Gilbert Murray.

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

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International Tribunal and the sanction of armed force
behind it, "there are also legislative needs. We need
conferences of the nations to formulate international
rules, to establish principles, to modify and extend in-
ternational law so as to adapt it to new conditions and
remove causes of international difference."

This is obviously no fantastic scheme. It is accepted
by the leaders of both parties, and by the enormous pre-
ponderance of American opinion, both progressive and
conservative, both educated and uneducated. It is only
rejected by the open enemies of England and by some of
the extreme pacifists.

It is hard at present for the leaders of a belligerent
nation to come prominently forward in favour of such
a scheme as this. For one thing they cannot act without
their allies; for another, they must not lay themselves
open to the charge that they are spending their time and
thought on any object but the winning of the war. Still,


there is little doubt about the general attitude of the
leaders of public opinion in England towards a scheme of
this kind. Mr. Asquith, Mr. Balfour, and Viscount Grey,
among others, have spoken pretty clearly.

"Long before this war," said the last-named, on May
15, 1916, "I hoped for a league of nations that would be
united, quick, and instant to prevent, and, if need be,
to punish the violation of international treaties, of pub-
lic right, of national independence, and would say to na-
tions that came forward with grievances and claims:
'Put them before an impartial tribunal. If you can win
at this bar, you will get what you want. If you cannot,
you shall not have what you want. And if instead you
attempt to start a war, we shall adjudge you the com-
mon enemy of humanity and treat you accordingly/
Unless mankind learns from this war to avoid war, the
struggle will have been in vain."

Almost all opinion in England agrees; so, as far as
my information goes, does opinion in France. But in
America the course of events has brought the move-
ment more sharply to the front and faced it with a far
more emphatic alternative. If we and our allies respond
to this movement, there is good hope for the world; the
enemy may respond or not, as he prefers. If we reject
it, there is before us, not merely the possibility of some
unknown future war, such as there was before the pres-
ent shaping of the nations: there is a peril clearer and
more precise. There are definite seeds of international
rivalry already sown and growing; there are on both
sides of the Atlantic the deliberate beginnings of a move-
ment which, however justifiable at present, needs but
a little development to become dangerous; there is the
certain prospect of those thousand disputes which are


bound to arise between two great commercial nations
competing hard for the same markets.

American preparedness will soon be an accomplished
fact; American readiness for a League to Enforce Peace
after the war is probably a fact already. We must not,
of course, be precipitate; we must not forget that our
actual allies have obviously the first claim on us. We
must not make any claim as of right on the sympathy
of the United States, or ask her for a jot more than she
is prepared to offer. But in the end it will rest largely,
though not entirely, with us in Great Britain to decide
whether that preparedness shall be merely an instru-
ment for the promotion of American interests against
those of her rivals, or a great force to work in conjunc-
tion with us and our friends for organizing the peace
of the world. On those lines alliance will be possible
after all.



{November, 1916)

Your Excellency, Lord Bryce, Ladies and Gen-
tlemen : —

I confess that from my boyhood up, long before I had
any knowledge to support the instinctive feeling, I have
felt an ardent and even romantic interest in America.
After all, America is the great representative of de-
mocracy, and the man who has no faith in democracy
really confesses that he has no faith in the human race.
And still more America in a peculiar way represents the
hopes of the future. She embodies the greatest experi-
ment known to history at escaping from the trammels
of the past, while using the experience of the past, and
starting humanity afresh with a clean slate. Such an
experiment could not, of course, be confined to the mem-
bers of a single nation. It must throw open its arms to a
large part of the world. And we in Great Britain may
well be satisfied with the share that we have taken and
still possess in this building-up of the nation of the clean

You will hardly expect me to speak about the Presi-
dential election. We all think about it; but it is ground
on which Mr. Roosevelt himself would recognize that
an Englishman, if he walks at all, must walk "pussy-
footedly." The one fact that stands out most promi-

1 Address to the Mayflower Club, November 14, 1916.


ncntly to an observer at a distance is the high personal
quality of both the candidates. The record of American
Presidents as a whole is a great testimonial to democ-
racy; and it is certainly true in the present instance that,
in force of character, in integrity, and in intellectual
power, both candidates are men of the highest rank, who
would do honour to any Cabinet in the world. On the
matter with which in England we are most concerned, —
the war in Europe, — we may also claim that both can-
didates have — what shall I say? I will not say any
predilection in favour of the Allies, for I believe them
to be just and impartial; but they both have the thing
which to us matters most, some real understanding of
the aims and causes, the nature and origin, of the con-

Ladies and gentlemen, if you take a long view of his-
tory I think you will find that we stand now at a dra-
matic and momentous point. You in America are to his-
tory a nation of refugees, a nation built up by men and
women who fled over a thousand leagues of inhospitable
sea to escape from the oppressions and entanglements
of Europe, and especially, in your early days, from those
of Great Britain. English Cavaliers, Puritans, Quakers,
Catholics, Scotch Presbyterians, have all helped to
build you up. In later generations, when there was no
more need for people to fly for refuge from Great Brit-
ain, came the refugees of central and eastern Europe,
and fragments of all the peoples that are still ground
down by domestic poverty or the misgovernment of the
Turk. It is, perhaps, a paradox to speak of your great
and powerful continent at the present time as a nation
of refugees. But I think the memory of your origin still
affects your policy and certainly still haunts your imag-


ination. Most nations have some sort of legendary con-
ception of themselves, some fable convenue in which they
instinctively believe, even when it has ceased to cor-
respond with the facts. I believe great masses of people
in America unconsciously think of themselves as refu-
gees like their ancestors, and of Great Britain as a coun-
try of lords and flunkeys, pickpockets and John-Bull-
like farmers in swallowtail coats, still governed by
George III and Lord North or the "Sea Tyrants of
1813. " When we wish to speak to you as brothers, you
remember that we are the elder brothers who cast you

And now a cause has arisen, a need, a momentous
issue, in which we as a nation, both those who cast your
fathers out and those who comforted your fathers and
remained in England fighting for the same causes as
they, are constrained to appeal to you as brothers. Not
necessarily for military help ! Do not imagine that. So
far as we can see, we have full confidence in ourselves
and our allies. But we appeal to you, first of all, to
understand us. It is intolerable to us, intolerable for all
the future hope of humanity, that this our testimony of
blood, this our martyrdom for a cause which we hold
sacred, should be regarded by you, our friends and
brothers across the Atlantic, as a mere quarrel of angry
dogs over a bone. We have made our appeal and a large
part of America has responded magnificently, with that
swiftness of brain, that ready sympathy and generosity,
which are so characteristically American. I know no
better statements on the diplomatic causes of the war,
at any rate among neutral nations, than some of those
that were published quite early in the Eastern States.
But other parts of your nation had gone too far off to


hear us. They had built up their own life too independ-
ently to care about our troubles. I believe also that the
very magnitude of the cause at issue makes it difficult
for us to explain and for them to understand. How shall
we try to state that cause, to put into words, however
imperfect, the centre of our profound feeling? It is a
difficult task.

" Government of the people, by the people, for the
people"? That is a principle which Americans have paid
for with their blood and which they understand with
every fibre of their being. But is it exactly democracy
for which we are fighting? The Republic of France, the
limited monarchy of England, and the autocracy of
Russia? We sometimes say, and feel, that we are fight-
ing for democracy, and in a sense it is true; but democ-
racy alone cannot be the exact definition of our cause.

Is it, then, a fight for civilization against barbarism?
The thesis is difficult to maintain. In material civiliza-
tion, at least, Germany is actually our superior. The
organization of German trade, of railways, of schools,
even of things intellectual, seems, at least to a super-
ficial glance, to be the acme of civilization. To speak of
the Germans as barbarians may in some profounder
sense have truth in it, but in the ordinary meaning of the
words it is a paradox.

Some people again have tried to tell the Americans
that we were fighting for Christianity against Godless-
ness, but that is not, as it stands, a very persuasive
statement. They can point to many saintly lives in
Germany; the bookshelves of their professors of divin-
ity are loaded with German books of devotion and theol-
ogy; and I hardly imagine that we and our French allies
make quite the impression of a nation of early Christians.


None of these statements seems exactly adequate,
yet there is some profound truth underlying all of them.
I do not suppose that my own definition will stand crit-
icism much better than these I have mentioned, but I
will venture to put to you the way in which the issue
strikes me. You remember the old philosophical doc-
trine of the "Social Contract" as the origin of ordered
society; that men lived in a " state of nature," with no
laws, no duties to one another, no relationships —
homo homini lupus, "every man a wolf to every other
man"; and then, finding that condition intolerable, they
met together and made a "contract," and hence arose
civilized society. And you will remember the criticism
passed on the doctrine by such philosophers as T. H.
Green : the criticism that beings in that supposed con-
dition could not even begin to make a contract; that
before any contract can be made, there must be some ele-
mentary sense of relationship, of mutual duty, some ele-
mentary instinct of public right. Before any contract is
possible, there must be at least the elementary under-
standing that if a man pledges his word, he should keep
it. It is that primary understanding, that elementary
sense of brotherhood or of public right, which it seems
to us the present Government of Germany in its dealing
with foreign nations has sought to stamp out of exist-
ence. It has rejected, in the words of the King's Speech,
"the old ordinance which has held civilized Europe to-
gether." It has acted on a new ordinance that every
nation shall be a wolf to its neighbour.

Do you find that indictment hard to believe of such a
nation as Germany? I think we can see how it came
about. Germany is the great country of specialization.
Above all she has produced the specialized soldier; not


the human soldier, the Christian soldier, the chivalrous
soldier, or the soldier with the sense of civic duties; but
the soldier who is trained to be a soldier and nothing
else, to disregard all the rest of human relations, to see
all his country's neighbours merely as enemies to be
duped and conquered, to treat all life according to some
system of perverted biology as a mere struggle of force
and fraud. They have created this type of soldier, able,
concentrated, conscienceless, and remorseless, and then
— what no other people in the world has done — they
have given the nation over to his guidance. Of course
we all have armies. We all have experts and strategists.
But with the rest of us the soldier is the last resort, like
the executioner. We call him up only when all other
means have failed. But in Germany the soldier is al-
ways present. He is behind the diplomatist, behind the
educator, behind the preacher; he is behind the philoso-
pher in his study and the man of science in his labora-
tory; always present and always in authority. In other
nations the sword is the servant of the public welfare, a
savage servant never used but in the last necessity; in
Germany all the resources of the nation are the servants
of the sword.

How far can America be brought to see this or in
general to understand our cause? Roughly speaking, I
think it would be true to say that the most instructed
part of America — New York, Boston, and the Eastern
States — understood early. They understood rapidly
and acutely and they responded generously. The rest of
America is gradually learning to understand. I met, in
my recent visit to the United States, two men, both ex-
ceptionally good witnesses and of different sides in home


politics, who had journeyed right across the continent
about a year ago and again recently; and they both made
the same report: that the knowledge and the feeling of
the comparatively small part of America which under-
stands and studies European affairs were spreading
steadily from East to West. They had reached much
farther this year than a year ago.

The position of our cause in America is not unsatis-
factory. Both the Presidential candidates, as I have
said, understand it. In speaking of them, whether they
differ from us or not, no one would have to explain
things from the beginning. Again, in the recent election,
though naturally neither party actually turned away
votes that offered themselves, there was no party which
would dare openly to admit that it was pro-German,
cnly a small, disorganized faction on both sides. I think
we may also say that such points of difference as we
have had with the United States during the war — and
such points of difference are absolutely bound to arise
— have been treated by the Government and the ma-
jority of the people of the United States, I will not say
with any special indulgence towards us, but at least in
a spirit of great fairness and neighbourly good-will. Of
course America will not fight. What nation in history
ever did fight from motives of pure philanthropy and
sympathy in a war four thousand miles away? Of course
America will not fight — unless, that is, the war should
take some new and unexpected turn directly menacing
her interests. But in many ways America can help
or hinder us in the war; and especially it is America
more than any other nation which will register the
opinion of the neutral world. We believe that we
and our allies can show that militarism is a failure:


we want America to pronounce judgement that it is
w irked.

Instructed America is already overwhelmingly with
us. The great interest of the present situation is that
by the issue of the Presidential election it is uninstructed
America that is now largely in power. (When I say "in-
structed" and "uninstructed," I mean, of course, "in-
structed" and "uninstructed" as regards European
affairs.) President Wilson has, of course, abundant
knowledge and imagination; it is easy enough to state
our case to him. But the great masses behind him, the
masses of the South and West, are drawn precisely from
the most non-European part of America, the part that
neither knows about us nor wishes to know. It is to
those great masses of the South and West that we have
somehow to make ourselves understood. Many of you
now present know them better than I do, but even I
have known a good many. They will honestly try, I be-
lieve, to understand us. They will bring to the task,
perhaps, some an ti- British prejudices; certainly abun-
dant ignorance — as abundant and profound as our own
ignorance of the affairs of Minnesota and Wyoming.
They will bring some lack of experience, some lack of
tradition in that delicate tact combined with firmness,
that self-restraint, that respect for foreign nations, that
power of seeing another's point of view, which is es-
sential to a sound foreign policy. But they will bring
also quickness of mind, indomitable vigour, real Ameri-
can generosity, and a most abundant store of good-will.
I do not think there is any nation on the earth which
contains so large a proportion as America of people who
really and actively wish to do right — and to feel good
afterwards. It is to these people that we must appeal,


not for help in war, nor for any immediate alliance, but
for two purposes. We must appeal to them, first, merely
to listen and think and understand ; and secondly, when
they have realized what we are fighting for during the
war, to work for common ends with us after the peace.
I will not wait now to define these ends; they have been
stated by Mr. Asquith and Lord Grey. I do not know
exactly what form it may prove best for America's co-
operation to take. For my own part, I follow Lord
Bryce and Lord Grey, Mr. Taft, Mr. Wilson, and Mr.
Hughes, as a devout believer in a league to enforce
peace. America has made that proposal, and Lord Grey
speaking for the Allies has announced that we are
in favour of it. The exact form and machinery of the
league must, of course, remain to be settled hereafter.
But I do not think it will be exactly that league spoken of
by Dr. Bethmann-Hollweg, of which Germany "is quite
willing to put herself at the head" ; nor do I imagine that
its first object will be "to guarantee Germany from
another invasion by Belgium."

The truth is — and this will be one of our difficulties
— that between us and America, as between every bel-
ligerent and every neutral, there is one great gulf to
bridge. Most neutrals — and especially these West-
erners of whom I spoke — move inside a certain normal
range of ideas. They understand the goodness of being
sober, honest, thrifty, kind, — extraordinarily kind, —
and even religious. They praise and admire — and even
practise — the virtues which lie within the normal range
of experience, that range within which to lose one's life
is the greatest of misfortunes and to take another's life
the greatest of crimes. But we in Great Britain have got
beyond those barriers. We have become familiar with


the knowledge that there are things in life which are
greater than life. We have learnt, more than we ever
learnt before, that the true work of mankind upon earth
is to live for these greater things. I am not exaggerat-
ing or using high-falutin language. Go out into the
street and talk with the first bus-driver or cabman who
has lost his son in the war; he may be inarticulate, but
if once he begins to speak freely, you will find him telling
you that he does not grudge his son's life.

We stand outside the barriers that I have spoken of,
and our words and gestures must seem strange to those
within, but it is to them that we must explain ourselves.
A picture rises to my mind as I am now speaking to
you, a picture of New England as I motored through it
a few months ago : the pretty, prosperous country towns;
the workmen's settlements, especially in the evening
when the men come back from work and the children
from school ; the refreshment rooms at the big railway sta-
tions, full of fruit and coolness, with no smell of alcohol
in the air and no tang of alcohol in the conversation be-
tween the customers and the waitresses; the whole at-
mosphere clean, healthy, and lighthearted, an atmosphere
of fairly hard work and abundant prosperity. How
can any foreigner — how dare any foreigner — ask that
they should change that for the life which we are now

I remember just before starting on that drive hearing
by telegram that two of my intimate friends were killed,
and on the ship I heard of two more. At Liverpool I
remember the curious shabbiness of the streets and
houses, as if all repainting and decorating were being put
off until after the war. At Carlisle the mass of tense,
overworked munition workers; the papers full, as they


are now, of some two-thousand-odd daily casualties. I
remember the impression then made upon me by the
slow steps and somewhat haggard faces of ordinary men
and women in the British streets. No; we cannot ask
the Americans to stand in our shoes; but I would like
them to know, and fully realize, that, by Heaven, we
would not stand in theirs, nor in any others than our
own ! When I realize most fully the burden we are bear-
ing, the ordeal of fire through which we are resolved to
pass, I am not only proud of my country, I thank God
that, if this awful evil was to fall upon humanity, —
this awful evil to avert another yet more awful, — that
our country was called upon to stand in the very van of
battle and of suffering, and that we have not flinched
from our task. We are the sailors in the ship of human-
ity, the sailors and the engineers. We may yet be swept
off the deck; we may be crushed or stifled in the engine-
room; but at least we are not mere passengers and we
are not spectators.

To Western Americans, perhaps to all neutrals, the
horrors of war so utterly outweigh all the other elements
that it seems to be nothing but horror. That is, perhaps,
the sane view, and our own feeling may have a touch of
the insane about it, but I am sure that it has also a touch
of the prof ounder truth. A friend and pupil of mine wrote
to me the other day about the Somme battles, and how
they had made him feel the difference between soul and
body; how the body of man seemed a weak and poor
thing, which he had seen torn to rags all about him and
trodden into mud, and the soul of man something mag-
nificent and indomitable, greater than he had ever con-
ceived. When we talk like that, you neutrals sometimes
shudder at us and feel as if we were possessed by an evil


spirit. No. The spirit may be dangerous, but it is not
evil. Go about England to-day and you will find in
every town men and women whose hearts are broken,
but who are uplifted by a new spiritual strength. They
know that there are issues greater than life, and that for
these issues, if it is well to die, it is also well to suffer.
And there is one mistake, a mere mistake in psychology,
which I would urge you not to commit. Do not confuse
war with hatred. The people who feel this spiritual
exaltation are exactly those whose hearts have not room
for hatred. The soldiers fighting do not hate as a rule;
and the people who feel greatly do not hate. It is mostly
those who are somehow baffled and unable to help, or
are brooding over personal wrongs, that give way to ha-
tred. I remember reading in a New England farmhouse a
curious document, the will of an old Southerner made in
1866, in which, since he had lost everything in the Civil
War, he bequeathed to his children and grandchildren:
"The bitter hatred and everlasting malignity of my
heart against all Yankees, meaning by that term all who
live north of Mason and Dixon's line." What a strange
ghost of the past that now seems! How the moss has
grown over those old stones that once were burning
lava ! And even he was not a soldier of the war, but an
old man and a non-combatant; otherwise he would not
have been so bitter. I would like our neutral and pacific
friends to realize, first, that, as Lord Bryce has said, in
our normal days we are as peaceful a nation as them-
selves; and secondly, that now, when war has become

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Online LibraryGilbert MurrayFaith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War → online text (page 13 of 19)