Home > Uncategorized > Hermann Hagedorn: There’s nothing like a war to make a man president

Hermann Hagedorn: There’s nothing like a war to make a man president

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Hermann Hagedorn: Selections against war

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Hermann Hagedorn
From Makers of Madness
A Play in One Act and Three Scenes

GROSVENOR

I pray to God that we may keep peace, but we must not let ourselves be walked over – we must not –

CAPTAIN

[Laughing.

Exactly. The nation is at last to see what it spends its army and navy appropriations for. Eh?

GENERAL

No sane man wants war, but if –

CAPTAIN

I’m sane. And I want war. I want to go out and help lambaste those infernally cocksure armies of that jelly-and-cream King. We’ve parleyed long enough. Now we’ll fight. Force is the only convincing argument after all.

GROSVENOR

As our Master said, “I bring a sword” –

GENERAL

[At the window again.

Fine fellows those. Look at that boy there, third from the end. And that lieutenant. Strapping, wonderful fellows – with brains! That’s the great thing. Give me five hundred thousand of those and I’ll hold off all comers.

GROSVENOR

[With nervous acuteness.

How long d’ye think it’ll last?

GENERAL

Six months. Maybe a year.

GROSVENOR

[Tentatively.

You couldn’t, I suppose – say – more exactly?

GENERAL

[With a glance of suspicion.

How should I – before it’s even begun?

GROSVENOR

[Hastily.

Oh – er – just a matter of curiosity.

CAPTAIN

[Laughing.

At any rate, we’ll be back in time for the next presidential election. We’re coming back with the General on our shoulders, and when we drop him it’ll be through the skylight of the President’s house.

GENERAL

[Self-consciously.

Don’t talk nonsense.

CAPTAIN

There’s nothing like a war to make a man President.

[At window.

More and more and more of ’em. Bully lines. Not natty enough to be a joke, just straight and trim. Those fellows’ll carry you into the presidency, General, if anyone can. A few of ’em’ll have to choke first, but that’s fisherman’s luck.

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CONROY

Maynard’s making a rousing speech. Spread eagle. Our honor as a nation. The dearest, sweetest flag that ever waved over a noble, invincible people. Damned rot. But the brethren from the rural districts lap it up like cider in October. He’s gaining votes. Protégé of yours, ain’t he?

GROSVENOR

Yes. Used to be my office boy. Clever chap. Has a sensible view of things. Realizes that our national honor and our property must be defended at all hazards.

CONROY

[Sitting down at the desk and beginning to write. With a cynical laugh.

You mean property. You don’t give a damn about national honor. You know you don’t. What’s the use of trying to fool me?

GROSVENOR

Conroy, do you mean to impugn my patriotic motives?

CONROY

[Without looking up, good-naturedly.

Grosvenor, we’ve known each other thirty years. I don’t try to bluff you because I know that you know too much about me. You made the beginnings of your pile out of one big war and you’ve been playing up a lot of little republics against each other ever since, harvesting a neat little fortune every time. Now it’s a real world-war you’re after. If it comes, you’re made, if it don’t, you’re broke. It’s a cinch. Mind you, I’m not throwing stones. Only I don’t want you to think you can pull the noble patriotic guff on me.

GROSVENOR

I have certain investments, of course, which might possibly be promoted by a war. But I am not thinking of that. I am thinking of the honor of my country, that honor which has never yet been stained, and shall not be stained if I can do aught by my own efforts and by my prayers to God, to keep it pure.

CONROY

[Rising.

You carry it off well. I couldn’t bluff the way you can. I haven’t your religious feeling. I know why I want war. It’s because I’m a manufacturer of guns. Everybody knows my business, and they know that if there wasn’t war or a fear of war constantly, I and my wife and children would starve. War is my work and it’s been my work most of my life. And I’ve worked for this war because it was the biggest thing in sight. I’ve worked for it with all the brains I’ve got, just as I’d have worked for two-hundred-egg hens if I’d been a chicken farmer. I’m not a sentimentalist. Besides, war’s a good thing occasionally. I believe that absolutely. It quiets down your socialists, cuts down your superfluous population, increases the moral stamina of the nation. A lot of this talk of war being hell is mush. A few people get shot up, but no one forced ’em to go. It’s their own funeral.

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