The Freedom That Has Made America Great


By WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE, Editor of the Emporia Kansas Gazette

Delivered at a dinner given in honor of Richard Archbold, Explorer and Scientist, at Holland House, N. Y. June 22, 1940

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VI, pp. 642-644.

WE are meeting tonight to pay tribute to the freedom that this world knew in the nineteenth century. And because I have been invited here to speak at this dinner given in honor of Mr. Richard Archbold, I wish to preface my remarks by saying that during the life of his grandfather, I was among those who bitterly criticized his ideals and his business methods. I am here tonight to say that time and the second generation have been working under our free institutions to turn into beneficent purposes for the use of all mankind what I thought in my day, and said with some alacrity then, were most unsocial practices. I am glad that I have lived to see the money that John D. Archbold assembled affected, as it were, "with public use" more drastically, and, I am certain, more effectively than it could have been directed by any political wisdom of men that we had in the day and generation which John D. Archbold knew. How has this happened? I feel that it is a natural though, perhaps, mysterious working of the spirit of our democratic republic. The change that has come about in the trend and direction of the Archbold millions has been wrought by the insatiable kindness that is ever gnawing at all our institutions, perhaps subconsciously, but certainly constantly, which tend to turn much of our life into consideration of the happiness and self-respect of others. At any time in the history of our country many an individual enterprise looks on the face of it to be wholly self-seeking, entirely egoistical, perhaps egocentric is the better word. But as the years pass into decades, and the decades march by into generations, some way out of this centripetal tendency of private enterprise, good comes, the common good of all. There is less waste of energy, I think, in free enterprise with all its temporary wrongs, than there is in any attempt consciously to direct American private enterprise and give it social meets and bounds. That enterprise should be regulated definitely to prevent abuse, of course, is obvious. For abuse will creep in. But we still have public intelligence enough to stop abuse. But on the other hand, the socialization of capital which carries with it the inevitable regimentation of labor, I think has been proving

in the last decade in Russia, in Italy and Germany a colossal failure. With the failure has come a low living standard, a general shrinking of self-respect and an abandonment of those qualities of mercy, decency, pity, and neighborly kindness which are the essentials of happiness to any people.

Therefore, tonight in coming here to pay tribute to the work of Mr. Richard Archbold, I wish to make it the occasion to add my testimony to the case for our American way: of life. Its evils are obvious, but in the past they have been self-corrective. Its faults are glaring, but in the end, in the long run, in terms of generations, its inherent evils and its external faults tend to become minimized, if not to disappear.

And now for a few moments, because this freedom that has made America great is threatened from without and somewhat from within, I wish to detour and turn to the sad picture of the world today. Bear with me for a moment.

Those of us who have read the newspapers in the last six months have been stricken at the stories of horror and hardship, of cruelty and mass murder and man's inhumanity to man that the papers carry on their first pages. We have all but heard the roaring guns. The drone of the hungry bombers almost reach our ears from the headlines. We have been fascinated at the pictures of a settled civilization scattered like ant hills under the tanks, and devoured by the monstrous, insatiable god of war. We have seen and heard through our press and over the radio a story of a man's organized implacable, malicious, purposeful outrage of every noble human aspiration and of all man's high intentions, a story such as no other generation but ours has even seen and known. And I wish to declare here with all the earnestness I can command that we are not looking at a movie! We are looking at something that sooner or later will come to our door. We are looking from afar at something that we shall have to face at home. Not this year, probably, but eventually we must meet and conquer the inner evil forces in the heart of man that are rising just beyond our American horizon.

For what we are witnessing is not what you think it is. It's not tanks and flaming gas and powder and shot and shell

and dynamite. Not all nor chiefly. The materials and munitions of war, the rages of battle are merely symbols, the outer form of a devastating idea, the challenge of a philosophy. We and our ancestors for at least two thousand years have been building that philosophy slowly around the earth into a social order here in Europe and America. That social order has been erected upon the theory that it pays to be kind, that the good neighbor is the prosperous man in the long run, that lying and deceit are a blight upon human relations, that force is not so desirable as a cement for a stable civilization as reason is. In short, with all its flaws, with all its blemishes, with all its obvious inequities and its many iniquities, we have been a small part of a great impulse that has spread like a slow but irresistible wave across the world through two thousand years. I verily believe that the impulse of that wave came from Golgotha. There a man died under the supreme injustice, his flesh torn and his spirit beaten by the wings of death. He nevertheless cried out to ask forgiveness for his torturers. The dramatization of that story of the cross and the philosophy of that martyr supplied much of the spiritual energy that has erected every good and noble thing, every generous institution, every edifice of justice in the modern world. Much that our democracies have and hold, much that our fathers fought for here upon these bleak and lonely plains they have brought us from Him. Much of the democratic knowledge of truth and of the beauty of human relationship we love is the heritage of that day two thousand years ago. And that democratic sense of truth and beauty which men call freedom is what the gun and tank, the flame and their horrendous bomb are challenging today.

We have seen the more visible and patently shocking evidence of man's organized savage thirst for economic conquest. And this you must remember! The guns may cool, the birds of death may fold their wings, the fires may burn out, but after the battle ends, after the victims are buried and the wounded hobble to their demolished homes, the blighting philosophy that unleashed this horror still will be in the world.

If it triumphs in the peace, God help us on this hemisphere, for we shall have no peace. It may not be war that will come to shrivel this American civilization. The Atlantic Ocean may Still be our bulwark. But this world is, despite all we can do, one economic unit. We are members one of another. An economy even in Europe based upon the rule of the tyrant state, a social order which denies the worker and the capitalist their liberties, a political despotism which tears down political institutions establishing democratic justice, putting the human spirit on a leash, making all men serve the state—that economy, that social order, that political tyranny, we who love liberty surely and eventually must meet. It will either conquer us—not perhaps by sword and fire and gun and gas, but with the slow, strangling coil of its economic grip—or we must conquer the monster.

But where you may well ask, and how shall we meet that economic, social and political order threatening our foreign markets. And you say further, well this continent is enough for us. But when the foreign markets of the United States are gone, when we can no longer expand in a free world, when we are met at the water's edge or at the fortification that must rise at the Mexican border by a totalitarian civilization, then Americans must either fight or surrender their economic and social liberties.

This is the land of the free because we have lived here for generation after generation under an economy of abundance, of widening physical horizons, and in a great home and world market. We have not been taxed for defense. We have been

free to go where we will across our land and across the world seeking and finding spiritual freedom and commercial strength. If we try to live self sufficiently, entirely within our borders, we must put the same clamps upon man's expanding spirit at home that the tyrants use in the lands they rule. We cannot be free at home unless we are free to go and come across the world. Our continent cannot confine the dynamite of democratic opportunity.

The two philosophies—the philosophy of force and tyranny, and the philosophy of neighborly kindliness that we call democracy—cannot meet and mingle on the same planet! The world has shrunken. Our great round earth with its vast ocean and wide land has been drawn together with machinery until it is a little place, a veritable neighborhood that cannot live half slave and half free. I don't know in what form the dictator philosophy in the totalitarian state will meet us in our lives. But that philosophy is out of bounds today. It stands just beyond our borders waiting. What our sacrifices will be, what hardships we may meet, what anguish we may know, I cannot prophesy. I only know that unless that beast is chained our lives will be marred and mangled by his claws.

We may have read in our history books about the struggle for liberty in the middle of the last century in Italy where Garibaldi rose and called about him the Italian people, the young men, leading them to battle for freedom. He did not promise them the loot of victory. He did not hold before them the joys of conquest. "All I have to promise," he said recruiting his soldiers, "is long marches and hard bivouacs." So this I offer this younger generation if we do or do not surrender. The world has lived too soft too long. We have taken idly and have not given. The machine has cushioned our beds and has handed our food to us. The machine has warmed our bodies. It has played sweet music for our ears and brought before our eyes the panorama of a wide and lovely world. Now the machine is roaming up and down the earth, a super devil of war, seeking whom he may devour. We must conquer the machine or let it conquer us. For the tyrant peoples have harnessed the machine. I don't mean Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. They are only figure heads. I mean the craven nations that have traded liberty for a false and mocking security. They are harnessing the machine by beating down the spirits of men, by breaking men's hearts, by taking away human liberties, by jeering at our self respect, by exalting the functions of the state, by making the state one vast machine.

And now I fear the hour has struck. Maybe war itself will not touch us. But under social and economic pressure we may know the rigor of body and mind that our fathers knew and we, too, may walk as millions of our kind are walking the highways of Europe hungry and cold and homeless. We, too, may know the bitter bite of winter's wind. We may find our hands twisted with unaccustomed toil. We may find some dugout in a hillside and thank God for its shelter. Our equals and our betters are glad today to do that in France who last year felt that the returning sun of summer would see them comfortable and happy. I repeat— it may not be war. But there are other dislocations of society, there are other ways to wreck the established order than war. In my own lifetime here in our Kansas I have walked over wrecked towns and cities where the bullsnake sunned himself upon crumbling pavements, where rabbits nested in the tall weeds around rusty fire plugs on the lone prairie and where coyotes looked out of windows of wrecked and deserted homes. War had not touched these towns, yet they were devastated by economic decay.

But if we hold fast to the things that brought and kept our

fathers here for 200 years and more, if we cherish as they prized the glory of their independence, if we are willing as they were to suffer physical hardship for our liberties, in the end we shall conquer. In the end the peace that we love, the happiness that our forebears cherished will be the heritage of our children. And in another day and time those children may know a just and friendly world. But for youth of today, I fear long marches and hard bivouac.

Where then is this struggle for freedom? Where are its front line trenches? Where shall we find our enemies? Of course, the first duty of citizens of the United States is to defend its border. But in these days when the challenge to liberty is organized, when the guns of that challenge have mowed down a long row of democracies we of this hemisphere may say that whoever challenges man's liberty, wherever he is, is our enemy. Wherever a free man is in chains we are threatened also. Whoever is fighting for liberty is defending America, but in a larger sense our cause is the cause of all mankind. We cannot be free if hundreds of millions of our fellows in once free lands are denied the blessings that we enjoy.

The infallible test which proves that freedom is challenged is found when science is restricted or harnessed or chained to any man's purpose or any government's ends or designs. The freedom of knowledge is the first freedom that tyrants must break. For science is the eyes of truth. How wise

indeed was that gentle philosopher who said "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free". For two thousand years men who have longed for liberty have sought it in the quest of knowledge. Wherever that quest was opened the road to liberty was clear. Wherever truth is restrained, channelled, regimented, man is chained. It happens tonight we are met to honor a scientist. We meet to thank God that in our land science is free. The eyes of truth are shining in pride.

So I suppose one may say that our front line trenches are stretched across any horizon where men are fighting for truth, truth that makes them free. And every battle of men struggling for truth is a part of our war. Those who enslave truth like the blind Sampson at the mill are our enemies. Sooner or later we must grapple with them; for it is the curse of tyrants that they must ever conquer. They can never rest. So the tyrants are on the march. Liberty must rise and meet her foe. We need not fear the outcome of the battle because man's spirit has one constant quality—its divine resilience. It cannot long be crushed. So come what may, however the tide of battle sways and ebbs and turns, liberty is deathless, freedom is immortal, truth at last shall rise and march. So let us not halt or falter but hurry forward eagerly to the combat, unshaken in the faith that the more we give in the struggle for liberty the richer shall be our share at the victory.

An Appeal for Peace


Delivered at the Keep-America-Out-of-War Rally, Chicago, August 4, 1940

SEVERAL weeks have passed since I received the honor of your invitation to speak in Chicago. At that time it was essential to create strong and immediate opposition to the trend towards war which was taking place in this country.

The agitation for our entry into the war was increasing with alarming rapidity. Hysteria had mounted to the point where anti-parachute corps were being formed to defend American cities against air attacks from Europe. Greenland, with its Arctic climate, its mountainous terrain and its ice-filled seas, was called an easy stepping-stone for German bombing planes invading America.

Cartoons showed the Atlantic Ocean reduced the width of the English Channel. American safety was said to depend upon the success of European armies. Foreign propaganda was in full swing and it seemed in many ways that we were approaching the greatest crisis in the history of our country.

But events move swiftly in this modern world and the true character of a nation lies beneath such surface foam. When the danger of foreign war was fully realized by our people the underlying tradition of American independence arose and in recent weeks its voice has thundered through the weaker cries of war.

We have by no means escaped the foreign entanglements and favoritisms that Washington warned us against when he passed the guidance of our nation's destiny to the hands of future generations. We have participated deeply in the intrigues of Europe and not always in an open "democratic" way.

There are still interests in this country and abroad who will do their utmost to draw us into the war. Against these interests we must be continuously on our guard. But Amer-

ican opinion is now definitely and overwhelmingly against our involvement.

Both political parties have declared against our entry into the war. People are beginning to realize that the problems of Europe cannot be solved by the interference of America. We have at last started to build and plan for the defense of our own continent. By these acts our eyes are turned once more in the direction of security and peace, for if our own military forces are strong, no foreign nation can invade us and if we do not interfere with their affairs none will desire to.

Since we have decided against entering the war in Europe, it is time for us to consider the relationship we will have with Europe after this war is over. It is only by using the utmost intelligence in establishing and maintaining this relationship that we can keep America out of war in the future.

I have a different outlook toward Europe than most people in America. I am advised to speak guardedly on the subject of war. I am told that one must not stand too strongly against the trend of the times and that to be effective what one says must meet with general approval.

There is much to be said for this argument, yet, right or wrong, it is contrary to the values that I hold highest in life. I prefer to say what I believe or not speak at all. I would far rather have your respect for the sincerity of what I say than attempt to win your applause by confining my discussion to popular concepts. Therefore I speak to you today as I would speak to close friends rather than as one is supposed to address a large audience.

I do not offer my opinion as an expert, but rather as a citizen who is alarmed at the position our country has reached in this era of experts.

As laymen we are often told that the solution of difficult problems should be left to the specialist. But since specialists