Interview with Arthur Sears Henning, July 21, 1915



Urges the President to Promote Neutral Congress for Peace.



Washington, D.C., July 21. -- {Special.}

-- Jane Addams, ambassador for peace, will reach her home in Chicago tomorrow morning with a report for her friends and neighbors concerning the remarkable mission which carried her into the warring capitals of Europe and into the presence of the men who are making the war.

“I shall be glad to get home,” said Miss Addams, her features lighting up with anticipation, as she departed for Chicago on an afternoon train. She will arrive at the Union station tomorrow morning at 9:45 o’clock.

Tomorrow night she will be welcomed home at a mass meeting at which she will report upon her work in Europe and tell the women of Chicago how they can help to banish war from the earth.

Talks with President.

Miss Addams discussed with President Wilson for an hour today the subject of her long inquiry abroad -- the greatest of all humanitarian questions of the moment: The restoration of peace in Europe.

She recounted to the president the work of the recent woman’s peace congress at The Hague and her experience in presenting to those who are waging the war the pleas of wives and mothers to end the slaughter.

Thinks Peace Far Off.

Regretfully she informed the president of her fear that the end of the great conflict is not in sight. But this disappointing prospect, she said, should not discourage those who love peace and hate war, but should spur them to redoubled efforts to attain their great object.

Miss Addams submitted to the president no direct suggestion of steps it might be desirable for him to take in the interest of achieving the consideration of peace by the belligerents. She did, however, express the opinion that a congress of neutral nations, assembled preferably at the instance of the president of the United States, is the only agency which possibly could influence the warring powers at this time to terminate hostilities.

Mr. Wilson expressed his pleasure in discussing the situation with Miss Addams and said he would give careful consideration to her views and the information she contributed in connection with any step which it might prove advisable for him to take in connection with mediation.

Received at Executive Mansion.

Miss Addams, accompanied by Miss Lillian D. Wald, a social service worker of New York, arrived at the White House in a taxicab ten minutes before noon, the hour set for the interview. The president did not go to the executive office this morning, so the Misses Addams and Wald were received in the executive mansion.

Before entering the White House Miss Addams denied herself to all interviewers, but when she emerged she walked toward the half hundred waiting newspaper men with the words:

“Gentlemen, it is bewildering to be confronted by so many. I really cannot tell you what I said to the president. That is confidential. He asked a number of questions about conditions in Europe, and gave us an hour for the presentation of our views on them.”

Won’t Predict War’s End.

“How long do you think the war will last?” Miss Addams was asked, as she started toward her taxi.

“No human being can tell anything about that,” she replied. “It may stop as quickly as it started. I’m too wise to try to predict anything about the war. I’d be a silly goose to make a prediction, wouldn’t I?”

“Can you say whether you gave the president any official statement from any representative of a foreign government on the subject of peace?” she was asked.

“I did not,” she replied. “I simply gave the president the things that were told to me in the various countries visited.”

Tells Offers to Mediate.

“Do you think there is any likelihood of the president offering to mediate in the near future?”

“I do not know. Switzerland has offered twice. Holland has offered twice, [page 2] and Sweden has offered, but there has been no response.”

“Can you say anything concerning the pope’s attitude?”

“The pope, like others with whom we talked, expressed a willingness to be of service.”

“Did you lay any definite peace proposition before the president?”

“We did not. The resolutions adopted at the peace convention previously had been placed in the hands of the president, so we did not present them.”

Silent on Roosevelt.

Miss Addams was asked whether she had read Col. Roosevelt’s article, appearing in the papers of yesterday, in which he criticized the activity of the women in the peace movement. She replied that she had not, so this part of it was read to her:

Some of the women in question were abroad, actively engaged in exciting contempt and derision for themselves and their country by crying for peace without justice and without redress for wrongs at the very time the Lusitania was sunk.

Miss Addams smiled and said:

“I believe in free speech.”

“Haven’t you anything to say about that statement?” was asked.


“You’re not afraid of him, are you?” was asked as Miss Addams began to show signs of impatience.

“No, I’m not.”

Several photographers stopped Miss Addams as she started down the White House steps. They prevailed upon her to pose for several pictures. When the taxi reached the White House gate it was stopped by photographers. “Movie” men aren’t allowed in the White House grounds, so Miss Addams gave them a chance to make some pictures of her on Pennsylvania Avenue. She went from the White House to a luncheon at the Shoreham Hotel and thence to the train.

Interview for “The Tribune.”

In an interview with THE TRIBUNE correspondent Miss Addams reviewed the work of her peace mission abroad.

“I believe the European peoples, as a whole, are ready and anxious for peace,” she said. “This is not true of the belligerent governments, but it is true of all the peoples. They are thinking solemnly and are ready to talk seriously of it. They are readier to talk seriously of it with an American than with any one else, for reasons which are obvious. We are the greatest of the neutral nations and are of definite importance to each one of the warring powers.

“We women delegates to the congress saw and were gravely and courteously received by men of real importance everywhere we went. We were not looked upon as meddlers; no one thought we were amusing.

“The movement was taken there more seriously than it has been taken here.

Tells of Militarists.

“The militarists are not willing to consider peace. They never have been ready to consider peace at any time in any country. But we found in each governmental group certain notable and important encroachments upon purely military thought.

“We found everywhere more or less definite division between the civil and the military groups, and while we found both groups patriotic, in each instance we found important civilians generally opposed to having the end of the war represent a merely military settlement.

“While the militarists are of necessity out of the argument and the governmental groups are inevitably voiceless we came away impressed with the belief that probably all of the thinking civil population would welcome advances looking to some settlement and that the most practical and acceptable advance would be some form of conference of neutrals guided by the United States. Personally, I am convinced that this is our really great opportunity and our undeniable duty.

Thinks Mediation Impracticable.

“Mediation, in the old sense, I think, would be a failure. It would be impossible for any of the warring powers to accept an offer of the sort from us or any one. But if the United States should call a conference of neutrals I believe the action would be welcomed.

“It is as certain that any government which asked us to act as mediator would be rent by its own people as it is that any offer on our part to act as mediator would be refused; but a continuous conference of neutral powers, standing ready to act when the opportunity arose, might be of immense value.

“The pope told us that he would encourage the idea, and several men high in the official life of each of the warring nations expressed approval of the plan.”

War Views of Civilians.

“What was your impression of the views of peace entertained by civilians in the countries you visited?” Miss Addams was asked.

“I think it is fair to say,” she replied, “that civilians in general are frightened by the prospect that after the war ends, whatever its result may be, the military will have become as immovably fixed in its governmental [entrenchments] as it has endeavored to be in its physical [entrenchments] of the battlefield.

“The civilian is really alarmed by the removal of one safeguard after another against permanently dominant militarism. He knows that the longer the war lasts the more difficult it will be for the civil authorities to regain control and that the longer it lasts the more difficult it will be for them to exercise control when they regain it, even if they succeed in doing so.

“An interesting point and a somewhat encouraging one is the fact that the [pacifists] of now are not the old set, but a different type. In Germany they call themselves the union for the new fatherland. In England they call themselves the union for democratic control. In France a group is rapidly organizing, and already shows signs which indicate the certainty of notable strength along the lines of the English organization. None of these are definite pacifists. Longuet [page 3] in Paris may be considered the leader, in this direction, of French thought.

“We found in this a definitely hopeful sign. It seemed apparent to me that a constructive movement unmistakably is growing out of the tremendous destruction which has been in progress.”

Thinks Reconciliation Impossible.

Miss Addams was asked if she detected any developing basis for a reconciliation of the belligerents. She sadly shook her head and then replied:

“The war spirit is being fed daily in all the fighting nations by new resentments of the conduct of those upon the other side. In Germany, for example, it is constantly preached and generally believed that England brought the war about by an attempt to starve the German nation. It is impossible to indicate in calm words the feeling of resentment against England which pervades all Germany.

“In England the situation is as difficult. The tide of hatred against Germany is at the flood, and to the Englishman the German seems capable of nothing except evil. There we heard the reports of the Belgian atrocities endlessly repeated; we heard continual and indescribably bitter comment on the Lusitania’s destruction; on the use of poisonous gases, and so on.

“It cannot but be admitted that when one sees only these aspects of the situation in their nakedness talk of peace seems futile.

All Believe Selves in Right.

“Each man, each woman with whom we discussed the matter, believed that his or her side was the righteous side and that the other side was wholly wrong. Each nation in the war is certain that it is fighting for its legitimate and necessary defense, that it is fighting for its national ideals.

“It is an interesting phenomenon that the citizens of all the warring nations use about the same phrases in speaking of the righteousness of their cause, and the unrighteousness of that of their antagonists.

“An extraordinary feature of the struggle is the curious groupings which we find beneath the various flags: Protestant Germany, Catholic Austria, and Mohammedan Turkey are fighting side by side for the same cause. England and Germany are the bitterest foes, yet the ties of blood brotherhood between them are stronger than the ties which bind either one of them to any other nation.

Tells of Seeing Pope.

“The pope gave us half an hour. He said that from the religious standpoint the hideousness of the conflict meant a tremendous throwing back of civilization and that he would cooperate with any power which led a movement toward a worthy peace.

“It is his belief that the president of the United States is the most logical leader of a movement toward such a peace, and he definitely said that in such a movement, under such leadership, he gladly would cooperate and that he even would appoint, if it were so desired, a secular person from a neutral country to be his representative.

“In other words, he definitely declared that he would accommodate himself every way to the needs of the situation, not offering any ecclesiastical restrictions. Cardinal [Gasparri] spoke in a similar strain.”

“It seems unbelievable to me that some person, such as the president of the United States, who could not be accused of any personal interest, might not, with a little effort, do much to clear up such a situation.

“At present the civil governments are too united to seem to care for anything but victory, but, nevertheless, one gets the impression that they are agreed that the war must not go on too long. It is possible that they are startled by the dreadful possibilities. It is possible that as they read of trenches which have been concreted and built with carefully planned beams, they are worrying if they do not represent a terrible danger to all civil government.

Tells Sentiment in Germany.

“I got the feeling in Germany that there was a tremendous sentiment against us because of our supplying the allies with ammunition. I got the feeling in France of strong sentiment against us because we had not protested against the Belgian invasion. I believe, however, that the general thought is that America may help toward peace, and that there is general hope for it.

“It seems to be the thought in Germany that if the war ends on a military basis, through a Russian victory, the result would be an inevitable and general establishment of militarism of the Russian sort, but that if it should be made through an English victory this would be less likely to occur. Thus I think the Germans believe peace through England to be more hopeful than peace through Russia.

Could Not See Kaiser.

“The kaiser was in Galicia when we were in Germany, and so, of course, we made no effort to see him, but we were received eagerly by many of the most notable people of the nation.

“In England our reception was very cordial from the most distinguished.

“France could not have done better by [page 4] us than it did. Among those who greeted us there with great cordiality was the grandson of Lafayette. He thought that in the existing situation lay a great chance for America to be of service to the world.

“But the bitterness of France is most acute. No Frenchman will admit that France ever will stop fighting until the last inch of its soil is free. In France I talked with one old man whose attitude was almost maniacal.

German Attitude on U.S.

“The German feeling toward America is curious. They are angry, of course, but they seem to be more hurt than incensed by the fact that we are furnishing supplies and ammunition to the allies. They are bitter, but they are grief stricken.

“I met one Austrian professor whom I think was convinced that we are well within our rights in trading as we do, and I think that usually I could almost have convinced protesting Germans of the righteousness of our position if I could have had them by themselves.

Germans Sacrifice Willingly.

“The willingness of the Germans for self-sacrifice in the national cause is tremendously impressive. They are content to give everything to help Germany carry on the war. One man whom I have known for years, and whose library was wonderful, has given that.

“I know of nothing more impressive than to watch the young recruits in Germany as they are going forward to the front. I remember one troop of 500, none of whom apparently was of more than 19 years. Upon their bayonets bouquets were bound, their caps flooded with ribbons.

“It thrilled me, it shocked me, horrified me, to see them march gayly toward the slaughter.”  

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