’Gentlemen, the question I bring is from France to America. It is more than a question; it is a challenge. It is not sent from one Government to another Government, but from the heart of France to the conscience of America. They don’t understand. Month after month the women there are seeing their sons and husbands killed, their homes destroyed, and no end in sight. And every day they are asking, “Will America never come?” My God! I’ve seen that question on a thousand faces of women who have lost everything but their hope in this country. I used to tell them to wait—it would come. I said it had to come. When the Hun sank the Lusitania I was glad, for at last, I told them, America would act. Do you know what the British Tommies were saying about you as we took our turn in the line and read in the papers how Wilson was conversing with Germany about that outrage? I could have killed some of them for what they said, for I was still proud of my nationality; but time went on and the French people asked “When?” and the British Tommy laughed.
’If I’m hurting any of you chaps, think of what I felt. One night behind the lines a soldiers’ concert-party gave a show. Two of the comedians were gagging, and one asked the other if he knew what the French flag stood for, and he said, “Yes—liberty.” His companion then asked him if he knew what the British flag stood for, and he replied, “Yes—freedom.” “Then,” said the first comedian, “what does the American flag stand for?” “I can’t just say,” said the other one, “but I know that it has stood a hell of a lot for two years.” The crowd roared—officers and men alike. I wanted to get up and fight the whole outfit; but what could I have said in defence of this nation? America—our country here—has become a vulgar joke in men’s mouths.’
He stopped abruptly, and poured himself out a glass of water. No one made a sound. There was hot resentment on nearly every face, but they would hear him out without interruption.
‘The educated classes of England,’ he went on, ’are different in their methods, but they mean the same thing. They say it is America’s business to decide for herself, but the Englishman conveys what he means in his voice, not in his words. When I was hit, I swore I would come back here and find out what had changed the nation I knew in the old days into a thing too yellow to hit hack. Mr. Chairman, you said I had fought in a cause that is not yours. I beg to differ. There are hundreds of Americans fighting to-night in France. They’re with the Canadians—they’re with the French—they’re with the British. Ask them if this cause isn’t ours. I lay beside a Princeton grad. in hospital. He had been hit, serving with the Durhams. “I’m never going back to America,” he said. “I couldn’t stand it.” As a matter of fact, he died—but I don’t think you like that picture any more than I do.’