What This Book Is About

Now it is proposed to form a Government for men and not for Societies of men or States. -- George Mason in the American Union's Constitutional Convention.

I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity and your happiness. ... I frankly acknowledge to you my convictions, and I will freely lay before you the reasons on which they are founded. ... My arguments will be open to all, and may be judged of by all. They shall at least be offered in a spirit which will not disgrace the cause of truth. -- Alexander Hamilton, opening The Federalist.

Now when man's future seems so vast, catastrophe threatens to cut us from it. The dangers with which depression, dictatorship, false recovery and war are hemming us in have become so grave and imminent that we no longer need concern ourselves with proving how grave and near they are. We need concern ourselves instead with the problem of escaping them and the cruel dilemma we face; Whether to risk peace or freedom? That is the problem with which this book is concerned. I believe there is a way through these dangers, and out of the dilemma, a way to do what we all want, to secure both peace and freedom securely, and be done with this nightmare. It promises not only escape, but life such as I, too, never hoped could be lived in my time.

It is not an easy way -- who expects one? -- and to many it will seem at first too hard to be practical. But this is because its difficulties and dangers are greatest at the start; other ways that seem easier and safer to begin with, grow increasingly hard and dangerous, and lead nowhere. How could we feel hemmed in if the way through were so easy to take, or even see at first? For my part, to find it I had to stumble on it. Once found it soon opened so widely that I wondered how I had failed so long to see it. I shall not be surprised, then, if you begin by being skeptical or discouraged. But I ask you to remember that the essential question is: Which way will really lead us through?

Since 1933 when I stumbled on this way I have been exploring it all I could and trying, in the writing of this book, to clear away the things hiding it. By all the tests of common sense and experience I find it to be our safest, surest way. It proves in fact to be nothing new but a forgotten way which our fathers opened up and tried out successfully long ago when they were hemmed in as we are now.

The way through is Union now of the democracies that the North Atlantic and a thousand other things already unite -- Union of these few peoples in a great federal republic built on and for the thing they share most, their common democratic principle of government for the sake of individual freedom.

This Union would be designed (a) to provide effective common government in our democratic world in those fields where such common government will clearly serve man's freedom better than separate governments, (b) to maintain independent national governments in all other fields where such government will best serve man's freedom, and (c) to create by its constitution a nucleus world government capable of growing into universal world government peacefully and as rapidly as such growth will best serve man's freedom.

By (a) I mean the Union of the North Atlantic democracies in these five fields:
       a union government and citizenship
       a union defense force
       a union customs-free economy
       a union money
       a union postal and communications system.

By (b) I mean the Union government shall guarantee against all enemies, foreign and domestic, not only those rights of man that are common to all democracies, but every existing national or local right that is not clearly incompatible with effective union government in the five named fields. The Union would guarantee the right of each democracy in it to govern independently all its home affairs and practice democracy at home in its own tongue, according to its own customs and in its own way, whether by republic or kingdom, presidential, cabinet or other form of government, capitalist, socialist or other economic system.

By (c) I mean the founder democracies shall so constitute The Union as to encourage the nations outside it and the colonies inside it to seek to unite with it instead of against it. Admission to The Union and to all its tremendous advantages for the individual man and woman would from the outset be open equally to every democracy, now or to come, that guarantees its citizens The Union's minimum Bill of Rights.

The Great Republic would be organized with a view to its spreading peacefully round the earth as nations grow ripe for it. Its Constitution would aim clearly at achieving eventually by this peaceful, ripening, natural method the goal millions have dreamed of individually, but never sought to get by deliberately planning and patiently working together to achieve it. That goal would be achieved by The Union when every individual of our species would be a citizen of it, a citizen of a disarmed world enjoying world free trade, a world money and a world communications system. Then Man's vast future would begin.

This goal will seem so remote now as to discourage all but the strong from setting out for it, or even acknowledging that they stand for it. It is not now so remote, it does not now need men so strong as it did when Lincoln preserved the American Union "for the great republic, for the principle it lives by and keeps alive, for man's vast future." It will no longer be visionary once the Atlantic democracies unite. Their Union is not so remote, and their Union is all that concerns us here and now.

The American Way Through

These proceedings may at first appear strange and difficult; but, like other steps which we have already passed over, will in a little time become familiar and agreeable. -- Thomas Paine in Common Sense.

One hundred and fifty years ago a few American democracies opened this Union way through. The dangers of depression, dictatorship and war, and the persuasiveness of clear thinking and courageous leadership, led them then to abandon the heresy into which they had fallen. That heresy converted the sovereignty of the state from a means to individual freedom into the supreme end itself, and produced the wretched "League of Friendship" of the Articles of Confederation. Abandoning all this the Americans turned back to their Declaration of Independence -- of the independence of Man from the State and of the dependence of free men on each other for their freedom -- the Declaration:

That all mon are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Finding they had wrongly applied this philosophy to establish Thirteen "free and independent States" and organize them as the League of Friendship so that "each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence," they applied it next as "We the people of the United States" to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." To do this they invented and set up a new kind of interstate government. It has worked ever since as the other, league, type has never worked. It has proved to be an "astonishing and unexampled success," as Lord Acton said, not only in America but wherever democracies have tried it regardless of conditions, -- among the Germans, French and Italians of Switzerland, the English and French of Canada, the Dutch and English of the Union of South Africa. It is the kind of interstate government that Lincoln, to distinguish it from the opposing type of government of, by and for states, called "government of the people, by the people, for the people." It is the way that I call Union.

To follow this way through now our Atlantic democracies -- and first of all the American Union -- have only to abandon in their turn the same heresy into which they have fallen, the heresy of absolute national sovereignty and its vain alternatives, neutrality, balance of power, alliance or League of Nations. We the people of the Atlantic have only to cease sacrificing needlessly our individual freedom to the freedom of our nations, be true to our democratic philosophy and establish that "more perfect Union" toward which all our existing unions explicitly or implicitly aim.

Can we hope to find a safer, surer, more successful way than this? What democrat among us does not hope that this Union will be made some day? What practical man believes it will ever be made by mere dreaming, or that the longer we delay starting to make it the sooner we shall have it? All it will take to make this Union -- whether in a thousand years or now, whether long after catastrophe or just in time to prevent it, -- is agreement by a majority to do it. Union is one of those things which to do we need but agree to do, and which we can not possibly ever do except by agreeing to do it. Why, then, can we not do it now in time for us to benefit by it and save millions of lives? Are we so much feebler than our fathers and our children that we can not do what our fathers did and what we expect our children to do? Why can not we agree on Union now?

Are not liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable as in Webster's day? We can not be for liberty and against Union. We can not be both for and against liberty and Union now. We must choose.


Democracy I would define more closely than the dictionary that defines it as "government by the people," (though I would not attempt needless precision and would indicate an ideal rather than an average). I would add with Lincoln, and I would stress, that democracy is also government for the people and of the people -- the people being composed of individuals all given equal weight, in principle.

Democracy to me is the way to individual freedom formed by men organizing themselves on the principle of the equality of man. That is, they organize government of themselves, in the sense that their laws operate on them individually as equals. They organize government by themselves, each having an equal vote in making law. They organize government for themselves, to secure equally the freedom, in the broadest sense of the term, of each of them.

By democracy I mean government of the totality by the majority for the sake equally of each minority of one, particularly as regards securing him such rights as freedom of speech, press and association. (If merely these three rights are really secured to all individuals they have the key, I believe. to all the other rights in all the other fields, political, juridical, economic, etc., that form part of individual freedom.)

Union to me is a democracy composed of democracies -- an interstate government organized on the same basic principle, by the same basic method, and for the same basic purpose as the democracies in it, and with the powers of government divided between the union and the states the better to advance this common purpose, individual freedom.

Union and league I use as opposite terms. I divide all organization of interstate relations into two types, according to whether man or the state is the unit, and the equality of man or the equality of the state is "the principle it lives by and keeps alive." I restrict the term union to the former, and the term league to the latter. To make clearer this distinction and what I mean by unit, these three points may help:

First, a league is a government of governments: It governs each people in its territory as a unit through that unit's government. Its laws can be broken only by a people acting through its government, and enforced only by the league coercing that people as a unit, regardless of whether individuals in it opposed or favored the violation. A union is a government of the people: It governs each individual in its territory directly as a unit. Its laws apply equally to each individual instead of to each government or people, can be broken only by individuals, and can be enforced only by coercing individuals.

Second, a league is a government by governments: Its laws are made by the peoples in it acting each through its government as a unit of equal voting power regardless of the number of individuals in it. A union is a government by the people: Its laws are made by the individuals in it acting, each through his representatives, as a unit of equal voting power in choosing and changing them, each state's voting power in the union government being ordinarily in close proportion to its population. A union may allow in one house of its legislature (as in the American Senate) equal weight to the people of each state regardless of population. But it provides that such representatives shall not, as in a league, represent the state as a unit and be under the instructions of, and subject to, recall by its government, but shall represent instead the people of the state and be answerable to them.

Third, a league is a government for governments or states: It is made to secure the freedom of each of the states in it, taken as units equally. A union is a government for the people: It is made for the purpose of securing the freedom of each of the individuals in it taken as units equally. To secure the sovereignty of the state a league sacrifices the rights of men to justice (as in the first point) and to equal voting power (as in the second point), whereas a union sacrifices the sovereignty of the state to secure the rights of men: A league is made for the state, a union is made for man.

This may suffice to explain the sense in which the terms democracy, union and league are meant in this book.1

Fifteen Founder Democracies

In the North Atlantic or founder democracies I would include at least these Fifteen (or Ten): The American Union, the British Commonwealth (specifically the United Kingdom, the Federal Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Ireland), the French Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Swiss Confederation, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

These few include the world's greatest, oldest, most homogeneous and closely linked democracies, the peoples most experienced and successful in solving the problem at hand -- the peaceful, reasonable establishment of effective interstate democratic world government. Language divides them into only five big groups and, for all practical political purposes, into only two, English and French. Their combined citizenry of nearly 300,000,000 is well balanced, half in Europe and half overseas. None of these democracies has been at war with any of the others since more than 100 years.

These few democracies suffice to provide the nucleus of world government with the financial, monetary, economic and political power necessary both to assure peace to its members peacefully from the outset by sheer overwhelming preponderance and invulnerability, and practically to end the monetary insecurity and economic warfare now ravaging the whole world. These few divide among them such wealth and power that the so-called world political, economic and monetary anarchy is at bottom nothing but their own anarchy -- since they can end it by uniting to establish law and order among themselves.

Together these fifteen own almost half the earth, rule all its oceans, govern nearly half mankind. They do two-thirds of the world's trade, and most of this would be called their domestic trade once they united, for it is among themselves. They have more than 50 per cent control of nearly every essential material. They have more than 60 per cent of such war essentials as oil, copper, lead, steel, iron, coal, tin, cotton, wool, wood pulp, shipping tonnage. They have almost complete control of such keys as nickel, rubber and automobile production. They possess practically all the world's gold and banked wealth. Their existing armed strength is such that, once they united it, they could reduce their armaments and yet gain a two-power standard of security.

The Union's existing and potential power from the outset would be so gigantic, its bulk so vast, its vital centers so scattered, that all the autocracies even put together could not dream of defeating it. Once established the Union's superiority in power would be constantly increasing simply through the admission to it of outside nations. A number would no doubt be admitted immediately. By this process the absolutist powers would constantly become weaker and more isolated.

When the really powerful members of a community refuse to organize effective government in it, when each insists on remaining a law unto himself to the degree the democracies, and especially the United States, have done since the war, then anarchy is bound to result, and the first to feel the effects of the chaos are bound to be the weaker members of the community. When the pinch comes the last to be hired are the first to be laid off, and the firms working on the narrowest margin are the first to be driven to the wall or to desperate expedients. That makes the pinch worse for the more powerful and faces them with new dangers, with threats of violence. It is human for them to blame those they have unwittingly driven to desperation, but that does not change the source of the evil.

So it has been in the world. The younger democracies have been the first to go. The first of the great powers driven to desperate and violent measures have been those with the smallest margin. There is no doubt that their methods have since made matters worse and that there is no hope in following their lead. Their autocratic governments are adding to the world's ills but they are not the real cause of them. They are instead an effect of the anarchy among the powerful democracies.

The dictators are right when they blame the democracies for the world's condition, but they are wrong when they blame it on democracy. The anarchy comes from the refusal of the democracies to renounce enough of their national sovereignty to let effective world law and order be set up. But their refusal to do this, their maintenance of the state for its own sake, their readiness to sacrifice the lives and liberties of the citizens rather than the independence of the state, -- this we know is not democracy. It is the core of absolutism. Democracy has been waning and autocracy waxing, the rights of men lessening and the rights of the state growing everywhere because the leading democracies have themselves led in practicing, beyond their frontiers, autocracy instead of democracy.

The rising power of autocracy increases the need for Union just as the spread of a contagious disease increases the need for quarantine and for organizing the healthy. But it is essential to remember that though the victims carry the disease they did not cause it, and that quarantine of the victims and organization of the healthy are aimed not against the victims but against the epidemic, the purpose being to end it both by restricting its spread and by curing its victims.

It is wrong, all wrong, to conceive of Union as aimed against the nations under autocracy. There is a world of difference between the motives behind Union and those behind either the present policy in each democracy of arming for itself or the proposals for alliance among the democracies. For such armament and such alliance are meant to maintain the one thing Union does attack in the one place Union does attack it -- the autocratic principle of absolute national sovereignty in the democracies. Unlike armament and alliance policies, Union leads to no crusade against autocracy abroad, to no attempt to end war by war or make the world safe for democracy by conquering foreign dictatorship. Union is no religion for tearing out the mote from a brother's eye -- and the eye, too -- while guarding nothing so jealously, savagely, as the beam in one's own eye.

Union calls on each democracy to remove itself the absolutism governing its relations with the other democracies, and to leave it to the people of each dictatorship to decide for themselves whether they will maintain or overthrow the absolutism governing them not only externally but internally. Union provides equally for the protection of the democracies against attack by foreign autocracy while it remains, and for the admission of each autocratic country into The Union once it becomes a democracy in the only possible way -- by the will and effort of its own people.

The attraction membership in The Union would have for outsiders would be so powerful, and the possibility of conquering The Union would be so hopeless that, once The Union was formed, the problem the absolutist powers now present could be safely left to solve itself. As their citizens turned these governments into democracies and entered The Union, the arms burden on everyone would dwindle until it soon disappeared.

Thus, by the simple act of uniting on the basis of their own principle, the democracies could immediately attain practical security, and could proceed steadily to absolute security and disarmament.

They could also increase enormously their trade and prosperity, reduce unemployment, raise their standard of living while lowering its cost. The imagination even of the economic expert can not grasp all the saving and profit democrats would realize by merely uniting their democracies in one free trade area.

They need only establish one common money to solve most if not all of today's more insoluble monetary problems, and save their citizens the tremendous loss inherent not only in depreciation, uncertainty, danger of currency upset from foreign causes, but also in the ordinary day-to-day monetary exchange among the democracies.

Merely by the elimination of excessive government, needless bureaucracy, and unnecessary duplication which Union would automatically effect, the democracies could easily balance budgets while reducing taxation and debt. To an appalling degree taxes and government in the democracies today are devoted only to the maintenance of their separate sovereignties as regards citizenship, defense, trade, money and communications. To a still more appalling degree they are quite unnecessary and thwart instead of serve the purpose for which we established those governments and voted those taxes, namely, the maintenance of our own freedom and sovereignty as individual men and women.

By uniting, the democracies can serve this purpose also by greatly facilitating the distribution of goods, travel and the dissemination of knowledge and entertainment. With one move, the simple act of Union, the democrats can make half the earth equally the workshop and the playground of each of them.

Creation of The Union involves difficulties, of course, but the difficulties are transitional, not permanent ones. All other proposals in this field, even if realizable, could solve only temporarily this or that problem in war, peace, armaments monetary stabilization. These proposals would, be as hard to achieve as Union, yet all together they could not do what the one act of Union would -- permanently eliminate all these problems. These are problems for which the present dogma of national sm is to blame. We can not keep it and solve them. We can not eliminate them until we first eliminate it.

Which Way Advances Freedom More?

This does not mean eliminating all national rights. It means eliminating them only where elimination clearly serves the individuals concerned, and maintaining them in all other respects, -- not simply where maintenance clearly serves the general individual interest but also in all doubtful cases. The object of Union being to advance the freedom and individuality of the individual, it can include no thought of standardizing or regimenting him, nor admit the kind of centralizing that increases governmental power over him. These are evils of nationalism, and Union would end them. Union comes to put individuality back on the throne that nationality has usurped.

Everywhere nationalism, in its zeal to make our nation instead of ourselves, self-sufficing and independent, is centralizing government, giving it more and more power over the citizen's business and life, putting more and more of that power in one man's hands, freeing the government from its dependence on the citizen while making him more and more dependent on it -- on the pretext of keeping him independent of other governments. Everywhere the national state has tended to become a super-state in its power to dispose of the citizen, his money, job, and life. Everywhere nationalism has been impoverishing the citizen with taxes, unemployment, depression; and it is poverty -- the desert, not the jungle, -- that stunts variety, that standardizes. Everywhere nationalism is casting the citizen increasingly in war's uniform robot mold.

Union would let us live more individual lives. Its test for deciding whether in a given field government should remain national or become union is this: Which would clearly give the individual more freedom? Clearly the individual freedom of Americans or Frenchmen would gain nothing from making Union depend on the British converting the United Kingdom into a republic. Nor would the British be freer for making Union depend on the Americans and French changing to a monarchy. There are many fields where it is clear that home rule remains necessary for individual freedom, where the maintenance of the existing variety among the democracies helps instead of harms the object of Union.

It is clear too that a Union so secure from foreign aggression as this one would not need that homogeneity in population that the much weaker American Union feels obliged to seek. Our Union could afford to encourage the existing diversity among its members as a powerful safeguard against the domestic dangers to individual freedom. Just as the citizen could count on The Union to protect his nation from either invasion or dictatorship rising from within, he could count on his nation's autonomy to protect him from a majority in The Union becoming locally oppressive. The existence of so many national autonomies in The Union would guarantee each of them freedom to experiment politically, economically, socially, and would save this Union from the danger of hysteria and stampede to which more homogeneous unions are exposed.

Clearly, individual freedom requires us to maintain national autonomy in most things, but no less clearly it requires us to abolish that autonomy in a few things. There is no need to argue that you and I have nothing to lose and much to gain by becoming equal citizens in The Union while retaining our national citizenship. Clearly you and I would be freer had we this Great Republic's guarantee of our rights as men, its security against the armaments burden, military servitude, war. It is self-evident that you and I would live an easier and a richer life if through half the world we could do business with one money and postage, if through half the world we were free to buy in the cheapest market what we need to buy, and free to sell in the dearest market what we have to sell.

In five fields -- citizenship, defense, trade, money, and communications -- we are sacrificing now the individual freedom we could safely, easily have. On what democratic ground can we defend this great sacrifice? We make it simply to keep our democracies independent of each other. We can not say that we must maintain the state's autonomy in these few fields in order to maintain it in the many fields where it serves our freedom, for we know how to keep it in the latter without keeping it in the former. We have proved that in the American Union, the Swiss Union, and elsewhere.

What then can we say to justify our needless sacrifice of man to the state in these five fields, a sacrifice made only to maintain the nation for the nation's sake? How can we who believe the state is made for man escape the charge that in these five fields we are following the autocratic principle that man is made for the state? How can we plead not guilty of treason to democracy? Are we not betraying our principles, our interests, our freedom, ourselves and our children? We are betraying, too, our fathers. They overthrew the divine right of kings and founded our democracies not for the divine right of nations but for the rights of Man.

Clearly absolute national sovereignty has now brought us to the stage where this form of government has become destructive of the ends for which we form government, where democrats to remain democrats must use their right "to abolish it, and to institute new government."

Clearly prudence dictates that we should lay our new government's foundations on such principles and organize its powers in such form as have stood the test of experience. Clearly democracy bids us now unite our unions of free men and women in The Union of the Free.

The Alternatives to Union

Fantastic? Visionary? What are the alternatives? There are only these: Either the democracies must try to stand separately, or they must try to stand together on some other basis than Union; that is, they must organize themselves as a league or an alliance.

Suppose we try to organize as a league. That means seeking salvation from what Alexander Hamilton called "the political monster of an imperium in imperio." We adopt a method which has just failed in the League of Nations, which before that led the original thirteen American democracies to a similar failure, and failed the Swiss democracies, the Dutch democracies, and the democracies of ancient Greece. We adopt a method which has been tried time and again in history and has never worked, whether limited to few members or extended to many; a method which, we shall see, when we analyze it later, is thoroughly undemocratic, untrustworthy, unsound, unable either to make or to enforce its law in time. Is it not fantastic to expect to get the American people, after 150 years of successful experience with union and after their rejection of the League of Nations, to enter any league?

Suppose we try to organize instead an alliance of the democracies. But an alliance is simply a looser, more primitive form of league, one that operates secretly through diplomatic tunnels rather than openly through regular assemblies. It is based on the same unit as a league, -- the state, -- and on the same principle, -- that the maintenance of the freedom of the state is the be-all and the end-all of political and economic policy. It is at most an association (instead of a government) of governments, by governments, for governments. It has all the faults of a league with most of them intensified and with some more of its own added.

The lack of machinery for reaching and executing international agreement in the economic, financial and monetary fields in time to be effective did much to cause the depression that led us through Manchuria and Hitler and Ethiopia to where we are today. What could be more fantastic than the hope that any conceivable alliance could provide this machinery, or that without this machinery we can long avoid depression and war?

Only one thing could be more visionary and fantastic, and that is the third possible alternative to Union, the one that would seek salvation in rejecting every type of interstate organization and in pursuing a policy of pure nationalism, -- the policy of isolationism, neutrality, of each trusting to his own armaments, military and economic. For if the democracies are not to try to stand together by union or league or alliance, the only thing left for them is to try to stand alone.

The experience of the United States shows that even the most powerful nations can not get what they want by isolationism. The United States sought through the nineteen twenties to preserve its peace and prosperity by isolationism.

The United States has never armed in peace time as it has since it adopted this policy. And the end is not near.

The balance of power theory that prepared catastrophe now as then -- there is no more sterile, illusory, fantastic, exploded and explosive peace policy than the balance of power. Look at it. Take it apart. What does it mean in common words? It means seeking to get stability by seeking to equalize the weight on both sides of the balance. One can conceive of reaching stability this way -- but for how long and at the cost of what violent ups and downs before? And when the scales do hang in perfect balance it takes but a breath, only the wind that goes with a word spoken or shrieked in the Hitlerian manner, to end at once the stability, the peace that was achieved. Stability can never be more in danger, more at the mercy of the slightest mistake, accident or act of ill will than at the very moment when the ideal of the balance of power is finally achieved.

We do not and can not get peace by balance of power; we can and do get it by unbalance of power. We get it by putting so much weight surely on the side of law that the strongest law-breaker can not possibly offset it and is bound to be overwhelmed. We get lasting stability by having one side of the balance safely on the ground and the other side high in the air.

Even the moment's stability which the balance of power may theoretically attain is a delusion since each side knows it can not last. Therefore neither can believe in it and the nearer they come to it the harder both must struggle to prevent it by adding more weight on their side so as to enjoy the lasting peace that unbalance of power secures, -- and the race is to the strongest.

The race is to the strongest, and the democracies to win need only scrap this balance of power and neutrality nonsense and directly seek peace in the unbalance of power that Union alone can quickly and securely give them.

The Test of Common Sense

Because Union is a fresh solution of the world problem it appears to be something new. The deeper one goes into it however, the better one may see that there is in it nothing new, strange, untried, nothing utopian, mystic. The fact is that we democrats have already strayed away from the road of reason and realism into the desert of make-believe and mysticism. We strayed away seeking the mirage utopia of a world where each nation is itself a self-sufficing world, where each gains security and peace by fearing and preparing war where law and order no longer require government but magically result from keeping each nation a law unto itself. where the individual's freedom is saved by abandoning at the national frontier the principle that the state is made for man and adopting there the dogma that man is made for the nation. It is proposed here that we have done with these dangerous delusions, that we return to the road of reason and seek salvation by tested methods, by doing again what we know from experience we can do. I ask nothing better than that we stick to the common interests of us individual men and women and to the simpler teachings of common sense.

Common sense tells us that it is in our individual interest to make the world safe for our individual selves, and that we can not do this while we lack effective means of governing our world.

It tells us that the wealthier, the more advanced in machinery, the more civilized a people is and the more liberties its citizens enjoy, the greater the stake they have in preventing depression, dictatorship, war. The more one has, the more one has to lose.

Common sense tells us that some of the causes of depression, dictatorship, war, lie inside the nation and that others lie outside it. It tells us that our existing political machinery has let us govern strongly the conditions of life within the nation but not outside it; and that all each people has done to overcome the dangers inside it has been blighted by its failure to reach the dangers outside it, or remains at the mercy of these ungoverned forces.

Common sense reminds us Americans that we are part of the world and not a world apart, that the more we keep our lead in the development of machines the more important to us we make the rest of the world, that we can not, without catastrophe, continue, through good times and bad, improving these machines while refusing to develop political machinery to govern the world we are thus creating. It tells us that the principles of this Union of the Free are the principles that America was born to champion, that Americans can not deny them and still remain Americans. For the loyalty of the American is not to soil or race. The oath he takes when he enters the service of the American Union, is altogether to the principles of Union, "to support and defend the Constitution." That Constitution is already universal in its scope. It allows for the admission to its Union of any state on earth. It never even mentions territory or language. It mentions race and color only to provide that freedom shall never on that account be denied to any man.

American opinion has always been remarkable for seeing from afar danger to democracy and quickly adopting the common sense solution, however remote and radical and difficult and dangerous it seemed to be. What other people ever revolted at less oppression? Independence was so remote from American thought at the start of 1776 that it was not even proposed seriously until Jan. 10, when Paine came out for it. Yet his Common Sense then so swept the country that within six months the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

To understand how difficult and remote the Union of the Thirteen States really was when 1787 began, and how encouragingly the example they set applies to our democracies today, common sense suggests that we turn back and see the situation then as contemporaries saw it.

"If there is a country in the world where concord, according to common calculation, would be least expected, it is America," wrote Paine himself. "Made up as it is of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of Government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable."

Conditions among the American democracies of the League of Friendship were such that John Fiske wrote, "By 1786, under the universal depression and want of confidence, all trade had well-nigh stopped, and political quackery, with its cheap and dirty remedies, had full control of the field." Trade disputes threatened war among New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Territorial disputes led to bloodshed and threat of war among New York, New Hampshire and Vermont, and between Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

War with Spain threatened to break the League of Friendship in two camps. The League could not coerce its members. Threats of withdrawal from it were common. Its Congress rarely had money in the treasury, could no longer borrow.

The total membership of Congress under the League of Friendship was ninety-one, but the average attendance in the six years preceding Union was only about twenty-five. Often Congress could not sit because no quorum came. Things reached the point where little Delaware, though it had the same voting power in Congress as the largest state and though it was not thirty miles from Philadelphia, where Congress met, decided it was no longer worth the expense to send a delegate.

The states issued worthless currency, misery was rife, and courts were broken up by armed mobs. When these troubles culminated early in 1787 with the attempt of Shays's rebels to capture the League arsenal in Massachusetts, so strong was state sovereignty and so feeble the League that Massachusetts would not allow League troops to enter its territory even to guard the League's own arsenal. Jay had already written to Washington in 1786, "I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so than during the war."

Everything seemed to justify the words of the contemporary liberal philosopher, Josiah Tucker, Dean of Gloucester:

As to the future grandeur of America, and its being a rising empire under one head, whether republican or monarchical, it is one of the idlest and most visionary notions that ever was conceived even by writers of romance. The mutual antipathies and clashing interests of the Americans, their differences of governments, habitudes, and manners, indicate that they will have no center of union and no common interest. They never can be united into one compact empire under any species of government whatever; a disunited people till the end of time, suspicious and distrustful of each other, they will be divided and subdivided into little commonwealths or principalities, according to natural boundaries, by great bays of the sea, and by vast rivers, lakes, and ridges of mountains.

The idea of turning from league to union was so remote in 1787 that it was not even seriously proposed until the end of May when the Federal Convention opened. And the opening of the Convention had to wait ten days in order to have even the bare majority of the Thirteen States needed for a quorum. The Convention itself had been called by Congress merely to reform the League -- "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." It was not deflected away from patching and into building anew until the eve of its session, -- and then thanks only to George Washington's personal intervention. Even then the Union as we know it now was more than remote: It was unknown, it still had to be invented.

Yet, once the Convention decided to build anew, it completed this revolutionary political invention within 100 working days. Within two years -- two years of close votes and vehement debate in which Hamilton, Madison and others, now called "men of vision," were derided as "visionary young men" even by Richard Henry Lee, the revolutionist who had moved the Declaration of Independence in 1776, -- within two years the anarchy-ridden, freedom-loving American democracies agreed to try out this invention on themselves. Twenty months after they read its text the American people established the Constitution that still governs them, -- but now governs four times as many democracies and forty times as many free men and women.

Can it be hard-headed reason that holds it easier for the American democracies to invent and agree to try out Union in the infancy of self-government than it is for our more mature democracies to adopt it now?

It does seem practical to ask first how all the difficulties in changing from national sovereignty to Union are. to be met. Yet the makers of the first Union were not delayed by such considerations. They abolished each State's rights to levy tariffs, issue money, make treaties, and keep an army, and they gave these rights to the Union without waiting for a plan to meet the difficulties of changing from protection to free trade, etc. They did not even bother trying to work out plans to meet all these difficulties of transition.

Yet they lived in a time when New York was protecting its fuel interests by a tariff on Connecticut wood, and its farmers by duties on New Jersey butter, when Massachusetts closed while Connecticut opened its ports to British shipping, when Boston was boycotting Rhode Island grain and Philadelphia was refusing to accept New Jersey money, when the money of most of the States was depreciated and that of Rhode Island and Georgia was so worthless that their governments sought to coerce the citizens into accepting it. In those days New York was massing troops on its Vermont frontier while the army of Pennsylvania was committing atrocities in the Wyoming valley against settlers from Connecticut.

Some factors, of course, made Union easier for the American democracies than for us; others made it harder. It can be urged that they were all contiguous states that had been colonies of the same country. Their peoples, though much more divided than we now assume, did have a common language, a predominantly British background and nationality, the same pioneering traditions and problems. It can be urged on the other hand that they lacked some tremendous advantages our fifteen democracies now enjoy. One of them is political experience, another is speed of communications.

They lived in the infancy of modern democracy, when it was a bold experiment to let men vote even with a property qualification. They had to invent federal union. We have behind us now 150 years of experience with democracy and federal union which they lacked. It took a month then for a message to go by the fastest means from Philadelphia to the most remote state; a delegate took still longer. A delegate can now reach Philadelphia in one-fourth that time from the most distant of the fifteen democracies; a message can be broadcast to them all in a flash.

Although it does seem to me, on balance, that Union is easier now than then, I would grant that it is hard to strike this balance. But we can not have it both ways. Those who say that I am wrong, that conditions were so much more favorable to Union of the American democracies then than they are for Union in our day, are also saying implicitly that conditions then were also much more favorable than now to all the alternative solutions -- league, alliance, or isolationism. If a common language, a common mother country, a common continent and all the other things the American democracies had in common, made Union easier for them than us, they also made it easier for them to make a league succeed. If even they could not make a league work, then how in the name of common sense can we expect to do better with a league than they did? Even if Union is harder now than then, we know we can succeed with it.

Common sense leads to this conclusion: If we the people of the American Union, the British Commonwealth, the French Republic, the Lowlands, Scandinavia and the Swiss Confederation can not unite, the world can not. If we will not do this little for man's freedom and vast future, we can not hope that Europe will; catastrophe must come, and there is no one to blame but ourselves. But the burden is ours because the power is ours, too. If we will Union we can achieve The Union, and the time we take to do it depends only on ourselves.


  1. All that has been said here about leagues applies with still greater force to alliances and cooperative associations of states, for these, too, take the state as unit.

Contents -- Book II -- Chapter VI