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know the great ends which God, in His mysterious providence, wrought through our instrumentality, because at the heart of the men of the North and of the South there was the same love of self-government and of liberty, and now we are to be an instrument in the hands of God to see that liberty is made secure for mankind. . . .
As I came along the streets a few minutes ago my heart was full of the thought that this is Registration Day. Will you not support me in feeling that there is some significance in this coincidence, that this day, when I come to welcome you to the national capital, is a day when men young as you were in those old days, when you gathered together to fight, are now registering their names as evidence of this great idea, that in a democracy the duty to serve and the privilege to serve falls upon all alike? There is something very fine, my fellow-citizens, in the spirit of the volunteer, but deeper than the volunteer spirit is the spirit of obligation. There is not a man of us who must not hold himself ready to be summoned to the duty of supporting the great Government under which we live. No really thoughtful and patriotic man is jealous of that obligation. No man who really understands the privilege and the dignity of being an American citizen quarrels for a moment with the idea that the Congress of the United States has the right to call upon whom it will to serve the nation. These solemn lines of young men going to-day all over the Union to places of registration ought to be a signal to the world, to those who dare flout the dignity and honor and rights of the United States, that all her manhood will flock to that standard under which we all delight to serve, and that he who challenges the rights and principles of the United States challenges the united strength and devotion of a nation.
There are not many things that one desires about war, my fellow-citizens, but you have come through war, you know how you have been chastened by it, and there comes a time when it is good for a nation to know that it must sacrifice if need be everything that it has to vindicate the principles which it professes. We have prospered with a sort of heedless and irresponsible prosperity. Now we are going to lay all our wealth, if necessary, and spend all our blood, if need be, to show that we were not accumulating that wealth selfishly, but were accumulating it for the service of mankind. Men all over the world have thought of the United States as a trading and money-getting people, whereas we who have lived at home kndw the ideals with which the hearts of this people have thrilled; we know the sober convictions which have lain at the basis of our life all the time, and we know the power and devotion which can be spent in heroic ways for the service of those ideals that we have treasured. We have been allowed to become strong in the Providence of God that our strength might be used to prove, not our selfishness, but our greatness, and if there is any ground for thankfulness in a day like this, I am thankful for the privilege of self-sacrifice, which is the only privilege that lends dignity to the human spirit. . . .
Wilson's Flao Day Address
Washington, D. C, June 14, 1917.
[editorial Note: As a piece of literary composition and of lofty conception, this speech has been held to take rank with the President's peace address to the Senate on January 22 and his war message to Congress on April 2.]
My Fellow Citizens:
We meet to celebrate Flag Day because this flag which we honor and under which we serve is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us—speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us and of the records they wrote upon it. We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people. We are about to carry it into battle, to lift it where it will draw the fire of our enemies. We are about to bid thousands, hundreds of thousands, it may be millions, of our men, the young, the strong, the capable men of the nation, to go forth and die beneath it on fields of blood far away—for what? For some unaccustomed thing ? For something for which it has never sought the fire before? American armies were never before sent across the-seas. Why are they sent now? For some new purpose, for which this great flag has never been carried before, or for some old, familiar, heroic purpose for which it has seen men, its own men, die on every battlefield upon which Americans have borne arms since the Revolution?
These are questions which must be answered. We are Americans. We in our turn serve America, and can serve her with no private purpose. We must use her flag as she bas always used it. We are accountable at the bar of history and must plead in utter frankness what purpose it is we seek to serve.
It is plain enough how we were forced into the war. The extraordinary insults and aggressions of the Imperial German Government left us no self-respecting choice but to take up arms in defense of our rights as a free people and of our honor as a sovereign government. The military masters of Germany denied us the right to be neutral. They filled our unsuspecting communities with vicious spies and conspirators and sought to corrupt the opinion of our people in their own behalf. When they found that they could not do that, their agents diligently spread sedition amongst us and sought to draw our own citizens from their allegiance— and some of those agents were men connected with the official Embassy of the German Government itself here in our own capital. They sought by violence to destroy our industries and arrest our commerce. They tried to incite Mexico to take up arms against us and to draw Japan into a hostile alliance with her—and that, not by indirection, but by direct suggestion from the Foreign Office in Berlin. They impudently denied us the use of the high seas and repeatedly executed their threat that they would send to their death any of our people who ventured to approach the coasts of Europe. And many of our own people were corrupted. Men began to look upon their own neighbors with suspicion and to wonder in their hot resentment and surprise whether there was any community in which hostile intrigue did not lurk. What great nation in such circumstances would not have taken up arms? Much as we had desired peace, it was denied us, and not of our own choice. This flag under which we serve would have been dishonored had we withheld our hand.
But that is only part of the story. We know now as clearly as we knew before we were ourselves engaged that we are not the enemies of the German people and that they are not our enemies. They did not originate or desire this hideous war or wish that we should be drawn into it; and we are vaguely conscious that we arc fighting their cause, as they will some day see it, as well as our own. They are themselves in the grip of the same sinister power that has now at last stretched its ugly talons out and drawn blood from us. The whole world is at war because the whole world is in the grip of that power and is trying out the great battle which shall determine whether it is to be brought under its mastery or fling itself free.
The war was begun by the military masters of Germany, who proved to be also the masters of Austria Hungary. These men have never regarded nations as peoples, men, women, and children of like blood and frame as themselves, for whom governments existed and in whom governments had their life. They have regarded them merely as serviceable organizations which they could by force or intrigue bend or corrupt to their own purpose. They have regarded the smaller states, in particular, and the peoples who could be overwhelmed by force, as their natural tools and instruments of domination. Their purpose has long been avowed. The statesmen of other nations, to whom that purpose was incredible, paid little attention; regarded what German professors expounded in their classrooms and German writers set forth to the world ac the goal of German policy as rather the dream of minds detached from practical affairs, as preposterous private conceptions of German destiny, than as the actual plans of sv.ponsible rulers; but the rulers of Germany themselves knew all the while what concrete plans, what well advanced intrigues lay back of what the professors and the writers vere saying, and were glad to go forward unmolested, filling the thrones of Balkan states with German princes, putting German officers at the service of Turkey to drill her armies an<! make interest with her government, developing plans of sedition and rebellion in India and Egypt, setting their fires in Persia. The demands made by Austria upon Servia were a mere single step in a plan which compassed Europe and Asia, from Berlin to Bagdad. They hoped those demands might not arouse Europe, but they meant to press them whether they did or not, for they thought themselves ready for the final issue of arms.
Their plan was to throw a broad belt of German military power and political control across the very center of Europe and beyond the Mediterranean into the heart of Asia; and Austria-Hungary was to be as much their tool and pawn as Servia or Bulgaria or Turkey or the ponderous states of the East. Austria-Hungary, indeed, was to become part of the central German Empire, absorbed and