Mayor's Speech at the Dedication of the Municipal Flag

Following is the address of Mayor Henry C. Read at the dedication of the flag of the city of Fort Smith, delivered at Stadium Park, May 12, 1916. An historical note, this speech was made after the start of World War I but before U.S. entry into it. It also makes reference to the Spanish-American War of 1898 and, I believe, to the Boxer Rebellion in China.

For my dedicatory address, I have chosen the motto upon our municipal flag, adopted by the city commission on the 5th inst., which is "All for One, One for All" and my theme will be "Patriotism" as expressed in a word we have recently discovered in our vocabulary, a word which unthought of for a generation or more, forcibly brought to our attention that today is the biggest word in the American language and that word is Preparedness.

Having attended the recent meeting of mayors at St. Louis on "National Security." I bring you the message of that meeting.

For generations we have been such a peace loving, peace commanding nation that we have not dreamt that any other country under any possible condition might wish to go to war with us, or if they should, in a fit of anger over some fancied wrong, were we not protected from invasion of our territory by the great oceans separating us from any possible assailant.

From this idle dream we were rudely awakened as if by an electric shock when President Wilson, the pacificist, arguing that "we are too right to fight," after carefully watching day and night the trend of affairs in Europe became so aroused and alarmed that he "right about faced" and leaving his post of duty in Washington took lightning express trains to the great centers of population and urged, begged and prayed that the people might see their great danger and prepare, prepare against the wrath that is to come.

The consensus opinion of the greatest students of political economy is that if we escape war after the European war is over, it will be a miracle.

We love peace therefore we cannot have war, the pacificist says.

Did not the Belgians love peace?

The Armenians were never a warlike people yet consider the condition of those two peoples as a direct result of a war for which they were no more responsible than we ourselves.

Two years ago, Belgium was as peaceful, happy and flourishing as the U.S.; today she is ravaged, ruined and pauperized.

Where are the Armenians?

Five-eighths of their population massacred, the rest scattered like dust to the four winds.

The treatment that these inoffensive people have suffered is without parallel in all history and the reason is because they were not PREPARED to protect themselves. Why has not war-crazed Europe devoured the little countries of Holland and Switzerland? Simply because they are prepared.

Why will not the victors in this death struggle not pick a quarrel with America? Will their armies be depleted? Will their thirst for conquest be satisfied? Such is not history.

No nation has been better equipped for war than when they have just won a great victory.

Will the present war put an end to wars? Will arbitration settle all differences between nations? Will treaties protect? Will the fact that we are by blood kin to all other nations insure us against attack?

Our houses will cease to burn when they are built of fireproof material.

War will cease when the fire of hate ceases to burn in the human breast. Arbitration is operative when there is power to enforce the finding of the court. Treaties are but pieces of paper. Remote blood ties do not bind as long as brother strikes down brother for a real or fancied wrong.

Let us not deceive ourselves — America has no friend in Europe. The more prosperous we become the more we shall be envied and envy is the twin brother of hate. This war is making them poorer and us richer. The greater disparity in this respect the more they will envy us and the more necessity there will be for them to recuperate their lost fortunes from the only nation which can supply them and that country is America.

Now, who will our imaginary foreign foe prove to be? Are we not already in controversies with Germany and England to say nothing of our little neighbor Mexico? To those who are disturbed about Germany, the German armies, etc., let me say that in my humble opinion we need not fear the loyalty of hyphenated Amercians; they are not traitors. They are citizens and citizens by their own volition.

I love my fatherland as devotedly as any son she ever produced but now I am a citizen of Arkansas. She has been good to me, and I will fight for Arkansas until I die.

Note the recent agreement of the entente powers forming an alliance offensive and defensive against all other nations.

What will be occasion for an attack upon America?

Our enforcement of the Monroe doctrine has already caused a brush with our English cousins and could easily become a casus belli.

The Monroe doctrine is considered a farce by all European nations, and even South America does not consider it a protection. South America looks only to England's navy as her safeguard and yet we shall see the day when our very national life itself depends upon a strict enforcement of the Monroe doctrine.

We are rapidly taking the South American trade away from Europe. It naturally belongs to us, but we will have to fight to hold it.

The conclusion is that we must have a Navy equal to the best, adequate coast defense and a large mobile army.

The fear of our statesmen and those who play the war game is that we have slept away our day of grace. We are like the foolish virgins. We are totally unprepared for an early settlement of the war in Europe. We have nothing but money and men.

Money is not munitions, and men are not airships or submarines.

It takes twelve years to make a naval officer. It takes time to make a torpedo. We cannot do in a day what it took Germany, the most efficient nation on Earth, fifty years to do in the way of preparedness.

If war were declared tomorrow, a large percentage of our warships would have to be sent to dry docks for a lack of officers to man them.

Statistics show that our store of munitions would last only thirty minutes the way they are used now in Europe.

We have only one-half torpedo for each submarine.

The youth of our land should be given military training. Every man in Switzerland is a trained soldier.

Preparation is profitable even if it is never called into use.

We should build military roads all over our country and develop our agriculture and mineral resources to the maximum because these would be just as profitable in times of peace as in times of war. Other countries will need our surplus of food product for many years to come.

After all, what is this preparedness for? It is PREPAREDNESS for PEACE.

That this peace loving nation may be in a position to command peace as far as our continent is concerned and become a great factor in a court of arbitration should such be formed to adjust differences between nations.

If anyone fears militarism in this country, I will ask did our treatment of Spain indicate that we wanted our pound of flesh? We demanded no war indemnity, sent her army back to Spain and paid $20,000,000 for certain lands in the Philippines. We refused to join in a claim for war indemnity for China. We are simply not a warlike people. Many of our citizens came to this country to escape militarism, and there is no danger of ours ever becoming a military ridden country.

Our slogan should be "millions for peace, not a cent for war" unless war is forced upon us.

I am happy to call our visiting friends attention to the fact that long before President Wilson discovered that word "preparedness," Fort Smith was busily applying it toward ibuilding a City Beautiful and as a result we have here a little city lying at the foot of the Ozark mountains as complete in all its appointments as many cities of ten times its size. Founded by men of brain and brawn it has steadily grown and developed from within itself like the rose which first puts forth a tiny bud and day by day adds petal to petal in its folding embrace until it can no longer conceal its beauty and bursts forth a full blown fragrant flower to comfort and bless all who will accept of its charms so unlike the mushroom of the plains, which springs up over night with no apparent source of origin or thought of destiny it fades away as suddenly as it came.

Fort Smith was built not by boosters but by the same men along the same lines and every need of modern man is supplied as evidenceed by our commission form of government, our public schools, churches, libraries, musical clubs, transportation companies, telephone lines, theaters, movie shows, paved streets, water works, sewers, natural gas (the greatest boon to housekeepers), scientific food inspection and santitation, unexcelled fire department, Country club, parks and playgrounds, tennis courts all over the city, and last but not least this magnificent stadium for the development of athletics in our youth and entertainment for baseball fans in the city and surrounding country.

Our trees, lawns, gardens and bird sanctuaries make of Fort Smith a veritable Garden of Eden. A city with NO DEBT. NO SALOONS. NO OPEN GAMBLING.

In fact, no place for crooks, criminals and the vicious to whom our police department have made a closed town.

To such a PREPARED CITY, it becomes not only our pleasure but our duty, following the ancient question of the far east to go out into the highways and byways and compel the people to come to the feast we have set before them.

I am proud that the honor has been bestowed upon me of dedicating to Fort Smith her municipal flag.

(Raising of flag).

The national colors — red, white and blue — express our national patriotism. The field of gold typifies solidity for which Fort Smith is famous.

Around the city seal, the white circle denoting continuity signifies that we will ever be loyal to our motto, "All for One, One for All."

May this flag ever wave over as good and brave a people as it does today and speak to the world of their peace, purity and prosperity.

This speech was transcribed from a printing of the speech in the Fort Smith Times Record, May 12, 1916. The transcription is verbatim although some small changes were made in punctuation.

Henry C. Read was mayor of Fort Smith from 1913-1917.