Carrie Chapman Catt

A Message to the Home – undated, c. 1932

Carrie Chapman Catt
January 01, 1932
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Probably a broadcast

Abolish War

There is a brand new idea in the world. It is so new that the generation before ours had never heard it expressed. Now, it is growing, spreading and fairly galloping over the entire world. It should bring a glad message to every home. It should make every father lighter hearted, every mother happier and all the children look forward to brighter prospects. And what is it? Great Nations propose that wars shall cease and permanent peace reign. "Make war impossible" is the new slogan. What good will that do me, you may say. Listen, you are worrying because some member of the family has no job; or a salary has been cut, or the return on investments has been reduced or have not come at all. What has caused this curious condition that is called a Depression? There is more than one cause. Speculation, dishonesty, extravagance were among the causes that brought on our present trouble, but the great first cause of this and all other extensive depressions has always been war. The greater and more costly the war, the more widespread has been the financial disturbance and economic distress that followed.

The Great War is classed as the largest and most destructive in the world's history, therefore the depression following is proportionally larger and more distressing.

Thirty-two nations engaged in the war and these covered more than half the territory and involved more than half the population in the world. More fighting men were enlisted in it than have been accurately counted. There were millions of them. Our own enlisted men were nearly five millions and that figure was equal to the entire population of this country at the time of the Revolution.

Ten millions of men who marched away with bands playing and flags flying were left behind upon battle-fields. (The war dead equaled the dead of all the wars in the world for the previous one hundred and twenty years.)

The cost of that war, in official figures, was greater than all wars since Christendom. Our own share cost as much as all our wars including the Revolution. The total cost for the war was one hundred and eighty seven billions, or ninety three dollars and fifty cents for every man, woman and child in the entire world. Think a minute. These millions of soldiers were removed from the places where they earned money to buy food, clothing and homes for their families. They were put in camps where their governments were obliged to supply their food, clothing, arms and shelter and the tax-payers had to pay the bill. More, there were a great many things that each warring country must buy for war that the nation had not needed before. Rifles, submarines and bombs, airplanes and more bombs, anti-aircraft guns, poison gas and masks, tanks, wagons, transportation boats, ships and dread-naughts, cannon, all sizes and varieties. How could any nation buy all these munitions and support these millions of non-productive men?

These nations applied to the new cost of war what money they had, then they borrowed all they could get from their own citizens through the sale of bonds and other securities. They next borrowed all they could from every possible source and lastly they issued paper money. When the war closed all the nations were deeply in debt. This nation borrowed many billions from its citizens and loaned them to our allies. Now more than eleven billions of dollars are due us from fifteen countries, known as the war debts. Is it any wonder that financial wreckage follows with its closed factories and stores its perturbed business and social conditions, its unemployment, crime and lowered moral standards? If you are grumbling over the present depression do what you can to stop it, but prevent "the next war" and thus avert the next "after war depression". That is practical sense.

Is this mere idle talk? Think another minute. in 1914 there was a "war machine" in every nation. These "machines: had been developed through centuries of war experience. Every nation the wide world over knew how to declare war, to enlist or conscript men, to tax its people and to borrow money, in order to pay for the adventure. They knew what new supplies of munitions they must have to equal the preparations of their enemies, how to train their men and what generals would lead them. Indeed so well worn and smooth was the road to war that most nations could start a war in half a day. Yet while it was so easy to get into a war, there was no statesman that could prevent a war nor a nation that could stop it, for there was no peace machinery.

When the Great War was at an end great men of all nations were shocked at the long list of dead, the hospitals filled with wounded, the enormous expense, the confusion and complications which beset all home affairs. Field Marshall Sir William Robertson, who was chief of the British General Staff during the world war, said: "This sort of thing surely does not represent the best use the world is expected to make of its brains, its resources and its religion". Other men spoke similarly and together they asked, why not make an end of it all?

That new idea has now travelled so far that there is already a strong and rapidly growing peace machine that can prevent and stop wars. It is not yet complete nor strong enough to guarantee permanent peace, but the perfect plan is on its way. Every day brings it nearer.

There is the League of Nations in which most of the world's nations are united in membership. It is slowly but certainly leading the nations onward toward peace. There is the Kellogg Pact to which most of the world's nations are signatories. It pledges all signers not to go to war and to settle any international disputes arising, by peaceful means. There are Secretary Stimson's two remarkable pronouncements. 1st - that the U. S. will not recognize the right of a warring nation to seize and to hold territory secured through a violation of this agreement. 2nd - that the pact implies within itself the calling of a consultation group whenever a threat of war due to the violation of the pledge of any signatory shows itself.

There are also scores of treaties binding the nations to settle disputes arising by arbitration. The combination of all these agreements constitute the new peace machinery.

The nations are pledged to reduce their armament and a Disarmament Conference, now on vacation, will sit again in Geneva in January. Said Arthur Henderson, its president, and former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of England, "Disarmament will come because the peoples of the world want it. Whatever governments may say, whatever difficulties general staffs and technical experts may find, however complicated international disputes may seem to statesmen and politicians, there is nothing difficult in the question of peace as the ordinary citizen sees it. For him it is a choice between the methods of law and order which he knows in his national government and the methods of bloody violence with which the pages of international history have been stained".

He wants to end war and to end the preparations for "the next war". He wants cooperation for the common well being of his own and other nations in all the things which make life worth living.

This is the new idea; the great message to all the homes of the entire world. Let us "make war impossible" by strengthening the peace machine. Let us abolish after war depressions will all their distress, by having no more wars. Let us lay aside the war-mind and get on with the business of civilization.

Catt, C. C. (1932). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892-1946; Speeches; Untitled; 1928-1944. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,