The American Road to World Peace

By Alfred Zimmern | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25: The Larger Design

LET us suppose that Woodrow Wilson, with his broad knowledge of the past, had opened his whole mind to the listening peoples. What might he have told them?

He might have said that political development in the Old World had come to a dead end because it was blocked by the concept of sovereignty, which prevented Europeans from regarding one another as friends and neighbors. Europe, he might have gone on to explain, had missed a great opportunity at the time of the French Revolution. That was the moment when she was free to make a clean break with her past habits and to switch her political progress on to new and more forward-looking lines. As the movement for national liberation and self-government, originating in France, spread from country to country, the European peoples might have caught the spirit of free America and devised their new democratic institutions in terms of political and social co-operation rather than of competition for power. That would have been the true interpretation of the three great watchwords of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Had that taken place in those years, Europe would by 1914 have been transformed from a group of separate and self-centered nations, each bent on increasing its own importance and prestige, into a community inspired by the vitality and élan of the New World. Each nation would have preserved, and would have indeed developed more fully, its own characteristic genius, but together they would have given the ancient Continent, with its Christian and classical background, a new mind and an enriched soul.

Thus the Old World and the New might have marched together into the future. And since, as the French say, it is never too late to do the right thing (il n'est jamais tard pour bien faire), they could still march together today--so Woodrow Wilson might

-64-

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