’Yet, when this Administration looked for help, what did it find? The two races that come to this country and never help its Americanisation are the Germans and the English. They remain true to their former citizenship, and they die true to them. Gentlemen, that must not be again. America will always be open to the world, but he who passes within these gates to live must accept responsibilities as well as privileges.
’I am almost finished. For two years and a half we have fought against the disintegrating forces within our country. We have endured the sneers of belligerents, the insults of Germany, and the tolerance of Britain—and still we have fought on. Literally we were struggling, as did our forefathers, for nationhood. But let me ask Mr. Watson if our psychological unpreparedness was entirely our fault. When Britain allied herself with Russia, did she give a thought to the effect it would have on the American mind? To us, Russia was the last stronghold of barbaric despotism, and yet Britain made that alliance, identifying herself with the forces of reaction. I do not say that we would have entered into a similar or any agreement with Britain, but there are alliances of the spirit far more binding than the most solemn treaties. I accuse Britain of failing to make the advances toward a spiritual covenant with the United States, in which lay—and still lies—the hope of this world.’
A messenger had entered the room and handed a note to the chairman. It was passed along to Van Derwater’s place and left in front of him. He took it up without opening it, and fingered it idly as he spoke.
‘A nation does not need to be at war,’ he went on, ’to find that traitors are in her midst. The struggle of this Administration for unity of thought has been thwarted right and left by men of no vision, men drunk with greed, men blinded with education and so-called idealism. Mr. Watson, you ask what we have done with America’s soul. I will tell you what we have done for it. There are many of us in this room who have given everything we have—our time, our friends, and things which we valued more than life—because we have respected the trust imposed on us of maintaining America’s destiny. I am sorry for your empty sleeve. But let me assure you that we, also, have known suffering. Because we believe in America—first, last, and always in America—we have stayed here, enduring sneers and contumely, in order that when America speaks it will be like the sound of a rushing cataract—one voice, one heart, but the voice and heart of Humanity. In no other way can America go to war. . . . And until that moment arrives I shall wear this garb of neutrality as proudly as any soldier his uniform of honour.’