William Jennings Bryan
Delivered in Havana, Cuba, May 16, 1902, at a banquet at the time of the
inauguration of the first president of the Republic of Cuba.
I ESTEEM it a great privilege and a high honor to be invited to participate
in this memorable occasion. I am not here to represent the Government of
the United States. The distinguished soldier and citizen who has represented
the American Government upon the island with so much ability and success
is present to represent my country in an official capacity; but as an American
citizen I can congratulate you upon the realization of your hopes, and
as an American citizen I can give expression to the pride that I feel at
the fact that our soldiers and official representatives have conducted
themselves so well that the Cuban veterans tender them this complimentary
dinner and express so much of gratitude and of good-will.
When asked to respond to the toast, I could think of no better sentiment
Of what other sentiment could I think at a banquet given by the veterans of the Cuban army and in the presence of the great soldier (General Gomez) who sits at the head of the table to-night, and in the presence of Cuba’s favorite son, Seņor Estrada Palma, who is to enjoy the honor of being the first chief executive of this republic.
The word “patriotism” has been translated into every language and its spirit
has been exhibited to a greater or less extent in every land, but nowhere
has more patriotism been shown than in this beautiful isle of the sea,
where liberty and independence have been purchased by so much blood and
sacrifice. You may well be pardoned for feeling an exultation too deep
for expression, and in that exultation my countrymen fully share; and yet
I would be less than a friend if I failed to suggest that there are victories
before you even greater than the victories already won. The work of self-government
is a continuous work and one that taxes both the patience and the energy
of the citizen. Under an arbitrary government where the monarch thinks
and acts for the subject, the subject may be indifferent and indolent,
but in a republic where the government rests upon the consent of the governed
there is no place for slothfulness.
Patriotism is a virtue which must be displayed in peace as well as in war,
and may be defined as that love of country which leads the citizen to give
to his country that which his country needs at the time his country needs
it. In time of war the citizen may be called upon to die for his country;
in time of peace he must live for his country. In time of war he may be
called upon to give his body as a sacrifice; in time of peace his country
demands his head and his heart, his intellect and his conscience. You have
shown that you were willing to lay down your lives in order to purchase
liberty, now you will be called upon to exhibit self-restraint and moral
courage in dealing with the problems of government.
It is written that he who ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that
taketh a city. It is too much to expect that all things will be done as
any one would like to have them done or that every one will receive the
reward of which he and his friends may think him deserving; and in hours
of disappointment it is well to remember that a person can show more patriotism
by suffering for a great cause than by enjoying great rewards.
In time of war your island was divided and there was much bitterness between
those who fought for independence and those who supported the authority
of Spain. Now that you are about to enter upon the enjoyment of the blessings
of self-government, it should be your purpose to heal all the wounds and
to unite the people in a common destiny. If there be those who would prefer
the sovereignty of Spain to an experiment in self-government, do not abuse
them, but convert them to the doctrines of free government by showing them
the superiority of a republic. It may even be an advantage to those in
power to have some citizens who are skeptical and ready to criticize, for
it will make public officials more careful of their conduct.
Jefferson declares that free government exists in jealousy rather than
in confidence, and it is certainly true that public servants are most faithful
when their acts are under constant scrutiny.
One of the questions with which you will have to deal is that of public
education, and you will find it of advantage to lay for your republic a
broad and deep foundation by providing for universal education. The citizen
will appreciate the advantages of free government in proportion as his
mental horizon is enlarged and his capacity for usefulness increased.
No one is wise enough to act as a censor in matters of education and select
those who are to be sent to school. No one can say upon which child of
to-day the responsibilities of the next generation will fall, hence the
nation will find its security in fitting the largest possible number for
full participation in all that concerns the nation’s welfare.
You rejoice to-night that our nation is going to keep its promise and give
the world an example of fidelity to a public trust, and yet it is a cause
of congratulation to us as much as to you, for we had more to lose than
you if we failed to keep the pledge made at the beginning of the Spanish
war. I believe that the citizens of our country are as happy as you over
the successful outcome of your heroic struggle; they will rejoice in all
the good fortune that comes to you and they will grieve over any mistake
that you may make. They appreciate the gratitude which you express, but
they find their reward in the good they have been able to accomplish, for
life’s happiness is not measured by the gifts which one receives, but by
the contribution which he makes to the welfare of his fellows.
Let me borrow a story which has been used to illustrate the position of
the United States: A man wended his way through the streets of a great
city. Unmindful of the merchandise exposed on every hand he sought out
a store where birds were kept for sale. Purchasing bird after bird he opened
the cages and allowed the feathered songsters to fly away. When asked why
he thus squandered his money, he replied: “I was once a captive myself,
and I find pleasure in setting even a bird at liberty.”
The United States once went through the struggle from which you have just
emerged; the American people once by the aid of a friendly power won a
victory similar to that which you are now celebrating, and our people find
gratification in helping to open the door that barred your way to the exercise
of your political rights.
I have come to witness the lowering of our flag and the raising of the
flag of the Cuban Republic; but the event will bring no humiliation to
the people of my country, for it is better that the stars and stripes should
be indelibly impressed upon your hearts than that they should float above