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To the Editors of the Crimson:
Mr. Theodore Roosevelt has criticised in your columns the vigorous protests made by various professors of this University against the warlike attitude suddenly assumed by the Washington government. Nothing but absence from home prevented me from adding my protest to that of my colleagues, and I am therefore sorry to see their position attacked as unpatriotic, especially by one whose character for independence and common sense is so well established as Mr. Roosevelt's. He would be the last man to acquiesce tamely in what he believed to be an outrage, and he is not in the habit of respecting persons or office in his expressions of opinion. What now would be think to be the proper attitude of a professor of Law or of History, whose opinion is sure to carry weight, when he sees the President and Congress threatening war against a nation of our own flesh and blood, with whom we have every conceivable interest to live in peace, while war with them would mean putting back human civilization for half a century, and all on account of petty dispute between two nations in which he firmly believes we have no right whatever to interfere? Shall he join in the hue and cry and encourage by his example what he believes to be an unrighteous cause, or shall he use his influence to quiet the agitation and to induce men to cry for peace? Are Cobden and Bright now called traitors to their country because they raised their voices against the Crimean war in 1854? Is James Russell Lowell called unpatriotic because he denounced our own Mexican war in his satiric verse? Have we forgotten the sentiments of Mr. Hosea Bigelow about the "Cruetin Sarjunt" in Boston:
"Taint your epyletts an't feathers
Make the thing a grain more right;
'Taint afollerin' your bell-wethers
Will excuse you in His sight;
Ef you take as word and dror it,
An go stick a feller thru,
Guv'nment aint to answer for it,
God'll send the bill to you?"
Now Mr. Lowell was no more thoroughly convinced that the Mexican war was a sin against humanity than we are that a war with England about the Venezuelan frontier would be the great crime of the age. No one pretends that we ought to threaten war merely in defence of Venezuela; but we are told that we must rally to the defence of the "Monroe! Doctrine." This doctrine is now more than seventy years old, and it is its spirit rather than its letter with which we are concerned now. As I understand it, I hold it in the highest respect; but I frankly confess that, viewing the utterances of 1823 in the light of 1896, I can see nothing in them which makes them in any respect applicable to the present case. Nothing is plainer in President Monroe's famous message of 1823 than that he referred solely to attempts on the part of the allied powers of Europe "to extend their system" to this hemisphere. he says: "It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent [i.e. either North or South America] without endangering our peace and happiness."
The "allied powers" were Russia, Austria and Prussia, in league with Spain and Bourbon France. And our republic was then in its infancy, and its safety was certainly imperilled by this powerful combination of European despotisms. Can any one without a smile ask what is there now to be compared with this? Would England extend any "political system" to South america which could in any sense endanger "our peace and happiness?" When the last French Empire undertook to establish an empire in Mexico, while our Southern states were in rebellion, we were justified in resisting so obvious an attack on the very existence of our government. We must not use our sharpest tools on every petty piece of work, or they will be dulled when we have real need of them.
WILLIAM W. GOODWIN.Cambridge, January 8, 1896.
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