Carrie Chapman Catt

Aims of the Conference on the Cause and Cure of War - 1925

Carrie Chapman Catt
January 18, 1925
Conference on the Cause and Cure of War
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First Conference Cause & Cure of War, 1925 January, 18-25 AIMS OF THE CONFERENCE

I have been asked by the Program Committee to state the Aims of the Conference; that is, to tell why we are here and what we expect to achieve.

Inquiries at our Headquarters indicate a wide misinformation concerning our intentions, and in order to establish a correct understanding of them, I shall begin with the announcement that the Cooperating organizations have agreed that we shall neither discuss the horrors of war, nor argue whether or not it is possible to abolish it. The Conference opens with the conviction firmly fixed that war is a relic of barbarism whose abolition should have been achieved years ago.

The Conference will confine its discussion to the announced program. There is no intent to narrow the discussion to fixed lines of investigation, but we face the fact that we are limited by time to a single week. Not every point or theory can be presented in six days, but it will be our own fault if any crucial point in the controversy fails of attention, since questions may be asked by delegates and important lapses pointed out in the open forums. We have received many plans whose authors believe they have pointed out the only way to perpetuate peace. They have come in the form of poetry, song, prayer, books and legal documents. Their weakness is indicated by their apparent failure to have made converts, for surely the ability of an idea to convince people is the surest test of its truth or practicability. A plan without a convert is of little value. All plans received which did not bear certain evidence of emanating from unbalanced minds have been referred to the Committee on the Cures of War. You may know therefore that no genuine suggestion to aid our task has been pigeonholed.

The first aim of this Conference is our own education concerning three points.

  1. Why has war continued among men?
  2. Why have solemn compacts between nations to end it been so long delayed?
  3. Why does the anti war movement in our own country lag so inexplicably? Is it selfish indifference, is it American unintelligence, is it the stubborn survival of that ancient belief “war always has been and therefore always will be”? Or is there a more sinister cause? Is it the hope of profit by war supply interests? It is alleged that the Great War made 21,000 American millionaires. What wonder if other Americans dream of a recurrence of such opportunities? Or is it the economic demand, that is, American investments in the copper, iron, silver, gold, oil, nitrates of other lands, or loans to big foreign ventures or to backward governments that secretly expect military protection in cases of emergency? It will be our duty to learn, if we can, whether it is any one of these influences or all combined that nag every effort in the country to recognize permanent world peace as a problem inclusive of all other problems. Who or what is the hidden dog in the manger that yelps Bolshevik, Moscow Red, at every patriotic American who possesses common sense enough to recognize that the abolition of war is overdue? We must ask with emphasis, What is the source of resistance to world cooperation to end war and what is its nature?

Surely this Conference has no quarrel with Army or Navy. They represent the old system of defense which must continue to be honored and respected until a safe and sane substitute is found. No road to world peace will ever be traveled to the end unless and until it brings the sense of security to nations. How to exchange the universal feeling of insecurity, doubt, and distrust for one of security, faith, and goodwill seems to be the one most fundamental difficulty. Peace of the World for evermore, can only come when this is done. Our conference will have failed of its chief aim, our self education on war vs. peace, if that education does not include logical satisfying explanations of a way or wars to obtain national security without war.

The second aim is the hope that every delegate will pass on to her state and her local auxiliary of the organization she represents two points in the education she has received, namely:

  1. All theories or plans presented here that can insure security, and,
  2. All methods proposed for drawing the peacemakers of America into closer organization. Our American movement toward peace will find these two problems its chief handicap.

The third aim is the hope that a method of cooperation among the organizations represented here may be formulated that will eliminate duplication and waste motion while stimulating all of us to a more vigorous morale, and thus render the combined activities of our organizations in the direction of world peace more effective. Agitation for a cause is excellent; education is better; but organization is the only assurance of the final triumph of any cause in a self governing nation.

Personally, I hope this third aim will be more inclusive. I hope it will urge all the peace societies to combine into fewer groups. There are said to be 75 of them more or less national in scope and each working independently. Here I must enter my favorite quotation. General Wellington said: “A poor army may march to victory under a good general, or a good army under a poor general, but no army can win a victory under a debating society.” The organized peacemakers are in the debating society stage at this time. Why not urge them to attain to as close unity as possible.

I venture to urge another step toward organized purpose – an overture to the military forces of the land and especially to the American Legion. One admiral holds that “of all existing matters the one that women understand the least is war”, and he regrets in rather bitter tones their tendency “to meddle with what they cannot understand”. The Admiral is quite right when he says that women do not understand war. Few women have studied war, its art, organization, or strategy, but women approach this big problem from outside, and it is well for all to know that women as a whole quite outdistance men as a whole in their comprehension of the psychology of nations. This is the line of their approach, and their qualification for intelligent participation in this great world task is the strongest gift with which nature has endowed them.

Who can bring higher qualifications to this task of ending war than men of war themselves? To be sure there are a few obsolete-minded majors and generals who angrily view the coming end of a world-old honored profession. Never mind: the greatest generals of three generations have declared war to be neither moral nor civilized, and one American Major General who has already addressed us, John F. O’Ryan, warrior and statesman, has declared that the “the American people can end war if they will get on the job.”

Let us put ourselves in the places of the critical military gentlemen. Suppose from childhood every influence of our lives had taught us that the war makers were the most important asset of a nation, that war heroes were the greatest of men. Suppose we knew that all the chance for promotion, honor, or glory lay in the continuance of the only profession for which we had been trained and that our daily bread depended upon it, would our brains nor work just as theirs do? Would we not view with alarm the threat to dispense with our profession? Of course we would.

Let no one of us forget that our idea is the one that is bound to come, theirs is the one that is bound to go. Victors can afford to keep their tempers sweet. Let us therefore throw no stones, return no evil, but take the hint of that other Major General and “get on the job”.

The Protestant churches are working at this problem with irresistible energy; Rabbis are among the most eloquent speakers of the peacemakers The Pope and American Catholic leaders have been outspoken for peace. Women all the world around, with minor exceptions, are reaching out towards peace. No one of the many communications sent to our temporary headquarters touched me more than that of a housewife who wrote, “I am not a college graduate nor a club woman. I belong to a class that will be unrepresented at the Conference - - the class of housewives. But though unrepresented, we think. Over the dishpan and washtub we think, and as we think we pray for the time to come when a way and a will shall be found to make an end to war”. That woman unconsciously spoke for millions of her sex. Neither churches no women have come to an agreement as to how “the way and the will” are to be found, but they are tireless searches after them.

Let us then be the first to appeal to the Army, the Navy, and especially the American Legion, to join in this task. There is real danger that the obsolete-minded generals throwing stones at peacemakers, and hysterically-minded searchers for peace hurling bitter words in return, may jointly create a barrage of vilification which will obscure the real question and the real movement.

Personally, I believe this to be largely a woman’s task. Men have been taught that physical courage is a man’s chief virtue. Every man hates to be called a coward, and when a man pleads that physical conflict is no longer a fitting institution in our time, some one is sure to call him a coward. We women have no such obstacle in our way. If we fail it will be because we lack moral courage. Can we organized women draw closer together? – that is the first test. It will not be an easy task in the midst of conflicting opinions to find a common program. Most of the Cooperating organizations have endorsed the so-called World Court. Both dominant parties have pledged themselves to it. The President has recommended it. Clearly on this one peace policy this Conference will express itself. Alas, it requires no moral courage to stand for a policy which public opinion has already made popular. The World Court is a strong step toward the abolition of war and therefore is not to be scorned, but no one claims it to be a cure of war for it cannot remove the sense of insecurity among nations. Sooner or later a somewhat slow-moving Senate will pass this measure. What shall the next step be? It must be remembered that any policy which will finally secure world peace will be political and must by endorsed by the Senate. Since any compact with other nations must be made in the form of a treaty which requires a two-thirds vote, and since for many a year no party has commended that majority, the next step, if successful, cannot be a Republican nor a Democratic policy, it must be an all-American policy. Can we find it; can we agree upon it if we do find it?

When people inspired by the conviction that they are in the right rally around a question which the nation at large ridicules and condemns, it is moral courage which keeps them from flinching. The nation, given time, catches pace and stands with them, but it is not moral courage which moves the nation forward, that is what is called bandwagon procedure – the moral courage rests with those who stand fast through years and generations while the nation is discovering that they have been right and the nation wrong. Have we collective courage to march ahead of the mass sentiment of our nation?

If we cannot arrive at a common view point and a common program for the thing we all want, that shall be a bit in advance of popular belief, then let us cease to wonder that the politicians of many nations are slow in coming to perfect faith and understanding concerning the same problem. We shall be a gropingly timid as they.

On the contrary, if we find the way to closer cooperation among ourselves, we should be bold enough to go further and to ask all peace societies “to go and do likewise”. More, we should be confident enough to take another step and to proclaim a desire to work with, and not against, that portion of the military forces of our land that see the same vision we see. When once we stand together, religionists, women, soldiers and sailors, it will not be long are law will replace war and courts be substituted for battlefields.

Our aims then are bold and far-reaching. We aim to understand the problems of war and peace and to pass on to our constituencies such understanding as we attain. We have no delusions concerning the mightiness of our task, but we are not handicapped by emotion or hate. We propose to move forward, but we propose to take no step without being certain that is a permanent one. We aim to draw closer, to offer our sympathy and aid to all the religious groups, and the peace groups striving to find the way through the mire of difficulties that surround this world problem. We dream of stretching our hands over the “lunatic fringe”, as Theodore Roosevelt called it, of both war and peace movements, and to find comfort and friends on the other side.

If we shall be bold enough to do all this, may we not venture one step further, and second that recent proposal of David Starr Jordan that a Department be created with a Secretary in the Cabinet, -- the Department of Peace. The proposal is to restore, not to create anew, an office set up in President Taft’s administration, an Assistant Secretary of State for Peace. To quote Dr. Jordan’s words: “If the power of the nation were pledged toward international conciliation and toward the removal of standing incentives to war, it would be the center of the most powerful force toward education for peace. The outlawing of war rests finally on educated intelligence, and no force in education is stronger than the visible influence of the national government.

“There should be in Washington a bureau of peace, under one name or another, inpower and influence comparable with the General Staff of the Army or the General Board of the Navy – a group which should be alert to all the tendencies toward war-making and capable of entering into relations with other nations toward this end.

“Conciliation and friendly adjustment are mere incidents with the Department of State, not in any sense its first duty.”

The great need at this moment for every nation in the world is a satisfying way to obtain a feeling of security for all peoples. The great need of the moment in our own country is a common program and a unity of demand behind it. Whatever we do let us not fail to keep our minds fixed on these two points.

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