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The Cry of Humanity

April 16, 1907 — National Arbitration and American Peace Congress, Carnegie Hall, New York City


Friends, Fellow Workingmen and Fellow Working-women: I feel very much like saying, after having listened to the speeches which have already been made, Peace! we are going to have Peace, even if we fight for it.

One of our American writers has said that at every moment some one country more than any other represents the sentiment of the future of mankind. What a glorious thing if from this Republic of ours, we could send forth such a message for the future of mankind. Peace we must have, no matter how we come by it.

Thus far, so far as I know, the world has seen only two forms of civilization : the military and the industrial ; and the industrial form of civilization is only just beginning to appear.

In looking up a definition of war to bring before this audience, I found in one of our encyclopaedias this definition: “The History of War is the history of the Human Race.” Now friends, I want you to think of that — the history of war is the history of the human race — then, don’t you think we had better begin and rewrite the history of the human race? And who could better write that history than working men and working women? We certainly have helped to carry on the industrial fight. Who, then, could better write the true story?

One fact not generally known about the labor movement is that, when we get inside the great industrial army, we really forget whether the soldier is man or woman. We simply want to be part of the great world’s work. And I want, so much, to have you understand what that definition meant to me, a worker and I hope to have it mean as much to you, working men and working women. Think of it! Must it be so? Is it true that the history of the human race is war? War means destruction. Ah, no ! Isn’t it that we have only had the microbe of con quest in our heads and hearts? We have not really learned what brotherhood and sisterhood means. We have not really learned the lesson of the labor movement, that we are brother and sister all the world over.

Glad indeed am I to be so honored as to be asked to come and speak my word for organized women at this Peace Meeting. The gentleman has said truly that while the men are fighting in the field, the women must carry on all the other work. Women have work enough in times of Peace, but try to think, try to imagine what a woman’s part is when the men go to be shot down in battle. Not only do they carry on all the industries that men carry on in times of Peace, but then they must also do the work as mothers and wives. Just think of that. Surely, no matter how weak the voice of woman, it must be heard in this Peace Congress; and especially the voice of the woman or organized labor must be heard, for, if the future of our land is to be a peaceful and an industrial one, it must be brought about by the intelligence of the organized workers.

A Voice: Good boy!

Miss O’Reilly: I take off my hat to the brother in the back of the room because he has acknowledged that there is no such thing as sex in the labor movement.

You ask what is the attitude of the labor movement towards war? Have we got to ask ourselves that question? Don’t we all know it in our hearts? Don’t we all carry it in the very marrow of our being ? Wasn’t it the workingmen’s international movement fifty years ago that said, “You will never establish Peace until you abolish all your standing armies”? Now, I am not advocating the abolition of one standing army as against another, but I do not believe that you can have Peace while you are preparing for war. Peace will not be attained to-day, but we must look to that future which we intend to reach. Therefore, I maintain, the works of the world belong to the great constructive force of the world and cannot for their life’s sake have anything to do with war or the destructive side. If we mean Peace, we must go about it honestly and honorably. So I believe with those workingmen of fifty years ago, if we really mean Peace, then we must advocate those measures which will do away with war. You cannot train men to be soldiers and then ask them to be anything else. You cannot ask them not to make use of the training which you have spent your substance to give them.

Now I am reminded of the story of the Irishman, who was supposed to believe in predestination. A neighbor saw him going out with a gun on his shoulder and said : “Why, Pat, I thought you believed in predestination?” “So I do, but perhaps the other fellow’s time has come.” Now while we have our armies and navies trained, you will notice it is always the thought that the other fellow’s time may have come. You can’t preach brotherhood in that way. However, whatever we may think on that score, we do want Peace. The majority of our people want Peace, and I think we want to send a message to The Hague which will make them understand, not only that the people here, but people all over the world want Peace. In reading over the messages and the thoughts of all the splendid minds to-day which are concentrating themselves on the thought of Peace, and what best we can do to attain the blessings of peace, it came upon me like a horror that over nineteen hundred years ago we had the Nazarene, the Man who has always been called “The Prince of Peace,” and yet in our midst to-day one of the followers of that Gospel, one of the followers of that Prince of Peace, asserts that there can be no such thing as Peace, and thanks God for a standing army which keeps watch over the turbulent and seditious of our city. I only mention this to ask what it is that makes so many of us get so twisted in our mentality, if not in our morality, for surely if ever a being lived who wanted Peace, it was the Nazarene, the gentle Carpenter. And we find to-day one of His followers at the International Peace Conference thanking God for the standing armies.

A Voice: Never was His follower.

Miss O’Reilly: Never was His follower? Perhaps not. I think a great many people who think they are His followers, let themselves out once in a while and then we know them for what they are.

But surely the solidarity of the human race will never be accomplished until the workers of the world unite for its accomplishment.

I should have said that the feeling which came into my heart when I read that minister’s utterances is the old, old thought which makes me say once again: Workers of the World, you must teach this Peace doctrine yourselves, if you want it taught. You organized workers know that the A B C of the labor movement teaches that the solidarity of the human race will never be accomplished until the workers of the world unite for its accomplishment, namely, by agitation, organization and education. Those are our three methods of Peace. And if we but do that work, we have very little time for the work of destruction. You know we are many, and we need a great deal of education to get us to see things straight and clear and not be fighting amongst ourselves in our own little places. We have got to learn that labor’s cause is the same all over the world. When we get that into our hearts and souls, we won’t fight very much longer. We won’t have very many battles. When we understand that labor’s cause is a universal cause, it will not be possible to get the Frenchmen to come out and fight the Germans, and the Germans to come out and fight the Irishmen. We know that our business is to establish the dignity of labor; on that we must first agree, and then try to make us fight on any other issues if you can!

I don’t know whether you know that story that Carlyle tells of Dumbdrudges, or as he calls it, the Town of Dumbdrudge. He says that in a certain town there were certain people brought up at the expense of the community; they were brought up, fed, taught trades; then they were dressed up in red coats or some thing of that kind, and guns put in their hands; and then in another corner of the world there was another group of people who were brought up and taught trades, crafts, and educated and sustained at the cost of the community, and those two sets of people, for some reason or another, were brought together face to face and somebody said “Fire!” Then there were sixty fewer human beings in the world. They fired simply because they were told, and shot each other down. Then in his grumbling Scottish way he said: “Did these men have any thing against each other?” “No.” “Then why did they do this thing?” “Simpleton! their governors had fallen out; and in stead of shooting one another, had the cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot.”

How much better is the story that Lafcadio Hearn tells about the singer. It is the story about a singing woman with a beautiful voice that Lafcadio Hearn heard, a voice that comes out of an ugly mouth and from a face that is pockmarked. Out of that ugly face and from the mouth of that human being comes a song that is so glorious, so beautiful, that he, a foreigner, under stands there is something in it which touches all of humanity. It is as if the cry of all the people of all the ages were stirred in him and he wanted to do something on his part towards the up lifting of humanity. It seems to me that that is the lesson that organization teaches to every member of organized labor. We may be ugly and do strange things, not the right kind of things sometimes, things that cannot be explained to the rest of the world, but that cry, that song that we are teaching is the unity of the human race. We are doing it in the best way that we can. We are trying to sing our song of construction, brotherhood and humanity, and we must not let it be interrupted by these thoughts of war, or be led to war with each other for petty reasons. Our cause must be a common cause for the uplifting of humanity, and that rewriting of history.

Now if I should finish with that thought, I fear you might think I was only a sentimental woman after all, one that does not know about things practical. So I am going to be just a little bit practical in the end, because you know we are not supposed to have sentiment these days; the practical people are the only people who count or do anything, so we are told. But now I want you to think what is the cost of our wars, what is the cost of the standing armies, and what we lose by lack of production, and the cost to us by the increased taxation, the frightful waste of human life, and the great loss of time from profitable occupations in this useless and wasteful occupation of slaughtering each other. Think of the waste that goes on in that ! I may not be perfectly correct in my quoting of figures, but wasn’t it a million dollars a day that the Japanese war cost? The Russian side surely cost as much as the Japanese. That makes two million dollars a day as the cost of that war in figures. Multiply that by 365 days, a year, and that war lasted more than a year, and we have $730,000,000 spent for destruction.

We are beginning to think in this country that there can be some kind of industrial education for children, that there should be some kind of industrial preparation for life. If we are going to do away with war, we must put Peace on the best foundation, and that is the training up of the children for the work they are going to perform.

Now, at a rough estimate, it costs $150 a year after the public school education to get one of these children through a training school which prepares him or her to do the work that his hands are trained to do. According to that estimate, then, we could have educated industrially 4,800,000 children for the cost of that one year of war. Now those are figures that we ought to think of, and as a woman I want to insist that when we disband our armies and navies, we should use those splendid warships for taking the children around the world. Horribly impracticable, I know, to ask a thing like that, but yet I believe I am going to live to see the day when it will be done.

One thing I hope we will advocate at these Peace Conferences. It is always a good plan to see far into the future and to ask for all you ever hope to realize; ask for the whole thing, then you may get a little speck. But ask for all you want ; it may take you years to lead up to it, but right in the beginning, know your ideal. Therefore I advocate the abolition of all wars. But I do hope that somebody will advocate that practical measure which I have read the French teachers advocate. I read that the French teachers in their Council have advocated the taking down of all ornaments from the school rooms which have anything to do with militarism. Now you see they realize that if in the young heart of the child you develop the worship of the soldier as a hero, you cannot get the idea of militarism out of his head when he grows up. You must inspire the child when he is young, and in order to do this you must surround him with the right kind of environment. Don’t have on the walls pictures of heroes in the shape of soldiers, or pictures of bloody battles as inspiring things for the young mind to look upon.

I believe firmly that what you know as civilization — I was going to tell you I don’t think very much of the civilization we have thus far — but what we know as civilization to day can only improve and advance with the passing of militarism, and you, the workers, you in your numbers, must send your voice across the ocean so that there will be no mistaking your stand on this Peace and war question. Let your voice ring loud and clear, that organized labor stands once and for all for organization, co-operation and the solidarity of humanity.



Source: Proceedings of the National Arbitration and American Peace Congress, New York, April 14th to 17th, 1907, Edited by the Secretary, Volume 1 (New York: American Peace Congress) 1907, pp. 232-238.