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

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path of duty and the only path we could take. Some
people speak now as if going on with the war was a kind
of indulgence of our evil passions. The war is not an
indulgence of our evil passions; the war is a martyrdom.

Now, let us not exaggerate here. It is not a martyrdom
for Christianity. I saw a phrase the other day that we
were fighting for the nailed hand of One Crucified against
the " mailed fist." That description is an ideal a man
may carry in his own heart, but, of course, it is an ex-
aggeration to apply to our national position, to the po-
sition of any nation in international politics. We are not


saints, we are not a nation of early Christians. Yet we
are fighting for a great cause. . . . How shall I express it?
\Ve are a country of ripe political experience, of ancient
freedom; we are, with all our faults, I think, a country of
kindly record and generous ideals, and we stand for the
established tradition of good behaviour between nations.
We stand for the observance of treaties and the recogni-
tion of mutual rights, for the tradition of common hon-
esty and common kindliness between nation and -na-
tion ; we stand for the old decencies, the old humanities,
"the old ordinance," as the King's letter put it, "the
old ordinance that has bound civilized Europe together."
And against us there is a power which, as the King says,
has changed that ordinance. Europe is no longer held
together by the old decencies as it was. The enemy has
substituted for it some rule which we cannot yet fathom
to its full depth. You can call it militarism or Real-
politik if you like; it seems to involve the domination of
force and fraud, it seems to involve organized ruthless-
ness, organized terrorism, organized mendacity. The
phrase that comes back to my mind when I think of
it is Mr. Gladstone's description of another evil rule

— it is the negation of God erected into a system of gov-
ernment. The sort of thing for which we are fighting, the
old ordinance, the old kindliness, and the old humanities

— is it too much to say that, if there is God in man, it
is in these things, after all, that God in man speaks?

The old ordinance is illogical. Of course it is illogical.
It means that civilized human beings in the midst of
their greatest passions, in the midst of their angers and
rages, feel that there is something deeper, something
more important than war or victory — that at the bot-
tom of all strife there are some remnants of human


brotherhood. Now, I do not want to go into a long list
of German atrocities; much less do I want to denounce
the enemy. As Mr. Balfour put it in his whimsical
way, "We take our enemy as we find him." But there
has been a special method throughout this war — the
method the enemy has followed, to go at each step out-
side the old conventions. We have sometimes followed.
Sometimes we have had to follow. But the whole history
of the war is a history of that process. The peoples fought
according to certain rules, but one people got outside the
rules right from the beginning. The broken treaty, the
calculated ferocity in Belgium and northern France, the
killing of women and non-combatants by sea and land
and air, the shelling of hospitals, the ill-treatment of
wounded prisoners; all the doctoring of weapons with a
view to cruelty; the explosive bullets; the projectiles
tinctured with substances which would produce a gan-
grenous wound; the poisoned gases; the infected wells.
It is the same method throughout. The old conventions
of humanity, the old arrangements which admitted that,
beneath our cruelties, beneath our hatreds, there was
some common humanity and friendliness between all na-
tions, these have been systematically broken one after
another. Now, observe; these things were done not reck-
lessly but to gain a specific advantage ; they were done,
as Mr. Secretary Zimmermann put it in the case of Miss
Cavell, "to inspire fear." And observe that in many
places they have been successful. They have inspired
fear. Only look at what has recently happened and what
is happening now in the Balkans. Every one of these
Balkan States has looked at Belgium. The German
agents have told them to look at Belgium. They have
looked at Belgium and their courage has failed. Is that


the way in which we wish the government of the world
to be conducted in future? It is the way it will be con-
ducted unless we and our allies stand firm to the end.

All these points, terrible as they are, seem to me to be
merely consequences from what happened at the very
beginning of the war. There are probably some people
here who differ from what I am saying and I am grateful
to them for the patient way in which they are listening to
me. To all these I would earnestly say, "Do not despise
the diplomatic documents." Remember carefully that
the diplomacy of July and August, 1914, is a central fact.
Remember that it is the one part of the history ante-
cedent to this war which is absolutely clear as daylight.
Read the documents and read the serious studies of them.
I would recommend specially the book by Mr. William
Archer, called "Thirteen Days." There is also Mr.
Headlam's admirable book, "The History of Twelve
Days," and the equally admirable book by the Ameri-
can jurist, Mr. Stowell. 1 There the issue is clear and the
question is settled. The verdict of history is already
given in these negotiations. There was a dispute, a some-
what artificial dispute which could easily have been
settled by a little reasonableness on the part of the two
principals. If that failed, there was the mediation of
friends, there was a conference of the disinterested na-
tions — there was appeal to the Concert of Europe.
There was the arbitration of The Hague — an arbitra-
tion to which Serbia appealed on the very first day and
to which the Czar appealed again on the very last. All
Europe wanted peace and fair settlement. The Govern-
ments of the two Central Powers refused it. Every sort

1 [Ellery C. Stoweil, The Diplomacy of the War of 1914: The Begin-
ninrjs of the War (Boston, 1915).]


of settlement was overridden. You will all remember
that when every settlement that we could propose had
been shoved aside one after another, Sir Edward Grey
made an appeal to Germany to make any proposal her-
self — any reasonable proposal — and we bound our-
selves to accept it, to accept it even at the cost of de-
serting our associates. No such proposal was made. All
Europe wanted peace and fair dealing except one Power,
or one pair of Powers if you so call it, who were confident,
not in the justice of their cause, but in the overpowering
strength of their war machine. As the semi-official news-
papers said, ''Germany does not enter conferences in
which she is likely to be in a minority." By fair dealing
they might have got their rights or a little more than
their rights. By war they expected to get something like
the supremacy of Europe. In peace, with their neigh-
bours reasonable, in no pressing danger, Germany de-
liberately preferred war to fair settlement; and thereby
in my judgement Germany committed the primal and
fundamental sin against the brotherhood of mankind.

Of course all great historical events have complicated
causes, but on that fact almost alone I should base the
justice and the necessity of our cause in this war. Other
objects have been suggested: that we are righting lest
Europe should be subject to the hegemony of Germany.
If Germany naturally by legitimate means grows to be
the most influential Power there is no reason for any one
to fight her. It is said we are fighting for democracy
against autocratic government. I prefer democracy my-
self, but one form of government has no right to declare
war because it dislikes another form. It is suggested that
we are fighting to prevent the break-up of the Empire. In
that case, from motives of loyalty, of course we should


have to fight, and I think the break-up of the Empire
wculd be a great disaster to the world. But not for any
causes of that description would I use the phrase I have
used, or say that in this war we were undergoing a
martyrdom. I do use it deliberately now: for I believe
no greater evil could occur than that mankind should
submit, or should agree to submit, to the rule of naked

Now, I would ask again those who are following me,
as I say, with patience, but I have no doubt with diffi-
culty, to remember that this situation — in spite of
particular details — is on the whole an old story. The
Greeks knew all about it when they used the word
" Hubris" — that pride engendered by too much suc-
cess which leads to every crime. Many nations after a
career of extraordinary success have become mad or
drunk with ambition, "By that sin fell the angels."
They were not wicked to start with, but afterwards they
became devils. We should never have said a word against
the Germans before this madness entered into them.
We liked them. Most of Europe rather liked and ad-
mired them. But, as I said, it is an old story. There have
been tyrants. Tyrants are common things in history.
Bloody aggression is a common thing in history in its
darker periods. But nearly always, where there have
been tyrants and aggressors, there have been men and
peoples ready to stand up and suffer and to die rather
than submit to the tyrant, and the voice of history
speaks pretty clearly about these issues and it says that
the men who resisted were right. So that, ladies and
gentlemen, as with our eyes open we entered into this
struggle, I say with our eyes open we must go on with it.
We must go on with it a united nation, trusting our


leaders, obeying our rulers, minding each man his own
business, refusing for an instant to lend an ear to the
agitated whispers of faction or of hysteria. It may be
that we shall have to traverse the valley of death, but
we shall traverse it until the cause of humanity is won.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, that being the cause,
we are girt up in this war to the performance of a great
duty; and there are many things in it which, evil as they
are, can in some way be turned to good. It lies with us
to do our best so to turn them.

If we take the old analogy from biology, we are a
community, a pack, a herd, a flock. We have realized
our unity. We are one. I think most of us feel that our
lives are not our own ; they belong to England. France
has gone through the same process to an even greater
degree. Mr. Kipling, who used certainly to be no special
lover of France, has told us that there "the men are
wrought to an edge of steel, and the women are a line of
fire behind them." Our divisions before the war it is a
disgrace to think of. They were so great that the enemy
calculated upon them, and judged that we should not
be able to fight. These divisions have not been killed as
we hoped ; the remnants of them are still living. I cannot
bear to speak of them. Let us think as little as possible
about them, and lend no ear, no patience to the people
who try to make them persist. As for the division of
class and class, I think there, at least, we have made a
great gain. I would ask you to put to yourselves this
test. Remember how before the war the ordinary work-
man spoke of his employer and the employer of his work-
men, and think now how the average soldier speaks of
his officer and how the officer speaks of his men. The


change is almost immeasurable. Inside the country we
have gained that unity; outside in our relations with
foreign countries we have also made a great gain. Re-
member we have allies now, more allies and far closer
allies than we have ever had. We have learned to respect
and to understand other nations. You cannot read those
diplomatic documents of which I spoke without feeling
respect for both the French and Russian diplomatists for
their steadiness, their extreme reasonableness, their en-
tire loyalty, and as you study them you are amused to
see the little differences of national character all work-
ing to one end. Since the war has come on we have
learned to admire other nations. There is no man in
England who will ever again in his heart dare to speak
slightingly or with contempt of Belgium or Serbia. It is
something that we have had our hearts opened, that we,
who were rather an insular people, have learned to wel-
come other nations as friends and comrades.

Nay, more, we made these alliances originally on a
special principle about which I would like to say a sen-
tence or two. That is the principle of the Entente, or
Cordial Understanding, which is specially connected
with the name of our present Foreign Secretary, and, to
a slighter extent, with that of his predecessor. The
principle of the Entente has been explained by Sir
Edward Grey several times, but I take two phrases of
his own particularly. It began because he found that
"all experience had shown that any two great empires
who were touching each other, whose interests rubbed
one against another frequently in different parts of the
world, had no middle course open to them between con-
tinual liability to friction and cordial friendship." He
succeeded in establishing that relation of perfect frank-


ness and mutual friendship with the two groat empires
with whom our interests were always rubbing. Instead
of friction, instead of suspicion and intrigue, we estab-
lished with our two old rivals a permanent habit of fair
dealing, frankness, and good-will. The second great
principle of the Entente was this, that there is nothing ex-
elusive in these friendships. We began it with France,
we continued it with Russia, we achieved it in reality,
although not in actual diplomatic name, with the
United States, and practically also with Italy, and any
one who has read the diplomatic history will see the
effort upon effort we made to establish it with our pres-
ent enemies. I think we have here some real basis for a
sort of alliance of Europe — that sort of better concert
for which we all hope. One cannot guess details. It is
very likely, indeed, that at the beginning Germany will
stay outside and will refuse to come into our kind of
concert. If so we must "take our enemies as we find
them." The fact of there being an enemy outside will
very likely make us inside hold together all the better
for the first few years. When we are once thoroughly in
harness, and most nations have the practice of habitually
trusting one another and never intriguing against one
another, then, no doubt, the others will come in.

Now, I spoke at the beginning about the possible
dangers of reaction, but there is a very good side also in
the reaction. Part of it is right. It is in part a reaction
against superficial things, superficial ways of feeling, and
perhaps also superficial ways of thought. W T e have gone
back in our daily experience to deeper and more primi-
tive things. There has been a deepening of the quality
of our ordinary life. We are called upon to take up a


greater duty than ever before. We have to face more
peril, we have to endure greater suffering; death itself
has come close to us. It is intimate in the thoughts of
every one of us, and it has taught us in some way to love
one another. For the first time for many centuries this
"unhappy but not inglorious generation," as it has been
called, is living and moving daily, waking and sleeping,
in the habitual presence of ultimate and tremendous
things. We are living now in a great age.

A thing which has struck me, and I have spoken of it
elsewhere, is the way in which the language of romance
and melodrama has now become true. It is becoming
the language of our normal life. The old phrase about
" dying for freedom," about " Death being better than
dishonour," — phrases that we thought were fitted for
the stage or for children's stories, — are now the ordi-
nary truths on which we live. A phrase which happened
to strike me was recorded of a Canadian soldier who went
down, I think, in the Arabic after saving several people ;
before he sank he turned and said, "I have served my
King and country and this is my end." It was the nat-
ural way of expressing the plain fact. I read yesterday
a letter from a soldier at the front about the death of one
of his fellow soldiers, and the letter ended quite simply :
" After all he has done what we all want to do — die for
England." The man who wrote it has since then had his
wish. Or, again, if one wants a phrase to live by which
would a few years ago have seemed somewhat unreal,
or high-falutin, he can take those words of Miss Cavell
that are now in everybody's mind, "I see now that
patriotism is not enough; I must die without hatred or
bitterness towards any one."

Romance and melodrama were a memory, broken


fragments living on, of heroic ages in the past. We
live no longer upon fragments and memories; we have
entered ourselves upon a heroic age. As forme personally,
there is one thought that is always with me as, no doubt,
it is with us all — the thought that other men are dying
for me, better men, younger, with more hope in their
lives, many of them men whom I have taught and loved.
I hope you will allow me to say something here, and will
not be in any way offended by the thought I want to
express. Some of you will be orthodox Christians, and
will be familiar with the thought of One who loved you
dying for you. I would like to say that now I seem to be
familiar with the feeling that something innocent, some-
thing great, something that loves me, has died, and is
dying for me daily.

That is the sort of community that we now arc — a
community in which one man dies for his brother; and
underneath all our hatreds, all our little angers and
quarrels, we are brothers who are ready to seal our
brotherhood with blood. It is for us that these men are
dying, for us the women, the old men, and the rejected
men, and to preserve the civilization and the common
life which we are keeping alive and reshaping, towards
wisdom or unwisdom, towards unity or discord. Ladies
and gentlemen, let us be worthy of these men; let us be
ready each one with our sacrifice when it is asked. Let
us try as citizens to live a life which shall not be a mock-
ery to the faith these men have placed in us. Let us build
up an England for which these men, lying in their scat-
tered graves over the face of the green world, would have
been proud to die.



Even if this book were less good than it is, it would
deserve reading for its admirable manners. It does not,
indeed, convince my reason, but it leaves me with a
profound respect for the tone and method of English
politics at their best. No one would ever suspect from
these pages of temperate and courteous argument that
the author was a man who had just sacrificed his Parlia-
mentary career to his principles, whose meetings were
broken up by roughs, his person attacked, and his repu-
tation assailed by gross calumny. This temper of mind
is not only fine in itself, but particularly valuable in the
present instance, inasmuch as it enables Mr. Ponsonby
to clarify and to reduce to its true proportions a ques-
tion on which political opinion has tended to run wild.
Democratic Control has become a flag of battle. A
bugbear to most orthodox supporters of the Govern-
ment, it is a saving ideal to many sensitive and high-
minded people who are half-maddened by the horrors
that have descended upon us, and wish instinctively to
explain them as the chastisement of some obvious sin.

Now, Mr. Ponsonby has really thought out the details
of a scheme for securing greater Parliamentary and
democratic control over foreign politics. [It is not likely
that his whole scheme will ever be adopted as it stands;

1 Review of Democracy and Diplomacy : A Plea for Popular Control
of Foreign Policy, by Arthur Ponsonby, M.P. (Methuen. 1915.)


but I think it will perform two public services. In the
first place, if the Union of Democratic Control, to whom
the book is dedicated, adopts it, it will substitute a
definite programme for a vague cry; and, in the second
place, I think it will make clear to most reasonable
people that a reform which consists in certain far from
startling changes in Parliamentary custom cannot possi-
bly produce that transfiguration of international politics
for which so many hearts are athirst.

Of course, Mr. Ponsonby's proposals for the future
are based on a reading of the past, and, in my judgement,
on a very serious misreading. "Diplomacy has failed."
This is an outstanding "fact about which there can be
no manner of dispute." I fear there can and must be.
In a sense, of course, diplomacy has failed; just as
one might say that law had failed whenever a burglar
knocked down a policeman. But to most of us it seems
a strangely shallow reading of events which finds the
causes of the war in any mere perversity of Foreign
Offices or any awkwardness in diplomatic machinery.
It was not any bungling of diplomats that united the
Powers of Europe against Napoleon.

Neither can I for a moment accept the statement that,
in Great Britain, between 1906 and 1914, "the people's
view of international relations was fundamentally differ-
ent from the traditional view of Governments" (p. 39),
or that the House of Commons did not know — and
approve — the general line of policy followed by the
Foreign Office (p. 58). Mr. Ponsonby himself complains
elsewhere that it was impossible to stir up in the House
of Commons enough opposition, or even curiosity, in the
region of foreign policy to bring about a debate (pp. 48,
90, 99). This shows that there was at least no conscious-


ness of a "fundamental difference. " And no one will pre-
tend that the secrecy practised by the Foreign Office
was so complete and successful, that the " fundamental
difference" was there without any one ever suspecting
it. Further, it seems to me quite untrue, indeed pecul-
iarly untrue, to say that, while Ministers are ready
enough to make war speeches when occasion demands,
no one "ever heard of a Minister going round and mak-
ing peace speeches "bjDeace time (p. 29). I can remem-
ber not only "peace speeches" by various members of
the Government, but^what is far more useful, a great
many semi-official societies and enterprises devoted to
encouraging good relations with foreign nations, espe-
cially with Germany. Such movements could always
calculate on influential support. Indeed, if Mr. Pon-
sonby can bring himself to read a book of Mr. Maxse's,
entitled — very suitably — "Germany on the Brain,"
he will see that many persons lived for years in a state
of habitual hysterics at the overfriendly tone towards
Germany exhibited by all the members of the late

Mr. Ponsonby is on firmer ground when he dwells
upon the great power held in foreign affairs by the Exec-
utive, whether you regard that Executive as vested in
the Cabinet or in the Foreign Secretary. ' (I think, by the
way, that he con#derably underestimates the element
of Cabinet control? Does he really, for instance, imagine
that Sir Edward Grey could have acted without the
support of the Prime Minister?) He quotes in his second
chapter some weighty opinions on this subject, especially
from Lord Bryce and Mr. Austen Chamberlain. The
Foreign Secretary has, without doubt, of late years ruled
almost like a monarch over his vast domain ; that is true,


but what is the reason of it? The reason of it is that both
Parliament and the country supported and trusted him.
Suppose Mr. Ponsonby had been Foreign Secretary in-
stead of Sir Edward Grey: would he, too, have had that
undisputed authority? Or would he have found the press
and the House of Commons so apathetic and complai-
sant? Clearly not. The House of Commons would have
bristled with threatening questions and motions of ad-
journment and full-dress part^ifl^tes on foreign policy.
And, as a necessary result, the^^pral and Conservative
associations throughout the country would have been
stirred, and the average voter would have formed vehe-
ment opinions about Mohammerah or Bunder Abbas or
Fez, as circumstances might dictate.

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Online LibraryGilbert MurrayFaith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War → online text (page 7 of 19)