Britain, America and World Leadership

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Lord Harry Snell
Lord Harry Snell (1865 – 1944)
Ernest Thurtle M.P.
Ernest Thurtle M.P. (1884 – 1954), image by by Bassano Ltd, 1923. Copyright: the National Portrait Gallery.
Conway Memorial Lecture
Conway Memorial Lecture
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Delivered at Conway Hall 17 March 1940. Chaired by Ernest Thurtle, M P and presented by Lord Snell.

There is extensive sharing between the British and American peoples: linguistically, politically, juridically and culturally. This sharing could be the basis for a combined political effort to lead the world from its present state to one of permanent peace. Britain and America are now the only countries capable of such leadership. For America, a leadership role is consistent with the love of freedom on which the republic was founded; and this love is also the basis of British political practice. While both countries have their distinctive national personalities, their mutual commitment to liberty is pivotal, as is their mutual cultural respect. Also, though both societies are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, they should both shoulder the responsibility of preserving world civilisation against the onslaught of imperialistic nationalism.

Britain has already committed itself in the struggle against the nationalistic aggression of Nazi Germany. Assuming eventual victory in that struggle, America should join Britain in taking the post-war world forward through co-operation, planning and liberal example. The argument for joint leadership has recently been made by President Roosevelt and former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

This collaboration could achieve lasting peace, just as Rome once achieved it. A previous obstacle to such collaboration, strong Anti-British feeling in America, is no longer a major problem. Also, unless an effective opposition is mounted to fascist aggression, no country will be safe, not even the biggest. Hence America should enter the war, since the task of preserving civilisation is universal, to be prosecuted by the family of nations. Individual countries, like individual human beings, only achieve self-realisation in a collective context.

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