Reply of Mr. Knox.
Mr. President and Gentleman: A glamour of historical memories hovers over the Caribbean Sea, and all who feel its influence long to visit the spots where the life of the New World began with the landing of Columbus, and where the foundations of government in the Western Hemisphere were first laid. I have long desired to see [Page 545]and become acquainted with the island world of the Indies. My wish has come to pass through the determination of the President of the United States to have me carry to the neighboring American peoples a fresh message of friendship and good will in the name of his and my countrymen. It was especially appropriate that the President should do this now, on the eve of the completion of the Isthmian Canal, and that the theme of his greeting should be the benefits to flow to all the nations of the three Americas from the opening of that stupendous channel of intercourse which, by annihilating the barrier between the oceans, must perforce change the currents of the world’s commerce.
At a time when the obligation which my country has assumed as the agent of the interest of all America and of the world in creating a highway for international commerce is about to be realized, we are impressed with the conviction that the fullest success of our work is, to a notable degree, dependent on the peace and stability of our neighbors and on their enjoying the prosperity and material welfare which flow from orderly self-development. A community liable to be torn by internal dissension or checked in its progress by the consequences of nonfulfillment of international obligations is not in a good position to deserve and reap the benefits accruing from enlarged commercial opportunities, such as are certain to come about with the opening of the canal. It may indeed become an obstruction to the general enjoyment of those opportunities.
It is with political communities as with the human organization, body and soul should be alike sound and sane, each attuned to the other, to fit the being for the struggle for existence in which it is the lot of men and states to be constantly engaged. The old Roman adage mens sana in corpore sano is in point for both. Not only must the body politic be healthy, but the public spirit which guides its acts must be equally, healthy. Only by the union of these two conditions can a state hold its place in the assemblage of nations, or aspire to win a better station.
It is the fervent desire and the earnest hope of the nation I represent that all its comrades of the American fraternity shall attain to this well-balanced condition, or shall conserve it where already possessed. We wish to see them all independent, contented, orderly, and materially prosperous, each gaining the fullest measure of well-being of which it is naturally and physically capable, each bearing good will for its neighbors and deserving their good will in return. We begrudge the success of none; on the contrary, on the few occasions where helpfulness is possible we have gladly given help.
The relations of the Haitian Republic with the United States have been singularly intimate for many years. The volume of American-Haitian trade is proportionately large. The enterprise of our citizens has contributed to the development of Haitian resources. I look for the time, not far distant, when these relations may be expanded and strengthened, not through any invasive activity on our part, but through the steady self-development of the resources of Haiti under the benevolent sway of peace. Your country has almost incalculable native wealth at command. With a self-respecting energy or purpose; with a contented and thrifty population; with wise counsels in the seats of government, devoting the efforts of the nation [Page 546]to the great work of internal exploitation of natural resources and perfection of agricultural methods; and with the maintenance of peace, without as well as within, you Haitians have a future before you which other less-favored countries might well envy, and which we of the United States would witness with hearty sympathy.
I have a disposition to emphasize the essential condition of peace, at home and abroad, as a need in working out the material improvement of a country. While it is doubtless true that trade and trade extension are the foundation in practical life of most advances in civilization, yet the great modern movements of accord and good understanding between nations are after all the lofty achievements and the crown of all international relations. The controlling principle of these movements is peaceful and beneficial international intercourse and a peaceful settlement by arbitration of differences and controversies—extending that principle, by friendly diplomacy, as rapidly as possible to embrace an increasing number and variety of disputes. The tide of world sentiment is setting strongly toward the accommodation of international controversies by processes of reason and justice; not by defiance and the sword. That tide is sweeping over my own country, where the ideal of universal peace with justice is dear to every heart. Should not we, of the common brotherhood of all the Americas, share alike in devotion to that ideal, and stand mutually helpful toward whatever may assure, by pacific means, peace and good will among brethren?
I thank you for the cordial personal welcome you have given me. I shall long treasure the memory of my visit.