« PreviousContinue »
THE TRUE AMERICANISM
[Address by Carl Schurz, publicist and statesman (born at Liblar, near Cologne, Germany, March 2, 1829; ), delivered in New York City at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, January 2, 1896, Mr. Schurz rising to second the resolutions embodied in a report to the Chamber by its Committee on Foreign Commerce and the Revenue Laws upon the then pending Venezuelan question.]
MR. PRESIDENT:-As an honorary member of the Chamber of Commerce, I am thankful for the privilege of seconding the resolutions offered by the Committee. I yield to no one in American feeling or pride; and, as an American, I maintain that international peace, kept in justice and honor, is an American principle and an American interest. As to the President's recent message on the Venezuela case, opinions differ. But I am sure that all good citizens, whether they approve or disapprove of it, and while they would faithfully stand by their country in time of need, sincerely and heartily wish that the pending controversy between the United States and Great Britain be brought to a peaceable issue.
I am well aware of the strange teachings put forth among us by some persons, that a war, from time to time, would by no means be a misfortune, but rather a healthy exercise to stir up our patriotism, and to keep us from becoming effeminate. Indeed, there are some of them busily looking round for somebody to fight, as the crazed Malay runs amuck looking for somebody to kill. The idea that the stalwart and hard-working American people, engaged in subduing to civilization an immense continent,
need foreign wars to preserve their manhood from dropping into effeminacy, or that their love of country will flag unless stimulated by hatred of somebody else, or that they must have bloodshed and devastation as an outdoor exercise in the place of other sports—such an idea is as preposterous as it is disgraceful and abominable. It is also said that there are some American citizens of Irish origin, who wish the United States to get into a war with England, because they believe such a war would serve to relieve Ireland of the British connection. We all value the willingness of the Irish-born American citizens to fight for their adopted country if need be; and nobody will deny that their hearty love for their native land is, as such, entirely natural and entitled to respect. But as American citizens, having sworn exclusive allegiance to the United States, not one of them should ever forget that this Republic has a right to expect of all its adopted citizens, as to their attitude toward public affairs, especially questions of peace or war, the loyal and complete subordination of the interests of their native countries to the interests of the United States. There are also corrupt politicians eager to plunder the public under a cheap guise of patriotism, and unscrupulous speculators looking for gambling and pilfering opportunities in their country's trouble, and wishing for war as the piratical wrecker on his rocky shore wishes for fogs or hurricanes. They deserve the detestation of every decent Inan. But aside from these classes it may safely be assumed that all seriously minded American citizens earnestly hope for a continuance of the long-existing friendly relations between this country and Great Britain. General Sherman, whose memory is dear to us all, is reported to have said, in his vigorous way: “You want to know what war is? War is hell.” And nobody who has seen war as he had, and as some of us have, will question the truthfulness of this characteristic saying. True, war sometimes develops noble emotions and heroic qualities in individuals or in a people; but war is hell for all that. If our boasted civilization and Christianity are to mean anything, they should mean this: No war is justifiable unless its cause or object stand in just proportion to its cost in blood, in destruction, in human misery, in waste, in political corruption, in social demoralization, in relapse of civilization; and even then it is justifiable only when every expedient of statesmanship to avert it has been thoroughly exhausted. I shall not discuss now whether those who honestly think that our present difference with Great Britain would, as to cause or object, justify war, or those who think the contrary, are right. I expect them both to co-operate in an earnest endeavor to encourage those expedients of statesmanship by which war may be averted in either case. Confronting a grave emergency, we must, as practical men, look at the situation, not as it might have been or ought to be, but as it is. For several years our Government has been seeking to bring a boundary dispute between Venezuela and British Guiana to a friendly settlement, but without success. Last summer, the President, through the Secretary of State, in a despatch reviewing the case at length, and containing an elaborate disquisition on the Monroe Doctrine, asked the British Government whether it “would consent or decline to submit the Venezuelan question in its entirety to impartial arbitration,” calling for “a definite decision.” Lord Salisbury, after some delay, replied, in a despatch also discussing the Monroe Doctrine from his point of view, that the Venezuela question might be in part submitted to arbitration, but he refused to submit it in its entirety as asked for. Thereupon President Cleveland sent a message to Congress recommending appropriations for a Commission to be appointed by the Executive, which Commission “shall make the necessary investigation” of the boundary dispute, and report to our government; and when such report is made and accepted, it will, in the President's opinion, “be the duty of the United States to resist, by every means, the appropriation by Great Britain of any lands, or the exercise of any governmental jurisdiction over any territory, which, after investigation, we have determined of right belongs to Venezuela.” And Congress, by unanimously voting the appropriation asked for, without qualification, virtually made the position taken by the President its own. This correspondence and this message, by their tone