This speech was given by Catt during the "Voters' Service" program broadcast from station WRC, Washington, and sponsored by the National Broadcasting Company and the National League of Women Voters.
The Third National Conference on the Cause and Cure of War was held in Washington, January 15th to 19th, inclusive, 1928; the fourth will be held in January 1929. These Conferences are called under the auspices of a National Committee, composed of the presidents of the nine largest women's organizations in the country together with their National Chairmen of International Relations. The constituencies of these organizations number several millions, are scattered from Maine to California and a local group of some one of them may be found at any crossroad.
The First Conference, held in 1925, was called because many men and women were speaking before women's organizations and recommending diverse and conflicting plans for bringing peace into the world. Many of these proposals were purely sentimental, impractical and utterly without logical foundation. The leaders of these organizations therefore came together resolved to make a serious, bold, and impartial study of the causes of war and to delve deep into quest of a cure.
Men renowned as great scholars, distinguished statesmen, eminent professors of our universities, business men of wide travel and observation, have been called to give their learned testimony upon various subjects bearing upon the chief questions. Both sides of every topic are heard. Questions and discussion are free and frank. Among the speakers have been distinguished military men including Major John F. O'Ryan, General Henry T. Allen, and General Tasker H. Bliss.
At the last Conference Secretary of War, Dwight F. Davis, addressed the opening session. The Secretaries of the Navy and of State being in Havana, each deputized a member of his staff to represent him on the same occasion. Rear Admiral Frank H. Schofield spoke for the Navy and the Honorable W. R. Castle, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, represented Secretary Kellogg.
None but the ignorant regard these conferences as other than the determined attempt of serious minded citizens to analyze and to understand the curious problem of war. "Why," they ask, "in a world where the civilized rely upon law, courts and police to settle disputes and to keep order among individuals is there an exception when disputes arise between nations? Why do nations not establish laws and courts instead of going to war? Why do nations lay aside the achievements of civilization in times of disagreement and go back to the methods of primitive men?"
There is nothing emotional about these conferences. They recognize that the world is organized upon a war basis inherited from ages past and that war is a recognized constitutional instrument of policy of every government under the sun. While this remains true, defense and preparations for defense must necessarily continue. They have discovered, however, that right here is the source of world trouble. Defense, yes: but when are the preparations sufficient? Who knows enough to decide? One day a delegate asked the question "What is adequate defense?" It was clear to most that no one could answer the question, when, to the astonishment of all, another delegate arose and said "I know." All was silent while she gave her answer. "Adequate defense" said she, "is always having one more ship than the other nation has." She hit the nail on the head. Competition in armament becomes the order of the day when nations are thinking of defense and out of that competition the war spirit rises higher and higher until war comes, although the world does not know how or why it happened. So every generation sees a war and every century a great war. This kind of competition caused the Great War. It will cause the much advertised next war, if it is not averted.
The Conferences have agreed with Mr. Coolidge who said, "If this generation fails to devise means for preventing war, it will deserve the disaster which surely will be visited upon it. Later generations will not be likely to act if we fail."
There is a way to substitute peace for war. The Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew D. Mellon, reported to Congress in November 1927 that 82% of the Federal expenditures for 1927 went to past and future wars. When the Conference learned that 82 cents out of every dollar paid in Federal taxes goes to the maintenance of the machinery of war and that little or nothing goes to the building of a substitute machinery of peace, it had already been convinced that there is a way to substitute peace for war. It determined to begin a nation-wide campaign of education on behalf of a change in policy from war to peace; a change from the settlement of international differences by the harsh arbitrament of force to settlement by rational and sane methods, more in keeping with our boasts of being civilized. These conferences have said that when the world becomes civilized enough war will go. They will now test the quality of civilization in our own nation by carrying education to every church and school house.
There is a certain and efficacious substitution for war and there is only one. That substitution is an iron bound compact between nations, pledging their honor not to resort to war with other signatories to the compact, but instead to settle any possible dispute arising by some one of the peaceful means, the precedents for which are now well established. The famous Root treaties re-introduced arbitration as a practical method of settling disputes and there have been important and successful cases, perhaps the most notable being the Alabama claims against Great Britain.; the Bryan treaties introduced the idea of inquiry and conciliation and a time for tempers to cool; the League of Nations has added conference when men sit around a table and talk over the problem; South American nations have tried mediation by a third nation. All of these methods have proved useful and many a war has been averted by them. Justiciable questions can now be sent to the World Court where preside the greatest of the world. The codification of law is being forwarded by the League of Nations and the Pan American Union. If nations agree not to go to war under any circumstances, but to find a means to settle their questions in peace, they will not want for a method or methods. These are now established.
When Aristide Briand, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, offered to the people of the United States the suggestion that a treaty between the United States and France be signed renouncing war between these two nations, it met with cordial response in both countries. Immediately, however, the objection arose from distrustful nations that such a treaty might be regarded as a military alliance between the two countries. The United States has little sympathy with military alliances and, consequently, Secretary of State Kellogg responded to the French proposal with a broader one. He suggested that a conference be called of the chief nations of the world, often spoken of as the Great Powers, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, and that these together should each sign with every other one of the group a treaty to renounce war as between themselves and to agree to settle any differences arising by the peaceful precedents established. This plan of several compacts emanating from a group is called multilateral treaties.
What are the Great Powers today? Great Britain, the United States, Italy, France and Japan. Germany was a Great Power, but was disarmed by the Versailles treaty and also lost her navy and her colonies. Russia was a Great Power before the War, but she surrendered to revolution. Austria was a Great Power, but that empire has been disarmed and dismembered. Five Great Powers only are left. Each one of these has a great navy and most of them a great army. All have men and money enough to equip a war. All talk much of preparedness. Each one of them has the power to impose its will upon another nation. These are the nations that frighten the small nations. When and if these five powers, therefore, agree among themselves to renounce war by treaty with each other, the present war power of the world will have been broken, competition in armament between them will case, and, little by little, confidence in the inviolability of anti-war treaties will grow. A sense of genuine security resting upon the honorable compacts of nations not to resort to war will, by degree, supplant the present uncertain security based upon large armies and navies, which, however large, are never large enough to protect any nation from another with an equally large army or navy.
To the task of educating public opinion by democratic, sincere, frank, open means to the aim of an understanding of the value of agreements between nations civilized enough to make them turn from war to peaceful means of keeping order, these organizations propose to give themselves with zest and enthusiasm.
The organizations are the American Association of University Women, the Council of Women for Home Missions, the Federation of Woman's Boards of Foreign Missions of North America, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the National Board of the Young Women's Christian Association, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National League of Women Voters, the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the National Women's Trade Union League.
For its campaign of enlightenment, good-will and understanding these organizations invite the open-mindedness, tolerance and cooperation of all good citizens.
Catt, C. C. (1928). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892-1946; Speeches; Untitled; 1928 to 1944. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mss154040425.