August 26, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Continuing his criticism of the President, former President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted in today’s Oregon Statesman:

“United States Has Played an Ignoble Part Among Nations,” He Says
Theodore Not Satisfied With Woodrow’s Tactics

“I Agree That We must stand by the president,: says San Juan hero, and adds, “so long as the president stands by the country” – Pacifists roasted

Plattsburg, N.Y., Aug. 25. – More than 3000 persons, including 1200 members of the military instruction camp, burst into wild and prolonged applause here tonight, when, in the cour of an address on military preparedness, Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the United States, snapped at them these words:

“Don’t applaud unless you feel a burning sense of shame because the United States has not stood up for Belgium.”

Roosevelt declared that for thirteen months the United States had “played an ignoble part among the nations,” in that it has “tamely submitted to seeing the weak, whom we had covenanted to protect, wronged” and had “seen our own men, women and children murdered on the high seas without action on our part.”

Government Condemned

The former president condemned the government for having “not taken the smallest step in the way of preparedness to defend our own rights” Germany, he condemned as “utterly brutal and ruthless in its disregard of international morality,” and declared that it “would be a base abandonment of morality” for American manufacturers of munitions of war to refuse to make shipments “for the use of the armies striving to restore Belgium to its own people.”

What is unclear in the former president’s speech is whether he means the manufacture or the shipment of munitions. For a neutral to ship munitions to a belligerent would inevitably lead to war. The speech continued:

Munitions Should Be Made

Munition makers who refused to make such shipments should be put, he said, on a “roll of dishonor.” He added that they should be encouraged so that we may be able to hold our own when the hour of peril comes to us in our turn.”

His speech follows in part:

“Free citizens should be allowed to do their own fighting; the preferential pacifist is as much out of place in a democracy, as is the poltroon himself; and he is no better a citizen than the poltroon. Probably no body of citizens in the United States during the last fie years have wrought so efficiently for national decadence and international degradation as the professional pacifists, the peace at any price men, who have tried to teach our people that silly all-inclusive arbitration treaties and the utterance of fatuous platitudes at peace congresses are substitutes for adequate military preparedness.

Hyphenated Americans Scored

“Camps like this are the best possible antidotes to hyphenated Americanism. The events of the pst year have shown us that in any crisis the Hyphenated American is an active force against America, and an active force for wrong doing. The effort to hoist two flags on the same flagpole always means that one flag is hoisted underneath; and the hyphenated American invariably hoists the flag of the United States underneath. We must all be Americans and nothing else.”

Roosevelt’s speech forecasts a theme that will play out as America enters the war, just as it will during the war’s second phase after Pearl Harbor, and plays out even today among Muslim Americans. As the U.S. gets dragged into the war, we will find a growing rejection against German culture. By 1917, we will see anti-German sentiment increase and German American institutions came under attack. The sentiment of the former President’s speech will result in the banning of German language newspapers, the teaching of German in schools and the boycott Dispatches over the next two years will see the unfolding of a distrust of anyone who does not look and act like “we” do. There would be no room for any sympathy for one’s homeland, once that homeland became our enemy. In 1914 the world stumbled into war; by 1915 we are seeing, as we are today, people being condemned on the basis of their outward appearances.

The following picture is a photograph taken in 1917 of a Chicago park. The photograph speaks for itself:

Chicago Sign

The report on the former President’s speech continues:

German Citizens Praised

“There exists no finer body of American citizens in this country than those citizens of German birth and descent, who are in good faith Americans and nothing else. The preferential German-American has shown himself in the last twelve months an enemy to this country, as well as to humanity. The recent exposures of the way in which these German-Americans have worked together with the emissaries of the German government – often by direct corruption – against the integrity of American institutions and against America doing it International duty should arouse scornful indignation in every American worth calling such. The leaders among the preferential German-Americans have preached and practiced what come perilously near to treason against the United States.”

In other words, the book is being judged by its cover. The former president continues with a finely nuanced, though false, comparison of Wilson and Lincoln (bear in mind that the time span between Lincoln and Wilson is no greater than the time span between Lyndon Johnson and President Obama):

Additional Statement Issued

Shortly before leaving here for New York tonight, Roosevelt made the following statement:

“I wish to make one comment on the statement so frequently made that we must stand by the president; I heartily subscribe to this on condition, and only on condition, the it is followed by the statement ‘so long as the president stands by the country.’

“It is defensible to state that we stand by the country, right or wrong. It is indefensible for any free man in a free republic to state that he will stand by any official, right or wrong, or by any ex-official.

Wilson Is Criticized

“There is even a stronger reason for demanding of every loyal citizen that after the president has been given ample time to act rightly, and has either not acted at all or has acted wrongly, that he shall be made to feel that the citizens whom he has elected to serve, demand that he be loyal to the honor and to the interests of the land.

History Cited

“Presidents differ, just like other folks. No man could effectively stand by President Lincoln unless he had stood against President Buchanan. If, after the firing on Sumter, President Lincoln had in a public speech said that the believers in the union were too proud to fight, and if, instead of acting, there had been three months’ admirable elocutionary correspondence with Jefferson Davis by midsummer the friends of the union would have followed Horace Greeley’s advice and let erring sisters go in peace, for peace at that day was put above righteousness by some mistaken souls, just as it is at the present day.

“To treat elocution as a substitute for actions, to rely upon high sounding words unless backed by deeds, is proof of a mind that dwells only in the realm of shadow and shame.”

The reader will note that Roosevelt equates the relationship of the United States to South Carolina as being the equivalent of the relationship of the United States to Belgium. As to the reference to “standing by the country,” your correspondent wonders at what T.R. would have thought about Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and whether or not Lincoln was, at that point, “standing by the country.”


About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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