The American Canon
THE FOUNDATIONS OF PATRIOTISM
By DANIEL L. MARSH, President, Boston University
Delivered at dinner of the National Association of Mutual Savings, Hotel Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, May 7, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 524-530.
I HAVE been asked to address you upon the subject, "The American Canon." This is the title of a book which I have written. When I speak upon this subject, a number of persons are sure to ask for certain information after the address is concluded, unless I anticipate the questions and give the information in advance. Therefore, let me anticipate the questions and give the answers by say-
ing now that the name of the book is "The American Canon," spelled with one 'n', c-a-n-o-n. It is an interpretation of American patriotism in terms of canon, that is, c-a-n-o-n, rather than cannon, c-a-n-n-o-n.
The book represents the results of studying the subject for some 18 or 20 years,—studying in odds and ends of time. I began the study at the close of the First World War, whenI felt discouraged by the various attempts to interpret patriotism. On one hand you had extreme conservatism, the ultra reactionary groups, some of them organized into societies with old names and some with new names, declaring that what they had was American patriotism, and anybody who did not accept their point of view was anathema. On the other extreme, you had the ultra-radical, the so-called liberal groups which under the guise of liberal Americanism, were promulgating subversive doctrines. Each group tarred the other with the opprobrium of "un-Americanism."
"If you don't say as I say, if you don't do as I do, you don't belong"; and in the welter of confusion, I said to myself, "Why is it that we do not have something to which every American can give allegiance?" If you ask a member of a religious organization for the source of his authority, no matter whether he is Roman Catholic or Protestant— Methodist, Congregationalist, Episcopalian—he always will name the Bible as the source of his faith. The Hebrew will date his religion back to the Old Testament; the Christian, to the Old Testament and New Testament; and they will say that the canonical scriptures contain the authoritative rule of their faith and practice.
So I said to myself: "What canonical scriptures of Americanism are there that correspond in patriotism to the Bible in religion?" Then, upon my own account, I started out to discover them. I did not say much about it, but I kept on working at it in odds and ends of time for some 20 years, and in the course of that time, I read an enormous number of speeches and papers of one kind and another. I read, for instance, every paper and address by George Washington, as far as they have been preserved for us in type. I read every one of Abraham Lincoln's public speeches, papers, and letters as far as they had been preserved in type. I read all of Woodrow Wilson's papers, believe it or not, including two monumental volumes of his public papers, and including Ray Stannard Baker's great eight volumes, "Life and Letters of Woodrow Wilson."
In the course of my study I kept sifting out, applying my own canonical rules to ascertain whether the document really could be classified as part of the Bible of Americanism. Would a particular document stand the canonical test? Could it become a part of the authoritative rule of American patriotism? In the course of study, I selected seven documents. So far as my own judgment goes, there is no eighth. Then, just to carry out the whimsical notion I had, and to add a little to the interest of it, I gave them certain scriptural connotations. I have the Genesis of American Democracy; the Exodus; our Book of the Law; our Major Prophecy; the Psalm of Americanism; the Gospel of Americanism, and the Epistle to the Americans—those seven. I have not found an eighth. I have thought that if we could rear a generation of Americans who would be intelligent concerning those seven, and the conditions of the times out of which they grew, the historical background and implications of them, we would have a body of intelligent patriots. We would give our allegiance to something that was fundamental in democracy. For, in a democracy it is a great deal harder to focus loyalties than it is in a totalitarian system. In a totalitarian state you precisely focus your loyalties upon a person, and you yield your allegiance to the person, In Nazism it is to Hitler; in Fascist Italy it is to Mussolini, and in Communism, it is to Stalin; but when you come to a democracy, if you are going to have an intelligent democracy perpetuated for the future, you will focus your loyalties upon a set of ideals, and you will yield your allegiance to a set of ideas and ideals.
So, we must have an intelligent comprehension of theideas and ideals that underlie our American democracy. I hold we have them in these seven documents. Let us look at them very quickly.
First of all, the Genesis of our American Democracy is in the Mayflower Compact. Although it is the beginning of American democracy, yet for its own beginning we must look far back of its actual composition. You could take almost any date in the past—take, for instance, 1555, as a starting point, when the Treaty of Augsburg gave Protestantism the right to exist, but unfortunately gave each head of a state in Protestantism the right to determine the faith and worship of his subjects.
Pursuant thereto, Henry VIII of England become a dictator in the realm of faith and worship. There was some progress away from that despotism through the years that followed until by 1600 there had grown up within the Church of England, a considerable body of Puritans. They sought to "purify" the ritual and worship and faith of the church. A few of these Puritans became discouraged and separated themselves from the church. One of these little separatist communities was in Scrooby, England, a rural section in middle England. The leader of the group was a man by the name of William Brewster, the keeper of the Manor House. His son later became Elder Brewster of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Attending the meetings in the Manor House was William Bradford, later the great Governor of the Pilgrim Band. They worshipped for awhile in their seclusion, but were persecuted, and so sought to flee to Holland. The King, who would not suffer them to worship at home, would not allow them to leave England. Nevertheless, by one method and another, they did filter out of England, first going to Amsterdam and then to Leyden in Holland.
By 1620, the little band in Holland decided that they did not wish to stay there. They did not want their children to become Dutch, and did not like the worldly surroundings, so they made plans to go to America. They managed to get a charter allowing them to settle in Virginia—they expected to land no further north than the Hudson River. They had enormous courage. They had not only the actual hardships of a long voyage, but they were told things which they had no reason to disbelieve, which were even worse than the actualities. For instance, they were told that the savages would capture these white people and bind them to a stake. Then, while they still lived, they would cut out steaks and chops from them and broil the steaks and chops before the eyes of the victims. Nevertheless, they came.
It is an interesting story as to how they got started, trying this and that until the Speedwell and Mayflower groups were formed. The first land they sighted in November, 1620, was what we now call the tip of Cape Cod at Provincetown.
Before they landed, they found they were off their course. They were far north of where they intended to land. Some of the persons they had recruited in London were impatient with the restraints imposed by the leaders of the Pilgrims, and said, "When we land, we will do as we please, for here nobody has authority over us." And they were right. But when the leaders of the Pilgrim band heard this, they assembled all the adult males except two (who were sick) in the cabin of the Mayflower, and, using Miles Standish's sea chest as a desk, they then and there drew up the first written compact by which any group of people upon earth ever agreed to govern themselves. That Mayflower Compact is the Genesis of American democracy. They then explored the Cape a bit, and went on to where Plymouth now is; and there, using the only boulder upon all that alluvial shore, as a stepping stone, they landed. And that stone whichwe now call Plymouth Rock became the stepping stone of a nation.
The hardships of that first winter were beyond description. Of the 102 Pilgrims who landed, 51 died the first Winter; of the 24 households, four were wiped out completely by the general sickness, and only four households were left uninvaded by it. Notwithstanding sickness, starvation, trouble with the Indians, and homesickness—yet, when the Mayflower turned toward England in the spring, not one who had put his hand to this plowing looked back. They stayed and, under the Mayflower Compact, they governed themselves.
They stayed because they were able to see the invisible in the visible. They were able to see the eternal in the temporal. They stayed because they had found that for which they had come to quest, namely, freedom to worship God. They stayed, and under the Mayflower Compact, they elected their own Governor, made treaties with the Indians, abolished the Communistic scheme with which they had started, and established a military system. They stayed.
Aye call it Holy ground
The place which they trod;
They left unstained what here they found
Freedom to worship God.
That is the Genesis of American democracy.
We come to the Exodus—the going out from the land of tyranny and bondage to the Promised Land of liberty and self-government. No matter by which nation the different colonies were formed, it was not long until they all came under the control of England. By 1670 persecutions and oppressions had begun; by 1760, life was almost intolerable. George III had come to the throne. George III was young, only 22 years old; he was dull, stupid, uneducated, arrogant, bigoted, bull-headed, and finally, crazy. His mother had dinned into his ears the dictum, "George, be King!" He accepted the then prevailing philosophy that a colony existed for the enrichment of the mother country. He saw an opportunity to get money to carry on his European wars; and by 1774, the colonies could endure it no longer, so they called a Congress to meet in Philadelphia in September of that year.
They met as Englishmen to defend their rights as Englishmen. They drew up a letter which they addressed to their King, and the King refused to receive it. When they adjourned, they adjourned as Englishmen to reconvene the following May as Englishmen for the redress of grievances as Englishmen. But before they met in May 1775, the sod of Lexington Green had soaked up the first blood shed for American independence, and at Concord,
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard 'round the world.
Although they met as Englishmen, it was not long until they saw that there were other rights than those of Englishmen which they had to defend, so, by June of 1776 there was introduced into Congress a resolution that "these United Colonies are, and of rights ought to be, free and independent states." Then Congress appointed a committee of five men consisting of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston, to draft a Declaration of Independence. They thought that a decent regard for the opinion of mankind would require them to tell the world why they were going to war. The committee designated Jefferson to draft the Declaration. He had a reputation for a felicitous style and a ladle pen.
Jefferson—handsome, tall, democratic, a lawyer from Virginia, red-headed, with a fine literary style—sat down in his room upon the second floor of the little lodging house at the corner of 7th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, and in one half day, without looking at either pamphlet or book, wrote the Declaration of Independence—our great national symbol, the Exodus of American democracy.
He showed the draft to Franklin and Adams. Franklin made five amendments in it; Adams made two. Other members made no changes. Then a fair copy of the Declaration was made, and it was presented to Congress. Congress discussed it at considerable length. On the 2nd of July, Congress adopted the Resolution of Independence declaring us free from European control. On the 3rd, it discussed again the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson winced at the long debate and squirmed as he saw one eloquent passage after another going out. Principally the passages that went out had to do with slavery, and were cut out under the whip of the southern constituency.
The effect of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence was electrical and epochal. The effect upon the public mind is well illustrated by a narrative poem. It was in your school readers. Do you remember it?
There was a tumult in the city
In the quaint old Quaker's town,
And the streets were rife with people
Passing restless up and down,—
People gathering at the corners
Where they whispered each to each;
And the sweat stood on their temples—
With the earnestness of speech.
Then the poem goes on and tells of the old bellman who rang the bell in Independence Hall upon important occasions. He had stationed himself where he could seize the rope to ring the bell, and he had put his little grandson at the door of the hall where Congress was sitting. If and when Congress adopted the Declaration, the grandson was to come and tell him. The little lad rushed forth, the breezes dallying with his hair, and with his hand uplifted, he shouted: "Ring, Grandpa; ring, Oh-o-o-o ring for liberty!" The old bellman reached forth his hand, and made iron music throughout the land. Bonfires and torchlight parades lighted up the night's repose.
It made a new country; it drew a sharp line of demarcation between those who were loyal to the British Crown and those who were loyal to the newly established government. It filled the soldiers with a new and dauntless pride to plunge into the crimson sea of carnage. And from that day to this whenever the dictum of the Declaration of Independence has had opportunity to make itself felt, men have grasped at it like drowning men grasp straws.
Its phrases are high sounding and some people sneer at its declaration that "all men are created free and equal." But that does not mean equal in mental ability or social prestige. It does mean that in a rightly ordered government, a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, all men are equal before the law in obligation and in privilege. That is the Exodus of American democracy.
We come quickly to our Book of the Law. Of course, you would know at once that that which corresponds to the great Mosaic code in the Old Testament is the Constitution of the United States.
In American history, between the ending of the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the Constitution of theUnited States, there was practical anarchy in this country. The colonists had been held together during the war by their fear of the British Redcoat, but as soon as he was withdrawn, they feared each other more than anything else, and they were especially afraid of a strongly centralized government. There were 13 different states, and those who could see beyond the then immediate present, knew that there was developing upon these shores, 13 jangling, jarring, jealous nations.
As a matter of fact, when England made peace with the colonies, she named all of the 13 states separately in the treaty of peace. Congress had no power. There was no Chief Executive to enforce legislation that Congress adopted. Congress would ask the states to do certain things like appropriating tax moneys, and the states would refuse. Congress issued money, and the people in derision plastered the walls of their houses with it. It was worthless; credit was gone. The soldiers demanded pay, and Congress had no money. The army actually besieged the building where Congress was sitting in Philadelphia, and in terror Congress fled to Princeton and then to New York, where it remained until the Constitution was adopted.
In this period certain wiser heads like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, advised the calling of a Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia, May 5, 1787, and remained in session until September 17 of the same year.
I give it to you as my calm and deliberate judgment (I speak carefully as a student of history) that I do not know anywhere in the story of the onward movement of the children of men, any other gathering that can compare with this Constitutional Convention for a self-effacing, disinterested devotion to the cause which had brought them together. There was no lust for the limelight. There was no self-interest to serve. Those men had in mind only one thing—the preservation of the Union with the liberties which had been won upon the field of battle, and in handing the blessings on to posterity.
It seemed almost impossible for that convention to come to any agreement. I wish people who have doubts about our form of government would read the story of that convention. I wish they would read anew the Constitution of the United States—every word of it from beginning to end. I wish they would find what lies back of it and what it implies; find the compromises that were reached. Note how there were certain men who were determined (those coming from the small states) that every state should have equal representation in the National Congress; then there were certain others (those coming from the large and populous states) who were determined that representation should be upon the basis of population. Then, note how the compromise was reached, that there should be two Houses in Congress: In one, the Senate, all states have equal representation; and in the other, the House of Representatives, the states are represented upon the basis of population.
Note how we have here a dual citizenship worked out, with state and national governments. Note how we have a representative government. You could not have a direct democracy in a large nation of 130,000,000; but you can have an efficient representative form of government, a representative republican form of government such as was devised in the Constitution. Notice also, how you have the Executive, but you have him (the President) held in check by the Congress; you have the Congress, but you have the Congress held in check by the President; and then you have both the President and the Congress held within the strict limitations of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.
Note how ours is a government of laws; and when you become acquainted with it and with its implications, I swear no one then will wish to scrap what we have for some uncertain figment of the imagination.
In the Mosaic code you have Ten Commandments. The American counterpart of those Ten Commandments are the first ten Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. We call it our Bill of Rights. The Constitution could never have been adopted if the leaders had not promised that as soon as it was adopted, they would adopt the Bill of Rights as the first ten Amendments. Of course, they were adopted, and as soon as they were adopted they became a part of the Constitution. Some people draw a thin line of distinction between the Constitution and the Amendments, but in reality as soon as an amendment is adopted, it becomes a part of the Constitution just as much as any other part of the Constitution.
Those ten Amendments are like the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Code, with this difference: that the Mosaic Ten Commandments issue their "Thou shalt not's" to the people, while our Ten Commandments issue their "Thou shalt not's" to the government. In our case that Bill of Rights protects our fundamental freedoms. I wish we could have a new perusal of those ten Amendments, a careful marking of what they are and of how they protect the hard-won freedoms from the days of Runnymede, where the English barons wrung from a tyrant King the Magna Carta, down to the Declaration of Independence. Our fundamental freedoms are protected in those first Ten Amendments.
We have here the protection of freedom of assembly, freedom of discussion, freedom of press, and freedom of worship. Sometimes we hear people say, "We will have to surrender some of these." In the name of Heaven, what are they talking about? If we surrender all that is valuable in democracy, what is there left to defend? Let us stand by those freedoms to the last! That is our Book of Law.
We pass quickly to our Major Prophecy. We have had many prophets and many prophecies, but I hold that the greatest prophet we ever had—in the true sense of the word prophet (one who is a forth teller—people generally have thought of a prophet as a foreteller, but he is a forth-teller, one who speaks forth great truths) was George Washington; and his major prophecy was his Farewell Address.
George Washington becomes our founder more truly than most nations can point to any man as their founder. He was a great man. Certain biographical and historical "debunkers" have tried to bring him down to the common level, but after they have done their worst, George Washington still stands forth as majestic as Mount Hood, his patriotism unassailed, and as yet unapproached. George Washington was endowed by nature and Providence with that something which gave him the dignity, the mental power, and the military sagacity and authority to become the Father of the American nation.
George Washington had nothing to gain and everything to lose by espousing the uncertain cause of the colonies. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War he was, with one possible exception, the richest man in America. He might have gone to England and been lionized and feted. Instead, however, he chose to cast in his lot with his fellow Americans. He served through all the awful years of the American Revolution without taking one single cent of pay for his services; and a part of the time paid the ragged American soldiers out of his own purse. Compare that, if you will, with some later demonstrations of patriotism that we have known!
George Washington longed for the delights and comforts of Mount Vernon; and yet through all the awful years of the Revolution, he spent only two hours at Mount Vernon, once when he was on a military expedition from the North to the South. Now that the Revolutionary War ends he goes back to Mount Vernon, back to enjoy the delights of country life and to rest. Then comes the Constitutional Convention, and he is sent as a delegate, and then elected President of the Convention, and he does not miss a single session from May to September. Now the Constitution is adopted, and the American people unanimously request Washington to become the first President. He does not want it, but answers to the call of duty.
This great man with limbs of oak, this great man with the mountain mind, and the crystal soul, serves one term and is re-elected for another term. He could have been unanimously elected for the third term, but he chose not to stand for the third term. Then, deciding he should not stand for the third term, he thought that he ought to tell his fellow Americans why, so he issued his Farewell Address. Many people have talked about a single phrase in that Farewell Address, to the effect "we should not enter into entangling foreign alliances," and bandied the words about so much during the debate over the League of Nations, some people think his warning was all that was in the address. Those words are not there. Washington did not say anything about "entangling foreign alliances." He said that we should not entangle our fortunes with European ambition and caprice. He was no isolationist. He entered into treaties with foreign nations. He did warn us against baiting and irritating certain foreign nations. But he had many other things in that Farewell Address.
He said, for instance, that a nation ought to preserve its credit, and that it ought never in times of peace to incur national debt. A nation ought to pay its way as it goes in times of peace, so that in an emergency of war, it will be able to finance itself. He also said that we should not stir up disunion. He pled against the deep damnation of disunion—arraying one class against another. He pled for education. He knew that whenever a people undertook to do their own dictatorship, they assumed the obligations, as well as the privilege of the function, and they could not govern themselves unless education were widely diffused, and the electorate were intelligent. He said many things in that speech which ought to be read today. The Farewell Address is our Major Prophecy.
We come quickly to the Psalm of Americanism. Some people will begin to wonder, "What song did he choose for the American canon?"
"Was it 'Yankee-Doodle?'
"It ought to be 'Hail Columbia.'
"It ought to be 'God Bless America.'
"It ought to be 'My County 'Tis of Thee.'"
When you come to apply the canonical test to songs that properly might be called Psalms of Americanism, the only one that stands the test is the "Star-Spangled Banner." I know that the "Star-Spangled Banner" has been severely criticized. I will confess that I myself have criticized it upon occasion; but that was before I studied into it. I am in no critical mood toward it now. I have studied the background and the meaning of it.
It is criticized generally because "they say" the tune is "unsingable." People say they cannot sing it. I can understand that. I cannot sing it, but of course it is not the only thing I cannot sing. Then some others say that it is bellicose, glorifies war, and is narrowly nationalistic.
Of course, there is a certain type of patriotism to be condemned. That is the kind old Samuel Johnson meant when he said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Some persons will use the words and phrases of patriotism to conceal unpatriotic conduct. But the kind of patriotism that we want is that about which Walter Scott wrote when he said:
Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
"This is my own, my native land!"
That kind of patriotism is one of the most sovereign signs of a good man. Let us look at this "Star-Spangled Banner" and see if it is narrowly nationalistic or militaristic, lt was written by Francis Scott Key, a lawyer in the service of his country as a soldier in the second war with Great Britain, the War of 1812. His friend, a Dr. Benes, had been captured by the British. Key, using influence at the White House, got permission to take with him a man by the name of Skinner, on board a British ship to exchange prisoners. The British treated them kindly, but, fearing the two men would reveal the plans of the British Navy, refused to let them go ashore until after the attack upon Fort McHenry.
They kept them aboard ship all that night, September 13, 1814. As they lay off Fort McHenry at Baltimore, the attack was made upon the Fort. Benes, Skinner, and Key, upon the deck together, watched the attack, and they could see "by the bombs bursting in air and by the rockets' red glare," that the starry flag still floated over Fort McHenry, Every time that the fire was returned, they still could see the flag was there and knew the Fort had not surrendered. They watched anxiously until about 3 o'clock in the morning, when firing ceased. It was not yet dawn and they could not see whether the flag was there. Dreadful terror filled them lest Fort McHenry had surrendered, which would mean the capture of Baltimore and the capture of Washington.
Then, with the dawn's early gleam, they caught sight of the Star-Spangled Banner; and in that moment of high emotional tension, Francis Scott Key began to jot down upon the back of an old letter, the words and phrases of what we now call "The Star-Spangled Banner." He wrote them to the tune of "Anacreon in Heaven," then a popular tune.
Francis Scott Key, in that song, is not narrowly nationalistic at all, simply fervently patriotic. He does not glorify war. He uses the imagery of battle, but uses it only to glorify the flag. It is the flag, not the war, that is glorified.
There is a philosophy of colors: White stands for the blending of all the virtues; blue, because it is the color of the Heavens, stands for honesty, truth, and purity. The stars represent ideals, as well as the states; and red is the sign of courage.
May I say to you that, aesthetically considered, without any reference at all to the things for which it stands, the aesthetic arrangement of the length in proportion to the width, the arrangement of the little square heaven of blue and the stars in it, and the stripes—that flag is the most beautiful flag which floats anywhere under the whole canopy of Heaven.
But we honor it not for its aesthetic value, and the song glorifies it not for its aesthetic beauty, but because of that for which it stands—a pledge that liberty shall prevail, that righteousness shall be done, that justice shall be meted out wherever the flag floats. Its stars laughing down their delightful light by day and night, and its stripes stroked in ripples of white and of red, are the symbol of our Government, and that is why we honor it. That is the Psalm of Americanism.
I move quickly and briefly to the Gospel of Americanism. This would have to come out of the heart of the savior of the American Union—and who is the savior of the American Union? Only one person can qualify for that position—Abraham Lincoln. No matter what our political inheritances may be, every man of sound judgment and freedom from prejudice will agree that Abraham Lincoln is the type and flower of American democracy.
From the days of the Declaration of Independence, slavery was a vexatious problem in this country. Owing partly to the providence of God and partly to Lincoln's own ability, he became the savior of the Union when war about slavery threatened to render it asunder. If ever Browning's words, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp" found illustration in a person, it was in Abraham Lincoln. It is a far reach from the boy who lay upon the floor of a backwoods cabin, writing with a piece of charcoal upon the back of a wooden shovel by the flickering light of a pineknot, to the man who could pen the Gettysburg address or the second inaugural address.
I hold that the second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln is the greatest literary production that has ever come from an American hand. You have to get the condition of the times in mind to appreciate it at its real worth. The Civil War has been wallowing its bloody way across the heart of the Nation for four years. The end is near at hand. Lincoln's own party in the North is demanding revenge. Everywhere, lust, hate, and spite—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; everywhere recriminations and calling of names. Here comes this man whose whole history has been one of freedom from bigotry and intolerance. Lincoln would not be caught up in hysteria that would prompt him to burn a flag of a nation with which we technically are not at war, or call everybody with whom he did not agree a Fifth Columnist, a Nazi, or anything else. Lincoln was broad-minded and great-hearted.
He now is ready to deliver his second inaugural address. All that morning, that 4th of March, 1865, it has been drizzling rain. The crowd is out there in front of the Capitol in Washington. Lincoln comes onto the east portico of the Capitol. He is tall, gaunt, his shoulders stooped as though the burden of his country's woes were heavier than he could bear; his eyes sunken as though the knuckles of sorrow had pushed them back into their sockets.
As he begins to speak, voice high with emotion, there is a rift in the cloud, and a sun-beam falls straight upon Lincoln. The clouds gradually roll back until the whole crowd is flooded with light. Lincoln delivers his short inaugural. It is like a page torn out of the prophecy of Isaiah, freighted with moral intensity, talking about God, then he comes to that last great sentence—I think the greatest in American literatures—"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." That is the Gospel of Americanism.
I have but one more. It is the Epistle to the Americans. Many things clamored for inclusion in "The American Canon;" but, as I went on sifting, it seemed to me that there was one and only one, and that was the last article Woodrow Wilson ever wrote, his article entitled "The Road Away from Revolution." I know that Wilson was hated by many. He was lied about and vilified, but no worse than were Washington and Lincoln in their days; and
I believe this firmly: That when America shall have got as far away from Wilson as we are from Lincoln and Washington, then America will appraise Wilson at his real worth and will call him one of the greatest of her sons. Woodrow Wilson, trained in the South and North, historian, college professor, university president, Governor of a state, President of the United States, increasing in strength with each new responsibility and never losing the ideals that he inherited from his Presbyterian preacher father,—Woodrow Wilson carried the nation through the First World War. War over—he retired, a broken man.
In 1923, the Spring of the year, Wilson seems to have had a premonition of the trouble which came on the country in 1929 and following, and he expressed a wish to write an article to save his country, if he could, from what he saw ahead. He had neuritis and could not hold the pen. He tried picking out the keys upon the typewriter. He had no use of his left hand, and the task was too painful for his right. He began to dictate—a sentence at a time—sometimes to his secretary or wife at home, sometimes at the theater. By and by he had a short article composed. He went over it again and again, sharpening it up, polishing it, making sure that it said just what he wanted it to say. He then sent it off to The Atlantic Monthly, where it was published as "The Road Away from Revolution."
I wish that you would read it.
Keep in mind that Wilson was a capitalist and believed in the capitalistic system. He was afraid of what he saw ahead and was trying to forewarn his fellow Americans so that this system under which America had prospered and become great, might remain unimpaired. He pled, therefore, that capitalists should use their capital in the service of others. Service—that was the great plea of Wilson. He said that we must introduce the spirit of Jesus and Christianity into our business life, into our commercial and industrial affairs. His article I call an Epistle to the Americans.
Thus I have given you in brief outline what I call "The American Canon," the canonical scriptures of true Americanism. Certain great fundamental truths run through all seven of these immortal documents. The dominating idea is democracy. It is something worth fighting for, sacrificing for, dying for,—and living for! Democracy rests upon the consent of the governed. It holds that government is made for man, not man for, the government. It assumes that the people need institutions, and that in time of institutional crisis the people can be trusted to save, or modify, or remake their institutions. It protects liberty of opinion, and freedom of speech and of the press as its very breath of life. It guarantees the free exercise of religion, knowing that religion inheres in the nature of man, and is vital and intelligent only when called forth by the experiences of life. It safeguards the freedom of the pulpit, learning therefrom its moral sense of direction. It defends the academic freedom of the schools, recognizing that democracy's real problem is to develop an intelligence equal to its social responsibility; otherwise men are likely to regard democratic institutions as ends in themselves, keeping them static instead of dynamic, and holding the parchments of historic documents as worth more than the gains they record.
Through all these seven canons of Americanism breathes the spirit of tolerance. We have no place in America for prejudice of any kind, racial, religious or otherwise. Bigotry is an alien to American democracy.
"The American Canon" offers equality of opportunity and equality of responsibility before the law to every citizen. Carved in the marble over the entrance to the magnificent
new home of the Supreme Court in Washington, are the
words "Equal Justice Under Law."
Obedience to the Law, respect and reverence for the
law, are implicit in the canonical scriptures of Americanism.
Ours is a government by law and not by men. We conceive of government to be the servant of the people and not their master.
Education is the indispensable means by which democracy serves its ends and determines its progress. The surest way to disseminate the right idea is by means of education, and the one effectual way to get rid of a wrong idea is to supplant it with a better one. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, exhorted his fellow Americans to support education; for when a people undertake to do their own kingship, they assume the responsibilities as well as the privileges of the function.
All the way through "The American Canon" we have a plea for religion. One does not need to be a professionally religious promoter to understand that. In the Mayflower Compact, the very first words are: "In the name of God, Amen." The Pilgrims said that what they were doing was for the "glory of God." In the Declaration of Independence, five references are made to the Deity. In the Constitutional Convention, when it seemed impossible to adopt the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin, the greatest brain in the whole
convention, rose and moved that the convention should be opened each morning with prayer, for, said he, "If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the Heavenly Father's notice, an empire cannot rise without his aid." In George Washington's Farewell Address, he said that "morality and religion are indispensable props of a self-governing people." In Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural we have a religious plea from end to end; and in Woodrow Wilson's "Road Away from Revolution," Wilson says, "The truth of the matter is that our civilization cannot endure materially unless it be redeemed spiritually." And "The Star-Spangled Banner," which we have carelessly and loosely thought was a militaristic and narrowly nationalistic thing, rises in the last stanza to religious heights:
Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and war's desolation; Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a Nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust"; And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
NOTE:—This address was delivered without manuscript or notes, and stenotypically reported. "The American Canon" published by the Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, also contains in full the seven documents mentioned by Dr. Marsh.
Canada's Role in the War
AN INTERPRETER BETWEEN UNITED STATES AND BRITAIN
By BROOKE CLAXTON, K.C., M.P.
Delivered to the Conference on "A Grand Strategy for America' at Williams College, March 21, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 530-533.
IT is good of you to ask a Canadian to take part in this Conference and I am particularly happy that the choice fell on me. It enables me to renew recollections of your beautiful college. I first visited Williams in 1921 on a motor trip to New York, then considered quite an adventure. The trip was taken with three friends to celebrate our graduation from McGill which had been delayed by the war. Our time was not wasted in working for victory then. What we wasted was the chance victory gave us.
Another visit here was in 1930. I had run out of money in Boston and came across to cash a cheque. I was driving along after midnight and stopped at the only lighted ground-floor window. When I looked in, I saw Canadians from three provinces and Americans from three states. I knew them all. I got my money, the cheque didn't bounce, and another tie was forged between us, based on mutual confidence and neighbourly help in time of need.
The associations so many Canadians have had with Williams is typical of North America. The relations between your country, the United States, and my country, Canada, are unlike the relations between any two countries, at any time. They are closer than any other and they are more cordial than any other. Because our population of eleven-and-a-half millions is only one-twelfth your population, we are far more conscious of you than you are of us. How many of you, for instance, have realized that the boundary line between us is crossed by more trade, more travel, more tourists, more money, more trains, more cars, more radio, and more symphony music than any boundary line has ever been? It is crossed by more after-dinner speakers. It is crossed by more good will. We do not regard Americans
as foreigners. You do not regard Canadians as foreigners. Our relations are the relations of people who for the most part speak the same language, have the same customs, the same ideals, the same standards, and almost the same bad habits.
Good neighbours before, we are allies now. You can imagine how glad we are of that. We are partners in a desperate struggle for survival. We are fighting the worst war in history. The battle has gone badly for us everywhere except in Russia. You are potentially the most powerful nation in the world. Allied with you are Britain, Russia, and twenty other nations; and yet to win will require the all-out use of all the power and resolution that the United Nations can marshal. In this titantic struggle, spread-eagling the world, Canada's population of eleven-and-a-half millions does not bulk large. It is only about 3 per cent of the white peoples fighting on our side. But Canada's position and resources give her an important role even on this global stage.
Many Canadians who know the United States feel that Canada has not done nearly enough to tell the United States what we are doing. It is urged that our silence creates a vacuum which will suck in any dirt that comes along. Every association I have with people in the United States strengthens my view that this is regrettable. Many Americans have told me that our failure to make information more readily available is doing a disservice not only to Canada but to the allied cause. Our two countries have had good relations because the boundary line was a connecting link, not a barrier. We visited each other and married each other and got so mixed up you could hardly tell us apart. Now