Will Ukraine Wind Up Making Territorial Concessions to Russia?
Foreign Affairs Asks the Experts
On the occasion of the address by the Honorable William E. Borah, United States Senator from Idaho, before the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, January 8, 1934.
Norman H. Davis
THIS age in which we are living is more remarkable and more interesting in many respects than any preceding period of history. Never before has there been such progress in science and industry, such a vast increase in material wealth, or such a high level of general education. And yet, in spite of this, the world is today in an exceedingly unsettled condition economically, socially, psychologically and politically. The depression, which began over three years ago, and from which there are now promising evidences of recovery, was international in origin and no nation escaped from its effects. It brought home to us the fact that the nations have become so interdependent that what happens in one or more countries affects the others. Since many of the troubles in various nations today are mainly international in origin and scope, and since the interdependence of nations has become so complete that isolation is no longer possible or desirable, it is somewhat difficult to account for the wave of intense nationalism that has been sweeping the world.
Fear is, of course, the chief cause of extreme nationalism and the chief obstacle to a solution of some of the difficulties that now confront us. All nations are seeking security, not only of life but of livelihood. As a result there is a growing tendency on the part of every country to divorce itself from external ties and influences and to seek its salvation independently of its neighbors if not, indeed, at their expense. If this tendency continues to grow as at present, it will, I fear, not only create new problems but make more difficult the solution of some of the old ones.
In facing the situation that exists today, it does us no good to look back regretfully and long for the good old days. The development of communication, of trade, and of means of attack on land, on sea, under the sea, and from the air, has changed our environment. We are on this earth today. Our children will be on it tomorrow. What can we do to make our lot and theirs safer and happier than that of the generation which knew the horrors of the Great War?
Of one thing we may be certain. The American people want peace. They do not want to be drawn into another war and they are opposed to any agreements which would commit them to go to war. How best to avoid war is not, however, such a simple matter. We may recall that the United States did not have any entangling alliances or commitments with any European power in 1914, and I trust we never will have any such entanglements. Nevertheless, our freedom from any commitments and our effort to maintain a position of neutrality did not prevent us from being forced in 1917 to abandon neutrality and enter the war that was then raging in Europe.
The fact that we were drawn into the World War, although we had no entangling alliances and although we had proclaimed our neutrality, must be kept in the forefront of our minds in considering our present policy in the light of past experience and in the light of changed physical conditions.
In my opinion it should be possible for the United States, which has a vital interest in world peace and stability, to coöperate in an endeavor to promote peace and solve such questions of international concern as can only be dealt with effectively by concerted effort, and to do this without sacrificing our independence of judgment and our freedom of action.
Within the modest limits of my ability I have been endeavoring, in furtherance of the aims of the President, to help mitigate prevailing fears and to find more rational ways of promoting security than by piling up aggressive armaments, which create political tension between neighboring nations and impose an undue burden on world economy. I continue to hope that definite progress can be made. Indeed, the growing pressure of nationalism has begun to force the issue in making plain to the peoples most vitally concerned the alternatives which they face of either preparing to destroy each other by conflict or of endeavoring to save themselves by coöperation. I agree wholeheartedly with President Roosevelt that the vast majority of the peoples are in favor of disarmament and a peaceful settlement of international controversies. It is for the statesmen to find the means of giving effect to the will of mankind.
The prospect of a world of ultra-nationalistic nations provides serious problems for those who conduct the foreign relations of the United States. It is, therefore, a great satisfaction to the Council on Foreign Relations to have this opportunity to hear the views of a statesman like Senator Borah on this question. As former Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, and at present the ranking Republican member of that Committee, he has for many years had much to do with questions relating to our foreign policy. He represents a section of the country and of public opinion that we in the East ought to know much more about. Those who may not always find themselves in accord with the views of Senator Borah cannot but admire his ability, his courage and his independence of thought.
Since this is the first time we have had the honor to greet Senator Borah as our guest, I should like, as Chairman this evening, to say a word to him about ourselves. The Council on Foreign Relations is a non-partisan body of American citizens of many professions and interests. We are bound together by our desire to study, without passion or prejudice, the position of the United States in world affairs, in the hope of contributing toward a reasoned American foreign policy. We believe in enlightenment, but not in propagating any particular point of view. Hence we like to hear all points of view. That is the policy which is followed by our quarterly review, FOREIGN AFFAIRS. The public, both here and abroad, has sensed this policy and has come to regard that review as the leading publication of its kind in the world. Independence and sincerity are the hallmark of real research, and we like to feel that it is imprinted on all our work.
I AGREE entirely with the views expressed by the Chairman as to the objects and services of this association. Those of us who have not had the opportunity of being your guest, and thus coming in closer contact with you, nevertheless know of your work. We greatly respect it. I think the Chairman is quite correct in saying that your publication is looked upon by all men as the highest and best expression of opinions on all sides of the questions which touch foreign affairs. It is both a pleasure and an honor to be your guest this evening. I express my appreciation of the remarks of the Chairman, whom I have known for many years and whose ability and disinterestedness I deeply respect.
The strong tendency of all revolutions is to break entirely with the past. A new world is to be created. A new start must be made. What men have thought before is unimportant, perhaps harmful. The efforts they have put forth, the sacrifices they have made, are to be regarded as without value. Traditions and policies which have become interwoven with the moral and intellectual fibre of a people, the habits, customs, and mode of living, the institutions they have reared at great cost of money and blood, are in revolutionary times sought to be rejected and forever put aside. Books and symbols are burned or in some way destroyed. This is the revolutionary ideal. But fortunately, it is never realized. Fortunately, the wealth -- material, moral, intellectual -- gathered through centuries of effort, cannot be destroyed. No revolutionary movement can wholly escape the living past. Tradition, after all, does not yield to revolutionary decrees. Experience will have a hearing. Reflection and the inexorable nexus of things bring men back to take up the broken threads, mend them if possible, preserve that which is best, separate things which are fugitive from things which are permanent, and then go forward with that patient building which is the true and dependable method of permanent advancement.
Washington, in his immortal farewell address, said: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. . . . Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none, or a very remote, relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. . . . Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interests, humor, or caprice?" Thomas Jefferson stated the same principle with greater brevity, declaring: "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none."
This policy thus announced remained the unchallenged and revered policy of this nation for one hundred and twenty-odd years. Whatever differences of view may have arisen in most recent years, none were found, and none will be found, I venture to believe, to question the wisdom of this policy at the time it was announced or for more than a century thereafter. Without it, the Republic could not in all probability have withstood the ordeal of those formative years. It was an indispensable part of the scheme of free government. Together with the declaration of independence, the treaty of peace, and the Constitution of the United States, this policy made up the title deeds to our liberty and the guarantees of our independence.
There were giants in the land in those days, men of deep insight into government, of profound convictions, for which convictions they were always willing to contend and for which they did contend. But in all their contentions, upon this first great announcement as to our foreign policy there was no division. And down through the fierce years of political warfare in which men fought with the relentless ardor of great souls over almost every conceivable question of statecraft or politics, upon this policy they were united. Behind it for more than a century was the combined support and loyalty of this masterly group of men, the only body of men in all history who successfully organized, set up, and maintained a real representative Republic.
It was under this policy that we grew in strength and influence, settled our domestic problems, brought prosperity and happiness to our own people, and won and held the respect of all nations. Under this policy we announced the doctrine of neutrality and maintained it. We announced the Monroe Doctrine and saw to it that it was respected. In the midst of civil war, we sternly rebuked those who would interfere in our domestic affairs and our position was tremendously strengthened by the policy of non-interference with their affairs which we had always unwaveringly maintained. The influence of this Republic was felt throughout the world, not because of armies or navies, but rather through the force of example -- we lived up to our creed, peace, commerce and friendship with all nations. We were not hated, we were not reviled because we had not done more, and, though alone, we were not afraid.
The World War brought about for the first time a wide difference of opinion touching the foreign policy of the United States. Since that time it has been earnestly and ably contended that our foreign policy, so long a part of our national life, was no longer applicable to conditions brought about by that great conflict, and that it should be abandoned once and for all. With this program was to go that part of international law relating to neutrality. We were to assume a position in world affairs the very reverse of that which we had held from the beginning of the government. We were not only to accept full part and responsibility in the adjustment of all questions of international import -- and they were practically all of that nature -- which should arise in Europe or in the Orient, but even in the remotest regions of the earth. We were never to assume the "immoral" position of neutrals. Nationalism and devotion to one's country were to be reduced to a minimum. Internationalism was to be the supreme, dominating force among the peoples of the world. Like other revolutions, it sought to break with all the past, its traditions, its policies, and the views and teachings of its mighty leaders.
In this revolutionary movement were two groups of individuals -- working to the same end but in quite different ways. There were those who sincerely believed that the new course was the high and honorable and most beneficial course to pursue. They entertained the hope, if not the belief, that the Great War had wrought deep and lasting changes in the minds and hearts of the people of the world and that they were now ready to accept a wholly new theory of nationalism. It seemed to be their theory that war had brought all peoples into a more kindly, brotherly relationship -- that in this awful baptism of blood peoples had found a new life and were henceforth to be guided by a new spirit. That those views were, and perhaps still are, sincerely entertained by many people no one can doubt.
There was another group of individuals having a large part in this program, not admirable in many respects, willing to surrender our foreign policy but not quite willing, in the face of what seemed an unsettled public opinion, to say so outright.
Hence, began that shambling, equivocal policy which found expression in a multitude of reservations and all kinds of explanations, none of which nor all of which would have preserved the foreign policy which, like Peter of old, they professed to love but would not own in the hour of crucifixion. Following the period of reservations and the consolations which seemed to flow therefrom there came into international affairs a strange figure known as the "unofficial observer," always gentlemen of high character, but always, by reason of their commission from their government, required to act as a kind of international spy, going about over the continents listening in on other peoples' business. I say "other peoples' business," because had it been our business, we should have been there in the person of a duly appointed and authorized agent of the government assuming full responsibility with all other participants. This practice brought discredit to our government, impeached before the world our sincerity, and had a tendency at least to degrade the revered policy of Washington to the level of the fugitive discretion or whims of an international interloper. Whatever happens in the future, let's be rid once and for all of this un-American and humiliating policy, if you may call that a policy, which policy has none. Wherever we go or wherever we disclose an interest, let us go as full participants and assume full responsibility with the other participants in the conference. One may personally respect, though he differs with, those who insist that our long-established policy has become obsolete and give their reasons in support thereof, although one may be permitted, I trust, to recall Chancellor Thurlow's remark in reference to the reasons given by his friend, Scott. But this shuffling, uncertain, apologetic attitude toward our American policy and toward the other peoples of the earth and nations of the world can excite nothing less than derision, if not the contempt, of all true Americans and all sincere and candid men everywhere.
The hopes entertained that the war was to give us a new world have in no sense been realized. One of the ablest of those who entertained this hope, noted for his breadth of mind and candor of thought, has recently declared: "During the 1920's I held the conviction firmly that the world was to experience a period of great international coöperation in every field. . . . Looking at the world today one may still hope but certainly must question the soundness of that vision of the 1920's." No less illuminating are the words of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, spoken only a short time ago. He declared that he was "looking upon a stage with something moving immediately behind the footlights," -- "an ominous background full of shadows and uncertainties," and that confidence between nations was more lacking than ever. There is something moving behind the footlights -- it is the inevitable forces of national life which often elude detection until they have begun to write their decrees.
In respect to international matters, the world has not changed, the Orient has not changed, Europe has not changed. The nations were never so heavily armed in peace times as in the fifteenth year after the signing of the Armistice. Nearly five billion dollars are annually extorted from impoverished peoples in preparation for another war. National frontiers in many instances are in effect battle-fronts. The issues between certain leading Powers are as inexplicable and irreconcilable as they were before the conflict began. The old system of the balance of power is again coming to dominate the European continent. Diplomatic moves bend to its delusive assurances. The Corridor, the City of Danzig, Upper Silesia, the problem of the minorities, Manchuria in the Orient, the vindictive judgments of the peace treaties, the inequality of nations, now the cornerstone of international law in Europe, all these problems, truculent and inexorable, serve to keep Europe armed and vigilant, and to warn us again and again that the reign of internationalism has not yet arrived. They are European problems arising out of conditions centuries old. The outside world cannot reach these problems. To make an attempt to do so would ignite the powder mine.
The answer to nationalism, it is insisted, is the nearness of all peoples by reason of modern invention and improved methods of transportation. Europe is now at our door, it is claimed, and Asia just around the corner. We therefore cannot be indifferent to their problems. We must have a part in all that concerns them, nearness makes their affairs our affairs. This matter of nearness seems to play strange pranks sometimes. It has certainly run counter to the expectations of many in the last twenty years, although we might have been well advised, since it had been doing the same things in crowded Europe for a thousand years. Nearness has not begotten there a common interest or a common purpose or even friendly relations. It has not mellowed the individuality of nations or fostered and strengthened the spirit of coöperation. It has not induced the belief that because of nearness there should be less of the national spirit. It has not put an end to war or rendered it less likely to occur.
On my father's farm, with no other dwelling nearer than two miles, and in some directions nearer than twenty, the doors to our home were never locked. If there was a key on the place, I never saw it. In our great apartments of today, with a multitude of families within easy reach, we have locks which lock themselves, and it is my feeling that even if these families were Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, or Russian, instead of Americans, we would still keep the self-locking locks on the doors. Familiarity does not necessarily breed respect and propinquity does not ordinarily beget confidence. Europe is as far away today, likewise the Orient, in everything which makes for the community spirit, for social understanding, for political accord, as it was when the greatest of political philosophers, the most profound student of Europe this country has ever known, joined with the wisest of political leaders in warning the American people against entangling alliances of any kind.
It is one of the crowning glories of the world that we have different peoples and different nations and different civilizations and different political concepts. Standardization may be all right for cattle and sheep and swine of all kinds, but it is not applicable to peoples, or nations, and it is not in accordance with the divine economy of things.
Another revolution, therefore, has failed. It had to fail. It could not escape the living past. It did not weigh sufficiently the inertia of human nature, it underestimated the strength of those ancient prejudices and fears, as well as those ancient faiths and beliefs, the intellectual and moral paths over which men and women had trodden for centuries. The fight against nationalism has lost. It was bound to lose. It was a fight against the strongest and noblest passion, outside of those which spring from man's relation to his God, that moves or controls the impulses of the human heart. Without it civilization would wane and utterly decay. Men would sink to the level of savages. Individuality in persons is the product of the most persistent and universal law of nature. It is woven of millions of subtle and tireless forces. No power can change this law or frustrate its operation. This is equally true of nations. Internationalism, if it means anything more than the friendly coöperation between separate, distinct, and wholly independent nations, rests upon a false foundation. And when undertaken, it will fail as in the name of progress and humanity it should fail.
Out yonder in the sad bean fields of Manchuria, empty formula met reality, internationalism encountered nationalism, and the pathetic results are recorded in the great disappointment of many wise men. In an old Greek tragedy you will find this line: "Alas! How dreadful to have wisdom where it profits not the wise."
Nationalism, pride and love of country, is a passion, peculiar to no people, indispensable to the welfare of all. To undertake its destruction is madness. To foster it, cultivate it, direct its finer qualities along high and honorable and peaceful lines, as exemplified in the precepts and examples of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln, with countless other names that will readily come into your memory, is the highest mission, the noblest calling, in which men and women associated with public affairs can engage and to which a free people can devote their aims and consecrate their energies.
Its maintenance has cost blood. So has religion. It has entailed suffering beyond the power of words to paint. So have all the creeds and faiths of men. But it is worth all it has cost. Ask the Polish people, taking a single instance from the crowded pages of history. Frederick the Great, in his old age writing to Voltaire, said: "Now that Poland has been settled with a little ink and a pen, the 'Encyclopedia' cannot declaim against mercenary brigands." That was when they divided Poland. But Poland had not been settled by a little ink and a pen. Physically dismembered, her national spirit lived on. Homeless, as it were, it appeared upon every battlefield for liberty and fought for the oppressed in every land under the heavens. Without a country of its own, this Polish spirit of nationalism made the land of the downtrodden among all peoples its home. When the World War came, near two hundred years had intervened since the crime was committed. But there was no stronger feeling of nationalism anywhere to be found than in this dismembered country. And like a ghost of retribution, it pursued those who had inflicted what was supposed to be a mortal wound to their utter undoing. Shall we hope to achieve for the world what the despoilers sought to do with Poland? Even though we employ oceans of ink and millions of pens we cannot destroy nationalism; our effort will be just as futile as was theirs. War may spread its ruin, you may wreck the fundamental law and uproot the institutions of your country -- these are but the fruits of man's efforts. But a higher power has planted in the human breast devotion to country, and all permanent progress must rest upon that basic fact.
With these intimations of my views, here I might stop. But the subject assigned to me by your spokesman calls for a more specific word. "American Foreign Policy in a Nationalistic World" was the topic assigned to me for this evening.
It is a nationalistic world, intensely so. There can be no doubt about that. Everywhere the national spirit is evoked, fostered and religiously maintained. Whatever we may think as to some of its policies and tendencies, we must admit that under its welding, cementing, driving power, different peoples have been lifted into a region of exertion and consecration nothing less than amazing. In countries where there was debility, incompetency, and utter demoralization among the masses, in this spirit of nationalism there is now strength and vigor and hope. Trampling under foot the false and feeble philosophy which would disparage the healing, uplifting power of patriotism, they sacrifice, suffer and endure and find their highest compensation in the increasing vigor, prestige and honor of their country. These conditions and these sentiments are not likely to change in the near future.
If a foreign policy should be offered to these nationalistic nations, which would not fit into, serve and augment their nationalism, it would be rejected. Such a policy was offered to Japan. It was rejected. Where would a foreign policy based upon internationalism find reception in Europe or in the Orient? Like the dove from the Ark, there would be no place for it to light. When the Security Committee of the League several years ago sought of Great Britain her views upon the terms of the Covenant, the Committee was plainly informed that Great Britain would determine for herself whether there was a breach in the Covenant and would determine for herself what, if any, action she would take in regard to the breach if it occurred. That was nationalism. Who would expect Great Britain to do anything different? And who would long respect her if she did do anything different? The invasion of the Ruhr, Corfu, the seizure of Manchuria, these things indicate rather strongly that all schemes of international coöperation must fit into national realization. Judging the future by the past, it will always be so. Europe has not changed in this respect, and I venture to say, in the interest of civilization, it is well that she has not changed. Europe, with her developing nationalism, may throw many dark shadows upon the future. But Europe, without the national spirit, would be hopeless beyond redemption. Nationalism does not necessarily of itself mean militarism or war, as shown by our own history. But whatever it means, anything is preferable to suffocation in the fetid atmosphere of national decay. National decay begins where nationalism ends.
I am far more concerned about our domestic problems than I am about our foreign affairs, although our foreign policy will greatly help or hinder the nation in dealing with our domestic problems. It will be a long time, I venture to believe, before there will be any necessity or any justification for the United States engaging in a foreign war. But the questions at home are imminent, they are upon us, not only those which have to do with the depression, but many which are even of a graver and more permanent nature, problems which have their roots deep down in our whole social and political structure. You would not expect a discussion of these questions this evening. It is sufficient for the purposes of the evening to merely indicate some of them. Our stupendous debt burden, public and private, some two hundred and twenty billion dollars, our constantly increasing tax burden, city, county, state and national, the chronic waste of public money, the utilities problem, conservation and proper use of our natural resources, the banking question, the money question, the question of the more equitable distribution of wealth. These, and many more problems, push now for consideration. No scheme on earth can give us permanent contentment or permanent prosperity until they are solved. Indeed, they were contributing causes of the depression.
The guarantee of our national efficiency, prestige and strength, notwithstanding the many problems with which we must deal, and certain tendencies which seem to threaten our institutions, is to be found, not alone in wise leaders but even more in a united and a wise people -- united not only by constitutional forms and one flag, but united in spirit and exaltation of purpose. After all, the source of power in this country under our government is the people. If at that source there is wanting poise and judgment and devotion and wisdom, this will inevitably be reflected in unstable policies and unwise laws -- the people "must nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth." Our foreign policy therefore should be one best calculated to unite our own people, morally, spiritually and economically, to inspire them with a sense of national fidelity and personal responsibility.
This country has within her boundary people from almost every land under the sun, still conscious under certain conditions of the "mystic chords of memory." Every civilization has made its contribution to the American civilization. How easy to transfer the racial antipathies and political views and controversies of the Old World into our very midst. Once abandon our policy of aloofness from European controversies, and we bring these European controversies into the American home and into our national life. We are constantly warned how persistently that transfer even now takes place. Only recently the bitterness, the intensity, of a European controversy, nerved the arm and guided the hand which grasped the dagger of the assassin, not only in our very midst but under the most sacred and solemn surroundings.
Eschewing policies, therefore, which tend to keep alive former attachments and the political controversies of the Old World, we should exert to our utmost the healing, cementing power of patriotism and mold one hundred and twenty million people into one invincible, intellectual, economic and political force for the enactment and administration of just and equal laws.
In the years immediately ahead, believing that I was laying the foundation for the adjustment of all our problems, believing that I was engaged not only in saving government but in saving souls, not only preserving institutions but preserving human liberty, like Peter the Hermit with his tongue of fire, I would preach united national aims and ideals, I would instill anew the great truth that democratic institutions are the only hope for the personal worth, the dignity, and the individual liberty of the citizen. I would frame all laws and shape all policies, foreign and domestic, with that great end in view. In no other way can we hope for contentment and unity at home and respect and power abroad.
In conclusion, permit me to say that I believe in the foreign policy which offers peace to all nations, trade and commerce with all nations, honest friendship with all nations, political commitments, express or implied, with none -- the policy which not only in fact respects the rights and sovereignties of other states and nations without distinction of great and small, and particularly upon this Continent, but which would also refrain from words or acts that would seem to challenge those rights. As an evidence of that faith, I would at the present time abandon what is known as the Platt Amendment as irritating and humiliating to Cuba and as imposing upon the United States an impossible task. Under the shelter and the inspiration of such a foreign policy I would foster and strengthen that brand of Americanism which believes in the worth, the efficiency, and grandeur of constitutional democracy, in the vigilant preservation of the personal liberty and the individual privileges of the citizen, realizing that our institutions and the whole vast scheme of democratic government depend upon our ability here on this western continent to harmonize the rapacious economic forces of the modern world with the political freedom and economic rights of the individual. Thus, armed with a sense of justice toward other nations on the one hand and a sense of duty toward our own people on the other, this nation will remain at peace with all nations who want peace, and if there be those who do not, and will not, have peace, we under such circumstances need have no fear.
There is no creed or faith, no political principle or form of government, but must at some time or other undergo attacks -- and this seems to be one of the periods of challenge and general assailment. We read of a movement lately initiated in one of the leading countries of Europe to delete the Ten Commandments, presumably that part which says: Thou shalt not kill; to edit the Lord's prayer, since that perfect supplication encompasses all men regardless of race or creed; to abolish Christianity, and conform the teachings of the Nazarene to the practices and principles of their political leader. This wicked and blasphemous exhibition of diseased minds seems only a little more impious and no less vain and impotent than the persistent attacks everywhere encountered upon popular government, the right and capacity of the people to direct and manage their own political affairs. Here in this country and elsewhere, either by those who in their own land have destroyed the last vestige of personal liberty, sending to prison and to the torture chamber men and women because of race, religion or political opinions and sacrificing all rights of the people to the gratification of personal power, or by those in our own land who consult appearances rather than realities and mistake surface indications for the deep currents which move below, we hear the solemn pronouncement that popular government has failed and constitutional democracy is dead.
We need not be dismayed but we cannot be unconcerned. The right to worship according to the dictates of one's conscience, the right to freedom from persecution on account of race, are parts of that political liberty, that freedom from oppression which is the very life-blood of democracy. These things, together with free speech, a free press, the right of assemblage, and those guarantees the sum total of which make up the inestimable blessings of personal liberty, are the things for which democracy stands. They are the things for which we stand. And I venture to believe that we will not fail to preserve them. Looking backward and looking forward, proud of our past and confident of our future, we shall find our highest service, not only to our own people, but to mankind and to the peace of the world, in transmitting these principles unimpaired to succeeding generations. This is our supreme duty. I believe that the foreign policy of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln will best enable us to meet and discharge that duty. I am, therefore, at all times, in periods of turbulence or in periods of calm, and without apology and without compromise, committed to the support of that foreign policy.
This, it will be said, is isolation. It is not isolation, it is freedom of action. It is independence of judgment. It is not isolation, it is free government -- there can be no such thing as free government if the people thereof are not free to remain aloof or to take part in foreign wars. People who have bartered away or surrendered their right to remain neutral in war have surrendered their right to govern. In matters of trade and commerce we have never been isolationists and never will be. In matters of finance, unfortunately, we have not been isolationists, and probably never will be. When earthquake and famine, or whatever brings human suffering, visit any part of the human race, we have not been isolationists, and never will be. In all those matters and things in which a free and independent and enlightened people may have a part, looking toward amity, toward peace, and the lessening of human suffering, we have never been isolationists, and never will be. But in all matters political, in all commitments of any nature or kind, which encroach in the slightest upon the free and unembarrassed action of our people, or which circumscribe their discretion and judgment, we have been free, we have been independent, we have been isolationists. And this, I trust, we shall ever be. If there be any truth established by the experience of nations, it is this: That to accommodate your foreign policies to the demands or in the interest of other nations at the peril of your own security, is to invite contempt, and it seldom fails to earn a more substantial punishment.
In recent years much has been said, especially from abroad, about the provincial American. Those who discuss this and kindred matters modestly pay tribute to their own worth by speaking of world vision and of a wider human sympathy. One need hardly linger to discuss the subject. Regardless of what may be said by those whose purposes are apparent, let us hold fast to those political principles and foreign policies which others call provincialism but which we call Americanism. It has served us well. It fits in with our scheme of democracy. It has built a civilization whose capstone is personal liberty. It may have its faults, as what earthly scheme has not? But all the world will have to testify that in great emergencies, in sublime moments, when civilization hangs in the balance, it is wanting neither in sympathy nor in courage, and whatever faults it may possess are buried in the depth of a great unselfish and heroic purpose. It has no taste, no aptitude, for the hazardous enterprise of uncovering aggressors or chastising national renegades. Here in its Godordained home between two oceans, watchful of its own interests and vigilant in the defense of its rights, it covets nothing of others save the peace and friendship of all. It does not, and it never has, shrunk from its duty to civilization. It will not disown any obligation which human liberty and human justice impose upon a free people. But it does propose, I venture to prophesy, to determine for itself when civilization is threatened, when there may be a breach of human rights and human liberty sufficient to warrant action, and it proposes also to determine for itself when to act and in what manner it shall discharge the obligations which time and circumstances impose.
By John W. Davis
I RISE with great pleasure to propose a vote of thanks to Senator Borah for the honor he has done us by his presence, and for the powerful and illuminating address to which we have just listened. He has stated, with an eloquence which challenges the ears of his hearers and at the same time arouses their envy, his views on the policy of the United States in its foreign contacts. And speaking, Senator, only for myself -- because this is not a representative assembly -- I wish to say that as an humble member of the audience here I agree textually with most of what you have said, and if I might be permitted to put my own interpretation on your statement, and might rely on the fact that dissent begins where interpretation starts, I would find it difficult to withhold my assent from it all.
You maintain that the warning of Jefferson, following Washington, against entangling alliances is still valid. So do I. You deprecate the use of that poor and unworthy diplomatic subterfuge, the unofficial observer, and I heartily join you in that sentiment. You think that nationalism still has a great part to play in the world, and that real and genuine patriotism is still one of the loftiest emotions that stirs the human breast. For myself, I would be the last to dissent from either statement. You declare that any internationalism which is not founded on the friendly coöperation of free and independent nations rests on an unsound foundation, and that the cardinal aim of our foreign policy is not isolation, but peace and commerce and friendship with all the nations of the world. That is one of the best and soundest of American traditions, let who will deny. Finally, you hold up to us the ideal of constitutional government, jealous of its own position in the world, jealous no less of the individual liberty and personal rights and privileges of its fellow-citizens. I say there never was a time when such preachment was more needed than it is needed in the United States today. It is good to listen to such things, to be called back to the fundamentals.
I think if the time should come when the views of myself and the Senator should diverge, it would be more in conclusion than in premise, and more perhaps in method than in aim. I find it difficult, for instance, to think of the foreign and domestic policies of this country as two separate or independent things. They are not; they are but interdependent parts of one great political whole. Whether those who are charged with power by their fellow-citizens are moving in the foreign or in the domestic field, they dare not permit any consideration to deflect them from the pursuit of what is best for the peace and the welfare and the happiness of the nation they serve. I do not mean that they must be blind to what is going on around them, for a man walking on a crowded street makes slow progress if he pays no attention to his fellow-travellers; and a foreign policy of having no policy is the worst foreign policy of all.
The longer I live the more I become persuaded that many of the differences between men arise out of the imperfections of our common speech. I think it was Lord Bacon who said that "the greatest sophism of all sophisms is equivocation or ambiguity of words."
I know the Senator will not think me over-critical and certainly not discourteous if I say frankly that I am not entirely clear in my own mind as to the definition he himself would give to such terms as "internationalism," "isolation," or even that well-worn word "commitment." I take for granted that all of us, according to our lights and circumstances, are nationalists and internationalists, isolationists and contra-isolationists, and as for "commitment," the life of men and nations is made up of commitments -- and commitments, too, that bind our discretion and our judgment. Every time the United States settles a boundary line, it makes a commitment. Every treaty of amity and commerce is a commitment. We went to war with Germany over what we claimed was a commitment, to wit: the law of nations giving to all neutrals the right to sail their ships upon the open seas. For my part, I would be willing to write that law on paper and sign the name of America to it, if every nation in the world would do the same. I cannot be frightened away from a treaty that I think is to the advantage of my country simply because it involves a commitment, or restrains the contracting parties from violating the letter and spirit of their bond.
I confess without apology that I was one of those who at the end of the Great War believed that the world had learned a lesson in the futility of appeal to arms, and I thought that with the roar of the vain cannons still sounding in their ears the time had come when mankind was ready to exalt reason instead of force as the arbiter of international disputes. Perhaps that was premature. When one looks around the world today, of which the Senator's picture is in no way overdrawn, it is difficult to be of a contrary opinion. Perhaps that effort would have succeeded better if the United States had been more free in its cooperation. Who knows? Men will be debating that question one hundred years from now without agreeing upon the true answer. But the dream, if it was a dream, was inspired. The effort was not ignoble. And the ideal is one to which the tired world will return again and yet again, until, by toil and strain, and if need be by further sacrifice, the end is achieved.
Senator, you have been truly told by our Chairman that this assemblage and this association is made up of many men of many minds. I think there must be before you many who are ready to agree with the word and letter of all that you have said. But I warn you that I see others here who are already preparing their reservations. And again speaking from my personal knowledge, I know there are quite a number who, if given the opportunity to speak, would be only too glad to take it out of both of us. But on one point I beg you to believe that there is no difference of opinion. All of us have listened with great pleasure to your most interesting and illuminating speech, and all of us have a sense of gratitude for the great honor that you have done us by adding the distinction of your presence to this assemblage.