On League of Nations

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On League of Nations
by Newton D. Baker
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The speculated doubt and the fears of the timid with regard to the treaty and the League of Nations have now all been discussed. The great document which the president brought back from Paris has been analyzed and dissected in the cold atmosphere of higher criticism, but little has been said about the life of the document itself, the necessity for a new order in our diplomatic and international relations. One might almost suppose from the discussion that the literary merits of the paper were the chief points of interest.

Meantime, it is necessary to remember that the lack of such a league in 1914 threw the world into the chaos of this war. Terrified statesmen endeavored to sustain the delicately poised balance of power. They ran here and there, uttering their oldtime cautions and speaking with pathetic diligence for what they called a formula that would compose the mad impulses which were threatening to engulf the world. They failed because the means were not adapted to the ends -- because in the modern world, things move too fast for the stagecoach diplomacy of the Middle Ages.

Had there been a League of Nations then, could Sir Edward Grey have summoned into conference the authoritative representatives of the great civilized powers, and through them have focused the intelligence and the conscience of mankind on the Austrio-Serbian quarrel? There would have been gained the priceless moment of meditation which would have enabled the heady currents of racial and national passion to be allayed. Today there would be in all in the devastated countries of the world that calm progress which a continuation of peaceful civilization ensures. Billions of wealth, now utterly lost and destroyed, would still be in existence to comfort and enrich the life of nations, and millions of men, women, and children, gunned to death in battle, or carried away by famine and pestilence, would still be alive to enjoy the normal portion of human happiness and to contribute by their labor and their love to the making of a better world. The four horsemen of the apocalypse rode abroad in the world, taking their toll among the fairest and best of the children of men, only because their was no bridle, no League of Nations to restrain their wild and destructive force.

The question of this hour therefore is not whether a classically phrased and inerrant document has been drawn, but whether the fairest hope of men shall be realized. If we have but the goodness and the faith necessary to make any league of nations work, we can make this one work. The people will furnish the faith, if the statesmen will but stand aside. Thus only can we match our works with the devotion of our soldiers, and gather for their children the fruits of their sacrifice and their victories.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).