A Circular Letter to Woman Suffragists and Members of the National Council of Women.
The opening of 1913 finds the struggle between reason and brute force being waged more fiercely than at any time within the last generation. A startling outburst of militarism, a hysteria, due in part to infection from Old World chauvinism, is unsettling the minds of the uninformed. Millions have been hoodwinked by the sophistry of men high in power, whose demands are animated by professional pride or desire for contracts rather than by public needs.
Not one in half a million knows that the United States is paying a larger percentage of its annual expenditure in preparing for future war than any other nation in the world but one. Germany, the most exposed to danger, and we, the least exposed to foreign foes, are each paying 43 [percent] of our total national expenditures for future war. Germany has some excuse. We have none. Germany looks well after the health and welfare of her citizens at home. We do not.
Every year the appalling number of 600,000 American lives are lost needlessly. The nation that is protected by two oceans, that has not an enemy in the world, that began every foreign war it ever had, yet is now paying 43 [percent] of its total revenue for future war, nevertheless lets these 600,000 lives -- 40 [percent] of its annual death list -- result from preventable causes -- needless fires and accidents, typhoid, tuberculosis, foul milk and the like.
These facts should be burned into every patriot's mind. Every woman who learns them should pass them on, should see that her pastor and the editor of her paper knows them, and if she is a teacher or mother, that future citizens are taught them also.
Certain bills are now before Congress which should be opposed by all who would help prevent this peace-loving country leading in the van of militarism. One is known as the MILITIA PAY BILL. Its object is to centralize in the national government the control over the militia of each State which, of course, has always hitherto been vested in the State governments. This would be done by payment from the federal funds for the drills of every militiaman, who has hitherto gone to his armory freely with no thought of being paid except when camping or in actual service. The initial annual outlay will be about $9,500,000, but this is the least important consideration. It is sure to advance with leaps and bounds, as such large inducements would be held out to join the militia. In the opinion of President Butler of Columbia University, and of Representative Slayden, who presented the minority report against this dangerous bill, the annual appropriation which we shall later be called to pay will be $100,000,000.
The bill virtually means an enormously increased army, every man in which may, in case of emergency, be sent to Alaska or Mexico or the Philippines. It means a great, new political power, more to be dreaded by far than the pension agent's efforts for the old soldier. Let it be remembered that, in 1879, we were paying but $30,000,000 for pensions, but today, though so many of our veterans are dead, we are paying $190,000,000 in pensions, chiefly for a war that was waged fifty years ago. Let this Militia Pay Bill once pass and it would be harder to rescind than any pension bill. It would commit us to a militarism which would more than neutralize all that we could do for peace. It would indicate a most disgraceful terror and timidity on our part, unpardonable when no new and overwhelming danger exists. Washington advices say that this bill will come up in the spring session of Congress if it does not pass this winter. It is strenuously supported by the militarists.
Last year the House of Representatives refused to appropriate money for any battleship but finally yielded to the Senate and compromised on one. This one, alas, was for $15,000,000 and larger and costlier than any other; it simply sets a new standard for the world which all must equal. President Taft declared [page 2] that when the Canal was opened, as it will be in a year, only one battleship a year need be asked for. Yet this year the Naval Board asks for four new battleships and Secretary [Meyer] asks for three! It is claimed that these three will simply replace old ones and that we must have them if we are to maintain our prestige. The answers are:
a. As Great Britain spends only 34 [percent] of her total expenditures in preparation for future war, and all the other powers but Germany still less, the United States, which is much less exposed, can safely spend 34 [percent] as well, instead of her present 43 [percent].
b. Our influence in international matters does not depend upon our armaments. In 1899, at the first Hague Conference, our influence was as great as England's, despite her vastly larger forces. In 1907, at the second Hague Conference, Germany accomplished much more than England, though her navy was much smaller than hers.
c. The United States, which in all its foreign wars lost less than 15,000 men by foreign bullets, which can have a complete arbitration treaty with England and France and doubtless with Germany and Japan as well, as soon as two-thirds of our Senate will consent, is the only nation that has only hypothetical enemies to refuse to head the procession in the direction in which all must sooner or later turn. Our courage and example would inspire the world if we should take a little step in the reduction of armaments.
d. All our coastline is protected whether we have a fleet or not. Every coast city has forts and, according to the Hague agreement in 1907, no unfortified place can be bombarded, and mines may be placed to prevent landing of troops.
To the navy slogan, "Battleships are cheaper than battles," may be retorted, "Statesmanship can forestall possibility of battles and is cheaper than battleships." The Hundred Years Peace, which we soon shall celebrate on both sides of the longest frontier line upon the continent would not have endured had not the eight collisions between the two branches of the English speaking race during that hundred years found both disarmed along that border line. Because we had no irritation and no temptation to fight across that border, we settled our difficulties peaceably.
WHAT YOU CAN DO.
1. If you have the vote, write to your Congressmen asking them to vote against the Militia Pay Bill and for no battleship until our percentage of expenditures for future wars shall be no more than Great Britain's, i.e., 34 [percent] of the total expenditures.
2. If you have no vote, ask some voter to do the same.
3. If you are willing to read or to help others to know what to read and to do upon the great problem of world peace and justice, apply to the World Peace Foundation, 40 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, Mass., for a new pamphlet, sent free, entitled "Club Women and the Peace Movement." Pass on whatever you learn. One little taper may light a thousand candles.
Since writing the above, advices from headquarters give information that the Executive Board of the National American Woman Suffrage Association has abolished most of its committees, including the one on peace and arbitration. While in many States, especially in campaign States, suffrage organizations will naturally concentrate their energies on enfranchisement, it is of the utmost importance that suffragists as individuals should not ignore the great issues for which they need the suffrage. The newly enfranchised need to give the most serious attention to our alarming advance in militarism. They are now as responsible in their states as the men if it continues. The unenfranchised will be unprepared to use the ballot when they get it if they ignore great public issues and until then narrow all their interests down to one.
I therefore issue this leaflet although I [cannot], as in former years, sign myself as the chairman of the peace and arbitration committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
I shall be glad to receive criticisms, questions and pertinent correspondence regarding the substitution of the system of law for the system of war, and as to how women can help to inform the public and arouse the nation to its dangers. The constituent bodies in the National Council of Women have it in their power to do much to create widespread intelligence on this fundamental question.
LUCIA AMES MEAD,
Chairman of Peace and Arbitration Department of the National Council of Women.
39 Newbury Street, Boston, Mass., January 17, 1913.