The League of Nations, January 11, 1919 (excerpt)



Chairs placed in the aisle, in the choir box and even inside the chancel rail, were not enough to accommodate the audience which gathered to hear Jane Addams discuss "The League of Nations" at the first open meeting of the Saturday Night Friendly Club of the Meridian Street Methodist church Saturday evening. Many persons stood during the lecture and many others were unable to enter the church auditorium. Burke G. Slaymaker, president of the club, introduced Miss Addams as "an honored citizen of the world whose services to humanity have endeared her to all good people."

"In these days when we are all anxiously looking toward Paris," said Miss Addams, "it is natural that, in our intense interest as to the outcome of the conferences now beginning, we should inquire what the league of nations is to be and how it is to become an accomplished fact: whether it is to be merely a further development or extension of the balance of power which heretofore controlled the policies of the old world or whether we are to have in fact an organization in which all nationalities shall be equitably represented and protected."

Access to the Seas.

"It would seem that there should be found some way to continue the pooling of the interests and resources of all the nations in some such manner as has been done by the allied powers during the war, and the labors of the delegates representing the different countries, it seems, are to be bent in this direction."

In discussing the "freedom of the seas," Miss Addams seemed to assume that the phrase means not only uninterrupted use of the lanes of navigation, but the free access of all nations to the seas, and that where present or natural boundaries are in the way, easements should be established whereby inland countries shall get this access.

"This consideration," Miss Addams said, "is essential to the maintenance of commerce in the transportation of raw materials from one country to another to support manufactures in these nations which do not produce their own raw materials. But even more vital is the question of food supplies. Take the case of Serbia, for example: Unless some provision is made -- an international strip of land, say -- this little nation could be starved by her stronger neighbors if they wished to do so.

"Food became almost the major question of the war. On our ability to feed our allies depended their ability to keep their armies in the field and maintain munitions workers behind the lines. And food will be the paramount issue of peace."

Speaking of existing agencies which may be utilized in furthering the work of a league of nations, Miss Addams mentioned particularly international medical societies and labor organizations. She cited the benefits affected by the medical societies in [cooperation] with each other in times of plague and pestilence, even when the agencies of government feared to establish international quarantines, and told how legislation of more or less uniformity for the protection of women and children has been promoted in many countries by the international labor organizations.

Protection of Labor.

In this connection Miss Addams went on to point out the necessity for providing medical assistance to all parts of the world, for which, she said, there is now some sort of an international agreement. She also remarked the need for the protection of migratory labor and the prevention of the exploitation of labor in colonial Africa and other parts of the world. Such agencies as she had mentioned, she said, could go a long way toward demonstrating that the rise of one man or one nationality should not depend on the downfall of another.

As to the difficulties in the way of forming the league, Miss Addams said that it was not unnatural that the nations should be slow in taking the step and reminded her audience of the suspicions among the thirteen American colonies during the seven years of approach to their confederation.

At the conclusion of her remarks Miss Addams said if any one wished to ask questions she would attempt to answer them. One of her auditors inquired whether she understood that the league of nations would enforce its rulings by means of a huge army and navy. Miss Addams replied that this plan had been mentioned and had strong advocates, but that she was more inclined to believe that the enforcement would be by means of economic pressure and that only a moderate armed force would be required.

To another questioner, who asked, "What will become of the Monroe Doctrine?" she replied:

"The realization of such a league as we hope to see formed only means the extension of the spirit of the Monroe Doctrine to include both hemispheres."