The Next Step, January 20, 1919

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Colombia, Mo. -- January 20, 1919.
8:00 P.M.

I am not going to keep you very long, but it does seem to me very important in these days when the President of the United States is standing out as the great champion of the League of Nations that when American citizens are met together we should, for a few moments at least, consider this great question ↑of the next step↓ among ourselves; for, after all, unless the President of the United States and unless the Prime Minister of England, and unless Clemenceau in France, and the others, are backed up by the people of their various countries with enthusiasm and understanding, it will be very difficult, indeed, to make this great step. It will, in a sense, show a certain spiritual bankruptcy, a lack of moral enterprise if some great move of this sort is not made among the people who are representing the great allied nations in Paris at the present moment.

Now There are two or three motives which can very easily be utilized to put over ↑in organizing↓ this League of Nations, and I should like to ask you to consider them with me for only a few moments.

The first are those going concerns like the feeding of the people through Allied Food Commissions, Allied Shipping Commissions, Allied financial arrangements which have been made during the war. As you know, for many months America has been [page 2] sending over to Europe a large [proportion] of the food which has been eaten by the dependent nationalities and by the nations which were carrying on the great conflict. We have entered into the light of the world in America, not only through the ↑our↓ armies which were sent from here to help in France and Flanders, but also through the millions of tons of food which were sent through the savings and cooperation of the American people. And insofar as we did ↑have done↓ that, we ↑have↓ stretched out our  consciences did ↑have↓ we not? We stretched out our interests to include thousands of people whom we had never seen and whom we could never hope to see. Now If this feeding goes on, as it must go on for some months, at least until the next harvest and probably until after that, it will mean that the allied nations will undertake through some sort of an international arrangement, which has already been started, a great humanitarian enterprise, and that insofar as this is carried on, there will be a League of Nations, at least for that purpose. For, after all, there are twenty-four nations on the allied side, and if you count the neutral nations as well, who have been consulting ↑every week↓ in regard to their foods, arranged with the Inter-Allied Food Administration, that means in itself a very goodly proportion of the forty-eight nations out of the world.

How did our first morality begin but by feeding the helpless. Our domestic morality began by feeding little children, and ↑thus↓ gradually attached a tribe to one spot because they [could not] go on until the crops were ripened and these ↑the↓ little children should be fed. The little children couldn’t live on the surplus wild boar one week and nothing at all to eat the next week, as the hunting was good or bad.

And how did the first inter-tribal community begin? [page 3] In times of famine, when one tribe found it more profitable to exchange with another tribe than to go on with their hostile relationships; and it may be we will enter into this larger [internationality] largely in some such way. At any rate it would seem clear that if the allied nations have been feeding Serbia, as they have been feeding her, more or less, since 1915, if that would ↑should↓ have to go on for one year, or two years, or possibly three years, that they will say: Now we will leave Serbia in some such shape at the end of the war that she can feed herself; we will give her some sort of internationalized railway to the sea so she can get her food from the Adriatic or Black Sea. Or, they will so manage the question of Constantinople that neither Turk nor Russian, nor any other one country, will be able to shut off the shipping which ought to come out of Russia into ↑the↓ distressed Balkan states. Internationalize those water-ways, and all sorts of things can happen right out of the continued feeding of the world, until many of the points President Wilson has urged will come about, not because the allied nations said they would be very good and do these things which have been recommended to us, but because they will be doing a very good work of humanity, a work which has been put into our hands, and in doing it ↑they will↓ have arranged some of the things ↑differences↓ which have hitherto made for war.

Then, of course ↑there is↓ another way: whether or not the nations come together governmentally, throughout the last century all sorts of arrangements have been made among the citizens from various nations. There were so many national medical societies and other societies of similar character that a year or two before the war they had to organize an International Association of International Medical Societies, to keep them [page 4] from stepping on each other’s toes, and yet all the time the doctors were going throughout the various countries, because they were interested in disease which knew no country, and because they had to discuss these things which belong to them all. The nations met, from time to time, to see what they could do about a very serious medical question, and this medical question was ↑namely↓: How to Keep Cholera Out of Europe. Six times during the last century cholera came to Europe, and every time they called a diplomatic conference to see what they could do about it, and the diplomats met and discussed and they said: We must take some very strict quarantine measures, and we must do this, and must do that, but they could never agree because they always got into indirect fusses about nationality and sovereignty and national pride, and something else, and they could never come to any arrangement, until the sixth time they met in 1894. The great powers finally agreed, the thirteen great powers, agreed ↑that↓ they would quarantine the Suez Canal. The pilgrim traffic went to Mecca, and the cholera came out of Asia, where there was a great deal of danger ↑through the Suez Canal↓, so they would try to take that one point. How absurd that was to meet six times in diplomatic conference and quarantine that one point, whereas in the meantime all these separate countries had in six meetings learned how to quarantine themselves and anybody else against cholera.

Now what does it ↑this↓ mean? It means ↑that↓ this great body of men meeting in Paris now would merely utilize some of the existing national organizations, give them some sort of [international] organization, give them some ↑or↓ commissions, or anything which ↑and this↓ in itself would start going a League of Nations.

The question which, according to the morning papers, [page 5] is going to come up early in the conference, is the whole question of standardizing labor. Now for many years people have met in Europe in what they called ↑an↓ International Association for the Advancement of Labor. In 1908 they met in Berne, Switzerland, and they said: We will see what we can do to prevent night work for women. Now It is very hard for one state to prevent night work for women; ↑they↓ would have to fight it out in ↑with↓ the state which permits it. ↑This is↓ exactly the trouble we used to have in Illinois, when we tried to get the Child Labor Law in Illinois. All the men who manufactured glass in Illinois said it was unfair to them because the glass manufacturers in Indiana were allowed to use children, and, therefore, they were put at a great disadvantage, and there was some truth in it, ↑although↓ the glass manufacturers overworked it but there is some truth in it. It is true the good stands very often at a disadvantage through its very willingness to keep up a high standard. So the twelve nations met in Berne and said: We will go home; we will see ↑that↓ our legislatures prohibit night work for women. And they met two years later in 1910, and lo and behold! all twelve legislative assemblies had said they would prohibit night work for women. And so they made a sort of treaty between those states -- ↑a↓ kind of a gentleman’s agreement. The United States couldn’t come in, because it had no way to do that ↑take such action↓ through the Federal Government and it was too long to wait to get it all around ↑around↓ to ↑all↓ our various states, so the United States wasn’t in this agreement but the Twelve European countries were.

Now what does that mean? It ↑This↓ means that the agreement is already made, and that when the League of Nations takes up such questions ↑the question of standardizing labor↓ they will find that they have already been ↑a↓ [start], because there are international labor bodies already at work. [page 6] There are vested international  bodies of commerce already at work. The Chambers of Commerce of all nations have an international organization, and some of their people are sending representatives to Paris at the present moment.

And↓ So it means another thing, that They will utilize some of the existing things that are already going on ↑agencies already existing↓; they will give them some sort of governmental force, and the League of Nations will be more or less started.

Then ↑There is↓ a third reason why the United States should be very much interested in this League of Nations, and why we should push it from this end as President Wilson is pushing it from the Paris end. We ought to realize that the United States, in and of itself, is a pretty good illustration of a League of Nations. When the thirteen colonies federated together so long ago, they were almost as diverse in their interests as the states of Europe are now. You know, of course, New York kept her army for seven years after the Constitution was adopted because she was afraid of Rhode Island, or somebody else, might attack her, and didn’t think it safe to get along without an army. And, you know, of course, a great many of the states were very slow about submitting anything to the Supreme Court because they thought the Supreme Court couldn’t be impartial unless it was composed of at least thirteen men, one from each of the thirteen colonies, and as fast as a new colony came in that colony ought to have representation on the bench. They didn’t believe, those simple-minded people, the sense of justice is so much higher than any sense of colonial or national attachment, and that is one of the things we will have to learn now. We will have to believe those great, eternal questions are stronger, finer, more lasting than the things which divide [page 7] them, ↑men,↓ hold them apart, and as soon as we have the moral enterprise to see that, as soon as we have the moral enterprise to push that, some sort of a League of Nations will be formed and the United States will be proud and happy forever more, I am sure, that her representative held onto it so firmly and believed in it with so much constancy and so much enthusiasm.

It seems too that we are called upon all over these United States considerably during these very strenuous days. We are on the eve of the great point of departure in the history of the world. It has been compared to the moment of reformation. It can be compared to the moment of great changes in human history, when people [turn] their faces in yet a new direction. But, of course, it can’t ↑And this cannot↓ be done easily; it [cannot] be done without understanding, without willingness to put our best intelligence to work upon the subject, and it [cannot] be done without willingness to stretch our sympathies to the point which the occasion demands.

And so, during these stirring days, when the conference over there is still meeting, without presuming to go into the details -- they will have to do that there -- let us say there are certain basic principles in which we believe and for which we, so far as we represent our American citizenship, will stand, and we will push forward toward this new epoch in human history when some sort of international government shall be devised which will make possible a method of settling affairs without the recurrence to war. At the present moment, almost the only legal method of settling difficulties between nations is recourse to arms, and one is sorry, because it looks as if now there was ↑this seems to be↓ an opportunity to find another way and a better way. But always after a war people try to find a better way, [page 8] and they sometimes achieve it. After the great Napoleonic wars, you remember, ↑the diplomats↓ met in Vienna in 1815 and they said then they were going to end war, and devise as best they could a balance of power. And it ↑this↓ did work for a little while. There was no great war in Europe for thirty years, but at last it showed its feebleness and it gradually ceased to be the great barrier against war between nations. Now men are met again, and again they are trying to devise that which will make war less possible, if not impossible, and let us see to it our best effort is put forward in this great spiritual struggle of the race; that we are not willing to admit we cannot advance, ↑that↓ we are spiritually bankrupt. On the contrary, we say only because we are so united and because the people of all those nations have been brought together in a great moral effort to have this war typify all wars, and that we are able and willing to make one more effort until the results of the war will be clinched in a form that will go forward and help evade all such difficulties in the future.