Max Eastman 1918

Wilson and the World’s Future


Written: by Max Eastman;
Source: The Liberator, Vol. 1, No. 3 May, 1918 pp.19-24
Transcribed: by Brian Bagsen
Marked up and Edited: by Damon Maxwell.


PRESIDENT WILSON conducts his own thinking with a large freedom and interior democracy that is not usual either among professors or politicians. He gives a voice to every new fact and every new suggestion that the current of events and meditation throws out. He seems to me to bring into statesmanship some of the same thing that Bergson and William James and John Dewey have brought into philosophy – a sense of the reality of time, and the creative character of change. He is a president in the original sense that he presides over, rather than trying to create, a political development. He is not impatient or meddlesome. He is not high-strung. He does not have to be busy. He does not have to be sure. He knows how to use doubt. He knows how to cooperate with evolution.

This is a rare gift and requires an exceedingly healthy state of the nerves – a state which is immediately apparent in President Wilson’s bearing. He is one of the few men of high cerebral organization who can go to bed and to sleep while a problem is actually unsolved. When I saw him last March in the days of “armed neutrality,” after two years of continuous international suspense and a responsibility that can only be described as planetary, he held balanced in his hand the whole future history of his country; and I saw in him no sign of neural fatigue, or restiveness, or the weakness of extreme anxiety.

It was typical of what is best in the power of his character, I think, that when every other brain in the nation was frantically striving to formulate a dogmatic resting-ground as to our relations with Germany, lie was able to leave them in a completely fluid and undetermined condition. He had declared that he would resist any “overt act” of the submarines against the sovereignty of our ships, and while it seemed to the conventional mind supremely urgent to decide exactly what an “overt act” would be, his attitude was that he did not know, but he thought he would recognize one when he saw it!

This poise and fluency of mind is more extraordinary than is perceived even by those whom it exasperates the most. It is the expression of a wisdom which is new and peculiar to our age.

William Hard’s Attack

William Hard, in his brilliant attack upon Wilson in the Metropolitan Magazine for March, scores a great hit for old-fashioned ears when he makes Evangelista, the Santo Domingan bandit, reproach the president with being for revolutions at one time and place and against them at another.

President Wilson replies: “Evangelista, one fact must be enough for you. In the year 1916, in the month of May, in that part of the Western Hemisphere which is comprised within the boundaries of Santo Domingo, I was against revolutions.”

“Now,” says the German Kaiser (who also is a party to this conversation), “Now, we are getting on. Principles are things of times and places. I have always felt it. You will admit that.”

A terrible indictment for old-fashioned ears, but for those who understand how large a part facts play in the formation of true principles, not a fundamental indictment at all. Principles are, and they ought to be, things of times and places. And a man can not be attacked – speaking now analytically and ultimately – for changing his principles with changing facts. He can be attacked only on the ground of the motive for which he changes his principles. If for instance he was for revolutions where they furthered his own or his nationalistic interest, and against them where they opposed it, then he would be reprehensible. And I am not saying this was not the case in the Caribbean. I only say that it would need to be proven in order to show that Wilson was actually unwise in that matter as well as intellectually inconsistent. In simply pointing to the amazing pliancy and free play with which the president holds abstract ideas in his mind, Hard is paying him the best tribute he could pay to a man who has suffered and come through the misfortune of being a professor.

No doubt this talent is a danger as well as a boon. Sometimes we feel that the President’s ability to sit relaxed and meditating while dramatic opportunity arrives and pauses and passes by, is a terrible thing. It is one of the faults o f his virtue. And perhaps another fault is that inefficiency as a business executive which is being so cried up by the Republicans in Congress. I should think it would be hard for a man trained to this sort of wisdom in literature and politics, to find in himself the dynamic head of the most colossal industrial enterprise of history. And if it is true, as an insidious philippic in Collier’s Magazine asserts, that he is unwilling to delegate real power to strong men, then his great talent may act to the detriment of important interests. About this I do not know. But I do know that in the light of modern wisdom his mere logical inconsistencies can not be dismissed in the off-hand manner of the old-fashioned debating society.

That new conditions create new truths, is the chief affirmation of the intellectual culture of our age. It is an affirmation that intellectual people are usually the least able to act upon, for intellect is somehow absolute and dogmatic in its very nature. But President Wilson combines a very high intellectuality with the rarer power of holding it in suspense, and though that makes him easy for logical people (like William Hard and me), to attack, it makes him difficult for anybody to overthrow. He can move with the utmost agility from one position to another, and yet offer an inflexible resistance in any position that he occupies. He is strong as water is strong. being fluid but inelastic.

The League of Nations

I remember another example of that instinct for co-operating with evolution, which is the essence of the President’s strength. In his first great speech to the Senate – the speech advocating a League of Nations – he avoided the advertised expression, “League to Enforce Peace,” and spoke rather of a “League to Ensure Peace.” And this caught my attention because I have always considered the idea of a “League to Enforce Peace” a little utopian. The nations comprising this league are supposed to pledge themselves to make war on any nation which disturbs the peace. That is, in case a state of war arises, they are to decide which country is the aggressor and then join arms to defeat that country. This involves two things that in my view of human nature appear impossible.

First, that nations will go to war in remote parts of the earth, and merely in the interest of an abstract principle or promise.

Second, that in cases where they will go to war, they will be capable of making or acting upon a dispassionate decision as to who is the aggressor.

The League to Enforce Peace seems to me a somewhat naive scheme, based upon an incorrect view of human psychology, and of the motives that are dominant in history. The distinction between this scheme, and the plan proposed by the British Labor Party of establishing an international congress and standing tribunal with executive power, such as will constitute a world-government, is very important. For the latter plan rests upon a fact already well established in history, that states in political federation do actually lose the continual motive, as well as avoid the principal occasions, of war.

When I asked the president to be specific upon this point, his answer was altogether characteristic. He spoke with that grave patience of the sympathetic and interested teacher – the one who knowsand he spoke of the error of trying to impose any artificial and formalized organization upon a world in which the things that endure come into being through a process of natural growth.

He said in effect that if you set out to manufacture a government of the seas with an international police, you run into one insuperable difficulty at once. A police force must be subject to command, and what individual is there in the world to whom such a command could now be given? That is but the first of many difficulties that occur to mind as soon as you think of the problem actively. And yet these difficulties of setting up a ready-made arrangement do not make it impossible that some such arrangement might gradually grow into being as a result of a series of more simple practical steps. If a conference of the nations is called, for example, and draws a plan for action to eliminate war, and then dissolves, it will doubtless be necessary when exigencies arise, to call it again in order to put the plan in execution, or to extend or alter it. Other questions than war, too, might arise that would demand such a conference. And so in the course of time an international institution might come into being that would have some of the attributes implied in using the word government. It is thus that political institutions come into being. The important thing for us to do is not to fill in the details of such an institution in our imaginations, but to take the first step with our minds very open and free as to what may develop out of them.

The president had used the words “League to Ensure Peace,” it seemed, because they implied less and yet left room for more, than the words “League to Enforce Peace.” He recalled that one of the newspaper men had asked him, after that address to the Senate, whether he meant to imply that the nations should pledge themselves to the armed enforcement of peace. His answer had been – We really ought to leave something for the nations to decide!

A sense of reality when it tempers a sufficiently venturesome imagination, is most impressive. And though I could not help recalling our own league of nations, the United States, how it was manufactured and put together in an off-hand manner quite disrespectful to evolution, still I knew that I had learned something. I recurred to the only question that remained – the question of the exact nature of that first small step that must be taken. And President Wilson emphatically assented to the opinion that such a league or conference as might be instituted after the war, would be of little value even as a beginning, if it did not immediately arrange the terms of a reduction and limitation of national armaments. I felt here again that occasional rigor and positiveness of concrete assertion which is so striking against the background of abstract fluidity which characterizes his intellectual temperament.

Four Things He Has Done

President Wilson has done things during the last five weeks, the scope and positiveness of whose impact upon history can not be denied. And they were done in the single interest of human freedom. He held up the Empire of Japan in her proposal to invade Russian Siberia, with the applause of the allies, upon the hypocritical plea that Germany, 6,ooo miles away, was endangering democracy (or something) in that quarter. And in this act he stood before the public practically alone. The allied governments were for the invasion of free Russia by feudal Japan, largely no doubt for the reason that Russia is not paying interest on the millions of ambition dollars they invested in her bonds under the czar, and is even threatening to repudiate that debt – or such part of it at least as was loaned to the czar for the express purpose of putting down revolution. The capitalist newspapers of the allied countries were for this Japanese invasion for the same reason. The capitalistic papers of this country were for it – because they have no reason. They are in a state of ignorant military frenzy which if placed at the head of affairs would destroy the purposes of this war and wreck the future of the civilized world. Against this suicidal mania President Wilson stood up alone, because he had both knowledge and coolness of nerve.

Japan is an hereditary autocracy whose emperor is descended in a direct line through exactly 121 generations from the Son of Heaven. The dynasty of the Mikado is the only dynasty on earth that has never been changed or overthrown. It is supported by a superstitious patriotism, as well as a feudal system of politics, that makes the rest of the allied nations look like a loose union of temperamental anarchists. The Japanese Emperor has the power to declare war and make peace, conclude treaties, appoint and dismiss all officials, approve and promulgate laws, and issue ordinances to take the place of laws. Up to the year 1890 he ruled without even a constitution, and in that year a constitution was adopted modeled in its features of “democratic participation” upon the constitution of Prussia, but in its reservation of power to the prince and his ministers upon no other civilized constitution on earth. Last month in Tokyo a group of students calling themselves the “Young Radicals” tried to distribute among the members of the Japanese diet leaflets demanding universal suffrage and protesting against the influence of the clans (junker families). They were arrested and imprisoned for making this eighteenth century demand.

The Japanese are a great people with a beautiful future. Energetic, delicate, friendly, liberal of instinct – they are on their way. And they will move fast. But if we mean anything by democracy we do not mean the present state of their institutions or social or political ideas.

In standing up against this Great Siberian Hypocrisy President Wilson did the biggest thing – of a negative nature – that could be done to comfort the soldiers of the world that they are fighting for some principle higher than national prestige. And in the process of doing this, he enunciated a doctrine – if the New York Times correspondent was correctly informed – that ought to be incorporated as a new and vital article in The Program of the World’s Peace.

“President Wilson’s declared attitude,” said this correspondent, “toward Mexico and the perturbed Latin-American countries was that while this Government would send troops into foreign territory to defend its honor and safeguard the lives of Americans and other foreigners, it would not use its land and naval forces to protect investments and other material interests which were threatened by political disturbances. The present position of the government concerning the Japanese desire to place troops in Siberia is understood to be practically the same.”

If all the nations would cease to use their land and naval forces to protect investments – they would go a long way towards ceasing to use their land and naval forces.

The Note to Russia

A second signal thing that the president did for liberty this month was to send an entirely generous message of friendship and good luck to the “Republic of Labor Unions” in Russia. His utterance was as significant as the silence of his allies. It has put the American government in a different attitude from any other government toward that class struggle for industrial democracy which is gradually displacing the blinder struggle that engages the world. Arthur Henderson, the leader of the British Labor Party and coming man of power in Great Britain, had sent a message of more unqualified endorsement to the Bolsheviki:

“In this moment of total crisis in the fortune of the revolution, British labor proclaims to the Socialist and working class parties of Russia its undiminished faith in revolutionary principles and its confidence in their eventual triumph.

“We have accepted those principles. We have urged our government to adopt them. In pursuit of a policy of concerted action on the part of the international democracy, we have embodied the revolutionary principles of no annexations or punitive indemnities and the right of self-determination for all peoples in the memorandum of war aims adopted by the conference of labor and Socialist parties in the allied countries, and we are taking immediate steps to seek similar agreement with the organized democracy of the central empires.”

It is this lead – the lead of insurgent labor – and not the lead of the suicidal bankrupt bourgeois diplomacy in the allied countries – that President Wilson is disposed to follow. And this shows that he is able to entertain an idea, and acknowledge the existence of a force, as new to his ways of thinking as though it had come down from another planet.

The Letter to New Jersey

He follows the same force, I think, in his letter to the conference of New Jersey Democrats that met at Newark on March 20th. He echoes a bit of the language of the report on reconstruction of the British Labor Party – a report that marked the birth of a new and revolutionary democracy in England. I quote two sentences:

“A time of grave crisis has come in the life of the Democratic Party in New Jersey. Every sign of these terrible days of war and revolutionary change, when economic and social forces are being released upon the world whose effect no political seer dare venture to conjecture, bids us search our hearts through and through and make them ready for the birth of a new day – a day, we hope and believe, of greater opportunity and greater prosperity for the average mass of struggling men and women, and of greater safety and opportunity for children.

“The men in the trenches, who have been freed from the economic serfdom to which some of them had been accustomed, will, it is likely, return to their homes with a new view and a new impatience of all mere political phrases, and will demand real thinking and sincere action.”

Being a man of letters, President Wilson never takes a phrase from the other man’s lip; but his “economic serfdom” need not divert us from the fact that the scholar in the White House, as well as the agitator on the soap-box, is now compelled to talk about wage slavery. I am not saying that the President is becoming a Bolshevik, or that he could lead an American labor movement, if a living one were born. I only say that the fluency of his intelligence is phenomenal, and is a strength rather than a weakness, and, while the world runs this way, a boon to us who believe in industrial and ultimate freedom and democracy.

To acknowledge this fact is not to endorse the proposal of Upton Sinclair, so generously disseminated by the capitalist papers, that the Socialist Party of the United States should call a convention and formally declare that it has come round to the support of the President. It might be more indicative of the state of the facts and the chronologies of the matter, if President Wilson should call a convention of his new ideas and come round and join the Socialist Party. I should be willing to take the risk of accepting him as a member. In the meantime I only mean to endorse the sagacious opportunism of Leon Trotsky, who said (in an interview on March 5th) : “America and Russia [meaning Wilson and the International Socialists] may have different aims, but if we have common stations on the same route, I see no reason why we could not travel together in the same car, each having the right to alight when it is desired.”

The Conscientious Objectors

A thing that makes me especially willing to travel in this car is that President Wilson has at last turned his attention to those violations of liberty and constitutional right in our domestic affairs which have been making his great words before the world sound so hollow. On March 21st he issued an executive order which will liberate several hundred young men who have been violently condemned to long terms in prison under a military invasion of civil rights that I can hardly believe was intended by Congress. I quote the crucial sentences of this order, because it is a fourth important thing that the president has done for liberty in the past month.

“2. Persons ordered to report for military service under the above act who ... object to participation in war because of conscientious scruples, but have failed to receive certificates as members of a religious sect or organization from their local board, will be assigned to non-combatant service as defined in paragraph I to the extent that such persons are able to accept service as aforesaid without violation of the religious or other conscientious scruples by them in good faith entertained. ...

“3. On the first day of April, and thereafter monthly, each division, camp, or post commander shall report to the adjutant general of the army, for the information of chief of staff and the secretary of war, the names of all persons under their respective commands who profess religious or other conscientious scruples as above described and who have been unwilling to accept by reason of such scruples assignment to non-combatant military service as above defined, and as to each such person so reported a brief, comprehensive statement as to the nature of the objection to the acceptance of such non-combatant military service entertained. The secretary of war will from time to time classify the persons so reported and give further directions as to the disposition of them. Pending such directions from the secretary of war, all such persons not accepting assignment to a non-combatant service shall be segregated as far as practicable and placed under the command of a specially qualified officer of tact and judgment, who will be instructed to impose no punitive hardship of any kind upon them, but not to allow their objections to be made the basis of any favor or consideration beyond exemption from actual military service which is not extended to any other soldier in the service of the United States. ...

“5. The secretary of war will revise the sentences and findings of courts-martial heretofore held of persons who come within any of the classes herein described, and bring to the attention of the president for remedy, if any be needed, sentences and judgments found at variance with the provisions hereof.[1]

(Signed) WOODROW WILSON.
“The White House, March 20, 1918.”

In Prussia, at the beginning of the war, 31 conscientious objectors with religious scruples were shot. In Saxony and Bavaria about 120 were committed to insane asylums for several months, but subsequently released with certificates stating that they were “harmlessly insane” – the uniform being sufficient evidence, I suppose, that the generality were harmfully sane. In France, according to the murderous accounts of Gertrude Atherton, all the objectors were shot, and according to better authority some were shot – at least of those who lacked the influence to get a soft job in the rear. In England they were systematically brutally belabored, tortured and intimidated.

There are not many conscientious objectors in any country. On December l0th there were only 561 not exempted as members of religious sects, in all the cantonments of the United States. Is it not another example of his extraordinary ability to suspend judgment that the president should have made no move towards solving this problem until its exact nature and proportions had developed? He always lets time make the first move. And it is an example of his occasional positiveness and his leaning toward genuine liberty, that finding it to be practical from a military point-of-view to do so, he should solve it in a completely humane and libertarian way.

His order reserves a possibility of court martial and military imprisonment if the conscientious objection takes a form that can be identified with ordinary insubordination and tends to destroy the discipline of the army. But assuming a sincere cooperation of the secretary of war, and officers not wholly devoid of conscience themselves, one of the fundamental rights of our civilization, the liberty of conscience – more accurately described as a liberty of moral volition – has been by this order secured and defended.

Four Things He Might Do

So utterly away from, and beyond the base and contemptible range of opinion propagated by the American press, are these acts and utterances of the president, that inevitably we hope he really is with the quiet people, and that all these other things they discuss as possibilities over their dinner tables at home are in his mind too. He has compelled the allies to acknowledge his leadership in the matter of Japan. He has compelled them to unify their military command. Is it not possible to compel them to a unified, definite and intelligible statement of their war-aims?

There is some ground, no doubt, for the opinion that it is bad tactics to prolong a discussion of peace terms while war is on – though I notice there are more Christian ministers than military experts who expound this opinion. When Dr. Manning, for instance, of Trinity Church, and other oratorically Napoleonic successors of the Prince of Peace, go about shouting that it is treason to mention the subject of peace terms, though hard-working and straight-thinking members of the army and navy privately state that a unification of the war aims of the allies is very much to be desired, I take my side with the army and navy. I do not want to believe that good fighting requires bad thinking. And if one is going to think at all about the diplomacy of this war, he will have to begin by acknowledging that the allies have bungled it.

There are two ways in which a “World’s Peace” might be arrived at. One is to conquer and reduce the military party in control of Germany to the point of accepting such a peace; the other is to oppose that military party long enough and strongly enough so that its control is weakened, and peace can be made with the other parties in Germany. The president has made it clear that the latter is his purpose; he has made it clear enough so that it is known and acknowledged in Germany. But the rest of the allies have not behaved in a way to give anyone, either in Germany or elsewhere, such an impression. In July of last summer the anti-imperialists of Germany, with the social democrats, were in sufficient control to pass a resolution through the Reichstag demanding “peace without annexations or indemnities.” This resolution was not responded to until the following January, and then only by President Wilson. For six months it was absolutely and coldly ignored by all the allies; and in Germany in that six months the heart went out of it; the moderates who voted for it became convinced that they were wrong, that the allies did not want a just peace; the military party regained its hold. That resolution should have been responded to when it was passed. If it was sincere, it should have been fostered. If it was a bluff, the bluff should have been called. The liberal party in Germany should have been encouraged to believe in us.

Again at Brest-Litovsk the German foreign secretary proposed to the Russians that they should bring all their allies to the table and discuss a peace “without annexations or indemnities.” This may have been a bluff, too, and if it was, then by ignoring it we played the game well with the military party. But the effect of our ignoring it upon the anti-military parties was absolutely disastrous. For the bluff was primarily intended to deceive them, not us, and by failing to call the bluff we contributed to their deception. We confirmed the opinion in their minds that the allies do not want a just peace.

It is probable that President Wilson’s sudden and abstract enunciation of moderate peace-terms in January was not enough to offset the effect upon German liberals of these blunders. It was too lonely and too different from what had preceded, to revive their faith in the purposes of the allied governments. But even supposing it had revived them, the immediate contradictory enunciation of a bitter-end policy by the supreme war council at Versailles, must have knocked them down again. And after that, I do not see how the president’s second speech, (February 11th) earnestly just and conciliatory though it was, could entirely reassure them. And it appears that it did not reassure them, except as to the President’s own attitude. An evidence of this is the statement (March 22nd) of Herr Evert, a Socialist member of the Reichstag, in explaining his vote for the war credits that “unfortunately there were no prospects of peace in the west, as neither President Wilson or the Belgian Government had responded to the chancellor’s assent to President Wilson’s four principles, while England, France and Italy had pronounced for a continuance of the war, and voted the necessary credits. Thus Germany was still in a position of defence in the west against a numerically superior enemy, who was threatening Germany’s vital interests.”

I cling to the opinion, therefore, in the face of these Christian ministers, that something ought to be done by the allied governments to assure those Germans who do want an anti-imperialist peace that the controlling powers among the allies want it too. The assertions of the Inter-Allied Labor Conference that France “can properly agree to a fresh consultation of the population of Alsace-Lorraine as to its own desires,” and that “the return of colonies to those who possessed them before the war ought not to be an obstacle to the making of peace,” seem to me to contain the meat of such an assurance. It is impossible, of course, for a layman not in touch with all the facts to suggest the nature of a diplomatic action. But besides being unanimous, I think it ought to be very direct, so that it could not be ignored or evaded by the party of power in Germany, and it ought to be very brief, so that it could not be misquoted, or half quoted, or dubiously interpreted by those who publish or repeat it. A diplomatic action which would give this simple and direct guarantee to the liberals of Germany of the sincerity of our purposes, could easily be devised by the allied statesmen if their minds were bent, as in the interest of essential victory they should be bent, upon giving such a guarantee.

Recognize New Russia

Another step in the certification of President Wilson’s democracy for which many Americans wait, is a formal recognition of the Republic of Labor Unions in Russia. This would add seal and substance to his message of good-will, and go far towards placing in his hand, for the purposes of war and peace, the leadership of the labor parties of the world.

Endorse the Inter-Belligerent Conference

That leadership bids fair to mean the leadership of the world. At the Inter-Allied Labor and Socialist Conference. at London in February it was resolved that an Inter-Belligerent Conference of Socialist and Labor Delegates ought to be called, who should seek to reach an agreement upon the general outlines of a “peace without annexations,” and having reached such an agreement, return home and seek to secure, each from his respective government, a declaration of readiness for such a peace. This inter-belligerent conference has been prevented in the past by the allied governments upon the ground that no special class in the nation is entitled to enter into discussion with the national enemy. But it was President Wilson’s policy from the beginning to draw a line between classes in the enemy nation. He has declared that we are not at war with the German people. And as there is a class of the German people who have continually resisted and pressed against the policy of those military rulers who arc the enemy, it would not be unreasonable to permit a conference and understanding between representatives of this class and those whom they know and whose motives they trust in our own countries. It is the step which moves most directly to a democratic peace as opposed to a peace doctored together by the imperialists.

Curb the American Prussians

Finally, since the president has evidently turned his attention to the domestic violation of those human rights for which we have declared that we are fighting abroad, the hope arises that he will issue some order, or make some public statement, or otherwise bring his influence to bear against the general suppression of publications and the persecution of organizers and agitators with radical opinions, which is disgracing this country and lowering its power to take part in the reconstruction of the world. The indictment in February of the general officers of the Socialist party, and the holding up of this indictment, apparently until its effect upon the Russian government need no longer be feared, has sickened the hearts of a full million of people who desire to believe in the democratic and liberative purposes of the administration.

This unwise and unwarranted act of the federal officials, technically plausible perhaps under the espionage act because of the extreme language of the St. Louis program, has emboldened the capitalists of Minnesota to cause a similar indictment and arrest of A. C. Townley, the head of the Non-Partisan League, who never had anything to do with such a program, and whose words and activities since the war began have been solely devoted. to the liberation from “economic serfdom” of the farmers of the Northwest.

A principal point in the indictment against most of the 166 members of the I.W.W. who have lain so long under exorbitant bail in a Chicago prison that one of them has died, one of them gone crazy, and three of them permanently lost their health, is that they published the “Preamble” to the I.W.W.; a document which sets forth in dignified and almost academic language the basic principles of scientific socialism-principles more militantly expressed in the Communist manifesto, which was issued in 184$, and for seventy years circulated all over the world by the hundreds of millions, and which is now incorporated in every significant library of political or social science in existence. For the United States to rely upon cooperation from socialists and labor bodies in Europe, while its citizens are imprisoned on such charges by the jailful, is dangerous in the extreme.

A systematic persecution of I.W.W.’s and alleged I.W.W.’s is now employing the money and energy of those patriots to capital who framed up the Mooney case in California. The president’s own mediation commission established the fact of these attacks upon labor agitators by their employers under pretense of patriotism. It is a scandal about which, if nothing at Washington can be done, at least something to restore faith can be said.

The mobbing of innocent citizens the complexion of whose opinions, or whose industrial activities, are not agreeable to their neighbors is apparently not visited with arrest and indictment, because so many of the officers of justice are engaged, in a more legal fashion, in the same pursuit. On March 25th, in Benton, Illinois, a woman of Bohemian birth, Mrs. Frances Bergen, was ridden on a rail through the main street of the town waving an American flag, an exhibition which ought to arouse the indignation of every patriot either to the United States or to the cause of civilization, but which passed as nothing in the American press, and will no doubt so pass the officers of justice. Following that, a Socialist agitator was lynched by a mob in Collinsville, Illinois, for alleged “disloyal utterances,” although no intimation of the nature of such utterances is given in any press report of the atrocity.

I do not believe there is a disposition upon the part of any Socialists or radical lovers of liberty in this country to advocate a relaxation of vigilance against spies, or those who would seek the collapse of our machinery of war. But there are millions who are appalled at the spirit of barbarism and feudal reaction and internal autocratic militarism which, though natural to spring up in war time, has been actively fostered by the persecutory attitude of certain officials, until it seems unsafe to be an agitator of any hope for humanity beyond what is comprehended by the policeman on the next beat. All these things could be effectually put a stop to in half a day by one imperative public declaration, accompanied with a certain few private orders, from the president and commander-in-chief of the armies. And in proportion as this war is a war of right and democracy, the stoppage of these things, and the restoration of elementary liberties and justice to men without capitalistic influence, would strengthen the government in its waging of the war, and strengthen it immeasurably in that democratic world-reconstruction which it has declared to be the irreducible term of peace.

It will seem strange in history that the American President, eight months after his declaration of war, and before a single handful of his soldiers were baptized with battle, was strong enough to dictate to the entire phalanx of Allied nations what should be their terms of peace. It will need explanation. And the explanation will be that he spoke the word that was in the mouth of the peoples of those nations as against those who would thwart them. He has ventured into a position of almost militant leadership of those peoples for the purposes of war and peace. And if he will but move firmly into that position, with all clarity and definition, he can do more than one man has ever done since Napoleon to constitute and create a future of the world. It is so much vaster a world, so much more organized with nerves and arteries of communication. The opportunity is prodigious.

President Wilson has the openness of vision and pliancy of will requisite to see and grasp such an opportunity. Whether he cares passionately enough, and whether he has the grain of resolution, and whether his new knowledge of the difference between the interests of men and the interests of money and prestige, has sufficient emotional depth to stand against the forces that will oppose him, are questions that time still asks of his character.

Notes

1. Some sentences of this kind are as follows:

Camp Devens, Mass. – Tony Petroshki, 20 years.

Camp Dodge, Iowa – Otto Wangerin, 15 years; Harold Bruber, 15 years.

Camp Gordon, Georgia – Otto Brennan, 10 years.

Camp Grand, Illinois – Gust. Wittrock, 3 years; Abraham Bieber, 1 year.

Camp Lewis, Washington – Eno Larsen, 5 years; Alfred Bloss, to years, and Wallferd E. Maher, 10 years.

Camp Taylor, Kentucky – Earl Hucklebury, 3 years.

Fort Adams, Rhode Island – John T. Dunn, Teo. Hiller and Adolph T. Yanyar, 20 years each.

Fort Andrews, Mass. – Fritz Stepanovitch, 15 years.

Fort McArthur, Texas – Vane V. Dart, 10 years.

Jefferson Barracks, Mo. – R. H. Franke, 10 years.