Carrie Chapman Catt

The Outlook Today – Oct. 19, 1938

Carrie Chapman Catt
October 19, 1938— New York City
Print friendly

Address at the 14th anniversary dinner of the National Committee on the Cause & Cure of War.

Within the last few months, a new idea has crept into the world talk about war. In the beginning, it approached so softly and silently that few of us noticed it at all. Then it suddenly pounced upon us with a rush and a roar like a whirlwind and left us startled and breathless.

The new idea is the prediction that a terrific clash is coming between the dictatorships and the democracies. It has brought into the world a new fear, a new terror, and some have predicted that it will prove a mortal catastrophe. Several books have already been published or announced, many editorials written, and speeches made about the possibilities of the threatened war. Some there are who have raised the question whether any democracy will survive the clash.

The world has taken notice of this new idea. The headlines of the press in every Democratic land tell us what kind of notice they have taken. An American example will do for all. This is a copy of a New York headline, October 15, 1938:

Roosevelt moves to rush expansion of Army and Navy

Modernization and Mass Production of Guns, Planes, and Munitions are the Major Purpose

Program will be laid before Congress January 3zd

Balanced Budget held up

Once more the world is crying:

Increase the instruments for killing men, hurry, hurry! This has been the answer that mankind bas given to each new fear for the past million years. "Let more blood flow; kill, kill, kill!" they have cried.

In a new book on THE DEFENCE OF DEMOCRACY an alleged German proverb is quoted (page 13): "Be my brother or I will bash your head in." The Germans may have written the proverb, but they certainly did not invent it for long centuries before any German appeared upon this earth the bashing method of making brothers was well under way. Bash, bash, bash; guns, guns, guns; blood, blood, blood; bash, bash, bash; this is about all there has ever been to world history.

Now, let us have one more nice, glorious war, bigger, better, and bloodier than any war yet; the dictators will bash in the heads of the Democrats and the Democrats will bash in the heads of the Dictators; the guns will roar, the bombs will drop, blood will flow, and the heads of both will cover the landscape. When all are exhausted enough to want a recess from bashing, the side which has the most heads still left on shoulders will organize the left overs into a government run their way. So it will be with the Dictators and the Democrats.

There have been prophets, philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists, scholars, statesmen, writers, orators, and many, many wise men, yet this dear old way of bashing heads in when men disagree is still the only way men and women know. We do not like this way so well as men did a million or so years ago when they needed adventure, but we do not know any other.

A British journalist said recently in the New York Times: "The real reason why the dictators have got the democracies on the run from Shanghai to Spain is that they have organized their strength and used it while democracies lecture and make plans." He made one great mistake. The democracies may lecture, but they do not make plans. It is time they did. May I propose one? It is not original nor clever. It does not sparkle with brilliance nor thrill with novelty. It has no organization, no hero or heroine behind it. It has no flag or banner or band to inspire and not even a constitution upon which to rest. It is a simple little plan.

I merely entreat you, and the nation through you, to do some thinking before the bashing begins. If done after a million or so heads have been bashed in, the thinking will tearful regrets only; if done now, the bashing might be honorably averted. Thinking in many directions would be profitable, but owing to the limit of time, I confine myself to two items only.

THOUGHT #1     GERMANY

The four great Powers composing the Dictatorships are Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan. It is claimed that these have forty millions of men all trained and ready to go; more warships than any four nations ever had before and, more to the point, they admit having 25,000 bloody bombing airplanes, - enough to smash the great Powers composing the Democracies; that is, Great Britain, France, and the United States of America. Since the Munich Peace without honor, it is generally admitted that Germany will lead the dictatorships. What, then, is the German war strength? Count it in men, guns, and airplanes. Germany's military expenditures have risen from $281.000,000 in 1913 to $1,560,000,000 in 1938. Enough to make us tremble, but let us think. The Germans have something infinitely more powerful than all these killers of men. The opinion of the people has been unified, regimented, solidified. How? In 1924, Herr Hitler wrote MEIN KEMPF. Now 2,500,000 copies have been sold in Germany alone. Says Richard Freund in ZERO HOUR: "Every civil servant is practically compelled to buy it and employers are enjoined to present a copy to each of their employees and local authorities to give one to every newly wedded couple." More important still, Mr. Freund says that friends of Germany have more than once urged Hitler to remove some particularly provocative paragraphs, but he has refused to make a single change. So MEIN KAMPF, as written in 1924, is still the program of the Dictator and, under orders, is Germany's best seller. What is in this book? Chiefly, it sets forth the claim that Germans are the superior race of the world and should rule over much greater expanses of territory. Germans, wherever they are and to whatever country they have pledged loyalty, really belong to the great German European center and should adhere to the Hitler racial theory and Nazi policies. All other people should leave Germany. The Jews are Hitler's special aim and, as all the world knows, they have been persecuted with incredible cruelty. But MEIN KAMPF, alone, has not done the regimenting of the German mind. There is a Nazi primer. It is taught in the schools and classes of adults are also taught its contents. It expands MEIN KAMPF. More, when something special needs explaining, Herr Hitler orders a mighty meeting Much money is spent on the publicity, bands, and decoration, and Hitler speaks over the microphones to the world. It is practically compulsory that all Germans hear the speech. Many people in Germany do not have radio sets and loud speakers are arranged upon the street and the people are told to go there to hear all speeches made by Chancellor Hitler. The houses are visited to see that no one disobeys the orders. Reports say that some radio sets, carrying the American news were hidden here and there in Germany, but, in the late crisis, people who had those sets were arrested. The Germans shout: "Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler, Sieg Heil" and from spots in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, come the echo of "Heil Hitler" because some Nazi Germans live there Perhaps President Roosevelt would like to make a speech in return. Alas, the German radio connections are shut off and the censor prevents a word of it to be printed in the press. He speaks to a Germany, blind, deaf and dumb.

When there is hate in the hearts of men, strange gossip passes from one to another. A late correspondent wrote that the manager of a leading hotel in the Sudetan district was grieved by the Anti-German attitude of the American press. "Do you rea1ise" he asked "that two thirds of all Americans are either Germans or of German descent? More, in 1864, there was a vote in the American Congress to determine whether English or German should be the country's official language and German lost by one vote only." The astonished correspondent asked: "Who told you that?" The answer was: "I read it in an historical book."

When a dictator wishes to mould the opinions of his people, he pours into their heads by every possible known method that which he would have them think and he closes every possible way whereby other ideas could reach them.

Said Mussolini: "We should have an Italy in which thirty-six million citizens should all think in the same way as though their brains were cast in the same mould." So Germany thinks as one man and that man is Hitler. Italy thinks as one man and that man is Mussolini. Russia thinks as one man and that man is Stalin. They dare not think otherwise.

THOUGHT #2   UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

In the year 1870, the Ninth Census estimated the loss of life occasioned by the Civil War and announced that our population had been set back 2,500,000. In order to make up this loss, the gates of the Republic were opened wide and urgent invitations sent forth to men and women of other lands to come and make their homes among us. Forty millions have come since the Civil War. They represent, I believe, seventy races or nationalities. All of these millions were either born across the sea or are the offspring of parents foreign-born. Very many were totally illiterate and, even now, very many are woefully ignorant and quite incapable of understanding the meaning of the words, - Dictatorships, Democracies, Capitalism,

Fascism, Communism. The largest foreign group in our population is German of which there are 6,800,000. It is the largest German group outside of Germany and is twice as large as the entire German population of Czechoslovakia. The Italians come next with 4,500,000. I sincerely believe that most Germans are loyal to our country in the World War, but certainly some were not. I do not wish to start a scare, but if Herr Hitler should ask for a free German port to be settled by a plebiscite, how about Hoboken? With the homeland demanding obedience, there is a mighty problem for a cosmopolitan Republic to solve. There are weaknesses here that might prove serious.

Have we any strength, any reserve to offset the one-mindedness of the dictatorships? Indeed, yes. We have a constitution that is the supreme law of the land. Any law of State or Nation must be in accord with it. This constitution guarantees ten great human liberties. When they were written, 150 years ago, no universal suffrage, even for white men, existed. The Trade Unions had not yet arisen. Women were not asking for the vote and slavery was permitted. Yet, listen.

FREEDOM #1  A government of the people, by the people and for the people. All laws are made by representatives of the people and can be repealed by the same method and all citizens now vote. All dictatorships compel the people to obedience. All laws are issued by the dictator and no action for repeal is possible.

FREEDOM #2  Taxation without representation is tyranny. In all dictatorships this principle is unrecognized.

FREEDOM #3  Every citizen may worship God in his own way. We probably have more religious denominations than any other country in the world and all are free. All dictatorships regard all religions with suspicion. Hitler began the Jewish persecution. With incomprehensible brutality, Jews, whose families have lived for centuries in Germany, have been ordered to depart. It has confiscated their property. It has robbed them of the right to earn their livelihoods in the profession or business they had chosen. It has dismissed them from universities, operas, the army, political posts, and closed schools and boarding houses to them. Germany has imprisoned Niemöller, the Protestant leader, and apparently no one is permitted to know where he is. It has arrested and tried nuns and priests of the Catholic faith and talks of returning to an ancient pagan religion of barbaric times. The German archbishops have bravely protested. Hitler's policy is being followed in Austria, Hungary, Rumania, and even Italy has taken action against the Jews. Religious liberty is first named in our constitution.

FREEDOM #4  The fourth liberty is free speech. It has been a long struggle. In the year 1837, for example, there came to the City of New York two sisters from South Carolina, Sarah and Angelina Grimke. They made the first speeches in New York (so their biography states) delivered by women and before they spoke, it is said that no woman in the City of New York had ever heard a woman speak in public. That year a great and beautiful hall, dedicated to free speech, was burned to the ground in Philadelphia. That, you may say, was long ago, but I have an old friend who was born in that year and is still going strong at 102. Free speech became thoroughly-established in time and we still enjoy it fully and completely. Is there free speech in Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia, Mexico, or Japan? No! There are concentration camps and prison cells for those who speak their faith on forbidden topics or set it forth in printed books. Two mighty meetings have been held in Germany of late. Thousands of people gathered. Hitler and his cabinet spoke. The people were ordered to hear and not one could make answer to anything that was said.

FREEDOM #5  The fifth liberty in our constitution is the freedom of assembly. That was a very precious liberty 150 years ago. We do not need to secure a permit from the President, the governor, the mayor, or the police, if a few of us wish to gather and to discuss a question. Free assembly is regarded by us as an inalienable right of man. Is there such a right under any dictatorship? Nowhere. An assembly may only be called and directed by the chief of State and the people have not yet discovered that they have no liberty under a dictatorship.

FREEDOM #6  The sixth freedom is a free press. We have propaganda papers, but no one needs to read them if he does not so select. There are plenty of free newspapers that gather the news from the world at fabulous expense and give it to us, the public, without bias. What has become of the free press in Italy, Germany, Austria, Russia, and Japan? It has gone and the people learn only what the government officials want them to know.

FREEDOM #7  The seventh freedom, - The right of Person. Here, no person can be arrested, his house entered, his belongs seized, without just warrant of the law. If there is such a warrant and arrest occurs, he is entitled to

FREEDOM #8   - a fair trial by a jury of his peers. Trials are some times faulty, since human nature is imperfect, but that does not happen often and never with the connivance of the government. In every dictatorship of Europe men and women have been arrested without just warrant, their belongings have been seized, their property has been confiscated , and they have been shot without trial or public notice.

In conclusion, the situation calls for attention. It does not need guns, but it does need big and heavy campaigning. We should plan and carry out the biggest , breeziest, cheeriest campaign for the rights of man the world ever knew. Let that campaign chase the dictators and their doctrines out of their castles all around the world. Democracy cannot, must not yield. What it is and what it has gained in the last thousand years must not be lost. We can make no compromise with any dictatorship. We can give no concession. Democracy must and will be preserved. How can we conduct a campaign?

Germany has a·Nazi primer; Russia, a Red primer. We should have an American primer. It must tell the story of the struggle on this continent, not for power but for liberty. It must not be spoiled by dullness. It must be inspired by the great spirit of freedom. It must be radiant with the rosiest of hopes, joyous with the most confident faith in mankind, and most certain of Divine guidance toward peace. Somewhere in this country there are men and women or both who can write such a Red-White-and-Blue primer. What shall we do with it?

By some means we must have a plebiscite or the biggest meeting ever held and there discuss and adopt a revision of the American rights of man. Some of those named in the constitution, now, after 150 years, are a bit behind the times. The whole world needs a refreshment of discussions on liberty. When we have our primer, it must be followed by goodwill tours to all the dictatorships and a general exchange of primers made. Do you remember how airplanes, filled with dodgers containing our war aims, came down amid the soldiers of Austria and Germany? You remember how our beautiful Mrs. Whitehouse led this campaign. lt was George Creel's idea and it was said at the time that it did much to break the German morale. That morale, moulded by Chancellor Hitler today, needs breaking again, because it is founded on false theories and untruths. Men naturally prefer liberty when once they understand.

This plan, so briefly outlined, may sound childish to you, but it is a plan which will work and that is a rare kind of plan. I know it will work., because I have seen it work and I know other people who have seen it work. The campaign for human liberty can burst asunder the foundation upon which dictatorships are built. Shall we depend upon guns for our defense or shall we rely upon common sense thinking?

Heil Democracy! Heil Democracy! Sieg Heil!

PDF version