Thursday, February 6, 2014
James A. Garfield Writes on the Current War
Received by James Padgett
I am here, James A. Garfield.
I come tonight to say a few words in reference to the present condition of the affairs of our country, as I have been much interested in what has taken place in the past few weeks, and especially in the attitude of the President (Woodrow Wilson) with reference to Germany and its inhuman method of carrying on its system of underwater destruction of merchant ships.
I know that what I say may not amount to anything for several reasons: one is, that no one save yourself and a few of your friends will know what I say, and another, that a live dog is of more importance than a dead lion. But nevertheless, I feel that I should give expression to some of the thoughts that come to me in reference to these vital and critical conditions that now exist.
The President has been very much hampered by his desire to preserve peace, or rather to keep our country out of war, and so strongly has this desire possessed him that other things of greater and more vital importance to the welfare of the country have been ignored and made matters of secondary consideration with him and his advisers.
Peace is very desirable, and human lives are very dear to those who may have to answer the call to possibly sacrifice theirs, yet the honor and preservation of the nation are of much more importance than the former things, for peace is not necessarily a thing that can exist only in the absence of war, for it may exist in reality while war is progressing, to a greater degree than when war is actually in operation. I mean that even now there is very great want of peace in the individual lives of the people, even though the country, as a nation, is not at war.
And the life of the individual is not of so great importance as the life of the nation, for if the nation be destroyed, or subjected to the dominion of another country, the life of the individual may not be worth the living, as in the case of poor Belgium.
But, as I was saying, this desire on the part of the President to preserve peace has caused him to ignore the rights of both the nation and the individual as they have been threatened and injured by the actions of Germany, in its assaults upon the rights of the nation to continue its commercial pursuits and enjoy the freedom of the seas, that have always heretofore been preserved, and to establish which this nation, in days gone by, fought to establish and have recognized.
He will be disappointed in his expectations that some kind Providence will interfere and prevent the overt act that he holds to be necessary for justification on his part to enter into the conflict, as that overt act will not only take place, but has already done so, and the cause that he has been waiting for is now a thing of reality.
It is a great pity that he has delayed all this time, for if he had taken a firm and determined stand some months ago and let Germany know that America would maintain her rights, even by force of arms, if necessary, Germany would not now be the aggressive, belligerent that she is, and many vessels would not have been destroyed and many lives have been saved.
But this wavering policy caused the Germans rulers to believe that he did not desire war, and that he would refrain from entering actually into the war and, consequently, that he would let go by any act on their part that did not purpose to injure the rights of the U.S.; and this feeling on the part of Germany increased until it was led into doing things that it might otherwise not have done and having gotten into its present desperate state, it came to the conclusion that the only thing it could do now was to adopt the plan of blockade that now obtains and destroy everything that interferes with the carrying out that plan, and that the U.S. must submit to its demands or do whatever it might think best to protect its rights hoping, though, that it would avoid war by recognizing the blockade and keeping its vessels out of the zone of the same.
Now the time has arrived when Mr. Wilson can have no possible excuse for remaining neutral, and he will have to do what he should have done a long time ago. I can see that this delay will result in the destruction of many vessels and the sacrifice of many lives, but it is the only thing that can be done to save greater calamity.
So I hope that he will delay no longer, but declare war or call upon Congress to declare war, at once, and thus put the country in a position to effectively preserve and maintain its rights. And I make these predictions, that as soon as this shall be done, the beginning of the end will be established and that before the middle of summer, peace will come and the war will cease, though its effects will appear in more certain horror than they do now and will be felt for many years to come. I hope that he will act now, and if I could induce him to do so, I would without hesitation or doubt of the right of so doing.
I will not write more, so good night.
Your true friend,