Maude Dominica Petre.

Reflections of a non-combatant. [microform] online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryMaude Dominica PetreReflections of a non-combatant. [microform] → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook











It was the same country that produced two
opposite types of national politics — Macchiavelli
and Mazzini ; Macchiavelli deals with the
exigencies of national life, and nothing- else ;
Mazzini is the prophet of a higher conception
of international society, in which the good of
each nation will contribute to the good of all,
and in which humanity, and not nationality,
will be the last, though not the only word. Our
modern statecraft is not yet wholly Mazzinian,
but we are apt to forget how far it is, in some
degree, inevitably Macchiavellian.

In this little work an attempt has been made
to show that mankind is working simultaneously
on two planes ; the plane of national and inter-
national politics, and the plane of human aspira-
tion and endeavour, and that the laws of the one
are not the laws of the other. Macchiavellism,
of which the modern name is Bismarckianism,


vi Introduction,

or more popularly, Bernhardism, may be quite
right politically, and quite wrong judged from
the general human standpoint. Thus the war
that is ruthless and uncivilized may be true war,
though it be not the war of humane and civilized
peoples ; unscrupulous diplomacy may be genuine
diplomacy though it be not the diplomacy of a
moral and progressive state. Expediency is the
last word in purely national politics and war;
expediency is not the last word of humanity.
But it is humanity which constitutes the deepest,
widest, and most universal reality ; and it is,
therefore, human considerations which will
eventually shape national life, and not national-
ism that will shape humanity.

Meanwhile the states that direct their action
and policy according to purely national consider-
ations without any regard to the general needs
of mankind, have an advantage in their own
sphere, from their concentrating all their forces
to one end ; while the states whose policy is
influenced by wider human motives, are at a
temporary disadvantage, though the future is
for them. The militarism and the politics of the
dawn are militarism and politics that are out-
growing their own garments. Yet I believe

Introduction. vii

that a great mistake is made when we fail to
recognize that a philosophy may be sound as
applied to its own object though its principles be
immoral and detestable when moved into another
sphere. Macchiavellism is sound as regards the
ends to which it was directed ; and it is an error
to term it immoral, as exercised in its own
domain, because that domain admits of neither
moral nor immoral principles and actions.

The question, then, to ask, of states and
statesmen, is not whether their diplomacy be
ruled by principles of expediency or morality,
whether the war they wage be ruled by laws of
humanity or cruelty, but whether both their
policy and their militarism be subservient to
nobler and more universal ends than those of
pure national egotism ; whether, in fact, they
are diplomats, and nothing else, generals, and
nothing else, or whether they are on the line of
progress towards a more comprehensive national
life which can be a factor in the universal life of
mankind as one great human family.

The ** reflections of this non-combatant " are
not, then, set forth as an indictment of German
politics and German military methods, but as an
indictment of the temper that lies behind such

viii Introductwn.

politics and such methods, whether they be
found amongst Germans or others ; an indict-
ment of the national temper that is opposed to
universal human progress and can only find a
suitable vent in Macchiavellian diplomacy and
barbarous warfare.

War, in the mind of that non-combatant, is
something essentially brutal and terrible ; humane
regulations can scratch its surface, but not alter
its nature. When we go to war we enter on a
condition of things in which ordinary laws of
morality are suspended ; in which Christianity,
as such, has no true part. The more highly
developed races will inevitably carry higher
considerations even into their warlike methods,
but this is because they are passing out of the
military stage of nationalism into a higher plane
of human existence. The less highly developed
races will pass easily into the most barbarous
extremes in their military methods, for the simple
reason that their ordinary national temper is one
that finds a fitting outlet in such methods. More
important, therefore, than the question as to the
way in which we make war is the question as to
the reasons for which we make it, and the aims
we would attain by it ; more detestable than the

Introduction. ix

atrocities and injustices which may be per-
petrated during a war is the philosophy of
national egotism which regards outrages to
humanity as an accidental evil in the develop-
ment of its ambitions.

War will be inevitable until international
human justice is supreme ; war will be noble
or base according to the ends for which it is
waged, and the motives by which it is inspired ;
but war, to the end, will be barbarous in a
greater or a less degree, and it is the temper
which produces it, and not the way in which it
is conducted, in which the true injury to human
progress consists.





In Time of War i


War a Fatality



''Kriegist Krieg"



Diplomacy and War



Treaties and Conventions



Patriotism and War



Democracy and War

. 77


Divine Neutrality .



Philosophical Neutrality



Peace ....



Sub Specie ^Etemitatis .

. 131


In this country, as I write, it would almost
seem as though our love for one another had
kindled and grown strong in exact proportion to
our wrath against the enemy. Those who habit-
ually live their own lives, in quiet comfort, and
trouble little about the needs of others, are now
hurrying to the Red Cross depots with offers of
service ; are turning their houses into prospec-
tive hospitals ; are cutting off their own superflui-
ties to provide for the necessities of their poorer

Between the classes suspicion is lulled ; a spirit
of fraternity and equality makes itself felt. But,
above all, those qualities which danger calls forth,
and which are generally reserved for heroic oc-
casions, blossom like hedge-flowers ; the instinct
of self-preservation is absorbed in the desire for
service ; men and women scramble for an occa-
sion of danger, and it would seem as though
death were more highly prized than life.

2 , >>,; 'Re^Uiovs. of a Non-Combatant,

There are characters, ordinarily worthless and
undisciplined, that suddenly develop latent forces
of generosity and devotedness ; they have found
their opportunity, and their light will burn brightly
during this time of crisis and be quenched, if
quenched it be, in glory. The world will forget
how they lived, and will remember only how they

We see, in fact, for the moment, a prevalence
of the soldier type in all its best qualities ; a type
that exists in virtue of the possibility of war, and
unfolds its latent qualities when war breaks forth.

For let us remember that the type of humanity
which is begotten by war is a type that will always
exist so long as war remains a possibility. If
centuries passed without any outbreak of hostil-
ities, yet the qualities that war demands would
never perish as long as its occurrence might be

In virtue of war then, or of its likelihood, the
soldier continues to exist — the man of silent deeds,
of unquestioning obedience, of personal self-for-
getfulness, of unboasting courage, of cheerful ac-
ceptance of danger and death.

By war too is stimulated that feeling of solid-
arity of which we are now so conscious. Indi-
vidual value is, for the moment, at a discount ;
we are all as atoms in the life of our country.

In Time of War. 3

To strong personalities this overwhelming
sense of incorporation is even painful, because
they are, at the same time, conscious that their
individual contribution to the common stock is
robbed of its full and distinct value — in the
massing of energy which a war demands the
memory of certain deep and abiding values
is effaced ; vast mental treasures become as use-
less as gold on a desert island. That intensity
of corporate life which gives strength to the weak
in some sense weakens the strong, for there is
scope for but one common aim and aspiration ;
there is no scope for light and shade of expres-
sion, for variety of outlook, for richer and nobler
grades of perception and effort than the general
level of mankind can attain. In fact, our fortunes
are pooled ; we are strong as the society to which
we belong is strong, but no stronger so far as
any form of social achievement is concerned.
The great ones amongst us, unless they be mili-
tary authorities, can no longer compel attention,
because they have been absorbed into the common
reservoir of national life.

This is a psychological phenomenon of which
a good many must be dimly aware, though they
may not have taken clear account of it. It is an
experience that is great indeed, in some sense,
but that is also painful and belittling, for if the

4 Reflections of a Non-Combatant.

valleys are filled up, the mountains are pulled

Perhaps this psychological effect is more
marked in our modern warfare than it was in the
days when fighting was general and frequent.
It is noteworthy that thought, except on matters
of military or historic interest, seems to have
stood still ; yet the Elizabethan era was as
famous for its intellectual as for its military ex-
ploits ; the knapsack of the soldier had place for
book and pen and paper as well as objects of
material necessity. It is probably a result first
of our centralization, secondly of the dependence
of intellectual achievement on commercial con-
ditions, that in wartime we can now think and
talk of nothing but war.

Then, too, the disasters of modern warfare
are so far-reaching and universal, that the world
can hardly do other than stand still to see what
will be left when the crisis is past.

Even in the actual mechanism of modern war-
fare this suppression of individual merits is to be
noted. There is a levelling of values, an efface-
ment of personal qualities and distinctions which
must steadily increase as war becomes more and
more a work of scientific calculation rather than
of genius and enterprise Above all in the anti-
democratic system of close formation, so much

In Time of War. 5

employed by the Germans, is this uniformity of
values to be noted. A few of the leaders may
find scope for special qualities of mind or charac-
ter, for the majority there is not any chance of
doing more because they would or could do more.
A large number of our friends, a larger number
of our enemies who have been sacrificed in this
war were just food for powder ; their lives were
poured forth in a flood so vast that the separate
drops could be counted, indeed, with our care
for mere number, but could not possibly be
valued. The brave man, giving his life gener-
ously in the belief that he gave it for a good
cause, will have fallen side by side with his selfish
or cowardly comrade ; his personal nobility will
have furthered the cause no better than the un-
willing sacrifice of his companion. A certain
number had to be killed, and he was one of them.
The fine and the coarse material were woven
into one web, and its threads will, perhaps, never
be disentangled. This is, indeed, one of the
most tragic features of a war ; we lose our best
along with our worst, and are not even aware of
the difference ; their contribution has been re-
duced to one value.

Yet, on the other hand, the very ruthlessness of
war has its counter-balancing advantages. When
we are face to face with necessity we are freed

6 Reflections of a Non-Combatant.

from our slavery to many petty considerations
of human respect or self-interest, that restrain
us at other times from doing what, at bottom, we
know to be best. The most democratic amongst
us should have the honesty to recognize that the
desire to maintain an appearance of humanity
has sometimes a weakening and immoral influence
on the measures of a democratic government. It
is not always motives of humanity that restrain the
action of such a government in its dealings with
social evils : it is its fear of not being reckoned
humane. In time of war the mercy that is in-
spired by unconscientious motives runs dry ;
and many social plague-spots are summarily
eradicated. We are in a condition in which we
act firmly and uncompromisingly according to the
light we possess, though we are not in a condition
of progress towards yet fuller and clearer light.
The best type of soldier is, in short, for the moment
our highest ideal ; the moral reformer, the servant
or martyr of truth, the prophet of things to come
must fall into rank with the rest, working for what
is immediately necessary until mankind can again
turn to interests that are abiding and eternal.

But it is important not to forget that we are,
indeed, thus waiting for the time when we can
again set our feet on the path of the future. For
a crisis, such as that which we are undergoing,

In Time of War. 7

is bound to exercise in some respects a reactionary
influence. For example, because there was, be-
fore the war, a certain party amongst us which,
with or without reasonable grounds for their ap-
prehensions, foretold the present crisis, there is a
tendency, now that they have been proved right,
to pay them more honour than is properly their
due. So far as their object was simply to warn
their country of a coming danger they deserve
nothing but gratitude; so far as they had and
have the militarist sense of militarism, we shall
look to them only in as much as we desire a
permanent condition of militarism.

Had this section of our community prevailed,
in its own day, and swept the country into an
earlier, and less obviously unavoidable war, should
we have fought with those advantages that we
now possess ? should we have gone to battle with
the same moral force ? should we have presented
the undivided front of men who accept the
horrors of warfare in order to end them ?

To some degree it may be said that the
Germanophobes of England are those with the
more German and less English outlook. They
hate Germany and would fight her because they
regard her as a rival in the path of England's

Thus Professor Cramb wrote : —

8 Reflections of a N on- Comb at ant.

What is likely to result when the first nation, though
pursuing colossal organic ideals, yet seems to have become
almost weary of the glory of empire, expressing frequently
the desire for arbitration, for the limitation of armaments, a
" naval holiday," peace at any price ; when its war-spirit, its
energy, its sense of heroism are apparently diminishing, and
the mere craving for life and its comforts seems to be con-
quering every other passion — as if to this nation the aim of
all life were the avoidance of suffering — what, I say, is likely
to result if, confronting this, you have a nation high in its
courage, etc.^

And again : —

If these, then, are the legitimate impulses, the just ambi-
tions of Germany — and what Englishman remembering the
methods by which the British empire has been established
in India, in America, in Africa, in Egypt, dare arraign
those impulses or those ambitions ? — if these are the modes
which the "will to power" assumes in modern Germany,
what of England, and those needs of England with which
they enter most immediately into collision ? ^

These words express not an anti-German at-
titude and policy, but the wish to see militarist
England the master of militarist Germany.

Referring to the same party in France, a writer
in the ** Entretiens des non-combattants durant
la guerre," addressing the Germans, says : —

Their hostility is against your persons, and not your
principles. ... If your principles were transported into

1 " Germany and England," pp. 42-4.
^ Idetn^ pp. 1 2 1-2.

In Time of War, 9

France and turned to French ends, they would not object
to them. In fact, they reproach you for not being French,
which is not your own fault and is therefore irremediable.
But because you are not French they are obliged to will
your destruction, while secretly desiring to succeed you.^

Let those who honestly cherish this form of
national ambition stand by their views ; but it
would be, from the other point of view, a dis-
astrous result of the war if those who regard
militarism as a fallacy, who believe in a national-
ism that need not express itself in the desire to
dominate, who love their own country without
wishing that she should oppress others, were to
lose confidence in their own ideal because they
had not fully gauged the force of the obstacles
that opposed its fulfilment, and were to become
militarist in virtue of their opposition to militarism.

A spiritual genius has told us that in times of
calm we should remember our periods of trouble,
and that in times of trouble we should, similarly,
look back to our days of calm. So while brute
force, supported by the ingenuity of mechanical
science, has to be reinforced by all the moral
qualities we can muster to its aid, let us look
back and forward to the more normal periods,

^ These " Entretiens " from which I shall quote more
than once, are published weekly by the "Union pour la
Verite," 21, rue Visconti, Paris.

lo Reflections of a Non-Combatant.

when it is the servant, and not the sovereign, of
moral and intellectual powers.

The pacifist is paying for his defiance of facts
by being rolled round in a chaos of facts ; but we
need not, for this, abandon a philosophy which
has room for facts as well as ideals.

The French were forced, at the very moment
when war broke out, to face this problem in a
brutal form. Jaures was assassinated — and yet
his party rallied, without hesitation, under the
banner of its country. Was this the refutation
of all that for which Jaures had lived and
laboured? So his opponents declared, but so
did not those whose patriotism was of a broader
character. Jaures may have been mistaken,
dangerously mistaken, as to the inevitability of
war, but it need not follow therefrom that he was
mistaken in everything else.

At his funeral M. Jouhaux, secretary of the
** General Confederation of Labour," uttered the
following words : —

Jaures was our strength in our ardent efforts for peace.
It is not his fault, nor ours, if peace has not prevailed.
War has broken out. Before going forth to the great
massacre, in the name of those workmen who have departed,
in the name of those who will shortly depart, of whom I am
one, I declare, before this coffin, our hatred of the savage
imperialism that has perpetrated the horrible crime.

Those who heard the words of Jouhaux (says a writer in

In Time of War. ii

the * * Entretiens," from which we have drawn the quotation),
and the bitterness of his cry, will hear them for ever. They
came from the entrails of working France. Jouhaux disa-
vowed nothing of the international Jauresian doctrine. He
did not shrink when faced by fact. He was right — no fact
can refute a doctrine that is established on right.

Nevertheless Maurras also was right on his own plane,
when he said (''Action Frangaise," ii October, 1914) : —

"We have here the ordinary characteristic of the Jauresian
fallacy : a permanent confusion between an order of facts that
must be foreseen, calculated and prepared for, and an order of
right that must rule our wills, our thoughts, and our desires,
but that can establish no material barrier against living reali-
ties. . . .

The Jauresian ideal has, unfortunately, suffered a more de-
finitive eclipse than the disappearance of its author. . . .

It would be hard to point out any hopes that have been
more clearly proved fallacious."

Maurras himself (continues the writer in the '* Entretiens ")
is careful not to confound right Sind/acf ; but, on the other
hand, he suppresses one of the terms ; he is indifferent to
right. And hence the meaning of this war escapes him, its
fresh and unique character, its difference from the old wars
of Kings. He also misses the secret of the force that urges
the people, and the poor, and other peoples than our own,
to this war. . . .

Without this conviction of right ... we could, indeed,
resist our enemy because he desires our death and we wish
to live ; we could not condemn him as unjust, and seek with
our foreign allies, with all just men whose sympathies are
with us, to cut off this enemy from the community of nations
as being, not only our enemy, but the common enemy of

12 Reflections of a Non-Combat ant.

These words indicate how, in times of crisis,
there is not only the danger that those who pre-
dicted it, being proved right on one point, will
assume that they were right on every other, but
there is also the danger that those who were
opposed to them, not only in the practical esti-
mate of the peril, but in their whole theory of
political life, will waver in those deeper and
more essential convictions which should be
strengthened, rather than extinguished, by the
war. In such case, so far from this war being a
step to the ending of war, it would lead to the
stronger establishment of militarism ; it would
set in a period of reaction, and throw us back to
the policy of the Middle Ages. This would be,
indeed, to take from mankind the price and refuse
the article ; to pour forth the blood of the people
to quench their own aspirations ; to become
German in resisting pan-Germanism.

It must be remembered that non-combatants,
not having the same outlet for their energies as
the fighters, are more liable to become rancorous
and petty in their hate. The soldiers will shout
Christmas greetings to the enemy that he means
to shoot to-morrow, will chaff him and fling tins of
bully-beef from trench to trench ; the non-com-
batants will be less large-minded. The spy -panic
threatened, at one moment, to assume dangerous

In Time of Wa7\ 13

dimensions in this country ; and here and there
unprincipled methods have been advocated by
the non-combatant which the soldier would re-

The following protest was made by an Eng-
lish publisher, in the early days of the war,
against the taking of unfair advantage in the
matter of copyright : —

Copyright of German Works.

To the Editor of'' The Times ".

A large number of German copyright works are be-
ing offered to publishers at the present time for translation.
In many cases the would-be translators have obtained no
permission or transfer of rights from the authors of these
books, and it is, of course, impossible to do so in existing
circumstances. To take advantage of this state of affairs in
order to appropriate the property of others would, in the
opinion of this Association, not only be a breach of the Beme
Convention, but would also do discredit to a nation which is
now fighting for the maintenance of honourable obligations.
May I express the hope that every publisher in Great
Britain and Ireland who is approached in this way will re-
fuse to publish works the translation rights of which have
not been duly assigned.

Yours faithfully,
James H. Blackwood, President^
The Publishers' Association of
Great Britain and Ireland,

Stationers' Hall Court, E.G.
2 October, 191 4.

14 Reflections of a Non-Combatant.

This letter showed the influence of the war
fever in commercial matters, and was a noble
appeal for the maintenance of the ordinary laws
of justice and fair play, with enemies, as with

Still more significant was the controversy,
which made many of us blush, instituted by Pro-
fessor Sayce of Queen's College, Oxford, in re-
gard to the intellectual merits of Germany.
Though the letter has excited sufficient notice, it
is worth while giving some extracts from it : —

It is astonishing that British scholars and politicians
should still be found speaking of "our intellectual debt to

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryMaude Dominica PetreReflections of a non-combatant. [microform] → online text (page 1 of 8)