University of Notre Dame
Jacques Maritain Center   

Address on Democracy

[From an autograph manuscript.]

It is a great honor for me to speak here after Mrs. Roosevelt and to be able to tell her my deep respect and admiration for the first lady of America as well as for the President of the United States. I was in New York when he was elected to his third term, and I should like to say what a great experience in the Democratic way of life the behavior of the American people and the political insight which they displayed on this historical occasion have been for me. I should also like to stress the tremendous popularity which President Roosevelt enjoys in all of France. Except for a small handful of traitors to their own fatherland, all the French people love him and trust him and place their hope in him. Several months ago, even before this country was involved in war, a French woman, who is a close friend of ours and who had heard over the radio one of the addresses in which President Roosevelt took an unshakable stand for the defense of human rights, wrote to us the following lines: "I burst into tears as I heard these words, I rememberd the arrival of the American soldiers on the soil of France during the last war. Now," she added, "now France is saved, Europe is saved, the world is saved, God is saved!" She is a devout Catholic indeed, and she knows perfectly well that God saves men and is not saved by them. But she also knows that Christian civilization and everything in the human community which bears the likeness of God, must be saved, with the help of God, by the effort and unbending determination of those men who have given themselves to the cause of freedom. That is why she expressed in those terms her gratitude, the gratitude of all her countrymen, for the great leader of world democracy.

I thank Mrs. Roosevelt heartily for the profoundly moving words that she has just pronounced about France and the unconquerable love of the French people for liberty. We have known for a long time that she gives untiringly her generous help and her generous testimony every time a matter of humanity, justice and bounty is involved. With regard to our country and to its atrocious misfortune, she has been doing so and she is doing so.

Because they love liberty, the French people love America. Our two countries have long suffered and struggled for the same historical ideals, in both of them more than in any other great country the dignity of the common people is alive and aware of itself, both of them feel responsible towards mankind. Their very feeling causes us to be more horrified by the disaster of France and the moral failure of those leaders who abandoned her vocation and her honor because they lost faith in her people; yet this very feeling causes us to be assured that such a humiliation is but a bloody nightmare, and that betrayed, wounded and plundered France will rise again in freedom and human grandeur.

As I have said again and again, at the core of the relationships between the American people and the French people we don't find only the ordinary questions with which the intercourse between nations deals, -- questions with regard to political, economic or mutual adjustment or commercial interests or to world policy. These questions exist, they have to be answered. But on a much deeper level, the real question is a question of love, of a spontaneous friendship which is rooted not in utility but in generosity, and in the very roots of human hearts. How strikingly I experienced that, in those desperate moments of June 1940, when a Frenchman felt all his reasons for living baffled and buffeted, and was met in his distress with the kindness and sympathy of so many friends, known and unknown, in this country.

If this question of the basic natural friendship between the American and the French peoples were better understood, many problems which stir us now, we Frenchmen who have chosen freedom and repudiated the armistice, would appear in a clearer light. The present government of France is a prisoner of the armistice and of the victor. Hence this special predicament, -- our nation is not officially involved in the important agreements which progressively outline the organization of the period of transition that after the end of the war will precede the final condition of peace. France has no real government. And she cannot have, neither in France nor outside France, until the time of her liberation. But the future of France, her full restitution in her rights and in her integrity, her role in the new Europe, -- a federated Eudope, I hope, -- which will require that France be not weak, all this, as long as the French people has neither freedom nor a real government, will be more perfectly secured by the word and the pledge of America, and the faithfulness of the American people, than by any diplomatic deal whatsoever, on the condition that, at the end of the war, the will of the people of France itself, of those men who inside France and outside keep on struggling under the direst circumstances, braving any risk, may freely express itself and be heard throughout the world.

In thinking of the people of France, I am thinking of the murdered hostages; I am thinking of my friends in Fraance who are not starving in the jails of the Gestapo and in concentrations, or of those who have accepted anything, even denationalization and condemnation to death, in order to fight the common enemy to the end. These are the common people of France; this common people I trust.

May I say now that one of the great lessons of our present ordeal has not yet, it seems to me, been sufficiently listened to. We fight for the liberation of the world, for the continuance and renewal of Democracy. Do we understand enough what deep trust in the people, in the common people, in the people's thirst for freedom, such a fight implies, the victory to come requires? In all the nations prostrated today, particularly in France, the so-called ruling classes have gone morally bankrupt. The time has come to rely on the human and spiritual reserves of the people -- the last reserves of civilization -- first for victory, second for peace and reconstruction; and these human and spiritual reserves are not a tool in the hands of the claimers of authority, they are, according to the philosophy which the forefather of this country, and today President Roosevelt, have put into action, the very power and wellspring of initiative, of men aware of their personal dignity and responsibility. I don't share in the Romanticist optimism which endowed the people with infallible reason and virtues; and I know that peoples need leadership. But I say that the tragic sophistry of the reactionaries consists in confusing the behavior of a free people, acting within the framework of its lawful institutions, with the bloody violence of crowds made mad by collective passions, those collective passions which totalitarian propaganda diabolically stirs up; I say that now in all Europe, and especially in France, the common people is less deceived by the fake of the German over-order, and more courageously struggling against the oppressors, than many politicians, industrialists and intellectuals; I say that the leadership which the people needs should emerge from that people itself which gives indefatigably its labor and its blood, and should always exist in communion with it. As for France, when the day of reckoning arrives, when the soil of our fathers is liberated, the oppressors and their collaborators thrown out, no plans or schemes of government previously prepared, no administrative framework elaborated beforehand, either within the country or abroad, will be tolerated by the French people. Their new leaders and their new institutions, the institutions of the Fourth Republic, will arise from their own experience and their own faith, and from the work of selection and human preparation brought about, among the French youth, by those mournful years of obscure, dreadful struggle. The task of the Frenchmen who suffer exile for the sake of freedom is to give testimony to their people, to help them fight inside France and outside, to foster common inspiration and to try to prepare, for their part, plans and ideas submitted to the French people. To decide upon such plans and ideas, or concerns, the internal affairs and reorganization of France, is the job of the French people. Our task also consists, of course, in participating, to the full extent of our possibility, in the war effort of this country, and in aiding as much as possible, when the time arrives of winning the peace, the cooperation and mutual understanding between the French people and America.

Then the relentless determination of the peoples will be equal to the suffering of their present martyrdom. The armies which will occupy Europe during a long post-war armistice will have to maintain order and avoid civil wars in such a way that the energies, the desires and the thought of the people, of the workers and farmers and their own elite together with those elements of the former ruling classes which will be determined to work with the people, may spontaneously and progressively take shape in freedom for a genuine reconstruction. Of course I am speaking of the freedom-loving nations. Those who have been intoxicated by totalitarian poisons will need strong and intelligent psychological cures. Yet for the time being other more urgent problems confront the unfortunate peoples of Europe. I mean not only starvatioin, not only plundering and enslavement, not only the Nazi effort to spoil the human souls and corrupt everything. I mean slaughter and butchery. If we might contemplate in one single glance the ocean of blood and mud, of human distress, death and iniquity which the man men of domination have let loose upon the world, we should probably become insane in the face of such a hell. It is to be feared that the hell will be aggravated. In proportion as the Nazis realize that they are lost, they will take sordid vengeance upon the weak and the disarmed. Their demoniac hatred of Christ, which disguises itself in a demoniac hatred of the race of Christ, will gorge itself with the blood and the torture of the Jews. We know what they have already done everywhere in Europe. We know that in occupied France the Jews are already terribly mistreated and tormented -- the rulers of unoccupied France are following the same savage path with some dignified delay. In all countries dominated by Nazis, Anti-semitic persecution willl increase horribly, anti-Christian persecution will also increase. The hecatombs of innocent hostages will grow without limit. Towns and villages will be torn down, the men machine-gunned, the women transported into God knows what places, the children delivered to educational infernos. You remember that the Nazis themselves informed the world of the punishment of Lidice, and took pride in the very fact. Nothing in the world, no device or human law, no conscience, no pity, can prevent them from trying every kind of crime and degradation upon defenseless people. Nothing except fear. Sadistic men are cowards, as a rule. I would wish the rulers of the free peoples to promulgate right now that after the victory enquiries will be made throughout Europe, in order to discover -- and this will be easy, at least if the men still exist -- those responsible for the atrocities; and that these responsible ones will be justly judged and mercilessly chastised, after having been lead to visit the places of their crimes, in order that they may perhaps feel repentance and beg the pardon of God and men, before being put to death. Such a solemn warning is the only means of saving thousands of innocent people from a delirium of savagery. When the American soldiers, together with the soldiers of the Free French Forces, land on the soil of France, they will be the messengers of freedom, the breakers of chains, the proclaimers of resurrection; they will bring the answer of heroic fellowship to the tremendous hope of forty million Frenchmen. We live in the expectation of that day. Let us swear to keep alive, in the great endeavors of the future, the immortal flame of friendship and love with will illumine the world on that day.