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A PATRIOTIC people need not be militant; and in spite of the half dozen wars that we have waged during the brief span of our national life, we are a peace-loving folk. We have tried to observe Washington's injunction to "observe good faith and justice toward all nations, and to live in relations of mutual esteem and good will with the rest of the world.
We cannot control the spirit of other nations. But to no small extent, their attitude toward us will be determined by our attitude toward them. Emerson thus expressed the fearlessness with which a peaceloving people faces the future: “Whenever we see the doctrine of peace embraced by a nation, we may be assured that it will not be one that invites injury; but one, on the contrary, which has a friend in the bottom of the heart of every man, even of the violent and the base; one against which no weapon can prosper; one which is looked upon as the asylum of the human race and has the tears and the blessings of mankind.”
Our hatred of war results from no lack of daring or ambition. On the contrary, our people have sprung from the more adventurous and hardy of the Old World, who had the courage and persistence to cross the ocean and make a new life for themselves in a faraway land. When we have had to face war we have fought as fiercely and as fearlessly as any. But our composite origin, our distance from the ancient feuds of Europe, and the relative security afforded by our isolation, have given us a calmer outlook and enabled us to see war for the horror that it is. It was our General Sherman whose dictum “War is hell” has become so famous. And the boys who made such a gallant record for America on the fields of France have for the most part come home resolved that if they can help it, no such horror shall recur.
But(the American spirit is not that of non-resistance to evil. We were very reluctant, as a people, to enter the Great War; but the day came when it seemed a worse evil to stay out than to go in. There are wrongs so intolerable that even the horrors of war are to be preferred. And we must face the fact that such a situation may, possibly, arise again. If an aggressive military imperialism again seeks to enslave a weaker country, to seize its territory, crush its peoples' spirit, and plunder its resources for its own aggrandizement, and if no other way than war seems open to prevent that black and cruel tyranny, then war there must be again. Better that millions should die on the field, better that civilization should perish, if need be, than that such injustice should be done. So speaks the traditional American spirit.
America's passion for justice has been voiced by no one more eloquently than by Roosevelt.
“Peace is not the end,” he declared, “Righteousness is the end ... It is a wicked thing to be neutral between right' and wrong.” “The chief trouble comes from the entire inability of these worthy people to understand that they are demanding things that are mutually incompatible when they demand peace at any price and also justice and righteousness.” “The golden hopes of mankind can be realized only by men who have iron
in their blood; by men who scorn to do wrong and equally scorn to submit to wrong; by men of gentle souls whose hearts are harder than steel in their readiness to war against brutality and evil.” “The only peace of permanent value is the peace of righteousness."
The trouble with the peace-at-any-price attitude is, that if there is any people bent on ruthless aggression, it plays into their hands. This was what Roosevelt saw so clearly. “The existence of soft timidity in one nation puts a premium upon brutality in another." “The ultra-pacifists have exerted practically no influence in restraining wrong, although they have sometimes had a real and lamentable influence in crippling the forces of right and preventing them from dealing with wrong.”
It is unhappily true that the highest ends can sometimes be attained only by the most tragic means. Many of the goods that we value most have been won only through the willingness of our fathers to fight for them. In the words of another American of inci. sive thought and speech, Professor A. O. Lovejoy of Johns Hopkins, “That youths should be sent out armed to kill or maim other youths is an unspeakably abominable thing; but it is yet more abominable that through horror at this evil, the lovers of peace should become the silent partners of those that make and would perpetuate war, and that our youth should be bred to sit by with folded hands while others are made the victims of lawless violence.”
Our participation in the Great War was directed by such motives.) The question before us was, should we allow these unoffending peoples to be enslaved and dominated, against their passionate protest, by an ambitious and ruthless nation? Their youths were dying by the million to preserve their liberties; could we sit by and see their sacrifice vain? President Wilson voiced the mind of our people in his reply to the Pope, August 29, 1917: “The object of this war is to deliver the free peoples of the world from the menace and the actual power of a vast military establishment controlled by an irresponsible government, which, having secretly planned to dominate the world, proceeded to carry the plan out without regard either to the sacred obligations of treaty or the long established practices and long cherished principles of international action and honor; which chose its own time for the war; delivered its blow fiercely and suddenly; stopped at no barrier, either of law or of mercy, swept a whole continent within the tide of blood—not the blood of soldiers only, but the blood of innocent women and children also, and of the helpless poor-and now stands balked but not defeated, the enemy of four-fifths of the world."
President Wilson delayed long our entrance into the war. “Never shall I forget,” he wrote, “that the sword is not to be drawn until the last moment, to defend public liberties, and that it is to be returned to the scabbard at the first moment when those liberties are safe.” “The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation. We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge, or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right
we have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the cham
pions of the rights of mankind; we shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as faith and the freedom of nations can make them ... The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.”
Four years earlier, when a clamor rose among the hot-tempered for intervention in Mexico, Mr. Wilson had shown the same spirit of generosity and moderation. “Impatience on our part would be childish, and would be fraught with every risk of wrong and folly
We can afford to exercise the self-restraint of a really great nation which realizes its own strength and scorns to misuse it."
This declaration of national policy should be put side by side with Washington's "I have always thought that no nation should meddle with the international affairs of another nation." And with Presi. dent Harrison's "In no case do we desire territorial possessions which do not directly form one body with our national domain; and we nowhere desire a domain acquired by criminal aggression."
These sentiments have been repeated over and over again by our statesmen, and express the true spirit of Americanism. But it is wise to repeat them often, since(there are not wanting jingoes in our midst, and those who would gladly find profit or prestige in another people's humiliation. Certain newspaper owners have been persistently trying to inflame our fears and our resentment toward other nations. And not a few citizens of the nations to the south of us suspect us of imperialistic designs. Our interventions in Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Nicaragua, our acquisition of Porto Rico and the Canal Zone, may easily seem to