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RIGHT ABOVE RACE
OTTO H. KAHN
"We will not permit the blood in our veins to drown the conscience in our breast. We will heed the call of honour beyond the call of race."
Hodder and Stoughton London New York Toronto MCMXVIII
This is one of the best books that has appeared about the war. It shows conclusively why the United States must put this war through to a finish, and why every good American and every believer in liberty and civilization must be heart and soul against Germany. The fact that Mr. Kahn himself is of German origin emphasizes the contention which every good American should make, namely, that the Americans who are in whole or in part of German blood should eagerly take the front places in this war for Americanism against the attempt of the Prussianized Germany of the Hohenzollerns to establish a world tyranny.
Not only is the book an admirable plea for Americanism and for putting the war through, but it is also a no less admirable plea for treating our internal affairs on the basis of common sense and high idealism. I should like to see the book circulated throughout the United States as a tract on Sound Americanism. The last two chapters, on "Frenzied Liberty" and "The Myth of a 'Rich Man's War,'" should be called to the especial attention of the persons who, not daring to be openly treasonable, try to serve Germany by advancing the cause of Bolshevism in this country, and by downright and shameless perversion of the truth as to the part played by the men of means in this war. The chapter on "Frenzied Liberty" is an acute and fearless exposition of the damage done to liberty by the men here who are trying to play the part of the Russian Bolshevists, by upsetting order and civilization in this country. One of the most remarkable, and also one of the most sinister, of Germany's extraordinary successes has been the way she has used the forces of disorder in other countries to paralyze the cause of liberty. She herself is the embodiment of order imposed by an iron militaristic autocracy from above on the people beneath. She is the embodiment of that species of order which is the antithesis of liberty. She personifies it now exactly as the Russian Czars did in the middle of the last century, only with infinitely greater efficiency. But her feeling even for order is conditioned by her unyielding determination that the Germans shall lord over and shall exploit the rest of the world.
In itself this feeling of intense nationalism is a fine thing, and we would admire it if it had not been perverted into an assault on all the rest of mankind, and especially on liberty-loving civilized mankind. There is in Germany an immense sense of solidarity, which makes the German Socialist, the German middle-class capitalist, and the German junker work side by side with enthusiasm for the subjugation and exploitation of all the Allied countries. The Socialists have cynically announced that their job is to encourage pacifism in other countries, and thereby to lessen the resistance of these countries to German militarism. The Socialists have worked for the conquest of other countries in the interest of German capitalism, because they feel they will get some share in the profit, and because they have been schooled, in common with the rest of their country, to a brutal cynicism concerning the wrongs and sufferings of other countries, so long as Germans profit by them. In consequence the German Government, aided by the German Socialists, has encouraged in every way the forces of disorder in every hostile country—the Socialists in France, the "independent" Labour men in England, the Bolshevists in Russia, the Sinn Feiners in Ireland, the Reds in Finland, and the most fanatical murderers of Christians in Turkey. It is for this reason that Germany tries to use the I.W.W. in the United States, and plays on the foolish American politicians who have believed that the Russian Bolshevists would be able to infect Germany with their revolt, or who have believed that they by fine words could arouse the spirit of German revolt and separate the German people from the German Government—a thing which can only be done by the breakdown of Germany's military strength.
Germany has no fears as to her own ability to suppress disorder. The minute she conquers a Russian province she puts down disorder with an iron hand. But in the Ukraine, in Great Russia and in Finland she encourages the party of the Reds, she encourages the Bolshevists; and the poor, ignorant, gullible peasants follow the lead of the men, however criminal—sometimes rather more lunatic than criminal—who would throw them under Germany's feet. The American Bolshevists would tear America to pieces, exactly as Russia has been torn.
Mr. Kahn's words of warning against them have a special value, because he is as far as the poles from those foolish Bourbons in our political and industrial life who, by their persistence in a course of mere stupid inertia and inaction, would invite the very revolutionary movements they dread. Mr. Kahn has his face set toward the light. He realizes the change that must come in industry and in farm life in all countries. He is anxious to join in every effort, no matter how radical—provided only it is a sane effort, offering reasonable chance of success—for securing better conditions for the wage worker and the farmer in this country. He realizes that failure to strive in a serious and efficient manner for this end is to play into the hands of the Bolshevists; and he also realizes that the Bolshevists are, in the last resort, the very worst enemies of every effort to make social and industrial conditions better for the wage worker and soil toiler, because Bolshevism would invite the most violent reaction. As for the "Myth of a Rich Man's War," Mr. Kahn shows conclusively that in no other country has the wealthy class been forced to bear as great a part of the burden in this war as here in the United States.
As a matter of fact, the whole talk of "profiteering" as an element in bringing on or supporting the war is due either to folly or else to deliberate pacifist and pro-German propaganda. There was an immense amount of profiteering in this country during the two and a half years of our ignoble neutrality between right and wrong. The pacifists and pro-Germans played the game of the profiteers, and worked hand in hand with them to keep this country at peace, and therefore to continue the opportunity for profiteering. Ninety per cent. of the profiteering stopped just as soon as we went to war. Most of the well-to-do men of this country, of the men who are free from the menace of immediate want and who have given their sons a good education, have been the very men whose sons have freely and eagerly gone to the war. There is an occasional wealthy man, the owner of a set of newspapers, or an automobile factory, or something of the kind, who improperly succeeds in getting his son excused from service, on the plea that he is needed in the business. But usually it will be found that this man is himself an upholder of pacifism, or of some of the movements of the very people who have announced that they are against the war. In this country the real upholders of the war are the men who themselves have shown, or whose sons have shown, that they were willing to pay with their bodies for the principles they advocated.
Mr. Kahn's rebuke to those noxious demagogues who try to aid Germany and hurt America by prattling about this being "a rich man's war" is rendered all the stronger because he insists on heavy progressive taxation of incomes and profits for war purposes. This taxation should go up to, but under no circumstances go in the slightest degree beyond, the line at which it interferes with or limits production or prevents the fullest development of our business resources during the war. We need to speed up production to the very top limit. While this war lasts we have a right to demand of every man, whether capitalist, or labourer, or farmer, that his prime effort and motive be to win the war, for this is the people's war, America's war—the war of all of us. The Government should see that every man does his full part. Therefore it should see that the rich man does his full part. Therefore, not merely in his interest but in the national interest, it should also see that no frantic extremist, under the plea of forcing the rich man to do his full part, renders it impossible for him to do anything at all. So to act would bring lasting damage to the community, and, whether intentionally or unintentionally, would create a condition which would bring the war to a standstill.
This is a capital study of the problems which are of vital interest at this moment to all Americans who love their country, and who wish while serving their country also to serve all the free nations of civilized mankind.
Sagamore Hill, June 15, 1918.
This book should be in every man's home; every woman should read it. It is a pity that it is not in every German's home. But before your ordinary man can grasp its full significance, it is as well that he should know something of the man who wrote it, and still more why he wrote it.
Mr. Otto H. Kahn, one of the leading financiers of America, and widely renowned for his manifold charities, his strenuous public life, and his generous patronage of the Arts, is of German blood and was born in Germany. But, from his great-grandparents, who were French Alsatians, he inherited a great love of France. His father, after taking part in the German Revolution of 1848, fled to America, became naturalized as an American citizen, and finally returned to Germany after ten years of banishment. From this father, Kahn inherited the love of liberty.
He left Germany when he was twenty-one years old, after having served his year in the army; and, deciding to find his future elsewhere, gave up his German nationality thirty years ago. Returning, however, almost every year, to visit the country of his birth, and having important relations with governmental, business, social, and other circles, he had exceptional opportunities for becoming acquainted with and studying the development of German mentality and morality under the influence of Prussianism. That development filled him with horror and dismay. Long before the war he realized the terrible menace to the entire world which was subtly concealed in the poison growth of Prussianism. As he himself here puts it in one of his speeches: "From each successive visit to Germany for twenty-five years I came away more appalled by the sinister transmutation Prussianism had wrought amongst the people and by the portentous menace I recognized in it for the entire world. It had given to Germany unparalleled prosperity, beneficent and advanced social legislation, and not a few other things of value, but it had taken in payment the soul of the race. IT HAD MADE A DEVIL'S BARGAIN."
When the war broke out, in 1914, Otto Kahn did not hesitate for a second on which side to take his stand. For him, neutrality in the fight between light and darkness, between right and atrocious wrong, was unthinkable. And as he felt and thought, being a man of honour, of courage, and of decision, so he acted, totally regardless of the consequences to himself. He had "searched his conscience in sorrow and in anguish"; and where it led him there he followed unhesitatingly. Although his most important business relations were in Germany, although he knew that he would be attacked in Germany and by all pro-Germans as a renegade, and would have to face a very difficult position even in America as long as America was neutral, he at once became a firm, open, and active adherent of the cause of the Allies, and threw his entire influence, personal and financial, on their side. No work for the Allies remained without his support. The calculated expectations of the German Government on German-American aid, particularly their reliance on access to the money market of America, were disappointed and defeated; the chief part of the credit for that vital result was due to Otto Kahn.
But, perhaps the greatest service to the Allied cause which Mr. Kahn rendered—which he was the first, as well as the most prominent, American of German blood to render—was his oratory through the United States. There are about twelve million Americans of German descent in the United States, and many more millions spring from races more or less affiliated with them. Most of these went to America over twenty-five years ago; they did not know modern Germany; they did not believe the accounts of German atrocities as reported in the Press; they were unable to realize the hideous change which had come over Germany since they or their parents had left it; they did not understand the origin, the cause, and the meaning of the war. And many Americans, especially in the West, held the like views.
Mr. Kahn, notwithstanding threats and malignities, went out to speak to them—individually, through newspaper articles, or at great mass meetings. He brought to bear the authority of his personality, fortified by the confidence and prestige which attach to it; and he made it plain that he spoke, not from hearsay, but from personal experience, observation, and knowledge. He succeeded in showing up modern Germany as it is, and in proving its horrible guilt for the war. He pleaded in flaming words to Americans of German birth that not only did their oath of allegiance compel them to be whole-heartedly and undividedly American, without regard to their origin, but that what could still be preserved of honour to the German name was largely in their keeping, and that even for the sake of the German blood in their veins they must prove to the world that those Germans who are not under the Prussian yoke, hate and loathe the ruling caste who have poisoned the German blood, who have made Germany a hideous, monstrous, barbarous thing, and who have robbed them of the old Germany which they loved and in which they took pride.
If, as is fortunately the case, America is now in the war by our side, unanimous, enthusiastic, undivided; if the people, East and West, realize the abominable doctrines and actions of modern Germany and the necessity at whatever cost in blood and treasure of defeating that abomination utterly, then no man is more entitled to a high place of honour among those who have brought about this happy achievement than Otto Kahn.
In his youth, Kahn had done military service in Germany; and the German youth studies and understands strategy in a far larger and broader way than even professional soldiers study it amongst us. Strategy acts in peace, as well as in war—strategy never ceases. For what is strategy? It is the leadership of a people so that its moral, its ideals, and its will shall make it develop its destiny in such vigour that it shall be safe from the assault of any enemy will that may assail it. All statesmanship worthy of the name is strategic—all other statesmanship is but a glittering bubble, floating in an empty void. If the moral and ideals of a people be not deep-rooted in vigour capable of defending those ideals, that people is doomed.
I am proud to know that Otto Kahn sees eye to eye with me. The utter degradation of the fine old Germany by Prussia was a bitter disillusion of my young manhood. What must it have been to Otto Kahn? He loved the old Germany to which he was "linked by ties of blood, by fond memories and cherished sentiments." To cast her out of his soul—to range himself in the forefront of those fighting the abomination which had made her an outcast amongst the peoples of the world—to brave attack, misunderstanding, misinterpretation of his motives, loss of lifelong friends, not to speak of financial sacrifices—these touch well-nigh upon the tragic. I am proud to think that the strategic revelation of Germany, which I published last year, receives such overwhelming proof in every page of Otto Kahn's book—this laying bare of the meaning, processes, and purposes of modern Germany by a great German of that fine school of honour which once made Germany a noble people. And it is good to know that when at last America struck for civilization, the vast mass of the Americans of German blood remembered that they were Americans, and that their ancient State was wholly departed. No man did more to steady them to nobility of action in the day of their trial than the man who wrote this book.
One of the first tributes I received from across the seas was a copy of one of his addresses from Otto Kahn; and I am proud that it should have fallen to my good fortune to pay back that tribute between the covers of this noble volume on its issue to our people. There has been no more valuable testimony written upon the war than this small book.
Otto Kahn tells us that the hideous thing "Prussianism" must be struck down—or peace will have left the earth. There is no other way to victory; no other way from bondage for the whole wide world.
PAGE AMERICANS OF GERMAN ORIGIN AND THE WAR 1 PRUSSIANIZED GERMANY 11 THE POISON GROWTH OF PRUSSIANISM 23 FRENZIED LIBERTY 57 THE MYTH OF "A RICH MAN'S WAR" 75 LETTER TO A GERMAN 101
AMERICANS OF GERMAN ORIGIN AND THE WAR
Extracts from an address before The Merchants Association of New York at its Liberty Loan Meeting June 1, 1917
AMERICANS OF GERMAN ORIGIN AND THE WAR
We have met to-day in pursuance of a high purpose, a purpose which at this fateful moment is one and the same wherever, throughout the world, the language of free men is spoken and understood.
It is the purpose of a common determination to fight and to bear and to dare everything and never to cease nor rest until the accursed thing which has brought upon the world the unutterable calamity, the devil's visitation of this appalling war, is destroyed beyond all possibility of resurrection.
That accursed thing is not a nation, but an evil spirit, a spirit which has made the government possessed by it and executing its abhorrent and bloody bidding an abomination in the sight of God and men.
What we are now contending for by the side of the splendidly brave and sorely tried Allied Nations, after infinite forbearance, after delay which many of us found it hard to bear, are the things which are amongst the highest and most cherished that the civilized world has attained through the toil, sacrifices and suffering of its best in the course of many centuries.
They are the things without which darkness would fall upon hope, and life would become intolerable.
They are the things of humanity, liberty, justice and mercy, for which the best men amongst all the nations—including the German nation—have fought and bled these many generations past, which were the ideals of Luther, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, and a host of others who had made the name of Germany great and beloved until Prussianism came to make its deeds a byword and a hissing.
This appalling conflict which has been drenching the world with blood is not a mere fight of one or more peoples against one or more other peoples.
It goes far deeper. It challenges the soul and conscience of the world. It transcends vastly the bounds of racial allegiance. It is ethically fundamental.
In determining one's attitude towards it, the time has gone by—if it ever was—when race and blood and inherited affiliations were permitted to count.
A century and a half ago Americans of English birth rose to free this country from the oppression of the rulers of England. To-day Americans of German birth are called upon to rise, together with their fellow-citizens of all races, to free not only this country but the whole world from the oppression of the rulers of Germany, an oppression far less capable of being endured and of far graver portent.
Speaking as one born of German parents, I do not hesitate to state it as my deep conviction that the greatest service which men of German birth or antecedents can render to the country of their origin is this: To proclaim, and to stand up for those great ideals and national qualities and traditions which they inherited from their ancestors, and to set their faces like flint against the monstrous doctrines and acts of a rulership that has robbed them of the Germany they loved and in which they took just pride, the Germany which had the good-will, respect and admiration of the entire world.
I do not hesitate to state it as my solemn conviction that the more unmistakably and whole-heartedly Americans of German origin throw themselves into the struggle which this country has entered in order to rescue Germany, no less than America and the rest of the world, from those sinister forces that are, in President Wilson's language, the enemy of all mankind, the better they protect and serve the repute of the old German name and the true advantage of the German people.
Gentlemen, I measure my words. They are borne out all too emphatically by the hideous eloquence of deeds which have appalled the conscience of the civilized world. They are borne out by numberless expressions, written and spoken, of German professors employed by the State to teach its youth.
The burden of that teaching is that might makes right, and that the German nation has been chosen to exercise morally, mentally and actually, the over-lordship of the world and must and will accomplish that task and that destiny whatever the cost in bloodshed, misery and ruin.
The spirit of that teaching, in its intolerance, its mixture of sanctimoniousness and covetousness, and its self-righteous assumption of a world-improving mission, is closely akin to the spirit from which were bred the religious wars of the past through the long and dark years when Protestants and Catholics killed one another and devastated Europe.
I speak in sorrow, for I am speaking of the country of my origin and I have not forgotten what I owe to it.
I speak in bitter disappointment, for I am thinking of the Germany of former days, the Germany which has contributed its full share to the store of the world's imperishable assets and which, in not a few fields of endeavour and achievement, held the leading place among the nations of the earth.
And I speak in the firm faith that, after its people shall have shaken off and made atonement for the dreadful spell which an evil fate has cast upon them, that former Germany will arise again and, in due course of time, will again deserve and attain the good-will and respect of the world and the affectionate loyalty of all those of German blood in foreign lands.
But I know that neither Germany nor this country nor the rest of the world can return to happiness and peace and fruitful labour until it shall have been made manifest, bitterly and unmistakably manifest, to the rulers who bear the blood-guilt for this wanton war and to their misinformed and misguided peoples that the spirit which unchained it cannot prevail, that the hateful doctrines and methods in pursuance of which and in compliance with which it is conducted are rejected with abhorrence by the civilized world, and that the overweening ambitions which it was meant to serve can never be achieved.
The fight for civilization which we all fondly believed had been won many years ago must be fought over again. In this sacred struggle it is now our privilege to take no mean part, and our glory to bring sacrifices.
Our one and supreme task, the one purpose to which all others must give way, is to bring this war to a successful conclusion. One of the means toward that end is to make the Liberty Loan a veritable triumph, an overwhelming expression of our gigantic economic strength.
To accomplish that, let each one of us feel himself personally responsible, let each one of us work as if our life depended on the result. And, in a very real sense, does not our national life, aye, our individual life depend on the outcome of this war?
Would life be tolerable if the power of Prussianism, run mad and murderous, held the world by the throat, if the primacy of the earth belonged to a government steeped in the doctrines of a barbarous past and supported by a ruling caste which preaches the deification of sheer might, which despises liberty, hates democracy and would destroy both if it could?
To that spirit and to those doctrines, we, citizens of America and servants, as such, of humanity, will oppose our solemn and unshakable resolution "to make the world safe for democracy," and we will say, with a clear conscience, in the noble words which more than five hundred years ago were uttered by the Parliament of Scotland:
"It is not for glory, or for riches, or for honour that we fight, but for liberty alone which no good man loses but with his life."
From an address before the Harrisburg, Pa., Chamber of Commerce September 26, 1917
I speak as one who has seen the spirit of the Prussian governing class at work from close by, having at its disposal and using to the full practically every agency for moulding the public mind.
I have watched it proceed with relentless persistency and profound cunning to instil into the nation the demoniacal obsession of power-worship and world-dominion, to modify and pervert the mentality—indeed the very fibre and moral substance—of the German people, a people which until misled, corrupted and systematically poisoned by the Prussian ruling caste, was and deserved to be an honoured, valued and welcome member of the family of nations.
I have hated that spirit ever since it came within my ken many years ago; hated it all the more as I saw it ruthlessly pulling down a thing which was dear to me—the old Germany to which I was linked by ties of blood, by fond memories and cherished sentiments.
The difference in the degree of guilt as between the German people and their Prussian or Prussianized rulers and leaders for the monstrous crime of this war and the atrocious barbarism of its conduct is the difference between the man who, acting under the influence of a poisonous drug, runs amuck in mad frenzy and the unspeakable malefactor who administered that drug, well knowing and fully intending the ghastly consequences which were bound to follow.
The world fervently longs for peace. But there can be no peace answering to the true meaning of the word—no peace permitting the nations of the earth, great and small, to walk unarmed and unafraid—until the teaching and the leadership of the apostles of an outlaw creed shall have become discredited and hateful in the sight of the German people; until that people shall have awakened to a consciousness of the unfathomable guilt of those whom they have followed into calamity and shame; until a mood of penitence and of a decent respect for the opinions of mankind shall have supplanted the sway of what President Wilson has so trenchantly termed "truculence and treachery."
God strengthen the conscience and the understanding, the will and the power of the German people so that they may find the only way which will give to the world an early peace, the only road which, in time, will lead Germany back into the family of nations from which it is now an outcast.
From each successive visit to Germany for twenty-five years I came away more appalled by the sinister transmutation Prussianism had wrought amongst the people and by the portentous menace I recognized in it for the entire world.
It had given to Germany unparalleled prosperity, beneficent and advanced social legislation, and not a few other things of value, but it had taken in payment the soul of the race. It had made a "devil's bargain."
And when this war broke out in Europe I knew that the issue had been joined between the powers of brutal might and insensate ambition on the one side and the forces of humanity and liberty on the other; between darkness and light.
Many there were at that time—and amongst them men for whose character I had high respect and whose motives were beyond any possible suspicion—who saw their own and America's duty in strict neutrality, mentally and actually, but personally I believed from the beginning of the war, whether we liked all the elements of the Allies' combination or not—and I certainly did not like the Russia of the Czars—that the cause of the Allies was America's cause.
I believed that this was no ordinary war between peoples for a question of national interest, or even national honour, but a conflict between fundamental principles, aims and ideas. And so believing I was bound to feel that the natural lines of race, blood and kinship could not be the determining lines for one's attitude and alignment, but that each man, regardless of his origin, had to decide according to his judgment and conscience on which side was the right and on which was the wrong and take his stand accordingly, whatever the wrench and anguish of the decision. And thus I took my stand three years ago.
But whatever one's views and feelings, whatever the country of one's birth or kin, only one course was left for all those claiming the privilege of American citizenship when after infinite forbearance the President decided that our duty, honour and safety demanded that we take up arms against the Imperial German Government, and by action of Congress the cause and the fight against that Government were declared our cause and our fight.
The duty of loyal allegiance and faithful service to his country, even unto death, rests, of course, upon every American. But, if it be possible to speak of a comparative degree concerning what is the highest as it is the most elementary attribute of citizenship, that duty may almost be said to rest with an even more solemn and compelling obligation upon Americans of foreign origin than upon native Americans.
For we Americans of foreign antecedents are here not by the accidental right of birth, but by our own free choice for better or for worse.
We are your fellow-citizens because we made solemn oath of allegiance to America. Accepting that oath as given in good faith you have opened to us in generous trust the portals of American opportunity and freedom, and have admitted us to membership in the family of Americans, giving us equal rights in the great inheritance which has been created by the blood and the toil of your ancestors, asking nothing from us in return but decent citizenship and adherence to those ideals and principles which are symbolized by the glorious flag of America.
Woe to the foreign-born American who betrays the trust which you have reposed in him!
Woe to him who considers his American citizenship merely as a convenient garment to be worn in fair weather but to be exchanged for another one in time of storm and stress!
Woe to the German-American, so called, who, in this sacred war for a cause as high as any for which ever people took up arms, does not feel a solemn urge, does not show an eager determination to be in the very forefront of the struggle; does not prove a patriotic jealousy, in thought, in action and in speech to rival and to outdo his native-born fellow-citizen in devotion and in willing sacrifice for the country of his choice and adoption and sworn allegiance, and of their common affection and pride.
As Washington led Americans of British blood to fight against Great Britain, as Lincoln called upon Americans of the North to fight their very brothers of the South, so Americans of German descent are now summoned to join in our country's righteous struggle against a people of their own blood, which, under the evil spell of a dreadful obsession, and, Heaven knows! through no fault of ours, has made itself the enemy of this peace-loving Nation, as it is the enemy of peace and right and freedom throughout the world.
To gain America's independence, to defeat oppression and tyranny, was indeed to gain a great cause.
To preserve the Union, to eradicate slavery, was perhaps a greater still.
To defend the very foundations of liberty and humanity, the very groundwork of fair dealing between nations, the very basis of peaceable living together among the peoples of the earth against the fierce and brutal onslaught of ruthless, lawless, faithless might; to spend the lives and the fortunes of this generation so that our descendants may be freed from the dreadful calamity of war and the fear of war, so that the energies and billions of treasure now devoted to plans and instruments of destruction may be given henceforth to fruitful works of peace and progress and to the betterment of the conditions of the people—that is the highest cause for which any people ever unsheathed its sword.
He who shirks the full measure of his duty and allegiance in that noblest of causes, be he German-American, Irish-American, or any other hyphenated American, be he I.W.W. or Socialist or whatever the appellation, does not deserve to stand amongst Americans or, indeed, amongst free men anywhere.
He who tries, secretly or overtly, to thwart the declared will and aim of the Nation in this holy war is a traitor, and a traitor's fate should be his.
THE POISON GROWTH OF PRUSSIANISM
Address at a Mass Meeting in Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 13, 1918
THE POISON GROWTH OF PRUSSIANISM
The speech I am about to make is attuned to the spirit and the fact of war.
A few days ago, as you all know, President Wilson once more spoke to this nation and to the world in a great and noble message of splendid vision—holding up a veritable beacon light of right and justice for all peoples.
We all pray with eager and earnest hope that the German people will recognize the spirit and meaning of that lofty utterance and that, casting aside the odious leadership of the militarists, they will grasp the hand stretched out to them in such generous and unselfish meaning.
Even as I speak the leaven of that great message may be working in Germany with potent effect. I have no information other than what you all have, but I hope I am not over-sanguine in giving heed to a feeling that some parts of what I am going to say are perhaps in process of being superseded by events that may be forming.
Let us all trust that it be so, and that we may soon be enabled to substitute for the harsh accents of arraignment and enmity the feelings and the language of peaceful intercourse and of that new relationship which the President's leadership is seeking to bring about amongst all the nations.
But until that "consummation devoutly to be wished" is attained, let us take care lest we permit the hope of it to diminish our effort or to weaken our determination. Neither hope nor any other motive or influence must be suffered for one moment to divert us from the stern and resolute pursuit, to the utmost of our capacity, of our high and solemn purpose as it has been proclaimed in the great messages of America's spokesman and leader.
* * * * *
In attempting to deal with the questions that I shall discuss, I must apologize for using the personal pronoun a good deal more than would seem consonant with due modesty. My excuse is that whatever weight my observations may have with you, lies mainly in the fact that I am of German birth, that until the outbreak of the war I kept in close touch with German men and affairs, that I loved the old Germany and that the conclusions which I am about to state I have reached in grief and bitter disappointment.
For these reasons, also, what I shall say from personal knowledge and observation and in a personal way may have some effect upon those among my fellow-citizens of my own blood whose eyes may not have been opened fully to the difference between the Germany they knew and the Germany of 1914, and who, owing to insufficient and incorrect information, may not yet have discerned with entire clearness the path of right and duty nor perceived the true inwardness of the unprecedented tragedy which has befallen the world.
The world has been hurt within these past three years as it was never hurt before. In the gloomy and accusing procession of infinite sorrow and pain which was started on that thrice accursed day of July, 1914, the hurt inflicted on Americans of German descent takes its tragically rightful place.
The iron has entered our souls. We have been wantonly robbed of invaluable possessions which have come down to us through the centuries; we have been rendered ashamed of that in which we took pride; we have been made the enemies of those of our own blood; our very names carry the sound of a challenge to the world.
Surely we have all too valid a title to rank amongst those most bitterly aggrieved by Prussianism, and to align ourselves in the very forefront of those who in word and deed are fighting to rid the world for ever of that malignant growth.
Heaven knows, I do not want, by anything I may be saying or doing, to add one ounce to the burden of the world's execration which rests already with crushing weight upon the rulers of Germany and their misguided people. Nor do I seek forgiveness for my German birth by demonstrative zeal in action or speech.
I was and am proud of the great inheritance which came to me as a birthright and of the illustrious contributions which the German people have made to the imperishable assets of the world. Until the outbreak of the war in 1914, I maintained close and active personal and business relations in Germany. I was well acquainted with a number of the leading personages of the country. I served in the German army thirty years ago. I took an active interest in furthering German art in America.
I do not apologize for, nor am I ashamed of, my German birth. But I am ashamed—bitterly and grievously ashamed—of the Germany which stands convicted before the high tribunal of the world's public opinion of having planned and willed war; of the revolting deeds committed in Belgium and northern France, of the infamy of the Lusitania murders, of innumerable violations of The Hague convention and the law of nations, of abominable and perfidious plotting in friendly countries and shameless abuse of their hospitality, of crime heaped upon crime in hideous defiance of the laws of God and men.
I cherish the memories of my youth, but these very memories make me cry out in pain and wrath against those who have befouled the spiritual soil of the old Germany, in which they were rooted.
I revere the high ideals and fine traditions of that old Germany and the time-honoured conceptions of right conduct which my parents and the teachers of my early youth bade me treasure throughout life, but all the more burning is my resentment, all the more deeply grounded my hostility, against the Prussian caste who trampled those ideals, traditions and conceptions in the dust.
Long before the war, I had come to look upon Prussianism as amongst the deadliest poison growths that ever sprang from the soil of the spirit of man.
When the war broke out in Europe, when Belgium was invaded, I searched my conscience and my judgment in sorrow and anguish, the powerful voice of blood arguing against the still, small voice of right.
And it became clear to me to the point of solemn and unshakable conviction that Prussianism, in mad infatuation, had committed the crowning sin of outraging and defying the conscience of the world and of challenging right to mortal combat against might, and that the cause which the Allies were defending was our cause, because it was the cause of peace, humanity, justice, and liberty (aye, liberty, even though Russia, then under autocratic rule, happened to be arrayed on that side, and even though diplomats and rulers made that sacred cause the basis and excuse for territorial barter and trade and spoils hunting).
In accordance with this conviction—a conviction that is unshakable—I have acted and spoken ever since, but I did not feel that it would be either right or fitting for me publicly to state and agitate my views so long as our country was neutral.
Now, America, the never-defeated, has thrown her sword into the scale, because to do so was indispensable for the vindication of the basic and elementary principles of right and peace among the nations, no less than for our own honour and our own safety, the preservation of our institutions and our very destiny.
To co-operate towards the successful conclusion of the war is the one and supreme duty of every American, regardless of birth, of sympathies and of political views. The American of German descent who, in this time of test and trial, does not serve the land of his adoption with the utmost measure of single-minded devotion and with every ounce of his power, perjured himself when he took his oath of allegiance and proves himself guilty of treacherous duplicity.
Thank Heaven! the number of those lukewarm in their patriotism, or failing in loyalty, is very small indeed, far too small to affect the record of Americans of German birth for good citizenship and service to the country in peace and war.
There is abundant evidence that the overwhelming majority, indeed all but an insignificant minority, meant what they said when they swore full and sole allegiance to America, that they will prove themselves wholly worthy of the high privilege of citizenship and of the generous trust of their native fellow-citizens, and that they will not fail or falter under any test whatsoever.
We will not permit the blood in our veins to drown the conscience in our breast. We will heed the call of honour beyond the call of race.
We will wear as a badge of honour the abuse and spite of those who place another cause, whatever it be, above the Nation's cause and who see hypocrisy or hidden motives behind the plain profession of unconditional loyalty on the part of the American of foreign birth, because unconditional American loyalty is not in them.
Yet, it is not enough for us Americans of German descent to do our duty by our country and fellow-citizens, however fully and unreservedly, if we do it in resigned and oppressed silence. I believe we should speak out. We must give voice to our unflinching loyalty and to our deep conviction of the justice of America's cause.
It is hard indeed for us to arraign publicly the country from which we sprang and to turn against our own kith and kin, however deep our detestation of their wrongdoing under the spiritual and actual sway of the Prussian caste and however sincere our allegiance to America. It will be easily understood by all fair-minded men that right-thinking persons will shrink from so speaking and acting as to lay themselves open to the accusation of being time-servers or popularity seekers, and to expose their motives to misconstruction.
These scruples are honourable, and they are felt by many whose patriotic loyalty and devotion are beyond all question. But, to my thinking, they are stamped out by the iron tread of the times.
I believe that we should speak out, we Americans of German birth, because we have been misrepresented to our fellow-citizens and to the world by a small minority of professional spokesmen and pernicious agitators, by no means all of German birth.
We must protect the German name, as far as it is in our keeping, in America, if, alas, we cannot protect it elsewhere.
It has always, and rightly, been an honoured name here, and those who bore it have ever done their full share for the common weal, in the works of peace no less than in every crisis of the Nation's history. Let us do what in us lies to preserve the names we bear in honour and good standing amongst our fellow-citizens.
I believe that we should speak out, because our voices may reach the ear and the conscience of the German people when no other voices can, and because they will reach the ear of its rulers. These, I know, counted upon the moral, if not the actual, support of the German-born in America to the extent, at least, of preventing our joining the war, and now, when we have joined, they count upon that support to agitate for an inconclusive and unrighteous peace.
I believe that we should speak out to convince our native-born fellow-citizens that our fundamental conceptions of right and wrong are like theirs, that the taint is not in the German blood, but in the system of rulership, that we are with them and of them wholeheartedly, single-mindedly and unreservedly; because if we failed in conveying to them that conviction in the hour of our common country's stress and trial, there would ensue the calamity of a spiritual, if not an actual, breach between them and us which it would take a generation to heal.
There are some of you, probably, who will still find it hard to believe that the Germany you knew can be guilty of the crimes which have made it an outlaw amongst the nations. But do you know modern Germany? Unless you have been there within the last twenty-five years, not once or twice, but at regular intervals; unless you have looked below the glittering surface of the marvellous material progress and achievement and seen how the soul of Germany was being eaten away by the virulent poison of Prussianism; unless you have watched and followed the appalling transformation of German mentality and morality under the nefarious and puissant influence of the priesthood of power-worship, you do not know the Germany of this day and generation.
It is not the Germany of old, the land of our affectionate remembrance. It is not the Germany which men now of middle age or over knew in their youth. It is not the Germany of the first Emperor William, a modest and God-fearing gentleman. It is not the Germany, even, of Bismarck, man of blood and iron though he was, who had builded a structure which, whilst not founded on liberty, yet was capable and gave promise of going down into history as one of the greatest examples of enlightened and even beneficent autocracy; who, in the contemplative and mellowed wisdom of his old age, often warned the nation against the very spirit which, alas, came to have sway over it, and against the very war which that spirit unchained.
The Germany which brought upon the world the immeasurable disaster of this war, and at whose monstrous deeds and doctrines the civilized nations of the earth stand aghast, started into definite being less than thirty years ago. I can almost lay my finger upon the date and circumstances of its ill-omened advent.
Less than thirty years ago, a "new course" was flamboyantly proclaimed by those in authority, and the term "new course" became the order of the day. With it and from it there came a truly marvellous quickening of the energies and creative abilities of the nation, a period of material achievement and of social progress, in short, a national forward movement almost unequalled in history. The world looked on in admiration, perhaps not entirely free from a tinge of envy. Germany was conquering the earth by peaceful penetration; and no one stood in its way. It had free access to all the seas and all the lands.
But with that "new course" and from it there also came a new god, a false and evil god. He exacted as sacrifices for his altars the time-honoured ideals of the fathers, and other high and noble things. And his commands were obeyed.
There came upon the German people a whole train of new and baneful influences and impulses, formidably stimulating as a powerful drug. There came, amongst other evils, materialism and covetousness and irreligion; overweening arrogance, an impatient contempt for the rights of the weak, a mania for world dominion, and a veritable lunacy of power worship. There came also a fixed and irrational distrust of the intentions of other nations, for the evil which had crept into their own souls made them see evil in others, and that distrust was nurtured carefully and deliberately by those in authority.
And, finally, there came "the day" in which the "new course," fatally and inevitably, was bound to culminate. There came the old temptation, as old as humanity itself. The Tempter took the Prussian and Prussianized rulers up a high mountain and showed them all the riches and power of the world. Showed them the great countries and capitals of the earth teeming with peaceful labour—Brussels, Paris, London, aye, and New York, and told them: "Look at these. Use your power ruthlessly and they are yours." And those rulers did not say: "Get thee behind me, Satan;" but they said: "Lead on, Satan, and we shall follow thee." And follow him they did, and brought upon the green earth the red ruin of hell.
And with rejoicing they greeted "the day." It was to bring them, as one German in an important position here expressed it to me, in August, 1914, "a merry war and victory before the year is out."
Truly, history affords no parallel to the spiritual poisoning and the resulting horrible transmutation of a whole people, such as Prussianism wrought in the incredibly short period of one generation. Nor would I believe that such a dreadful phenomenon could possibly take place were it not for the evidence of my own eyes and my own ears.
My observations led me to think, however, that Prussianism had reached the crest of its influence some years before the war and that liberal tendencies were beginning to make headway against it.
There were many men in Germany before the war who were opposed to and saw the dangers arising from militarist ambition and jingo teaching and raised their voices against them in warning. There was the ever-increasing Socialist vote which—although Socialism in the German Empire does not mean what it means in Russia and amongst the extremists in our country—did mean opposition to Junker methods and reactionary tendencies.
I am by no means sure that the very growth and spread of that liberal spirit did not have some influence in causing the militarist clique to precipitate the war, as throughout history autocracy has resorted frequently to the unity-compelling force of war in order to arrest, divert and thwart liberalism and independence.
To deceive the German people, and steel them to patriotic determination and sacrifice, the Prussian rulers and their spokesmen affirmed at the beginning of the war, and have kept reaffirming ever since with nauseating reiteration and disgusting hypocrisy, that theirs was a defensive war, forced upon them by wicked and envious neighbours. A defensive war, indeed!
Let me review very rapidly the circumstances which surrounded the beginning of the war. Austria, after the friction of long standing between the two countries, which had reached its culminating point in the murder of the Austrian heir-apparent, sent an ultimatum to Serbia. The conditions of that ultimatum, although unexampled in their severity and sweeping demands, were accepted by Serbia almost in their entirety.
Austria insisted on acceptance to the very letter, unconditional and absolute, within twenty-four hours or war, whereupon Russia declared that, if war was thus forced upon little Serbia, she would stand by her. After much backing and filling, at the last minute, Austria shrank from the calamity of a world conflagration and declared herself ready to enter into friendly negotiations with Russia. The frightful danger which threatened the world seemed to be on the way of being removed.
But the Prussian militarist party, seeing in their grasp the opportunity for which they had planned and plotted these thirty years, were not willing to let it go by, and they did not shrink from the catastrophe which was involved.
Heretofore Austria had held the centre of the stage and Germany had professed herself unable to interfere. But when Austria was on the point of receding, Germany did interfere, and, on the plea of the menace of the Russian mobilization (a mobilization which there is reason to suspect was deliberately provoked through machinations from Berlin), started the war by an ultimatum to Russia, which was tantamount to declaring war, on the very day on which Austria yielded. Let it be remembered that whatever menace the Russian mobilization may have contained was infinitely greater against Austria than against Germany, and yet Austria, on the last day in July, 1914, declared herself ready to negotiate.
I know something from actual and personal experience of the plotting of the Prussian war party, and how for a full generation they had endeavoured again and again to bring about a situation which would force war upon the world. I know of my personal knowledge that the stage was set for it six or seven years ago in connection with the Agadir episode.
I know that the Pan-Germans meant to have a footing in South America, and, once there, would have threatened and had prepared to threaten, this very country of ours.
I know that Austria, in 1913, meant to conquer Serbia, and so informed her then ally, Italy, believing that she could do so with impunity.
And I know that Austria did not believe that her ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, would bring on a serious war.
I know it, because the week following the outbreak of the war I saw a letter just arrived from a gentleman in high position in Austria, connected with the Austrian Foreign Office, in which, writing to New York under date of about July 20, 1914, he said:
"We are now passing through a nerve-wearing time because of our difficulty with Serbia, but by the time this letter reaches you everything will be all right again. The Serbians have been intriguing against us these many years, and this time they must be settled with for good and all. We shall go in and take Belgrade, but inasmuch as we have given assurance to Russia that we shall not permanently interfere with the integrity and independence of Serbia, and inasmuch as neither Russia nor her allies are ready to fight, the whole thing will be a military promenade and will have no serious consequences."
A defensive war! Was it a defensive war which Prussianism was thinking of when it declined England's repeated offer for a reduction by both countries of the building of warships; when it refused at the last Hague conference to discuss the limitation of standing armies and armaments; when Germany—alone amongst the great nations—rejected our offer of a treaty of arbitration?
Years before the war, Nietzsche, than whom no man had greater influence in shaping the trend of German thought in the past thirty years, wrote:
"You shall love peace as a means to prepare for new wars. You say that a good cause may hallow even war, but I say to you that it is a good war which hallows every cause."
On July 29, 1914, the well-informed German newspaper, Vorwaerts, declared:
"The camarilla of war-lords is working with absolutely unscrupulous means to carry out their fearful designs to precipitate a world war."
In October, 1914, three months after the outbreak of the war, Maximilian Harden, one of the ablest and most influential of German publicists, wrote:
"Let us renounce those miserable efforts to excuse the actions of Germany in declaring war. It is not against our will that we have thrown ourselves into this gigantic adventure. The war has not been imposed upon us by others and by surprise. We have willed the war. It was our duty to will it. We decline to appear before the tribunal of united Europe. We reject its jurisdiction. One principle alone counts and no other—one principle which contains and sums up all the others—might."
I could go on for hours quoting similar views and sentiments from the utterances of leading German writers and educators before and since the war. It is worth mentioning, though, that Maximilian Harden has seen a new light, and for some time has been courageously speaking and writing in a very different strain. There are a number of influential men in Germany who, like him, have undergone a change of mind and heart. Strong and outspoken assertions of liberal sentiment and independent aspirations have found utterance in that country in the course of the last six months, such as have not been heard within its frontiers these many years.
A defensive war! There are certain telegrams (generally unknown in Germany, even to this day) from Sir Edward Grey, the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the British Ambassador in Germany, sent during the week preceding the outbreak of the war in Europe, which by themselves are conclusive testimony to the contrary. In these messages, the British Foreign Minister went almost on his knees to beg Germany to consent to a conference in order to avoid war.
He went to the utmost limits in promising benevolent consideration for Germany's view-point and wishes, then and in the future, and he stated that if Germany would put forward any reasonable proposition honestly calculated to maintain peace, England would support it with all of its influence, and if France and Russia would not fall in line England would promptly separate itself from these two countries.
These overtures and pleas met with no response from the Masters of Germany. They declared war.
It is probably true that the Russian Pan-Slavists had planned war sooner or later, just as the Pan-Germans did. War might perhaps have come then or at some other time, even if the Prussian rulers had not precipitated it. But the fact remains that it was the Imperial German Government which did declare war. For having anticipated that "perhaps," and resolved it according to their own plans and wishes, for that, their initial crime, and for those which followed, the rulers of the German people will have to answer before the judgment seat of God and history. Upon them rests the blood-guilt for this dreadful catastrophe which has befallen the world.
A few days ago I read a poem addressed to Germany, of which these lines have remained in my memory:
"Oh, land of now, oh, land of then, Dear God, the dreams, the dreams of men! Enslaved, immersed in greed and hate, Where are the things which made you great?"
The things which made Germany great are not dead, and the world cannot afford to allow them to die. They belong to the immortal possessions of the human race.
They have passed, for the time being, alas, out of the keeping of the mass of the German people, whose glorious inheritance they were.
They are now in the keeping of that minority, not, perhaps, very great as yet, but growing steadily, of men in Germany itself from whose eyes the scales have begun to fall. They are in the keeping of all the nations who appreciate and cherish and are determined to maintain those great and high things which the civilized world has attained through the toil, sacrifice and suffering of its best in the course of many centuries. And, above all, they are in the keeping of the ten or fifteen millions of Americans of German descent.
As that great American of German birth, Carl Schurz, and many other brave and high-minded Germans—my own father, I am proud to say, among them—in 1848 stood in arms against Prussian oppression, for liberal ideas and right and truth and freedom, so do we stand now. In fighting for the cause of America as loyal Americans, we are fighting at the same time for the deliverance of the country of our birth from those unrighteous powers which hold it enthralled and feed upon its soul.
If ever a nation entered a war after having maintained infinite forbearance in the face of grave menace and dangers and the most intolerable affronts, and from motives as pure and high as the great blue dome of heaven, America is that nation.
We seek no reward whatsoever of a material nature. We seek no "place in the sun"—to use the German Chancellor's term—except the sun of liberty, and that we do not seek selfishly, but to share with all the world.
America is not waging a war of vengeance, notwithstanding all the injuries and measureless provocations that we have received. We have lighted a fire to purify, not to burn at the stake.
America is incapable of hating an entire people, but we do hate, we are fighting and we shall fight with every ounce of our might, the spirit which has power over the people of Germany, and which, if it were to prevail—as, under God, it never will—would destroy liberty, justice and plighted faith. It was not the people of Great Britain which America fought in the War of the Revolution, but the spirit and the ruling caste which then held sway over them. America fought then for an ideal and for liberty and independence, and sacrificed blood and treasure and suffered and endured and won. And so it will be now.
The spirit of Prussianism and the spirit of Americanism cannot live in the same world. One or the other must conquer.
In the mad pride of its contempt for democracy, Prussianism has thrown down the gauntlet to us. We have taken up the challenge and now stand arrayed by the side of the other freedom-loving nations of the world, giving our fresh strength and our boundless resources to them, who, heroically striving, have borne the heat and burden of a dreadfully long and exhausting struggle, yet stand unwearied, erect and resolute.
The enemy is of formidable strength. But even if he were far stronger than he is, even if we did not have the men and the means which are ours, even if our comrades-in-arms had not demonstrated their superb and indomitable prowess, still must our cause prevail—for there is fighting with us a force which has ever proved itself stronger than any other power on earth, and again and again has triumphed over overwhelming odds. That force, God-inspired, death-defying and unconquerable, is the soul of man.
And when—Heaven grant it may be soon!—the soul of the German people will have freed itself from the sinister powers that now keep it in ban and bondage, when it will have found again the high impulses and aims of its former self, when it will once more understand and speak the universal language of humanity and right, then, in God's own time there will be peace.
THE MYTH OF "A RICH MAN'S WAR"
Extracts from Address given at the University of Wisconsin, January 14, 1918
We are engaged in a war, an "irrepressible conflict," a most just and righteous war for a cause as high and noble as ever inspired a people to put forth its utmost of sacrifice and valour. To attain the end for which this peace-loving nation unsheathed its sword, to lay low and make powerless the accursed spirit which brought all this unspeakable misery, sorrow and ruin upon the world, is our one and supreme and unshakable purpose.
That is the purpose of the people of Wisconsin as it is the purpose of the people of New York and of every other State in the Union. I give no credence to and have no patience with those who would measure as with a thermometer the loyalty temperature of our communities.
Some dreamers there may be, here as everywhere, so immersed in their dreams that the trumpet call of the day has not yet awakened them.
Some politicians there may be, here and elsewhere, so obsessed by the issues which heretofore were good election assets and so unable to shake off the inveterate habits and the formulas and calculations of a lifetime, that they are unable to recognize and to share in the sudden flaming manifestations springing from the deep of the people's soul—and after a while, looking around for their usual followers, find themselves in chilly loneliness.
Some there are, a small minority always and getting smaller every day, among Americans of German birth or descent who lack the vision to see their duty or the strength to follow it, and who stand irresolute, hesitant and dazed.
The vast and overwhelming majority have acted like true men and loyal Americans. They are entitled to claim your sympathetic understanding for the heartache which is theirs and they are entitled to claim your trust. It will not be misplaced.
I am taking very little account of that insignificant number of men of German origin who, misguided or corrupt, dare by insidious and underground processes to attempt to weaken or oppose the resolute will of the Nation. There are too few of them to count and their manoeuvres are too clumsy to be effective. But let them be warned. There is sweeping through the country a mighty wave of stern and grim determination, which bodes ill for anyone standing in its way.
One element only there is in our population which does deliberately challenge our national unity. I mean the militant Bolsheviki in our midst, the preachers and devotees of liberty run amuck, who would place a visionary class interest above patriotism and who in ignorant fanaticism would substitute for the tyranny of autocracy the still more intolerable tyranny of mob-rule, as for the time being they have done in Russia.
If it were not for the disablement of Russia, the battle against autocracy would have been won by now. As so often before, liberty has been wounded in the house of its friends. Liberty in the wild and freakish hands of fanatics has once more, as frequently in the past, proved the effective helpmate of autocracy and the twin brother of tyranny.
Out-czaring the czar, its votaries are filling the prisons with their political opponents, are practising ruthless spoliation and savage oppression, and are maintaining their self-constituted rule by the force of bayonets. Riot, robbery, famine, fratricidal strife are stalking through the land.
The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied.
Liberty is not fool-proof. For its beneficent working it demands self-restraint, a sane and clear recognition of the practical and attainable and of the fact that there are laws of nature which are beyond our power to change.
Liberty can, does and must limit the rights of the strong, it must increasingly guard and promote the well-being of those endowed with lesser gifts for the struggle for existence and success, it must strive in every way consistent with sane recognition of the realities to make life more worth living to those whose existence is cast in the mould of the vast average of mankind; it must give political equality, equality before the law; it must throw wide open to talent and worth the door of opportunity.
But it must not attempt in fatuous recklessness to make over humanity on the pattern of absolute equality. If and when it does so attempt, it will fail as that attempt has always failed throughout history. For an inscrutable Providence has made inequality of endowment a fundamental law of nature, animate as well as inanimate, and from inequality of physical strength, of brain power and of character, springs inevitably the fact of inequality of results.
Envy, demagogism, utopianism, well-meaning uplift agitation may throw themselves against that basic law of all being, but the clash will create merely temporary confusion, destruction and anarchy, as in Russia; and after a little while and much suffering, the supremacy of sanely restrained individualism over frenzied collectivism will reassert itself.
Under the system of wisely ordered liberty, combined with incentive to individual effort whereof the foundation was laid by the far-sighted and enlightened men who created this nation and endowed it with the most sagacious instrument of government that the wit of man has devised, America has grown and prospered beyond all other nations.
It has stood as a republic for nearly a century and a half, which is far longer than any other genuine republic has endured amongst the great nations of the world since the beginning of the Christian era. Its past has been glorious, the vista of its future is one of boundless opportunity, of splendid fruitfulness for its own people and the world, if it remains but true to its principles and traditions, adjusting their expression and application to the changing needs of the times in a spirit of progress, sympathetic understanding and enlightened justice, but rejecting the teachings and temptations of false, though plausible prophets.
More and more, of late, do we see the very foundations of that majestic and beneficent structure clamorously assailed by some of those to whom the great republic generously gave asylum and to whom she opened wide the portals of her freedom and her opportunities.
These people with many hundreds of thousands of their countrymen came to our free shores after centuries of oppression and persecution. America gave them everything she had to give—the great gift of the rights and liberties of citizenship, free education in our schools and universities, free treatment in our clinics and hospitals, our boundless opportunities for social and material advancement.
Most of them have proved themselves useful and valuable elements in our many-rooted population. Some of them have accomplished eminent achievements in science, industry and the arts. Certain of the qualities and talents which they contribute to the common stock are of great worth and promise.
But some of them there are who have shown themselves unworthy of the trust of their fellow-citizens; ingrates, disturbers, ignorant of or disloyal to the spirit of America, abusers of her hospitality.
Some there are who have been blinded by the glare of liberty as a man is blinded who, after long confinement in darkness, comes suddenly into the strong sunlight. Blinded, they dare to aspire to force their guidance upon Americans who for generations have walked in the light of liberty.
They have become drunk with the strong wine of freedom, these men who until they landed on America's coasts had tasted nothing but the bitter waters of tyranny. Drunk, they presume to impose their reeling gait upon Americans to whom freedom has been a pure and refreshing fountain for a century and a half.
Brooding in the gloom of age-long oppression, they have evolved a fantastic and distorted image of free government. In fatuous effrontery they seek to graft the growth of their stunted vision upon the splendid and ancient tree of American institutions.
We will not have it so, we who are Americans by birth or adoption. We reject these impudent pretensions. Changes the American people will make as their need becomes apparent, improvements they welcome, the greatest attainable well-being for all those under our national roof-tree is their aim; but they will do all that in the American way of sane and orderly progress—and in none other.
Against foes within no less than against enemies without they will know how to preserve and protect the splendid structure of light and order which is the great and treasured inheritance of all those who rightly bear the name Americans, of which the stewardship is entrusted to them and which, God willing, they will hand on to their children sound and wholesome, unshaken and undefiled.
The time is ripe and over-ripe to call a halt upon these spreaders of outlandish and pernicious doctrines. The American is indulgent to a fault and slow to wrath. But he is now passing through a time of tension and strain. His teeth are set and his nerves on edge. He sees more closely approaching every day the dark valley through which his sons and brothers must pass and from which too many, alas, will not return. It is an evil time to cross him. He is not in the temper to be trifled with. He is apt very suddenly to bring down the indignant fist of his might upon those who would presume on his habitual mood of easy-going good nature.
When I speak of the militant Bolsheviki in our midst as foes of national unity I mean to include those of American stock who are their allies, comrades or followers—those who put a narrow class interest and a sloppy internationalism above patriotism, with whom class hatred and envy have become a consuming passion, whom visionary obsessions and a false conception of equality have inflamed to the point of irresponsibility. But I am far from meaning to reflect upon those who, while determined Socialists, are patriotic Americans.
I believe the Socialistic state to be an impracticable conception, a utopian dream, human nature being what it is, and the immutable laws of nature being what they are. But there is not a little in Socialistic doctrine and aspirations that is high and noble; there are things, too, that are achievable and desirable.
And to the extent that Socialism is an antidote to and a check upon excessive individualism and holds up to a busy and self-centred and far from perfect world, grievances to be remedied, wrongs to be righted, ideals to be striven for, it is a force distinctly for good.
Still less do I mean to reflect upon the labour union movement, which I regard as an absolutely necessary element in the scheme of our economic life. Its leaders have acted with admirable patriotism in this crisis of the Nation, and on the whole have been a factor against extreme tendencies and irrational aspirations.
Trades unions have not only come to stay, but they are bound, I think, to become an increasingly potent factor in our industrial life. I believe that the most effective preventive against extreme State Socialism is frank, free and far-reaching co-operation between business and trades unions sobered and broadened increasingly by enhanced opportunities, rights and responsibilities.
And I believe that a further and highly important element which can be counted upon in this country to stand against extreme and destructive tendencies is the bulk of the men and women who are engaged in the nation's greatest and most vital interest, agriculture, provided that the persistent agitation of the demagogue among the farming population is adequately met and that due and timely heed and satisfaction are given to their just requirements and aspirations.
Business must not deal grudgingly with labour. We business men must not look upon labour unrest and aspirations as temporary "troubles," as a passing phase, but we must give to labour willing and liberal recognition as partner with capital. We must under all circumstances pay as a minimum a decent living wage to everyone who works for a living. We must devise means to cope with the problem of unemployment and to meet the dread advent of sickness, incapacity and old age in the case of those whose means do not permit them to provide for a rainy day.
We must bridge the gulf which now separates the employer and the employee, the business man and the farmer, if the existing order of civilization is to persist. We must welcome progress and seek to further social justice. We must translate into effective action our sympathy for and our recognition of the rights of those whose life, in too many cases, is now a hard and weary struggle to make both ends meet, and who too often are oppressed by the gnawing care of how to find the wherewithal to provide for themselves and their families. We must, by deeds, demonstrate convincingly the genuineness of our desire to see their burden lightened.
We must all join in a sincere and sustained effort towards procuring for the masses of the people more of ease and comfort, more of the rewards and joys of life than they now possess. I believe this is not only our duty but our interest, because if we wish to preserve the fundamental lines of our present social system we must leave nothing practicable undone to make it more satisfactory and more inviting than it is now to the vast majority of those who toil. And I do not mean those only who toil with their hands, but also the professional men, the men and women in modest salaried positions, in short, the workers in every occupation.
Even before the war, a great stirring and ferment was going on in the land. The people were groping, seeking for a new and better condition of things. The war has intensified that movement. It has torn great fissures in the ancient structure of our civilization. To restore it will require the co-operation of all patriotic men of sane and temperate views, whatever may be their occupation or calling or political affiliations.
It cannot be restored just as it was before. The building must be rendered more habitable and attractive to those whose claim for adequate house-room cannot be left unheeded, either justly or safely. Some changes, essential changes, must be made.
I have no fear of the outcome and of the readjustment which must come. I have no fear of the forces of freedom unless they be ignored, repressed, or falsely and selfishly led.
But this is not the time for settling complex social questions. When your house is being invaded by burglars you do not discuss family questions. Let us win the war first. Nothing else must now be permitted to occupy our thoughts and divert our aims.
When we shall have attained victory and peace, then will be the time for us to sit down and reason together and make such changes in political and social conditions as, after full and fair discussion, free from heat and passion, the enlightened public opinion of the country deems requisite.
THE MYTH OF "A RICH MAN'S WAR"
Since Pacifism and semi-seditious agitation have become both unpopular and risky, the propagandists of disunion have been at pains in endeavouring to insidiously affect public sentiment by spreading the fiction that America's entrance into the war was fomented by "big business" from selfish reasons and for the purpose of gain. In the same line of thought and purpose they proclaim that this is "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight," and that wealth is being taxed here with undue leniency as compared to the burden laid upon it in other countries.
These assertions are in flat contradiction to the facts.
Nothing is plainer than that business and business men had everything to gain by preserving the conditions which existed during the two and a half years prior to April, 1917, under which many of them made very large profits by furnishing supplies, provisions and financial aid to the Allied nations, taxes were light and this country was rapidly becoming the great economic reservoir of the world.
Nothing is plainer than that any sane business man in this country must have foreseen that if America entered the war these profits would be immensely reduced, and some of them cut off entirely, because our Government would step in and take charge; that it would cut prices right and left, as in fact it has done; that enormous burdens of taxation would have to be imposed, the bulk of which would naturally be borne by the well-to-do; in short, that the unprecedented golden flow into the coffers of business was bound to stop with our joining the war; or, at any rate, to be much diminished.
The best indication of the state of feeling of the financial community is usually the New York Stock Exchange. Well, every time a ship with Americans on board was sunk by a German submarine in the period preceding our entrance into the war, the stock market shivered and prices declined.
When, a little over a year ago, Secretary Lansing declared that we were "on the verge of war," a tremendous smash in prices took place on the Stock Exchange. That does not look, does it, as if rich men were particularly eager to bring on war or cheered by the prospect of having war?
But, it is said, the big financiers of New York were afraid that the money loaned by them to the Allied nations might be lost if these nations were defeated, and therefore they manoeuvred to get America into the war in order to save their investments. A moment's reflection will show the utter absurdity of that charge.
American bankers have loaned to the Allied nations—almost entirely to the two strongest and wealthiest among them, France and England—about two billions of dollars since the war started in 1914.
These two billions of dollars of Allied bonds are not held, however, in the coffers of Eastern bankers, but have been distributed throughout the country and are being owned by thousands of banks and other corporations and individuals.
Moreover, they form an insignificant portion of the total debts of the Allied nations; they are offset a hundredfold by their total assets. Even if those nations were to have lost the war it is utterly inconceivable that they would ever have defaulted upon that particular portion of their debt, because, being their foreign debt, it has a special standing and intrinsic security.
It is upon the punctual payment of its foreign obligations that a nation's credit in the markets of the world largely depends, and the maintenance of their world credit was and is absolutely vital to England and France. Furthermore, the greater portion of these obligations is secured by the deposit of collateral in the shape of American railroad and other bonds, etc., which are more than sufficient in value to cover the debt.
But let us assume for argument's sake that the Allies had been defeated and had defaulted, for the time being, upon these foreign debts; let us assume that the entire amount of Allied bonds placed in America had been held by rich men in New York and the East instead of being distributed, as it is, throughout the country. Why, is it not perfectly manifest that a single year's American war taxation and reduction of profits would take out of the pockets of such assumed holders a vastly greater sum than any possible loss they could have suffered by a default on their Allied bonds, not to mention the heavy taxation which is bound to follow the war for years to come and the shrinkage of fortunes through the decline of all American securities in consequence of our entrance into the war?
Is it not perfectly manifest to the meanest understanding that any business man fomenting our entrance into the war for the purpose of gain must have been entirely bereft of his senses and would have been a fit subject for the appointment of a guardian to take care of himself and his affairs?
Now as to the allegations concerning taxation.
1. The largest incomes are taxed far more heavily here than anywhere else in the world.
The maximum rate of income taxation here is 67 per cent. In England it is 42-1/2 per cent. Ours is therefore 50 per cent. higher than England's and the rate in England is the highest prevailing anywhere in Europe. Neither republican France nor democratic England—containing in their cabinets Socialists and representatives of labour—nor autocratic Germany have an income tax rate anywhere near as high as our maximum rate. And in addition to the federal tax we must bear in mind our state and municipal taxes.
2. Moderate and small incomes, on the other hand, are subject to a far smaller rate of taxation here than in England.
In America, incomes of married men up to $2,000 are not subject to any federal income tax at all.
In England the tax on incomes of $1,000 is 4-1/2% " " " " " " " 1,500 is 6-3/4% " " " " " " " 2,000 is 7-7/8%
(These are the rates if the income is derived from salaries or wages; they are still higher if the income is derived from rents or investments.)
The English scale of taxation on incomes of, say, $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000, respectively averages as follows, as compared to the American rates for married men: