Democracy Our Most Precious Heritage


By QUEEN WILHEMINA, of the Netherlands

Delivered before Congress of the United States, August 6, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 661-662.

IT gives me great pleasure to appear in your midst. Seeing this great democratic assembly, renewing itself at regular intervals and meeting under self-made rules of law, seems to me a sure guaranty that liberty is forever young and strong and invincible, whereas the autocrat, incapable of rejuvenating himself, is every day nearer to his end, his regime doomed to die with him.

Moreover, where and what would the world be today were it not for the United States of America whose legislators you are?

Such thoughts warm my heart in this hour, and I know that my people everywhere feel as I do.

I stand here as the spokesman of my country, not only of those nine million of my compatriots in Europe, but also of some seventy millions in Asia and in the Western Hemisphere whom I know to be at one with me in the spirit.

The Netherlands were, like the United States, like all the United Nations, a peace-loving country.

At present, both in Europe and in Asia, that country is under enemy occupation. A cruel fate has overtaken its inhabitants. Imagine what it means for a liberty-loving country to be in bondage, for a proud country to be subject to harsh alien rule.

What would be the American answer if an invader tried to cover his wholesale systematic pillage with the firing squad, the concentration camp and the abomination of the hostage practice?

"No Surrender" Dutch Motto

Having come by first-hand knowledge to know your national character better than ever, I doubt not that your answer would be: Resistance, resistance until the end, resistance in every practicable shape or form.

This is exactly the answer my people have given, and are giving every day.

If in the material sense they have been ruined by the enemy, their spirit grows with their hardships and they keep their unflinching belief in their liberation.

They see their families go without what they most need in food and clothing, their workers enslaved by the oppressor.

Yet, "no surrender," remains their constant motto.

Inside occupied territory and outside, the fight goes on.

We use our resources to the best of our abilities.

In the Indies, where our forces won fresh laurels together with yours, stubborn resistance continues locally.

Surinam helps the United Nations with its bauxite, Curacao with its oil products; our soldiers, sailors and airmen are on duty in both these territories, and they guard them in alert and cordial co-operation with your own forces stationed there when the war in the Far East prevented us from sending reinforcements to the Caribbean area.

Our Navy is on duty every day, our mercantile marine, still one of the largest, has been completely integrated in the navigational effort of the United Nations, fighting off Axis submarines and raiders in close companionship with your own brave seafaring men.

Guided by Four Freedoms

Those of us who have the inestimable privilege of being free, feel that it is our holy duty toward our enslaved compatriots in East and West to do whatever we can to hasten the day of victory.

Democracy is our most precious heritage.

We cannot breathe in the sullen atmosphere of despotic rule.

The people of the Netherlands have developed their free institutions in their own progressive way, in accordance with their high regard for personal and national liberty.

They had long approached the complete realization of the four freedoms which the President of the United States has set as one of the aims of our common war effort. There was of old in our whole kingdom freedom of religion and of speech; there also was freedom from fear, and constant forward steps, designed to insure freedom from want, were in ever-expanding evolution.

Throughout my reign the development of democracy and progress in the Netherlands Indies has been our constant policy.

Under Netherlands stewardship a great number of peoples and tribes are being systematically merged into one harmonious community, in which all these elements: The Indonesians in their rich variety of religions, languages, arts and customary laws, the Chinese, the Arabs and the Westerners feel equally at home.

Careful consideration has constantly been given to the particular characteristics and needs of the peoples concerned.

Confronted as we found ourselves by highly developed forms of civilization to which the population is deeply attached, we strove not to uproot these, but to promote their adaptation to the exigencies of the modern world.

Want Nothing But Own

The voluntary co-operation in mutual respect and toleration between people of Oriental and Western stock toward full partnership in government on a basis of equality has been proved possible and successful.

Increasing self-government, keeping pace with the rapidly broadening enlightenment and education of the native population, has been enacted ever since the beginning of this century and especially since the revision of the constitution in 1925.

This steady and progressive development received new emphasis and momentum by my announcement last year that after the war the place of the overseas territories in the framework of the kingdom and the constitution of those territories will be the subject of a conference in which all parts of the kingdom are to be fully represented.

Consultations on this subject were already proceeding in the Netherlands Indies when the Japanese invasion temporarily interrupted their promising course.

The preparation of the conference is none the less being actively continued, but in accordance with sound democratic principle no final decision will be taken without the cooperation of the people once they are free again. What are our war aims, and what our peace aims? We have adhered to the Atlantic Charter and our lend-lease agreement with the United States points the way to wise international economic planning.

We want nothing that does not belong to us. We want to resume our place as an independent nation on the fringe of the Atlantic, on the dividing line of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean and to remain your good neighbor in the Caribbean Sea, and we accept the responsibilities resulting from that situation.

And above all, we want to see suitable measures taken in order that henceforth no nation may think it can, with impunity, break its pledged word or attack others.

When speaking of war and peace aims, I do not forget, were it only for one brief moment, that first of all there is a war to be won.

In that war we are with you and the other United Nations to the last.

It is not the first time that the Netherlands are associated with the United States in common warfare.

In the days of Washington, we were at one time comrades in arms, and it gives me pleasure to recall that the first salute given the American flag on behalf of a foreign government was rendered by guns of my country.

That ancient partnership we see revived today.

One of your great men who stood at the cradle of American liberty, Benjamin Franklin, once wrote to John Adams, your first envoy at The Hague: "I believe neither Holland nor we could be prevailed on to abandon our friends."

That was in 1782, and I think it still holds good today. We cannot be prevailed on, either of us, to abandon our friends.

That is why we considered the first Japanese bomb on Pearl Harbor as a bomb on ourselves.

That is why we never wavered in our resolve to be with the United Nations until the end.

United we stand, and united we will achieve victory.