The Masquerade Is Over
THE COUNTRY REELS AND STAGGERS
By HIRAM W. JOHNSON, U. S. Senator from California
Delivered over National Broadcasting System, May 31, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 514-517
GOOD evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am very proud to be speaking tonight under the auspices of the America First Committee. I remember the long fights upon the so-called neutrality bills. When the first one was before the Senate I made some remarks which I prefaced by a little couplet from Dryden. This was as follows:
"Such subtle covenants shall be made
Till peace itself is war in masquerade."
I early sensed from occasional newspapers, different correspondents, and columnists, whither we were drifting. The little couplet I often had in mind, and during the few years that have intervened its truth became more apparent. I have lived to see my utterances in opposition to war justified. It's true that today insidiously the propaganda has crept upon all of us, and finally we see it so deftly administered that like a rare anesthetic it almost overcomes us. In the shock of the poison the jingle has ever been in my mind—
covenants shall be made
Till peace itself is war in masquerade."
As we look back we can realize how gradual was the development; how artfully planned, until now we stand aghast on the very brink of war.
At the very commencement of the remarks I made in the speech referred to, I said:
"At the outset, Mr. "President, I wish to say I am not a Nazi-ist, I am not a Fascist, thank God, I am not a Communist, and I do not believe, to employ a much misused word, in the ideology of any one of those particular groups. I belong to nothing of that sort; I abhor them all. I detest dictators, whether they are actual or potential, and wherever they may be."
And time has intensified this opinion.
Lest we forget, I want to recall with you for a moment the passage of events that lulled some of us into a false security.
In 1935 the President, in San Diego, said:
"In the face of this apprehension the American people can have but one concern and speak but one sentiment; despite what happens in continents overseas the United States of America shall and must remain as long ago the Father of our Country prayed that it might remain, unentangled and free.
* * * * *
"We not only earnestly desire peace, but we are moved by a stern determination to avoid those perils that will endanger our peace with the world."
And then following this in sequence was the speech of the President at Chautauqua in 1936. He then said:
"We are not isolationists except insofar as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from war."
And again in the same speech:
"I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen 200 limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of 1,000 that went forward 48 hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and of wives. I hate war."
How we've reechoed the words of the President, "I hate war."
And then a change came o'er the spirit of his dreams, and in 1937 we find him giving utterance to these words:
"It seems to be unfortunately true that the epidemic of world lawlessness is spreading.
"When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease."
In 1939, in his message to Congress, he said:
"Words may be futile, but war is not the only means of commanding a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. There are many methods short of war, but stronger and more effective than mere words, of bringing home to aggressor governments the aggregate sentiments of our own people."
Here was the genesis of the expression "methods short of war" of which we heard so much until the passage of the lease-lend bill.
And then—I omit the intermediate utterances because of lack of time—came the hypocritical, ill-begotten, misnamed lease-lend bill, conceived in deception and carried out in hypocrisy.
Don't you remember how every man in favor of this lease-lend bill stated it was designed to prevent war from ever coming to us, that its purpose was distinctly to keep our country out of war, and how our puny voices in dismay and contradiction went unheard? How from all over the country came the expression "short of war," that no one would explain, and none could? We were justified in charging the sole use was by reiteration to lull our people to sleep. Ever since the bill was passed, the expression "short of war" has been abandoned, and we have seen within recent days the horrible efforts of the warmongers to begin a new theme that involved the very antithesis of what they assured the American people would not occur, until now America stands at the cross roads, one of which takes us upon our peaceful way that we may live our own lives; the other of which is the road lighted with the flames of war and into which we fear we will be driven.
The most momentous of the President's promises made to us was solemnly, oh so solemnly, given just before election:
"And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance.
"I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again:
"Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."
Many, many times, by quotation from the Democratic platform and otherwise has the President assured the people that he would not take us into war and, even more solemnly, that our boys would not be sent into any foreign wars. The people had the right to rely on these assurances. They did rely on them. Let the people make the other party to the promise keep faith.
I recall to you but a few of the statements in all of those made by the President in which he asserted in the most positive fashion: "Your President says this country is not going to war." The President's speeches were hinting at the possibility of war, but when the President was questioned concerning these statements, categorically, he repudiated them. If explanation were needed for the simplicity of the people or any defense of their gullibility it is furnished in the current number of the Saturday Evening Post under the title "In Defense of the People." I wish I could read the whole article to you that you might admeasure the blame and either attach it to a bemused, confused, and too-trusting people, or to one who kept locked within his bosom his intent.
And now having settled, so far as words can settle, the blame attached to either party, let us pursue our theme. Shallthis great, peace-loving country that is not a party to the war, that had naught to do with its original declaration, be pitchforked into the brutal conflict from which we have nothing to expect, and everything to lose? It is asserted that we must take sides with all the gruesome horrors in defense of one belligerent, or else we'll be seized by the other and subjected to the most awful indignities.
Bluntly, frankly, the issue at stake here is whether we'll go to war. On the one side are a smattering of good citizens, the vociferous little puppets of J. P. Morgan and Co., a large part of the press, practically all the columnists, the newspaper correspondents, all crying for war with Germany and against Hitler; on the other side is the great inarticulate mass of citizens like you and me, of Americans who love their country, whose thoughts are ever first for it, and who, at all hazards, will protect it.
Judging from the newspapers these last named are in the woeful minority, but we, whose correspondence is large, know that the exact opposite is true. We, who are only Americans, with no other thought than the preservation of America, pray God to help us do that which would be for the best interests and welfare of America. So, to Messrs. Morgan and Co. and their satellites, and to all the other members of the crew clamoring for war, we say introduce your declaration of war in the Congress of the United States and submit it to the test—the only test we have—of our people's representatives. Don't confuse the straight issue of war with an attempted declaration by the President alone. Don't confound it with a Presidential pronunciamento which means, if it means anything, that he will convoy ammunition and aid to Britain. Don't becloud it with the pretense of "freedom of the seas" nor by left-handed implications of repealing the Neutrality Act, all by the way forgotten and forsaken as soon as made. Let us have a straight-out determination of whether we will declare war on the Axis Powers. Let the resolution for the declaration of war be introduced by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate. How better and braver it will be for those who are demanding war to present their resolution and let it be tested instead of waiting in the dark and skulking in the hope that some incident will arise upon which they could predicate such a motion. We'll meet as best we can such a resolution and pray God He'll keep war from this country.
And first, in fairness, let us examine some of the reasons on both sides. We can omit our desire to aid Britain for our people have expressed themselves upon that, always, however, with the proviso that it should be "short of war." It may be that the recent declaration of the President may be construed as blotting out "short of war," but no word has emanated from him that the phrase so often used by him, that was in the mouths of all of his supporters for many months, has been eliminated. Moreover, it was demonstrated upon the argument upon the lease-lend bill that Britain was receiving a maximum of goods and weapons from us. To give her more would denude ourselves of the most essential weapons of defense, and perhaps even Messrs. Morgan & Co. would stop short of that. The arms and essential weapons furnished Britain constitute by far the greatest proportion our industries could produce. But grant that all of the production of this country could be sent to England and our own defenses wholly denuded, we would not have a tithe of what was necessary to win. The first great obstacle to our entry into war, therefore, would be unpreparedness. Let any man who knows state the contrary and subject himself to a 5-minute cross-examination, and the correctness of this statement will be demonstrated. Now, do we want to be put to the hazard, when we are not a party to the war nor in any manner connected thereto, this great, peaceful country ofours, with all that it means? A merciful providence might continue to shower His blessings upon us and enable us to succeed by a miracle in winning such a war. Assume it to be otherwise, however, and that the aphorism of Napoleon—"That God fights on the heaviest side of the heaviest battalions", would again be proven—where would we be? The blackest picture now unjustifiably painted by the warmongers, and the little people who are crying for blood, would be pale in comparison.
Viewed from every angle, war now could be nothing more than disastrous. It is pretty to hear the head of the Government boast about what we have done in terms we do not understand, and our readiness to repel any attack from any quarter. It makes us all proud to hear him tell about our two-ocean Navy now, and how it would, as we all know, give a good account of itself in case of war; but it is terrible to realize the fact that we have not as yet a two-ocean Navy and that it could not do what is claimed for it. We'll have a two-ocean Navy in time, but ships, like glamour, are not readily built. It will be claimed that this is a hard-headed, cold-blooded view to take of the situation, and that England is bleeding to death in the meantime; but we are doing everything that we can to help England, and no amount of boasting about what we know is not yet complete will enable us to do the job. So, what is better to continue to help Great Britain, or to boast of our strength and our uncompleted armies, knowing their weakness and unpreparedness. No amount of wishful thinking will alter it. But until we must come to grips, it is silly, indeed a crime, for this country to gamble with its precious heritage. In the language of Dean Hutchins of the University of Chicago, "We simply will be committing suicide." This is no defeatist view, but a plain statement of facts.
In his speech on Tuesday night the President, in my opinion, first, himself, declared war, and told the terms upon which he would wage it. Secondly, he agreed that he would convoy, or otherwise take to Britain, the goods, ammunition, and guns intended for her. Again he revived what he, himself, eliminated, the doctrine of the "freedom of the seas." And, lastly, he went blithely on his way with his four freedoms and is going to enthrone them upon the whole world. How he is going to do it is a deep, dark mystery, but he speaks as if it were easy of accomplishment and gives never a thought to the agony and the anguish and blood-letting that will have to accomplish it. In all this he did not once mention the Congress of the United States. The Constitution makes the Congress, and only the Congress, the one part of our Government which can declare war. The Constitution provides clause II, section 8, article I:
"The Congress shall have power * * * to declare war * * *."
He speaks with the confidence of a Hitler or a Mussolini in all these things, and with a certainty that puts to blush even these two braggarts. Does he feel so confident of the Congress that he can utterly disregard it? I admit that he has some cause for this feeling of supreme confidence, but let us hope when it comes to the serious matter of declaring war Congress will assert itself.
The evidence is highly preponderant that until we shall have prepared ourselves it would be folly to get into this war. Remember, we have not declared war, and war has not been declared against us. We have given ample occasions by acts that are directly designated "acts of war" to Hitler to declare war against us. If he continues to refrain he gives us a breathing spell which we must utilize in our preparation.
We have touched but faintly upon what war would mean in our present unprepared state. It is the horror, and theblood-letting, the maiming and the killing of youngsters that appeal to me. I thought when the President made his Chautauqua speech that the same thoughts were impelling him to fortify his soul against war. In this I was mistaken; or, if not mistaken, the splendid pulse beats that actuated him then lasted but a brief period. Now, apparently, he is talking of war without realizing the consequences of a war where America is the principal figure and it is American blood to be shed. It is enough that war would mean the shedding of innocent blood in such fashion as we have never known before, but if this does not touch my listeners tonight, think of the material that war would cost. I shall not pile Ossa on Pelion in estimating the value of the material things; but if we have war, win or lose, we'll reach a period in our finances of inflation, or repudiation, either of which would mean financial ruin and chaos.
But there is something far greater that we'll encounter on the way. You may see it glossed over in the recent speech of the President, perhaps unwittingly, or perhaps from habit formed of power. You have seen him with a speech prepared in collaboration with an eminent friend of his, and an English playwright, as the newspapers report and of which I have no criticism. You have seen how somebody in his entourage reaches out for drama and has all of the nations of South America represented. Sparse was the representation of our own citizens, numbering over 130,000,000. You who heard him on that occasion over the radio could measure the power and the pride with which he talked. In the excitement of the moment, or the drama that was put on, he forgot this great pulsating democracy of ours, except to say that we would never consent to accept, and would not permit a Nazi shape of things to come. Of course, we'll never accept the Nazi shape, nor permit Nazi things to come. Americans have never yet been so cowardly as to permit Nazi regime, or any other, to work its will. The President in his eloquent address told of countries Hitler has conquered and has occupied. He mentioned Tripoli, Libya in Africa, his threat of Egypt, and the Suez Canal, the Near East, and even the Indian Ocean. Are we going to fight in all these countries?
If the intention of the President was to prepare us for that sort of fight he should have said so in so many words, and the American people would have girded their loins for the fray. But there was the evident intent to frighten us with the statement that the Cape Verde Islands are only 7 hours' distance from Brazil by bomber or troop-carrying planes. They dominate shipping routes to and from the South Atlantic. And he closes on this point with the statement that "control or occupation by Nazi forces of any of the islands of the Atlantic would jeopardize the immediate safety of portions of North and South America, and of the island possessions of the United States, and of the ultimate safety of the continental United States itself." A large program he maps out for Hitler, and even a larger one for ourselves. If all of the ills that he describes should befall us, we must put forth a superhuman effort to prevent them. How many soldiers will be required? How big will our fleets have to be? The ordinary man listening to this speech will conclude that we must be prepared to send men required to meet the Nazi in Africa, in Egypt, at the Suez Canal, and the Near East, to take Dakar, the Azores, and the Cape Verde Islands, to say nothing of the war we must carry on in continental Europe for the purpose of rescuing the oppressed nations there, and above all, for the rescue of Great Britain. What a stupendous task he maps out for America. It may become necessary that we should fight nearly all of the nations of the earth, and that we should conquer them, but God forbid. And, above all, we should know, and have the right to know, if this is the program of our President.
But, what will become of our United States of America while we are pursuing these Herculean tasks. We have seen, little by little, power concentrated in one man's hands. We have soothed our perturbed spirits by pretending that those powers were needed to be thus concentrated in order to meet the crisis, but when you are meeting crises on practically all lands of every continent, what will become, the ordinary citizen will ask, of the good old United States. It is no reply to talk in generalities, and in enigmas of sacrifices that must be made. What is to become of your Government, Mr. American? Is it not plain that all this fighting on every shore, and in practically every country will mean but one thing, perhaps, the destruction of a dictatorship in other lands, but the certainty of the creation of a dictatorship in our own. You may live under a beneficent despot the rest of your days if you desire. I prefer the good old American way, and I will protest and fight to the bitter end. You cannot with this plan that apparently is mapped out for you, escape a dictatorship and perhaps worse. If ever there was a time in the history of this country when it is the duty of Americans to stand forth and be men it is now. It will soon be too late, and then the outstretched hands of liberty may no longer join yours.
The propaganda is abroad today in far greater volume than ever before. We were subject during the last war to it, and the books which have been written since by the men who were guilty of it have exposed it. The same technique, though immensely improved, has been adopted now, and every man in this country feeling an inferiority complex, and subject to the dictates of the English, is in favor of it. Not only that, but whole flocks of titled Englishmen and English women, have gone about our country lecturing and wheedling us into war. The British Ambassador himself set a bad example as openly he has gone from city to city in its behalf. Societies under all sorts of names have been formed. Where the money comes from to support all of these the ordinary citizen can only guess, but it has been spent without stint during the past 10 days. Full-page advertisements have been carried by our newspapers calling upon authoritative action and citizens to contribute. In this country I would not shut off a single one of these people because of the precious regard I have for the right of free speech, but when an invidious epithet is applied to Colonel Lindbergh, and pious Philadelphia closes its halls to him, I think that it is quite time that America cries out against this sort of thing.
Now I am fully aware that to speak this way opens me to the charge of Nazi, and, because it is viler, of being a copperhead, but some of us were made of such stuff that we won't
be frightened, nor cajoled when the liberties that are ours—the sacred, personal liberties, are attacked. All of our precious civil liberties will be lost in the mad adventure and the fantastic enterprise. It is only a step now to forbid free speech in this country, and the minority of our citizens who are so enthusiastic for Britain would justify it, and perhaps the concentration camp would follow; but there are some of us who laugh at a concentration camp and who are old enough to spend the rest of their days in one laughing.
The four liberties for which the President so eloquently appealed, and which Anthony Eden so weakly reechoed, would have but a sorry chance of existence if we would march our armies from Greenland's icy mountains to India's coral strand.
Mr. Eden must have spoken with his tongue in his cheek as he recalled India with its teeming millions, with its distress and want, or he may have recalled that the President began his campaign in this country with a note of fear. I can recall in one of his addresses with an imagination worthy of Orson Welles, the President painted the picture of cities of the Middle West being attacked by Hitler's bombs, and really, just after that speech he had the particular territory feeling rather jittery. He has since artistically preached fear, while decrying it. He has said there is nothing to fear but fear, and then, in bold lines, he has drawn the picture of fear so that our people will feel it.
Dictatorship and war together marched very early in this Government, and have led us step by step, along the dangerous road until today we can reach out and touch it, and its fury burns into our very souls. Dismayed, betrayed, we reel and stagger as we realize that the subtle plan is about to flower. The masquerade is over and we now know that God had no place amongst them. The Grecian god Pan reigns instead. We find him perched high upon their banners, pipes in hand, playing as he never played before—the great maestro. How deftly he tempers his tunes from the soothing lullabies to shrieks of groundless fear, sudden and furious, and we now awake to find our Nation facing death. And what of the warmongers? Let all of us Americans enroll. Let us form our battalions and, hand in hand, face them, and as we go forward, buoyed by the trumpets of peace, let us sing with David his Forty-sixth song. You remember this:
"He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burnetii the chariot in the fire.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."