Page:War Prisoners (Darrow).djvu/6

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6
WAR PRISONERS.

I cannot discuss it in any other way. I believed in it then. I believe in it now.

The question to me as to this line of prisoners coming from the war is not what was the duty of the United States during the war, but the duty of the United States, now that the war is finished, and the need is gone.

I believe that the first law of nature is self-preservation and that this law applies to nations as well as to individuals. And, I can imagine no state of society where it will not apply to nations as well as to individuals. And I can say this, assuming that a time comes in many nations when they should be overthrown, or destroyed, and not even assuming that our nation will be an exception to the rest. The instinct of life goes with living; and this is true with the individual, the family, the community, the state, the nation, and the race. Self-preservation is the highest of all laws, and I believe it is so recognized by every one in their own conduct, if not in their philosophy.

I have heard many men, and women, for whom I have a high regard, complain of the violation of "Constitutional rights" during the war. Now, I try to be honest with myself, at least. I have no doubt but what constitutional rights were violated over and over again during the war, and since—and before. In the main, I, as one individual, was willing to see constitutional rights violated during the war. I would have hoped, and did wish that there might be fewer of those violations; that the barbarous and medieval penalties might be less severe, and of course that all the people I know would escape—but that is a personal emtion. At the same time, believing as I did in this war, that it was just and necessary, that the first law of individuals and nations is self-preservation, I did not worry so much about the means of self-preservation.

The most ardent pacifist; the most ardent friend and believer in the release of all conscientious objectors and all war prisoners—none of these people really care much for constitutional rights. They believe, like everybody else, in having their own way. They are strong for constitutional rights when they think those constitutional rights will help their cause. And they do not believe in the constitutional rights of other people when they think they will hurt their cause. I have seen few radicals who were against the war, from whatever motive, who were not strong for the government of Lenine and Trotsky in Russia. Now, my sympathies are with them, as against