Fellow countrymen, this great republic is facing one of the most extraordinary situations in the world's history. It would be difficult to exaggerate the seriousness of the great conflict in which we are engaged -- a conflict in which the fate of civilization is at stake -- a conflict of which God has called us as a champion of freedom and democracy.
We are by nature a peaceful people, but we are a fighting people where the rights of America and of humanity are concerned. It is unfortunate for the German military despot who precipitated this war, that he did not realize beforehand that America has fighting spirit and national unity. He had been made to believe that we were a disorganized, disloyal and heterogenous people -- that America would not fight -- that her rights could be transgressed with impunity, and that she would cravenly submit.
The Kaiser insolently commanded our vessels and our citizens not to sail the high seas within his own of about 500 miles surrounding Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Italy. He said: 'if you do, I will sink your ships without notice, kill your citizens, and destroy your commerce.' He did this in defiance of all international law and in violation of Germany's treaty obligation with this government. No self-respecting nation could permit any alien despot to order it to surrender rights that are vital to the national integrity and security. If we had not courage enough to defend our rights on that ground, then our material interests were so involved, that it was absolutely essential to America's continued life and prosperity that the Kaiser's order should be defied. A zone five hundred miles in extent, surrounding Great Britain, Belgium, France and Italy, meant this: that if we kept our commerce out of these waters, our intercourse with those countries would cease, and a market for more than one half of all that this country exports each year would have been lost. If we had submitted to that order, and that had been destroyed, what would have happened? Disaster upon the farms of America, disaster to the manufactories of America, disaster to the mining interests of America, disaster to the labor interests of America. To every productive activity of the American people there would have come irreparable injury. Never could we submit to that.
Every man and woman who stays at home, and for whose liberties, property, and sacred institutions our boys will shed their blood, must be moved by a spirit of sacrifice equal to that which animates our gallant troops. We must be willing to give up something of personal convenience, something of personal comfort, something of our treasure -- all, if necessary, and our lives in the bargain, to support our noble sons who go out to die for us. We fight for our sacred rights and for our noblest ideas. America has never lost a war for freedom, and with God's help we shall not fail now. Let us organize our strength, marshal our resources, vindicate our rights, reestablish a just peace, and keep the torch of liberty burning throughout the world.