It is impossible not to regard the attitude of the two objects of this vast unpopularity as one of the most truly honourable spectacles in our political history. The moral fortitude, like the political wisdom of these two strong men, begins to stand out with a splendour that already recalls the great historic heights of statesmanship and patriotism. Even now our heart-felt admiration and gratitude goes out to them as it goes out to Burke for his lofty and manful protests against the war with America and the oppression of Ireland, and to Charles Fox for his bold and strenuous resistance to the war with the French Republic.
Before indulging in the dementia which those names usually produce, will the reader please note that it is not my business now to defend either the general principles of Cobden and Bright or the political spirit which they are supposed to represent. Let them be as sordid, mean, unworthy, pusillanimous as you like—and as the best of us then said they were ("a mean, vain, mischievous clique" even so good a man as Tom Hughes could call them). We called them cowards—because practically alone they faced a country which had become a howling mob; we called their opponents "courageous" because with the whole country behind them they habitually poured contempt upon the under dog.
And we thus hated these men because they did their best to dissuade us from undertaking a certain war. Very good; we have had our war; we carried our point, we prevented the break-up of the Turkish Empire; those men were completely beaten. And they are dead. Cannot we afford to set aside those old passions and see how far in one particular at least they may have been right?
We admit, of course, if we are honest—happily everyone admits—that these despised men were right and those who abused them were wrong. The verdict of fact is there. Says Lord Morley:—
When we look back upon the affairs of that time, we see that there were two policies open. Lord Palmerston's was one, Cobden and Bright's the other. If we are to compare Lord Palmerston's statesmanship and insight in the Eastern Question with that of his two great adversaries, it is hard, in the light of all that has happened since, to resist the conclusion that Cobden and Mr. Bright were right, and Lord Palmerston was disastrously wrong. It is easy to plead extenuating circumstances for the egregious mistakes in Lord Palmerston's policy about the Eastern Question, the Suez Canal, and some other important subjects; but the plea can only be allowed after it has been frankly recognized that they really were mistakes, and that these abused men exposed and avoided them. Lord Palmerston, for instance, asked why the Czar could not be "satisfied, as we all are, with the progressively liberal system of Turkey." Cobden, in his pamphlet twenty years before, insisted that this progressively liberal system of Turkey had no existence. Which of these two propositions was true may be left to the decision of those who lent to the Turk many millions of money on the strength of Lord Palmerston's ignorant and delusive assurances. It was mainly owing to Lord Palmerston, again, that the efforts of the war were concentrated at Sebastopol. Sixty thousand English and French troops, he said, with the co-operation of the fleets, would take Sebastopol in six weeks. Cobden gave reasons for thinking very differently, and urged that the destruction of Sebastopol, even when it was achieved, would neither inflict a crushing blow to Russia, nor prevent future attacks upon Turkey. Lord Palmerston's error may have been intelligible and venial; nevertheless, as a fact, he was in error and Cobden was not, and the error cost the nation one of the most unfortunate, mortifying, and absolutely useless campaigns in English history. Cobden held that if we were to defend Turkey against Russia, the true policy was to use our navy, and not to send a land force to the Crimea. Would any serious politician now be found to deny it? We might prolong the list of propositions, general and particular, which Lord Palmerston maintained and Cobden traversed, from the beginning to the end of the Russian War. There is not one of these propositions in which later events have not shown that Cobden's knowledge was greater, his judgment cooler, his insight more penetrating and comprehensive. The bankruptcy of the Turkish Government, the further dismemberment of its Empire by the Treaty of Berlin, the abrogation of the Black Sea Treaty, have already done something to convince people that the two leaders saw much further ahead in 1854 and 1855 than men who had passed all their lives in foreign chanceries and the purlieus of Downing Street.
It is startling to look back upon the bullying contempt which the man who was blind permitted himself to show to the men who could see. The truth is, that to Lord Palmerston it was still incomprehensible and intolerable that a couple of manufacturers from Lancashire should presume to teach him foreign policy. Still more offensive to him was their introduction of morality into the mysteries of the Foreign Office.
What have peace theories to do with this war? asks the practical man, who is the greatest mystic of all, contemptuously. Well, they have everything to do with it. For if we had understood some peace theories a little better a generation or two ago, if we had not allowed passion and error and prejudice instead of reason to dominate our policy, the sum of misery which these Balkan populations have known would have been immeasurably less. It is quite true that we could not have prevented this war by sending peace pamphlets to the Turk, or to the Balkanese, for that matter, but we could have prevented it if we ourselves had read them a generation or two since, just as our only means of preventing future wars is by showing a little less prejudice and a little less blindness.
And the practical question, despite Mr. Churchill, is whether we shall allow a like passion and a like prejudice again to blind us; whether we shall again back the wrong horse in the name of the same hollow theories drifting to a similar but greater futility and catastrophe, or whether we shall profit by our past to assure a better future.
[Footnote 6: 14/11/12]
[Footnote 7: The Life of Richard Cobden.—UNWIN.]
PACIFISM, DEFENCE, AND "THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF WAR."
Did the Crimean War prove Bright and Cobden wrong?—Our curious reasoning—Mr. Churchill on "illusions"—The danger of war is not the illusion but its benefits—We are all Pacifists now since we all desire Peace—Will more armaments alone secure it?—The experience of mankind—War "the failure of human wisdom"—Therefore more wisdom is the remedy—But the Militarists only want more arms—The German Lord Roberts—The military campaign against political Rationalism—How to make war certain.
The question surely, which for practical men stands out from the mighty historical episode touched on in the last chapter, is this: Was the fact that these despised men were so entirely right and their triumphant adversaries so entirely wrong a mere fluke, or was it due to the soundness of one set of principles and the hollowness of the other; and were the principles special to that case, or general to international conflict as a whole?
To have an opinion of worth on that question we must get away from certain confusions and misrepresentations.
It is a very common habit for the Bellicist to quote the list of wars which have taken place since the Crimean War as proof of the error of Bright and Cobden. But what are the facts?
Here were two men who strenuously and ruthlessly opposed a certain policy; they urged, not only that it would inevitably lead to war, but that the war would be futile—but not sterile, for they saw that others would grow from it. Their counsel was disregarded and the war came, and events have proved that they were right and the war-makers wrong, and the very fact that the wars took place is cited as disapproving their "theories."
It is a like confusion of thought which prompts Mr. Churchill to refer to Pacifists as people who deem the danger of war an illusion.
This persistent misconception is worth a little examination.
* * * * *
The smoke from the first railway engines in England killed the cattle and the poultry of the country gentlemen near whose property the railroad passed—at least, that is what the country gentleman wrote to the Times.
Now if in the domain of quite simple material things the dislike of having fixed habits of thought disturbed, leads gentlemen to resent innovations in that way, it is not astonishing that innovations of a more intangible and elusive kind should be subject to a like unconscious misrepresentation, especially by newspapers and public men pushed by commercial or political necessity to say the popular thing rather than the true thing: that contained in the speech of Mr. Churchill, which, together with a newspaper comment thereon, I have made the "text" of this little book, is a typical case in point.
It is possible, of course, that Mr. Churchill in talking about "persons who profess to know that the danger of war has become an illusion," had not the slightest intention of referring to those who share the views embodied in "The Great Illusion," which are, not that the danger of war is an illusion, but that the benefit is. All that happened was that his hearers and readers interpreted his words as referring thereto; and that, of course, he could not possibly prevent.
In any case, to misrepresent an author (and I mean always, of course, quite sincere and unconscious misrepresentations, like that which led the country gentlemen to write that railway smoke killed poultry) is a trifling matter, but to misrepresent an idea, is not, for it makes that better understanding of facts, the creation of a more informed public opinion, by which alone we can avoid a possibly colossal folly, an understanding difficult enough as it is, still more difficult.
And that is why the current misrepresentation (again unconscious) of most efforts at the better understanding of the facts of international relationship needs very badly to be corrected. I will therefore be very definite.
The implication that Pacifists of any kind have ever urged that war is impossible is due either to that confusion of thought just touched upon, or is merely a silly gibe of those who deride arguments to which they have not listened, and consequently do not understand, or which they desire to misrepresent; and such misrepresentation is, when not unconscious, always stupid and unfair.
So far as I am concerned, I have never written a line, nor, so far as I know, has anyone else, to plead that war is impossible. I have, on the contrary, always urged, with the utmost emphasis that war is not only possible but extremely likely, so long as we remain as ignorant as we are concerning what it can accomplish, and unless we use our energies and efforts to prevent it, instead of directing those efforts to create it. What anti-Bellicists as a whole urge, is not that war is impossible or improbable, but that it is impossible to benefit by it; that conquest must, in the long run, fail to achieve advantage; that the general recognition of this can only add to our security. And incidentally most of us have declared our complete readiness to take any demonstrably necessary measure for the maintenance of armament, but urge that the effort must not stop there.
One is justified in wondering whether the public men—statesmen, soldiers, bishops, preachers, journalists—who indulge in this gibe, are really unable to distinguish between the plea that a thing is unwise, foolish, and the plea that it is impossible; whether they really suppose that anyone in our time could argue that human folly is impossible, or an "illusion." It is quite evidently a tragic reality. Undoubtedly the readiness with which these critics thus fall back upon confusion of thought indicates that they themselves have illimitable confidence in it. But the confusion of thought does not stop here.
I have spoken of Pacifists and Bellicists, but, of course, we are all Pacifists now. Lord Roberts, Lord Charles Beresford, Lord Fisher, Mr. Winston Churchill, The Navy League, the Navier League, the Universal Military Service League, the German Emperor, the Editor of The Spectator, all the Chancelleries of Europe, alike declare that their one object is the maintenance of peace. Never were such Pacifists. The German Emperor, speaking to his army, invariably points out that they stand for the peace of Europe. Does a First Lord want new ships? It is because a strong British Navy is the best guarantee of peace. Lord Roberts wants conscription because that is the one way to preserve peace, and the Editor of The Spectator tells us that Turkey's great crime is that she has not paid enough attention to soldiering and armament, that if only she had been stronger all would have been well. All alike are quite persuaded indeed that the one way to peace is to get more armament.
Well, that is the method that mankind has pursued during the whole of its history; it has never shown the least disposition not to take this advice and not to try this method to the full. And written history, to say nothing of unwritten history, is there to tell us how well it has succeeded.
Unhappily, one has to ask whether some of these military Pacifists really want it to succeed? Again I do not tax any with conscious insincerity. But it does result not merely from what some imply, but from what they say. For certain of these doughty Pacifists having told you how much their one object is to secure peace, then proceed to tell you that this thing which they hope to secure is a very evil thing, that under its blighting influence nations wane in luxury and sloth. And of course they imply that our own nation, about a third of whom have not enough to eat and about another third of whom have a heart-breaking struggle with small means and precariousness of livelihood, is in danger of this degeneration which comes from too much wealth and luxury and sloth and ease. I could fill a dozen books the size of this with the solemn warning of such Pacifists as these against the danger of peace (which they tell you they are struggling to maintain), and how splendid and glorious a thing, how fine a discipline is war (which they tell you they are trying so hard to avoid). Thus the Editor of The Spectator tells us that mankind cannot yet dispense with the discipline of war; and Lord Roberts, that to make war when you are really ready for it (or that in any case for Germany to do it) is "an excellent policy and one to be pursued by every nation prepared to play a great part in history."
The truth is, of course, that we are not likely to get peace from those who believe it to be an evil thing and war and aggression a good thing, or, at least, are very mixed in their views as to this. Before men can secure peace they must at least make up their minds whether it is peace or war they want. If you do not know what you want, you are not likely to get it—or you are likely to get it, whichever way you prefer to put it.
And that is another thing which divides us from the military Pacifists: we really do want peace. As between war and peace we have made our choice, and having made it, stick to it. There may be something to be said for war—for settling a thing by fighting about it instead of by understanding it,—just as there may be something to be said for the ordeal, or the duel, as against trial by evidence, for the rack as a corrective of religious error, for judicial torture as a substitute for cross-examination, for religious wars, for all these things—but the balance of advantage is against them and we have discarded them.
But there is a still further difference which divides us: We have realised that we discarded those things only when we really understood their imperfections and that we arrived at that understanding by studying them, by discussing them,—because one man in London or another in Paris raised plainly and boldly the whole question of their wisdom and because the intellectual ferment created by those interrogations, either in the juridical or religious field, re-acted on the minds of men in Geneva or Wurtenburg or Rome or Madrid. It was by this means, not by improving the rapiers or improving the instruments of the inquisition, that we got rid of the duel and that Catholics ceased to torture Protestants or vice versa. We gave these things up because we realised the futility of physical force in these conflicts. We shall give up war for the same reason.
But the Bellicist says that discussions of this sort, these attempts to find out the truth, are but the encouragement of pernicious theories: there is, according to him, but one way—better rapiers, more and better racks, more and better inquisitions.
Mr. Bonar Law, in one of the very wisest phrases ever pronounced by a statesman, has declared that "war is the failure of human wisdom."
That is the whole case of Pacifism: we shall not improve except at the price of using our reason in these matters; of understanding them better. Surely it is a truism that that is the price of all progress; saner conceptions—man's recognition of his mistakes, whether those mistakes take the form of cannibalism, slavery, torture, superstition, tyranny, false laws, or what you will. The veriest savage, or for that matter the ape, can blindly fight, but whether the animal develops into a man, or the savage into civilized man, depends upon whether the element of reason enters in an increasing degree into the solution of his problems.
The Militarist argues otherwise. He admits the difficulty comes from man's small disposition to think; therefore don't think—fight. We fight, he says, because we have insufficient wisdom in these matters; therefore do not let us trouble to get more wisdom or understanding; all we need do is to get better weapons. I am not misrepresenting him; that is quite fairly the popular line: it is no use talking about these things or trying to explain them, all that is logic and theories; what you want to do is to get a bigger army or more battleships. And, of course, the Bellicist on the other side of the frontier says exactly the same thing, and I am still waiting to have explained to me how, therefore, if this matter depends upon understanding, we can ever solve it by neglecting understanding, which the Militarist urges us to do. Not only does he admit, but pleads, that these things are complex, and supposes that that is an argument why they should not be studied.
And a third distinction will, I think, make the difference between us still clearer. Like the Bellicist, I am in favour of defence. If in a duelling society a duellist attacked me, or, as a Huguenot in the Paris of the sixteenth century a Catholic had attacked me, I should certainly have defended myself, and if needs be have killed my aggressor. But that attitude would not have prevented my doing my small part in the creation of a public opinion which should make duelling or such things as the massacre of St. Bartholomew impossible by showing how unsatisfactory and futile they were; and I should know perfectly well that neither would stop until public opinion had, as the result of education of one kind or another, realised their futility. But it is as certain as anything can be that the Churchills of that society or of that day would have been vociferous in declaring (as in the case of the duel they still to-day declare in Prussia) that this attempt to prove the futility of duelling was not only a bad and pernicious campaign, but was in reality a subtle attempt to get people killed in the street by bullies, and that those who valued their security would do their best to discredit all anti-duelling propaganda—by misrepresentation, if needs be.
Let this matter be quite clear. No one who need be considered in this discussion would think of criticising Lord Roberts for wanting the army, and Mr. Churchill for wanting the navy, to be as good and efficient as possible and as large as necessary. Personally—and I speak, I know, for many of my colleagues in the anti-war movement—I would be prepared to support British conscription if it be demonstrably wise or necessary. But what we criticise is the persistent effort to discredit honest attempts at a better understanding of the facts of international relationship, the everlasting gibe which it is thought necessary to fling at any constructive effort, apart from armament, to make peace secure. These men profess to be friends of peace, they profess to regret the growth of armament, to deplore the unwisdom, ignorance, prejudice and misunderstanding out of which the whole thing grows, but immediately there is any definite effort to correct this unwisdom, to examine the grounds of the prejudice and misunderstanding, there is a volte face and such efforts are sneered at as "sentimental" or "sordid," according as the plea for peace is put upon moral or material grounds. It is not that they disagree in detail with any given proposition looking towards a basis of international co-operation, but that in reality they deprecate raising the matter at all. It must be armaments and nothing but armaments with them. If there had been any possibility of success in that we should not now be entering upon the 8,000th or 9,000th war of written history. Armaments may be necessary, but they are not enough. Our plan is armaments plus education; theirs is armament versus education. And by education, of course, we do not mean school books, or an extension of the School Board curriculum, but a recognition of the fact that the character of human society is determined by the extent to which its units attempt to arrive at an understanding of their relationship, instead of merely subduing one another by force, which does not lead to understanding at all: in Turkey, or Venezuela, or San Domingo, there is no particular effort made to adjust differences by understanding; in societies of that type they only believe in settling differences by armaments. That is why there are very few books, very little thought or discussion, very little intellectual ferment but a great many guns and soldiers and battles. And throughout the world the conflict is going on between these rival schools. On the whole the Western world, inside the respective frontiers, almost entirely now tends to the Pacifist type. But not so in the international field, for where the Powers are concerned, where it is a question of the attitude of one nation in relation to another, you get a degree of understanding rather less than more than that which obtains in the internal politics of Venezuela, or Turkey, or Morocco, or any other "warlike" state.
And the difficulty of creating a better European opinion and temper is due largely to just this idea that obsesses the Militarist, that unless they misrepresent facts in a sensational direction the nations will be too apathetic to arm; that education will abolish funk, and that presumably funk is a necessary element in self-defence.
For the most creditable explanation that we can give of the Militarist's objection to having this matter discussed at all, is the evident impression that such discussion will discourage measures for self-defence; the Militarist does not believe that a people desiring to understand these things and interested in the development of a better European society, can at the same time be determined to resist the use of force. They believe that unless the people are kept in a blue funk, they will not arm, and that is why it is that the Militarist of the respective countries are for ever talking about our degeneration and the rest. And the German Militarist is just as angry with the unwarlike qualities of his people as the English Militarist is with ours.
Just note this parallel:
BRITISH OPINION ON BRITISH APATHY AND GERMAN VIGOUR.
"There is a way in which Britain is certain to have war and its horrors and calamities; it is this—by persisting in her present course of unpreparedness, her apathy, unintelligence, and blindness, and in her disregard of the warnings of the most ordinary political insight, as well as of the example of history.
"Now in the year 1912, just as in 1866, and just as in 1870, war will take place the instant the German forces by land and sea are, by their superiority at every point, as certain of victory as anything in human calculation can be made certain. 'Germany strikes when Germany's hour has struck.' That is the time-honoured policy of her Foreign Office. It is her policy at the present hour, and it is an excellent policy. It is, or should be, the policy of every nation prepared to play a great part in history."—LORD ROBERTS, at Manchester.
"Britain is disunited; Germany is homogeneous. We are quarrelling about the Lords' Veto, Home Rule, and a dozen other questions of domestic politics. We have a Little Navy Party, an Anti-Militarist Party; Germany is unanimous upon the question of naval expansion."—MR. BLATCHFORD.
GERMAN OPINION ON GERMAN APATHY AND BRITISH VIGOUR.
"Whole strata of our nation seem to have lost that ideal enthusiasm which constituted the greatness of its history. With the increase of wealth they live for the moment, they are incapable of sacrificing the enjoyment of the hour to the service of great conceptions, and close their eyes complacently to the duties of our future and to the pressing problems of international life which await a solution at the present time."—GENERAL VON BERNHARDI in "Germany and the Next War."
"There is no one German people, no single Germany.... There are more abrupt contrasts between Germans and Germans than between Germans and Indians."
"One must admire the consistent fidelity and patriotism of the English race, as compared with the uncertain and erratic methods of the German people, their mistrust, and suspicion.... In spite of numerous wars, bloodshed, and disaster, England always emerges smoothly and easily from her military crises and settles down to new conditions and surroundings in her usual cool and deliberate manner, so different from the German."—Berliner Tageblatt, March 14, 1911.
Presumably each doughty warrior knows his own country better than that of the other, which would carry a conclusion directly contrary to that which he draws.
But note also where this idea that it is necessary artificially to stimulate the defensive zeal of each country by resisting any tendency to agreement and understanding leads. It leads even so good a man as Lord Roberts into the trap of dogmatic prophesy concerning the intentions of a very complex heterogeneous nation of 65 million people. Lord Roberts could not possibly tell you what his own country will do five, ten, or fifteen years hence in such matters as Home Rule or the Suffragists, or even the payment of doctors, but he knows exactly what a foreign country will do in a much more serious matter. The simple truth is, of course, that no man knows what "Germany" will do ten years hence, any more than we can know what "England" will do. We don't even know what England will be, whether Unionist or Liberal or Labour, Socialist, Free Trade or Protectionist. All these things, like the question of Peace and War depends upon all sorts of tendencies, drifts and developments. At bottom, of course, since war, in Mr. Bonar Law's fine phrase, is "never inevitable—only the failure of human wisdom," it depends upon whether we become a little less or a little more wise. If the former, we shall have it; if the latter, we shall not. But this dogmatism concerning the other man's evil intentions is the very thing that leads away from wisdom. The sort of temper and ideas which it provokes on both sides of the frontier may be gathered from just such average gems as these plucked recently from the English press:—
Yes, we may as well face it. War with Germany is inevitable, and the only question is—Shall we consult her convenience as to its date? Shall we wait till Germany's present naval programme, which is every year reducing our advantage, is complete? Shall we wait till the smouldering industrial revolution, of which all these strikes are warnings, has broken into flame? Shall we wait till Consols are 65 and our national credit is gone? Shall we wait till the Income Tax is 1s. 6d. in the pound? OR SHALL WE STRIKE NOW—finding every out-of-work a job in connection with the guardianship of our shores, and, with our mighty fleet, either sinking every German ship or towing it in triumph into a British port? Why should we do it? Because the command of the seas is ever ours; because our island position, our international trade and our world-wide dominions demand that no other nation shall dare to challenge our supremacy. That is why. Oh, yes, the cost would be great, but we could raise it to-day all right, and we should get it back.
If the struggle comes to-day, we shall win—and after it is over, there will be abounding prosperity in the land, and no more labour unrest.
Yes, we have no fear of Germany to-day. The only enemy we fear is the crack-brained fanatics who prate about peace and goodwill whilst foreign Dreadnoughts are gradually closing in upon us. As Mr. Balfour said at the Eugenic Conference the other day, man is a wild animal; and there is no room, in present circumstances, for any tame ones.—John Bull, Aug. 24, 1912.
The italics and large type are those of the original, not mine. This paper explains, by the way, in this connection that "In the Chancelleries of Europe John Bull is regarded as a negligible journalistic quantity. But John Bull is read by a million people every week, and that million not the least thoughtful and intelligent section of the community, they think about what they read."
One of the million seems to have thought to some purpose, for the next week there was the following letter from him. It was given the place of honour in a series and runs as follows:—
I would have extended your "Down with the German Fleet!" to "Down with Germany and the Germans!" For, unless the whole —— lot are swept off the surface of the earth, there will be no peace. If the people in England could only realise the quarrelsome, deceitful, underhanded, egotistic any tyrannical character of the Germans, there would not be so much balderdash about a friendly understanding, etc., between England and Germany. The German is a born tyrant. The desire to remain with Britain on good terms will only last so long until Germany feels herself strong enough to beat England both on sea and on land: afterwards it'll simply be "la bourse ou la vie," as the French proverb goes. Provided they do not know that there are any English listeners about, phrases like the following can be heard every day in German restaurants and other public places: "I hate England and the English!" "Never mind, they won't be standing in our way much longer. We shall soon be ready."
And John Bull, with its million readers, is not alone. This is how the Daily Express, in a double-leaded leader, teaches history to its readers:—
When, one day, Englishmen are not allowed to walk the pavements of their cities, and their women are for the pleasure of the invaders, and the offices of the Tiny England newspapers are incinerated by a furious mob; when foreign military officers proclaim martial law from the Royal Exchange steps, and when some billions of pounds have to be raised by taxation—by taxation of the "toiling millions" as well as others—to pay the invaders out, and the British Empire consists of England—less Dover, required for a foreign strategic tunnel—and the Channel Islands—then the ghosts of certain politicians and publicists will probably call a meeting for the discussion of the Fourth Dimension.—Leading Article, Daily Express, 8/7/12.
And not merely shall our women fill the harems of the German pashas, and Englishmen not be allowed to walk upon the pavement (it would be the German way of solving the traffic problem—near the Bank), but a "well-known Diplomat" in another paper tells us what else will happen.
If England be vanquished it means the end of all things as far as she is concerned, and will ring in a new and somewhat terrible era. Bankrupt, shorn of all power, deserted, as must clearly follow, as a commercial state, and groaning under a huge indemnity that she cannot pay and is not intended to be able to pay, what will be the melancholy end of this great country and her teeming population of forty-five millions?
... Her shipping trade will be transferred as far as possible from the English to the German flag. Her banking will be lost, as London will no longer be the centre of commerce, and efforts will be made to enable Berlin to take London's place. Her manufactures will gradually desert her. Failing to obtain payments in due time, estates will be sequestered and become the property of wealthy Germans. The indemnity to be demanded is said to be one thousand millions sterling.
The immediate result of defeat would mean, of course, that insolvency would take place in a very large number of commercial businesses, and others would speedily follow. Those who cannot get away will starve unless large relief funds are forthcoming from, say, Canada and the United States, for this country, bereft of its manufactures, will not be able to sustain a population of more than a very few millions.—From an Article by "A Well-known Diplomatist" in The Throne, June 12, 1912.
These are but samples; and this sort of thing is going on in England and Germany alike. And when one protests that it is wicked rubbish born of funk and ignorance, that whatever happens in war this does not happen, and that it is based on false economics and grows into utterly false conceptions of international relationship, one is shouted down as an anti-armament man and an enemy of his country.
Well, if that view is persisted in, if in reality it is necessary for a people to have lies and nonsense told to them in order to induce them to defend themselves, some will be apt to decide that they are not worth defending. Or rather will they decide that this phase of the pro-armament campaign—which is not so much a campaign in favour of armament as one against education and understanding—will end in turning us into a nation either of poltroons or of bullies and aggressors, and that since life is a matter of the choice of risks it is wiser and more courageous to choose the less evil. A nation may be defeated and still live in the esteem of men—and in its own. No civilized man esteems a nation of Bashi-Bazouks or Prussian Junkers. Of the two risks involved—the risk of attack arising from a possible superiority of armament on the part of a rival, and the risk of drifting into conflict because, concentrating all our energies on the mere instrument of combat, we have taken no adequate trouble to understand the facts of this case—it is at least an arguable proposition that the second risk is the greater. And I am prompted to this expression of opinion without surrendering one iota of a lifelong and passionate belief that a nation attacked should defend itself to the last penny and to the last man.
And you think that this idea that the nations—ours amongst them—may drift into futile war from sheer panic and funk arising out of the terror inspired by phantoms born of ignorance, is merely the idea of Pacifist cranks?
The following, referring to the "precautionary measures" (i.e., mobilization of armies) taken by the various Powers, is from a leading article of the Times:—
"Precautions" are understandable, but the remark of our Berlin Correspondent that they may produce an untenable position from which retreat must be humiliating is applicable in more than one direction. Our Vienna Correspondent truly says that "there is no valid reason to believe war between Austria-Hungary and Russia to be inevitable, or even immediately probable." We entirely agree, but wish we could add that the absence of any valid reason was placing strict limitations upon the scope of "precautions." The same correspondent says he is constantly being asked:—"Is there no means of avoiding war?" The same question is now being asked, with some bewilderment, by millions of men in this country, who want to know what difficulties there are in the present situation which should threaten Europe with a general war, or even a collision larger than that already witnessed.... There is no great nation in Europe which to-day has the least desire that millions of men should be torn from their homes and flung headlong to destruction at the bidding of vain ambitions. The Balkan peoples fought for a cause which was peculiarly their own. They were inspired by the memories of centuries of wrong which they were burning to avenge. The larger nations have no such quarrel, unless it is wilfully manufactured for them. The common sense of the peoples of Europe is well aware that no issue has been presented which could not be settled by amicable discussion. In England men will learn with amazement and incredulity that war is possible over the question of a Servian port, or even over the larger issues which are said to lie behind it. Yet that is whither the nations are blindly drifting Who, then, makes war? The answer is to be found in the Chancelleries of Europe, among the men who have too long played with human lives as pawns in a game of chess, who have become so enmeshed in formulas and the jargon of diplomacy that they have ceased to be conscious of the poignant realities with which they trifle. And thus will war continue to be made, until the great masses who are the sport of professional schemers and dreamers say the word which, shall bring, not eternal peace, for that is impossible, but a determination that wars shall be fought only in a just and righteous and vital cause. If that word is ever to be spoken, there never was a more appropriate occasion than the present; and we trust it will be spoken while there is yet time.
And the very next day there appeared in the Daily Mail an article by Mr. Lovat Fraser ending thus:—
The real answer rests, or ought to rest, with the man in the train. Does he want to join in Armageddon? It is time that he began to think about it, for his answer may soon be sought.
Now we have here, stated in the first case by the most authoritative of English newspapers, and in the second by an habitual contributor of the most popular, the whole case of Pacifism as I have attempted to expound it, namely: (1) That our current statecraft—its fundamental conceptions, its "axioms," its terminology—has become obsolete by virtue of the changed conditions of European society; that the causes of conflict which it creates are half the time based on illusions, upon meaningless and empty formulas; (2) that its survival is at bottom due to popular ignorance and indifference—the survival on the part of the great mass of just those conceptions born of the old and now obsolete conditions—since diplomacy, like all functions of government, is a reflection of average opinion; (3) that this public opinion is not something which descends upon us from the skies but is the sum of the opinions of each one of us and is the outcome of our daily contacts, our writing and talking and discussion, and that the road to safety lies in having that general public opinion better informed not in directly discouraging such better information; (4) that the mere multiplication of "precautions" in the shape of increased armaments and a readiness for war, in the absence of a corresponding and parallel improvement of opinion, will merely increase and not exorcise the danger, and, finally, (5) that the problem of war is necessarily a problem of at least two parties, and that if we are to solve it, to understand it even, we must consider it in terms of two parties, not one; it is not a question of what shall be the policy of each without reference to the other, but what the final upshot of the two policies taken in conjunction will be.
Now in all this the Times, especially in one outstanding central idea, is embodying a conception which is the antithesis of that expressed by Militarists of the type of Mr. Churchill, and, I am sorry to say, of Lord Roberts. To these latter war is not something that we, the peoples of Europe, create by our ignorance and temper, by the nursing of old and vicious theories, by the poorness and defects of the ideas our intellectual activities have developed during the last generation or two, but something that "comes upon us" like the rain or the earthquake, and against which we can only protect ourselves by one thing: more arms, a greater readiness to fight.
In effect the anti-Educationalists say this: "What, as practical men, we have to do, is to be stronger than our enemy; the rest is theory and does not matter."
Well the inevitable outcome of such an attitude is catastrophe.
I have said elsewhere that in this matter it seems fatally easy to secure either one of two kinds of action: that of the "practical man" who limits his energies to securing a policy which will perfect the machinery of war and disregard anything else; or that of the idealist, who, persuaded of the brutality or immorality of war, is apt to show a certain indifference concerning self-defence. What is needed is the type of activity which will include both halves of the problem: provision for education, for a Political Reformation in this matter, as well as such means of defence as will meantime counterbalance the existing impulse to aggression. To concentrate on either half to the exclusion of the other half is to render the whole problem insoluble.
What must inevitably happen if the nations take the line of the "practical man," and limit their energies simply and purely to piling up armaments?
A critic once put to me what he evidently deemed a poser: "Do you urge that we shall be stronger than our enemy, or weaker?"
To which I replied: "The last time that question was asked me was in Berlin, by Germans. What would you have had me reply to those Germans?"—a reply which, of course, meant this: In attempting to find the solution of this question in terms of one party, you are attempting the impossible. The outcome will be war, and war would not settle it. It would all have to be begun over again.
The Navy League catechism says: "Defence consists in being so strong that it will be dangerous for your enemy to attack you." Mr. Churchill, however, goes farther than the Navy League, and says: "The way to make war impossible is to make victory certain."
The Navy League definition is at least possible of application to practical politics, because rough equality of the two parties would make attack by either dangerous. Mr. Churchill's principle is impossible of application to practical politics, because it could only be applied by one party, and would, in the terms of the Navy League principle, deprive the other party of the right of defence. As a matter of simple fact, both the Navy League, by its demand for two ships to one, and Mr. Churchill, by his demand for certain victory, deny in this matter Germany's right to defend herself; and such denial is bound, on the part of a people animated by like motives to ourselves, to provoke a challenge. When the Navy League says, as it does, that a self-respecting nation should not depend upon the goodwill of foreigners for its safety, but upon its own strength, it recommends Germany to maintain her efforts to arrive at some sort of equality with ourselves. When Mr. Churchill goes further and says that a nation should be so strong as to make victory over its rivals certain, he knows that if Germany were to adopt his own doctrine its inevitable outcome would be war.
The issue is plain: We get a better understanding of certain political facts in Europe, or we have war. And the Bellicist at present is resolutely opposed to such political education. And it is for that reason, not because he is asking for adequate armament, that some of the best of this country look with the deepest misgiving upon his work, and will continue to do so in increasing degree unless his policy be changed.
Now a word as to the peace Pacifist—the Pacifist sans phrases—as distinct from the military Pacifist. It is not because I am in favour of defence that I have at times with some emphasis disassociated myself from certain features and methods of the peace movement, for non-resistance is no necessary part of that movement, and, indeed, so far as I know, it is no appreciable part. It is the methods not the object or the ideals of the peace movement which I have ventured to criticize, without, I hope, offence to men whom I respect in the very highest and sincerest degree. The methods of Pacifism have in the past, to some extent at least, implied a disposition to allow easy emotion to take the place of hard thinking, good intention to stand for intellectual justification; and it is as plain as anything well can be that some of the best emotion of the world has been expended upon some of the very worst objects, and that in no field of human effort—medicine, commerce, engineering, legislation—has good intention ever been able to dispense with the necessity of knowing the how and the why.
It is not that the somewhat question-begging and emotional terminology of some Pacifists—the appeal to brotherly love and humanity—connotes things which are in themselves poor or mean (as the average Militarist would imply), but because so much of Pacifism in the past has failed to reconcile intellectually the claims of these things with what are the fundamental needs of men and to show their relation and practical application to actual problems and conditions.
[Footnote 8: As a matter of fact, of course, the work of these two men has not been fruitless. As Lord Morley truly says: "They were routed on the question of the Crimean War, but it was the rapid spread of their principles which within the next twenty years made intervention impossible in the Franco-Austrian War, in the American War, in the Danish War, in the Franco-German War, and above all, in the war between Russia and Turkey, which broke out only the other day."]
[Footnote 9: Thus the Editor of the Spectator:—
"For ourselves, as far as the main economic proposition goes, he preaches to the converted.... If nations were perfectly wise and held perfectly sound economic theories, they would recognize that exchange is the union of forces, and that it is very foolish to hate or be jealous of your co-operators.... Men are savage, bloodthirsty creatures ... and when their blood is up will fight for a word or a sign, or, as Mr. Angell would put it, for an illusion."
Therefore, argues the Spectator, let the illusion continue—for there is no other conclusion to be drawn from the argument.]
[Footnote 10: Need it be said that this criticism does not imply the faintest want of respect for Lord Roberts, his qualities and his services. He has ventured into the field of foreign politics and prophecy. A public man of great eminence, he has expressed an English view of German "intentions." For the man in the street (I write in that capacity) to receive that expression in silence is to endorse it, to make it national. And I have stated here the reasons which make such an attitude disastrous. We all greatly respect Lord Roberts, but, even before that, must come respect for our country, the determination that it shall be in the right and not in the wrong, which it certainly will be if this easy dogmatism concerning the evil intentions of other nations becomes national.]
[Footnote 11: The German Navy Law in its preamble might have filched this from the British Navy League catechism.]
"THEORIES" FALSE AND TRUE: THEIR ROLE IN EUROPEAN PROGRESS.
The improvement of ideas the foundation of all improvement—Shooting straight and thinking straight; the one as important as the other—Pacifism and the Millennium—How we got rid of wars of religion—A few ideas have changed the face of the world—The simple ideas the most important—The "theories" which have led to war—The work of the reformer to destroy old and false theories—The intellectual interdependence of nations—Europe at unity in this matter—New ideas cannot be confined to one people—No fear of ourselves or any nation being ahead of the rest.
But what, it will be said, is the practical outcome? Admitting that we are, or that our fathers were, in part responsible for this war, that it is their false theories which have made it necessary, that like false theories on our part may make future wars inevitable—what shall we do to prevent that catastrophe?
Now while as an "abstract proposition" everyone will admit that the one thing which distinguishes the civilized man from the savage is a difference of ideas, no one apparently believes that it is a dangerous and evil thing for the political ideas of savages to dominate most of our countrymen or that so intangible a thing as "ideas" have any practical importance at all. While we believe this, of course—to the extent to which we believe it—improvement is out of the question. We have to realize that civic faith, like religious faith, is of importance; that if English influence is to stand for the right and not the wrong in human affairs, it is impossible for each one of us individuals to be wrong; that if the great mass is animated by temper, blindness, ignorance, passion, small and mean prejudices, it is not possible for "England" to stand for something quite different and for its influence to be ought but evil. To say that we are "for our country right or wrong" does not get over the matter at all; rather is it equivalent to saying that we would as readily have it stand for evil as for good. And we do not in the least seem to realize that for an Englishman to go on talking wicked nonsense across the dinner table and making one of the little rivulets of bad temper and prejudice which forms the mighty river drowning sane judgment is to do the England of our dreams a service as ill (in reality far more mischievous) as though the plans of fortresses were sold to Germany. We must all learn to shoot straight; apparently we need not learn to think straight. And yet if Europe could do the second it could dispense with the first. "Good faith" has a score of connotations, and we believe apparently that good politics can dispense with all of them and that "Patriotism" has naught to do with any.
Of course, to shoot straight is so much easier than to think straight, and I suppose at bottom the bellicist believes that the latter is a hopeless object since "man is not a thinking animal." He deems, apparently, we must just leave it at that. Of course, if he does leave it at that—if we persist in believing that it is no good discussing these matters, trying to find out the truth about them, writing books and building churches—our civilization is going to drift just precisely as those other civilizations which have been guided by the same dreadful fatalism have drifted—towards the Turkish goal. "Kismet. Man is a fool to babble of these things; what he may do is of no avail; all things will happen as they were pre-ordained." And the English Turk—the man who prefers to fight things out instead of thinking things out—takes the same line.
If he adopts the Turkish philosophy he must be content with the Turkish result. But the Western world as a whole has refused to be content with the Turkish result, and however tiresome it may be to know about things, to bother with "theories" and principles, we have come to realise that we have to choose between one of two courses: either to accept things as they are, not to worry about improvement or betterment at all, fatalistically to let things slide or—to find out bit by bit where our errors have been and to correct those errors. This is a hard road, but it is the road the Western world has chosen; and it is better than the other.
And it has not accepted this road because it expects the millenium to-morrow week. There is no millenium, and Pacifists do not expect it or talk about it; the word is just one of those three-shies-a-penny brickbats thrown at them by ignorance. You do not dismiss attempts to correct errors in medicine or surgery, or education, or tramcars, or cookery, by talking about the millenium; why should you throw that word at attempts to correct the errors of international relationship?
Nothing has astonished me more than the fact that the "practical" man who despises "theories" nearly always criticises Pacifism because it is not an absolute dogma with all its thirty-nine articles water-tight. "You are a Pacifist, then suppose...," and then follows generally some very remote hypothesis of what would happen if all the Orient composed its differences and were to descend suddenly upon the Western world; or some dogmatic (and very theoretical) proposition about the unchangeability of human nature, and the foolishness of expecting the millenium—an argument which would equally well have told against the union of Scotland and England or would equally justify the political parties in a South American republic in continuing to settle their differences by militarist methods instead of the Pacifist methods of England.
Human nature may be unchanging: it is no reason why we should fight a futile war with Germany over nothing at all; the yellow peril may threaten; that is a very good reason why we should compose our differences in Europe. Men always will quarrel, perhaps, over religious questions, bigotry and fanaticism always will exist—it did not prevent our getting rid of the wars of religion, still less is it a reason for re-starting them.
The men who made that immense advance—the achievement of religious toleration—possible, were not completely right and had not a water-tight theory amongst them; they did not bring the millenium, but they achieved an immense step. They were pioneers of religious freedom, yet were themselves tyrants and oppressors; those who abolished slavery did a good work, though much of the world was left in industrial servitude; it was a good thing to abolish judicial torture, though much of our penal system did yet remain barbaric; it was a real advance to recognise the errors upon which these things rested, although that recognition did not immediately achieve a complete, logical, symmetrical and perfect change, because mankind does not advance that way. And so with war. Pacifism does not even pretend to be a dogma: it is an attempt to correct in men's minds some of the errors and false theories out of which war grows.
The reply to this is generally that the inaptitude of men for clear thinking and the difficulties of the issues involved will render any decision save the sheer clash of physical force impossible; that the field of foreign politics is such a tangle that the popular mind will always fall back upon decision by force.
As a matter of fact the outstanding principles which serve to improve human conduct, are quite simple and understandable, as soon as they have been shorn of the sophistries and illusions with which the pundits clothe them. The real work of the reformers is to hack away these encumbering theories. The average European has not followed, and could not follow, the amazing and never-ending disputation on obscure theological points round which raged the Reformation; but the one solid fact which did emerge from the whole was the general realization that whatever the truth might be in all this confusion, it was quite evidently wicked and futile to attempt to compel conformity to any one section of it by force; that in the interests of all force should be withheld; because if such queries were settled by the accident of predominant force, it would prove, not which was right, but which was stronger. So in such things as witchcraft. The learned and astute judges of the 18th century, who sent so many thousands to their death for impossible crimes, knew far more of the details of witchcraft than do we, and would beat us hopelessly in an argument on the subject; but all their learning was of no avail, because they had a few simple facts, the premises, crooked, and we have them straight; and all that we need to know in this amazing tangle of learned nonsense, is that the probabilities are against an old woman having caused a storm at sea and drowned a Scottish King. And so with the French Revolution. What the Encyclopaedists and other pioneers of that movement really did for the European peoples in that matter, was not to elaborate fantastic schemes of constitution making, but by their argumentation to achieve the destruction of old political sophistries—Divine Rights of Kings and what not—and to enable one or two simple facts to emerge clearly and unmistakeably, as that the object of government is the good of the governed, and can find its justification in nothing else whatsoever. It was these simple truths which, spreading over the world—with many checks and set-backs—have so profoundly modified the structure of Christendom.
Somewhere it is related of Montaigne that talking with academic colleagues, he expressed a contemptuous disbelief in the whole elaborate theory of witchcraft as it existed at that time. Scandalised, his colleagues took him into the University library, and showed him hundreds, thousands, of parchment volumes written in Latin by the learned men of the subject. Had he read these volumes, that he talked so disrespectfully of their contents? No, replied Montaigne, he had not read them, and he was not going to, because they were all wrong, and he was right. And Montaigne spoke with this dogmatism because he realised that he saw clearly that which they did not—the crookedness and unsoundness of just those simple fundamental assumptions on which the whole fantastic structure was based.
And so with all the sophistries and illusions by which the war system is still defended. If the public as a whole had to follow all the intricacies of those marvellous diplomatic combinations, the maze of our foreign politics, to understand abstruse points of finance and economics, in order to have just and sound ideas as to the real character of international relationship, why then public opinion would go on being as ignorant and mistaken as it had been hitherto. But sound opinion and instincts in that field depend upon nothing of the sort, but upon the emergence of a few quite simple facts, which are indisputable and self-evident, which stare us in the face, and which absolutely disprove all the elaborate theories of the Bellicist statesmen.
For instance, if conquest and extension of territory is the main road of moral and material progress, the fundamental need which sets up all these rivalries and collisions, then it is the populations of the Great States which should be the most enviable; the position of the Russian should be more desirable than that of the Hollander; it is not. The Austrian should be better off than the Switzer; he is not. If a nation's wealth is really subject to military confiscation, and needs the defence of military power, then the wealth of those small states should be insecure indeed—and Belgian national stocks stand 20 points higher than the German. If nations are rival units, then we should benefit by the disappearance of our rivals—and if they disappeared, something like a third of our population would starve to death. If the growth and prosperity of rival nations threatens us, then we should be in far greater danger of America to-day than we were some 50 years ago, when the growth of that power disturbed the sleep of our statesmen (and when, incidentally, we were just as much afraid of the growth of that power as we are now afraid of the growth of Germany). If the growing power of Russia compelled us to fight a great war in alliance with the Turk to check her "advance on India," why are we now co-operating with Russia to build railroads to India?
It is such quite simple questions as these, and the quite plain facts which underlie them which will lead to sounder conceptions in this matter on the part of the peoples.
It is not we who are the "theorists," if by "theorists" is meant the constructors of elaborate and deceptive theorems in this matter. It is our opponents, the military mystics, who persistently shut their eyes to the great outstanding facts of history and of our time. And these fantastic theories are generally justified by most esoteric doctrine, not by the appeal to the facts which stare you in the face. I once replied to a critic thus:—
In examining my critic's balance sheet I remarked that were his figures as complete as they were absurdly incomplete and misleading, I should still have been unimpressed. We all know that very marvellous results are possible with figures; but one can generally find some simple fact which puts them to the supreme test without undue mathematics. I do not know whether it has ever happened to my critic, as it has happened to me, while watching the gambling in the casino of a Continental watering resort, to have a financial genius present weird columns of figures, which demonstrate conclusively, irrefragably, that by this system which they embody one can break the bank and win a million. I have never examined these figures, and never shall, for this reason: the genius in question is prepared to sell his wonderful secret for twenty francs. Now, in the face of that fact I am not interested in his figures. If they were worth examination they would not be for sale.
And so in this matter there are certain test facts which upset the adroitest statistical legerdemain. Though, really, the fallacy which regards an addition of territory as an addition of wealth to the "owning" nation is a very much simpler matter than the fallacies lying behind gambling systems, which are bound up with the laws of chance and the law of averages and much else that philosophers will quarrel about till the end of time. It requires an exceptional mathematical brain really to refute those fallacies, whereas the one we are dealing with is due simply to the difficulty experienced by most of us in carrying in our heads two facts at the same time. It is so much easier to seize on one fact and forget the other. Thus we realize that when Germany has conquered Alsace-Lorraine she has "captured" a province worth, "cash value," in my critic's phrase, sixty-six millions sterling. What we overlook is that Germany has also captured the people who own the property and who continue to own it. We have multiplied by x, it is true, but we have overlooked the fact that we have had to divide by x, and that the resultant is consequently, so far as the individual is concerned, exactly what it was before. My critic remembered the multiplication all right, but he forgot the division.
Just think of all the theories, the impossible theories for which the "practical" man has dragged the nations into war: the Balance of Power, for instance. Fifteen or twenty years ago it was the ineradicable belief of fifty or sixty million Americans, good, honest, sincere, and astute folk, that it was their bounden duty, their manifest interest, to fight—and in the words of one of their Senators, annihilate—Great Britain, in the interests of the Monroe Doctrine (which is a form of the "Balance of Power"). I do not think any one knew what the Monroe Doctrine meant, or could coherently defend it. An American Ambassador had an after-dinner story at the time.
"What is this I hear, Jones, that you do not believe in the Monroe Doctrine?"
"It is a wicked lie. I have said no such thing. I do believe in the Monroe Doctrine. I would lay down my life for it; I would die for it. What I did say was that I didn't know what it meant."
And it was this vague theory which very nearly drove America into a war that would have been disastrous to the progress of Anglo-Saxon civilization.
This was at the time of the Venezuelan crisis: the United States, which for nearly one hundred years had lived in perfect peace with a British power touching her frontier along three thousand miles, laid it down as a doctrine that her existence was imperilled if Great Britain should extend by so much as a mile a vague frontier running through a South American swamp thousands of miles away. And for that cause these decent and honourable people were prepared to take all the risks that would be involved to Anglo-Saxon civilisation by a war between England and America. The present writer happened at that time to be living in America, and concerned with certain political work. Night after night he heard these fulminations against Great Britain; politicians, Congressmen, Senators, Governors, Ministers, Preachers, clamouring for war, for a theory as vague and as little practical as one could wish.
And we, of course, have had our like obsessions without number: "the independence integrity of the Turkish dominion in Europe" is one. Just think of it! Take in the full sound of the phrase: "the independence integrity of the Turkish dominion in Europe!"
What, of course, makes these fantastic political doctrines possible, what leads men to subscribe to them, are a few false general conceptions to which they hold tenaciously—as all fundamental conceptions are held, and ought to be. The general conceptions in question are precisely the ones I have indicated: that nations are rival and struggling units, that military force is consequently the determining factor of their relative advantage; that enlargement of political frontiers is the supreme need, and so on.
And the revision of these fundamental conceptions will, of course, be the general work of Christendom, and given the conditions which now obtain, the development will go on pari passu in all nations or not all. It will not be the work of "nations" at all; it will be the work of individual men.
States do not think. It is the men who form the states who think, and the number of those men who will act as pioneers in a better policy must, of course, at first be small: a group here and a group there, the best men of all countries—England, France, Germany, America—influencing by their ideas finally the great mass. To say, as so many do in this matter: "Let other nations do it first" is, of course, to condemn us all to impotence—for the other nations use the same language. To ask that one group of forty or seventy or ninety million people shall by some sort of magic all find their way to a saner doctrine before such doctrine has affected other groups is to talk the language of childishness. Things do not happen in that in human affairs. It is not in that way that opinion grows. It did not grow in that way in any one of the steps that I have mentioned—in the abolition of religious persecution, or slavery, or judicial torture. Unless the individual man sees his responsibility for determining what is right and knowing how and why it is right, there will be no progress; there cannot even be a beginning.
We are to an even greater degree an integral part of European Society, and a factor of European Policy, than we were at the time of the Crimean War, when we mainly determined it; and our theories and discussions will act and re-act upon that policy just as did any considerable body of thought, whether French political thought of the eighteenth century, or German religious thought of the sixteenth century, even at a time when the means of producing that reaction, the book, literature, the newspaper, rapid communication, were so immeasurably more primitive and rudimentary than ours. What we think and say and do affects not merely ourselves, but that whole body politic of Christendom of which we are an integral part.
It is a curious fact that the moral and intellectual interdependence of States preceded by a long period, that material and economic independence which I have tried recently to make clear. Nothing is more contrary to fact than to suppose that any considerable movement of opinion in Europe can be limited to the frontiers of one nation. Even at a time when it took half a generation for a thought to travel from one capital to another, a student or thinker in some obscure Italian, Swiss or German village was able to modify policy, to change the face of Europe and of mankind. Coming nearer to our time, it was the work of the encyclopaedists and earlier political questioners which made the French Revolution; and the effect of that Revolution was not confined to France. The ideas which animated it re-acted directly upon our Empire, upon the American Colonies, upon the Spanish Colonies, upon Italy, and the formation of United Italy, upon Germany—the world over. These miracles, almost too vast and great to conceive, were the outcome of that intangible thing, an idea, an aspiration, an ideal. And if they could accomplish so much in that day when the popular press and cheap literature and improved communication did not exist, how is it possible to suppose that any great ferment of opinion can be limited to one group in our day, when we have a condition of things in which the declaration of an English Cabinet Minister to-night is read to-morrow morning by every reading German?
It should be to our everlasting glory that our political thought in the past, some of our political institutions, parliamentary government, and what not, have had an enormous influence in the world. We have some ground for hoping that another form of political institution which we have initiated, a relationship of distinct political groups into which force does not enter, will lead the way to a better condition of things in Christendom. We have demonstrated that five independent nations, the nations of the British Empire, can settle their differences as between one another without the use of force. We have definitely decided that whatever the attitude Australia, Canada, and South Africa may adopt to us we shall not use force to change it. What is possible with five is possible with fifteen nations. Just as we have given to the world roughly our conception of Parliamentary Government, so it is to be hoped may we give to the world our conception of the true relationship of nations.
The great steps of the past—religious freedom, the abolition of torture and of slavery, the rights of the mass, self-government—every real step which man has made has been made because men "theorised," because a Galileo, or a Luther, or a Calvin, or a Voltaire, Rousseau, Bentham, Spencer, Darwin, wrote and put notes of interrogation. Had they not done so none of those things could have been accomplished. The greatest work of the renaissance was the elimination of physical force in the struggle of religious groups, in religious struggles generally; the greatest work of our generation will be elimination of physical force from the struggle of the political groups and from political struggles generally. But it will be done in exactly the same way: by a common improvement of opinion. And because we possess immeasurably better instruments for the dissemination of ideas, we should be able to achieve the Political Reformation of Europe much more rapidly and effectively than our predecessors achieved the great intellectual Reformation of their time.
WHAT MUST WE DO?
We must have the right political faith—Then we must give effect to it—Good intention not enough—The organization of the great forces of modern life—Our indifference as to the foundations of the evil—The only hope.
What then must we do? Well the first and obvious thing is for each to do his civic duty, for each to determine that he at least shall not reject, with that silly temper which nearly always meets most new points of view, principles which do at least seek to explain things, and do point to the possibility of a better way.
The first thing is to make our own policy right—and that is the work of each one of us; to correct the temper which made us, for instance, to our shame, the partners of the Turk in his work of oppression.
And we must realise that mere good intent does not suffice; that understanding, by which alone we can make headway, is not arrived at by a pleasant emotion like that produced by a Beethoven Sonata; that we pay for our progress in a little harder money than that, the money of hard work, in which must be included hard thinking. And having got that far, we must realise that sound ideas do not spread themselves. They are spread by men. It is one of the astonishing things in the whole problem of the breaking of war, that while men realise that if women are to have votes, or men to be made temperate, or the White Slave Traffic to be stopped, or for that matter, if battleships are to be built, or conscription to be introduced, or soap or pills to be sold, effort, organisation, time, money, must be put into these things. But the greatest revolution that the world has known since mankind acquired the right to freedom of opinion, will apparently get itself accomplished without any of these things; or that at least the Government can quite easily attend to it by asking other Governments to attend a Conference. We must realise that a change of opinion, the recognition of a new fact, or of facts heretofore not realised, is a slow and laborious work, even in the relatively simple things which I have mentioned, and that you cannot make savages into civilised men by collecting them round a table. For the Powers of Europe, so far as their national policies are concerned, are still uncivilised individuals. And their Conferences are bound to fail, when each unit has the falsest conception concerning the matters under discussion. Governments are the embodied expression of general public opinion—and not the best public opinion at that; and until opinion is modified, the embodiment of it will no more be capable of the necessary common action, than would Red Indians be capable of forming an efficient Court of Law, while knowing nothing of law or jurisprudence, or worse still, having utterly false notions of the principles upon which human society is based.
And the occasional conferences of private men still hazy as to these principles are bound to be as ineffective. If the mere meeting and contact of people cleared up misunderstandings, we should not have Suffragettes and Anti-Suffragettes, or Mr. Lloyd George at grips with the doctors.
These occasional conferences, whether official, like those of the Hague, or non-official like those which occasionally meet in London or in Berlin, will not be of great avail in this matter unless a better public opinion renders them effective. They are of some use and no one would desire to see them dropped, but they will not of themselves stem or turn the drift of opinion. What is needed is a permanent organisation of propaganda, framed, not for the purpose of putting some cut and dried scheme into immediate operation, but with the purpose of clarifying European public opinion, making the great mass see a few simple facts straight, instead of crooked, and founded in the hope that ten or fifteen years of hard, steady, persistent work, will create in that time (by virtue of the superiority of the instruments, the Press and the rest of it which we possess) a revolution of opinion as great as that produced at the time of the Reformation, in a period which probably was not more than the lifetime of an ordinary man.
The organization for such permanent work has hardly begun. The Peace Societies have done, and are doing, a real service, but it is evident, for the reasons already indicated, that if the great mass are to be affected, instruments of far wider sweep must be used. Our great commercial and financial interests, our educational and academic institutions, our industrial organizations, the political bodies, must all be reached. An effort along the right lines has been made thanks to the generosity of a more than ordinarily enlightened Conservative capitalist. But the work should be taken up at a hundred points. Some able financier should do for the organization of Banking—which has really become the Industry of Finance and Credit—the same sort of service that Sir Charles Macara has done for the cotton industry of the world. The international action and co-ordination of Trades Unions the world over should be made practical and not, in this matter, be allowed to remain a merely platonic aspiration.
The greater European Universities should possess endowed Chairs of the Science of International Statecraft. While we have Chairs to investigate the nature of the relationship of insects, we have none to investigate the nature of the relationship of man in his political grouping. And the occupants of these Chairs might change places—that of Berlin coming to London or Oxford, and that of Oxford going to Berlin.
The English Navy League and the German Navy League alike tell us that the object of their endeavours is to create an instrument of peace. In that case their efforts should not be confined to increasing the size of the respective arms, but should also be directed to determining how and why and when, and under what conditions, and for what purpose that arm should be used. And that can only be done effectually if the two bodies learn something of the aims and objects of the other. The need for a Navy, and the size of the Navy, depends upon policy, either our own policy, or the policy of the prospective aggressor; and to know something of that, and its adjustment, is surely an integral part of national defence. If both these Navy Leagues, in the fifteen or sixteen years during which they have been in existence, had possessed an intelligence committee, each conferring with the other, and spending even a fraction of the money and energy upon disentangling policy that has been spent upon the sheer bull-dog piling up of armaments, in all human possibility, the situation which now confronts us would not exist.
Then each political party of the respective Parliaments might have its accredited delegates in the Lobbies of the other: the Social Democrats might have their permanent delegates in London, in the Lobbies of the House of Commons; the Labour Party might have their Permanent Delegates in the Lobbies of the Reichstag; and when any Anglo-German question arose, those delegates could speak through the mouth of the Members of the Party to which they were accredited, to the Parliament of the other nation. The Capitalistic parties could have a like bi-national organisation.
"These are wild and foolish suggestions"—that is possible. They have never, however, been discussed with a view to the objects in question. All efforts in this direction have been concentrated upon an attempt to realize mechanically, by some short and royal road, a result far too great and beneficent to be achieved so cheaply.
Before our Conferences, official or unofficial, can have much success, the parties to them must divest their minds of certain illusions which at present dominate them. Until that is done, you might as reasonably expect two cannibals to arrive at a workable scheme for consuming one another. The elementary conceptions, the foundations of the thing are unworkable. Our statecraft is still founded on a sort of political cannibalism, upon the idea that nations progress by conquering, or dominating one another. So long as that is our conception of the relationship of human groups we shall always stand in danger of collision, and our schemes of association and co-operation will always break down.
Many of the points touched upon in the last two chapters are brought out clearly in a recent letter addressed to the Press by my friend and colleague Mr. A.W. Haycock. In this letter to the Press he says:—
If you will examine systematically, as I have done, the comments which have appeared in the Liberal Press, either in the form of leading articles, or in letters from readers, concerning Lord Roberts' speech, you will find that though it is variously described as "diabolical," "pernicious," "wicked," "inflammatory" and "criminal," the real fundamental assumptions on which the whole speech is based, and which, if correct, justify it, are by implication admitted; at any rate, in not one single case that I can discover are they seriously challenged.
Now, when you consider this, it is the most serious fact of the whole incident—far more disquieting in reality than the fact of the speech itself, especially when we remember that Lord Roberts did but adopt and adapt the arguments already used with more sensationalism and less courtesy by Mr. Winston Churchill himself.
The protests against Lord Roberts' speech take the form of denying the intention of Germany to attach this country. But how can his critics be any more aware of the intentions of Germany—65 millions of people acted upon by all sorts of complex political and social forces—than is Lord Roberts? Do we know the intention of England with reference to Woman's Suffrage or Home Rule or Tariff Reform? How, therefore, can we know the intentions of "Germany"?
Lord Roberts, with courtesy, in form at least and with the warmest tribute to the "noble and imaginative patriotism" of German policy, assumed that that policy would follow the same general impulse that our own has done in the past, and would necessarily follow it since the relation between military power and national greatness and prosperity was to-day what it always has been. In effect, Lord Roberts' case amounts to this:—
"We have built up our Empire and our trade by virtue of the military power of our state; we exist as a nation, sail the seas, and carry on our trade, by virtue of our predominant strength; as that strength fails we shall do all these things merely on the sufferance of stronger nations, who, when pushed by the needs of an expanding population to do so, will deprive us of the capacity for carrying on those vital functions of life, and transfer the means of so doing to themselves to their very great advantage; we have achieved such transfer to ourselves in the past by force and must expect other nations to try and do the same thing unless we are able to prevent them. It is the inevitable struggles of life to be fought out either by war or armaments."
These are not Lord Roberts' words, but the proposition is the clear underlying assumption of his speech. And his critics do not seriously challenge it. Mr. Churchill by implication warmly supports it. At Glasgow he said: "The whole fortune of our race and Empire, the whole treasure accumulated during so many centuries of sacrifice and achievement would perish and be swept utterly away, if our naval supremacy were to be impaired."
Now why should there be any danger of Germany bringing about this catastrophe unless she could profit enormously by so doing? But that implies that a nation does expand by military force, does achieve the best for its people by that means; it does mean that if you are not stronger than your rival, you carry on your trade "on sufferance" and at the appointed hour will have it taken from you by him. And if that assumption—plainly indicated as it is by a Liberal Minister—is right, who can say that Lord Roberts' conclusion is not justified?
Now as to the means of preventing the war. Lord Roberts' formula is:—
"Such a battle front by sea and land that no power or probable combination of powers shall dare to attack us without the certainty of disaster."
This, of course, is taken straight from Mr. Churchill, who, at Dundee, told us that "the way to make war impossible is to be so strong as to make victory certain."
We have all apparently, Liberals and Conservatives alike, accepted this "axiom" as self-evident.
Well, since it is so obvious as all that we may expect the Germans to adopt it. At present they are guided by a much more modest principle (enunciated in the preamble of the German Navy Law); namely, to be sufficiently strong to make it dangerous for your enemy to attack. They must now, according to our "axiom," be so strong as to make our defeat certain.
I am quite sure that the big armament people in Germany are very grateful for the advice which Mr. Churchill and Lord Roberts thus give to the nations of the world, and we may expect to see German armaments so increased as to accord with the new principle.
And Lord Roberts is courageous enough to abide by the conclusion which flows from the fundamental assumption of Liberals and Conservatives alike, i.e., that trade and the means of livelihood can be transferred by force. We have transferred it in the past. "It is excellent policy; it is, or should be, the policy of every nation prepared to play a great part in history." Such are Lord Roberts' actual words. At least, they don't burke the issue.
The Germans will doubtless note the combination: be so strong as to make victory certain, and strike when you have made it certain, and they will then, in the light of this advice, be able to put the right interpretation upon our endeavours to create a great conscript force and our arrangements, which have been going on for some years, to throw an expeditionary force on to the continent.
The outlook is not very pleasant, is it? And yet if you accept the "axiom" that our Empire and our trade is dependent upon force and can be advantageously attacked by a stronger power there is no escape from the inevitable struggle—for the other "axiom" that safety can be secured merely by being enormously stronger than your rival is, as soon as it is tested by applying it to the two parties to the conflict—and, of course, one has as much right to apply it as the other—seen to be simply dangerous and muddle-headed rubbish. Include the two parties in your "axiom" (as you must) and it becomes impossible of application.
Now the whole problem sifts finally down to this one question: Is the assumption made by Lord Roberts and implied by Mr. Churchill concerning the relation of military force to trade and national life well founded? If it is, conflict is inevitable. It is no good crying "panic." If there is this enormous temptation pushing to our national ruin, we ought to be in a panic. And if it is not true? Even in that case conflict will equally be inevitable unless we realise its falseness, for a universal false opinion concerning a fact will have the same result in conduct as though the false belief were true.
And my point is that those concerned to prevent this conflict seem but mildly interested in examining the foundations of the false beliefs that make conflict inevitable. Part of the reluctance to study the subject seems to arise from the fear that if we deny the nonsensical idea that the British Empire would instantaneously fall to pieces were the Germans to dominate the North Sea for 24 hours we should weaken the impulse to defence. That is probably an utterly false idea, but suppose it is true, is the risk of less ardour in defence as great as the risk which comes of having a nation of Roberts and Churchills on both sides of the frontier?
If that happens war becomes not a risk but a certainty.
And it is danger of happening. I speak from the standpoint of a somewhat special experience. During the last 18 months I have addressed not scores but many hundreds of meetings on the subject of the very proposition on which Lord Roberts' speech is based and which I have indicated at the beginning of this letter; I have answered not hundreds but thousands of questions arising out of it. And I think that gives me a somewhat special understanding of the mind of the man in the street. The reason he is subject to panic, and "sees red" and will often accept blindly counsels like those of Lord Roberts, is that he holds as axioms these primary assumptions to which I have referred, namely, that he carries on his daily life by virtue of military force, and that the means of carrying it on will be taken from him by the first stronger power that rises in the world, and that that power will be pushed to do it by the advantage of such seizure. And these axioms he never finds challenged even by his Liberal guides.
The issue for those who really desire a better condition is clear. So long as by their silence, or by their indifference to the discussion of the fundamental facts of this problem they create the impression that Mr. Churchill's axioms are unchallengeable, the panic-mongers will have it all their own way, and our action will be a stimulus to similar action in Germany, and that action will again re-act on ours, and so on ad infinitum.
Why is not some concerted effort made to create in both countries the necessary public opinion, by encouraging the study and discussion of the elements of the case, in some such way, for instance, as that adopted by Mr. Norman Angell in his book?
One organization due to private munificence has been formed and is doing, within limits, an extraordinarily useful work, but we can only hope to affect policy by a much more general interest—the interest of those of leisure and influence. And that does not seem to be forthcoming.
My own work, which has been based quite frankly on Mr. Angell's book, has convinced me that it embodies just the formula most readily understanded of the people. It constitutes a constructive doctrine of International Policy—the only statement I know so definitely applicable to modern conditions.
But the old illusions are so entrenched that if any impression is to be made on public opinion generally, effort must be persistent, permanent, and widespread. Mere isolated conferences, disconnected from work of a permanent character, are altogether inadequate for the forces that have to be met.
What is needed is a permanent and widespread organization embracing Trades Unions, Churches and affiliated bodies, Schools and Universities, basing its work on some definite doctrine of International Policy which can supplant the present conceptions of struggle and chaos.
I speak, at least, from the standpoint of experience; in the last resort the hostility, fear and suspicion which from time to time gains currency among the great mass of the people, is due to those elementary misconceptions as to the relation of prosperity, the opportunities of life, to military power. So long as these misconceptions are dominant, nothing is easier than to precipitate panic and bad feeling, and unless we can modify them, we shall in all human probability drift into conflict; and this incident of Lord Roberts' speech and the comment which it has provoked, show that for some not very well defined reason, Liberals, quite as much as Conservatives, by implication, accept the axioms upon which it is based, and give but little evidence that they are seriously bestirring themselves to improve that political education upon which according to their creed, progress can alone be made.
Yours very faithfully,