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The New Dominion, October 12, 1920


Their Duties and Responsibilities When They Cast Their First Ballots

An address delivered by Mrs. Olandus West, of Clarksburg, at the state convention of the West Virginia Woman’s Christian Temperance Union at Charleston, September 29. Mrs. West is superintendent of the Department of Christian Citizenship of that organization, and the above subject was assigned to her. Her address, which we take pleasure in reproducing, is worthy the careful study of every intelligent person—especially that part dealing with the League of Natioons [sic].

My Fellow Citizens of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, I am happy indeed to greet you and congratulate you. I greet you as W. C. T. U’s. It has been some time since I have had the privilege and pleasure of attending the state convention, but I assure you there is no kind of Meeting—not even a Methodist meeting, that I enjoy more or in which I feel so much at home as I do in the meetings of this organization.

I believe that there is a feeling of close kinship among W. C. T. U.’s that is not found in other organizations. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union is a league of consecrated and devoted members whose high objects and purposes are the same. Hence this kinship.

I congratulate you, that since our last coming together we have had conferred upon us that degree of fellowship so long coveted and sought by this organization—the right of citizenship—the right to vote.

This right and privilege has been won at great cost. You all know the story of this struggle, the sacrifice made, the persecutions endured, the heroism of the early pioneers, how by degrees the offensive gave way until finally we have not only reached the goal but have gone beyond.

Now, the question is what are we going to do with it? Are we going to regard it lightly? No, the right to vote must be considered an opportunity for broader service. If we act in a careless or indifferent manner and fail to make ourselves intelligent on the important issues and principles of the campaign then the victory has not been won but lost, our purposes have been defeated; our efforts have been in vain. Therefore, I repeat, the right to vote must be regarded seriously.

All women did not want the ballot. Some were as actively opposed to its extension as others were active in its securement. That is all past. It is not so important now whether we were for or against. Suffrage and anti-suffragists, we are all citizens now, therefore, our duties as citizens are the same. We will not all be of the same political faith, neither will we interpret issues and principles the same, but as we go forth in this new field of service, each to her full duty in the party of her own choosing, may we retain free, open and independent minds, so that we will not become blinded to important issues and principles through prejudiced partisanship.

We have long criticized the men, deplored their indifference, enumerated their shortcomings and taunted them with the many changes we were going to bring about in municipal and state affairs. It is little wonder some men resented our entrances into “men’s affairs”—what with the boasts, threats and promises of the suffragists, they must indeed have had visions of many unpleasant and uncomfortable days—days when they would cry peace, peace, but there would be no peace. They must have pictured in us the strong will of the woman who remarked to a friend, that when she had married her husband, he was an habitual smoker and a confirmed drinker—and how he had given up both these habits. Her friend remarked, that “To give up life time habits like those certainly required a strong will.[“] “That’s what I have,” replied the wife. Now we have the opportunity to make good our promises—to show our efficiency in housecleaning, thereby proving to the men that it will not be so bad after all—and erelong they will consider us a real help and be glad of our assistance.

Women Advised to Advance Cauti[o]usly.

The Millenium in Government is a long way off—It’s a long way to Tipperary. Therefore, we need to go carefully and cautiously. If we start out at too rapid a pace we may tire before accomplishing much. Yet Mike’s idea may have been alright: “Go aisy, Mike,” said Pat, “it’s a good three miles we have before us.” “Sure, I know that,” said Mike, “that’s why O’im hurrying. I want to get there before I am tired out.”

We are urged by our suffrage captain, Mrs. Catt, to ally ourselves with the political parties. This is plainly our duty and the only way whereby we can accomplish our purposes. So we must get into the parties, close up to the inner sanctuaries, if possible. We will not find a perfect political party, because political parties are made up of individuals—and individuals are not perfect.—But the editor of the Woman’s Journal says, “Go in anyway, hold your nose and go in.”

However, we do not want to fall too deeply in love with our party—because we have been told that “love is blind” and we do not want to become blinded to the extent that we cannot see its imperfection, nor do we want to advocate or reject a measure simply because our party has done so—but study the issue from its own merits or demerits. This partisan spirit although not so prevalent now—has long been cultivated by men to the extent that some have been led to admit—my party first—my party right or wrong, and a few have become so prejudiced as to say, that, if Satan himself were on their ticket they would support him. Let us beware, he is occasionally a candidate and may be on our ticket. But whether we are in the “Grand Old Party” or the “Good Old Democratic Party” is it not necessary that we surrender our political independence, for if we are to accomplish our purpose we must vote for men and issues instead of party.

We have not forgotten the long struggle in the securement of the Prohibition amendment—this Eighteenth amendment has been made secure and effective by the Volstead act. Nevertheless, it is highly important that our representatives in Congress be in hearty agreement with this act. As to the leaders of the two parties, Governor Cox and Senator Harding—judging from their records and utterances on this proposition—they are both neither wet nor dry—but each have expressed strong conscientious convictions regarding law enforcement, and as that is the duty of the chief executive, enforcement of this law is all we are asking of him at present.

League of Nations Dominant Issue.

The most important issue in this campaign, and which overshadows every other, is the league of nations. In view of the fact that there is so much misinformation broadcast concerning this question I do not think I would be doing my duty if I did not speak plainly upon this great humanitarian question.

The idea of the establishment of a tribunal for the settlement of international disputes and to insure the justice and peace of the world, is not a new idea, neither is it a partisan idea. An international Peace Conference was held at The Hague in 1889, at which was established The Hague Court, but unfortunately it was not clothed with sufficient power to be of service when real difficulties presented themselves[.] Senator Harding has recently suggested that “it needs teeth.”

President Roosevelt negotiated treaties with several of the leading countries whereby difficulties between our government and such nations would be submitted to arbitration. Those treaties when submitted were so emasculated that the President refused to re-submit them to the other countries. President Taft undertook this same important work, but his efforts met the same fate in the Senate.

Prior to the war President Wilson succeeded in negotiating treaties with all important countries except the German empire, for the settlement of our difficulties by arbitration. These treaties being only between individual nations, could not be applied to world conditions—besides they were so restricted as not to be a reliable safeguard against war. However, they have been of inestimable value in promoting good understanding between ourselves and other respective nations.

The Progressive party, in 1912, also in 1916, declared for an “arrangement between nations to make peace permanent.”

The platform of the Republican party of 1916 declared for a “World Court for the pacific settlement of international disputes.”

In 1916, the Democratic party declared for a League of Nations for the preventing of wars. Consequently on August 28th, 1916, eight months before America entered the war, by unanimous action of the Senate, the President was requested to take the initiative in this movement; accordingly on December 18th, 1916, the President sent a not to the nations at war, proposing the creation of a League of Nations, saying, “In the measures to be taken to secure the future peace of the wor[l]d the people and government of the United States are as vitally and directly interested as the governments now at war. * * they stand ready and even eager to cooperate in the accomplishment of these ends, when the war is over, with every influence and resource at their command.”

To this note the Allies declared their “whole-hearted agreement with the proposal to create a League of Nations which shall assure peace and justice throughout the world.” Endland [sic] and France immediately appointed committees to consider this proposal.

The President, speaking to the Senate, on January 22nd, 1917, said: “In every discussion of peace that must end this war, it is taken for granted that the peace must be followed by some definite concert of power which shall make it virtually impossible that any such catastrophe shall overwhelm us again.” And, “if the peace presently to be made is to endure, it must be a peace made secure by the organized major force of mankind.”

Speaking on this subject, Senator Lodge, himself, said that an attempt to make a separate peace with Germany would “brand us with everlasting dishonor” and that the intent of Congress and of the President was that there could be no peace until we could create a situation where no such war as this could recur.

All Party Leaders Favor Peace League

Ex-President Roosevelt said: “unless we stand by our Allies who have stood by us, we shall have failed in making the liberty of well-behaved, civilized people secure, and we shall have shown our announcement about the making the world safe for democracy was an empty boast.” Thus we can readily see that this “League for Peace” idea was not conceived in the Democratic party alone, but has been promulgated and promoted by leaders of all the great parties. Therefore, this proposition, so vital, not only to the United States but to the whole world, should never have been allowed to become a partisan question.

In considering this question was [?] want to keep in mind the main object and purpose of the League. These are plainly stated in the preamble which reads thus: “In order to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security; by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war; by the prescription of open, just and honorable relations between nations; by the firm establishment of the understanding of international law as the actual rule of conduct among Governments, and by the the [sic] maintenance of justice and scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organized people with one another.”

The treaty pledges all of its signatures to make this doctrine effective everywhere—and has been styled the “Monroe Doctrine” of the world.

The executive machinery of the League is made up of two bodies, the Council and the Assembly. The Council is composed of nine members, one from each of the allied powers, namely: United State[s], Great Britain, France, Japan, Italy and of four smaller powers, which at present are: Belgium, Brazil, Spain and Greece.

The administrative work of the League is entirely in the hands of this Council and their decision must be unanimous as in questions relative to peace or war. Thus you can see that the United States would have an absolute power on any move it does not like and can sever our connection with it upon two years’ notice.

The Assembly, which President Wilson has styled the debating society of the League, is made up of representatives from each member nation of the League. Any question affecting any nation or threatening complications before this body for discussion and investigation and they may recommend or report their findings to the Council.

This is where the enemies of the League seek to deceive the unthinking minds by saying that England will have six votes to our one. This is the most absurd of all the objections yet offered, because it is so obviously based on ignorance of the covenant or a plain sort to misrepresent. It is clearly stated in simple language that all questions relating to peace or war are decided by the Council, which is the governing body of the League in which England has but one vote and we have one.

The six votes are in the Assembly, and even there it is unfair to declare that England has six votes to our one. It is right that all members of the League should have a right to be heard. Do we wish to deny a vote to such self governing countries as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the rest which made far greater sacrifices in the war than our own country—while we grant a voice to Cuba, Haiti, Panama and others of less importance? We can easily see that the United States, if she chose, could control more votes in the Assembly than any other nation. This effort to deceive should be regard as a reflection upon our intelligence.

Partisan Attempt to Deceive the Mothers

Another proposition that is being widely heralded by these same leaders and for the same purpose is expressed in the cry, “Mothers, do you want to send your boys abroad to settle European brawls, or to die on the battlefields of Europe?” They try to make us believe that we are more liable to war under a League of Nations than without a league. Just as logical to argue that a police force engenders crime or that a contract is more secure without a guarantee.

Certainly, mothers do not want to send their boys to fight or die upon the battlefields of Europe, or any other battlefields. But isn’t that just what you did in the recent war? No league existed when this war began[.] The women and mothers of our country have not forgotten that we sent more than two million men to France, spent nearly twenty billion of dollars and sacrificed nearly one hundred thousand lives to settle a European dispute.

As I have already stated—No League existed when this war began and it was only by the united forces of the Allie[s] under a unified command that we were able to win. Thus it was when this “league of nations” united for a common cause that we won the war, dictated the terms of the armistice, and formulate[d] the terms of peace.

Had the League of Nations, as now proposed, existed before the war, the world would have been saved this awful catastrophe. Because it is an accepted face that had Germany known that England, France, Italy[,] Japan and the United States would have gone in there would have been no war.

Have you forgotten those four years of awful suspense when civilization hung in the balance? Have we forgotten the awful suffering endured on the battle fields and elsewhere? Have we forgotten that some ten million lives were sacrificed, leaving millions of widows and orphans? Do we forget that this body orgie cost us and our Allies over a hundred billion of dollars, and bankrupted the enemy countries? Do we realize that the world is left in a state of seething unrest, which will require the co-operation of the best statesmanship of world to quiet? IT IS AS MUCH OUR DUTY TO JOIN THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS TO PREVENT FUTURE WAR, AS IT WAS OUR DUTY TO ENTER THE WAR TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM GERMAN DOMINATION.

This League of Nations which provides for the settlement of international disputes by arbitration, thereby making secure the peace of the world, is the one great asset that has come out of the war—Why should we allow it.

Our boys went to war with this thought in mind—that after this war was over we would sign the death warrant of all wars. They were inspired by the thought that they were fighting a war to end wars. This thought was also echoed in the poet’s appeal for the dead and dying of Flanders:

“Take up our quarrel with the Foe!
To you from falling hands we throw
The torch be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies
Grow in Flanders Fields”

Have we kept the faith?”

This may not be a perfect document, neither was our constitution perfect when it was formulated. It was amended ten times in the first two years after its adoption.

The League, like our constitution, has plenty of machinery whereby it can be changed as time and thought demand. Our constitution, although formed more than one hundred and thirty years ago, is still undergoing changes and revisions—and our supreme court is often in a quandary as to the intended meaning of some of its phrases.

Had the states refused to adopt this document until it was perfected, we would still be without a constitution.

This same fear, the fear of surrendering sovereign power, was possessed by the states, that the enemies of the League hold up in the form of the Monroe Doctrine—and because of this fear the states were slow to accept the Constitution. They offered event at the primitive date, the same illogical reasoning that is today offered against the League, that they would be better off, they they [sic] would be more powerful, more independent, without a constitution than with one. Does any sane, reasonable person today believe that the states did wrong in adopting the constitution, which is considered by us a most powerful and sacred document.

If by entering this League we would be surrendering our soveign [sic] and independent rights, then the only important independent nations are: Russian, Tuckey, Mexico and the United States.

“The time is when we must choose between military preparedness or peace” Another war would not only be what all wars are, and have been, but would be unendurable.

How much easier and better, how much more satisfactory it would be to think out international problems than to fight them out.

This League means a reduction of all armament. How much better for America and other nations as well, to use her money in educating and developing her citizens than to spend it building battleships, munition plants and other war equipment?

We do not believe that America will fail to do her part now. After the noble sacrifices of her boys; after achieving the leadership of the world, will our beloved country be forced to play the part of a traitor to this great cause—world peace? No, the women of America must use their influence to prevent this. There are always two sides to every question, but only one right side. Our choice will be made at the ballot box in November. If we fail in our duty toward this League, what have we done toward making the world safe? What have we done toward keeping our promises?

When General Pershing, with his soldiers, first landed in France, a great celebration was held at the tomb of Lafayette. The soldiers drew up in lien with General Pership [sic] at the head, facing the tomb of this beloved French General, General Pershing was asked to make some fitting remarks. The great crowd stood breathless, expecting an outburst of natural eloquence from America’s general, and, with head erect and cap held high, spoke in ringing tones, just three words: “Lafayette, we’re here.”

So may we, by our efforts in behalf of this League of Nations, assure the boys who today lie in Flanders Field and elsewhere that we are here to keep the faith, here with our ballots in November, here to do everything in our power to finish the work which they begun. Then can we truly say in the words of the poet:

“Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead.
The Fight that ye so bravely led
We’ve taken up. And we will keep
True faith with you who lie asleep.
So let your rest be sweet and deep,
In Flanders Fields.

Fear not that you have died for naught
The torch you threw to us we caught.
Ten million hands will hold it high
And freedom’s light shall never die.
We’ve learned the lesson that you taught,
In Flanders Fields.”

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"Fighting the Long Fight" Chapter 7