Margaret Sanger, "An Englishman's Opinion of America," Feb 1915.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 129:0155."
A revised paragraph added on a separate page has been inserted into this transcription.
"The Americans will do anything for money" said a gray haired well dressed Englishman as he sat in conversation at the table on a boat going from Folkstone to Bolougne a few weeks ago.
"Yes" said his companion a young Dutchman just returned from the Dutch Indies. "They care not who their bullets kill if ↑so↓ they get paid for them." ↑I had sat across from them half listening to their conversation, but these words aroused my interest & curiosity. ↓ "Could I trouble you for to pass the sugar" said I--determined if possible to enter that conversation in which my country-men were being so outrageously slandered. This opened the way for a few further remarks & a most interesting conversation followed.
The Englishman boasted that he was as familiar with New York as with London, in fact he said he knew us well. Here are some of the things he knew about us.
Americans were a "mixed breed" "without a soul"--they have none of the qualities which make a nation great. They have no traditions, no history, no art, no music--nothing, absolutely nothing but their money-- Why they have to come to Europe for everything they have. They come to England for their laws, customs & morals. To France for their fashions & art, why they are human leeches on Europe without incentive, originality or creative ability-- They---
I was getting just about "filled ↑fed↓ up" as the English say and interrupted him with an impatient gesture. "What grouch have you Allies English got against Americans" What do they want her to do? To come into the war? To plunge her people into a war bloody conflict for England for France? For Russia?
"No" said he "Not for England France or Russia but for Belgium. America signed that Hague treaty with the rest of us & she has not stood by it."
"Perhaps Uncle Sam ↑she↓ is too busy protecting these huge Belgian interests in Mexico" I suggested.
"Yes there you are again," he turned to his Dutch friend,"now they will neither go into Mexico themselves or allow any other power to go in--well their day is coming thats all I can say -- and personally -- I hope if the Kaiser does win this war that his next move will be to clean up America & I tell you there's many an Englishman who'll shoulder a rifle to help him do it."
At this last vindictive stroke against America all my Irish atavism against England surged ↑leaped↓ for expression blood arose in protest. "I believe you," I said calmly, "England has always tried to crush those who would not do her bidding those who would not pull the chestnuts out of the fire for her -- Let us look at the situation in America more closely. You say you know America well -- then I do not have to tell you that the Irish population in America have not crossed the seas & left their homes in Ireland because of their love of England or their loyalty to her. The Irish form a very powerful portion of the American population. The Russian & Polish Jews also rate high in USA and no one has heard of their love of Siberia or their devotion to the despotic Russian Czar.
Next comes the Germans who also form a large percentage of our population, and who ↑which↓ of all foreigners coming into USA is the best equipped both physically & mentally. When Germany sends out her adult population into other countries--that adult at once becomes an asset to his adopted country, he is educated, mentally drilled for a commercial life with such qualities as accuracy, thoroughness memory, etc etc to say nothing of the knowledge of trades & mechanical ability-- ↑For this training & equipment & education Germany as a state has had to pay for & for which she gets no returns. Other countries send into other countries only the lowest element which she can not use & which becomes an increased expense to the adopted country often from physical & mental defect.↓ In foreign countries like Spain, Italy, France where they seldom speak English it was the German who helped build up English ↑& foreign↓ trade in all these countries through their great ability for languages. In France one finds the English speaking hair dresser, barber, hotel clerk, manager, etc etc nearly always a German and one feels it keenly today in Paris -- as the Germans speaking English are all interned.
"In every trade & walk of life it was the German who helped translate. On the other hand the English have not learned foreign languages either. It was always the German as waiters, porters, clerks in hotels in London & other large cities who welcomed the foreign guest in England & helped to make his visit profitable to England. The Commercial School of Liverpool gives a record of salesmen going into Spain who were able to speak the Spanish language. There were six Englishmen -- ten Frenchmen and sixty-four Germans."
"It is the German who has helped to commercialize as well as to Internationalize the world."
The Englishman leaned back in his chair with a would be superior smile on his lips, but I had the floor & I intended to hold it for a time.
"In fact when one sums up the situation in America we find the Irish are a power politically the Jews a power financially while the German in the commercial & industrial force upon which all ↑the↓ other ↑two↓ powers depend."
"Just what percentage these three nationalities are of the American population I cannot say, but I would venture that 60% would not be far from the mark. All of these three nationalities are naturally by nature against two of the Allies -- the third ally, France, perhaps they all love."
"I see," replied my antagonist, "That you are one of those Americans who hate England. Can you tell me just why England is so hated in America while France with different customs, a different language is so much liked."
"I have my opinions on that subject," I answered, but first I want to say I am not one of the Americans who hate England, but I'm Irish, with all the Irish atavisms ↑of my forefathers↓ in my blood-- I have spent the best part of a year in England amongst English people & never have I had such charming hospitality and loyalty to my work, as the many of the English people gave me. I count many of them among my dearest friends & claim that English, nevertheless I do not think that England or any other country in the world should be 'swallowed whole.'"
As to the hatred of England & the love of France in America I frankly acknowledge I believe that feeling exists. I beleive too it can be traced back to out school days to our early history lessons, for we cannot teach history of America without telling the facts & the facts were that England was our enemy & France was our only friend -- France has always stood in the eyes of Americans as standing for 'liberty, equality & fraternity.' While England has stood for oppression & cunning & cruelty."
"Damnable outrage," shouted our friend as he leaped from his chair ↑his hand↓ came down ↑on the table↓ . "Well the shoe is on the other foot just now while England is compelled to borrow their filthy dollars, but it won't be for long before they'll come begging England's protection against Japan. Where do you think England will stand then?"
"Just where she always stands" I said. Where her biggest interests lie ↑like friendships loves & hatreds↓ honor, liberty, freedom, treaties go up in smoke with England as well as all ↑with↓ other countries when moneyed interests are at stake."
He did not deny this but turned to his Dutch friend & said "Its a fact--the American nation has no soul. Why the Press has sold itself to the highest bidder-- One million dollars was paid by the allies to one of the New York dailies (mentioning the name) while Germany has thrown a few crumbs to one or two other papers ↑to advance her cause↓ .
They have no opinions or principles which can not be bought." This last assertion he flung out with a contemptuous laugh. It was my turn now to address the Dutchman so I turned to him trying to ignore for the present the insulting remarks of his English friend.
"I understood your friend said he knew Americans--well fortunately he does not speak for the England, but as an individual who has some personal bitterness which seems to have infected the blood of a few patriotic Englishmen lately & caused their usual sense of fairness to be poisoned. I deny that American is soulless. I deny that she can her principle & opinions can be bought & sold--anymore than any other country--
Does Freedom of Speech or Freedom of the Press exist in England today? Does the opinion expressed in Englands press today represent the English people or does it represent English Capital? The American people are far too generous to be soulless.
Had they There exists among them the simple generosity of all great republics-- The generosity & good will which induced France to help advance a tremendous war loan to Russia & for which the blood of France is being spilled today to protect.
American people are just the same -- they are opposed to war but through the guile of a war loan to England they will be -- like France -- dragged into a similar war to protect that loan-- England's diplomacy is clever -- Ill admit. I only regret that the American people are not awakened to its subtleness.
"Yes, great generosity--5½%" laughed the older man. We all arose from the table as the tea had ended and as the Englishman preceded me up the stairs to the deck, his friend the Dutchman called me aside in the dining room & spoke to me in low & anxious tones.
"I did not want totake part in the conversation with you & my friend because I know not the American people but will you tell me, is it true that the husbands of the women in your country -- in America -- bathe & dress the babies & wash the dishes while the woman is attending suffrage meetings?"
I was overcome with laughter but tried to assume a serious attitude.
"Certainly," said I, "That's the only difference in the Englishmen ↑husband↓ & the American husband. The latter uses up his demonstrates his affection for his wife by 'walloping' the pots & pans while the former 'wallops"his wife."
"Oh but that is terrible," said the Dutchman as we ascended the stairs together, "and very very serious."
I saw them later ↑on the train to Paris ↓ , talking together and I felt quite certain that the Dutchman had was now ready to believe anything about Americans, since the men "bathed the babies & washed the dishes."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project