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[Note: This address by the Senator who had been
the first to rise in opposition to the League in the Senate, in November,
won the devoted admiration of the usually cynical journalist H. L. Mencken. As Mencken, who sat in the gallery when the following
was delivered, and--as he himself put it hung on it like a yokel fascinated by a Methodist Bishop--would write of this speech, Reed
and the League eight years later: It was a phillipic of austere and classical cut... a masterpiece of corrosive logic. ...[it] got no notice
in the newspapers next day... But the doctrine in it was sound doctrine, and in the long run (so, at least, one may hope) it will prevail.
Was all this the mere flogging of a dead lion? Obviously, it was not. Reed himself had brought that lion down, the carcass was his to
use as he pleased... He was the first to make a head long assault, openly, relentlessly, and with all arms. He was saying back in 1920
what historians will probably be saying a century hence, and he was saying it in far more brilliant and scorching words than they will
At the time (November, 1918) when Reed launched
the formal opposition in the Senate, the concept of a League was very,
popular--far more popular than any lunacy today over a New World Order. But Reed and others stood their ground in defense of
the Washington/Jefferson foreign policy, answered every argument, and finally won the battle.
We reproduce the speech as an aid to those Conservatives
who go forth to fight present day internationalists. May they gather
insight and inspiration from one who fought and won the same battle over eighty years ago.]
All the funeral orations which have been pronounced
since the obsequies over Abel have never put life into a corpse, and all
the efforts to revive the League of Nations by oratory in the Senate will
be equally futile. This is a Government of the people. If the people have
anything to say in the Government of the United States, then the League
of Nations was condemned to death and executed on the second day of last
November; and the Democratic Party came very near suffering the same fate
at the same time.
From a party which had polled a popular majority
of, I think, over a million votes only four years before, which had been
in charge of the executive department of the Government during a great
and successful war, we ended, or are in a few hours to end, our grip or
control of the executive department at the mandate of more than seven million
above a majority of the people.
Gentlemen may expend all of the time and energy
they possess in seeking for other causes for this defeat, but he is blind
indeed and deaf indeed who does not know that the Democratic ship went
on the rocks because its captain was trying to steer us into the false
harbor of internationalism.
What other great mistakes did the Democratic
party make? If there were mistakes made in the conduct of the war, they
were mistakes made by our military or our naval chiefains, or they were
mistakes made by that great body of civilians who came to the aid of the
Government in its time of stress, and who came equally from both parties.
What great mistake did the Democratic Party
make in handling the financial affairs of the country? There may have been
blunders and errors, but for every law that was passed Republicans voted,
and in the execution of those laws to a very large extent Republicans participated.
A calm survey of the field, a calm reading
of the issues must convince every candid man that the great issue decided
by the American people was whether we would abandon the ancient policies
of this Government, policies so well laid down by George Washington in
his immortal farewell address, or whether we should adhere to those policies.
The American people answered in thundering tones. Yet we find men standing
on the floor of the Senate today, repeating upon this floor the speeches
they made on the hustings when they were talking about the beauty of dreams
and the glory of visions.
We had a eulogy on dreams here a few minutes
ago. Every time we use the illustration or speak of the futility of dreams,
meaning to describe the impractical, we are immediately told that every
great thing originated in a dream. I deny the proposition. Since the days
of the prophets, nothing has ever originated in a dream that has been of
any good to anyone. Things originate in in ideas, and there are mighty
few men who have any lucid intervals when they are sound asleep. An idea
is not a dream. It may be something new, but if it is of any value it is
a sound thought and not an idle dream, not the vagary of a disordered intellect
nor the drivel of a brain that is steeped in slumber.
I have been accused this afternoon of being
practical. What is it to be practical? It is to pick one's course of conduct
to suit the facts of life and not the dreams of life. It is to make one's
ideas and one's plans so that they will work out. If they work out, they
are practical. If they will not work out, they are impractical, and there
is nothing in the world that is of the slightest value unless it will work
out and bring direct results. If we could just get rid of the little oratorical
vaporings and begin to talk with something of mathematical certainty, we
would not have so much trouble to arrive at correct conclusions.
We hear a great deal of talk about idealism,
the idealism of America, the idealism of men. There are two conceptions
of idealism. If by idealism is meant that a man is so exalted in his purposes
that he disregards his own interests from any selfish standpoint and endeavors
to benefit other people without trying to benefit himself, that kind of
idealism is admirable in an individual. But if by idealism is meant that
a man follows visions and dreams, that he does things that are impractical,
that will not work out, then that kind of idealism is closely associated
It seems nowadays that if a man undertakes
to talk about the facts as they are he is at once condemned as being utterly
sordid. Unfortunately, after all the talk that we may have about ideals
we must still face the old, cold, hard truths of life. We can not escape
them. Although we stood and talked for a thousand years, still the hard
facts would come and confront us. Legislation if it be wise recognizes
the fact just as that fact exists, and having recognized it, it tries to
better that fact if it be possible.
We have had some of these dreams in this country,
much to our detriment and greatly to our loss. I heard a Senator deliver
an address here the other day in which he denounced every preparation for
war, every effort to place our country in the condition of defense. I heard
the same Senator make the same speech in practically the same terms less
than six months before the European war broke out.
There was then a band of people, calling themselves
idealists, who went up and down the country telling us that there would
never be any more war, that Christian civilization would not permit it;
that the instruments of destruction were so terrible and the advance of
Christianity and of humanitarian so pronounced that there would never be
any danger of any war. They announced, practically, that the millennium
had come. They announced that in the face of some facts which the practical
man observed all the time and for which he had regard all the time.
What were those facts? They were that Germany
was increasing her armament; and she was not only increasing her armaments
but she was doing it for a purpose. Great Britain was increasing her armament,
and she was doing it for a purpose. France was increasing her armament,
and whe was doing it for a purpose. Fundamentally, that purpose was to
outstrip the other nations of the world in a policy of imperialism. Coupled
with that, of course, was something of fear which each of those nations
may have had of the other. But the cold truth of history is that when England
embarked upon her career of imperialism under Disraeli, when she started
to seize the helpless lands and helpless people of the world, Germany and
Italy and France followed her example, and it became a race, not between
nations seeking to defend themselves but by nations seeking to exploit
the earth. Every man who looked at the facts as they were knew that those
conditions were liable at any time to produce a clash, and that clash finally
We were told there would be no war, notwithstanding
those facts. Every man who said that there might be a war was condemned
as a bloodthirsty villain. Accordingly, when the war broke out in Europe,
every man who said that we might be dragged into that war and that there
ought to be some preparation was denounced. The President of the United
States declared that we were too proud to fight--and there was no preparation
made. A Senator who spoke here this afternoon said that the President in
the spring of 1916 knew we were going into the war. If that is true, then
what right did the President have to conduct that campaign upon the slogan
"He kept us out of war" and to stand upon the Democratic platform that
declared we were going to stay out of the war?
We entered the war; and for what purpose? I
have at great length and in previous addresses to the Senate read the record,
and shown by the record two things: First, that we declined to enter the
war, even when our ships were sunk, after the Lusitania had been sunk,
after Belgium had been invaded, and when atrocity after atrocity had been
committed which horrified the world. We finally entered the war because
Germany had declared that she proposed to renew her policy of sinking ships
with submarines. Even then we did not declare war, but the President waited
for an overt act to be committed. He declared, and declared officially,
in substance that unless overt acts were committed we would not enter the
war. Finally the overt acts were committed--three of our ships being sunk
in one day--and we then entered the war. However, we did not even declare
war on Germany. We declared that Germany had made war on us and that a
state of war existed.
There was not a word heard about democratizing
the world; there was not a word heard about America going over there to
settle the difficulties of Europe, and to stay over there to help settle
them. We declared that Germany was making war upon us. Such a resolution
would not have received in the Senate a single vote if there had been coupled
with it a declaration that we were going to stay over there in Europe to
help those nations settle their difficulties except the one in which we
were concerned. Every man in this Senate who will be honest with himself
will have to admit that.
The talk about democratizing the world began
long after we entered the war; and, Mr. President, the talk about democratizing
the world--and I say it with due respect--was about as senseless a thing
as ever fell from human lips. I will tell you why. Who was it was to democratize
the world? What were the instrumentalities by which the democratization
was to be produced? There was one Republic in the war besides ours; all
the rest of them were monarchies. The indefensible thought was put forward
that six or seven kings, backed by six or seven aristocracies, were about
to take the crowns off the heads of the monarchs of the world, including
themselves, and turn the world into a great democracy. Who ever believed
that would happen? Not a king lost his crown except by revolt of his own
people, and some of those people have been setting up kings since. Some
of the countries which we established are monarchies or near monarchies.
Everybody that said that would happen was just a practical man, and that
was all; he was not an idealist.
Then, we were told, pursuant to this same line
of thought, that we would have a great brotherhood of nations assembled;
and that when those nations were assembled together, by their representatives,
they would constitute a body devoted to the service of God and man, without
a single selfish thought or a single iniquitous motive. What was the first
thing that we observed? We observed that at the close of the war, those
countries that we had been told were to be the instrumentalities of the
democratization of the world and the liberation of small nations, seized
every foot of territory that was held by helpless people anywhere in the
world. England seized more territory, as the result of the World War, than
Rome occupied in the proudest days of the Caesars; France seized bodies
of land many times larger than her own domain; Italy took all that she
could get within her grasp; Greece is engaged in a war at this moment for
the purpose of expanding her dominions. We set up a new child, our first
born; we baptized it from this holy fountain of internationalism and regenerated
it with the new philosophy of humanity; we named it Poland; and the first
thing it did was to march 300 miles into the territory of an adjoining
State and, with fire and sword, begin the work of conquest.
We set up Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia, and
they have been on the border line of war two or three times. One excuse
for the French Army today was offered that it had to hold Syria. Why, and
under what right? By the right of the sword; by the right of conquest.
So, Mr. President, in all the history of this
world there is no more complete example of the fact that the nations of
the Old World have engaged in the policy of exploitation and expansion
than is afforded by recent events; yet there were men who were charged
with being merely practical and hard hearted creatures who said that you
can not take men who are engaged in that kind of spoiliation and transform
them into saints by having them meet over in Geneva and pass a resolution.
But I have only adverted to a little of this.
What of Shantung? What of the plundering of that nation that had been our
ally by the joint conspiracy and joint action of three of our other allies?
What of the secret conniving and conspiring against China--a nation that
we induced to enter the war? Yet we are told that the representatives of
these nations, appearing in the League with their swords still dripping,
would be the proper viceregents of Christ on earth to establish His millennium
But that is not all, sir. This League was formed
for the purpose of crystallizing the fetters upon conquered people; of
driving the nails into the coffin of the hopes of conquered masses upon
penalty of being set upon, not by one nation but by the united powers of
Mr. President, they have assembled themselves
in their League, and it is discovered by practical men, which is only another
way of saying sensible men, that when they sit around that table they are
sitting each for the purpose of perpetuating its own power and its own
greatness and of more firmly establishing itself and its possessions, whether
taken justly or unjustly.
But, Mr. President, one of the things that
the idealists expected was that this League would when organized reduce
armaments. Let us not take our answer out of the clouds; let us take it
out of the facts of earth. The fact is that when the peace council was
assembled, even when the infant League was still awaiting its advent into
the cradle, Great Britain declared that she would not surrender her sovereignty
of the sea. Every responsible British statesman is on record to that effect;
and if the British refused to surrender their dominance upon the sea, every
nation of the earth knew that that meant they must stand to their defense,
for they have sense enough to know that a nation so Roman in its spirit,
so Roman in its traditions, so Roman in its policies that with but 38,000,000
people it could extend its dominions over 425,000,000 protesting human
beings; that with a little island home, it could extend its flag over one-third
of God's habitable creation --that a nation of that kind did not keep a
navy as a plaything. If they had any cause to doubt it, they had but to
turn the pages of history and read the story, every page of which is written
in blood and every line of which was penned with the sword; yes, and, as
has been suggested by a Senator, every dollar of which was paid for by
the conquered countries.
France, as has been stated here on the floor,
absolutely declined to reduce her army, even though Germany had been disarmed
and had been limited to 100,000 men for a constabulary. I do not criticize
France for this; I am just telling these dreamers that they need not any
longer wonder whether their dreams come true. Dreams of that kind do not
come true. When you dream that there is going to be no more sun in the
skies, that there are going to be no more stars at night, your dream does
not come true. It is only when you dream of facts that your dream is ever
Mr. President, if this League of Nations thing
is what these gentlemen over here have been professing, even this afternoon
while they stood tearfully beside its grave, why is it that it has not
taken action to bring about disarmament? They proudly boast that they have
in it now 46 nations, I believe, including Liberia. They tell us that they
are so great and so powerful and so potential that we will ultimately be
forced to join. If that is true, if they are so great an association as
is claimed, why have they not acted, why have they not proclaimed disarmament?
Mr. President, let us look at it calmly. Let
us try to use our common sense just a little bit. Let us assume that these
46 nations are assembled in good faith, that they propose in good faith
to carry out a policy of disarmament, that they propose in good faith to
unite their powers for the purpose of protecting each other in accordance
with the written terms of the contract they have signed. Now, why do they
not do it?
Germany is disarmed. Russia for the present
is impotent. What is the menace, then, that keeps them from doing it? Is
there any man born of woman who dares say it is the United States; that
they believe that the United States of America has in its heart the remotest
thought of making war upon any nation? The man who tells that story to
himself is guilty of telling a falsehood to his own soul. He knows it is
not true. There is not a man with common sense in the world who does not
know that it is not true.
Do you think England is keeping her navy because
she thinks we are going to attack her? Do you think France is keeping her
army because she thinks we are going to attack her? Do you think Japan
is keeping her navy because she thinks we are going 6,000 miles from our
shores to pick a quarrel with her? They know that the sole purpose of the
United States, declared by a vote of the people in the last election, is
to stay home and tend to her own business and let all the rest of the world
go home, and they have all certified, as the Senator from Connecticut suggests,
time and again that we are the only nation they trust. They, therefore,
are not keeping this armament because of anything that the United States
is doing in the way of keeping out of the League. They have all of Europe
and all of Asia and all of Africa for their field of operations. We have
already told them to keep out of this continent, and we are going to make
them keep out, too.
Why, then, do they not produce this peace?
Why, then, do they not produce this concert of of mind and heart? Why do
they not agree among themselves to disarm? The answer is that there is
not one of them that trusts the other, and there is not one of them that
trusts the League of Nations, for the aggregate of 46 distrusts will not
produce a confidence.
What is it that they want us in for? Why, they
want us in for the same reason that they want us to cancel their debts
to us. They want us to bear the expense. They want us in to guarantee that
whenever they get a majority in the League that wants to do something,
the tremendous force of the United States will be there to help accomplish
it. Now, what will that something be? Primarily, it will be that we will
spend our blood and treasure to enable them to keep the greatest amount
of loot that was ever gathered in a century of time since the world was
Mr. President, let me follow a dream a little
bit. For some hours I listened to a sermon here this afternoon that sounded
almost as good to me as though I had heard it delivered by a professional
preacher in a great temple devoted to the service of idealism. The orator
said, "Is the world never to be better? Are we not some time to reach a
condition where we will no longer slaughter each other?"
Yes; maybe we will reach that condition some
time, but what about the meantime? Maybe some day the golden glow will
sweep over the night of ignorance and of selfishness; maybe some day the
figure of the cross will be envisioned upon the skies; maybe some day the
lion and the lamb will lie down together, and we will listen to the music
of the anvil and the hammer beating swords into plowshares and spears into
pruning hooks; but what about the interval of time? That is what is bothering
They tell us that our race is the best type
of Christian civilization. Very well; I want to preserve that civilization
until Christ does come to earth, and I do not want any individual to assume
that he can transform himself into a second Christ by talking about idealism.
Every once in a while, you know, there is a gentleman who imagines that
he is Napoleon, or Caesar, or Hannibal, or Mahomet, or the Saviour. The
trouble is, they are idealists; they are not practical men. Suppose we
sit down here and say to ourselves, "Some day, somewhere, in some remote
century of time, people are going to be so good that they will not kill
us, and therefore we will throw away our weapons and give them several
thousand years in which to butcher us"; and suppose that in the meantime
this race of men to which we belong, and which is all that represents real
civilization in the world, is destroyed. There will not be anybody to recognize
the millennium when it does come. There will not be anybody with enough
idealism to know what it is when he sees it.
If it be true that we are the custodians of
civilization, then it is our duty to preserve that civilization. If it
be true that America saved civilization less than three years ago with
the help of France and England, or that they saved it with our help--I
make no quarrel about the way you state it--how did they save it? They
saved it with guns in their hands. They saved it with bayonets fixed. They
saved it with mighty fleets that plowed the ocean. They saved it with metal,
and they saved it with men who knew how to die, and perhaps they knew how
to pray, too; but they fought as they prayed. So you have the problem now
on the one hand of waiting for the millennium and taking a chance on being
butchered in the meantime and your civilization destroyed, and on the other
hand you have the problem of preserving that civilization.
Mr. President, I think we have the best civilization
and the best Government over here. Anyway, it suits me better than anybody
else's Government. I have not joined the merry crew of modern tories who
can stand on the floor of the Senate and say that Great Britain has a better
Government than the United States. She has not anything better than the
United States except a navy, and that is better only because it is bigger,
and I am not in favor of allowing her to retain that advantage any longer;
but she is a great people. Next to ours, perhaps, except France, she has
as good a Government as there is. We are not expecting war with England;
we are not expecting war with anybody; but what is the part of wisdom?
Is it not to be in shape so that other nations will not trespass on our
rights and force us into war? And that brings me back to a thought that
I had partially expressed earlier in my talk.
We started out by telling the people of the
world that we were too proud to fight, and they took us at our word. We
had but a small Navy; we had but a small Army; but, worse than that, the
nations of the world that had real military experts understood that we
had scarcely a factory that could turn out the instrumentalities of modern
warfare unless we transformed that factory, and that took time; and so
the Germans said, "We can clean up France and England," to use a slang
phrase; "we can conquer them before America gets in; and, anyway, she is
too proud to fight, and she will not come in."
It was the great mistake that Germany made.
She found out that while we could talk peace with our mouths, we could
fight with our arms. She found out that the real heart of this people still
pumped the good red blood of the Revolution. She found out that we could
get ready quicker than she thought we could. She had miscalculated.
Senators, I will take my share of responsibility
for not having advocated, in the past, a stronger Navy. If we had had a
Navy as great as that of the British Empire, do you believe that Great
Britain ever would have seized one of our ships in this war? Do you believe
that Germany ever would have sunk an American ship? I have no more doubt
in my mind that Germany would have carefully abstained from interfering
with our commerce or firing upon our flag, if we had had a strong Navy,
than I have of my existence.
But we did not have it, and she thought she
could advantage herself by sinking vessels indiscriminately and we could
not get into the war in time, and she would conquer France and England
and Italy, and then she would have a separate question to settle with us.
Let us apply it now just as sensible men. Suppose
a British ship were to commit some outrage upon our commerce to-morrow,
or something we thought was an outrage. Suppose the vessel of some little
South American country or North American country, let us say Mexico, were
to commit a similar act against our commerce. Which of the two would we
be most likely to send an ultimatum to? Every man who will be honest with
himself on the question knows that we would be very careful, in dealing
with Great Britain, to know that we were standing upon the absolute facts.
We would be very diplomatic in our dealings with her. We would exhaust
every resource of diplomacy before we would resort to force. You also know
that in the case of Mexico, if you did not have a strong President who
stood up and demanded that we should not treat her differently from the
way in which we would treat a great nation, if the outrage had been one
which appealed to the imagination of our people, we would be at war with
her in a very short time, or we would compel her to come to humiliating
terms, at least to instant reparation.
What is true of these nations is true of us.
Let us see about Japan. Let us see about the treatment we are receiving
from this blessed League of Nations. the President reserved the island
of Yap--at least he thought he had, and that it was to be internationalized.
Everybody smiles at the name. It is not an important island, except as
a station for wireless and cable work, telegraphic communication, but it
is very important for that.
But Japan says she holds it under the mandate
of the League of Nations, a mandate of this organization of a few men who
meet over there once in a while; that they have told her to hold it. So
she will disregard our rights in the Pacific Ocean, and she proposes to
hold it. Do you know that I have this idea, that she would not say that
to Great Britain, and the reason she would not say it to Great Britain
is that British guns are too numerous and too long and the British fleet
sweeps too many seas.
Suppose Japan persists in that? I am not going to say or intimate that it will produce war, but it will produce an ugly feeling, and there are conditions which might arise out of it which might be very serious. Let me dismiss that line of argument. It is rather too delicate to pursue; but let Senators think about it.
Mr. President, advocates of the League of Nations
and the good intentions of the League of Natioms do not seem to have very
much confidence in their child. There it is over there, with 46 nations,
all anxious to keep the peace. If so, what have we to fear?
The truth about the matter is that you know
it has already proven itself a disappointment. It has been said here that
Japan is not building a navy. Mr. President, a partial quotation from some
article the Senator gave is the first statement I ever heard to that effect.
Upon the contrary, the papers and periodicals have borne telegram after
telegram showing the great effort Japan is making to increase her navy.
We are told with a singular sort of amusing phraseology, first, that England
has stopped building capitol battleships, therefore that she is leading
us in the march to peace. But before the sentence was concluded, it slipped
out of the Senator's mouth that the reason she has quit, if she has quit,
is that she has gone into conquering the air.
The fact is, and we all know it, and it is
the only argument I have ever heard which seems to me to be worth anything
against carrying out this naval program --the fact is that some great military
experts claim that modern battle fleets will be helpless if they are attacked
from the air by modern air fighters, and further say that Great Britain
is so much convinced of that that she has actually stopped building some
of her fleets. But when she stopped building the fleets to sail the surface
of the seas, she began building other and greater fleets to sail the air.
What does that prove? Does it prove the good
intention of Great Britain to disarm, or does it prove her desire to create
still more superior arms?
Yet that is the kind of argument we are treated
to on the floor of the Senate, hour after hour and day after day.
Mr. President, one could stand here and talk
a long time in reply to these statements. I think I have said about all
I want to say. My own notion is that we laid down a naval program in 1916
which ought to be completed, no matter what else is done. We have passed
a resolution by a unanimous vote of the Senate asking the only two great
naval powers there are, outside the United States, to meet with us and
to agree upon a limitation of sea armament.
If we put that limitation on to-morrow, nobody
will conceive the idea that they are ready, in the present state of the
world, to reduce the British navy and take her battleships off the ocean,
or that Japan is going to sink her navy and we are going to sink ours.
What may be accomplished, if it is gone at in a sensible way, is to secure
an agreement that, present programs being carried out, there will be no
more vessels built for a period of time. Then by future negotiations, we
may be able to do something regulating the future. But, sirs, even such
a program as that ought to embrace the right of the United States to a
better position upon the seas, relatively, than she has to-day.
Now, let me tell you why I say that. I do not
believe, even after the lesson of this Great War, that we conceive fully
the importance of the command of the seas. If we had a disagreement with
France and with England and with other nations, nevertheless it is nothing
but an agreement, and treaties have been broken ever since they have been
written, and no nation is wise which relies alone upon treaty arrangements.
England to-day has command of the oceans, and
let me just give you this one thought--not new perhaps to any of you, but
it happens to fit in what I am saying just now. The command of the oceans
was always important, but the command of the oceans to-day means the command
practically of the world. Wars of a hundred years ago were fought by armies
that marched over land; on horseback or on foot they traveled. They had
to either live off the country or they had to haul their provisions behind
them in immense wagon trains, slowly and laboriously, over muddy roads.
The result was that armies were limited in their size.
The armies of Napoleon would have been insignificant
in the late war. Their field of operations was limited. The length of the
war was limited. Their devastation was similarly limited.
Now, Mr. President, railroads have annihilated
distance upon the land; the most remote interiors are brought into immediate
touch with the ocean's shore. The steam vessel has taken the place of the
sail ship, and accordingly the country that commands the ocean commands
the resources of the entire world, and can bring them all to bear at the
point of mobilization. Men were making articles 1,000 miles south of the
Equator and 2000 mile north of the Equator, which in a few days, a few
weeks at the outside, reached the line of contact between the French and
English and the German forces in France.
The busy fingers of millions of women, thousands
of miles away from the field of war, were knitting, making clothing here
because they loved some of the combatants or because they were paid for
their labor. Of course, those in our country and in the countries actually
at war did not do it for pay. Mills, factories, a million wheels were buzzing
all over the world, and a united industry and power, the creative strength
of the world, was mobilized; and it was in the control of the nation that
controlled the seas. If Germany could have kept the seas, Germany would
have won the war. If Germany could have kept a fleet upon the seas so strong
that England could not overcome it, even though it could not overcome the
British fleet, we never would have been able, probably, to have landed
a single squadron of soldiers in France. Every man knows how helpless is
a fleet of transports, with no weapons, laden with its thousands of boys.
If one single man of war comes within gunshot, all go to the bottom. So
if Germany could have kept a few vessels upon the ocean, England never
would have been able to have mobilized her troops from Australia and Canada,
New Zealand and India. Her food and her men alike would have been gone,
and we would not have been able to go to her assistance effectively.
Mr. President, that is an alarming situation.
We need not in any way reflect upon Great Britain. We must treat her, however,
as a great rival, a friendly rival to-day in the world. May she always
be friendly. I am unwilling that my country shall be in a position so that
her ports can be blockaded, her commerce destroyed, and all the energies
and all the resources of the world brought to bear upon us. Especially
am I of that view when I contemplate the fact that just north of us there
is an immense domain under the flag of Great Britain, with 9,000,000 loyal
British upon the soil of that vast domain, with islands that fringe the
Atlantic and constitute a screen beyond our shores, nearly all of them
under the British flag; that within 50 miles of Miami, Florida, England
owns the land; that this double fringe of islands practically closes the
Gulf of Mexico and commands the canal; that upon our Pacific coast we are
equally open to attack; that our neighbor to the south is none too friendly,
as is too helpless to protect her own domain if she should be attacked.
This is not jingoism. A jingo is a man who
proposes to stir up his people to war and to war against others. This,
sir, is an attempt to preserve the integrity and independence of the United
States, and to keep her at peace by certifying to all the world that we
are prepared to defend ourselves.
Mr. President, that is all I desire to say
upon this question. I think it is time to get down and face the cold facts
of existence. If the resolution which was drawn by the Senator from Idaho
[Mr. Borah], which was introduced by him, and I believe, finally, for some
reason, was introduced in substantially the same form by another Senator,
will bring Great Britain and Japan to a condition where they are willing
to limit armament, then well and good. I voted for the resolution; I supported
it; but in the meantime, I am not willing to stop for one single day pending
the negotiations. The harder we work now and the faster we build now, the
quicker we will have a resolution of that kind brought to fruition and
the better terms we will get.
We have had a great deal of talk about saving
money. I will tell the Senate how we can save several million dollars a
year. Let us abolish the Federal Trade Commission. We created it one day,
and they said it would only cost us about $25,000 a year. It costs $900,000
a year now, and I think it is doing $9,000,000 a year damage. Let us get
rid of some of these useless bureaus.
There is another thing. We have a large debt
abroad. I am going to stop to mention that. I think that debt is much more
likely to be paid if they understand that the sheriff has a gun in his
pocket than if one goes out with his hat in his hand asking to have it
paid. I am not suggesting war to get it. I do not mean that. I think the
time has come to deal with all these questions as practical men, to recognize
facts exactly as they are, to get our heads out of the clouds and our eyes
upon the earth where we live; and let us try to make them see that our
country is secure; and if our country is secure, civilization will be secure.
If our country is ever unfortunately destroyed, then, in truth, will the
flag of civilization have been furled.
I started to sit down, but I thought of something
else I wanted to say, and I will say it while I am here. Our country has
reached a point economically where it must manufacture vast quantities
of goods and create vast quantities of provisions and supplies to sell
all around the world. Fifty-one per cent of our people now live in cities.
The markets of the world are the only answer
to continued prosperity. We have expended hundreds of millions of dollars
in building ships to trade with the world. If we are to trade with the
world, and do it through the merchant fleet that we own, there must necessarily
be a policing of that business. We can not send our commerce into every
country and land and send it there with safety unless the nations of the
world understand that we are prepared to protect our rights. When they
understand that, they will not interfere with us. If they understand the
contrary, they will.
Let us take a lesson out of the story of China.
She has been following idealism. So far as I know, it has been nearly a
thousand years since China ever undertook a war that could be called a
war of conquest.
She has taught the doctrine that men ought
not to fight even in defense of their own homes; that war is brutality.
She has taught it so successfully that her civilization has gone backward;
that her lands are being divided up, and that the most virtuous nations
in the world, even Great Britain and France, join with the ancient enemy
of China to divide her asunder. That demonstrates how much confidence can
be put in an agreement.
China had an agreement. She not only had an
agreement, but she was then sending her sons to die on the fields of France,
as we were sending ours; except she did not send them as soldiers, but
sent the poor fellows with spades and picks in their hands to die without
a chance to fight back. Having made that sacrifice, and even while she
was making it, while Chinamen were breathing poison gas into their lungs,
while their veins were being drained through the wounds made by the bullets
of Germans; England and France sat down with Japan and robbed China. Then,
Senators, talk about relying upon agreements! Would they have done that
to China if she had had an army? Would they have done it to China if she
had had a fleet sailing the oceans and back of big guns yellow men who
knew how to shoot? Some kinds of idealism approach idiocy.
Mr. President, I should not have taken this
much time of the Senate at this hour, but I understand that it is a fact
that the naval bill has no chance to go through at this session, and I
might just as well talk as anybody else. I felt like saying these things.
We have had this old corpse of the League of Nations dragged around the
Senate Chamber for the last 30 days by a number of gentlemen who acted
as pallbearers at its funeral, and who ought to know that it is dead. I
am getting tired of ghost dances.
Let me tell the Democrats on this side, I challenge
your motives not at all. I think you were suffering from shell shock; that
is all; but in the name of common sense, why do we want to cling to an
issue that brought us to this frightful defeat? Why not accept it. Why
not say the question was submitted to the people in a great and solemn
referendum, and the people decided it, and we are going to accept the decision
and quit talking about it? Do you want to tie that corpse on your back
and enter another race? If so, then let me tell you what will happen. You
will lose every State in the South as well as every State in the North.
I said on this floor that the solid South would be broken in the last election,
and it was. I am not a prophet, but I am not an idealist. I might get low
enough to run a bunko game, but I never would play it on myself; at least,
I would not do so a second time.
I hope we are as wise at least as the old farmer
who had just returned from the great city of New York. His friends, observing
a package under his arm, securely wrapped up in paper, said to him, "Uncle
Dan, where have you been?"
He replied, "I have been to New York."
They said, "Well, we hope you did not buy another
He answered, "Well, yes I did. But I told the
fellow I bought it from that if it did not turn out better than the one
I bought from him before, I would not patronize him any more."
Mr. President, I hope that we are through with
that issue. I thank the Senate.
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