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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
To American Comrades in Arms
By David Lloyd George (1863–1945)
 
A speech to the American Lunch Club in London,
Ambassador W. H. Page presiding, April 12th, 1917

I WAS invited to attend a small family luncheon—(Laughter)—but when I entered this room I found that was another American legend—dispelled when I saw this great and impressive gathering. I am in the happy position, I think, of being the first British Minister of the Crown who, speaking on behalf of the people of this country, can salute the American nation as comrades in arms. (Cheers.) I am glad. I am proud. I am glad not merely because of the stupendous resources which this great nation can bring to the succor of the Alliance, but I rejoice as a Democrat—(Cheers)—that the advent of the United States into this war gives the final stamp and seal to the character of the conflict—(Cheers)—as a struggle against military autocracy throughout the world.  1
  That was the note that rang through the great deliverance of President Wilson. It was echoed in your resounding words to-day, sir. The United States of America have a noble tradition, never broken, of having never engaged in a war except for liberty—(Cheers)—and this is the greatest struggle for liberty they have ever embarked upon. (Cheers.) I am not at all surprised, when one recollects the wars of the past, that America took its time to make up its mind about the character of this struggle. In Europe most of the great wars of the past were waged for dynastic aggrandizements and for conquest. No wonder that when this great war started there were some elements of suspicion still lurking in the minds of the people of the United States of America. There were many who thought, perhaps, that kings were at their old tricks—(Laughter)—and although they saw the gallant Republic of France fighting, they, some of them perhaps, regarded France as the poor victim of conspiracy and of monarchical swashbucklers.  2
  The fact that the United States of America has made up its mind finally makes it abundantly clear to the world that this is no struggle of that character, but a great fight for human liberty. (Cheers.) They naturally did not know at first what we had endured in Europe for years from this military caste in Prussia. It never reached as far as the United States of America. Prussia is not a democracy (Laughter), but the Kaiser promises it will be a democracy after the war. I think he is right. (Laughter and cheers.) But Prussia not merely was not a democracy; Prussia was not a State. Prussia was an army. It had great industries, highly developed. It had a great educational system. It had its universities. It developed its sciences. But all these were subordinate to the one great predominant purpose of an all-conquering army which was to intimidate the world. The army was the spearpoint of Prussia; the rest was merely the gilded shaft.  3
  That is what we had to deal with in these old countries. It got on the nerves of Europe. They knew what it all meant. The Prussian army in recent times had waged three wars—all for conquest. And the incessant tramping of its legions through the streets of Prussia and on the parade grounds of Prussia had got into the Prussian head. The Kaiser, when he witnessed it on a grand scale in his reviews, got drunk with the sound of it. He delivered the law to the world, as though Potsdam were a new Sinai and he were uttering the law from the thunder-cloud. But make no mistake; Europe was uneasy. Europe was half intimidated; Europe was anxious; Europe was apprehensive. We knew the whole time what it meant. What we did not know was the moment it would come. This is the menace, this is the oppression, from which Europe has suffered for fifty years. It paralyzed the beneficent activities of all States, which ought to have been devoted to, and concentrated upon, the well-being of their people. They had to think about this menace, which was there constantly as a cloud, ready to burst over the land.  4
  Take France. No one can tell except the Frenchman what they endured from this tyranny (Cheers), patiently, gallantly, with dignity, until the hour of deliverance came. The best energies in democratic France have been devoted to defense against the impending terror. France was like a nation which had put up its right arm to ward off a blow, and it could not use the whole of its strength for the great things France was capable of. That great, bold, imaginative, fertile mind, which would otherwise have been cleaving new paths of progress, was paralyzed. This was the state of things we had to encounter.  5
  The most characteristic of all Prussian institutions is the Hindenburg line. What is the Hindenburg line? The Hindenburg line is a line drawn in the territories of other people with a warning that the inhabitants of those territories shall not cross it at the peril of their lives. That line has been drawn in Europe for fifty years in many lands. You recollect what happened some years ago in France when the Foreign Minister, the French Foreign Minister, was practically driven out of office by Prussian interference. Why? What had he done? He had done nothing that the Minister of an independent State had not the most absolute right to do. He crossed that imaginary line drawn in French territory by Prussian despotism, and he had to leave.  6
  Europe, after enduring this for generations, made up its mind at last that the Hindenburg line must be drawn along the legitimate frontiers of Germany herself. (Cheers.) It has been an undoubted fight for the emancipation of Europe and the emancipation of the world. It was hard at first for the people of America quite to appreciate that. Germany had not interfered to the same extent with their freedom, if at all. But at last she has endured the same experience to which Europe has been subjected. Americans were told they were not to be allowed to cross and recross the Atlantic except at their peril. American ships were sunk without warning. American subjects were drowned with hardly an apology, in fact as a matter of German right. At first America could hardly believe it. They could not think it possible that any sane people could behave in that manner. And they tolerated it once, they tolerated it twice, until at last it became clear that the Germans really meant it. Then America acted and acted promptly. The Hindenburg line was drawn along the shores of America and Americans were told they must not cross it. America said, “What is this?” and was told that this was a line beyond which they must not go. Then America said, “The place for that line is not the Atlantic, but on the Rhine, and we mean to help you to roll it up.” And they have started. (Cheers.)  7
  There are two great facts which clinch the argument that this is a great struggle for freedom. The first is the fact that America has come in. She could not have done otherwise. The second is the Russian Revolution. When France in the eighteenth century sent her soldiers to America to fight for the freedom and independence of that land France also was an autocracy. But when the Frenchmen were in America their aim was freedom, their atmosphere was freedom, and their inspiration was freedom. They acquired a taste for freedom and they took it home, and France became free. That is the story of Russia. Russia engaged in this great war for the freedom of Serbia, of Montenegro, and Bulgaria. Russians have fought for the freedom of Europe, and they wanted to make their own country free. They have done it. The Russian Revolution is not merely the outcome of the struggle for freedom. It is a proof of its character as a struggle for liberty. And if the Russian people realize, as there is evidence they are doing, that national discipline is not incompatible with national freedom, and know that national discipline is essential to the security of national freedom, they will indeed become a free people. (Cheers.)  8
  I have been asking myself the question why is it that Germany deliberately in the third year of the war provoked America to this declaration, and to this action? Deliberately! Yes; resolutely! It has been suggested that the reason was that there were certain elements in American life which Germany was under the impression would make it impossible for the United States to declare war. That I can hardly believe; but the answer has been afforded by General Hindenburg himself in the very remarkable interview which appears, I think, this morning in the Press. He depended clearly on one of two things—that the submarine campaign would have destroyed international shipping to such an extent that England would have been put out of business before America was ready. According to his computation, America would not be ready for twelve months. He does not know America. (Cheers.) Then alternatively, and when America was ready at the end of twelve months with her army, she would have no ships to transport that army to the field of battle. In Hindenburg’s words, “America carries no weight.” (Laughter.) I suppose he means that she has no ships to carry on. (Laughter.) That is undoubtedly their reckoning.  9
  Well, it is not wise always to assume, even when the German General Staff has miscalculated, that they have had no ground for their calculation; and therefore it behooves the whole of the Allies—Britain and America in particular—to see that that reckoning of von Hindenburg is as false as the one he made about the famous line which we have broken already. (Cheers.) The road to victory, the guarantee of victory, the absolute assurance of victory, is to be found in one word—ships. (Cheers.) In a second word—ships—(Cheers); in a third word—ships. (Renewed cheers.) I see that America, with that quickness of comprehension which characterizes your nation, fully realizes that, and to-day I observe that they have already made an arrangement to build—is it 1000?—(“Yes.”)—3000-tonners for the Atlantic. (Cheers.) I think that the German military advisers must already begin to realize that this is another of the tragic miscalculations which is going to lead them to disaster and to ruin. (Cheers.)  10
  But, Mr. Chairman, you will pardon me for just emphasizing that we are a slow people in these islands. (Laughter.) Yes, but sure! (Cheers.) Slowly, blunderingly; but we get there. (Cheers.) You get there sooner, and that is why I am glad to see you in. But may I say we have been in this business for three years? We have made blunders; we generally do; we have tried every blunder. (Laughter.) In golfing phraseology, we have gone through every bunker; but we have a good niblick stroke—(Laughter and cheers)—and we are now right out on the course. May I respectfully suggest that it is worth America’s while to study our blunders so as to begin just where we are now—not where we were three years ago? (Cheers.) In war, time is everything, time has a tragic significance. A step taken today may lead to assured victory, but taken to-morrow may barely avert disaster. All the Allies have discovered that. It was a new country for us all. It was trackless, mapless; we had to go by instinct, but we found the way, and I am so glad that you are sending your great naval and military experts here just to exchange experiences with men who have been through all the dreary, anxious course of the last three years. (Cheers.)  11
  America has helped us even to win the battle of Arras—this great battle. Those guns which destroyed the German trenches and shattered the barbed wire—I remember with some friends of mine I see here discussing the matter and arranging to order from America the machines to make those guns. (Cheers.) Not all. (Laughter.) You got your share; it was only a share, but it is a glorious one. America has been making guns, making munitions, making machinery to prepare both, supplying us with steel, and she has got all that organization, that wonderful facility, adaptability, and resourcefulness of the great people who inhabit that great continent. Ah! it was a bad day for military autocracy in Prussia when she challenged the great Republic of the West. (Cheers.) We know what America can do; and we also know that now she is in it she will do it. (Cheers.) She will wage an effective and successful war.  12
  There is something more important. She will ensure a beneficent peace. (Cheers.) I am the last man in the world—knowing for three years what our difficulties have been, what our anxieties have been, what our fears have been—to deny that the succor which is given us from America is something to rejoice in, and rejoice greatly in; but I do not mind telling you that I rejoice even more in the knowledge that America is going to win her right to be at the conference table when the terms of peace are being discussed. (Cheers.) That conference will settle the destiny of nations, the course of human life, for God knows how many ages. It would have been a tragedy for mankind if America had not been there, and there with all the influence, and the power, and the right, which she has now won by flinging herself into this great struggle. (Cheers.)  13
  I can see peace coming now, not a peace which would be a beginning of war, not a peace which would be an endless preparation for strife and bloodshed; but a real peace. The world is an old world which has never had peace. It has been rocking, swaying like the ocean, and Europe—poor Europe—has always lived under the menace of the sword. When this war began two thirds of Europe was under autocratic rule. It is the other way about now, and democracy means peace. (Cheers.) The democracy of France did not want war. The democracy of Italy hesitated long before entering the war. The democracy of this country shrank from it and shuddered, and would never have entered that cauldron if it had not been for the invasion of Belgium. Democracy sought peace, strove for peace, and if Prussia had been a democracy there would have been no war. (Cheers.)  14
  But strange things have happened in this war, and stranger things are to come—and they are coming rapidly. There are times in history when the world spins so leisurely along its destined course that it seems for centuries to be at a standstill. There are also times when it rushes along at a giddy pace covering the track of centuries in a year. These are the times we are living in now. Six weeks ago Russia was an autocracy. She is now one of the most advanced democracies in the world. (Cheers.) To-day we are waging the most devastating war that the world has ever seen. To-morrow—not perhaps a distant to-morrow—war may be abolished forever from the categories of human crimes. (Cheers.) This may be something like that fierce outburst of winter which we are now witnessing before the complete triumph of spring.  15
  It was written of those gallant men who won that victory on Monday—(Cheers)—men from Canada, from Australia, and from this old country—(Cheers)—which has proved that in spite of its age it is not decrepit—(Cheers)—it was written of those gallant men that they attacked with the dawn. Fitting work for the dawn to drive out of forty miles of French soil those miscreants who had defiled it for nearly three years. They attacked with the dawn. It is a significant phrase. The breaking up of the dark rule of the Turk, which for centuries has clouded the sunniest lands in the world, the freeing of Russia from the oppression which has covered it like a cloud for so long, the great declaration of President Wilson (Cheers), coming with the might of the great nation he represents in the struggle for liberty, are heralds of dawn. “They attacked with the dawn,” and those men are marching forward in the full radiance of that dawn, and soon Frenchmen and Americans, British, Italians, and Russians, yea, Serbians, Belgians, Montenegrins, and Rumanians will march into the full light of perfect day. (Loud cheers.)  16
 
 
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