February 25th, 1917
Received by James Padgett.
I am John C. Calhoun.
I come to say a few words in reference to our international affairs, and I say our because I am still interested in my country and feel that I am a citizen thereof, although I am a spirit and not a mortal.
Well, as you know, when on earth I was a Democrat, and one who believed in the independent rights of the various states of the Union, and that whenever those rights were infringed upon it was the right of the state so affected to withdraw from the Union. But my contentions are now of no practical importance, for the decision of war has settled that question, and for the best, as I now see; for had the results been otherwise, our country would not now be the glorious and powerful nation that it is.
And I also believed in the absolute right of our country to enjoy all the benefits and privileges that any other country in its international affairs of government enjoyed, and if necessary to preserve such privileges, to resort to the force of arms. But I did not believe in becoming mixed up in foreign disputes, or in the grievances that one of these countries might have against another, or in recognizing the rights of one in preference to the rights of another.
In the present difficulties, were I now a mortal I should apply the same principles to the present war and leave the respective nations to settle their disputes by and among themselves. And yet, I realize that my country is not in the position of independence and isolation that it was when I lived, and that circumstances may occur and conditions may be established that will call for the application of principles and measures a little different from those that I have above indicated; and such circumstances and conditions now exist, as I can see, caused by the unusual claims and practices of Germany in attempting to destroy the commerce of not only the nations against whom it is contending but also the commerce of the neutral nations, and more largely, that of my own country. This the governors of the U.S. should not submit to for one moment; and to do so indicates on the part of those who control the affairs of the nation either an utter want of understanding of the requirements of the occasion, or a cowardice that has no excuse.
I fully realize that peace is desirable, and should be sought for and maintained whenever consistent with the country's honor and well being; but when peace is to be maintained at the sacrifice of honor and everything that goes to the welfare of the nation, then peace must be thrown aside and the necessary means, no matter what they may be, must be used to maintain and enforce the rights of the nation.
I see that Mr. Wilson is loath to enter into the war and is waiting in the hope and expectation that something will happen or not happen, whereby he may keep the country out of the conflict; but his waiting will be in vain, for the war is here now and the sooner he realizes that fact, and acts upon it, the better it will be, and the sooner the end will come.
Germany is desperate, and it has reason to be, and it will not hesitate to destroy our ships of commerce or of war when it possibly can, and the fact that the ship is an American one or carries American citizens or sailors will not deter its destruction. Then why wait until many of these ships shall be destroyed and many lives lost, before showing to Germany that the U.S. will maintain its rights and protect its people?
I have been trying to reach the ear of the President and also the ears of some of his legislators, in order to impress upon them the necessity for action; but have not been able to make the rapport, so that my thoughts could be received by these men. And I don't suppose that such a desire will ever be realized. And the pity is, that it is necessary.
Mr. Wilson is a man of intelligence and good intentions and patriotism, and it is a little difficult for those who cannot read his mind to understand the position that he takes. But to us it is plain that the great desire to keep the country out of war - which idea I must tell you has obsessed him and caused him to believe that by doing so he is winning the approbation of the people - causes him to be overcautious and certain that if war comes he shall not be the moving cause.
Of course, ordinarily this may be commendable, but in the present circumstances it is more than deserving of condemnation and in its results may almost prove to be criminal. If someone with influence could only awaken him from this condition of obsession and persuade him to act and act quickly, it would be a thing devoutly to be wished for. The war is here and its rumblings are approaching; and it does not require an experienced ear to catch the sounds of its approach.
Well, I have written more than I intended, and thanking you, will say good night.
John C. Calhoun.