The Challenge of International Relations to North America
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 27 Apr 1925, p. 207-219


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Fosdick, Harry Emerson, Speaker
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Speeches
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This meeting held in conjunction with the League of nations Society in Canada. The speaker's statement of the deepest and most critical problem facing the world today: "Either we are going to get there first with international substitutes for war, or else a new world-war will shatter civilization to its very foundation. The temptation in North American to forget this; reasons why we shouldn't. Characteristic differences between the situation in Great Britain and the situation in North America. More comments on the position of the United States. How Canada and the U.S. in the north, Australia and New Zealand in the south, are inextricably entangled in the great Pacific situation. Why the Pacific problem is our problem. The carrying over of international relationships from violence to co-operation as the next logical step in the progress of the race. Progress in our education system, and in religion, and in local government away from the use of force to co-operation. The speaker's conviction that the League of Nations and the World Court offer our best hope. The deep stake that Christianity has in the matter of war and peace.
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27 Apr 1925
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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THE CHALLENGE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS TO NORTH AMERICA AN ADDRESS BY HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK. Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, Massey Hall, April 27, 1925.

The meeting opened by singing, "Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past," and the audience repeating the Lord's Prayer in concert.

PRESIDENT BURNS explained that the meeting was held in conjunction with the League of Nations Society in Canada, which was doing so much for the establishment of peace, brotherhood and service in the world. When he wrote to Dr. Fosdick he had stated that the public of Toronto desired in the most public way possible to express their admiration of his candor, courage and considerateness of spirit, and also to receive the message which he was so eminently qualified to deliver on the great subject which had been announced. (Applause) The Canadian people remembered with great gratitude Dr. Fosdick's comradeship of spirit and inspiring action during the War and since, and felt that his passion for truth and humanity, with his great outlook upon the world needs, made him an international apostle of good-will and service. Because he had so fearlessly and faithfully advocated the purpose of the League of Nations in his own

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Dr. Fosdick was educated at Colgate and Columbia Universities and Union Theological Seminary. He is the author of a number of books dealing with religious and theological subjects, has been the preacher in the First Presbyterian Church, New York, and University Preacher at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, and others. He preached the sermon at the opening of the Assembly of the League of Nations last year.

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country, and had been officially selected to preach the opening sermon of the League of Nations next September, it was felt that he was pre-eminently qualified to speak on this great subject; therefore it was a great pleasure to introduce to a Toronto audience Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, of New York and the world.

DR. FOSDICK.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,--I have every reason for feeling very much at home in Canada. I was born in Buffalo on the 24th of May--(laughter and applause)--and whenever the day came around I always used to cross the river into Canada and let you celebrate my birthday by shooting off firecrackers for the Queen. (Laughter) The last time I was in Toronto was ten years ago. I have always wondered at the presumption which I displayed in coming to speak to you then, for you were already deeply in the War, and your men were falling by thousands, and we had not yet gone in. I had the presumption to cross the border and to speak in Toronto. I am not sure but that I am exhibiting the same kind of presumption today, for the War is over and won, and right-thinking men have set up an organization of international co-operation and you are in, and we are out; and I have come across the border to speak to you on International Co-operation. (Laughter and applause) Nevertheless I trust you understand that if the United States is not in the League of Nations it is not because some of us have not labored faithfully to get her in--and that we propose to keep her as uncomfortable as possible until she gets in. (Applause)

In speaking to you on this Challenge of International Relationships to North America, let me begin by saying that many centuries ago Pythagoras made a great guess. It was one of those sublime insights that the seers sometimes reached far in advance of the demonstration. For Pythagoras asserted that the sun, moon and stars did all not go around the earth, but that the earth circled around the central fires. It did not seem true when he said it. Millenniums passed before Copernicus and Gilileo, with their crude but efficient telescopes, showed the truth of it; but Pythagoras, caught it by previsioning insight

Today, if we were going to take a text, I would take something like that which fell from the lips of the Master--"All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword." He said that nearly two millenniums ago. When he said it, it did not look true. When he said it, it looked as if those who took the sword and knew how to use it could carve their way to the world's pregnancy. It looked as if only the appeal to the sword was the road to national greatness. And now the centuries have passed, and increasing millions of intelligent people are waking up to the fact that we are dealing here with another sublime insight far in advance of the demonstration. War is suicidal; they that take the sword shall perish with the sword; everybody is beginning to get a glimpse of that truth. Your own Lord Bryce said, "Either mankind will end war, or else war will end mankind."

The deepest and most critical problem that faces the world today, a s I see it, can be stated thus

Either we are going to get there first with international substitutes for war, or else a new world-war will shatter civilization to its very foundation. Now, we the citizens of North America, are strongly tempted to forget this; at least we in the United States are tempted either to forget or else neglect its poignant criticalness. We ought not to. Just behind us is that war with 10,000,000 dead soldiers, 12,000,000 dead civilians, 5,000,000 war widows, 9,000,000 war orphans, 10,000,000 war refugees. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget!

Yet here the citizens of my country are on this vast continent between two protecting seas, with you upon the north separated from us by a boundary protected not by guns but by a state of mind, by the psychological incredibility of war, and on the south side with another nation that irritates us once in a while, but of which we stand in, no fear; and we are inclined to forget the criticalness of the international situation.

To be sure, there are some things that might excuse us for that. A man cannot visit Great Britain, as I did last summer, without feeling certain characteristic differences between the situation in Great Britain and the situation which we face in North America. For instance, Great Britain is intimately interrelated with the continent. England does not want to tunnel her own Channel for fear of the use that may be made of it in war; but we seem far away. Thomas Jefferson told us once that he wanted us to have no more to do with Europe than we would have to do with China-which simply shows how little he foresaw what we would have to do with China. (Laughter) The financial situation in Chefoo, China, is very perilous. What is the matter with finances in Chefoo. The matter is that the chief business of Chefoo, is making hair nets, and every time an American girl goes into a barber-shop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and gets her hair cut she puts sharp sticks into the finances of Chefoo. (Laughter) We are having a great deal to do with China. Nevertheless, it is true that if Great Britain or France were in our position, if they could look on Europe across 3,000 miles of intervening sea, if from our apparently safe aloofness they could see the tangled diplomacy, the complicated intrigue, the accumulated bitterness of European life, they would play safe and slow before they committed themselves beyond their knowledge of consequences to possible embroilment in a European war.

Then there is another kind of excuse that we can make for ourselves, namely, our size. I said once to an English audience, in fun, that they did not have enough-water in the River Thames to make a decent gargle for the mouth of the Mississippi. (Laughter) I supposed that I had gotten my general idea across, but I have a letter from an Englishman who said that in general he admired the fairness of my remarks, but he wondered whether the inadequacy of the Thames River to furnish a gargle for the Mississippi was literally true. (Great laughter.)

As a matter of fact, this question of size is more than a jest. It is logically significant. You could put all of Great Britain into the State of New Mexico, and have room to run around. That is to say, the people of great Britain are close together; the channels of intellectual communication are wide open; when a new idea arises the leaders of public opinion have the best of opportunities to bring it to the whole body of the populace. It is very different with us, with our vast and scattered population. So that when the new day comes, when barriers fall, when international problems hitherto unthought of rise over the horizon, and international co-operation becomes a necessity, it is going to take some time to make our widespread population see it keenly.

Then again, there is another characteristic difference between Great Britain and nations like Canada and the United States; that is the heterogeneity of our population. The thing that impresses the citizen of the United States in Great Britain most is that they are all British. They do not understand a problem such as we face, where in New York it takes forty-eight different foreign newspapers to serve its people. Just two or three days ago I was invited to speak to a great East Side New York audience upon the causes and prevention of war, but I was warned that if I wanted to keep solid with the audience I had better not mention the League of Nations. The reason was that those people had all come from Europe. Their ideal had been to get away from Europe; they were desperately anxious that the country of their adoption should not be entangled with Europe; they hate the whole idea of the League of Nations. You see, Great Britain is interested in the world problem because her sons go to the ends of the earth; we are interested because the ends of the earth come to us. (Laughter)

One could go on pointing out differences in the problem as seen from the angle of Europe and seen from the angle of the North American continent. I presume we must go slow; but, my friends, slow or not, we must go-(applause)-for we are entangled in this necessity, that either we will get there first with international substitutes for war, or else be embroiled in a shattering war that will crush civilization.

Let me speak a moment more about my own nation. We started saying "No entangling alliances" when we were a strip of thirteen colonies down the Atlantic seaboard. Then we moved to the Mississippi; purchased Louisiana from France; we took Texas from Mexico--with the the aid of the Texans (laughter); we got California by purchase, and Oregon by discovery; until we stretched 3,000 miles from sea to sea; and still we said "No entangling alliances." Then in 1868 we purchased Alaska from Russia and with our finger-tips we touched Asia, and still we said, "No entangling alliances." Then in 1898 we got the Philippines, and became a first-class Asiatic power; took Porto Rico; laid a fatherly hand on Cuba; took Panama, and became a first-class South American power-until the sun never sets on our possessions, either. (Laughter) And still we said, "No entangling alliances." All the while this was going on, something else was going on-the railroads and steamships and telegraphs and telephones and wireless, tying the whole world up into one bundle, so that what happened anywhere happened everywhere, and the roofs of Buddhist pagodas in Thibet shone with the corrugated tin of Standard Oil cans. (Laughter) And still we said, "No entangling alliances." Well, the theory won't fit the facts. We must move out into a new day, and there is no use trying to face it with old answers. Sooner, or later, as surely as the sun rises, my country will have to assume her responsibility in international co-operation. (Applause)

Now, what is it we ought to be saying to ourselves--we citizens of North America?-You on one side of the border, officially in the League and the Court, but still under the necessity of facing the same psychological difficulties that I am talking about, if you are going to keep your people intelligently enthusiastic about the League; and we on the other side facing the necessity of making our people intelligent about the League so that they will come in? What should we be saying to ourselves?

In the first place, this: That it is all nonsense for us to suppose, over here, that we are not just as much entangled in international relationships as anybody else on earth. Why look at Europe everytime you think of a war? Look at the Pacific--that is the centre of the next century's life, that is the Mediterranean of the new civilization, and it is our problem! Canada and the United States in the north, Australia and New Zealand in the south-we are inextricably entangled in the great Pacific situation.

The spread of our race is the most stupendous phenomenon in history. We constitute today barely one-third of the population of the globe, and we hold nine-tenths of its habitable area. In 1500 A.D., we had less than one-tenth or our present holding. Then, first among the races of the world, we lit upon the secret of mastering the latent resources of the universe. The mariners' compass made us freemen of the sea; gunpowder made us masters in war; and we swarmed out from our old hives like bees to suck .the economic honey of the earth. What this meant is clear, within the lifetime of most of us here. In 1880 hardly any of Africa was under the white man; but in the next ten years, before 1890, 5,000,000 square miles in Africa had fallen to Great Britain, France and Germany, and before 1914 all of Africa, with the exception of Liberia and Abyssinia, had come under the control of white men's governments. See the rising tide of white supremacy flow around the earth. Long ago Britain took India, in 1886 deposed Burma's king; the Malay Straits, the Straits Settlements, French Indo-China, the Philippines, large areas of preferred interest in China proper; see the rising tide of white supremacy washing at last the eastern shores of Asia. A liberal Japanese in Tokio two years ago talked to me like this; he said, "You white people own most of the earth; you own the Pacific and most of the land around it; on a piece of land where in Japan we support 400 people you in the United States support twenty-three; and now you want control in Eastern Asia. We have got to have dominance in Eastern Asia for economic and population reasons, and you don't want us to have it; you want it. In God's name, does the white man think he owns the whole earth?" Well, practise the "Golden Rule," and put yourself in his place; would you not feel like that?

Now, that Pacific problem is our problem. Any day a match may be dropped into that powder-barrel by some wild-eyed militarist over there, by some hair-brained Cabinet officer, or at a hectic session of the Senate over here; and when that starts you can no more prevent a world war than you could prevent the spread of the last conflagration when that cracked-brained youth shot off his pistol in 1914 in far-off and hitherto unheard of Sarajevo. We are not isolated; we are in the midst of one of the most critical international problems on the planet.

In the next place, we in North America ought to say to ourselves that if a world war should come it would shatter civilization to its finish. Right Honourable Winston Churchill, once Lord of the British Admiralty, last summer met an American who said that the last war had settled some things; that wars were fought with steel, and although war weapons changed, the core of war was steel, and that the Germans had lost the steel of Europe, and the French had it, and that much was settled. Lord Churchill replied, "Are you sure that wars are going to be fought with steel?" And Winston Churchill, than whom no man could be more unimpeachably informed, went on to say that the great nations of Europe today had departments of pathological biology studying disease and its uses in war, and anthrax for animals, and plagues for whole populations. Of course the next war, if it comes, will use both gas and bacteria in spite of all agreements to the contrary. Major General Swinton, of the British Army, has said that the final form of fighting is germ warfare; he saw no reason why it should not come to that if nations really meant to fight. There is no use gasping as if we piously were shocked; General Swinton is right; that is the logical development of war--the club, the spear, the bow-and-arrow, the gun, the bomb, the gas, the germ. That is the inevitable history of war, and unless we get there first with international substitutes for war some of the boys-yes, and the girls-whom we are trying to train up in decent humaneness of character will be fighting that kind of war. And you expect some of us to bless it in the name of Jesus? No, we won't! (Applause)

In the third place, and more hopefully, the carrying over of intermational relationships from violence to co-operation is the next logical step in the progress of the race. All social progress in the past can be defined in terms of carrying over some area of human relationships from violence to co-operation. That is true about the family, which used to be founded on force. Men did not woo their wives; they captured them. They had entire freedom to expose their infants to death, and so far from welcoming their children into a co-operative democracy of the household the old Roman father had the power of life and death over his growing offspring. That was not simply- a custom, it was the theory on which the home was based. Suppose one of us should go back now to a pater familias of that old time and explain to him that you really could have a home if you did not capture your wife, but wooed her, and marriage was a matter of mutual consent; that you did riot have to have power to expose your children in infancy; and that, so far from having the right of life and death, you administered to them the simplest corporal punishment with a deep sense of abysmal shame to think you could not find a better way of handling the situation. What would that old father say? He would have said-"Sentimentality!" No; he is wrong-Progress!-a wide area of human life carried over from violence to cooperation.

We have done that with education, which used to be run by force the birch rod was the symbol of it. It was said of an old English school-master, Rev. James Boyer, that it was fortunate for the angels who carried him to heaven when he died that they were all faces and wings, or else he would invariably have flogged them all the way. (Laughter) Suppose, now, that one of us should go back to those ancient pedagogues and try and explain to him that you did not have to use force like that in a school; that you could have a school where the children from the beginning were welcomed into co-operative democracy of the school-room. Suppose you tried to explain to him the Horace Mann School in New York where my two daughters go, and where last year, when I wanted to take them to Great Britain with me on a trip, I had to begin six months in advance to prepare them for the awful catastrophe of leaving school two weeks early. (Laughter) What would that old pedagog have said? He would have said--"Sentimentality!" Wrong!-Progress--(applause)--another area carried over from violence to co-operation.

We have done that with religion, which used to be a matter of force; that is to say, if you wanted to be a Christian you could be a Christian; but if you did not want to be a Christian you had to be a Christian. (Great laughter) And the centuries are sick with the cruelties of religious persecution. Suppose, now, you could go back to a dear old saint like Richard Baxter--for he was a dear old saint, though he did say, "I hate unlimited toleration of all, and think myself well able to prove the folly of it"--and you tried to explain to him that you could have religion without compulsion; that you never did really have religion until it was voluntary and unforced. He would have said--"Sentimentality!" Wrong-Progress! Another area carried over from violence to co-operation.

We have done it pretty well in local government-though sometimes I feel like excepting some of our cities. (Laughter) By-and-large, however, we have done it in local government. Go to the city of Florence, in Italy; see the ancient family feuds perpetuated still in the city's architecture; compare it with the modern municipality under civil law. Now humanity faces the next step; it is the greatest step humanity ever has faced. Can we carry international relations, also, over from carnage, and organized slaughter into decency, into humanity, into cooperation? All who believe in that and work for it are working for civilization; all who disbelieve it, or are cynical about it, or pour cold water on it, are tearing down civilization's fabric. (Applause)

Last of all, may I say that I think Christianity has a deep stake in this matter. I do not mean that everybody must agree with me or you about the League of Nations to be Christian, because there is ground for difference of opinion on political institutions and details. I suppose what we are all driving at ultimately is the outlawry of war; that nations definitively and for ever will put war behind them, and agree in advance to settle everything by a law-abiding Court. (Applause) I suppose that there is this just criticism of the League on the part of some idealists who want everything perfect to start with-that it has still in the background of its thought the possibility, in an emergency, of using the war system. In the United States we have a company of Christian idealists who are so anxious about the outlawry of war that they are beginning to turn their backs on the League, and what I fear about that movement is that they will sit there crying for a whole loaf, and insisting on a whole loaf, saying they won't touch a crumb until they get the whole loaf, and they will get a war before they get the whole loaf. (Applause) I am convinced that the League, which at least offers a common table around which the nations can meet, and the World Court which offers the best organizing centre for the codification of international law, are our best hopes now.

I repeat that Christianity has a deep stake in this matter of war and peace. So often Christ vs. Anti-Christ is defined in terms of theory, as if a man were for Christ or against Christ according as he held this or that theological system; but if I really understood the final test at His judgment-seat, it is human attitudes that grow out of what you think; and, in particular, when in any generation two great ideas about human life and its hopes and possibilities come into head-on collision, there is the real crux between the Christ and Anti-Christ. As our James Russell Lowell sang it:--

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,

In the strife 'twixt truth and falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,

Parts the goats upon the left hand from the sheep upon the right,

And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.

As between war and co-operative substitutes for it, I cannot see how there can be much difference of opinion on which side Christ would stand. Some people say, "Back to Christ! Back to Christ!" I cannot say it that way, but another way altogether-"Forward to Christ!" (Applause) Forward to where he stands, saying yet what he said two millenniums ago-and what the world is just beginning to find true-"All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Loud and continued applause)

MR. JUSTICE RIDDELL expressed the thanks of the audience for the splendid address.

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The Challenge of International Relations to North America


This meeting held in conjunction with the League of nations Society in Canada. The speaker's statement of the deepest and most critical problem facing the world today: "Either we are going to get there first with international substitutes for war, or else a new world-war will shatter civilization to its very foundation. The temptation in North American to forget this; reasons why we shouldn't. Characteristic differences between the situation in Great Britain and the situation in North America. More comments on the position of the United States. How Canada and the U.S. in the north, Australia and New Zealand in the south, are inextricably entangled in the great Pacific situation. Why the Pacific problem is our problem. The carrying over of international relationships from violence to co-operation as the next logical step in the progress of the race. Progress in our education system, and in religion, and in local government away from the use of force to co-operation. The speaker's conviction that the League of Nations and the World Court offer our best hope. The deep stake that Christianity has in the matter of war and peace.