A Survey of Problems of Reconstruction after the World War
Sir Alfred Hopkinson, K.C.
Cassell and Company, Ltd London, New York and Melbourne 1918
Part I.—The Course
1. ASPIRATIONS AND FOUNDATIONS
2. LEAGUE OF NATIONS—THE NEED 3. LEAGUE OF NATIONS—THE SCHEME 4. LEAGUE OF NATIONS—THE CONDITIONS 5. LEAGUE OF NATIONS—ITS SCOPE AND AIM 6. CONCLUSIONS REACHED 7. VICTORY AND PEACE
8. PEACE AND THE CONSTITUTION 9. PEACE AND DEMOCRACY
10. INDUSTRIAL COUNCILS 11. LONG HOURS 12. WAGES
14. STATE EXPENDITURE AND INCOME 15. NATIONAL EXPENDITURE
16. THE FIELD 17. RESTORATION OF LAW AND LIBERTY 18. RESTORATION OF INDUSTRY 19. HOUSING 20. AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT 21. AFFORESTATION 22. LAW REFORM 23. PURIFICATION OF POLITICAL LIFE
Part V.—The Goal
24. UNION AND REGENERATION
ASPIRATIONS AND FOUNDATIONS
I think I see, as it were above the hill-tops of time, the glimmerings of the dawn of a better and a nobler day for the country and the people that I love so well.—JOHN BRIGHT.
The suggestion has been made to me that in these days of rapid development, when proposals, so bewildering in their extent, for change and for reconstruction are being made, it would be useful to present in popular form and in the compass of a small volume some general statement of the character of the varied problems which have arisen and of the principles which should guide in their solution. Possibly it seemed that a long and varied life engaged in law, politics, and education, which also had touched to some slight extent on the actual work of certain departments of Government, and had offered opportunities for travel in European countries and in the East, might furnish some qualifications for such a task. It is not one that can be undertaken without a sense of inadequate knowledge, and still more inadequate power of expression; but such a challenge cannot be refused, provided that whoever accepts it believes that he has some things to say which ought to be said, some lines of thought which ought to be indicated, something to urge, the truth of which he is thoroughly convinced of. Without such conviction prevenient, "we doubt not" that books on serious subjects, even if clever, and public speech either from platform or pulpit, "do verily have the nature of sin," and the more eloquent they are the worse the offence; with it, the very incompleteness and imperfection in the mode of presentation may even stimulate others to more thought, and to make up deficiencies all the better for themselves.
In attempting such a task, it must be recognised that during the last three years the attention of so many minds has been devoted to problems of "reconstruction" after the War, so much has been written and said about them, so many suggestions made and schemes propounded, so many commissions of inquiry appointed and reports prepared, that an attempt at full treatment of the questions involved would require a cyclopaedia rather than a small volume. No one person would be able ever to read half of the valuable material already collected bearing on these problems. To deal effectively with them all would demand several lifetimes of preliminary special training. The difficulty is increased by the fact that every week brings something new or some change in the situation. Some new fact comes to light, some book or article is published, some speech made, some report issued, or even some Act passed, which calls for consideration, and it may be for comment.
The effect of the War has undoubtedly been to evoke far more serious thought on the real problems of life, and also practical activity in dealing with many of them. The mass of literature, including of course the considered utterances of men whose words exercise the most influence in moulding the opinions and guiding the action of others, grows from day to day. If that literature consisted mainly of bitter and empty controversy, of the expression of mere opinions, the spinning of plausible theories or clever presentation of interesting speculations, it would not be necessary to trouble much about it; but so large a part contains the statement of important facts or the results of serious study and of the actual experience of those who are experts in the special subjects of which they treat, that it is impossible to pass lightly over what they write or say. There is about a large portion of this literature an air of reality, an earnest desire to get to the heart of a matter, to contribute to true knowledge of the various subjects to which the writers have devoted their attention and to find a practical solution of the problems involved. Sensationalism or mere writing for effect is the exception, not the general characteristic of what is thus being constantly published on various aspects of national reconstruction.
It is inevitable, therefore, that in any attempt to treat the subject as a whole some important suggestions will appear to have been overlooked or neglected, and that valuable sources of information and useful proposals will have escaped notice, while in other cases there will appear to be repetition, even without acknowledgment of what has already been said, and said better by others.
The justification for the attempt made in the following pages is that there are many people who have not the time or inclination to follow up special questions fully, but may be glad of a summary, and that a mere sketch-plan of the whole ground to be covered, filled in here and there in more detail, may have its use as a kind of bird's-eye view by which the relations of a number of subjects to each other and the general character of each may be seen.
For convenience of treatment and as an aid to memory the various problems to be discussed are arranged under three heads; following the old Victorian watchwords of the party which claimed to be progressive—Peace, Retrenchment, Reform.
The policy once indicated by these terms may in many cases have been discarded, and no doubt they were often used in a sense very different from that in which they must serve in our classification. "Peace" and "Retrenchment" have been used to cover a policy which by reducing the Navy would have left us naked to our enemies and a prey to starvation within a few months from the outbreak of war; "Reform" to denote changes which pedantry or envy may urge, but which could lead to no useful practical result. In spite of this, the three words do in fact, like the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—whatever crimes may have been committed in their name—indicate and express three ideas that we must have definitely before us in considering what the lines of reconstruction ought to be.
The spirit—the tone of mind in which the work of reconstruction is approached—will count for much. First of all, it is essential to have hope—a real expectation not only that by strenuous effort and wise foresight the country will meet and overcome the trials which are inevitable, and the perils which threaten after as well as during the War, but also that a better and brighter future is in store. Plans must be framed and action taken under the inspiration of a firm trust that the ideals we aim at are to be realised, that the "things hoped for" have a potential actuality. Fatalism in politics—we use the term in the original sense including ethics—is deadly, whether it is the fatalism due to a sloppy optimism which is satisfied that somehow things will come right whatever we do or leave undone, or to a paralysing pessimism which in cowardly despair accepts the triumph of evil as ordained and gives up the struggle when the prospects of victory seem dark. It would be folly not to recognise that not only now, but for years to come there will be enormous difficulties and terrible dangers to be faced; but it is possible for our hearts and minds to be filled too much with the contemplation of them instead of looking to the goal we aim at, and the steps we must take one by one to reach it.
Be not over-exquisite To cast the fashion of uncertain evils. What need a man forestall his date of grief And run to meet what he would most avoid?
There may be rocks and breakers—"a ferment of revolution"—ahead, but the task of the pilot and the crew is to keep their eyes on the channel through them, and to work the ship in its course to the haven where they would be.
Secondly, there must be a faith to inspire action, based on a belief in an essential goodness of human nature and in its capacity for improvement. Unless such a belief were well founded, democracy would be a thing to be dreaded and resisted by every means in our power. As ground for his belief in a better day, Bright speaks—and his language is prophetic—of the people "sublime in their resolution." It is that resolution which, in spite of our unprepared condition and of all the mistakes that have been made, as well as of disasters that could not have been foreseen, and of a power in the enemy far greater and a wickedness more diabolical than anyone dreamed of, will "bring victory home."
To have watched the action of the electorate during the last fifty years leads to the conclusion that in spite of apparent vacillations it has been characterised by good sense and good feeling, and that its judgment, so far as conditions from time to time permitted of its true expression, has been sound. To go about the country now and see what earnest and useful work is being quietly done, what loss and suffering bravely borne, confirms and renews the trust in our fellow-countrymen which might be shaken if we listened only to the utterances in the Press and in Parliament.
"Trust in the people" should be a habit of mind—a rule of action tacitly adopted—not a party watchword. Tell a man or boy—more than once—that you trust him, and he will probably take it—and not without a warrant—that you don't, that in fact you have grave doubts but do not wholly despair. The phrase might be taboo on the platform to raise cheap cheers but silently recognised in the Cabinet as a guide in action. How much better would it have been all through the War, and how much better now, if there were no concealment, except when information given might assist the enemy, if we knew at once even when things went wrong! There have been times when it was necessary, in order to know at all what was really going on, to read the German reports rather than our own, subject of course to a discount. The difficulty with those German preparations is to determine whether the discount for intentional falsification should be 5 per cent. or 90 per cent. Candour, however, leads us rather to admit the former as generally nearer the mark when military operations have been the subject of them, at least until the Germans began to suffer serious defeats in the field.
It would have been far better, too, to have assumed—there was real ground for the assumption—that the nation was ready and willing at once to make any sacrifice, to submit to privation, to rouse itself to any effort if only the necessity for it were made clear, and if it could be satisfied that so far as possible the burdens would be distributed equally among all.
Increased taxation properly adjusted has almost been a general demand, but unfairness in its incidence even on comparatively small matters is intensely resented. The Food Control Ministry whose orders affect everybody's daily comfort is positively popular, while the profiteer and the food-hoarder arouse the bitterest, though perhaps not always discriminating, indignation. Skilled workmen have been almost driven to strike, not from want of patriotism, nor from desire for profit out of the War, but because of the unfairness of leaving their wage at a level often below that of the unskilled and even of casual importations. The fatal delays which were sometimes quite unnecessary, in dealing with complaints have added to the feeling of unrest. Suspicions were even aroused sometimes that delays were intentional.
A like spirit of confidence is required in the statement of "War Aims." The higher our aims are put—if put honestly—the more earnest and complete is the response. Stated as they were by Mr. Asquith, with his usual masterly precision of language, they received a practically unanimous and enthusiastic approval. There was nothing sordid in the motives which induced the best of our youth to offer their lives for their country's cause.
Before the War it was a lack of "Trust in the people" which contributed to our unprepared condition. How much nearer would victory have been—possibly, indeed, there would have been no war—if our Government and leading men had, instead of carping at the great man who had true insight, stated plainly and calmly that great perils were threatened, that it was necessary to set our house in order, to make military training more general, to use all available knowledge in making ready the machinery which would be necessary in case war was thrust upon us suddenly! It was not "the people" who were responsible for the fact that the storm found us so unprepared. They would not have resented being told the truth, and asked to act accordingly. Even a candidate for Parliament may sometimes say what he really thinks, and yet not repel the electors, as witness one who, being asked long ago what was his view about "one man one vote," answered, "It is a good question for a school debating society. Let us talk about something important. Our first need is a strong navy; without that we should be starving, perhaps eating each other, or submitting to the most degrading terms, within a few months of the outbreak of war, and the second is the increased production of food at home to make us more self-supporting in time of need. Let us think of these things." He was elected by the votes of the artizans and agricultural labourers in a constituency where at the election before there had been a great majority for the opposing candidate, though he had no personal influence, had spent nothing in "nursing the constituency," and refused to give pledges or act as a delegate to register the instructions of any caucus. He died, politically, without abjuring his faith. It was not the electors who hastened his decease.
When a democratic Government is definitely established as in England now, the alternatives for trust are either to hold aloof in despair awaiting the debacle, to resist to the bitter end with a result like that which Stephenson said would occur if a cow attempted to stop his locomotive, or to try humbug and flattery. You do not flatter those you trust. We are not speaking of that delightful flattery practised by Irishmen out of exuberant spirits or to create a genial atmosphere, but which is so easily succeeded by equally picturesque and imaginative denunciation. To resent is as foolish as to believe either, though we must admit that it is often a pleasure to be a recipient of the one and to hear the other facon de parler addressed to our opponents. For the stolid Saxon it is a good maxim to tell the truth as pleasantly as possible, but to tell it plainly, and to be honest in admitting defects and recognising dangers. We are on the whole rather an ignorant nation—probably not more so than others, if we except the Germans and possibly the Scandinavians. We are not, as a rule, clear-headed or accurate thinkers, though we have generally a large fund of practical good sense. We lack constructive imagination, but have a certain originality and real power of initiative in dealing with practical problems as they arise, and much dogged perseverance in "carrying a thing through." These, like most other general propositions, are subject to exceptions and open to many objections, but they contain a sufficient element of truth to be worth noting.
It is well plainly to recognise that if democracy is to be a blessing instead of a curse there are three conditions necessary to control and guide its action. First, with the consciousness of power there must be a deep sense of responsibility. Secondly, with freedom of action there must be a law-abiding spirit, a habit of obedience to those laws of action which control the arbitrary changeful will of the moment. The prayer of the old Greek poet is one for all time:
May my lot be to keep a reverence pure in word and deed, Controlled by laws, lofty, heaven-born, Of which the father is God alone, Not by the mortal nature of man begotten Never in oblivion lulled to sleep! God is mighty within them and grows not old.
Thirdly, there should be an ideal of what we aim at, of what we wish the nation to become and to do, carefully thought out, and consciously set before us—its attainment the object of our efforts—and with that must be combined patient attention and steady work in planning and in taking each practical step which will tend towards its realisation. Mere captivating phrases are a will-of-the-wisp leading us to that "dangerous quag" of revolutionary change into which "even if a good man fall he will find no bottom for his feet to stand on." Reformation and revolution are "contraries" though not perhaps "contradictories." Either for the individual or the nation vague aspiration not followed by beneficent action is the kind of stimulant which destroys virility. It renders even virtue sterile, and engenders no new birth.
The Reign of Law is the best protection of Liberty. Arbitrariness—the term seems the nearest we have to express the idea, but it is not quite happy, and the use of the more expressive German word "Willkuer" might be pardoned—is as great a danger in a democracy as in an autocracy, and it is less capable of remedy. The "divine right of the odd man" "to govern wrong" is too often assumed as an article of political faith. A new generation may think that to quote from an early Victorian writer is to appeal to the "dark ages"; but is there not a warning for all time in Hallam's words, "the absolute Government of the majority is in general the most tyrannical of any"? It is possible to decapitate a king who sets himself above the law, or to deport or destroy a reactionary and tyrannous aristocracy, but against the crimes or follies of an unrestrained majority there is no appeal. Chaos, "red ruin, and the breaking up of laws" follow in their steps. A general and deep sense of responsibility as well as consciousness of power among "the masses" is a necessary condition for welfare in a country with democratic government.
More of the nation's life and development has been concentrated within the last four years than would occupy fifty years of Europe or a "cycle of Cathay" in ordinary times. It has borne sorrows and losses which would have been overwhelming had it been known beforehand how great they would be; the call for tremendous efforts for which it was totally unprepared has been answered with steady resolve and heroic sacrifice. Faith in human nature has been confirmed. Where there has been failure it has not been through want of courage or any shrinking from duty on the part of the rank and file, but rather from deficiencies in leadership. Imaginative grasp of a position, clear and accurate thinking, leading to prompt and definite action, can hardly be claimed as special characteristics of our race, but once satisfied that a thing has got to be done, that it is "up to them" to do it, checks or defeats, labour or risks do not count. Sooner or later the task is performed. The "recoil" of the British again and again after being pressed back is the striking feature in their history. The spring is not easily wound up, but it has enormous power, and the events of to-day show that it has not lost its elasticity. But how much more might have been accomplished, how much loss and suffering prevented, had knowledge awakened more interest and a prophetic imagination guided and inspired action directed to a definite goal, had we set our ideals clearly before us and carefully thought out the steps to be taken one by one towards their realisation!
The recognition of these conditions is needed now, and will in the coming changes be needed more and more. Enthusiasm and sanity must be united to carry us safely forward. Tradition and custom will count for less either in maintaining or in preventing what is evil. Many old modes of thought, many old habits which checked us in the downward as well as hindered us in the upward path, will have been destroyed by the fire through which we have been passing. We need a conscious plan more than ever for rebuilding and good workmanship in execution detail by detail.
Image the whole, then execute the parts. Fancy the fabric Quite ere you build, ere steel strike fire from quartz, Ere mortar dab brick.
Then take the trowel and see that brick by brick each course is truly laid.
But we are not building a new city on unoccupied ground; there are some foundations truly laid which have withstood the fire and storm and which cannot be disturbed without both risk and useless toil. There are still edifices standing to which time has given a beauty and tradition a sanctity which newer creations cannot possess. They cannot be removed without irreparable loss. Like any other metaphor, that of rebuilding a city as compared with the action of a state, of a nation, after a time of change and trouble, is misleading if pressed too far. Progress for a nation must rather be the growth and development of a living organism adapting itself to new conditions or altered environment. We should "lop the moulder'd branch away," amputate the diseased tissue, as the true Conservative policy, and tend and foster the healthy growths with utmost care, as the true method for the Liberal who aims at improvement and fuller life.
One other thing must be said of the spirit in which the work of Reconstruction should be undertaken, which goes to the root of the whole matter, and a word must be used which we would have avoided if possible—"the word is too often profaned for me to profane it." But search for a substitute has been unavailing.
There are some words which are better unspoken, except in case of necessity, that become soiled by common use. The too ready employment of them may savour indeed of that unctuous tone which makes ordinary Englishmen and boys squirm. "Conscience" is one. When a man speaks of his conscience you at once, and quite rightly, begin to suspect him. He is probably going to refuse some hard task which others are undertaking, to do something which is offensive to his fellows, or at best, in sheer obstinacy to insist on a course of conduct which he knows cannot be justified by reason. Someone has defined "conscience" as the "deification of our prejudices"; the giving of a kind of divine authority to something we will insist on doing though it brings no good, even causes harm, to ourselves and offends and injures others, or the giving a name which should be sacred as commanding what we want to do for other reasons. A staunch Nonconformist—one of the clearest thinkers and probably the finest preacher of the last generation—how he would have hated the phrase, but one cannot pause for another!—truly said of the passive resisters in his day, "There is a deal more of politics than of conscience in their action." Yet there are times when even the word conscience may have to be used, and no other will suffice. Another is "Duty"—so often put forward as the excuse for people doing something stupid, probably something they have been in the habit of doing and seem unable to give up, but which is really only a nuisance to themselves and also to others. Yet there are under the abused words ideas which should be the guide of life.
The third is "Love"—an earnest and intense desire for the welfare of our fellow-men, keen joy in their happiness, keen sorrow in their troubles. The word is out and shall not, except perhaps in a quotation, be used again. To use the word lightly or without grave reason seems almost a breach of the third clause of the Decalogue, remembering what is said to be its equivalent by one who of all men who have lived had the most intimate means of knowing. All work of reconstruction must be inspired by a spirit of true philanthropy; without that the labour is in vain. There is no other motive power that can move the world in the path of true progress.
It will be said that this is both obvious and to be ignored—a platitude with a flavour of cant. Is it? Do we not hear again and again the appeal to envy and hatred as motives of action, a desire in social life to pull down, if levelling up is not immediately practicable? Is not jealousy of the success of others, whether individuals or classes or states, again and again what really prompts a policy? Even in dealing with the countries which are our declared enemies, the desire to injure ought not to be our guide. If and when they relinquish the aims and cease from such acts as forced us into war with them and make restitution for the wrongs they have committed, the right policy is, as far as possible, having clue regard to the just claims and interest of our friends, to do what will be for their true benefit also in the long run. No doubt there is a disgraceful and fatal policy, sometimes adopted by English Governments, to be resolutely withstood—the policy of trying "to conciliate our enemies by giving away our friends." We shall hear of it again in dealing both with Ireland and with certain colonies when Germany claims their return. On the other hand, the first maxim in all negotiation, the first principle of sound diplomacy, is always to give to the other side, and give without grudging, all he wants, provided it does not interfere with what it is important for your side to secure. Never be afraid of giving the opposing party too much, provided you get what your side really ought to have. How often has one heard in discussing a settlement the objection raised that the other party is getting too much! It is an old-time fallacy to think that practical good sense and the highest philanthropy are antagonistic; only be certain that if in any case they seem to be so, the latter is to prevail.
With a good map you may safely have Mr. Worldly Wiseman's company to the village of Morality, and visit the "judicious gentleman named Legality" and "his charming son Civility"—yet find a straight road thence to the Celestial City without deviating to the "great town" of Carnal Policy. An apology perhaps is due in the twentieth century for using the language of an earlier day; but everyone naturally thinks in the language in which he was brought up, and education is now no doubt sufficiently general to make allusion recognisable and translation easy. There are still some survivals from a past generation who prefer even the "minor prophets" as literature to the most "up-to-date" modern utterances, though they have long ago relinquished the idea that there is the slightest personal merit in doing so. Even when the older language was half forgotten there were within our memory some who would use it if they could, and perhaps did so when they felt strongly, as a Scotsman in strange lands may, when deeply moved, revert to what convention insists on calling his "native doric."
The question may fairly be put to all who are dealing with proposals for reconstruction: "Is the aim you have in view definitely and clearly to promote the general benefit?" Most would no doubt be able quite honestly to answer, "Yes, that is my desire"; but we must go a step farther, "Are you willing to make that object paramount? If it were proved that in order to provide decent housing for a number of workers your dividends would be reduced, are you prepared still to urge that the required accommodation shall be provided? If the removal or the imposition of a particular tariff will benefit the community as a whole, are you prepared to vote for such a change, though owing to it the business in which you are personally interested may make less profit?" There are some men whose conduct shows that an answer could be given by them in the affirmative. When the great majority can so answer with truth, we need have no fear that the rebuilding of Britain, even if mistakes are made, will be on sound foundations.
To sum up: in considering each proposal we must first examine the spirit and the aim. Try the spirit, test the aims put before us by every means in our power; venture to measure them by the moral canons of the great thinkers and seers which have stood the test of time. Adopt the rules to which the acts of those who have benefited mankind have conformed or which have received the consent of the best—the "golden" rule, hard though it be to apply rightly and thoroughly, or Kant's principle that each act of the individual (or community) is to be tested by the standard whether or no it can be made of universal application, whether it can command approval if taken as a guide for their actions by other men or other nations as well as our own. Goodwill and Charity, to be strong and true, must begin at home, but for their full fruition require a field which has no bounds.
That man's the best Cosmopolite Who loves his native country best.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS—THE NEED
Unless a nation, like an individual, have some purpose, some ideal, some motive which lies outside of and beyond self-interest and self-aggrandisement, war must continue on the face of this earth until the day when the last and strongest man shall look out upon a world that has been depopulated in its pursuit of a false ideal.—NICHOLAS MURRAY BUTLER.
Paramount in importance above everything else is the establishment and maintenance of peace between nations. No remedies for disease, no rules for healthy life will avail, if the arteries through which the life-blood is pouring away remain open still or are only temporarily closed and liable after a brief interval to burst out anew. The vitality of the nation would be gone beyond recovery if another generation of its best manhood were to be sacrificed and its materiall resources again squandered to meet the necessities of a great war.
Every day that the War lasts forces on us more clearly the fact that Science, not only natural science—physics and chemistry—but also the scientific organisation of the State as an instrument of war, has so developed the means of destruction as either to blot out humanity or to leave the greater part of mankind in abject and bitter slavery to the powers that can wield most effectively the instruments of death and of torture, if war between the leading nations breaks out again after an interval of seeming peace. How warfare has changed within living memory! Five-and-twenty years ago the highest authority on naval construction spoke with contempt of the submarine as a factor in war at sea. No one then had solved the old world problem of aerial flight. Some of the most distinguished men of science regarded the attempts which were then being made as hopeless. It then seemed still to be a mere dream of poets. Wireless telegraphy was only a matter of speculation, a thing which a few only thought of as a possibility of the future. Man has indeed plucked the fruit of the tree of knowledge for his own destruction. What may be the result of another quarter of a century of like advancement of the knowledge of the means of spreading "death throughout the world and bitter woe"? It may not be, as Dr. Murray Butler says, that the strongest man will remain alone in a depopulated world. The strongest may succumb to the inventions for destruction and the survivors may be a few of those maimed or weakened by disease whom the storm has passed over as too obscure, of too little importance even for the messengers of Death to remember and to relieve from their misery. This is not rhetorical exaggeration. The weapons of offence regularly win in their race with the weapons of defence. Fortresses that took years to construct are shattered in a day. The ironclad is sunk by the torpedo. How very little margin lay between this country and starvation through action of submarines! Suppose the enemy had possessed five times as many submarines from the first, would our defensive measures have prevailed? How small an extension in the enemy's power in the air would have enabled him in a single night to leave London a mass of ruins, its whole population which had not fled dying in torment from poisonous gases! Another five-and-twenty years of advance in scientific knowledge equal to that of the last five-and-twenty years may easily make such a result possible.
But some man—one of those who never look beyond the next year and their own street, and expects always to carry on business as usual—will say that the nations will be exhausted and tired of war, and this War will be the last. Dare any country trust to that unless a new spirit is infused into the nations and definite steps are taken to prevent war? Did those who had the best means of knowledge—the Government of the day—imagine that such a war as this would break out suddenly? If they did, they would be guilty of a crime almost unparalleled in leaving us so unprepared and fiddling with such questions—"Welsh Disestablishment" and the like—as occupied their time and attention and excited the political controversies of the months and years immediately preceding the War.
Assume even that no new war does break out again actually, dare any nation neglect to keep up its naval and military armaments on a scale far greater than before? How is the burden to be met when every penny that can be raised as revenue will be needed to meet the charge on our gigantic debt and the necessary claims for carrying on Government, to say nothing of improving the conditions of life? We cannot, nor can other nations, go on using up capital and borrowing indefinitely. The choice is between assured peace and certain ruin, even if no war actually occurs. How can peace be assured? It would be well for some of those with the requisite historical knowledge and insight to trace carefully the causes which have led to war in the past, to attempt a diagnosis of the disease which has again and again devastated the world. A vain classification might perhaps be made into religious wars, dynastic wars, trade wars; but is there not one element common almost to all, namely, the will to power, the desire and intention of some man or set of men to impose their will on others, regardless of justice, which forbids the exercise of force to prevent each thinking, speaking, acting as he will, provided he does not injure the rights of others? It was the assertion of a claim to dominate which led to the eighty years' war when Spain tried to impose her yoke on the Netherlands, and blended with desire for gain a crusade against the faiths which rejected the supremacy of Rome. Was the Thirty years War a religious war or a struggle between rulers to assert and extend their powers? Take any one of the series of long wars, such as those of Louis XIV. or of Napoleon, under what head of such a classification do they fall? Does not the common element above mentioned apply to all of them?
The urgency of taking definite steps to secure peace has been recognised already, much thought has been devoted to it, and schemes even in some detail have been suggested for dealing with it. The idea of a League of Nations to secure peace is occupying the attention of many of the wisest minds and of the statesmen who hold the most responsible positions. It is meeting with strong popular support, at all events in Britain and in the United States. France and Italy are examining the proposal. It is well, however, where attractive phrases are used and schemes proposed, to subject them carefully to the double test: how far they cover the ground and meet the real difficulties; and, secondly, how they would work out in practice in the circumstances which are likely to arise. We want to look at the question as a whole, to see exactly what we have to aim at, sometimes to reiterate what seem almost useless truisms. The obvious is too often overlooked. First we need to recognise the actual facts, then let the right spirit grow up and become general, and after that attempt to plan the best machinery and test its probable effect and efficiency by seeing how it would be expected to work in various special cases.
There are now in the world two fundamentally different ways of looking at international relations. On the one hand, we have the assertions expressed definitely in words by many Germans and acted upon consistently without qualification by the German Government, that justice is the interest of the stronger; that power and force may be, and indeed ought to be, exerted by a State without any check on moral grounds; that a strong nation must realise itself, develop and use its strength without regard to the so-called rights of the weaker; that "those should take who have the power, and those should keep who can." To them Reason, Common Sense, even the Divine Law seem to say: "Assert thyself; have the will to power." Where such a spirit exists there can be no binding force in agreements, rules of international law are a farce, but convenient perhaps at times for embarrassing the action of opponents who wish to treat them with respect. The dictates of humanity may be set aside at discretion. With that spirit argument is useless. With those who are inspired by it there can be no compromise, no truce. It must be met by force inspired by moral earnestness. In that struggle the alternative for the world is victory or death. Every man who falls fighting against such a foe dies a martyr, witnessing by his death that so far as in him lies the embodied powers of evil shall not prevail. Unless the Power which thus claims to dominate is defeated it is useless to talk of peace. On the other hand, it is essential to recognise, and keep ever before us, the spirit which is opposed to this claim for domination, this denial of the existence of justice, and to renew in the whole nation the spirit in which it entered into the War.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS—THE SCHEME
If any peace after the War is to be permanent there must be a settlement not only between territorial claims but an arrangement with regard to the machinery by which peace will be maintained in the future.
Perhaps the most convenient way to gain a more definite idea of what the proposal for a League of Nations really means, to understand both its advantages and the difficulties involved in it, may be to follow the debate on the subject initiated by Lord Parmoor in the House of Lords in March of 1918. It shows that the idea of a League of Nations to prevent war is taking definite shape, and is not regarded by practical men—statesmen with experience of the actual conduct of international affairs, and lawyers who as members of the judicial committee of the Privy Council have had to devote their attention to questions of international law—as outside the range of practical politics. It shows also that the idea will stand the test of discussion and calm criticism.
Lord Lansdowne—to whom, whatever may be thought of some recent utterances, the country owes a debt of gratitude too little recognised, especially for his conduct of foreign affairs at a most difficult period during the Boer War—stated his opinion that "in a league pronouncing a sentence of international outlawry upon any one country that broke away from its obligations you would have a material guarantee for the maintenance of peace." He pointed out how "the existence of such a league might perhaps have prevented the War in July of 1914, as it was impossible in that time of clamour and confusion when one suggestion after another made by those who, like Sir Edward Grey, were working for peace was rejected, to put forward a definite proposal for dealing with the dispute in a manner provided for by previous agreement." Lord Parker, whose authority carries the greatest weight with jurists everywhere, having the true lawyer's instinct for putting vague proposals into definite shape, actually presented a draft of heads of agreement for the establishment of a League. These heads would, to say the least, form the basis for discussion leading to practical results. One or two of his proposed clauses may be quoted as expressing in definite language the fundamental principles which must be the basis of any such League. The first may appear perhaps only a "pious opinion." It is really very much more. Assent to it means the complete repudiation of the ideas which have guided German policy—the ideas which made world war inevitable, and which will inevitably lead to war in the future unless they are abandoned. Any nation which assents to the clause tells the world that it expressly rejects those ideas and agrees that its action shall be guided by principles diametrically opposed to them. Assent to a declaration of the kind suggested would certainly affect the spirit in which international questions are approached in future, and probably the resulting action also. It runs:
"The League to recognise that war from whatever cause is a danger to our common civilisation, and that international disputes ought to be settled on principles of right and justice and not by force of arms." The last clause dealing with the admission of new members of the League is the complement of this. There is to be power "to admit a nation as a member of the League, if satisfied in each case that the nation bona fide accepts the principle on which the League is founded, and bona fide intends that international disputes shall thereafter be settled by peaceful means." It is contemplated, and rightly contemplated, that there should be a possibility for the Central Empires to join the League sooner or later, but it can only be on terms of their rulers at the time saying expressly, "We abjure in the sight of the world and of our own people those principles of action which German rulers and leaders of thought have been inculcating for two generations." The choice for Germany would be either to stand excommunicated from the brotherhood of nations for ever, or to say plainly, "I declare what my professors and schoolmasters have for half a century had to teach to be false; the doctrines of Treitschke and of his disciple von Bernhardi are anathema; it is infamous to adopt the statement of the German writer that 'It is of no importance to me whether an action is just or unjust,' or that 'If I am powerful enough to perform any deed, then I am justified in doing it.' I renounce such leaders and teachers and all their words and works, so that I will not follow or be led by them." It may be urged that the recantation might not be sincere, but it would discredit the authority of those who attempt to revive the damnable doctrines.
The great difficulty, of course, arises as to the means of enforcing the agreement against war, of finding some proper and effective sanction to secure its observance. It may be well to note that throughout this discussion the word sanction is used in the strict legal sense, meaning some definite penalty or punishment to be inflicted on a wrong-doer. It is the existence of such a "sanction" which is the clearest way of enforcing obedience, and gives a rule of conduct the force of law.
Two definite proposals are made in Lord Parker's scheme. (1) "If an act of war be committed against any member of the League, the Council is to notify it, and thereupon every member should (a) break off diplomatic relations with the nation guilty of such act; (b) prohibit and take effective steps to prevent all trade and commerce between itself and the guilty party; (c) place an embargo upon all ships and property of the guilty nation found in its territorial waters or within its territories."
A very similar suggestion, though not quite so definite, was made by the present writer in an article on "Sanction in International Law," which appeared in the Italian Journal "Scientia" in 1916. "The nations might agree that any belligerent which wilfully violates or invades neutral territory shall be treated as a moral leper. Without actually going to war they should cease to have dealings with the invader, forbid all intercourse of their subjects with the country which violates the neutral territory."
For the sake of brevity this may be called the "economic boycott," but it is really very much more than simply economic pressure. It is a common habit in political discussions to confuse very different things, to which the same name is given, and the term "economic boycott" is being used to cover three proposals of very different character. (a) It may mean a permanent exclusion of Germany from the markets of the world to punish its people for supporting the crimes of its rulers and incidentally to secure for ourselves a valuable extension of trade by reason of the exclusion of a rival. (b) It may mean a temporary measure to insure that agreed terms of peace are observed by those who disregard "mere scraps of paper," to act as a guarantee that restitution shall be made for wrongs done, to check the revival and extension of the enemy's armaments, to make the German people feel the disadvantages and loss caused by their action, and the desirability of joining with others in repudiating war as a means of settling disputes or asserting national claims. (c) It may mean a sanction for breach of the stipulations contained in the agreement on which the League of Nations is founded, i.e., a punishment to be inflicted on anyone who infringes the agreement he has made—a means of insuring performance of its terms. It is in this last sense that it is used in the present discussion.
(2) The second sanction proposed in the scheme is of a still more serious character. The clause to embody it runs as follows:
"Certain members of the League specified in a schedule and to consist of the chief military and naval powers, should agree, if required to do so by a resolution of the League, to commence war against the guilty nation, and to prosecute such war by land and sea until the guilty nation shall have accepted terms which shall be approved by the League."
This proposal might more effectually prevent wrong-doing, but, even if carefully guarded as Lord Parker proposes, appears open to serious objections. There seems grave reason to fear that while intended to prevent war, it might really be the cause of disputes, and possibly of war of the most deadly kind. Such a stipulation might cast a terrible burden on a strong naval power like Great Britain, and have most disastrous consequences. We are bound to maintain a strong navy to keep open communication between the different parts of the Empire and also to protect our food supplies. Without sea power Britain could in a few months be starved into submission to any terms in case of war, but to maintain a large navy to be at the beck and call of a Council representing all the nations who cared to join the proposed League would be intolerable. Suppose, for example, the United States demanded satisfaction for some outrage on American subjects, or suppose American subjects were threatened with massacre in some unsettled country such as Mexico, and in order to obtain satisfaction or to protect its subjects sent some warships to a Mexican port and landed an armed force, not with any object of aggression, but to prevent irreparable injuries. Suppose Great Britain was of opinion that the American demand was amply justified, but that a majority of representatives of the League, or even, as Lord Parker's scheme suggests, a majority of the powers named in the Schedule, took a contrary view and called on Great Britain to fulfil the agreement to use her naval force and commence and prosecute to the bitter end a war against the United States because its Government had acted at once instead of waiting while the representatives of a score of other nations were discussing whether any action was permissible. Would not the alternative between breaking the engagement and undertaking a bitter and ruinous war against a powerful and friendly nation put us in an intolerable position? Half a dozen States in the League might for one reason or another wish to resist the claim of the United States for redress. Names of States which might possibly so combine could be given, but it is better to refrain. It is not inconceivable that German penetration and intrigue at some future time might promote a combination of the kind. All sorts of influences might be brought to bear on certain of the States and on their representatives. Dynastic claims might even affect them.
Unless it be with some country which she can trust and whose Government and its aims she can thoroughly rely upon, and then only for some limited and specific purpose, Great Britain, or any other naval or military power, ought not to bind itself to go to war and employ its forces. We must be free to reduce those forces or to refrain from employing them in making war. An engagement which might in circumstances, the real character of which no one can foresee at present, compel us to undertake a war at the bidding of others is a thing to which we ought never to consent. Engagements to make war are not a safe way of promoting peace. They may possibly be justified where there is some clearly specified object, some defined case in which nations ally themselves to prevent some particular wrong, such, for example, as guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium. Even for a single specific agreement of this kind a very strong case is required, but that is a totally different thing from agreeing to provide a kind of world police to enforce and execute the orders of a Council of heterogeneous States under conditions the nature of which no one can predict now. We cannot tell beforehand with any certainty what will be the real character of the proposed League Council, nor what motives may inspire its members at some future time, nor whom the majority of them will in fact represent. It does not necessarily follow that there can be no sanction of any kind to enforce the rules of International Law or the decisions of a League of Nations to prevent a breach of international peace, no penalty attaching to those who disregard those rules or are guilty of breaking that peace. As already stated, the economic boycott, every member of the League agreeing to treat an aggressor as an outlaw, and without actually going to war ceasing to have any dealings with him, and forbidding all intercourse of its subjects with the peace-breaker, is likely to be really effective. Lord Shaw, whose interest in the subject is no new thing, and who has devoted long and careful consideration to it, later in the debate gave the weight of his authority as to the efficacy of such measures. "Let it," he said, "be known once and for all that from the moment a nation becomes a traitor to the League it becomes, ipso facto, an economic outlaw, then the motive both for being included within and for remaining within the League will be increased a hundredfold, and wholly for the benefit of mankind."
Of course, logically many of the objections which can be urged against an agreement to make war might also be urged against an agreement for a boycott of this kind, but in practice the risks in the case of the boycott would be far less serious. Members of a club might well agree to expel and to cut a member who assaults another, but it would be a different matter to agree that, they should be able to order the strongest man in the club to go to his house and thrash the offender until he makes such compensation as may seem satisfactory to them. A man who objected to be put on a "schedule" of members liable to be deputed for such a mission would not necessarily be a coward. He might possibly think that the member assaulted did in fact deserve a horse-whipping, though he might deprecate such a proceeding, and consider that the affair, or the dispute between the parties, ought to have been dealt with by the club committee as a case for expulsion. A hatred of injustice, resentment against wrong, if it really exists in nations and individuals, will make itself felt. Without it, formal agreements will be found to be of little use. The objections to a League of Nations having power practically to order certain of its members to make war do not in any way prevent the establishment of international tribunals being followed by useful results. Without any express sanctions to enforce them as above suggested, their decisions will usually be obeyed in practice. There is and will be plenty of scope for the action of such tribunals. A nation may hate war, may recognise its perils and the inevitable losses involved, but may feel that an unwarrantable claim is being made against it which it is bound to resist. It may, however, be perfectly willing to submit the point to any tribunal which even purports to be impartial, and abide by its decision. In this way some systems of law have grown up. They began by regulating procedure. Each of two parties claimed something as his property, was ready to fight to maintain his right; but such contests might result in injustice, and were certainly injurious to the peace of the State. In early Roman Law each party who claimed the object in dispute touched it with his spear, showing his readiness to fight for it; then some respected citizen—vir pietate gravis—stepped in, and each party, without fear that his refraining from fighting would expose him to future encroachments on his rights, could agree to abide by his decision. As time goes on, what was merely the casual intervention of an arbitrator becomes an habitual rule, and eventually the fixed law of the land. Custom develops by general consent into law. Trial by combat may become obsolete in practice even long before it becomes illegal. There are many cases in which a man (or a nation) dare not give way, though he knows that it will cost him more to fight the case. A rough Lancashire manufacturer was once advised against fighting a difficult case on the ground that the result was uncertain, and the costs would in any event be very heavy, more than the value of the matter in dispute. He said afterwards to his solicitor with some force, "If I give in in this, that —— will come into my kitchen, kick me, and ask what business I have there. No, I'll fight him now." He brought his action and won, and found the prediction as to costs was only too fully borne out, even though judgment in the Court of Appeal was finally given in his favour. The man who says he will not fight in any circumstances invites injuries, though the man who fights when he could honourably avoid it is pretty sure to rue his decision.
Where two high-spirited persons are engaged in a dispute, and each is ready to maintain his cause with the sword, the intervention of a third may save both from the disasters of a battle. The words of the Douglas when intervening in a heated contest, "The first who strikes shall be my foe," may sometimes be a model for the real peacemaker. But he would certainly have resented the idea of agreeing to keep prepared, ready armed to fight at the bidding of a number of other chiefs, anyone who used force to prevent or punish some injury to himself.
[Footnote 1: The death of Lord Parker, which occurred soon after these words were written, has deprived the country of the services of one of the few great jurists at a time when they are most sorely needed. There are many good lawyers, many judicial minds acute in seizing the really relevant points in a complicated case, but very few, perhaps none, who united to legal learning and judicial penetration so broad a grasp of principle and appreciation of the larger issues involved in decisions given.]
[Footnote 2: A passage in Mr. Brailsford's book on a "League of Nations," published some months before the debate took place, but which I had not seen when the above lines were written, puts the point most forcibly:
"We set out to destroy Prussian militarism. It will be destroyed at the moment when a German Government pledges itself to enter a league based on arbitration and conciliation."]
LEAGUE OF NATIONS—THE CONDITIONS
After an adjourned debate on June 27th, 1918, in which Lord Curzon pointed out several practical difficulties that would have to be faced, the House of Lords, surely not a body to be carried away by any ephemeral current of popular feeling or captivated by a vague phrase, passed with practical unanimity a resolution in these terms, "That this House approves of the principle of a League of Nations, and commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation." It in effect declared the "preamble proved," and proposed that "the clauses" should be considered. At the suggestion of Lord Bryce—a true friend of peace, if ever there was one—certain words contained in the original resolution proposing that there should be a tribunal constituted "whose orders shall be enforceable by adequate sanction" were omitted. The question of sanction is, no doubt, a crucial one, but it seemed better to substitute the more general words urging an inquiry into the conditions necessary for the establishment of a League, in fact to see generally—looking at the question as a whole—what definite and practical steps should be taken to bring the League into existence and define its constitution, aims and powers. In passing such a resolution the House of Lords was expressing the feeling of the nation. Its great importance was that by an assembly so critical, containing men of such varied experience and-with special knowledge both of law and of foreign affairs, a resolution supporting the idea of a League was accepted with real unanimity.
It would be most unfortunate if the approval of the proposal to give the League powers to direct the use of the naval and military forces of certain of its members were to be made a condition precedent to approval of the principle of a League and as necessarily implied in it. Earnest advocates of that principle may dissent entirely from Viscount Grey's statement in his pamphlet, published about the time when the debate took place, that "those States that have power must be ready to use all the force, economic, military or naval, that they possess." "Anything less than this is of no value." They may hold, on the contrary, that a League might be of great value without any agreement binding certain of its members to employ—which implies an obligation to maintain—naval and military forces and armaments at the bidding of the League Council on a scale and in the manner which would either be settled from time to time by representatives of other nations or be the subject of some preliminary agreement. Settling the terms of such an agreement might involve serious disputes and delay the establishment of the League indefinitely. The moral influence due to the existence of a League embracing all nations which regard war as an evil to be stopped if possible, would be great. A Declaration of Faith, in which those who hold a common belief give expression to it, has its effect. An agreement between nations or individuals, even where there is no legal sanction, would be regarded as something that they will try to carry out. The breach of such an agreement would excite the "resentment which is the life-blood of law." Still the risk of disregard of the obligations is great unless there is a definite material sanction, an evil imposed by force on a wrong-doer, and no doubt it will be urged that some objections to employ military and naval power to enforce the obligations imposed by the League may be raised against the less drastic proposal for an economic boycott, but in actual working the two things, as already pointed out, differ enormously. The suggested economic boycott imposes a similar obligation on all members of the League; all alike can immediately forbid all intercourse by their subjects with the aggressor, instead of imposing on certain members the duty of going to war. Secondly, it does not imply the maintenance of great armaments by any State.
It is constantly found that a penalty of smaller amount, a less severe punishment, is more likely to prevent a wrong than a heavier one, provided that it is prompt and certain. Had Germany known a few months sooner that Britain would assuredly go to war and put into such war her whole resources if Belgium were invaded, it is not improbable that that outrage would never have been committed; but had Germany also known that the moment her troops crossed the Belgian frontier every German ship in the United States would be interned, every American citizen punished as a criminal by the United States Government if he traded with Germany, that "intercourse" with the aggressor would be at once forbidden, and that these restraints would be continued until complete restitution had been made, is it not morally certain that Belgium would not have been invaded? War might have been prevented. In fear of such an injury to German trade and commerce, the bankers of Berlin and Frankfort would have denounced war; the merchants of Hamburg and Bremen would have been the strongest advocates of peace. A like test might be applied to other cases of aggression. The effects of breaking off diplomatic—and, still more, commercial—relationships, although no shot is fired and no regiment mobilised, and of mere neutrality differ toto coelo. The very people who are least influenced by moral restraints, who scorn justice, will be most influenced by the financial losses and the destruction of their trade.
It was, no doubt, right "to commend a study of the question" to His Majesty's Government, but it is also well to commend to the Government the desirability of consultation with those outside the Government departments who have given study to it already. Like other problems, it should be considered in advance during the War. As Lord Shaw forcibly pointed out, "The project does not mean the slackening of our efforts or a weakening of our forces or timidity in our policy in the present War. If it did I would not be associated with it for one hour."
To quote Lord Grey's words, Germany has to be convinced that force does not pay, that the aims and policy of her military rulers inflict intolerable and also unnecessary suffering upon her. The regeneration of Germany, a real new birth, is necessary if the peace of the world is to be secured; and surely by now we might have learned that such regeneration will never come unless Germany is beaten in this War. As Lord Grey says, "Recent military success and the ascendancy of Prussian militarism have reduced the advocates of anything but force to silence" in Germany. As these words are written comes the report of the sinking of the hospital ship Llandovery Castle, followed by cold-blooded and deliberate murder. The mass of German crime grows daily.
The "economic boycott" above referred to differs absolutely in its aim and character from the proposal to impose a permanent and continuous boycott on German commerce to maintain and extend British or other trade at the expense of Germany. Phrases are sometimes used here which seem to be almost a repetition of those so dear to the Pan-German party. "Destroy British commerce that German may replace it," is echoed back as "Destroy German commerce that British may replace it." The whole idea that the progress and extension of the trade and industry of one country is an injury to another is radically false. A spirit of jealousy, regarding the prosperity of others as involving injury to ourselves, is a curse to the individual, to the class, or to the nation which is imbued with it.
To put these questions on the highest moral basis—on a true religious basis, if you will—is not cant, but only a recognition of the real facts. The world will without doubt everlastingly perish unless this true faith is maintained and acted upon. Self-interest and self-aggrandisement as dominant motives inevitably lead to destruction, hastened by every advance in the knowledge and in the efficiency of those who take them as their guides.
[Footnote 3: These words were written before July 9th, and perhaps now require some modification.]
LEAGUE OF NATIONS—ITS SCOPE AND AIM
Just so while it is highly important to have controversies between nations settled by arbitration rather than by war, and the growth of sentiment in favour of that peaceable method of settlement is one of the great advances in civilisation of this generation; yet the true basis of peace among men is to be found in a just and considerate spirit among the people who rule our modern democracies, in their regard for the rights of other countries and in their desire to be fair and kindly in the treatment of the subjects which give rise to international controversies. The basis of peace and order is "the self-restraint of the thousands of people who make up the community, and their willingness to obey the law and regard the rights of others."—ELIHU ROOT.
No League of Peace, however, can be sufficient guarantee against a power which is highly organised, vigorous and united, if it desires war. Either such a power must be so defeated and so weakened as to be unable to renew hostilities, or its character so altered as to make it give up the desire for aggression and domination. As Mr. Gerard points out, "It is only by an evolution of Germany herself towards Liberalism that the world will be given such guarantees of future peace as will justify the termination of this War. Liberalism in this sense does not mean violent revolution, but does mean a spirit opposed to that which animates the present Government of Germany, and will continue to do so if no change is made in that Government." "The whole world," as Mr. Gerard says, "feels that peace made with its present Government would not be lasting, that such a peace would mean the detachment of some of the Allies from the present world alliance against Germany, preparation by Germany in light of her needs as disclosed by the War, and the declaration of a new war in which there would be no battle of the Marne to turn back the tide of German world conquest." No such change of government can be imposed from without. Every German would resent, and rightly, any such interference. Mr. Balfour has declared expressly that a claim to change the form of government in Germany is not one of our war aims. The change must be a change of spirit, which will not come unless facts prove that the violent assertion of the claim to domination, to override justice where self-interest appears to be served thereby, has led to disaster, and is in reality opposed to self-interest in the long run. As a means of carrying out the ideas of Germany in its relations with other countries, it must be admitted that its Government is a singularly effective machine. It is those ideas which must be given up if a real change is to be made. The clever devil could have invented nothing better than the highly organised machinery of the German Government for doing his work. There are two conditions, at all events, which are necessary in regard to any such change if permanent peace is to result.
First, that we should not look for a disruption of settled and orderly government in Germany. The anarchy of Russia does not make for world peace. Would not a reasonable man, however liberal his views, prefer for his country the rule of the Kaiser and his devotees to the rule of a Lenin and of Bolsheviks?
Second, it must be clear that we do not desire the destruction of Germany—a futile desire, even if not wicked—but its regeneration. No doubt for a time, whatever happens in Germany, it will be impossible to forget the crimes that have been committed. British sailors will naturally refuse all association with those who have been guilty of the series of murders at sea. Any attempt, however, to exclude Germany from the markets of the world, permanently to destroy German commerce for all time, would make permanent peace impossible. To make that a war aim would be to strengthen every evil influence in Germany, and if done with the object of securing gain to ourselves by forcible means, would degrade us almost to the level of those who forced this War upon the world. It was the purity of our aims that united all the best elements of the nation in entering upon and in prosecuting the War, and in facing its losses. It was that which has confirmed the stability of the alliance, and from the beginning of the War made the best and most enlightened Americans earnest supporters of our cause, and has finally brought in the whole American nation, sworn to see the accomplishment of those aims. The aims with which Britain entered on the War appealed irresistibly to the people of the whole Empire, and not least to the imagination of the Indian races. An Indian friend of wide experience and calm and independent judgment wrote to me at the time, saying he had never seen anything like the spirit of intense loyalty called out by the belief of Indians that Britain was taking up a heavy burden to protect weaker nations from aggression and to maintain justice. Let us keep those aims pure to the end. It would, of course, be affectation to suggest that our object in the War is now simply a chivalrous desire to protect the weak or maintain justice. We now know that it is also to preserve our own existence as a nation, and that it would be better for us and our children that Britain should be sunk beneath the sea than that Germany should achieve a complete victory.
It must be reiterated that until Germans and Austrians can be admitted to free intercourse with other nations we can have no complete world peace. For such admission the conditions precedent above stated are essential. But if these are complied with, we must make our choice between the possibility of general peace with a League of Nations embracing all and a state of "veiled and suspended warfare." This pregnant phrase caught my eye after the foregoing paragraphs were written. It is one to be remembered.
Although there is no sign at present of a changed spirit in the German rulers, or in the party which is now dominant in Germany, the prospect of an alteration in the spirit of the German people is not hopeless, unless they emerge from the War victorious. A significant passage from a German paper is quoted by Sir Dugald Clerk in the most valuable and encouraging address on the "Stability of Britain," delivered by him to the Royal Society of Arts in 1916. "So the Germans are awakening to a consciousness of the futility of their dream of domination founded upon the idea of might, irrespective of the rights of other nations, and they will ultimately be forced to accept the idea, so strange to them hitherto, that honesty between nations is as necessary as between man and man." The whole address should be read as an antidote by any who take a "gloomy joy in depreciation," as a tonic by those who are depressed by our failures and apprehensive of our future.
To maintain a real peace based on goodwill, we want to get rid of the jealous spirit which regards the prosperity of one nation as an injury to others. "The economic and financial strength of this country is founded upon the welfare not merely of the British people, but practically of all countries." "Commerce is not a war. It will be found that wealth increases simultaneously in industrious nations." "We must not even forget that a poverty-stricken Germany and Austria would react on the whole world." "Punish the Germans and Austrians by all means—they thoroughly deserve it—but do not imagine that by cutting those nations out of the world's commerce the other nations can be rendered more wealthy." These general statements do not exclude, of course, the possibility that it may be found necessary for a time by "economic pressure" to secure performance by the enemy of certain terms, nor that, during a period of reconstruction and readjustment, the conditions affecting certain industries may not demand some special temporary protection for them. There may for a time have to be restrictions on certain imports from the enemy countries, and on certain exports to them, but all such proposals ought to be very jealously scrutinised, not only in regard to their effect on the particular trades directly affected, but on the country as a whole. The use of such weapons often injures those who use them more than those against whom they are used. Would not a German Minister of Propaganda, or a German Committee on War Aims, wishing to stimulate active support for the War among the German masses, be well advised to circulate some of the resolutions that have been passed by certain bodies in England and scatter them broadcast in Central Europe, with a few careful glosses and comments to point the moral? They would be a valuable asset for a German "ginger group." The open door into and out of this country for commodities generally has made it an emporium for world trade, and been one of the main causes why, in spite of deficient home production of necessaries, we have been able to stand the economic strain of the War. Striking off the fetters that it has been found necessary to impose—sometimes with undue strictness and pedantic minuteness—on British commerce and industry will be one of the first things to be hoped for from peace. It is impossible to give detailed examples here. Ask any merchant, he will give you specific instances of the need for a recovered freedom. Questions are so closely involved with each other that we may seem to be mixing up national trade interests with the ideal striving for peace and goodwill. Yet, after all, self-interest rightly understood and regard for the interests of others, with an honest wish for their welfare, are not feelings mutually exclusive. There is high authority for saying that "serving the Lord" is not incompatible with "diligence in business."
It is quite possible to lay too much stress on the necessity for definite and formal sanctions to enforce agreements. There are cases in which the enforcement of a definite penalty for a wrongful act or for breach of an agreement is very difficult, but in which the "sense of moral obligation," "respect for public opinion," and "reliance on principles of mutual consent" do regularly operate so strongly that the rules of conduct laid down are in fact observed. On the Manchester Exchange thousands of agreements involving millions of money are made, the breach of which could not be made the ground of a successful action at law. The number of cases of repudiation of such agreements is almost negligible. To plead the Statute of Frauds in an action for non-delivery or non-acceptance of goods under such informal agreements might be a defence in the law courts, but would not save the defendant from the indeterminate but effective penalties due to the feeling of his fellows that he was acting dishonourably. It is instructive to notice that in dealing with the question of industrial disputes, which are in many ways analogous to international, at least where they arise between organised bodies of employers and of workpeople, the Whitley Committee, in a supplemental report issued in January, 1918, expressed the opinion: (1) that no attempt should be made to establish compulsory arbitration or compulsory legislation to prevent strikes and lock-outs; (2) that there should be standing arbitration councils or panels of arbitrators to whom disputes arising could be voluntarily referred; (3) that provision should be made for independent inquiry and report as to the merits of trade disputes; (4) that legal penalties for breach of an award or of an agreement made to settle a trade dispute should not be imposed; (5) that the decisions of industrial tribunals and arbitrators should be co-ordinated as far as possible, and that there should be opportunity for interchange of opinion between the arbitrators whose awards should be circulated. A body of customary law on the subject would thus grow up without legal sanction, but of great value in promoting uniformity and preventing the ill-feeling which would arise from conflicting decisions in different cases involving similar questions. Those who have taken any part in deciding questions affecting wages or trade conditions have found the need of some standard to appeal to, and felt the danger likely to arise from giving decisions either less or more favourable to either party than had been given in other districts in similar circumstances. In an analogous way, decisions of the prize court of one country are quoted in the courts of other countries, although they are not binding on them. International Law did exist, and had an important practical influence. Diplomatists did appeal to it, and the prize tribunals, in administering the law, stated distinctly that they would be guided by and would apply the principles of that law, even if the orders issued by the administrative Government of their own country were at variance with it. The decision of the Privy Council in the case of the Zamora establishes the principle that the law which prize courts will follow is International Law, and that they will do so though some Order in Council may conflict with it.
[Footnote 4: How strong this belief was among many of those who had often been in opposition to the British Government was shown at a meeting in Bombay early in the War. The enthusiastic speech of the chairman, the late Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, one of the ablest and most persistent critics of British rule in India for very many years, is one to be remembered.]
We may now state in order certain definite conclusions which appear to follow from the arguments urged above:—
1.—It is to be expected that during the next thirty years, a period less than that which has elapsed since the Franco-German War, the scientific knowledge of the means of carrying on offensive warfare will have made such advances and become so generally applied, that, if another world war breaks out, not only will material damage be caused which can never be repaired, but the best part of the human race will either be destroyed or suffer deterioration as disastrous as complete destruction, and that this result will be accompanied by appalling misery.
2.—Unless there is a real assurance of peace, even if actual war does not break out, the maintenance of armaments and the preparation for war would place a burden which would be absolutely intolerable on the leading nations of mankind.
3.—Owing to the close connection through modern means of communication between one nation and another and the way in which their interests are interlocked, a war between two States is liable to develop into a world war. If one nation endeavours to promote its interests by imposing its will by force on another, the other nations must either stand by while the injury is done, in which case it is almost certain that the injury will be repeated by subsequent attacks on some of them, or the nations must league themselves together to prevent aggression and the assertion of the claim to ascendancy.
4.—The complete defeat of Germany, and the punishment thereby inflicted on the German rulers and the people who have supported them, will be the best vindication of the principles of international justice possible, and will operate as a sanction for international morality and a warning against future aggressions or claims to dominate put forward by Germany or any other State.
5.—The defeat of Germany in the present War, followed by subsequent pressure on Germany through economic boycott or else by a clearly proved change in the principles and aims of the German nation, accompanied by a definite repudiation of the persons and the policy and organisation which have led to the War, is absolutely essential for the future peace of the world.
6.—The formation of a League of Nations willing to bind themselves together for common objects, of which the prevention of war is the most important, may not only be the most effective way of securing peace but also provide a means for the consideration and adoption of measures intended for the common welfare of all. Such a League may, probably must, come into existence, and its aims and methods be formulated, before Germany and her Allies could be admitted to it; but as soon as Germany and her Allies can give adequate assurances that they will adopt and be bound by the principles laid down as the foundation of the League, they should be admitted to it. Until this is possible the League must partake of the nature of a defensive alliance rather than of a world-wide league of peace.
7.—Whether any definite sanction for enforcing the principles on which the League is founded and the stipulations which it contains can be imposed or not, the League may be of great value by giving the weight of international opinion expressly to those principles. Public opinion of the nations so expressed might often be effective even though not enforced by a definite sanction.
8.—Of the two definite sanctions proposed, namely, (a) the so-called "economic boycott" and (b) the use of the naval and military forces of the leagued States or of certain States selected from them by arrangement, the economic boycott which can readily be applied by all members of the League alike, and that without keeping up any large armaments, is likely to be effective and is free from the most serious objections against the other sanction suggested.
9.—So many difficulties would arise in fixing the terms of any stipulations as to the employment of military and naval forces to carry into effect the requirements of the League, that to make such provisions a necessary preliminary condition to the existence of the League from the outset might indefinitely delay the formation of such a League, and, further, the discussion of such terms would be likely to lead to friction. The obligation imposed on certain States might involve a very heavy burden, first, in keeping up armaments and possibly, later, in actually going to war. Such stipulations, for reasons above stated and illustrated, might place the leading powers in a position of great embarrassment, and might actually themselves become the cause of serious wars.
10.—The practice of making Secret Treaties by which the Sovereigns, the Foreign Ministers, or the diplomatists of any nation can bind it ought to be discontinued. The experience of the action of this country as well as of others during the present War, as well as before it, supports this conclusion. Negotiations must no doubt be carried on through the ordinary diplomatic channels, but before a complete and binding agreement is entered into, the duly constituted representatives of the popular will should know and give their sanction to what is being done. On the other hand, for unauthorised persons or any self-constituted bodies or conferences to attempt to pre-judge such questions and to carry on negotiations either with regular or irregular representatives of other nations is pernicious. Such action is likely both to lead to confusion and to hamper the action of the authorised representatives of the nation, and is really opposed to sound principles of democracy, which must be based on the duly expressed will of the nation as a whole, and not of any section.
11.—Much may be done in settling the terms of peace after the War by acting so as to remove probable causes of war in the future. The adoption of some of the methods used in the past, as, for example, at the Congress at Vienna, is sure to lead to future difficulties. Terms of peace should not be matters for the kind of bargaining between the powerful States by which one gives up something in consideration of another giving up something else in exchange, and the contracting parties treat smaller States or weaker nations as "pawns" in the game. Each territory about which any question arises, each subject which has to be dealt with, should be treated independently in accordance with the requirements of justice, and especially having regard to the welfare of the people most directly affected by it. No claim, for example, on the part of Germany to be compensated for evacuating and making reparation to Belgium by having some advantage in some other part of the world should be entertained for a moment. To do so would be equivalent to bargaining with a criminal as to the compensation to be paid to him for giving up what he has acquired by his crimes. It is, however, legitimate in considering the question of self-determination by the people of any territory to consider how far such people have established or can establish a peaceful and orderly government, and how far the arrangements to be made as regards any country or district will affect the safety of contiguous countries or may give rise to future disputes and really be productive of war.
12.—Whether a League is established or not, treaties for submitting disputes to arbitration, and if possible to tribunals permanently constituted, will still be valuable in the future as in the past. The decisions of regular tribunals composed of impartial persons who inspire respect will gradually form a body of customary law, and be precedents guiding action in the future. The attempt of Germany to override not only precedents but also express agreements with regard to the conduct of war, if it fails, does not discredit the value of such attempts as were made at The Hague to embody in definite form the international law on the subjects with which they endeavoured to deal. A careful revision of the provisions agreed to at The Hague in light of subsequent knowledge is desirable. They only become a dead letter if one nation utterly disregards them and does so without incurring a penalty in some form.
13.—It is not desirable to attempt to go into exact detail in all the arrangements so made. For example, the attempt to enumerate a list of articles which are to be deemed contraband, as was tried in the Declaration of London, has led to preposterous results. Articles which at one time were of no use in war have become, through the advance in scientific knowledge, the material for making the most deadly and most cruel instruments in the course of the present War.
14.—An attempt must be made to secure at least partial disarmament. Provision as to the disarmament of Germany should be one of the terms of peace. The extent and character of any arrangements as to general disarmament require separate and detailed consideration. It would naturally be one of the subjects to be discussed by any League which may be formed. It is well to note from the outset (a) that a fleet is essential to the British Empire for purely defensive purposes, and for maintaining connection between the different parts of the Empire, but a great reduction in the size of the fleet may be possible by arrangement. The Allied Powers will recognise that it was the existence of the British fleet that saved them from defeat, and in some cases from utter destruction. (6) That for a nation to train its citizens as a defensive force on the Swiss model may actually tend to preserve peace, and also have a very useful influence on the morale of a nation. A defensive force of this kind would not have the character or the aims which make a great professional army a menace to peace.
15.—Lastly, it is undesirable and would be futile to attempt to set up a "supernational sovereign authority." The scope of any League—its powers and its objects—should be clearly defined, and the independent sovereign States should bind themselves, as contracting parties, to carry out the terms agreed, and all should agree beforehand as to the steps they would take to prevent or to punish any violation of those terms.
VICTORY AND PEACE
Toi qui nous apportas l'epee— Le glaive de Justice— Et nous ordonnas de l'acheter Fut ce an prix de nos tuniques, Toi qui renversas les tables des marchants Installes sous Tes portiques, Donne a nos bras la foi et la rage a nos coeurs Afin que la Victoire couronne de fleurs Le front de nos enfants.— EMILE CAMMAERTS, "Priere Paques," 1915.
A few still perhaps remain of those who, as under-graduates at the time of the Franco-German War, remember Dean Stanley's first sermons after many years of exclusion from the Oxford University pulpit. Using in one of them his favourite plan of giving life to ancient literature by modern illustrations and conversely making modern tendencies clearer by references to ancient thought, he took the words of the Hebrew prophet, applying them to the troubles and strife of the time. "Who is this that cometh from Edom with dyed garments from Bozrah?" What will emerge from the bloodshed of war and the chaos of communal revolution? The answer was given—"It may be, it must be a united Germany; it may be, it must be a regenerate France."
Truly it has been a regenerate France that, with firm resolve and calm courage, has suffered and withstood invasion, far different from the France which in 1870 went to war with light heart, excited and unprepared, anticipating easy victory. War shattered the Empire and the true soul of France was found.
Well might the "Song before Sunrise" again greet the purified France:—
Who is this that rises red with wounds and splendid. All her breast and brow made beautiful with scars?
May we soon be able to add the conclusion!—
In her eyes the light and fire of long pain ended, In her lips a song as of the morning stars.
The prophecy in both parts was fulfilled. Germany did indeed become united, united not only by closer political ties between all its divisions, but united in its aims and in its methods, conscious of union and of strength, marvellous in its power of organisation, fitting each member into his special position in the consolidated state, and moulding him for the place he was to occupy; drilled from earliest youth how to act and how to think, his commonest acts done, and very gestures made, according to rule. Yet they, too, had their ideals. I remember in 1871, the year after the Franco-German War, meeting a party of Germans who were unveiling a tablet by the Pasterze Glacier in memory of a comrade fallen in the war—Karl Hoffman, a pioneer of mountaineering in the Glockner district—and hearing their impassioned speeches. The mountains of Austrian Tyrol were to them "die Alpen seines Vaterlandes," and the song with the refrain, "Lieb Vaterland muss groesser sein" echoed from the rocks, "My beloved Fatherland must be greater"; may not this be the expression of a noble patriotism? But it so easily turns to "my country must have more, must take more," and becomes the very watchword of greed. "Deutschland ueber Alles" might perhaps mean first to the German "My country before everything to me." Corruptio optimi pessima, it easily becomes "Germany over all,"—the country which dominates an inferior world and is thus the condensed motto of supreme insolence. "Insolence breeds the tyrant," and the doom the ancient poet prophesies is the divine ordinance to be fulfilled by the action of man. "Insolence, swollen with vain thought, mounts to the highest place, and is hurled down to the doom decreed."
Insolence seems the nearest equivalent for the Greek word [Greek: hybris], which implies much more. Some translate it "pride." It is a sense of superiority, greater strength, higher culture, leading to a claim to dominate the minds and the lives, the destinies, of others, and then in its arrogant self-assertion to override all laws and all restraints imposed by justice. It is the exact opposite of the Christian precept: "Let each esteem other better than himself." This, like some other Christian precepts, may never have been meant to express the whole truth, but only that side which men are naturally apt to neglect. It was hardly necessary to insist that men should defend themselves against attack, maintain their rights, and keep their self-respect. There are some crimes, too, which it required no special revelation to condemn; man revolts from them as contra naturam. One of these crimes is refusal to aid their fellow-countrymen who are fighting against aggression.
With the spirit that claims to dominate in its "will to power," to override the eternal laws of justice, there can be no compromise. Until that spirit is vanquished, the answer to the question, "Is it peace?" must be, "What hast thou to do with peace, so long as thy brutal acts and thy tyrannies are so many?" The order is given to smite. With profit now we may recall the old narrative,—"And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten" the enemy till thou hadst destroyed his evil will. The work must be completed thoroughly; but that task once accomplished, to continue war, whether open or veiled, either to satisfy national hatred and the mere wish for vengeance, or, still more, in the desire of gain, would be to become—to use George Herbert's words—"parcel devils in damnation" with those who have driven or beguiled Germany to crime against humanity and to her own undoing. It is but too easy for heroic effort and firm determination to defend the right, to be corrupted either by a spirit of insolence or greed. Even as we sow the seeds for a fruitful harvest of good, the arch-enemy may be sowing the tares. On the other hand, to cease from work and from struggle, either through fear or slackness or weariness, or even from that pacific temperament which shrinks from contest of any kind, may have results almost equally fatal. That other prayer of the Greek poet is for us also. "But I ask that the god will never relax that struggle which is for the State's true welfare"—"the contest in which citizen vies with citizen who shall best serve the State."
PEACE AND THE CONSTITUTION
The question for the British nation is—Can we work our course pacifically on firm land into the New Era, or must it be for us as for others, through the black abysses of Anarchy, hardly escaping, if we do with all our struggles escape, the jaws of eternal death?—THOMAS CARLYLE.
It is not only international peace that must be assured. As a necessary condition for reconstruction comes the need for Peace, peace real and lasting, and peace all round. There may be times when the nation or the individual needs the bracing stimulus, if not of war, at least of competition and of conflict in the realm of thought and in the realm of action; times when old institutions, old creeds, old systems, old customs, are fiercely attacked and vigorously defended. The storm clears the air, and the struggle ends in the survival of the fittest. After the War the nations, and our own not least, wearied of strife, exhausted by losses, will need all their energies to repair those losses, to rebuild, often in quite new form, what the havoc of war has destroyed, and to adapt themselves to the changed conditions of an altered world. It will be a time neither for contest nor for rest, but for co-operation, mutual help in the work, not merely of restoration, but of building up something better in its place, where the old has been destroyed, or shown its defects under the strain. For this, Peace is needed, peace not only between the nations, but peace between different classes and opposing parties, and even divergent Churches; international, industrial, political and religious peace. There will be so much that ought by general agreement to be done, the ideals to be set before us will have so much in common, their realisation will need so much work in concert, such concurrence as to the practical steps to be taken, such goodwill among those who must work together with a common aim, that a "truce of God" between those who were once opponents may be called for. For a time at least old shibboleths might be forgotten, and the old so-called "principles," round which so many barren contests of the past have been waged, might cease to hamper us in adopting the practical measures which the exigencies of the time demand.
It is a significant fact, a note of sure and certain hope of the ultimate result in the struggle against the powers of darkness, that men are ready now to think and to act on the assumption that complete victory will be achieved, and that the foundations for reconstruction may now be laid, even while war is raging most fiercely. This work of preparation to meet the difficulties that will arise after the War need not interfere in any way with the paramount necessity of carrying on the War to a successful issue, or divert the attention of those who are engaged in that task. It is indeed matter for congratulation that in the present Parliament, in spite of necessary preoccupation with matters directly affecting the conduct of the War, a great Parliamentary Reform, changing and enlarging the basis of representation, has been carried through, and that the way to a great advance in Education has been made possible.
These great changes have been made with something approaching to general concurrence. On one question unfortunately proposals made as part of their considered scheme for electoral reform by a representative conference were set aside. The influence of old party machinery and a sluggish reluctance to take the trouble to understand either its character or its importance prevented the introduction of a system of proportional representation. The representatives of the caucuses scored a success towards slamming the door of the House of Commons in the face of the detached judgment, moderation of language, and independence of character which Parliament needs. The electors desire to have such qualities in their representatives, but care is taken to prevent their giving effect to it. But it is better to let even that question rest for a time.