IV. Putting It Up to the Graduates.
For months before we entered the war the action necessary to transform the United States into an efficient and strong martial nation, should war be forced upon us, was evident. We had the lessons of ten belligerent countries through months of conflict to guide us. We knew we must have a national army raised by conscription. We knew we must conserve our food supply if we hoped to live and let other nations live. We knew we must have prohibition not only of the manufacture, but of the sale of intoxicants. Without the first measure we could not have armies commesurate with our greatness; without the second we could not feed those armies; without the third we could not maintain the men of these armies in the highest state of ability, nor make the utmost use of our resources at home.
We have been orally at war now for seven weeks. Two of those very primary measures of necessity we have not taken.
The men who make pretence to any small degree of wisdom deny that the prohibition of intoxicants would save for our nation resources in men and material that we cannot in any circumstances afford to lose. The material wastage annually is tabulated in billions of pounds. The human wastage cannot be computed. Statistics have been carefully gathered to show the extent of this drain on our national wealth. Contrary to the ignorant wisdom of proverb-mouthing fellows, figures do not lie. As a nation we must face without blindness the inevasible truth that the pleasure of alcohol has weakened sadly our strength.
Realizing this, realizing that now, entering the most terrible war that is recorded in history, we cannot permit even the minor loss of our resources, it would be folly to wait one day beyond the necessary in beginning that conservation which war has forced upon us.
What is the force that halts our Congress? It cannot be ignorant of the world's dire lack of foodstuffs. It cannot be indifferent to the welfare of those great armies which will be formed. It should know, if it does not know, the sentiment of the people, which, laying aside its former diversified opinion, demands as insistently as it demanded universal service that the government take measures without delay for the saving of our great, but all to scanty, resources.
It is said that the northeastern states alone retard the passage of this pressing war measure. The South and the West, heedless of what might be to their own immediate profit, have generously and willingly done away with intoxicants for their own safety, and the greater safety of the nation.
Can the northeastern states do less, which time and again have been so loudly patriotic? It is not blood that is demanded here, but wisdom.
The undergraduates of Harvard, as of other colleges, with sensibility which is noteworthy have arrived at the opinion that the necessary is inevitable. That is a credit to the sound intelligence of the current college generation. But the undergraduate can accomplish little in actuality.
There is no more influential non-political group of men of equal size in our country than Harvard men. They wield as individuals and as a body great influence over the public opinion of their community.
Graduates are personally wiser, if not more patriotic, than those who still linger at the knees of learning. Surely they perceived before we did the need which must be met.
The need has not been met. Have our graduates done their part in the shaping of opinion? The College which nurtured them expects them, not in bigotry, not in panic, but judiciously and unemotionally, to see to it that our strength is conserved; to see to it that this thing is done.