The Bridge To the Future


By FLORENCE E. ALLEN, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District, Cleveland, Ohio

Delivered at the 89th anniversary of the founding of Rockford College, Rockford, Illinois, February 25, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 390-393.

IN one of the vivid Dreams, by Olive Schreiner, she depicts a woman standing above a dark, swift river, looking over at the Land of Freedom. Sometimes I think that all of us today are, as it were, gazing across the same seemingly impassable barrier to the Land of Peace which we hope somehow to enter. Bridgeheads are being taken on that land by the men and women who have given their lives so freely in this world catastrophe; but you and I must maintain and widen every bridgehead until at last the Promised Land is reached.

What this Land of Peace offers to the world has been a primary concern of all of us in the last difficult years. Secretary Stettinius in Mexico City has just reapplied the Atlantic Charter to the problem. After calling for the earliest possible final defeat of the aggressors and steps to insure that neither of them will ever again have military or industrial capacity to make war, and guaranteeing to the liberated peoples of Europe their own government, calling for the creation of an international organization to secure the peace of the world, Stettinius says that the peace is to assure all men opportunity to live "in freedom from fear and want."

The Four Freedoms, as reported by the President to the Congress, are as follows:

"The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

"The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

"The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

"The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world."

This is a restatement of principles either embraced in the Constitution of the United States or growing out of express constitutional principles. The history of how these liberties were established illumines the problem of establishing them for the world. They had to be declared as law. They could not be established for the Thirteen Colonies without some degree of union and central government; nor can the Atlantic Charter. They cannot be fully enforced without the sanction of the public opinion; nor can the Atlantic Charter. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are expressly reserved in the Constitution and are made by that document the supreme law of the land. They could be similarly established as principles to guide the world organization. Freedom from want and freedom from fear are not so well understood as being cardinal points of the American doctrine. Freedom from want, as defined in the Atlantic Charter, does not mean that the United States shall feed natives in Africa nor citizens of all the distressed nations of the world everywhere. We have a humanitarian obligation in this regard, but it does not arise out of the Atlantic Charter, which merely calls for economic understandings to secure to every nation the opportunity to develop peacetime pursuits. Freedom from fear is defined as meaning world-wide reduction of armaments and prevention of aggression.

As thus defined, freedom from want is a cardinal point of the American doctrine. The right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, when established in a country of untouched material resources, developed into that freedom of opportunity which gave us here in America freedom from want hitherto unequalled. It was further greatly advanced by the release of restrictions upon trade effected by the interstate commerce provision of the Constitution, which gives to Congress the power to regulate commerce "among the several states," and by the provision that Congress shall promote the general welfare.

The interstate commerce provision established economic stability and uniform commercial control throughout and for the benefit of the nation as a whole. After the Revolution the colonies had been engaging in cutthroat commercial competition, ready even to resort to armed force in order to maintain oppressive reciprocal taxation. But with the enforcement of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, giving the federal government control of nationwide commerce, the suicidal trade hostilities ceased. The words of the Atlantic Charter with reference to freedom from want apply squarely to this constitutional enactment, for it actually secured "to every state a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants."

One of the early tests of the interstate commerce clause arose out of the rapid development of interstate transportation and communication, and at once established its importance. This is vividly illustrated by the great case of Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheaton 1, which ruled upon the validity of a contract granting a monopoly in steamboat operation on the Hudson River. A dramatic story lay behind the law suit. As recounted by Warren, in his "Making of the Constitution," during the Constitutional Convention John Fitch had exhibited a steamboat in a trial trip on the Delaware River. His boat was operated by reciprocal motions of two groups of six oars which made a stroke similar to simultaneous paddles of a canoe. Nearly all the members of the Convention attended. Washington made no note of this happening in his diary, which on this day simply recorded where he had dined and visited in the evening. Even Franklin, the discoverer of electricity, the scientific expert did not go. In answering a question with reference to Fitch's steamboat, Franklin wrote:

"Not being able to go much abroad I have never seen it, and tho I never doubted that the force of steam properly applied might be sufficient to move a boat against the current in most rivers, yet when I considered the first cost of such a machine as the fire engine, the necessity of it being accompanied by a skillful engineer to work it and repair it on occasion, and the room it would take up in the boat I confess I feared that the advantage would not be such as to bring the invention into use."

Fitch's boat would run, but it remained for Fulton to perfect the steamboat as an invention* In planning for itscommercial use, Fulton associated himself with the high-bom and wealthy Robert Livingston as his financial partner. New York State granted a monopoly to Fulton and Livingston to navigate the Hudson by steamboat. They also secured a similar exclusive right to navigate the Mississippi. The freedom of intercommunication between the States was at stake. If each State could bottle up the streams which flowed within its borders and could fence off the lakes, interstate trade would die "aborning." The Ohio, the Connecticut, Lake Champlain, each in turn would become the property of enterprising capitalists who secured state grants to operate upon these waterways. But John Marshall, speaking for the Supreme Court in Gibbons v. Off den, held that commerce included transportation, and that the New York statutory grant to Fulton and Livingston was invalid because only Congress can regulate navigation on navigable streams. At one stroke commerce was set free within this country. It was, as Burton Hendrick says, the emancipation proclamation for our commercial life.

Never before in modern history had commerce been so completely freed, over such an area, from the harassing restrictions imposed by state boundaries. Domestic commerce expanded like a vigorous tree released from the stranglehold of a parasitic vine. "Big business," it is true, created difficult problems; they have been dealt with by the legislatures and the courts. But we should remember that it is part of our peculiar fortune that here in America for the first time on such a wide scale business could be "Big." As a result of the release of commercial and industrial initiative mass production was evolved, and American industrial power was envied and studied by all the civilized world.

In addition, the Constitution, and State Constitutions patterned after it, encouraged the cooperative financing of great projects for the benefit of all, and this fact greatly contributed to the nation's healthy economic life. The Preamble to the Constitution declared that government was established "to promote the general welfare," and this was repeated in the body of the instrument (Art. I, Sec. 8). This had not in general been the purpose of government. The special welfare of the nobility and the ruling classes had been the particular concern of government. The corruption of certain American cities so rightly condemned at the beginning of this century is not more shocking than the hold assumption, under the European monarchies, that the benefits and emoluments of government were for the ruling class alone.

One example will suffice. As told by Carl Van Doren in his distinguished biography of Franklin, while Franklin was in London prior to the Revolution he was visited by his son-in-law, who came to London with a thousand pounds in hand, intending with it to buy a colonial office in Pennsylvania, That these offices were for sale is shown by Franklin's complete acceptance, of the practice. A man of the highest integrity in public affairs, Franklin manifested no surprise either at his son-in-law's intention or at the size of the proposed bribe ($5,000 in our money, and in those times a substantial sum). He dissuaded the young man from his purpose, but not upon ethical grounds. He argued that it was unsatisfactory to make one's living through political office, and persuaded his son-in-law to remain in private business.

In contrast to the principle that the benefits of government were intended only for the few, we believed," and stated in our organic law, that government should be run for the general welfare. We therefore proceeded to establish great public institutions, paid for by all, owned by all, accessible to all—schools, universities, libraries, roads, parks, to a degree never before witnessed in history. This relieved the citizen from the financial burden of procuring these advantages at great individual cost, and from the frustration of desiring such advantages and being deprived of them. Certainly it is no exaggeration to say that to a degree never before realized we established, under the Constitution, freedom from want both material and intellectual.

Similarly release of trade restrictions throughout the world eventually would lay the groundwork for economic freedom world-wide, and resulting freedom from want. This result could hardly be achieved without decades of intense cooperation; but it is a possible result and it could be secured through world organization.

Freedom from aggression was secured within the nation by the fact that each State gave up its right to war upon other States, and the central federal control of commerce and other national interests eliminated any need for such power. Within the nation there was peace; and in international relationships the fact that the Constitution confided the war power to Congress proved to be a check on war. Thus freedom from fear was largely secured in America by the national organization and by constitutional enactment.

But freedom from want, the freedom from fear in Europe and America alike were destroyed by the First World War. Because we did not erect a cooperative international system based upon principles of justice, an era of unrestrained competition followed the Treaty of Versailles. High tariffs, quotas and preferences were erected to block the normal flow of trade. The consequent inability of the German Republic to maintain itself in power gave birth to the Nazi movement. In our own country economic isolationism and the destruction of world markets helped to bring on the great depression. While we were still working out of this catastrophe the appeasement of Munich and the treachery of Pearl Harbor taught us in the hardest possible way that we do not live to ourselves alone.

To implement the guaranties of the Atlantic Charter in any degree we must first of all win the war; next we must establish machinery for world organization. But organization alone must not suffice. We must establish principles under which human rights will be maintained, principles which will govern the relations of national groups throughout the world.

Since we face a long interim between the end of the war and the sound establishment of international organization, we face the peril of drifting into pure military alliance. Because we must preserve close friendship with the other great powers, the tendency will be to work through this group and not through the society of nations. This is a danger that must at all hazards be avoided, for permanent military alliances would tend to involve us in other people's wars. It still remains true, as Washington pointed out in his First Inaugural Address, that "Europe has a set of primary interests" with which it would be unwise to implicate ourselves except through the single method of international organization based upon principles of justice, through which the power of the peace-loving nations can be pooled to prevent war. The fact that Great Britain and Russia have interests in Asia does not dispose of their interests in Europe. The working collaboration of the United Nations should not be regarded, any more than our agreement with France during the Revolution, as a permanent undertaking to support any 4one of the Allies in any conceivable war which may arise. If there were time we could list a score of tense international situations in which American boys—yes, and girls—never should be called upon to shed their blood, for if war comes from them it will not be—as this is—our war. The European tangle with its animosities going back sometimes a thousand years is more likely to create wars than our own relatively amicable relationships. As one of a united international group, we can rightly help to solve these problems. As one of an exclusive alliance of a few great powers, we might even intensify them.

This is true because the immediate reaction to a nuclear alliance of great powers dominating and making laws for the world, would breed hostility. The nations shut out from the inner circle of the "nucleus" would, whether or not rightly, suspect the intentions of the alliance, and finally combine into an opposing nuclear alliance, a situation leading directly to war.

The only alternative is the building of an international organization open to and joined in by the peace-loving nations and based upon principles of substantive law never before framed or applied between nations. This cannot be achieved without the active help of the United States. American, public opinion must make sure that the opportunity is not once more lost The task is colossal, with all of its ramifications, political, social and economic, but it is not impossible. We have learned from the experience of the League of Nations and the Pan American Union some of the great difficulties to be avoided in the new organization. I wish in this connection to speak particularly of problems set into high light by our experience in this hemisphere.

The advancing leadership of the Pan American Union is very largely due to the leadership of the United States, and we have much to learn from the revolutionary achievements of the nations of the Western Hemisphere as well as from what has been accomplished by the League of Nations in its work for labor and for dislocated minorities. It would be unfortunate if the work of the Pan American Union was not used and built upon in establishing a world organization. Never in the Pan American Union could the statement be made, as was made by Chamberlain in 1938, that "We must not try to delude small, weak nations into thinking that they will be protected by the League against aggression," for the covenants of the Pan American Union specifically provide that states are equal regardless of their wealth or power. To this provision is due part of the increasing cooperation in this hemisphere; for the Latin-American States, with their heritage of Spanish and Indian pride, if rated according to size and power would never cooperate with Argentina and Brazil and the United States. However, neither the Pan American Union nor the League of Nations has lived up to the great hopes of the race in actually preventing war. If we may judge from the record of the past twenty-two years, a system which will prevent aggression has not yet been set up, and hence we must learn from our mistakes.

Let us begin at home. In our hemisphere a war existed between Bolivia and Paraguay, ranging from 1933 to 1936, between two of the smallest nations in the world, killing over 100,000 men. The war was foreseen and intelligent efforts were made to prevent it; and yet continued effort on the part of nations of this hemisphere and of the League utterly failed to prevent or to stop the conflict for several years after it was begun. Various commissions and councils in this hemisphere, the A.B.C.P. Bloc and League of Nations, all tried earnestly to settle the dispute.

The Pan American efforts failed partly because there was no machinery to prevent border clashes which inflamed feeling in both nations. No power existed to mark off a neutral zone between the combatants, and there was no efficient instrumentality for sifting out the truth of the various charges. A year after hostilities began President Salamanca of Bolivia acknowledged that the trouble started when a Bolivian patrol occupied a Paraguayan fort, and fired one round. He stated that the incident occurred contrary to "our will and the instructions of the Government." Such a frank acknowledgement made a year earlier to Paraguay might have saved the war. Madariaga stated in the League that if neutral investigators had been at once on the spot by the airplane, the problem would have been solved.

Another controlling hindrance was that one or the other of the combatants had not ratified a number of the treaties for inquiry or arbitration existing in this hemisphere. As a result only offers of mediation and conciliation could he made. Bolivia and Paraguay were not bound to observe the Kellogg Pact and the only treaties to which they were subject were those arising out of the Covenant of the League.

Also not all nations cooperated equally in the measures taken by the League which set up an arms embargo against both nations. Chile did not cooperate, and as a result Paraguay received arms in defiance of the League conditions, Over thirty nations finally attempted to cut off the struggle by refusing to supply arms to both belligerents but because of the unequal enforcement of the measure it was not successful.

The Chaco dispute also showed the difficulties which result from duplication of efforts. Madariaga in the League Council listed nine occasions when he said the council's action had been paralyzed because the problem had been submitted to the League. But if adequate machinery existed, if all combatants had been bound by treaties of conciliation and arbitration, if the conflict in jurisdiction, with the resulting clash of personalities and national groups, had not existed, the vital prerequisite still would have been courage to fight for peace. Whether the Pan American Union would have been willing actually to fight to prevent the war we do not know.

In this connection I call your attention to the proposal submitted by the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. I am in favor of adopting these proposals provisionally, as suggested by Walter Lippmann; that is to say, with the definite understanding and arrangement that they may be amended later. In the section on pacific settlement of disputes the Dumbarton Oaks proposal is that the parties to any dispute which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace "should obligate themselves" first of all to seek a solution by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement or other peaceful means of their own choice. It they fail to settle the dispute by these means, the proposals say "they should obligate themselves to refer it to the Security Council." Obviously, in light of the discussion of the Chaco war, these provisions should require the parties absolutely to obligate themselves. The word should be "shall" instead of "should." This is an instance of the kind of amendment which must be made in these proposals if they really are to make a definite advance in establishing world peace.

Attainment of these ends presupposes the deepest devotion, the kind of sacrifice which has been shown in every fight for human freedom, the kind described in Olive Schreiner's "Three Dreams in a Desert," part of which I shall quote in closing:

"I saw a desert and I saw a woman coming out of it.

"And she came to the bank of a dark river; and the bank was steep and high. And on it an old man met her, who had a long white beard; and a stick that curled was in his hand, and on it was written Reason. And he asked her what she wanted; and she said, T am woman; and I am seeking for the land of Freedom/

"And he said, Tt is before you.'

"And she said, 'I see nothing before me but a dark flowing river and a bank steep and high, and cuttings here and therewith heavy sand in them.'

"And he said, 'And beyond that?'

"She said, 'I see nothing, but sometimes, when I shade my eyes with my hand, I think I see on the further bank trees and hills, and the sun shining on them!' "He said, That is the Land of Freedom.' "She said, 'How am I to get there V "He said, 'There is one way, and only one. Down the toots of Labor, through the water of Suffering. There is no other.'

"She said, 'Is there no bridge?'

"He answered, 'none.'

"She said, 'Is the water deep?'

"He said, 'Deep.'

"She said, 'Is the floor worn?'

"He said, 'It is. Your foot may slip at any time, and you may be lost.'

"She said, 'Have any crossed already?'

"He said, 'Some have tried.'

"She said, 'Is there a track to show where the best fording is?'

"He said, 'It has to be made.'

"She shaded her eyes with her hand; and she said, 'I will go.'

"And she stood far off on the bank of the river. And she said, 'For what do I go to this far land which no one has ever reached? Oh, I am alone! I am utterly alone!'

"And Reason said to her, 'Silence! What do you hear?'

"And she listened intently, and she said, 'I hear a sound of feet, a thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, and they beat this way!'

"He said, 'They are the feet of those that shall follow you. Lead on, make a track to the water's edge!' Where you stand now, the ground will be beaten flat by ten thousand times ten thousand feet! And he said, 'Have you seen the locusts how they cross a stream? First one comes to the water-edge, and it is swept away, and then another comes and then another, and then another, and at last with their bodies piled up a bridge is built and the rest pass over.'

"She said, 'And of those that come first, some are swept away, and are heard of no more; their bodies do not even build the bridge.'

" 'And are swept away, and are heard of no more—and what of that?' he said.

" 'And what of that—' she said. 'They make a track to the water's edge.'

" 'They make a track to the water's edge—! And she said,

'Over that bridge which shall be built with our bodies, who will pass?'

"He said, 'The entire human race.'

"And the woman grasped her staff.

"And I saw her turn down that dark path to the river."

Here in America we stand upon the bridge built, as Olive Schreiner says, with the bodies of the men and women of all time who gave themselves that others might be free. The question which confronts us is whether in our turn we have such intelligence and devotion that we shall here and now cross over the bridge. It is not impossible to help to erect the great freedoms in a warless world. It is not impossible to create a warless world. This is the immediate problem of the race, one which we may share in solving, and one which cannot be solved without us.