John Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of Congr.

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pire. The Russian government desires
to bring these Serbs into its own sys^
tem. And that desire brings it into
conflict with the Austrian government.



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THE WAR AND THE WAY OUT



Now, in this conflict, no doubt, both
governments are moved only by the
ordinary superstition of the govern-
mental mind. But it is possible that,
in issues like this, the people of a coun-
try may be inspired by a genuine inter-
est of an ideal kind. The Austrian peo-
ple, of course, cannot feel this, for
there are not, in the Balkan States, any
Grermans or Hungarians oppressed by
other powers. But some Russians, of
those who are educated, intelligent,
and sympathetic, may feel inclined to
support their government in a policy
which can be represented as aiming at
the deliverance of people of a kindred
race from the oppression of an alien
government. That such an appeal
may be genuinely felt and genuinely
responded to, those of my readers will
understand who remember on what
grounds England was invited to inter-
vene by force in South Africa, imd the
response, not all unreal and hypocrit-
ical, which that appeal evoked among
the English. Some Russians, therefore,
outside of governmental circles, may
think, and think sincerely, that an in-
terest of an ideal kind requires them to
go to war with Austria to help Servia.

But now, mark! This situation has
arisen because Austria has incorpor-
ated against their will some of these
Serbs in her Empire, imd desires to in-
corporate the rest. And, further, be-
cause the Russian government is not
aiming merely at the deliverance of the
Serbs, but at their incorporation in her
own system. That races with a natural
homogeneity, races desirous of govern-
ing themselves, should be allowed to do
so without interference, is a real inter-
est of peoples, and one which the new
statecraft of Europe must recognize.
But that principle, honestly applied in
the Balksins, could never lead to war
between Austria and Russia. For the
true solution, on that principle, would
be a referendum to the Slav peoples



included in the Austrian Empire on the
point whether they wish to remain
under Austria or to join Servia, or to
come as a separate unit into a Balkan
federation. And nothing prevents this
solution, except the fact that govern-
ments are possessed by false ideas and
bad ambitions. Thus we are confront-
ed once more] by the conception of
the abstract state over-riding the true
aims, interests and* ideals of peoples.
That, imd that only, has caused this
war. That, and that only, will cause
future wars.

There remains the point of the pos-
session of Constantinople. Russia is
supposed to aim at this, and for many
years British policy aimed at thwart-
ing her. But why did, or does, Russia
want Constantinople? And what in-
terest has Englimd in the matter? So
far as I have ever been able to learn, the
interest here is purely a war interest.
Russia wants to be able to send war-
ships through the Dardanelles. Eng-
land, and some other powers, object,
for fear her ships should threaten their
possessions. It is the old obsessicm
again, that states are natural enemies.
For all purposes of trade, for all peace
purposes, the Dardanelles are open, and
it is the interest of all nations alike
that they should remain so. But no
real interest of any people would be
served by the possession of Constanti-
nople, once the supposed war interest
is set aside. At every point we meet
the same illusion. Everywhere and al-
ways, fear in every state of aggression
on the part of every other. And never
any reason for the aggression feared
that can be stated in terms of the true
values of human life.



in

Let us turn now from the situation
between the Grerman powers and Rus-
sia to the situation between Germany



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and France. Behind this is a long his-
tory, and it is, as always, a history of
the aggression of the state. The per-
p>etual and futile wars, so disastrous
to France, which occupied the reign of
Louis XIV, were wars to secure for the
French state the h^emony of Europe.
They had no reference to any real inter-
ests of the French people; and they left
that people, after years of unsuccess-
ful struggle, decimated and exhausted.
The enterprise was taken up again by
Napoleon. It failed again; but if it had
succeeded, no advantage would have
accrued to the French people. They
would have been neither wealthier,
healthier, nor happier; and no one
can say they would have been better,
except those who hold — as General
Bernhardi and his followers hold, but
as, I hope, no Englishman or American
holds — that the arrogant temper of a
dominant race is a good thing in itself,
and worth wasting, to secure it, the
lives, the fortunes, and the happiness
of millions.

The years went on, and during the
pmod from 1859 to 1866 the first great
steps were made toward German un-
ion. The Grerman state had come into
being; and instantly the French state
took the alarm. To the governmental
mind, on either side of the fnmtier, the
greatness and prosp>erity of the one
people involved the ruin of the other.
War became what is called inevitable;
and both governments manoeuvred for
it. It duly came; the Fr^idi were
crushed; Alsace and Lorraine were
taken from them; and there began
another period of preparaticm for an-
other war.

During that period new ideas pene-
trated the Frendi people. They be-
came more and more what is contemp-
tuously called * pacifist ' ; that is to say,
they began consciously to care for the
real interests of civilization, for social
justice, for science, for art, and for a



religion that should worship some other
god than the God of War. Similar in-
fluences and tendencies became pre-
dominant in all other countries, and
especially among the great mass of the
German people, represented by the
Social Democrats. But the philosophy
of the state remained unchaiiged. The
idea of dominating Europe obsessed
the governing caste in Germany. The
French, in fear, only too well justified,
of what might happen, made alliance
with a power as military as Germany,
and as alien to all the purposes for
which France has fought through a
century of revolutions. This unnatural
alliance is the main root of the tragedy
in which the British are involved^ For
it was that which brought France into
the war, and that which brought in
England. But, observe, what was
really responsible for all this was the
obs^ion of the governmental mind.
That the German state, being great,
must become greater at the cost of the
French state; that the French state,
having been weakened, must strength-
en itself again at the cost of the Ger-
man state; these are the presupposi-
tions of the conflict. And so long as
those presuppositions are held by the
few men who have power to determine
policy, so long they are and will be a
menace to peace and a menace to civil-
ization. But, once mcn-e, they have
nothing to do with the real interests,
desires or convictions of the millions of
Germans and the millions of French-
men.

Ask imy of these men who, without a
word of warning, have been torn sud-
denly from their homes, their occupa-
tions, their friends and wives and chil-
dren, whether they would choose, if the
decision rested with them, to sacrifice
all that they hold dear and to destroy,
so far as in them lies, all that is held
dear by all the people of a neighboring
nation, in order to aggrandize the



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THE WAR AND THE WAY OUT



French or the German state — ask
them this, and what answer would you
get? But it is not so that the matter
is presented them. 'March,* they are
told, 'in defense of your homes and
your dear ones/ T^at! And those
against whom they are to march are
marching also to defend theirs! What
ghastly irony is this! What net, woven
not by Fate, but by human folly and
illusion! And let us not idly think that
that folly and that illusion lies all at
the door of one government. It lies at
the door of every government, and of
every man who holds the governmental
theory and thinks with the govern-
mental mind.



IV

I pass, lastly, to the relation between
Germany and England. It is the same
story. Germany is great; the British
Empire is great; there is not room for
them both; and therefore one of them
must smash the other. That is the
main position; the rest is a question
of choosing the appropriate moment.
Such, for mimy years past, has been
the attitude of British and of German
Imp>erialists. I do not propose to at-
tempt the idle imd hopeless task of
apportioning the blame between them.
That, if it can be done at all, will be
better done by one who does not be-
long to either nation. I will only reiter-
ate that no Englishman and no Ger-
man has any interest, material or
ideal, in the destruction of the empire
of the other.

Let me illustrate; and if, in so doing,
I take as my text the ambitions of the
German rather than of the British
government, that is not because I hold
the latter innocent. I believe it to be
true that, as Germans complain, at
every point the British have thrown
themselves across the German enter-
prises, under the influence of jealousy



and fear. But the ambition of the Brit-
ish being satiated by the acquisition in
the past of more territory than they
well know how to handle, they have
been acting on the defensive. It is from
German, not from British ambition
that the conflict has arisen; Grerman
ambition, of course, being now pre-
cisely what British ambition has been
in the past. The German government,
then, is credited with the intention to
gain a colonial empire at our cost.
Why? Let us inquire. What interests
of Grerman men and women are to be
served by this policy?

We are told by the advocates of a
colonial policy in Germany that Ger-
mans who emigrate settle in non-
Grerman countries imd are Most' to the
German state. Well, what of it? What
does that matter to the Germans who
go abroad, and who find themselves so
much at home in the new country of
their choice that the second generation
of Germans in America are more Amer-
ican than the Americans, and the sec-
ond generation of Germans in England
more English than the English? And
what does it matter to the Germans
who remain at home? Are they less
happy, less prosp>erous, less cultured,
less good, less German? The question
answers itself. Or will it be said that
the Grermans at home are poorer be-
cause other Germans go to America
instead of to German colonies?

I cannot here touch upon the eco-
nomic arguments which have been
so ably developed in recent years
by Mr. Norman Angell. If he and
his followers cannot convince the read-
er that, from an economic point of
view, the prosperity of one nation
implies and enhances that of another,
and that political power is a consid-
eration irrelevant to economic pow-
er, I cannot hope to convince him.
But I will put this point. It has been
beldt apparently, by the German Im-



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THE WAR AND THE WAY OUT



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perialists that it is worth while to go to
war with us in order to acquire colo-
nies. Have they ever tried to bahince
the cost of war against the supposed
advantage to trade? Have they ever
tried to strike the economic balance?
Has the governmental mind anywhere
ever made such an attempt? And is
there the smallest presumption that, if
it were made, the balance would be in
favor of war?

That, however, after all, is but the
smallest point. What may be gained or
lost in war economically — and I be-
lieve that all competent judges would
agree that the loss must exceed the
gain — is but one and the least import-
ant consideration. To go to war to
gain wealth, even if you could gain it,
is like murdering a man to pick his
pockets. To the governmental mind,
with its cynicism, its blindness, its lack
of touch with realities, such a proce-
dure may seem right and normal. But
go to the plain man and woman, and
put it to them in time of peace: 'Would
you think it right to sacrifice lives by
tens of thousands, and to leave to the
world a l^acy of hate, so that you or
your descendants may gain wealth?*
and what answer will you get? Gro to
them in time of war, say to the mother
weeping for her son, say to the wife
weeping for her husband, 'We asked of
you this sacrifice that Englishmen or
Germans may have more money to
spend* — what answer will you get?
Yet that, and that only, is what you
can say, you who make war for the
sake of trade. Yes! and the same peo-
ple will be accusing pacifists of sordid
materialism! Reader, will you laugh or
will you weep?

There remams, however, another
possible plea for the seizure of colonies
by force. The possession, it may be
urged, of dominions beyond the seas,
inhabited by a population of a lower
stage of culture, gives to a people a



larger horizon, a nobler task, than can
be supplied by domestic activities.
And a strong imd growing nation
should not consent to be deprived of
this outlet for its energies. That there
may be some truth in this view of co-
lonial dominions I am ndt concerned
to deny. The possession of their In-
dian dependencies by the British and
the Dutch has set those nations many
difficult problems which, aft^ many
discreditable failures, they have par-
tially solved. Some fine men in both
countries have found in such work op-
portunity for their talents. But, speak-
ing as an Englishman, I have never
been able to see that the English na-
tional consciousness, the habitual state
of mind of the ordinary citizens, and
even of the ordinary politicians, is
affected, one way or the other, by the
possession of India. The nation lives,
and always has lived, in profound
ignorance of and indifference to the
problems of Indian government. They
rarely raise in Parliament even the
most perfunctory debate. To the mass
of the people they are utterly unknown
and utterly uninteresting. And, if we
lost India to-morrow, I do not believe
there would be any p>erceptible change,
after the first shock, in our national
consciousness.

Even, however, if the possession of
foreign dominions really made more
difference than I believe it does to
what may be called the spiritual life
of a nation, and even if that differ-
ence were all to the good, — an im-
mense assumption, — will it be main-
tained that it is justifiable for one
state to go to war with another in order
to deprive that state of this kind of
activity and appropriate it to itself?
The governmental mind, no doubt,
will answer this question in the affirma-
tive. But ask the individual German,
man or woman, those who carry on the
life of the country, who create its



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THE WAR AND THE WAY OtJT



wealth imd sustain its culture, ask
them, one by one, in their calm and
sane moments, what they think of
plunging Europe into war in order to
appropriate territory now British; and
what will these, the real people who
have to bear the brunt of war, reply?
The proposition is, in fact, to all plain
sense, to all simple human feeling,
preposterous. To none but the gov-
ernmental mind could it appear self-
evident.

But I shall be told, and this especi-
ally by Germans, — for there are some
absurdities the English do not allow
themselves, — that the 'culture 'of a na-
tion depends upon its political power.
The larger the empire, the better its
science, its literature, its art, and, I
suppose it will be added, the purer its
religion. This is, in fact, the contention
of General Bemhardi in his notorious
book. Yet it is the plain fact that, alike
in religion, in literature, in art, in phil-
osophy, in everything except science,
whatever has done honor to the Grer-
man name was produced before there
was a Germany ; and that since 1870 the
prestige, the influence, and the value of
German culture have declined.

What German names stand so high
as those of Luther, Kant, Groethe,
Bach, Mozart, Beethoven? And was
Germany an empire when these men
lived imd worked? Greneral Bemhardi
quotes again and again in the course of
his book, and as though he were quot-
ing a supporter, the works of that
Goethe whom I, too, put among the
greatest of mankind. But what was
Groethe? A poet who passed all his long
life at a tiny German court, in a Grer-
many divided against itself; a poet so
notoriously indifferent to politics, to
nationality, to war, that German patri-
ots, from that time to this, have sought
excuses in vain for his attitude in the
war of liberation; a man who was so
good a European that he could not be



a good Grerman, and idio made no
attempt to conceal his admiration of
Napoleon, at the moment when all
Grermany was prostrate at his feet.
This is the general's witness to the
truth that great literature is founded
on great political power! On the same
view, the literature, the philosophy,
the art of Rome must have been
greater than that of Greece! The idea
of the state must be hard put to it in-
deed if it is to such arguments that it
has recourse!

And when one turns to science the
argument is even more absurd. No na-
tion has done greater service to science
than the German. And the world of
science, which is cosmopolitan, not na-
tional, gladly and freely recogniz& it.
But does any one who knows any-
thing of the conditions of scientific
work, suppose that that work would
not have been done by Germans un-
less there had been a German Empire?
To state the notion is to refute it. A
man of science may be a patriot, but
his patriotism has nothing to do with
his sciaice. He goes to learn where he
can learn best, and to work where he
can work best; and the result of his
work is a treasure, not for his coun-
try alone but for mankind.

Nothing that is included under what
the Grermims call 'culture' is or can
be developed or enhanced by the pur-
suit of political dominion. Those in-
fluences spread by imitation and con-
tact, regardless of the country of their
origin or of its place in the system of
states. What German dramatist of
our time has, or deserves, a reputa-
tion equal to that of Ibsen, the citizen
of politically insignificant Norway?
What German critic can stand beside
the Dane Brandes? What German
saint of the last century ranks with
that Rabindranath Tagore whose coun-
try is subject to an alien domination?
Indeed, if religion be taken as the test*



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881



it may be questioned whether between
that and empire there is not, in the
nature of things, a sheer antagonism.
Between Christianity and empire that
is 80» beyond all question. Greneral
Bemhardi purports to be a Christian.
I will not argue the point with him.
But if there should come that kst reck-
oning in which he must be supposed
to believe, and if he, with the others
who have made this war, should stand
before the judgment seat of Christ,
I would wish to see the look that would
be turned upon them there by the Man
who died on the Cross to bring peace
to mankind.

I have dwelt upon this point of cul-
ture at greater length thaii its plausi-
bility merits, because it is the kind of
point that appeals to generous minds
who are revolted otherwise by the sheer
brutality of the governmental attitude.
But it is all relevant to my main con-
tention.

Culture in that wide sense in which
the Germans use the word, in the sense
of the intellectual, sesthetic, and spir-
itual life, is not only an interest of
real men and women, it is their main
interest. Everjrthing else exists for the
sake of it. But it has nothing to do
with the state, as the governmental
mind conceives it. No aggrandizement
of the state can help it, no diminution
of it can hinder. Gk>vemment may or
may not wisely foster it; but the exten-
sion of political power, with or without
war, cannot foster it. Here, too, and in
this highest field, the supposed interest
of the state and the real interests of
men and women stand out of all rela-
tion to one another. And a war waged
in defense of culture is even more pre-
posterous than a war waged in the pur-
suit of wealth.

But there remains yet one point
which the reader may expect me to deal
with. The expansion of a state, it may
be urged, even if it does not imply the



expansion of its culture, does imply
the expansion of its political system.
And if any one holds the political
system of his state to be better than
that of other states he is right to will
the expansion of his state even by war.
It is on these lines that the existence
and extension of the British Empire is
sometimes justified; and on the same
grounds, it may be assumed, some Ger-
mans would justify the extension of
theirs.

This view is less brutally selfish than
most of the views which attempt to
defend conquest. But, as applied to
the case we are considering, Uie colo-
nial rivalry of Grermany and England,
it has no relevance. For no sane and
instructed Grerman can really suppose
that Grerman administrative methods
are so much better than British that it
would be good for hundreds of millions
of British Indians, or of native Afri-
cans, to be transferred by force, at the
cost of a bloody war, from British to
German rule. And if — which I do not
for a moment believe — any German
has supposed that any British domin-
ion was crying out for Grerman deliver-
ance from British tyranny, the events
of the last few weeks must have unde-
ceived him. What India wants is more
self-government, not an exchange of
masters. ^Vhat the great native pro-
tectorates and colonies in Africa need
is sympathetic and skilled administra-
tion in the interest of the natives. And
this, to put it moderately, they are at
least as likely to obtam from the Brit-
ish, with their long experience, as from
the untried methods of Germany. As
to the self-governing dominions, they
do not enter into this question. They
are, and intend to remain, self-govern-
ing. And I do not suppose that the
wildest advocate of German expan-
si(m ever dreamed that Grermany could
germanize them. There is no sense in
the notion that, at this stage in the



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THE WAR AND 'THE WAY OUT



world's history, any port of the world
now under British control could benefit
by a transference to German control.

What every people needs is self-gov-
ernment, as and when it becomes cap-
able of it. And that cause is the last
that is likely to be served by the pre-
sent German government and its pre-
sent methods.

Look at it, then, which way we will,
we find no justification for the sup-
posed policy of the German govern-
ment to create a colonial dominion at
the cost of the British Empire. This
may be said without making any arro-
gant pretensions about that Empire,
without idealizing it, without justify-
ing the methods by which it was ac-
quired. With all that controversy I am
not now concerned. I am concerned
only to press home what I believe to be
the unassailable contention that the
German people have no interest in the
supposed policy of their government
to create a colonial empire at the cost
of the British by war.

But equally I do not believe the Eng-
lish people have any interest in thwart-
ing the expansion of Germany where it
can be obtained without war, and is
likely to extend the general interest of
civilization. It does not appear that
the British Foreign Ofiice can be held
guiltless of doing this. But all such
action rests on the superstition I am
combating — the superstition of the
state, expanding by an inevitable law,
at the cost of other states, by means of
war. That, and that alone, on both
sides, is the bottom of the rivalry be-
tween Germany and England. And
that is simply an illusion.



I have now reviewed, as fully as is
possible within the limits of a single
article, the main causes which, accord-
ing to the governmental theory, may



be held to have necessitated and to jus-
tify the present war. It is nothing to
the purpose to reply that the English
are fighting a defensive war, for every
nation says the same, and with the
same conviction. Somewhere, every-
body admits, there must have been
agression, although everybody puts
it in a different place. And wherever
there has been aggression it has been
due to the governmental theory pos-
sessing the minds of rulers and states-
men, and imposed by them, by sugges-



Online LibraryJohn Davis Batchelder Collection (Library of CongrThe Atlantic monthly → online text (page 116 of 120)