View original document

The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.

Address by
D. R.


before the
October l g ,

For release in morning papers,
Friday, October 1 9 , 1933.





After accepting your generous invitation to deliver some observations on this occasion, I turned over in nay mind the possible themes
I might discuss.

It occurred to me that I might cause a sensation by

making a serious speech on business and affairs, without including any
allusion to the "impending collapse of civilization."
me as so novel that I examined it with some care.
the experiment of complete unconventionality?

The idea struck

Why shouldn ! t one try

Why not cut the bonds of

tradition, and indulge the shocking originality of dealing merely with
the facts? 4 Wouldn't it be possible to shake off the fears and fancies
that have befogged our reasoning, to lay the ghosts and ignore the superstitions?

Might not one give a deaf ear to those spirit-rappings which

have wellnigh worn out the long tables in so many directors' rooms?
Suppose--just suppose— that one should insist on seeing the silver
lining and conjuring up no vision of the seamy sidel

Imagine one being

just simply sane and cheerful about the business and political prospectl
Consider the possibilities of surprising an audience by pointing to
quite a few things with pride, and declining to view any at all with
profound alarm I
It would, of course, be a daring thing.

The innovator could be

sure of ignominious expulsion from all the rarer intellectual areas.
He would have to count on constant dismissal from those exclusive sets
wherein the "collapse of civilization" has latterly succeeded our old
friend the


sociall%rilVion", as the manifest end of the "existing order."

He would merit and gain the unqualified scorn of all those'of earnest
thinkers whose primary postulate is that "whatever i s , is wrong."




The more I thought of it, the more the idea appealed to me.


when I looked about me.for some models of literary form for such a
speech, I found that there were none in modern records.

I finally found

myself delving into ancient and dust-covered tomes, printed in a language
with which we are nowadays all too unfamiliar.

Nevertheless, I per-

severed, and presently was prowling in the forgotten records of 1912 and
191*+, of 1907, and even into the hoary traditions which have been handed
down from the period 1893-1896.
From these chronicles of the dark ages I gleaned that there actually
was a time when men wrote and talked about current affairs in such
cheerful, ^ven hopeful terms that it was frequently possible to get a
hearing without even mentioning that the gold standard had become obsolete, or that universal bankruptcy was probably inevitable, or that
civilization was a failure, or even tha.t human society was on the point
of dissolution.

I found authentic instances of men getting their

speeches printed in the newspapers, sometimes even on the front pages,
even though they omitted to predict a new war,


to announce that the

sun was cooling off, or that the ocean was drying up, or that a new
glacial age was looming in sight just around the corner of tomorrow.


was all so curiously interesting that I decided to try the experiment of
making an old-fashioned speech of that type with you gentlemen as the
Before committing myself irrevocably to this performance, I determined to survey some nooks and corners of affairs, to find out whetter
there could be possible justification for hopefulness about anything in

-3human relations.


At the beginning, I was reminded of the old theory

the economic causation of all wars;



the theory that, for instance, the

war of X91U- really happened because the industrial and comnercial rivalry
of Germany and England made it necessary for Germany to destroy England
if Germany was to go on prospering and expanding, or else for England to
destroy Germany if England was to remain a real factor in thp, business

It seems never to have occurred to any of the economic caus-

ationists that the world might be big enough;" to hold£ a. prosperous
Germany and a prosperous England at the same time-. Far less did any of
these suspect that a prosperous Germany might be yet more prosperous because of the existence of a prosperous England, or that a prosperous
England might actually be the gainer because of the good fortune of Germany,
We all remember when this theory of economic causation was.solemnly
and widely accepted.

The wars of England, and France, and Spain, and

Holland, of Sweden and Russia, and Prussia and Poland, over a half dozen
centuries, were analyzed in the light of this theory.

The conclusion

seemed to be tha-t if by any supreme misfortune two countries should ever
stumble into a state of progress and prosperity at the sane tins,


would just na.tura.lly have to fight until one or both of them was extinguished.

You will all .remember how some protagonists of ultimate

disaster projected this theory into the future.

They assured us that after

Europe had finished its struggle, the United States would presently have
to fight the winners; and after that, the winner of this last qualifying
bout would sooner or later have to fight Japan 1
It was a thoroughly developed theory, completely satisfactory to those

-Uwhom it completely satisfied-.


But on examining it in the light of everts

since 1918, I found some serious blowholes in i t .

I observed that England

and her allies had no sooner destroyed the military power, the financial
system, the monetary fabric and the world-flung commerce of Germany, than
England herself began demanding the rehabilitation of Germany, in order that
a prosperous Germany mi^it resume its contributions to the prosperity of

It seemed that England, instead of insuring her own good fortune

by destroying that of Germany, was actually suffering only less than Germany herself.

Instead of rejoicing because German competition had been

eliminated, our English friends began to discover that in destroying German
competition they had also destroyed the German market for their wares,
and that this German market had been doing them vastly more good than German
competition had done harm.

From Manchester to Glasgow, from Nottingham

to Coventry, from the Mercey to the Clyde, from John 0'Groat's to Land's
End, went up the demand that Germany be put back on its feet as soon as

possible, for the benefit of English trade, English industry, English finance,
English prosperity and peace of mind I

We had ceased to hear how the Germans

were capturing British markets everywhere.

But we did hear, in terms of

ever-increasing earnestness, the story of how greatly British industries
had been dependent on the German market; of how Germany had been Britain 1 s
greatest customer in the entire continent of Europe; of how impossible it
was, in short, for Britain to get on unless Germany was permitted to get
on also.
This discovery that your prosperous neighbors are more useful as
customers than they are harmful as competitors, has been borne in on all
of us in the last five years.

In 19lU, Russia was the greatest vrtieat

-5exporting nation in the world*


Any economist of the I91U variety would

have told you that if the wheat exports of Russia should cease, then the
wheat growers of Canada and the United States would be certain to enjoy
unprecedented prosperity.

But how ha.s the theory worked out?

A group

of gentlemen from Minnesota, Kansas and neighboring areas were telling me
the other day how it had been working.

While the proprieties of genteel

conversation forbid a literal repetition of what they said about i t , I am
at liberty to tell you that they seemed convinced that*there was a screw
loose somewhere in the theory of getting rich off your neighbors* misfortunes.

They wanted trade with the outside world reestablished, so that

they might sell their foodstuffs to it.

They were viewing their problem

in the light of realization that trade and commerce must be reciprocal*
They appreciated the big fact that in most deals, both sides profit-


saw that mutually advantageous exchanges are necessary to prosperity and
the acquisition of wealth.

Let me add that have got that funda-

mental established in the minds of men, you have gained much on the way
to sound economic thought and procedure.
Take the merchant marine situation of the world as another illustration.

Millions upon millions of tons of shipping had been destroyed

during the war.

Shelves and warehouses the world over were empty»


dustrial plants and public works were universally in a state of disrepair.
Manifestly, such ships as were left on the seas would now be assured more
cargoes than they could possibly handle.

Shipping, everybody agreed, was

going to be one of the real a.fter-the-war bonanzas.
But again, something went wrong with the theory of getting rich by
profiteering off your impoverished neighbor.

It developed that an im-


poverished neighbor is a. poor customer.


Even under the pleasant system

of lending him the money with which to pay for your goods, he cannot be
confidently relied on to stay in the market; and anyhow, there are increasing misgivings as to the ultimate profits of this sort of trading.
Illustrations might be multiplied indefinitely»
perity is a contagious and self-propagating affair;

to show that prosthat depression is the

same; and that competition among communities that are all prosperous, is
truly, in a sense that too few of us have quite .realized, the life of trade
Now let us consider for a. moment what progress has been mode since
the armistice, and what justification we can find for an attitude of hopefulness.

For a long time after the end of the war, the world was almost

as much absorbed in the struggle to establish peace as it had been in the
business of fighting.

In fact, the struggle at Versailles was so long and

difficult that I think it somewhat obscured our realization of the cataclysmic character of the war, and of the enormous economic losses it had

So long as fighting was in progress and the

world nerved to

every effort at destruction, prepared for every sacrifice, the wheels
went on turning; but when the supreme and instant need of effort and sacrifice seemed to be removed, there was a certain incapacity to realize how
feaxful had been the waste, and how long and painful must be the process
of rehabilitation.

I do not mean that anybody expected normalcy to be

magically restored with the resumption of peace.

I know that many people

even realized that the problems of peace would be wellnigh as difficult as
those of war.

But this realization reached only a very small minority of

Consequently there was impatience when it began to be appreciated



that the era of reconstruction mast cover many/years,

and that there

must be the same willingness to economize and sacrifice that there had
been during the war, but without the same incentive.

There must be the

same willingness to forego extravagances, the same consecration to thrift,
that all had. so patriotically urged during the war.
Students of history knew that other great and protracted


particularly the Napoleonic war^.had been followed by long periods of industrial depression and social disorganization-

They kSnew that Europe

did not even begin to recover for centuries from the demoralization that
followed the downfall of the Western Empire.

They knew that the long

period of social and political turbulence in England, leading to the reform legislation of 1832, was as much a consequence of the Napoleonic wars
as were the enormous debts which those wars imposed upon Europe.
But even among the students of history, themselves a pathetically
small minority, there was small realization of the extent to which the
difficulties of .rehabilitation must be accentuated in this 20th century
by reason of the increased complexity and interdependence of human society.
The vast majority of people, who were not students of these things, could
not possibly appreciate the difficulties that the world confronted.
In these circumstances , there was need for a new kind of leadership;
for an intellectual and spiritual guidance, \uite
which had been required during the war*

different from that

It has been said a thousand times

that a different sort of statesmanship was needed to carry forward the
struggle for restoration of peace than had been required to conduct the

This involved no .reflection upon the ability or services of the nsn

vtfio had been the war-time chiefs.

It was simply not in human nature that



a leadership steeped in the heavy atmosphere of conflict, trained to the
hard determination of conquest by force, should instantly throw off this
tradition, breathe the new atmosphere, and recognize the completely
changed circumstances to which mankind must now adapt itself*
Let me repeat, that to say these things is not to reflect upon the
skill or ability of that leadership which suddenly found itself shouldering
the burden of peace-time.

The leaders simply shared the disabilities of

substantially the entire community.

It was unavoidable that there should

be an interregnum between war and the full restoration of peace.


had always been necessary, and doubtless in like conditions always will

Men must take new bearings, and, surveying the new conditions,


that the old order could never,-never- return as the normal state of

They must clearly envisage-jfcfoe new relations and conditions, and

adjust themselves to the weightier responsibilities which these imposed
in dealing with the world-wide difficulties of the new epoch.

They must

have time to think on these things, to measure the revolution in the financial and economic world, and in the minds and hearts and souls of men.
Mrv Lloyd George, declaring that England must be made " a place f i t for
heroes to live i n , " gave eloquent voice to the wellM?L$i universal aspiration
of this period.
The hard experiences, the grim realizations that have come to men in
the last five years, have not changed that underlying purpose to make this
a more livable world, to make our country a more lova.ble country, for the
great ma.3s of the people.

But these recent years have brought much of

postponement and disappointment.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick»


these five years of the struggle for restored peace, hope deferred has made
the heart of mankind cynical, dubious about the better day that was to



come with its tomorrow of peace.
Let us now inquire briefly whether there are not sorre justifications
for a more cheerful view of the situation.

In an early period of the

struggle to restore peace and its real blessings, I recall reading somewhere a compilation of pessimism which set forth that the world, instead
of having one big war on its hands, had I believe twenty-one minor wars
going on.

We ware assured therefore that the peace was a mere fiction.

It did indeed look so for a time.
wars today?

But where are those twenty-one little

Some of them I guess are not yet entirely liquidated, but on

the whole the world has made this much progress! It has substituted something like an armed peace for pretty widespread war.
The great war is ended.
The effort of Bolshevism to drive its way westward and subjugate
central Europe has been thwarted.
The 1 ater effort of Bolshevism to annex Asia, has likewise failed.
The fear of Russian communism spreading itself over Genrany and becoming a new and greater menace to We stern civilization-, has been pretty
thoroughly dissipatedRussia, by all accounts, is making progress on the way tiack to sanity.
Some people are even worrying lest Russia shall in the coming year resume
a considerable capacity for export of its staple products, and thus become
once more a competitor for the agricultural markets of the rest of the
world .

But there is less fear in this regard than there would hove been

two or three years ago, because there is now a well-established •
realization that your neighbor's hard luck is not readily translatable into
your own prosperity.



Almost everywhere, there is increasing disposition to extend a
helping hand to both Germany and Russia, because there is realization
that the world needs both Germany and Russia, and needs them competent,
capable, productive and prosperous.
All this is entirely to the. good.

All this is sign that the spiritual

and mental attitude of men is gradually becoming one of real invitation
to permanent peace»
It will be worth while to consider some of the evidences tha.t society
is not, after a l l , bent on committing suicide.
The German Republic still lives, and has demonstrated its capacity
to maintain itself under most distressing conditions,.
The threat of a Bolshevik revolution in Italy, concerning which a.t
one time we heard a great deal, has not been realized.
"The public opinion of the world has demonstrated itself powerful
enough to intervene successfully and prevent a contest between Italy and
The fearfully inhuman struggle between Greece and Turkey has been
brought to an end.
Ireland has achieved real self-government, with the dominion status
in the British commonwealth of nations, and peace has been restored on
terms which seem to promise permanence.
Of all the problems which disintegration presented in Central Europe
for a long time after the Armistice, the state of Austria seemed at once
the most distressing and the most hopeless.

Today we point to Austria as

our best exhibit in support of the view that the will to peace, to


restoration, to rehabilitation,


is capable of accomplishing the seemingly-

impossible .
Austria has been put on its feet and given a chance, chiefly by the
cooperation of those who were its enemies.

Toda.y, instead of being a

testimony to the destructiveness and unworkableness of the peace, Austria
is held up as a. cheering demonstration that none of the wrecks of the war
are beyond the possibility of salvage.
If we will turn to political concerns immed ia tely ^involving our own
country, our thought must immediately center upon Japan and Mexico.


Washington conference put an end to the dangerous and long-continued
friction between the United States and Japan,

Three years ago there was

a good deal of evidence that Japan and America were drifting toward conflict*
Thanks to good sense and intelligent statesmanship on both sides, thanks
to that generous cooperation among nations which made the Washington Conference successful, the menace of conflict in the Pacific has been removed.
Today, we see in the Pacific a maritime mobilization, not of fleets and
• arms bent upon destruction, but rather of the argosies of mercy, devoting
themselves-to one of the greatest works of benevolence and humanity that
has ever been inspired by the contemplation of a supreme disaster.
I submit that if we will look on these brighter aspects of the world
panorama, as it has been unfolding before U3, we will ha.vs to recognize
that it demands a good deal of perversity to remain at all times an unqualified pessimist.
I mentioned Mexico a moment ago as a problem which, fraught with
menace, was of especial concern to our own country.

We are entitled to


view the present Mexican situation vvith particular satisfaction "because
it demonstrates that patience and forbearance in trying circumstances will
bear good fruit.

There have been patience and forbearance on both sides*

Beyond that, there have been gratifying evidences that the Mexican people
are determined to l i f t themselves up by their own efforts to a better estate
in the world.

There is today a better outlook for a mutually helpful

cooperation between the American and. the Mexican peoples
since 1911.

than at any time

Mexico is one of the world's storehouses of natural wealth

and opportunity.

It has needed capital, guidance, political stability, and

a. fixed purpose of bettering its position as a nation in the world and as a
people in their own country.

We cannot reasonably question that in these

directions it has recently been making great progress, which we are justified
in hoping may be reasonably permanent *
I have attempted "briefly to suggest why, in a broad and liberal survey
of the political state of mankind, many reasons for hopefulness and even
optimism may be discovered-

Let me turn now to the economic side, and

inquire whether there are any cheerful reflections from our political

Here, as in the realm of politics, we find grounds for cheerfulness,

even if not a uniformly gratifying condition.

Great Britain approaches

the winter with no pleasant vision of its prospects.

Unemployment is very

The burden of taxation is onerous just in proportion to British

determination that every national commitnent shall be exefcuted and the
national credit maintained*
Especially is British agriculture in a state of profound depression;
and I think if we will examine agricultural conditions in Great Britain
and in our own country, we will be impressed that the agricultural troubles



of different countries in this after-war epoch are curiously alike.
The other day my eye alighted on a paragraph in a newspaper, telling
of sorre resolutions of the Farmers Union.

Ihey set forth that, "Failing

large further measures of State assistance, the farmers will be compelled
to put their industry on an economic basis, by letting much land go/waste
altogether *** and, generally, to reduce our commitments, to reduce
marginal costs by diminishing production, and to divert remaining commitments to the most profitable channels."
It sounded so entirely descriptive of agricultural conditions in this
country that I was a little startled to discover later that the Quotation
was from a set of resolutions adopted by the National JS.rmers Union of
Great Britain, and not from a pronouncement of the Farmers Union of the
United States I
Certainly it is suggestive that in England, which produces only a
small proportion of its food requirements, agriculture is thus described
in precisely the terms that might be applied to its troubles in the United
States, a surplus-producing and exporting country *hose great difficulty
is the collapse of the foreign market for the surplus.
On the point of unemployment in Great Britain, while the condition is
bad, there are some rays of light.

Thus, there are high authorities for

saying that while the number of unemployed is large, the number of the
productively employed is probably as large as it ever was, and nearly as
large as the industrial plant of the country can utilize.
is that a great army of Englishmen

The explanation

and Englishwomen were transferred during

the war from the non-producing to the producing class.

There are more



people willing to work, and in need of work, than there ever were before.
More than any other country, England is dependent upon foreign markets,
and a period in which it finds itself with a positive increase in its
force of workers, coupled with a depressed foreign demand, is bound to be
Turning to the continent, I am assured by competent authorities that
within the last few months unemployment has been on the whole steadily decreasing in the Scandinavian countries, in Holland, and in I t a l y .


Germany, despite the utter demoralization of finance and money, and the
depression in foreign trade, the people have to an amazing extent gone on

tilling their f i e l d s , . e r e c t i n g factories and office blocks,

building new houses, of which the need has been in many areas very great
since the war.
In France, by universal reports, there is no unemployment, and there
has been almost none at any time since the Armistice.
Belgium is constantly described as the busiest and one of the most
prosperous countries in Europe,
Switzerland has had on the whole the best season, in 1923, since the
war, in respect of its vitally important tourist business*
The disruption of the German;

money system seems to have gone as far

as it is possible, and along with the collapse of passive resistance in
the Ruhr and the prospects of resuming production there, measures have
been initiated which look to the re-establishment of a money system bearing
a calculable relationship to the gold standard.
Taking Europe as a whole, all reports indicate a highly satisfactory agricultural yield for 1923.

I know how hard it is to convince an American



farmer with an unmarketable surplus on his hands, that big crops in Europe
are going to help him.

But I am one of those American farmers; and I dare

say to the rest of them, that in the long run the prosperity of Europe as
a whole will be to their advantage.

Oncemore let me say, that we will do

better to take our chances in a world that is getting on well, rather than
in a world that is starving for the need of our food surplus, but has
nothing with which to buy.
From the date of the Armistice, all the diagnosticians of Europe's
troubles have insisted that what Europe most needed was to get back to

Likewise they have been insisting that what we most needed was

to have Europe get back to producing and therefore to the ability to buy.
Now, I challenge the most enthusiastic pessimist to deny that Europe has
made real progress to getting back to production in this year 1923.
Europe's crops are probably the best in any year since the war.

There is

reassuring indication that industrial production will be resumed in the
Buhr Basin, which means immediately better conditions for both Prance and

If the fortunate European situation as to agriculture this year,

seems momentarily to account for some part of the depression in our agricultural values, we may find consolation in the outlook for a general
betterment of Europe's industrial condition in the coming months.


betterment not unlikely will presently restore to a considerable extent
our agricultural balanceWe will do well to a.void too much of prophecy.

But we may safely

let our vision of the future take some tones from our picture of the presentThe year 1923 might have been one of disasters.

Many predicted it would be.



There might have been a huge convulsion in the Near East between Turkey
and Greece.

It was avoided.

drawing in half the world.

There might have been a Greco-Italian war,
It did not come.

revolution in Germany, but there was not.

There mi^it have been

The Anglo-French entente

might have been wrecked under the strains it sustained.

But it was not.

Europe might have had bad crops, starvation, typhus, universal
These have not befallen.
our own country.

Mexico might have had an explosion,


Instead Mexico is in better posture than for at least

a decade, and our relations with her more satisfactory.
to multiply cases.


It is needless

Let us merely keep in mind how many of possible evils

we have avoided, how much of positive betterment we have gained.
There is general disposition to conservatism in both industry and

This is particularly to be. commended at a time when the price

level of the world is pretty plainly tending downward.

For u s ,


adjustment to a general downward tendency will be the more d i f f i c u l t because of the continuing flow of gold to this country.

There is always

temptation to inflation of the currency when the supply of g)ld is so

A few years ago, every added million of gold that came was

greeted as further guarantee of soundness and prosperity.

I t was a well-

nigh universal assumption that we Wouldn't have too much money circulating, provided it was all solidly based on gold.
better now.

At least, we know

That is something gained, and something immensely important.

Nobody has yet found a. way to stop the movement of gold to us; but many
thoughtful people on both sides the Atlantic at least realize
of this condition, and are giving earnest thought to i t .

the menace

In that fact

is a sign of better understanding, more accurate processes of



Here in the United


States all classes of business men recognize the vary-

real danger of having too much gold and the necessity of avoiding inflation
by reason of i t .

This is proof of a great progress toward safety,


and the sound basis for business.
The final analysis of the whole matter is that the current year has
been on the whole a year of conservation and moderation in both business
and politics.

The greatest difficulty about economic rehabilitation since

the war has been that the world has had to deal with its economic problems
in an atmosphere surcharged with politics.
been inextricably mixed.

Politics and economics have

In both business and the broad field of world

relationships, we find disposition to caution, to moderation, to patience
and reasonableness.

This should be altogether gratifying.

The situation

may not be to the liking of those extremists who believe things cannot
begin to get better until they have got very much worse.

It may not be

satisfactory to the opposite group, who believe that by this time we ought
to be in the midst of an economic


But it does contain many

elements—let me say, a decided preponderance of the elements— of reassurance to that great majority of people who do not expect and do not
want either a millenium or a revolution.