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order that they may understand each other, it is imperative that they should agree to coöperate in a common cause, and that they should so act that the guiding principle of that common cause shall be even-handed and impartial justice.
This in undoubtedly the thought of America. This is what we ourselves will say when there comes proper occasion to say it. In the dealings of nations with one another arbitrary force must be rejected and we must move forward to the thought of the modern world, the thought of which peace is the very atmosphere. That thought constitutes a chief part of the passionate conviction of America.
We believe these fundamental things: First, that every people has a right to choose the sovereignty under which they shall live. Like other nations, we have ourselves no doubt once and again offended against that principle when for a little while controlled by selfish passion, as our franker historians have been honorable enough to admit; but it has become more and more our rule of life and action. Second, that the small states of the world have a right to enjoy the same respect for their sovereignty and for their territorial integrity that great and powerful nations expect and insist upon. And, third, that the world has a right to be free from every disturbance of its peace that has its origin in aggression and disregard of the rights of peoples and nations.
So sincerely do we believe in these things that I am sure that I speak the mind and wish of the people of America when I say that the United States is willing to become a partner in any feasible association of nations formed in order to realize these objects and make them secure against violation.
There is nothing that the United States wants for itself that any other nation has. We are willing, on the contrary, to limit ourselves along with them to a prescribed course of duty and respect for the rights of others which will check any selfish passion of our own, as it will check any aggressive impulse of theirs.
If it should ever be our privilege to suggest or initiate a movement for peace among the nations now at war, I am sure that the people of the United States would wish their Government to move along these lines: First, such a settlement with regard to their own immediate interests as the belligerents may agree upon. We have nothing material of any kind to ask for ourselves, and are quite aware that we are in no sense or degree parties to the present quarrel. Our interest is only in peace and its future guarantees. Second, an universal association of the nations to maintain the inviolate security of the highway of the seas for the common and unhindered use of all the nations of the world, and to prevent any war begun either contrary to treaty covenants or without warning and full submission of the causes to the opinion of the world,-a virtual guarantee of territorial integrity and political independence.
But I did not come here, let me repeat, to discuss a programme. I came only to avow a creed and give expression to the confidence I feel that the world is even now upon the eve of a great consummation, when some common force will be brought into existence which shall safeguard right as the first and most fundamental interest of all peoples and all governments, when coercion shall be summoned not to the service of political ambition or selfish hostility, but to the service of a common order, a common justice, and a common peace. God grant that the dawn of that day of frank dealing and of settled peace, concord, and cooperation may be near at hand!
White House Pamphlet.
40. PREPAREDNESS TO THE SOLDIER
(June 13, 1916)
ADDRESS AT THE MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT
I look upon this body of men who are graduating to-day with a peculiar interest. I feel like congratulating them that they are living in a day not only so interesting, because so fraught with change, but also because so responsible. Days of responsibility are the only days that count in time, because they are the only days that give test of quality.
They are the only days when manhood and purpose is tried out as if by fire. I need not tell you young gentlemen that you are not like an ordinary graduating class of one of our universities. The men in those classes look forward to the life which they are to lead after graduation with a great many questions in their mind. Most of them do not know exactly what their lives are going to develop into. Some of them do not know what occupations they are going to follow. All of them are conjecturing what will be the line of duty and advancement and the ultimate goal of success for them.
There is no conjecture for you. You have enlisted in something that does not stop when you leave the Academy, for you then only begin to realize it, which then only begins to be filled with the full richness of its meaning, and you can look forward with absolute certainty to the sort of thing that you will be obliged to do.
This has always been true of graduating classes at West Point, but the certainty that some of the older classes used to look forward to was a dull certainy. Some of the old days in the army, I fancy, were not very interesting days. Sometimes men like the present Chief of Staff, for example, could fill their lives with the interest of really knowing and understanding the Indians of the Western plains, knowing what was going on inside their minds and being able to be the intermediary between them and those who dealt with them, by speaking their sign language, could enrich their lives; but the ordinary life of the average officer at a Western post can not have been very exciting, and I think with admiration of those dull years through which officers who had not a great deal to do insisted, nevertheless, upon being efficient and worth while and keeping their men fit, at any rate, for the duty to which they are assigned.
But in your case there are many extraordinary possibilities, because, gentlemen, no man can certainly tell you what the immediate future is going to be either in the history of this country or in the history of the world. It is not by accident that the present great war came in Europe. Every element was there, and the contest had to come sooner or later, and it is not going to be by accident that the results
are worked out, but by purpose—by the purpose of the men who are strong enough to have guiding minds and indomitable wills when the time for decision and settlement comes. And the part that the United States is to play has this distinction in it, that it is to be in any event a disinterested part. There is nothing that the United States wants that it has to get by war, but there are a great many things that the United States has to do. It has to see that that its life is not interfered with by anybody else who wants something.
These are days when we are making preparation, when the thing most commonly discussed around every sort of table, in every sort of circle, in the shops and in the streets, is preparedness, and undoubtedly, gentlemen, that is the present imperative duty of America, to be prepared. But we ought to know what we are preparing for. I remember hearing a wise man say once that the old maxim that “everything comes to the man who waits” is all very well provided he knows what he is waiting for; and preparedness might be a very hazardous thing if we did not know what we wanted to do with the force that we mean to accumulate and to get into fighting shape.
America, fortunately, does know what she wants to do with her force. America came into existence for a particular reason. When you look about upon these beautiful hills, and up this stately stream, and then let your imagination run over the whole body of this great country from which you youngsters are drawn, far and wide, you remember that while it had aboriginal inhabitants, while there were people living here, there was no civilization which we displaced. It was as in the Providence of God a continent had been kept unused and waiting for a peaceful people who loved liberty and the rights of men more than they loved anything else, to come and set up an unselfish commonwealth. It is a very extraordinary thing. You are so familiar with American history, at any rate in its general character—I don't accuse you of knowing the details of it, for I never found the youngster who did—but you are so familiar with the general character of American history that it does not seem strange to you, but it is a very strange history. There is none other like it in the whole annals of
mankind-of men gathering out of every civilized nation of the world on an unused continent and building up a polity exactly to suit ourselves, not under the domination of any ruling dynasty or of the ambitions of any royal family; doing what they pleased with their own life on a free space of land which God had made rich with every resource which was necessary for the civilization they meant to build up. There is nothing like it.
Now, what we are preparing to do is to see that nobody mars that and that, being safe itself against interference from the outside, all of its force is going to be behind its moral idea, and mankind is going to know that when America speaks she means what she says. I heard a man say to another, “If you wish me to consider you witty, I must really trouble you to make a joke.” We have a right to say to the rest of mankind, “If you don't want to interfere with us, if you are disinterested, we must really trouble you to give evidence of that fact.” We are not in for anything selfish, and we want the whole mighty power of America thrown into that scale and not into any other.
You know that the chief thing that is holding many people back from enthusiasm for what is called preparedness is the fear of militarism. I want to say a word to you young gentlemen about militarism. You are not militarists because you are military. Militarism does not consist in the existence of an army, not even in the existence of a very great army. Militarism is a spirit. It is a point of view. It is a system. It is a purpose. The purpose of militarism is to use armies for aggression. The spirit of militarism is the opposite of the civilian spirit, the citizen spirit. In a country where militarism prevails the military man looks down upon the civilian, regards him as inferior, thinks of him as intended for his, the military man's, support and use; and just so long as America is America that spirit and point of view is impossible with us. There is as yet in this country, so far as I can discover, no taint of the spirit of militarism. You young gentlemen are not preferred in promotion because of the families you belong to. You are not drawn into the Academy because you belong to certain influential circles.