Слике страница

anything else we can do that will supply us the effective means, in the very process of regulation, for bettering the conditions under which the railroads are operated and for making them more useful servants of the country as a whole. It seems to me that it might be the part of wisdom, therefore, before further legislation in this field is attempted, to look at the whole problem of coordination and efficiency in the full light of a fresh assessment of circumstance and opinion, as a guide to dealing with the several parts of it. For what we are seeking now, what in my mind is the single thought of this message, is national efficiency and security. We serve a great nation. We should serve it in the spirit of its peculiar genius. It is the genius of common men for self-government, industry, justice, liberty and peace. We should see to it that it lacks no instrument, no facility or vigor of law, to make it sufficient to play its part with energy, safety, and assured success. In this we are no partisans but heralds and prophets of a new age.

Wilson's Addresses On Middle Western Tour, Urgino

Preparedness For National Defense,

January 27 To February 3, 1916

[editorial Note: Congress had been in session nearly two months without definite accomplishment, and the President undertook this speaking trip to urge citizens to "back him up" in demands for national defense. He confessed his own change of mind since his message to Congress in December, 1&H, and his purpose "to go out and tell my fellow countrymen that new circumstances have arisen which make it absolutely necessary that this country should prepare herself, not for war, but for adequate national defense." He went as far west as Kansas, delivering formal addresses in eight States. As he used the same arguments in several speeches, there has been some condensation in the pages immediately following.]

Before The Railway Business Association, New York City, January 27, 1916.

Mr. Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The question, it seems to me, which most demands clarification just now is the question to which your toastmaster has referred, the question of preparation for national defense. I say that it stands in need of clarification because it has been deeply clouded by passion and prejudice. It is very singular that a question the elements of which are so simple and so obvious should have been so beclouded by the discussion of men of high motive, men of purpose as handsome as any of us may claim and yet apparently incapable of divesting themselves of that sort of provincialism which consists in thinking the contents of their own mind to be the contents of the mind of the world. For, gentlemen, while America is a very great Nation, while America contains every element of fine force and accomplishment, America does not constitute the major part of the world. We live in a world which we did not make, which we can not alter, which we can not think into a different condition from that which actually exists. It would be a hopeless piece of provincialism to suppose that because we think differently from the rest of the world we are at liberty to assume that the rest of the world will permit us to enjoy that thought without disturbance.

It is a surprising circumstance, also, that men should allow partisan feeling or personal ambition to creep into the discussion of this fundamental thing. How can Americans differ about the safety of America? I, for my part, am ambitious that America should do a greater and more difficult thing than the great nations on the other side of the water have done. In all the belligerent countries men without distinction of party have drawn together to accomplish a successful prosecution of the war. Is it not a more difficult and a more desirable thing that all Americans should put partisan prepossessions aside and draw together for the successful prosecution of peace? I covet that distinction for America; and I believe that America is going to enjoy that distinction. Only the other day the leader of the Republican minority in the House of Representatives delivered a speech which showed that he was ready and, I take it for granted, that the men behind him were ready, to forget party lines in order that all men may act with a common mind and impulse for the service of the country; and I want upon this first public occasion to pay my tribute of respect and obligation to him. . . .

Let no man dare to say, if he would speak the truth, that the question of preparation for national defense is a question of war or of peace. If there is one passion more deepseated in the hearts of our fellow countrymen than another, it is the passion for peace. No nation in the world ever more instinctively turned away from the thought of war than this Nation to which we belong. Partly because in the plentitude of its power, in the unrestricted area of its opportunities, it has found nothing to covet in the possession and power of other nations. There is no spirit of aggrandizement in America. There is no desire on the part of any thoughtful and conscientious American man to take one foot of territory from any other nation in the world. I myself share to the bottom of my heart that profound love for peace. I have sought to maintain peace against very great and sometimes very unfair odds. I have had many a time to use every power that was in me to prevent such a catastrophe as war coming upon this country. It is not permissible for any man to say that anxiety for the defense of the Nation has in it the least tinge of desire for a power that can be used to bring on war.

[ocr errors]

But, gentlemen, there is something that the American people love better than they love peace. They love the principles upon which their political life is founded. They are ready at any time to fight for the vindication of their character and of their honor. They will not at any time seek the contest, but they will at no time cravenly avoid it; because if there is one thing that the individual ought to fight for, and that the Nation ought to fight for, it is the integrity of its own convictions. We can not surrender our convictions. I would rather surrender territory than surrender those ideals which are the staff of life of the soul itself. . . .

Perhaps when you learned, as I dare say you did learn beforehand, that I was expecting to address you on the subject of preparedness, you recalled the address which I made to Congress something more than a year ago, in which I said that this question of military preparedness was not a pressing question. But more than a year has gone by since then and I would be ashamed if I had not learned something in fourteen months. The minute I stop changing my mind with the change of all the circumstances of the world, I will be a back number.

There is another thing about which I have changed my mind. A year ago I was not in favor of a tariff board, and I will tell you why. Then the only purpose of a tariff board was to keep alive an unprofitable controversy. If you set up any board of inquiry whose purpose it is to keep business disturbed and to make it always an open question what you are going to do about the public policy of the Government, I am opposed to it; and the very men who were dinning it into our ears that what business wanted was to be let alone were, many of them, men who were insisting that we should stir up a controversy which meant that we could not let business alone. There is a great deal more opinion vocal in this world than is consistent with logic. But the circumstances of the present time are these: There is going on in the world under our eyes an economic revolution. No man understands that revolution; no man has the elements of it clearly in his mind. No part of the business of legislation with regard to international trade can be undertaken until we do understand it; and members of Congress are too busy, their duties are too multifarious and distracting to make it possible within a sufficiently short space of time for them to master the change that is coming. . . .

What I am trying to impress upon you now is that the circumstances of the world to-day are not what they were yesterday, or ever were in any of our yesterdays. And it is not certain what they will be to-morrow. I can not tell you what the international relations of this country will be to-morrow, and I use the word literally; and I would not dare keep silent and let the country suppose that to-morrow was certain to be as bright as to-day. America will never be the aggressor, America will always seek to the last point at which her honor is involved to avoid the things which disturb the peace of the world; but America does not control the circumstances of the world, and we must be sure that we are faithful servants of those things which we love, and are ready to defend them against every contingency that may affect or impair them.

And, as I was saying a moment ago, we must seek the means which are consistent with the principles of our lives. It goes without saying, though apparently it is necessary to say it to some excited persons, that one thing that this country never will endure is a system that can be called militarism. But militarism consists in this, gentlemen: It consists in preparing a great machine whose only use is for war and giving it no use upon which to expend itself. Men who are in charge of edged tools and bidden to prepare them for exact and scientific use grow very impatient if they are not permitted to use them, and I do not believe that the creation of such an instrument is an insurance of peace. I believe that it involves the danger of all the impulses that

[ocr errors]
« ПретходнаНастави »