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Remarks at a Luncheon at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, England

December 30, 1918

My Lord Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen:

You have again made me feel the cordiality of your friendship, and I want to tell you how much I appreciate it, not only on my own behalf but on behalf of my partner.

It is very interesting that the Lord Mayor should have referred in his address to a vital circumstance in our friendship. He referred to the fact that our men and your men had fought side by side in the great battles in France, but there was more than that in it. For the first time, upon such a scale at any rate, they fought under a common commander. That is the advance which we have made over previous times, and what I have been particularly interested in has been the generosity of spirit with which that unity of command has been assented to. I not only had the pleasure of meeting Marshal Foch, who confirmed my admiration of him by the direct and simple manner in which he dealt with every subject that we talked about, but I have also had the pleasure of meeting your own commanders, and I understand how they cooperated, because I saw that they were real men. It takes a real man to subordinate himself. It takes a real soldier to know that unity of command is the secret of success, and that unity of command did swing the power of the nations into a mighty force. I think we all must have felt the new momentum which got into all the armies so soon as they became a single army, and we felt that we had overcome one of the most serious obstacles in the strength of the enemy, that he had unity of command and could strike where he would with a common plan and we could not.

And with that unity of command there rose the unity of spirit. The minute we consented to cooperate our hearts were drawn together in the cooperation. So, from the military side we have given ourselves an example for the years to come; not that in the years to come we must submit to a unity of command, but it does seem to me that in the years to come we must plan a unity of purpose, and in that unity of purpose we shall find that great recompense, the strengthening of our spirits in everything that we do. There is nothing so hampering and nothing so demeaning as jealousy. It is a canker. It is a canker in the heart not only, but it is a canker in the counting room; it is a canker throughout all the processes of civilization. Having now seen that we can fight shoulder to shoulder, we will continue to advance shoulder to shoulder, and I think that you will find that the people of the United States are the least eager of the parties.

I remember hearing a story of a warning which one of your Australian soldiers gave to one of ours. Our soldiers were considered by the older men a bit rash when they went in. I understand that even the Australians said that our men were a "bit rough," and on one occasion a friendly Australian said to one of our men, "Man, a barrage is not a thing meant to lean up against." They were a little bit inclined to lean up against the barrage, and yet I must confide to you that I was a bit proud of them for it. They had come over to get at the enemy, and they did not know why they should delay.

And now that there is no common enemy except distrust and marring of plans, we can all feel the same eagerness in the new comradeship, and can feel that there is a common enterprise for it. For, after all, though we boast of the material sides of our civilization, they are merely meant to support the spiritual side. We are not men because we have skill of hand, but we are men because we have elevation of spirit. It is in the spirit that we live and not in the task of the day. If it is not, why is it that you hang the lad's musket or his sword up above the mantlepiece and never hang his yardstick up? There is nothing discreditable in the yardstick. It is altogether honorable, but he is using it for his own sake. When he takes the musket or the sword, he is giving everything he has and getting nothing. It is honorable, not as an instrument of force, but as a symbol of self-sacrifice. A friend of mine said very truly that when peace is conducted in the spirit of war, there will be no war; when business is done with the point of view of the soldier, that he is serving his country, then business will be as histrionic as war. And I believe that from generation to generation conceptions of that sort are getting more and more currency and that men are beginning to see, not perhaps a golden age, but at any rate an age which is brightening from decade to decade and may lead us some time to an elevation from which we can see the things for which the heart of mankind has longed.

APP Note: The President referred to John Makeague, Lord Mayor of Manchester.

Woodrow Wilson, Remarks at a Luncheon at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, England Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317548

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