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Allies held at Paris, the sense of a commonwealth
took a wider range, and this meeting, it has been
held, assumed the form of "a legislative parlia-
ment of France, Russia, England, Italy, Belgium,



120 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

Serbia, Japan, and the self-governing British
Dominions." The subject of interest was finan-
cial solidarity during the present war, and even
after it. Some of the exclusiveness that marked
that conference may vanish, and will certainly
be diminished after the war is over; but it may
well be that, "if the agreements growing out of this
event stand the test of time, they will dispose ef-
fectively of the contention that dissimilar nations
cannot act in harmony for their mutual advantage
in matters international."

Three of these nations, Britain, France, and
Russia, are henceforth to be bound together as at
the beginning of the war it was never imagined
they could ever be by a new sense of the value and
the meaning of democracy. They will be in re-
lations that will enable them after the war to dis-
pense with military action except for their com-
mon defense. With the sincere support of other
nations for common purposes, there should be no
room in the world for economic imperialism in its
existing form. Deplorable, indeed, would be a
further and more powerfully organized example
of it by prohibition of commercial intercourse,
which would be, in effect, an indefinite prolonga-



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 121

tion of international strife on economic lines.
But such a purpose is not in the highest interest
of these powers ; and, when this comes to be duly
considered in the treaties of peace it may happily
be averted.

Taking all its past into account, it would be
impossible to exempt the British Empire from the
charge of economic imperialism. No nation has
ever been more constantly actuated by the spirit
of commercialism sustained by military force than
the British. The fault is frankly admitted by its
own historians. Professor Ramsay Muir says:

This motive has been present in many of our own wars;
it has been the predominant motive with us perhaps more
often than with any other people, from the time when we
fought to overthrow the Spanish monopoly of the tropical
West, to the time when we waged two wars with China
in order to force open the gates of that vast market.

But Great Britain has learned the lesson of
experience. It is not just to blame a progressive
and liberal people for the actions of the past, when
other standards of conduct were generally ac-
cepted, and when national rivalry was necessi-
tated by the conditions of the time. The pressing



122 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

question is, Shall these conditions be perpetuated?
Great Britain now answers, "No."

The Imperial German Government alleges that
prior to 1914 there was a conspiracy headed by
Great Britain, to suppress "the liberty of national
evolution" of the German Empire and to deny
"the freedom of the seas."

What then is meant by "the liberty of national
evolution" and "the freedom of the seas"?

Aiming to become a world power, Germany has
desired to possess a free hand in acquiring terri-
tory in all parts of the world, without being sub-
ject to the restraint of other powers. Portions of
every continent are marked on the map as future
German possessions. "The German Empire,"
says Franz von Liszt, "has not yet acquired the
title of a World Power for it is far from being
comparable with Great Britain and Russia, either
by the number of its inhabitants or the independ-
ence of its economic life. Still less can Austria-
Hungary pretend to this title." To obtain it is,
however, he thinks, a legitimate aspiration of the
Central empires. There will, of course, he ad-
mits, be opposition by other nations; but the goal



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 123

is worthy of the effort. "The supremacy of the
world," he says, "belongs to the Power which by
its geographic configuration, the extent of its ter-
ritory, and the number of its population, possesses
a complete economic independence." The Ger-
mans claim this as their rightful inheritance.
Their strength, they consider, gives them a title
to it. They are self-avowed contestants for world
supremacy.

And "the freedom of the seas," what does that
imply? It signifies, as the Imperial German
Government understand it, the unrestrained privi-
lege of obtaining a colonial empire by means of
maritime strength.

To realize such an ambition there must be left
no rival on the sea who would be able to prevent
it. Speaking of the sea power of England, a
German writer says :

The war between her and us ... turns upon the mas-
tery of the seas, and the priceless values bound up with
that; and a coexistence of the two States, of which many
Utopians dream, is ruled out as definitely as was the co-
existence of Rome and Carthage. The antagonism be-
tween England and Germany will, therefore, remain until
one of them is finally brought to the ground.



124 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

It is this incessant invocation of war and the
indisposition to accept the possibility of peace
that have made it so difficult for foreign peoples
to understand the mind of Germany, or for those
who wish to be friends to explain and defend the
German attitude toward other nations. Even the
German emperor himself has not hesitated to
throw out a challenge to all the maritime powers.
"I will never rest," he has said, "until I have
raised my navy to a position similar to that occu-
pied by my army." And the reason for this de-
termination he frankly declares in the words:
"Germany's colonial aims can only be gained
when Germany has become lord of the ocean."

What, prior to August, 1914, had Great Britain
done to call forth an accusation of irreconcilable
hostility? No foreboding of such antagonism ex-
isted in 1890, when, for the protectorate of Zan-
zibar, Great Britain surrendered the island of
Helgoland to Germany; or in 1895, when that
stronghold became the fortified gate of the Kiel
Canal at its North Sea terminus. Even when the
first extensive naval legislation was enacted in
Germany, in 1900, it created no great disturbance
in England. The first indication that British ap-



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 125

prehension was aroused was the building of the
earliest "dreadnaughts" by England in 1905.
But even in 1907 Germany was making cordial
public professions of faith in her English rival's
fairness and generosity. "Everywhere in the
world," said a representative of the imperial Ger-
man foreign office, in May of that year, to a dele-
gation of British journalists, "where Great
Britain has brought any country under her in-
fluence, she has never suppressed the trade de-
velopments in other lands, as many nations have
to their own detriment. You have always de-
voted your energies and labors to the opening up
of the country's sources of production, bringing
it nearer to civilization and progress. You have
never excluded other states from territories under
British influence, but allowed them to go along
with you. This policy of yours is now celebrat-
ing one of its greatest triumphs in Egypt."

In the following summer occurred the second
conference at The Hague. Great Britain pro-
posed the limitation of armaments on the sea, but
in deference to the wishes of the German delegates
the proposal was given formal sepulture, with
solemn funeral rites conducted in a spirit of



126 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

friendly consideration by the Russian president of
the conference.

The eager interest of German military circles
in the construction of the Zeppelin airships in
1908 no doubt really disturbed the British mind;
for here was a device which, it was believed in
Germany, would be able to float in triumph over
the British fleet and bring to terms the coast towns
of the island and even London itself. But Eng-
land, under a Liberal ministry, was not inclined
to war, and renewed the proposal of a holiday in
fleet-building, reinforced by the importunities of
the United States. In 1914 a treaty had amicably
regulated the affair of the Bagdad railway.
Even as late as July 29, 1914, three days before
the German declaration of war, Great Britain was
so far from being considered in Germany as the
arch-conspirator in bringing about war that the
Imperial German Government sought and ex-
pected Great Britain's complete neutrality in the
war it then intended to declare on Russia and
France, on condition that Germany would take
from France only her colonies and leave undis-
turbed her territorial integrity on the continent.
So great at that time was the confidence in Eng-



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 127

land's disinclination for war that it was believed
she would passively consent to Germany's forcible
appropriation of the French colonies without even
a pourboire in compensation for this indulgence.

It may be useful to recall what the conditions
actually were when the German emperor on
August 1, 1914, declared war on Russia. Dis-
missing from our minds for the moment all ques-
tions regarding the underlying causes of the war,
and without at this time attempting to pass judg-
ment upon any of the issues involved in it, let us
fix our attention upon the military situation as it
existed on that fateful day when the whole
mechanism of European security suddenly broke
down.

We may pass over the ultimatum to Serbia,
Austria's invasion of Serbian territory, and Rus-
sia's resolve to protect the small Slav state or pro-
cure a hearing for its case as a question of Euro-
pean interest by which armed conflict might, per-
haps, have been avoided. On August 1, the Ger-
man emperor had in his hands the following
documents :

1. A telegram from the czar, dated July 30,



128 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

reading: "The military measures which have
now come into force were decided five days ago
for reasons of defense and on account of Austria's
preparations. I hope from all my heart that
these won't in any way interfere with your part as
mediator, which I greatly value."

2. A telegraphic instruction by Sir Edward
Grey, dated July 30, directing Sir Edward
Goschen, the British ambassador at Berlin, to say
to the imperial German chancellor "most earn-
estly," that "the one way of maintaining the good
relations between England and Germany is that
they should continue to work together to preserve
the peace of Europe; if we succeed in this object,
the mutual relations of Germany and England
will, I believe, be ipso facto improved and
strengthened. . . . And I will say this: If the
peace of Europe can be preserved, and the present
crisis safely passed, my own endeavor will be to
promote some arrangement to which Germany
could be a party, by which she could be assured
that no aggressive or hostile policy would be pur-
sued against her or her allies by France, Russia,
and ourselves."

3. A telegram dated July 31, from Mr. Sazo-



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 129

noff, Russian minister for foreign affairs, reading
as follows: "If Austria will agree to check the
advance of her troops on Serbian territory; if,
recognizing that the dispute between Austria and
Serbia has become a question of European inter-
est, she will allow the Great Powers to look into
the matter and decide what satisfaction Serbia
could afford to the Austro-Hungarian Govern-
ment without impairing her rights as a sovereign
State or her independence, Russia will undertake
to maintain her waiting attitude."

4. A telegram of July 31 from Sir Edward
Grey, reading: "If Germany could get any rea-
sonable proposal put forward which made it clear
that Germany and Austria were striving to pre-
serve European peace and that Russia and France
would be unreasonable if they rejected it, I would
support it at St. Petersburg and Paris, and go
the length of saying that if Russia and France
would not accept it, His Majesty's Government
would have nothing more to do with the conse-
quences."

5. A telegram from Count Berchtold, minister
for foreign affairs of Austria-Hungary to all Aus-
tro-Hungarian embassies and legations, dated



130 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

July 31, to be communicated to all governments,
reading: "Negotiations dealing with the situa-
tion are proceeding between the cabinets at Vienna
and St. Petersburg, and we still hope that they
may lead to a general understanding."

In these circumstances, on August 1, the Ger-
man emperor, having received no reply to his
demand that Russian mobilization should cease
within twelve hours, declared war on Russia, thus
automatically involving France, Russia's ally, al-
though knowing that France did not desire war.
The sole reason given for this action was that
Russia had not at that time ceased the mobiliza-
tion of her army in defense of Serbia against Aus-
tria's attack, there being no direct quarrel between
Russia and Germany. How unjust was the ulti-
matum sent on the previous day to Russia, is
shown by the telegram of the German emperor to
King George, on August 1, the day he declared
war on Russia. The telegram was sent under
the impression, which proved erroneous, that
Great Britain was ready to guarantee the neu-
trality of France; yet the German emperor de-
clared that it was "too late" to stop the mobiliza-
tion begun on that day! The telegram reads:



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 131

I have just received the communication of your Govern-
ment offering French neutrality under the guarantee of
Great Britain. To this offer there was added the question
whether, under these conditions, Germany would refrain
from attacking France. For technical reasons the mobil-
ization which I have already ordered this afternoon on two
fronts east and west must proceed according to the ar-
rangements made. A counter order cannot now be given,
as your telegram unfortunately came too late ; but if France
offers me her neutrality, which must be guaranteed by the
English army and navy, I will naturally give up the idea
of an attack on France and employ my troops elsewhere.
I hope that France will not be nervous. The troops on
my frontier are at this moment being kept back by tele-
graph and by telephone from crossing the French fron-
tier. WILLIAM.

No one of these nations, it is alleged, desired a
general war, and yet it came as a matter of mili-
tary necessity! "I hope France will not be
nervous. The troops on my frontier are at this
moment being held back by telegraph and tele-
phone from crossing the French frontier." And,
according to Berlin, mobilization had not even
been ordered until five o'clock of that same day!

What a white light is poured by this last tele-
gram upon the mechanism of destruction that had
been so laboriously prepared ! Only one man in



132 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

Europe who could stop the war, and he caught in
the fatal toils of his own machinery! For tech-
nical reasons, telegram too late, German troops
held back on the French frontier by telegraph and
telephone I hope France will not be nervous.
But why this solicitude for the nerves of France?
Was Germany also nervous?

I am making here no accusation. What I wish
to emphasize is that the machinery for preserving
peace had not been sufficiently organized, while
the machinery of war had become so efficient as
to be virtually uncontrollable. No one, we are
assured, wanted war. All wanted peace. Serbia
wanted justice. So also, it is said, did Austria.
But Europe had not provided for justice to a small
state.

The time has come when Europe should reas-
sert its moral unity and make an end of tribalism.
All the machinery for international cooperation
already exists, and needs only the adjustment of
it to the purposes of peace. The railways and
the steamships that have facilitated the mobiliza-
tion of troops and munitions of war, the tele-
graphic lines which have transmitted the orders



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 133

setting great armies in motion, the vast factories
that have been forging instruments of destruc-
tion, are already there, waiting to convey the mer-
chandise, communicate the messages, and produce
the commodities of peace. The one thing lacking
is the effective organization of international jus-
tice. Let it once be agreed that each people shall
be secure in its freedom and independence, and
that nations may be as sure of justice as are in-
dividual men in a well-organized state, and the
transformation would be already accomplished.

Depending, as it does, upon good faith, this
regeneration is essentially an inner process in
the minds and souls of men. It cannot be im-
posed from without. It cannot be forced upon
one nation by another. It cannot be effected by
fighting. It will never come as the spontaneous
act of governments. It must come from the over-
whelming determination of the people of many
nations to have it so.

The real testing time of democracy will be the
moment of victory ; for victory there must be, and
yet a victory that is not a conquest. If the claims
of democracy in this war are to be accepted, it is
intended to be a defense of the conquered against



134 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

the conqueror, a protest against the ordeal of bat-
tle as the decisive factor in determining the fate
of nations. To invert the roles would be to aban-
don the cause. If there is to be a commonwealth
of nations, the Central Powers should not be ex-
cluded from it except by their own will. The
first article in a treaty of peace should be a state-
ment of the principles for which we are now
fighting in this war and the establishment of a
commonwealth based upon them. Respect for
treaties, the rights of the small states, the rule of
law, the abandonment of conquests, the right of
a people to choose its affiliations, the ultimate ex-
tinction of militarism as a system, the submission
of justiciable differences to a competent tribunal,
the responsibility of states to the society of states
these are the essential terms of a durable treaty
of peace. If this can be attained, there will in-
deed be a new Europe.

Should a nation wait to be vanquished before
accepting such a peace? Is it not the only peace
in which any nation can place its trust ? Against
any other the vanquished would be in perpetual
revolt. But in such a peace all men would at the
same time have the support of their own sense of



VISION OF A COMMONWEALTH 135

justice and secure the realization of their own
highest ideals. It would be to all the peoples of
Europe like a proclamation of emancipation.
With it would come the joy of liberty, the sense of
security, the flood-tide of human fellowship. For
such a peace the mighty host of the dead on land
and sea might well rejoice if they could know
that they had bought it with their lives.



CHAPTER V

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE GERMAN
EMPIRE

WHAT is the present attitude of Germany
toward a commonwealth of nations ? Ac-
cording to the philosophy of the state underlying
the practice of economic imperialism, there is to
be no end to national antagonisms in the pursuit
of power, and this conviction seems to have been
intensified rather than attenuated in the minds of
many Germans during the progress of the war.
One of the most eminent of German historians,
Professor Eduard Meyer of Berlin, wrote in
1915:

Dispelled for all time are the dreams of those well-
intentioned visionaries who hoped for a day when the na-
tions would be at peace forever, and all their disputes
would be settled at the bar of an international tribunal of
arbitration by which war would be made impossible
dreams that have been so widely entertained in America,
where the people have become effeminate in their senti-
ments in recent years. The Hague Peace Conferences, in-

136



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 137

stituted at the suggestion of the Czar, how great a travesty
in the world's history! and the palace in which they
were held, are a satire on the times, and subsequent events
have fully justified Germany in her disinclination at first
to participate in this empty farce. 1

It was at the high tide of German victories
that these words were written, and they serve well
to indicate what the permanent attitude of the
German Empire would be in case of a final Ger-
man triumph. There would be no appeal to the
jurists to define the equities of international life.
"A series of long and sanguinary wars," this
writer gravely assures us, "will mark the century
upon which we have entered." And the reason
for this is frankly stated. "The dominating cir-
cumstance by which coming events will be most
strongly influenced will be the impassable gulf
that has opened between England and Germany,
and their feeling of bitter enmity for each other.
So far as we are able to scan the future," he con-
tinues, "a reconciliation is not possible; we Ger-
mans can never forget how England has served
us." And for this reason the conclusion is

1 Neither conference was, in fact, held in the so-called Palace
of Peace. The first assembled in the House in the Wood, the
second in the Hall of the Knights.



138 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

reached that "the era of internationalism is past
and will never return. It will be replaced by a
period of vigorous and ruthless assertion of na-
tional ambition, the struggle of the nations with
one another. ... To return to the paths of In-
ternationalism, and again sacrifice interests of
great importance to ourselves for the sake of it,
would be a crime against our own people."

This deliberate repudiation of the idea of an
international community of interests and obliga-
tions expresses an entirely new attitude, which no
nation in modern times has ever yet taken. It
sweeps away with disdain the whole foundation
upon which a society of states 'must be based.
For such a society it would substitute the absolute,
all-dominating power of an organization which
contains in itself no standard or consciousness of
rectitude. "To us Germans," Professor Meyer
says, "the state is the most indispensable as well
as the highest requisite of our earthly existence.
. . . The state is of much higher importance than
any individual groups, and eventually is of infi-
nitely more value than the sum of all the indi-
viduals within its jurisdiction." The reason



TRANSFIGURATION OF EMPIRE 139

given for this assertion is that the state "has a life
apart; its mission is unending; and, in theory at
least, unless it is wrecked by a force from without,
its existence is endless, encompassing as it does all
the generations yet to come, and welding them into
a great unit, the mighty life of a nation acting
its part in the history of the world."

This is, in substance, the state as Hegel con-
ceived it, with the divinity left out. As now rep-
resented, the empire is a "splendidly creative
monarchy" possessed of absolute power, no longer
pretending to be divine, and confessedly very
narrowly human; for, as this theory of empire ex-
presses it, "the final decision in every measure
undertaken rests with the sovereign, who there-
fore assumes full responsibility for it, and no one
can relieve him of it." But as the sovereign in
this conception is the sole personal representative
of the state, and the state is of "infinitely more
value than the sum of all the individuals within
its jurisdiction," there is no one entitled to hold
him responsible, no standard by which to measure
his responsibility. If at his command millions
of men, no matter how many millions, are slain
in battle, since all human beings taken together



140 THE REBUILDING OF EUROPE

are of less importance than the power and pros-
perity of the empire, no wrong is committed ; and
if there were a wrong, there would be no means
of preventing or even of condemning it. "In
this personal element," we are gravely assured,
"lies the tremendous advantage that a monarchial
government has over any other, in that it unites in
one person the power to act for the State, together
with the undivided responsibility to conscience for
the consequences of the act." And thus the con-
science of one man who holds himself accountable
to no one, but whose interest it is by any and all
means to extend his power, is made the measure
of the state's responsibility.

One has only to open the pages of the jurists
and philosophers of an earlier time, when the
German peoples and princes were struggling for
their local rights and liberties against the author-
ity of the old empire, and to reread the history of
the contests for the "Germanic liberties," then
held to be so dear, to realize how completely, even


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Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 7 of 15)