A MESSAGE FROM PERSHING
AFTER viewing Verdun we went to the American expeditionary headquarters "Somewhere in France" and talked with General Pershing. And just here let me pay my tribute to General Pershing. General Pershing is seeking not only to lead the men of America to victory, but he is seeking in every way that the commander of a great force in a foreign country can to conserve the morality and preserve the morale of the American army.
After discussing some details of Association work, I said, "General Pershing, I am expecting to return in a little while to America, and when I get back I shall be speaking doubtless to gatherings large and small. What shall I say to America?"
I shall never forget how the General turned his piercing eyes on me and said, "When you return to America, say to America that it is a great heresy to believe that Germany cannot be beaten. Say to America, ‘Germany can be beaten, Germany must be beaten and Germany will be beaten.'"
Think for a moment of the first phrase—"Germany can be beaten." There is a reason why he should say Germany, instead of Austria or Turkey: because Germany has been the dominating force in this war, the leader of it, and it is the mailed fist of Germany that has smitten the heart of civilization in these last days. There is a reason for saying Germany can be beaten, because the thinking of very many men, in the days when things looked blackest, has been obsessed with the thought that perhaps Germany cannot be beaten, that her great militaristic power is as strong as Germany claims it is. And with this thought in their minds men fail to take account of the great strides that America has taken in the last year in building up an army of splendid manhood to join the armies of her Allies and make the word of Pershing history.
Germany can be beaten. Why? Because the Entente Allies will never give up till she is beaten. Because America will continue sending her men across the sea to stand alongside of the English and French soldiers until the task is accomplished.
Now think of that second word— "Germany must be beaten." Ask yourself, "Why must Germany be beaten, and why is it necessary for our men to be sailing over the seas, and why is it necessary for us here at home to lose the inspiration and strength of those who come not back?" And as you ask, you come to recognize that you are face to face with a serious, perhaps the most serious, fact that civilization has ever faced.
We must remember that it was not democracy that raised the issue that is before us in this war. Autocracy raised the issue in 1914. And we are bound to remember that "autocracy" and "democracy" are not empty words. I was reading only a day or two ago the utterances of one who posed as a very wise man in his day, and he said that it did not make any difference to him whether he lived under one government or any other government. But that was one of the worst blunders in the intellectual life of one who ordinarily thought wisely and spoke well. It does make a great deal of difference as to the ideals that dominate in this world, if you have a government that is represented by such a word as this: "The State? I am the State"; if you have a government represented by such a word as this: "There is no place for weak nations; there is no place for little peoples in the world." If you have a government whose ideal is a "government by princes, and of princes, and for princes," that is one thing. And that one thing is the exact opposite to the Lincolnian ideal, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." These conceptions are as far apart as high noon and midnight darkness.
All over the broad range of this country we are thinking about the democracy that shall be safe for the world, and we are saying that the democracy that shall be safe for the world is a democracy in which there shall be social justice, and in which also there shall be the uplifting of moral life. But let us not make a mistake. You cannot make a democracy that is safe for the world until first you have made a world that is safe for democracy. You cannot do it. All your ultimate schemes and programs are dependent for their results upon this that is near us. The larger program of social justice and worthy democracy can never be wrought out until you make a world that shall be safe for the play of such justice and such democracy. General Pershing is absolutely right. "Germany must be beaten." You cannot have the ideals of democracy realizing their largest fruition and fulfillment unless you have the destruction of the ideals of autocracy and tyranny.
Mr. Lincoln said that a nation that was half slave and half free could not live. I believe we are justified in saying that there cannot be any peace in the world while the world is half autocratic and half democratic. Autocracy itself has raised the issue. I do not contemplate the blotting out of the German people. It is not the German people in particular we are seeking to destroy, but what we are seeking is the destruction of the present crown, it is the ideal of the Hohenzollerns that we are seeking to kill. But let us see the thing as it is. If the German people shall rise to defend the ideals of the Prussian crown, and shall persistently maintain the ideals of the Prussian crown, you cannot reach those ideals impersonally, and you cannot reach, as far as I know, disembodied ideals; you reach ideals when ideals are embodied, and if the Prussian crown must be destroyed, then if the Germans shall rise to the defense of the Prussian crown, I see no way for civilization to accomplish this task save as it goes through or goes over the power that attempts the defense of that which is represented in the Prussian crown. It may not be the thing that one wishes. But I for one do not see how it is possible to avoid the necessity of it. Germany must be beaten! And when I am saying Germany must be beaten, I am saying that there cannot be any conclusion of this present conflict by any easy compromise or negotiation.
Doubtless you recall what Lincoln said at Gettysburg, "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain." If Germany is not beaten then all the ideals that were represented in Washington and in the great constructive forces of civilization that lie between Washington and this present age go for naught. Then those who died in that great struggle of the sixties, who died that the government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" should "not perish from the earth" have died in vain. Then those millions of men who have laid down their lives "somewhere in France," and somewhere to the southward of France since 1914, have also died in vain. I would to God that I could conjure up a picture and make those dead men walk before you. I would that we might see their broken bodies, and their pale faces as they fall into their graves. I wish we might hear their moans of anguish, and I would that, standing there in the presence of that multitude that can scarcely be numbered, it might be given to some prophet of this twentieth century to challenge the thought of civilization and demand, "Shall all this be in vain?" And it will be if the conflict ends just where it began. It will be if America and Great Britain and France and Italy sit at the council table with the representatives of the Teutonic nations and subscribe their names to any such peace as was forced upon poor, humiliated, impoverished Russia.
The greatest tragedy that the world could ever see would be the tragedy of the Entente Allies attempting to end this struggle without deciding the issues involved in it, and by some process such as is represented in the Trotskys of these last days simply haul down all the flags and turn all hero faces to the wall and beggar the ages of prophecy and promise by bartering away past and future alike for a mess of pottage at the hand of Germany. I pray God that the hand of any American Trotsky that would subscribe to peace upon any terms made by the Prussians or represented by the Prussian crown, may be palsied before it signs away the priceless treasures of humanity. I say with Pershing that "Germany must be beaten"; and "that Germany can be beaten." And I believe it with all my soul.
The third word is "Germany will be beaten." Let no man in America believe that the power of tyranny is going to pass away easily. Let no man think for a moment that we have given enough men to the war; that we have made contributions enough on this side of the sea to accomplish the supreme task. I say to you, men and women of America, that the more men you send to France the more men will come back from France. I say to you that the more ships you steam on the way and the larger your contribution of wheat, meat and munitions, and all that belongs to the carrying on of the war, the wiser the economy you practice, so will Germany be beaten.
Germany must be beaten! And when from sea to sea, when from lake to river America shall be one in its readiness for sacrifice, in its readiness for service, I believe the day will come for which this heartsick world has so long been praying.
Let us go back to the sixties. I remember how in those old days men marched to the front singing those words of Julia Ward Howe’s:
"In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
I came through the city of Chicago not long ago, and looking out into the starlight I saw the equestrian statue of General Grant. I spoke of it to my friend, and he said, "And there is also a statue of Abraham Lincoln," And as I looked into the starlight it seemed to me that Grant was turned our way, and was ready to march out of the dim and shadowy past into the present, with the inspiration that attaches to his name. And then I thought of how you could go back to the very beginning, how from out of the days of Valley Forge Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton would fare forth on their mission of humanity, and how beside them Grant, and Sherman and Lee and Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston would also ride out of that old past, seeing in the illumination of this new day great issues in new perspective—ready in the light of this new great day to give themselves in uttermost devotement to the task of making the world a safe world in which to live.
There are men in America to-day who heard the old song and marched away. Listen! Don’t you hear the rolling of the drums? Don’t you hear the blare of the trumpets? Don’t you hear the hurrahs of those who saw the movement of that chivalrous and courageous host in the long ago?
Tramp, tramp, tramp, over the hills and through the valleys. Tramp, tramp, tramp, and they join those on the other side of the seas, and your Sons, and your brothers, and your husbands, and your lovers join them—Tramp, tramp, tramp.
"As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
And you cannot substitute anything for it. You can send and send and give and give, but when you have done all this, you must be ready to die, if men are really to be free. They have come here. They are here. The great procession halts for a moment. O men and women of America, fall in and forward march, singing as they have sung, and as they do sing,
"As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free!"And so marching, dedicate ourselves again in a new great purpose and compact with Almighty God and humanity. March on, for the ages are looking and humanity is waiting and God is calling, and if you know it, to-morrow shall be a day of victory, and upon the foundation of victory shall be placed the Prophecy of Peace, and all things of the earth shall be blessed in it, and on the boundary of that new age, you shall see float unashamed in the starlight and in the breezes this dear old flag you have loved, and it shall float unashamed in the starlight and in the breeze for a thousand years.
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© 2001, by Lynn Waterman