American Peace Centenary. (Address as temporary chairmain of the Mackinac Conference of the American Peace Centenary Committee at Mackinac Island. 21 July 1914.)
I am not here this afternoon to deliver an address, I am here solely in the performance of a duty that I owe to the State of Michigan, to Canada, to every other state in the Union, and I might say, to the World. I had duties at home and found it somewhat difficult to decide whether I could be present here today and tomorrow. My heart, however, for many, many years has been in the work that this Committee is called upon to do. I feel that there is no other work in the world more important at the present time than the work of this Committee.
As a boy I think that I failed to practice what I am preaching. I can hardly recall a day, when I was a boy in the rural school, that I did not engage in a fight; and I am compelled to confess that I cannot recall an instance in which I didn't get "licked;" but it seemed to be in my blood and so, as a source of enjoyment and necessary routine, I renewed the fight the next day. I only speak of this incident so that my friends who know me well will not be surprised at this speech on the subject of peace.
I am very glad that it has been brought out this afternoon that even war is sometimes waged in order that we have peace; although I have a suspicion that the object of this Committee is to avoid war even to secure peace.
I am not going to weary you with a recital of the cost of war; with the awful sacrifices that have been made in war, in the hope that we may avoid the scourges of war in the future. Every intelligent man and woman here understands that as well as I do, and perhaps a thousand times better, because I keenly regret that I have not the knowledge I wish I had of the subject that will occupy the attention of the distinguished representatives here, but I recall the Spanish-American War. I remember to have spoken in my own city of Big Rapids on the evening preceding the day the "solder boys" departed, and I remember how exceedingly difficult it was to pacify that audience, how exceedingly difficult it was to get the slightest recognition, except we said again and again: "Remember the Maine." In other words, never mind the great questions at issue, we had an irreparable injury done us. Let us have revenge. And because of that action of the belligerent instincts and fear of peace, we entered upon that War.
I am here to make no apologies for that war; I am not here to cast a word of reproach upon any of our United States officials who were forced into that war. I simply stand here this afternoon and say, that in my judgment a considerable number of wars are made possible because the majority of mankind are still living on the plane of their belligerent instincts. We often imperil the welfare of our families; we often imperil our own happiness, because we seem to have been endowed with a disposition to fight- with the disposition to get angry; and consequently the members of this Committee must have an exhaustless patience in attempting to bring men and women into that attitude whereby they are willing to think, whereby they are willing to recognize those finer and more beautiful emotions and sentiments that make for peace and righteousness. I make that as a suggestion, although I welcome every effort to make further war impossible.
Thank God! In my own veins there is not a drop (allowing me to be the judge) of race hatred. I know of no man of different color or of a different race whom, retaining his manhood, I am not willing to sit beside at the table or to work with wherever and whenever the work demands the cooperation of two men. Thank God! I have been born destitute of anything that savors or race hatred (applause).
I would not emphasize this matter of the belligerent instincts in man were it not for the fact in almost every state of the Union there has grown up the feeling that the white race has the divine right to the earth. Thank God, I haven't that feeling; and so far as I have any influence or power, I hope to teach men that God Almighty must have had some wise object in creating different races, with innate differences, and yet intending us all to partake of the richest bounties of the earth and live together in peace and joy for the righteous ends of life.
On Decoration Day in my home city I spoke to the Grand Army of the Republic and their friends and in going over what I should say on this occasion, I ran down the enlistments and I was astounded to find in the great Civil War the majority of our armies North and South, especially of the North, were made up of men twenty-one years of age, or under twenty-one. What does this mean? It means that war is a sacrifice of youth. And today I need not tell an intelligent audience that the riches of this earth, the riches of this State, the riches of the United States, the riches of Canada and the riches of all nations of the earth consist in youth, consist in their preservation, development and training in the arts of peace. Therefore, I deem this Committee or any other Committee that advocates the conservation of youth, to be one of the utmost importance.
We men, whose hair is white, should rejoice in this attitude towards youth. Perhaps I am unduly enthusiastic over any effort that can possibly be made whereby we shall live together in harmony, as was expressed in that beautiful prayer this afternoon.
We are not in politics today, we are beyond that, I trust (using the term in the popular sense) and I am going to venture a guess; I feel it is the duty of every man regardless of his politics, if he believes in the philosophy that is expounded by this Committee, to commend men, who, in spite of public clamor, still are able to remain steadfast in their convictions. Our efforts in Mexico have attracted not only the attention of this country, but the attention of other countries; and I want to stand here (and I would stand here just the same if I were a Progressive, a Republican, a Socialist or a Prohibitionist, as I do being a Democrat) and say that in my judgment and in my hope, the cold, calm, thoughtful, righteous methods that have been adopted by the President of the United States in order to work out peace in Mexico are commended by the world (Great Applause.)
I firmly believe, and am happy in the belief, that in the days to come, one of the garlands beautiful that will grace the memory of Woodrow Wilson, is the policy he is carrying out to bring about and establish with all the nations the kind of peace that has been advocated here this afternoon. I would say the same thing of any other ruler. God will help any President, whatever his politics, and whatever nation he represents, who believes that one of his highest duties, in fact, his highest duty, is to conserve and preserve the youth of his land through the agencies of love.
Now just another word and I am done: It is exceedingly difficult to be patriotic in times of peace. That is when men are really tried, when the test of conscience comes. When arms clash and cannons roar, our impulses and instincts guide us; but when we are at pace, when we are able to look with clear vision, it requires a higher degree of heroism, to be patriotic. I, therefore, feel the importance of emphasizing what may be called the patriotism of war. Let us ring a higher change: The patriotism of peace.
My friends, we have not seen the end of war. I am not a pessimist, nor am I an optimist, I do the best I can to see things as they are. I realize that the last controversy over dollars and cents, over trade, over international relations, has not yet come; but by and by, I am hoping and praying, we shall solve these problems without the shedding of human blood. That, I trust, is part of the mission of this Conference. We cannot get men and women to join us, to work with us, by simply appealing to reason. Oh how many years men and women have been appealed to in regard to what is right and what is wrong. You have got to touch the human heart, you have got to get hold of the higher emotions and the higher aspirations of men and move them "as with a song." We have wasted an immense amount of ammunition in our attempt to move men through the use of cold logic. I may attempt in a controversy with a man to use logic to the best of my ability, but he may thoughtlessly or intentionally utter one expression which brings from me a brutal blow. I do not know whether I make my meaning clear or not, but I beg of all peace conferences to make appeals to the emotions, the hearts and sentiments of men. I do not like to hear critics say that this is mere sentiment. A thousand times I have said: "Take out of life its poetry, its sunshine, its laughter, its friendships, and there is nothing left- it is absolutely dead." These elements of life belong to the common people. Do not misunderstand me when I say "common people." I do not mean somebody lower down. I mean the great brotherhood on the "main traveled roads."
I am glad that Almighty God has so organized the world that all men can understand "Thank You;" that all man can understand "Good Morning;" and that all man can understand courtesy; that all men can understand the blush of a flower; in a word, that all men and women can understand kindness and love.
In 1915 we are to celebrate one hundred years of peace. We should so celebrate that we shall arouse in youth across the water and in our own country, the patriotism of peace.
My friends, I want you to know that Michigan is honored today in this conference and I want you to know that I am personally grateful to the delegates I have appointed in Michigan- many of them are here, and I want our friends from the other states and from Canada to know that Michigan is for Peace, for a richer and greater civilization, Michigan is big enough and broad enough to always have a welcome for "our brothers." (Prolonged Applause.)
I now have thee honor and pleasure of presenting Judge Alton P. Parker, of New York, permanent chairman of this Mackinac Conference of the American Peace Centenary Committee.