A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

PREFACE

While State Senator Calvin Coolidge, of Northampton, was plodding his way up the road from law-maker to executive-assistant, to governor, to the nomination for Vice President by his party, the forces in America that smoothed his path and lightened his burden on the way to fame were working in the world beyond the boundaries of the United States. Sparks from the gun at Sarajevo set off the powder in the social dynamite that had been under compression for fifteen years.

We cannot say even today that the World War was inevitable. Diplomacy might have found a way out. For the remoter causes of the war, we must look to mistakes and selfish policies in Germany, France, England, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and the Balkans. For the immediate outbreak of the war, Germany must bear the heaviest blame. Bismarck would never have taken Germany into war under conditions that made world sentiment outside overwhelmingly hostile. Bismarck, the diplomat, respected world opinion; overruled the German military strategists of his day. And the German diplomats of 1914, likewise, respected world opinion, and feared the course that Germany was taking. But the military strategists of Germany were, by this time, in the saddle, and they overruled the diplomats. It is not fair to say that German diplomacy failed in 1914. It is fairer to say that German diplomacy never had a chance, and, therefore, that British and French diplomacy likewise did not have a chance, since in dealing with German diplomats, they were dealing with impotent men.1 Bethmann Hollweg admits this.2 Speaking of General von Moltke, he says: "I had to accommodate my view to his." Bethmann Hollweg also emphasizes the intrigues of the militarists in Russia3 in preventing a peaceful settlement in 1914.

False economic theories contributed a great deal in bringing about the World War. That economic tendencies inevitably produced the war, of course, cannot be proved, but many historians hold to this thesis. But this much is certain: America did become part of the economic chaos of those

____________________
1
Munroe Smith, "Military Strategy vs. Diplomacy", Political Science Quarterly, 1915.
2
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, "Reflections on the World War," translated by George Young, London, 1920, pages 137-38, 147.

-94-

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