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An Open Letter to the American People

(As intitially published in 1945.)

The first atomic bomb destroyed more than the city of Hiroshima. It also exploded our inherited, out-dated political ideas.

A few days before the force of Nature was tried out for the first time in history, the San Francisco Charter was ratified in Washington. The dream of a League of Nations, after 26 years, was accepted by the Senate.

How long will the United Nations Charter endure? With luck, a generation? A century? There is no one who does not hope at least that much luck--for the Charter, for himself, for his work, and for his children's children. But is it enough to have Peace by Luck? Peace by Law is what the peoples of the world, beg inning with ourselves, can have if they want it. And now is the time to get it.

Everyone knows that the Charter is only a beginning. It does not guarantee peace. Yet the hopeful and passionate words of Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco created one very real danger: that millions of Americans will relax and believe that by ratification a machinery has been set up to prevent another war.

We think it our duty to warn the American people that this is not so. The Charter is a tragic illusion unless we are ready to take the further steps necessary to organize peace.

Coming East from San Francisco, President Truman said in Kansas City:

"It will be just as easy for nations to get along in a republic of the world as it is for you to get along in the republic of the United States. Now when Kansas and Colorado have a quarrel over the water in the Arkansas River they don't call out the National Guard in each state and go to war over it. They bring a suit in the Supreme Court of the United States and abide by the decision. There isn't a reason in the world why we cannot do that internationally."

For thousands of years men have learned that wherever there is government by law there can be peace, and where there is no law and no government, human conflicts have been sure. The San Francisco Charter, by maintaining the absolute sovereignties of the rival nation states, thus preventing the creation of superior law in world relations, resembles the Articles of Confederation of the thirteen original American republics. We know that this confederation did not work. No league system ever attempted in human history could prevent conflict between its members. We must aim at a federal constitution of the world, a working world wide legal order, if we hope to prevent an atomic World War.

It happens that at this anxious moment of our history a small book has been published, a very important book, which expresses clearly and simply what so many of us have been thinking. That book is THE ANATOMY OF PEACE by Emery Reves. We urge American men and women to read this book, to think about its conclusions, to discuss it with neighbors and friends, privately and publicly. A few weeks ago these ideas seemed important but perhaps reachable in the future. In the new reality of atomic warfare they are of immediate urgent necessity, unless civilization is determined oft suicide.

In his last address, which he did not live to speak, Franklin Roosevelt wrote words which were his political testament:--"We are faced with the preeminent fact that if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationship the ability of peoples of all kinds to live together and work together in the same world, at peace." We have learned, and paid an awful price to learn, that living and working together can be done in one way only under law. There is no truer and simpler idea in the world today. Unless it prevails, and unless by common struggle we are capable of new ways of thinking, mankind is doomed.


Owen J. Roberts
Gardner Cowles, Jr.
Senator J. W. Fulbright
Albert Einstein
Senator Claude Pepper
Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Senator Elbert D. Thomas
Albert D. Lasker
Thomas Mann
Rt. Rev. Henry St. Geo. Tucker
Lt. Cord Meyer, U.S.M.C.R.
Rev. Edward A. Conway, S.J.
Christopher Morley
Dr. Louis Finkelstein
Carl Van Doren
Mar Van Doren
Mortimer J. Adler
Walter F. Wagner
Charles G. Bolte
Robert J. Watt

Help bring about a solution to war.

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