Armistice Day/Patriotism





A nation is made great, not by its fruitful acres, but by the men who cultivate them; not by its great forests, but by the men who use them; not by its mines, but by the men who work in them; not by its railways, but by the men who build and run them. America was a great land when Columbus discovered it; Americans have made it a great nation.

In 1776 our fathers had a vision of a new Nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Without an army they fought the greatest of exciting world empires that they might realize this vision. A third of a century later, without a navy they fought the greatest navy in the world that they might win for their nation the freedom of the seas. Half a century later they fought through an unparalleled Civil War that they might establish for all time on this continent the inalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A third of a century later they fought to emancipate an oppressed neighbor, and, victory won, gave back Cuba to the Cubans, sent an army of schoolmasters to educate for liberty the Filipinos, asked no war indemnity from their vanquished enemy, but paid him liberally for his property. Meanwhile they offered land freely to any farmer who would live upon and cultivate it, opened to foreign immigrants on equal terms the door of industrial opportunity, shared with them political equality, and provided by universal taxation for universal education.

The cynic who can see in this history only a theme for his egotistical satire is no true American, whatever his parentage, wherever his birthplace. He who looks with pride upon this history which his fathers have written by their heroic deeds, who accepts with gratitude the inheritance which they have bequeathed to them, and who highly resolves to preserve this inheritance unimpaired and to pass it on to his descendants enlarged and enriched is a true American, be his birthplace or his parentage what it may.




O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!



Americans believe in individual liberty so far as it can be exercised without injury to the superior rights of the community.

In complete religious toleration.

In freedom of speech and of the press subject only to temporary restraint in times of popular excitement by public authority only.

In control of public policies and measures by representative legislative assemblies elected by universal suffrage.

In the executive head of the nation elected for a short term of universal suffrage and exercising large powers but under constitutional limitations.

In local self-government.

In a universal education which discovers or reveals the best function for each individual and helps him toward it.

In a free and mobile social state which permits each individual to render to the community the best service of which he is capable.

In resistance to evil men and governments and in the prevention of evils by every means that applied science has put into the hands of man.

In submission to the will of the majority after full discussion and a fair vote.

In leading rather than driving men, women and children in the practice of reasoning, self-guidance and self-control rather than that of implicit obedience.

In the doctrine of each for all and all for each.

In a universal sense of obligation to the community and the country, an obligation to be discharged by service, gratitude and love.

In the dignity and strength of common human nature and therefore in democracy and its ultimate triumph.




Uncouth, unconquered, unafraid
To serve without servility,
Under his roaring masquerade
Of pomp and squalor, this is he

Who leads us by his hardy trail
Home to ourselves, and there at last
Unbares the glorifying grail
That lights our morrow from the past—

That lights our morrow, blended now
With mornings of a vernal sphere,
Where down the trail-furrow with his plow
He strides—the Yankee Pioneer:

There ever the world is new to his eyes
That lift from valor-conquered loam
Where rose Sierras ever rise
Sublime beyond the fields of home;

There ever the world is a new world
Of labor towards another day;
Ever the Pilgrim's breath is whirled
To the vast horizons far away;

And ever there, as he flicks the dew
From an oldish tattered book and sings,
His psalm goes up forever new—
Goes up on whirring of April wings:

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the lambs of the Lord in their cloudy fleece!
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of Him who bringeth Peace!



To the Soldiers of the National Army:

You are undertaking a great duty. The heart of the whole country is with you. Everything that you do will be watched with the deepest interest and with the deepest solicitude, not only by those who are near and dear to you, but by the whole Nation besides. For this great war draws us all together, makes us all comrades and brothers, as all true Americans felt themselves to be when we first made good our national independence. The eyes of all the world will be upon you, because you are in some special sense the soldiers of freedom.

Let it be your pride, therefore, to show all men everywhere not only what good soldiers you are, but also what good men you are, keeping yourselves fit and straight in everything and pure and clean through and through. Let us set for ourselves a standard so high that it will be a glory to live up to it and then let us live up to it and add a new laurel to the crown of America.

My affectionate confidence goes with you in every battle and every test. God keep and guide you!



Sure, 'twas like the angels' footsteps when your baby feet went racin'—
And see the funny toothmarks, on your little, battered cup....
'Twill be a different metal bit my lad will soon be facin'—
But, dearie ... though my heart's half broke ... I'm proud to give ye up!

Good-by, lad ... I'll not cry, lad ...
Stoop lower, whilst I kiss ye....
But—as the days slip by, lad,
Will ye guess how much I miss ye?

Then sometimes, with ye rollickin' and rompin' all about me,
I'd ask myself how I could ever pay for so much bliss;
And I'd wonder how I'd ever lived so many years widout ye....
But, dearie ... now, I see it all ... I bore ye just for this!

Good-by, lad ... I'll not cry, lad ...
Stoop low, dear, whilst I kiss ye....
And as the days slip by, lad,
God will know how much I miss ye....



Not dilating with pleasurable emotions when the American flag is unfurled. Not rising to our feet when the Star Spangled Banner is sung. Not joining societies of Colonial Dames, or Daughters of the Revolution. Not sending off fireworks on the Fourth of July. These things may be the expression of civic pride, or of personal pride, or of pure hilarity. They may represent steadfastness of purpose, or mere force of habit. They symbolize contentment in times of peace, and it remains to be seen how far they symbolize nationality in times of peril. For many years no serious obligation has been thrust upon us, no sacrifice demanded of us, in return for protection and security. Now the call is imperative, and by the sustained fervor of our response will the depth and purity of our patriotism be made manifest to the world.

Two things are certain: We were not lightly tossed into this war to appease resentment, or to gratify ambition; and it will take all our energy, sagacity and determination to win out against an adversary whose strength can never be overestimated. Because we are a peace-loving people, we reëlected a profoundly peace-loving President. Because we are a patient people, we endured repeated insult and repeated injury, and sought to win redress by noble but futile remonstrance. Our flag was hauled down on the high seas, our ships were sunk, our seamen drowned like rats. There were many whose hearts were sore over these things, and whose slow-growing anger burned like a hidden flame. There were many who had begun to ask in Lowell's homely words,

"Wut'll make ye act like freemen?
Wut'll git your dander riz?"

Still the President's restraining hand held an angry people in leash. Still he hoped against hope, and strove against fate, to obtain some measure of justice. It was only when it became a question of the United States taking orders from Germany and so yielding our assent to her crimes, that Mr. Wilson asked Congress to proclaim a state of war. We had then no choice left us. It was not merely the nation's honor and the nation's welfare that were at stake. It was the salvation of the nation's soul.

Because we realized this, we read unmoved the appeals sent out by Peace Committees, and Fellowships of Reconciliation. What was the use of asking us to "generate, and set in operation the irresistible energies of love"; to "combat wrong by a sustained appeal to conscience"; to assert "the constructive principles of good-will"? God knows, we had tried to do these things. We had tried, as decent-living men and women, to establish relations of decency with the Central Powers, and we had failed. They struck at us treacherously again and again, plotting in secret at our doors, repaying our hospitality and our trust by making bombs for our destruction on the ships which were sheltered in our ports. It was time, and more than time, that we turned the "irresistible energies of love," the "constructive principles of good-will," to the aid of those allied nations who were bearing on their galled shoulders the burden of a war they had not provoked, and upon whose triumph or defeat rest the hopes of an assaulted civilization.

It is imbecile to prate about the glamor of war and the infection of the military spirit. There is no glamor left in war. We know the truth about it. There is no military spirit, unless it is expressed in Mr. Wilson's words, "The world must be made safe for democracy." No man likes to endure hardships. Few men care to face danger and brave death. This is why we apply the word "heroic" to a nation's defenders. A French soldier, blinded for life in his first skirmish, said quietly in response to commiseration, "Some one had to be there." No simpler exposition of duty was ever given. Some one has to do the hard and bitter work. Some one has to front the peril and bear the burden. The man who says, "Why not I as well as another?" is a patriot. The man who says, "Why not another rather than I?" is a shirker. War is the supreme test of character. It took a war to give us Washington. It took a grievous war to give us Lincoln. Both these men suffered greatly in fulfillment of their high purpose. Both bore their share of pain without shrinking and without resentment.

If we value our civilization, if we love our homes, if we believe that our country stands a living vindication of popular government, we must prove our patriotism in this day of trial. The pacifist talks of peace, the socialist of the tyranny of capital, the sentimentalist of universal brotherhood, the coward of caution. The patriot has a strong and simple word, duty, to guide him on his way. The issue now before us is one which, in the words of Lincoln, "can be tried only by war, and settled by victory." It was not our choice to fight, but the alternative was submission to wrong-doing, and that way lies perdition. American women, no less than American men, repudiated the shameful surrender of all we held sacred and dear, and are now prepared to abide by the consequences of their decision. "Only thus," says Mr. Roosevelt gallantly, "shall we stand erect before the world, high of heart, the masters of our own souls."




Beams from your forest built my little home,
And stones from your deep quarries flagged my hearth;
Your streams have rippled swiftly in my blood,
Your fertile acres made my flesh for me,
And your clean-blowing winds have been my breath.
Your prophets saw the visions of my youth,
The dreams you gave have been my dearest dreams,
And you have been the mother of my soul.

Therefore, my country, take again at need
Your excellent gifts, home, hearth, and flesh and blood,
Young dreams and all the good I am or have,
That all your later children may have peace
In little homes built of your wood and stone
And warmed and lighted by the love of man!



Our life is but a little span. One generation follows another very quickly. If a man with red blood in him had his choice, knowing that he must die, he would rather die to vindicate some right, unselfish to himself, than die in his bed. We are all touched with the love of the glory which is real glory, and the only glory comes from utter self-forgetfulness and self-sacrifice. We never erect a statue to men who have not forgotten themselves and been glorified by the memory of others. This is the standard that America holds up to mankind in all sincerity and in all earnestness.—At Kansas City, February 2, 1916.




Men! whose boast it is that ye
Come of fathers brave and free,
If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave?
If ye do not feel the chain,
When it works a brother's pain,
Are ye not base slaves indeed,
Slaves unworthy to be freed?

Women! who shall one day bear
Sons to breathe New England air,
If ye hear, without a blush,
Deeds to make the roused blood rush
Like red lava through your veins,
For your sisters now in chains,—
Answer! are ye fit to be
Mothers of the brave and free?

Is true Freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And, with leathern hearts, forget
That we owe mankind a debt?
No! true freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free!

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.

  1. Part VII of MacKaye's longer poem "Ourselves."