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Towards the Goal

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No. 1

March 24th, 1917.

DEAR MR. ROOSEVELT,—It may be now frankly confessed—(you, some time ago, gave me leave to publish your original letter, as it might seem opportune)—that it was you who gave the impulse last year, which led to the writing of the first series of Letters on "England's Effort" in the war, which were published in book form in June 1916. Your appeal—that I should write a general account for America of the part played by England in the vast struggle—found me in our quiet country house, busy with quite other work, and at first I thought it impossible that I could attempt so new a task as you proposed to me. But support and encouragement came from our own authorities, and like many other thousands of English women under orders, I could only go and do my best. I spent some time in the Munition areas, watching the enormous and rapid development of our war industries and of the astonishing part played in it by women; I was allowed to visit a portion of the Fleet, and finally, to spend twelve days in France, ten of them among the great supply bases and hospital camps, with two days at the British Headquarters, and on the front, near Poperinghe, and Richebourg St. Vaast.

The result was a short book which has been translated into many foreign tongues—French, Italian, Dutch, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Japanese—which has brought me many American letters from many different States, and has been perhaps most widely read of all among our own people. For we all read newspapers, and we all forget them! In this vast and changing struggle, events huddle on each other, so that the new blurs and wipes out the old. There is always room—is there not?—for such a personal narrative as may recall to us the main outlines, and the chief determining factors of a war in which—often—everything seems to us in flux, and our eyes, amid the tumult of the stream, are apt to lose sight of the landmarks on its bank, and the signs of the approaching goal.

And now again—after a year—I have been attempting a similar task, with renewed and cordial help from our authorities at home and abroad. And I venture to address these new Letters directly to yourself, as to that American of all others to whom this second chapter on England's Effort may look for sympathy. Whither are we tending—your country and mine? Congress meets on April 1st. Before this Letter reaches you great decisions will have been taken. I will not attempt to speculate. The logic of facts will sweep our nations together in some sort of intimate union—of that I have no doubt.

How much further, then, has Great Britain marched since the Spring of last year—how much nearer is she to the end? One can but answer such questions in the most fragmentary and tentative way, relying for the most part on the opinions and information of those who know, those who are in the van of action, at home and abroad, but also on one's own personal impressions of an incomparable scene. And every day, almost, at this breathless moment, the answer of yesterday may become obsolete....