Lafayette-Marne-Day Address

Lafayette-Marne-Day Address  (September 16, 1918) 
by Theodore Roosevelt


Lafayette-Marne-Day Address

Delivered on the anniversary of the Birth of Lafayette and of the Battle of the Marne, in the Aldermanic Chambers, City Hall, New York, on September 16, 1918

Lafayette Day commemorates the services rendered to America in the Revolution by France. I wish to insist with all possible emphasis that in the present war France and England and Italy and the other allies have rendered us a similar service. The French at the Battle of the Marne

four years ago and at Verdun, and the British at Ypres - in short the French, the English, the Italians, the Belgians, the Serbians have been fighting for us when they were fighting for themselves. Our army on the other side is now repaying in part our debt, and next year we have every reason to hope, and we must insist, that the fighting army in France from the United States shall surpass in numbers the fighting army in France, of either France or England. It is now time and it long has been time for America to bear her full share of the common burden borne by all the allies in this great war for liberty and justice.

We must win the war as speedily as possible. But we must set ourselves to fight it through no matter how long it takes with resolute determination to accept no peace until, no matter at what cost, we win the peace of overwhelming victory. The peace that we win must guarantee full reparation for the awful cost of life and treasure which the Prussianized Germany of the Hohenzollerns has inflicted on the entire world; and this reparation must take the form of action that will render it impossible for Germany to repeat her colossal wrongdoing. Germany has been able to wage this fight for world dominion because she has subdued to her purpose her vassal allies, Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria. Serbia and Roumania must have restored to them what Bulgaria has taken from them. The Austrian and Turkish Empires must both be broken up, all the subject peoples liberated, and the Turk driven from Europe. We do not intend that Germany or Magyar should be oppressed by others, but neither do we intend that they shall oppress and

domineer others. France must receive back Alsace and Lorraine. Belgium must be restored and indemnified. Italian Austria must be restored to Italy, and Roumanian Hungary to Roumania. The heroic Czecho-Slovaks must be made into an independent commonwealth. The southern Slavs must be united in a great Jugo-Slav commonwealth. Poland as a genuinely independent commonwealth must receive back Austrian and Prussian Poland, as well as Russian Poland, and have her coast-line on the Baltic. Lithuania and Finland must be guaranteed their freedom and no part of the ancient Empire of Russia left under the German yoke. Northern Schlesswig should go back to the Danes. Britain and Japan should keep the colonies they have conquered. Armenia must be freed, Palestine made a Jewish state, and the Syrian Christians liberated.

It is sometimes announced that part of the peace agreement must be a League of Nations which will avert all war for the future and put a stop to the need of this nation preparing its own strength for its own defense. Many of the adherents of this idea grandiloquently assert that they intend to supplant nationalism by internationalism.

In deciding upon proposals of this nature it behooves our people to remember that competitive rhetoric is a poor substitute for the habit of resolutely looking facts in the face. Patriotism stands in national matters as love of family does in private life. Nationalism corresponds to the love a man bears for his wife and children. Internationalism corresponds to the feeling he has for his neighbors generally. The sound nationalist is the only type of really helpful internationalist, precisely as in private relations it is the man who is most devoted to his own wife and children who is apt in the long run to be the most satisfactory neighbor. To substitute internationalism for nationalism means to do away with patriotism, and is as vicious and as profoundly demoralizing as to put promiscuous devotion to all other persons in the place of steadfast devotion to a man's own family. Either effort means the atrophy of robust morality. The man who loves other countries as much as his own stands on a level with the man who loves other women as much as he loves his own wife. One is as worthless a creature as the other. The professional pacifist and the professional internationalist are equally undesirable citizens. The American pacifist has in the actual fact shown himself to be the tool and ally of the German militarist. The professional internationalist is a man who under a pretense of diffuse attachment for everybody hides the fact that in reality he is incapable of doing his duty by anybody.

We Americans should abhor all wrongdoing to other nations. We ought always to act fairly and generously by other nations. But we must remember that our first duty is to be loyal and patriotic citizens of our own nation, of America. These two facts should always be in our minds in dealing with any proposal for a League of Nations. By all means let us be loyal to great ideals. But let us remember that unless we show common sense in action, loyalty in speech will amount to considerably less than nothing.

Test the proposed future League of Nations so far as concerns proposals to disarm and to trust to anything except our own strength for our own defense, by what the Nations are actually doing at the present time. Any such League would have to depend for its success upon the adhesion of nine nations which are actually or potentially the most powerful military nations; and these nine nations include Germany, Austria, Turkey and Russia. The first three have recently and repeatedly violated and are now actively and continuously violating not only every treaty, but every rule of civilized warfare and of international good faith. Russia played a heroic part for the first three years of the war (during the first two and a half years her conduct was in shining contrast to ours). But during the last year Russia under the dominion of the Bolshevists has betrayed her allies, has become the tool of the German autocracy, and has shown such utter disregard of her national honor and plighted word and her international duties that she is now in external affairs the passive tool and ally of her brutal conqueror, Germany. What earthly use is it to pretend that the safety of the world would be secured by a League in which these four nations under the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs, under the Sultan and the Bolshevists, would be among the nine leading partners ? Long years must pass before we can again trust any promises these four nations make. Any treaty of any kind or sort which we make with them should be made with the full understanding that they will cynically repudiate it whenever they think it to their interest to do so. Therefore, unless our folly is such that it will not depart from us until we are brayed in a mortar let us remember that any such treaty will be worthless unless our own prepared strength renders it unsafe to break it.

After this war the wrong-doers will be so punished and exhausted that they may for a number of years wish to keep the peace. But the surest way to make them keep the peace in the future is to punish them heavily now. And don't forget that China is now useless as a prop to a League of Peace simply because she lacks effective military strength for her own defense.

Let us support any reasonable plan whether in the form of a League of Nations or in any other shape, which bids fair to lessen the probable number of future wars and to limit their scope. But let us laugh out of court any assertion that any such plan will guarantee peace and safety to the foolish, weak or timid creatures who have not the will and the power to prepare for their own defense. Support any such plan which is honest and reasonable. But support it as an addition to, and never as a substitute for, the policy of preparing our own strength for our own defense. To follow any other course would turn this country into the China of the Occident. We cannot guarantee for ourselves or our children peace without effort or safety without service and sacrifice. We must prepare both our souls and our bodies, in virile fashion, alike to secure justice for ourselves and to do justice to others. Only thus can we secure our own national self respect. Only thus can we secure the respect of other nations and the power to aid them when they seek to do well.

In sum then I shall be delighted to support the movement for a League to Enforce Peace, or for a League of Nations, if it is developed as a supplement to and not a substitute for the preparation of our own strength. I believe that this preparation should be by the introduction in this country of the principle of universal training and universal service, as practiced in Switzerland and modified, of course, both along the lines indicated in Australia and in accordance with our own needs. There will be no taint of Prussian militarism in such a system. It will merely mean prepared ability to fight for our own self-defense, and for a great democracy in which law, order and liberty are to prevail.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

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