The Eliot-Schiff Letters
On Nov. 22 THE NEW YORK TIMES printed this interview with Jacob H. Schiff on the European war reproduced above. Two days later Dr. Charles W. Eliot, President Emeritus of Harvard, who is an old friend of Mr. Schiff, wrote him a letter of comment on THE TIMES interview. This letter resulted in considerable correspondence between the two. At the time this correspondence was penned there was not the least thought in the mind of either of the writers of giving the letters to the public. It was simply an interchange of ideas between men who had long known each other. When they were convinced, however, that publication might serve a useful purpose in shaping public opinion, both Mr. Schiff and Dr. Eliot cordially assented to their being printed.
Dr. Eliot to Mr. Schiff.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 24, 1914.
Dear Mr. Schiff: It was a great relief to me to read just now your interview in THE NEW YORK TIMES of Nov. 22, for I have been afraid that your judgment and mine, concerning the desirable outcome of this horrible war, were very different. I now find that at many points they coincide.
One of my strongest hopes is that one result of the war may be the acceptance by the leading nations of the world of the precept or law—there shall be no world empire for any single nation. If I understand you correctly, you hold the same opinion. You wish neither Germany nor England to possess world empire. You also look forward, as I do, to some contract or agreement among the leading nations which shall prevent competitive armaments. I entirely agree with you that it is in the highest degree undesirable that this war should be prolonged to the exhaustion of either side.
When, however, I come to your discussion of the means by which a good result toward European order and peace may be brought out of the present convulsion I do not find clear guidance to present action on your part or mine, or on the part of our Government and people. Was it your thought that a congress of the peoples of North and South America should now be convened to bring to bear American opinion on the actual combatants while the war is going on? Or is it your thought that the American nations wait until there is a lull or pause in the indecisive fighting?
So far as I can judge from the very imperfect information which reaches us from Germany, the confidence of the German Emperor and people in their “invincible” army is not much abated, although it clearly ought to be. It is obvious that American opinion has some weight in Germany; but has it not enough weight to induce Germany to abandon her intense desire for Belgium and Holland and extensive colonial possessions? To my thinking, without the abandonment of that desire and ambition on the part of Germany, there can be no lasting peace in Europe and no reduction of armaments. Sincerely yours,