National Geographic Magazine/Volume 31/Number 4/The Outspeaking of a Great Democracy

The Outspeaking of a Great DemocracyEdit

The Proceedings of the Chamber of Deputies of France on Friday, April 6, 1917, as Reported in the “Journal Officiel de La République Francaise”

President of the Chamber of Deputies: The President of the Council has the floor.

Mr. Ribot, President of the Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Before the Chamber adjourns the Government asks it to address a cordial greeting to the great Republic of the United States. (Cheers. All the deputies rise, turn toward the diplomatic gallery, and applaud [the Ambassador of the United States being in the gallery]. Many cries of “Long live the Republic.”)

You have read the admirable message of President Wilson. We all feel that something great, something which exceeds the proportions of a political event, has been accomplished. (Cries of assent.)

It is an historic fact of unequaled importance (applause)—this entry into the war on the side of us and our allies by the most peaceful democracy in the world. (Loud applause.) After having done everything to affirm its attachment to peace, the great American nation declares solemnly that it cannot remain neutral in this immense conflict between right and violence, between civilization and barbarism. (Loud and prolonged applause.) It holds that honor requires it to take up the defiance flung at all rules of international law so laboriously built up by civilized nations. (Applause.)

It declares at the same time that it is not fighting for self-interest, desires neither conquest nor compensation, intends only to help toward a victory of the cause of law and liberty. (All the deputies rise and applaud.)

A message of deliveranceEdit

The grandeur, the nobility, of this action is enhanced by the simplicity and serenity of the language of the illustrious leader of that great democracy. (Load applause.)

If the world had entertained the least doubt of the profound meaning of this war in which we are engaged, the message of the President of the United States would dissipate all obscurity. It makes apparent to all that the struggle is verily a struggle between the liberal spirit of modern societies and the spirit of oppression of societies still enslaved to military despotism. (Prolonged applause.) It is for this reason that the message rings in the depths of all hearts like a message of deliverance to the world. (Applause.)

The people which, under the inspiration of the writings of our philosophers, declared its rights in the eighteenth century, the people who place Washington and Lincoln foremost among their heroes (applause), the people who in the last century suffered a civil war for the abolition of slavery (cheers; the whole Chamber rises and applauds), were indeed worthy to give such an example to the world.

Thus they remain faithful to the traditions of the founders of their independence and demonstrate that the enormous rise of their industrial strength and of their economic and financial power has not weakened in them that need for an ideal without which there can be no great nation. (Applause.)

A friendship ratified in bloodEdit

What touches us particularly is that the United States has held to the friendship which at an earlier time was ratified in blood. (Applause.) We bear witness with grateful joy to the enduring sympathy between the peoples, which is one of the delicate virtues the bosom of a democracy can nourish.

The Star-spangled Banner and the Tricolor will fly side by side; our hands will join; our hearts beat in unison. This will mean for us, after so much suffering, heroically borne, so many bereavements, so many ruins, a renewal of the sentiments which have animated and sustained us during this long trial. The powerful, decisive aid which the United States brings us is not only a material aid; it will be especially moral aid, a real consolation. (Loud applause.)

Seeing the conscience of peoples everywhere in the world awake and rise in an immense protest against the atrocities of which we are the victims, we feel more keenly that we are fighting not only for ourseIves and for our allies, but for something immortal (applause), and that we are laying the foundations of a new order. (Loud applause.) Thus our sacrifices will not have been in vain; the generous blood poured out by the sons of France will have sowed fertile seeds in the ideas of justice and of liberty fundamentally necessary to concord between nations. (Applause.)

In the name of the whole country, the government of the French Republic addresses to the government and people of the United States, with the expression of its gratitude, its warmest good wishes. (Prolonged cheers. All the deputies rise and turn applauding to the diplomatic gallery.)

The harvest of justiceEdit

Many voices: The proclamation!

Mr. Paul Dechanel, President of the Chamber: The proclamation of the speech which the Chamber has just applauded is asked. There is no opposition? The proclamation is ordered.

The French Chamber greets with enthusiasm the verdict of the President of the Republic of the United States, who has indeed spoken for justice, and the vigorous decision of the Federal Senate accepting the war imposed by Germany.

Æschylus says in “The Persians”: “When insolence takes root, it grows into crime; the harvest is suffering.”

And we can say: “The growth of the crime brings vengeance; after the harvest of suffering comes the harvest of justice!” (Loud applause.)

The cry of the women and children from the depths of the abyss where hideous wickedness flung them echoed from one end of the earth to the other. Washington and Lincoln trembled in their graves; their great spirit has roused America. (Loud applause.)

And is it a question only of avenging Americans? Is it a question only of punishing the violation of treaties signed by the United States? No; the eternal truths proclaimed in the Declaration of 1776, the sacred causes which La Fayette and Rochambeau defended (applause), the ideal of pure consciences from which the great Republic was born—honor, morality, liberty—these are the supreme values which shine in the folds of the Star-spangled Banner. (Loud applause.)

All America arrayed against mad arroganceEdit

Descendants of the Puritans of New England, brought up on the precepts of the Gospel, and who under the eyes of God are about to punish the infernal creation of evil, falsehood, perjury, assassination, profanation, rape, slavery, martyrdom, and all kinds of disasters; Catholics, struck to the heart by curses against their religion, by outrages against their cathedrals and statues, reaching a climax in the destruction of Louvain and Rheims; university professors, trustworthy guardians of law and learning; industrialists of the East and Middle West, farmers and agriculturists of the West; workmen and artisans, threatened by the torpedoing of vessels, by the interruption of commerce, revolted by the insults to their national colors—all are arrayed against the mad arrogance which would enslave the earth, the sea, the heavens, and the souls of men. (Prolonged applause and cheers.)

At a time when, as in the heroic times of the American Revolution, the Americans are to fight with us, let us repeat once more: We wish to prevent no one from living, working, and trading freely; but the tyranny of Prussia has become a peril for the New World as for the Old, for England as for Russia, for Italy as for Austria, and for Germany itself. (Applause.) To free the world, by a common effort of all democratic peoples, from the yoke of a feudal and military caste in order to found peace upon right, is a work of human deliverance and universal good. (Applause.)

The immortal act of a glorious nationEdit

In accomplishing, under an adminstration henceforth immortal (applause, cheers; all rise and applaud), the greatest act in its annals since the abolition of slavery, the glorious nation whose whole history is but a development of the idea of liberty (applause) remain true to its lofty origin and creates for itself another claim to the gratitude of mankind. (Applause.)

The French Republic, across the ruins of its cities and its monuments, devastated without reason or excuse by shameful savagery (loud applause), sends to its beloved sister Republic in America the palms of the Marne, the Yser, and of Verdun and the Somme, to which new victories will soon be added. (Prolonged applause, cheers; all the deputies rise.)

Many voices: We call for the proclamation!

Mr. Colliard: I ask that the two speeches which the Chamber has just heard be issued as proclamations and read in the schools of France.

Mr. Mauger: I second the motion.

President of the Chamber: The proclamation of the speeches which the Chamber has just heard is requested. There is no opposition? The proclamation is ordered.

Source: — (April 1917), “The Outspeaking of a Great Democracy”, The National Geographic Magazine 31(4): 362–365.