America Enters The War

: Winning A Cause World War Stories


APRIL 12, 1917

I am in the happy position of being, I think, the first British

Minister of the Crown who, speaking on behalf of the people of this

country, can salute the American Nation as comrades in arms. I am

glad; I am proud. I am glad not merely because of the stupendous

resources which this great nation will bring to the succor of the
r /> alliance, but I rejoice as a democrat that the advent of the United

States into this war gives the final stamp and seal to the character of

the conflict as a struggle against military autocracy throughout the


That was the note that ran through the great deliverance of President

Wilson. The United States of America have the noble tradition, never

broken, of having never engaged in war except for liberty. And this is

the greatest struggle for liberty that they have ever embarked upon. I

am not at all surprised, when one recalls the wars of the past, that

America took its time to make up its mind about the character of this

struggle. In Europe most of the great wars of the past were waged for

dynastic aggrandizement and conquest. No wonder when this great war

started that there were some elements of suspicion still lurking in the

minds of the people of the United States of America. There were those

who thought perhaps that kings were at their old tricks--and although

they saw the gallant Republic of France fighting, they some of them

perhaps regarded it as the poor victim of a conspiracy of monarchical

swash-bucklers. The fact that the United States of America has made up

its mind finally makes it abundantly clear to the world that this is no

struggle of that character, but a great fight for human liberty.

They naturally did not know at first what we had endured in Europe for

years from this military caste in Prussia. It never has reached the

United States of America. Prussia was not a democracy. The Kaiser

promises that it will be a democracy after the war. I think he is

right. But Prussia not merely was not a democracy. Prussia was not a

state; Prussia was an army. It had great industries that had been

highly developed; a great educational system; it had its universities;

it had developed its science.

All these were subordinate to the one great predominant purpose of

all--a conquering army which was to intimidate the world. The army was

the spearpoint of Prussia; the rest was merely the haft. That was what

we had to deal with in these old countries. It got on the nerves of

Europe. They knew what it all meant. It was an army that in recent

times had waged three wars, all of conquest, and the unceasing tramp of

its legions through the streets of Prussia, on the parade grounds of

Prussia, had got into the Prussian head. The Kaiser, when he witnessed

on a grand scale his reviews, got drunk with the sound of it. He

delivered the law to the world as if Potsdam was another Sinai, and he

was uttering the law from the thunder clouds.

But make no mistake. Europe was uneasy. Europe was half intimidated.

Europe was anxious. Europe was apprehensive. We knew the whole time

what it meant. What we did not know was the moment it would come.

This is the menace, this is the apprehension from which Europe has

suffered for over fifty years. It paralyzed the beneficent activity of

all states, which ought to be devoted to concentrating on the

well-being of their peoples. They had to think about this menace,

which was there constantly as a cloud ready to burst over the land. No

one can tell except Frenchmen what they endured from this tyranny,

patiently, gallantly, with dignity, till the hour of deliverance came.

The best energies of military science had been devoted to defending

itself against the impending blow. France was like a nation which put

up its right arm to ward off a blow, and could not give the whole of

her strength to the great things which she was capable of. That great,

bold, imaginative, fertile mind, which would otherwise have been

clearing new paths for progress, was paralyzed.

That is the state of things we had to encounter. The most

characteristic of Prussian institutions is the Hindenburg line. What

is the Hindenburg line? The Hindenburg line is a line drawn in the

territories of other people, with a warning that the inhabitants of

those territories shall not cross it at the peril of their lives. That

line has been drawn in Europe for fifty years.

You recollect what happened some years ago in France, when the French

Foreign Minister was practically driven out of office by Prussian

interference. Why? What had he done? He had done nothing which a

minister of an independent state had not the most absolute right to do.

He had crossed the imaginary line drawn in French territory by Prussian

despotism, and he had to leave. Europe, after enduring this for

generations, made up its mind at last that the Hindenburg line must be

drawn along the legitimate frontiers of Germany herself. There could

be no other attitude than that for the emancipation of Europe and the


It was hard at first for the people of America quite to appreciate that

Germany had not interfered to the same extent with their freedom, if at

all. But at last they endured the same experience as Europe had been

subjected to. Americans were told that they were not to be allowed to

cross and recross the Atlantic except at their peril. American ships

were sunk without warning. American citizens were drowned, hardly with

an apology--in fact, as a matter of German right. At first America

could hardly believe it. They could not think it possible that any

sane people should behave in that manner. And they tolerated it once,

and they tolerated it twice, until it became clear that the Germans

really meant it. Then America acted, and acted promptly.

The Hindenburg line was drawn along the shores of America, and the

Americans were told they must not cross it. America said, What is

this? Germany said, This is our line, beyond which you must not go,

and America said, The place for that line is not the Atlantic, but on

the Rhine--and we mean to help you roll it up.

There are two great facts which clinch the argument that this is a

great struggle for freedom. The first is the fact that America has

come in. She would not have come in otherwise. When France in the

eighteenth century sent her soldiers to America to fight for the

freedom and independence of that land, France also was an autocracy in

those days. But Frenchmen in America, once they were there, their aim

was freedom, their atmosphere was freedom, their inspiration was

freedom. They acquired a taste for freedom, and they took it home, and

France became free. That is the story of Russia. Russia engaged in

this great war for the freedom of Serbia, of Montenegro, of Bulgaria,

and has fought for the freedom of Europe. They wanted to make their

own country free, and they have done it. The Russian revolution is not

merely the outcome of the struggle for freedom. It is a proof of the

character of the struggle for liberty, and if the Russian people

realize, as there is every evidence they are doing, that national

discipline is not incompatible with national freedom--nay, that

national discipline is essential to the security of national

freedom--they will, indeed, become a free people.

I have been asking myself the question, Why did Germany, deliberately,

in the third year of the war, provoke America to this declaration and

to this action--deliberately, resolutely? It has been suggested that

the reason was that there were certain elements in American life, and

the Hohenzollerns were under the impression that they would make it

impossible for the United States to declare war. That I can hardly

believe. But the answer has been afforded by Marshal von Hindenburg

himself, in the very remarkable interview which appeared in the press,

I think, only this morning.

He depended clearly on one of two things. First, that the submarine

campaign would have destroyed international shipping to such an extent

that England would have been put out of business before America was

ready. According to his computation, America cannot be ready for

twelve months. He does not know America. Second, that when America is

ready, at the end of twelve months, with her army, she will have no

ships to transport that army to the field of battle. In von

Hindenburg's words, America carries no weight. I suppose he means

she has no ships to carry weight. On that, undoubtedly, they are


Well, it is not wise always to assume that even when the German General

Staff, which has miscalculated so often, makes a calculation it has no

ground for it. It therefore behooves the whole of the Allies, Great

Britain and America in particular, to see that that reckoning of von

Hindenburg is as false as the one he made about his famous line, which

we have broken already.

The road to victory, the guarantee of victory, the absolute assurance

of victory is to be found in one word--ships; and a second word--ships.

And with that quickness of apprehension which characterizes your

nation, I see that they fully realize that, and today I observe that

they have already made arrangements to build one thousand 3000-tonners

for the Atlantic. I think that the German military advisers must

already begin to realize that this is another of the tragic

miscalculations which are going to lead them to disaster and to ruin.

But you will pardon me for emphasizing that. We are a slow people in

these islands--slow and blundering--but we get there. You get there

sooner, and that is why I am glad to see you in.

But may I say that we have been in this business for three years? We

have, as we generally do, tried every blunder. In golfing phraseology,

we have got into every bunker. But we have got a good niblick. We are

right out on the course. But may I respectfully suggest that it is

worth America's while to study our blunders, so as to begin just where

we are now and not where we were three years ago? That is an

advantage. In war, time has as tragic a significance as it has in

sickness. A step which, taken today, may lead to assured victory,

taken tomorrow may barely avert disaster. All the Allies have

discovered that. It was a new country for us all. It was trackless,

mapless. We had to go by instinct. But we found the way, and I am so

glad that you are sending your great naval and military experts here

just to exchange experiences with men who have been through all the

dreary, anxious crises of the last three years.

America has helped us even to win the battle of Arras. The guns which

destroyed the German trenches, shattered the barbed wire--I remember,

with some friends of mine whom I see here, arranging to order the

machines to make those guns from America. Not all of them--you got

your share, but only a share, a glorious share. So that America has

also had her training. She has been making guns, making ammunition,

giving us machinery to prepare both; she has supplied us with steel,

and she has all that organization, and all that wonderful facility,

adaptability, and resourcefulness of the great people which inhabits

that great continent. Ah! It was a bad day for military autocracy in

Prussia when it challenged the great republic of the west. We know

what America can do, and we also know that now she is in it she will do

it. She will wage an effective and successful war.

There is something more important. She will insure a beneficent peace.

To this I attach great importance. I am the last man to say that the

succor which is given to us from America is not something in itself to

rejoice in, and to rejoice in greatly. But I do not mind saying that I

rejoice even more in the knowledge that America is going to win the

right to be at the conference table when the terms of peace are being

discussed. That conference will settle the destiny of nations--the

course of human life--for God knows how many ages. It would have been

tragic for mankind if America had not been there, and there with all

the influence, all the power, and the right which she has now won by

flinging herself into this great struggle.

I can see peace coming now--not a peace which will be the beginning of

war, not a peace which will be an endless preparation for strife and

bloodshed, but a real peace. The world is an old world. It has never

had peace. It has been rocking and swaying like an ocean, and

Europe--poor Europe!--has always lived under the menace of the sword.

When this war began two-thirds of Europe were under autocratic rule.

It is the other way about now, and democracy means peace. The

democracy of France did not want war; the democracy of Italy hesitated

long before they entered the war; the democracy of this country shrank

from it--shrank and shuddered--and never would have entered the caldron

had it not been for the invasion of Belgium. The democracies sought

peace; strove for peace. If Prussia had been a democracy there would

have been no war. Strange things have happened in this war. There are

stranger things to come, and they are coming rapidly.

There are times in history when this world spins so leisurely along its

destined course that it seems for centuries to be at a standstill; but

there are also times when it rushes along at a giddy pace, covering the

track of centuries in a year. Those are the times we are living in

now. Today we are waging the most devastating war that the world has

ever seen; tomorrow--perhaps not a distant tomorrow--war may be

abolished forever from the category of human crimes. This may be

something like the fierce outburst of winter, which we are now

witnessing, before the complete triumph of the sun. It is written of

those gallant men who won that victory on Monday--men from Canada, from

Australia, and from this old country, which has proved that in spite of

its age it is not decrepit--it is written of those gallant men that

they attacked with the dawn--fit work for the dawn!--to drive out of

forty miles of French soil those miscreants who had defiled it for

three years. They attacked with the dawn. Significant phrase!

The breaking up of the dark rule of the Turk, which for centuries has

clouded the sunniest land in the world, the freeing of Russia from an

oppression which has covered it like a shroud for so long, the great

declaration of President Wilson coming with the might of the great

nation which he represents into the struggle for liberty, are heralds

of the dawn. They attacked with the dawn, and these men are marching

forward in the full radiance of that dawn, and soon Frenchmen and

Americans, British, Italians, Russians, yea, and Serbians, Belgians,

Montenegrins, will march into the full light of a perfect day.