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of the present war, when, for the first time,
under the stress of a new emergency, a pro-
fessional soldier of long experience was placed
at the head of the War Department. England
has repeatedly sought at European Conferences
to bring about a reduction of war armaments, as
well as to secure improved rules mitigating the
usages of war ; but has found her efforts baffled
by the opposition of Germany. In none of the
larger countries, except perhaps in the United
States, are the people so generally and sincerely
attached to peace.

It may be asked why, if this is so, does Eng-
land maintain so large a navy. The question
deserves an answer. Her navy is maintained
for three reasons. The first is, that as her army
has been very small she is obliged to protect



i\ I ill. PR] SI \ I w m; 19

herself by a strong borne Beet from any risk of
invasion. She has never forgotten the lesson
oi the Napoleonic wars, when il was the n.i ■>
that saved her from the fate which befell so
many European countries at Napoleon's hands.
Weit' she not to keep up this first line
of defence at sea, a huge army and a
huge military expenditure in time of peace
would be inevitable. The second reason is
that as England does not produce nearly
enough food to support her population, she
must draw supplies from other countries, and
would be in danger of starvation if in war-time
she lost the command of the sea. It is, there-
fore, vita] to her existence that she should
be able to secure the unimpeded import of
articles of food. And the third reason is that
England is responsible for the defence of the
coasts and the commerce of her colonies and
other foreign possessions, such as [ndia These
do mil maintain a cava I force sufficient for their
defence, and the Mother Country is therefore
compelled to have a fleet sufficient to guarantee
their safety and protect their shipping. No
t State has such far reaching liabili-
and, i herefore, do ot her needs a Davy so
la: Urn. mi must maintain. In this policy

i here is do warlike or aggressive spirit, do menace
to ( 'i her o >un1 ri< 1 1 '\s a measure purely of
defence costly and burdensome, but borne



20 THE ATTITUDE OF GREAT BRITAIN

because her own safety and that of her colonies
absolutely require it. Neither has Britain
used her naval strength to inflict harm on any
other countries. In time of peace she has not
tried to use it to injure the commerce of her chief
industrial competitors. It did nothing to retard
the rapid growth of the mercantile marines of
Germany and Norway, both of which have been
immensely developed in recent years. The free-
dom of the seas has, in time of peace, never been
infringed by her. In time of war she doubtless
exercises those rights of maritime blockade,
search and capture which her naval strength
enables her to exert. But rights of blockade
and capture have always been exerted by
every naval power in war time. They
are a recognised method of war and were
exerted in the American Civil War fifty
years ago, in the war of France with China,
in the war of Chile with Peru, and in
the more recent war between Japan and Russia.
They are not rights newly claimed by Britain,
and they have been exercised with a constant
respect for the lives of non-combatants.

So far from using her sea-power to the pre-
judice of other countries in peace time, and try-
ing by its aid to promote her own commercial
interests, Britain is the only great country
which has opened her doors freely to the com-
merce of every other country. Sixty years ago



IN THE PRESENT WAR. 21

she adopted, and has ever since consistently
practised, the policy of tree trade. She im-
poses upon imports no duties intended to protect
her own agriculture or her own manufactures.
She gives no advantages to her own shippim.',
hi her own ports, she pays no bounties to her
i»\vn shipping, she allows even coasting trade
between her own ports to be open on equal terms
to the ships of all nations. A Dutch or Swedish
or Norwegian vessel may trade from Newcastle
to London as freely as a British vessel. And
this free trade policy lias been carried out
consistently in all the British colonial posses
si ons. Neither in India, nor in those British
colonies whose tariffs are com rolled by the
Mother Country, are duties imposed upon
Imports, except for the purpose of rais
ing revenue. Such self-governing Dominions as
Canada and Australia have control of their own
tariff- and impose what duties they please —
even against the Mother Country; but that is
.1 part of the self-governmenl which these
I tominions have long en i<>\ ed

The policy of free trade lias been supported,
and is valued In Britain nol onrj on economic
grounds, hut also because it is deemed to tend
towards international peace Richard Cobden,
the first and most powerful champion of that
polii 'A in that its highest value He

thought that it would so link the nations



22 THE ATTITUDE OF GREAT BRITAIN

together, helping them to know one another, en-
riching them all, and making each interested in
the prosperity of the other (each being both a
producer and a consumer, each supplying the
other's needs and profiting by the exchange),
that all would be reluctant to break the peace
with one another. This idea — although Cob-
den's hopes have proved to be too sanguine —
has always had great weight in British com-
mercial policy, which has sought for no exclusive
advantages, but aimed solely at a field open to
all competitors.

As an industrial people the English desire
peace. They have never made military glory
their ideal. They have regarded war, not
like Treitschke and his school, as wholesome
and necessary, but as an evil, an evil which,
although it gives an opportunity (as Europe
sees to-day) for splendid displays of patriotism
and heroic valour, is the cause of infinite suffer-
ing and misery and ought, if possible, to be got
rid of from the world. The killing of workers
and the destruction of property are a hideous
waste of human effort. War has done more
than anything else to retard the progress of
mankind.

Our English ideal for the future is of a world
in which every people shall have within its own
borders a free national government resting on,
and conforming to, the general will of its



IN THE PRESENT WAR. 23

citizens, a government able to devote its efforts
to improving the condition of the people without
encroaching on il ighbours, or being dis
turbed by the fear of an attack from enemies
abroad. Legislators and administrators have
already tasks sufficiently difficult in reconciling
the claims of different classes, in adjusting the
interests of capital and labour, in promoting
health and diffusing education and enlighten-
ment, without the addition of those tasks and
dangers which arise from the terror of foreign
war.

There is, of course, a certain chauvinistic ele-
ment in England, as in all countries, which finds
some expression in newspapers and books. There
are some persons with a deficient respect for
the rights of other nations — persons who in-
dulge in sentiments of hatred, persons who be-
lieve in force, persons who, in fact, have what
is now known as the "Prussian view of the
world," and the Prussian preference of Might
lo Right. But such persons are in England

mparatively few; they are a diminishing

.ant ity and they command little influence. 'I'll''
of the nat ion docs Dot cherish hat reds,

satisfied with what it possesses, does not intend

in on ii - . neighb does aol seek to

in ; its own type of civilisation on the world.

Our English phrase "lave and let live' ei

^thisfeelii Though we prefer our own



24 THE ATTITUDE OF GREAT BRITAIN

way of living for ourselves, we do not think it
therefore the best for other peoples also, and no
more wish to see the world all English than we
wish to see it all Prussian. The British people
did not enter the war for the sake of gaining
anything for themselves. They have not now
fixed their mind on gaining (so far as concerns
objects specially dear to themselves*) anything
except a vindication of the sanctity of treaties,
a fuller security for the rights of neutral
nations, compensation to Belgium for the
injuries inflicted on her, and adequate guaran-
tees of future peace for themselves and their
colonies. To this one must now add — measures
that will make impossible in the future cruelties
and oppressions such as the Turks have prac-
tised upon the Eastern Christians.

In the foregoing pages I have sought to
describe what I believe to be the principles and
feelings and aims of the British people as a
whole. Let me add a few words of a more
personal kind to explain the sentiments of those
Englishmen who have in time past known and
admired the achievements of the German people
in literature, learning and science, who
had desired peace with them, who had
been the constant advocates of friendship
between the two nations. Such Englishmen,
who do not cease to be lovers of peace because
this war, felt to be righteous, commands

* I speak of course only of what regards Britain's own aims, not of
what primarily concerns her Allies.



IN THE PRESENT WAR. 25

their hearty support, are now just as
determined as any others to carry on the
war to victory. Why ? Because to them
this war presents itself as a conflict of princi-
ples. On the <>nc side there is the doctrine thai
the end of the State is Power, that Might makes
"Right, that the State is above morality, that war
is necessary and even desirable as a factor in
progress, that the rights of small States must
■jive way to the interests of great States,
that the State may disregard all obli
gations whether undertaken by treaties or pre
scribed by tin- common sentiment of mankind,
and that what is called military necessity justi-
fies every kind of harshness and cruelty in war.
This is an old doctrine as old as the sophists
whom Socrates encountered in Athens. It has
in every age been held by some ambitious and
unscrupulous statesmen. Many a Greek tyrant
of antiquity, many an Italian tyrant in the
Middle \'_ r e< and the "Renaissance, put it in
practice. Caesar Borgia is the most, striking
instance in the 15th century, Frederick the
Great in the 18th, Napoleon Bonaparte in the
19th.

Or the other side there is the doctrine thai
the end of the State is Justice, the doctrine thai

ff< ite is, like the individual, subject to a

moral l;i\v and bound in liorioiir to oliser\e its

promises, thai nations owe duties to one another
and to mankind al large, thai they have all



26 THE ATTITUDE OF GREAT BRITAIN

more to gain by peace than by strife, that
national hatreds are deadly things, condemned
by philosophy and by Christianity. In the
victory of one or the other of these principles
the future of mankind seems to us to be at stake.
I do not attribute to the German people an
adherence to the former set of doctrines, for I
do not know how far these doctrines are held
outside the military and naval caste which has
now unhappily gained control of German policy,
and I cannot believe that the German people, as
I have hitherto known them, ever since I studied
at a German University more than fifty years
ago, could possibly approve of the action of
their Government if their Government suffered
them to know the facts relating to the origin
and conduct of the war as those facts are known
to the rest of the world. We have had no hatred
of the German people. We did not grudge them
their prosperity. Neither have we any wish to
break up Germany, destroying her national
unity, or to interfere in any way with her in-
ternal politics. Our quarrel is with the Ger-
man Government. We think it a danger to
every peaceful country and believe that in fight-
ing against its doctrines, its ambitions, its
methods of warfare, we and our Allies are
virtually fighting the battle of all peace-loving
neutral nations as well as our own. We must
fight on till victory is won, for a Government



rx THE PRESENT WAR. 27

which scorns treaties and wages an inhuman
warfare against innocent non-combatants can-
not be suffered to prevail by such methods. A
triumphant and aggressive Germany, mistress
the seas as well as of the land, would be a
menace to every nation, even to those of the
western hemisphere. Be this as it may, the
facts show that the present rulers of Germany
have acted upon the former set of doctrines as
consistently as ever did Frederick or Napoleon.
They seem to us to be smitten with a kind of
mental disease w r hich has sapped honour, ex-
tinguished pity, and destroyed their sense of
right and wrong. They invaded Belgium with-
out provocation and slaughtered thousands of
innocent non-combatants. They have persisted,
against the protests of America, in drowning
innocent non-combatants at sea. They look
calmly on while the Turkish allies win an they
have dragged into the war, and whose action
they could restrain if they cared to do so,
are exterminating, with every cruelty Turkish
ferocity can devise, a whole Christian
nation. These tilings are a reversion to
the ancient methods of savagery which
marked the warfare of bygone age They
are a challenge to civilised mankind to
neutrals, .-is well as to the dow belligerent States.
Neutral cations would do well to recognise this,
for tfiev are themselves concerned. The same



28 THE ATTITUDE OF GREAT BRITAIN

methods may be hereafter used against them as
are being used now. They also ought to desire
the defeat of any and every Government which
adopts such principles and practises such
methods, for its victory would be a blow to
morality and human progress which it would
take centuries to retrieve.

Those Englishmen whose views I am seeking
to express, recognising the allegiance we all owe
to humanity at large, and. believing that pro-
gress is achieved more by co-operation than by
strife, are, however, hoping for 'something more
than the victory of their own country. They
desire to see the world relieved from the burden
of armaments and from that constant terror of
war which has been darkening its sky for so
many generations. They ask whether it may
not be possible, after the war has come to an
end, to form among the nations an effective
League of Peace, embracing smaller as well as
larger peoples — under whose a?gis disputes
might be amicably settled and the power of the
League invoked to prevent any one State from
disturbing the general tranquillity. The
obstacles in the way of creating such a League
are many and obvious, but whatever else may
come out of the war, we in England hope that
one result, of it will be the creation of some
machinery calculated to avert the recurrence of
so awful a calamity as that from which man-
kind is now suffering.



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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe attitude of Great Britain in the present war → online text (page 2 of 2)