Appendix D. Speeches For Study And Practise
Newell Dwight Hillis - Brave Little Belgium
Delivered in Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, N. Y., October 18,1914.
Used by permission.
Long ago Plato made a distinction between the occasions of war and the causes of war. The occasions of war lie upon the surface, and are known and read of all men, while the causes of war are embedded in racial antagonisms, in political and economic controversies. Narrative historians portray the occasions of war; philosophic historians, the secret and hidden causes. Thus the spark of fire that falls is the occasion of an explosion, but the cause of the havoc is the relation between charcoal, niter and saltpeter. The occasion of the Civil War was the firing upon Fort Sumter. The cause was the collision between the ideals of the Union presented by Daniel Webster and the secession taught by Calhoun. The occasion of the American Revolution was the Stamp Tax; the cause was the conviction on the part of our forefathers that men who had freedom in worship carried also the capacity for self-government. The occasion of the French Revolution was the purchase of a diamond necklace for Queen Marie Antoinette at a time when the treasury was exhausted; the cause of the revolution was feudalism. Not otherwise, the occasion of the great conflict that is now shaking our earth was the assassination of an Austrian boy and girl, but the cause is embedded in racial antagonisms and economic competition.
As for Russia, the cause of the war was her desire to obtain the Bosphorus - and an open seaport, which is the prize offered for her attack upon Germany. As for Austria, the cause of the war is her fear of the growing power of the Balkan States, and the progressive slicing away of her territory. As for France, the cause of the war is the instinct of self-preservation, that resists an invading host. As for Germany, the cause is her deep-seated conviction that every country has a moral right to the mouth of its greatest river; unable to compete with England, by roundabout sea routes and a Kiel Canal, she wants to use the route that nature digged for her through the mouth of the Rhine. As for England, the motherland is fighting to recover her sense of security. During the Napoleonic wars the second William Pitt explained the quadrupling of the taxes, the increase of the navy, and the sending of an English army against France, by the statement that justification of this proposed war is the "Preservation of England's sense of security." Ten years ago England lost her sense of security. Today she is not seeking to preserve, but to recover, the lost sense of security. She proposes to do this by destroying Germany's ironclads, demobilizing her army, wiping out her forts, and the partition of her provinces. The occasions of the war vary, with the color of the paper - "white" and "gray " and "blue" - but the causes of this war are embedded in racial antagonisms and economic and political differences.
Why Little Belgium Has The Center Of The Stage
Tonight our study concerns little Belgium, her people, and their part in this conflict. Be the reasons what they may, this little land stands in the center of the stage and holds the limelight. Once more David, armed with a sling, has gone up against ten Goliaths. It is an amazing spectacle, this, one of the smallest of the States, battling with the largest of the giants! Belgium has a standing army of 42,000 men, and Germany, with three reserves, perhaps 7,000,000 or 8,000,000. Without waiting for any assistance, this little Belgium band went up against 2,000,000. It is as if a honey bee had decided to attack an eagle come to loot its honeycomb. It is as if an antelope had turned against a lion. Belgium has but 11,000 square miles of land, less than the States of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Her population is 7,500,000, less than the single State of New York. You could put twenty-two Belgiums in our single State of Texas. Much of her soil is thin; her handicaps are heavy, but the industry of her people has turned the whole land into one vast flower and vegetable garden. The soil of Minnesota and the Dakotas is new soil, and yet our fanners there average but fifteen bushels of wheat to the acre. Belgium's soil has been used for centuries, but it averages thirty-seven bushels of wheat to the acre. If we grow twenty-four bushels of barley on an acre of ground, Belgium grows fifty; she produces 300 bushels of potatoes, where the Maine farmer harvests 90 bushels. Belgium's average population per square mile has risen to 645 people. Americans practised intensive farming; if the population of Texas were as dense as it is in Belgium - 100,000,000 of the United States, Canada and Central America could all move to Texas, while if our entire country was as densely populated as Belgium's, everybody in the world could live comfortably within the limits of our country.
The Life Of The People
And yet, little Belgium has no gold or silver mines, and all the treasures of copper and zinc and lead and anthracite and oil have been denied her. The gold is in the heart of her people. No other land holds a race more prudent, industrious and thrifty. It is a land where everybody works. In the winter when the sun does not rise until half past seven, the Belgian cottages have lights in their windows at five, and the people are ready for an eleven-hour day. As a rule all children work after 12 years of age. The exquisite pointed lace that has made Belgium famous, is wrought by women who fulfill the tasks of the household fulfilled by American women, and then begins their task upon the exquisite laces that have sent their name and fame throughout the world. Their wages are low, their work hard, but their life is so peaceful and prosperous that few Belgians ever emigrate to foreign countries. Of late they have made their education compulsory, their schools free. It is doubtful whether any other country has made a greater success of their system of transportation. You will pay 50 cents to journey some twenty odd miles out to Roslyn, on our Long Island railroad, but in Belgium a commuter journeys twenty miles in to the factory and back again every night and makes the six double daily journeys at an entire cost of 37 1/2 cents per week, less than the amount that you pay for the journey one way for a like distance in this country. Out of this has come Belgium's prosperity. She has the money to buy goods from other countries, and she has the property to export to foreign lands. Last year the United States, with its hundred millions of people, imported less than $2,000,000,000, and exported $2,500,000,000. If our people had been as prosperous per capita as Belgium, we would have purchased from other countries $12,000,000,000 worth of goods and exported $10,000,000,000.