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Last Letters From The Living Dead Man
Germany evolved her idea of flamboyant nationalism and tried to foist it
upon the world in imperial fashion, the world has grown skeptical of the
national fetish. It will believe in the good intentions of no nation or race
that flaunts its perfections in the face of friend or enemy.
America, as she grows more and more sure of her high destiny,
must also grow more modest. She must realize herself as one of the sister
states in the great commonwealth of nations, and the eagle will take lessons
in voice culture. As a quiet voice can make itself heard in a medley of
noises where a screaming voice would be inaudible, so must America’s voice
become deep and quiet.
She is paying for her place in the councils
of the world. Let her voice be heard by reason of its dignified and
A great change is taking place in Europe, in its conception of
the American character. Hitherto France has known the American tourist, and
the uprooted American who lived there in preference to his own country. Now
France is learning something about the American man in his workaday,
playaday, fighting and loving, living and dying sublimity. She has rubbed
her eyes as she watched him, wondering if she were awake. She has recognized
a new type. She does not understand it yet, but she wants to understand it.
There is a new and disturbing warmth now at the heart of France for this new
brother from across the seas. She sees (for she is subtle) the crudity of
him as measured by her more artificial standards. But she sees also the
grandeur and chivalry of him, as compared with her old idea of the
Ah, America and Americans! You are on trial
now in the courts of the world’s judgment as you have never been before. My
heart is aglow as I see our boys go out into the larger world, carrying with
them the clear outdoor spirit of the American plains and woodlands. When I
see the eyes of the sublime and pain-chastened French grow deep and warm as
they rest upon our boys, I am so proud of them! I forget that I am also
uprooted, having left the land of my birth for the regions beyond death.
In the councils at the ending of the war
and after the war, may the modesty of greatness restrain America from any
suggestion to France or England that she saved them from destruction. I
clasp my hands—to you they would be shadowy hands—together with excess of
emotion, as I pray for the guidance of America in the councils that are to
Modesty—let that be the watchword.
The soul of France is aflame with gratitude, the soul of France
is aflame with love. The hearts of the French people in the night grow warm
and their eyes grow wet as they whisper to themselves, “Les Américains! Les
Oh, be mindful of the love you have won!
I would die all over again a thousand times rather than see my
Americans disappoint their French brethren in this crisis of the world’s
You wonder why I say nothing of England?
Ah! England knows you already. England has known you long. You cannot
surprise England. She knows you as the mother knows her son or daughter; but
to the French you are a mystery, a mystery that has come to help, an angel
in a khaki shirt and a slouch hat and a strange voice.
Don’t you understand?
She prays for you. She would pray to you if she were not
so shy in her love. There is a new strange wonder in her eyes, and a sweet
thrill all over her.
Oh, exalt the brotherhood of nations—that never before realized
You cannot take away from a boy who has grown up in a free world
the deep-rooted idea that America is and ever must be free. In years gone by
the sons of this soil have died for freedom, freedom for themselves, freedom
for the black man. Now they fight and die for the freedom of the world.
Do you know what it means to be free? Only
the self-restrained man is free, for lawlessness is not freedom. Lawlessness
is always in leash to passions tyrannical.
In the new America that I see just over the edge of the horizon
(for my eye reaches farther than yours), there will be room for the fullest
development of the individual idea, while the idea of social responsibility
will make it stable. Hitherto individuality has run rampant. Witness the
hoarding of food by a few, while many go without. Watch the clash and
struggle of each interest to take some advantage for itself out of this
Before the war is ended the hearts of men must work in harness
with their minds. The old generation is dying off, the generation whose
initiation girdled the continent with railroads, spurred by the hope of
personal gain. The new men who will follow the old “captains of industry”
will glimpse a new ideal.
I am told by one who knows more than I that the men who have
made industrial America, by their foresight and initiative, were guided and
inspired by Beings who used them and their ambitions for world purposes
beyond their comprehension.