Our Places in the Pattern of the Future
THE FIRST STEP TO WORLD PEACE
By LAWRENCE HUNT, Lawyer and author of "A Letter to the American People"
Delivered before the Canadian Club of Montreal, April 12, 1943
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 471-473.
TWO years ago, when I last spoke to my friends and neighbors of Canada, the British Commonwealth, of all the great powers, alone fought for and alone saved the freedom of the world. In April, 1941, Russia and the United States were still neutral bystanders. Germany had yet to make the supreme mistake of invading Russia and the attack of Pearl Harbor was yet, many months later, to force America into the war. Our whole civilization was saved not only by the courage and endurance but also by the power and resources of the British Empire. As a result, honest and liberty-loving men and women everywhere know in their hearts that the British Empire has earned and, on its clear record of performance, has kept the moral leadership of mankind.
Today, Germany has one last great hope—that the United Nations will lose the peace. Her leaders shrewdly count not only on their own skill but on our follies to disunite us; they count on the reactionaries who can never learn; they should and probably do count more on the psuedo intellectuals, the doctrinaires, and the perfectionists with their frantic lust for self deception. The clever knave can always find a large number of well meaning fools to tie to his chariotwheel. The Nazis know that if they can divide their enemies, above all if they can divide Britain and America, they may yet win some worthwhile salvage from the wreck of a war torn world. To divide Britain and America—that is their supreme aim—as it is the supreme aim of all the enemies of man's freedom.
Let's face the facts. At the moment the Nazis seem to be succeeding.
How do they do it? Well, at present the most effective method of Herr Goebbels' propaganda warfare is to tell the men and women of the British Empire that the United States wants and in some way or other is planning, directly or indirectly, to break up or at least weaken the British Empire. I In other words, that the United States would like to "liquidate" the Empire, or wean away one or more of the nations of the Commonwealth, or interfere with the present control of Britain's colonies, or compete so as to seize an undue share of the trade which is the very life blood of Britain.
Is Herr Goebbels right?
If you could believe some of our frustrated or glamour-seeking politicians and yellow journalists and breast-beating Intellectuals, the answer would be, yes—Goebbels is right.
All he need do is to quote them. There is no use denying that they have done some harm and will do much more harm if they can. There is even less use trying to appease them. Appeasement is their food and drink. But mark them well. Let there be no misunderstanding as to what you think and feel. Keep the record straight.
But remember this—those people do not speak for America. It is probably quite safe to say that there are no responsible officials in our government who would plan or think as the Nazis suggest they are doing. And the men and women of the British Empire may rest assured that the American people will never knowingly permit treachery toward an ally to become part of American foreign policy.
It is my earnest hope that the highest officials in the United States Government will see fit in the very near future to repudiate this Nazi propaganda in precise, complete, and unequivocal terms, so that no shadow of a doubt will remain in the mind of any Briton or any American. Such a sweeping and final repudiation will displease only the enemies of co-operation between the United States and Great Britain. The rest of us are entitled to such a clear statement of governmental policy.
There is quite a hubbub these days about "peace aims," the "post-war world," the "new world order," the Promised Land that still lies beyond the horizon. Some of us have heard that a rumour still persists to the effect that there is a war going on somewhere. Well, we know that the rumour is terribly true. Obviously this is no time for blueprints or boundary settlements.
But perhaps it is natural now that victory surely will be ours some day, that men's thoughts should turn at moments to the things they think they can win. Defeat of the enemy? Yes—"unconditional surrender." And yet, that is only a beginning.
Most of the world is probably wondering what the United States is going to do. Most of my fellow citizens are also wondering. As you well know, among us Americans there are extremists of various kinds, and it is the nature of extremists to be very, very noisy. The plain citizens merely mumble, but I suspect that the mumbling of plain men and women may yet be the vast undertone of a better world.
The extremists in America may be roughly classified into three groups, although their confused gyrations may often cause them to bump into each other. There are a few blind—or vicious—extremists who want the United States to return to an insane policy of isolationism. That would mean another war.
More dangerous are the meddling extremists who want the United States to tell the British Empire, Russia, and other nations how to run their own affairs, while bitterly resenting any such interference in American affairs. They would make Uncle Sam a stern and self-righteous schoolmaster for an unruly world. That surely would mean another war.
Then there are those other extremists—dear souls—who want to promise mankind a Utopia on a stiver platter. All history and human nature prove that such a promise, if believed, would result in a cruel and disastrous disillusionment. That also would mean war.
Let's make sure of something.
If our generation can achieve the minimum of guaranteeing international peace by the complete co-operation of nations such as the United States and Great Britain—and, if possible, Russia—then we can leave with a good conscience to our children and our children's children the solution of other grave problems. We will have guaranteed to them a world in which they can toil and sweat without the fear andwithout the mortal waste of war. That's what Americans want and they will settle gladly for that magnificent minimum.
We plain Americans are not isolationists or meddlers or Utopians. We realize, perhaps, reluctantly, that isolation is no longer possible. We don't want to meddle in other people's affairs and we would bitterly resent other people reddling in our affairs. We have too much sense to ask for Utopia. We want a basic minimum, and for that minimum we are now willing to fight and sacrifice. And to that minimum we will stick despite all the disillusionment and exhaustion which will inevitably follow this war. Again I say, let's make sure of something. "An acre in Middlesex is better that a principality in Utopia." A firm step forward on solid ground is wiser than a frantic leap for the moon.
The first step toward a world peace guaranteed by force must be complete and wholehearted co-operation between the United States and the British Empire. That is not our ultimate objective, but it is the sine qua non, the indispensable condition of world stability, the cornerstone of a civilization governed by law with force behind it. Let's not be confused by any hysterical nonsense about "Anglo-American domination." We, the peoples of the American Republic and the British Commonwealth, will simply serve notice on all interested parties that we shall jointly defend our mutual interests by any necessary means. Other nations can count on that and will be glad to join an organization that has a solid core of reality. The peoples of the earth who have gone through the agonies of the damned will not be satisfied with the smooth, the smart, the slick approach toward a peaceful world. They want an honest something—a sure minimum—on which they can count.
I am speaking to you as an American citizen—an American "first, last, and all the time." I am speaking as an American who wants to see his own country safe and secure from future war. I am speaking as an American in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson who, referring to Great Britain, wrote to President Monroe, "With her on our side we need not fear the whole world."
There is a very simple but tremendously significant fact that is barely beginning to dawn on the minds of American citizens. In an uncertain and unhappy world, the United States needs the British Empire just as much as the British Empire needs the United States. That fact will be more and more widely recognized and accepted as our desire for survival on decent terms breaks down the barriers of a blind and self-destroying egotism.
When we have made sure of that first step toward an enduring organization of the United Nations, or any other worldwide association, then we can successfully deal in an atmosphere of security with the tremendous international economic problems which must be met. Men who have given much hard thought to these problems will probably agree that there must be a stabilization of currencies, the careful disposal of surplus commodities, the prohibition of government export subsidies, and a sensible recognition of the relative importance to various countries of international trade. But these and other problems can be satisfactorily solved in the long run only in a world in which men can be free under a reign of law with adequate power to enforce it.
As an American, I cannot refrain from embarrassing my Canadian friends with a few heart-spoken words of respect and gratitude. The Canadian people are making a major and a magnificent contribution toward winning this war. You are, in most respects, still setting the pace for my country. More important, your wisdom and experience in wartime problems are an immense and an increasing helpto us. Canadians should feel a perfectly decent sense of satisfaction these days when they read in American newspapers and hear Americans say, "Canada does this or Canada does that—and it works." And the grandest thing about Canada is that although she is soberly proud of what she did yesterday, she is determined to do a better job today.
The Canadian people have long played an important hough unobtrusive role in interpreting the American and the British peoples to each other. They did good work an that respect yesterday. There is an even greater work for them to do today and tomorrow. They can play a vital part in helping to make sure of that first firm step toward a law-abiding world—that complete co-operation between the American Republic and the British Commonwealth on which all like-minded nations may count as a great rock in a weary land.
Canada can do it. Her record is clear and her conscience is clean. Her freely given loyalty to Great Britain has commanded the respect and won the gratitude of all men who know that the loyalty to each other of the nations of the British Commonwealth has, within twenty-five years, twice saved the world from slavery. Moreover, Canada's whole history spurns the thought that she would ever act like a third rate tradesman to play her mother country and her friendly neighbor one against the other. The Canadian people would have an undying scorn toward any open or subtle attempt to weaken or to undermine their allegiance to the British Commonwealth. And they have an extraordinary record as the good friends and the understanding neighbors of the American people.
That is your position, an unique position, a decisive position at the most crucial moment in the history of our civilization. You can do so much in so many ways, if you will, toward strengthening the intangible bonds of trust and good feeling between your mother country, Great Britain, and your friend, the United States. I ask you to help, even more than you have done, in bringing us together so that we English-speaking peoples can unitedly strive to make aworld in which our children and all the children of the earth may fulfill their destinies in decency and in peace.
We must be practical about this first step. Very practical. The basis of that first step, the basis of the broader associations of nations which is our ultimate objective, the basis on which peace can endure, the basis of any international law, must be always the complete and undoubted willingness and ability to use force whenever necessary. Force to the utmost. If we cannot agree on that, then we shall have nothing—absolutely nothing—except a vast cloud of words and another war.
Many American citizens are weary and chary of political beatitudes and eloquent generalities which mean all things to all men. They are rightly suspicious of the glib politician, the pseudo intellectual, the well-meaning dreamer, and the evangelical reformer. But they are a spiritual as well as a practical people, and they don't like high-sounding phrases followed by short walks with the Devil.
We American and British peoples are quite sure that we have a monopoly on common sense, but we resent appeals based entirely on material self interest and denying all altruism. We feel them to be morally insulting. Call us English-speaking peoples strange, irrational, contradictory, paradoxical, or what you will, but to win us to any great course of action the appeal must be made to our sense of decency as well as to our sense of danger. In other words, if the United States and the British Commonwealth were to deal with each other in a coldly covetous spirit, they would "get nowhere fast." There would be no first step toward world stability.
But the future looks bright. The supremely important fact today is that we English-speaking nations are working together more than ever before. You may be reasonably sure that we Americans will continue to march with you on the road to peace.
And as we, the peoples of the United States and the British Commonwealth, go forward together, let us walk humbly and in the fear of the Lord.