Why We Fight Germany
Because of Belgium, invaded, outraged, enslaved, impoverished Belgium.
We cannot forget LiÃ©ge, Louvain, and Cardinal Mercier. Translated into
terms of American history, these names stand for Bunker Hill,
Lexington, and Patrick Henry.
Because of France, invaded, desecrated France, a million of whose
heroic sons have died to save the land of Lafayette. Glorious, golden
France, the preserver of the arts,
he land of noble spirit, the first
land to follow our lead into republican liberty.
Because of England, from whom came the laws, traditions, standards of
life, and inherent love of liberty which we call Anglo-Saxon
civilization. We defeated her once upon the land and once upon the sea.
But Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and Canada are free because of what
we did. And they are with us in the fight for the freedom of the seas.
Because of Russia--new Russia. She must not be overwhelmed now. Not
now, surely, when she is just born into freedom. Her peasants must have
their chance; they must go to school to Washington, to Jefferson, and
to Lincoln, until they know their way about in this new, strange world
of government by the popular will.
Because of other peoples, with their rising hope that the world may be
freed from government by the soldier.
We are fighting Germany because she sought to terrorize us and then to
fool us. We could not believe that Germany would do what she said she
would do upon the seas.
We still hear the piteous cries of children coming up out of the sea
where the Lusitania went down. And Germany has never asked the
forgiveness of the world.
We saw the Sussex sunk, crowded with the sons and daughters of
We saw ship after ship sent to the bottom--ships of mercy bound out of
America for the Belgian starving, ships carrying the Red Cross and
laden with the wounded of all nations, ships carrying food and clothing
to friendly, harmless, terrorized peoples, ships flying the Stars and
Stripes--sent to the bottom hundreds of miles from shore, manned by
American seamen, murdered against all law, without warning.
We believed Germany's promise that she would respect the neutral flag
and the rights of neutrals, and we held our anger and outrage in check.
But now we see that she was holding us off with fair promises until she
could build her huge fleet of submarines. For when spring came, she
blew her promise into the air, just as at the beginning she had torn up
that "scrap of paper." Then we saw clearly that there was but one law
for Germany, her will to rule.
We are fighting Germany because in this war feudalism is making its
last stand against on-coming democracy. We see it now. This is a war
against an old spirit, an ancient, outworn spirit. It is a war against
feudalism--the right of the castle on the hill to rule the village
below. It is a war for democracy--the right of all to be their own
masters. Let Germany be feudal if she will. But she must not spread her
system over a world that has outgrown it.
We fight with the world for an honest world in which nations keep their
word, for a world in which nations do not live by swagger or by threat,
for a world in which men think of the ways in which they can conquer
the common cruelties of nature instead of inventing more horrible
cruelties to inflict upon the spirit and body of man, for a world in
which the ambition of the philosophy of a few shall not make miserable
all mankind, for a world in which the man is held more precious than
the machine, the system, or the State.
SECRETARY FRANKLIN K. LANE, June 4, 1917.