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A STRAIGHT DEAL (chapter18)

2006-08-28 14:08

    CHAPTER XVIII: The Will toFriendship——or the Will to Hate?

    Nations do not like each other. No plainer fact stares at us from the pages of history since the beginning. Are we to sit down under this forever? Why should we make no attempt to change this for the better in the pages of history that are yet to be written? Other evils have been made better. In this very war, the outcry against Germany has been because she deliberately brought back into war the cruelties and the horrors of more barbarous times, and with cold calculations of premeditated science made these horrors worse. Our recoil from this deed of hers and what it has brought upon the world is seen in our wish for a League of Nations. The thought of any more battles, tenches, submarines, air-raids, starvation, misery, is so unbearable to our bruised and stricken minds, that we have put it into words whose import is, Let us have no more of this! We have at least put it into words. That such words, that such a League, can now grow into something more than words, is the hope of many, the doubt of many, the belief of a few. It is the belief of Mr. Wilson; of Mr. Taft; Lord Bryce; and of Lord Grey, a quiet Englishman, whose statesmanship during those last ten murky days of July, , when he strove to avert the dreadful years that followed, will shine bright and permanent. We must not be chilled by the doubters. Especially is the scheme doubted in dear old Europe. Dear old Europe is so old; we are so young; we cause her to smile. Yet it is not such a contemptible thing to be young and innocent. Only, your innocence, while it makes you an idealist, must not blind you to the facts. Your idea must not rest upon sand. It must have a little rock to start with. The nearest rock in sight is friendship between England and ourselves.

    The will to friendship——or the will to hate? Which do you choose? Which do you think is the best foundation for the League of Nations? Do you imagine that so long as nations do not like each other, that mere words of good intention, written on mere paper, are going to be enough? Write down the words by all means, but see to it that behind your words there shall exist actual good will. Discourage histories for children (and for grown-ups too) which breed international dislike. Such exist among us all. There is a recent one, written in England, that needs some changes.

    Should an Englishman say to me:

    "I have the will to friendship. Is there any particular thing which I can do to help?" I should answer him:

    "Just now, or in any days to come, should you be tempted to remind us that we did not protest against the martyrdom of Belgium, that we were a bit slow in coming into the war,——oh, don't utter that reproach! Go back to your own past; look, for instance, at your guarantee to Denmark, at Lord John Russell's words: 'Her Majesty could not see with indifference a military occupation of Holstein'——and then see what England shirked; and read that scathing sentence spoken to her ambassador in Russia: 'Then we may dismiss any idea that England will fight on a point of honor.' We had made you no such guarantee. We were three thousand miles away——how far was Denmark?

    "And another thing. On August , , when Britain's thanks to her land and sea forces were moved in both houses of Parliament, the gentleman who moved them in the House of Lords said something which, as it seems to me, adds nothing to the tribute he had already paid so eloquently. He had spoken of the greater incentive to courage which the French and Belgians had, because their homes and soil were invaded, while England's soldiers had suffered no invasion of their island. They had not the stimulus of the knowledge that the frontier of their country had been violated, their homes broken up, their families enslaved, or worse. And then he added: 'I have sometimes wondered in my own mind, though I have hardly dared confess the sentiment, whether the gallant troops of our Allies would have fought with equal spirit and so long a time as they did, had they been engaged in the Highlands of Scotland or on the marches of the Welsh border.' Why express that wonder? Is there not here an instance of that needless overlooking of the feelings of others, by which, in times past, you have chilled those others? Look out for that."

    And should an American say to me:

    "I have the will to friendship. What can I personally do?" I should say:"Play fair! Look over our history from that Treaty of Paris in , down through the Louisiana Purchase, the Monroe Doctrine, and Manila Bay; look at the facts. You will see that no matter how acrimoniously England has quarreled with us, these were always family scraps, in which she held out for her own interests just as we did for ours. But whenever the question lay between ourselves and Spain, or France, or Germany, or any foreign power, England stood with us against them.

    "And another thing. Not all Americans boast, but we have a reputation for boasting. Our Secretary of the Navy gave our navy the whole credit for transporting our soldiers to Europe when England did more than half of it. At Annapolis there has been a poster, showing a big American sailor with a doughboy on his back, and underneath the words, 'We put them across.' A brigadier general has written a book entitled, How the Marines Saved Paris. Beside the marines there were some engineers. And how about M Company of the rd regiment of the nd Division? It lost in one day at Chateau-Thierry all its men but seven. And did the general forget the rd Division between Chateau-Thierry and Dormans? Don't be like that brigadier general, and don't be like that American officer returning on the Lapland who told the British at his table he was glad to get home after cleaning up the mess which the British had made. Resemble as little as possible our present Secretary of the Navy. Avoid boasting. Our contribution to victory was quite enough without boasting. The headmaster of one of our great schools has put it thus to his schoolboys who fought: Some people had to raise a hundred dollars. After struggling for years they could only raise seventy-five. Then a man came along and furnished the remaining necessary twenty-five dollars.

    That is a good way to put it. What good would our twenty-five dollars have been, and where should we have been, if the other fellows hadn't raised the seventy-five dollars first? "

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