World Chancelleries: Introduction

  1. Contents
  2. World Chancelleries
  3. Origin and Object of the Interviews

By Calvin Coolidge

President of the United States of America

In these carefully wrought statements of sentiment and opinion we have, I conceive, a peculiarly suggestive and important achievement in the field of international conciliation.

Humanity, with reference to the danger of war, is today in a position different from that which it occupied yesterday. Wars once sprang from varied causes—biological, racial, dynastic, political, commercial, personal. Wars were sought. Wars were planned. Wars were a part of the accepted rationale of organized human life.

Those days, we venture to think, are past. But, if they are, it does not follow that the danger of war is past. Wary may be, and doubtless is, less probable than it was. Its real nature, its horror and unmitigated calamity, are more poignantly and widely realized than they were. Yet, so imperfectly do races and nations understand one another, so perplexing are many of their multiplying relationships, so restless are certain forces of evil, so insecure are the psychological bases of peace, that humanity truly may be said to live constantly in the shadow of the possibility of war.

Not in war deliberate, but in war accidental, seems to me to lie the principal present peril. We have a world psychology more inflammable, more explosive, than it ought to be. There is tinder about. There are powder-mines. Any flying spark is dangerous. Our war with Spain, as we all remember, was precipitated by the sinking of the Maine; and the Great War, whatever may have been its antecedents of history and of rivalry, rushed upon the world out of the Serajevo assassinations. We need fortification against accidents. We need an international mind more stably balanced against sudden shocks.

It is the distinctive virtue of these discussions, in my view, that they tend to give us such an international mind. One feels their earnestness, their sympathetic quality, their sincerity. One is moved by their eloquence. Almost every major principle and problem of civilized life fall within their range, and their outlook consistently is that of the common interests of mankind. If racial susceptibilities and nationalistic standpoints are urged with vividness and candor, they thus are urged, as I read them, only in the hope that the world, by gaining fuller knowledge of its parts, may be less ignorant of itself as a whole.

Before we have the fact, we must have the philosophy, of world peace. All the men here interviewed endeavor to elucidate this philosophy. Their points of view should be of immense educational value. Their cordiality should make for a friendlier interracial and international mood. If cynicism be heard in this connection, I would say that in a meeting of amicable sentiment and well-disposed reasoning there is measureless power for good. Such meetings—such streams of moral and intellectual energy—irrigate the generous hopes and purposes of men. And such streams grow as they flow. They grow as they flow, for, in their long course toward their mighty objective, corresponding tributaries never cease to join them.

World peace, a world affair, stands or falls by world opinion. If we are to have world peace, in other words, we must have the necessary world opinion to support it. And, if we are to have this opinion, we must have the right feeling underneath it. Such feeling, in turn, can exist only if races and nations be convinced that aggression and exploitation have had their day, that brute force is to be brought under mental and ethical control, that all-around justice is the fixed purpose—that civilization, in short, is to establish itself conclusively over barbarism. Feeling issues in thought, thought in action. What, therefore, could be more desirable than public expressions calculated to make international feeling what it ought to be, in order that international action may be what it ought to be?

Enlightened minds and sympathetic hearts are the hope of the world. Without them, statesmanship can do nothing; with them, it faces no insoluble problem. Public opinion rooted in right feeling has countless victories to its credit. Its triumphs increase through the generations; if they did not, men of all colors and creeds would be on the back track. Public opinion abolished human slavery. It is waging a winning fight in a thousand directions. It is widening the scope and cementing the foundations of humanism in industry and liberty in politics. Give it light! Give it the light of the spirit and the light of the mind! Do this, and we shall march without halting to the permanent relegation of war.

America, I need not say, is fervently for peace. This fact stands out boldly in her history. It is written in her treaties, in her diplomacy, and in every utterance that reflects the emotions and convictions of her people. Who can misunderstand the moral, the lesson, the evidence, of the Washington Conference? Could any war-coveting nation, in America’s highly-privileged position, have called or responded to that Conference, or made the self-denying proposals America made and others accepted there? Certainly we, if anyone, were able to follow the old militaristic lines, but we elected to strike an historic blow for peace. Our feelings and purposes are unchanged. We are still against swollen armaments. Our attitude of mind is still that of the Washington Conference. And hence it is that we welcome, and warmly welcome, every exhibition of peaceful purpose, whether it show itself in the region of theory or in the region of practice.

Washington, D.C.,

November 20, 1925.

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  1. Contents
  2. World Chancelleries
  3. Origin and Object of the Interviews