America Is on the March


By JOHN W. McCORMACK, of Massachusetts, Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives

Delivered before the Boston Chamber of Commerce, Retail Trade Board, Maritime Association, and Advertising Club ofBoston on December 31, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 244-247.

AMERICA is on the march. Tyranny will soon be on the defensive and on the run. By the breath of a new spirit the patriotism of this Nation became unified overnight. The unprovoked and dastardly assault at Pearl Harbor on December 7 lighted the spark which fused America into a people with a common purpose in a common danger. Unity, so essential for victory, exists.

Our unity has, as its sacred objective, the preservation of this country as a place where people still will have a chance to be free. Liberty is a precious heritage, sanctified by the blood of martyrs, something to be cherished and fought for when endangered. We inherited liberty as our most treasured possession, and with it the obligation to defend it when imperilled. The challenge has come again and we respond to plain duty. We do this with a full consciousness that liberty, as we know it, can live only in the framework of a democracy, if democracy dies, what we call liberty dies with it.

One of the principal weaknesses of our democracy in times of crisis is that so many proposals are made, valuable time is often lost through indecision. To bring the discordant elements of the body politic into harmony sometimes consumes valuable hours. Yet, when we were attacked action was swift, and as near solidarity as we could ever hope to achieve exists. Up to a little more than 3 weeks ago we were a complacent people because the will for peace was in everybody's heart. Many of us were comforted with the self-satisfied feeling that as a nation we were too powerful, too rich in men and abundant resources, to invite aggression. Yes, we were smug and cocksure of safety. Our psychology was that we frightened the envious by our very strength.

We had a satisfying way of life that we could not conceive as threatened by the horrors which had engulfed another part of the world. It took something to shake us out of this feeling of complete and detached security. The overt act of December 7 cost us precious American lives, and some material, but it brought us unity. Who will say the sacrifices were in vain? Yes, America is on the march.

To me, one of the quick and commendable results is that the peril which brought the necessity for unity has filed with the non-essentials use of the words "interventionist" and "isolationist." Cast, as I have been, in the maelstrom of debate, it always seemed to me that Members of Congress on either side of the issue had a common desire and the same goal. All wanted peace. All wanted to keep America out of the war. They were two groups of men equally anxious to put out a fire which was threatening the world, or at least keep it from spreading to our shores, but they disagreed on the best methods as to how it could be extinguished. Now that the national alarm has been sounded they accept leadership and work together to end the conflagration.

Politics, as we know it in normal times, has adjourned. Decisions are now pointed toward the single aim of winningnot only the war but the peace that is to follow. For if the world is to advance and progress, there must be some international assurance that the code of the gangster, and the ethics of the tyrant must never again be permitted to jeopardize our peace and the horizon of a brighter future.

About 130 years ago the world came to a realization that there could be no lasting concord until the ambitions of Napoleon for world domination has been stifled. It was not a new manifestation of greed and yearning for power. Alexander had it. So did Caesar and Genghis Khan. Today it is Hitler who is the power-mad dictator. To reject his rule is to be labeled enemy; to deny the existence of a superior race is a sacrilege. We are classed as a low and inferior order akin to serfs and swine, fit only to be ruled by the whip and the sword. We reject such bestial philosophies and America, as in 1918, will write the last chapter of an era of infamy. For America is on the march.

Fortunately we have Hitler's chart for dividing our unity. In his own words, uttered in 1933, he predicted:

"We shall create mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, and panic; these are our weapons. Our strategy is to destroy the enemy from within, to conquer him through himself."

I think we can all agree that Russia has tangled this pattern for glory and canceled his timetables. The theory of invincibility has been shattered, and the would-be conqueror has retired to lick his wounds.

Edmund Taylor, in his Strategy of Terror, describes well Hitler's new technique of total war, "to confuse by propaganda, to divide by corruption, to paralyze by intimidation, and then to destroy by blitzkrieg." America is resolved it will never happen here. Not while the forces of decency are alive and marching.

Today the sharp divisions of the past have been forgotten, and defeatism is an obsolete word. Into the annals of our patriotic literature will be written the inspiring messages conceived by the brave deeds of those who carry our colors.

"Remember Pearl Harbor" is more than a slogan. It is a constant reminder of Japanese treachery—a stimulant to courage for our armed forces. There will be no twilight for democracy. Future generations will revere the heroism of Capt. Colin Purdie Kelly, who sank the enemy battleship Haruna and sacrificed his life for America's cause. Already his comrades, in America's remote frontiers have accepted as their fighting watchword, "Let's give 'em hell, like Kelly did."

Other Americans, in other days of peril, left us these stirring words:

"We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature has placed in our power. . . . The battle, Sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." (Patrick Henry.)

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots." (Thomas Jefferson.)

"Remember the Alamo" became the battle cry of the Texans in their hard struggle for independence, a tribute to the valiant souls who died leaving as a bequest the memory of relentless courage and no surrender.

"Damn the torpedoes. Go ahead." (David Glasgow Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.)

"With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost." (William Lloyd Garrison.)

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us in the end dare to do our duty as we understand it" (Abraham Lincoln.)

"I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." (Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.)

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though check-mated by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." (Theodore Roosevelt.)

As Thomas Paine said, "These are the times that try men's souls," but they were faced by our forefathers with problems that seemed overwhelming. Defeatism was not in their make-up. Had it been we never should have gained our independence in 1776; the Union would have been torn asunder in 1860; Cuba would still be under the domination of Spain; the Kaiser would have triumphed in 1918. The glories of the past point the way. America is on the march.

With confidence in the victorious outcome let us glance ahead. What of the future; of the rebuilding and reconstruction; of economic readjustments which will arrive when America demobilizes for peace in a placid world? And what assurances and protection must civilization impose to prevent within our time a reversion by the power mad to the law of the jungle? Scientific discoveries and modern inventions have multiplied the destructiveness of war, but through the annihilation of space and distance they have also made us neighbors of the world. If we look at things realistically, I think we can agree that our status as a world power never can be maintained by remaining aloof from some society of nations or united front, nor as a strong but detached force in the universe.

Once was a time when the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean constituted a natural barrier against the aspirations of aggressors far removed. We had the Pacific on our western shores as a further guaranty of protected isolation. Today these tremendous bodies of water can be spanned overnight by modern aircraft, and below the surface may lurk mechanical dangers to our security. Oceans are no longer liquid fortifications that insulate us against the ravages of war. We cannot live apart from the rest of the world.

Adventures in diplomacy have taught the world much. We now realize that political power, economic power, the power of public opinion are not sufficient armor against the forces of evil. For we must concede, if we recognize today's truth, that moral force, if it is to be effective, must be implemented by some instrument overpowering and irresistible when applied to the currents and influences which menace the peace and stability of the world.

Human beings, like nations, require restraints to keep the lawless and unprincipled fettered for the safety of society. We maintain our police forces, our criminal courts, our jails, to protect the lawful against the lawless—to protect 99 percent of our society against the criminal acts of 1 per cent.

Are nations with unholy desire for world domination susceptible of moral argument around a conference table, or should the rationalization for some degree of permanent peace be buttressed by an international force of sufficient strength to impose justice? My conviction is that there be some form of world solidarity implemented with something more than persuasions and sanctions if right is to impose the civilized world's will on might.

This is no time for retrospection and regret, and yet if we chart our future with intelligence and vision, we must profit by the mistakes of the past. The lamented Woodrow Wilson, who conjured definite ideals to assure lasting peace, died without seeing his cherished pattern for world concord a living reality. He believed, with all the fervor of a great mind and heart, that in the intercourse of nations disputes were bound to arise; he was also passionately committed to a conviction that international differences could be settled by peaceful means through honest and sincere discussion around a conference table.

Emperors, kings, dictators, statesmen, and the man in the corner service station may debate without end on whether America should have entered the League of Nations—a Wilson creation—and added the prestige and power of a great nation to its deliberations. We did not. Shifting public attitudes in our democracy decreed otherwise, and the League, without our influence and strength, was never able to function as a compelling weapon for peace.

We tried again. A new orientation with a most laudable purpose. In Washington was drafted the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact, wherein the signatory powers renounced war as an element of national policy. Under its terms we stopped the building of battleships and sank a considerable portion of our existing battle fleet. We did not build a single battleship for more than 20 years. Our Army dwindled from 4,500,000 men in 1918 to barely 125,000 in 1938.

One nation after another, in their own self-interest, found ways to evade the strict terms of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. In the meantime the supposedly impotent Germany was secretly building up its armaments, growing stronger daily, devising plans to establish the rule of force with the might of a military machine. What it all proved was that the moral forces of the world were weakened and tottering, no longer had the power to enforce respect for the common understandings which are supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world. What was needed was some sort of international club which would be feared, capable of being wielded with vigor on the recalcitrants and treaty violators who menaced mankind and international law.

I do not know what the machinery will or should be, but I have a firm conviction that the suffering, pain, and agony of this generation will have been in vain unless some international machinery is devised and established to assure to the future world permanent peace. One of the primary functions of all governments is the duty of maintaining internal order. And yet, international disorder, caused by a few nations intent on international banditry, has brought about the terrible conditions of today. Out of the present pain and suffering should come a realization and determination to put that realization into effect—that some international machinery shall be established to assure and guarantee future international order.

If I were to make a suggestion merely for discussion and consideration, it would be that our dual system of government affords the basis for the establishment of an international agency to legislate on the sole question of world peace. For discussion only, it is my thought that the various countries of the world might delegate to an internationallegislature—call it any name one wants to—limited powers of the external attribute of sovereignty necessary for this body or agency to legislate or pass effectively on questions relating to peace, and for the purpose of the future peace of the world. The representation in such a body must be based on equity and selected in a manner that will create confidence and respect in the body. But my suggestion does not stop there. Just as it is necessary to have enforcement officers to enforce acts of Congress or of the several legislative bodies, so will it be necessary to have an international police force to enforce and carry into effect the acts or decrees of the international permanent peace legislature. In any event, some kind of an international agency must be established, otherwise the pain and suffering of today will have been in vain.

But even as the seeds of militarism were flourishing in Europe and Asia, and the race to rearm began to accelerate, one man in America realized the potentialities as they affected our welfare. He watched reaction in operation, militarism, force as a principle, political tyranny, the suppression of democratic institutions, and detected the milestones of dictatorship. And he sounded the alarm. That man was Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose judgment, sagacity in international affairs, keen knowledge of human reactions and power politics, wisdom in government, has never been surpassed in the long and glorious history of America.

As early as 1937 he warned the United States of America of dangerous shoals. Speaking at the dedication of a bridge in the city of Chicago he said:

"The peace of the world and the welfare and security of every nation today is being threatened."

How prophetic were those words. And he was accused by selfish critics of beating the war drums. When he tried to advise the world to quarantine aggressors he was again indicted as delving into the realm of fantasy.

Our armed forces today, imposing in their strength and growing stronger with the hours, are a tribute to President Roosevelt's long-range planning, and to the persistent vigor of his fight for American sea power. He has been called a Navy President, because his experience and vast knowledge of world affairs led him to champion the cause of might on the ocean, but he has been equally zealous in blueprinting invincible air superiority and an army equipped and ready to meet any challenge.

It is indeed a kindly providence which guides our destiny and gives America in its hour of peril, men of honor, character, integrity, superior wisdom, consumed with sublime faith in our free institutions, to lead us in battle.

The age of science and engineering, of mass production and consumption, of the results of the inventive genius of man, has brought great benefits to mankind, but has also brought serious problems. The benefits must be channeled in the interest of the general welfare. The problems must also be met and solved in the interest of the Nation. That means leadership in all walks of human activity—in religion, in government, in business, industry, finance, and in all spheres of activity. While we must concentrate our efforts to meet the immediate danger, the war, we must also look ahead and plan for the future. In looking ahead, as I vision the future, I see a greatly changed world. A victory by the forces that Hitler stands for means an enslaved world, with private initiativeness abolished for decades to come. It means a terrible world for an unpredictable period during which the way of life with private capitalism as distinguished from state capitalism abolished.

A defeated Hitler and what he stands for, which I ultimately contemplate and with confidence expect, also means a changed economic world.

As one economist recently said, "We of this day have in truth a rendezvous with life."

We have witnessed the men and women of other countries fighting for decency in life in this future. We have and will witness with increasing strength and activity our own manpower fighting our battles wherever necessary—on land, on sea, and in the air—not only for victory for our country but for a future decent world in which to live. They will fight to preserve for themselves, as well as ourselves, the freedom of religion, the freedom of enterprise, the freedom of press and speech, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of economic opportunity.

They will be fighting for the American way of life,But you and I, who will not be in the fighting forces, have a solemn obligation to those in the armed forces to preserve for them and ourselves these freedoms and the American way of life which they fought to save.

The men in the ranks will fight to save our way of life; but the leaders in religion, government, business, finance, industry, labor, agriculture will have to show that vision, judgment, and courage that will preserve our way of life after the victory is won by the men of the fighting forces.

No one can chart this future, but one thing seems certain to me, that the world of tomorrow will be a greatly changed one from the present and the past.

The freedoms we believe in and cherish will have to be adjusted to the changed conditions. In that adjustment progressive and courageous leadership in all walks of human endeavor will be necessary. Now is the time to be considering this future and, as far as is humanly possible, charting the course. As I view it, an important element in our future outlook is to so adjust, regulate, or channel our system of private enterprise that mass insecurity will be minimized as much as possible. We must bear in mind that the economic distress of the peoples of nations abroad played an important part in producing dictators and in bringing about the present war. I refer to this as one of the many problems that challenge us in the future, and which lends truth to the statement:

"We of this day have, in truth,

A rendezvous with life."

We must have progressive and courageous leadership in all walks of life to meet this challenge. New England has such leadership. As New England leadership evidenced itself in the Colonial and constitutional history of our country, I am confident it will again evidence itself in the period of world reconstruction to come, and in enabling our system of private enterprise to adjust itself, after the defeat of Hitlerism, to the changed economic world that appears to be inevitable. This is the time for discussion and planning for the future from the angle of business, industry, and finance, looking into the future, picturing the changes, and preserving our free economic system by channeling and adjusting it to the changes that can be foreseen.

That is no easy type of leadership. It requires vision, good judgment, and courage. It may, and undoubtedly will, require the doing of many things that are unorthodox from business conditions of today.

I leave this thought with you—not for the purpose of controversy but for discussion and planning. I hope my thoughts are wrong, but in a general way what I have said are some of the views I entertain. If, after consideration, you agree with me, then the time to discuss and plan is now.

There is one observation that I want to make which is pertinent to New England. With the defeat of Hitlerism, the isolationism of the United States from world affairs is a matter of yesterday. That appears to me to be plainly apparent—if not self-evident. Under such conditions provincialism will be a heavy drag upon the economic life of any section of our country. This is particularly so in the case of New England. With the leadership in business, finance, and industry in New England recognizing this apparent change and its consequences, the future of New England is assured and as a section it will continue to give its leadership in the economic progress of our country and of our people.

What can you and I do now? We can give unswerving loyalty to our Commander-in-Chief, and as we send our prayers to heaven for the victory which is coming, ask the God of Justice that He endow President Roosevelt with renewed strength in the right and more of the marvelous courage which enabled him to win his own war against physical handicap.

"God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are ready to guard and defend it," said one of Massachusetts'great men a century ago. That is equally true today. Now we are in total war, and that requires from the civilian population a responsibility to support the armed forces. There is a mutuality of interest. To develop the full resources of our national strength, upon which the full effectiveness of our war effort depends, we must build up the physical fitness, the morale, and mental stamina of all the people of this country so that they will be physically tough, mentally sound, and morally strong.

That gifted humorist, the late Will Rogers, once said, "America has never lost a war, nor never won the peace."

This time, God willing, we shall win both, for America is on the march—to insure the liberty, peace, and the right to self-government of the entire western world, and, as we hope, to take its proper place among the councils of the nations of the world to reasonably assure in the future assurances of permanent peace.

Yes; America is on the march.