Carrie Chapman Catt

The Price of Peace – Feb. 14, 1935

Carrie Chapman Catt
February 14, 1935— Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Catt delivered this address at the at the Cause & Cure of War Regional Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I doubt if peace has a price, or if it has, whether it is worth the time spent in discussion of it.

Any title and any speech going with it that drives a controversy into a bypath where there is no clear connection with the main road to peace is neutral and produces neutral results. Neutrality is not good for this cause. The road is not yet clear from today, where every nation in the world has a war machine and is armed to the teeth, to that far away date when no nation has a war machine and every nation has become a conscientious objector.

It becomes our duty to find that road. Every speech, book and pronouncement should be positive, clear, emphatic, and it should contribute something to the building of the road we must travel.

If there is a price which must be paid for peace, it will not be the pacifists who will pay it. Reformers do not pay penalties for their cause; they receive rewards.

The majority of reformers have always expanded in mentality, strengthened in character, grown wiser in judgement, become more tolerant toward their opposition, and improved in health, year after year. Work only prepares them for more work. When they are tired, they sleep, and arise refreshed. When they have made sacrifices, they have not been called by that name. They know how to do helpful things without money when the times are hard and when a very necessary thing must be done, the money almost miraculously comes. They rarely die young. This has been true of so many reformers, representing many causes, that I conclude pacifists will form no exception to the usual rule. So I say that the pacifists will form no exception to the usual rule. So I say that the pacifist who, in the long run, does not get more out of work for peace than he or she puts into it, will be a poor pacifist. The reward will come in growth, happiness, the certainty of being in the right, the assurance that your cause will not fail and that you, yourself, have contributed substantial help to the civilization of the world. Blessed, indeed, are the peacemakers. Rest securely in the fact that it is not they who will pay any price for peace.

Those who will pay the price for peace are those who stubbornly insist that permanent peace can never be. The cost to them will not come in the form of taxes, but in the pain and torture of renouncing their own ill-founded opposition. They must give up, too, their share of the pride, prestige, policies, and dreams, which constitute their idols of the nationalism they worship. That is all; giving up, changing their minds, getting a new vision, exchanging fallacies for truth. It seems a small price to pay, but we know the pain and humiliation will not be borne if it can be avoided.

For example, here in the United States, what happens when a peace proposal appears in the foreground? Loud speakers from platform, pulpit, and radio, shout in alarmed tones “entangling alliances,” beware, beware!” The speakers are clearly unacquainted with the history of the significance of the phrase at the time given. All along the line, men and women who do not know the definition of either word shudder and turn pale – the price that group of ignorant humans must pay is to exchange their nonsense for truth.

I regret that we do not possess a peace newspaper. Some day there will be one. With such a helper, the whole world could be instructed so thoroughly into the mysteries of "entangling alliances" that no frightened ignoramus would dare repeat the phrase.

More changes in thought, information, and institutions have come in the brief period between George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt than in any thousand years of earlier time. It took a week for a man on horseback to travel from Mount Vernon for the purpose of telling George Washington that he had been elected President of the United States: – no telegraph, no rail, and no steamships. When he came to New York to be inaugurated, he crossed the harbor in a rowboat and found big, fat hogs wallowing the mud of our best streets. How different the then and now! The entire population of our country then was about as large as that of New York today. Every generation is scared about something. Then, a genuine fear possessed the people that lest some unexpected freebooter would descend upon them and carry them all way in the tiny hold of his sailing ship. There was a great unexplored continent behind us that any government might like to have. Now we have become a big nation and the other nations fear us. Why? Because they now want peace and it can only be obtained when all the nations join in the undertaking and the United States refuses to join the international peace machinery. It insists on isolation, but refuses to make pledges of neutral behavior.

Peace will come, but it will not come until the desire for peace supercedes vainglorious arrogance of our own and every other country. It will emerge from a combination of friendly cooperation, sincere conciliation, and respectful agreements. These can only be formed in world organization. Perhaps the heaviest price to be paid for peace in this country will be our adherence to the League of Nations. There will be no permanent peace before we are a partner in that plan for world agreement. Already, there are people who honestly consider the United States the most serious obstacle to world peace. At present that charge is not well founded, but the time may come when it may be completely true.

Something more would have been achieved had England, France, and Italy not remembered at all times that their status in the world is that of empires. The prestige which their citizens so much esteem, in consequence, prevents democratic unity with smaller nations. To sacrifice that pride and glory is the price they, in the end, must pay for peace.

In times past, victorious Kings and Emperors have brought humiliated vanquished to their knees in humble acknowledgment of their superior military prowess. How many times through the streets of proud Rome have captured Kings and Queens been forced to march on foot in triumphal processions with despising and hating mobs jeering at them! How many times have the British and the French flags been flung over the lands of inferior peoples who thereafter have been ruled by their conquerors! We, too, are not free from imperialistic guilt and feelings. Now all these great proud heads must, together, bow, the knees must bend in supreme renunciation of past habits and in united loyalty to universal friendly goodwill.

Together, these will replace battleships by friendships; the words "neighbor nations" for enemy; a vision looking forward for one looking backward.

Altogether, the chief nations, and many men within each one, have another illusion to discard that will go hard with them. They say that nations will not renounce war when they have no markets, no raw materials, when tariffs restrict them and many other economic impediment disturbs the even tenor of their way.

So, despite the fact that 55 nations are pledged not to go to war, most of them, in at least three treaties, have armed themselves to the teeth, builded warships and aircraft, and are prepared, at great expense, for war.

Even a beggar's boy would know that economic maladjustments could not be settled by that process. Wars have rarely settled anything. A militant nation might strike at a weaker country and temporarily gain a market or a supply of raw materials, but other nations will soon seek restoration of the stolen markets by more wars. Never again will the nations remain quiet while a few nations monopolize raw materials or markets.

Economic disturbances is a world around cause of distress, but war will not improve the situation and would probably bring another depression before the world has recovered from this one.

The only logical and decent behavior for nations at this time is to stop wars – stop them now and avoid the cost, the waste, the demoralization the woe of wars. Get together in world parleys and talk, talk, talk, until, one by one, the problems are settled. There is common sense and intelligence enough in the world to settle any human problem and to settle it justly.

Heretofore, nations have gone to war without a thought of the price to be paid and when the crushing burden of that price was driving their citizens to distraction, they have tried to convince themselves that war depressions and other results were brought about by other causes.

Now, in my mind, there is but one sensible, logical aim for believers in peace, – that is: We stand for the abolition of war, root and branch. It may be long before the aim is achieved; but final peace will arrive much sooner if pacifists do not waste time in running up each blind alley to discuss the little questions which may be found there.

We need to waste no time on the price of the abolition of war. The other side will do that.

There is, however, one phase of "The Price of Peace" that is worthy of consideration. In every land there is a military machine, composed of the army, the navy and the air forces. From the commanders to the stable boys, when the war clouds darken the skies, they stand for war. Interests that find profit in the larger market which war provides, and these by no means are confined to the manufacturer or armaments, when war threatens become pro war. They may be canners of beans or makers of metal buttons used on uniforms, or many other insignificant things, for war brings profits to many pockets. They are carried away with the war excitement. The printing trades and labor unions for peace in peace time see advantages in the quickening processes of business under excitement. All along the line, group after group switches from peace to war and convinces itself that while most wars are wrong, this one is right. All of those who will advantage from the activities aroused at the beginning of war or who think they may be profited by war are fundamentally against peace and their opposition to all peace activities will be in proportion to their belief that their interest in war will be beneficial to themselves. From such sources some estimate may be made of the amount and the quality of the opposition to the peace campaign from each of these factors.

Yet even this is rather a waste of effort. It is better to hew down whatever obstructs in the way toward peace; build the road that leads to peace broad and straight and travel upon in unafraid.

A great man lived among us not long ago. David Starr Jordan wrote and spoke words of wisdom about peace. I fear we paid little heed to the. I wish he were here now to lead the coming generation. He said: "There is no evil greater than war, and the one honorable fight of our times is the struggle to relegate this to the place of last resort."

Why not make his words our slogan. Why not turn aside from all byways and alleys, avoid red herrings, and travel straight ahead to our goal. Forget the interrupting of the main discussion by the introduction of the price of peace.

Any price for war is too much, – always too much.

Any price for peace is never too much.

The price for war is a penalty for a crime; the price for peace is a reward for a blessing.

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