July 22, 1920: An Association of Nations
My countrymen, we believe the unspeakable sorrows, the immeasurable sacrifices, the awakened convictions, and the aspiring conscience of humankind must commit the nations of the earth to a new and better relationship. It need not be discussed now what motives plunged the world into war. It need not be inquired whether we asked the sons of this republic to defend our national rights, as I believe we did, or to purge the Old World of the accumulated ills of rivalry and greed. The sacrifices will be in vain if we cannot acclaim a new order with added security to civilization and peace maintained.
One may readily sense the conscience of our America. I am sure I understand the purpose of the dominant group of the Senate. We were not seeking to defeat a world aspiration. We were resolved to safeguard America. We were resolved then even as we are today, and will be tomorrow, to preserve this free and independent republic. Let those now responsible or seeking responsibility propose the surrender--whether with interpretations, apologies, or reluctant reservations--from which our rights are to be omitted. We welcome the referendum to the American people on the preservation of America, and the Republican party pledges its defense of the preserved inheritance of national freedom.
In the call of the conscience of America is peace. Peace that closes the gaping wound of world war and silences the impassioned voices of international envy and distrust. Heeding this call, and knowing as I do the disposition of Congress, I promise you formal and effective peace so quickly as the Republican Congress can pass its declaration for a Republican executive to sign. Then we may turn to our readjustment at home and proceed deliberately and reflectively to that hoped for world relationship which shall satisfy both conscience and aspirations, and still hold us free from menacing involvement.
I can hear in the call of conscience an insistent voice for the largely reduced armaments throughout the world, with attending reduction of burdens upon peace-loving humanity. We wish to give of American influence and example. We must give of American leadership to that invaluable accomplishment. I can speak unreservedly of the American aspirations and the Republican committal for an association of nations cooperating in sublime accord to attain and preserve peace through justice rather than force, determined to add to security through international law, so clarified that no misconstruction can be possible without affronting world honor. It is better to be the free and disinterested agents of international justice and advancing civilization with the covenant of conscience, than to be shackled by a written compact which surrenders our freedom of action and gives the military alliance the right to proclaim America's duty to the world.
No surrender of rights to a world council or its military alliance, no assumed mandatory, however appealing, ever shall summon the sons of this republic to war*. Their supreme sacrifice shall be only asked for America and its call of honor. There is sanctity in that right which we will not surrender to any other power on earth.
*see Covenant of the League of Nations, Article 10