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Address to the Daughters of the American Revolution.

April 14, 1930

To the Daughters of the American Revolution:

It is a pleasure to take part in welcoming the delegates from all parts of the country of so great a patriotic association as the Daughters of the American Revolution.

This society was rounded in proud memory of the spirit of this Nation in its first fight for freedom. The enduring courage, the wisdom, and the love of liberty of our forbears who fought in that fight is a most precious heritage. You who trace your lineage back to that gallant group have a right to be proud. On you, by virtue of your lineage, there rest especial privileges and duties. It is your special privilege to tend the flame of humanity and freedom that was lighted in the American Revolution and so to perform that service that the memory of those heroic virtues shall survive in our people. And there rests on you an especial charge and duty that, at whatever sacrifice, that spiritual light of justice and liberty shall continue to guide this people in their relations to all the world. For it is the moral and spiritual inspirations of a nation more than its material progress which will determine its destiny.

As a nation we have grown to a giant strength and power which is so new and vast that we can only vaguely comprehend it. There are showered upon us as a people the blessings of general well-being to a degree which no other nation possesses and that national well-being is more fairly shared among every class of our people than of any other nation. Through the wisdom of our forefathers we have inherited a system of life which yields a larger measure of equality of opportunity-a larger richness of opportunity--than humanity has before discovered. And from this system we have found freedom for ability and character to rise from the humblest condition to leadership, which brings a constant refreshment of the moral and spiritual strength to our Nation. We are content with the fundamental democratic principles of government which we have evolved and under which we live. We are not blind to its errors and crudities, but we are confident of our ability to cure them. We have no patience with those doctrines that would destroy the most successful human experiment in all history.

Because of our geographical situation, because of our great resources and of the American genius for organization, we have, in a sense that no other country has it, security from attack and harm by other nations. We are not only more free from attack, but our people are more free from the haunting fear of attack than are any other people in the world. Because of these blessings, because of our inherited ideals of humanity and liberty, because of our strength, because of our disinterestedness, because of our freedom from these tormenting fears, there rests upon the United States a moral and spiritual duty to undertake a part in securing the peace of the world. Nor does that duty imply any limitation upon our independence. Quite to the contrary, it can only be fulfilled to its fullest measure by maintaining the fullest independence.

I do not put this duty to you upon a basis of self-interest, although it is inevitable that the failure of civilization in any part of the world at once brings distress within our own doors. I have no occasion to emphasize this duty by pointing out the horrors and degradations of war. Those who really know war never glorify it. I have seen too much of the tragic suffering of men, women, and children, of the black shadows that ever run on the heels of war, to wish to recall those scenes. I hope never to see them again. Because of my abhorrence of war let no one mistake my position however. There is a price which no nation can afford to pay for peace. Yet I know this Nation can help to make war impossible and that it should so help.

It is easy to preach the national duty of helping to preserve peace. It is easier still to engage in invective or vindictive phrase and slogan which stir national selfishness and self-righteousness. And certainly the way of peace lies neither in the rattling of the scabbard nor the abandonment of defense.

These are matters in which you are deeply interested; not in destructive criticism directed to either extreme, of which we have enough, but in development of constructive public opinion--the most powerful expression of our people. Your cordial resolutions in support of Secretary Kellogg 1 in his efforts which brought about the Kellogg-Briand Pact are evidence of the desire of your society to promote the peace of the world. By that pact with 55 other nations, we solemnly pledged ourselves not only to renounce war but to seek means for pacific settlement of all international differences. We were sincere when we signed that pact. We engaged our national honor when we ratified it. And in sincerity and honor two obligations flow from that covenant.

1 Frank B. Kellogg was Secretary of State from March 4, 1925 to March 27, 1929.

First, the conceptions of military strength of nations are reduced by that covenant solely to such strength as is required for defense. And second, we must cultivate methodical procedure by which controversies between nations can be settled by pacific means. Certainly until the peace machinery of the world has been developed and tested over long years we must maintain such forces of defense as will at every moment prevent the penetration of a hostile force over our borders. And our security today is well assured by an army and navy whose high tradition of valor and skill is represented in both the command and ranks of today, and we shall maintain it. Adequate defense requires forces relative to offer nations but at the same time with no excesses which will create the fear of aggression from us. Such fear will breed animosities, ill will, and a resolution in others to combine to protect themselves, which are the very seeds of war.

All the world needs relief from the burdens of armies and navies, but disarmament cannot be made to contribute to peace unless it is conducted by agreement among nations, for by that method alone can we allay fear and preserve security. One of the deeper causes of friction and ill will in the world has been competition in naval armament. Nothing arouses more fear or lends itself more to the creation of distrust among nations. A proposal on the part of one nation to build more ships of war results in instant fear of inadequate defense, ill will, and suspicion in other nations.

In consonance with the spirit of the Kellogg Pact, we recently made a renewed effort at reduction and limitation of naval arms by agreement. For nearly 10 years our country has pursued a steady endeavor to bring about such agreements. The Washington Arms Conference of 1922, while it was but partially successful in this direction, yet by limiting battleships and aircraft carriers it accomplished much and laid foundations for the future. Competition, however, started at once in the other types of warcraft and an effort was made by conference between the representatives of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan at Geneva in 1927 to bring it to a halt.

That Conference failed and competition took renewed and even more dangerous aspects. A year ago we again initiated negotiations and the Conference in London during the past 4 months by patient labor is now assured of success. It has been able to reach a further great and far-reaching settlement, reducing the number of battleships, creating a holiday in their further construction, together with limitations and reductions in the construction of cruisers, destroyers, and submarines during the next 6 years. Under the terms now being finally formulated the Conference has been able to bring about an actual reduction in the armament of the three nations of about 25 percent less than the standards discussed during the Conference which failed at Geneva 3 years ago and a reduction of about 12 percent below present naval programs as rapidly as the present ships become obsolete. But most important of all, it has been able finally to turn the tide of constantly increasing naval arms and to end the poison of suspicion and ill will generated by constant rivalry in construction.

We have been able to create a situation where there is neither inferiority nor superiority in the naval strength of the United States. This is consonant with the pact we have solemnly entered by which we have pledged ourselves to use our arms solely for defense. We are stronger in defense as a result of the Conference. It is an accomplishment that I believe will appeal to the moral and spiritual sense of the American people. Through this agreement we have strengthened the forces of peace. It is an accomplishment that has great material advantages to all its participants, but I prefer to have it judged on the far higher grounds of its contribution to the moral and spiritual welfare of our people and the world, for in the long run those are the grounds on which we and all the world must depend for progress.

The great road to peace indeed lies in the prevention of war. The construction and maintenance of this road requires just as much interest and devotion as the maintenance of defense. The first principle in prevention of war is to guide our national conduct in justice, consideration, and kindliness to other nations so as to give no justified cause for ill will or suspicion. War arises from a state of fear, a sense of injustice, and an ill will which culminates in uncontrollable national passions. There are ever present in the world the causes of friction. The far flung exchange of citizens and their property throughout the world gives hourly birth to large and small controversies; beyond this our generation has inherited a multitude of conflicting interests from of old. The controversies are of many different types; they require distinctively different methods and agencies of settlement. The practical program of the work of peace is to develop and create appropriate agencies for regular methodical disposal and solution of these controversies so as to assure justice and avoid arousing of national emotions.

All civilized nations have developed great skill and experience in their foreign offices whose will and purpose in this century is to dispose of a multitude of these daily incidents without friction. We have need steadily to expand their machinery and method.

The world has greatly advanced the method of arbitration by scores of treaties; it has by such instances as the Bolivia-Paraguay dispute advanced the method of independent inquiry into fact in cooperation with the parties, and by such instances as the Tacna-Arica controversy, have advanced the method of conciliation. The difficulties in the instance of the Chinese-Russian dispute show the clear need for some method of mobilization of public opinion against the violation of the Kellogg Pact. By international conference on specific questions, such as disarmament, we have advanced the method of cooperation in settlement of old standing dangers.

Through precedent and treaty the world is building every year a larger and larger body of international law and practice. Statesmen over a generation have realized that with this growth of international law and precedent another method can be contributed to the pacific settlement of a vast number of incidental controversies of justiciable character if the world had an international court to which such cases could be referred for adequate hearing and independent decision based upon law and justice.

Such a court--the World Court--has been established at The Hague with the aid of American jurists. It has been accepted by 90 percent of the civilized people of the Earth. It is established and no other court is practicable. It has demonstrated the highest integrity and capacity, and the continuance of these qualities is assured. It has already settled a great number of controversies. It is only one, but an important one of the six or seven methods of securing pacific settlements, and thus a contribution to the prevention of war. Adherence to that Court by the United States has been earnestly recommended by every one of our Presidents and every one of our Secretaries of State living since its inception. No one can challenge the patriotism of these 10 men, nor the ripe wisdom which is theirs from having borne the actual burden of responsibility for our foreign relations. They have found no entanglement or limitation of the independence of the United States by safeguarded membership in it.

And in all the discussion as to participation of the United States in this Court there are few persons who do not agree as to the desirability and necessity of such a court as one of the additions to our methods of pacific settlements. The contention on this question rests upon the details of special stipulations under which we should join. It is not my purpose to go into these contentions here. I have no doubt they can be solved and that the United States will become a member of the Court.

Mankind has within the past decade given more earnest thought to and made more constructive effort and progress toward the elimination of war than in all previous periods of history. In the broader field of our relation to these many methods to prevent war we have during the past few years participated in an increasing number of international discussions, consultations and conferences, arbitrations, and inquiries-- all of which represent progress in organizing the world for peace. We shall continue to do so where any important purpose is to be accomplished. And in our cooperation to maintain peace there is one broad policy which I wish to emphasize.

Our role in cooperation is different from that of the nations of Europe. That difference rises not only from our geographical setting, but from the nature of the maximum contribution we can render to peace. The nations of Europe, surrounded as they are by dangers and problems of which, we, in the Western Hemisphere, have but little appreciation, and beset by inherited fears, hold to the view that aside from the World Court the pacific settlement of controversies and the maintenance of peace should be backed by potential coercion through pooling of either military or economic strength. We do not question their right to come to such conclusions as they see fit to follow, arising as they do from their terrible experience and their necessities. But the instinct of the vast majority of our people is that our contribution is not to be based upon commitments to use force to maintain peace. This arises both from a feeling that the threat of force conflicts with the purpose of peaceful efforts and from the limitation it might place upon our independent action where we have only indirect interest. We have come to the belief that our contribution can best be made by our good offices and a helpfulness based upon independence from any combination pledged to the use of force. I believe it is clear that the United States can more effectively and wisely work for peace without commitments to use coercion to enforce settlements. Our position was made clear in a statement issued jointly by the Prime Minister of England and myself at the time of his memorable visit of good will to this country, in which we said:

"The part of each of our governments in the promotion of world peace will be different, as one will never consent to become entangled in European diplomacy and the other is resolved to pursue a policy of active cooperation with its European neighbors, but each of our governments will direct its thoughts and influence toward securing and maintaining the peace of the world."

Within these principles which are in full accord with the traditions we have from our forefathers, we should hold an open mind and engage in advancement of the methods by which the controversies in the world may find pacific settlement and by which we can cooperate in the prevention of war. For the American people want peace in the world, not alone as a matter of material interest to our prosperity and welfare, but because gains to the moral and spiritual forces of the world are made through peace and not through war.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 8:15 p.m. to the 39th Continental Congress of the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, assembled in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

Herbert Hoover, Address to the Daughters of the American Revolution. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210695

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