The Fruits of Victory

By William Howard Taft
(Ex-President of the United States, President of the League to Enforce Peace)

[The Independent, November 23, 1918]

The Great War is ended. It will change the map of Europe and the world. As the Christian Era divides the ancient and the modern world, so this war will be a new point of departure in human history.

The victory clinches the moral responsibility of nations and of peoples. It exalts right over might and makes right might. Peoples and leaders may frequently fall away from the ideal of national morality set by this war. But never again will either avow that there is no morality for nations.

The war ends the power of monarchs and dynasties, the divinity that has hedged a king is gone forever. Peoples are to rule.

The war has made the world democratic. Whether it has made it safe depends on the peoples who govern. Democracy is a great boon. It makes for the happiness and welfare of the people, but its best results are only available to a people practised in self-restraint, intelligent enough to know their own real interest and valuing properly liberty regulated by law. We must expect, therefore, many mistakes in some of the new republics to be set up.

This war, in giving birth to so many new governments without assured stability, increases the chances of international friction. Unless the great powers who have won the war and who are responsible for these nations organize the world to maintain peace among them, war will show its grisly head again.

The complexity of the adjustments for which the treaty of peace must provide makes inevitable the continuance of the present league of allied nations and its enlargement. The treaty must provide joint machinery with which to interpret and apply the terms of peace.

It must set up commissions to assess indemnities. It must create tribunals to hear contending peoples as to boundaries, rights of way and rights of access to navigable rivers and the sea.

It must continue its powers of mediation and conciliation long after a treaty, has been framed and signed to settle disputes between new fledged countries and restrain their jealousies and ambitions. They will not be perfect.

Their human frailties will still be present. The great powers must maintain a joint military force to see to it that the terms of the treaty are complied with by the Central Powers.

Bolshevism may interfere with such compliance. If so, we must stamp out Bolshevism without hesitation. We cannot become responsible for the bloody massacre of all but the lowest elements of the population of Germany and Austria as they were for the awful tragedy in Russia.

We may need a combined military force to enforce decisions of the joint tribunals and commissions under the treaty against the new governments. Here then we shall have for the Central Powers and the recently born republics a machinery to maintain peace among them and to compel the administration of justice.

This will be a league to enforce peace for half the world or more. What reason can be given for not extending the operation of this league to settle questions between the great allied powers themselves and between the other nations of the world? None.

If the war is to achieve its highest purpose, need for such a league is imperative.

Let us hope that the people of the United States will demand that their representatives unite with those of our allies in framing it. The peoples of England, France and Italy long for it as the only security worth having against recurrence of war.

Shall our people lag behind? Organized labor of the United States says "No."

So will the other groups of our nation say when they realize that the issue presses and the need for them to speak is at hand.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013



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