That quote comes from Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the lone dissenting vote in the House against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. A Republican from Montana, Rankin is an interesting figure. The first woman elected to Congress, she served two terms. In her first term she voted against declaring war on Germany in World War I and in her second term she voted against declaring war on Japan. Both votes stemmed from her deep-seated pacifism, both votes were immensely unpopular and both votes effectively ended her political career at two different points in her life. I give her the courage of her convictions. However, her stance after Pearl Harbor illustrates the folly of pacifism as a national policy. The sad truth is that in this vale of tears it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to avoid greater evils than war, and those peoples who forget that truth of the human condition will experience such evils sooner or later.
In the declaration of war against Germany in World War I, the 37 year old Rankin had been a member of the House for just four days prior to the vote. She failed to vote on the first roll call. Former Speaker of the House “Uncle” Joe Cannon of Illinois sought her out and told her, “Little woman, you can’t afford not to vote. You represent the womanhood of the country in the American Congress. I shall not advise you to how to vote, but you should vote one way or another- as your conscience dictates.” She voted no on the second roll call, saying as she did so, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.” Forty-nine members of the House joined her in voting against the Declaration of War, but the Press focused on her and her first vote in the House effectively ended her political career for the next two decades.