Our Republic: It Must Be Preserved


By JOSIAH W. BAILEY, United States Senator from North Carolina

Address at Asheville, Carried by C. B. S. Radio System, July 4, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 633-637.

FELLOW citizens of the United States of America: As we enter upon the 166th year of our Independence, we must realize that the American people have for a decade been grappling with one of their severest domestic tests, and now must face another, of a foreign character, even more severe. We must labor under the difficulties of the one while overcoming the other. One is reminded of that early day when the Father of our Country, seeing its difficulties, declared that if our Republic should be so fortunate as to survive twenty years, its preservation and progress would be assured for many decades to come.

It did survive the tests of that period, and it has survived many others, showing to all the world the value of that new order which it expressed. In a progress without precedent it has proved a blessing not only to all the increasing millions of its inhabitants—the best of governments in the

best of forms in the best of lands—but also has proved a light to all humanity, lifting every where the aspirations of men and leading them forward to higher ranges of right, of hope and of achievement. One may pause a moment to ask, what sort of world would this be had this Republic not existed?—and a more intimate question, what sort of life would any one of us live but for the blessings of our Republic? And what sort of future would there be for the human race or for any one of us, should this Republic cease to exist in its historic form and character?

Since that first 20-year period, we have assumed that our Republic could not fail, disregarding the fate of all its predecessors. Many today take for granted its continual existence, ignoring not only the menace of the economic collapse within, but also failing to appreciate the jeopardy in which it stands by reason of the menace of mighty conqueringnations, well armed and unrestrained, save as they may be restrained by more than equal force, and overlooking no less the activities of disintegrating forces operating from within. We have been so secure and so happy that we have forgotten that, while kingdoms may continue to exist by means of wealth or force or other factors material, Republics by their very nature live only by the will, the intelligence and the devotion of the people who constitute them. For a Republic is founded upon the spirits of men, and notwithstanding the outward appearance and equipment of its power, it is at bottom and essentially a creation of the spirit whose dwelling is the mind of man—the spirit of its people.

As we celebrate this anniversary, let us realize that we do so in an altered world, in the midst of swift and unsuspected movements, and of rapidly changing circumstances, the outcome of which none can foresee. Two events, predetermined by many lesser ones, but unforeseen, have brought about a far-reaching and perhaps a fundamental alteration in the constitution of human society—embracing every nation and affecting every individual. As the consequence of those events, we are in the midst of world revolution, social and economic. Vast change now suddenly confronts the human race, confronts us of this Republic no less than all others.

The first of those events is the break-down, the failure of the economic order, which, arising in more remote centuries, culminated in the economic system under which our country flourished for 130 years. For want of a better name, it is called the system of free enterprise or capitalism, known to each of us as the individual profit system and free competition, and recognized as of the essence of the Republic itself.

We must recognize that the collapse in the United States, first realized in 1929, occurred under that system, and that while this collapse has been ameliorated since 1933, we have by no means established recovery from it or remedy for its recurrence. We have softened its conditions, but have found no remedy. Whether the method pursued was wise or unwise, or whether some other method would have served better, are political questions, and not for discussion on this occasion.

The fact of the break-down of our historic economic system stands out to threaten and to challenge us. It happened in our land last of all. It had failed in Britain and on the Continent of Europe years before. And in its stead other systems had been erected on that Continent—Communism in Russia, Fascism in Italy, and Nazism in Germany. These were in great measure consequences of the failure of the systems which they replaced. And they were the first political manifestations of that failure.

Since 1933 the Republic of the United States has been feeling its way to find recovery from this break-down and adjustment to its consequences in Europe and in the Orient. At the moment we continue only to feel our way while we labor under the necessity of dealing crucially with the other event causing fundamental alteration in human society. We cannot put aside our economic problem, however desirable that may be, while we face another that demands instant and undivided attention. We must endure its hardships and bear in mind its perils, until we shall have established our national security in a world in which anything may happen. Meantime, we must hold to the faith that our form of government is not only not at fault, but also that in so far as a people may establish a sound and happy economy through their government, ours offers by far the most hope. There is nothing in the Italian, the Russian or the German experiments to induce us to emulate them, and much to induce in us a fresh access of devotion to our historic institutions—much to warn us against the radical.

The other of the two events to which I have referred is the revelation in the summer of 1940 of the significance of mechanized warfare as employed by unrestrained nations. We saw the fortresses of Belgium and France fall within 30 days under the attack of bombing planes and tanks of the Totalitarian Axis. We perceived with amazement, not yet fully expressed, that the stabilized defense of the great fortresses of Belgium and the Maginot Line, the great guns and ramparts manned by magnificent armies, amounted to nothing before the German lightning stroke. Since then we have seen the pass of Thermopylae yield to the same forces, and even more recently Crete has shown that the warship cannot be relied upon to resist the bombing plane, and on the other hand, that by way of the air an invading army may cross a broad expanse of the sea, and overwhelm a well-defended island. The defense of the fortress and the defense of insularity have fallen together before the new weapons of war.

When the means of attack, by reason of the development of gun-powder and guns, became superior to the means of defense by moat and wall, Feudalism's doom was sealed and way was made for Nationalism, even for Democracy. There was fundamental economic revolution. What will be the ultimate consequences of the new superiority of attack by air and tank remains to be seen. But the immediate consequences are plain enough.

We have a new sort of war, called total war—total in its effort and total in its consequences. Non-combatants are as fully exposed as combatants—the children, their mothers and the aged no less than the skilled men who bear arms. And total war has brought to full flower a new sort of government to carry on that war and that war's economy, called totalitarian. All of Europe is under its force; all of Britain is marshalled against it in desperate struggle; and all the peoples of the earth are face to face with its threats, its intimidations, its terror, its treacheries, and its manifest ambition to dominate sea and land, every nation and every tribe.

It is with this tremendous fact that our Republic must instantly reckon in total effort.

In such a situation it is not enough to declare that this Republic must be preserved; it is imposed upon us to see to it that it shall grapple with these events and all that they predicate; incumbent upon us as individual, living units of our Republic so to grapple with them, that as a whole the American people will come through not only unconquered but uncontrolled by any nation or power. It is our duty now so to over-match their forces as to preserve all the rich meaning of our Republic to ourselves and to mankind—yea to the God who brought it forth.

We must now give our attention to the place of our country amongst the nations, and particularly to its course, its duty, and our duty as its members, in the world situation, of necessity holding in abeyance the crucial and pressing economic problem, so far as we may. We can and we must proceed as a people at once to avoid the economic threat to our defense of over-borrowing. That is, we must pay heavier and heavier taxes, we must buy our country's bonds, we must reduce the non-defense expenditure; and each of us must learn to live on smaller incomes. We must spend less, not only in order that our industrial energies may be geared to the demands of defense, but also to be able to pay taxes and buy bonds.

It is essential that the American people shall comprehend their situation. We must clear away a certain confusion. Disarmament and Pacifism as a national policy passed out, under the influence of the Axis menace in the autumn or 1939, when the arms embargo was repealed. Isolation as a policy was ended in March, 1941, when the Lease-Lend Billwas enacted providing for all-out aid to Britain and other nations. These debates are behind us.

The question now is, Shall the United States enter the war as a belligerent, and if so, will the young men go? It is this question that underlies the agitation now going on.

We must be candid. No one desires to get into a war. No one prefers to send men into battle. It is quite clear that the Axis powers desire to avoid war with us—now. It is the Hitler policy to pick off the nations one after another—one at a time. He is the world's No. 1 isolationist!

But whether our Republic shall become a belligerent is not a question to be settled by our wishes. All agree that belligerency is the last recourse and ought to be avoided if possible. The question will be determined by events, by action and not by debate. It depends to a great degree upon what Hitler shall do. If he takes a step that involves the security of our Republic, the decision will be made for us and by Fate: For this Republic must be preserved; and we preserve it by defending its security. We are not aggressors and do not intend to become aggressors. We are not appeasers either. We will defend our country in our own way in our own time, and ask no other nation how. This policy is the one policy best calculated to avoid involvement as a belligerent. For the Axis powers are tempted by a show of weakness, but stand back upon a show of strength.

Whether we are prepared for the responsibilities of a belligerent is another essential factor in the present equation. I cannot here discuss this question. But I must make one remark; No nation is prepared for war under modern conditions so long as the right to strike against the national defense is recognized and exercised as it is now in this Republic. For full industrial production is as essential to a successful conclusion as ships and men. It is the day of the plane and the tank, the motor, the machine, their operators.

The second factor in the equation of war by this Republic is the common consent of its people. A divided Republic is beaten to begin with. Unity, not a mere majority vote, is indispensable to victory, and, therefore, to belligerency.

The other question is, in event of belligerency, shall our sons go forth to battle on the Old World Continents? It does not now seem likely—indeed there is even question whether that is possible. We have neither the ships to transport them, nor the ports to land them. Every vessel is required for other purposes, and will be so required for at least a year to come. All the ports of the European Continent are either in Axis possession or under the Axis guns. We do have a great Navy, but it is not equal to war in the two great oceans, East and West.

But we cannot assure Hitler that if and when we must fight, we will not fight to the utmost of our power—to the last dollar, the last man and the last day of our existence. For here again the show of strength is the one thing that will deter him, and the show of weakness is the one thing that will invite him—and, let us remember, it is he and not us who will determine whether we fight or not. For while his motive is conquest and dominion, our motive continues to be peace and security. We are saying to him only that our Republic must be preserved, that we know that to preserve it we must preserve the means of its security. We prefer to do this without becoming a belligerent; but if he shall make it necessary, we have no choice: For we will preserve this Republic, come what may.

Moreover, we must realize that once in the war, we cannot say how far we will go—for we must do all that is necessary to victory.

The theory of our policy is that by full material aid to Britain and other resisting nations we may confine the warto Europe and stop Hitler there; and further, we are training our army, building our ramparts and enlarging our navy to the end that, if Hitler shall not be stopped in Europe, we will be ready to resist any encroachment upon the Western Hemisphere that he may attempt. This we consider to be the policy necessary to our peace and to our security.

If this Republic shall now be preserved, its people must rise to every demand of its defense—and that without delay. This may or may not mean war; it means defense in our own time, in our own manner and without asking the advice or permission of any other nation, whether friendly or unfriendly. This is the only means of our security, war or no war. We must defend and defend promptly and effectually, or take the risk of the most powerful menace in our history.

For the present we defend by way of all out aid to Britain recognizing the value of her character, her courage and her fleet as a barrier between us and those who would otherwise drive us into a corner to our undoing. We defend by aid to China because she is a threat to the third arm of the Axis of Total War. We will defend by aid to other nations so far as we can, if thereby we may help to arrest the Axis progress. And we will defend by appropriate action of our own the right of American ships under the American flag to go their ways on the free and open seas of the globe, because the freedom of the seas is essential to American freedom. If such defense means war, then we have no choice. For defend we must. And we know if war must come, it will come not by way of what we may do, but wholly by way of what we fail to do—not by reason of our defense but whenever Hitler shall consider that he is strong enough to take us over.

At the moment our country is not a belligerent, and while all hope it may escape actual warfare, it ought to be realized that we are gravely affected by the world revolution and gravely involved by way of responsibility for the security of our people; we must know that at any moment we may, without departure from our present necessary course of defensive action, become involved as a belligerent and further, that once so involved the greater responsibility for a successful conclusion will devolve upon the United States. We must, even while hoping to avoid war, gird our Republic to the utmost and seek in every way to stay the hand of the would-be world conqueror until our power shall over-match his—in which event he would not fight. Let us understand that we cannot provoke him by show of strength, but can tempt him by display of weakness.

Our President in his recent address drew the line of our defense, beyond which the Axis powers may not step without war—giving necessary, timely and plain notice—"Thus far and no farther". We will preserve, he said, our freedom on the seas, because our security is at stake in its preservation. We will not permit the control of the Atlantic or Pacific to pass to the Axis powers, because with that control would pass also the security of our people and the destiny of their country. We will not fail in all out material aid to Great Britain because to fail her seems to mean nothing less than surrendering the seas to the Axis. We will not permit certain strategic island bases to pass into Axis control, because control of those bases by the Axis powers would put our country in jeopardy.

Such is the notice given; and it remains only for the Axis powers to bring on war by disregarding that notice. We will not yield, said the President, in a more recent message to the Congress; and he meant what he said and all America meant it with him. We will not yield. It is right that he gave this notice; it is wise that he gave this notice. Andgiving it for all concerned he gave it no less to the American people, in whose behalf and for whose interest he gave it.

It is time, high time, that every one of us fully realized the gravity of the hour. We are at the end of our first year of preparation for the crucial demands that the ordeal imposes. But there are lamentable evidences that few realize what confronts us. We have made only a start upon our program, and are far behind the Axis in armed force and in power to produce planes, tanks, guns and ammunition. We are passing from the special depression economy to the defense preparation economy, but we have not made the transition. We produced only 5,000 fighting planes in the year and only 1,000 tanks. We are short of ammunition. Our shipping program will not be adequate so far as produced ships are concerned within 18 months. We are struggling with the immense task of arming our Republic and other nations at the same time. On every hand we hear of bottlenecks, congestions, shortages and delays. And, most regrettable, certain Labor leaders and agitators are insisting upon the right to strike against the defense of their country, notwithstanding every possible assurance of just treatment. The subversive element, the saboteur, and the communist are active; and it is of the gravest significance that the head men of one great Labor organization have declared against ridding it of its communist member—i.e., men who are committed to the overthrow of our Republic and cannot be trusted by it. It is no less perilous that we have so far departed from the spirit of our Republic as to encourage a system under which loyal Americans are not permitted to work unless they join an organization, pay it tribute and take its orders.

Fully eighty per cent of the American people are wholly loyal and desire to serve their country's need. The same ratio applies to the workers of America. As a rule, they are as loyal and true as their other fellow citizens. It is now for them to demand a leadership that puts the defense of their country above any class or personal interest or program, and the rights of men above class-struggle for power. It is not patriotic to seize upon a great people's distress to make profits or to advance one's interest—and this goes for all, rich or poor, capitalist and worker. It is not right to coerce men for any cause in this land save by the compulsion of law in due process.

We must find our unity now without delay—unity in the common sense that informs one that the security of one's country is indispensable to the welfare of every person and every class; unity in the will to defend our land at whatever the cost, unity in the example of the soldier's sacrifice to which he is bound no more than every other inhabitant, each in his own way, each in all that he has and is, each according to what he is capable of doing for his country. We must prepare to meet the challenge of the Axis powers with total American effort. We must show the ages how this Republic may put forth total effort without becoming totalitarian, and thereby win our title to lead mankind for 1,000 years to come. We may bend its structure, but we will not suffer it to be broken. We will strain it under the pressure of dire necessity, but in doing so we will so provide that once the pressure shall be removed, it will right itself, resume its normal character and proceed on its course as the Republic of Liberty.

There is such a thing amongst men as that which is called Americanism—definite and distinguished, a blessing to all who share it, and known to its beneficiaries even though we have difficulty in defining it.

Perhaps it is not to be defined; but to attempt it today is not out of order. Politically it is government by representative democracy, restrained by a Constitution that defines the limits of the power of those who govern, that erects, as against the government itself, a bill of inalienable rights in behalf of each individual; a Republic of States, sovereign in their spheres but united in one nation; that finds its unity in the assent of its people rather than by force of law. It rests upon the power to serve rather than the power to compel. Its sources are moral rather than physical. Morally, its purpose is to free the energies and the aspirations of its people. Its rewards are well-being and content, not power and riches. It recognizes the divine spark in every man and woman, every boy and girl, and gives each a share in sovereign right, sovereign power and sovereign duty. It proclaims a liberty that demands tolerance—of opinion, of race, of religion, of occupation; and in this liberty it finds the source of its most cherished aspiration—equality of right, equality before the law, equality in education, equality in religion, equality of opportunity to work, to save, to rise, to prosper. It proposes a justice that goes far beyond the courts, an economic and social justice for each and all, the weakest no less than the strongest.

This Americanism is the ruling spirit of a land in which no force is exercised save under laws approved by the people and by officers responsible to them; in which there is no compulsion and no coercion except the compulsion and coercion of law under due process—and not of men; in this land no individual, nor any group, may take the law into its own hands; here even the people themselves are bound to preserve the inalienable rights of every man; here there can be neither exercise of arbitrary power nor any sort of tyranny; here is indeed a land of liberty and justice, where every man may work out his destiny in the earth—only provided he support the Republic under which he enjoys liberties so full and privileges so great.

Of such was that New Order of the Ages which was set up in our land 165 years ago, and the reminder that it was conceived as a New Order of the Ages appears in the Latin inscription upon the Great Seal of the United States, reproduced upon our dollar bills. Favored by natural conditions, but favored more by the political, social and personal climate of the principles of this New Order, we have built here the greatest and richest, the most liberal, the most progressive and the happiest of empires. Only six per cent of earth's population, we do forty per cent of earth's commerce. We have had the benefit of the dynamic of individual incentive to the pursuit of happiness, of the self-reliance and the self-respect guaranteed in our Bill of Rights, and also the sense of individual dignity in the realization of responsibility for our government and, in a wider realm, of man's relation to his Creator.

So greatly has this New Order succeeded that wholly by example and emulation its influence has extended throughout the earth. The peoples of China and Russia, of Japan and Germany, of Britain and France would like to do things the way Americans do them. American liberty, American wealth, American industry, and American opportunity are the goal of the peoples of all nations.

Often have I thought these ten years, often I think these present days, that our Republic is more than a mere government or form of order; that it is the flowering of the aspirations of mankind throughout the ages; the culmination of the prophet's vision and the reformer's hope, the product of that conception of man in his responsibility to his Maker which is written large in that Book of books found in every American's home. Often do I think of it as a treasure in trust and exceedingly precious, a priceless possession, a matchless heritage, not just because it is my government, butbecause its character and form, its meaning and processes provide freedom and security for the minds and souls of its people, not less than for their property and their lives.

Such an institution of government is worth all that may be exacted to preserve it—to its inhabitants, to mankind, and to the Creator of men. No sacrifice is too great in such a cause. And, must I remind you, the instant of sacrifice is at hand. From now until the menace shall have disappeared, every citizen of this Republic must think and act not in terms of what he may enjoy for himself nor in terms of what his government may do for him, but in terms of what would be his fate and his children's fate, if economic break-down should impair our Republic's character or the Axis powers should gain any degree of dominion over it; interms of what he must do to preserve the Republic in its true character and the blessings of its liberty to himself, if he shall be spared, and at any rate to his posterity—precisely the spirit which moved the fathers to bring forth the Republic.

And so, my fellow Americans, I summon you in this 165th anniversary of the founding of the best of governments in the most blessed of lands, as you desire security, as you love peace, as you cherish your homes, as you owe a heritage to your children, as you fear and would serve the God of Nations and of our Fathers—to the defense of your country: The Republic of the United States—it must be preserved; and by no less than the sacrificial service of none other than ourselves.