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subject to the immediate call to arms of the national authority, and yet men not put into the ranks of the Regular Army; men left to their tasks of civil life, men supplied with equipment and training, but not drawn away from the peaceful pursuits which have made America great and must keep her great. I am not a partisan of any one plan. I have had too much experience to think that it is right to say that the plan that I propose is the only plan that will work, because I have a shrewd suspicion that there may be other plans that will work. What I am after, and what every American ought to insist upon, is a body of at least half a million trained citizens who will serve under conditions of danger as an immediately available national reserve.

I am not saying anything about the Navy to-night, because for some reason there is not the same controversy about the Navy that there is about the Army. The Navy is obvious and easily understood; the Army apparently is very difficult to comprehend and understand. We have a traditional prejudice against armies which makes us stop thinking calmly the minute we begin talking about them. We suppose that all armies are alike and that there can not be an American Army system, that it must be a European system, and that is what I for one am trying to divest my own mind of. The Navy is so obvious an instrument of national defense that I believe that, with differences of opinion about the detail, it is not going to be difficult to carry out a proper and reasonable program for the increase of the Navy.

But that is another story; my theme to-night is national defense on land where we seem most negligent of it. And I do not want to leave in your minds the impression that I have any anxiety as to the outcome, for I have not the slightest. There is only one way for parties and individuals to win the confidence of this Nation and that is by doing the things that ought to be done. Nobody is going to be deceived. Speeches are not going to win elections. The facts are going to speak for themselves and speak louder than anybody who controverts them. No political party, no group of men, can afford to disappoint America. This is a year of political accounting, and the Americans in politics are rather expert accountants. They know what the books contain and they are not going to be deceived about them. No man is going to hide behind any excuse; the goods must be delivered or the confidence will not be enjoyed. For my part, I hope that every man in public life will get what is coming to him.

If this is true, gentlemen, it is because of things that lie much deeper than laughter, much deeper than cheers; lie down at the very roots of our life. America refuses to be deceived about the things that most concern her national honor and national safety, that lie at the foundation of everything that you love. It is the solemn time when men must examine not only their purposes but their hearts. Men must purge themselves of individual ambition, and must see to it that they are ready for the utmost self-sacrifice in the interests of the common welfare. Let no man dare play the marplot. Let no man dare bring partisan passion into these great things. Let men honestly debate the facts and courageously act upon them. Then there will come that day when the world will say, "This America that we thought was full of a multitude of contrary counsels now speaks with the great volume of the heart's accord, and that great heart of America has behind it the supreme moral force of righteousness and hope and the liberty of mankind."

White House Pamphlet.


(February 24, 1916)


I very warmly appreciate your kind and frank letter of to-day, and feel that it calls for an equally frank reply.

You are right in assuming that I shall do everything in my power to keep the United States out of war. I think the country will feel no uneasiness about my course in that respect. Through many anxious months I have striven for that object, amid difficulties more manifold than can have been apparent upon the surface, and so far I have succeeded. I do not doubt that I shall continue to succeed. The course which the central European powers have announced their intention of following in the future with regard to undersea warfare seems for the moment to threaten insuperable obstacles, but its apparent meaning is so manifestly inconsistent with explicit assurances recently given us by those powers with regard to their treatment of merchant vessels on the high seas that I must believe that explanations will presently ensue which will put a different aspect upon it. We have had no reason to question their good faith or their fidelity to their promises in the past, and I for one feel confident that we shall have none in the future.

But in any event our duty is clear. No nation, no group of nations, has the right, while war is in progress, to alter or disregard the principles which all nations have agreed upon in mitigation of the horrors and sufferings of war; and if the clear rights of American citizens should very unhappily be abridged or denied by any such action, we should, it seems to me, have in honor no choice as to what our own course should be.

For my own part, I cannot consent to any abridgment of the rights of American citizens in any respect. The honor and self-respect of the Nation is involved. We covet peace, and shall preserve it at any cost but the loss of honor. To forbid our people to exercise their rights for fear we might be called upon to vindicate them would be a deep humiliation indeed. It would be an implicit, all but an explicit, acquiescence in the violation of the rights of mankind everywhere and of whatever nation or allegiance. It would be a deliberate abdication of our hitherto proud position as spokesmen, even amid the turmoil of war, for the law and the right. It would make everything this Government has attempted and everything that it has accomplished during this terrible struggle of nations meaningless and futile.

It is important to reflect that if in this instance we allowed expediency to take the place of principle the door would inevitably be opened to still further concessions. Once accept a single abatement of right, and many other humiliations would certainly follow, and the whole fine fabric of international law might crumble under our hands piece by piece. What we are contending for in this matter is of the very essence of the things that have made America a sovereign nation. She cannot yield them without conceding her own impotency as a Nation and making virtual surrender of her independent position among the nations of the world.

I am speaking, my dear Senator, in deep solemnity, without heat, with a clear consciousness of the high responsibilities of my office and as your sincere and devoted friend. If we should unhappily differ, we shall differ as friends, but where issues so momentous as these are involved we must, just because we are friends, speak our minds without reservation.

Congressional Record, LIII, 3318.


(February 26, 1916)


*** It is not a new feeling on my part, but one which I entertain with a greater intensity than formerly that a man who seeks the Presidency of the United States for anything that it will bring to him is an audacious fool. The responsibilities of the office ought to sober a man even before he approaches it. One of the difficulties of the office seldom appreciated, I dare say, is that it is very difficult to think while so many people are talking in a way that obscures counsel and is entirely off the point.

The point in national affairs, gentlemen, never lies along the lines of expediency. It always rests in the field of principle. The United States was not founded upon any principle of expediency; it was founded upon a profound principle of human liberty and of humanity, and whenever it bases its policy upon any other foundations than those it builds on the sand and not upon the solid rock. * * * It seems to me that if you do not think of the things that lie beyond and away from and disconnected from this scene in which we attempt to think and conclude, you will inevitably be led astray. I would a great deal rather know what they are talking about around quiet firesides all over the country than what they are talking about in the cloakrooms of Congress. I would a great deal rather know what the men on the trains and by the wayside and in the shops and on the farms are thinking about and yearning for than hear any of the vociferous proclamations of policy which it is so easy to hear and so easy to read by picking up any scrap of printed paper. There is only one way to hear these things, and that is constantly to go back to the fountains of American action. Those fountains are not to be found in any recently discovered sources. * * *

America ought to keep out of this war. She ought to keep out of this war at the sacrifice of everything except this single thing upon which her character and history are founded, her sense of humanity and justice. If she sacrifices that, she has ceased to be America; she has ceased to entertain and to love the traditions which have made us proud to be Americans; and when we go about seeking safety at the expense of humanity, then I, for one, will believe that I have always been mistaken in what I have conceived to be the spirit of American history.

You never can tell your direction except by long measurements. You can not establish a line by two posts; you have got to have three at least to know whether they are straight with anything, and the longer your line the more certain your measurement. There is only one way in which to determine how the future of the United States is going to be projected, and that is by looking back and seeing which way the lines ran which led up to the present moment of power and of opportunity. There is no doubt about that. There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty. There is no one else upon the roster; there is no one else whose name we care to remember when we measure things upon a national scale. And I wish that whenever an impulse of impatience comes upon us, whenever an impulse to settle a thing some short way tempts us, we might close the door and take down some old stories of what American idealists and statesmen did in the past, and not let any counsel in that does not sound in the authentic voice of American tradition. Then we shall be certain what the lines of the future are, because

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