| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
WILSON—THE GREAT WAR
 THE disorder in Mexico was distressing to America, it was disastrous
to the Mexicans themselves. But the effect on America as a whole
was slight, while the world at large felt it scarcely at all.
In August, 1914, while the Mexican trouble was still grave, the
Great War broke out in Europe. This, strange to say, was to prove
a far greater menace to the peace of the United States than the
war and bloodshed in the turbulent republic on her borders.
In the days of the French Revolution, when France was warring with
a sea of foes, Washington had declared the United States to be
neutral. He had refused to draw sword even in aid of the friend
who only a few years before had helped Americans so generously in
their struggle for freedom. He was wise. For in those days America
was weak. She was the youngest of the world's great nations, she
had hardly "found herself." Had she mixed herself in the European
quarrel she would have suffered greatly, perhaps might even have
lost her new-found freedom.
All this Washington knew. Gratitude was due to France, but not
useless sacrifice, which would merely bring ruin on America, and
help France not at all. So Washington declared for neutrality, and
Thirty years later Monroe announced his famous Doctrine. That
Doctrine in the words of Henry Jefferson was, "First, never to
entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe;
 second, never to suffer
Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs." To that doctrine
America has remained faithful. But in the ninety years which have
passed since it was first announced many changes have taken place.
America is no longer weak, but grown to giant's strength, great
among the great. The trade of Europe and the trade of America have
become interlocked, discoveries and inventions, the wonders of steam
and electricity, have made light of the broad Atlantic. To-day men
come and go from the one continent to the other with greater ease
than a hundred years ago they went from Boston to Washington.
By a thousand ties of commerce and of brotherhood the old world
is bound to the new. So the war cloud which darkened Europe cast
its shadow also over America, even although at first there was no
thought that America would be drawn into the war. Was it possible,
men asked, while Europe was at death grips, for America still to
keep her "splendid isolation," was it not time for her to take a
place, "In the Parliament of man, in the Federation of the world?"
The ties which bind America to Europe bind her to no one country,
but to all; bind her equally, it would seem, to France, Britain and
Germany. The first founders of the Republic were of British stock,
but with the passing years millions of Germans have found a home
within her hospitable borders, together with natives of every
nation at war. How then could America take sides? No matter which
side she took it seemed almost certain to lead to civil war at
home. So on the 11th of August, 1914, Mr. Wilson proclaimed the
neutrality of the United States.
To the great bulk of the nation this seemed wise, for the nation
as a whole loves and desires peace, and realises the madness and
uselessness of war. Indeed America more than the nations of the Old
World has come to see the war is an old-fashioned, worn-out way of
 But although the United States might proclaim her neutrality she was
none the less entangled in the war. Germany declared a blockade of
Britain, Britain declared a blockade of Germany, and these Orders
in Council had a far greater effect on American trade than the
Berlin Decrees and the Orders in Council in the day of Napoleon.
Difficulties arose with both countries. But the difficulties which
arose with Britain were such as wise statesmanship might allay.
They were concerned with such things as the censoring of mails, and
other irritating delays, which interfered with and caused loss of
trade. With Germany the difficulties were of a far more serious
order, and soon all sane and freedom loving men found it difficult,
if not impossible, to remain neutral in spirit.
The German cause had never been a good one. No danger threatened
the country. No European nation desired to make war upon them.
They went to war wantonly, and without just cause. Soon it became
plain that they meant to wage war with a ruthlessness and inhumanity
the world had never known. They threw to the winds all the laws
of "fair play." Treaties became for them mere "scraps of paper,"
to be torn if necessity demanded. They marched through Belgium
murdering and torturing the people, wantonly destroying the splendid
buildings which had been the country's glory and pride. Zeppelins
attacked watering places and fishing villages, ruining peaceful homes,
slaying women and children, without reason or profit. Submarines
waged ruthless war on the seas, attacking alike traders, passenger
vessels or hospital ships, belligerent or neutral, without distinction.
As outrage followed outrage the whole world was filled with horror,
and one by one Germany's friends turned from her, estranged by her
deeds of violence. These were days, as Mr. Wilson said, "to try
men's souls," and the
 burden of guiding the ship of state through
the sea of difficulties lay heavy upon him.
At home and abroad his critics were many. Some praised him because
he kept the nation steadfastly on the difficult path of peace,
others blamed him because it seemed to them he did not sufficiently
uphold American honour, and submitted to German insults rather
than draw the sword. No great man in a difficult hour can escape
criticism. Few, if any, can escape mistakes.
Amid the clash of opinions one thing was clear, that Mr. Wilson was
a patriot. And when in 1916 the time came to choose a President he
was re-elected for a second term of four years.
In March, 1917, the President entered upon his new term of office
well aware that a hard road lay before him and his country. As he
took the oath he opened and kissed the Bible at the passage "God
is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." His
address was imbued with a sense of the dread solemnity of the times.
"I stand here, and have taken the high solemn oath," he said,
"because the people of the United States have chosen me, and by
their gracious judgement have named me their leader in affairs. I
know now what the task means.
"I pray God that I be given wisdom and prudence to do my duty in
the true spirit of this great people. I am their servant, and can
succeed only as they sustain and guide me by their confidence, and
their counsel. . .
"The shadows that now lie dark upon our path will soon be
dispelled. We shall walk with light all about us if we be but true
to ourselves—to ourselves as we have wished to be known in the
counsels of the world, in the thought of all those who love liberty,
justice, and right exalted."
We cannot here follow in detail all the steps by which Germany
forced America at length to declare war. It was in a spirit of
service that Mr. Wilson took up his office
 for a second time, of
service not only to his own country but to the world. In the cause
of that service he saw himself forced to lead his country into war.
Germany had filled America with spies, plotting constantly against
her peace and her honour. She had run amuck upon the seas, and by
her submarine warfare endangered the lives and welfare of all mankind.
She had become a menace to the world's freedom. The President loves
peace even as the soul of America loves peace. But both President
and people became at length convinced that the only way to restore
peace to the world was to defeat the authors of the war.
Having arrived at this grave conclusion there was no turning back,
and on the 2nd April, 1917, Mr. Wilson announced his decision at
a joint session of the two houses of Congress.
It was not lightly undertaken.
"It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war,
into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization
itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious
than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always
carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those
who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments,
for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal
dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring
peace and safety to all nations, and make the world itself at last
"To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything
that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those
who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend
her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and
happiness, and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her
she can do no other."
 In these noble words the President of the United States threw down
the gauge of battle. There was in his heart no rancour against
the German people, but only a righteous wrath against her criminal
rulers who for their own selfish ends had plunged the world in
misery. Never in the world's history has a great nation gone to
war in so chivalrous a spirit, for so unselfish ends.
"We have no selfish ends to serve," said the President. "We desire
no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no
material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We
are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be
satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith
and the freedom of nations can make them."
The voice was the voice of the President, but he spoke from the
heart of the people. Brought together from the ends of the earth,
speaking many tongues, worshipping God in many ways, diverse in
character and in custom, the nation which stands behind the President
to-day is one in heart. In the fiery trail of battle America has
found her soul, and the American by adoption has proved himself as
truly a citizen of the country as the American by birth. Divided by
birth and language, by religion and custom, they are one in soul,
one in their desire to dedicate themselves to the great unselfish
task they have taken in hand, one in the zeal of sacrifice.
Who can say what days of terror and splendour the future may hold?
As I write it lies before us a blacker sea of darkness and adventure
than that Columbus crossed. But it would seem that for the great
Republic it can hold no diviner hour than this. "Greater love hath
no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
There could be found no more splendid close to a splendid story.
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
. . . . . . .
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
O, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet,—
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make me free,
While God is marching on."
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