Crime Against Europe
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A Possible Outcome of the War of 1914
SIR ROGER CASEMENT
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The reader must remember that these articles were written before the war began. They are in a sense prophetic and show a remarkable understanding of the conditions which brought about the present great war in Europe.
The writer has made European history a life study and his training in the English consular service placed him in a position to secure the facts upon which he bases his arguments.
Sir Roger Casement was born in Ireland in September, 1864. He was made consul to Lorenzo Marques in 1889, being transferred to a similar post in the Portuguese Possessions in West Africa, which included the consulate to the Gaboon and the Congo Free State. He held this post from 1898 to 1905, when he was given the consulate of Santos. The following year he was appointed consul to Hayti and San Domingo, but did not proceed, going instead to Para, where he served until 1909, when he became consul-general to Rio de Janeiro. He was created a knight in 1911.
He was one of the organizers of the Irish Volunteers at Dublin in November, 1913, being one of their provisional committee. At present he is a member of the governing body of that organization. He spent the summer of this year in the United States. Sir Roger is at present in Berlin, where, after a visit paid to the foreign office by him, the German Chancellor caused to be issued the statement that "should the German forces reach the shores of Ireland they would come not as conquerors but as friends."
Sir Roger is well known for his investigation into the Putomayo rubber district atrocities in 1912.
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR AND THE FOUNDATION OF PEACE
Since the war, foreshadowed in these pages, has come and finds public opinion in America gravely shocked at a war it believes to be solely due to certain phases of European militarism, the writer is now persuaded to publish these articles, which at least have the merit of having been written well before the event, in the hope that they may furnish a more useful point of view. For if one thing is certain it is that European militarism is no more the cause of this war than of any previous war. Europe is not fighting to see who has the best army, or to test mere military efficiency, but because certain peoples wish certain things and are determined to get and keep them by an appeal to force. If the armies and fleets were small the war would have broken out just the same, the parties and their claims, intentions, and positions being what they are. To find the causes of the war we must seek the motives of the combatants, and if we would have a lasting peace the foundations upon which to build it must be laid bare by revealing those foundations on which the peace was broken. To find the causes of the war we should turn not to Blue Books or White Papers, giving carefully selected statements of those responsible for concealing from the public the true issues that move nations to attack each other, but should seek the unavowed aims of those nations themselves.
Once the motive is found it is not hard to say who it is that broke the peace, whatever the diplomats may put forward in lieu of the real reason.
The war was, in truth, inevitable, and was made inevitable years ago. It was not brought about through the faults or temper of Sovereigns or their diplomats, not because there were great armies in Europe, but because certain Powers, and one Power in particular, nourished ambitions and asserted claims that involved not only ever increasing armaments but insured ever increasing animosities. In these cases peace, if permitted, would have dissipated the ambitions and upset claims, so it was only a question of time and opportunity when those whose aims required war would find occasion to bring it about.
As Mr. Bernard Shaw put it, in a recent letter to the press: "After having done all in our power to render war inevitable it is no use now to beg people not to make a disturbance, but to come to London to be kindly but firmly spoken to by Sir Edward Grey."
To find the motive powerful enough to have plunged all Europe into war in the short space of a few hours, we must seek it, not in the pages of a "white paper" covering a period of only fifteen days (July 20th to August 4th, 1914), but in the long anterior activities that led the great Powers of Europe into definite commitments to each other. For the purposes of this investigation we can eliminate at once three of the actual combatants, as being merely "accessories after the fact," viz.:—Servia, Belgium and Japan, and confine our study of the causes of the conflict to the aims and motives of the five principal combatants. For it is clear that in the quarrel between Servia and Austria, Hungary is only a side issue of the larger question that divides Europe into armed camps. Were categoric proof sought of how small a part the quarrel between Vienna and Belgrade played in the larger tragedy, it can be found in the urgent insistence of the Russian Government itself in the very beginning of the diplomatic conversations that preceded the outbreak of hostilities.
As early as the 24th of July, the Russian Government sought to prevail upon Great Britain to proclaim its complete solidarity with Russia and France, and on the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg pointing out that "direct British interests in Servia were nil, and a war on behalf of that country would never be sanctioned by British public opinion," the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs replied that "we must not forget that the general European question was involved, the Servian question being but a part of the former, and that Great Britain could not afford to efface herself from the problem now at issue." (Despatch of Sir G. Buchanan to Sir E. Grey, 24th July, 1914).
Those problems involved far mightier questions than the relations of Servia to Austria, the neutrality of Belgium or the wish of Japan to keep the peace of the East by seizing Kiao-Chau.
The neutrality never became a war issue until long after war had been decided on and had actually broken out; while Japan came into the contest solely because Europe had obligingly provided one, and because one European power preferred, for its own ends, to strengthen an Asiatic race to seeing a kindred white people it feared grow stronger in the sun.
Coming then to the five great combatants, we can quickly reduce them to four. Austria-Hungary and Germany in this war are indivisible. While each may have varying aims on many points and ambitions that, perhaps, widely diverge both have one common bond, self-preservation, that binds them much more closely together than mere formal "allies." In this war Austria fights of necessity as a Germanic Power, although the challenge to her has been on the ground of her Slav obligations and activities. Germany is compelled to support Austria by a law of necessity that a glance at the map of Europe explains. Hence, for the purpose of the argument, we may put the conflict as between the Germanic peoples of Central Europe and those who have quarreled with them.
We thus arrive at the question, "why should such strangely consorted allies as England, Russia and France be at war with the German people?"
The answer is not to be found in the White Book, or in any statement publicly put forward by Great Britain, Russia or France.
But the answer must be found, if we would find the causes of the war, and if we would hope to erect any lasting peace on the ruins of this world conflict.
To accept, as an explanation of the war the statement that Germany has a highly trained army she has not used for nearly half a century and that her people are so obsessed with admiration for it that they longed to test it on their neighbours, is to accept as an explanation a stultifying contradiction. It is of course much easier to put the blame on the Kaiser. This line of thought is highly popular: it accords, too, with a fine vulgar instinct.
The German people can be spared the odium of responsibility for a war they clearly did nothing to provoke, by representing them as the victims of an autocracy, cased in mail and beyond their control. We thus arrive at "the real crime against Germany," which explains everything but the thing it set out to explain. It leaves unexplained the real crime against Europe.
To explain the causes of the war we must find the causes of the alliances of England, France and Russia against Germany.
For the cause of the war is that alliance—that and nothing else. The defence of the Entente Cordiale is that it is an innocent pact of friendship, designed only to meet the threat of the Triple Alliance. But the answer to that is that whereas the Triple Alliance was formed thirty years ago, it has never declared war on anyone, while the Triple Entente before it is eight years old has involved Europe, America, Africa, and Asia in a world conflict. We must find the motive for England allying herself with France and Russia in an admittedly anti-German "understanding" if we would understand the causes of the present war and why it is that many besides Bernard Shaw hold that "after having done all in our power to render war inevitable" it was idle for the British Government to assume a death-bed solicitude for peace, having already dug its grave and cast aside the shovel for the gun. When that motive is apparent we shall realise who it was preferred war to peace and how impossible it is to hope for any certain peace ensuing from the victory of those who ensured an appeal to arms.
The Entente Cordiale, to begin with, is unnatural. There is nothing in common between the parties to it, save antagonism to someone else. It is wrongly named. It is founded not on predilections but on prejudices—not on affection but on animosity. To put it crudely it is a bond of hate not of love. None of the parties to it like or admire each other, or have consistent aims, save one.
That satisfied, they will surely fall out among themselves, and the greater the plunder derived from their victory the more certain their ensuing quarrel.
Great Britain, in her dealings with most white people (not with all) is a democracy.
Russia in her dealings with all, is an autocracy.
Great Britain is democratic in her government of herself and in her dealings with the great white communities of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. She is not democratic in her dealings with subject races within the Empire—the Indians, notably, or the Irish. To the Indians her rule is that of an absentee autocracy, differing in speech, colour, religion and culture from those submitted to it by force; to the Irish that of a resident autocracy bent on eliminating the people governed from residence in their own country, and replacing them with cattle for British consumption.
In both instances Britain is notably false to her professions of devotion to democratic principles. Her affinity with Russia is found then, not in the cases where her institutions are good, but in those where they are bad.
An alliance founded on such grounds of contact can only produce evil.
To such it gave birth in Persia, to such it must give birth in the present war.
In Persia we saw it betray the principles of democratic government, destroy an infant constitution and disembowel the constitutionalists, whilst it divided their country into "spheres of influence" and to-day we see it harvesting with hands yet red with the blood of Persian patriots the redder fruit of the seed then sown.
The alliance with France, while more natural than that with Russia if we regard Great Britain as a democracy (by eliminating India, Egypt, Ireland) had the same guilty end in view, and rests less on affinity of aims than on affinity of antipathies.
The Entente Cordiale, the more closely we inspect it, we find is based not on a cordial regard of the parties to it for each other, but on a cordial disregard all three participants share for the party it is aimed against.
It will be said that Germany must have done something to justify the resentment that could bring about so strangely assorted a combination against herself. What has been the crime of Germany against the powers now assailing her? She has doubtless committed many crimes, as have all the great powers, but in what respect has she so grievously sinned against Europe that the Czar, the Emperor of India, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, the Mikado and the President of the French Republic—to say nothing of those minor potentates who like Voltaire's minor prophets seem capable de tout—should now be pledged, by irrevocable pact, to her destruction as a great power?
"German militarism," the reply that springs to the lips, is no more a threat to civilisation than French or Russian militarism. It was born, not of wars of aggression, but of wars of defence and unification. Since it was welded by blood and iron into the great human organism of the last forty years it has not been employed beyond the frontiers of Germany until last year.
Can the same be said of Russian militarism or of French militarism or of British navalism?
We are told the things differ in quality. The answer is what about the intent and the uses made. German militarism has kept peace and has not emerged beyond its own frontier until threatened with universal attack. Russian militarism has waged wars abroad, far beyond the confines of Russian territory; French militarism, since it was overthrown at Sedan, has carried fire and sword across all Northern Africa, has penetrated from the Atlantic to the Nile, has raided Tonquin, Siam, Madagascar, Morocco, while English navalism in the last forty years has bombarded the coast lines, battered the ports, and landed raiding parties throughout Asia and Africa, to say nothing of the well nigh continuous campaigns of annexation of the British army in India, Burma, South Africa, Egypt, Tibet, or Afghanistan, within the same period.
As to the quality of the materialism of the great Continental Powers there is nothing to prefer in the French and Russian systems to the German system. Each involved enormous sacrifices on the people sustaining it. We are asked, however, to believe that French militarism is maintained by a "democracy" and German militarism by an "autocracy." Without appealing to the captive Queen of Madagascar for an opinion on the authenticity of French democracy we may confine the question to the elected representatives of the two peoples.
In both cases the war credits are voted by the legislative bodies responsible to French and German opinion. The elected representatives of Germany are as much the spokesman of the nation as those of France, and the German Reichstag has sanctioned every successive levy for the support of German armaments. As to Russian militarism, it may be presumed no one will go quite so far as to assert that the Russian Duma is more truly representative of the Russian people than the Parliament of the Federated peoples of Germany at Berlin.
The machines being then approximately the same machines, we must seek the justification for them in the uses to which they have been put.
For what does France, for what does Russia maintain a great army? Why does Germany call so many youthful Germans to the colours? On what grounds of moral sanction does Great Britain maintain a navy, whose cost far exceeds all the burdens of German militarism?
Russia stretches across the entire area of Central Asia and comprises much of the greater part of Europe as well. In its own territory, it is unassailable, and never has been invaded with success. No power can plunder or weaken Russia as long as she remains within her own borders. Of all the great powers in Europe she is the one that after England has the least need of a great army.
She cannot be assailed with success at home, and she has no need to leave her own territories in search of lands to colonize. Her population, secure in its own vast numbers and vast resources has, for all future needs of expansion the continent of Siberia into which to overflow. Russia cannot be threatened within Russia and has no need to go outside Russia. A Russian army of 4,000,000 is not necessary to self-defence. Its inspiration can be due only to a policy of expansion at the cost of others, and its aim to extend and to maintain existing Russian frontiers. As I write it is engaged not in a war of defence but in a war of invasion, and is the instrument of a policy of avowed aggression.
Not the protection of the Slavs from Austria, herself so largely a Slavic power and one that does not need to learn the principles of good government from Russia, but the incorporation of the Slavs within the mightiest empire upon earth—this is the main reason why Russia maintains the mightiest army upon earth. Its threat to Germany, as the protector of Austria-Hungary, has been clear, and if we would find the reason for German militarism we shall find at least one half of it across the Russian frontier.
The huge machine of the French army, its first line troops almost equal to Germany's, is not a thing of yesterday.
It was not German aggression founded it—although Germany felt it once at Jena. Founded by kings of France, French militarism has flourished under republic, empire, constitutional monarchy, and empire again until to-day we find its greatest bloom full blown under the mild breath of the third republic. What is the purpose of this perfect machine? Self-defence? From what attack? Germany has had it in her power, again and again within the last thirty years to attack France at a disadvantage, if not even with impunity. Why has she refrained—whose hand restrained her? Not Russia's—not England's. During the Russo-Japanese war or during the Boer war, France could have been assailed with ease and her army broken to pieces. But German militarism refrained from striking that blow. The object of the great army France maintains is not to be found in reasons of self-defence, but may be found, like that of Russia in hopes of armed expansion. Since the aim in both cases was the same, to wage a war of aggression to be termed of "recovery" in one case and "protection" in the other, it was not surprising that Czar and President should come together, and that the cause of the Slavs should become identified with the cause of Strasburg.
To "protect" the Slavs meant assailing Austria-Hungary (another way of attacking Germany), and to "recover" Strasburg meant a mes-alliance between democrat of France and Cossack of the Don.
We come now to the third party to die Entente, and it is now we begin to perceive how it was that a cordial understanding with England rendered a Russo-French attack upon Germany only a question of time and opportunity. Until England appeared upon the scene neither Russia nor France, nor both combined, could summon up courage to strike the blow. Willing to wound they were both afraid to strike. It needed a third courage, a keener purpose and a greater immunity.
German militarism was too formidable a factor in the life of 65,000,000 of the most capable people in Europe to be lightly assailed even by France and Russia combined. Russia needed money to perfect the machinery of invasion, so sorely tried by the disastrous failure to invade Korea and Manchuria. France had the money to advance, but she still doubted the ability of her stagnant population of 40,000,000 to face the growing magnitude of the great people across the Rhine. It needed another guarantee—and England brought it.
From the day that Great Britain and her mighty fleet joined the separated allies with their mighty armies, the bond between them and the circle round Germany grew taut. From that day the counsels of the allies and their new found "friend" thickened and quickened. The immovable "menace across the Rhine" in one case had become the active "menace across the North Sea" in the other case.
The sin of German militarism was at last out. It could take to the water as kindly as to the land. As long as the war machine guaranteed the inviolability of German territory it was no threat to European peace, but when it assumed the task of safe-guarding German rights at sea it became the enemy of civilization. These trading people not content with an army that kept French "revanche" discreetly silent and Slav "unity" a dream of the future presumed to have a sea-born commerce that grew by leaps and bounds, and they dared to build a navy to defend and even to extend it. Delenda est Carthago! From that day the doom of "German militarism" was sealed; and England, democratic England, lay down with the Czar in the same bed to which the French housewife had already transferred her republican counterpane.
The duration of peace became only a question of time, and the war of to-day only a question of opportunity and pretext. Each of the parties to the understanding had the same clear purpose to serve, and while the aim to each was different the end was the same. Germany's power of defence must be destroyed. That done each of the sleeping partners to the unsigned compact would get the share of the spoils, guarded by armed German manhood, he coveted.
To Russia, the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary and the incorporation of the Slav elements in part into her own vast empire, in part into a vassal and subordinate Balkan Confederacy.
To France the restoration of Lorraine, with Metz, and of Alsace with Strasburg and their 1,500,000 of German speaking Teutons to the French Empire.
To England, the destruction of German sea-power and along with it the permanent crippling of German competition in the markets of the world.
Incidentally German colonies would disappear along with German shipping, and with both gone a German navy would become a useless burden for a nation of philosophers to maintain, so that the future status of maritime efficiency in Europe could be left to the power that polices the seas to equitably fix for all mankind, as well as for the defeated rival.
Such an outline was the altruistic scope of the unsigned agreement entered into by the three parties of the Triple Entente; and it only remained to get ready for the day when the matter could be brought to issue. The murder of the Archduke Ferdinand furnished Russia with the occasion, since she felt that her armies were ready, the sword sharpened, and the Entente sure and binding.
The mobilization by Russia was all that France needed "to do that which might be required of her by her interests." (Reply of the French Government to the German Ambassador at Paris, August 1st, 1914.)
Had the neutrality of Belgium been respected as completely as the neutrality of Holland, England would have joined her "friends" in the assault on Germany, as Sir Edward Grey was forced to admit when the German Ambassador in vain pressed him to state his own terms as the price of English neutrality.
The hour had struck. Russia was sure of herself, and the rest followed automatically since all had been provided for long before. The French fleet was in the Mediterranean, as the result of the military compact between France and England signed, sealed and delivered in November, 1912, and withheld from the cognizance of the British Parliament until after war had been declared. The British fleet had been mobilized early in July in anticipation of Russia's mobilization on land—and here again it is Sir Edward Grey who incidentally supplies the proof.
In his anxiety, while there was still the fear that Russia might hold her hand, he telegraphed to the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg on 27th of July, requiring him to assure the Russian Foreign Minister, that the British Fleet, "which is concentrated, as it happens" would not disperse from Portland.
That "as it happens" is quite the most illuminating slip in the British White Paper, and is best comprehended by those who know what have been the secret orders of the British fleet since 1909, and what was the end in view when King George reviewed it earlier in the month, and when His Majesty so hurriedly summoned the unconstitutional "Home Rule" conference at Buckingham Palace on 18th of July. Nothing remained for the "friends" but to so manoeuvre that Germany should be driven to declare war, or see her frontiers crossed. If she did the first, she became the "aggressor"; if she waited to be attacked she incurred the peril of destruction.
Such, in outline, are the causes and steps that led to the outbreak of war. The writer has seen those steps well and carefully laid, tested and tried beforehand. Every rung of the scaling ladder being raised for the storming of the German defences on land and sea was planed and polished in the British Foreign Office.
As Sir Edward Grey confessed three years ago, he was "but the fly on the wheel." That wheel was the ever faster driven purpose of Great Britain to destroy the growing sea-power and commerce of Germany. The strain had reached the breaking point.
During the first six months of 1914, German export trade almost equalled that of Great Britain. Another year of peace, and it would certainly have exceeded it, and for the first time in the history of world trade Great Britain would have been put in the second place. German exports from January to June had swelled to the enormous total of $1,045,000,000 as against the $1,075,000,000 of Great Britain. A war against such figures could not be maintained in the markets, it must be transferred to the seas.
Day by day as the war proceeds, although it is now only six weeks old, the pretences under which it was begun are being discarded. England fights not to defend the neutrality of Belgium, not to destroy German militarism, but to retain, if need be by involving the whole world in war, her supreme and undisputed ownership of the seas.
This is the crime against Europe, the crime against the world that, among other victims the United States are invited to approve, in order that to-morrow their own growing navy may be put into a like posture with that of a defeated Germany.
With the Kiel Canal "handed to Denmark," as one of the fruits of British victory, as Lord Charles Beresford yesterday magnanimously suggested, how long may it be before the Panama Canal shall be found to be "a threat to peace" in the hands of those who constructed it?
A rival fleet in being, whether the gunners be Teuton or Anglo-Saxon unless the Admiralty controlling it is seated at Whitehall, will always be an eyesore to the Mistress of the seas, in other words, "a threat to the peace of the world."
The war of armaments cannot be ended by the disarming of the German people. To hand Europe over to a triumphal alliance of Russian and French militarism, while England controls the highways and waterways of mankind by a fleet whose function is "to dictate the maritime law of nations," will beget indeed a new Europe, but a Europe whose acquiescence is due to fear and the continued pressure of well-sustained force—a Europe submitted to the despotism of unnatural alliances designed to arrest the laws of progress.
The laws of progress demand that efficiency shall prevail. The crime of Germany has been superior efficiency, not so much in the arts of war as in the products of peace. If she go down to-day before a combination of brute force and unscrupulous intelligence her fall cannot be permanent. Germany has within herself the forces that ensure revival, and revival means recovery. Neither France nor Russia nor both combined, can give to Europe what Britain now designs to take from it by their help.
Whatever may be the result of this war on the field of battle, to France indeed it can bring only one end. For her there is no future save that of a military empire. Her life blood is dried up. This war will sweep away all power of recuperation. She will remain impotent to increase her race, sterile of new forces for good, her young men's blood gone to win the barren fields of Alsace. Her one purpose in the new Europe will be to hold a sword, not her own, over the struggling form of a resurgent Germany in the interests of another people. Let Germany lose 1,000,000 men in the fighting of to-day, she can recover them in two years of peace. But to France the losses of this war, whether she win or lose, cannot be made good in a quarter of a century of child births. Whatever comes to Russia, to England, France as a great free power is gone. Her future function will be to act in a subordinate capacity alone; supported and encouraged by England she will be forced to keep up a great army in order that the most capable people of the continent, with a population no defeat can arrest, shall not fill the place in Europe and in the world they are called on surely to fill, and one that conflicts only with British aims and appetites.
German expansion was no threat to France. It was directed to other fields, chiefly those of commerce. In order to keep it from those fields England fanned the dying fires of French resentment and strove by every agency to kindle a natural sentiment into an active passion.
The historian of the future will record that whatever the immediate fate of Germany may be, the permanent victim was France.
The day England won her to an active policy of vengeance against the victor of 1870, she wooed her to abiding loss. Her true place in Europe was one of friendship with Germany. But that meant, inevitably, the discovery by Europe that the chief barrier to European concord lay not in the armies of the powers, but in the ring of hostile battleships that constrained her peoples into armed camps.
European militarism rests on English navalism. English navalism requires for its continued existence a disunited Europe; and a Europe kept apart is a Europe armed, anxious and watchful, bent on mutual attack, its eyes fixed on the earth. Europe must lift its eyes to the sea. There lies the highway of the nations, the only road to freedom—the sole path to peace.
For the pent millions of Europe there can be no peace, no laying aside of arms, no sincere development of trade or culture while one people, in Europe but not of Europe, immune themselves from all attack, and sure that whatever suffering they inflict on others can never be visited on their own shores, have it in their power to foment strife with impunity and to call up war from the ends of the earth while they themselves enjoy the blessing of peace.
England, the soul and brain of this confederacy of war abroad remains at peace at home. As I write these words a despatch from Sir Alfred Sharpe, the correspondent of a London paper in France, comes to hand. It should be placarded in every Foreign Office of the world, in every temple of justice, in every house of prayer.
"It is difficult for the people in England to realize the condition of Northern France at the present time. Although the papers are full of accounts of desolation and destruction caused by the German invasion, it is only by an actual experience that a full realization of the horror comes. To return to England after visiting the French war zone is to come back to a land of perfect peace, where everything is normal and where it is not easy to believe we are almost within hearing distance of the cannonade on the Aisne."
(Sir Alfred Sharpe, to the Daily Chronicle from the Front, September 2nd, 1914.)
It is this immunity from the horror of war that makes all Englishmen jingoes. They are never troubled by the consequences of belligerency. Since it is only by "an actual experience that the full realization of the horror comes." Until that horror strikes deep on English soil her statesmen, her Ministers, her Members of Parliament, her editors, will never sincerely love peace, but will plan always to ensure war abroad, whenever British need or ambition demands it.
Were England herself so placed that responsibility for her acts could be enforced on her own soil, among her own people, and on the head of those who devise her policies, then we might talk of arbitration treaties with hope, and sign compacts of goodwill sure that they were indeed cordial understandings.
But as long as Great Britain retains undisputed ownership of the chief factor that ensures at will peace or war on others, there can be only armaments in Europe, ill-will among men and war fever in the blood of mankind.
British democracy loves freedom of the sea in precisely the same spirit as imperial Rome viewed the spectacle of Celtic freedom beyond the outposts of the Roman legions; as Agricola phrased it, something "to wear down and take possession of so that freedom may be put out of sight."
The names change but the spirit of imperial exploitation, whether it call itself an empire or a democracy, does not change.
Just as the Athenian Empire, in the name of a democracy, sought to impose servitude at sea on the Greek world, so the British Empire, in the name of a democracy, seeks to encompass mankind within the long walls of London.
The modern Sparta may be vanquished by the imperial democrats assailing her from East and West. But let the world be under no illusions.
If Germany go down to-day, vanquished by a combination of Asiatic, African, American, Canadian and European enemies, the gain will not be to the world nor to the cause of peace.
The mistress of the seas will remain to ensure new combinations of enmity to prohibit the one league of concord that alone can bring freedom and peace to the world. The cause that begot this war will remain to beget new wars.
The next victim of universal sea-power may not be on the ravaged fields of mid-Europe, but mid the wasted coasts and bombarded seaports of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
A permanent peace can only be laid on a sure foundation. A sure foundation of peace among men can only be found when mastery of the sea by one people has been merged in freedom of the seas for all.
THE KEEPER OF THE SEAS
As long ago as 1870 an Irishman pointed out that if the English press did not abandon the campaign of prejudiced suspicion it was even then conducting against Germany, the time for an understanding between Great Britain and the German people would be gone for ever.
It was Charles Lever who delivered this shrewd appreciation of the onlooker.
Writing from Trieste on August 29th, 1870, to John Blackwood, he stated:
"Be assured the Standard is making a great blunder by its anti-Germanism and English opinion has just now a value in Germany which if the nation be once disgusted with us will be gone for ever."
Lever preserved enough of the Irishman through all his official connection to see the two sides of a question and appreciate the point of view of the other man.
What Lever pointed out during the early stages of the Franco-German war has come to pass. The Standard of forty years ago is the British press of to-day, with here and there the weak voice of an impotent Liberalism crying in the wilderness. Germany has, indeed, become thoroughly disgusted and the hour of reconciliation has long since gone by. In Lever's time it was now or never; the chance not taken then would be lost for ever, and the English publicist of to-day is not in doubt that it is now too late. His heart-searchings need another formula of expression—no longer a conditional assertion of doubt, but a positive questioning of impending fact, "is it too soon." That the growing German navy must be smashed he is convinced, but how or when to do it he is not so clear.
The situation is not yet quite intolerable, and so, although many urge an immediate attack before the enemy grows too strong, the old-time British love of compromise and trust in luck still holds his hand. The American "alliance" too, may yet come off. The Entente with France, already of great value, can be developed into something more assuredly anti-German, and if present-day relations of friendship with the United States can be but tightened into a mutual committal of both Powers to a common foreign policy, then the raid on Germany may never be needed. She can be bottled up without it. No man who studies the British mind can have any doubt of the fixed trend of British thought.
It can be summed up in one phrase. German expansion is not to be tolerated. It can only be a threat to or attained at the expense of British interests. Those interests being world-wide, with the seas for their raiment nay, with the earth for their footstool—it follows that wherever Germany may turn for an outlet she is met by the British challenge: "Not there!" British interests interdict the Old World; the Monroe Doctrine, maintained, it is alleged by British naval supremacy, forbids the New.
Let Germany acquire a coaling station, a sanitorium, a health resort, the ground for a hotel even, on some foreign shore, and "British interests" spring to attention, English jealousy is aroused. How long this state of tension can last without snapping could, perhaps, be best answered in the German naval yards. It is evident that some 7,000,000 of the best educated race in the world, physically strong, mentally stronger, homogeneous, highly trained, highly skilled, capable and energetic and obedient to a discipline that rests upon and is moulded by a lofty conception of patriotism, cannot permanently be confined to a strictly limited area by a less numerous race, less well educated, less strong mentally and physically and assuredly less well trained, skilled and disciplined. Stated thus the problem admits of a simple answer; and were there no other factor governing the situation, that answer would have been long since given.
It is not the ethical superiority of the English race that accounts for their lead, but the favourable geographical situation from which they have been able to develop and direct their policy of expansion.
England has triumphed mainly from her position. The qualities of her people have, undoubtedly, counted for much, but her unrivalled position in the lap of the Atlantic, barring the seaways and closing the tideways of Central and North-eastern Europe, has counted for more.
With this key she has opened the world to herself and closed it to her rivals.
The long wars with France ended in the enhancement of this position by the destruction of the only rival fleet in being.
Europe, without navies, without shipping became for England a mere westward projection of Asia, dominated by warlike peoples who could always be set by the ears and made to fight upon points of dynastic honour, while England appropriated the markets of mankind. Thenceforth, for the best part of a century, while Europe was spent in what, to the superior Britain were tribal conflicts, the seas and coasts of the world lay open to the intrusions of his commerce, his colonists, his finance, until there was seemingly nothing left outside the two Americas worth laying hands on. This highly favoured maritime position depends, however, upon an unnamed factor, the unchallenged possession and use of which by England has been the true foundation of her imperial greatness. Without Ireland there would be to-day no British Empire. The vital importance of Ireland to England is understood, but never proclaimed by every British statesman. To subdue that western and ocean-closing island and to exploit its resources, its people and, above all its position, to the sole advantage of the eastern island, has been the set aim of every English Government from the days of Henry VIII onwards. The vital importance of Ireland to Europe is not and has not been understood by any European statesman. To them it has not been a European island, a vital and necessary element of European development, but an appanage of England, an island beyond an island, a mere geographical expression in the titles of the conqueror. Louis XIV, came nearest, perhaps, of European rulers to realizing its importance in the conflict of European interests when he sought to establish James II on its throne as rival to the monarch of Great Britain and counterpoise to the British sovereignty in the western seas. Montesquieu alone of French writers grasped the importance of Ireland in the international affairs of his time, and he blames the vacillation of Louis, who failed to put forth his strength, to establish James upon the throne of Ireland and thus by a successful act of perpetual separation to affaiblir le voisin. Napoleon, too late, in St. Helena, realized his error: "Had I gone to Ireland instead of to Egypt the Empire of England was at an end."
With these two utterances of the French writer and of the French ruler we begin and end the reference of Ireland to European affairs which continental statecraft has up to now emitted, and so far has failed to apply.
To-day there is probably no European thinker (although Germany produced one in recent times), who, when he faces the over-powering supremacy of Great Britain's influence in world affairs and the relative subordination of European rights to the asserted interests of that small island, gives a thought to the other and smaller island beyond its shores. And yet the key to British supremacy lies there. Perhaps the one latter day European who perceived the true relation of Ireland to Great Britain was Neibuhr.
"Should England," he said, "not change her conduct, Ireland may still for a long period belong to her, but not always; and the loss of that country is the death day, not only to her greatness, but of her very existence."
I propose to point out as briefly as may be possible in dealing with so unexpected a proposition, that the restoration of Ireland to European life lies at the bottom of all successful European effort to break the bonds that now shackle every continental people that would assert itself and extend its ideals, as opposed to British interests, outside the limits of Europe.
It may be well first to define "British interests" and to show that these are not necessarily synonymous with European interests. British interests are: first, the control of all the seas of all the world—in full military and commercial control. If this be not challenged peace is permitted: to dispute it seriously means war.
Next in order of British interests stands the right of pre-emption to all healthy, fertile, "unoccupied" lands of the globe not already in possession of a people capable of seriously disputing invasion, with the right of reversion to such other regions as may, from time to time prove commercially desirable or financially exploitable, whether suitable for British colonization or not.
In a word, British interests assume that the future of the world shall be an English-speaking future. It is clear that sooner or later the British colonies, so called, must develop into separate nationalities, and that the link of a common crown cannot bind them forever. But, as Sir Wilfred Laurier said at the recent Imperial Conference: "We bring you British institutions"—English language, English law, English trade, English supremacy, in a word—this is the ideal reserved for mankind and summed up in words "British interests."
Turn where you will these interests are in effective occupation, and whether it be Madeira, Teneriffe, Agadir, Tahiti, Bagdad, the unseen flag is more potent to exclude the non-British intruder than the visible standard of the occupying tenant. England is the landlord of civilization, mankind her tenantry, and the earth her estate. If this be not a highly exaggerated definition of British interests, and in truth it is but a strongly coloured chart of the broad outline of the design, then it is clear that Europe has a very serious problem to face if European civilization and ideals, as differing from the British type, are to find a place for their ultimate expansion in any region favoured by the sun.
The actual conflict of European interests in Morocco is a fair illustration of English methods.
[Footnote 1: This was written in August, 1911.]
In the past France was the great antagonist, but since she is to-day no longer able to seriously dispute the British usufruct of the overseas world she is used (and rewarded) in the struggle now maintained to exclude Germany at all costs from the arena. Were France still dangerous she would never have been allowed to go to Algeciras, or from Algeciras to Fez. She has uses, however, in the anti-German prize ring and so Morocco is the price of her hire. That Germany should presume to inspect the transaction or claim a share in the settlement has filled the British mind with profound indignation, the echoes of which are heard rumbling round the world from the Guildhall to Gaboon and from the Congo to Tahiti. The mere press rumour that France might barter Tahiti for German goods filled the British newspaper world with supermundane wrath. That France should presume to offer or Germany should accept a French Pacific island in part discharge of liabilities contracted at Algeciras was a threat to British interests. Tahiti in the hands of a decadent republic, the greatest if you will, but still one of the dying nations, is a thing to be borne with, but Tahiti possibly in the hands of Germany becomes at once a challenge and a threat.
And so we learn that "Australasia protests" to the Home Government at the mere rumour that France may choose to part with one of her possessions to win German goodwill in Morocco. Neither France nor Germany can be permitted to be a free agent in a transaction that however regarded as essential to their own interests might affect, even by a shadow on the sea, the world orbit of British interests. These interests it will be noted have reached such a stage of development as to require that all foreign States that cannot be used as tools, or regarded as agencies, must be treated as enemies. Germany with her growing population, her advancing industries, her keen commercial ability, and her ever expanding navy has become the enemy of civilization. Far too strong to be openly assailed on land she must at all costs be pent up in Central Europe and by a ring-fence of armed understandings prohibited from a wider growth that would certainly introduce a rival factor to those British institutions and that world language that are seriously if not piously meditated as the ordained future for mankind.
For English mentality is such that whatever England does is divinely ordained, and whether she stamps out a nation or merely sinks a ship the hymn of action is "Nearer My God, to Thee." In a recent deputation to King George V it will be remembered that certain British religious bodies congratulated that monarch on the third centenary of the translation into English of the Bible.
Both the addresses of the subjects, eminent, religious and cultured men, and the sovereign's reply were highly informative of the mental attitude of this extraordinary people. The Bible, it appeared, was the "greatest possession of the English race." "The British Bible" was the first and greatest of British investments and upon the moral dividends derived from its possession was founded the imperial greatness of this Island Empire. That other peoples possessed the Bible and had even translated it before England was not so much as hinted at. That the Bible was Greek and Hebrew in origin was never whispered. It began and ended with the English Authorised Version. The British Bible was the Bible that counted. It was the Bible upon which the sun never sets, the Bible that had blown Indian mutineers from its muzzle in the 'fifties and was prepared to-day to have a shot at any other mutineers, Teuton or Turk, who dared to dispute its claim that the meek shall inherit the earth. The unctuous rectitude that converts the word of God into wadding for a gun is certainly a formidable opponent, as Cromwell proved. To challenge English supremacy becomes not merely a threat to peace, it is an act of sacrilege. And yet this world-wide empire broad based upon the British Bible and the English navy, and maintained by a very inflexible interpretation of the one and a very skilful handling of the other, rests upon a sunk foundation that is older than both and will surely bring both to final shipwreck.
The British Empire is founded not upon the British Bible or the British dreadnought but upon Ireland. The empire that began upon an island, ravaged, sacked and plundered shall end on an island, "which whether it proceed from the very genius of the soil, or the influence of the stars, or that Almighty God hath not yet appointed the time of her reformation, or that He reserveth her in this unquiet state still for some secret scourge which shall by her come unto England, it is hard to be known but yet much to be feared." Thus Edmund Spenser 340 years ago, whose muse drew profit from an Irish estate (one of the first fruits of empire) and who being a poet had imagination to perceive that a day of payment must some day be called and that the first robbed might be the first to repay. The Empire founded on Ireland by Henry and Elizabeth Tudor has expanded into mighty things. England deprived of Ireland resumes her natural proportions, those of a powerful kingdom. Still possessing Ireland she is always an empire. For just as Great Britain bars the gateways of northern and west central Europe, to hold up at will the trade and block the ports of every coast from the Baltic to the Bay of Biscay, so Ireland stands between Britain and the greater seas of the west and blocks for her the highways of the ocean. An Ireland strong, independent and self-contained, a member of the European family of nations, restored to her kindred, would be the surest guarantee for the healthy development of European interests in those regions whence they are to-day excluded by the anti-European policy of England.
The relation of Ireland to Great Britain has been in no wise understood on the continent. The policy of England has been for centuries to conceal the true source of her supplies and to prevent an audit of transactions with the remoter island. As long ago as the reign of Elizabeth Tudor this shutting off of Ireland from contact with Europe was a settled point of English policy. The three "German Earls" with letters from the Queen who visited Dublin in 1572 were prevented by the Lord Deputy from seeing for themselves anything beyond the walls of the city.
[Footnote 2: This time-honoured British precept—that foreigners should not see for themselves the workings of English rule in Ireland—finds frequent expression in the Irish State Papers. In a letter from Dublin Castle of August, 1572, from the Lord Deputy Fitzwilliam to Burghley Elizabeth's chief Minister, we are told that the "three German Earls" with "their conductor," Mr. Rogers, have arrived. The Viceroy adds, as his successors have done up to the present day: "According to Your Lordship's direction they shall travell as little way into the cuntry as I can."]
To represent the island as a poverty striken land inhabited by a turbulent and ignorant race whom she has with unrewarded solicitude sought to civilise, uplift and educate has been a staple of England's diplomatic trade since modern diplomacy began. To compel the trade of Ireland to be with herself alone; to cut off all direct communication between Europe and this second of European islands until no channel remained save through Britain; to enforce the most abject political and economic servitude one people ever imposed upon another; to exploit all Irish resources, lands, ports, people, wealth, even her religion, everything in fine that Ireland held, to the sole profit and advancement of England, and to keep all the books and rigorously refuse an audit of the transaction has been the secret but determined policy of England.
We have read lately something of Mexican peonage, of how a people can be reduced to a lawless slavery, their land expropriated, their bodies enslaved, their labour appropriated, and how the nexus of this fraudulent connection lies in a falsified account. The hacenade holds the peon by a debt bondage. His palace in Mexico City, or on the sisal plains of Yucatan is reared on the stolen labour of a people whose bondage is based on a lie. The hacenade keeps the books and debits the slave with the cost of the lash that scourges him into the fields. Ireland is the English peon, the great peon of the British Empire. The books and the palaces are in London but the work and the wealth have come from peons on the Irish Estate. The armies that overthrew Napoleon; the fleets that swept the navies of France and Spain from the seas were recruited from this slave pen of English civilisation. During the last 100 years probably 2,000,000 Irishmen have been drafted into the English fleets and armies from a land purposely drained of its food. Fully the same number, driven by executive-controlled famines have given cheap labour to England and have built up her great industries, manned her shipping, dug her mines, and built her ports and railways while Irish harbours silted up and Irish factories closed down. While England grew fat on the crops and beef of Ireland, Ireland starved in her own green fields and Irishmen grew lean in the strife of Europe.
While a million Irishmen died of hunger on the most fertile plains of Europe, English Imperialism drew over one thousand million pounds sterling for investment in a world policy from an island that was represented to that world as too poor to even bury its dead. The profit to England from Irish peonage cannot be assessed in terms of trade, or finance, or taxation. It far transcends Lord MacDonnell's recent estimate at Belfast of L320,000,000—"an Empire's ransom," as he bluntly put it.
Not an Empire's ransom but the sum of an Empire's achievement, the cost of an Empire's founding, and to-day the chief bond of an Empire's existence. Detach Ireland from the map of the British Empire and restore it to the map of Europe and that day England resumes her native proportions and Europe assumes its rightful stature in the empire of the world. Ireland can only be restored to the current of European life, from which she has so long been purposely withheld by the act of Europe. What Napoleon perceived too late may yet be the purpose and achievement of a congress of nations. Ireland, I submit, is necessary to Europe, is essential to Europe, to-day she is retained against Europe, by a combination of elements hostile to Europe and opposed to European influence in the world. Her strategic importance is a factor of supreme weight to Europe and is to-day used in the scales against Europe. Ireland is appropriated and used, not to the service of European interests but to the extension of anti-European interests. The arbitium mundi claimed and most certainly exercised by England is maintained by the British fleet, and until that power is effectively challenged and held in check it is idle to talk of European influence outside of certain narrow continental limits.
The power of the British fleet can never be permanently restrained until Ireland is restored to Europe. Germany has of necessity become the champion of European interests as opposed to the world domination of England and English-speaking elements. She is to-day a dam, a great reservoir rapidly filling with human life that must some day find an outlet. England instead of wisely digging channels for the overflow has hardened her heart, like Pharaoh, and thinks to prevent it or to so divert the stream that it shall be lost and drunk up in the thirsty sands of an ever expanding Anglo-Saxondom. German laws, German language, German civilization are to find no ground for replenishing, no soil to fertilize and make rich.
I believe this to be not only the set policy of England, but to be based on the temperamental foundations of the English character itself, from which that people could not, even if they would, depart. The lists are set. The English mind, the English consciousness are such, that to oppose German influence in the world is to this people a necessity. They oppose by instinct, against argument, in the face of reason, they will do it blindly come what may and at all costs, and they will do it to the end.
Their reasoning, if reason exists in what is after all a matter of primal instinct, might find expression somewhat as follows:
"German influence cannot but be hostile to British interests. The two peoples are too much alike. The qualities that have made England great they possess in a still greater degree. Given a fair field and no favour they are bound to beat us. They will beat us out of every market in the world, and we shall be reduced ultimately to a position like that of France to-day. Better fight while we are still die stronger. Better hinder now ere it be too late. We have bottled up before and destroyed our adversaries by delay, by money, by alliances. To tolerate a German rivalry is to found a German empire and to destroy our own."
Some such obscure argument as this controls the Englishman's reasoning when he faces the growing magnitude of the Teutonic people. A bitter resentment, with fear at the bottom, a hurried clanging of bolt and rivet in the belt of a new warship and a muffled but most diligent hammering at the rivets of an ever building American Alliance—the real Dreadnought this, whose keel was laid sixteen years ago and whose slow, secret construction has cost the silent swallowing of many a cherished British boast.
English Liberalism might desire a different sort of reckoning with Germany, but English Liberalism is itself a product of the English temperament, and however it may sigh, by individuals, for a better understanding between the two peoples, in the mass, it is a part of the national purpose and a phase of the national mind and is driven relentlessly to the rivets and the hammering, the "Dreadnoughts" in being and that mightier Dreadnought yet to be, the Anglo-Saxon Alliance which Germany must fight if she is to get out.
Doubtless she has already a naval policy and the plans for a naval war, for the fight will be settled on the sea, but the fate will be determined on an island.
The Empire that has grown from an island and spread with the winds and the waves to the uttermost shores will fight and be fought for on the water and will be ended where it began, on an island.
That island, I believe, will be Ireland and not Great Britain.
THE BALANCE OF POWER
A conflict between England and Germany exists already, a conflict of aims.
England rich, prosperous, with all that she can possibly assimilate already in her hands, desires peace on present conditions of world power. These conditions are not merely that her actual possessions should remain intact, but that no other Great Power shall, by acquiring colonies and spreading its people and institutions into neighbouring regions, thereby possibly affect the fuller development of those pre-existing British States. For, with England equality is an offence and the Power that arrives at a degree of success approximating to her own and one capable of being expanded into conditions of fair rivalry, has already committed the unpardonable sin. As Curran put it in his defence of Hamilton Rowan in 1797, "England is marked by a natural avarice of freedom which she is studious to engross and accumulate, but most unwilling to impart; whether from any necessity of her policy or from her weakness, or from her pride, I will not presume to say."
Thus while England might even be the attacking party, and in all probability will be the attacking party, she will embark on a war with Germany at an initial disadvantage. She will be on her defence. Although, probably, the military aggressor from reasons of strategy, she will be acting in obedience to an economic policy of defence and not of attack. Her chief concern will be not to advance and seize, always in war the more inspiring task, but to retain and hold. At best she could come out of the war with no new gain, with nothing added worth having to what she held on entering it. Victory would mean for her only that she had secured a further spell of quiet in which to consolidate her strength and enjoy the good things already won.
Germany will fight with far other purpose and one that must inspire a far more vigorous effort; she will fight, not merely to keep what she already has, but to escape from an intolerable position of inferiority she knows to be unmerited and forced not by the moral or intellectual superiority of her adversary or due to her own short comings, but maintained by reason of that adversary's geographical position and early seizure of the various points of advantage.
Her effort will be not merely military, it will be an intellectual assertion, a fight in very truth for that larger freedom, that citizenship of the world England is studious to "engross and accumulate" for herself alone and to deny to all others. Thus, while English attack at the best will be actuated by no loftier feeling than that of a man who, dwelling in a very comfortable house with an agreeable prospect resists an encroachment on his outlook from the building operations of his less well lodged neighbour, Germany will be fighting not only to get out of doors into the open air and sunshine, but to build a loftier and larger dwelling, fit tenement for a numerous and growing offspring.
Whatever the structure Germany seeks to erect England objects to the plan and hangs out her war sign "Ancient Lights."
Who can doubt that the greater patriotism and stronger purpose must inspire the man who fights for light, air, and freedom, the right to walk abroad, to learn, to teach, aye, and to inspire others, rather than him whose chief concern it is to see that no one but himself enjoys these opportunities. The means, moreover, that each combatant will bring to the conflict are, in the end, on the side of Germany. Much the same disproportion of resources exists as lay between Rome and Carthage.
England relies on money. Germany on men. And just as Roman men beat Carthaginian mercenaries, so must German manhood, in the end, triumph over British finance. Just as Carthage in the hours of final shock, placing her gold where Romans put their gods, and never with a soul above her ships, fell before the people of United Italy, so shall the mightier Carthage of the North Seas, in spite of trade, shipping, colonies, the power of the purse and the hired valour of the foreign (Irish, Indian, African), go down before the men of United Germany.
But if the military triumph of Germany seems thus likely, the ultimate assurance, nay even the ultimate safety of German civilization can only be secured by a statemanship which shall not repeat the mistake of Louis XIV and Napoleon. The military defeat of England by Germany is a wholly possible achievement of arms, if the conflict be between these two alone, but to realize the economic and political fruits of that victory, Ireland must be detached from the British Empire. To leave a defeated England still in the full possession of Ireland would be, not to settle the question of German rights at sea or in world affairs, but merely to postpone the settlement to a second and possibly far greater encounter. It would be somewhat as if Rome, after the first Punic war had left Sicily to Carthage. But Ireland is far more vital to England than Sicily was to Carthage, and is of far more account to the future of Europe on the ocean than the possession of Sicily was to the future of the Mediterranean.
If Germany is to permanently profit from a victory over England, she must free the narrow seas, not only by the defeat of British fleets in being, but by ensuring that those seas shall not again be closed by British fleets yet to be. The German gateway to a free Atlantic can only be kept open through a free Ireland. For just as the English Channel under the existing arrangement, whereby Ireland lies hidden from the rest of Europe, can be closed at will by England, so with Ireland no longer tied to the girdle of England, that channel cannot be locked. The key to the freedom of European navigation lies at Berehaven and not at Dover. With Berehaven won from English hands, England might close the Channel in truth, but Ireland could shut the Atlantic. As Richard Dox put it in 1689, quaintly but truly, in his dedication to King William III, and Queen Mary of his "History of Ireland from the Earliest Times."
"But no cost can be too great where the prize is of such value, and whoever considers the situation, ports, plenty and other advantages of Ireland will confess that it must be retained at what rate soever; because if it should come into an enemy's hands, England would find it impossible to flourish and perhaps difficult to subsist without it. To demonstrate this assertion it is enough to say that Ireland lies in the Line of Trade and that all the English vessels that sail to the East, West, and South must, as it were, run the gauntlet between the harbours of Brest and Baltimore; and I might add that the Irish Wool being transported would soon ruin the English Clothing Manufacture. Hence it is that all Your Majesty's Predecessors have kept close to this fundamental maxim of retaining Ireland inseparably united to the Crown of England."
The sole and exclusive appropriation of Ireland and of all her resources has indeed formed, since the Recorder of Kinsale wrote, the mainstay and chief support of British greatness.
The natural position of Ireland lying "in the line of trade," was possibly its chief value, but that "Irish Wool" which was by no means to be allowed free access to world markets typifies much else that Ireland has been relentlessly forced to contribute to her neighbour's growth and sole profit.
I read but yesterday "Few people realise that the trade of Ireland with Great Britain is equal to that of our trade with India, is 13,000,000 pounds greater than our trade with Germany, and 40,000,000 pounds greater than the whole of our trade with the United States." How completely England has laid hands on all Irish resources is made clear from a recent publication that Mr. Chamberlain's "Tariff Commission" issued towards the end of 1912.
This document, entitled "The Economic Position of Ireland and its relation to Tariff Reform," constitutes, in fact, a manifesto calling for the release of Ireland from the exclusive grip of Great Britain. Thus, for instance, in the section "External Trade of Ireland," we learn that Ireland exported in 1910, L63,400,000 worth of Irish produce. Of this Great Britain took L52,600,000 worth, while some L10,800,000 went either to foreign countries, or to British colonies, over L4,000,000 going to the United States. Of these eleven million pounds worth of Irish produce sent to distant countries, only L700,000 was shipped direct from Irish ports.
The remainder, more than L10,000,000, although the market it was seeking lay chiefly to the West, had to be shipped East into and to pay a heavy transit toll to that country for discharge, handling, agency, commission, and reloading on British vessels in British ports to steam back past the shores of Ireland it had just left. While Ireland, indeed, lies in the "line of trade," between all Northern Europe and the great world markets, she has been robbed of her trade and artificially deprived of the very position assigned to her by nature in the great tides of commercial intercourse. It is not only the geographical situation and the trade and wealth of Ireland that England has laid hands on for her own aggrandizement, but she has also appropriated to her own ends the physical manhood of the island. Just as the commerce has been forcibly annexed and diverted from its natural trend, so the youth of Ireland has been fraudulently appropriated and diverted from the defence of their own land to the extension of the power and wealth of the realm that impoverished it at home. The physical qualities of the Irish were no less valuable than "Irish wool" to Empire building, provided always they were not displayed in Ireland.
So long ago as 1613 we find a candid admission in the State papers that the Irish were the better men in the field. "The next rebellion whenever it shall happen, doth threaten more danger to the State than any heretofore, when the cities and walled towns were always faithful; (1) because they have the same bodies they ever had and therein they had and have advantage of us; (2) from infancy they have been and are exercised in the use of arms; (3) the realm by reason of the long peace was never so full of youths; (4) that they are better soldiers than heretofore, their continental employment in wars abroad assures us, and they do conceive that their men are better than ours."
This testimony to Irish superiority, coming as it does from English official sources just three hundred years ago, would be convincing enough did it stand alone. But it is again and again reaffirmed by English commanders themselves as the reason for their failure in some particular enterprise. In all else they were superior to the Irish; in arms, armaments, munitions, supplies of food and money, here the long purse, settled organization and greater commerce of England, gave her an overwhelming advantage. Moreover the English lacked the moral restraints that imposed so severe a handicap on the Irish in their resistance. They owned no scruple of conscience in committing any crime that served their purpose. Beaten often in open fight by the hardier bodies, stouter arms and greater courage of the Irishmen, they nevertheless won the game by recourse to means that no Irishman, save he who had joined them for purposes of revenge or in pursuit of selfish personal aims, could possibly have adopted. The fight from the first was an unequal one. Irish valour, chivalry, and personal strength were matched against wealth, treachery and cunning. The Irish better bodies were overcome by the worse hearts. As Curran put it in 1817—"The triumph of England over Ireland is the triumph of guilt over innocence."
The Earl of Essex who came to Ireland in 1599 with one of the largest forces of English troops that, up to then, had ever been dispatched into Ireland (18,000 men), had ascribed his complete failure, in writing to the Queen, to the physical superiority of the Irish:
"These rebels are more in number than your Majesty's army and have (though I do unwillingly confess it), better bodies, and perfecter use of their arms, than those men who your Majesty sends over."
The Queen, who followed the war in Ireland with a swelling wrath on each defeat, and a growing fear that the Spaniards would keep their promise to land aid to the Irish princes, O'Neill and O'Donnell, issued "instructions" and a set of "ordinances" for the conduct of the war in Ireland, which, while enjoining recourse to the usual methods outside the field of battle—(i.e. starvation, "politic courses," assassination of leaders; and the sowing of dissension by means of bribery and promises), required for the conflict, that her weaker soldiers should be protected against the onslaught of the unarmoured Irishmen by head pieces of steel. She ordered "every soldier to be enforced to wear a murrion, because the enemy is encouraged by the advantage of arms to come to the sword wherein he commonly prevaileth."
One of the generals of the Spanish King, Philip III, who came to Ireland in the winter of 1601 with a handful of Spanish troops (200 men), to reinforce the small expedition of de Aguila in Kinsale, thus reported on the physical qualities of the Irish in a document that still lies in Salamanca in the archives of the old Irish College. it was written by Don Pedro De Zubiarr on the 16th of January, 1602, on his return to the Asturias. Speaking of the prospect of the campaign, he wrote: "If we had brought arms for 10,000 men we could have had them, for they are very eager to carry on the war against the English. The Irish are very strong and well shaped, accustomed to endure hunger and toil, and very courageous in fight."
Perhaps the most vivid testimony to the innate superiority of the Irishman as a soldier is given in a typically Irish challenge issued in the war of 1641. The document has a lasting interest for it displays not only the "better body" of the Irishman of that day, but something of his better heart as well, that still remains to us.
One Parsons, an English settler in Ireland, had written to a friend to say that, among other things, the head of the Colonel of an Irish regiment then in the field against the English, would not be allowed to stick long on its shoulders. The letter was intercepted by the very regiment itself, and a captain in it, Felim O'Molloy, wrote back to Parsons:
"I will do this if you please: I will pick out sixty men and fight against one hundred of your choice men if you do but pitch your camp one mile out of your town, and then if you have the victory, you may threaten my Colonel; otherwise, do not reckon your chickens before they are hatched."
The Anglo-Saxon preferred "politic courses" to accepting the Irish soldier's challenge, even where all the advantage was conceded by the Irishman to his foe and all the risks, save that of treachery (a very necessary precaution in dealing with the English in Ireland), cheerfully accepted by the Celt.
This advantage of the "better bodies" the Irish retained beyond all question up to the Famine. It was upon it alone that the Wexford peasantry relied in 1798, and with and by it alone that they again and again, armed with but pike and scythe swept disciplined regiments of English mercenaries in headlong rout from the field.
This physical superiority of his countrymen was frequently referred to by O'Connell as one of the forces he relied on. With the decay of all things Irish that has followed the Famine, these physical attributes have declined along with so much else that was typical of the nation and the man.
It could not to-day be fearlessly affirmed that sixty Irishmen were more than a match for one hundred Englishmen; yet depleted as it is by the emigration of its strongest and healthiest children, by growing sickness and a changed and deteriorated diet the Irish race still presents a type, superior physically, intellectually and morally to the English. It was on Irish soldiers that the English chiefly relied in the Boer War, and it is no exaggeration to say that could all the Irishmen in the ranks of the British army have been withdrawn, a purely British force would have failed to end the war and the Dutch would have remained masters of the field in South Africa.
It was the inglorious part of Ireland to be linked with those "methods of barbarism" she herself knew only too well, in extinguishing the independence of a people who were attacked by the same enemy and sacrificed to the same greed that had destroyed her own freedom.
Unhappy, indeed, is it for mankind, as for her own fate and honour that Ireland should be forced by dire stress of fortune to aid her imperial wrecker in wrecking the fortune and freedom of brave men elsewhere.
That these physical qualities of Irishmen, even with a population now only one tenth that of Great Britain are still of value to the empire, Mr. Churchill's speech on the Home Rule Bill made frankly clear (February, 1913). We now learn that the First Lord of the Admiralty has decided to establish a new training squadron, "with a base at Queenstown," where it is hoped to induce with the bribe of "self-government" the youth of Cork and Munster to again man the British fleet as they did in the days of Nelson, and we are even told that the prospects of brisk recruiting are "politically favourable."
Carthage got her soldiers from Spain, her seamen, her slingers from the Balearic Islands and the coasts of Africa, her money from the trade of the world. Rome beat her, but she did not leave a defeated Carthage to still levy toll of men and mind on those external sources of supply.
Germany must fight, not merely to defeat the British fleet of to-day, but to neutralize the British fleet of to-morrow. Leave Ireland to Great Britain and that can never be. Neutralize Ireland and it is already accomplished.
One of the conditions of peace, and for this reason the most important condition of peace that a victorious Germany must impose upon her defeated antagonist is that Ireland shall be separated and erected into an independent European State under international guarantees. England, obviously would resist such conditions to the last, but then the last has already come before England would consent to any peace save on terms she dictated.
A defeated England is a starved England. She would have to accept whatever terms Germany imposed unless those terms provoked external intervention on behalf of the defeated power.
The prize Germany seeks to win from victory is not immediate territorial aggrandizement obtained from annexing British possessions, not a heavy money indemnity wrung from British finance and trade (although this she might have), but German freedom throughout the world on equal terms with Britain. This is a prize worth fighting for, for once gained the rest follows as a matter of course.
German civilization released from the restricted confines and unequal position in which Britain had sought to pen it must, of itself win its way to the front, and of necessity acquire those favoured spots necessary to its wide development.
"This is the meaning of his (the German's) will for power; safety from interference with his individual and national development. Only one thing is left to the nations that do not want to be left behind in the peaceful rivalry of human progress—that is to become the equals of Germany in untiring industry, in scientific thoroughness, in sense of duty, in patient persistence, in intelligent, voluntary submission to organization." (History of German Civilization, by Ernst Richard, Columbia University, New York.)
Once she had reduced Great Britain to an opposition based on peaceful rivalry in human progress, Germany would find the path of success hers to tread on more than equal terms, and many fields of expansion now closed would readily open to German enterprise without that people incurring and inflicting the loss and injury that an attempted invasion of the great self-governing dominions would so needlessly involve. Most of the British self-governing colonies are to-day great States, well able to defend themselves from overseas attack. The defeat of the British navy would make scarcely at all easier the landing of German troops in, say, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand. A war of conquest of those far-distant regions would be, for Germany, an impossible and a stupidly impossible task.
A defeated England could not cede any of these British possessions as a price of peace, for they are inhabited by free men who, however they might deplore a German occupation of London, could in no wise be transferred by any pact or treaty made by others, to other rule than that of themselves. Therefore, to obtain those British dominions, Germany would have to defeat not only England, but after that to begin a fresh war, or a series of fresh wars, at the ends of the earth, with exhausted resources and probably a crippled fleet.
The thing does not bear inspection and may be dismissed from our calculation.
The only territories that England could cede by her own act to a victorious power are such as, in themselves, are not suited to colonization by a white race. Doubtless, Germany would seek compensation for the expense of the war in requiring the transfer of some of these latter territories of the British Crown to herself. There are points in tropical Africa, in the East, islands in the ocean to-day flying the British flag that might, with profit to German trade and influence, be acquired by a victorious Germany. But none of these things in itself, not all of them put together, would meet the requirements of the German case, or ensure to Germany that future tranquil expansion and peaceful rivalry the war had been fought to secure. England would be weakened, and to some extent impoverished by a war ending with such results; but her great asset, her possession beyond price would still be hers—her geographical position. Deprive her to-day, say of the Gold Coast, the Niger, Gibraltar, even of Egypt, impose a heavy indemnity, and while Germany would barely have recouped herself for the out-of-pocket losses of the war, England in fact would have lost nothing, and ten years hence the Teuton would look out again upon the same prospect, a Europe still dominated beyond the seas by the Western islanders.
The work would have to be done all over again. A second Punic war would have to be fought with this disadvantage—that the Atlantic Sicily would be held and used still against the Northern Rome, by the Atlantic Carthage.
A victorious Germany, in addition to such terms as she may find it well to impose in her own immediate financial or territorial interests, must so draft her peace conditions as to preclude her great antagonist from ever again seriously imperilling the freedom of the seas. I know of no way save one to make sure the open seas. Ireland, in the name of Europe, and in the exercise of European right to free the seas from the over-lordship of one European island, must be resolutely withdrawn from British custody. A second Berlin Conference, an international Congress must debate, and clearly would debate, with growing unanimity the German proposal to restore Ireland to Europe.
The arguments in favour of that proposal would soon become so clear from the general European standpoint, that save England and her defeated allies, no power would oppose it.
Considerations of expediency no less than naval, mercantile, and moral claims would range themselves on the side of Germany and a free Ireland. For a free Ireland, not owned and exploited by England, but appertaining to Europe at large, its ports available in a sense they never can be while under British control for purposes of general navigation and overseas intercourse, would soon become of such first-rank importance in continental affairs as to leave men stupified by the thought that for five hundred years they had allowed one sole member of their community the exclusive use and selfish misappropriation of this, the most favoured of European islands.
Ireland would be freed, not because she deserved or asked for freedom, not because English rule has been a tyranny, a moral failure, a stupidity and sin against the light; not because Germany cared for Ireland, but because her withdrawal from English control appeared to be a very necessary step in international welfare and one very needful to the progress of German and European expansion.
An Ireland released from the jail in which England had confined her would soon become a populous State of possibly 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 people, a commercial asset of Europe in the Atlantic of the utmost general value, one holding an unique position between the Old and New Worlds, and possibly an intellectual and moral asset of no mean importance. This, and more, a sovereign Ireland means to Europe. Above all it means security of transit, equalizing of opportunity, freedom of the seas—an assurance that the great waterways of the ocean should no longer be at the absolute mercy of one member of the European family, and that one the least interested in general European welfare.