Page:War Prisoners (Darrow).djvu/7

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7
WAR PRISONERS.

the old regime. I know that they have committed atrocities. I know that they have disregarded the rights of individuals, which are deeper than constitutional rights. I know that they have killed almost indiscriminately, and everybody else knows it. I believe also that they did what seemed necessary to do to maintain themselves. And of all the excuses that were made for them, the chief one is that the world was against them and they had to do it! They did have to do it? Every body of people who are undertaking to accomplish something, like every individual who is undertaking to accomplish something, seldom bothers about trifles. The thing to be done is to be done. And, if laws and institutions and constitutions are in the way, so much the worse for laws and institutions and constitutions!

Now, you people, who are disciples of Bolshevism—whatever that is—all believe it, and yet you cannot help criticising the American government for violation of constitutional rights in which you do not believe yourselves! The person who complains about constitutional rights does not do it out of any love for constitutional rights. He does it because he and his friends are hurt. And, if he and his friends could win, a little matter of the constitution would not stop him, and it stops nobody.

Let me go a little deeper into that because I want to make it clear. What are constitutions and laws? They are simply the customs and traditions and habits of people written into statutes and constitutions. They are embedded there until they are a part of the foundation, and it takes some violent revolution, either with force or without it, to change them. It is a simple matter. That is exactly the meaning of a constitution. And all law and much of the progress of the world has been made in absolute violation of constitutions and laws and everybody knows it.

And deeper than constitutions and laws is the will of the people, and when that will is strong enough—I do not care who the people are, whether socialists or capitalists or philosophers—when the will of the people is strong enough, it overrides them. It always has, and it always will. So, to my mind, it amounts to nothing, for nobody pays any attention to it unless it serves his purpose. I prefer to meet this question squarely upon the facts of life and upon the philosophy of existence and of government.

Man persists. He lived long before any constitutions were made; he wrote his constitutions out of human life and human