Let Us Defend Ourselves


By MAURY MAVERICK, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas

Delivered at the Coliseum in Chicago, Illinois, on September 18, 1940, before the Committee for Aiding the Allies

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 5-8

FRIENDS and Fellow Americans: Last night, down in Texas by the Mexican border, down by the Gulf of Mexico in San Antonio, which city is the greatest military center in the New World, I made a talk for peace, and economic and military cooperation of the people of the Western Hemisphere. Present were many Latin Americans—officers of Cuba, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and numerous other countries. I flew here by aeroplane, a mighty mechanized giant, and here I am in this Coliseum a thousand and more miles away by traveling a few hours.

At our meeting last night there was a feeling of deep tenseness, for everyone knew that all of us who love civilization face the dreadful prospect of losing the gains of centuries, if we falter. I will not talk in circles; the hour is not merely dramatic but cruelly and immediately dangerous: hell-fire and screaming death are slashing down on the city of London this very hour. The war is at our door, do not for one moment doubt it. And do not for one moment doubt it either, that the same is not possible for Chicago— With bombs dropping on this very Coliseum, for if war comes, all America may have to bear what England is bearing.

First of all, let me say that I was once, or was once classified as an "isolationist"—one of these people who say or believe that America can save itself by isolating itself from world affairs. Well, my friends, I am no longer an isolationist, if I ever was one, for when the Germans took Norway, Belgium, Holland, inoffensive, neutral countries, I knew then we are in the world, and can't get out of it. We live in a sea of totalitarian states, and we must be interested in the security of the world, in order to have security for ourselves.

Indeed, my fellow Americans, we can no longer afford to pass off this European war by superficial speech. We can no longer stop a war, nor prevent the loss of our liberties by demagogic phrases on how we love peace and will not "send our sons to foreign shores." Certainly we love peace, certainly we do not want to send our sons to foreign shores. War is not in our hearts—peace is in our hearts, and of course, we want our boys to stay at home and we will do all we can to keep them there.

But we know that the totalitarian powers—and principally the Nazis under Mr. Hitler—offer us, as they do all the world, total death. Death of self-respect, honor, Liberty. We choose not to accept what has been offered us. We might as well come to the grim realization that not next week, but now, England faces a hideous war of no quarter—that she faces the total death of her Constitution, hence, all her liberty, property, and way of life. And the courage of the people of England, particularly London, is one of the greatest chapters in the world's history—but call England hold out wholly with her own resources?

The answer is No but let us see what the world situation means to us Americans. Let us analyze what America should do, if anything, and why.

First of all, forgetting England for a while, every true American admits we should defend this nation. How best to do it? That is the thing. The best way is to keep war from these shores. And certainly we know as everyone knows, that if England is defeated that we will be next on Mr. Hitler's list. Some hope this is not true, but let us

be prepared for the worst, and prevent the possible or probable from happening. Certainly we know, even if England is defeated and we bank on the vain hope we will not be attacked, that Canada and the islands and South America will be subject to attack. Will we permit that? No! We cannot and will not permit it.

Therefore, in the name of America and common sense, and for selfish reasons if for no other, let us aid England. But also, in the name of civilization, in the name of decency and fair play, let us lend a helping hand to that great democratic nation.

Let us clearly understand our similar interests with England. What are our connections, both from the viewpoint of our institutions and our very economic existence?

First of all, our Constitution came from England.

Indeed, the British Constitution is OUR Constitution. Back in England a thousand years ago men were learning self-government, and there grew what was known as "the Constitution" In 1215 at Runnymede the barons forced the execution of the Magna Carta by King John. Then came the Petition of Rights, the Bill of Rights; and throughout English history there were numerous reaffirmations by British kings of the Constitutional rights of British citizens, and all this, plus the common law, became, in the hearts and souls of British people "the Constitution."

With that constitution still in their hearts, our ancestors came to the great continent of America. The Constitution was nurtured and developed. And when we separated from England, we did so not because we didn't have a constitution, but because we had one, and the King and Parliament violated it. But England finally learned her lesson—and it can be said that the constitutional principles of our two nations have always been the same, and that we have a common heritage.

Indeed, the British Constitution, the American Constitution, have flowing from them a great spirit—the Spirit of Liberty. Therefore, we can fairly say that the hope of the world lies in the preservation of that Trinity—the British Constitution, the American Constitution, and the Spirit of Liberty.

Thus for England we have a close and kindred feeling; we feel the spirit of LIBERTY, and appreciate her democratic institutions. We know she is no menace to us, and that the Germany of Hitler's is.


Now let us briefly review, as the professors say, our economic relation to England and the Allies—which means, in plain terms, how we are going to get our groceries, keep our jobs, maintain the value of our insurance policies and savings, and also have freedom.

Not long ago I told how my wife had seen me in prayer. She thanked me for praying for our son, who like other boys, may be drawn into this awful strife. Somewhat humorously I said, "I am sorry, sweetheart, but I was praying for the British Navy and the Bank of England."

I never thought the day would come when I would pray for the British Navy and the Bank of England.

But why did I do it?

The answer is that the British Navy stands between USand war, and probable destruction. And the Bank of England is the symbol of world finance and world trade, the pound sterling and the dollar. God save us from the mark, with the mark and all the world economy dictated from Berlin.

Indeed, our economic structure,—I mean, again, our groceries and our liberty,—are tied in with the investments of England, France, Norway, Holland, and Belgium, and with the democratic, or capitalistic ways of life. We are tied up with these interests all over the world—in China, the Philippines, the British colonies, Canada and other Dominions, the Dutch East Indies, India, Africa,

Oh, someone may say, but that is fighting for capitalism! So what? It means that our hands are clasped across the seas, and if the hand of the Allies is cut, so is ours.

But that is not all. All those countries are heavily interested in American business life right here in America. So also directly interested is all American labor, and the right to organize. If Hitler gets control, and finally defeats those countries, he will not only destroy us in all our foreign trade and investments, but will immediately attempt economic control within this country. The Dutch Shell, Mr. Hitler would say, and hundreds of millions of dollars in other business in this country, now belongs to Germany—so run it as I tell you, as I told Rumania. Now I, Hitler, own the stock in your great industries, which I stole from other nations; such stock as Standard Oil, General Motors, Ford, American Can, your steel plants in Chicago,—and run them as I tell you, abolish your unions, fire your managers, hire German managers, . . . as I, the Fuehrer, have already told the industries of Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, France, Belgium and Holland! Mr. Hitler will also say, abolish your unions, as I have everywhere else that I have put my foot.

Therefore, I say to you, that capital, and labor; the professions who want to be free, and every man, woman and child in America, must be interested in preserving the democratic nations, and therefore, FIRST of ALL interested in keeping England from being destroyed.

Do you want our country and its business and labor policies to be dictated from Berlin? No! No, I tell you.

I honestly believe as Ambassador Bullitt believes, that if England is destroyed, we will be attacked. I say this after mature thought, as a wounded soldier of the last war, and as one who served for four years on the Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. As a soldier of the first World War, I say we are in a hundred times more danger now than then. But just say we are not attacked; certainly we don't want to become an economic colony of Hitler, with our standard of living and liberties lowered from Berlin to that of Chinese coolies.

In any event, WE MUST TAKE NO CHANCES. We therefore reluctantly face the real facts—and we swear tonight that we will not let ourselves face the total death of totalitarianism. We may be forced to partial death: but we will not sleep and then be destroyed as dumb, driven cattle, as other democracies have been. They who fling death from the skies, they who talk of the fury of the dictators, must know that democracy also has fury!I

We must not forget that our ancestors who came here, whether German or Irish or Bohemian or Polish or English or Italian, or French,—came with a fighting spirit. They came to the cold coasts of New England, to our gentle shores of the Gulf Stream. They cut their way across the Appalachians, through the Alleghenies and on to conquer the Great Plains. They came with the rifle and the prayer book; they used their rifles for shooting, and used their prayer books in supplication to the Almighty God.

They trudged, with blood and sweat, across our vastcontinent. They pushed on over the hills of Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. They came by Fort Dearborn here in Chicago, by the great lakes, over the prairies, down to Tennessee, down the Missouri, down the Mississippi, and into the great state of Texas, across the vast deserts of New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona into the cold Rockies to California till they saw the lashing waves of the Pacific!

And, always they carried in their hearts an unending devotion to constitutional government and the Spirit of Liberty!

Yes, they heard the shrill cry of empire, and marched to empire with cadenced steps; they hacked their way through forests, they struggled over barren wastes, and through floods and rain, and ice, and the burning heat. They won because they had FIGHT in their souls. When at night they drew their covered wagons in a circle, they knelt and thanked the Man who died on the Cross for deliverance—but being very practical, they kept their powder dry!

Therefore, let us build back in our hearts the spirit that made America—the aggressive spirit. Say to all those who would destroy our liberties that we will meet them with flame, attacking with the screaming death of modern mechanization. We will fill our skies with planes, and we will meet force with force.

Oh, they say, but WHY help England?

Well, we found a long time ago in the ranch country, that if you don't help your neighbors exterminate bandits and robbers, you will he exterminated yourself. An isolated ranch among robbers always gets robbed. One lone isolated ranchman, armed to the teeth, cannot hold out in a sea of robbers.

The same is true of a democratic nation—it cannot exist in a sea of totalitarian states. Isolation is just the bunk; we must live in this world by cooperation.

Listen! Listen! Civilization is on fire.


No, we do not, and we should send the fire wagons to stop the fire.

But some cautious souls, cautious ones like those in the democracies of Europe who did not want to prepare, and only wanted to appease the dictators say we may get singed in stopping this fire. WELL THEN, let us be singed.

It is better, I say that we be singed with honor than to be totally burned and lynched with dishonor later.

Now I cry for one thing in America: Unity! Unity! If we do not achieve unity, our end has come.

One democratic nation after another has been destroyed by Nazi propaganda, by a lack of mechanized and efficient defense, by division of peoples—and then by sudden, horrifying but unified attack of Hitler with his mechanized forces.

Take the Nazi propaganda. Hitler has used the anti-Communist gag to keep our minds from his intrigue and mechanized military power; he has denounced Stalin and Russia; and by turning his Gilbert and Sullivan Opera into world tragedy, has joined with Stalin to destroy the civilization of the world.

We in democracies boo each other; we are wooed by the Nazis; and then when the attack comes we moo like cows, and are shot down like the wild buffalo that roamed the plains of the West—helpless cattle before a new, modern fighting force.

So let us be fooled by no one.

Oh—Yes—The President traded off fifty destroyers to England for those naval bases. Well, that was the best trade: that was ever made for this country. Let's make more trades like that. Let's send airplanes—how many?—five thousand of them now; more armament—whatever England and her Allies need; and let's extend credit, plenty of it, now—and thereby save the lives and liberty of America! But let us pause to take a very cool look at history. Let uscontrol our bitter hearts and calmly appraise what history teaches, for history has a way of repeating itself in deadlymonotony.

By what method do conquerors always destroy the liberties of the people? How do they gain new territories and enslave more people? By intrigue alone, or sweet words?

No—principally by organization, by superior armament— by mechanization—and among those who have accomplished it have been Cortez and Pizarro of Spain, Phillip and Alexander, many others, and—Hitler.

Spain sent her two great conquerors to the New World— Cortez and Pizarro. Cortez the conqueror of Mexico had altogether only six or seven hundred soldiers and defeated an army of two or three hundred thousand brave, but badly equipped soldiers, in a series of battles. He used intrigue, he had his Fifth Columns and he had his hired traitors, of course. But why did he win? Because he was well equipped. Because he had pieces of artillery, horses covered with iron mail like the tanks of today, and he used this armament not only to kill but to frighten the people and to strike terror in their hearts. A cultured people were enslaved for centuries, because they were not prepared. The same can happen to us.

Read Prescott's history on the conquest of Peru and Mexico.

In Peru certain leaders of the Incas according to Prescott, "discerned the stern and formidable prowess of modern weapons," and warned the people the Spaniards would destroy them. Pizarro, too, had his Fifth Column, his hired traitors and assassins; he issued high sounding titles like creating so many Nazi marshals; he worked his men into believing they were fighting the infidel.

The Incas were brave; they outnumbered the Spaniards by the tens of thousands. Indeed, Pizarro at the greatest battle had hardly a hundred and eighty men, defeating the countless thousands.

How was it done? Plus his other methods, it was by mechanization. He did the job just like Hitler. Reference is made to steel-clad horsemen, the tanks of that day, to modern arms and iron discipline; the flash of firearms and artillery—and last of all that the Incas were defeated because "their bodies were ill-clad and easily cut to pieces," just as the Poles, the Dutch, the Belgians, the French—and just as we will be unless we wake up.

And both Pizarro and Cortez, like Hitler, starved and killed the people, stole their gold, destroyed great cities, and then made slaves of all the people—-and they stayed slaves for centuries.

But there is another historical character whom we should all study, one who was not a dictator, but who warned dictators. He was Demosthenes, who loved Greek culture and beauty, as well as the constitutional life of the Greek people. He was not merely an orator as we thought in school, but one of the most thoughtful statesmen and greatest patriots of all history.

Phillip of Macedon, and later his son Alexander, grew in power. Demosthenes saw this; saw Phillip gradually destroying city after city, he saw his intrigue and saw his Fifth Columns in the various cities of Greece, Demosthenes compared Athens to an amateur boxer fighting a skilled pugilist.

The people of Athens and Greece were asleep. Demosthenes warned the people of the superior power of Phillip, his organization, his military tactics, and the use of mechanized force. Demosthenes was called a traitor by the people who were mislead by Phillip's Nazi propaganda; he was also derided by the Assembly or Congress, by cheap politicians.

But Demosthenes said, "Barbarian violence will somedaybreak up the gracious and undefiled traditions of Hellenic life"—unless something was done. He further said, "Wherever a barbarian's hand offers wrong to any city of the Hellenic sisterhood it must be the arms of Athens which should first be stretched forth in the holy strength of Apollo."

My fellow Americans, this is a perfect parallel of world conditions today. Barbarian violence will surely break what we have of gracious and undefiled civilization, UNLESS WE ACT QUICKLY. And as he said that the arms of Athens should be stretched forth in the holy strength of Apollo, so I say that the same should be true of America.

Demosthenes did not place his argument merely on unselfish action or saving civilization just to be a savior. He said quite frankly that if Athens let the civilization of Greece be destroyed AROUND Athens, that Athens would be NEXT. He told them that Athens had long been suffering from the decay of public spirit. He demanded that the aggressive spirit be re-kindled. He denounced the feeble makeshifts of foreign policy. He warned Athens that the cause of freedom was everywhere her own.

But as we know, Greece was destroyed. They did not have sense enough in that democratic way of life to listen, and to unify. They did not have sense enough to see the on-reaching march of power of a dictator with organization and mechanized force, and they fell before it.

I repeat, we face the same situation today, and we had better come alive, and come quickly, or we will go the way of all peoples in all history who are not unified, who cannot see the menace of mechanized force, and who rely entirely on some other force—in our case England—to save our worthless and corrupt skins.

Yes, I have told you only a very few lessons of history. Let us take them to heart. And let us apply these lessons of history and compare them to the history of America.

While we were aggressive and bold we were strong and happy. Have We, like Athens, and the Greek cities of old become soft and corrupt? Now, therefore, let us take to our tents, to the sun, to hard work, to our mechanized chariots of steel and face the realization that hardship and misery lies ahead of us.

Let us swear to leave off this horrible doctrine of appeasement, of thinking that maybe if we lay down our arms, or refuse help to England, and lower our heads like the cattle going to slaughter in the Chicago stockyards, that Hitler will be nice and leave us alone! We have already helped England, let us help her more, and ENOUGH until it is enough to beat Hitler!

Let us stop this sickening nonsense of isolation, and realize full well we are in the world and cannot get out of it!


YES, AMERICA WILL BE DESTROYED, unless we take notice, AND ACT.

I am not pessimistic.

I am not hysterical.

I am merely telling the truth.

Tonight we need confidence, faith, and strength in our hearts.

Yes, Oh Lord, our souls are gripped and racked with pain tonight. Give us, oh God, freedom from the screaming death that has come from the skies in other countries. Look above you in the skies tonight! Look! Look! They are free now, and clear,—let us keep them so.

We love the ways of peace.

But we are not slaves, and REFUSE to be. We shall not bow our heads and be slain, nor permit our liberties to be taken away. Like the great German Luther, we singout in mighty national hymn, a mighty fortress is our God!

But in this praying, we also know that God himself said, that God helps those who help themselves, and we resolve it also, TO HELP OURSELVES.

We have but one course, either we sit still with crossed hands, and be destroyed, or rise with aggressive spirit, PREPARE, and be saved.

Therefore, let us defend ourselves.

And we will first defend ourselves by selling, giving, or aiding in whatever manner gets the job done, the Alliedcause, principally England, who has her back to the wall fighting for the civilization that is dear to us. And second, we will do it by building our own defenses, ready for all who would invade or touch our shores—ready for continental defense, and to GO and GET them if necessary.

Yes, America, we must awaken. ALL of us must realize it, and we must be unified, we must stand shoulder to shoulder, we must look forward and have courage—if we do, and I know we will, America and civilization can be saved!