Remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
THE AMERICAN PRESS peculiarly is the interpreter of that delicate force--public opinion. It has great responsibility in domestic questions but it bears a double responsibility when it comes to foreign affairs because in foreign affairs we have no politics, we have no party divisions, and a unity of national action is essential for national accomplishment.
The press, during the past 4 months, has been of great assistance in the solution of problems at the London Conference. In these times the people, especially in the United States, become indirectly, through expression of their views, a part of any great national settlement. For them to be truly guided as to the facts as they develop in such negotiations is of first importance and that the true public reaction thereto shall be interpreted is also a vital responsibility of the press.
Important international negotiations have passed out of the hands of single representatives. The whole Nation must indirectly participate in such conclusions if they are to be binding upon the Nation. In the negotiations we have just seen brought to happy conclusion, we have had, I believe, more unanimous support than ever before in such negotiations.
I shall not on this occasion attempt to answer Mr. Steed's 1 moving request that the United States should ally itself with other powers in enforcing the Kellogg Pact as against those who refuse to participate in pacific settlements. It may be worth mentioning that the general advance commitment to such a policy is practically the establishment of a status quo in the world.
1 H. Wickham Steed, former editor of the London Times.
Nor shall I attempt to rehabilitate in Mr. Geraud's 2 mind the stature of European statesmen who, he assures me, have yielded with such pusillanimity to every American request during the past 10 years. I do not believe he is entirely fair to the statesmen of Europe who have guided its destinies since the great struggle and brought civilization back to recovery from what at one time appeared almost its destruction. In any event I might mention that in recent times I have not observed the acquiescence with our suggestions which he has implied.
2 Andre Geraud of the Echo de Paris.
And as to Mr. Ogden's 3 a suggestion that the governments dominate the press, I leave it to your own consciences as to whether your policies are dictated from Washington or not.
3 Rollo Ogden of the New York Times.
One of the difficulties of the press, I regret to say, is that our American readers require journalism framed in the terms of combat and attack. It requires long accounts of supposed intrigue, conflict, and violence of personal ambitions. By this nature of accounting the people seldom grasp the fact that our foreign relations are the result of high national aspirations, that the effort of men in responsibility is to maintain higher national understanding and consideration of the rights of other nations in the development of measures of peace. There is above all the daily routine of international relations, a higher and more dominating force. These are the intangibles and even the imponderables of human relations. I may perhaps illustrate.
The United States made a more rapid recovery from the Great War than any other nation in the world. For long years before the war the advance of education, scientific research and invention, and the growing efficiency amongst our people had brought us to the threshold of a great period of expansion of national production and national wealth.
As a result, during this period since the war, the United States has become economically the most powerful in the world. Its citizens spread their trade and finance into every corner of the Earth. During the war the American people demonstrated their ability in the art of war, and with our population and strength we have carried conviction to the entire Earth that we had possibilities of warlike action of a dominating character never hitherto evidenced in the whole of history. During this same period there was a very definite reaction from cooperation in the international field which is interpreted abroad as selfishness and lack of high ideals of the American people. Incidentally, in this period there were very considerable appropriations and authorizations for increases in our naval powers.
From all these superficial evidences the world at large had come to the conclusion that a new born imperialism had come out of the West. Whether it took the form of financial imperialism or actual territorial ambitions, that the whole of the world was threatened, out of which it developed dislike, some hate, and a great deal of ill will.
The American Government undertook definite measures for the rehabilitation of confidence, esteem, and true purpose of the American people. The first of these was the Kellogg Pact by which we pledged ourselves never to use war as an instrument of national policy. The second of the great acts was an offer to the world to limit our naval strength to any proportionate figures the other nations of the world would agree to.
We have desired to impress upon the world the fact that the American people are looking inland and not overseas in their ambitions. We had great social, economic, and political systems different from those of all the world, which we were convinced we could develop in the interest of human welfare beyond that ever hitherto comprehended and that it implied (employed) the whole of our activities in expansion of our trade and finance abroad, was a mere incident and not the purpose of world domination.
The building of this better recognition of the setting of the United States is a slow and difficult process. It is not to be done by words but must be accomplished by a mosaic of actions which carry conviction. I am proud to say that I believe we have arrived at success.
The United States today stands with less ill will and higher esteem in the world for its real purposes than at any time in the last decade. And it has not been accomplished by preachments but by action. I have little faith in long addresses devoted to fine phraseology illustrating our moral strength and purpose of leadership and explanation of our self-righteousness, and I--likewise the world has a right to resent them just as we resent that same noise and clatter from other nations. What we have tried to do was to carry conviction in resolve to adhere to the World Court as to one of the pieces in this mosaic, as a demonstration of our willingness to cooperate with the rest of the world in erecting the machinery of pacific settlement.
These things perhaps lie in the field of intangibles, but in the field of the creation of understanding lies the path of peace. In the reaction which came to the American people against participation in national measures our European colleagues, especially . . . 4 failed to recognize one fundamental. During the past 10 years headlines of our press, morning and night, in every European dispatch have conveyed news to the American people of national ambition, of perfidy, combat and contest, all served up in the delectable fashion of sensationalism. I never believed that international relations in Europe revolved upon these pivots. I have known the aspirations, the hopes, and the sincerity of European peoples in their statesmen.
4 The President made direct reference to a country. Evidently, for reasons current at that moment, the name was deleted.
Nevertheless, if European journalists want to know why the American people have failed to respond to what they may consider our national duty, they only have to read their own dispatches and accounts of their own doings. The American people are devoted to peace. The development of our political system can only be accomplished in peace. We want peace not alone in the United States but in the rest of the world. Conviction of that argument requires no higher appeal than sheer materialism, but there is a higher appeal to the American people. We want peace as a moral and spiritual force in the world. We realize that preparedness for peace is as difficult as preparedness for defense. The American people are prepared to cooperate in the maintenance of peace. We do dislike advance commitments to theoretical . . . 5 the ultimate purpose of which may lead to political action which is not at present anticipated.
5 The blank space appears in the transcript.
I wish to assure our European guests that they will find no want of response to appeals for peace in the American mind. The United States intends, and will serve in the maintenance of peace, but just as it is the right of all governments to determine the method by which they give their service, so that determination will rest with the American people.
Note: The President spoke informally from notes at a banquet which concluded the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors held in Washington, D.C. The text, as printed above, is a summary of his remarks.
Herbert Hoover, Remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/210890