The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, February 01, 1916, Page 6, Image 6

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The Commoner
VOL. 16, NO. 2
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Why Not a Referendum?
Sonator Owen of Oklahoma, one of the
Btaunchcst defenders of tho right of llio people
to rule, hut; embodied this Idea in a resolution
proposing a referendum on war.
And why not a referendum on war? When
tho constitution was written, tho idea of a refer
endum wuo unknown. But as the right to de
clare war was vested, not in tho President, or
in the supremo court, but in congress, tho most
representative body created by the constitution,
tho constitutional convention gave to the idea
of popular control the greatest emphasis then
possible Congress Is made up of representa
tives choson by tho people, tho members of the
house of representatives every two years and
one-third' of tho members of tho senate at each
congressional election. Now that wo have tho
modern device known as tho referendum, which
enables tho people to speak directly upon im
portant questions, why not apply the machinery
to war? Is any question more important than
tho question of war? Is there anything upon
which tho people have a clearer right to speak
their own sentiments? In counties it has long
been tho custom to submit to a popular vote the
selection of tho county, seat, instead of entrust
ing it to tho county supervisor or county com
missioners; Is not tho question of war more vital
than the solection of a county seat?
It is increasingly the custom to submit to pop
ular vote the question of issuing bonds. Is not
tho question of war more important than tho
question of a public debt?
A number of the states have adopted tho ini
tiative and referendum, under which tho people
of tho state are able to veto public measures or
to legislate directly; is there any state question
which Is more vital to tho welfare of the people
than the question of peace or war? War not
only Involves an ' uormous indebtedness but the
sacrifice of llfo as well, and when war is once
entered upon tho termination of the controversy
is not entirely in tho hands of the nation, but
may depend upon tho action of other nations. Is
it not'of tho flrst'imporlanco, therefore, that tho
people should bo consulted before entering upon
Tho militarists will, of course, find all sorts
of objections to anything which will delay them
from cutting throats and blowing off heads.
They act as if they thought they had a vested
right in tho killing of people and they resent any
suggestion from members of congress even
and they would much more resent the thought
of plain people tho kind who are killed in war
putting any restriction upon the whims and
fancies of tho professional soldier. But what
about tho plain people themselves the ones
that must die, if soldiors are necessary, and tho
ones who must pay tho taxes that war imposes
what about them? Is there any reason why
they should hesitate to demand a voice in the
making of war?
It would not bo difflcult to draw an amend
ment to tho constitution which would put the
matter in the hands of the people at large, with
out lessening tho security of tho nation. A
declaration of war might bo submitted to the
people for ratification before it became effective
would not take k g to test public opinion.
With our modern facilities for , communica
tion, a.d,oclaration of war could be officially sub
mitted to the states within twenty-four hours
after the action of congress, and tho governors
of tho various states could call an election to be
hold within a month, or even within two weeks,
if necessary. The whole country would be in
formed,by newspapers within, a week's time, and
public discussion, immediately begun, ..would -bring
before the voters the facts that needed to
bo considered.
Who will question that such an amendment
would bo in harmony with the spirit of popular
government? And who doubts that such a pro
vision, once placed in tho constitution, would
oxert a powerful influence upon the deliberations
of congress?
And why not include in the amendment the
right to refer to a public vote, the adoption of a
policy such as Is now urged, which involves
enormous preparations and affects the tone of
our diplomacy? Why not allow the peace-loving
masses to give formal expression to their ideals
and aspirations, instead of leaving tho field to
the military expert, tho manufacturer of war
munitions and the papers controlled by special
Let the people rule. Nowhere is their rule
more needed than in deciding upon war policies
nowhere would their influence be more salu
tary. W. J. BRYAN.
SENTATIONS Miami, Florida, Feb. 3, 191G.
Editor Plain Dealer, '
Cleveland, Ohio. "
My dear Sir:
I have not thought it wise, even if it were pos
sible, to answer all the misrepresentations which
appear in unfriendly papers, but I shall depart
from my custom in this case, because the report
to which you give endorsement and circulation,
has no foundation and was answered by me im
mediately after it first appeared. I refer to the
"Mr. Bryan's conduct as head of the state de
partment smacked of disloyalty, not only to his
chief but to the country, when he privately as
sured Ambassador Dumba that the President's
first note to Germany was to bo taken at some
thing less than face value."
If you have read the President's letter accept
ing my resignation you can have no excuse for
accusing me of disloyalty to him, for the lan
guage of his letter is a sufficient commendation
of my conduct while acting as a member of his
Soon after my resignation one of the New
York papers stated that I had given to Ambas
sador Dumba private assurances contradicting
tho language of the first note to Germany. I
immediately published the facts, which were a
complete answer to the charge, and I am sur
prised that it is repeated.
The President was in New York on the day
when Ambassador Dumba called at the depart
ment, and I immediately reported to the Presi
dent in writing he, conversation which I had
had with the ambassador and .received the Pres
ident's approval. A few days afterwards I
learned that Ambassador Dumba's dispatch to
his government had been misrepresented. I at
once notified our ambassador at Berlin that I
would secure from Ambassador Dumba a denial
of the reported misrepresentation. I then called
tho ambassador to the state department, read
over to him the written report of our conversa
tion which I had made to the President, and re
ceived from him a statement endorsing tho ac
curacy of my report to the President. The Am
bassador's verification of my report of the con
versation was cabled to Germany and Ambassa
dor Dumba, in addition, sent a specific denial
that he had received from me or had reported
any thine: contrary to the report of tho conversa
tion which I had made to the President.
All of these facts were before the President
at the time my resignation was offered and I
have never recc'ived from him, either before or
since my resignation, any intimation that he was
dissatisfied with my conduct in the matter
Pardon me if I add, in conclusion, that a pa
per like the Plain Dealer should be jealous
enough of its reputation for veracity to satisfy
itself of the truth of a charge before making it
But instead of doing so, it has repeated this false
charge in an editorial based upon another
ground ess accusation, namely, that I intend to
follow the President on his western trip. There
s as little foundation for this .statement as Tor
the one .in tfqgard to Ambassador Dumba ' I
25TSL to"21 ,t0 y one that I intended, to
follow the President; on the contrary I imS "
diately, upon hearing of his plan, expressed i
gratification -that he was soirfg before the Peo- ?
pie to state Ins position and give his reasons.
Surely the legitimate discussion of public men
and public measures gives ample room for fair
criticism without resort to misrepresentation
Very truly yours.
" W. J. BRYAN.
Mr. Roosevelt was president nearly eitrht
years, why did he not THEN urge the prepared
ness which ho urges NOW? The war? instead of
justifying increased preparedness, furnishes two
arguments AGAINST preparedness. First it
shows to what preparedness naturally leads, and
second, it is increasing bur relative prepared
ness by exhausting other nations. ei'ttre
China's Backward
It is to be regretted that the people of China
should have consented to a return to monarchy,
and still more to be regretted that any citizen
of the United States should have counseled a re
turn. It is considerable more than half a century
ago since Henry Clay condemned the attitude of
those half-hearted advocates of popular govern
ment who take the position that only a few are
fitted for self government. He said that it was
a reflection upon the Creator to say tfiat He
made people unfit for self government, and left
them to be the victims of kings and emperors.
There are degrees of capacity for self gov
ernment just as there are degrees of self re
straint in individuals, but capacity for self gov
ernment is a relative term and if those who are
behind can never be fit for self government un
til they catch up with those who are in the lead,
how can they ever prepare themselves unless,
without experience and practice in self govern
ment, they make more rapid progress than those
who have experience and practice? How can
this space between the different groups be short
ened if the favored ones maintain the progress
that they ought to?
However, the people of each nation have a
right to determine for themselves their form of
government, and the people of tha United States,
recognizing the right of China to make the de
cision, can wish her well while she experiments
again with an emperor. This republic, which
was first to welcome her to the sisterhood of the
republics, will await the opportunity to renew
the welcome when her people again conclude to
undertake the, responsibilities of a government
republican in character. W. J. BRYAN.
Charles Sumner said: "All history is a vain,
word and all experience is at fault, if large "wan
preparations .. have not been 'con
stant provocations of war. Pretended protectors
against war, they have been the real instigators
of war. They have excited the evil against
which they were to guard. The habit of wear
ing arms in private life exercised a kindred in
fluence." Will New England stand by the wisdom of
Sumner or allow Senator Lodge to teach it a
new philosophy?
Yes, we take chances whatever we do. If we
do NOT increase our rate of preparation we
take chances of not being as well prepared as
the jingoes want us to be, IF WAR ACTUALLY
COMES. On the other hand, if we prepare for
run the risk of taking upon ourselves an enor
mous unnecessary burden and the additional
risk of creating a military class and a war
spirit which, together, would make war more
Why not guarantee bank deposits? The
banks in each district could guarantee the de
positors in that district no bank would be re
sponsible beyond its own district. This was
attempted when the present law was under con
sideration, but it was not thought "wise to jeop
ardize passage by insisting upon it. The way
is clear now and the country needs the law.
"Why Jiot trust senators and representatives
to do their. duty without letters from their con
stituents?" ask the' jingo journals. And then '
SSmo-?,3ounial8 'Proceed ,to misrep-:
xesent these "Urn'me constituents and advise the
laying of unnecessary taxes upoii-themv to pre-'
pare for imaginary wars. Why not allow the
constituents to speak for themselves? Because
it would spoil the military game. ecause
c,?iie 7TMjY come'to an end at anytime; in'
the SOAReS n( 7hen ifc gOES toS
tne bCARES manufactured for the benefit of the
manufacturers of munitions WILL SCAM S
LONGER. What will the voters do tto !ne
senators and congressmen who allow themselves
ecnraS?.EtD int0 voting aSSSSS
ft CONTINUING taxes upon the public' TIip
mrSMfvSVembf W,U afford an Injured and n
inSt PePle an opportunity to register" a