Great Speeches of the War/Clifford
← Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George
|Great Speeches of the War
Dr. John Clifford
M. Viviani →
[An Address given at Westbourne Park Chapel on January 1, 1915.]
The year nineteen hundred and fourteen will be remembered by us, and by our children—and for many generations to come—as the year of the Great War, in the same way that our fathers thought, and we think, of 1815 as the year of Waterloo, and 1666 as the year of the Great Fire of London.
It is a great war, and great in this, that it differs in toto from all the wars of the past. There has been nothing like it. "It is," says The Times, "the biggest thing that has ever happened in the way of wars in the whole world since the dawn of history. It transcends all limits of thought, imagination, and history. We little creeping creatures cannot see more than a fraction of it."
It is true; but we see more than enough to appal and overwhelm us. The ghastly tragedy oppresses us night and day. More than half of the great human family is directly involved in the awful strife, and the whole future of the remaining portions, for weal or woe, hangs on its issues. Between sixteen and seventeen millions of soldiers are either already on the fields of battle, or preparing to go there; and over a thousand millions of men, women and children have their individual and social interests at stake in it. In width of range, in cost, in destruction of property, and in waste of human life, it is absolutely without parallel in all the campaigns and battles of the long past.
Mr. Lloyd George says that Britain alone is spending forty-five millions a month, and it is notorious that the other belligerents are spending very much more. Two millions of our own men are under arms as soldiers and sailors, and before the New Year has travelled far there will be half a million more. And who are they? The very pick of the nation! The flower of all classes of society: the poor and the rich; workmen and students, the élite of the trade unions and of the churches, brilliant scholars of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, of London and Manchester; men of the bench and of the bar, of the shop and of the factory; and they come freely and without conscription, from the simple compulsion of duty to their country and to humanity and to the Kingdom of God. There has been nothing in our annals to equal the splendour and magnificence of Britain's contribution to this gigantic effort to save the soul of the world.
Nor are the sacrifices made by the other belligerents on a smaller scale. Indeed, they are larger; and it is estimated that already four millions of our fellows have fallen on the battle-fields of Flanders and Northern France, killed or wounded: men of strong physique and disciplined will and brave spirit, who should have been the fathers of the new generation; but they are mown down like the grass of the summer fields, limiting the new race in its numbers, and marring it in its quality, disturbing the ratio between the sexes, and producing results, physical, economical, and moral, that will enfeeble and cripple the world for generations to come. Besides that, property has been destroyed already, to the value of one-quarter of the world's entire wealth; so that judging from the effects of other wars, it will take a hundred years of peace and prosperity to restore the property of the world to the conditions that existed prior to the opening of the furnaces of war. The nations are stupidly killing the customers they will need for their produce when they get back to the sanity of peace.
Moreover, no war ever had such measureless resources as this one. The inventions and discoveries of scientific men have reached their maximum output in the interests of wholesale slaughter, not only on land and sea, but also in the air. Organization has been carried to perfection. Entrenchments are in the mud. Little is seen and less told. Silence is a necessary weapon. The reporter is barred. Brilliance is impossible. The "grim spectacles," the glowing colours are all gone, and a dull khaki reigns over the whole titanic conflict. The powers of darkness, too, are abroad; for, as the Prime Minister said: "This is not merely a material, but it is also a spiritual conflict. Upon this issue everything that contains the promise and hope that leads to emancipation and fuller liberties for the millions who make up the masses of mankind will be found, sooner or later, to depend." It is an hour of spiritual crisis; it is a conflict of ideas of the State, its function and end; of the rights of small nationalities; of the obligations of Public Law and the pledged word; of righteousness as against brute force; of the freedom of the citizen against centralized military rule; of man and his conscience; of God and His kingdom; it is a gigantic world battle for the greatest, the most precious spiritual possessions the world has won in its continuous struggles. The contest is not for the supremacy of any single State! No; States come and States go. They are institutions, and institutions are "like snowflakes on a river, one moment here, then gone for ever": it is for those true and just ideas and principles, which are the real wealth of humanity, and it is for them, and therefore for humanity, we have been battling in this year 1914, and are battling still.
The tremendous character of this war is seen in the overwhelming completeness with which, although it has only been waged for 150 days out of the 365, it has wiped out, as with a sponge, all the events and experiences of the seven months prior to its advent. I have catechized some of my friends as to what happened in and out of England in the earlier part of the year. "Tell me," I have said, "something that took place in April! What was China doing in March? Was Colorado quiet in February?" Books were published; who can tell the names of two or three? The artists were at their tasks; does any scene or picture remain in the chamber of imagination? Great men passed away, and their names are recorded in a line or two, even though one sat on the Papal throne, and another had the distinction of shattering two great political parties. Events took place: will you recall half a dozen charged with dynamic and reproductive energy, for the shaping of the world's future! The fact is, when Mars takes the stage, clad in "shining armour," there is no room for anybody else. It is at once swept clear of all previous occupants. The Kaiser sought "a place in the sun"—and to that he has as much right as any other person—but he so sought and gained his position that there has been no room since for anything, or any one, that did not concern him. Men are so obsessed by the obnoxious and distressful presence that they are not able to think of anything else. We say "business as usual"; but we know well enough, it is not "as usual" and cannot be. It is one of the effects of the appalling cataclysm of war that it carries into an abyss of forgetfulness the patient toil, the zealous devotion, the noble idealism, and the strenuous efforts of the preceding seven months; shunting the workers off the main line of human progress to a siding, where they are out of sight and also out of mind.
But their toil is not lost. It will be seen again. The river of life is shut out from view by the fog of war; but it will be there when the fog is lifted. The buried seed will spring up again, if not with the crocus and the violet, then, a little later, with the roses that fling themselves in their glory over the cottage walls. The primal realities endure. All that altruism, urging itself upwards and forwards in ten thousand directions, though suddenly diverted from its course, and, maybe, hindered to some degree, will be found in the sum of things that make for human progress. War makes an end of building and shatters some of the creations of man; but his inward and spiritual work cannot perish. It belongs to eternity and bears its fruit in due season. The soul of the world is rent and tortured, and it is for a time, alas! for a long time, absorbed with its wounds; but healing is in its very structure, and when the balm of righteousness has done its work, the labours of the first seven months of 1914 will enrich and gladden the hearts of men.
There is one phase—and that the most important of all—of these first seven months that filled some observers with sadness and despondency and stirred others to penitence and shame; and, when it is fully understood, goes far to explain much of the suffering and misery that has crowded the five months which followed. The ethical and religious condition of the world from January to August was full of menace. The signs of reality and sincerity, of noble idealism and devotion to duty were far to seek. Indications of moral lapse were many. Seriousness was almost driven out of the life of most men; and even the avowed disciples of Jesus Christ were lacking in earnestness and passion; in eagerness to accept responsibility and make sacrifices. Institutional religion gave few signs of virility, of grasp of the situation, of the mastery of the ethical content of Christianity, of formative influence on life, on international relations, on industry and the wage-earning people, on the use of money and on society. The Churches were complaining of loss of members, of weakness and want of progress, of the rush for pleasure and luxury, of the disregard of righteousness and justice. What our predecessors called, in their direct way, the Seven Deadly Sins of Pride, Anger, Envy, Avarice, Sloth, Gluttony, and Lust, reigned over and enslaved the world. The soul of England was dead in trespasses and in sins, and there was no compelling voice calling aloud, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light." Society had drifted towards practices and ideals wholly unworthy of a reflective people gifted with sense and reason. We had gone astray from the true path of individual and social life, lost spiritual enthusiasm, and depth and simplicity of living. Materialism and the mechanical complications of life had mastered us. "Comfort," as Disraeli said, "is mistaken for civilization," owning to our false estimate of, and over-confidence in, material values and sensuous satisfactions. We were not happy, we could not be, seeking our own will and not God's, as though each man were his own highest good, and torturing ourselves in the foolish idea that in a feverish attachment to "things" the insatiable spirit of men can reach its true summit, and by brute energy in sport, or keen intellect, or emotional excitement, discover the goal of human existence, i.e. by egotism, vanity, and self-interest in its myriad forms. We see now that it was a deplorable condition, and could scarcely be surprised if in this hour of manifestation, the prophet were to say to us, "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that deal corruptly; they have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are estranged, and gone backward. Why will ye be still stricken, that ye revolt more and more? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and festering sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with oil. Your country is desolate; your cities are burned with fire; your land—strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers."
If, then, this war has already revealed to us the way in which we have succumbed to the temptations of a long period of exceptional prosperity, may we not believe that in other ways, accursed as all war is, and must be, this very war is now taking its place amongst the ministers of progress, and in the language of Professor L. T. Hobhouse, "functioning development"?
For human progress depends upon self-consciousness, and self-consciousness depends upon nations and groups of people, seeing themselves as they really are, and then proceeding from that self-knowledge to cleanse their vision, ennoble their ideals, and amend their ways. That is now coming to pass. Good is once more being brought out of evil, and evil of nearly the most direful sort. This war has opened men's eyes. The mists are lifted. Long-smouldering fires blaze out, and make the sky lurid with their flames. National and international follies and sins are laid bare to the very nerve. Consciences are roused at, and staggered by, what we have been doing, and still more by what we have failed to do. Hearts are purged, and the will of the world is more definitely set towards righteousness and peace.
I am sure of it. Belgium has had a vision of her nobler self; she is cleansed of the stains of the past by the fiery trials to which she has been subjected, and made capable of heroic sacrifices and splendour of daring, which have won for her the sympathy and admiration of the world. France knows now that she is not what she was in the days of the Empire. Her nerves are steel; her resolves are fixed; her spirit steady and calm ; her soul clad with the panoply of courage, fortitude, and faith. She refuses to drift, and is master of herself. Russia saw the true course and took, in one stride of splendid sacrifice of imperial revenue, a leap right away from self-indulgence and intemperance to sobriety, a virile manhood, and a larger freedom. Germany is preparing to recast her estimate of herself; to doubt whether, after all, her swaggering "culture" is anything more than polished egotism and gilded barbarity, and the loud-tongued proclamation of her superiority to all peoples that on earth do dwell, little more than the vapourings of a spoilt child.
And what have the five months which have elapsed since the thunderstorm burst taught us ? They have taught us that whilst we have been Christian, we have not been Christian nearly enough ; they have led us back to God and reality; forced us to measure the bigness of the spiritual issues before us; driven us inward upon ourselves, and the God who dwells there as in His temple; they have toughened our moral fibre, instructed us in sacrifice, generated a new spirit of willinghood and pluck, of readiness to endure and not to flinch; to fight on—not for ourselves, but for that kingdom of righteousness, which is so much greater and wider than we are, and which exists and grows for us and all our fellows the world over.
That does not mean that this war is not hateful and hellish. It is horrible. We cannot sophisticate about it. It carries us away into a world of hatred and murder and death; of waste and misery; of wholesale crimes ; and forces us to say with the Temanite: "How much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water? " It is the crime of crimes. It is ; and the pacifist hates war more than ever, now he is forced, in obedience to what he holds to be the call of God and of humanity, to enter into it and become an active supporter of it. He does not—certainly I do not—surrender one jot or tittle of the peacemaker's policy or rewrite a line of it. He does not apologize for his determined pursuit of peace up to the very last moment that there was the faintest chance of maintaining it; not he! he will wear no white sheet. He stands where he did, and as he did, as you may see in Prof. Gilbert Murray's book, How Can War Ever Be Right? who says:
of art and learning and literature. I have spoken and presided at more meetings than I can remember for peace and arbitration and the promotion of international friendship. I opposed the policy of war in South Africa with all my energies, and have been either out-spokenly hostile or inwardly unsympathetic towards almost every war that Great Britain has waged in my lifetime. If I may speak more personally, there is none of my own work into which I have put more intense feeling than into my translations of Euripides' Trojan Women, the first great denunciation of war in European literature. I do not regret any word that I have spoken or written in the cause of peace, nor have I changed, as far as I know, any opinion that I have previously held on this subject. Yet I believe firmly that we were right to declare war against Germany on August 4, 1914, and that to have remained neutral in that crisis would have been a failure in public duty.
We are now, as we were, advocates of national and international peace; not only not impenitent pacifists, but more resolutely than ever contending for peace, because we have now, in obedience to the clear call of duty, to back to the uttermost a war for righteousness, for freedom, for fidelity to the plighted word, for the sacredness of public law; in short, I say again, for the soul of the world.
And our faith in the real advance of peace through this war is justified; for never was the protest against war so intense, vehement, and flaming and widespread as it is now. Never were the vigour and volume of denunciation of war so manifest; never were so many hearts troubled by its horrors; never was more opprobrium poured out on the false doctrines, inhuman policies, and un-Christian temper of war, as now. As The Westminster Gazette says: "The world no longer consents to evil." The "frightfulness" of this war, the murder of babies and women and other non-combatants, and the destruction of the most cherished treasures of art, never inspired such fiery hostility as within the last five months, Germany has a right to claim this superiority, that it has surpassed all the cruelties and barbarities of all the wars of the world, from the conflicts of the earliest savages down to this day. The repugnance created to the ideas, and to the methods of action, of the Germans is beyond imagining. Men are exasperated, and as long as the world endures it will not be forgotten.
Not even Germany can avoid being ashamed of the responsibility of creating the war, and she is so anxious to win a favourable verdict from neutral peoples that she has created a vast machinery, at immense cost of money and time and labour, to destroy the universal conviction of her demonstrated guilt.
Hence I believe that, as the wars of the Commonwealth cleansed the fields of England for the reception of the seeds of liberty, whose harvests we enjoy to-day; as the War of Independence was a factor of immense value in delivering the people of the United States of America from the kingly and bureaucratic despotism of that day, and establishing freedom and self-government; as the war between the North and South, not only saved the Union, but made it possible to give the negro a start to economic independence, education, and to full citizenhood along with those stranger peoples who pour like a great river through the democracy of the West, with its ever-widening life, so that it is the most wonderful creation on the planet, at present of the human spirit; so this European war will give the most powerful impulse to the Peace movement it has ever received, and set the whole world organizing itself for the establishment and abiding maintenance of universal peace. It will be the renaissance of the peace spirit.
But some of you will say, "All that is mere conjecture—the offspring of your habitual optimism." Very well. I will not stay to debate that with you, but will state some of the completely established certainties concerning this war: its origin, its course, and its results.
These are known. This is the 151st day, and each day has been a revelation. The evidence has grown with the hours in volume, in fullness and clearness, until he who runs may read and understand. At first we were not sure of our ground. The facts were not known. The diplomacy of Europe had been carried on in secret. Five or six men settled the affairs of these vast Empires, involving more than half the human race, in their private offices, and nobody knew how till they were forced to tell us. Everything was decided for us as though we were still in the nursery and not to be trusted with the knowledge of anything going on in the rest of the house. That is not right. It must be altered. The peoples who have to fight if there is war, to find the money, and to give up their lives, ought to know where they are being led and to what they are being committed. Is it too much to expect that this war may introduce a new departure in the management of our foreign affairs?
But the evidence could not be held back when the sword was drawn from its scabbard. Charles the First had to disclose his plans when he demanded cash. Speeches were made in the House of Commons, followed by questions and answers. Then came the British White Book, and its full and convincing statements were read with eagerness and confidence. The Russian book of witness followed, confirming all that had been found in our own. Germany countered some of the statements given on British authority, but its own book was far from satisfactory, and indeed, by what it omitted and what it misplaced, failed to secure assent from any but biased minds. Nor was the situation improved by the intervention of the professors! Indeed, anything more discreditable it would be difficult to discover. At a later date we were permitted to know what France had to say. Then followed letters written two or ten, or fifteen or twenty years ago, together with reports of speeches, the testimony of travellers; and books and pamphlets up to the reports of this morning. It is a vast accumulation to be arranged, sifted, weighed, and made the basis of a set of conclusions concerning the great war of 1914.
Now, the first absolute certainty is that Germany must carry—through all the ages—the responsibility of this war. It was the aggressor. Questions were possible about that in August; they are not now. I do not for one moment rest that assertion on the British judgment, or on the witness of our Allies. That is not admissible. We are judging in our case. We must go beyond that to the bar "of the opinion of mankind," called by Hume and Professor Dicey and President Wilson, "the final arbiter in all such matters." That arbiter has delivered judgment with a unanimity that is singularly cogent. In the judgment of the neutral peoples this unparalleled catastrophe is due to Germany, An American says, "Germany's greatest weakness to-day is its moral isolation. It stands condemned by the judgment of the civilized world." Superhuman and even grotesque efforts have been made by their masterly adepts in the art of making the worse appear the better reason, and yet they have come to nothing. Britain has left her official documents to speak to the Americans, and their plain and simple facts have been enough to convince the jury. Boastful mendacity may triumph for the hour and the day, but it will be found out to-morrow. Every effort to fix the blame on Britain, or Russia, or France, or Belgium, has in the eyes of the non-belligerent populations come to grief. Germany is the culprit, and future generations will never forget that she started this war—not in defence, for she was not attacked, but purely for aggression and conquest.
Slowly, but with accumulating force, the evidence has gathered, showing that the war was long intended and assiduously prepared for. It cannot be doubted that the plot which led to the war was in existence and known to Italy as far back as August 9, 1913; for it was then proposed by Germany and Austria to send an ultimatum to Servia of substantially the same import as that which was sent in July, 1914. Again, between the 1st and 10th of November, 1913, King Albert of Belgium found that the Kaiser had changed his mind as to peace, and held that war with France was inevitable. Nor can it be questioned that the most scientific and effective preparations for war have been proceeding for the last fifteen years. Nothing has been forgotten. Everything has been done to secure victory. Bernhardi visited the States in May, 1913, more than a year before the war, and privately addressed gatherings of Germans. Dr. Starr Jordan, a distinguished American publicist, was present at one and heard Bernhardi affirming the necessity and righteousness of a war, and declaring as strongly as he could that it was Britain and not France that stood in Germany's way. The fact is that, in the face of all the testimony that has come to us, it is impossible to doubt that Germany was determined on war at the earliest convenient opportunity — she choosing the ground and the hour—and had prepared for it to a degree we have not even yet fathomed.
Nor is there the slightest ground for doubt that the immediate objective of the war was to clear Britain out of the way of Germany's march to the domination of the world. France was regarded as an obstacle easily removed. England was, and is, the foe. That is not guessed. It is declared, not by one or two Germans, but by scores, and placed beyond doubt by books and newspapers, and by the military caste. "World Power or Downfall" was the accepted motto; and "downfall" meant first the subjugation and vassalage of Great Britain, and next that of the United States, crowned by universal dominion. The Hamburger Nachrichten wrote: "We have taken the field ; but at bottom it is England we are fighting everywhere." It is not co-operation that is sought, but control; not comradeship in the service of humanity, but domination for its own sake and for the glory of German "culture." That, too, is placed beyond doubt.
And if we go a little deeper we discover that the poisoned sources from whence springs this aggressive and domineering attitude of Prussia is in the totally false conception it has formed of the State on the one hand, and of war on the other. Their doctrine is that the State is and must be military, and that war is the breath of its nostrils. The State is not a collection of brothers in a home, where liberty and equality of opportunity reign, but an armed camp, where men and women and children are all trained to take their place in wars of aggression, planned without regard to the rights of other communities, large or small; to public law or the sacredness of treaties, to the dictates of the universal conscience, or the claims of men, women, and children who are non-combatants. If you accept dogmas of that kind, you are only deceiving yourselves, if you do not expect a huge crop of horrible and devastating results.
Nor need I keep out of this category of certainties, after the experience of these five months, the fact that neutrality for Great Britain was and is simply and absolutely impossible. We could do no other ; we can do no other than commit ourselves out and out, and with all we are and have, and to the bitter end to this strife; not for our own sake, nor merely for the sake of our country, but for those just causes that are greater than nation, land, or empire, and embrace the well-being of the whole race. Force is, in short, the only method of resistance left to us. Talk is in vain. We might as well speak to the winds. Appeals to right and conscience are wasted, when might determines what is right, and conscience is not allowed to speak in the presence of necessity. "War is a horrible method of resistance; but in this case there is no other. If you see a man trampling upon a woman you may walk away or you may knock him down. But it is in vain to argue the point with him while he tramples. Those who are for peace at any price are like the man who walks away. They are for peace, not on moral grounds; but so that they and their countrymen may not suffer from war. They have ignored morals, just as much as the nation which goes to war so that it may conquer." As President Wilson said in 1911: "No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong, and get peace out of his acquiescence. The most solid and satisfying peace is that which comes from this constant spiritual warfare, and there are times in the history of nations when they must take up the crude instruments of bloodshed in order to vindicate spiritual conceptions. For liberty is a spiritual conception and when men take up arms to set other men free, there is something sacred and holy in the warfare."
We may have been — in my judgment we were — guilty of serious dereliction of duty before the war; but when the die was cast as it was, there was only one course for us as men and brothers. That we took; and that course we must keep until the day of deliverance comes, bringing us a just and lasting peace.
Other certainties I pass over in order to speak of some aspects of the war of the last five months, on which we are not so likely to be agreed ; and the first is that an armed peace is one of the most sure methods of creating war. The doctrine that if you desire peace you must prepare for war is a ghastly futility and an irritating delusion. You create war by building gigantic armaments, staggering us by their size and cost. It is an insensate wastage of wealth: an actual economic war, as the workers are beginning to understand. It is a folly, a blasphemy, a wrong to man and an offence to God. Canon Scott Holland is right when he says: "Here was Christian Europe piling up the horrid preparations for war; taking every step toward war, except the very last. Can we be really surprised if the last step takes itself? Somehow, the war appears to present a new problem to Christianity, which had not been before our minds till now. In reality, war only forces to the front what was there already. War reveals what we have been in the time of peace. It is an outcome of the time before we were at war. It flings out, into dreadful relief, the thing that we are. We have been living at war with one another all the time. Every new gun, every new ship was an act of war. The nations were already in collision. They lived in distrust and fear and hate of one another. They carried on an existence of menace and wrath."
We will not think sanely about war. We talk as though the world had no Righteous Ruler, and reason as though order was not earth's first law. Whatever a nation sows it reaps. If it sows armaments, it reaps world-shaking wars. War is an effect of obvious causes ; and we must get at the causes in order to stop the effects; and one of them is the continuance of Europe as an armed camp. We must end somehow this infamous scandal of Christendom. The Churches ought to give themselves no rest until they have so organized the world for peace that those tremendous armaments shall become a thing of the past. Men make war and men must end war. Men have created the military state, destructive and maleficent; they must replace it by the citizen state, man-building, constructive, and beneficent. Brain invented gunpowder and forged the sword; brain and heart together must restrict the powder to mining the rocks, and turn the sword into a ploughshare that shall prepare the soil for the seed. Private trade in weapons of war must cease at once, and armaments themselves must cease to be anything else than relics of the savage state men have left behind them.
Another contested question is illuminated by this war; namely, that of "conscription" for the Army. The Times sees little else in all the happenings than reasons for conscription; even the German raid on Scarborough and Whitby is taken as a text, on which the same megaphonic Harmsworth Press preaches the necessity of adopting that Prussian militarism, which has devastated Europe and brought upon its head the malediction of the civilized world. The Spectator makes "conscription" its Christmas message. It is urged in the name of defence, but it will be used for aggression on the first favourable moment. No doubt we are now part of the Continent of Europe ; but it is not for us to conform to those habits of the European States which have been proved so ineffectual and illusory. Conscription is the policy of despair, of reliance upon brute force, and not on judgment, reason, love of right, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice, and all those moral qualities, on which, by the confessions of the leaders of armies, their victories primarily depend. The Voluntary Service Committee have shown the efficiency of the voluntary principle to meet all the exigencies with which our country is, or may be, threatened, and we know that volunteers will do their work infinitely better than any conscript army possibly could. The nation must not consent to change its sufficient and efficient system at the bidding of a military caste.
Again, it has been urged by Germans that they have something better to give the nations of the earth than they at present possess, or than any other people can offer. If that is so, I am quite ready to say, by all means clear the way for them, and let them pour out their gifts. It is the law of national life; that the best nations judged by the highest ethical, humanitarian, and Christian standards are sure to survive. If we have the will and the power to offer the best, we need not fear for our future; and if Germany has something better, then I doubt not for one moment she will have an opportunity to give it.
Now we know something of Germany. More than ever we did. We know that it has neither a Free Press nor Free Speech. There is no public opinion. The Kaiser is above criticism. Popular government does not exist, and there is no real representation of the people in government, and nothing popular is to be expected in Prussia. Prussia is the open and declared foe of the people. The Yellow Book has a note which was laid before the French Minister of Foreign Affairs last year, speaking of the King of Prussia and the class of which he is the head, as seeing "with terror the democratization of Germany and the growing strength of the Socialist Party." The aristocratic party declined in the Reichstag from 162 in 1878 to 83 in 1898, and 57 in 1912, and of those only 27 were Conservatives, and they held like the Junkers that "only a diversion abroad could delay the rise to power of the democratic and Socialist masses." Have you not seen also the protest against the war signed by some of the leading Socialists of Germany? The fact is, Germany is eager to give to the peoples of the earth what they are rejecting everywhere—the limitations of freedom and the despotisms of soldiers.
For example, Germany has given the Young Turks gold, and they have gone over to the Kaiser; but according to Sir Edward Pears, "a revolution is likely to break out shortly," and Dr. Starr Jordan has gone so far as to say that the best result of the war, to the end of the year, is that "England has got rid of the Turkish Alliance, which has been a millstone round her neck for half a century." If Germany has anything of more value than bribes of gold to give to debilitated, devastated, declining, shrinking Turkey, the way is open and the need is great.
No; though I would not say a word of boasting of England, yet I do think we need not fear to enter into this highest of national competitions; for it is only truth to say that, in spite of our manifold faults, our Empire stands before the world to-day for the most just and helpful treatment of subject peoples; for training them in, and for, self-government; for the gift of the liberty she claims for herself to all who come into any sort of alliance with her; and for the dissemination of material good and of moral inspiration to all who come within her sphere of influence; and Germany and the world have seen how the mother has drawn all her children to her side in trust and love, in their magnificent rally from all parts of the Empire to help her in this her time of need.
The Christian citizen is bound to detach himself from his patriotism to crave the best of everything for the whole human race, irrespective of classes and races and conditions, and it ought to be our supreme ambition to further in every way the wellbeing of the world, Germany included; or, in other words, the universal establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, the supreme business of all men of goodwill is to get the world organized for peace as speedily as possible, and on principles that will make that peace as abiding and as universal as the human race. That is the one lesson of this war; there ought to emerge from this conflict an organization for the solution of all international problems by a Court which shall command the confidence of all, and in compliance with laws sanctioned by the representatives of all, and carried out by an executive police, not of one or two peoples, but selected from all. We need not an entente between two or three governments, and alliances on the part of two others, but a union of all in a compact Federation, by which any violation of the laws of the Federation shall be treated as a ground of action of all against that one.
It is not too much for pacificists to say that we are moving in that path with our faces set to that goal. The Hague Conference has not achieved all we hoped; but it has advanced us along our journey. Mr. Bryan has arranged thirty-five treaties to make war impossible quite recently, Great Britain having just signed one. The International Peace Union of the United States has met and perfected its proposals for the maintenance of peace after the war; they include complete disarmament, an International Tribunal, and an International Police. That is very significant; for America leads the world, and must lead it, in peace. It is free from the dynastic questions that trouble Europe. It is also free from the tyranny of the past, and not so entangled in such inhuman dogmas as the Balance of Power and the maintenance of thrones.
It is a serious task; the most serious that can engage the thoughts of men. The solution of the problem of foreign or international relations has been attempted again and again, and yet it remains unsolved. Kings and emperors have attacked it and drifted into war. Republics have done the same. Specialists have given it their attention, and yet the work waits to be done. But we need not fear. War did not reach its present diabolical effectiveness at a bound. Hundreds of years have been spent in making this tragic machine what it is to-day. The brains of generations have directed their energies to it. Surely it ought not to be thought a strange thing, considering what men are, and what difficulties groups of men find in living together, that it should take the experts and masters a long time to solve the problem of international relationships.
In order to accomplish our task for Europe, we must exercise the utmost solicitude to keep our soul free from the stain of self-seeking. Victors must secure enough detachment to avoid using the settlement for their exclusive advantage. That final arbiter, public opinion, must be kept within hearing, and the feelings of neutral peoples and defeated belligerents must not be forgotten. The Great Peace ought to have the backing of all the communities of Europe. As far as may be, no one should be left with a real grievance, or the peace will not last. Even Germany should not be humiliated; punished it is, and it will be still more, and punished severely; but nothing should be done to create a passion for revenge. That would be most wasteful, and be likely to make a 1914 follow on an 1870.
Little nationalities must be vindicated and guaranteed their full rights of independence and freedom. Belgium must not only arrive at home again after her wanderings, but so replenished that she shall be able to rebuild her waste places, and make her devastated fields as a garden of the Lord. We must enter into new bonds for the security and peace of small States, and recognize with frankness the equality of the weak with the strong.
Then we must win back again to the life of nations what Gladstone called "that iron fidelity to public engagements, and stern regard for public law which is the legitimate defence for small countries against the great and powerful." For to destroy confidence in the pledged word of Governments is to take out the linch-pin from the chariot of progress.
It is also of vital importance that not an inch of territory should change hands except by the wish of the people themselves. The principle of self-government must be the basis of all rearrangements of the map of Europe. It is infinitely better than any external authority. There will be blunders, and they will have to be paid for. Suffering will come, but that will quicken the sense of responsibility. Such is the plan of God, and as humanity gets nearer to that plan it obtains righteousness and peace. The question is not for crowned heads and imperial dynasties; not for diplomats with their balance of power, a balance that a touch may upset; but for the peoples, left entirely free to choose the modes and forms of government which they prefer. Let the people rule themselves, and they will save themselves. They do not want war. They want peace. Philip Snowden told the House of Commons on the 18th of March that "the workers in this country echoed the sentiments of their comrades in France and Germany, and were determined to do all they could to promote peace, the greatest blessing of humanity." And though many of them have been forced into the fight against their choice, we may be sure they will come out of the contest more determined than ever to secure conditions of peace. Anyway, it is certain that the people must stop war. They have to save themselves. They are one, and the sense of solidarity and brotherhood is growing amongst them. They see more and more the folly of pitting one nation against another and are eager for the pooling of the wealth of all nations for the benefit of all, and specially of the lowest and neediest. They are gaining a clearer conception of the end and aim of life, of the life of the individual and of humanity, of the humanity that is in each of us, and of the humanity that is in all of us; they are obtaining a fuller control of all the conditions of life, material and spiritual, artistic and social and political. Trust the people. Rely on the vitality of the human spirit. It is wonderfully recuperative. There is goodwill enough to wish for peace, and faith and patience enough to work for it. You have seen that spirit. It compelled the wondering gaze of the whole world. Belgian heroism in the hour of peril was the surprise of the year. Without warning the cynical and alluring bait was flung down to her by the tempter. "Bow down to me," said he; "allow me to go through your country, and you are safe. Resist, and you perish on the spot." Out in a moment leapt the shout of resistance, "Get thee behind me, tempter." She scorned to bargain away her soul. She elected death for freedom, for independence, for a conscience void of offence.The scene is historic. Her splendid devotion and that of King Albert has touched the heart of the world. Her choice of the better part will live and teach the nations and aid in securing and shaping the Great Peace of 1915.
- Cf. The War and Public Opinion. By J. Clifford. Contemporary Review, November, 1914.