Page images
PDF
EPUB

weakest and most irresolute can fail to desire to put it into force.

In the last two years I am happy to say we have taken long strides in advance as regards our navy. The last Congress, in addition to smaller vessels, provided nine of those formidable fighting ships upon which the real efficiency of any navy in war ultimately depends. It provided, moreover, for the necessary addition of officers and enlisted men to make the ships worth having. Meanwhile the Navy Department has seen to it that our ships have been constantly exercised at sea, with the great guns, and in manœuvres, so that their efficiency as fighting units, both individually and when acting together, has been steadily improved. Remember that all of this is necessary. A warship is a huge bit of mechanism, wellnigh as delicate and complicated as it is formidable. It takes years to build it. It takes years to teach the officers and men how to handle it to good advantage. It is an absolute impossibility to improvise a navy at the outset of war.

No recent war between any two nations has lasted as long as it takes to build a battleship; and it is just as impossible to improvise the officers or the crews as to improvise the navy.

To lay up a battleship and only send it afloat at the outset of a war, with a raw crew and untried officers, would be not merely a folly but a crime, for it would invite both disaster and disgrace. The navy which so quickly decided in our favor the war in 1898 had been built and made efficient during the preceding fifteen years. The ships that triumphed off Manila and Santiago had been built under previous Administrations with money appropriated by previous Congresses. The officers and the men did their duty so well because they had already been trained to it by long sea service. All honor to the gallant officers and gallant men who actually did the fighting; but remember, too, to honor the public

men, the shipwrights and steel-workers, the owners of the shipyards and armor plants, to whose united foresight and exertion we owe it that in 1898 we had craft so good, guns so excellent, and American seamen of so high a type in the conning towers, in the gun turrets, and in the engine-rooms. It is too late to prepare for war when war has come; and if we only prepare sufficiently no war will ever come. We wish a powerful and efficient navy, not for purposes of war, but as the surest guaranty of peace. If we have such a navy-if we keep on building it up-we may rest assured that there is but the smallest chance that trouble will ever come to this nation; and we may likewise rest assured that no foreign power will ever quarrel with us about the Monroe Doctrine.

XVII

AT WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN, APRIL 3, 1993

Gentlemen and ladies, my fellow-citizens of Wisconsin :

You are men and women of Wisconsin, but you are men and women of America first. I am glad of having the chance of saying a few words to you to-day. I believe with all my heart in this nation playing its part manfully and well. I believe that we are now, at the outset of the twentieth century, face to face with great world problems; that we cannot help playing the part of a great world power; that all we can decide is whether we will play it well or ill. I do not want to see us shrink from any least bit of duty. We have not only taken during the past five years a position of even greater importance in this Western Hemisphere than ever before, but we have taken a position of great importance even in the furthest Orient, in that furthest West, which is the immemorial East. We must hold our own. If we show ourselves weaklings we will earn the contempt of mankind, and what is of far more consequence-our own contempt; but I would like to impress upon every public man, upon every writer in the press, the fact that strength should go hand in hand with courtesy, with scrupulous regard in word and deed, not only for the rights, but for the feelings, of other nations. I want to see a man able to hold his own. I have no respect for the man who will put up with injustice. If a man will not take his part, the part is not worth taking. That is true, . On the

other hand, I have a hearty contempt for the man who is always walking about waiting to pick a quarrel, and above all, wanting to say something unpleasant about some one else. He is not an agreeable character anywhere; and the fact that he talks loud does not necessarily mean that he fights hard either. Sometimes you will see a man who will talk loud and fight hard; but he does not fight hard because he talks loud, but in spite of it. I want the same thing to be true of us as a nation. I am always sorry whenever I see any reflection that seems to come from America upon any friendly nation. To write or say anything unkind, unjust, or inconsiderate about any foreign nation does not do us any good, and does not help us toward holding our own if ever the need should arise to hold our own. I am sure you will not misunderstand me; I am sure that it is needless for me to say that I do not believe the United States should ever suffer a wrong. V should be the first to ask that we resent a wrong from the strong, just as I should be the first to insist that we do not wrong the weak. As a nation, if we are to be true to our past, we must steadfastly keep these two positions—to submit to no injury by the strong and to inflict no injury on the weak. It is not at all necessary to say disagreeable things about the strong in order to impress them with the fact that we do not intend to submit to injury. Keep our navy up to the highest point of efficiency; have good ships, and enough of them; have the officers and the enlisted men on them trained to handle them, so that in the future the American navy shall rise level, whenever the need comes, to the standard it has set in the past. Keep in our hearts the rugged, manly virtues, which have made our people formidable as foes, and valuable as friends throughout the century and a quarter of our national life. Do all that; and having done it, remember that it is a sensible thing to speak courteously of others.

I believe in the Monroe Doctrine. I shall try to see that this nation lives up to it; and as long as I am President it will be lived up to. But I do not intend to make the doctrine an excuse or a justification for being unpleasant to other powers, for speaking ill of other powers. We want the friendship of mankind. We want to get on well with the other nations of mankind, with the small nations and with the big nations. We want so to carry ourselves that if (which I think most unlikely) any quarrel should arise, it would be evident that it was not a quarrel of our own seeking, but one that was forced on us. If it is forced on us, I know you too well not to know that you will stand up to it if the need comes; but you will stand up to it all the better if you have not blustered or spoken ill of other nations in advance. We want friendship; we want peace. We wish well to the nations of mankind. We look with joy at any prosperity of theirs, we wish them success, not failure. We rejoice as mankind moves forward over the whole earth. Each nation has its own difficulties. We have difficulties enough at home. Let us improve ourselves, lifting what needs to be lifted here, and let others do their own; let us attend to our own, keep our own hearthstone swept and in order. Do not shirk any duty; do not shirk any difficulty that is forced upon us, but do not invite it by foolish language. Do not assume a quarrelsome and unpleasant attitude toward other people. Let the friendly expressions of foreign powers be accepted as tokens of their sincere good-will, and reflecting their real sentiments; and let us avoid any language on our part which might tend to turn their good-will into ill-will. All that is mere common-sense; the kind of common-sense that we apply in our own lives, man to man, neighbor to neighbor; and remember that substantially what is true among nations, is true on a small scale among ourselves. The man who is a weakling, who is a coward, we all de.

« PreviousContinue »