You will remember that when General Pershing went over the seas he laid a wreath on the grave of LaFayette, and as he did so uttered the words: "LaFayette, we are here; LaFayette, we are here."
Now he was speaking for you and for me. He remembered the day when America was in difficulties. And the fact is that the difficulties you have in your own family are likely to be the most uncomfortable difficulties that you can have anywhere; and when you get up a real difficulty in such a family as that of Great Britain, why, you are likely to get things in a very uncomfortable situation before you get through. And things were not in a particularly, happy condition between the mother land and the daughter land over the seas in that day. France it was that came over to stand beside us, and Franceís heart was larger than the French contingent in the American army in that day, and LaFayette splendidly represented and interpreted the heart of France. And Pershing was saying, "LaFayette, you came to help us in those good old days when the foundations of our national life were laid. LaFayette, we are here, we are here." And, O, how they had been watching and waiting for our coming!
Did Pershing mean by this word that only the men across the seas were there? I am very sure that Pershing did not mean simply that three hundred thousand, or any specific number of thousands or of millions, were there. That would be an utterly inadequate utterance for the commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force. I have not asked him, and I have no authority to assume the right of interpretation, but I am ready to believe that whatever else Pershing meant when he uttered these words, he meant to declare that America was there. America! Not simply represented in the uniformed force of the expeditionary army, but America in America, as well as America in France. "America is here!" That is the word of Pershing. Think of it for a moment. Most of us have near to our hearts, hidden in our love, bound to the altars of home and faith, sons or husbands or lovers in the army across the sea, or in the army in preparation for the crossing.
Now, what I want to ask is this: What right have we to demand of our sons, of our brothers, of our husbands, anything for the honor of the flag, or for the welfare of humanity, that they do not have the right to demand of us? We are saying to the boys over there, "Play the man!" I tell you that the walls of the centuries throw that word back to us and the echo comes back, "Do you play the man? Do you play the woman?" And you and I are not always doing it. Some of the days have been chill and we have been ready to do our bit of grumbling. I want to ask of you what the boys are doing over there? In those nights of August and September and October I was over there, and the nights were chill. They were so cold that with the garments that were available one was not able to keep perfectly comfortable.
And then you have the snows and biting winds of winter. I pray you when you write to the boys over there donít complain of the fact that you have been cold a little over here. It is very cold to stand up to your knees in the icy water of the trenches over thereóvery, very cold! Donít tell them about the sacrifices that you are making on wheatless days, and meatless days, and sweetless days, and all the rest of it. Donít tell them of that. They are making real sacrifices over there. They are meeting great hardships over there. It isnít the part of a good soldier to be complaining, and they have the right to ask that you and I shall be good soldiers over here. But when those ships were congested in the port of New York and somebody had the sagacity to devise a plan for getting them out, a great many of us were thinking far more of our personal comfort than we were of the success of the great enterprise. The men over there have precisely the same right to demand of us that we shall play our part as we have to demand that they shall play their part.
If there is any argument in the expectation of France, if there is any appeal in the monstrous atrocities practiced by Germany upon the weakness of those nations over there, the presence of our men at the front is a compelling reason for America, from highest to lowest, and through all the gamut of education and culture, and of wealth and social position, to be there. Our sons, our husbands, our brothers are there, and we must also be there; sympathetically we must be there; be there in the readiness to do our bit, as we are expecting them to do their bit, for we have no right to ask the soldiers of America to play the hero in France beyond that which the men in France have the right to ask the men and women here in America. We ask them to play the hero. They demand of us also to play the hero. And play the hero we must whether here or there.
We must not ask our boys over the seas to die to make men free and then avoid responsibility ourselves. They are going over and they are falling upon the field of honor. The sons of America are laying their poor, broken bodies on the fields of France as the purchase price of a new freedom for the world. They are singing it, and you and I must sing it. You do not go by easy paths to lofty summits. You do not buy with baubles the priceless treasures for the diadem of righteousness and love and honor in this world. You do not open prison doors, you do not lead humanity into new liberties save as you are willing to pay the uttermost price. They are withholding nothing there; we must be withholding nothing here. We must join our lives with theirs and in ways that shall be open to us join them in the expression of that great purpose that is not an empty dream, but under Almighty God is the providence of this very hour. We must link ourselves heart to heart and spirit to spirit in sacrifice and supplementing sacrifice, and you and I must to-day and to-morrow also advance, answering the beckoning hand of God singing as we go,
"As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,If a new age is to come, an age of righteousness and justice, an age likewise of peace, and if the land we love and the flag we love are to have honorable place in the achievement of that day, we must make good "here" as well as "there."
"LaFayette, we are here, we are here." The sons are here, the fathers are here, the lovers are here, but the mothers also are here, and the sisters are here, and the sweethearts are here, and the children are here, and America from sea to sea and from lake to gulf is here. And when I say that word I am trying to say a very practical word. I do not mean simply in the aggregate of units constituting population, but I mean also in the integrity of units. This is no time for party spirit to rise superior to statesmanship. This is no time for partisanship to rise superior to patriotism. If we are all to be there, and if we are to be all there, we must come to live on a new level of national life, and so realize that prophecy and promise of General Pershing.
Now, many have come to these shores from that German nation, and many of them have been as loyal and devoted friends of the ideals of America as any man born here, or as any man who ever came from the other nations of the earth. It is not a question of when they came. They may have come last month or last year, and their speech may still be a speech which, with its broken utterances, betrays the land of their birth, but if they are loyal to our flag, our heartís great doors are open to them absolutely, and all honor is theirs, and our hand is theirs. But if there came last year or twenty years ago, whether of the first generation or of the fourth or of the tenth generation, one who represents a family fleeing from militaristic Germany, coming under the protection of this flag, to gather fortune and build a home, and who exercises the privileges of citizenship to betray this flag, and put America under the heel of the tyrant from whom he himself fled, he is not an American, he is a traitor and deserves only the treatment of such.
All of us are here because either we were born here or came here. If we were born here, we have grown up under the protection of the flag and have gathered to ourselves all of the treasures of our cilivization, and have been enriched by them. We should defend them, should we not? And those who came over the seas seeking protection under this flag, from that very central power of Europe in order to escape its militaristic tyranny, and found what the ideals of this new land were, it did not cost them any more to go back than it cost them to come over. I think it is a perfectly legitimate thing to ask of anybody who rises to defend the autocracy of the German crown, "If you like that sort of thing, why in the name of heaven didnít you stay there and enjoy it? And if it is so wonderful why not go back to it?" We have been so considerate of our enemies that we have been altogether inconsiderate of our friends. We have been so exceedingly careful lest we wound the sensibilities of those who have come from out these central nations that we have been cruelly inconsiderate of our national ideals.
We rejoice that the Legislature of Wisconsin last spring held up to the scorn of civilization one of its citizens whom it had honored, but who himself failed to honor the State. It had given him the high privilege and obligation of representing the citizenship of that great commonwealth, but in the day of testing he gave courage only to the enemy, and misrepresentation where there had been lodged the responsibility and obligation of representation. If there be men like him in the United States, America would do well to give them entertainment at the public expense in some quiet and retired place far removed from the noise of the multitude. No man is competent to represent a town, borough, or city, and far less a great State, who is not able to discriminate between the right of private speech in common times and the wrong of seditious utterances in days of war.
There can be no question about it, men and women of America. There are only two classes here in Americaó those that are with us and those that are against us. And we do not ask where he came from. We do not ask how broken is his speech. We do not ask how unlike the ideals of America the home still may be, if he stands this day saying, "I am with you." Then the heart of America is open to him and the hand of America is outreached to grasp his.
We have had to deal in America with the problem of the conscientious objector. Someone may raise the question as to the right of individual protest. I am ready to face that question. Individual action must finally be determined by individual judgment, but the state itself must assume the right of self-protection, and in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people the voice of final authority is the concrete voice of the people.
One of the fundamental errors in the utterance of the "conscientious objector" is the assumption expressed or implied that he alone is conscientious. It is to be remembered that the other units that together constitute the state may also reasonably be regarded as conscientious, and the conscientious insistence upon the carrying out of the policy of the government should not be stopped by any so-called conscientious objection, which in many instances is and has been simply the utterance of pro-Germanism. It is but brazen effrontery for a little group in such a nation as this to claim the monopoly of conscience, and where the claim is expressed it is folly upon the part of the majority to recognize or yield to it.
If there shall be one to rise anywhere to say in the presence of Almighty God, "My duty is there rather than here, and my duty is this rather than that," I shall not attempt to dispute the foundation of his word, though I should say that in that instance the state, for the maintenance of itself, must deal with him who sets himself against the authority of the state. And it appears to me that if conscience is conscience, and if faith is faith, and if reverence and obedience to God is what it assumes to be, there must be the same acceptance of the penalty of disobedience of the established rule of the state as in the case of the prophets who have gone before us.
I have seen those trenches that scar the breast of beautiful France. I have been under the Austrian fire on those beautiful plains of Italy. I have seen that rusted barbed wire entanglement running over those hills. I have seen the solitary graves, and the graves where multitudes lie buried. I have seen your own Sons over there since some of you saw them last. They are depending on you in America, even as you are depending on them. They need the cheery letters, the words of encouragement which you can send them. And I pray you, men and women of America, that there shall be no half-heartedness here, but that we shall see the thing as it is; that we shall see flowering in our heart of hearts the great ideal of Almighty God, and shall give answer to it in a great and grave fashion these days, and so spur our boys on to win the victory for which they are ready to give their lives. This is the day, when looking over the seas and failing, it may be, to discern the brightness of our Lordís shining face through the battle smoke, this is the day when you and I must walk the paths to which He pointed us and say the word that He put upon our lips and offer ourselves in unhesitating devotion to the great tasks of humanity and world-service.