Carrie Chapman Catt

Address at the Convention of the World Alliance for International Friendship - Nov. 14, 1934

Carrie Chapman Catt
November 14, 1934— New York City
Print friendly

November 14, 1934.

Speech delivered by

Carrie Chapman Catt

at Convention

World Alliance for International Friendship Through the Churches

Hotel Astor, Wednesday, November 14, 1934.

War must be abolished. Men have tried to modify war, to curtail its worst brutalities, to civilize it, but nothing of this nature has succeeded. Wars have steadily grown worse, not less so. A convention to the effect that poison gas and airplanes should not be used in war was agreed to in the Second Hague Tribunal. Both were introduced into the World War and soon every nation was striving in a hectic competition to secure a larger supply of these new war equipments than any other nation. Now it is predicted that these two aids to war may be chief factors of the “next war.” Nations agreed to regard women and children as non-combatants, but that code was apparently destroyed in the World War and it is proposed to conscript women as well as men in the “next war.”

If you do not approve the excitements of war, the lowered morality, the coarsened thinking; if you are shocked by the increase of crime, both adult and juvenile, of insanity and divorce; if you note with pain that civilization seems backsliding instead of evolving; if you worry because business is at a standstill, millions of men and women unemployed and on relief; taxes rising and every one you know depressed in mind and spirit; let the dead past bury the dead past and devote all energies to the protection of future generations by putting the aim of complete and speedy abolition of war in the lead of all plans.

So long as every Great Power in the world, including our own, continually expands its preparation for war and does so to the point that suspicion of its motives is justified by all other nations, no peace agreement, such as the Covenant of the League of Nations, or the Paris Pact [Most likely the Kellogg-Briand Pact signed in 1928 by Germany, France, and the U.S. initially which outlawed war as a resolution to “disputes or conflicts”], would prevent another war. While nations spend approximately 85 cents out of every dollar of annual income upon preparedness for war and take a spineless, hesitating, uncertain attitude toward preparation for peace, competition in armament will proceed, hindered only by empty war chests and scant credit. Munition making will continue to be the most profitable industry and the hope of war profits will remain to stimulate another outbreak of war.

Since the League of Nations, the Paris Pact, the Naval Conference Treaties [Washington Naval Conference, 1921-1922] could not prevent the military theft of Manchuko [Manchukuo, invaded by Japan in 1931] by Japan, nor stop the frontier war between Bolivia and Paraguay, nor carry out in the Disarmament Conference [The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, Geneva, Switzerland, 1932-1934] the positive pledge made by the Allied nations to reduce their army and armament down to the level they had fixed for the Central Powers in the Treaty of Versailles, we must comprehend that the signs and symptoms of another war are showing themselves in the same old way. You may hope there were will be no such war. Other generations have fostered the same hope without avail. You may say that the correct attitude toward the possible oncoming of war is silence and non-recognition of the signs. Other people have held these views, but the war rolled on, and perhaps it came because the people affected had made no protest.

There is one thing no people have ever done; that is, to oppose a threatening war with intelligence and vigor some years before it is due to arrive. It is important to do that NOW.

About two thousand years ago, the renowned Cato the Elder lived in Rome. He was a statesman, and orator, and a firm believer in war. He visited Carthage, the rival of Rome. He found it beautiful and prosperous, the city occupied by a million proud people, possessed of an irritating superiority complex. He returned to Rome and in his first speech, he exclaimed with fury: “Carthago delenda est.” “Carthage delenda est.” You remember the tale. He said it over and over again. To him Rome or Carthage might live, not both. Wherever he went, to whomever he spoke, he uttered the same words: “Carthago delenda est.” Carthage must be destroyed. In season and out of season, morning, noon, and night, he said it. His fellow senators laughed cynically and responded: “Oh, Cato is growing daft; it cannot be destroyed. How ridiculous to say it.” But Cato continued to say it; Carthage must be destroyed. In time other men, one by one, repeated the same words. At length those words passed from street to street, from house to house, from man to man, until all Rome was crying: “Carthago delenda est.” A little more time past and Carthage was so completely destroyed that it is said one stone nowhere rested upon another. Some say the site of Carthage was plowed over and that no record was left of what Carthagians thought, or wrote, or how they lived. The very name was dropped from history. That is a war story of long ago, but the psychology may be as successfully applied to peace as Cato applied it to war. Why not utilize it as a model lesson?

I go to a peace and war meeting and learn that munition making is a racket and should be controlled. I go to another and learn that militarism must be eliminated from education; that children’s toys must not teach war. I go to another and learn what the Church is doing to convert its members. Another, and learn that Catholics, Jews, and Protestants should work together for the great cause of peace. To another, and learn the need of this country to enter the World Court. Another, and learn the advantages to peace were this nation a member of the League of Nations. Yet from no meeting does one go away with a sense that peace is nearer or war less threatening. Within the heads of those who speak is understanding and decision, but to those who listen and especially those not informed, there appears to be a lack of direction and decision. These meetings do not enlist men and women to activity for the abolition of war, but for some possible step toward that great goal.

We live in a world of war. There is provision for it in every Constitution. Heads of Armies, Navies, and Air forces are sitting in every Cabinet. Combats may arise at any time. Every nation expects them and is more or less ready when they come. Over yonder we imagine a warless world. There are no War Departments in its constitution, no Secretaries of War are sitting in its Cabinet. There are Peace Departments, Peace machinery and great preparedness for peace. That warless world may be a thousand years away, but when and if it comes, it will be because war has been destroyed. War will never be abolished until all who believe in perpetual peace keep saying: “War must be abolished.” I find no men or women who, when asked, admit that they approve of war, but they say: “War cannot be abolished; there always has been war and there always will be war.” I firmly believe that most people talking for peace, may not believe that war can or perhaps should be abolished. The human race can abolish anything it wants to abolish. Why not compel it to think what it wants. Suppose we imitate that very old Roman, Cato the Elder. In every gathering let us begin: “War must be abolished.” That is our aim. Say, then, whatever you wish. Treat any subject you prefer. At the end, repeat: “It is our aim to secure the complete abolition of war.” Say it again and again. Let no visitor go away without that supreme statement ringing in his ears. Let it be the introduction and peroration of every speech, the Alpha and the Omega of every letter, article, and conversation dealing with the question of peace and war. If friends and neighbors laugh at you, never mind; if they pronounce you idiotic, be patient and keep on talking. One by one, others will take up the call, cautiously, guardedly, but each week, each month, each year, the call will rise higher and spread farther until, by and by, perhaps afar off, from ocean to ocean, our millions in unison, will shout: “War, war, destroy it.”

Across the sea other men and women will timidly begin that call soon after we do and in every nation it will swell and spread until, at last, from Euphrates to the Thames, from the Thames to the Volga, from the Volga to the Black Sea, from the Black Sea to the Amazon, on to Cape Horn, and still on, until a mighty world chorus of the voices of all races and religions, indeed, all worth while in the human race, will be heard crying: “War, war delenda est: war, destroy it!”

How ridiculous, how impossible, do you say. How long would it take to produce such unity? I answer: one-tenth as long as the present movement and present methods will need to arrive at a warless world. Try it, World Alliance. Will you not ask ten speakers, each to try the experiment in one meeting? Later ask a person in ten countries to try Cato’s philosophy. Ask ten newspapers to write an editorial about it. We shall learn whether those who cry: “peace, peace” mean to cut the dog’s tail off inch by inch, so that it will not hurt or to tell the world that the only cure of war is its abolition. War, war, abolish it, and be done with it.

The plan is too simple, too ineffective, you may say. Old Cato made it work. It was a great psychology then. His motive was jealousy and greed. Ours is the common service to mankind. Why will not the plan work for us? Try it.

In conclusion, I say, “War, War, abolish it!” There is no other way to cure it. “War, delenda est.” Abolish it. Be done with it.

PDF version