Carrie Chapman Catt

Eighty-Eighth Birthday Address - 1947

Carrie Chapman Catt
January 09, 1947— New York City, New York
Dinner of the American Association of the United Nations
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Hotel Roosevelt, N.Y.C.

Speech made extemporaneously at Dinner given to celebrate 88th Birthday (1947)

In our generation, a few years ago, the Human Race found itself looking backward over a million-years of continual-war. There had been no Authority in the entire-world that could stop or prevent a war, yet there were plenty of war-machines that could start a war. So came World-War I. Historians pronounced it the most ruthless and terrible of all-time. When all was over, Winston Churchill said “cannibalism and torture were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian states had been able to deny themselves.”

Shocked into action, fifty-five nations came together, bound themselves by treaty to uphold its covenants and founded the League of Nations in Geneva. Although the U.S.A. was not there a great hope uplifted the spirits of many nations. It was the climax of the aspiring hope and prayers of 5000 years, said one. “It was at long last an answer to the highest type of Christianity,” said another. and some pronounced it the greatest event of history. For a short-time hope gave promise of a new and better world. Of the so called, Big Four who dictated the peace-making, after the war, Lloyd-George said, in this happy-period; “Let ours be a generation that manfully, courageously, resolutely, eliminates war from among the tragedies of human life.” It was a promising, hopeful, aspiring moment, but Mars refused to surrender. A despairing period followed. H.G. Welles expressed himself thus; “The huge majority of people in the world think no more about the prevention of war than a warren of rabbits think about the suppression of ferrits.” The rabbits forgot the Ferrits and the world fell back into its old ruts. The next war came, quoting Hitler, “according to plan,” bigger, more ruthless and savage than the last.

How many were engaged in it? The official answer was 53 millions – 33-millions for the Allies and 20-millions for the Central-Powers or one man in every seven in the entire world. How many were killed? The official report said 37-millions, but this included women and children. The statisticians estimated that the killed was very nearly three times as many as those killed in all wars of the previous 120-years.

What did the war cost? It was officially pronounced $187-billions or $ 9,350 for every man, woman and child in the entire world. General Tasker H. Bliss estimated that this war cost the nations concerned a total of 338-billions and James M. Beck, in 1917, announced that the entire value of property in the U.S. was 250-billions. In other words, if these figures are correct, and the U.S.A. could have been sold at auction, for cash, with every bit of wealth in it, the result would not have paid entirely for that war. An English General commented that it seemed an incredible use of money.

Thus World War I was the largest ever fought judging by three points. 1 – It engaged more men. 2 – It killed more men and women. 3 – It cost more money. The cost of that war has been estimated as greater than all wars together since Christendom. Our share cost as much as all the wars of this nation, including the Revolution. So that great war came and is gone, The League of Nations in no more, the Second World-War came and went, a new organization followed and we are now asking ; will it prevent another war? If so, How? I dare to answer. There is now but one Cause of war and there is but one Cure. When mankind is willing to acknowledge these facts it will then be possible to make an end of war.

So long as every Great Power in the world, including our own, continually expands its preparations for war and does so to the point that suspicion of its motives is justified by any other nation, no peace agreement, such as the Covenant of the League of Nations, or the Charter of the United Nations will prevent another War. While nations employ an unchanging aggressive policy for war and spend upon it in the neighborhood of 85 cents out of every dollar of annual income and take a spineless, hesitating, uncertain attitude toward preparations for Peace, competition in armament will proceed, hindered only by empty war chests. Munition-making will continue to be the most profitable industry and the hope of war-profits will remain to stimulate another outbreak of war. One cure of war is the resolution of the people to abolish it. War should end because it is brutal, cruel, uncivilized, a manufacturer of indecency and crime. The determination to bring it to an end will provide the means to accomplish that purpose.

There can be no compromise of vacillation. The speaker of the House, Mr. Martin, said in his opening-speech, that the present National-debt could not be paid in less than a century. One would suppose that if paying for one war took 100 Yrs. that every man, woman and child in the nation would rise and declare that war must be abolished. Towns, states and foreign-nations are crying for more money for education, hospitals, clinics, old-folks homes and even apartments for veterans. There is no money to provide these necessities an at the same time pay for wars that have been and for those which threaten to come. We must make a choice.

When a Nation, like our own, can boast that it has a stock-pile of Atomic-bombs besides battle-ships, and many other implements of war. It is no wonder that in the words of Louis Fischer that there are “scared men in the Kremlin,” and although it has not been mentioned, we may well surmise that there are “scared-men” in Washington. Let us make it clear that preparations for war by every-nation means a certainty of wars to come. Universal Disarmament and the abolition of war should be our great aim, boldly spoken and advocated by all friends of peace. This may be a difficult to do for there still are millions who like war and want it to come again.

I was once present at an afternoon-tea, where the subject of peace was discussed. A very small and gentle woman was pointed out to me as one who did more good for peace than anyone in town. I was introduced to her and I asked “what is it you do to bring peace to the world?” She replied in a very gentle tone “where ever I go and with whom ever I speak I give War a black-eye.” You may think that that is my method.

I do not think the League of Nations was a failure. It gave to the world a clearer account of the cost of war than was ever made before. We will not say the United Nations has been a failure until we have done our best to make it a success, but if we have a third world-war it will be because we have not really tried to abolish war.

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