Thirty Reasons Why Our Navy Should Not Be Enlarged, January 15, 1909


Thirty Reasons Why Our Navy Should Not Be Enlarged.

The following statement of reasons why our navy should not be enlarged has just been issued with the endorsement of a large body of the leading men of the country, including Charles Francis Adams, Jane Adams, Samuel Bowles, John Graham Brooks, Andrew Carnegie, James Duncan, President Faunce of Brown University; A. B. Farquhar, Edwin Ginn, Washington Gladden, Edward Everett Hale, William D. Howells, Chester Holcombe, Prof. William James, the Rev. Charles E. Jefferson, President Jordan of Leland Stanford University; Bishop William N. McVickar, Marcus Marks, N. O. Nelson, Gen. Wililam J. Palmer, the Rev. Charles H. Parkhurst, George Foster Peabody, Bliss Perry, Dean Henry Wade Rogers, of the Yale Law School; Prof. William G. Sumner, Lincoln Steffens, Ida M. Tarbell, President Thwing of Western Reserve University; President Thompson of the State University of Ohio; Booker T. Washington, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, President Mary W. Woolley , of Mount Holyoke College, and others.

1. Because we have fought foreign foes, English, Spanish, and Mexican, only six years in the 125 years since the Revolution. In every foreign war we made the first attack. With less danger from attack than any other nation, we are now spending more for past war and preparation for future war than any other nation in the world.

2. Because our extent of coast line has little relation to danger from attack. The second Hague conference has provided for immunity from bombardment of all unfortified towns and from levying contributions by threat of bombardment. We should be safer still if we reduced fortifications, as one of our delegates to The Hague has said so.

3. Because The Hague conference also provided for arbitration of disputes over contractual debts, thereby removing excuse for our keeping a navy to prevent forcible collection of such depts of South America to Europe.

4. Because a navy is less needed that ever to protect South America, as it is now perfectly capable of a defensive alliance among its nations to repel any wanton attack from outside. Reasons which made the Monroe doctrine necessary when there was a "Holy Alliance" and the weak South American republics were unconnected by telegraphs and railroads have no application when modern communications soon to include the Panama Canal, and enormously increased population, wealth, and mutual friendship make them now far from eager to continue our overlordship. With the price of a few torpedo boats we might secure by education and diplomacy a federation of South American states.

5. Because there is no danger from China, a peace-loving nation friendly to us. Our return of the indemnity has done more to promote peace with her than anything else could do. According to the testimony of Secretary Luke Wright, of John W. Foster, of Secretary Taft, and of more than 100 missionaries to Japan familiar [page 2] with the language, customs, and politics, there is not the slightest foundation for the violent and frothy talk which is emanating from a few Americans against Japan and is poisoning the minds of millions of our uninformed citizens. Said Ambassador Wright, "The talk of war between this country and Japan isn't even respectable nonsense." The one hundred missionaries say: "We desire to place on the record our profound appreciation of the kind treatment which we experience at the hands of both government and people; our belief is that the alleged belligerent attitude of the Japanese does not represent the real sentiments of the people. We wish to bear testimony to the sobriety, sense of international justice and freedom from aggressive designed exhibited by the great majority of the Japanese people." Nothing could do more to develop the opposite feeling that the baseless assumption and insulting statements published by certain irresponsible newspapers and military men.

6. Because of an excessive, unhealthy reliance on force in our country in recent years which calls attention away from the real foes at home to supposititious foreign enemies. Its spirit fills the newspapers with reckless, unfounded suspicions and accusations, distorting historic statements, promotes constant talk about war and preparation for war, of [maneuvers], promotions, and technical details, and makes us blind to the real sources of our greatest loss of life and property.

7. Because our three foreign wars since 1781, which lasted only six years, cost in life, all told, in battle, nothing comparable with our reckless slaughter by accidents every year in time of peace. The $60,000,000 increase of the navy asked for last year, if spent in fighting disease, ignorance, waste, and wickedness at home, probably could save as much life and property as all our foreign and civil wars have cost. In five years we have lost alone by fire, largely preventable, $1,200,000,000. In four years we have killed, by accident, largely preventable, 80,000 more than were killed on both sides in the four years of civil war.

8. Because we already spending over 65 [percent] of the nation's revenue in payment for past war and in preparation for future war, and have but one-third of our national revenue left for judicial and executive departments, coast guard, lighthouses, quarantine, custom houses, [post offices], census, waterways, forestry, consular and diplomatic service, and all other constructive work.

9. Because we have increased our expenditure for defense two hundred times during a period when our population has increased only twenty-two times, our coast line perhaps three times, and our real danger from attack not at all.

10. Because we are protected by nature as is no other country, and have not the excuse for a great navy which England has, nor for a strong army which Germany has. Our wealth is as great a protection as our geographical position.  We supply our own necessities and are not dependent as many nations are. General Sheridan said that no nation on the continent of Europe had sufficient ships to spare to bring over enough soldiers to carry on one campaign so far from its base of supplies.

11. Because we shall need no navy to protect the Philippines if we but ask the nations to pledge preservation of their autonomy when we grant them their independence. No nation could refuse or would dare wantonly break such a pledge made to the world. The neutralization, in this manner, of exposed places is one of the most successful methods of preventing war which we can further use. The pledge between the United States and Great Britain to remove battleships and forts from our Canadian border has, since 1817, secured peace at no expense on over three thousand miles of frontier. Without this pledge we should probably have had war. So long as this line is unguarded, we shall never fight Great Britain.

12. Because all the great nations in one place or another are securing safety from territorial aggrandizement by pledging territorial inviolability.  All the nations on the Baltic and North Seas signed treaties in April, 1908, to respect each other's territory on those waters. Turbulent Central America has secured peace by similar methods. It is the method of the future.

13. Because, in spite of our strategic position and the fact that Europe largely depends on us for food, we are spending for defense more than France and only $36,000,000 less than Germany, and only $66,000,000 less than Great Britain, which has possessions to protect around the globe, and is unable to feed herself except by imports.

14. Because labor put into the construction of armaments could be better employed to increase our insufficient railroad capacity, and as many men could be employed in making rails and engines, of which we have too few to move our crops, as in making armor plate and instruments of destruction.

15. Because the recent arbitration treaties signed with Great Britain, France, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan and Germany minimize the possibility of war with those countries, and we have no fear of any others.

16. Because, as was unanimously agreed at the Arbitration Conference in 1904 in Washington, attended by a great body of our most eminent public men, there is no question of "honor" or "vital interest" which cannot be arbitrated, except, of course, that of autonomy, which can be secured by international pledge, and in our case is beyond menace. Some of the smaller nations have already agreed to arbitrate every question. There is no excuse for increased armaments until we have at least tried to get the great powers to pledge themselves to arbitrate every question with us.

17. Because we can secure far greater safety by expending on a Peace Budget a small amount every year -- say one dollar out of every thousand voted for armaments. Last year that would have been $222,000, which in the hands of a commission could have brought one hundred eminent Japanese here and sent one hundred of our Congressmen and editors to Japan. Banquets, speeches, interviews, lectures, etc., would have brought about an understanding and friendship which might have easily prevented the vote for the new "Dreadnought." This method was recommended by the Interparliamentary Union, and is worth more even than the ounce of prevention which is worth a pound of cure. Courtesy and goodwill are more powerful than explosives in preventing war.

18. Because a national and racial arrogance is growing in our country, and bumptious talk about our being "master of the Pacific," thought there are ten other [page 3] nations bordering on it, is leading a part of the press and people to insult and irritate other peoples with the sense of impunity in our impudence which a huge navy lends. We, as well as other nations, have found easy euphemisms to ease our consciences when using our military power to further our own ends. We shall be far less likely to be hot-headed and rash and to rush into needless war if we do not increase our navy. It is naive conceit to say that we are so peaceful and just that we can never be tempted to wage a needless war. The war with Mexico was fought in the interests of slavery, and was called iniquitous by General Grant, who fought in it. Said Secretary of States Sherman concerning the Spanish War: "We could have adjusted our difficulties without the loss of blood and treasure." Said Congressman Boutelle, "President McKinley, if Congress had left the matter to him, would have secured everything we wanted in Cuba without the sacrifice of one drop of American or Spanish blood."

19. Because our navy is already so large as to incite other nations to increase theirs. Our naval increase was quoted last year in the French Assembly as an argument for a French increase. This senseless rivalry is driving certain would-be customers of ours towards bankruptcy.

20. Because the increase of our navy does not increase respect of foreigners for us. Respect can be given only to moral qualities. Our indifference to lawlessness and our civic corruption are well known abroad. We have no more moral influence than we had thirty years ago, when every monarchy in Europe was being sapped by our democracy. Plutocracy and militarism made us talked of, and dreaded, but not respected. Many, perhaps, are glad that we are being hampered in our race for commercial supremacy by saddling ourselves with the Old Word's military burdens.

21. Because our dignity no more depends on battleships than upon lighthouses or fire engines. We should feel pride if we are safe enough to dispense with a few. A European city built of stone rejoices that it does not need our costly fire apparatus. A large navy is a confession of conscious weakness or timidity.

22. Because increase of the navy is an implication that new dangers are in sight and old friends are to be suspected. It arouses rivalry and irritation with other nations. The two nations [today] who are the most armed are in the most danger of fighting. Just as Germany's and England's increase of naval power mutually irritates each other, so Japan's military skills has stirred the emulation of our jingoes, masking themselves under the conceited plea that we are par excellence the peaceful people of the world and can do no wrong with our navy.

23. Because "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind" ought to be more and more the controlling motive of nations as of individuals. A navy is but a small element in our defense even from foreign foes, to say nothing of defense from our far greater domestic dangers to life and property. We have been secure from attack with our fleet at the antipodes.

24. Because the demand for it comes chiefly from those who ignore the new substitutes for war, and whose military training fits them only to kill enemies, but not to prevent friends becoming enemies. They understand explosives but not human nature, or politics, or diplomacy, or the methods which have produced the astounding bloodless revolution in Turkey; or the demand comes from the class which supplies implements of war and surreptitiously keeps up war scares which the gullible voters make profitable to them.

25. Because declaration of non-intercourse embodied in treaties is a feasible and far more powerful force. We would better spend our energy in studying this new agent, advocated by Justice Brewer of the Supreme Court and other able men, now made possible by modern conditions of communication and politics. If one tithe of the $60,000,000 asked for were spent on an educational campaign for a pledge of non-intercourse from England, France and the United States against any nation which attacked one of them and refused to arbitrate, it would do more to keep the world's peace than all their navies. Were two of these strong nations previously to make public their signed agreements to withdraw diplomats and stop commerce upon wanton attack on the third power, no nation would ever attack a third. The declaration would suffice. This is a totally different thing from the old-fashioned embargo declared by one nation on another after war began. Even the unorganized Chinese boycotts, not backed by the Chinese government, made us remove injustices, and more recently coerced Japan. If in fifteen years 400,000,000 organized Chinese refuse to buy goods if they are ill treated, the greatest navies will avail nothing to get their market.

26. Because new interventions in all probability will make existing armaments useless before Japan, even if she wanted to attack us, could recuperate from her financial drain sufficiently to do so. Airships may make battleships useless.

27. Because an increase of the navy argues infidelity to the great achievements of the Hague conventions. It is childishly inconsistent to create more force when better methods are being substituted for it.

28. Because every enlargement of the navy draws men from constructive work. It keeps them always on the outlook for trouble which alone could give them the sense of being of real service and importance, and getting promotions and honors. Advocates of large navies are notably skeptical about other methods than force for promoting peace, and draw the attention of the public away from the quiet and effective to the old-fashioned methods which tickle eye and ear with noisy and spectacular effects.

29. Because by lowering excessive tariffs, and thus promoting commercial fraternity, we could do more for peace than through intimidation by armaments.

30. Because we have not the faintest ground to suspect there will ever be a war again with England so long as our northern frontier is free from her fortifications; nor with Spain, whose interests hereafter cannot cross ours; nor with any of the other nations with whom we have always be at peace, and who could fight us only at a range of thousands of miles from their base of supplies. We are especially secure, as Europe is dependent on us for a large share of her food supply, and the Orient has everything to lose and nothing to gain by attacking us. The "Yellow Peril" is a psychological obsession of a few scaremongers who do not read Oriental languages or respect people who have not white skins, but who [page 4] translate their suspicions into statements which are not facts, and help create the very hostility that would excuse their cry for an increased navy.

January 15, 1909.

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