Then when the age of eighteen years is reached our young men would be prepared to go into our national training camps and accomplish as much during the three months through each of the three years that he is required to serve there, as could possibly be accomplished by attempting to string a military training through the entire school course. In this way we would get efficiently the required result, without entirely perverting our American ideals and our American traditions, as well as perverting if not poisoning our higher ideals of education.
The bill that has recently been passed here in our own state, the state of New York, requiring military training to be introduced into our schools and at an earlier age, will, I predict, be found so consummately silly that it will in due course of time be abrogated. We do not always act wisely when any particular hysteria is on. Out of such action, however, a saner type of action is eventually evolved.
This method of military training could be made one of the greatest agencies imaginable in the actualising of an ideal Democracy. There all classes, rich and poor, natives and foreigners, workers, artisans and college men, those from both public and private schools, will all meet on a common footing. The annual conferring of citizenship upon those of the third class, those who become twenty-one years of age, could be made one of our most interesting and stimulating national public days. The swearing of allegiance to the nation, the taking on of full citizenship, could be made a ceremony on the various great plains where the national training camps are located - equipped and beautified as such - quite as significant as were those occasions when the Greek youths assumed the sense of allegiance to their nation so many centuries ago.
If the nation should bear the expenses of each during the three annual periods of training, which I believe it should, thereby working no hardships on any, the cost would be but an insignificant amount compared to the tremendous cost of a large standing army.
No amount of military preparation that is not combined definitely and completely with an enhanced citizenship, and therefore with an advance in real democracy, is at all worthy of consideration on the part of the American people, or indeed on the part of the people of any nation. Pre-eminently is this true in this day and age.
Observing this principle we could then, while these vast numbers of young men are being made ready, and to serve our immediate needs, have an army of half a million men without danger of militarism and without heavy financial burdens, and without subverting our American ideas - providing it is an industrial arm. There are great engineering projects that could be carried on, thereby developing many of our now latent resources; there is an immense amount of road-building that could be projected in many parts of, if not throughout the entire country; there are great irrigation projects that could be carried on in the far West and Southwest, reclaiming millions upon millions of acres of what are now unproductive desert lands; all these could be carried on and made even to pay, keeping busy a half-million men for half a dozen years to come.
This army of half a million men could be recruited, trained to an adequate degree of military service, and at the same time could be engaged in profitable employment on these much-needed works. They could then be paid an adequate wage, ample to support a family, or ample to lay up savings if without family. Such men leaving the army service, would then have a degree of training and skill whereby they would be able to get positions or employment, all more remunerative than the bulk of them, perhaps, would ever be able to get without such training and experience.
An army of half a million trained men, somewhat equally divided between the Atlantic and the Pacific seaboards, the bulk of them engaged in regular constructive work, work that needs to be done and that, therefore, could be profitably done, and ready to be called into service at a moment's notice, would constitute a tremendous insurance against any aggression from without, and would also give a tremendous sense of security for half a dozen years at least. This number could then be reduced, for by that time several million young men from eighteen years up would be partially trained and in first-class physical shape to be summoned to service should the emergency arise.
In addition to the vast amount of good roads building, whose cost could be borne in equal proportions by nation, state, and county - a most important factor in connection with military necessity as well as a great economic factor in the successful development and advancement of any community - the millions of acres of now arid lands in the West, awaiting only water to make them among the most valuable and productive in all the world, could be used as a great solution of our immigration problem.
Up to the year when the war began, there came to our shores upwards of one million immigrants every twelve months, seeking work, and most of them homes in this country. The great bulk of them got no farther than our cities, increasing congestion, already in many cases acute, and many of them becoming in time, from one cause or another, dependents, the annual cost of their maintenance aggregating many millions every year.
With these vast acres ready for them large numbers could, under a wise system of distribution, be sent on to the great West and Southwest, and more easily and directly now since the Panama Canal is open for navigation. Allotments of these lands could be assigned them that they could in time become owners of, through a wisely established system of payments. Many of them would thereby be living lives similar to those they lived in their own countries, and for which their training and experience there have abundantly fitted them. They would thus become a far more valuable type of citizens - landowners - than they could ever possibly become otherwise, and especially through our present unorganised hit-or-miss system. They would in time also add annually hundreds of millions of productive work to the wealth of the country.
The very wise system that was inaugurated some time ago in connection with the Coast Defence arm of our army is, under the wise direction of our present Secretary of War, to be extended to all branches of the service. For some time in the Coast Artillery Service the enlisted man under competent instruction has had the privilege of becoming a skilled machinist or a skilled electrician. Now the system is to be extended through all branches of the military service, and many additional trades are to be added to the curricula of the trade schools of the army. The young man can, therefore, make his own selection and become a trained artisan at the same time that he serves his time in the army, with all expenses for such training, as well as maintenance, borne by the Government. He can thereby leave the service fully equipped for profitable employment.