I am glad; I am proud. I am glad not merely because of the
stupendous resources which this great nation will bring to the
succour of the alliance, but I rejoice as a democrat that the advent
of the United States into this war gives the final stamp and seal to
the character of the conflict as a struggle against military
autocracy throughout the world.
That was the note that ran through the great deliverance of
President Wilson. It was echoed, Sir, in your resounding words
today. The United States of America have the noble tradition, never
broken, of having never engaged in war except for liberty. And this
is the greatest struggle for liberty that they have ever embarked
I am not at all surprised, when one recalls the wars of the past,
that America took its time to make up its mind about the character
of this struggle. In Europe most of the great wars of the past were
waged for dynastic aggrandizement and conquest.
No wonder when this great war started that there were some elements
of suspicion still lurking in the minds of the people of the United
States of America. There were those who thought perhaps that Kings
were at their old tricks - and although they saw the gallant
Republic of France fighting, they some of them perhaps regarded it
as the poor victim of a conspiracy of monarchical swashbucklers.
The fact that the United States of America has made up its mind
finally makes it abundantly clear to the world that this is no
struggle of that character, but a great fight for human liberty.
They naturally did not know at first what we had endured in Europe
for years from this military caste in Prussia. It never has reached
the United States of America. Prussia was not a democracy. The
Kaiser promises that it will be a democracy after the war. I think
he is right. But Prussia not merely was not a democracy. Prussia was
not a State - Prussia was an army. It had great industries that had
been highly developed; a great educational system; it had its
universities, it had developed its science.
All these were subordinate to the one great predominant purpose, the
purpose of all - a conquering army which was to intimidate the
world. The army was the spear-point of Prussia; the rest was merely
That was what we had to deal with in these old countries. It got on
the nerves of Europe. They knew what it all meant. It was an army
that in recent times had waged three wars, all of conquest, and the
unceasing tramp of its legions through the streets of Prussia, on
the parade grounds of Prussia, had got into the Prussian head.
The Kaiser, when he witnessed on a grand scale his reviews, got
drunk with the sound of it. He delivered the law to the world as if
Potsdam was another Sinai, and he was uttering the law from the
But make no mistake. Europe was uneasy. Europe was half intimidated.
Europe was anxious. Europe was apprehensive. We knew the whole time
what it meant. What we did not know was the moment it would come.
This is the menace, this is the apprehension from which Europe has
suffered for over fifty years. It paralyzed the beneficent activity
of all States, which ought to be devoted to concentrating on the
well-being of their peoples. They had to think about this menace,
which was there constantly as a cloud ready to burst over the land.
No one can tell except Frenchmen what they endured from this
tyranny, patiently, gallantly, with dignity, till the hour of
deliverance came. The best energies of domestic science had been
devoted to defending itself against the impending blow.
France was like a nation which put up its right arm to ward off a
blow, and could not give the whole of her strength to the great
things which she was capable of. That great, bold, imaginative,
fertile mind, which would otherwise have been clearing new paths for
progress, was paralyzed.
That is the state of things we had to encounter.
The most characteristic of Prussian institutions is the Hindenburg
line. What is the Hindenburg line? The Hindenburg line is a line
drawn in the territories of other people, with a warning that the
inhabitants of those territories shall not cross it at the peril of
their lives. That line has been drawn in Europe for fifty years.
You recollect what happened some years ago in France, when the
French Foreign Minister was practically driven out of office by
Prussian interference. Why? What had he done?
He had done nothing which a Minister of an independent State had not
the most absolute right to do. He had crossed the imaginary line
drawn in French territory by Prussian despotism, and he had to
Europe, after enduring this for generations, made up its mind at
last that the Hindenburg line must be drawn along the legitimate
frontiers of Germany herself. There could be no other attitude than
that for the emancipation of Europe and the world.
It was hard at first for the people of America quite to appreciate
that Germany had not interfered to the same extent with their
freedom, if at all. But at last they endured the same experience as
Europe had been subjected to. Americans were told that they were not
to be allowed to cross and re-cross the Atlantic except at their
peril. American ships were sunk without warning. American citizens
were drowned, hardly with an apology - in fact, as a matter of
At first America could hardly believe it. They could not think it
possible that any sane people should behave in that manner. And they
tolerated it once, and they tolerated it twice, until it became
clear that the Germans really meant it. Then America acted, and
The Hindenburg line was drawn along the shores of America, and the
Americans were told they must not cross it. America said, "What is
this?" Germany said, "This is our line, beyond which you must not
go," and America said, "The place for that line is not the Atlantic,
but on the Rhine and we mean to help you to roll it up."
There are two great facts which clinch the argument that this is a
great struggle for freedom. The first is the fact that America has
come in. She would not have come in otherwise. The second is the
When France in the eighteenth century sent her soldiers to America
to fight for the freedom and independence of that land, France also
was an autocracy in those days. But Frenchmen in America, once they
were there - their aim was freedom, their atmosphere was freedom,
their inspiration was freedom. They acquired a taste for freedom,
and they took it home, and France became free.
That is the story of Russia. Russia engaged in this great war for
the freedom of Serbia, of Montenegro, of Bulgaria, and has fought
for the freedom of Europe. They wanted to make their own country
free, and they have done it.
The Russian revolution is not merely the outcome of the struggle for
freedom. It is a proof of the character of the struggle for liberty,
and if the Russian people realize, as there is every evidence they
are doing, that national discipline is not incompatible with
national freedom - nay, that national discipline is essential to the
security of national freedom - they will, indeed, become a free
I have been asking myself the question, Why did Germany,
deliberately, in the third year of the war, provoke America to this
declaration and to this action - deliberately, resolutely?
It has been suggested that the reason was that there were certain
elements in American life, and they were under the impression that
they would make it impossible for the United States to declare war.
That I can hardly believe. But the answer has been afforded by
Marshal von Hindenburg himself, in the very remarkable interview
which appeared in the press.
He depended clearly on one of two things. First, that the submarine
campaign would have destroyed international shipping to such an
extent that England would have been put out of business before
America was ready.
According to his computation, America cannot be ready for twelve
months. He does not know America. In the alternative, that when
America is ready, at the end of twelve months, with her army, she
will have no ships to transport that army to the field of battle. In
von Hindenburg's words, "America carries no weight." I suppose he
means she has no ships to carry weight. On that, undoubtedly they
Well, it is not wise always to assume that even when the German
General Staff, which has miscalculated so often, makes a calculation
it has no ground for it. It therefore behoves the whole of the
Allies, Great Britain and America in particular, to see that that
reckoning of von Hindenburg is as false as the one he made about his
famous line, which we have broken already.
The road to victory, the guarantee of victory, the absolute
assurance of victory is to be found in one word - ships; and a
second word - ships; and a third word - ships. And with that
quickness of apprehension which characterizes your nation, Mr.
Chairman, I see that they fully realize that, and today I observe
that they have already made arrangements to build one thousand
3,000-tonners for the Atlantic.
I think that the German military advisers must already begin to
realize that this is another of the tragic miscalculations which are
going to lead them to disaster and to ruin. But you will pardon me
for emphasizing that. We are a slow people in these islands - slow
and blundering - but we get there. You get there sooner, and that is
why I am glad to see you in.
But may I say that we have been in this business for three years? We
have, as we generally do, tried every blunder. In golfing
phraseology, we have got into every bunker. But we have got a good
niblick. We are right out on the course.
But may I respectfully suggest that it is worth America's while to
study our blunders, so as to begin just where we are now and not
where we were three years ago? That is an advantage. In war, time
has as tragic a significance as it has in sickness. A step which,
taken today, may lead to assured victory, taken tomorrow may barely
avert disaster. All the Allies have discovered that.
It was a new country for us all. It was trackless, mapless. We had
to go by instinct. But we found the way, and I am so glad that you
are sending your great naval and military experts here, just to
exchange experiences with men who have been through all the dreary,
anxious crises of the last three years.
America has helped us even to win the battle of Arras. Do you know
that these guns which destroyed the German trenches, shattered the
barbed wire - I remember, with some friends of mine whom I see here,
arranging to order the machines to make those guns from America. Not
all of them - you got your share, but only a share, a glorious
So that America has also had her training. She has been making guns,
making ammunition, giving us machinery to prepare both; she has
supplied us with steel, and she has got all that organization and
she has got that wonderful facility, adaptability, and
resourcefulness of the great people which inhabits that great
It was a bad day for military autocracy in Prussia when it
challenged the great Republic of the West. We know what America can
do, and we also know that now she is in it she will do it. She will
wage an effective and successful war.
There is something more important. She will insure a beneficent
peace. I attach great importance - and I am the last man in the
world, knowing for three years what our difficulties have been, what
our anxieties have been, and what our fears have been - I am the
last man to say that the succour which is given to us from America
is not something in itself to rejoice in, and to rejoice in greatly.
But I don't mind saying that I rejoice even more in the knowledge
that America is going to win the right to be at the conference table
when the terms of peace are being discussed. That conference will
settle the destiny of nations - the course of human life - for God
knows how many ages.
It would have been tragic for mankind if America had not been there,
and there with all the influence, all the power, and the right which
she has now won by flinging herself into this great struggle.
I can see peace coming now - not a peace which will be the beginning
of war; not a peace which will be an endless preparation for strife
and bloodshed; but a real peace. The world is an old world. It has
never had peace. It has been rocking and swaying like an ocean, and
Europe - poor Europe! - has always lived under the menace of the
When this war began two-thirds of Europe were under autocratic rule.
It is the other way about now, and democracy means peace. The
democracy of France did not want war; the democracy of Italy
hesitated long before they entered the war; the democracy of this
country shrank from it - shrank and shuddered - and never would have
entered the cauldron had it not been for the invasion of Belgium.
The democracies sought peace; strove for peace. If Prussia had been
a democracy there would have been no war. Strange things have
happened in this war. There are stranger things to come, and they
are coming rapidly.
There are times in history when this world spins so leisurely along
its destined course that it seems for centuries to be at a
standstill; but there are also times when it rushes along at a giddy
pace, covering the track of centuries in a year.
Those are the times we are living in now. Today we wage the most
devastating war earth has ever seen; tomorrow - perhaps not a
distant tomorrow - war may be abolished forever from the category of
This may be something like the fierce outburst of winter which we
are now witnessing before the complete triumph of the sun. It is
written of those gallant men who won that victory on Monday - men
from Canada, from Australia, and from this old country, which has
proved that in spite of its age it is not decrepit - it is written
of those gallant men that they attacked with the dawn - fit work for
the dawn! - to drive out of forty miles of French soil those
miscreants who had defiled it for three years. "They attacked with
the dawn." Significant phrase!
The breaking up of the dark rule of the Turk, which for centuries
has clouded the sunniest land in the world, the freeing of Russia
from an oppression which has covered it like a shroud for so long,
the great declaration of President Wilson coming with the might of
the great nation which he represents into the struggle for liberty
are heralds of the dawn.
"They attacked with the dawn," and these men are marching forward in
the full radiance of that dawn, and soon Frenchmen and Americans,
British, Italians, Russians, yea, and Serbians, Belgians,
Montenegrins, will march into the full light of a perfect day.