The Bohemians (Czechs) In The Present Crisis

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I.

 

THESE are times that try men's souls, said Thomas Paine of perhaps the most critical period of the American revolution. These are times that try not only men's souls, but the souls of whole nations, and place their very moral fibre to the acid test, may be said of our own time.

We are confronted today not only with the greatest catastrophe in the world's history, but we are witnesses of a struggle of civilization against civilization.

Whatever may be said from various points of view of the ultimate causes of the present war, the fact remains that Germany has attempted to force upon the world its conception of civilization and order, and its conception of might as making right.

For the past hundred years German works on political science and political philosophy are replete with suggestions of the supremacy of the State, and of the State Germans have made a fetish. In order to save the State and for its aggrandizement from the German point of view anything is permissible, even to the destruction of neutral and innocent states, and of rendering treaties mere scraps of paper. Such literature is at least a symptom and may be a contributing cause.

It is an indisputable fact that the Germans, whenever they gained the upper hand anywhere, always sought to impose what they call culture upon other peoples, and as bearers of alleged culture Germanization of other nations has been their policy from times immemorial. German attempts at Germanization in Bohemia, Poland and elsewhere illustrate the German attitude towards numerically small nations, an attitude essentially Immoral.

Couple these facts with German disregard of international law, and you have disclosed before you the philosophy that might makes right in all its nakedness.

As opposed to this conception of political morality, there has been growing up a belief that states and nations, as well as individuals, must be governed by a code of morals, or a code of international law, as we should more strictly call it.

I believe it cannot be said to be an exaggeration to assert that during the last half century the foremost exponent of the necessity of regulation of international relations by recognized rules of international law has been England, and it is not a mere accident that the immediate cause of England's entrance into the present war was the violation of Belgian neutrality as guaranteed by international treaties.

The Germans delight in frequently speaking of "perfidious Albion". We need not hesitate to concede that perhaps there is no nation on the face of the globe in whose history there are not chapters that nation itself would prefer to have eliminated. But English statesmanship has always been farsighted, and if it is true of morals in the sociological sense that they are an outgrowth of experience as to what is beneficial to mankind, and to the individual, it is equally true that experience is beginning to teach that in international relations injustice ultimately reacts upon the oppressor, and that the spirit of fair play must prevail over the chaotic conditions which have characterized international relations almost to the present day.

Experience is beginning to teach us that this world will continue to present a sorry spectacle unless the rights of all nations are respected, and unless a firm and enforceable code of international morals is built up which will protect the existence and the right to exist and development of all nations.

It is to the credit of English statesmanship that perhaps more than any other it has foreseen the necessity of such an international code, and the necessity of respecting the rights even of small nationalities. In this recognition I believe we must find the secret of the frequent assertions by English statesmen that this war is one for the rights and protection of small nationalities.

It makes little difference whether the recognition of the necessity of a code of international morals came as a result of experience, or whether it came as a result of abstract reasoning; it is the present fact that counts, and that is decisive.

The Allied powers stand ready to recognize and protect the rights of small nationalities, while Germany disregards these, and even stands ready to crush their very lives out. It is not an accident that among the Germans we find a sociological writer of note, one pretending to be a socialist (Cunow), who only recently declared that small nations have no right to exist. As against this philosophy of brutal force we have such men as Lord Bryce, of England; Senator Martin, of France; Gustav Herve, the French socialist, and the Russian Miljukov, who have emphasized time and again the fact that for the sake of a soulless State the life of no nation shall be crushed out. The recent Irish episode, properly analyzed, is not a refutation of these facts.

It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that this war, at least in one of its phases, is one between two conflicting civilizations, and between two different conceptions of the world, or, as the Germans themselves would call it, between two Weltanschauungen.

It is perfectly fitting that we here in America should speak of a conflict between two civilizations. The great American Civil War was a struggle against slavery. But it was more, it was a struggle for the preservation of the great American Union as the most advanced experiment in modern democracy; and it was yet more, it also was a struggle between two civilizations; between a civilization based upon slavery on the one hand, and a civilization based upon wage labor on the other hand. There could be no real progress in this country until the civilization based upon slavery was done away with, and only after its destruction could the country reach the highroad to real democracy and real freedom.

 

II.

 

SYMPATHY with one side or the other in the present war cannot be avoided.

But, we are told, in sympathizing with one side or the other in the present war, you are unneutral. If neutrality means indifference as between right and wrong, then there is no such thing as neutrality. Concerning the greatest event of human history thinking people must have some opinions. Only people deaf, dumb and blind, or people in a hopeless pathological condition, can be devoid of an opinion.

The American public has long ago made up its mind as to the causes of this war, and as to where the right is in the present conflict. Somebody was the aggressor in this war; somebody immediately provoked it, and as evidenced by the recent manifesto of five hundred Americans, men of letters and science, the American public is in no doubt as to where the provocation was, and as to who appeared in the role of an aggressor.

This, also, is perfectly fitting and proper. When the great Civil War was raging, the world was not indifferent; many so-called foreigners fought with the armies of the north, and on the whole the sympathies of the outside world were with the forces of the Union. The English masses were with the forces of the Union regardless of whatever the position of the then English government may have been.

Owing to scarcity of cotton, English textile workers during the Civil War were on the verge of starvation, yet led by such men as Carl Marx, then residing in England, the English workingmen sent to President Lincoln their famous address wishing the northern cause success. Can there be a better proof of real idealism; can there be better proof of subordination of immediate material interests to the larger interests of mankind?

It will be well remembered that during the Civil War Russian sympathies were also with the north, and indeed Russia has always been a friend of this country. In the present conflict perhaps fully eight-five per cent of the American public wish success to the Allied cause. It is a safe indication that the judgment of the people has been rendered in so emphatic a form that it cannot be set aside.

The form the processes of the collective mind sometimes take may be past understanding, but the fact remains that the instinctive, if you will, judgment of the masses is almost invariably correct and sound. The conclusions of the people may not be reasoned, perhaps in the masses people cannot reason; but it is no mere phrase to say that as frequently as not their conclusions reached on matters of public policy are as safe and reliable as those of the coolest and most thoughtful philosopher. In that fact indeed lies the hope of real democracy.

It is no exaggeration to say that in other neutral countries the opinion of the people does not differ from the sentiments prevailing in the United States. Can it therefore be surprising that in the present crisis the Bohemian people, as far as their opinion could be expressed, took their stand on the side of the Allies?

Indeed, to any one knowing Bohemian history; to any one knowing Bohemian traditions; to any one knowing the character of the Bohemian people, any other position would almost seem out of question, and if the Austrian government is surprised today at the outburst of indignation against its methods among people of Bohemian origin living beyond Austrian boundaries, this perhaps best illustrates the truth of the old saying that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad."

If we should seek a clue to the character of the Bohemian people we may best find it in the Hussite wars, of which the burning of Hus and Jerome was the immediate cause.

The Hussite movement originally was a moral one and directed against the corruption among the Roman clergy of the middle ages. The attitude of Hus and Jerome in their day was one of sheer idealism, and for that matter Czechs never under-estimated spiritual values. The Hussite wars finally had, of course, their social as well as economic phases, but it cannot be gainsaid that they were also fought for a religious and civic ideal, for communion in both kinds, and for the rights of the Czech language against the aggression of the Germans.

After the unfortunate battle of White Mountain, in 1620, thirty-six thousand Bohemian families left their native land, and lost their property by confiscation, rather than give up their religion, and what they conceived to be religious truth.

A nation of such character could not remain silent and was manifestly destined to take its place by the side of the Allied powers.

This position was also dictated by the instinct of national self-preservation.

This is a war of German imperialism, it is an attempt to carry out the German Drang nach Osten, and anything standing in the way of German imperialistic ambitions is destined to be destroyed if German ruling classes have their way.

Austria is nothing but a tool in this gigantic German gamble, the success of which would mean a destruction of small nationalities standing in the path of the German push toward the east.

It follows, therefore, that this war is not only one to reduce France to impotence, to destroy the British Empire, to thwart legitimate Russian ambitions, to destroy the Serbian nationality and to absorb Belgium, but it is also a war on the part of Germany and Austria against the Bohemian people, who have been the western sentinel of Slavdom for centuries.

Austria is warring now against her own people, and her own people are now demanding that Austria herself be destroyed; that Austria herself be wiped from the face of the globe.

 

III.

 

IN this war the Austrian government attempted to force the Czechs into a fratricidal struggle against kindred peoples and against those with whom the Czech people always were in sympathy.

Between the French and Bohemian peoples there always was a sympathetic understanding. These are days of many memories, and one of the occasions we should especially remember is last year's French offensive in the Champagne region where the French army attempted to throw back the German forces, and where in the fifteenth century also fell John of Luxemburg, King of Bohemia, fighting with the French at the head of a company of Bohemian nobles.

References to the battle of Cressy are frequent in Bohemian literature; it is always remembered whenever French and Bohemian sympathies are talked of. Czech members of the Bohemian diet in 1871 were the only members of any parliamentary body in the world to protest against the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany. There has always been an intellectual bond between the countries, and literature in the French language is perhaps translated into the Bohemian tongue more than that of any other.

Ernest Denis, the Frenchman, is also one of the greatest of historians of Bohemia.

These are matters of sentiment, of course, but this war has brought us to a realization that matters of sentiment and ideals have a practical value as well. It is really the sentiment of the world, perhaps as much as anything else, that makes today for the ultimate defeat of Germany.

French political ideals, as evolved during and as a result of the great French Revolution, have always been of importance in Bohemian political life, and as a matter of fact it may be said that the influence of the French encyclopedists was a potent factor in the revival of Czech nationality toward the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Nor must we lose sight of the fact that Bohemian public opinion was always favorable to England.

English contributions to the science of government and to real democracy cannot be overestimated. Bohemians have always considered Great Britian as one of the representative democracies of the world, and it is a fact that most Bohemian political parties, as one of the planks in their political platforms, have a demand for the introduction of many English constitutional customs, this being especially true of the jury system.

It is not without significance that English philosophy became well known in Bohemia through the efforts of that greatest of living Bohemians, Professor [[Author:Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk|Masaryk}}, now the leader of the movement for Bohemian independence, and professor in the London University.

John Stuart Mill is one of the most popular political authors known in Bohemia.

All these bonds of sympathy between Bohemia and England could not be wiped out by a declaration of war by the Vienna government against France and England, and it is only natural that such a declaration was met among the Bohemians with indignation and downright horror.

This was especially true of a war against kindred peoples, against the Russians and the Serbians.

During the first Balkan war, nowhere were the victories of the Balkan league more enthusiastically celebrated than in the capital of Bohemia, in Prague.

But the bonds between the Russian and Serbian people and the Bohemians are not merely those that usually exist between nations of the same origin, but they are also due to the fact that the Serbians and Russians, like all Slavic people, are essentially democratic. The present form of government in that respect makes little difference. The Russian muzhik with his mir is about as near a democracy as can be, and we all know that in their attitude, even to those in power, the Russian muzhiks are known for their democratic simplicity.

The literature of Russia is well known in Bohemia, and there are few Russian works of any significance that have not been translated into the Bohemian language.

The Italian people for a long time suffered under Austrian despotism, and even now are fighting for the liberation of their compatriots still living within Austrian boundaries. Could the Bohemians take a stand against their fellow-sufferers? Most decidedly not.

And where is there a human being in whose breast the plight of heroic Belgium did not engender the desire that Belgium's ravishers be defeated?

Thus we see that the sympathies of the Bohemian people in the present struggle of necessity could be nowhere else than on the side of the Allied powers, and against the Austrian and German governments.

It may be said that all these things are of no account, no value, and no influence in politics, especially international politics. There may have been a time when this was true, but modern governments now are and of necessity must be more responsive to the moods and attitudes of the peoples they rule, and all these matters must therefore be taken into account, not only by the governments, but of necessity wise statesmen will consider them in the future peace conference. Diplomacy cannot be any more a game of the select few, but must take into account popular tendencies and popular opinions.

 

IV.

 

MR. MOWRER, the Daily News correspondent, the other day described the terms upon which the Allies are willing to conclude peace, and one of these he says is the re-establishment of an independent Bohemia. If the Allies can enforce their will, the conclusion of the war will see the re-establishment of Bohemian independence, which in spirit Bohemia never relinquished. Perhaps no single sentence could better describe or express the long struggle of the Czech people to maintain and to regain such independence.

Time was when the whole world listened with bated breath to what was going on in the heart of Europe, in Bohemian lands. In this connection it is a very significant fact, which we must always remember, that at the council of Basle, one of the Bohemian heresies, condemned by the council, was the Hussite thesis that each nation has the right to govern itself.

The right to independence and to self-government was never surrendered by the Czech people, and when the Hapsburgs were called to the Bohemian throne in 1526 they took a solemn oath to maintain Bohemian independence, and such oaths were repeatedly reaffirmed thereafter by members of this reigning family, but never really seriously observed.

Encroachments upon Bohemian independence began by Ferdinand I as early as 1547, when the autonomy of Bohemian cities was destroyed, and the leaders of the movement for such autonomy executed at what is now known in Bohemian history as the "Bloody Diet".

After that the history of Bohemia is largely one of a struggle between the Hapsburgs, aiming at centralization and Germanization on the one hand, and the Bohemians seeking to preserve their independence on the other hand.

The struggle culminated in a Bohemian defeat in 1620, and was followed by ruthless oppression of the nation for almost three centuries thereafter.

However, no amount of persecution, no amount of Germanization could stamp out the spark of Czech national life, and only a few years ago it seemed that no power on earth could prevent the Czechs from achieving self-government within Austria.

It was only the influence and power of Berlin that thwarted the Czech desires during the nineteenth century, and one of the causes of this war may be sought in the desire of Berlin and Budapest to once and forever be rid of the Slavic danger to pan-German and Magyar dreams of empire.

The war is a war not only against England, Russia, and against France, but it is also a struggle against the Slavic majority living in Austria. The Bohemians, having reached the highest state of culture and development among the Austrian Slavs, are an obstacle which the Germans and Magyars seek to crush.

The Vienna government was fully aware that the Czechs, if afforded an opportunity, would oppose the war with all the vigor of a revived and growing nation. It is now apparent that this was the reason for the destruction of the last measure of Bohemian autonomy before the outbreak of the present war when the council of the Bohemian kingdom was dissolved and a special imperial commission created to govern Bohemia.

The present attitude of the Bohemians is therefore not only a result of the inherited national character, not only the result of ancient sympathies and bonds existing between the Czech people and the Russians, the French and the English, but it is a continuation of their efforts to regain their independence.

Ever since the establishment of a semblance of a parliamentary and political life in Austria, the Czech people have been in opposition to the Austrian government, and it certainly was the height of folly to expect that when war broke out against the wishes, against the sympathies, and against the interests of the Czech people, they would support a government with which they were not in accord.

To march without protest to battlefields destined for fratricidal struggles would have been abject cowardice, and would have amounted to a forfeiture of the right of the Czech nation to exist; morally, as well as otherwise, it would have been equivalent to the commission of national suicide. Opposition to the central powers and a virtual spiritual alliance with the Allies was the only course consistent with Czech honor.

It was a terribly test to which the Czech nationality was subjected when the war broke out; a test which literally amounted to a choice between life and death. The present attitude of the Bohemians of course means persecution, it means gallows and the rifle squad for untold numbers of staunch Czechs, but had the Bohemians cravenly submitted to the Austrian government, the efforts to stamp out the Czech nationality would have gone on in any event, but with the endangering and possible loss of nationality would have been coupled a loss of national honor which indeed would have been worse than death individually or collectively.

It is not out of place to confess that some of us watched with anxiety what was going on in Europe. We knew that after the battle of White Mountain the best elements in Bohemian national life were crushed and stamped out, or driven into exile. We realized what inevitable effect this must have had on Czech character for a long, long time, and we wondered whether after all the Czech nationality had again become the nation of Hus and Jerome.

Our highest hopes have not been disappointed; in spite of all the persecution, in spite of the numerous executions, in spite of all the pressure brought upon all Bohemian political parties, the Bohemians in Austria are maintaining a silence which now is indeed more eloquent than words could be, while individuals of Bohemian origin living beyond Austrian boundaries are manifesting with all the vigor in their command sympathies with the Allies. The acid test has been passed successfully, the Czechs are again a nation of Hus and Jerome.

It was Goethe, I believe, who after the battle of Valmy said that he was glad to have lived then because he had seen the inauguration of an epoch. We may well repeat this statement now. We have indeed seen the birth of a new epoch, and we of Bohemian descent may well say that we are especially content to have lived in the present age and to have seen the Bohemian nation again strong and vigorous, again playing its part forcefully in the drama of nations.

 

V.

 

AN attempt has been made to create the impression that the Bohemian movement for independence is nothing but an effort of a few agitators in the service of the Allies, actuated by selfish motives, and influenced by English gold. There has even been some talk of a Bohemian war plot to foster a revolution in Austria, and to draw the United States into war with Germany and Austria.

The workings of the bureaucratic mind are indeed marvelous to behold. The Austrian authorities pretended to be and perhaps were actually surprised at the behavior of those Bohemians who are not subject to Austrian martial law. But only a few years ago a member of an Austrian cabinet declared that the struggle between Bohemians and Germans in Austria ultimately would be decided by force, and that in such contest the Austrian Germans would be victorious with the aid of their kinsmen from the empire, and that the result would be a complete wiping out of the Czechs. That is the kind of government Bohemians have been subjected to, even shortly before the war; that is the kind of government which in this crisis asked for their loyalty.

Whatever progress Bohemians have made during the last century was made in opposition to the Austrian government, and their opposition to Austria at the present time is simply the logical carrying out of the traditional Bohemian attitude toward Austria.

Anyone can understand this, anyone can see the logic of this, anyone can see the inevitability of this, except, of course, an Austrian bureaucrat.

The Bohemians, like most other nations now involved in the war, were surprised by its outbreak; but while opposed to the government, they were not ready for a revolution. For that matter a revolution in modern times is ordinarily a foolhardy thing. One machine gun will easily dispose of a large number of people, and it must be remembered that Bohemians are not led by a few misguided poets. Any talk of rebellion even now is simply an absurdity, and the movement for Bohemian independence has for its object simply to inform the Allied governments and to inform the neutral world of the situation in Austria, and we are confident that at the peace conference the Allied powers will see to it that Bohemia again becomes an independent State. This is not only a requirement of justice, but is a condition precedent to permanent peace.

A war plot indeed! Was it a war plot when, after the sending of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia, monster meetings were held in Chicago, and Bohemian turners spontaneously, without any direction, in one of the Chicago halls tore down the Austrian eagles? Was it a war plot when immediately upon the outbreak of the war Bohemians living in France, England and Russia volunteered to fight in the armies of the Allies?

Yes, even though Bohemians are not thinking of a revolt; even though they are not indulging in any dreams as to a possibility of a revolution in Austria, the Bohemian attitude has found its expression on the battlefield in more ways than one.

In these days we must remember those Bohemian heroes who, in the service of humanity, and for their own nation, fell on the battlefield of Champagne. And how heroically they did struggle! Their deeds of heroism at Carency will be forever remembered. The Bohemian company, fighting with the French in the Champagne region, at Carency, within an hour took three German trenches in succession; it stormed the German trenches with such rapidity that the Bohemian Volunteers outdistanced the supporting troops and entered even the zone beyond the German trenches where the French shells were falling, and ultimately, because of the impossibility of being properly supported, had to be recalled.

There is reliable information that the Bohemian regiments in the Austrian army, as soon as opportunity afforded itself, surrendered to the "enemy". The twenty-eighth regiment surrendered in fact on two occasions, once in Serbia and once in the Carpathians; the eighty-eighth in Serbia; the eleventh in the Carpathians; the eighth, the ninety-first, as well as the one hundred second, in Serbia. Although subsequently again re-established after the 3rd of April, 1915, the twenty-eighth regiment was dissolved by a special army order, signed by the emperor himself, and its re-establishment was resorted to merely for the purpose of deceiving the outside world.

Reliable information has it that the thirty-sixth Bohemian regiment and a Bohemian regiment from the south of Moravia revolted, and it is a fact that after the surrender of the twenty-eighth regiment at Bardejov of those who did not succeed in reaching the Russian lines every fifth man was executed.

There is no gainsaying the fact that several hundred Bohemian officers and soldiers, formerly of the Austrian army, have fought with and are still in the army of Serbia. In Russia there is a whole Bohemian regiment called now the Bohemian Slavic sharpshooters' regiment. Last March there were fifteen hundred Bohemians in this regiment, and five hundred of these wear now the cross of St. George, awarded only for conspicuous deeds of bravery.

The fact remains that the number of Czechs who deserted would make six army corps. That explains many of the Austrian defeats in Serbia and Galicia.

The socalled Bohemian regiments in the Austrian army at the present time are largely made up of a mixture of Magyars, who keep watch over the Bohemians remaining in these regiments.

It is an interesting fact that the president of the branch of the Bohemian National Alliance in Paris, the famous painter, Francis Kupka, himself for months fought in the trenches in France and returned to Paris only after being incapacitated by rheumatism.

Czechs from Australia fought with the English soldiers at Gallipoli.

The services of the Bohemian volunteers have been recognized by Senator Martin in the French senate; by Millerand, a member of the French cabinet, and by Miljukov and Kovalevsky in the Russian duma.

It is no exaggeration to speak of the heroism of these Bohemians fighting voluntarily in the Allied armies; they volunteered because they felt that no Bohemian can stand indifferent and impassive in the struggle against the German desires for world dominion.

Their action was spontaneous, it was the instinctive expression of the Bohemian national character, it was not instigated by any agitation, and it is the best proof possible of the fact that the Czech people can think for themselves; that they have reached maturity; that once again they are ripe for independence.

Unquestionably, these volunteers, with the troops who preferred to go over to the enemy, rather than to fight for a cause abhorrent to them, were heroes in the real sense of the term, and their memories will be preserved forever green and untarnished.

Theirs is the really sublime heroism. For self-effacement, for a similar sacrifice we should in vain seek in history for anything surpassing the heights these men reached; going to perhaps unmarked and unknown graves, all because they felt it their duty to stand along the side of those who fought for a higher civilization, and whose victory should and undoubtedly will result in the erection of a new and independent Bohemian state.

In speaking of these Bohemian volunteers, we may say with Walt Whitman:

 

"Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, — those hearts pierc'd by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughter'd vitality.

They live in other young men, O kings!
They live in brothers again ready to defy you!
They were purified by death—they were taught and exalted.

Not a grave of the murder'd for freedom, but grows seed for freedom, in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.

Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counselling, cautioning.
Liberty! let others despair of you! I never despair of you"

 
Yes, there are other martyrs to the Bohemian cause than the volunteers who have laid down their lives in Russia and France. There have been numerous executions in Austria, and we have reliable information that almost four thousand persons were executed by the Austrian government for political offenses during the first fourteen months of the war, and that a large per cent, of these were Bohemians who dared to express their opposition to the Austrian government. Many Bohemians are in jail, among them the daughter of that most illustrious of Bohemians living, Professor Masaryk. They all are following in the footsteps of Hus and Jerome, and it is appropriate that we pay our tribute to them as well.
 

VI.

 

IN commemorating the memory of those fallen in the present struggle and doing our best to further the cause of Bohemian independence, we are also actuated by motives of best Americanism.

The term Americanism has of late been seen a good deal in the press and it has been on the lips of many of the most prominent statesmen and thinkers of America. Like all terms, it may be given various meanings, depending frequently upon the point of view of those using it. But I submit that real Americanism also means an endeavor to see justice done, and justice means freedom of all oppressed nationalities, means the liberation of those still suffering under the heel of the conqueror.

We submit that it is American public policy to maintain that this country has the right to sympatize with the efforts of any nation to acquire liberty. This, at any rate, was the position of Daniel Webster in the famous Huelseman incident.

The Declaration of Independence declares that among the inalienable rights with which mankind is endowed are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments were erected among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. It necessarily follows that when a government ceases to subserve such purposes, it has lost its right to exist, and indeed has become a menace to the rest of the world. This is true of the Austrian Government, which, for that matter, really never subserved these purposes.

The recent declaration of the rights of nations, adopted by the American Institute of International Law, holds that every nation has the right to the pursuit of happiness and is free to develop itself without interference or control from other states, provided that in so doing it does not interfere with, or violate the rights of other states.

Only last evening, May 27th, in an address before the League to Enforce Peace, the president in substance declared that what concerns any other nation concerns America also because all nations have become our neighbors. In the same address the president laid down certain general principles as those on which the ultimate settlement of the war must be made, unless civilization is to go back about one thousand years to the "might makes right" conception of international conduct. These principles are:—

1—The right of every people to choose the sovereignty under which they shall live.

2—That small states have the same right to respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity as great nations.

3—That the world has a right to be free from disturbance of its peace originating in aggression on the rights of peoples and nations.

The application of these fundamental principles, as the president calls them, means not only the restoration of Belgium and Poland, but also means the end of the Austrian Empire and the erection of an independent Bohemian-Slovak State. No other logical conclusion can be drawn from Woodrow Wilson's speech. Certain it is that the Bohemians never again will voluntarily live under Austrian sovereignty.

We submit that in pleading for the liberation of Bohemia we are therefore adhering to what has long been considered as established American policy, and that we are carrying out the stirring appeal of Woodrow Wilson.

In some quarters an opinion seems to prevail that the president in taking this position perhaps did not fully consider the interests of America. The distinction thus attempted to be drawn is unfortunate, and one that certainly will be abandoned upon second thought. The real interests of humanity and of America ought to be identical, and we believe that in fact they are.

The forefathers of the founders of the American republic came to this country in order to escape religious and political oppression. Americanism is a spiritual attitude, and one not depending upon the accident of birth. Those are the real Americans who in spirit follow the example of the forefathers, and who in our days are the pioneers of liberty for nations, as well as individuals; and they may well claim the American pioneers of the seventeenth and eighteenth century as their spiritual ancestors.

It is conceivable that at the future peace conference America may be a participant. We sincerely hope and indeed expect that America will not become one of the belligerents, and trust that it will be asked to participate in the conference as the greatest of neutral powers. We also trust that at such conference the influence of American statesmanship will be thrown into the scale in favor of the liberation of small nationalities, including the liberation of Bohemia.

The Bohemian inhabitants in this country are here to stay; they are here to become a part of the great American nation, and no doubt they are destined to be dissolved in the crucible making for a new and great English speaking nation in the Western hemisphere. If today we are pleading for the cause of Bohemian independence, we are doing so because of the traditions and ties that still bind us to the country of our ancestors, and we are doing so, as I have already said, as spiritual descendants of those who came to this country, fleeing from old world injustices.

21 If America contributes to permanent and durable peace by saying the word necessary to achieve the liberation of small nationalities it will have earned the undying gratitude of the Czechs living in Europe, as well as all numerically small nations, and it will have contributed a glorious chapter to the history of the world, as well as that of America.

It is a glorious opportunity that confronts America; it is a historical moment of the first magnitude; it is an unusual duty that confronts all of us as individuals. Let us not merely speak of the deeds of great men, let us not be content vdth speaking of the sublime heroism of Hus, Jerome of Prague, the Hussites, the Bohemian volunteers in the present war, and of those who have unflinchingly gone to Austrian gallows, or who have faced unflinchingly the Austrian firing squad; but let us within our own sphere emulate them as far as possible, and let us contribute to the success of the cause for which they died. Only thus can we be real Americans; only thus shall we be true both to American and Czech traditions.

 

VII.

 

IN conclusion may we be permitted to indulge in a dream? It may seem out of place, witnessing as we are the most murderous struggle of the ages, to speak of a future brotherhood of nations. It is entirely possible that many of our most cherished dreams of internationalism have been shattered for a long time to come. Yet, why should it not be possible to indulge in the dream that the Alliance of Russia, England, France, Italy, Belgium, and Serbia, forms the nucleus of the future world federation which all other nations may perhaps join when they have come to their senses, and when they have realized that all dreams of domination of the world by one nation must be given up; that no single nation can dominate for any length of time the whole modern world?

It was an English poet who sang of the time

 

"Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world."

 

I have merely indicated how after all there is a spiritual kinship between those who are engaged today in battle on the Allied side, including among these the Czech nation. Let us hope that at the end of the war these nations will emerge victoriously and that joining hands with them will be Bohemia as a free and independent state; and that co-operating with this nucleus of the future Federation of the World will be the great American Republic.

 
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Bohemian (Czech) National Alliance in America

 


 

The Bohemian National Alliance in America is an organization composed of the "Sokol" gymnastic societies, of the principal Czech fraternal organizations, of social clubs and labor bodies. It has branches in most of the larger cities of the United States, as well as many branches in Canada. It is entitled to speak for the 700,000 Bohemians in the United States.

 

The Bohemian National Alliance is working actively for the freedom of Bohemia, an object which is bound up with the success of the Allies. It opposes the false neutrality tactics employed by Germans living in the United States, particularly their efforts to stop the export of munitions of war.

 

With the Bohemian National Alliance in America are affiliated similar organizations of Czechs living in London, Paris and Switzerland.

 
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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1954, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.