AUGUST 4, 1952
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I was going through some old files today and I came across a clipping labeled "Bad News for Pessimists." I am a determined optimist and am always glad to see items headlined in that way. But one item in this clipping, it seems to me, is not too far wrong. In 1919, when Lord Grey said, "Everything is tending to convulsion," we did have more or less of a convlusion. In that year after World War I we never really settled down, and one might almost say we are still going through the results of that postwar convulsion.
The clipping, however, is an interesting one, so I give it to you here. I cannot tell where it was taken from and I cannot give credit to the newspaper that published it, but it may turn some pessimists into optimists. It reads:
"In 1781, amid the darkest days of the American revolution, General Rochambeau wrote: 'This people is at the end of its resources. The country is at bay. America is in distress.'
"Rochambeau was wrong.
"At the close of the same century William Pitt said: 'There is scarcely anything around us but ruin and despair.'
"Pitt was wrong.
"At the beginning of the 19th Century Wilberforce declared: 'I dare not marry, the future is so dark and unsettled.'
"Wilberforce was wrong.
"In 1848, Lord Shaftsbury vowed: 'Nothing can save the British Empire from shipwreck.'
"Shaftsbury was wrong.
"In 1851 the Duke of Wellington, on his deathbed, thanked God he would 'be spared from seeing the consummation of ruin that is gathering around us.'
"The Duke was wrong.
"In 1857 the editor of Harper's Weekly wrote: 'It is a gloomy moment in history. Not for many years have there been so many grave apprehensions; never has the future seemed so incalculable.'
"He was wrong."
In 1919 Lord Grey said: 'Everything is tending to convulsion.'
"Lord Grey was wrong.
"In 1931 Bertrand Russell declared: 'The British Empire is breaking up.'
"Lord Russell was wrong.
"Tomorrow some pessimist will say something equally sincere and hopeless. He will have all observable facts to back his statement. But will he be wrong?"
Of course, he will be wrong! As we have met each difficulty we have become stronger, and I feel sure we are going to meet the problems of today as we have met the problems of the past.