We Will Help You Hold the Line


By JOHN G. WINANT, United States Ambassador to Great Britain

Delivered at the Pilgrims' dinner in London, England, given in his honor, March 18, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 358-358.

THE Pilgrims' luncheon gives me the first opportunity to express formally and publicly my deep appreciation of the extraordinary welcome that I have received since my arrival in England. I realize that in honoring me you wish to do honor to my country but I would like to say that your personal kindness to me in doing it will always be cherished and remembered.

I hope that I may be able to convey to the American people some measure of the warmth and sincerity you have shown their representative.

The policies which draw your country and mine more closely together, in face of a common peril, are policies to which the American people, as a whole, have solemnly committed themselves. I shall, of course, do what little lies within my power to carry out those policies, but it is the great mass of American people, working in the factories and in the shipyards and on the farms, who are building the arsenals and the granaries for democracy's defense.

It is they, who, with their labor and resources, will provide the tools—the ships, the planes, the guns, the ammunition and the food—for all those here and everywhere—hic et ubique, as it is written on the Pilgrims' crest—who defend with their lives freedom's frontiers. The American people have now girded themselves to provide these things with the utmost speed, in the greatest volume, and with all the skill at their command.

At different periods of history it has fallen to the lot of one nation or group of nations rather than another to guard and defend the frontiers of freedom and civilization. Each nation or group of nations to which that lot has fallen has gained from it its finest traditions and most enduring heritage. Nations, like individuals, derive greatness from deeds which benefit not themselves alone but all mankind.

It was England's proud privilege to give to the world Magna Carta—the conception of due process and equal protection of the law, a conception cherished today by free men everywhere. It was America's privilege to give to the world the Declaration of Independence of which Abraham Lincoln said it was not the mere matter of separation of the colonies from the mother land but that sentiment in the declaration which gave liberty not only to the people of this country but hope to all the world, for all future time.

It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men and that all would have an equal chance.

Today I believe that the British people are happy to recognize that the ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence were the ideas of Chatham and Burke as wellas of Washington and Jefferson, and that those ideas helped to create not only the American Republic but the British Commonwealth of free nations.

It was the privilege of France, notwithstanding the excesses of the revolution, to give undying meaning to the words, "liberty, fraternity, equality," words which will forever ring in the ears of those who fight in freedom's cause.

But I would not have you believe that I think that the cause of freedom is the cause of any one nation or group of nations. The cause of freedom is the cause of all men everywhere. The history of freedom is the history of civilized man, to which all nations, not excepting the nations now held enthralled by the dictators, have in the past made notable contributions.

Today it is the honor and destiny of the British people to man the bridgehead of humanity's hopes. It is their privilege to stand against ruthless and powerful dictators who would destroy the lessons of 2,000 years of history.

It is your destiny to say to them: "Here you shall not pass!" You have said so little—you have done so much. It is all part of a soldier's faith, to have known great things and to be content with silence.

Never in any struggle between barbarism and civilization has so much been at stake. Nazism has called into question every tenet in the faith of civilized man. It has refused to recognize the dignity of man as a human individual. It has deliberately and ruthlessly denied to man freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equality before the law.

The world has known tyranny before, but never tyranny more cruel and absolute or as relentlessly organized. For nazism has stolen and run amok with the great inventions of free and inquiring minds, and has set about using them not to liberate but to enslave the human spirit.

Peace-loving people are slow to believe that others are plotting their destruction and the obliteration of everything they hold dear. But once aroused to the dangers, once convinced that they cannot live in peace with those bent on their destruction, tolerant and peace-loving peoples have within them latent resourcefulness, energy and fortitude that tyranny can neither match nor master.

In the struggle against the Nazis the people of Britain hold the front line, but they do not stand isolated and alone. Your dominions and your colonies are mustering their forces to bring you ever-increasing aid.

America, as President Roosevelt said last Saturday night, has gone into action. It is mobilizing with ever-growing speed its tremendous resources to make available to you the sinews of war. On every continent, in every country, onevery island—wherever there are men and women who value freedom and love liberty—you have friends and allies.

Your magnificent resistance has not only moved other democracies into action, it has given new hope and new courage to the Czechs, the Poles, the Dutch, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Belgians and the French. Even today throughout the continent of Europe there are legions who yearn for your victory, which means freedom for them as well as for you.

The great mass of common men the world over are not deceived by the Nazis' talk of a new order. They realize that there is no order or security in tyranny. They want what the British people want. They want what the American people want.

They want a friendly, civilized world of free peoples in which Christian virtues and moral values are not spurned as decadent and outmoded. A world where honest work is recognized and a man can own himself. They have not lost their faith in individual liberty and the democratic way of life.

They are not content to be deprived of those freedoms which they know to be essential to the welfare of man. They desire freedom of speech and expression. They desire freedom to worship God in accordance with their own conscience.

They desire freedom from want, or, if I may borrow the words used by your Prime Minister in a broadcast to America, spoken more than two years ago, they desire a world of increasing hope and enjoyment for the common man, the world of honored tradition and expanding science.

Lastly, they desire freedom from the fear of armed aggression. They know that those freedoms cannot be had in a world dominated by totalitarian tyranny.

They know that those freedoms can be won only by your victory. The free peoples of the world have come to realize that the enslavement of one nation is a threat to the liberty of all nations. This is the significance of the world situation, clearer today than ever before.

The peoples of the world were not and are not destined for subjugation to the will of others. There is no people or race charged with the responsibility or endowed with the ability to dominate the world.

But we must recognize that the well-being of men and of nations has become interwoven with the well-being of other men and other nations in a degree that would have been inconceivable a few short decades ago. A much greater degree of cooperation is required between men and between nations than was necessary before the days when the engine and the dynamo came to influence our lives.

That cooperation can give to the great mass of men and women a higher standard of living than our forefathers would have ever dreamed possible. While we have accepted the machine, we have not always learned to cooperate with one another to make the machine the servant and not the master of mankind.

Never has man been able to live unto himself alone, but never has it been so necessary for man to live and work and cooperate with his fellow men as it is today.

In an interdependent world men must cooperate, dominate or perish. Fear that their neighbors may seek to dominate them has cause too many men to think that they should dominate their neighbors.

It has been that fear in the past which has too frequently blinded men to their common interests and has set class against class, and nation against nation. It is that fear which is the root-cause of the counter-revolution—the effort of the few to impose by force their will upon the many—a fear that has brought so much grief to our generation.

It is that fear of other men and other nations which dictators and demagogues have exploited not to give men their freedom but to enslave them. It is that fear that the cooperation of free nations alone can and will overcome.

The road ahead is hard. The lost years are gone. A new spirit is abroad. Free peoples are again cooperating to win a free world and no tyranny can frustrate their hopes.

Those who now suffer and die in this effort do so for the common good of the free peoples of the earth who shall follow after them, and who, with the help of God, shall build from these sacrifices a citadel of freedom so strong that force may never again seek its destruction.

So far as your people and our people are concerned, I hope that we may work together in the spirit of the moving words which your Poet Laureate, Mr. John Masefield, addressed to me on my coming to England. May I read them to you?

Two with like laws and language should be friends.
Whatever enmities have marred a past,
A future with good-will may make amends
And build a new world happier than the last.
Your coming and your friendship are a cheer.
If yours and ours will but understand,
Earth's children will not live in fear,
Nor deed of spirit die by deed of hand.

May we help one another to build a new world happier than the last so that earth's future children will not live in fear.