The Canadian preachers spent only one day in many of the places they visited. But in large centres they stayed longer, because, after the first week of the pilgrimage, the attendances at their meetings became unmanageably large, owing to the arrangements made by railway companies, who ran special trains to tap the outlying parts of every district visited. Advance agents—a hard-working band, many of whom were well-to-do volunteers—prepared the way in every detail for the progress of both the Canadians and ourselves, and local residents placed every possible facility at our disposal.
Never in the history of religious revivals in England has anything been known to equal the whole-souled enthusiasm with which the new evangel of Duty was welcomed as the basis of our twentieth-century national life. The facts that the Canadian preachers were rarely seen apart, and that the teaching of each was identical with that of the other, combined with the general knowledge that one represented the Church of England and the other a great Nonconformist body; these things divested the pilgrimage of any suggestion of denominationalism, and lent it the same urgent strength of appeal for members of all sects, and members of none. This seems natural enough to us now, ours being a Christian country. But it was regarded then as a wonderful testimony to the virtue of the new teaching, because at that time sectarian differences, animosities even, were very clearly marked, and led far more naturally to opposition and hostility between the representatives of different denominations than to anything approaching united effort in a common cause.
It was during the day we spent in York that chance led to my witnessing an incident which greatly affected me. My relations with my chief, John Crondall, were not such as to call for the observance of much ceremony between us. Accordingly, it was with no thought of interference with his privacy that I blundered into my chief's sitting-room to announce the number of new members we had enrolled after the meeting. John Crondall was standing on the hearth-rug, his right hand was resting on Constance Grey's shoulder, his lips were touching her forehead.
For an instant I thought of retreat. But the thing seemed too clumsy. Accordingly, having turned to close the door, with deliberation, I advanced into the room with some awkward remark about having thought my chief was alone, and produced my figures of the enrolment of new members. After a few moments Constance left us, referring to some errand she had in view. I did not look at her, and John Crondall plunged at once into working talk. As for me, I was acutely conscious that I had seen Crondall kiss Constance; but my chief made no sign to show me whether or not he was aware that I had seen this.
Although I thought I had accustomed myself to the idea of these two being predestined mates, I realized now that no amount of reasoning would ever really reconcile me to the practical outworking of the idea. Of course, my feeling about it would be described as jealousy pure and simple. Perhaps it was; but I cherish the idea that it was some more kindly shade of feeling. I know it brought no hint of resentment or weakening in my affection for John Crondall; and most assuredly I harboured no unkind thought of Constance. But I loved her; every pulse in me throbbed love and longing at her approach. Again and again I had demonstrated to myself my own unworthiness of such a woman; the natural affinity between Constance and Crondall. Yet now, the sight of that kiss was as the sound of a knell in my heart; it filled me with an aching lament for the death of——of something which had still lived in me, whether admitted or not, till then.
For days after that episode of the kiss I lived in hourly expectation of a communication from John Crondall. Our relations were so intimate that I felt certain he would not withhold his confidence for long. But day succeeded day in our strenuous, hurried life, and no word came to me from my chief regarding any other thing than our own work. Indeed, I thought I detected a certain new sternness in John Crondall's demeanour, an extra rigid concentration upon work, which carried with it, for me, a suggestion of his being unwilling to meet one upon any other than the working footing. I was surprised and a little hurt about this, because of late there had been no reservations in the confidence with which my chief treated me. Also, I could not see any possible reason for secrecy in such a matter; it might as well be told first as last, I thought. And I watched Constance with a brooding eye for signs she never made, for a confidence which did not come from either of my friends.
The thing possessed my mind, and must, I fear, have interfered materially with my work. But after a time the idea came to me that these two had decided to allow our joint work to take precedence of their private happiness, and to put aside their own affairs until the aims of The Citizens had been attained. I recalled certain little indications I myself had received from Constance before John Crondall's return from South Africa, to the effect that personal feeling could have no great weight with her, while our national fate hung in the balance. And, by dulling the edge of my expectancy, this conclusion somehow eased the ache which had possessed me since the day of the kiss to which chance had made me a witness. But it did not altogether explain to me the new reserve, the hint of stiffness in John Crondall's manner; and, rightly or wrongly, I knew when I took Constance's hand in mine, or met the gaze of her shining eyes, that I did so as a devout lover, and not merely as a friend.
THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE
Through no disturbance of my soul Or strong compunction in me wrought, I supplicate for thy controul; But in the quietness of thought: Me this unchartered freedom tires; I feel the weight of chance desires: My hopes no more must change their name; I long for a repose that ever is the same.
Ode to Duty.
From the first, the courtesy of the Press was securely enlisted in The Citizens' favour by John Crondall. For many months the Standard, now firmly established as the principal organ of the reform movement, devoted an entire page each day to the progress of our campaign and the pilgrimage of our forerunners—the Canadian preachers. John Crondall had gone thoroughly into the matter at the beginning with the editor of this journal, and the key-note thus given was taken by the Press of the whole country.
The essence of our treatment by the newspapers lay in their careful avoidance of all matter which would be likely to earn for the movement the hostility of Germany, or of the officers in command of the German forces in England. Our language took on a new and special meaning in the columns of the newspapers, where reports of our campaign were concerned. Such adjectives as "social," "moral," and the like were made to cover quite special meanings, as applied to the organization of The Citizens. So ably was all this done, that the German authorities regarded the whole movement as social and domestic, with a direct bearing upon the General Election, perhaps, but none whatever upon international politics or Anglo-German relations.
In Elberfeld's ponderous history we are given the text of a despatch to the Kaiser in which General Baron von Fuechter assured his Imperial master that any interference with The Citizens and their meetings would be gratuitous and impolitic:
"Their aims being purely social and domestic, and those of a quasi-religious Friendly Society, resembling something between their 'Band of Hope' and their 'Antediluvian Buffaloes.' The English have a passion for this kind of child's play, and are absurdly impatient of official surveillance. Their incorrigible sentimentality is soothed by such movements as those of the Canadian preachers and The Citizens; but even the rudiments of discipline or efficient cooerdination are lacking among them. Combination against us would be impossible for them, for this is a country of individualists, among whom the matter of obligations to the State is absolutely not recognized. There is no trace of military feeling among the people, and in my opinion the invasion might safely have been attempted five, if not ten years, before it was. The absence of any note of resentment in their newspapers against our occupation has been quite marked since their preoccupation with the Canadian preachers and The Citizens. The people accept it in the most matter-of-course manner, and are already entirely absorbed once more in their own affairs, and even in their sports. British courage and independence have been no more than a myth for many years past—a bubble which your Majesty's triumphantly successful policy has burst for ever."
Another important feature, alike of our campaign and the pilgrimage of the preachers, was their positively non-party and non-sectarian character. John Crondall had been firm upon this point from the beginning. I remember his saying at the first meeting of the executive of The Citizens:
"Our party government, party conflict, here in England, have sapped the vitality of the British Empire long enough. I believe the invasion has scotched the thing, and we must be very careful to do nothing that might help to bring it to life again. A Radical, as such, is neither better nor worse than a Conservative. It does not matter two pins what becomes of the Conservative organization, or the Liberal party, as parties. I should be delighted never to hear of either again. Our business is the Empire's business; and we want the people of the Empire with us—the whole lot of them—as one solid party."
Accordingly, no mention of any political party was ever heard at our meetings. We made no appeal to any given section of the community, but only to the British public as a whole. We aimed at showing that there could be no division in national affairs, save the division which separates citizens and patriots from men worthy of neither name. And that is why Maurice Hall, in his famous British Renaissance, was able to write that:
"The General Elections of the invasion year were practically directed and decided by two forces: the influence of The Citizens and the influence of the Canadian preachers' Duty teaching. Political opinions and traditions, as previously understood, played no part whatever."
Of course, it seems natural enough now that the British public should be united in matters of national and imperial import; but those whose memories are long enough will bear me out in saying that in previous elections nine voters in ten had been guided, not by any question of the needs of the country or the Empire, but by their support of this party or of that, of this colour or of that. Our politicians had strenuously supported the preposterous faction system, and fanned party rivalry in every way, because they recognized that it gave them personal power and aggrandizement, which they had long placed before any consideration of the common weal. By this they had brought shame and disaster upon the nation, in precisely the same manner that the same results had been produced by the same means, when these were used by the oligarchs of the Dutch Republic, prior to the downfall of the Netherlands.
Indeed, for some time before the invasion our politicians might have been supposed to be modelling their lives and policy entirely upon those of the Dutch Republic in the eighteenth century; particularly with regard to their mercenary spoliation of the nation's defence forces, and their insane pertinacity in clinging to the policy of "cheapness," which killed both the manufacturing and the agricultural industries of the country, by allowing other properly protected nations to oust our producers from all foreign markets, and to swamp our home markets with their surplus stocks. Down to the minutest detail, the same causes and actions had produced the same results a century earlier in the Netherlands; and even as, first, King William of Prussia, and then revolutionary France, had devastated the Netherlands, so had the Kaiser's legions overrun England. It was not for lack of warning that our politicians had blindly followed so fatal a lead. "The Destroyers" were still being warned most urgently at the very time of the invasion by public speakers, and in such lucid works as Ellis Barker's The Rise and Decline of the Netherlands.
In spite of the emphatically non-party character of The Citizens' campaign, John Crondall kept in close touch throughout with all his political friends, and very many members of Parliament were among our leading workers. My chief's idea was that, when the elections drew near, we should cease to map out our movements in accordance with those of the Canadian preachers, and allow them to be guided by the exigencies of the electoral campaign; bringing all our influence to bear wherever we saw weakness in the cause of patriotism and reform.
Already we had arrangements made for leading members of The Citizens to address meetings throughout the elections at a good many centres. But, before the electioneering had gone far, it became evident that more had already been accomplished than we supposed. Candidates who came before their constituents with any kind of party programme were either angrily howled down or contemptuously ignored. Old supporters of "The Destroyers," who ventured upon temporizing tactics, were peremptorily faced with demands for straight-out declarations of policy upon the single issue of patriotic reform and duty to the State. With a single exception, the actual members of the Cabinet in "The Destroyers'" Administration refrained from any attempt to secure reelection.
Such an electoral campaign had never before been known in England. Candidates who, even inadvertently, used such words as "Conservative," "Radical," or "Liberal," were hissed into silence. Even the word "Labour" was taboo, so far as it referred to any political party. "Duty," "Patriotism," "Defence," "Citizenship," "United Empire," "British Federation," and, again, ringing loudly above all other cries, "Duty"—those were the watchwords and the platforms of the invasion year elections. The candidate who promised relief from taxation was laughed at. The candidate who promised legislation directed toward the citizen's defence of the citizen's hearth and home, was cheered to the echo.
The one member of "The Destroyers'" Administration who sought reelection, found it well to assert the claims of his youth by making a public recantation of all his previously expressed views and policy, and seeking to outdo every one else in the direction of patriotic reform. Though he gulled nobody, he was listened to good-humouredly, and defeated with great ease by Abel Winchester, the Australian, who saw years of work before him, in conjunction with Forbes Thompson, in the supervision of village rifle corps throughout the country.
In many ways the country had never known a Parliamentary election so constructive; in one respect it was absolutely destructive. It destroyed all previously existing political parties. No single member was returned as the representative of a previously existing party. The voters of Britain had refused to consider any other than the one issue of patriotic reform: the all-British policy, as it was called; and the consequence was, that when Parliament assembled it was found that the House of Commons could no longer boast possession of an Opposition.
The members of that assembly had been sent to St. Stephens to busy themselves, in unison, with the accomplishment of a common end; and if one among them should waste the time of the House by any form of obstruction, he could only do so by breaking the pledges upon the strength of which he had been elected. This fact was clearly set forth in the Speech from the Throne, delivered by the King in person. The business of Parliament was in full swing before its second sitting was far advanced. Though then an aged man, the famous statesman to whom the King had entrusted the task of forming a new Cabinet bore himself with the vigour of early manhood, and no Prime Minister had ever faced Parliament with so great a driving power behind him of unity, confidence, and national sympathy. The fact that for years his name had been most prominently associated with every movement making for unity within the Empire; that he had striven valiantly for many years against the anti-British forces of disintegration; this was admitted to augur well for the success of the Conference of Colonial representatives then holding its first sitting in historic Westminster Hall.
Meantime, the patriotic enthusiasm of the general public seemed to have been greatly heightened by the result of the general elections. By common consent a note of caution, of warning, took the place of the stirring note of appeal and stimulation which had formerly characterized every public address delivered under the auspices of The Citizens. Almost without invitation now the cream of the country's manhood flocked into our travelling headquarters for enrolment on the roster of The Citizens; and: "Hasten slowly—and silently," became John Crondall's counsel to all our supporters.
The effect upon the whole public of this counsel of caution and restraint was one of the most remarkable features of that period; and it showed, more clearly, I think, than anything else, the amazing depth and strength of the influence exerted by the Canadian preacher's Duty teaching. Our relations with the Power to which we were in effect a people in vassalage, and payers of tribute, demanded at this stage the exercise of the most cautious restraint; and finely the people responded to this demand. In his History of the Revival, Charles Corbett says, with good reason:
"It was the time of waiting, of cautious preparation, of enthusiasm restrained and harnessed to prudence, which must really be regarded as the probationary era of the Revival. It is in no sense a depreciation of the incalculable value of the work done by the Canadian apostles of the new faith, to say that their splendid efforts might well have proved of no more than transitory effect, but for that stern, silent period of repression, of rigid, self-administered discipline, which followed the access to office of the first Free Government. That period may be regarded as the crucible in which British Christianity was tested and proven; in which the steel of the new patriotism was tempered and hardened to invincible durability. The Canadian preachers awakened the people; The Citizens set them their task; the period of waiting schooled them in the spirit of the twentieth century, the key-note of which is discipline, the meaning of which is Duty."
 This title, applied by the Prince of Wales in a speech delivered at the Guildhall to the first Parliament which met without an Opposition, remained in use for a number of years afterwards.
I do not regard that as a statement of more than the truth; and I do not think it would be easy to overrate, either the value of the period or the excellence of the response to the demand it made upon them. The only dissatisfied folk were the publicans and the theatre and music-hall lessees. The special journals which represented the interests of this class—caterers for public amusement and public dissipation—were full of covert raillery against what they called the new Puritanism. Their raillery was no more than covert, however; the spirit of the time was too strong to permit more than that, and I do not think it produced any effect worth mentioning.
Here again our difficulties proved real blessings in disguise. The burden of invasion taxation was heavy; all classes felt the monetary pinch of it, apart altogether from the humiliation of the German occupation; and this helped very materially in the development of common sense ideals regarding economy and simple living. Not for nothing had John Crondall called the Canadian preachers the mouthpiece of the hour. One saw very plainly, in every walk of life, a steadily growing love of sobriety. The thing was perhaps most immediately noticeable in the matter of the liquor traffic. Throughout the country, those public-houses and hotels which were in reality only drinking-shops were being closed up by the score, or converted into other sorts of business premises, for lack of custom in their old misery-breeding trade. The consumption of spirits, and of all the more expensive wines, decreased enormously. It is true there was a slight increase in the consumption of cider, and the falling off of beer sales was slight. But this was because a large number of people, who had been in the habit of taking far less wholesome and more costly beverages, now made use of both beer and cider. It was not at all evidence that the consumption of alcohol among the poorer classes maintained its old level. The sales of gin, for example, fell to less than half the amounts used in the years before the invasion.
And this was no more than one aspect of the great national progress toward realization of the ideals of Duty and simple living. Extravagance of every sort became, not merely unpopular, but hated and despised, as evidence of unpatriotic feeling. In this, I think, the women of England deserve the greater meed of gratitude and respect. The change they wrought in domestic economy was not less than wonderful when one realizes how speedily it was brought about, and how great was the change. For in the years immediately preceding the invasion the women had been sad offenders in this respect, particularly, perhaps, in their vulgar and ostentatious extravagance in matters of dress. Now, the placards of the British Commercial Union, exhorting the public to "Buy British Empire Goods only," became out of date almost as soon as they were printed, their advice being no longer needed.
No more could one see the wives and daughters of England competing with their unfortunate sisters of the demi-monde in the extravagance of their attire. One of the first evidences of the effect of the Canadian preachers' teaching that I can remember was the notable access of decorum and simplicity in dress which dominated the fashion of our clothes. In this, as in sundry other matters, I think we were helped by the unprecedented number of Colonials who began to flock into England at this time from Canada, South Africa, and Australia. But, despite the general desire for economy, it is certain that from that time on the middle-class folk at all events began to wear better clothes and buy better commodities generally—articles which lasted longer, and were better worth using. The reason of this was all a part of the same teaching, the same general tendency. Shoddy goods, representing the surplus output of German and American firms, could no longer be sold in England, however low the prices at which they were offered; and shopkeepers soon found that they lost standing when they offered such goods to the public. Thus true economy and true patriotism were served at one and the same time.
Extravagance in eating, dress, entertainment, and the like, became that year more disgraceful than drunkenness had been a year before in the public eye. In the same way we attained to clearer vision and a saner sense of proportion in very many matters of first-rate social importance. I remember reading that the market for sixty and seventy horse-power touring motor-cars had almost ceased to exist, while the demand for industrial motor-vehicles, and for cars of something under twenty horse-power, had never been so flourishing.
Before this time we had fallen into incredible extravagance in our attitude toward all the parasitical occupations, and paid absurd tributes of respect to many of those who waxed fat upon pandering to our weaknesses. This passed away now, like a single night's dream, and incidentally gave rise to a certain amount of complaining from those who suffered by it. But the public was no more inclined to heed these complainings than it was to fritter away its time and substance in drinking-bars or in places of amusement. The famous "Middle-class Music-halls" faded quickly into the limbo of forgotten failures, and the most popular of public performers were those—and they were not a few—who forsook grease-paint for khaki, and posturing on stages for exercising on rifle-ranges and drill-grounds.
The word "Puritanism" was still a term of reproach then, by virtue of its old associations; but, as we see things nowadays, there is room only for gladness in admitting that the wave of feeling which swept through the homes of England in the wake of the Canadian preachers, The Citizens, and the organizers of the village rifle corps, was in very truth a mighty revival of Puritanism, backed by the newly awakened twentieth-century spirit of Imperial patriotism, with its recognition of the duty of loyalty, not alone to country, but to race and Empire. Yes, it was true Puritanism—stern, unfaltering Puritanism; and it came to England not a day too soon. Without it, we could never have been purged of our insensate selfishness; without it, the loose agglomeration of states, then called the British Empire, could never have been welded into the State; without it, the great events of that year would have been impossible, and the dominion of the English-speaking peoples must, ere this, have become no more than a matter of historical interest.
BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
Stern lawgiver! yet thou dost wear The Godhead's most benignant grace; Nor know we anything so fair As is the smile upon thy face: Flowers laugh before thee on their beds, And fragrance in thy footing treads; Thou dost preserve the Stars from wrong; And the most ancient Heavens, through thee, are fresh and strong.
Ode to Duty.
I suffered no change so far as Constance Grey's demeanour to me was concerned; but certainly John Crondall had altered since the day upon which I had so inopportunely entered his room when Constance was with him. At times I fancied his change was toward me personally, and I thought it curiously unlike the man to cherish any sort of unkindness over an accident. But then, again, at odd times, I watched him with other men among our now considerable train, and the conclusion was borne in upon me that the change had nothing to do with me, but was general in its character. He was more stern, less cheery, and far more reserved than before.
And this I thought most strange, for it seemed to me that, even though Constance and my chief might have agreed that nothing like an engagement between them must come till our work was done, yet the understanding which could lead to the kiss I had seen was surely warrant enough for a change of quite another character than this one. I thought of it whenever I took Constance's hand in greeting her; and I think my eyes must sometimes have told her what my heart always felt: that in me, this right to do as Crondall had done would have seemed an entry into Paradise, let circumstances and conditions be what they might. And with such a thought I would recall what, to me, would never be the least of Black Saturday's events: that once Constance Grey had lain in my arms—unconsciously, it was true; and that upon the same occasion I had kissed her, and known in that moment that never again could she be as other women for me.
I was often tempted to speak to Constance of the change I saw in John Crondall, and one day in Carlisle I yielded to the temptation. At one and the same time I both craved and dreaded definite news of the understanding between the woman I loved and the man I liked and respected more than any other. I wanted Constance's confidence; yet I felt as though my life would be stripped bare by definite knowledge that she was betrothed. So, moth-like, I hovered about the perilous subject, with a nervous endeavour to lend natural composure to my voice.
"Do you notice any particular change in John Crondall of late?" I asked. And it seemed to me that Constance flushed slightly as she answered me:
"Change? No. Has he changed?"
"Well, he does not seem to be nearly so happy as——" And there I broke away from a dangerous comparison, and substituted—"as he was awhile back."
"Really? But what makes you think that?"
"I fancy he is much more reserved—less frank and more preoccupied; not so jolly, in fact, as he always was. I have thought so for several weeks."
"I am sorry, very sorry; and I do hope you are mistaken. Of course he is overworked—we all are; but that never hurt him before; and with things going so splendidly—— Oh, I hope you are mistaken."
"Perhaps so," I said. "Certainly I think he has every reason to be happy—to be happy and proud; every reason."
And I stopped at that; but Constance made no sign to me; and I wondered she did not, for we were very intimate, and she was sweetly kind to me in those days. Indeed, once when I looked up sharply at her with a question from some work we were engaged upon, I saw a light in her beautiful eyes which thrilled my very heart with strange delight. Her expression had changed instantly, and I told myself I had no sort of business to be thrilled by a look which was obviously born of reverie, of thoughts about John Crondall. Such a sweet light of love her eyes held! I told myself for the hundredth time that no consideration should ever cloud the happiness of the man who was so fortunate as to inspire it—to have won the heart which looked out through those shining eyes.
But it must not be supposed that I had much leisure for this sort of meditation. My feeling for Constance certainly dominated me. Indeed, it accounted for everything of import in my life—for my general attitude of mind and, I make no doubt, for my being where I was and playing the part I did play in The Citizens' campaign. But our life was not one that admitted of emotional preoccupation of any sort. We were too close to the working mechanism of national progress. There never was more absorbing work than the making and enrolment of Citizens at such a juncture in the history of one's country.
The spirit of our work, no less than that of the Canadian preachers' teaching, was actually in the air at that time. It dominated English life, from the mansions of the great landholders to the cottages of the field-labourers and the tenements of the factory-hands. It affected every least detail of the people's lives, and coloured all thought and action in England—a process which I am sure was strengthened by the remarkable growth of Colonial sentiment throughout the country at this time. The tide of emigration seemed to have been reversed by some subtle process of nature: the strong ebb of previous years had become a flow of immigration. Everywhere one met Canadians, Australians, South Africans, and an unusual number of Anglo-Indians.
"We've been doing pretty well of late," said one of the Canadians to me when I commented to him upon this influx into the Old Country of her Colonial sons; "and I reckon we can most of us spare time to see things through a bit at Home. The way our folk look at it on the other side is this: They reckon we've got to worry through this German business somehow and come out the right way up on the other side, and a good deal more solid than we went in. We don't reckon there's going to be any more 'Little Englandism' or Cobdenism after this job's once put through; and that's a proposition we're mighty keenly interested in, you see. We put most of our eggs into the Empire basket, away back, while you people were still busy giving Africa to the Boers, and your Navy to the dogs, and your markets to Germany, and your trade and esteem to any old foreigner that happened along with a nest to feather. I reckon that's why we're most of us here; and maybe that's why we mostly bring our cartridge-belts along. A New South Wales chap told me last night you couldn't get up a cricket match aboard a P. and O. or Orient boat, not for a wager—nothing but shooting competitions and the gentle art of drill. You say 'Shun!' to the next Colonial you meet, and listen for the click of his heels! Not that we set much store by that business ourselves, but we learned about the Old Country taste for it in South Africa, and it's all good practice, anyhow, and good discipline."
But, whatever the motives and causes behind their coming, it is certain that an astonishingly large number of our oversea kinsmen were arriving in England each week; and I believe every one of them joined The Citizens. Their presence and the part they played in affairs had a marked effect upon the spirit of the time. All sorts and conditions of people, whose thoughts in the past had never strayed far from their own parishes, now talked familiarly of people, things, and places Colonial. The idea of our race being one big tribe, though our homes might be hemispheres apart, seemed to me to take root for the first time in the minds of the general public at about this period. I spoke of it to John Crondall, and reminded him how he had urged this idea upon us years before in Westminster with but indifferent success.
"Ah, well," he said, "they have come to it of their own accord now; and that means they'll get a better grip of it than any one could ever have given them. That's part of our national character, and not a bad part."
We were heading southward through Lancashire, when the news reached us of that extension of the British Constitution which first gave us a really Imperial Parliament. The country received the news with a deep-seated and sober satisfaction. Perhaps the majority hardly appreciated at once the full significance of this first great accomplishment of the Free Government. But the published details showed the simplest among us that by this act the congeries of scattered nations we had called the British Empire were now truly welded into an Imperial State. It showed us that we English, and all those stalwart kinsmen of ours across the Atlantic and on the far side of the Pacific—north, south, east, and west, wherever the old flag flew—were now actually as well as nominally subjects of one Government, and that that Government would for the future be composed of men chosen as their representatives by the people of every country in the Empire; men drawn together under one historic roof by one firm purpose—the service and administration of a great Imperial State.
As I say, the realization produced deep-seated satisfaction. Of late we had learned to take things soberly in England; but there was no room for doubt about the effect of this news upon the public. The events of the past half-year, the pilgrimage of the Canadian preachers, the new devotion to Duty (which seemed almost a new religion though it was actually but an awakening to the religion of our fathers), the influx among us of Colonial kinsmen, and the campaign of The Citizens; these things combined to give us a far truer and more keen appreciation of the news than had been possible before.
Indeed, looking back upon my experience in Fleet Street, I must suppose the whole thing would have been impossible before. I could imagine how my Daily Gazette colleagues would have scoffed at the Imperial Parliament's first executive act, which was the devising of an Imperial Customs Tariff to give free trade within the Empire, and complete protection so far as the rest of the world was concerned, with strictly reciprocatory concessions to such nations as might choose to offer these to us, and to no others.
Truly Crondall had said that the Canadian preachers accomplished more than they knew. The sense of duty, individual and national, burned in England for the first time since Nelson's day: a steady, white flame. The acceptance by all classes of the community of the Imperial Parliament's programme of work proved this. The public had been shown that our duty to the whole Empire, and to our posterity, demanded this thing. That was enough. Five years before, one year before, the country had been shown very clearly where its duties lay; and the showing had not moved five men in a hundred from their blind pursuit of individual pleasure and individual gain. Army, Navy, Colonies, Imperial prestige—all might go by the board.
But now, all that was changed. My old friend, Stairs, with Reynolds, and their following, had given meaning and application to the teaching of our national chastisement. Religion ruled England once more; and it was the religion, not of professions and asseverations, but of Duty. The House of Commons and, more even than our first Free Government, the Imperial Parliament in Westminster Hall had behind them the absolute confidence of a united people. If England could have been convinced at that time that Duty demanded a barefoot pilgrimage to Palestine, I verily believe Europe would have speedily been dissected by a thousand-mile column of marching Britishers.
But the Canadian preachers taught a far more practical faith than that; and, behind them, John Crondall and his workers opened the door upon a path more urgent and direct than that of any pilgrimage; the path to be trodden by all British citizens who respected the white hairs of their fathers, and the innocent trust of their children; the path of Duty to God and King and Empire; the path for all who could hear and understand the call of our own blood.
ONE SUMMER MORNING
To humbler functions, awful Power! I call thee: I myself commend Unto thy guidance from this hour; O, let my weakness have an end! Give unto me, made lowly wise, The spirit of self-sacrifice; The confidence of reason give; And in the light of Truth thy bondman let me live.
Ode to Duty.
Winter rushed past us like a tropical squall that year, and, before one had noted the beautiful coming of spring, young summer was upon the land. For me, serving as I did the founder and leader of The Citizens, life was filled as never before. I had never even dreamed of a life so compact of far-reaching action, of intimate relation with great causes.
I know now that the speed and strenuousness of it was telling upon all of us. But we did not realize it then. John Crondall seemed positively tireless. The rest of us had our moments of exhaustion, but never, I think, of depression. Our work was too finely productive and too richly rewarded for that. But we were thin, and a little fine-drawn, like athletes somewhat overtrained.
Published records have analyzed our progress through the country, the Canadian preachers' and our own; but nothing I have read, or could tell, gives more than a pale reflection of that triumphal progress, as we lived it. In our wake, harlots forsook harlotry to learn something of nursing by doing the rough domestic work of hospitals; famous misers and money-grubbers gave fortunes to The Citizens' cause, and peers' sons left country mansions to learn defensive arts, in the ranks; drunkards left their toping for honest work, and actresses sold their wardrobes to provide funds for village rifle corps.
There was no light sentiment, no sort of hysteria, at the back of these miracles. Be it remembered that the streets of English towns had never been so orderly; public-houses and places of amusement had never been so empty; churches and chapels had never been one-half so full. During that year, as the records show, it became the rule in many places for curates and deacons to hold services outside the churches and chapels, while packed congregations attended the services held within. And it was then that, for the first time, we saw parsons leading the young men of their flocks to the rifle-ranges, and competing with them there.
The lessons we learned in those days will never, I suppose, seem so wonderful to any one else as to those of us who had lived a good slice of our lives before the lessons came; before the need of them was felt or understood. "For God, our Race, and Duty!" Conceive the stirring wonder of the watchword, when it was no more than a month old!
The seasons rushed by us, as I said. But one short conversation served to mark for me the coming of summer. We had reached the Surrey hills in our homeward progress toward London. On a Saturday night we held a huge meeting in Guildford, and very early on Sunday morning I woke with a curiously insistent desire to be out in the open. Full of this inclination I rose, dressed, and made my way down to the side entrance of the hotel, where a few servants were moving about drowsily. As I passed out under a high archway into the empty, sunny street, with its clean Sabbath hush, Constance Grey stepped out from the front entrance to the pavement.
"I felt such a longing to be out in the open this morning," she said, when we had exchanged greeting. "It's months since I had a walk for the walk's sake, and now I mean to climb that hill that we motored over from Farnham—the Hog's Back, as they call it."
We both thought it deserved some more beautiful name, when we turned on its crest and looked back at Guildford in the hollow, shining in summer morning haze.
"Now surely that's King Arthur's Camelot," said Constance.
And then we looked out over the delectable valley toward the towers of Charterhouse, across the roofs of two most lovable hamlets, from which blue smoke curled in delicate spirals up from the bed of the valley, through a nacreous mist, to somewhere near our high level.
We gazed our fill, and I only nodded when Constance murmured:
"It's worth a struggle, isn't it?"
I knew her thought exactly. It was part of our joint life, of the cause we both were serving. I had been pointing to some object across the valley, and as my hand fell it touched Constance's hand, which was cool and fresh as a flower. Mine was moist and hot. I never was more at a loss for words. I took her hand in mine and held it. So we stood, hand in hand, like children, looking out over that lovely English valley. My heart was all abrim with tenderness; but I had no words. I had been a good deal moved by the curious instance of telepathic sympathy or understanding which had brought me from my bed that morning and led to our meeting.
"You have given me so much, taught me so much, Constance," I said at last.
"No, no; I am no teacher," she said. "But I do think God has taught all of us a good deal lately—all our tribe—Dick."
There was a rare hint of nervousness in her voice; and I felt I knew the cause. I felt she must be thinking of John Crondall. And yet, if my life had depended on it, I could not help saying:
"It is love that taught me."
Constance drew her hand away gently.
"Would not the Canadian preachers say we meant the same thing?" she said. I had my warning; but, though haltingly, the words would come, now.
"Ah, Constance, it is love of you, I mean—love of you. Oh, yes, I know," I hurried on now. "I know. Have no fear of me. I understand. But it is love of you, Constance, that rules every minute of my life. I couldn't alter that if I tried; and—and I would not alter it if I had to die for it. But—you must forgive me. Tell me you do not want me to stop loving you, Constance. You see, I do not ask any more of you. I understand. But—let me go on loving you, dear heart, because that means everything to me. It has guided me in everything I have done since that day you came to me in The Mass office. Constance, you do not really want me to stop loving you?"
I was facing her now; kneeling to her, in my mind, though not in fact. Her head was bowed toward me. Then she raised her glorious eyes, and gave to me the full tender sweetness of them.
"No, Dick," she said, quite firmly, but soft and low; "I don't want you ever to stop loving me."
Whatever else Fate brings or takes from me, I shall never lose the lovely music of those words. That is mine for ever.
"FOR GOD, OUR RACE, AND DUTY"
Soldiers, prepare! Our cause is Heaven's cause; Soldiers, prepare! Be worthy of our cause: Prepare to meet our fathers in the sky: Prepare, O troops that are to fall to-day! Prepare, prepare.
Alfred shall smile, and make his harp rejoice; The Norman William, and the learned Clerk, And Lion-Heart, and black-browed Edward, with His loyal queen shall rise, and welcome us! Prepare, prepare.
We had two other meetings before finally taking train for London; but virtually our campaign was brought to an end at Guildford. Our peregrination ended there, but the Canadian preachers continued their pilgrimage till long afterwards. Scores of rich men were anxious to finance these expounders of the new teaching, and even to build them churches. But Stairs and Reynolds were both agreed in wanting no churches. Their mission was to the public as a whole.
When we returned to our headquarters in London, the membership of The Citizens stood within a few hundreds of three million and a half of able-bodied men. And still new members were being sworn in every day. Some few of these members had contributed as much as five thousand pounds to our funds. Very many had contributed a fifth of that sum, and very many more had given in hundreds of pounds. There were some who gave us pence, and they were very cordially thanked, giving as they did from the slenderest of purses. There were women who had sold dresses and jewels for us, hundreds of them; and there were little children whose pocket-money had helped to swell the armament and instruction funds. Joseph Farquharson, the well-known coal and iron magnate, who had been famous for his "Little England" sentiments—a man who had boasted of his parochialism—must have learned very much from the invasion and the teaching of the new movement. He gave one hundred thousand pounds to The Citizens after John Crondall's first address in Newcastle.
When Crondall attended the famous Council at the War Office, he did so as the founder and representative of the most formidable organization ever known in England. He had no official standing at the Council: he took his seat there as an unofficial commoner. Yet, in a sense, he held the defensive strength of Britain in his hand. But several of the Ministers and officials who formed that Council were members of our Executive, and our relations with the Government were already well defined and thoroughly harmonious. It was from the War Office that we received the bronze badge which was supplied to every sworn Citizen and bore our watchword—"For God, our Race, and Duty"; and the Government had given substantial aid in the matter of equipment and instruction. But now John Crondall represented three million and a half of British men, all sworn to respond instantly to his call as President of the Executive. And every Citizen had some training—was then receiving some training.
"The Canadian preachers waked and inspired the people; we swore them in," said John Crondall modestly. "Their worth is the faith in them, and their faith spells Duty. That's what makes The Citizens formidable."
"The grace of God," Stairs called it; and so did many others.
Crondall bowed to that, and added a line from his favourite poet: "Then it's the grace of God in those 'Who are neither children nor gods, but men in a world of men!'" he said.
No wise man has ever doubted, so far as I know, that simple piety, simple religion, "British Christianity," was the motive force at work behind the whole of the revival movement. Without that foundation, the enduring results achieved must have been impossible. But this was entirely unlike any previously known religious revival, in that it supplied no emotional food whatever. There was no room for sentimentality, still less for hysteria, in the acceptation of George Stairs's message from that "Stern Daughter of the Voice of God," whose name is Duty. Tears and protestations were neither sought nor found among converts to the faith which taught all to be up and doing in Duty's name.
From the records, I know that eight weeks passed after the famous Council at the War Office before England spoke. When I say that during that time I acted as my chief's representative in controlling an office of over ninety clerks (all drilled men and fair shots), besides several times traversing the length and breadth of the kingdom on special missions, it will be understood that the period was to me a good deal more like eight days. During that time, too, I was able to help Constance Grey in her organization of the women helpers' branch of The Citizens, in which over nine thousand members were enrolled. Constance had an executive committee of twenty-five volunteer workers, who spent money and energy ungrudgingly in helping her.
We kept in close touch with the heads of provincial committees during the whole of that period, and several times we communicated by means of printed circular letters, franked gratis for us by the War Office, with every single Citizen.
Then came the day of the now historic telegram which the Post Office was authorized to transmit to every sworn Citizen in the kingdom:
"Be ready! 'For God, our Race, and Duty.'"
This was signed by John Crondall, and came after some days of detailed instruction and preparation.
It has been urged by some writers that the Government was at fault in the matter of its famous declaration of war with Germany. It has been pointed out that for the sake of a point of etiquette, the Government had no right to yield a single advantage to an enemy whose conduct toward us had shown neither mercy nor courtesy. There is a good deal to be said for this criticism; but, when all is said and done, I believe that every Englishman is glad at heart that our Government took this course. I believe it added strength to our fighting arm; I believe it added weight and consequence to the first blows struck.
Be that as it may, there was no sign of hesitancy or weakness in the action of the Government when the declaration had once been made; and it speaks well for the deliberate thoroughness of all preparations that, twenty-four hours after the declaration, every one of the nine German garrisons in the kingdom was hemmed in by land and by sea. On the land side the Germans were besieged by more than three million armed men. Almost the whole strength of the British Navy was then concentrated upon the patrolling of our coasts generally, and the blockading of the German-garrisoned ports particularly. Thirty-six hours had not passed when the German battle-ships Hohenzollern and Kaiserin, and the cruisers Elbe and Deutschland, were totally destroyed off Portsmouth and Cardiff respectively; Britain's only loss at that time being the Corfe Castle, almost the smallest among the huge flotilla of armed merchantmen which had been subsidized and fitted out by the Government that year.
I believe all the authorities had admitted that, once it was known that our declaration had reached Berlin, the British tactics could not have been excelled for daring, promptitude, and devastating thoroughness. It is true that Masterman, in his well-known History of the War, urges that much loss of life might have been spared at Portsmouth and Devonport "if more deliberate and cautious tactics had been adopted, and the British authorities had been content to achieve their ends a little less hurriedly." But Masterman is well answered by the passage in General Hatfield's Introduction to Low's important work, which tells us that:
"The British plan of campaign did not admit of leisurely tactics or great economy. Britain was striking a blow for freedom, for her very life. Failure would have meant no ordinary loss, but mere extinction. The loss of British life in such strongly armed centres as Portsmouth was very great. It was the price demanded by the immediate end of Britain's war policy, which was to bring the enemy to terms without the terrible risks which delay would have represented, for the outlying and comparatively defenceless portions of our own Empire. When the price is measured and analyzed in cold blood, the objective should be as carefully considered. The price may have been high; the result purchased was marvellous. It should be borne in mind, too, that Britain's military arm, while unquestionably long and strong (almost unmanageably so, perhaps), was chiefly composed of what, despite the excellent instructive routine of The Citizens, must, from the technical standpoint, be called raw levies. Yet that great citizen army, by reason of its fine patriotism, was able in less than one hundred hours from the time of the declaration, to defeat, disarm, and extinguish as a fighting force some three hundred thousand of the most perfectly trained troops in the world. That was the immediate objective of Britain's war policy; or, to be exact, the accomplishment of that in one week was our object. It was done in four days; and, notwithstanding the unexpected turn of events afterwards, no military man will ever doubt that the achievement was worth the price paid. It strengthened Britain's hand as nothing else could have strengthened it. It gave us at the outset that unmistakable lead which, in war as in a race, is of incalculable value to its possessors."
And, the General might have added, as so many other writers have, that no civilized and thinking men ever went more cheerfully and bravely to their deaths, or earned more gladly the eternal reward of Duty accomplished, than did The Citizens, the "raw levies," with their stiffening of regulars, who fell at Portsmouth and Devonport. They were not perfectly disciplined men, in the professional sense, or one must suppose they would have paid some heed to General Sir Robert Calder's repeated orders to retire. But they were British citizens of as fine a calibre as any Nelson or Wellington knew, and they carried the Sword of Duty that day into the camp of an enemy who, with all his skill, had not learned, till it was written in his blood for survivors to read, that England had awakened from her long sleep. For my part, if retrospective power were mine, I would not raise a finger to rob those stern converts of their glorious end.
It is easy to be wise after the event, but no Government could have foretold the cynical policy adopted by Berlin. No one could have guessed that the German Government would have said, in effect, that it was perfectly indifferent to the fate of nearly three hundred thousand of its own loyal subjects and defenders, and that Britain might starve or keep them at her own pleasure. After all, the flower of the German Army was in England, and only a Government to the last degree desperate, unscrupulous, and cynical could have adopted Germany's callous attitude at this juncture.
Britain's aim was not at all the annihilation of Germany, but the freeing of her own soil; and it was natural that our Government should have acted on the assumption that this could safely be demanded when we held a great German army captive, by way of hostage. The British aim was a sound one, and it was attained. That it did not bring about the results anticipated was due to no fault in our Government, nor even to any lack of foresight upon their part; but solely to the cynical rapacity of a ruler whose ambition had made him fey, or of a Court so far out of touch with the country which supported it as to have lost its sense of honour.
In the meantime, though saddled with a huge army of prisoners, and the poorer by her loss of eighteen thousand gallant citizens, Britain had freed her shores. In an even shorter time than was occupied over the invasion, the yoke of the invader had been torn in sunder, and not one armed enemy was left in England. And for our losses—the shedding of that British blood partook of the nature of a sacrament; it was life-giving. By that fiery jet we were baptized again. England had found herself. Once more His people had been found worthy to bear the Sword of the Lord. Britain that had slept, was wide-eyed and fearless again, as in the glorious days which saw the rise of her Empire. Throughout the land one watchword ran: "For God, our Race, and Duty!" We had heard and answered to the poet's call:
Strike—for your altars and your fires; Strike—for the green graves of your sires; God, and your native land!
I find it easy to believe and read between the lines of the grim official record which told us that outside Portsmouth "white-haired men smiled over the graves of their sons, and armed youths were heard singing triumphant chants while burying their fathers."
Meantime, simple folk in the southern country lanes of Dorset and of Hampshire (Tarn Regis yokels among them, no doubt) heard the dull, rumbling thunder of great guns at sea, and the talk ran on naval warfare.
"SINGLE HEART AND SINGLE SWORD"
Yea, though we sinned—and our rulers went from righteousness— Deep in all dishonour though we stained our garment's hem.
. . . . . .
Hold ye the Faith—the Faith our fathers sealed us; Whoring not with visions—overwise and overstale. Except ye pay the Lord Single heart and single sword, Of your children in their bondage shall he ask them treble-tale!
The learned German, Professor Elberfeld, has told the world, in sentences of portentous length and complication, that "the petty trader's instincts which form the most typical characteristic of the British race" came notably to the fore in our treatment of the German prisoners of war who were held under military surveillance in the British ports which they had garrisoned.
The learned professor notes with bitter contempt that no wines, spirits, cigars, or "other customary delicacies" were supplied to our prisoners, and that the German officers received very little more than the rations served to their men. The professor makes no mention of one or two other pertinent facts in this connection; as, for example, that none of these "customary delicacies" were supplied to the British troops. We may endure his reproaches with the more fortitude, I think, when we remember that the German Government absolutely ignored our invitation to send weekly shipments of supplies under a white flag for the towns they had garrisoned on British soil.
It is known that the officers in command of the German forces in England had previously maintained a very lavish and luxurious scale of living; in the same way that, since the invasion of England, extravagance was said to have reached unparallelled heights in Germany itself. But the British Government which had reached depletion of our own supplies, by assisting our prisoners to maintain a luxurious scale of living while held as hostages, would certainly have forfeited the confidence of the public, and justly so. Upon the whole, it is safe to say that German sneers at British parsimony and Puritanism may fairly be accepted as tribute, and, as such, need in no sense be resented.
As soon as we received Germany's cynical reply to Britain's demand for a complete withdrawal of all the invasion claims, it became evident that the war was to be a prolonged and bitter one, and that no further purpose could be served by the original British plan of campaign, which, as its object had been the freeing of our own soil, had been based on the assumption that the defeat and capture of the invader's forces would be sufficient. Troops had to be despatched at once to South Africa, where German overlordship had aroused the combined opposition of the Boers and the British. This opposition burst at once into open hostility immediately the news of England's declaration of war reached South Africa. While the Boers and the British, united in a common cause, were carrying war into German Southwest Africa, troops from German East Africa were said to have landed in Delagoa Bay, and to be advancing southward.
In all this, the British cause was well served by Germany's initial blunder; by the huge mistake which cost her four-fifths of her naval strength at a blow. This mistake in Germany's policy was distinctly traceable to one cause: the national arrogance which, since the invasion, had approached near to madness; which had now led Germany into contemptuously underrating the striking power still remaining in the British Navy. It was true that, prior to the invasion, our Navy had been consistently starved and impoverished by "The Destroyers." It was that, of course, which had first earned them their title. But Germany herself, when she struck her great blow at England, hardly wounded the British Navy at all. Her cunning had drawn our ships into a Mediterranean impasse when they were sadly needed upon our coasts, and her strategy had actually destroyed one British line of battle-ship, one cruiser, and two gunboats. But that was the whole extent of the naval damage inflicted by her at the time of the invasion. But the lesson she gave at the same time was of incalculable value to us. The ships she destroyed had been manned by practically untrained, short-handed crews, hurriedly rushed out of Portsmouth barracks. Yet German arrogance positively inspired Berlin with the impression that the Navies of the two countries had tried conclusions, and that our fleet had been proved practically ineffective.
Prior to the invasion our Navy had indeed reached a low ebb. Living always in barracks, under the pernicious system gradually forced upon the country by "The Destroyers" in the name of economy, our bluejackets had fallen steadily from their one high standard of discipline and efficiency into an incompetent, sullen, half-mutinous state, due solely to the criminal parsimony and destructive neglect of an Administration which aimed at "peace at any price," and adopted, of all means, the measures most calculated to provoke foreign attack. But, since the invasion, an indescribable spirit of emulation, a veritable fury of endeavour, had welded the British fleet into a formidable state of efficiency.
First "The Destroyers," actuated by a combination of panic and remorse, and then the first Free Government, representing the convinced feeling of the public, had lavished liberality upon the Navy since the invasion. Increased pay, newly awakened patriotism, the general change in the spirit of the age, all had combined to fill the Admiralty recruiting offices with applicants. Almost all our ships had been kept practically continuously at sea. "The Destroyers'" murderous policy in naval matters had been completely reversed, and our fleet was served by a great flotilla of magnificently armed leviathans of the Mercantile Marine, including two of the fastest steamships in the world, all subsidized by Government.
We know now that exact official records of these facts were filed in the Intelligence Department at Berlin. But German arrogance prohibited their right comprehension, and Britain's declaration of war was instantly followed by an Imperial order which, in effect, divided the available strength of the German Navy into eight fleets, and despatched these to eight of the nine British ports garrisoned by German troops, with orders of almost childish simplicity. These ports were to be taken, and British insurrection crushed, ashore and afloat.
If the German Navy had been free of its Imperial Commander-in-Chief, and of the insensate arrogance of his entourage, it could have struck a terrible blow at the British Empire, while almost the whole fighting strength of our Navy was concentrated upon the defence of England. As it was, this fine opportunity was flung aside, and with it the greater part of Germany's fleet. Divided into eight small squadrons, their ships were at the mercy of our concentrated striking force. Our men fell upon them with a Berserker fury born of humiliation silently endured, and followed by eight or nine months of the finest sort of sea-training which could possibly be devised.
The few crippled ships of the German fleet which survived those terrible North Sea and Channel engagements must have borne with them into their home waters a bitter lesson to the ruler whom they left, so far as effective striking power was concerned, without a Navy.
Here, again, critics have said that our tactics showed an extravagant disregard of cost, both as to men and material. But here also the hostile critics overlook various vital considerations. The destruction of Germany's sea-striking power at this juncture was worth literally anything that Britain could give; not perhaps in England's immediate interest, but in the interests of the Empire, without which England would occupy but a very insignificant place among the powers of civilization.
Then, too, the moral of our bluejackets has to be considered. Since the invasion and the sinking of the Dreadnought, ours had become a Navy of Berserkers. The Duty teaching, coming after the invasion, made running fire of our men's blood. They fought their ships as Nelson's men fought theirs, and with the same invincible success. It was said the Terrible's men positively courted the penalty of mutiny in time of war by refusing to turn in, in watches, after forty-two hours of continuous fighting. There remained work to be done, and the "Terribles" refused to leave it undone.
The commander who had lessened the weight of the blow struck by Britain's Navy, in the interests of prudence or economy, would have shown himself blind to the significance of the new spirit with which England's awakening had endowed her sons; the stern spirit of the twentieth-century faith which gave us for watchword, "For God, our Race, and Duty!"
With the major portion of our Navy still in fighting trim, and twenty-five-knot liners speeding southward laden with British troops, it speedily became evident that Germany's chance of landing further troops in South Africa was hardly worth serious consideration, now that her naval power was gone. On the other hand, it was known that the enemy had already massed great bodies of troops in East and Southwest Africa, and it became the immediate business of the British Admiralty to see that German oversea communications should be cut off.
Further, we had to face ominous news of German preparations for aggression in the Pacific and in the near East, with persistent rumours of a hurriedly aggressive alliance with Russia for action in the Far East. The attitude of Berlin itself was amazingly cynical, as it had been from the very time of the unprovoked invasion of our shores. In effect, the Kaiser said:
"You hold a German Army as prisoners of war, and you have destroyed my Navy; but you dare not invade my territory, and I defy you to hit upon any other means of enforcing your demands. You can do nothing further."
The British demands, made directly the German troops in England were in our hands, were, briefly, for the complete withdrawal of the whole of claims enforced by Germany at the time of the invasion.
That, then, was the position when I returned to our London headquarters from a journey I had undertaken for my chief in connection with the work of drafting large numbers of Citizens back from the camps into private life. Various questions had to be placed in writing before every Citizen as to his attitude in the matter of possible future calls made upon his services. I had only heard of seven cases of men physically fit failing to express perfect readiness to respond to any future call for active service at home or abroad, in case of British need. Here was a shield of which I knew both sides well. The thing impressed me more than I can tell, or most folk would understand nowadays. I knew so well how the god of business (which served to cover all individual pursuit of money or pleasure) would have been invoked to prove the utter impracticability of this—one short year before. I looked back toward my Fleet Street days, and I thanked God for the awakening of England, which had included my own awakening.
My return to London was a matter of considerable personal interest to me, for Constance Grey was there, having been recalled by John Crondall from her active superintendence of nursing at Portsmouth.
HANDS ACROSS THE SEA
There is a Pride whose Father is Understanding, whose Mother is Humility, whose Business is the Recognition and Discharge of Duty. That is the true Pride.—MERROW'S Essays of the Time.
I was impatient to reach London, but I should have been far more impatient if I had known that Constance Grey stood waiting to meet me on the arrival platform at Waterloo.
"They told me your train at the office," she said, as I took one of her hands in both of mine, "and I could not resist coming to give you the news. Don't say you have had it!"
"No," I told her. "My best news is that Constance has come to meet me, and that I am alive to appreciate the fact very keenly. Another trifling item is that, so far as I can tell, practically every member of The Citizens would respond to-morrow to a call for active service in Timbuctoo—if the call came. I tell you, Constance, this is not reform, it's revolution that has swept over England. We call our membership three and a half millions; it's fifty millions, really. They're all Citizens, every mother's son of them; and every daughter, too."
We were in a cab now.
"But what about my news?" said Constance.
"Yes, tell me, do. And isn't it magnificent about the Navy? How about those 'Terrible' fellows? Constance, do you realize how all this must strike a man who was scribbling and fiddling about disarmament a year ago? And do you realize who gave that man decent sanity?"
"Hush! It wasn't a person, it was a force; it was the revolution that brought the change."
"Ah, well, God bless you, Constance! I wish you'd give me the news."
"I will, directly you give me a chance to get in a word. Well, John is at Westminster, in consultation with the Foreign Office people, and nothing definite has been done yet; but the great point is, to my thinking, that the offer should ever have been made."
"Why, Constance, whatever has bewitched you? I never knew you to begin at the end of a thing before."
And indeed it was unlike Constance Grey. She was in high spirits, and somehow this little touch of illogical weakness in her struck me as being very charming. She laughed, and said it was due to my persistent interruptions. And then she gave me the news.
"America has offered to join hands with us."
"Yes. The most generous sort of defensive alliance, practically without conditions, and—'as long as Great Britain's present need endures.' Isn't it splendid? John Crondall regards it as the biggest thing that has happened; but he is all against accepting the offer."
There had been vague rumours at the time of the invasion, and again, of a more pointed sort, when Britain declared war. But every one had said that the pro-German party and the ultra-American party were far too strong in the United States to permit of anything beyond expressions of good-will. But now, as I gathered from the copy of the Evening Standard which Constance gave me:
"The heart of the American people has been deeply stirred by two considerations: Germany's unwarrantable insolence and arrogance, and Britain's magnificent display of patriotism, ashore and afloat, in fighting for her independence. The patriotic struggle for independence—that is what has moved the American people to forgetfulness of all jealousies and rivalries. The rather indiscreet efforts of the German sections of the American public have undoubtedly hastened this offer, and made it more generous and unqualified. The suggestion that any foreign people could hector them out of generosity to the nation from whose loins they sprang, finally decided the American public; and it is fair to say that the President's offer of alliance is an offer from the American people to the British people."
"But how about the Monroe Doctrine?" I said to Constance, after running through the two-column telegram from Washington, of which this passage formed part.
"I don't know about that; but you see, Dick, this thing clearly comes from the American people, not her politicians and diplomatists only. That is what gives it its tremendous importance, I think."
"Yes; to be sure. And why does John Crondall want the offer declined?"
"Oh, he hadn't time to explain to me; but he said something about its being necessary for the new Britain to prove herself, first; our own unity and strength. 'We must prove our own Imperial British alliance first,' he said."
"I see; yes, I think I see that. But it is great news, as you say—great news."
How much John Crondall's view had to do with the Government's decision will never be known, but we know that England's deeply grateful Message pointed out that, in the opinion of his Majesty's Imperial Government, the most desirable basis for an alliance between two great nations was one of equality and mutual respect. While in the present case there could be nothing lacking in the affection and esteem in which Great Britain held the United States, yet the equality could hardly be held proven while the former Power was still at war with a nation which had invaded its territory. The Message expressed very feelingly the deep sense of grateful appreciation which animated his Majesty's Imperial Government and the British people, which would render unforgettable in this country the generous magnanimity of the American nation. And, finally, the Message expressed the hope, which was certainly felt by the entire public, that those happier circumstances which should equalize the footing of the two nations in the matter of an alliance would speedily come about.
To my thinking, our official records contain no document more moving or more worthy of a great nation than that Message, which, as has so frequently been pointed out, was in actual truth a Message from the people of one nation to the people of another nation—from the heart of one country to the heart of another country. The Message of thanks, no less than the generous offer itself, was an assertion of blood-kinship, an appeal to first principles, a revelation of the underlying racial and traditional tie which binds two great peoples together through and beneath the whole stiff robe of artificial differences which separated them upon the surface and in the world's eyes.
The offer stands for all time a monument to the frank generosity and humanity of the American people. And in the hearts of both peoples there is, in my belief, another monument to certain sturdy qualities which have gone to the making and cementing of the British Empire. The shape that monument takes is remembrance of the Message in which that kindly offer was for the time declined.
The declining of the American offer has been called the expression of a nation's pride. It was that, incidentally. First and foremost—and this, I think, is the point which should never be forgotten—it was the expression of a nation's true humility. Pride we had always with us in England, of the right sort and the wrong sort; of the sort that adds to a people's stature, and sometimes, of late, of the gross and senseless sort that leads a people into decadence. But in the past year we had learned to know and cherish that true pride which has its foundations in the rock of Duty, and is buttressed all about and crowned by that quality which St. Peter said earned the grace of God—humility.
For my part, I see in that Message the ripe fruit of the Canadian preachers' teaching; the crux and essence of the simple faith which came to be called "British Christianity." I think the spirit of it was the spirit of the general revival in England that came to us with the Canadian preachers; even as so much other help, spiritual and material, came to us from our kinsmen of the greater Britain overseas, which, before that time, we had never truly recognized as actually part, and by far the greater part, of our State.
We cannot all be masters, nor all masters Cannot be truly followed.
It would be distinctly a work of supererogation for me to attempt to tell the story of the Anglo-German war—of all modern wars the most remarkable in some ways, and certainly the war which has been most exhaustively treated by modern historians. A. Low says in the concluding chapter of his fine history:
"Putting aside the fighting in South Africa, and after the initial destruction of both the German Navy and its Army in England (as effective forces), we must revert to the wars of more than a century ago to find parallels for this remarkable conflict. There can be no doubt that at the time of the invasion of England Germany's effective fighting strength was enormous. Its growth had been very rapid; its decline must be dated from General von Fuechter's occupation of London on Black Saturday.
"At that moment everything appeared to bode well for the realization of the Emperor's ambition to be Dictator of Europe, as the ruler of by far the greatest Power in the Old World. From that moment the German people, but more particularly the German official and governing class, and her naval and military men, would appear to have imbibed of some distillation of their Emperor's exaggerated pride, and found it too heady an elixir for their sanity. It would ill become us to dilate at length upon the extremes into which their arrogance and luxuriousness led them. With regard, at all events, to the luxury and indulgence, we ourselves had been very far from guiltless. But it may be that our extravagance was less deadly, for the reason that it was of slower growth. Certain it is, that before ever an English shot was fired the fighting strength of Germany waned rapidly from the period of the invasion. By some writers this has been attributed to the insidious spread of Socialism. But it must be remembered that the deterioration was far more notable in the higher than in the lower walks of life; and most of all it was notable among the naval and military official nobility, who swore loudest by lineage and the divine privileges of ancient pedigrees.
"When the German army of occupation in England was disarmed, prisoners in barracks and camps, and the German Navy had, to all intents and purposes, been destroyed, the Imperial German Government adopted the extraordinary course of simply defying England to strike further blows. Germany practically ceased to fight (no reinforcements were ever landed in South Africa, and the German troops already engaged there had no other choice than to continue fighting, though left entirely without Imperial backing), but emphatically refused to consider the extremely moderate terms offered by Britain, which, at that time, did not even include an indemnity. But this extraordinary policy was not so purely callous and cynical as was supposed. Like most things in this world, it had its different component parts. There was the cynical arrogance of the Prussian Court upon the one side; but upon the other side there was the ominous disaffection of the lesser German States, and the rampant, angry Socialism of the lower and middle classes throughout the Empire, which had become steadily more and more virulent from the time of the reactionary elections of the early part of 1907, in which the Socialists felt that they had been tricked by the Court party. In reality Germany had two mouthpieces. The Court defied Britain; the people refused to back that defiance with action."
For a brief summary of the causes leading up to the strange half-year which followed our receipt of the American offer of assistance, I think we have nothing more lucid than this passage of Low's important work. That the forces at work in Germany, which he described from the vantage-point of a later date, were pretty clearly understood, even at that time, by our Government, is proved, I think, by the tactics we adopted throughout that troublous period.
In South Africa our troops, though amply strong, never adopted an aggressive line. They defended our frontiers, and that defence led to some heavy fighting. But, after the first outbreak of hostilities, our men never carried the war into the enemy's camp. There was a considerable party in the House of Commons which favoured an actively aggressive policy in the matter of seizing the Mediterranean strongholds ceded to Germany at the time of the invasion. It was even suggested that we should land a great Citizen army in Germany and enforce our demands at the point of the sword.
In this John Crondall rendered good service to the Government by absolutely refusing to allow his name to be used in calling out The Citizens for such a purpose. But, in any case, wiser counsels prevailed without much difficulty. There was never any real danger of our returning to the bad old days of a divided Parliament. The gospel of Duty taught by the Canadian preachers, and the stern sentiment behind The Citizens' watchword, had far too strong a hold upon the country for that.
Accordingly, the Government policy had free play. No other policy could have been more effective, more humane, or more truly direct and economical. In effect, the outworking of it meant a strictly defensive attitude in Africa, and in the north a naval siege of Germany.
Germany had no Navy to attack, and, because they believed England would never risk landing an army in Germany, the purblind camarilla who stood between the Emperor's arrogance and the realities of life assumed that England would be powerless to carry hostilities further. Or if the Imperial Court did not actually believe this, it was ostensibly the Government theory, the poor sop they flung to a disaffected people while filling their official organs with news of wonderful successes achieved by the German forces in South Africa.
But within three months our Navy had taught the German people that the truth lay in quite another direction. The whole strength of the British Navy which could be spared from southern and eastern bases was concentrated now upon the task of blocking Germany's oversea trade. Practically no loss of life was involved, but day by day the ocean-going vessels of Germany's mercantile marine were being transferred to the British flag. The great oversea carrying trade, whose growth had been the pride of Germany, was absolutely and wholly destroyed during that half-year. The destruction of her export trade spelt ruin for Germany's most important industries; but it was the cutting off of her imports which finally robbed even the German Emperor of the power to shut his eyes any longer to the fact that his Empire had in reality ceased to exist.
The actual overthrow of monarchical government in Prussia was not accomplished without scenes of excess and violence in the capital. But, in justice to the German people as a whole, it should be remembered that the revolution was carried out at remarkably small cost; that the people displayed wonderful patience and self-control, in circumstances of maddening difficulty, which were aggravated at every turn by the Emperor's arbitrary edicts and arrogant obtrusion of his personal will, and by the insolence of the official class. One must remember that for several decades Germany had been essentially an industrial country, and that a very large proportion of her population were at once strongly imbued with Socialistic theories, and wholly dependent upon industrial activity. Bearing these things in mind, one is moved to wonder that the German people could have endured so long as they did the practically despotic sway of a Ruler who, in the gratification of his own insensate pride, allowed their country to be laid waste by the stoppage of trade, and their homes to be devastated by the famine of an unemployed people whose communications with the rest of the world were completely severed.
That such a ruler and such a Court should have met with no worse fate than deposition, exile, and dispersal is something of a tribute to the temperate character of the Teutonic race. Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Saxony, and the southern Grand Duchies elected to retain their independent forms of government under hereditary rule; and to this no objection was raised by the new Prussian Republic, in which all but one of the northern principalities were incorporated.
Within, forty-eight hours of the election of Dr. Carl Moeller to the Presidency of the new Republic, hostilities ceased between Great Britain and Germany, and three weeks later the Peace was signed in London and Berlin. Even hostile critics have admitted that the British terms were not ungenerous. The war was the result of Germany's unprovoked invasion of our shores. The British terms were, in lieu of indemnity, the cession of all German possessions in the African continent to the British Crown, unreservedly. For the rest, Britain demanded no more than a complete and unqualified withdrawal of all German claims and pretensions in the matter of the Peace terms enforced after the invasion by General Baron von Fuechter, including, of course, the immediate evacuation of all those points of British territory which had been claimed in the invasion treaty, an instrument now null and void.
The new Republic was well advised in its grateful acceptance of these terms, for they involved no monetary outlay, and offered no obstacle to the new Government's task of restoration. At that early stage, at all events, the Prussian Republic had no colonial ambitions, and needed all its straitened financial resources for the rehabilitation of its home life. (In the twelve months following the declaration of war between Great Britain and Germany, the number of Germans who emigrated reached the amazing total of 1,134,378.)
To me, one of the most interesting and significant features of the actual conclusion of the Peace—which added just over one million square miles to Britain's African possessions, and left the Empire, in certain vital respects, infinitely richer and more powerful than ever before in its history—is not so much as mentioned in any history of the war I have ever read, though it did figure, modestly, in the report of the Commissioner of Police for that year. As a sidelight upon the development of our national character since the arrival of the Canadian preachers and the organization of The Citizens, this one brief passage in an official record is to my mind more luminous than anything I could possibly say, and far more precious than the fact of our territorial acquisitions:
"The news of the signature of the Peace was published in the early editions of the evening papers on Saturday, 11 March. Returns show that the custom of the public-houses and places of entertainment during the remainder of that day was 37-1/2 per cent. below the average Saturday returns. Divisional reports show that the streets were more empty of traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, than on any ordinary week-day. Police-court cases on the following Monday were 28-1/2 per cent. below the average, and included, in the metropolitan area, only five cases of drunkenness or disorderly conduct. All reports indicate the prevalence throughout the metropolitan area of private indoor celebrations of the Peace. All London churches and chapels held Thanksgiving Services on Sunday, 12 March, and the attendances were abnormally large."
Withal, I am certain that the people of London had never before during my life experienced a deeper sense of gladness, a more general consciousness of rejoicing. Not for nothing has "British Christianity" earned its Parisian name of "New Century Puritanism." As the President of the French Republic said in his recent speech at Lyons: "It is the 'New Century Puritanism' which leads the new century's civilization, and maintains the world's peace."
Fair is our lot—O goodly is our heritage! (Humble ye, my people, and be fearful in your mirth!) For the Lord our God Most High He hath made the deep as dry, He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the earth.
At a very early stage of the war with Germany, before the end of the first month, in fact, it became evident that, our own soil having once been freed, this was to be a maritime and not a land war. A little later on it was made quite clear that there would be no need to draw further upon our huge reserve force of Citizen defenders. It was then that John Crondall concentrated his efforts upon giving permanent national effect to our work of the previous year.
Fortunately, the Government recognized that it would be an act of criminal wastefulness and extravagance to allow so splendid a defensive organization as ours to lapse because its immediate purpose had been served. Accordingly, special legislation, which was to have been postponed for another session, was now hurried forward; and long before the German Revolution and the conclusion of the Peace, England was secure in the possession of that permanent organization of home defence which, humanly speaking, has made these shores positively impregnable, by converting Great Britain, the metropolis and centre of the Empire, into a nation in arms. There is no need for me to enlarge now upon the other benefits, the mental, moral, and physical advancement which this legislation has given us. Our doctors and schoolmasters and clergymen have given us full and ample testimony upon these points.