany had not interfered to the same extent with their freedom, if at all. But at last they endured the same experience as Europe had been subjected to. Americans were told that they were not to be allowed to cross and recross the Atlantic except at their peril. American ships were sunk without warning. American citizens were drowned, hardly with an apology—in fact, as a matter of German right. At first America could hardly believe it. They could not think it possible that any sane people should behave in that manner. And they tolerated it once, and they tolerated it twice, until it became clear that the Germans really meant it. Then America acted, and acted promptly.

The Hindenburg line was drawn along the shores of America, and the Americans were told they must not cross it. America said, "What is this?" Germany said, "This is our line, beyond which you must not go," and America said, ''The place for that line is not the Atlantic, but on the Rhine—and we mean to help you roll it up."

There are two great facts which clinch the argument that this is a great struggle for freedom. The first is the fact that America has come in. She would not have come in otherwise. The second is the Russian revolution. When France in the eighteenth century sent her soldiers to America to fight for the freedom and independence of that land, France also was an autocracy in those days. But Frenchmen in America, once they were there—their aim was freedom, their atmosphere was freedom, their inspiration was freedom. They acquired a taste for freedom, and they took it home, and France became free. That is the story of Russia. Russia engaged in this great war for the freedom of Serbia, of Montenegro, of Bulgaria, and has fought for the freedom of Europe. They wanted to make their own country free, and they have done it. The Russian revolution is not merely the outcome of the struggle for freedom. It is a proof of the character of the struggle for liberty, and if the Russian people realize, as there is every evidence they are doing, that national discipline is not incompatible with national freedom—nay, that national discipline is essential to the security of national freedom—they will, indeed, become a free people.

I have been asking myself the question, Why did Germany, deliberately, in the third year of the war, provoke America to this declaration and to this action—deliberately, resolutely? It has been suggested that the reason was that there were certain elements in American life, and they were under the impression that they would make it impossible for the United States to declare war. That I can hardly believe. But the answer has been afforded by Marshal von Hindenburg himself, in the very remarkable interview which appeared in the press, I think, only this morning.

He depended clearly on one of two things. First, that the submarine campaign would have destroyed international shipping to such an extent that England would have been put out of business before America was ready. According to his computation, America cannot be ready for twelve months. He does not know America. In the alternative, that when America is ready, at the end of twelve months, with her army, she will have no ships to transport that army to the field of battle. In von Hindenburg's words, "America carries no weight," I suppose he means she has no ships to carry weight. On that, undoubtedly, they are reckoning.

Well, it is not wise always to assume that even when the German General Staff, which has miscalculated so often, makes a calculation it has no ground for it. It therefore behooves the whole of the Allies, Great Britain and America in particular, to see that that reckoning of von Hindenburg is as false as the one he made about his famous line, which we have broken already.

The road to victory, the guarantee of victory, the absolute assurance of victory is to be found in one word—ships; and a second word—ships; and a third word—ships. And with that quickness of apprehension which characterizes your nation, Mr. Chairman, I see that they fully realize that, and today I observe that they have already made arrangements to build one thousand 3000-tonners for the Atlantic. I think that the German military advisers must already begin to realize that this is another of the tragic miscalculations which are going to lead them to disaster and to ruin. But you will pardon me for emphasizing that. We are a slow

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