The American Presidency Project
John T. Woolley & Gerhard Peters • Santa Barbara, California return to original document
• Woodrow Wilson
Address at the Opera House (Marlow Theater) in Helena, Montana
September 11, 1919
Gov. Stewart and my fellow countrymen: I very heartily echo what Gov. Stewart has just said. I am very glad that an occasion has arisen which has given me the opportunity and the pleasure of coming thus face to face with, at any rate, some of the people of the great State of Montana. I must hasten to say to you that I am not come from Washington so much to advise you as to get in touch with you, as to get the feeling of the purposes which are moving you, because, my fellow citizens, I may tell you as a secret that some people in Washington lose that touch. They do not know what the purposes are that are running through the hearts and minds of the people of this great country, and after one stays in Washington too long one is apt to catch that same remove and numbness which seems to characterize others that are there. I like to come out and feel once more the thing that is the only real thing in public affairs, and that is the great movement of public opinion in the United States.

I want to put the case very simply to you to-night, for with all its complexity, with all the many aspects which it wears there is a very simple question at the heart of it. That question is nothing more nor less than this: Shall the great sacrifice that we made in this war be in vain, or shall it not? I want to say to you very solemnly that, notwithstanding the splendid achievement of our soldiers on the other side of the sea, who I do not hesitate to say saved the world, notwithstanding the noble things that they did, their task is only half done and it remains for us to complete it. I want to explain that to you. I want to explain to you why, if we left the thing where it is and did not carry out the program of the treaty of peace in all its fullness, men like these would have to die again to do the work over again and convince provincial statesmen that the world is one and that only by organization of the world can you save the young men of the world.

As I take up this theme there is a picture very distinct in my mind. Last Memorial Day I stood in an American cemetery in France just outside Paris, on the slopes of Surenes. The hills slope steeply to a little plain, and when I went out there all the slope of the hill was covered with men in the American uniform, standing, but rising tier on tier as if in a great witness stand. Then below, all over this little level space, were the simple crosses that marked the resting place of American dead. Just by the stand where I spoke was a group of French women who had lost their own sons, but, just because they had lost their own sons and because their hearts went out in thought and sympathy to the mothers on this side of the sea, had made themselves, so to say, mothers of those graves, had every day gone to take care of them, had every day strewn them with flowers. They stood there, their cheeks wetted with tears, while I spoke, not of the French dead but of the American boys who had died in the common cause, and there seemed to me to be drawn together on that day and in that little sunny spot the hearts of the world. I took occasion to say on that day that those who stood in the way of completing the task that those men had died for would some day look back upon it as those have looked back upon the days when they tried to divide this Union and prevent it from being a single Nation united in a single form of liberty. For the completion of the work of those men is this, that the thing that they fought to stop shall never be attempted again.

I call you to mind that we did not go into this war willingly. I was in a position to know; in the providence of God, the leadership of this Nation was intrusted to me during those early years of the war when we were not in it. I was aware through many subtle channels of the movements of opinion in this country, and I know that the thing that this country chiefly desired, the thing that you men out here in the West chiefly desired and the thing that of course every loving woman had at her heart, was that we should keep out of the war, and we tried to persuade ourselves that the European business was not our business. We tried to convince ourselves that no matter what happened on the other side of the sea, no obligation of duty rested upon us, and finally we found the currents of humanity too strong for us. We found that a great consciousness was welling up in us that this was not a local cause, that this was not a struggle which was to be confined to Europe, or confined to Asia, to which it had spread, but that it was something that involved the very fate of civilization; and there was one great Nation in the world that could not afford to stay out of it. There are gentlemen opposing the ratification of this treaty who at that time taunted the administration of the United States that it had lost touch with its international conscience. They were eager to go in, and now that they have got in, and are caught in the whole network of human conscience, they want to break out and stay out. We were caught in this thing by the action of a nation utterly unlike ourselves. What I mean to say is that the German nation, the German people, had no choice whatever as to whether it was to go into that war or not, did not know that it was going into it until its men were summoned to the colors. I remember, not once, but often, sitting at the Cabinet table in Washington I asked my colleagues what their impression was of the opinion of the country before we went into the war, and I remember one day one of my colleagues said to me, "Mr. President, I think the people of the country would take your advice and do what you suggested." "Why," I said, "that is not what I am waiting for; that is not enough. If they can not go in with a whoop, there is no use of their going in at all. I do not want them to wait on me. I am waiting on them. I want to know what the conscience of this country is speaking. I want to know what the purpose is arising in the minds of the people of this country with regard to this world situation." When I thought I heard that voice, it was then that I proposed to the Congress of the United States that we should include ourselves in the challenge that Germany was giving to mankind.

We fought Germany in order that there should be a world fit to live in. The world is not fit to live in, my fellow citizens, if any great government is in a position to do what the German Government did—secretly plot a war and begin it with the whole strength of its people, without so much as consulting its own people. A great war can not begin with public deliberation. A great war can begin only by private plot, because the peoples of this world are not asleep, as they used to be. The German people is a great educated people. All the thoughtful men in Germany, so far as I have been able to learn, who were following peaceful pursuits—the bankers and the merchants and the manufacturers—deemed it folly to go into that war. They said so then and they have said so since, but they were not consulted. The masters of Germany were the general military staff; it was these men who nearly brought a complete cataclysm upon civilization itself. It stands to reason that if we permit anything of that sort to happen again we are recreant to the men we sent across the seas to fight this war. We are deliberately guilty then of preparing a situation which will inevitably lead to what? What shall I call it? The final war? Alas, my fellow citizens, it might be the final arrest, though I pray only the temporary arrest, of civilization itself; and America has, if I may take the liberty of saying so, a greater interest in the prevention of that war than any other nation. America is less exhausted by the recent war than the other belligerents; she is not exhausted at all. America has paid for the war that has gone by less heavily, in proportion to her wealth, than the other nations. America still has free capital enough for its own industries and for the industries of the other countries that have to build their industries anew. The next war would have to be paid for in American blood and American money. The nation of all nations that is most interested to prevent the recurrence of what has already happened is the nation which would assuredly have to bear the brunt of that great catastrophe—either have to bear it or stop where we are. Who is going to check the growth of this Nation? Who is going to check the accumulation of physical power by this Nation—if you choose to put it in that form? Who is going to reduce the natural resources of this country? Who is going to change the circumstance that we largely feed the rest of the world? Who is going to change the circumstance that many of our resources are unique and indispensable? America is going to grow more and more powerful; and the more powerful she is the more inevitable it is that she should be trustee for the peace of the world.

A miracle has happened. I dare say that many of you have in mind the very short course of American history. You know, when this Nation was born and we were just a little group—3, 000, 000 people on the Atlantic coast—how the nations on the other side of the water and the statesmen of that day watched us with a certain condescension, looked upon us as a sort of group of hopeful children, pleased for the time being with the conception of absolute freedom and political liberty, far in advance of the other peoples of the world because less experienced than they, less aware of the difficulties of the great task that they had accomplished. As the years have gone by they have watched the growth of this Nation with astonishment and for a long time with dismay. They watched it with dismay until a very interesting and significant thing happened. When we fought Cuba's battle for her, then they said, "Ah, it is the beginning of what we predicted. She will seize Cuba and, after Cuba, what she pleases to the south of her. It is the beginning of the history we have gone through ourselves." They ought to have known; they set us the example! When we actually fulfilled to the letter our promise that we would set helpless Cuba up as an independent government and guarantee her independence—when we carried out that great policy we astounded and converted the world. Then began—let me repeat the word again—then began the confidence of the world in America, and I want to testify to you to-night that nothing was more overpowering to me and my colleagues in Paris than the evidences of the absolutely unquestioning confidence of the peoples of the world in the people of America. We were touched by it not only, but I must admit we were frightened by it, because we knew that they were expecting things of us that we could not accomplish; we knew that they were hoping for some miracle of justice which would set them forward the same hundred years that we have traveled on the progress toward free government; and we knew that it was a slow road; we knew that you could not suddenly transform a people from a people of subjects into a people of self-governing units. And I perhaps returned a little bit to my own profession of teaching and tried to point out to them that some of the things they were expecting of us could not be done now; but they refused to be disabused of their absolute confidence that America could and would do anything that was right for the other peoples of the world. An amazing thing! What was more interesting still, my fellow citizens, was this: It happened that America laid down the specifications for the peace. It happened that America proposed the principles upon which the peace with Germany should be built. I use the word "happened" because I have found, and everybody who has looked into the hearts of some of the people on the other side of the water has found, that the people on the other side of the water, whatever may be said about their Governments, had learned their lesson from America before, and they believed in those principles before we promulgated them; and their statesmen, knowing that their people believed in them, accepted them—accepted them before the American representatives crossed the sea. We found them ready to lay down the foundations of that peace along the lines that America had suggested, and all of Europe was aware that what was being done was building up an American peace. In such circumstances we were under a peculiar compulsion to carry the work to the point which had filled our convictions from the first.

Where did the suggestion first come from? Where did the idea first spread that there should be a society of nations? It was first suggested and it first spread in the United States, and some gentlemen were the chief proponents of it who are now objecting to the adoption of the covenant of the league of nations. They went further, some of them, than any principles of that covenant goes, and now for some reason which I must admit is inscrutable to me they are opposing the very thing into which they put their heart and their genius. All Europe knew that we were doing an American thing when we put the covenant of the league of nations at the beginning of the treaty, and one of the most interesting things over there was our dealing with some of the most cynical men I had to deal with, and there were some cynics over there—men who believed in what has come to be known as the old Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest. They said: "In nature the strong eats up the weak, and in politics the strong overcomes and dominates the weak. It has always been so, and it is always going to be so." When I first got to Paris they talked about the league of nations indulgently in my presence, politely. I think some of them had the idea, "Oh, well, we must humor Wilson along so that he will not make a public fuss about it," and those very men, before our conferences were over, suggested more often than anybody else that some of the most difficult and delicate tasks in carrying out this peace should be left to the. league of nations, and they all admitted that the league of nations, which they had deemed an ideal dream, was a demonstrable, practical necessity. This treaty can not be carried out without the league of nations, and I will tell you some interesting cases.

I have several times said, and perhaps I may say again, that one of the principal things about this treaty is that it establishes the land titles of the world. It says, for example, that Bohemia shall belong to the Bohemians and not to the Austrians or to the Hungarians; that if the Bohemians do not want to live under a monarchy, dual or single, it is their business and not ours, and they can do what they please with their own country. We have said of the Austrian territories south of Austria and Hungary, occupied by the Jugo-Slavs, "These never did belong to Austria; they always did belong to the Slavs, and the Slavs shall have them for their own, and we will guarantee the title." I have several times asked, "Suppose that the land titles of a State like Montana were clearly enough stated and somewhere recorded, but that there was no way of enforcing them." You know what would happen. Every one of you would enforce his own land title. You used to go armed here long ago, and you would resume the habit if there was nobody to guarantee your legal title. You would have to resume the habit. If society is not going to guarantee your titles, you have got to see to it yourselves that others respect them. That was the condition of Europe and will be the condition of Europe again if these settled land titles which have been laid out are not guaranteed by organized society and the only organized society that can guarantee them is a society of nations.

It was not easy to draw the line. It was not a surveyor's task. There were not well-known points from which to start and to which to go, because, for example, we were trying to give the Bohemians the lands where the Bohemians lived, but the Bohemians did not stop at a straight line. If they will pardon the expression, they slopped over. And Germans slopped over into Poland and in some places there was an almost inextricable mixture of the two populations. Everybody said that the statistics lied. They said the German statistics with regard to high Silesia, for example, were not true, because the Germans wanted to make it out that the Germans were in a majority there, and the Poles declared that the Poles were in the majority there. We said, "This is a difficult business. Sitting in Paris we can not tell by count how many Poles there are in high Silesia, or how many Germans, and if we could count them, we can not tell from Paris what they want. High Silesia does not belong to us, it does not belong to anybody but the people who live in it. We will do this: We will put that territory under the care of the league of nations for a little period; we will establish a small armed force there, made up of contingents out of the different allied nations so that no one of them would be in control, and then we will hold a referendum, and high Silesia shall belong either to Germany or to Poland as the people in high Silesia desire." That is only one case out of half a dozen. In regions where the make-up of the population is doubtful or the desire of the population is as yet unascertained, the league of nations is to be the instrumentality by which the goods are to be delivered to the people to whom they belong. No other international conference ever conceived such a purpose, and no earlier conference of that sort would have been willing to carry out such a purpose. Up to the time of this war, my fellow-citizens, it was the firm and fixed conviction of statesmen in Europe that the greater nations ought to dominate and guide and determine the destiny of the weaker nations, and the American principle was rejected. The American principle is that, just as the weak man has the same legal rights that the strong man has, just as the poor man has the same rights as the rich, though I am sorry to say he does not always get them, so as between nations the principle of equality is the only principle of justice, and the weak nations have just as many rights and just the same rights as the strong nations. If you do not establish that principle, then this war is going to come again, because this war came by aggression upon a weak nation.

What happened, my fellow citizens? Don't you remember? The Crown Prince of Austria was assassinated in Serbia. Not assassinated by anybody over whom the Government of Serbia had any control, but assassinated by some man who had at his heart the memory of something that was intolerable to him that had been done to the people that he belonged to, and the Austrian Government, not immediately but by suggestion from Berlin, where it was whispered, "We are ready for the World War, and this is a good chance to begin it; the other nations do not believe we are going to begin it; we will begin it and overwhelm France, first of all, before the others can come to her rescue." The Austrian Government sent an ultimatum to Serbia practically demanding of her that she surrender to them her sovereign rights, and gave her 24 hours to decide. Poor Serbia, in her sudden terror, with memory of things that had happened before and might happen again, practically yielded to every demand, and with regard to a little portion of the ultimatum said she would like to talk it over with them, and they did not dare wait. They knew that if the world ever had the facts of that dispute laid before them the opinion of mankind would overwhelm anybody that took aggression against Serbia in such circumstances. The point is that they chose this little nation. They had always ?chosen the Balkans as the ground of their intrigue. German princes were planted all through the Balkans, so that when Germany got ready she could use the Balkan situation as pawns in her game.

And what does the treaty of peace do? The treaty of peace sets all those nations up in independence again; gives Serbia back what had been torn away from her, sets up the Jugo-Slavic States and the Bohemian States under the name of Czechoslovakia; and if you leave it at that, you leave those nations just as weak as they were before. By giving them their land titles, you do not make them any stronger. You make them stronger in spirit, it may be, they see a new day, they feel a new enthusiasm, their old love of their country can now express itself in action, but physically they are no stronger than they were before, and that road that we heard so much of—from Bremen to Bagdad—is wide open. The Germans were traveling that road. Their general staff interrupted the game. The merchants and manufacturers and bankers of Germany were making conquest of the world. All they had to do was to wait a little while longer, and long German fingers would have been stretched all through that country which never could have been withdrawn. The war spoiled the game. German intrigue was penetrating all those countries and controlling them. The dirty center of the intrigue, dirty in every respect, was Constantinople, and from there ramified all the threads that made this web, in the center of which was the venomous spider. If you leave that road open, if you leave those nations to take care of themselves, knowing that they can not take care of themselves, then you have committed the unpardonable sin of undoing the victory which our boys won. You say, "What have we got to do with it?" Let us answer that question, and not from a sentimental point of view at all. Suppose we did not have any hearts under our jackets. Suppose we did not care for these people. Care for them? Why, their kinsmen are everywhere in the communities of the United States, people who love people over there are everywhere in the United States. We are made up out of mankind; we can not tear our hearts away from them. Our hearts are theirs, but suppose they were not. Suppose we had forgotten everything except the material, commercial, monetary interests of the United States. You can not get those markets away from Germany if you let her reestablish her old influence there. The 300,000,000 people between the Rhine and the Ural Mountains will be in such a condition that they can not buy anything, their industries can not start, unless they surrender themselves to the bankers of Mittel-Europa, that you used to hear about; and the peoples of Italy and France and Belgium, some 80,000,000 strong, who are your natural customers, can not buy anything in disturbed and bankrupt Europe. If you are going to trade with them, you have got to go partners with them.

When I hear gentlemen talk about America standing for herself, I wonder where they have been living. Has America disconnected herself from the rest of the world? Her ambition has been to connect herself with all the rest of the world commercially, and she is bankrupt unless she does. Look at the actual situation right now, my fellow citizens. The war was a very great stimulation to some of the greatest of the manufacturing industries of this country, and a very interesting thing has been going on. You remember, some of you perhaps painfully remember, that the Congress of the United States put a very heavy tax on excess profits, and a great many men who were making large excess profits said, "All right, we can manage this. These will not be profits; we will spend these in enlarging our plants, advertising, increasing our facilities, spreading our agencies." They have got ready for a bigger business than they can do unless they have the world to do it in, and if they have not the world to do it in, there will be a recession of prosperity in this country; there will be unemployment; there will be bankruptcy in some cases. The giant is so big that he will burst his jacket. The rest of the world is necessary to us, if you want to put it on that basis. I do not like to put it on that basis. That is not the American basis. America does not want to feed upon the rest of the world. She wants to feed it and serve it. America, if I may say it without offense to great peoples for whom I have a profound admiration on the other side of the water, is the only national idealistic force in the world, and idealism is going to save the world. Selfishness will embroil it. Narrow selfishness will tie things up into ugly knots that you can not get open except with a sword. All the human passions, if aroused on the wrong side, will do the world an eternal disservice.

I remember somebody said to me one day, using a familiar phrase, that this was an age in which mind was monarch, and my reply was, "Well, if that is true, mind is one of those modern monarchs that reign and do not govern; as a matter of fact, we are governed by a great popular assembly made up of the passions, and the best that we can manage is that the handsome passions shall be in the majority." That is the task of mankind, that the handsome passions, the handsome sentiments, the handsome purposes, shall always have a dominating and working majority, so that they will always be able to outvote the baser passions, to defeat all the cupidities and meannesses and criminalities of the world. That is the program of civilization. The basis of the program of civilization, I want to say with all the emphasis that I am capable of, is Christian and not pagan, and in the presence of this inevitable partnership with the rest of the world, these gentlemen say, "We will not sign the articles of copartnership." Well, why not? You have heard, I dare say, only about four things in the covenant of the league of nations. I have not heard them talk about anything else. It is a very wonderful document and you would think there were only four things in it. The things that they talk about are the chance to get out, the dangers of article 10, the Monroe doctrine, and the risk that other nations may interfere in our domestic affairs. Those are the things that keep them awake at night, and I want very briefly to take those things in their sequence.

I do not like to discuss some of them. If I go to do a thing, I do not say at the beginning, "My chief interest in this thing is how I am going to get out." I will not be a very trusted or revered partner if it is evident that my fear is that I will continue to be a partner. But we will take that risk. We will sit by the door with our Hand on the knob, and sit on the edge of our chair. There is nothing in the covenant to prevent our going out whenever we please, with the single limitation that we give two years' notice. The gentlemen who discuss this thing do not object to the two years' notice; they say, "It says that you can get out after two years' notice if at that time you have fulfilled your international obligations," and they are afraid somebody will have the right to say that they have not. That right can not belong to anybody unless you give it to somebody, and the covenant of the league does not give it to anybody. It is absolutely left to the conscience of this Nation, as to the conscience of every other member of the league, to determine whether at the time of its withdrawal it has fulfilled its international obligations or not; and inasmuch as the United States always has fulfilled its international obligations, I wonder what these gentlemen are afraid of! There is only one thing to restrain us from getting out, and that is the opinion of our fellow men, and that will not restrain us in any conceivable circumstance if we have followed the honorable course which we always have followed. I would be ashamed as an American to be afraid that when we wanted to get out we should not have fulfilled our international obligations.

Then comes article 10, for I am taking the questions in the order in which they come in the covenant itself. Let me repeat to you article 10 nearly verbatim; I am not trying to repeat it exactly as it is written in the covenant. Every member of the league agrees to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of the other members of the league. There is the guarantee of the land titles. Without that clause, there is no guarantee of the land titles. Without that clause the heart of the recent war is not cut out. The heart of the recent war was an absolute disregard of the territorial integrity and political independence of the smaller nations. If you do not cut the heart of the war out, that heart is going to live and beat and grow stronger, and we will have the cataclysm again. Then the article adds that it shall be the duty of the council of the league to advise the members of the league what steps may be necessary from time to time to carry out this agreement; to advise, not to direct. The Congress of the United States is just as free under that article to refuse to declare war as it is now; and it is very much safer than it is now. The opinion of the world and of the United States bade it to declare war in April, 1917. It would have been shamed before all mankind if it had not declared war then. It was not given audible advice by anybody but its own people, but it knew that the whole world was waiting for it to fulfill a manifest moral obligation. This advice can not be given, my fellow citizens, without the vote of the United States. The advice can not be given without a unanimous vote of the council of the league. The member of the council representing the United States has to vote aye before the United States or any other country can be advised to go to war under that agreement, unless the United. States is herself a party. What does that mean? Unless the United. States is going to seize somebody else's territory or somebody else is going to seize the territory of the United States. I do not contemplate it as a likely contingency that we are going to steal somebody else's territory, I dismiss that as not a serious probability, and I do not see anybody within reach who is going to take any of ours. But suppose we should turn highwayman, or that some other nation should turn highwayman, and stretch its hands out for what belongs to us. Then what difference does it make what advice the council gives? We are in the scrap anyhow. In those circumstances Congress is not going to wait to hear what the council of the league says to determine whether it is going to war or not. The war will be its war. So that any way you turn article 10 it does not alter in the least degree the freedom and independence of the United States with regard to its action in respect of war. All of that is stated in such plain language that I can not for the life of me understand how anybody reads it any other way. I know perfectly well that the men who wrote it read it the way I am interpreting it. I know that it is intended to be written that way, and if I am any judge of the English language, they succeeded in writing it that way.

Then they are anxious about the Monroe doctrine. The covenant says in so many words that nothing in that document shall be taken as invalidating the Monroe doctrine. I do not see what more you could say. While the matter was under debate in what was called the commission on the league of nations, the body that drew the covenant up, in which were representatives of 14- nations, I tried to think of some other language that could state it more unqualifiedly and I could not think of any other. Can you? Nothing in that document should be taken as invalidating the Monroe doctrine—I can not say it any plainer than that—and yet by a peculiar particularity of anxiety these gentlemen can not believe their eyes; and from one point of view it is not strange, my fellow citizens. The rest of the world always looked askance on the Monroe doctrine. It is true, though some people have forgotten it, that President Monroe uttered that doctrine at the suggestion of the British cabinet, and in its initiation, in its birth, it came from Mr. Canning, who was prime minister of England and who wanted the aid of the United States in checking the ambition of some of the European countries to establish their power in South America. Notwithstanding that, Great Britain did not like the Monroe doctrine as we grew so big. It was one thing to have our assistance and another thing for us not to need her assistance. And the rest of the world had studiously avoided on all sorts of interesting occasions anything that could be interpreted as an acknowledgment of the Monroe doctrine. So I am not altogether surprised that these gentlemen can not believe their eyes. Here the nations of Europe say that they are entering into an arrangement no part of which shall be interpreted as invalidating the Monroe doctrine. I do not have to say anything more about that. To my mind, that is eminently satisfactory, and as long as I am President I shall feel an added freedom in applying, when I think fit, the Monroe doctrine. I am very much interested in it, and I foresee occasions when it might be appropriately applied.

In the next place they are afraid that other nations will interfere in our domestic questions. There, again, the covenant of the league distinctly says that if any dispute arises which is found to relate to an exclusively domestic question, the council shall take no action with regard to it and make no report concerning it, and the questions that these gentlemen most often mention, namely the questions of the tariff and of immigration and of naturalization, are acknowledged by every authoritative student of international law without exception to be as, of course, domestic questions. These gentlemen want us to make an obvious thing painfully obvious by making a list of the domestic questions, and I object to making the list for this reason, that if you make a list you may leave something out. I remind all students of law within the sound of my voice of the old principle of the law that the mention of one thing is the exclusion of other things; that if you meant everything, you ought to have said everything; that if you said a few things, you did not have the rest in mind. I object to making a list of domestic questions, because a domestic question may come up which I did not think of. In every such case the United States would be just as secure in her independent handling of the question as she is now. Then, outside the covenant is the question of Shantung. Some gentlemen want to make a reservation or something that they clothe with a handsome name with regard to the Shantung provision, which is that the rights which Germany illicitly got, for she got it by duress, from China shall pass to Japan. While the war is in progress, Great Britain and France expressly in a written treaty, though a secret treaty, entered into an engagement with Japan that she should have all that Germany had in the Province of Shantung. If we repudiate this treaty in that matter Great Britain and France can not repudiate the other treaty, and they can not repudiate this treaty inasmuch as it confirms the other. Therefore, in order to take away from Japan, for she is in physical possession of it now, what Germany had in China, we shall have to fight Japan and Great Britain and France; and at the same time do China no service, because one of the things that is known to everybody is that when the United States consented, because of this promise of Great Britain and France, to putting that provision in the treaty, Japan agreed that she would not take all of what was given to her in the treaty; that, on the contrary, she would, just as soon as possible, after the treaty was carried out return every sovereign right or right resembling a sovereign right that Germany had enjoyed in Shantung to the Government of China, and that she would retain at Shantung only those economic rights with regard to the administration of the railway and the exploitation of certain mines that other countries enjoy elsewhere in China. It is not an exceptional arrangement—a very un- fortunate arrangement, I think, elsewhere as there, for China, but not an exceptional arrangement. Under it Japan will enjoy privileges exactly similar and concessions exactly similar to what other nations enjoy elsewhere in China and nothing more. In addition to that, if the treaty is entered into by the United States China will for the first time in her history have a forum to which to bring every wrong that is intended against her or that has been committed against her.

When you are studying article 10, my fellow citizens, I beg of you that you will read article 11. I do not hear that very often referred to. Article 11—I am not going to quote the words of it—makes it the right of any member of the league to call attention to anything, anywhere, that is likely to disturb the peace of the world or the good understanding between nations upon which the peace of the world depends. Every aspiring people, every oppressed people, every people whose hearts can no longer stand the strain of the tyranny that has been put upon them, can find a champion to speak for it in the forum of the world. Until that covenant is adopted, what is the international law? International law is that no matter how deeply the United States is interested in something in some other part of the world that she believes is going to set the world on fire or disturb the friendly relations between two great nations, she can not speak of it unless she can show that her own interests are directly involved. It is a hostile and unfriendly act to call attention to it, and article 11 says, in so many words, that it shall be the friendly right of every nation to call attention to any such matter anywhere; so that if anybody contemplates anything that is an encroachment upon the rights of China he can be summoned to the bar of the world.

I do not know when any nation that could not take care of itself, as unfortunately China can not, ever had such a humane advantage accorded it before. It is not only we, my fellow citizens, who are caught in all the implications of the affairs of the world; everybody is caught in it now, and it is right that anything that affects the world should be made everybody's business.

The heart of the covenant of the league of nations is this: Every member of the league promises never to go to war without first having done one or other of two things, either having submitted the matter to arbitration, in which case it agrees absolutely to abide by the award, or having submitted it to discussion by the council of the league of nations. If it submits it for discussion by the council, it agrees to allow six months for the discussion and to lay all the documents and facts in its possession before the council, which is authorized to publish them; and even if it is not satisfied with the opinion rendered by the council, it agrees that it will not go to war within ? less than three months after the publication of that judgment. There are nine months in which the whole matter is before the bar of mankind, and, my fellow citizens, I make this confident prediction, that no nation will dare submit a bad case to that jury. I believe that this covenant is better than 95 per cent insurance against war. Suppose it was only 5 per cent insurance; would not you want it? If you can get any insurance against war, do not you want it? I ask any mother, any father, any brother, anybody with a heart, "Do not you want some insurance against war, no matter how little?" And the experience of mankind, from the conferences between employers and employees, is that if people get together and talk things over, it becomes more and more difficult to fight the longer they talk. There is not any subject that has not two sides to it, and the reason most men will not enter into discussion with antagonists is that they are afraid the other fellows' side will be stronger than theirs. The only thing you are afraid of, my fellow citizens, is the truth.

A cynical old politician once said to his son, "John, do not bother your head about lies; they will take care of themselves, but if you ever hear me denying anything you may make up your mind it is so." The only thing that is formidable is the truth. I learned what I know about Mexico, which is not as much as I should desire, by hearing a large number of liars tell me all about it. At first, I was very much confused, because the narratives did not tally, and then one day, when I had a lucid interval, it occurred to me that that was because what was told me was not true. The truth always matches; it is lies that do not match. I also observed that back of all these confusing contradictions there was a general mass of facts which they all stated, and I knew that that was the region into which their lying capacity did not extend. They had not had time to make up any lies about that, and the correspondences in their narratives constituted the truth. The differences could be forgotten. So I learned a great deal about Mexico by listening to a sufficiently large number of liars. The truth is the regnant and triumphant thing in this world. You may trample it under foot, you may blind its eyes with blood, but you can not kill it, and sooner or later it rises up and seeks and gets its revenge. ??

That is what it behooves us to remember, my fellow citizens, in these radical days. The men who want to cure the wrongs of governments by destroying government are going to be destroyed themselves; destroyed, I mean, by the chaos that they have created, because remove the organism of society and, even if you are strong enough to take anything that you want, you are not smart enough to keep it. The next stronger fellow will take it away from you and the most audacious group amongst you will make slaves and tools of you. That is the truth that is going to master society in Russia and in any other place that tries Russia's unhappy example. I hope you will not think it inappropriate if I stop here to express my shame as an American citizen at the race riots that have occurred in some places in this country where men have forgotten humanity and justice and ordered society and have run amuck. That constitutes a man not only the enemy of society but his own enemy and the enemy of justice. I want to say this, too, that a strike of the policemen of a great city, leaving that city at the mercy of an army of thugs, is a crime against civilization. In my judgment, the obligation of a policeman is as sacred and direct as the obligation of a soldier. He is a public servant, not a private employee, and the whole honor and safety of the community is in his hands. He has no right to prefer any private advantage to the public safety. I hope that that lesson will be burned in so that it will never again be forgotten, because the pride of America is that it can exercise self control. That is what a self-governing nation is, not merely a nation that elects people to do its jobs for it, but a nation that can keep its head, concert its purposes, and find out how its purposes can be executed.

One of the noblest sentences ever uttered was uttered by Mr. Garfield before he became President. He was a Member of Congress, as I remember it, at the time of Mr. Lincoln's assassination. He happened to be in New York City, and Madison Square was filled with a surging mass of deeply excited people when the news of the murder came. Mr. Garfield was at the old Fifth Avenue Hotel, which had a balcony out over the entrance, and they begged him to go out and say something to the people. He went out and, after he had attracted their attention, he said this beautiful thing: "My fellow citizens, the President is dead, but the Government lives and God Omnipotent reigns." America is the place where you can not kill your Government by killing the men who conduct it. The only way you can kill government in America is by making the men and women of America forget how to govern, and nobody can do that. They sometimes find the team a little difficult to drive, but they sooner or later whip it into harness. And, my fellow citizens, the underlying thought of what I have tried to say to you to-night is the organization of the world for order and peace. Our fortunes are directly involved, and my mind reverts to that scene that I painted for you at the outset—that slope at Suresnes, those voiceless graves, those weeping women—and I say. "My fellow citizens, the pledge that speaks from those graves is demanded of us. We must see to it that those boys did not die in vain. We must fulfill the great - mission upon which they crossed the sea."

Citation: Woodrow Wilson: "Address at the Opera House (Marlow Theater) in Helena, Montana", September 11, 1919. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=117376.
 
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