Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/36

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The Bohemian Review

peace that meant chains around Boston courthouse, a gag on the lips of statesmen, and the slave sobbing himself to sleep in curses. No more such peace for me; no peace that is not born of justice, and does not recognize the rights of every race and every man.”

We of Czech and Slovak origin are peculiarly happy at this juncture that American interests and those of our kinsmen in Europe coincide. We are demanding today independence for Bohemians and Slovaks. In effect, as far as they are concerned, the Czechs and Slovaks are endeavoring to abolish the Austro-Hungarian government and to institute a new government. In this they are acting consistently with the Declaration of Independence, which maintains that governments are instituted among men to secure the right to life, liberty and happiness, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed, and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute a new government. The Austro-Hungarian government has never been anything else but destructive of such ends; it has attempted to denationalize the Czechs and Slovaks; it has attempted to rob them of their native tongue; it has exploited them economically, and during the last two years it has sent thousands of them to the gallows, or forced them to face the Austrian firing squads, and it has imprisoned their spokesmen on trumped-up charges. The Czechs and Slovaks therefore have the perfect right to attempt to abolish this government and to institute a new one. Indeed, the center of gravity of the world’s reaction has shifted to Vienna. Austria-Hungary is a land of unlimited and unbridled absolutism, and in struggling for independence the Czechs and Slovaks are also fighting for democracy in the best sense of the term.

The American people and the American government have never hesitated to express their sympathy with peoples struggling against alien domination and for independence. It is well to remember that the famous message of President James Monroe, dated December 2nd, 1823, formulating the doctrine now bearing his name, also sympathetically speaks of the Greek war for independence in the following words: “A strong hope has been long entertained, founded on the heroic struggle of the Greeks, that they would succeed in their contest, and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth.—From the facts which have come to our knowledge, there is good cause to believe that their enemy has lost forever all dominion over them; that Greece will become again an independent nation. That she may obtain that rank is the object of our most ardent wishes.”

The right conceded to the Greeks is the right Czechs and Slovaks claim for themselves, and they believe that they are entitled to the same sympathetic attitude the Greeks enjoyed.

When the American government made a move which looked like an attempt to recognize the Hungarian Republic by America, Daniel Webster did not hesitate to declare: “Certainly the United States may be pardoned even by those who profess adherence to the principles of absolute governments, if they entertain an ardent affection for its popular forms of political organization which have so rapidly advanced their own prosperity, their happiness, and enabled them in so short a period to bring their country, and the hemisphere to which it belongs, to the notice and respectful regard, not to say the admiration, of the civilized world.”

And on another occasion he was bold enough to express himself in favor of Hungarian independence, Hungarian control of her own destinies, and Hungary as a distinct nationality among the nations of Europe. What a pity that the Magyars themselves have turned oppressors of others since they regained independence! But may we not with propriety expect that as regards Bohemian and Slovak independence the American attitude should be summed up in these words: “Bohemian independence, Bohemian control of her own destinies, and Bohemia as a distinct nationality among the nations of Europe”?

President Wilson several times has declared that there can be no peace without justice to all nations, be they big or small, weak or strong. Indeed this he declares to be one of the conditions of permament peace. Our whole movement therefore is in accord with American traditions as represented by official, as well as unofficial, expressions, beginning with the Declaration of Independence, and ending with the latest of state papers by Woodrow Wilson.