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United States Department of State / Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, 1918
(1918)

Wilson, Woodrow
Address of the President, December 2, 1918,   pp. IX-XVIII PDF (3.4 MB)


Page XII

 XII ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT 
 losses of war longer than we. Our people, moreover, do not wait to be coached
and led. They know their own business, are quick and resourceful at every
readjustment, definite in purpose, and selfreliant in action. Any leading
strings we might seek to put them in would speedily become hopelessly tangled
because they would pay no attention to them and go their own way. All that
we can do as their legislative and executive servants is to mediate the process
of change here, there, and elsewhere as we may. I have heard much counsel
as to the plans that should be formed and personally conducted to a happy
consummation, but from no quarter have I seen any general scheme of "reconstruction"
emerge which I thought it likely we could force our spirited business men
and self-reliant laborers to accept with due pliancy and obedience. 
 While the war lasted we set up many agencies by which to direct the industries
of the country in the services it was necessary for them to render, by which
to make sure of an abundant supply pf the materials needed, by which to check
undertakings that could for the time be dispensed with and stimulate those
that were most serviceable in war, by which to gain for the purchasing departments
of the Government a certain control over the prices of essential articles
and materials, by which to restrain trade with alien enemies, make the most
of the available shipping, and systematize financial transactions, both public
and private, so that there would be no unnecessary conflict or confusion—by
which, in short, to put every material energy of the country in harness to
draw the common load and make of us one team in the accomplishment of a great
task. But the moment we knew the armistice to have been signed we took the
harness off. Raw materials upon which the Government had kept its hand for
fear there should not be enough for the industries that supplied the armies
have been released and put into the general market again. Great industrial
plants whose whole output and machinery had been taken over for the uses
of the Government have been set free to return to the uses to which they
were put before the war. It has not been possible to remove so readily or
so quickly the control of foodstuffs and of shipping, because the world has
still to be fed from our granaries and the ships are still needed to send
supplies to our men oversea and to bring the men back as fast as the disturbed
conditions on the other side of the water permit; but even there restraints
are being relaxed as much as possible and more and more as the weeks go by.
 Never before have there been agencies in existence in this country which
knew so much of the field of supply, of labor, and of industry as the War
Industries Board, the War Trade Board, the Labor Department, the Food Administration,
and the Fuel Administration have known since their labors became thoroughly
systematized; and they have not been isolated agencies; they have been directed
by men which represented the permanent departments of the Government and
so have been the centers of unified and cooperative action. It has been the
policy of the Executive, therefore, since the ~rmistice was assured (which
is in effect a complete submission of the euemy) to put the knowledge of
these bodies at the disposal of the business men of the country and to offer
their intelligent mediation at every point and in every matter where it was
desired. It is surprising 


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