Gilbert Murray.

Faith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War online

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Published August IQ17


Such interest as this book may possess will be, I
think, in large part historical. Changes have assuredly
been wrought in the minds of all thoughtful people
throughout Europe by the experiences of these three
shattering years. And it seems worth while to have a
record of the mind of a fairly representative English
Liberal, standing just outside the circle of official poli-
£ tics. Consequently I have arranged the various papers
in order of time rather than in groups according to
subject, and I have not altered a sentence.

The papers treat of the faith in which the British
Government and nation entered the war, and in which
for my part I still continue; of the war itself and the
human problems raised by it and the impossibility, at
two given dates, of immediate peace; lastly, of certain
questions of international policy, such as the possibility
of democratic control in foreign affairs, the action of
Great Britain at sea, our attitude towards Ireland and
India, and our relations with the United States.

I have said nothing about home politics, because, in
the first place, if I wished to exhort or to criticize my
own Government, I should naturally do so at home and
not in America; and in the second place, because, in
spite of a number of minor issues which have caused
acute feeling, there has not risen as yet any cardinal di-
vision between our main political parties. The policy
with which we entered the war still holds the field, and
the unity of the nation, though at times dangerously


of fools. This is, I feel confident, the belief, spoken or
unspoken, of the overwhelming majority of the nation,
whether in the army or out of it. The problem, of course,
will be to choose the best moment, neither too soon nor
too late.

Since the last of these papers was written, two events
have occurred, so vast and beneficent, at least in their
present appearances, that hitherto one had hardly dared
to pray for them. The long-dreamed-of Russian Revolu-
tion, for which through generation after generation so
many martyrs have died, is at last a reality. One of the
most gifted nations in the world, comprising a hundred
and forty millions of human beings, after being held
down for centuries under the worst despotism in the
civilized world, is now free. This is marvellous, and we
cannot yet take it in.

The effect of the revolution on the fortunes of the war
is, of course, still doubtful. It may be conclusive. It
may, conceivably, provoke a similar movement in Ger-
many and bring down that Prussian despotism which
Mr. Lloyd George, in memorable words, has described
as "the only obstacle to peace." It may, again, result
in utter disaster; in civil war or prolonged disorder at
home, and with the Hohenzollerns in Petrograd restoring
the Romanoffs. Most likely the new order will, in spite
of friction and difficulty, maintain itself, and the Rus-
sian people will fight on with the more resolution as they
realize the more clearly that this war is the war of their
own emancipation. All England is anxious and realizes
the risk. But we take the risk gladly. I confess it made
me proud of my country to see how universal was the
welcome with which almost all classes here greeted the


revolution. No anxiety about our own fortunes could
check that immense and instinctive outburst of happi-

In the second place, America has entered the war. I
should like to explain why I rejoice at this event, which
must seem to many of my American friends as, at best,
a grievous necessity.

America has come in most reluctantly and with ex-
treme slowness. That is natural. She hates war as much
as England does, and her provocations have been in-
finitely less. She has not come in as our ally. She has
come in to repel her own injuries. We have certainly no
responsibility for dragging her into the war.

But, once in, she must needs fight at our side, and
thereby create some new national memories to temper,
if not to obliterate, those of the past. Her two wars
against England will be matched by one far greater war
by the side of England. To me, as an Englishman who
loves America, that is a great source of satisfaction. Of
course we cannot tell yet what sort of action America
means to take; but for our part the more fully and gen-
erously she accepts her share in the world's burden the
better the result will be.

But there is something else at stake also. This war is
deciding an issue more momentous than any duel be-
tween the Entente and the Central Powers, more mo-
mentous even than the restoration of the injured nations.
It is deciding which of two fundamental principles is to
rule the world — Democracy or Despotism, Freedom or
Compulsion, Consent or the Power of the Sword. It
would have been surely an unspeakable calamity if, in
that world-ordeal, the greatest of democratic nations


had stood absolutely aside, not helping and, what is
worse, not understanding. That calamity is now, almost
for certain, avoided. America will still, no doubt, remain
somewhat apart. There is no harm in that. She will
not have to learn what France has learned, much less
what Russia has learned. She will not even have to face
as intimate a lesson as we have faced in Great Britain.
But, while her soul will never be searched as ours has
been, for that very reason her balance of mind may be
less shaken, and that is a quality which will be extremely
welcome at the Peace Conference. At the very worst, if
the issue of the war should turn against this island, and
the burden we have undertaken prove too heavy even
for our colossal strength, we shall know that America,
with greater strength than ours, still carries on the great
cause to which we were faithful.

I do not profess to define what the main lesson of the
war will prove to be. The message is burned into our
hearts, but we cannot yet read the characters clearly.
But certainly we have seen, as no previous generation
has seen, the extreme clash between the two great sys-
tems which have hitherto held human societies together.
We have seen, I trust, convincingly, the evil of the mil-
itary form of State, a greater and more degrading evil
than we ever surmised. It has turned the most educated
nation of Europe into a nation of lost souls. But only
a very shallow thinker will feel satisfied with the forms
of society which the various democratic nations have
hitherto opposed to it. Neither present England nor
present France nor present America is a commonwealth
which really deserves that its sons should die for it as
men have died during this war. Russia is different. The


change there was very likely worth dying for; but only
because of its promise, not its accomplishment.

We have none of us done our duty as free societies.
We have oppressed the poor; we have accepted adver-
tisement in the place of truth; we have given too much
power to money;' and we have been indifferent to the
quality of human character. The democracy of the
future must be a great deal better and cleaner than any
which now exists, with more reverence, more discipline,
more love of beauty, more joy in life, as well as more
social justice and better distribution of wealth, more
freedom for the soul and more friendliness between man
and man. Towards this end, however dimly seen and
distantly followed, all the nations that have suffered to-
gether in the War of the World's Liberation must con-
tribute, bringing their various gifts. Where would the
cause of democracy be if France stood aloof? or the
new Russia? or the British Commonwealth? Or where
would it be without America? The best result that I ex-
pect from America's entrance into the war is not that she
will send us more food or loans or munitions, or help us
against submarines, or even lighten the burden of the
front in France; but that in the upbuilding of democracy
and permanent peace throughout the world, America
and Great Britain will take their part together, united
at last by the knowledge that they stand for the same
causes, by a common danger and a common ordeal and,
I will venture to add, a common consciousness of sin.


I. First Thoughts on the War (August. 1914) 3

Printed in the Hibbert Journal, October, 191-4.
II. How can War ever be Right? (Septem-
ber. 1914; 20

Printed as Oxford Pamphlet Xo. IS.

III. Herd Instinct and the War (February.

1915) 46

Lecture at Bedford College. Printed in the At-
lantic MontUy. June. 1915.

IV. India and the War (March, 1915) . . 67

Address to Indian Students.

V. The Evil and the Good of the War

(October, 1915; 77

Address to the Congress of Free Churches. Printed
in the Inquirer. October 30, 1915.

VI. Democratic Control of Foreign Policy 93

Printed in the Contemporary Review, February. 1916.

VII. How vte Stand Now (March. 1916) . . 114
Address to the Fight for Right League.

Vin. Ireland 129

I. The Dublin Lu arrection (June, 1916 )
II. The Execution of Casement (August
3. 1916)
III. The Future of Ireland (March 18. 1917)
IX. America and the War (August, 1916) . 154

Printed in the Westminster Gazette.


X. America and England (November, 1916) 171

Address to the Mayflower Club, November 14, 1'JIO.

XI. The Sea Policy of Great Britain (Octo-
ber, 1916) 184

Printed in the Atlantic Monthly, December, 1916.

XII. Oxford and the War : A Memoir of
Arthur George Heath (September,
1916) 212

Published in March, 1917.

XIII. The Turmoil of War (March, 1917) . 235

Address to the Fight for Right League, March 4,



(August, 1914)

"Not much news: Great Britain has declared war on
Austria.' ' The words fell quite simply, and with no in-
tention of irony, from the lips of a friend of mine who
picked up the newspaper on the day when I began to
write down these thoughts, August 13. So amazingly had
the world changed since the 4th. And it has changed
even more by the time when I revise the proofs.

During the month of July and earlier, English politics
were by no means dull. For my own part, my mind was
profoundly occupied with a number of public questions
and causes: the whole maintenance of law and demo-
cratic government seemed to be threatened, not to speak
of social reform and the great self-redeeming movements
of the working-class. In the forefront came anxiety
for Home Rule and the Parliament Act, and a growing
indignation against various classes of " wreckers": those
reactionaries who seemed to be playing with rebellion,
playing with militarism, recklessly inflaming the party
spirit of minorities so as to make parliamentary govern-
ment impossible ; those revolutionaries who were openly
preaching the Class War and urging the working-man


to mistrust his own leaders and representatives and
believe in nothing but some helpless gospel of hate.

And now that is all swept away. We think no more
of our great causes, and we think no more of our mutual
hatreds. Good and evil come together. Our higher ideals
are forgotten, but we are a band of brothers standing
side by side.

This is a great thing. The fine, instinctive generosity
with which the House of Commons, from Mr. Bonar
Law to Mr. Redmond, rose to the crisis has spread an
impulse over the country. There is a bond of fellowship
between Englishmen who before had no meeting-ground.
In time past I have sometimes envied the working-men
who can simply hail a stranger as "mate": we dons and
men of letters seem in ordinary times to have no " mates "
and no gift for getting them. But the ice between man
and man is broken now.

I think, too, that the feeling between different classes
must have softened. Rich business men, whom I can
remember a short time ago tediously eloquent on the
vices of trades-unionists and of the working-classes in
general, are now instantly and without hesitation mak-
ing large sacrifices and facing heavy risks to see that as
few men as possible shall be thrown out of work, and
that no women and children shall starve. And working-
men who have not money to give are giving more than
money, and giving it without question or grudge. Thank
God, we did not hate each other as much as we imagined;
or else, while the hatred was real enough on the surface,
at the back of our minds we loved each other more.

And the band of brothers is greater and wider than
any of us dared to believe. Many English hearts must
have swelled with almost incredulous gratitude to hear


of the messages and the gifts which come flooding in
from all the dominions overseas : the gold, the grain, the
sugar, the tobacco ; its special produce coming from each
State, and from all of them throngs of young men offer-
ing their strength and their life-blood. And India above
all! One who has cared much about India and has
friends among Indian Nationalists cannot read with dry
eyes the messages that come from all races and creeds of
India, from Hindu and Moslem societies, from princes
and holy men and even political exiles. . . . We have
not always been sympathetic in our government of India ;
we have not always been wise. But we have tried to be
just; and we have given to India the best work of our
best men. It would have been hard on us if India had
shown no loyalty at all; but she has given us more than
we deserved, more than we should have dared to claim.
Neither Indian nor Englishman can forget it.


And there is something else. Travellers who have
returned from France or Belgium — or Germany for
that matter — tell us of the unhesitating heroism with
which the ordinary men and women are giving them-
selves to the cause of their nation. A friend of mine heard
the words of one Frenchwoman to another who was see-
ing her husband's train off to the front: "Ne pleurez pas,
il vous voit encore" When he was out of sight the tears
might come ! . . . Not thousands but millions of women
are saying words like that to themselves, and millions of
men going out to face death.

We in England have not yet been put to the same
tests as France and Belgium. We are in the flush of our


first emotion ; we have not yet had our nerves shaken by
advancing armies, or our endurance ground down by
financial distress. But, as far as I can judge of the feel-
ings of people whom I meet, they seem to me to be ready
to answer any call that comes. We ask for 200,000 re-
cruits and receive 300,000, for half a million and we
receive three quarters. We ask for more still, and the
recruiting offices are overflowing. They cannot cope
with the crowds of young men who cheerfully wait their
turn at the office doors or on the pavement, while fierce
old gentlemen continue to scold them in the newspapers.
Certainly we are a quaint people.

And in the field! A non-combatant stands humbled
before the wonderful story of the retreat from Mons —
the gallantry, the splendid skill, the mutual confidence
of all ranks, the absolute faithfulness. One hardly dares
praise such deeds; one admires them in silence. And it
is not the worshippers of war who have done this; it is
we, the good-natured, unmilitarist, ultra-liberal people,
the nation of humanitarians and shopkeepers.

Our army, indeed, is a professional army. What the
French and the Belgians have done is an even more
significant fact for civilization. It shows that the cul-
tured, progressive, easy-living, peace-loving nations of
western Europe are not corrupted, at least as far as
courage goes. The world has just seen them, bourgeois
and working-men, clerks, schoolmasters, musicians, gro-
cers, ready in a moment when the call came; able to
march and fight for long days of scorching sun or icy
rain; willing, if need be, to die for their homes and
countries, with no panic, no softening of the fibre . . .
resolute to face death and to kill.



For there is that side of it too. We have now not only
to strain every nerve to help our friend — we must strain
every nerve also to injure our enemy. This is horrible,
but we must try to face the truth. For my own part,
I find that I do desperately desire to hear of German
dreadnoughts sunk in the North Sea. Mines are treach-
erous engines of death; but I should be only too glad to
help to lay one for them. When I see that 20,000 Ger-
mans have been killed in such-and-such an engagement,
and next day that it was only 2000, I am sorry.

That is where we are. We are fighting for that which
we love, whatever we call it. It is the Right, but it is
something even more than the Right. For our lives, for
England, for the liberty of western Europe, for the possi-
bility of peace and friendship between nations; for some-
thing which we should rather die than lose. And lose it
we shall unless we can beat the Germans.


Yet I have scarcely met a single person who seems to
hate the Germans. We abominate their dishonest Gov-
ernment, their unscrupulous and arrogant diplomacy,
the whole spirit of "blood-and-iron" ambition which
seems to have spread from Prussia through a great part
of the nation. But not the people in general. They, too,
by whatever criminal folly they were led into war, are
fighting now for what they call "the Right." For their
lives and homes and their national pride, for that
strange "Culture," that idol of blood and clay and true
gold, which they have built up with so many tears.


They have been trebly deceived; deceived by their Gov-
ernment, deceived by their own idolatry, deceived by
their sheer terror. They are ringed about by enemies;
their one ally is broken; they hear the thunder of Cos-
sack hoofs in the east coming ever closer; and hordes of
stupid moujiks behind them, innumerable, clumsy, bar-
barous, as they imagine in their shuddering dread, tread-
ing down the beloved Fatherland as they come. . . .
What do Germans care for punctilios and neutrality
treaties in the face of such a horror as that?

No: we cannot hate or blame the people in general.
And certainly not the individual Germans whom we
know. I have just by me a letter from young Fritz
Hackmann, who was in Oxford last term and brought
me an introduction from a Greek scholar in Berlin: a
charming letter, full of gratitude for the very small
friendlinesses I had been able to show him. I remember
his sunny smile and his bow with a click of the heels. He
is now fighting us. . . . And there is Paul Maass, too, a
young Doctor of Philosophy, recently married. He sent
me a short time back the photograph of his baby, Ulf,
and we exchanged small jokes about Ulf's look of
wisdom and his knowledge of Greek and his imperious
habits. And now of course Maass is with his regiment
and we shall do our best to kill him, and after that to
starve Ulf and Ulf's mother.

It is well for us to remember what war means when
reduced to terms of private human life. Doubtless we
have most of us met disagreeable Germans and been
angry with them; but I doubt if we ever wanted to cut
their throats or blow them to pieces with lyddite. And
many thousands of us have German friends, or have
come across good straight Germans in business, or have


carried on smiling and incompetent conversations with
kindly German peasants on walking tours.* We must re-
member such things as these, and not hate the Germans.

"A little later it may be different. In a few weeks
English and Germans will have done each other cruel
and irreparable wrongs. The blood of those we love will
lie between us. We shall hear stories of horrible suffering.
Atrocities will be committed by a few bad or stupid peo-
ple on both sides, and will be published and distorted
and magnified. It will be hard to avoid hatred then;
so it is well to try to think things out while our minds
are still clear, while we still hate the war and not the

So I wrote three weeks ago. By the time I revise these
lines the prophecy has been more than fulfilled. No
one had anticipated then that the nightmare doctrines
of Bismarck and Nietzsche and Bernhardi would be
actually enforced by official orders. "Cause to non-
combatants the maximum of suffering : leave the women
and children nothing but their eyes to weep with. . . ."
We thought they said these things just to startle and
shock us; and it now appears that some of them meant
what they said. . . . Still we must not hate the German
people. Who knows how many secret acts of mercy,
mercy at risk of life and against orders, were done at
Louvain and Dinant? Germans are not demons; they
are naturally fine and good people. And they will wake
from their evil dream.

"Never again!" I see that a well-known imperialist
writes to the papers saying that these words should be
embroidered on the kit-bags of the Royal Navy and


painted on the knapsacks of all our soldiers. The aspira-
tion is perhaps too bold, for "Never" is a very large
word ; but I believe it is the real aspiration of most civil-
ized men, certainly of most Englishmen. We are fighting
for our national life, for our ideals of freedom and honest
government and fair dealing between nations : but most
men, if asked what they would like to attain at the end
of this war, if it is successful, would probably agree in
their answer. We seek no territory, no aggrandizement,
no revenge; we only want to be safe from the recurrence
of this present horror. We want permanent peace for
Europe and freedom for each nation.

Wriat is the way to attain it? The writer whom I have
quoted goes on: "The war must not end until German
warships are sunk, her fortresses razed to the ground,
her army disbanded, her munitions destroyed, and the
military and civil bureaucrats responsible for opening
hell gates are shot or exiled." As if that would bring us
any nearer to a permanent peace! Crushing Germany
would do no good. It would point straight towards a
war of revenge. It is not Germany, it is a system, that
needs crushing. Other nations before Germany have
menaced the peace of Europe, and other nations will do
so again after Germany, if the system remains the same.


It is interesting to look back at the records of the
Congress of Vienna in 1815, at the end of the last great
war of allied Europe against a military despotism.

It was hoped then, a standard historian tells us, "that
so great an opportunity would not be lost, but that the
statesmen would initiate such measures of international


disarmament as would perpetuate the blessings of that
peace which Europe was enjoying after twenty years of
warfare." Certain Powers wished to use the occasion for
crushing and humiliating France; but fortunately they
did not carry the Congress with them. Talleyrand per-
suaded the Congress to accept the view that the recent
wars had not been wars of nations, but of principles. It
had not been Austria, Russia, Prussia, England, against
France; it had been the principle of legitimacy against all
that was illegitimate, treaty-breaking, revolution, usur-
pation. Bonapartism was to be destroyed; France was
not to be injured.

Castlereagh, the English representative, concentrated
his efforts upon two great objects. The first, which he
just failed to obtain, owing chiefly to difficulties about
Turkey, was a really effective and fully armed Concert
of Europe. He wished for a united guarantee from all
the Powers that they would accept the settlement made
by the Congress and would, in future, wage collective
war against the first breaker of the peace. The second
object, which he succeeded in gaining, was, curiously
enough, an international declaration of the abolition of
the slave trade.

The principle of legitimacy — of ordinary law and
right and custom — as against lawless ambition : a Con-
cert of Powers pledged by collective treaty to maintain
and enforce peace ; and the abolition of the slave trade !
It sounds like the scheme of some new Utopia, and it
was really a main part of the political programme of

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Online LibraryGilbert MurrayFaith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War → online text (page 1 of 19)