Our duty - your duty, my duty, the duty of all good Americans - is clear. Every measure that the Administration takes for the efficient prosecution of the war, we shall heartily support. .
On August 2 and 3, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia and France, commencing World War I. The German plan was to end the war quickly by invading France through neutral Belgium, so as to take the French unawares and leave an open road to Paris. So on August 4, Germany declared...
On August 2 and 3, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia and France, commencing World War I. The German plan was to end the war quickly by invading France through neutral Belgium, so as to take the French unawares and leave an open road to Paris. So on August 4, Germany declared war on innocent Belgium and invaded her soil simultaneously. It was this breach of neutrality that caused the British to enter the war. The Belgians resisted, and in return the German army took action against the civilian population in Belgium, killing 6000, destroying 25,000 homes and other buildings in 837 communities, and causing 1.5 million Belgians to flee as refugees (20% of the entire Belgian population). Then in February 1915, Germany instituted its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. To maximize their U-boats’ chief weapon, the German Navy had its subs attack without warning, using torpedoes, which meant abandoning the age-old stop-and-search procedure required to avoid harming neutral shipping and minimize loss of life. Americans were aghast at these developments, but they had two differing responses to them.
Many Americans strongly supported the Allies, and the foremost and outspoken among them was ex-President Theodore Roosevelt. TR blamed Germany for the war and its atrocities, and openly advocated taking a harsh line against that nation. In his 1915 book, “America and the World War,” he took the affirmative position that the U.S. should intervene in situations where Germans were committing unacceptable acts. And although he did not demand a U.S. declaration of war, the measures he did advocate would have soon led to war. Citing the atrocities committed by the Germans in Belgium and their violations of American rights at sea he denounced the foreign policy of President Wilson as weakess if not cowardice, claiming further that it served our foes and was antithetical to the American national interest. Loudest of all, he called for extensive military preparedness, and an immediate bolstering of the armed services, but as to men and armaments.
But back then this was by no means a universal feeling. The uglier the war got in Europe, the more a great many if not most Americans were determined to stay out. The U.S. had a long history of isolationism, and bad feelings toward Britain from the 18th and 19th centuries had not yet been extinguished. There was no visceral dislike of Germany, and there was a keen appreciation that the hyped-up stories being disseminated in the U.S. about German atrocities were to a degree British propaganda. So there was no universal American championship of the Allies cause, and in fact many people leaned towards the German side. But most Americans just wanted no part of the entire affair.
In the election of 1916, Roosevelt campaigned energetically for Charles Evans Hughes. In his rhetoric, he repeatedly criticized Irish-Americans and German-Americans or anyone he saw as putting the interests of other nations ahead of America’s by supporting neutrality or the German side. He insisted one had to be 100% American, not a “hyphenated American” who juggled multiple loyalties, which essential sentiment was hard to dispute. However, his tenor seemed to be that advocacy of neutrality was unpatriotic and a true American would support the Allies. However, the opposition to these sentiments was strong and vocal. In the end, it was Woodrow Wilson who won the election, and won it on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”
When on April 6, 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany, the vote in Congress was 455 in favor to 56 against (compare to 1 vote against in World War II). One of the Republican to vote no, and a leader of the dissenters, was the populist and future U.S. Senator Ernest Lundeen of Minnesota, who followed this vote with a no vote on the conscription bill. Needless to say, those who had the temerity (and courage) to vote no were roundly denounced. Many considered Lundeen pro-German, and he may have been so, but he maintained that he was an isolationist who opposed on principle American entanglements in any foreign conflicts. He saw the war as one to benefit European elites and royal houses, and he warned Americans that it was an error to interweve their nation’s destinies with that of others whose interests may be antithetical. And he stuck to that opinion. On December 7, 1917, with America already in the war, Lundeen was one of only two Congressmen to oppose a declaration of war on Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary.
In the months after the U.S. declaration of war, Lundeen engaged in a heated exchange with Roosevelt, one that dealt with the pros and cons of American policy, but far more importantly, delved into the meanings, characteristics and limits of patriotism, free speech, and dissent in a democracy. This statement by Roosevelt, a classic on the duties and rights of American citizenry, speaks as much to Americans of 1789 as it does to those of today.
Theodore Roosevelt’s Great Statement on Free Speech, Duty and Patriotism
“As for the future, our duty – your duty, my duty, the duty of all good Americans – is clear. Every measure that the Administration takes for the efficient prosecution of the war, we shall heartily support…We are in this war, and we must put it through.”
On November 1, 1917, Lundeem wrote to Roosevelt, saying that President Wilson’s pledge to keep America out of the war led to his victory in Lundeen’s district by a large margin, and that Lundeen’s own poll showed his constituents did not want the war. He would support the troops, but “I cannot…and will not yield my right to discuss the conduct of the war. I will enter my rotest whenever inefficiency and incompetency lifts its head to trouble the people.” He hoped that TR “would never question my citizenship.”
TR responded at length with a thoroughgoing analysis, in a famous letter. Typed Letter Signed on his Metropolitan letterhead, New York, November 7, 1917, to Lundeen. “I thank you for your frank and manly letter. I understant now, as I did not before, the reasons that influenced you in your vote against the war, and while I cannot agree with you, I appreciate your point of view, and i do not question your loyalty. In effect, you say that President Wilson won his campaign last year on a plea for peace, on the cry that “he kept us out of war”, the charge being that the Republicans would plunge us into the world war; you say that this was the Democratic campaign cry in Minneapolis, that the President carried your city by a very large majority, and that you regarded yourself as bound by a mandate by the people. While, as I have said, I do not agree with you as to your action, I do entirely sympathize with the bewilderment of an honest man under such conditions. As you point out, the election was won under false pretenses, and a very great part of the difficulty that now confronts this nation in arousing a proper war spirit is due to the fact that, for the two and a half years preceding our entry into the war, our Governmental leaders dulled the moral conscience of the people by arguments against our so entering it; arguments which were just as untrue and unjustifiable then as they are now. Naturally, it takes time to get people who have been misled back to the right course – the very course which they have for two and a half years been told was the wrong course.
Of course, you are absolutely within your rights in discussing the conduct of the war. It is exactly as important that there shoud be truthful criticism of official acts that are wrong as that there shoud not be untruthful attacks upon acts that are right; and you render a service to the public when you censure the gross unpreparedness of this nation, and point out where the responsibility lies, and do all you can to remedy all that is inefficient and incompetent in the handling of the war. The criticism must be truthful and must not be made in a captious spirit; but I believe that in this country during the last three years even more harm has been done by the foolish persons who have protested against truthful criticism of the Administration when it went wrong, than by the men who have supported it when it went wrong and have opposed it only when it went right.
As for the future, our duty – your duty, my duty, the duty of all good Americans – is clear. Every measure that the Administration takes for the efficient prosecution of the war, we shall heartily support. We must send our troops to fight beside our allies abroad because if we do not do so then some time or other we shall have to fight without any allies at home. We ought to introduce at once, as our permanent national policy, the principle of universal obligatory military training and military service for all our young men. We must back up the Libery Loans. We must fearlessly insist upon the utmost efficiency of the handling of the war. We must fearlessly criticise whatever is wrong. Above all, we must insist that there shall be no inconclusisve peace, no peace that is not based upon complete and overwhelming victory. We are in this war, and we must put it through. Then we must continue our preparedness so that never again shall we be put in a position so humiliating as that in which we have been during the last nine months. Never again must we be caught so unprepared as to be obliged to trust to the strength of others, and not to our own trained strength, for our safety.”
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services