The Project Gutenberg eBook, Right Above Race, by Otto Hermann Kahn

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Title: Right Above Race

Author: Otto Hermann Kahn

Release Date: November 20, 2009 [eBook #30507]

Language: English

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"We will not permit the blood in our veins to drown the conscience in our breast. We will heed the call of honour beyond the call of race."






[Pg v]


This is one of the best books that has appeared about the war. It shows conclusively why the United States must put this war through to a finish, and why every good American and every believer in liberty and civilization must be heart and soul against Germany. The fact that Mr. Kahn himself is of German origin emphasizes the contention which every good American should make, namely, that the Americans who are in whole or in part of German blood should eagerly take the front places in this war for Americanism against the attempt of the Prussianized Germany of the Hohenzollerns to establish a world tyranny.

Not only is the book an admirable plea for Americanism and for putting the war through, but it is also a no less admirable plea for treating our internal affairs on the basis of common sense and high idealism. I should like to see the book circulated throughout the United States as a tract on Sound Americanism. The last two chapters, on "Frenzied Liberty" and "The [Pg vi] Myth of a 'Rich Man's War,'" should be called to the especial attention of the persons who, not daring to be openly treasonable, try to serve Germany by advancing the cause of Bolshevism in this country, and by downright and shameless perversion of the truth as to the part played by the men of means in this war. The chapter on "Frenzied Liberty" is an acute and fearless exposition of the damage done to liberty by the men here who are trying to play the part of the Russian Bolshevists, by upsetting order and civilization in this country. One of the most remarkable, and also one of the most sinister, of Germany's extraordinary successes has been the way she has used the forces of disorder in other countries to paralyze the cause of liberty. She herself is the embodiment of order imposed by an iron militaristic autocracy from above on the people beneath. She is the embodiment of that species of order which is the antithesis of liberty. She personifies it now exactly as the Russian Czars did in the middle of the last century, only with infinitely greater efficiency. But her feeling even for order is conditioned by her unyielding determination that the Germans shall lord over and shall exploit the rest of the world.

In itself this feeling of intense nationalism is a fine thing, and we would admire it if [Pg vii] it had not been perverted into an assault on all the rest of mankind, and especially on liberty-loving civilized mankind. There is in Germany an immense sense of solidarity, which makes the German Socialist, the German middle-class capitalist, and the German junker work side by side with enthusiasm for the subjugation and exploitation of all the Allied countries. The Socialists have cynically announced that their job is to encourage pacifism in other countries, and thereby to lessen the resistance of these countries to German militarism. The Socialists have worked for the conquest of other countries in the interest of German capitalism, because they feel they will get some share in the profit, and because they have been schooled, in common with the rest of their country, to a brutal cynicism concerning the wrongs and sufferings of other countries, so long as Germans profit by them. In consequence the German Government, aided by the German Socialists, has encouraged in every way the forces of disorder in every hostile country—the Socialists in France, the "independent" Labour men in England, the Bolshevists in Russia, the Sinn Feiners in Ireland, the Reds in Finland, and the most fanatical murderers of Christians in Turkey. It is for this reason that Germany tries to use the I.W.W. in the United States, [Pg viii] and plays on the foolish American politicians who have believed that the Russian Bolshevists would be able to infect Germany with their revolt, or who have believed that they by fine words could arouse the spirit of German revolt and separate the German people from the German Government—a thing which can only be done by the breakdown of Germany's military strength.

Germany has no fears as to her own ability to suppress disorder. The minute she conquers a Russian province she puts down disorder with an iron hand. But in the Ukraine, in Great Russia and in Finland she encourages the party of the Reds, she encourages the Bolshevists; and the poor, ignorant, gullible peasants follow the lead of the men, however criminal—sometimes rather more lunatic than criminal—who would throw them under Germany's feet. The American Bolshevists would tear America to pieces, exactly as Russia has been torn.

Mr. Kahn's words of warning against them have a special value, because he is as far as the poles from those foolish Bourbons in our political and industrial life who, by their persistence in a course of mere stupid inertia and inaction, would invite the very revolutionary movements they dread. Mr. Kahn has his face set toward the light. He realizes the change that must come in industry [Pg ix] and in farm life in all countries. He is anxious to join in every effort, no matter how radical—provided only it is a sane effort, offering reasonable chance of success—for securing better conditions for the wage worker and the farmer in this country. He realizes that failure to strive in a serious and efficient manner for this end is to play into the hands of the Bolshevists; and he also realizes that the Bolshevists are, in the last resort, the very worst enemies of every effort to make social and industrial conditions better for the wage worker and soil toiler, because Bolshevism would invite the most violent reaction. As for the "Myth of a Rich Man's War," Mr. Kahn shows conclusively that in no other country has the wealthy class been forced to bear as great a part of the burden in this war as here in the United States.

As a matter of fact, the whole talk of "profiteering" as an element in bringing on or supporting the war is due either to folly or else to deliberate pacifist and pro-German propaganda. There was an immense amount of profiteering in this country during the two and a half years of our ignoble neutrality between right and wrong. The pacifists and pro-Germans played the game of the profiteers, and worked hand in hand with them to keep this country at peace, and [Pg x] therefore to continue the opportunity for profiteering. Ninety per cent. of the profiteering stopped just as soon as we went to war. Most of the well-to-do men of this country, of the men who are free from the menace of immediate want and who have given their sons a good education, have been the very men whose sons have freely and eagerly gone to the war. There is an occasional wealthy man, the owner of a set of newspapers, or an automobile factory, or something of the kind, who improperly succeeds in getting his son excused from service, on the plea that he is needed in the business. But usually it will be found that this man is himself an upholder of pacifism, or of some of the movements of the very people who have announced that they are against the war. In this country the real upholders of the war are the men who themselves have shown, or whose sons have shown, that they were willing to pay with their bodies for the principles they advocated.

Mr. Kahn's rebuke to those noxious demagogues who try to aid Germany and hurt America by prattling about this being "a rich man's war" is rendered all the stronger because he insists on heavy progressive taxation of incomes and profits for war purposes. This taxation should go up to, but under no circumstances go in the [Pg xi] slightest degree beyond, the line at which it interferes with or limits production or prevents the fullest development of our business resources during the war. We need to speed up production to the very top limit. While this war lasts we have a right to demand of every man, whether capitalist, or labourer, or farmer, that his prime effort and motive be to win the war, for this is the people's war, America's war—the war of all of us. The Government should see that every man does his full part. Therefore it should see that the rich man does his full part. Therefore, not merely in his interest but in the national interest, it should also see that no frantic extremist, under the plea of forcing the rich man to do his full part, renders it impossible for him to do anything at all. So to act would bring lasting damage to the community, and, whether intentionally or unintentionally, would create a condition which would bring the war to a standstill.

This is a capital study of the problems which are of vital interest at this moment to all Americans who love their country, and who wish while serving their country also to serve all the free nations of civilized mankind.

Theodore Roosevelt.

  Sagamore Hill,
15, 1918.

[Pg xii]

[Pg xiii]


This book should be in every man's home; every woman should read it. It is a pity that it is not in every German's home. But before your ordinary man can grasp its full significance, it is as well that he should know something of the man who wrote it, and still more why he wrote it.

Mr. Otto H. Kahn, one of the leading financiers of America, and widely renowned for his manifold charities, his strenuous public life, and his generous patronage of the Arts, is of German blood and was born in Germany. But, from his great-grandparents, who were French Alsatians, he inherited a great love of France. His father, after taking part in the German Revolution of 1848, fled to America, became naturalized as an American citizen, and finally returned to Germany [Pg xiv] after ten years of banishment. From this father, Kahn inherited the love of liberty.

He left Germany when he was twenty-one years old, after having served his year in the army; and, deciding to find his future elsewhere, gave up his German nationality thirty years ago. Returning, however, almost every year, to visit the country of his birth, and having important relations with governmental, business, social, and other circles, he had exceptional opportunities for becoming acquainted with and studying the development of German mentality and morality under the influence of Prussianism. That development filled him with horror and dismay. Long before the war he realized the terrible menace to the entire world which was subtly concealed in the poison growth of Prussianism. As he himself here puts it in one of his speeches: "From each successive visit to Germany for twenty-five years I came away more appalled by the sinister transmutation Prussianism had wrought amongst the people and by the portentous menace I recognized in it for the [Pg xv] entire world. It had given to Germany unparalleled prosperity, beneficent and advanced social legislation, and not a few other things of value, but it had taken in payment the soul of the race. It had made a Devil's Bargain."

When the war broke out, in 1914, Otto Kahn did not hesitate for a second on which side to take his stand. For him, neutrality in the fight between light and darkness, between right and atrocious wrong, was unthinkable. And as he felt and thought, being a man of honour, of courage, and of decision, so he acted, totally regardless of the consequences to himself. He had "searched his conscience in sorrow and in anguish"; and where it led him there he followed unhesitatingly. Although his most important business relations were in Germany, although he knew that he would be attacked in Germany and by all pro-Germans as a renegade, and would have to face a very difficult position even in America as long as America was neutral, he at once became a firm, open, and active adherent of the cause of the Allies, [Pg xvi] and threw his entire influence, personal and financial, on their side. No work for the Allies remained without his support. The calculated expectations of the German Government on German-American aid, particularly their reliance on access to the money market of America, were disappointed and defeated; the chief part of the credit for that vital result was due to Otto Kahn.

But, perhaps the greatest service to the Allied cause which Mr. Kahn rendered—which he was the first, as well as the most prominent, American of German blood to render—was his oratory through the United States. There are about twelve million Americans of German descent in the United States, and many more millions spring from races more or less affiliated with them. Most of these went to America over twenty-five years ago; they did not know modern Germany; they did not believe the accounts of German atrocities as reported in the Press; they were unable to realize the hideous change which had come over Germany since they or their parents had left it; they did not understand [Pg xvii] the origin, the cause, and the meaning of the war. And many Americans, especially in the West, held the like views.

Mr. Kahn, notwithstanding threats and malignities, went out to speak to them—individually, through newspaper articles, or at great mass meetings. He brought to bear the authority of his personality, fortified by the confidence and prestige which attach to it; and he made it plain that he spoke, not from hearsay, but from personal experience, observation, and knowledge. He succeeded in showing up modern Germany as it is, and in proving its horrible guilt for the war. He pleaded in flaming words to Americans of German birth that not only did their oath of allegiance compel them to be whole-heartedly and undividedly American, without regard to their origin, but that what could still be preserved of honour to the German name was largely in their keeping, and that even for the sake of the German blood in their veins they must prove to the world that those Germans who are not under the Prussian yoke, hate and loathe the ruling caste who have [Pg xviii] poisoned the German blood, who have made Germany a hideous, monstrous, barbarous thing, and who have robbed them of the old Germany which they loved and in which they took pride.

If, as is fortunately the case, America is now in the war by our side, unanimous, enthusiastic, undivided; if the people, East and West, realize the abominable doctrines and actions of modern Germany and the necessity at whatever cost in blood and treasure of defeating that abomination utterly, then no man is more entitled to a high place of honour among those who have brought about this happy achievement than Otto Kahn.

In his youth, Kahn had done military service in Germany; and the German youth studies and understands strategy in a far larger and broader way than even professional soldiers study it amongst us. Strategy acts in peace, as well as in war—strategy never ceases. For what is strategy? It is the leadership of a people so that its moral, its ideals, and its will shall make it [Pg xix] develop its destiny in such vigour that it shall be safe from the assault of any enemy will that may assail it. All statesmanship worthy of the name is strategic—all other statesmanship is but a glittering bubble, floating in an empty void. If the moral and ideals of a people be not deep-rooted in vigour capable of defending those ideals, that people is doomed.

I am proud to know that Otto Kahn sees eye to eye with me. The utter degradation of the fine old Germany by Prussia was a bitter disillusion of my young manhood. What must it have been to Otto Kahn? He loved the old Germany to which he was "linked by ties of blood, by fond memories and cherished sentiments." To cast her out of his soul—to range himself in the forefront of those fighting the abomination which had made her an outcast amongst the peoples of the world—to brave attack, misunderstanding, misinterpretation of his motives, loss of lifelong friends, not to speak of financial sacrifices—these touch well-nigh upon the tragic. I am proud to think that [Pg xx] the strategic revelation of Germany, which I published last year, receives such overwhelming proof in every page of Otto Kahn's book—this laying bare of the meaning, processes, and purposes of modern Germany by a great German of that fine school of honour which once made Germany a noble people. And it is good to know that when at last America struck for civilization, the vast mass of the Americans of German blood remembered that they were Americans, and that their ancient State was wholly departed. No man did more to steady them to nobility of action in the day of their trial than the man who wrote this book.

One of the first tributes I received from across the seas was a copy of one of his addresses from Otto Kahn; and I am proud that it should have fallen to my good fortune to pay back that tribute between the covers of this noble volume on its issue to our people. There has been no more valuable testimony written upon the war than this small book.

Otto Kahn tells us that the hideous thing [Pg xxi] "Prussianism" must be struck down—or peace will have left the earth. There is no other way to victory; no other way from bondage for the whole wide world.

Haldane Macfall.

[Pg xxii]

[Pg xxiii]



[Pg 1]


[Pg 2]

Extracts from an address before The Merchants Association of New York at its Liberty Loan Meeting June 1, 1917

[Pg 3]


We have met to-day in pursuance of a high purpose, a purpose which at this fateful moment is one and the same wherever, throughout the world, the language of free men is spoken and understood.

It is the purpose of a common determination to fight and to bear and to dare everything and never to cease nor rest until the accursed thing which has brought upon the world the unutterable calamity, the devil's visitation of this appalling war, is destroyed beyond all possibility of resurrection.

That accursed thing is not a nation, but an evil spirit, a spirit which has made the government possessed by it and executing its abhorrent and bloody bidding[Pg 4] an abomination in the sight of God and men.

What we are now contending for by the side of the splendidly brave and sorely tried Allied Nations, after infinite forbearance, after delay which many of us found it hard to bear, are the things which are amongst the highest and most cherished that the civilized world has attained through the toil, sacrifices and suffering of its best in the course of many centuries.

They are the things without which darkness would fall upon hope, and life would become intolerable.

They are the things of humanity, liberty, justice and mercy, for which the best men amongst all the nations—including the German nation—have fought and bled these many generations past, which were the ideals of Luther, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, and a host of others who had made the name of Germany great and beloved until Prussianism came to make its deeds a byword and a hissing.

[Pg 5] This appalling conflict which has been drenching the world with blood is not a mere fight of one or more peoples against one or more other peoples.

It goes far deeper. It challenges the soul and conscience of the world. It transcends vastly the bounds of racial allegiance. It is ethically fundamental.

In determining one's attitude towards it, the time has gone by—if it ever was—when race and blood and inherited affiliations were permitted to count.

A century and a half ago Americans of English birth rose to free this country from the oppression of the rulers of England. To-day Americans of German birth are called upon to rise, together with their fellow-citizens of all races, to free not only this country but the whole world from the oppression of the rulers of Germany, an oppression far less capable of being endured and of far graver portent.

Speaking as one born of German parents, I do not hesitate to state it as my deep conviction that the greatest service which[Pg 6] men of German birth or antecedents can render to the country of their origin is this: To proclaim, and to stand up for those great ideals and national qualities and traditions which they inherited from their ancestors, and to set their faces like flint against the monstrous doctrines and acts of a rulership that has robbed them of the Germany they loved and in which they took just pride, the Germany which had the good-will, respect and admiration of the entire world.

I do not hesitate to state it as my solemn conviction that the more unmistakably and whole-heartedly Americans of German origin throw themselves into the struggle which this country has entered in order to rescue Germany, no less than America and the rest of the world, from those sinister forces that are, in President Wilson's language, the enemy of all mankind, the better they protect and serve the repute of the old German name and the true advantage of the German people.

[Pg 7] Gentlemen, I measure my words. They are borne out all too emphatically by the hideous eloquence of deeds which have appalled the conscience of the civilized world. They are borne out by numberless expressions, written and spoken, of German professors employed by the State to teach its youth.

The burden of that teaching is that might makes right, and that the German nation has been chosen to exercise morally, mentally and actually, the over-lordship of the world and must and will accomplish that task and that destiny whatever the cost in bloodshed, misery and ruin.

The spirit of that teaching, in its intolerance, its mixture of sanctimoniousness and covetousness, and its self-righteous assumption of a world-improving mission, is closely akin to the spirit from which were bred the religious wars of the past through the long and dark years when Protestants and Catholics killed one another and devastated Europe.

I speak in sorrow, for I am speaking[Pg 8] of the country of my origin and I have not forgotten what I owe to it.

I speak in bitter disappointment, for I am thinking of the Germany of former days, the Germany which has contributed its full share to the store of the world's imperishable assets and which, in not a few fields of endeavour and achievement, held the leading place among the nations of the earth.

And I speak in the firm faith that, after its people shall have shaken off and made atonement for the dreadful spell which an evil fate has cast upon them, that former Germany will arise again and, in due course of time, will again deserve and attain the good-will and respect of the world and the affectionate loyalty of all those of German blood in foreign lands.

But I know that neither Germany nor this country nor the rest of the world can return to happiness and peace and fruitful labour until it shall have been made manifest, bitterly and unmistakably manifest, to the rulers who bear the blood-guilt for this wanton war and to their misinformed and [Pg 9] misguided peoples that the spirit which unchained it cannot prevail, that the hateful doctrines and methods in pursuance of which and in compliance with which it is conducted are rejected with abhorrence by the civilized world, and that the overweening ambitions which it was meant to serve can never be achieved.

The fight for civilization which we all fondly believed had been won many years ago must be fought over again. In this sacred struggle it is now our privilege to take no mean part, and our glory to bring sacrifices.

Our one and supreme task, the one purpose to which all others must give way, is to bring this war to a successful conclusion. One of the means toward that end is to make the Liberty Loan a veritable triumph, an overwhelming expression of our gigantic economic strength.

To accomplish that, let each one of us feel himself personally responsible, let each one of us work as if our life depended on the result. And, in a very real sense, does not our national life, aye, our[Pg 10] individual life depend on the outcome of this war?

Would life be tolerable if the power of Prussianism, run mad and murderous, held the world by the throat, if the primacy of the earth belonged to a government steeped in the doctrines of a barbarous past and supported by a ruling caste which preaches the deification of sheer might, which despises liberty, hates democracy and would destroy both if it could?

To that spirit and to those doctrines, we, citizens of America and servants, as such, of humanity, will oppose our solemn and unshakable resolution "to make the world safe for democracy," and we will say, with a clear conscience, in the noble words which more than five hundred years ago were uttered by the Parliament of Scotland:

"It is not for glory, or for riches, or for honour that we fight, but for liberty alone which no good man loses but with his life."

[Pg 11]


From an address before the Harrisburg, Pa., Chamber of Commerce September 26, 1917

[Pg 12]

[Pg 13]


I speak as one who has seen the spirit of the Prussian governing class at work from close by, having at its disposal and using to the full practically every agency for moulding the public mind.

I have watched it proceed with relentless persistency and profound cunning to instil into the nation the demoniacal obsession of power-worship and world-dominion, to modify and pervert the mentality—indeed the very fibre and moral substance—of the German people, a people which until misled, corrupted and systematically poisoned by the Prussian ruling caste, was and deserved to be an honoured, valued and welcome member of the family of nations.

I have hated that spirit ever since it came within my ken many years ago;[Pg 14] hated it all the more as I saw it ruthlessly pulling down a thing which was dear to me—the old Germany to which I was linked by ties of blood, by fond memories and cherished sentiments.

The difference in the degree of guilt as between the German people and their Prussian or Prussianized rulers and leaders for the monstrous crime of this war and the atrocious barbarism of its conduct is the difference between the man who, acting under the influence of a poisonous drug, runs amuck in mad frenzy and the unspeakable malefactor who administered that drug, well knowing and fully intending the ghastly consequences which were bound to follow.

The world fervently longs for peace. But there can be no peace answering to the true meaning of the word—no peace permitting the nations of the earth, great and small, to walk unarmed and unafraid—until the teaching and the leadership of the apostles of an outlaw creed shall have become discredited and hateful in the[Pg 15] sight of the German people; until that people shall have awakened to a consciousness of the unfathomable guilt of those whom they have followed into calamity and shame; until a mood of penitence and of a decent respect for the opinions of mankind shall have supplanted the sway of what President Wilson has so trenchantly termed "truculence and treachery."

God strengthen the conscience and the understanding, the will and the power of the German people so that they may find the only way which will give to the world an early peace, the only road which, in time, will lead Germany back into the family of nations from which it is now an outcast.

From each successive visit to Germany for twenty-five years I came away more appalled by the sinister transmutation Prussianism had wrought amongst the people and by the portentous menace I recognized in it for the entire world.

It had given to Germany unparalleled prosperity, beneficent and advanced social[Pg 16] legislation, and not a few other things of value, but it had taken in payment the soul of the race. It had made a "devil's bargain."

And when this war broke out in Europe I knew that the issue had been joined between the powers of brutal might and insensate ambition on the one side and the forces of humanity and liberty on the other; between darkness and light.

Many there were at that time—and amongst them men for whose character I had high respect and whose motives were beyond any possible suspicion—who saw their own and America's duty in strict neutrality, mentally and actually, but personally I believed from the beginning of the war, whether we liked all the elements of the Allies' combination or not—and I certainly did not like the Russia of the Czars—that the cause of the Allies was America's cause.

I believed that this was no ordinary war between peoples for a question of national interest, or even national honour,[Pg 17] but a conflict between fundamental principles, aims and ideas. And so believing I was bound to feel that the natural lines of race, blood and kinship could not be the determining lines for one's attitude and alignment, but that each man, regardless of his origin, had to decide according to his judgment and conscience on which side was the right and on which was the wrong and take his stand accordingly, whatever the wrench and anguish of the decision. And thus I took my stand three years ago.

But whatever one's views and feelings, whatever the country of one's birth or kin, only one course was left for all those claiming the privilege of American citizenship when after infinite forbearance the President decided that our duty, honour and safety demanded that we take up arms against the Imperial German Government, and by action of Congress the cause and the fight against that Government were declared our cause and our fight.

The duty of loyal allegiance and faith[Pg 18]ful service to his country, even unto death, rests, of course, upon every American. But, if it be possible to speak of a comparative degree concerning what is the highest as it is the most elementary attribute of citizenship, that duty may almost be said to rest with an even more solemn and compelling obligation upon Americans of foreign origin than upon native Americans.

For we Americans of foreign antecedents are here not by the accidental right of birth, but by our own free choice for better or for worse.

We are your fellow-citizens because we made solemn oath of allegiance to America. Accepting that oath as given in good faith you have opened to us in generous trust the portals of American opportunity and freedom, and have admitted us to membership in the family of Americans, giving us equal rights in the great inheritance which has been created by the blood and the toil of your ancestors, asking nothing from us in return but decent citizenship and[Pg 19] adherence to those ideals and principles which are symbolized by the glorious flag of America.

Woe to the foreign-born American who betrays the trust which you have reposed in him!

Woe to him who considers his American citizenship merely as a convenient garment to be worn in fair weather but to be exchanged for another one in time of storm and stress!

Woe to the German-American, so called, who, in this sacred war for a cause as high as any for which ever people took up arms, does not feel a solemn urge, does not show an eager determination to be in the very forefront of the struggle; does not prove a patriotic jealousy, in thought, in action and in speech to rival and to outdo his native-born fellow-citizen in devotion and in willing sacrifice for the country of his choice and adoption and sworn allegiance, and of their common affection and pride.

As Washington led Americans of British blood to fight against Great Britain, as[Pg 20] Lincoln called upon Americans of the North to fight their very brothers of the South, so Americans of German descent are now summoned to join in our country's righteous struggle against a people of their own blood, which, under the evil spell of a dreadful obsession, and, Heaven knows! through no fault of ours, has made itself the enemy of this peace-loving Nation, as it is the enemy of peace and right and freedom throughout the world.

To gain America's independence, to defeat oppression and tyranny, was indeed to gain a great cause.

To preserve the Union, to eradicate slavery, was perhaps a greater still.

To defend the very foundations of liberty and humanity, the very groundwork of fair dealing between nations, the very basis of peaceable living together among the peoples of the earth against the fierce and brutal onslaught of ruthless, lawless, faithless might; to spend the lives and the fortunes of this generation so that our descendants may be freed from[Pg 21] the dreadful calamity of war and the fear of war, so that the energies and billions of treasure now devoted to plans and instruments of destruction may be given henceforth to fruitful works of peace and progress and to the betterment of the conditions of the people—that is the highest cause for which any people ever unsheathed its sword.

He who shirks the full measure of his duty and allegiance in that noblest of causes, be he German-American, Irish-American, or any other hyphenated American, be he I.W.W. or Socialist or whatever the appellation, does not deserve to stand amongst Americans or, indeed, amongst free men anywhere.

He who tries, secretly or overtly, to thwart the declared will and aim of the Nation in this holy war is a traitor, and a traitor's fate should be his.

[Pg 22]

[Pg 23]


[Pg 24]

Address at a Mass Meeting in Auditorium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, January 13, 1918

[Pg 25]



The speech I am about to make is attuned to the spirit and the fact of war.

A few days ago, as you all know, President Wilson once more spoke to this nation and to the world in a great and noble message of splendid vision—holding up a veritable beacon light of right and justice for all peoples.

We all pray with eager and earnest hope that the German people will recognize the spirit and meaning of that lofty utterance and that, casting aside the odious leadership of the militarists, they will grasp the hand stretched out to them in such generous and unselfish meaning.

[Pg 26] Even as I speak the leaven of that great message may be working in Germany with potent effect. I have no information other than what you all have, but I hope I am not over-sanguine in giving heed to a feeling that some parts of what I am going to say are perhaps in process of being superseded by events that may be forming.

Let us all trust that it be so, and that we may soon be enabled to substitute for the harsh accents of arraignment and enmity the feelings and the language of peaceful intercourse and of that new relationship which the President's leadership is seeking to bring about amongst all the nations.

But until that "consummation devoutly to be wished" is attained, let us take care lest we permit the hope of it to diminish our effort or to weaken our determination. Neither hope nor any other motive or influence must be suffered for one moment to divert us from the stern and resolute pursuit, to the utmost of our[Pg 27] capacity, of our high and solemn purpose as it has been proclaimed in the great messages of America's spokesman and leader.

In attempting to deal with the questions that I shall discuss, I must apologize for using the personal pronoun a good deal more than would seem consonant with due modesty. My excuse is that whatever weight my observations may have with you, lies mainly in the fact that I am of German birth, that until the outbreak of the war I kept in close touch with German men and affairs, that I loved the old Germany and that the conclusions which I am about to state I have reached in grief and bitter disappointment.

For these reasons, also, what I shall say from personal knowledge and observation and in a personal way may have some effect upon those among my fellow-citizens of my own blood whose eyes may not have been opened fully to the difference[Pg 28] between the Germany they knew and the Germany of 1914, and who, owing to insufficient and incorrect information, may not yet have discerned with entire clearness the path of right and duty nor perceived the true inwardness of the unprecedented tragedy which has befallen the world.


The world has been hurt within these past three years as it was never hurt before. In the gloomy and accusing procession of infinite sorrow and pain which was started on that thrice accursed day of July, 1914, the hurt inflicted on Americans of German descent takes its tragically rightful place.

The iron has entered our souls. We have been wantonly robbed of invaluable possessions which have come down to us through the centuries; we have been rendered ashamed of that in which we took pride; we have been made the enemies of those of our own blood; our very[Pg 29] names carry the sound of a challenge to the world.

Surely we have all too valid a title to rank amongst those most bitterly aggrieved by Prussianism, and to align ourselves in the very forefront of those who in word and deed are fighting to rid the world for ever of that malignant growth.

Heaven knows, I do not want, by anything I may be saying or doing, to add one ounce to the burden of the world's execration which rests already with crushing weight upon the rulers of Germany and their misguided people. Nor do I seek forgiveness for my German birth by demonstrative zeal in action or speech.

I was and am proud of the great inheritance which came to me as a birthright and of the illustrious contributions which the German people have made to the imperishable assets of the world. Until the outbreak of the war in 1914, I maintained close and active personal and business relations in Germany. I was well acquainted with a number of the leading[Pg 30] personages of the country. I served in the German army thirty years ago. I took an active interest in furthering German art in America.

I do not apologize for, nor am I ashamed of, my German birth. But I am ashamed—bitterly and grievously ashamed—of the Germany which stands convicted before the high tribunal of the world's public opinion of having planned and willed war; of the revolting deeds committed in Belgium and northern France, of the infamy of the Lusitania murders, of innumerable violations of The Hague convention and the law of nations, of abominable and perfidious plotting in friendly countries and shameless abuse of their hospitality, of crime heaped upon crime in hideous defiance of the laws of God and men.

I cherish the memories of my youth, but these very memories make me cry out in pain and wrath against those who have befouled the spiritual soil of the old Germany, in which they were rooted.

I revere the high ideals and fine tradi[Pg 31]tions of that old Germany and the time-honoured conceptions of right conduct which my parents and the teachers of my early youth bade me treasure throughout life, but all the more burning is my resentment, all the more deeply grounded my hostility, against the Prussian caste who trampled those ideals, traditions and conceptions in the dust.

Long before the war, I had come to look upon Prussianism as amongst the deadliest poison growths that ever sprang from the soil of the spirit of man.

When the war broke out in Europe, when Belgium was invaded, I searched my conscience and my judgment in sorrow and anguish, the powerful voice of blood arguing against the still, small voice of right.

And it became clear to me to the point of solemn and unshakable conviction that Prussianism, in mad infatuation, had committed the crowning sin of outraging and defying the conscience of the world and of challenging right to mortal combat[Pg 32] against might, and that the cause which the Allies were defending was our cause, because it was the cause of peace, humanity, justice, and liberty (aye, liberty, even though Russia, then under autocratic rule, happened to be arrayed on that side, and even though diplomats and rulers made that sacred cause the basis and excuse for territorial barter and trade and spoils hunting).

In accordance with this conviction—a conviction that is unshakable—I have acted and spoken ever since, but I did not feel that it would be either right or fitting for me publicly to state and agitate my views so long as our country was neutral.

Now, America, the never-defeated, has thrown her sword into the scale, because to do so was indispensable for the vindication of the basic and elementary principles of right and peace among the nations, no less than for our own honour and our own safety, the preservation of our institutions and our very destiny.

[Pg 33] To co-operate towards the successful conclusion of the war is the one and supreme duty of every American, regardless of birth, of sympathies and of political views. The American of German descent who, in this time of test and trial, does not serve the land of his adoption with the utmost measure of single-minded devotion and with every ounce of his power, perjured himself when he took his oath of allegiance and proves himself guilty of treacherous duplicity.

Thank Heaven! the number of those lukewarm in their patriotism, or failing in loyalty, is very small indeed, far too small to affect the record of Americans of German birth for good citizenship and service to the country in peace and war.

There is abundant evidence that the overwhelming majority, indeed all but an insignificant minority, meant what they said when they swore full and sole allegiance to America, that they will prove themselves wholly worthy of the high privilege of citizenship and of the generous[Pg 34] trust of their native fellow-citizens, and that they will not fail or falter under any test whatsoever.

We will not permit the blood in our veins to drown the conscience in our breast. We will heed the call of honour beyond the call of race.

We will wear as a badge of honour the abuse and spite of those who place another cause, whatever it be, above the Nation's cause and who see hypocrisy or hidden motives behind the plain profession of unconditional loyalty on the part of the American of foreign birth, because unconditional American loyalty is not in them.

Yet, it is not enough for us Americans of German descent to do our duty by our country and fellow-citizens, however fully and unreservedly, if we do it in resigned and oppressed silence. I believe we should speak out. We must give voice to our unflinching loyalty and to our deep conviction of the justice of America's cause.

It is hard indeed for us to arraign pub[Pg 35]licly the country from which we sprang and to turn against our own kith and kin, however deep our detestation of their wrongdoing under the spiritual and actual sway of the Prussian caste and however sincere our allegiance to America. It will be easily understood by all fair-minded men that right-thinking persons will shrink from so speaking and acting as to lay themselves open to the accusation of being time-servers or popularity seekers, and to expose their motives to misconstruction.

These scruples are honourable, and they are felt by many whose patriotic loyalty and devotion are beyond all question. But, to my thinking, they are stamped out by the iron tread of the times.

I believe that we should speak out, we Americans of German birth, because we have been misrepresented to our fellow-citizens and to the world by a small minority of professional spokesmen and pernicious agitators, by no means all of German birth.

We must protect the German name, as[Pg 36] far as it is in our keeping, in America, if, alas, we cannot protect it elsewhere.

It has always, and rightly, been an honoured name here, and those who bore it have ever done their full share for the common weal, in the works of peace no less than in every crisis of the Nation's history. Let us do what in us lies to preserve the names we bear in honour and good standing amongst our fellow-citizens.

I believe that we should speak out, because our voices may reach the ear and the conscience of the German people when no other voices can, and because they will reach the ear of its rulers. These, I know, counted upon the moral, if not the actual, support of the German-born in America to the extent, at least, of preventing our joining the war, and now, when we have joined, they count upon that support to agitate for an inconclusive and unrighteous peace.

I believe that we should speak out to convince our native-born fellow-citizens that our fundamental conceptions of right[Pg 37] and wrong are like theirs, that the taint is not in the German blood, but in the system of rulership, that we are with them and of them wholeheartedly, single-mindedly and unreservedly; because if we failed in conveying to them that conviction in the hour of our common country's stress and trial, there would ensue the calamity of a spiritual, if not an actual, breach between them and us which it would take a generation to heal.


There are some of you, probably, who will still find it hard to believe that the Germany you knew can be guilty of the crimes which have made it an outlaw amongst the nations. But do you know modern Germany? Unless you have been there within the last twenty-five years, not once or twice, but at regular intervals; unless you have looked below the glittering surface of the marvellous material progress and achievement and seen how the soul of Germany was being eaten away[Pg 38] by the virulent poison of Prussianism; unless you have watched and followed the appalling transformation of German mentality and morality under the nefarious and puissant influence of the priesthood of power-worship, you do not know the Germany of this day and generation.

It is not the Germany of old, the land of our affectionate remembrance. It is not the Germany which men now of middle age or over knew in their youth. It is not the Germany of the first Emperor William, a modest and God-fearing gentleman. It is not the Germany, even, of Bismarck, man of blood and iron though he was, who had builded a structure which, whilst not founded on liberty, yet was capable and gave promise of going down into history as one of the greatest examples of enlightened and even beneficent autocracy; who, in the contemplative and mellowed wisdom of his old age, often warned the nation against the very spirit which, alas, came to have sway over it, and against the very war which that spirit unchained.

[Pg 39] The Germany which brought upon the world the immeasurable disaster of this war, and at whose monstrous deeds and doctrines the civilized nations of the earth stand aghast, started into definite being less than thirty years ago. I can almost lay my finger upon the date and circumstances of its ill-omened advent.

Less than thirty years ago, a "new course" was flamboyantly proclaimed by those in authority, and the term "new course" became the order of the day. With it and from it there came a truly marvellous quickening of the energies and creative abilities of the nation, a period of material achievement and of social progress, in short, a national forward movement almost unequalled in history. The world looked on in admiration, perhaps not entirely free from a tinge of envy. Germany was conquering the earth by peaceful penetration; and no one stood in its way. It had free access to all the seas and all the lands.

But with that "new course" and from it there also came a new god, a false and[Pg 40] evil god. He exacted as sacrifices for his altars the time-honoured ideals of the fathers, and other high and noble things. And his commands were obeyed.

There came upon the German people a whole train of new and baneful influences and impulses, formidably stimulating as a powerful drug. There came, amongst other evils, materialism and covetousness and irreligion; overweening arrogance, an impatient contempt for the rights of the weak, a mania for world dominion, and a veritable lunacy of power worship. There came also a fixed and irrational distrust of the intentions of other nations, for the evil which had crept into their own souls made them see evil in others, and that distrust was nurtured carefully and deliberately by those in authority.

And, finally, there came "the day" in which the "new course," fatally and inevitably, was bound to culminate. There came the old temptation, as old as humanity itself. The Tempter took the Prussian and Prussianized rulers up a high moun[Pg 41]tain and showed them all the riches and power of the world. Showed them the great countries and capitals of the earth teeming with peaceful labour—Brussels, Paris, London, aye, and New York, and told them: "Look at these. Use your power ruthlessly and they are yours." And those rulers did not say: "Get thee behind me, Satan;" but they said: "Lead on, Satan, and we shall follow thee." And follow him they did, and brought upon the green earth the red ruin of hell.

And with rejoicing they greeted "the day." It was to bring them, as one German in an important position here expressed it to me, in August, 1914, "a merry war and victory before the year is out."


Truly, history affords no parallel to the spiritual poisoning and the resulting horrible transmutation of a whole people, such as Prussianism wrought in the incredibly short period of one generation.[Pg 42] Nor would I believe that such a dreadful phenomenon could possibly take place were it not for the evidence of my own eyes and my own ears.

My observations led me to think, however, that Prussianism had reached the crest of its influence some years before the war and that liberal tendencies were beginning to make headway against it.

There were many men in Germany before the war who were opposed to and saw the dangers arising from militarist ambition and jingo teaching and raised their voices against them in warning. There was the ever-increasing Socialist vote which—although Socialism in the German Empire does not mean what it means in Russia and amongst the extremists in our country—did mean opposition to Junker methods and reactionary tendencies.

I am by no means sure that the very growth and spread of that liberal spirit did not have some influence in causing the militarist clique to precipitate the[Pg 43] war, as throughout history autocracy has resorted frequently to the unity-compelling force of war in order to arrest, divert and thwart liberalism and independence.

To deceive the German people, and steel them to patriotic determination and sacrifice, the Prussian rulers and their spokesmen affirmed at the beginning of the war, and have kept reaffirming ever since with nauseating reiteration and disgusting hypocrisy, that theirs was a defensive war, forced upon them by wicked and envious neighbours. A defensive war, indeed!

Let me review very rapidly the circumstances which surrounded the beginning of the war. Austria, after the friction of long standing between the two countries, which had reached its culminating point in the murder of the Austrian heir-apparent, sent an ultimatum to Serbia. The conditions of that ultimatum, although unexampled in their severity and sweeping demands, were accepted by Serbia almost in their entirety.

Austria insisted on acceptance to the[Pg 44] very letter, unconditional and absolute, within twenty-four hours or war, whereupon Russia declared that, if war was thus forced upon little Serbia, she would stand by her. After much backing and filling, at the last minute, Austria shrank from the calamity of a world conflagration and declared herself ready to enter into friendly negotiations with Russia. The frightful danger which threatened the world seemed to be on the way of being removed.

But the Prussian militarist party, seeing in their grasp the opportunity for which they had planned and plotted these thirty years, were not willing to let it go by, and they did not shrink from the catastrophe which was involved.

Heretofore Austria had held the centre of the stage and Germany had professed herself unable to interfere. But when Austria was on the point of receding, Germany did interfere, and, on the plea of the menace of the Russian mobilization (a mobilization which there is reason to[Pg 45] suspect was deliberately provoked through machinations from Berlin), started the war by an ultimatum to Russia, which was tantamount to declaring war, on the very day on which Austria yielded. Let it be remembered that whatever menace the Russian mobilization may have contained was infinitely greater against Austria than against Germany, and yet Austria, on the last day in July, 1914, declared herself ready to negotiate.

I know something from actual and personal experience of the plotting of the Prussian war party, and how for a full generation they had endeavoured again and again to bring about a situation which would force war upon the world. I know of my personal knowledge that the stage was set for it six or seven years ago in connection with the Agadir episode.

I know that the Pan-Germans meant to have a footing in South America, and, once there, would have threatened and had prepared to threaten, this very country of ours.

[Pg 46] I know that Austria, in 1913, meant to conquer Serbia, and so informed her then ally, Italy, believing that she could do so with impunity.

And I know that Austria did not believe that her ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, would bring on a serious war.

I know it, because the week following the outbreak of the war I saw a letter just arrived from a gentleman in high position in Austria, connected with the Austrian Foreign Office, in which, writing to New York under date of about July 20, 1914, he said:

"We are now passing through a nerve-wearing time because of our difficulty with Serbia, but by the time this letter reaches you everything will be all right again. The Serbians have been intriguing against us these many years, and this time they must be settled with for good and all. We shall go in and take Belgrade, but inasmuch as we have given assurance to Russia that we shall not permanently interfere with the integrity and independence of Serbia, and inasmuch as neither Russia nor her allies are ready to fight, the whole thing will be a military promenade and will have no serious consequences."

[Pg 47] A defensive war! Was it a defensive war which Prussianism was thinking of when it declined England's repeated offer for a reduction by both countries of the building of warships; when it refused at the last Hague conference to discuss the limitation of standing armies and armaments; when Germany—alone amongst the great nations—rejected our offer of a treaty of arbitration?

Years before the war, Nietzsche, than whom no man had greater influence in shaping the trend of German thought in the past thirty years, wrote:

"You shall love peace as a means to prepare for new wars. You say that a good cause may hallow even war, but I say to you that it is a good war which hallows every cause."

On July 29, 1914, the well-informed German newspaper, Vorwaerts, declared:

"The camarilla of war-lords is working with absolutely unscrupulous means to carry out their fearful designs to precipitate a world war."

In October, 1914, three months after[Pg 48] the outbreak of the war, Maximilian Harden, one of the ablest and most influential of German publicists, wrote:

"Let us renounce those miserable efforts to excuse the actions of Germany in declaring war. It is not against our will that we have thrown ourselves into this gigantic adventure. The war has not been imposed upon us by others and by surprise. We have willed the war. It was our duty to will it. We decline to appear before the tribunal of united Europe. We reject its jurisdiction. One principle alone counts and no other—one principle which contains and sums up all the others—might."

I could go on for hours quoting similar views and sentiments from the utterances of leading German writers and educators before and since the war. It is worth mentioning, though, that Maximilian Harden has seen a new light, and for some time has been courageously speaking and writing in a very different strain. There are a number of influential men in Germany who, like him, have undergone a change of mind and heart. Strong and outspoken assertions of liberal sentiment and independent aspirations have found utterance[Pg 49] in that country in the course of the last six months, such as have not been heard within its frontiers these many years.

A defensive war! There are certain telegrams (generally unknown in Germany, even to this day) from Sir Edward Grey, the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, to the British Ambassador in Germany, sent during the week preceding the outbreak of the war in Europe, which by themselves are conclusive testimony to the contrary. In these messages, the British Foreign Minister went almost on his knees to beg Germany to consent to a conference in order to avoid war.

He went to the utmost limits in promising benevolent consideration for Germany's view-point and wishes, then and in the future, and he stated that if Germany would put forward any reasonable proposition honestly calculated to maintain peace, England would support it with all of its influence, and if France and Russia would not fall in line England would promptly separate itself from these two countries.

[Pg 50] These overtures and pleas met with no response from the Masters of Germany. They declared war.

It is probably true that the Russian Pan-Slavists had planned war sooner or later, just as the Pan-Germans did. War might perhaps have come then or at some other time, even if the Prussian rulers had not precipitated it. But the fact remains that it was the Imperial German Government which did declare war. For having anticipated that "perhaps," and resolved it according to their own plans and wishes, for that, their initial crime, and for those which followed, the rulers of the German people will have to answer before the judgment seat of God and history. Upon them rests the blood-guilt for this dreadful catastrophe which has befallen the world.


A few days ago I read a poem addressed to Germany, of which these lines have remained in my memory:

[Pg 51] "Oh, land of now, oh, land of then, Dear God, the dreams, the dreams of men! Enslaved, immersed in greed and hate, Where are the things which made you great?"

The things which made Germany great are not dead, and the world cannot afford to allow them to die. They belong to the immortal possessions of the human race.

They have passed, for the time being, alas, out of the keeping of the mass of the German people, whose glorious inheritance they were.

They are now in the keeping of that minority, not, perhaps, very great as yet, but growing steadily, of men in Germany itself from whose eyes the scales have begun to fall. They are in the keeping of all the nations who appreciate and cherish and are determined to maintain those great and high things which the civilized world has attained through the toil, sacrifice and suffering of its best in the course of many centuries. And, above all, they are in the keeping of the ten or fifteen millions of Americans of German descent.

[Pg 52] As that great American of German birth, Carl Schurz, and many other brave and high-minded Germans—my own father, I am proud to say, among them—in 1848 stood in arms against Prussian oppression, for liberal ideas and right and truth and freedom, so do we stand now. In fighting for the cause of America as loyal Americans, we are fighting at the same time for the deliverance of the country of our birth from those unrighteous powers which hold it enthralled and feed upon its soul.

If ever a nation entered a war after having maintained infinite forbearance in the face of grave menace and dangers and the most intolerable affronts, and from motives as pure and high as the great blue dome of heaven, America is that nation.

We seek no reward whatsoever of a material nature. We seek no "place in the sun"—to use the German Chancellor's term—except the sun of liberty, and that we do not seek selfishly, but to share with all the world.

America is not waging a war of ven[Pg 53]geance, notwithstanding all the injuries and measureless provocations that we have received. We have lighted a fire to purify, not to burn at the stake.

America is incapable of hating an entire people, but we do hate, we are fighting and we shall fight with every ounce of our might, the spirit which has power over the people of Germany, and which, if it were to prevail—as, under God, it never will—would destroy liberty, justice and plighted faith. It was not the people of Great Britain which America fought in the War of the Revolution, but the spirit and the ruling caste which then held sway over them. America fought then for an ideal and for liberty and independence, and sacrificed blood and treasure and suffered and endured and won. And so it will be now.

The spirit of Prussianism and the spirit of Americanism cannot live in the same world. One or the other must conquer.

In the mad pride of its contempt for democracy, Prussianism has thrown down[Pg 54] the gauntlet to us. We have taken up the challenge and now stand arrayed by the side of the other freedom-loving nations of the world, giving our fresh strength and our boundless resources to them, who, heroically striving, have borne the heat and burden of a dreadfully long and exhausting struggle, yet stand unwearied, erect and resolute.

The enemy is of formidable strength. But even if he were far stronger than he is, even if we did not have the men and the means which are ours, even if our comrades-in-arms had not demonstrated their superb and indomitable prowess, still must our cause prevail—for there is fighting with us a force which has ever proved itself stronger than any other power on earth, and again and again has triumphed over overwhelming odds. That force, God-inspired, death-defying and unconquerable, is the soul of man.

And when—Heaven grant it may be soon!—the soul of the German people will have freed itself from the sinister powers[Pg 55] that now keep it in ban and bondage, when it will have found again the high impulses and aims of its former self, when it will once more understand and speak the universal language of humanity and right, then, in God's own time there will be peace.

[Pg 56]

[Pg 57]



Extracts from Address given at the University of Wisconsin, January 14, 1918

[Pg 58]

[Pg 59]



We are engaged in a war, an "irrepressible conflict," a most just and righteous war for a cause as high and noble as ever inspired a people to put forth its utmost of sacrifice and valour. To attain the end for which this peace-loving nation unsheathed its sword, to lay low and make powerless the accursed spirit which brought all this unspeakable misery, sorrow and ruin upon the world, is our one and supreme and unshakable purpose.

That is the purpose of the people of Wisconsin as it is the purpose of the people of New York and of every other State in the Union. I give no credence to and have no patience with those who would[Pg 60] measure as with a thermometer the loyalty temperature of our communities.

Some dreamers there may be, here as everywhere, so immersed in their dreams that the trumpet call of the day has not yet awakened them.

Some politicians there may be, here and elsewhere, so obsessed by the issues which heretofore were good election assets and so unable to shake off the inveterate habits and the formulas and calculations of a lifetime, that they are unable to recognize and to share in the sudden flaming manifestations springing from the deep of the people's soul—and after a while, looking around for their usual followers, find themselves in chilly loneliness.

Some there are, a small minority always and getting smaller every day, among Americans of German birth or descent who lack the vision to see their duty or the strength to follow it, and who stand irresolute, hesitant and dazed.

The vast and overwhelming majority have acted like true men and loyal Ameri[Pg 61]cans. They are entitled to claim your sympathetic understanding for the heartache which is theirs and they are entitled to claim your trust. It will not be misplaced.

I am taking very little account of that insignificant number of men of German origin who, misguided or corrupt, dare by insidious and underground processes to attempt to weaken or oppose the resolute will of the Nation. There are too few of them to count and their manœuvres are too clumsy to be effective. But let them be warned. There is sweeping through the country a mighty wave of stern and grim determination, which bodes ill for anyone standing in its way.


One element only there is in our population which does deliberately challenge our national unity. I mean the militant Bolsheviki in our midst, the preachers and devotees of liberty run amuck, who[Pg 62] would place a visionary class interest above patriotism and who in ignorant fanaticism would substitute for the tyranny of autocracy the still more intolerable tyranny of mob-rule, as for the time being they have done in Russia.

If it were not for the disablement of Russia, the battle against autocracy would have been won by now. As so often before, liberty has been wounded in the house of its friends. Liberty in the wild and freakish hands of fanatics has once more, as frequently in the past, proved the effective helpmate of autocracy and the twin brother of tyranny.

Out-czaring the czar, its votaries are filling the prisons with their political opponents, are practising ruthless spoliation and savage oppression, and are maintaining their self-constituted rule by the force of bayonets. Riot, robbery, famine, fratricidal strife are stalking through the land.

The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied.

[Pg 63] Liberty is not fool-proof. For its beneficent working it demands self-restraint, a sane and clear recognition of the practical and attainable and of the fact that there are laws of nature which are beyond our power to change.

Liberty can, does and must limit the rights of the strong, it must increasingly guard and promote the well-being of those endowed with lesser gifts for the struggle for existence and success, it must strive in every way consistent with sane recognition of the realities to make life more worth living to those whose existence is cast in the mould of the vast average of mankind; it must give political equality, equality before the law; it must throw wide open to talent and worth the door of opportunity.

But it must not attempt in fatuous recklessness to make over humanity on the pattern of absolute equality. If and when it does so attempt, it will fail as that attempt has always failed throughout history. For an inscrutable Providence[Pg 64] has made inequality of endowment a fundamental law of nature, animate as well as inanimate, and from inequality of physical strength, of brain power and of character, springs inevitably the fact of inequality of results.

Envy, demagogism, utopianism, well-meaning uplift agitation may throw themselves against that basic law of all being, but the clash will create merely temporary confusion, destruction and anarchy, as in Russia; and after a little while and much suffering, the supremacy of sanely restrained individualism over frenzied collectivism will reassert itself.


Under the system of wisely ordered liberty, combined with incentive to individual effort whereof the foundation was laid by the far-sighted and enlightened men who created this nation and endowed it with the most sagacious instrument of government that the wit of man has[Pg 65] devised, America has grown and prospered beyond all other nations.

It has stood as a republic for nearly a century and a half, which is far longer than any other genuine republic has endured amongst the great nations of the world since the beginning of the Christian era. Its past has been glorious, the vista of its future is one of boundless opportunity, of splendid fruitfulness for its own people and the world, if it remains but true to its principles and traditions, adjusting their expression and application to the changing needs of the times in a spirit of progress, sympathetic understanding and enlightened justice, but rejecting the teachings and temptations of false, though plausible prophets.

More and more, of late, do we see the very foundations of that majestic and beneficent structure clamorously assailed by some of those to whom the great republic generously gave asylum and to whom she opened wide the portals of her freedom and her opportunities.

[Pg 66] These people with many hundreds of thousands of their countrymen came to our free shores after centuries of oppression and persecution. America gave them everything she had to give—the great gift of the rights and liberties of citizenship, free education in our schools and universities, free treatment in our clinics and hospitals, our boundless opportunities for social and material advancement.

Most of them have proved themselves useful and valuable elements in our many-rooted population. Some of them have accomplished eminent achievements in science, industry and the arts. Certain of the qualities and talents which they contribute to the common stock are of great worth and promise.

But some of them there are who have shown themselves unworthy of the trust of their fellow-citizens; ingrates, disturbers, ignorant of or disloyal to the spirit of America, abusers of her hospitality.

Some there are who have been blinded [Pg 67] by the glare of liberty as a man is blinded who, after long confinement in darkness, comes suddenly into the strong sunlight. Blinded, they dare to aspire to force their guidance upon Americans who for generations have walked in the light of liberty.

They have become drunk with the strong wine of freedom, these men who until they landed on America's coasts had tasted nothing but the bitter waters of tyranny. Drunk, they presume to impose their reeling gait upon Americans to whom freedom has been a pure and refreshing fountain for a century and a half.

Brooding in the gloom of age-long oppression, they have evolved a fantastic and distorted image of free government. In fatuous effrontery they seek to graft the growth of their stunted vision upon the splendid and ancient tree of American institutions.


We will not have it so, we who are Americans by birth or adoption. We reject these impudent pretensions. Changes[Pg 68] the American people will make as their need becomes apparent, improvements they welcome, the greatest attainable well-being for all those under our national roof-tree is their aim; but they will do all that in the American way of sane and orderly progress—and in none other.

Against foes within no less than against enemies without they will know how to preserve and protect the splendid structure of light and order which is the great and treasured inheritance of all those who rightly bear the name Americans, of which the stewardship is entrusted to them and which, God willing, they will hand on to their children sound and wholesome, unshaken and undefiled.

The time is ripe and over-ripe to call a halt upon these spreaders of outlandish and pernicious doctrines. The American is indulgent to a fault and slow to wrath. But he is now passing through a time of tension and strain. His teeth are set and his nerves on edge. He sees more closely approaching every day the dark valley[Pg 69] through which his sons and brothers must pass and from which too many, alas, will not return. It is an evil time to cross him. He is not in the temper to be trifled with. He is apt very suddenly to bring down the indignant fist of his might upon those who would presume on his habitual mood of easy-going good nature.

When I speak of the militant Bolsheviki in our midst as foes of national unity I mean to include those of American stock who are their allies, comrades or followers—those who put a narrow class interest and a sloppy internationalism above patriotism, with whom class hatred and envy have become a consuming passion, whom visionary obsessions and a false conception of equality have inflamed to the point of irresponsibility. But I am far from meaning to reflect upon those who, while determined Socialists, are patriotic Americans.

I believe the Socialistic state to be an impracticable conception, a utopian dream, human nature being what it is, and the[Pg 70] immutable laws of nature being what they are. But there is not a little in Socialistic doctrine and aspirations that is high and noble; there are things, too, that are achievable and desirable.

And to the extent that Socialism is an antidote to and a check upon excessive individualism and holds up to a busy and self-centred and far from perfect world, grievances to be remedied, wrongs to be righted, ideals to be striven for, it is a force distinctly for good.

Still less do I mean to reflect upon the labour union movement, which I regard as an absolutely necessary element in the scheme of our economic life. Its leaders have acted with admirable patriotism in this crisis of the Nation, and on the whole have been a factor against extreme tendencies and irrational aspirations.

Trades unions have not only come to stay, but they are bound, I think, to become an increasingly potent factor in our industrial life. I believe that the most effective preventive against extreme State[Pg 71] Socialism is frank, free and far-reaching co-operation between business and trades unions sobered and broadened increasingly by enhanced opportunities, rights and responsibilities.

And I believe that a further and highly important element which can be counted upon in this country to stand against extreme and destructive tendencies is the bulk of the men and women who are engaged in the nation's greatest and most vital interest, agriculture, provided that the persistent agitation of the demagogue among the farming population is adequately met and that due and timely heed and satisfaction are given to their just requirements and aspirations.


Business must not deal grudgingly with labour. We business men must not look upon labour unrest and aspirations as temporary "troubles," as a passing phase, but we must give to labour willing and liberal recognition as partner with capital.[Pg 72] We must under all circumstances pay as a minimum a decent living wage to everyone who works for a living. We must devise means to cope with the problem of unemployment and to meet the dread advent of sickness, incapacity and old age in the case of those whose means do not permit them to provide for a rainy day.

We must bridge the gulf which now separates the employer and the employee, the business man and the farmer, if the existing order of civilization is to persist. We must welcome progress and seek to further social justice. We must translate into effective action our sympathy for and our recognition of the rights of those whose life, in too many cases, is now a hard and weary struggle to make both ends meet, and who too often are oppressed by the gnawing care of how to find the wherewithal to provide for themselves and their families. We must, by deeds, demonstrate convincingly the genuineness of our desire to see their burden lightened.

We must all join in a sincere and sustained effort towards procuring for the[Pg 73] masses of the people more of ease and comfort, more of the rewards and joys of life than they now possess. I believe this is not only our duty but our interest, because if we wish to preserve the fundamental lines of our present social system we must leave nothing practicable undone to make it more satisfactory and more inviting than it is now to the vast majority of those who toil. And I do not mean those only who toil with their hands, but also the professional men, the men and women in modest salaried positions, in short, the workers in every occupation.

Even before the war, a great stirring and ferment was going on in the land. The people were groping, seeking for a new and better condition of things. The war has intensified that movement. It has torn great fissures in the ancient structure of our civilization. To restore it will require the co-operation of all patriotic men of sane and temperate views, whatever may be their occupation or calling or political affiliations.

It cannot be restored just as it was[Pg 74] before. The building must be rendered more habitable and attractive to those whose claim for adequate house-room cannot be left unheeded, either justly or safely. Some changes, essential changes, must be made.

I have no fear of the outcome and of the readjustment which must come. I have no fear of the forces of freedom unless they be ignored, repressed, or falsely and selfishly led.

But this is not the time for settling complex social questions. When your house is being invaded by burglars you do not discuss family questions. Let us win the war first. Nothing else must now be permitted to occupy our thoughts and divert our aims.

When we shall have attained victory and peace, then will be the time for us to sit down and reason together and make such changes in political and social conditions as, after full and fair discussion, free from heat and passion, the enlightened public opinion of the country deems requisite.

[Pg 75]



Since Pacifism and semi-seditious agitation have become both unpopular and risky, the propagandists of disunion have been at pains in endeavouring to insidiously affect public sentiment by spreading the fiction that America's entrance into the war was fomented by "big business" from selfish reasons and for the purpose of gain. In the same line of thought and purpose they proclaim that this is "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight," and that wealth is being taxed here with undue leniency as compared to the burden laid upon it in other countries.

These assertions are in flat contradiction to the facts.

[Pg 76] Nothing is plainer than that business and business men had everything to gain by preserving the conditions which existed during the two and a half years prior to April, 1917, under which many of them made very large profits by furnishing supplies, provisions and financial aid to the Allied nations, taxes were light and this country was rapidly becoming the great economic reservoir of the world.

Nothing is plainer than that any sane business man in this country must have foreseen that if America entered the war these profits would be immensely reduced, and some of them cut off entirely, because our Government would step in and take charge; that it would cut prices right and left, as in fact it has done; that enormous burdens of taxation would have to be imposed, the bulk of which would naturally be borne by the well-to-do; in short, that the unprecedented golden flow into the coffers of business was bound to stop with our joining the war; or, at any rate, to be much diminished.

[Pg 77] The best indication of the state of feeling of the financial community is usually the New York Stock Exchange. Well, every time a ship with Americans on board was sunk by a German submarine in the period preceding our entrance into the war, the stock market shivered and prices declined.

When, a little over a year ago, Secretary Lansing declared that we were "on the verge of war," a tremendous smash in prices took place on the Stock Exchange. That does not look, does it, as if rich men were particularly eager to bring on war or cheered by the prospect of having war?

But, it is said, the big financiers of New York were afraid that the money loaned by them to the Allied nations might be lost if these nations were defeated, and therefore they manœuvred to get America into the war in order to save their investments. A moment's reflection will show the utter absurdity of that charge.

American bankers have loaned to the Allied nations—almost entirely to the two[Pg 78] strongest and wealthiest among them, France and England—about two billions of dollars since the war started in 1914.

These two billions of dollars of Allied bonds are not held, however, in the coffers of Eastern bankers, but have been distributed throughout the country and are being owned by thousands of banks and other corporations and individuals.

Moreover, they form an insignificant portion of the total debts of the Allied nations; they are offset a hundredfold by their total assets. Even if those nations were to have lost the war it is utterly inconceivable that they would ever have defaulted upon that particular portion of their debt, because, being their foreign debt, it has a special standing and intrinsic security.

It is upon the punctual payment of its foreign obligations that a nation's credit in the markets of the world largely depends, and the maintenance of their world credit was and is absolutely vital to England and France. Furthermore,[Pg 79] the greater portion of these obligations is secured by the deposit of collateral in the shape of American railroad and other bonds, etc., which are more than sufficient in value to cover the debt.

But let us assume for argument's sake that the Allies had been defeated and had defaulted, for the time being, upon these foreign debts; let us assume that the entire amount of Allied bonds placed in America had been held by rich men in New York and the East instead of being distributed, as it is, throughout the country. Why, is it not perfectly manifest that a single year's American war taxation and reduction of profits would take out of the pockets of such assumed holders a vastly greater sum than any possible loss they could have suffered by a default on their Allied bonds, not to mention the heavy taxation which is bound to follow the war for years to come and the shrinkage of fortunes through the decline of all American securities in consequence of our entrance into the war?

[Pg 80] Is it not perfectly manifest to the meanest understanding that any business man fomenting our entrance into the war for the purpose of gain must have been entirely bereft of his senses and would have been a fit subject for the appointment of a guardian to take care of himself and his affairs?


Now as to the allegations concerning taxation.

1. The largest incomes are taxed far more heavily here than anywhere else in the world.

The maximum rate of income taxation here is 67 per cent. In England it is 42½ per cent. Ours is therefore 50 per cent. higher than England's and the rate in England is the highest prevailing anywhere in Europe. Neither republican France nor democratic England—containing in their cabinets Socialists and representatives of labour—nor autocratic Ger[Pg 81]many have an income tax rate anywhere near as high as our maximum rate. And in addition to the federal tax we must bear in mind our state and municipal taxes.

2. Moderate and small incomes, on the other hand, are subject to a far smaller rate of taxation here than in England.

In America, incomes of married men up to $2,000 are not subject to any federal income tax at all.

In England the tax on incomes of $1,000 is 4½%
In England the tax on incomes of 1,500 is 6¾%
In England the tax on incomes of 2,000 is 7⅞%

(These are the rates if the income is derived from salaries or wages; they are still higher if the income is derived from rents or investments.)

The English scale of taxation on incomes of, say, $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000, respectively averages as follows, as compared to the American rates for married men:

[Pg 82]

     In England   In America. 
Income tax rate on $3,000 14% ⅔ of 1%
Income tax rate on 5,000 16% 1½%
Income tax rate on 10,000 20% 3½%
Income tax rate on 15,000 25% 5%

(If we add the so-called "occupational" tax, our total taxation on incomes of $10,000 is 6¾ per cent., and on incomes of $15,000, 9¾ per cent.)

In other words, our income taxation is more democratic than that of any other country, in that the largest incomes are taxed much more heavily, and the small and moderate incomes much more lightly than anywhere else, and incomes up to $2,000 for married men not taxed at all.

3. It is true, on the other hand, that on very large incomes as distinguished from the largest incomes, our income tax is somewhat lower than the English tax, but the difference by which our tax is lower than the English tax is incomparably more pronounced in the case of small and moderate incomes than of large incomes.[Pg 83] Moreover, if we add to our income tax our so-called excess profit tax, which is merely an additional income tax on earnings derived from business, we shall find that the total tax to which rich men are subject is in the great majority of cases heavier here than in England or anywhere else.

4. It is likewise true that the English war excess profit tax is 80 per cent. (less various offsets and allowances) whilst our so-called excess profit tax ranges from 20 per cent. to 60 per cent.

But it is entirely misleading to base a conclusion as to the relative heaviness of the American and British tax merely on a comparison of the rates, because the English tax is assessed on a wholly different basis from the American tax. As a matter of fact, Congress has estimated that the 20 per cent. to 60 per cent. tax on the American basis will produce approximately the same amount in dollars and cents as the 80 per cent. tax is calculated to produce in England. (I know I[Pg 84] shall be answered that we have twice the population of England and twice the wealth. But it must be borne in mind that a far larger proportion of our wealth is represented by farms and other non-industrial property, and that a far larger proportion of our people than of the British people are engaged in agricultural pursuits which are not affected by the excess profit tax. I believe it will be found that the total wealth employed in business in America is not so greatly superior to the total wealth similarly employed by Great Britain.)

The American excess profit law so called taxes all profits derived from business over and above a certain moderate percentage, regardless of whether or not such profits are the result of war conditions. The American tax is a general tax on income derived from business, in addition to the regular income tax. The English tax applies only to excess war profits; that is, only to the sum by which profits in the war years exceed the average profits on[Pg 85] the three years preceding the war, which in England were years of great prosperity.

In other words, the English tax is nominally higher than ours, but it applies only to war profits. The normal profits of business, i. e. the profits which business used to make in peace time, are exempted in England. There, only the excess over peace profits is taxed. Our tax, on the contrary, applies to all profits over and above a very moderate rate on the money invested in business.

In short, our law-makers have decreed that normal business profits are taxed here much more heavily than in England, while direct war profits are taxed less heavily. You will agree with me in questioning both the logic and the justice of that method. It would seem that it would be both fairer and wiser and more in accord with public sentiment if the tax on business in general were decreased and, on the other hand, an increased tax were imposed on specific war profits.

5. Our federal inheritance tax is far[Pg 86] higher than in England or anywhere else. The maximum rate here on direct descendants is 27½ per cent. as against 20 per cent. in England. In addition we have State inheritance taxes which do not exist in England.


Much is being said about the plausible sounding contention that because a portion of the young manhood of the Nation has been conscripted, therefore money also must be conscripted. Why, that is the very thing the Government has been doing. It has conscripted a portion, a relatively small portion, of the men of the Nation. It has conscripted a portion, a large portion, of the incomes of the Nation. If it went too far in conscripting men, the country would be crippled. If it went too far in conscripting incomes and earnings, the country would likewise be crippled.

Those who would go further and conscript not only incomes but capital, I[Pg 87] would ask to answer the riddle not only in what equitable and practicable manner they would do it,[1] but what the Nation would gain by it?

[1] It is true that a few years ago a capital levy was made in Germany, but the percentage of that levy was so small as to actually amount to no more than an additional income tax, and that at a time when the regular income tax in Germany was very moderate as measured by the present standards of income taxation.

Only a trifling fraction of a man's property is held in cash. If they conscript a certain percentage of his possessions in stocks and bonds, what would the Government do with them?

Keep them? That would not answer its purpose, because the Government wants cash, not securities.

Sell them? Who is to buy them when everyone's funds are depleted?

If they conscript a certain percentage of a man's real estate or mine or farm or factory, how is that to be expressed and converted into cash?

Are conscripted assets to be used as a [Pg 88] basis for the issue of Federal Reserve Bank Notes? That would mean gross inflation with all its attendant evils, dangers and deceptions.

Would they repudiate a percentage of the National Debt? Repudiation is no less dishonourable in a people than in an individual, and the penalty for failure to respect the sanctity of obligations is no different for a nation than for an individual.

The fact is that the Government would gain nothing in the process of capital conscription and the country would be thrown into chaos for the time being. The man who has saved would be penalized; he who has wasted would be favoured. Thrift and constructive effort, resulting in the needful and fructifying accumulation of capital, would be arrested and lastingly discouraged.

I can understand the crude notion of the man who would divide all possessions equally. There would be mighty little coming to anyone by such distri[Pg 89]bution and it is, of course, an utterly impossible thing to do, but it is an understandable notion. But by the confiscation of capital for Government use neither the Government nor any individual would be benefited.

A vigorously progressive income tax is both economically and socially sound. A capital tax is wholly unsound and economically destructive. It may nevertheless become necessary in the case of some of the belligerent countries to resort to this expedient, but I can conceive of no situation likely to arise which would make it necessary or advisable in this country. More than ever would such a tax be harmful in times of war and post-bellum reconstruction, when beyond almost all other things it is essential to stimulate production and promote thrift, and when everything which tends to have the opposite effect should be rigorously rejected as detrimental to the Nation's strength and well-being.

There is an astonishing lot of hazy[Pg 90] thinking on the subject of the uses of capital in the hands of its owners. The rich man can only spend a relatively small sum of money unproductively or selfishly. The money that it is in his power to actually waste is exceedingly limited. The bulk of what he has must be spent and used for productive purposes, just as would be the case if it were spent by the Government, with this difference, however, that, generally speaking, the individual is more painstaking and discriminating in the use of his funds and at the same time bolder, more imaginative, enterprising and constructive than the Government with its necessarily bureaucratic and routine regime possibly could be. Money in the hands of the individual is continuously and feverishly on the search for opportunities, i. e. for creative and productive use. In the hands of the Government it is apt to lose a good deal of its fructifying energy and ceaseless striving and to sink instead into placid and somnolent repose.

[Pg 91] Taxation presupposes earnings. Our credit structure is based upon values, and values are largely determined by earnings. Shrinkage of values necessarily affects our capacity to provide the Government with the sinews of war.

There need not be and there should not be any conflict between profits and patriotism. I am utterly opposed to those who would utilize their country's war as a means to enrich themselves. Extortionate profits must not be tolerated, but, on the other hand, there should be a reasonably liberal disposition towards business and a willingness to see it make substantial earnings. To deny this is to deny human nature.

Men will give their lives to their country as a matter of plain and natural duty; men, without a moment's hesitation, will quit their business and devote their entire time and energy and effort to the affairs of the Nation, as a great many have done and every one of us stands ready to do, without any thought of compensation.[Pg 92] But, generally speaking, men will not take business risks, will not venture, will not be enterprising and constructive, will not take upon themselves the responsibilities, the chance of loss, the strain, the wear and tear and worry and care of intense business activity if they do not have the prospect of adequate monetary reward, even though a large part of that reward is taken away again in the shape of taxation.


Reverting now to the subject of the conscription of men, I know I speak the sentiment of all those beyond the years of young manhood when I say that there is not one of us worthy of the name of a man who would not willingly go to fight if the country needed or wanted us to fight. But the country does not want or call its entire manhood to fight. It does not even call anywhere near its entire young manhood. It has called, or intends to call in the immediate future,[Pg 93] perhaps 25 per cent. of its men between 20 and 30 years of age, which means probably about 4 per cent. of its total male population of all ages. In other words, it calls only for such number of men as appears indicated by the needs of the country, and as corresponds to a prudent estimate of the task before it.

I am far from meaning to compare the loss of income or profits with the risk of life or health to which men in the firing line are exposed, or to compare financial sacrifices to those willingly and proudly borne by the youth of our land and shared by those near and dear to them. But I do believe it to be a just contention—not in the interest of the individual, but of the welfare of the community—that the same principle which is applied in the case of the conscription of men should hold good for the conscription of income or profits; i. e. so much thereof should be taken by the State as is required by a prudent estimate of the task before it and as best promotes the[Pg 94] accomplishment of that task, bearing in mind that the preservation of the country's economic power is next in importance for winning the war to its military power. Vindictiveness, extremist theories and demagogism ought to have no place in arriving at that estimate.

I have no patience with or tolerance for the "war profiteer," as the term is understood. The "war hog" is a nuisance and an ignominy. He should be dealt with just as drastically as is possible without doing damage to national interests in the process. But neither have I patience with or tolerance for the man who would use his country's war as a means to promote his pet theories or his political fortunes at the expense of national unity at a time when we should all be united in mutual goodwill and co-operative effort.

And if we do talk about the formula, "conscription of men—conscription of wealth," let it be understood that we have called less than 5 per cent. of the Nation's entire male population, but have[Pg 95] called from incomes, business profits and other imposts falling principally on the well-to-do, approximately 90 per cent. of our war taxation, not to mention the contribution to the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A. and other war relief activities.

Let me add in passing that the children of the well-to-do have been taken for the war in proportionately greater numbers than the children of the poor, because those young men who are needed at home to support dependents or to maintain essential war industries are exempted from the draft.

Moreover, to an overwhelming degree the sons of the well-to-do have not waited to be conscripted. They have volunteered in masses—a far greater percentage of them than those in less advantageous circumstances. That is merely as it should be. Having greater advantages, they have corresponding duties. Not having dependents to take care of, they can better afford to volunteer than those less fortunately situated.

But the patriotic zeal of the sons of[Pg 96] the well-to-do in coming forward to offer their lives to the country does give a doubly false and sickening sound to the ranting of the agitator who would arouse class hatred—who calls this "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight" when an overwhelming percentage of the sons of the men of means have eagerly and freely offered themselves for military service, when the draft exemption regulations, discriminate not, as in former wars, in favour of the rich man's son but in favour of the poor woman's son, and when capital and business pay more than four-fifths of our war taxation directly and a large share of the remaining one-fifth indirectly.

I do not say all this to plead for a reduction of the taxation on wealth, or in order to urge that no additional taxes be imposed on wealth if need be. There is no limit to the burden which, in time of stress and strain, those must be willing to bear who can afford it, except only that limit which is imposed by the consideration that taxation must not reach a point where the[Pg 97] business activity of the country becomes crippled, and its economic equilibrium is thrown out of gear, because that would harm every element of the commonwealth and diminish the war-making capacity of the Nation.


The question of the individual is not the one that counts. The question is not what sacrifices capital should and would be willing to bear if called upon, but what taxes it is to the public advantage to impose.

Taxation must be sound and wise and scientific, and cannot be laid in a haphazard way or on impulse or according to considerations of politics. Otherwise, the whole country will suffer. History has shown over and over again that the laws of economics cannot be defied with impunity and that the resulting penalty falls upon all sections and classes.

I realize but too well that the burden of the abnormally high cost of living,[Pg 98] caused largely by the war, weighs heavily indeed upon wage earners and still more upon men and women with moderate salaries. I yield to no one in my desire to see everything done that is practicable to have that burden lightened. But excessive taxation on capital will not accomplish that; on the contrary, it will rather tend to intensify the trouble.

We men of business are ready and willing to be taxed in this emergency to the very limit of our ability, and to make contributions to war relief work and other good causes, without stint. The fact is that, generally speaking, capital engaged in business is now being taxed in America more heavily than anywhere else in the world. We are not complaining about this; we do not say that it may not become necessary to impose still further taxes; we are not whimpering and squealing and agitating, but—we do want the people to know what are the present facts, and we ask them not to give heed to the demagogue who would make them believe[Pg 99] that we are escaping our share of the common burden.

May I hope that I have measurably succeeded in demonstrating that the allegations with which the propagandists of disunion have been assailing the public mind are without foundation in fact. And may I add, in conclusion, that the charge of "big business" having fomented our entrance into the war is one which, apart from its intrinsic absurdity, is a hateful calumny. Business men, great or small, are no different from other Americans, and we reject the thought that any American, rich or poor, would be capable of the hideous and dastardly plot to bring upon his country the sorrows and sufferings of war in order to enrich himself.

Business men are bound to be exceedingly heavy financial losers through America's entrance into the war. Every element of self-interest should have caused them to use their utmost efforts to preserve America's neutrality from which they drew so much profit during the two[Pg 100] and a half years before April, 1917. Every consideration of personal advantage commanded men of affairs to stand with and support the agitation of the "peace-at-any-price" party. They spurned such ignoble reasoning; they rejected that affiliation; they stood for war when it was no longer possible, with safety and honour, to maintain peace, because they are patriotic citizens first and business men afterwards.

The insinuation that "big business" had any share in influencing our Government's decision to enter the war is an insult to the President and Congress, a libel on American citizenship, and a malicious perversion or ignorant misconception of the facts. Those who continue to circulate that insinuation lay themselves open to just suspicion of their motives and should receive neither credence nor tolerance.

[Pg 101]



Some months ago a leading American lawyer, while visiting Paris, was discussing with a group of prominent Frenchmen the attitude and sympathies of various Americans towards the nations engaged in the European War.

The discussion turned toward the disposition of Mr. Y. of New York. Some one said that he assumed that his sympathies and views were pro-German, because of his German ancestry and his business connections in Germany.

"Oh, no," spoke up one of the distinguished Frenchmen present. "I happen to know the contrary to be the fact, because some time ago I saw a long and comprehensive letter from Mr. Y. to a relative in Germany, in which he showed not only pronounced sympathy for the Allies, but a thorough understanding of their cause, and scathingly arraigned the German Government and policy."

It appears that this letter had been singled out in the operation of the censorship of letters between the United States and Germany and had been brought to the attention of official representatives of the Allied Governments. It should be noted that at the time the letter was written, namely in the early part of 1915, [Pg 102] the censorship of letters between the United States and Germany had not yet been officially established, and it was believed that only correspondence from and to suspected persons and firms was being opened, and the writer had no reason to expect that this particular letter would come under the scrutiny of the censor.

The American lawyer, upon returning to New York, related to Mr. Y. the incident of the conversation and asked to be allowed to read a copy of the letter in question. Having perused it, he urged Mr. Y. to have it printed. In accordance with the suggestion, the letter, together with the correspondence which preceded it, is reprinted in the following pages.

This letter was written in June, 1915, to a prominent business man in Germany. A few of the passages contained in the letter as here given are taken from an earlier letter (March, 1915) written to the same person.

The original letters were in German. The following translation was made by the author.

It is needless to inform the reader as to the identity of Mr. Y.

    August, 1918.

[Pg 103]


New York, June 28, 1915.

Dear X.:

Many thanks for your very interesting letter of April 27th. The spirit which animates Germany is indeed a great and mighty one. It is a spirit of unity and brotherhood among her people, of willing sacrifice and heroic striving, coupled with the passionate conviction and faith that her cause is just and righteous, that it must and will win, and that not only is victory a necessity for national existence, but that in its train it will bring blessings to the whole of the universe.

Wherever and whenever in the world's history such a spirit—born of the stirring of the profoundest depths of national or[Pg 104] religious feeling—has manifested itself, it has invariably been attended by a more or less marked fanaticism among the people concerned; by a condition of mind easily comprehensible as a psychological phenomenon, yet acutely prejudicial to the ability to preserve an objective point of view, and to arrive at an impartial judgment.

It is but natural that in the atmosphere which surrounds you and under existing circumstances, a man even of such sober, clear and independent mentality as yourself should think and feel in the way manifested by your letter. Even if it were in my power, I would not try at this time to shake your faith and patriotic determination. Since, however, you ask me to continue this exchange of opinions, I will endeavour further to make plain to you my ideas as to this most deplorable and accursed war.

The views I am expressing are, I believe, the views as well of the great majority of thinking people in America. And I[Pg 105] would remind you that America as a whole, by reason of the racial composition of her population, is essentially free from national prejudice or racial bias. With her many millions of inhabitants of German origin, her disposition could not be anti-German in the ordinary course of affairs—and indeed never was so before the war.

With her millions of Jews and her liberal tendencies she cannot be pro-Russian. With her historical development in the course of which her only serious wars have been fought against Great Britain (which country, moreover, during certain critical periods in the Civil War between North and South, evidenced inclination to favour the South and thus aroused long continuing resentment in the Northern States), and for many other reasons, her disposition cannot be that of an English partisan—and was not so before the war.

The predominant sentiment of the American people in the Boer War was anti-English; in the Balkan War their[Pg 106] sympathies were pro-Turkish; in the Italian-Turkish War, anti-Italian; in the Russo-Japanese War, pro-Japanese, although it was fully realized that from the point of view of America's material and national interests, the strengthening of Japan was hardly desirable.

It may sound to you very improbable, yet it is none the less true that America, of all the great nations, is probably the one least swayed by eagerness to attain material advantage for herself through her international policies. I do not claim that this arises necessarily from any particular virtue in her people. It may be rather the result of her geographical and economic situation.

America returned to China the indemnity growing out of the Boxer Rebellion. To Spain, conquered and helpless, she paid, entirely of her own free-will, $20,000,000 for the Philippines. She refused to annex Cuba. In spite of strong provocation she abstained from taking Mexico.

[Pg 107] Although not a land as yet of the highest degree of culture, America is a land of high and genuine humanitarianism and of a certain naïve idealism.

I hear your ironic rejoinder, "and out of pure humanitarianism, you supply arms to our enemies, and thus prolong the war."

The answer lies in the accentuation of the last four words, which can only mean that, but for the American supply of arms, the Allies, from lack of ammunition, would speedily be defeated, i. e. America is to co-operate in preserving for that country which has most extensively and actively prepared for war, the full and lasting advantage of that preparation.

That would put a premium on war preparations—on an armed and therefore necessarily precarious peace—since it is but human nature that, given a difference which he considers serious enough for ground for a quarrel, a man armed to the teeth would be less inclined to settle the matter peaceably than one who is not so well prepared for a fight.

[Pg 108] Apart from this, the German complaint about the prolongation of the war through the American supply of arms is proof in itself that the refusal of such supplies would constitute a positive act of partiality in favour of Germany.

And the great majority of Americans are convinced that the ruling powers of Germany and Austria, though not perhaps the people themselves, are responsible for the outbreak of the war; that they have sinned against humanity and justice; that at least France and England did not want war; that therefore its advent found them in a comparatively unprepared state, and that it would constitute a decided, serious and unjustifiable action of far-reaching effect against the Allies if America were to put an embargo on war munitions—especially so in view of the fact that as a direct consequence of the treaty-defying invasion of Belgium you are in possession of the Belgian arms factories and iron mines and of about 75 per cent. of all the ore-producing capacity of France.

[Pg 109] For neutrals to supply war materials to belligerents is an ancient, unquestioned right, recognized by international law and frequently practised by yourselves. To alter, during the course of a war, a practice sanctioned by the law of nations and hitherto always followed, would constitute a flagrant breach of neutrality, in that it would necessarily help one side and harm the other.

The fact that at one time we forbade the export of arms to Mexico affords no argument in favour of the German contention, for there it was not a case of war between nations, but of civil war. There was also the danger that such arms might eventually be used against America herself, given the possibility that intervention by us in Mexico might later on become necessary.

Commissions from Germany for the supply of arms would have been as acceptable to our factories as were those from the Allies. It is not America's fault if the German fleet does not break through the[Pg 110] British cordon and open the way for sea communication with Germany. The superiority of the British fleet and the resulting consequences must have been known to Germany before she permitted the outbreak of this horrible war. She has no more right to make a grievance of these consequences than the Allies have a right to complain of Germany's superior preparedness and the greater perfection of her instruments of war.

To believe American public opinion influenced by the profits which come to this country from the supply of arms, is to misunderstand completely the American mode of thought and feeling. Moreover these profits go to very few pockets, and public opinion here being anything but unduly complacent towards large corporations and capitalists is by no means inclined to view with favour the gathering in of these huge profits by a very limited number of individuals and concerns.

You quote with approval General von Schlieffen's remark that "in war, after all,[Pg 111] the only thing that matters is those silly old victories."

You would surely not say that in the individual's daily struggle for existence or in competitive industrial strife, "the only thing that matters" is success. Rather you would be the first to grant, as you have always demonstrated in your acts, that there are certain ethical limitations laid down by the conscience and the moral conceptions of humanity, which must be respected in the struggle for success, however keen, even though the very existence of the individual and the maintenance of wife and child be at stake.

Schlieffen's utterance, in the meaning which your quotation gives it, throws overboard everything that civilization and the humanitarian progress of centuries has accomplished towards lessening the cruelty, the hatred and the suffering engendered by war, and towards protecting non-combatants, as far as possible, from its terrors. It is tantamount to the[Pg 112] doctrine of the fanatical Jesuit: "The end justifies the means."

And it is something akin to this very doctrine which Germany has made her own and applied in her conduct of this war as she has done in none of her previous wars. The conviction that everything, literally everything, which tends to ensure victory is permitted to her, and indeed called for, has now evidently assumed the power of a national obsession. Thus, the violation of innocent Belgium in defiance of solemn treaty; the unspeakable treatment inflicted on her people; the bombardment, without warning, of open places (which Germany was the first to practise); the destruction of great monuments of art which belonged to all humankind, as in Rheims, and Louvain; the Lusitania horror, the strewing of mines broadcast, the use of poisonous gases causing death by torture or incurable disease; the taking of hostages; the arbitrary imposition of monetary indemnities and penalties, and so forth.[Pg 113] It is these facts that the non-combatant nations charge against Germany, and quite apart from the responsibility for the war, it is in them that may be found the main reason why public opinion in neutral countries has more and more turned against Germany as the war has continued.

I say "innocent Belgium," for it is entirely evident that the Belgian-English pourparlers, of which Germany discovered documentary evidence, related merely to the eventuality of Germany's violating Belgian neutrality, and therefore in no way constituted a relinquishment of neutrality on Belgium's part. In so far as these pourparlers did not keep strictly within these limits (manifestly as a result of excessive zeal on the part of the English military attaché in question) they were formally and categorically rejected and disavowed, by both the Belgian and English Governments. This is shown by official papers which have been published. It cannot be doubted that these proceedings[Pg 114] of disavowal were entirely bona fide, for they took place at a time and under circumstances such that no one could possibly have imagined that the correspondence evidencing them would ever see the light of day. Inasmuch as you mention these Anglo-Belgian pourparlers as among the reasons justifying Germany's invasion of Belgium, it is worth pointing out that this treaty defying invasion was perpetrated before Germany had discovered the existence of the documents which evidenced that such pourparlers had taken place.

Germany's reasoning that she was compelled to take the initiative in violating the treaty of neutrality in order to avoid the imminent danger that England and France would do so first and thereupon advance troops against her through Belgium, is, even if such reasoning were morally admissible, no valid argument; for, only a few days before, England and France had solemnly pledged themselves in the face of the whole world to respect Belgium's neutrality.

[Pg 115] If, as you believe, England had been planning for years to attack Germany via Belgium, would she not then have had in readiness an invading force somewhere near adequate for such an undertaking? Instead she had the mere bagatelle of 75,000 or 100,000 men, which in the first months of the war actually constituted her whole available continental fighting force.

To any one of unprejudiced judgment there remains, therefore, no choice but the conclusion that Germany's violation of Belgium did not even have the excuse of being a measure of self-defence, but, as the Chancellor in effect admitted in his first speech on the subject in the Reichstag, was undertaken simply because "in war the only thing that matters is those silly old victories."

Not, as you say, in obedience to England's command (what power had England either to command or enforce her commands?), but from a compelling impulse of national honour did Belgium oppose the German breach of neutrality with[Pg 116] force of arms, though it would evidently have been to her material interest to comply with Germany's summons or at any rate to offer merely nominal resistance.

Holland and Switzerland would have done the same thing under similar circumstances, as would any other self-respecting nation. Moreover, what weight could Belgium attach to Germany's promise of immunity in case she yielded, when at the very moment Germany, by her own act, was demonstrating but too clearly how little she considered herself bound by her promise or indeed by a solemn international treaty?

What the Germans have accomplished on the battlefields, as well as within their own country, is proof of such great national qualities, that it compels the tribute of admiration, even from your enemies. These qualities would indeed have gone far to justify her claim to hegemony, had they not been linked unfortunately—at least among your ruling classes and intellectual leaders—with ways[Pg 117] of thought and action which are anti-humanitarian, oppressive and generally intolerable to the rest of the world.

The theory of "frightfulness" in the conduct of warfare which Germany now preaches and practises is no new discovery. On the contrary it is a very ancient one—so old, in fact, that long ago it had come to be discarded and superseded in European warfare and passed into the limbo of forgotten things. There, until resurrected by your countrymen, it lay for generations, along with much else which the human race had overcome and left behind in the progress of culture and humanity—a progress achieved by strenuous toil, sacrifices and suffering in the course of many centuries.

Such words and ideas are met with contempt and derision by your spokesmen and termed mere phrases and sentimentality. If these are mere phrases then the whole upward struggle of the world for endless years past has been based upon and aiming at phrases and sentimentality.

[Pg 118] I read recently an article in a German paper written by one of your professors of international law, in which he maintained, evidently quite unconscious of the incredible monstrosity of his logic, that, because the Russians in their invasion of East Prussia had acted like barbarians, you therefore had the unquestioned right, as a measure of reprisal, to bombard and destroy Oxford and Cambridge!

And what have you gained from your "frightfulness"? Your victories have been due to quite other qualities. By your "frightfulness" you have steeled your enemies to the utmost limit of sacrifice; you have embittered neutral opinion; you have disappointed and grieved your friends and "sown dragons' teeth," the offspring of which will arise against you many years even after the conclusion of peace.

How differently would you be judged now if you had tempered your mighty power with mercy and self-restraint; if with the consciousness and use of superior[Pg 119] strength and ability you had coupled chivalry and generosity!

You say that Germany is the only great Power which has kept the peace for forty-four years, and made no conquest of territory of any kind by force of arms. It is pertinent to recall in reference to this statement, that in the course of these forty-four years Germany virtually by force has taken a strategically important piece of China, waged war against the Hereros and annexed colonies in Africa and in the Pacific (receiving in exchange for one of them the strategically most valuable island of Heligoland). Yet, speaking generally, the world is bound to recognize with gratitude and admiration that from 1871 to 1914 Germany has refrained from using her enormous military power in attempts at conquest.

Has she had cause to complain of the results of this wise and far-seeing policy?

During that comparatively short period of time she had grown more powerful than any other country. In the well-being of[Pg 120] her people, in her wealth and prestige she had advanced and flourished as no other nation. Her industries, her merchant marine had brought her conquest and triumph unequalled in the world's economic history, which find a parallel only in the wonderful military achievements of the Napoleonic era.

Without firing a gun she had turned Holland and Belgium practically into German dependencies. She had achieved predominance in Turkey and established a firm footing in Asia Minor. Her influence in South America and Asia was increasing by leaps and bounds. Even in the British colonies the victorious efficiency of the German commercial conquerors was making itself felt more and more.

And as to this newly discovered naval militarism of England which, you say, "is seeking to force England's will upon the whole world by the force of her mighty fleet," what has it ever done to bar the way to your commerce? Absolutely nothing. A few days ago I read a letter[Pg 121] of an American traveller, from which I quote the following extracts:

"Not many years ago I sat on the club veranda at Singapore and counted twenty-five funnels of a single German steamer line. From Singapore I went to North Borneo; there was but one line, a German, and that line carried the British mail. Later I went to Siam from Singapore. It was on a steamer of this same German line, carrying British mail. There was no other. Thence I went to Hongkong by the same excellent German line. Later I went to Australia—it was by one of this same line. To Java and the Eastern Archipelago, to Penang—it was always this vast German company, doing not only all the German, but the British mail service as well. The German traders, with whom I mixed freely, marvelled at the infantile generosity with which Great Britain opened all her ports to German enterprise, although long-headed people shook their heads at the thought of German skippers having a better acquaintance with British waters than their own people.

"Nowhere in the British colonial world have I found the slightest evidence of commercial monopoly and certainly no favouring of Englishmen at the expense of Germans. Even in India the German commercial traveller has roamed at will and driven Englishmen out of business under the very noses of the Calcutta Council.

"In the Imperial German colonies, on the other hand, competing English traders have been treated to a systematic course of petty official restrictions [Pg 122]so vexatious that finally they have given up the attempt to do business under German conditions. When I was in German New Guinea this official persecution went so far that a British trading steamer was even forbidden to get water in order to force it to abandon trade with the natives of that neighbourhood.

"Some British colonies, it is true, do now discriminate in favour of the mother country, but the colonies who do that are self-governing and therefore beyond the mother country's control in economic matters, like Canada. But in so-called Crown colonies like Hongkong, the German trader has the same advantage as any other."

England has not abused her power at sea, at least since the eighteenth century, any more than you, previous to this present war, have abused your power on land. Not only has she not stood in the way of your development, but on the contrary she has given you fair and free access to her markets, with unparalleled liberality.

That England should now make every endeavour to carry on a strict sea blockade against Germany and should do so in a manner which takes account of the existing circumstances and novel instruments of naval warfare, is, in the opinion of our[Pg 123] leading lawyers, her perfect right, as far at least as it is a matter only between her and Germany. In the same way the North, during the four years of the American Civil War, did all in her power compatible with the law of nations to prevent, both directly and indirectly, export and import traffic through Southern harbours.

It is true that dissatisfaction has been caused in this country by the interference of England with American commerce. In fact such dissatisfaction is on the increase and is likely to lead in the early future to a vigorous protest on the part of our Government. But the objections to England's practice in no wise depend on any idea of questioning the right under international law of a complete and effective blockade.

To call this perfectly natural and legitimate and frequently practised measure of warfare "a war of starvation" against women and children is a good deal of an exaggeration. Though inconvenienced, you are very far from the danger of[Pg 124] starvation. Indeed, all your spokesmen not only admit this fact but defiantly proclaim it.

That against that blockade as well as for the destruction of English commerce you are making use of your amazingly perfected submarines appears to me entirely justified, so long as in that use you keep within the limits of legitimate warfare. Nor do I deny that England, in certain respects, has arbitrarily and it seems rather fatuously interfered with the rights of neutrals; that she has employed against you some irritating measures of petty and apparently purposeless chicanery and given you cause for resentment by certain vindictive and perhaps unfair provisions and procedures enacted at the very start of the war against German firms and German interests within English jurisdiction.

It must also, I believe, be admitted that you were justified in looking upon some of the boastful edicts of Winston Churchill, with reference to the conduct of English merchant vessels, as provocations which[Pg 125] gave you legitimate ground for retaliation within recognized limitations.

But that Germany should have used these provocations and this phrase of "starvation warfare" as a basis for reprisals which actually do constitute warfare against women and children, is a blow in the face to the world's conscience.

Against England's infringements of the strict limits of neutral rights and against the subjecting of neutrals to certain unjust, irritating and rather senseless annoyances, America has not failed to protest. She has in several cases received satisfaction and acceptable assurances. She should, and, I have no doubt, she will insist firmly on her rights in the cases still under discussion. But—and that makes the vast difference between the English and German infractions of the rights of neutrals—in no single case have such acts on the part of England involved the sacrifice of a human life.

You say that Germany is not responsible for the war. It is nevertheless a fact[Pg 126] that it was Germany who first declared war. Perhaps it would have come even if not declared by Germany, but in that "perhaps" lies a fearful burden of responsibility.

You speak of the vast "Austro-German inferiority" in fighting men, as compared to France and Russia, which you had to counteract by rapidity and initiative of proceeding.

First, this inferiority of your 120 millions to the Franco-Russian 200 millions (the English, at that time, could not have entered into your reckoning) is not such a "vast" one, even on paper, when one considers how many millions of the Russians could not for many months be included in the reckoning, in consequence of the huge distances separating them from the scene of action.

Secondly, you had the enormous advantage of strategic railroads, which the Russians lacked.

Thirdly, you and the Austrians occupying contiguous territory and holding the[Pg 127] inner lines were able to move your troops from East to West, and vice versa, as occasion demanded, while the Russians and French were separated and had to fight on the outer lines; and—

Fourthly, every one knows that in modern warfare far less depends on the number of men than on preparation, leadership and ammunition. And that in these respects the Russians certainly, and at the outset also the French, laboured under a "vast inferiority" is not open to question.

It cannot be admitted therefore that the fact of the Russian mobilization made it a necessity for you to precipitate war, especially on the very day when Austria, who was in a far more exposed position than you, declared herself ready at last, notwithstanding the Russian mobilization, to enter into direct diplomatic discussion with Russia.

If Germany had waited but three days after that declaration by her ally, before delivering her ultimatum to Russia, either[Pg 128] the war would have been avoided altogether, or Russia would have had to face the world as the aggressor, with all the forces of what Bismarck termed "imponderabilia" against her. And it would be an insult to Germany's efficiency to question that she could have found measures short of rushing into war, to meet and offset for another few days the menace of Russian mobilization—apart from the fact that there is some reason to suspect that this Russian mobilization on the German frontier was deliberately provoked by certain Machiavellian manœuvres in Berlin.

On the 30th and 31st of July, respectively, Sir Edward Grey telegraphed as follows to the English ambassador in Berlin for transmission to the Imperial Chancellor:

"... You should speak to the Chancellor in the above sense, and add most earnestly that one way of maintaining good relations with England and Germany is that they should continue to work together to preserve the peace of Europe. If we succeed in this object, the mutual relations of [Pg 129]Germany and England will, I believe, be ipso facto improved and strengthened. For that object his Majesty's Government will work in that way with all sincerity and good will....

"And I will say this: If the peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present crisis safely passed, my own endeavour will be to promote some arrangement to which Germany could be a party, by which she could be assured that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pursued against her or her allies by France, Russia and ourselves, jointly or separately. I have desired this and worked for it, as far as I could, through the last Balkan crisis and, Germany having a corresponding object, our relations sensibly improved. The idea has hitherto been too Utopian to form the subject of definite proposals, but if this present crisis, so much more acute than any that Europe has gone through for generations, be safely passed, I am hopeful that the relief and reaction which will follow may make possible some more definite rapprochement between the Powers than has been possible hitherto....

"I said to the German Ambassador this morning that if Germany could get any reasonable proposal put forward which made it clear that Germany and Austria were striving to preserve European peace, and that Russia and France would be unreasonable if they rejected it, I would support it at St. Petersburg and Paris, and go to the length of saying that if Russia and France would not accept it, his Majesty's Government would have nothing more to do with the consequences; otherwise, I told the German Ambassador [Pg 130]that if France became involved we should be drawn in."

Is this the language of one seeking a quarrel? Why did not Germany act upon the suggestions put forth so urgently, ringing so manifestly true and bearing so evidently the stamp of good faith? Why was the calamity of war thrust upon the world in such hot haste, that you did not even previously inform, far less consult, your then allies, the Italians, in spite of the provisions of the Triple Alliance?

Is it not proved by declarations of Giolitti—certainly no enemy to Germany—before the Italian Parliament some six months back, that Austria wanted to make war upon Servia as much as two years ago, that is to say, long before the assassination of the Austrian heir-apparent afforded the pretext for an ultimatum which spelled war? I know sufficient of the sentiment prevailing in England and France before the war, as well as of the tendencies of the political leaders and other leading men in those countries, to be absolutely positive[Pg 131] that, apart from a few individuals given to noise-making, but not possessing weight or real influence, the people and the Governments of France and England were very far indeed from wanting war.

On the other hand, I agree with you in believing that the Pan-Slavist party in Russia did plan to bring on war. However, they did not want it yet and it is altogether doubtful whether they would have succeeded in their design had they been met by a firm, wise and conciliatory policy on the part of Germany and Austria.

These opponents (the Russians), by themselves, as results thus far have shown, and as seemed evident in advance to sober observers, you need never to have considered as your peers in a military sense.

Rather than take the awful responsibility of initiating war, and thus uniting England, France and Russia whole-heartedly against you, you could well have afforded, in calm confidence in your[Pg 132] superior efficiency and preparation, to take the lesser risk of letting the Russians come on whenever, in fatuous arrogance, they might have believed themselves strong enough to tackle you and Austria.

In an offensive war, undertaken by Russia, France would have joined, if at all, only half-heartedly, and with her public opinion strongly divided. No English Government, however jingo-militarist, could have obtained the sanction of Parliament to take part in such a war. Your ally, Italy, would in that case not have forsaken you. Public opinion and the moral support of the neutral nations would have been strongly with you. You would assuredly, under such circumstances, have given the Russians a bad beating, and the world in general would have rejoiced exceedingly at the aggressor's discomfiture.

That the large majority of the people of Germany did not want war, I do not doubt, although (as was not the case in England and France) there has been in existence in your country for years a[Pg 133] rather alarmingly active and influential party whose open aim was war, and particularly a reckoning with England.

Many of your intellectuals, and particularly many of the teachers of your youth, had come to preach the deification of sheer might. They proclaimed with fanatical arrogance the doctrine that the German nation being the chosen people, superior to all others, was therefore not only permitted, but, indeed, called upon, to impose the blessings of its civilization and "Kultur" upon other countries, by force if necessary, and to help itself to such of their possessions as it deemed necessary for the fulfilment of its destiny.

I believe it is not too much to say that that doctrine and the spirit which bred it are very much akin, in their intolerance, self-righteous assumption of a world-improving mission, lack of understanding of and contemptuous disallowance for the differing view-points, qualities and methods of others, to the doctrines and the spirit that lay at the bottom of the[Pg 134] religious wars throughout the long and evil years when Catholics and Protestants killed one another and wrought appalling bloodshed, destruction and ruin, for the purpose of conferring upon their respective countries the blessings of "the true religion."

Liberal press organs and calm-thinking men in Germany frequently before the war expressed their disapproval of, and misgivings at such preachings and the tendencies and agitation of the jingo party, though naturally you now all stand together and have put aside for the time being the party differences and conflicting opinions and points of view which prevailed prior to the war.

I agree with you in believing, notwithstanding the machinations of the war party, that the Kaiser and the Chancellor, up to a certain fatal moment, when they yielded their judgments to others, meant, bona fide, to preserve peace. I am quite persuaded as well that the mass of the German people did not want war and are[Pg 135] entirely honest in their practically unanimous belief that Germany is not responsible for the war, although, unfortunately, the facts prove the contrary.

It is conceivable that you might have been justified in coming forward boldly and straightforwardly and saying to the Triple Entente:

"We are 70 millions strong. We have demonstrated to the world our capabilities in every department of human endeavour and human achievement. We require (or, at least, our people believe, rightly or wrongly, that we require) wider territorial scope for our growth than we possess in our own country and in our colonies. We require, too, an assurance of greater security as to the conditions of our national existence and our economic development.

"You have pre-empted the best part of the world. It is far more than you require. Either see that an appropriate provision is made for us, or, failing that, give us a free hand to conclude mutually[Pg 136] agreeable arrangements with Belgium, Portugal or Holland with respect to their over-sea possessions.

"You will then find us ready to conclude an understanding with you, in order to ensure peace and to make an end, at least, to these continually recurring alarms of war, which are wearing out the nerves and the purse of the whole world. To this end let us call a conference. Meanwhile, no one is to increase the armaments they at present possess, let alone mobilize. But if you are not willing to give us a fair show peaceably, then we warn you to look out for trouble."

In my opinion, such a warning would not have had to be translated into action, for in due course things were bound to come your way by the very force of cause and effect. With a little skill and tact and insight (which traits, as you will probably admit, have hardly been outstanding features of German diplomacy since Bismarck), together with a little patience, everything you could reasonably[Pg 137] ask would have been yours in the course of the next ten or fifteen years.

But if the Triple Entente had met a request in the nature of the foregoing with a non possumus, or had made no reasonably acceptable offer, and you, after final warning, had resorted to the arbitrament of war, your case would have worn a very different aspect from the present one. Many unprejudiced men amongst neutral people would have looked upon your view-points and conduct as not devoid of justification, instead of turning away with disgust from the sophistries of your writers, who seek to demonstrate that you poor innocent lambs were fallen upon in order to be dragged to the slaughterhouse.

As a matter of fact, however, it is my belief that such a declaration delivered by you to the Triple Entente, firm and determined in spirit and meaning, but friendly and persuasive in language, would have led not to war, but to a lasting understanding.

[Pg 138]


To sum up:

1. Until ten years ago, England's relations with you were good—indeed more than good, as is shown, for instance, by the cession of Heligoland. If, as you assert, hate and envy and ill-will, because of Germany's phenomenal development, and of her increasing strength and push as a competitor in the markets of the world, had been the moving force in shaping England's attitude towards you, the motive for hostile conduct would have existed at that time just as at present.

As a matter of fact, England's sentiment towards Germany changed only with your aggressive programme of naval construction, and as a consequence of the manifestation in word, in writing and in deed, of certain alarming and menacing tendencies, to which, it is true, more significance and importance probably were attached abroad than in Germany itself—more, perhaps, than they deserved.

[Pg 139] That programme England came to consider, naturally, as directed mainly against herself and as a serious menace to her most vital interests and to the conditions of her very existence.

Would not Germany have become uneasy had Russia suddenly announced a policy of concentrating an enormous fleet in the Baltic? (The parallel, though, is far from perfect, in that for you, sea power is not nearly as vital an element as it is and must be for England.)

Your naval policy, together with the arguments which the German Government's spokesmen adduced for it, and the above-mentioned manifestations and agitations, caused very serious and lasting apprehensions in England. They gradually drove her to the Entente with France, and through it, unfortunately perhaps, but necessarily, also with Russia—not as an offensive, but as a defensive measure.

Let me say, in parenthesis, that in the interest of England and France and[Pg 140] of the peace of the world, I have always felt inclined to doubt the wisdom of this grouping, however comprehensible and natural it was under the circumstances. Likewise, I have always doubted the wisdom of the creation of your enormous fleet—a view which was shared by some of your best political thinkers and which appears to have been justified by results.

2. The genesis of the war lay in the fixed idea by which Austria was possessed, since her foreign Minister Aehrenthal succeeded in reaping easy and questionable but profitable laurels some years ago, that she could and ought to adopt a "dashing" policy. There is nothing more dangerous than the foolish and reckless daring of feebleness, when, as happens at times, it is suddenly seized with a mania for heroics.

In fact, as I gleaned from a letter received here within a few days of the outbreak of the war and originating from a particularly authoritative source in Vienna, Austria entirely failed to realize the portentous significance and the inevitable[Pg 141] consequences of her unheard-of ultimatum to Serbia.

She believed that she would be left undisturbed to play the conqueror at the expense of that poor little country. Unfortunately, Germany did not see fit to put a stop to that extremely dangerous playing with fire. On the contrary, the German Ambassador in Vienna seems to have encouraged it, actively and deliberately.

3. When finally the crisis had come, with all its terrible meaning, Austria's nerves, at the very last moment, began to give way. She wavered in the face of a world catastrophe.

But your Junkers and other jingoes neither wavered nor hesitated. They saw in their grasp the opportunity for which they had been plotting these many years and they were not minded to let it escape them. They considered the moment peculiarly propitious because of the internal preoccupations of England and France.

[Pg 142] And they succeeded in sweeping the German Government off its feet as well as the sober and sensible thinking majority of the German people. They succeeded in rushing your Government and people into the belief that the Russian mobilization signified a menace dangerous to Germany's very existence, and that every day of delay in meeting that danger might mean disastrous consequences.

This was not the first time that an attempt had been made by that party to bring the Kaiser and his people suddenly face to face with a situation which they meant should spell war—a war which they felt certain would end in a quick and decisive German victory. Of at least one flagrant example of such manœuvring I have personal knowledge.

That the jingo party, against what I believe to have been the tendencies of the Kaiser's and the Chancellor's policies, thus succeeded at last in their fateful and atrocious design—although the manifest interests and, doubtless, the inclination[Pg 143] of the masses of your people were for the maintenance of peace—is explainable only by the Germans' amazing lack of understanding for the deeper qualities, sentiments, ideals, modes of thought and characteristics of other nations as distinguished from their outward peculiarities, methods and habits.

This lack of understanding, doubly amazing in a people so intelligent and instructed and so successful in its commercial dealings with the rest of the world, is strikingly exemplified in your complete misjudgment as to the cohesive power of the British Empire and as to the loyalty of its component parts and subject races; by your gross underestimate of France and by your general miscalculation as to how the peoples challenged by you would react to the supreme test of war.

That Austria and Russia, through their mobilizations and other measures originating from a mixture of bluff and fear, managed to get each other into an utterly unreasoning state of nerves, is entirely[Pg 144] comprehensible. They did not trust each other, and above all, they did not trust themselves, their own strength and preparedness.

But Germany, in the knowledge of her powerful moral and military superiority, and of her incomparable war machine, perfect and ready in every detail, could have, and should have dominated the confusion and danger of the situation with the sang-froid and self-confidence born of strength, instead of allowing herself to be swept along by the sinister currents leading to an ocean of blood.

And if Germany, with trembling Europe hanging on her words, had proclaimed boldly "There shall be peace," and thus by her veto had saved the world from the curse of this war, she would not only have done a splendidly meritorious deed, unequalled in the world's history, which would have brought her immortal fame and would have been greeted by the joyous acclaim of all peoples, but she would have gained by that very act the uncontested[Pg 145] leadership amongst the nations. From their gratitude for being freed from the nightmare of war's menace, she would readily have obtained (as intimated by Sir Edward Grey in his telegram) compliance with any reasonable demand she might have put forward for the extension of the scope of her development and influence.

4. Once the Entente existed it seems to me so obvious that England in an aggressive war waged by Germany and Austria against France and Russia was bound to throw in her lot with the latter country, that I was quite unable, at the time, to understand Germany's outburst of surprise and fury against England. Alliance or Entente, call it what you will—had England backed out in that crisis it would have been a miserable breach of faith on her part, by which she would have forfeited her place in the world's respect and which would have been bitterly resented by her former friends and left her completely isolated henceforth.

[Pg 146] Moreover, apart from all moral obligations and the compelling force of political considerations, she could have felt all the less tempted to enter into a separate agreement with Germany at that critical juncture and remain neutral, as the latter at that very moment had demonstrated that she did not consider herself bound by any treaty, when military interests seemed to her to make the breach of such treaty advisable. In the face of Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality, how could England have felt assured that, if an arrangement between the two countries had been effected, it would be respected by Germany, in case at any given moment it might appear to the German Government to be requisite from the point of view of military necessity, or even mere advantage, to ignore such agreement?

You call it a hideous crime and eternal shame that the English "called to their aid" against you the Japanese and the Indians.

As far as Japanese military aid is concerned, it has been practically limited to[Pg 147] action in China, and thus has not to any material degree influenced the European war.

And with regard to the relatively inconsiderable number of Indians that England brought over, the simple fact is that these few brigades or divisions form part of the small standing army that she possessed—the very smallness of which is further proof of how little she had contemplated war. In her critical situation, and with her great lack of trained troops, she called in these detachments, which were commanded by English officers.

I feel certain that an unprejudiced judgment can see neither crime nor shame in that act. If there were, you would be no less subject to reproach for accepting the military aid of Turks and Arabs.

5. When a country in so short a time has made such unexampled progress as Germany, and through her own capacity and the favour of fate has achieved so much of wealth, power and well-being for her people, she can well afford to indulge[Pg 148] in the luxury of modesty and a conciliatory disposition.

A nation thus blessed ought to thank God that all is going so well with her, and should recognize that such brilliant success is bound to produce a certain amount of irritation and jealousy, just as it does in the case of an eminently successful individual.

While rejoicing in her achievement, she ought carefully to refrain from boasting or flaunting her superiority in the face of the world.

While unceasingly continuing to strive and build up, she ought to do so tactfully and with all possible consideration for her less successful neighbours.

She should know how to restrain herself and wisely to keep her ambitions within bounds; to live and let live; to regard, without jealousy or envy, possessions which are the heritage of others less efficient than herself; and to leave it to time, slowly but surely, to do its work in rewarding merit and punishing inefficiency and sloth.

[Pg 149] Have you thought and acted thus?

Have you not, on the contrary, in the justified consciousness of your greater efficiency and more strenuous effort, allowed the fact of the great inherited advantages possessed by others to become a thorn in the flesh, and an ever-rankling bitter grievance, which dimmed your contentment and soured the joy at your achievements?

Have you not estranged and affronted and antagonized other nations—not by success in open competition with them, which I grant was far from pleasing them, but to which in the end they had come to accommodate themselves as to an unavoidable evil—but by the manner and matter of your writing, speaking and acting? Have you not made such nations your enemies by thrusting before them aims and visions of the future, calculated to arouse in them most serious alarm and apprehension, and thus eventually caused them to unite against you—not, as you think, through envy or hate, but through the much more powerful motives of self-[Pg 150]preservation, and of fear of your aims and intentions?

In this letter, which, I am sorry to say, has assumed formidable proportions, I have tried, next to expressing my own convictions, to represent to you, as I see them, what are at this time the predominant and controlling views and sentiments among the American people. I have met with much the same ideas among the great majority of neutrals with whom I have discussed the subject—neutrals from many countries whom I have met here in the last six months.

If I have expressed myself freely, in some respects even bluntly, I hope you will make allowance for the honest and deep anger and grief that move me when I see how, through a needless war wantonly started, Germany and England-France, the three countries of Europe whom the world most needs, the three races from whom humanity has most to expect, are engaged in tearing one another to pieces in senseless fury.

I have welcomed with hope certain[Pg 151] signs in the last few weeks which seem to indicate that more moderate, fairer and calmer sentiments, a more correct understanding, and more far-sighted views are beginning to get a foothold in certain circles in Germany.

You have so incontestably vindicated the prowess of your arms, and so impressively demonstrated the power, courage, self-sacrificing patriotism and high ability of your nation, that no possible suspicion can attach to you of yielding under compulsion, should you rise to the moral heroism of taking the first step towards dispelling the dreadful misery which weighs upon Europe through this appalling war.

What is done, is done. The guilt will be adjudged by history. Eleven months ago it was you who spoke the fateful word that meant war. Will it now be you to first speak the redeeming word that shall bring hope of peace?

Whether such a word from you—a word, not of victorious peace, but of righteous peace, a word of human feeling and of[Pg 152] political moderation, of conciliation, aye, and of atonement where due—would now be listened to by your opponents, in view of their bitterness at your actions and their mistrust of your intentions, and would actually bring peace, I do not know.

But of this I am sure: that such a step would be welcomed with gratitude, gladness and sympathy by all at least of the non-combatant nations, and that it would be set down as a moral asset for you in the ledger both of history and of contemporary opinion. Nor can I doubt that, even regarded merely from the point of view of politics, it would be wise, well-judged and timely.

Yours sincerely,  
(Sgd.) Otto H. Kahn.

Note.—To this letter a short note merely of acknowledgment was received, containing the intimation that, in view of the wide divergence of views between the writer and the recipient, no useful purpose could be served by continuing the correspondence.

Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,


Other than the corrections listed below, printer's inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and ligature usage have been retained:
    "publc" corrected to "public" (page 13)
    "neans" corrected to "means" (page 35)




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