A War For International Freedom
( Originally Published 1918 )
MY FELLOW COUNTRYMEN: The armistice was signed this morning. Everything for which America fought has been accomplished. The war thus comes to an end.
Speaking to the Congress and the people of the United States, President Wilson made this declaration on November 11, 1918. A few hours before he made this statement, Germany, the empire of blood and iron, had agreed to an armistice, terms of which were the hardest and most humiliating ever imposed upon a nation of the first class. It was the end of a war for which Germany had prepared for generations, a war bred of a philosophy that Might can take its toll of earth's possessions, of human lives and liberties, when and where it will. That philosophy involved the cession to imperial Germany of the best years of young German manhood, the training of German youths to be killers of men. It involved the creation of a military caste, arrogant beyond all precedent, a caste that set its strength and pride against the righteousness of democracy, against the possession of wealth and bodily comforts, a caste that visualized itself as part of a power-mad Kaiser's assumption that he and God were to shape the destinies of earth.
When Marshal Foch, the foremost strategist in the world, representing the governments of the Allies and the United States, delivered to the emissaries of Germany terms upon which they might surrender, he brought to an end the bloodiest, the most destructive and the most beneficent war the world has known. It is worthy of note in this connection that the three great wars in which the United States of America engaged have been wars for free-dom. The Revolutionary War was for the liberty of the colonies; the Civil War was waged for the freedom of manhood and for the principle of the indissolubility of the Union; the World War, beginning 1914, was fought for the right of small nations to self-government and for the right of every country to the free use of the high seas.
More than four million American men were under arms when the conflict ended. Of these, more than two million were upon the fields of France and Italy. These were thoroughly trained in the military art. They had proved their right to be considered among the most formidable soldiers the world has known. Against the brown rock of that host in khaki, the flower of German savagery and courage had broken at Chateau-Thierry. There the high tide of Prussian militarism, after what had seemed to be an irresistible dash for the destruction of France, spent itself in the bloody froth and spume of bitter defeat. There the Prussian Guard encountered the Marines, the Iron Division and the other heroic organizations of America's new army. There German soldiers who had been hardened and trained under German conscription before the war, and who had learned new arts in their bloody trade, through their service in the World War, met their masters in young Americans taken from the shop, the field, and the forge, youths who had been sent into battle with a scant six months' intensive training in the art of war. Not only did these American soldiers hold the German onslaught where it was but, in a sudden, fierce, resistless counter-thrust they drove back in defeat and confusion the Prussian Guard, the Pommeranian Reserves, and smashed the morale of that German division beyond hope of resurrection.
The news of that exploit sped from the Alps to the North Sea Coast, through all the camps of the Allies, with incredible rapidity. "The Americans have held the Germans. They can fight," ran the message. New life came into the war-weary ranks of heroic poilus and into the steel-hard armies of Great Britain. "The Americans are as good as the best. There are millions of them, and millions more are coming," was heard on every side. The transfusion of American blood came as magic tonic, and from that glorious day there was never a doubt as to the speedy defeat of Germany. From that day the German retreat dated. The armistice signed on November 11, 1918, was merely the period finishing the death sentence of German militarism, the first word of which was uttered at Château-Thierry.
Germany's defiance to the world, her determination to force her will and her "kultur" upon the democracies of earth, produced the conflict. She called to her aid three sister autocracies: Turkey, a land ruled by the whims of a long line of moody misanthropic monarchs; Bulgaria, the traitor nation cast by its Teutonic king into a war in which its people had no choice and little sympathy; Austria-Hungary, a congeries of races in which a Teutonic minority ruled with an iron scepter.
Against this phalanx of autocracy, twenty-four nations arrayed themselves. Populations of these twenty-eight warring nations far exceeded the total population of all the remainder of humanity. The conflagration of war literally belted the earth. It consumed the most civilized of capitals. It. raged in the swamps and forests of Africa. To its call came alien peoples speaking words that none but themselves could translate, wearing garments of exotic cut and hue amid the smart garbs and sober hues of modern civilization. A twentieth century Babel came to the fields of France for freedom's sake, and there was born an internationalism making for the future understanding and peace of the world. The list of the twenty-eight nations entering the World War and their populations follow :
United States 110,000,000
A WAR FOR FREEDOM
The following nations, with their populations, took no part in the World War:
Never before in the history of the world were so many races and peoples mingled in a military effort as those that came together under the command of Marshal Foch. If we divide the human races into white, yellow, red and black, all four were largely represented. Among the white races there were Frenchmen, Italians, Portuguese, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Canadians, Australians, South Africans (of both British and Dutch descent), New Zealanders ; in the American army, probably every other European nation was represented, with additional contingents from those already named, so that every branch of the white race figured in the ethnological total.
There were representatives of many Asiatic races, including not only the volunteers from the native states of India, but elements from the French colony in Cochin China, with Annam, Cambodia, Tonkin, Laos, and Kwang Chau Wan. England and France both contributed many African tribes, including Arabs from Algeria and Tunis, Senegalese, Saharans, and many of the South African races. The red races of North America were represented in the armies of both Canada and the United States, while the Maoris, Samoans, and other Polynesian races were likewise represented. And as, in the American Army, there were men of German, Austrian, and Hungarian descent, and, in all probability, contingents also of Bulgarian and Turkish blood, it may be said that Foch commanded an army representing the whole human race, united in defense of the ideals of the Allies.
It will be seen that more than ten times the number of neutral persons were engulfed in the maelstrom of war. Millions of these suffered from it during the entire period of the conflict, four years three months and fifteen days, a total of 1,567 days. For almost four years Germany rolled up a record of victories on land and of piracies on and under the seas.
Little by little, day after day, piracies dwindled as the murderous submarine was mastered and its menace strangled. On the land, the Allies, under the matchless leadership of Marshal Ferdinand Foch and the generous co-operation of Americans, British, French and Italians, under the great Generals Pershing, Haig, Pétain and Diaz, wrested the initiative from von Hindenburg and Ludendorf, late in July, 1918. Then, in one hundred and fifteen days of wonderful strategy and the fiercest fighting the world has ever witnessed, Foch and the Allies closed upon the Germanic armies the jaws of a steel trap. A series of brilliant maneuvers dating from the battle of Château-Thierry in which the Americans checked the Teutonic rush, resulted in the defeat and rout on all the fronts of the Teutonic commands.
In that titanic effort, America's share was that of the final deciding factor. A nation unjustly titled the "Dollar Nation," believed by Germany and by other countries to be soft, selfish and wasteful, became over night hard as tempered steel, self-sacrificing with an al-truism that inspired the world and thrifty beyond all precedent in order that not only its own armies but the armies of the Allies might be fed and munitioned.
Leading American thought and American action, President Wilson stood out as the prophet of the democracies of the world. Not only did he inspire America and the Allies to a military and naval effort beyond precedent, but he inspired the civilian populations of the world to extraordinary effort, efforts that eventually won the war. For the decision was gained quite as certainly on the wheat fields of Western America, in the shops and the mines and the homes of America as it was upon the battle-field.
This effort came in response to the following appeal by the President :
These, then, are the things we must do, and do well, besides fighting—the things without which mere fighting would be fruitless:
We must supply abundant food for ouselves and for our armies, and our seamen not only, but also for a large part of the nations with whom we have now made common cause, in whose support and by whose sides we shall be fighting;
We must supply ships by the hundreds out of our shipyards to carry to the other side of the sea, submarines or no submarines, what will every day be needed there; and
Abundant materials out of our fields and our mines and our factories with which not only to clothe and equip our own forces on land and sea but also to clothe and support our people for whom the gallant .fellows under arms can no longer work, to help clothe and equip the armies with which we are co-operating in Europe, and to keep the looms and manufactories there in raw material;
Coal to keep the fires going in ships at sea and in the furnaces of hundreds of factories across the sea;
Steel out of which to make arms and ammunition both here and there;
Rails for worn-out railways back of the fighting fronts;
Locomotives and rolling stock to take the place of those every day going to pieces;
Everything with which the people of England and France and Italy and Russia have usually supplied themselves, but cannot now afford the men, the materials, or the machinery to make.
I particularly appeal to the farmers of the South to plant abundant foodstuff's as well as cotton. They can show their patriotism in no better or more convincing way than by resisting the great temptation of the present price of cotton and helping, helping upon a large scale, to feed the nation and the peoples, every-where who are fighting for their liberties and for our own. The variety of their crops will be the visible measure of their comprehension of their national duty.
The response was amazing in its enthusiastic and general compliance. No autocracy issuing a ukase could have been obeyed so explicitly. Not only did the various classes of workers and individuals observe the President's suggestions to the letter, but they yielded up individual right after right in order that the war work of the government might be expedited. Extraordinary powers and functions were granted by the people through Congress, and it was not until peace was declared that these rights and powers returned to the people.
These governmental activities ceased functioning after the war:
War trade board;
Alien property custodian (with extension of time for certain duties) ; Agricultural stimulation;
Housing construction (except for ship-builders) ;
Control of telegraphs and telephones; Export control.
These functions were extended:
Control over railroads : to cease within twenty-one months after the proclamation of peace.
The War Finance Corporation: to cease to function six months after the war, with further time for liquidation.
The Capital Issues Committee: to terminate in six months after the peace proclamation.
The Aircraft Board: to end in six months after peace was pro-claimed; and the government operation of ships, within five years after the war was officially ended.
President Wilson, generally acclaimed as the leader of the world's democracies, phrased for civilization the arguments against autocracy in the great peace conference after the war. The President headed the American delegation to that conclave of world reconstruction. With him as delegates to the conference were Robert Lansing, Secretary of State; Henry White, former Ambassador to France and Italy; Edward M. House and General Tasker H. Bliss.
Representing American Labor at the Inter-national Labor conference held in Paris simultaneously with the Peace Conference were Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor; William Green, secretary-treasurer of the United Mine Workers of America; John R. Alpine, president of the Plumbers' Union; James Duncan, president of the International Association of Granite Cutters; Frank Duffy, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and Frank Morrison, secretary of the American Federation of Labor.
Estimating the share of each Allied nation in the great victory, mankind will conclude that the heaviest cost in proportion to pre-war population and treasure was paid by the nations that first felt the shock of war, Belgium, Serbia, Poland and France. All four were the battle-grounds of huge armies, oscillating in a bloody frenzy over once fertile fields and once prosperous towns.
Belgium, with a population of 8,000,000, had a casualty list of more than 90,000; France, with its casualties of 4,506,500 out of a population (including its colonies) of 90,-000,000, is really the martyr nation of the world. Her gallant poilus showed the world how cheerfully men may die in defense of home and liberty. Huge Russia, including hapless Poland, had a casualty list of 9,150,000 out of its entire population of 180,000,000. The United States out of a population of 110,000,-000 had a casualty list of 274,659 for nineteen months of war; of these 67,813 were killed or died of disease; 192,483 were wounded; and 14,363 prisoners or missing.
To the glory of Great Britain must be recorded the enormous effort made by its people, showing through operations of its army and navy. The British Empire, including the Colonies, had a casualty list of 3,080,757 men out of a total population of 440,000,000. Of these 692,065 were killed; 2,037,325 were wounded, and 360,367 were reported missing. It raised an army of 7,000,000, and fought seven separate foreign campaigns, in France, Italy, Dardanelles, Mesopotamia, Macedonia, East Africa and Egypt. It raised its navy personnel from 115,000 to 450,000 men. Co-operating with its allies on the sea, it destroyed approximately one hundred and fifty German and Austrian submarines. It aided materially the American navy and transport service in sending overseas the great American army whose coming decided the war. The British navy and transport service during the war made the following record of transportation and convoy :
Twenty million men, 2,000,000 horses, 130,-000,000 tons of food, 25,000,000 tons of explosives and supplies, 51,000,000 tons of oil and fuels, 500,000 vehicles. In 1917 alone 7,000,000 men, 500,000 animals, 200,000 vehicles and 9,500,000 tons of stores were conveyed to the several war fronts.
The German losses were estimated at 1,611,-104 killed or died of disease; 3,683,143 wounded; and 772,522 prisoners and missing.
A tabulation of the estimates of casualties and the money cost of the war reveals the enormous price paid by humanity to convince a military-mad Germanic caste that Right and not Might must hereafter rule the world.
Canada sent approximately 800,000 men overseas and sustained casualties amounting to 220,182. Of these 60,383 were killed or died from disease, 155,790 were wounded and 4,000 were missing or prisoners.
Australia's casualties out of a total overseas force of 336,000 were 290,191 which included 54,431 dead, 156,000 wounded and 3,401 prisoners and missing.
ESTIMATED COST IN MONEY
The ENTENTE ALLIES THE CENTRAL POWERS
Russia $30,000,000,000 Germany } $45,000,000,000
Grand total of estimated cost in money, $249,000,000,000.
Was the cost too heavy? Was the price of international liberty paid in human lives and in sacrifices untold too great for the peace that followed?
Even the most practical of money changers, the most sentimental pacifist, viewing the cost in connection with the liberation of whole nations, with the spread of enlightened liberty through oppressed and benighted lands, with the destruction of autocracy, of the military caste, and of Teutonic kultur in its materialistic aspect, must agree that the blood was well shed, the treasure well spent.
Millions of gallant, eager youths learned how to die fearlessly and gloriously. They died to teach vandal nations that nevermore will humanity permit the exploitation of peoples for militaristic purposes.
As Milton, the great philosopher poet, phrased the lesson taught to Germany on the fields of France :
They err who count it glorious to subdue