THE WAR AND DEMOCRACY
R.W. SETON-WATSON, D.Litt. J. DOVER WILSON ALFRED E. ZIMMERN and ARTHUR GREENWOOD
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The Workers' Educational Association
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When wilt Thou save the people? O God of mercy, when? Not kings and lords, but nations! Not thrones and crowns, but men! Flowers of Thy heart, O God, are they; Let them not pass, like weeds, away— Their heritage a sunless day. God save the people!
"To remake the map of Europe, and to rearrange the peoples in accordance with the special mission assigned to each of them by geographical, ethnical and historical conditions—this is the first essential step for all."
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For many years past the prospect of universal war has haunted the dreams of pacificists and militarists alike. Many of us, without denying its growing menace, hoped against hope that it might be averted by the gradual strengthening of international goodwill and mutual intercourse, and the steady growth of democratic influences and political thought. But our misgivings proved more prophetic than our hopes; and last August the great war came upon us like a thief in the night. After four months of war we feel that, in spite of the splendid response of the nation at large, in spite of a unanimity which has no parallel in our previous history, there are still large sections of the community who fail to realise the vastness of the issues at stake, the formidable nature of the forces ranged against us, and the true inner significance of the struggle. And yet all that is worth living for depends upon the outcome of this war—for ourselves the future of the democratic ideal in these islands and in the British Empire at large, for the peoples of Europe deliverance from competing armaments and the yoke of racial tyranny. But before our future can be secured, sacrifices will be required of every citizen, and in a free community sacrifice can only spring from knowledge. Moreover, if we are to put an end to the intolerable situation of an unwilling Europe in arms, public opinion must think out very carefully the great problems which have been thrown into the melting-pot and be prepared for the day of settlement.
The present volume has been written as a guide to the study of the underlying causes and issues of the war. It does not pretend to cover the whole of so vast a field, and it will have attained its aim if it provides the basis for future discussion. It originated in the experience of its five writers at the Summer Schools for working-class students held in connection with the Workers' Educational Associations. In the early days of August, at the outbreak of the war, Summer Schools were in full swing at Oxford, Cambridge, Eton, Bangor, and Durham, and it at once became apparent, not merely that the word "citizen" had suddenly acquired a new depth and significance for the men and women of our generation, but also that for the individual citizen himself a large new field of study and discussion had been opened up on subjects and issues hitherto unfamiliar. This book was planned to meet the need there expressed, but it is hoped that it may be found useful by a wider circle of readers.
We have called the book The War and Democracy, because our guiding idea throughout has been the sense of the great new responsibilities, both of thought and action, which the present situation lays upon British Democracy and on believers in democracy throughout the world.
In devoting one chapter to a survey of the issues raised for settlement by the war, we must disclaim most emphatically all idea of dividing the lion's skin before the animal has been killed. Our object has not been to prophesy, but merely to stimulate thought and discussion. The field is so vast and complicated that unless public opinion begins to mobilise without further delay and to form clear ideas as to how the principles laid down by our statesmen are to be converted into practice, it may find itself confronted, as it was confronted in 1814, with a situation which it can neither understand nor control, and with a settlement which will perpetuate many of the abuses which this war ought to remove. Our best excuse is supplied by the attitude of many leaders of German political thought—men like Franz von Liszt, Ostwald; and Paul Rohrbach—who are already mapping out the world according to their victorious fancies.
R.W.S.-W. J.D.W. A.E.Z. A.G.
By ALFRED E. ZIMMERN, M.A., late Fellow and Tutor of New College, Oxford; Author of The Greek Commonwealth
THE NATIONAL IDEA IN EUROPE, 1789-1914 By J. DOVER WILSON, M.A., Gonville and Cains College, Cambridge, late Lecturer in the University of Helsingfors, Finland
1. NATION AND NATIONALITY 2. THE BIRTH OF NATIONALISM: POLAND AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION 3. THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA AND THE INTERNATIONAL IDEA 4. THE NATIONAL IDEA IN BELGIUM AND THE PROBLEM OF SMALL NATIONS 5. THE NATIONAL IDEA IN ITALY: THE IDEAL TYPE 6. THE NATIONAL IDEA IN GERMANY: A CASE OF ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT 7. THE MAP OF EUROPE, 1814-1914
GERMANY By ALFRED E. ZIMMERN
1. THE GERMAN STATE 2. THE REAL GERMANY 3. PRUSSIA 4. GERMANY SINCE 1870
AUSTRIA-HUNGARY AND THE SOUTHERN SLAVS By R.W. SETON-WATSON, D.Litt., New College, Oxford, author of Racial Problems in Hungary, The Southern Slav Question, etc.
1. AUSTRIA AND THE HABSBURGS 2. HUNGARY AND MAGYAR MISRULE 3. THE DECAY OF THE DUAL SYSTEM 4. THE GENESIS OF THE SOUTHERN SLAVS 5. THE RENAISSANCE OF SERBIA 6. SERBO-CROAT UNITY 7. THE BALKAN WARS 8. THE MURDER OF THE ARCHDUKE 9. THE FUTURE OF THE SOUTHERN SLAVS
RUSSIA By J. DOVER WILSON
1. THE RUSSIAN STATE 2. RELIGION 3. THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE 4. THE SUBJECT NATIONALITIES
FOREIGN POLICY [Contributed]
A. THE MEANING OF FOREIGN POLICY
1. THE FOREIGN OFFICE 2. THE WORK OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE 3. THE BALANCE OF POWER 4. THE ESTIMATION OF NATIONAL FORCES
B. THE DEMOCRATISATION OF FOREIGN POLICY
1. DEMOCRACY AND PEACE 2. FOREIGN POLICY AND POPULAR FORCES 3. FOREIGN POLICY AND EDUCATION
THE ISSUES OF THE WAR By R.W. SETON-WATSON
1. IS THERE AN IDEA BEHIND THE WAR? 2. THE AIMS OF BRITISH STATESMANSHIP 3. BRITAIN AND GERMANY 4. NATIONALITY AND THE GERMAN EMPIRE (1) ALSACE-LORRAINE, (2) SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN, (3) POLAND 5. THE FUTURE OF AUSTRIA-HUNGARY—MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM LOSSES 6. THE SOUTHERN SLAV QUESTION 7. THE ROUMANIAN QUESTION 8. CAN THE DUAL MONARCHY BE REPLACED? 9. BOHEMIA AND HUNGARY 10. GERMANY AND AUSTRIA 11. ITALIAN ASPIRATIONS 12. THE BALKAN SITUATION: BULGARIA AND GREECE 13. THE FUTURE OF TURKEY 14. RUSSIA AND CONSTANTINOPLE 15. ASIATIC TURKEY 16. RUSSIA AND POLAND 17. GENERAL AIMS
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF THE WAR By ARTHUR GREENWOOD, B.Sc., Lecturer in Economics at the University of Leeds
A. STATE ACTION IN INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE
B. IMMEDIATE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF THE WAR
1. FOREIGN TRADE 2. UNEMPLOYMENT AND SHORT TIME 3. TRADE UNIONS, CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES, AND DISTRESS 4. THE NEW SPIRIT
C. AFTER THE WAR
1. GENERAL EFFECTS 2. POSSIBLE INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENTS 3. SOCIAL EFFECTS AND THE NEW OUTLOOK
GERMAN CULTURE AND THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH By ALFRED E. ZIMMERN
1. THE TWO ISSUES 2. CULTURE 3. CULTURE AS A STATE PRODUCT 4. GERMAN AND BRITISH IDEALS OF EDUCATION 5. GERMAN AND BRITISH IDEALS OF CIVILISATION 6. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE COMMONWEALTH 7. THE FUTURE OF CIVILISATION 8. THE TWO ROADS OF ADVANCE: INTER-STATE ACTION AND COMMON CITIZENSHIP
THE PARTITION OF POLAND EUROPE IN 1815 GERMANY IN 1815 PRUSSIA SINCE THE ACCESSION OF FREDERICK THE GREAT AUSTRIA-HUNGARY: PHYSICAL THE FRANCO-GERMAN FRONTIER AUSTRIA-HUNGARY: POLITICAL DIVISIONS RACIAL AND NATIONAL BOUNDARIES IN CENTRAL EUROPE
"It seems to me that the amount of lawlessness and crime, the amount of waste and futility, the amount of war and war possibility and war danger in the world are just the measure of the present inadequacy of the world's system of collective organisations to the purpose before them. It follows from this very directly that only one thing can end war on the earth, and that is a subtle mental development, an idea, the development of the idea of the world commonweal in the collective mind."—H.G. WELLS in 1908.
THIS is a testing time for Democracy. The people of Great Britain and the Dominions, to whom all the world looks as the trustees, together with France and America, of the great democratic tradition, are brought face to face, for the first time, with their full ultimate responsibility as British citizens. Upon the way in which that responsibility is realised and discharged depends the future of the democratic principle, not only in these islands, but throughout the world.
Democracy is not a mere form of government. It does not depend on ballot boxes or franchise laws or any constitutional machinery. These are but its trappings. Democracy is a spirit and an atmosphere, and its essence is trust in the moral instincts of the people. A tyrant is not a democrat, for he believes in government by force; neither is a demagogue a democrat, for he believes in government by flattery. A democratic country is a country where the government has confidence in the people and the people in the government and in itself, and where all are united in the faith that the cause of their country is not a mere matter of individual or national self-interest, but is in harmony with the great moral forces which rule the destinies of mankind. No form of government is so feeble as a democracy without faith. But a democracy armed with faith is not merely strong: it is invincible; for its cause will live on, in defeat and disaster, in the breast of every one of its citizens. Belgium is a living testimony to that great truth.
British Democracy has carried this principle of confidence to the furthest possible point. Alone among the States of Europe, Great Britain relies for her existence and for the maintenance of her world-wide responsibilities upon the free choice of her citizens. Her privileges are extended to all: her active obligations are forced upon none. Trusting in the principle of individual freedom, and upon the sound instinct and understanding of her people, she leaves it to each citizen to make his choice whether, and in what manner, he shall serve his country. Never have responsibilities so arduous and so urgent been laid upon the citizens of any community: and never have the citizens been so free to choose or to decline the burden. The world will judge Great Britain, and judge Democracy, according to the measure of our free response.
What is the nature of the responsibility cast upon us at this crisis?
It is threefold. It concerns the present, the past, and the future. There are three questions which every citizen must needs ask, and try to answer, for himself. The first and most urgent is a matter of present decision: What is my duty here and now? The second involves a judgment of past events: Why is it that we are at war? Are we fighting in a just cause? The third involves an estimate of the future and of the part which British public opinion can and should play in shaping it: What are the issues involved in the various belligerent countries? What should be the principles of a just settlement? How can Great Britain best use her influence in the cause of human progress and for the welfare of the peoples involved in the war?
It is with the second and especially with the third of these responsibilities that this volume is concerned.
"What is the war about?" "Are we fighting in a just cause?" Every one by now has asked himself this question, and most people have studied some at least of the evidence, and tried to satisfy themselves as to the answer. The Foreign Office White Paper and numberless books and pamphlets have enlightened the public on many of the questions at issue. Yet the fact remains that the necessity of this educative campaign involves a confession of failure—or at least of grave neglect—on the part of British democracy. Under our democratic constitution the people of Great Britain have assumed the responsibility for the management of their own affairs. One great department of those affairs, the most vital of all, they and their representatives have systematically neglected. Deeply engaged and interested in domestic problems, they have left the control of their foreign relations in the hands of expert advisers. And so it was with something like stupefaction that they discovered, one day in August, that they were called upon to honour the obligations contracted in their name.
There has been no desire to evade those obligations. But there has been a very real desire to understand them, and also a fixed determination never again to allow such a lack of contact, on vital issues, between the mind of the people and the activities of their ministers.
But no mere changes in the machinery of democratic control can avail to save the people from the consequences of their own ignorance and neglect. There is only one way in which we can achieve full Democracy in this country, and that is through Education.
In the sphere of domestic affairs, particularly in connection with social and industrial questions, the people have slowly realised this hard truth. After a generation or more of attempts and failures and disillusionments many thousands of workpeople have learnt the lesson that power without knowledge is not power at all, and that knowledge, whether for public affairs or for any other purpose, cannot be gained without effort and discipline. They have come to realise that Democracy needs, for its full working, not only schools in which to train its young, but also—what no Democracy save those of the ancient world has ever possessed—such facilities for the education for its adult citizens, engaged in the active work of the community, as will enable them to maintain unimpaired their intellectual freshness and vigour, and to face with wisdom and courage the problems for which, as citizens, they have assumed responsibility. They have come to think of Education, not as a time of tutelage or training, but as a part of active life itself, woven of the same texture and concerned with the same issues, as being, in fact, the effort to understand the world in which they live. But they have naturally tended to confine those issues within the limits of their own domestic interests and experience. They are called upon now to widen their horizon, and to apply the democratic conception of education to the new problems which have arisen owing to the part which Great Britain is now playing in the affairs of Europe.
It is never easy to think things out clearly and coldly. But it is hardest of all in the crisis of a great war, when men's minds are blurred by passionate emotions of sorrow, anxiety, and indignation. Hence a time of war is the heyday of fallacies and delusions, of misleading hopes and premature disillusionments: men tend to live in an unreal world of phrases and catchwords. Yet never is it more necessary than at such a period, in the old Greek phrase, "to follow the argument whithersoe'er it leads," to look facts squarely in the face, and, particularly, the great ugly outstanding fact of war itself, the survival of which democrats, especially in Great Britain and the United States, have of recent years been so greatly tempted to ignore.
People speak as if war were a new sudden and terrible phenomenon. There is nothing new about the fact of war. What is new about this war is the scale on which it is waged, the science and skill expended on it, and the fact that it is being carried on by national armies, numbering millions, instead of by professional bodies of soldiers. But war itself is as old as the world: and if it surprises and shocks us this is due to our own blindness. There are only two ways of settling disputes between nations, by law or by war. As there is as yet no World-State, with the power to enforce a World-law between the nations, the possibility of war, with all its contingent horrors, should have been before our eyes all the time. The occasion of this war was no doubt a surprise. But that it could happen at all should not be a surprise to us, still less a disillusionment. It does not mark a backward step in human civilisation. It only registers the fact that civilisation is still grievously incomplete and unconsolidated. Terrible as this war is in its effect on individual lives and happiness, it ought not to depress us—even if, in our blindness, we imagined the world to be a far better organised place than it actually is. The fact that many of the combatants regard war as an anachronism adds to the tragedy, but also to the hope, of the struggle. It shows that civilised opinion is gathering strength for that deepening and extension of the meaning and range of citizenship which alone can make war between the nations of the world as obsolete as it has become between the nations of the British Empire or between the component parts of the United States.
It was perhaps inevitable that British citizens in particular, removed from the storm centres of Continental Europe, and never very logical in their thinking, should have failed to realise the possibility of another great war, similar to the Napoleonic struggle of a hundred years ago. For nearly half a century the great European States had been at peace: and we had come to look upon their condition, and the attachment of their peoples, as being as ancient and as stable as our own. We had grown used to the map of Europe as it had been left by the great convulsions between 1848 and 1871. Upon the basis of that map and of the governments represented on it, and in response to the growing needs of the world as a whole, we had embarked on every kind of international co-operation and cosmopolitan effort. The Hague Congress, convened by the Tsar of Russia, looked forward to the day when war, and the causes of war, should be obsolete. The Socialist Movement, a growing force in all industrial communities, stood for the same ideal, and for the international comradeship of the working class. Law and medicine, science and scholarship followed suit; and every summer, in quest of health and change, thousands of plain citizens have crossed international frontiers with scarcely greater sense of change than in moving from province to province in a single State. Commerce and industry, the greatest material forces of our time, have become inextricably international, and in the palpable injury in which a war would involve them some thinkers of clear but limited vision saw the best hope of averting a European conflagration.
And yet, throughout these two generations of economic and social development, the fear of war has never been absent from the mind of Europe. Her emperors and statesmen have talked of peace; but they have prepared for war, more skilfully and more persistently than ever before in the history of Europe or of the world. Almost the entire manhood of every European nation but England has been trained to arms; and the annual war budget of Europe rose, in time of peace, to over 300 million pounds. The States of Europe, each afraid to stand alone against a coalition of possible rivals, formed themselves into opposing groups; and each of the groups armed feverishly against the other, fearful lest, by any change in the diplomatic or political situation, they might be caught unawares and suffer loss. Thus, it ought not to have surprised us that finally, through the accident of a royal murder, the spark should be fired and the explosion ensue, and that merchants and manufacturers, propagandists and philanthropists, scholars and scientists, should find the ground shaken beneath their feet and the projects patiently built up through years of international co-operation shattered by the events of a few days.
Now that the war has come it is easy to see that they were mistaken. They had built up the structure of a cosmopolitan society without looking to the foundations. The economic activities of mankind have indeed brought a World-Society and a World-Industry into being; but its political analogue, a World-State, can only be formed, not through the co-operation of individuals or groups of individuals, but through the union of nations and the federation of national governments. The first task of our time for Europe, as we shall try to show in the next chapter, is to lay firm the foundations of those nations by carrying to victory the twin principles of Nationality and Democracy—to secure that the peoples of Europe shall be enabled to have governments corresponding to their national needs and responsible to their own control, and to build up, under the care and protection of those governments, the social institutions and the civilisation of their choice. So long as there are peoples in Europe under alien governments, curtailed in the use of their own language, in the propagation of their literature and ideas, in their social intercourse, in their corporate life, in all that we in Great Britain understand by civil liberty, so long will there be men who will mock at the very idea of international peace, and look forward to war, not as an outworn instrument of a barbarous age, but as a means to national freedom and self-expression. Englishmen sometimes forget that there are worse evils than open war, both in political and industrial relations, and that the political causes for which their fathers fought and died have still to be carried to victory on the Continent. Nationality and their national institutions are the very life-blood of English people. They are as natural to them as the air they breathe. That is what makes it sometimes so difficult for them to understand, as the history of Ireland and even of Ulster shows, what nationality means to other peoples. And that is why they have not realised, not only that there are peoples in Europe living under alien governments, but that there are governments in Europe so foolish as to think that men and women deprived of their national institutions, humiliated in their deepest feelings, and forced into an alien mould, can make good citizens, trustworthy soldiers, or even obedient subjects.
[Footnote 1: The German official communique on August 26, 1914, reports as follows: "All the newspapers in Belgium, with the exception of those in Antwerp, are printed in the German language." This, of course, is on the model of the Prussian administration of Poland. The Magyars are more repressive even than the Germans. See the bibliography given in General Books below.]
The political causes of the present war, then, and of the half century of Armed Peace which preceded it are to be found, not in the particular schemes and ambitions of any of the governments of Europe, nor in their secret diplomacy, nor in the machinations of the great armament interests allied to them, sinister though all these may have been, but in the nature of some of those governments themselves, and in their relation to the peoples over whom they rule.
"If it were possible," writes Prince Buellow, who directed German policy as Imperial Chancellor from 1900 to 1909, "for members of different nationalities, with different language and customs, and an intellectual life of a different kind, to live side by side in one and the same State, without succumbing to the temptation of each trying to force his own nationality on the other, things on earth would look a good deal more peaceful. But it is a law of life and development in history that where two national civilisations meet they fight for ascendancy. In the struggle between nationalities one nation is the hammer and the other the anvil; one is the victor and the other the vanquished." No words could indicate more clearly the cause that is at stake in the present war. They show us that there are still governments in Europe so ignorant as to believe that the different nationalities of mankind are necessarily hostile to one another, and so foolish and brutal as to think that national civilisation, or, as the German Professors call it, "culture," can and indeed must be propagated by the sword. It is this extraordinary conception which is at the back of protests like that of Professor Haeckel and Professor Eucken (men whom, in the field of their own studies, all Europe is proud to honour) against "England fighting with a half-Asiatic power against Germanism."
[Footnote 1: Imperial Germany, by Prince Bernhard von Buelow, English translation, 1st ed. pp. 245-6 (London, 1914).]
[Footnote 2: Protest of Professors Ernst Haeckel and Rudolf Eucken of Jena, quoted in The Times from the Vossische Zeitung of August 20, 1914.]
There are not only half-Asiatics, there are real Asiatics side by side with England; and England is not ashamed of it. For she does not reckon the culture of Europe as higher than the culture of Asia, or regard herself as the hammer upon the anvil of India.
Prince Buelow's words, and the theory of policy underlying them, really go to the root of the whole trouble in European politics. They explain the Balance of Power, the competition in armaments, the belief in the inevitability and the moral value of war, and all those common European shibboleths which seem so inexplicable to citizens of the more modern-minded States and communities of the world. Why should Germany and Austria arm against France and Russia when Canada does not arm against the United States? Why should a Balance of Power be necessary to the maintenance of European Peace when we do not consider the preponderance of a single Power, such as the United States in North, Central and South America, or Great Britain in the Pacific or Southern Asia dangerous to the peace of the whole world? Why, finally, to press Prince Buelow's logic home, if members of different nationalities cannot live side by side without playing the game of Hammer and Anvil together, are not the English spending the whole of their energy fighting the Welsh, the Scotch, and the Irish in the United Kingdom, the Dutch in South Africa, and the French in Canada, not to speak of the Jews in every part of the British Empire? The fact is that the statesmen of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and of Russia also, have missed the chief lesson of recent history and politics: that in the growing complexity of world-relations power is falling more and more, of necessity, into the hands of States which are not Nations but Commonwealths of Nations, States composed, like the British Empire and the United States, of a variety of nationalities and "cultures," living peacefully, each with its own institutions, under a single law and a single central government.
But the time is not ripe yet for a Commonwealth of Europe. The peoples of Europe have yet to win their liberties before they can be free to dream of a United States of Europe. So long as the Emperors and statesmen of Central Europe believe, like the Mahomedans of old, that propaganda can be imposed by the sword, they can only be met by the sword, and controlled by the sword. Not till they have been conquered and rendered harmless, or displaced by the better mind of the peoples whom they have indoctrinated, can Europe proceed along the natural course of her development.
So far we have been concerned—as we shall be concerned throughout this book—with the political causes underlying the war. But it would not be right to ignore the fact that there are other deeper causes, unconnected with the actions of governments, for which we in this country are jointly responsible with the rest of the civilised world.
This war is not simply a conflict between governments and nations for the attainment of certain political ends, Freedom and Nationality on the one side and Conquest and Tyranny on the other. It is also a great outburst of pent-up feeling, breaking like lava through the thin crust of European civilisation. On the political side, as we have said just now, the war reveals the fact that civilisation is still incomplete and ill-organised. But on the moral side it reveals the fact that modern society has broken down, that the forces and passions that divide and embitter mankind have proved stronger, at the moment of strain, than those which bind them together in fellowship and co-operation. "What we are suffering from," says one of the greatest of living democrats, "is something far more widespread than the German Empire. Is it not the case that what we are in face of is nothing less than the breakdown in a certain idea and hope of civilisation, which was associated with the liberal and industrial movement of the last century? There was to be an inevitable and glorious progress of humanity of which science, commerce, and education were to be the main instruments, and which was to be crowned with a universal peace. Older prophets like Thomas Carlyle expressed their contempt for the shallowness of this prevailing ideal, and during this century we have been becoming more and more doubtful of its value. But we are now witnessing its downfall. Science, commerce, and education have done, and can do, much for us. But they cannot expel the human spirit from human nature. What is that? At bottom, love of self, self-interest, selfishness individual and corporate. As a theory, the philosophy of selfishness has often been exposed. But, to an extent that is difficult to exaggerate, it has been the motive, acknowledged and relied upon without shame or apology in commerce, in politics and in practical life. Our civilisation has been based on selfishness, our commerce on competition and the unrestricted love of wealth, our education on the motive of self-advancement. And science and knowledge, made the instrument of selfishness and competition, have armed man against man, class against class, and nation against nation, with tenfold the power of destruction which belonged to a less educated and highly organised age."
[Footnote 1: The War and the Church, by Charles Gore (Oxford, Mowbray, 1914).]
The civilised world has been shocked during the past months at the spectacle of the open adoption by a great Power of this philosophy of selfishness. Men had not realised that the methods and principles underlying so much of our commercial and industrial life could be transferred so completely to the field of politics or so ruthlessly pressed home by military force. But it is well for us to remember that it is not Prussia, even in the modern world, who invented the theory of Blood and Iron or the philosophy of Force. The Iron Law of Wages is a generation older than Bismarck: and "Business is Business" can be no less odious a watchword than "War is War." Treitschke and Nietzsche may have furnished Prussian ambitions with congenial ammunition; but Bentham with his purely selfish interpretation of human nature and Marx with his doctrine of the class-struggle—the high priest of Individualism and the high priest of Socialism—cannot be acquitted of a similar charge. If the appeal has been made in a less crude and brutal form, and if the instrument of domination has been commercial and industrial rather than military, it is because Militarism is not the besetting sin of the English-speaking peoples. Let us beware, therefore, at this moment, of anything savouring of self-righteousness.
"Some of us," says Bishop Gore, "see the chief security" against this disease which has infected our civilisation "in the progress of Democracy—the government of the people really by the people and for the people. I am one of those who believe this and desire to serve towards the realising of this end. But the answer does not satisfy me. I do not know what evils we might find arising from a world of materialistic democracies. But I am sure we shall not banish the evil spirits which destroy human lives and nations and civilisations by any mere change in the methods of government. Nothing can save civilisation except a new spirit in the nations."
The task before Europe, then, is a double one—a task of development and construction in the region of politics, and of purification and conversion in the region of the spirit. "For the finer spirits of Europe," says the great French writer, Romain Rolland, who is none the less a patriot because he is also a lover of Germany, "there are two dwelling-places: our earthly fatherland, and that other, the City of God. Of the one we are the guests, of the other the builders. To the one let us give our lives and our faithful hearts; but neither family, friend, nor fatherland, nor aught that we love has power over the spirit which is the light. It is our duty to rise above tempests and thrust aside the clouds which threaten to obscure it; to build higher and stronger, dominating the injustice and hatred of nations, the walls of that city wherein the souls, of the whole world may assemble."
[Footnote 1: Article in the Journal de Geneve, translated in the Cambridge Magazine and reprinted in Public Opinion, Nov. 27, 1914.
Those who hold that Christianity and war are incompatible would seem to be committed to a monastic and passively anarchist view of life, inconsistent with membership in a political society. But whatever the relation between Christianity and war, there can be no question of the relation between Christianity and hatred. Hatred (which is not the same thing as moral indignation) is a poison which corrodes and embitters, and so degrades, and thereby weakens, the national spirit. It is a pity that some of our most prominent newspaper-proprietors do not understand this.]
Internationalism as a political theory has broken down: for it was based on a false conception of the nature of government and of the obligations of citizenship. The true internationalism—a spirit of mutual understanding and fellowship between men and nations, to replace the suspicions, the competition, and the watchful selfishness of the past generation—is the moral task that lies before Europe and America to-day. If Great Britain is to lead the way in promoting "a new spirit between the nations" she needs a new spirit also in the whole range of her corporate life. For what Britain stands for in the world is, in the long run, what Britain is, and, when thousands are dying for her, it is more than ever the duty of all of us to try to make her worthier of their devotion.
THE NATIONAL IDEA IN EUROPE, 1789-1914
Europe, what of the night?— Ask of heaven, and the sea, And my babes on the bosom of me, Nations of mine, but ungrown. There is one who shall surely requite All that endure or that err: She can answer alone: Ask not of me, but of her.
Liberty, what of the night?— I feel not the red rains fall, Hear not the tempest at all, Nor thunder in heaven any more. All the distance is white With the soundless feet of the sun. Night, with the woes that it wore, Night is over and done.
A.C. SWINBURNE, A Watch in the Night.
Sixty-two years ago reaction reigned supreme in Europe after the great national and social uprisings of 1848, and England looked on passively while the hopes of freedom were crushed in Bohemia, Hungary, and Italy. Mazzini, the noblest of Italian patriots, the most prophetic soul among nineteenth-century nationalists, selected this moment of profound despair to publish an essay, entitled Europe, Its Condition and Prospects, which, burning with the passion of an inextinguishable faith, pierced the veil of the future and foreshadowed in an almost miraculous fashion the situation which faces Europe and England to-day. Nothing printed in this country since the war broke out expresses more clearly the real issues of the mighty conflict and the part our country is called to play in it than the following words, in reference to the unredeemed peoples of Europe, uttered by the great Italian more than half a century ago:
"They struggled, they still struggle, for country and liberty; for a word inscribed upon a banner, proclaiming to the world that they also live, think, love, and labour for the benefit of all. They speak the same language, they bear about them the impress of consanguinity, they kneel beside the same tombs, they glory in the same tradition; and they demand to associate freely, without obstacles, without foreign domination, in order to elaborate and express their idea, to contribute their stone also to the great pyramid of history. It is something moral which they are seeking; and this moral something is in fact, even politically speaking, the most important question in the present state of things. It is the organisation of the European task. In principle, nationality ought to be to humanity that which division of labour is in a workshop—the recognised symbol of association; the assertion of the individuality of a human group called by its geographical position, its traditions, and its language, to fulfill a special function in the European work of civilisation.
"The map of Europe has to be re-made. This is the key to the present movement; herein lies its initiative. Before acting, the instrument for action must be organised; before building, the ground must be one's own. The social idea cannot be realised under any form whatsoever before this reorganisation of Europe is effected; before the peoples are free to interrogate themselves, to express their vocation, and to assure its accomplishment by an alliance capable of substituting itself for the absolute league which now reigns supreme.
"If England persist in maintaining a neutral, passive, selfish part, she will have to expiate it. A European transformation is inevitable. When it shall take place, when the struggle shall burst forth at twenty places at once, when the old combat between fact and right is decided, the peoples will remember that England stood by, an inert, immovable, sceptical witness of their sufferings and efforts. The nation must rouse herself and shake off the torpor of her government. She must learn that we have arrived at one of those supreme moments in which one world is destroyed and another is to be created; in which, for the sake of others and for her own, it is necessary to adopt a new policy."
England to-day has adopted this "new policy"; she has responded to Mazzini's appeal by stepping into the arena and declaring herself ready to take part in "the organisation of the European task"; her sons are dying on the Continent in defence of the principle of nationality, in support of the rights of other nations to that liberty which her insular position has secured for herself for many centuries, the liberty "to associate freely, without obstacles, without foreign domination, in order to elaborate and express their idea." She is fighting, moreover, not only on behalf of the threatened freedom of Belgium, France, and Serbia, on behalf of the unborn freedom of Poland, Alsace-Lorraine, and the subject races of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, but also on her own behalf. It is not merely that she recognises that her Empire is in danger; she recognises also that she is unable to work out her own salvation, unable to carry on her industrial development and her schemes for the betterment of her people in security, while the Continent at her doors remains in constant peril of change. "The social idea cannot be realised under any form whatsoever before this reorganisation of Europe is effected."
Sec.1. Nation and Nationality.—The social idea and the national idea have been for a century past the twin pivots of European development. The political structure of the Continent has oscillated this way and that according as these ideas have in turn assumed ascendancy over men's minds; and when, as in 1848, both claimed attention at the same time, the whole edifice was shaken to its very foundations. In England, on the other hand, it is the social idea alone which has been a motive force in the nineteenth century, although she has always had to reckon with the national idea across the St. George's Channel. Owing to her fortunate geographical situation, she acquired national unity many centuries ago and has always been able to defend it successfully against the danger of external aggression. The national idea, therefore, has long ceased to be an aspiration, and consequently a revolutionary force, among us; it has been realised in actual fact, we have grown as accustomed to it and as unconscious of it as of the air we breathe. Thus Englishmen, as their attitude towards Ireland has shown, find it difficult to understand exactly what the principle of nationality means to those who have never possessed national freedom or are in constant danger of losing it. This is perhaps especially true of the English working classes, who grew to the full stature of political consciousness some fifty years after the last serious threat to our national existence was made by Napoleon, and upon whom the burden of the social idea presses with peculiar weight. And yet, unless the significance of the principle of nationality and the part which it has played in the history of modern Europe be realised, it is impossible to enter fully into the true meaning of the present tremendous conflict.
What then is nationality? The question is more difficult to answer than appears at first sight. A nationality is not quite the same thing as a nation. For example, there is a German nation, ruled by the Kaiser Wilhelm II., but this does not include twelve million people of German nationality who are the subjects of the Emperor of Austria; or again, there is the Swiss nation, which is made up of no less than three distinct nationalities. Still less are the terms state and nationality synonymous; for, if they were, then the natives of India might claim to be of the same nationality as ourselves, or, vice versa, the United States would be regarded as part of the British Empire because a large proportion of their inhabitants happen to be of British descent. The word "race" brings us somewhat nearer to the point, but even this will not satisfy us when we remember that the Slavonic race, for example, consists of a large number of nationalities, such as the Russians, the Poles, the Czechs, the Serbs, the Montenegrins, etc., or that the English (as distinguished from the other three nations of the United Kingdom) belong to the same Teutonic race as the Germans. Nevertheless, a belief, whether well grounded or not, in a common racial origin is one of the root principles of the idea of nationality.
"What is a nation?" the great Magyar nationalist, Kossuth, asked a Serb representative at the Hungarian Diet of 1848. The reply was: "A race which possesses its own language, customs, and culture, and enough self-consciousness to preserve them." "A nation must also have its own government," objected Kossuth. "We do not go so far," explained his interlocutor; "one nation can live under several different governments, and again several nations can form a single state." Both the Magyar and the Serb wore right, though the latter was speaking of "nationality" and the former of "nation." The conversation is in fact instructive in more ways than one. It would be difficult to find a better definition of nationality than that given by the Serb speaker. A common language, a common culture, and common customs: these are the outward and visible signs which make a people conscious of its common race, which make it, in other words, a nationality.
[Footnote 1: R.W. Seton-Watson, The Southern Slav Question, p. 46.]
The element of "consciousness" is all-important. There are, for example, members of the Finnish race scattered all over northern Russia, but they evince no consciousness of any kind that they are allied to the nationality which inhabits the country of Finland. Again, it is only within recent years that the Serbs and the Croats in the south-west corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have begun to realise that the only things which divide them one from the other are a difference of religion and a difference of alphabet; and now that the realisation of this fact has spread from the study to the market-place, we see the formation of a new nationality, that of the Serbo-Croats. The researches of historians and other learned men have done an immense deal to stimulate the development of nationalities during the past century, but they are unable of themselves to create them. The fact of kinship is not enough; community of language, customs, and culture is not even enough; to be a real nationality a people must be conscious of all these things, and not merely conscious, but sufficiently conscious to preserve them and, if need be, to die for them.
Now the interesting thing for us about a nationality is that it is always striving to become a nation. A nation, as we have seen, may be composed of several nationalities; but such cases are rare, and are due to peculiar geographical conditions, as for example in Switzerland and Great Britain, or to external pressure, as in Belgium, which have as it were welded together the different racial elements into a single whole. In general, therefore, a nation is simply a nationality which has acquired self-government; it is nationality plus State. "Ireland a nation," the warcry of the Irish Nationalist party, is a claim, not a statement of fact; Ireland will become a nation when its desire for self-government is satisfied. The case is instructive because it shows that it is not necessary for a nationality to become a sovereign State in order to be in the full sense of the word a nation. It is perfectly possible, as our Serb remarked, for several nations to form a single sovereign state; but as a general rule all such nations will be allowed to manage their own internal affairs. The self-governing Dominions of the British Empire and the Magyars of Hungary are nations, though they are subordinate to their respective imperial governments in questions of peace and war, treaty obligations, etc.
The real test of national existence is ultimately a sentimental one. Does the nationality inhabiting a given country regard the government under which it lives as a true expression of its peculiar genius and will? Does the State, of which it forms a part, exist by its consent, or has it been imposed upon it by some alien authority or nationality? Is it a territorial unity, or has it been split up into sections by artificial frontiers? All these questions must be answered before we can say of any nationality that it is also a nation. The "national idea," therefore, which has been one of the chief factors in modern history, is essentially an idea of development. Its root is the conception of nationality, that is of a people consciously united by race, language, and culture; and from this springs the larger conception of nationhood, that is of a nationality possessing its own political institutions, governed by its own consent, and co-extensive with its natural boundaries. As we shall see later, political development does not always stop at the Nation-State. Further growth, however, is extra-national in character; it may either take the parasitical form of one nation imposing its will and its "culture" upon other nations, or it may assume the proportions of that highest type of polity yet known to mankind, a commonwealth of nations freely associating together within the confines of a single sovereign State.
[Footnote 1: See Chapter IX. for further treatment of this.]
Sec.2. The Birth of Nationalism: Poland and the French Revolution.—With these general principles in mind let us now consider the national idea at work in the nineteenth century. Nations, in the sense just defined, have of course long existed in Europe. England, Scotland, and Switzerland are nations whose life-histories date right back to the Middle Ages. Joan of Are was a nationalist, and France has been a nation since the end of the Hundred Years' War in 1453. Spain became a nation a few years later by the expulsion of the Moors and the union of Castille and Aragon under Ferdinand and Isabella. Holland, again, acquired her national freedom in her great struggle against Spain in the sixteenth century. But it was not until the end of the eighteenth century that nationalism became a real force in Europe, an idea for which men died and in whose name monarchies were overthrown. "In the old European system," writes Lord Acton, "the rights of nationalities were neither recognised by governments nor asserted by the people. The interest of the reigning families, not those of the nations, regulated the frontiers, and the administration was conducted generally without any reference to popular desires. Where all liberties were suppressed, the claims of national independence were necessarily ignored, and a princess, in the words of Fenelon, carried a monarchy in her wedding portion." The State was, in short, regarded as a purely territorial affair; it was the property, the landed property, of the monarch, who in his capacity of owner controlled the destinies of the people who happened to live upon that territory. Conquest or marriage might unite in the hands of a single monarch the most diverse peoples and countries, the notorious case of the kind being that of the Emperor Charles V., who in the sixteenth century managed to hold sway over Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Naples, and a large part of the New World.
[Footnote 1: History of Freedom, p. 273.]
The golden age of the dynastic principle was, however, the eighteenth century, and the long and tedious wars of that period were nearly all occasioned by the aggrandisement of some royal house. The idea of a nation as a living organism, as something more than a collection of people dwelling in the same country, speaking the same language and obeying the same ruler, had not yet dawned upon the world. Apart from England, Scotland, Switzerland, and Holland, no European nation had really become conscious of its personality as distinct from that of its hereditary monarch. And as we have seen, until nationality becomes keenly self-conscious, the national idea remains unborn. Only some great internal cataclysm or an overwhelming disaster inflicted by a foreign power could evoke this consciousness in a nation; and fate ordained that the two methods should be tried simultaneously at opposite ends of Europe. France, "standing on the top of golden hours," and Poland, crushed, dismembered, downtrodden—it would be difficult to say which of these contributed the more to the great national awakening in Europe.
Poland was the first and greatest martyr of the nationalist faith. By its constitution, which was that of an oligarchical republic with an elective king, Poland was placed beyond the pale of a Europe ruled upon dynastic principles. Its very existence was an insult to the accepted ideals of legitimacy and hereditary monarchy, and it was impossible for any particular house to acquire it in the honest way of marriage. This was particularly annoying to its immediate neighbours, Prussia, Russia, and Austria, all of whom had grown into great powers while Poland, torn by internal dissension, sank lower and lower in the political scale. It is significant that the earliest suggestion of partition came from Frederick the Great of Prussia, who was obliged to take Russia and Austria into his counsels, as he knew that they would never allow him to annex the whole country himself. Indeed, from first to last, the story of the Polish partitions is a good example of Prussian Realpolitik. At length, after much hesitation on the part of Russia and Austria, the Powers agreed among themselves in 1772 to what is known as the First Partition, whereby the three monarchs enriched their respective territories by peeling, as it were, the unfortunate republic on all its frontiers. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the whole disgraceful concern is that it did not appear in the least disgraceful, either morally or politically, to the public opinion of the age. Meanwhile Poland by a heroic effort converted herself in self-defence into a hereditary constitutional monarchy on the model of England. Prussia, playing the part of Judas, pretended to welcome these reforms at first and lent the Poles its encouragement; but when Russia took up arms on behalf of the Polish reactionary party, and the country turned to Prussia to aid it in defending the constitution, the treacherous Frederick William not only declined to do so, but began to send his troops to occupy Polish territory. The upshot was the further dismemberment of Poland known as the Second Partition (1793). "No sophistry in the world," writes Mr. Nisbet Bain, "can extenuate the villainy of the Second Partition. The theft of territory is its least offensive feature. It is the forcible suppression of a national movement of reform, the hurling back into the abyss of anarchy and corruption of a people who, by incredible efforts and sacrifices, had struggled back to liberty and order, which makes this great political crime so wholly infamous. Yet here again the methods of the Russian Empress were less vile than those of the Prussian King. Catherine openly took the risk of a bandit who attacks an enemy against whom he has a grudge; Frederick William II. came up, when the fight was over, to help pillage a victim whom he had sworn to defend." After this the end came rapidly. The heroic patriot Kosciuszko headed a popular rising against Russia; but after a remarkable resistance to the combined forces of the three partitioning powers, the insurrection was finally suppressed in torrents of blood. The crowned bandits nearly quarrelled between themselves over the booty, but eventually in 1795 Austria, Russia, and Prussia signed a treaty which left nothing of Poland on the map at all.
[Footnote 1: Slavonic Europe, p. 404.]
The effect upon the subsequent history of the world of this crime against humanity, carried out by the three most absolute dynasties in Europe, was incalculable. "The annihilation of the Polish nationality has probably done more to endanger the monarchies of Europe than any one political act accomplished since the monarchies of Europe were first founded. To trace its effects in all their various ramifications would lead us a long way. It is sufficient here to notice that the destruction of Poland, like the destruction of Jerusalem, produced a "dispersion," and that as the Jews of the dispersion have discharged a peculiar office in the economy of the world as usurers and financiers, so, too, have the Poles of the dispersion as agents and vectors of revolution. In all the republican movements of the Continent the Poles have taken a leading part. They are to be found in the Saxon riots of '48; in the Berlin barricades; in the struggle for the Republic in Baden; in the Italian and Hungarian wars of liberation; in the Chartist movement, and in the French Commune. Homeless and fearless, schooled in war and made reckless by calamity, they have been the nerve of revolution wherever they have been scattered by the winds of misfortune." And what Mr. Fisher, in this passage, puts in a concrete fashion, Lord Acton has expressed with equal emphasis, if more abstractly. "This famous measure," he writes of the final partition, "the most revolutionary act of the old absolutism, awakened the theory of nationality in Europe, converting a dormant right into an aspiration, and a sentiment into a political claim. 'No wise or honest man,' wrote Edmund Burke, 'can approve of that partition, or can contemplate it without prognosticating great mischief from it to all countries at some future date.' Thenceforward there was a nation demanding to be united in a State—a soul, as it were, wandering in search of a body in which to begin life over again; and for the first time a cry was heard that the arrangement of States was unjust—that their limits were unnatural, and that a whole people was deprived of its right to constitute an independent community. Before that claim could be efficiently asserted against the overwhelming power of its opponents—before it gained energy, after the last partition, to overcome the influence of long habits of submission, and of the contempt which previous disorders had brought upon Poland—the ancient European system was in ruins, and a new world was rising in its place."
[Footnote 1: The Republican Tradition in Europe, pp. 212-213.]
[Footnote 2: History of Freedom, p. 276.]
The last sentence reminds us that, while in the East the dynastic principle was displaying with cynical indifference its true character to the world, events were occurring in the West which threatened to shake its very foundations. If Poland was the first martyr of the national idea, Revolutionary France was its first evangelist, for the new gospel which France preached was the gospel of Liberty, and nationalism is an extension, a variant of this gospel. In France itself, at the time of the Revolution, the doctrine of Liberty was interpreted in its individual and constitutional sense, which involved the abolition of class privileges and of political institutions that conflicted with or did not adequately express what Rousseau called the "general will." There was no national question to be settled in France, and she could therefore devote herself exclusively to the development of the "social idea," the establishment of democratic government, the foundation of a republic, and in general the determination of what should be the relations between the individual and the State, a question which in course of time led on to the problem of Socialism.
But indirectly the French Revolution did an enormous deal to promote the national idea in Europe. In the first place, the execution of Louis XVI. and the proclamation of the Republic administered a blow to the theory of legitimacy upon which the dynastic principle rested, from which it never recovered. If the French nation could rise and abolish its native dynasty, was there not hope that some day the Italian, Hungarian, and Polish nations might also rise and throw off the still more objectionable yoke of their foreign rulers? In the second place, the Revolution in and for itself produced a tremendous effect upon the rest of Europe, and in every country men awoke from the long sleep of feudalism to the desire of sweeping away antiquated constitutions and rebuilding them upon a democratic basis.
It is, however, sufficient to glance at a map of Europe at the end of the eighteenth century to see why these dreams could not be at once realised. Of what real value were ideals of democratic reform to the peoples dwelling in Italy, Germany, or the Austrian Empire? Look, for example, at Germany, split up like a jig-saw puzzle into over three hundred different States, each with its petty prince or grand-duke. Her poets and philosophers might sing of liberty and dream Utopian dreams, and here and there an experiment in popular government might be tried by some princeling who had caught the liberal fashion; but her political fabric, together with the rivalry between Prussia and Austria, kept her disunited and strangled all real hopes of reform. In short, the first and most crying need of Europe was not the abolition of antiquated constitutions, but the redrawing of anomalous frontiers.
The doctrine of the sovereignty of the people proclaimed in France presupposed the doctrine of the solidarity of the people proclaimed by the dismembered nations of Europe. France could set its house in order; but Belgium, Germany, Italy, Bohemia, Hungary, etc., had as yet no house of their own. The house had to be built before it could be furnished on the latest democratic lines; and before it could be even built, the ground had to be wrested from the hands of absentee landlords or cleared of the little dynastic State-shanties which cumbered it. The Polish nationalists became the backbone of the republican movement in Europe; the French republicans proclaimed the independence of nations as one of their cardinal principles. Thus the social idea and the national idea were originally intimately connected. They were the twin children of Poland and the French Revolution, and in their cradle it was hard to tell them apart, so strongly were the features of each stamped with the likeness of Liberty.
For a time it seemed that the new ideas would carry all before them. Even before France had herself abolished the monarchy, Belgium threw off the Austrian rule and declared for a republic. And when in 1792 France found herself at war with the Austrian and Prussian governments, and in the following year with practically all the governments of Europe, her victorious armies were everywhere greeted as saviours by the subject peoples. But the old dynastic states proved to be of tougher material than was expected. Moreover, it was not long before France found herself in conflict with the national aspirations which she had called into existence. The various republics which France set up all over Europe soon discovered that they were nothing but tributary states of their "deliverer"; and when Napoleon began his career of undisguised conquest, he unwittingly did even more than the Revolution to strengthen the national idea in Europe, for the nationalities had now become thoroughly hostile to France and fought in alliance with their old dynasties to throw off the yoke of the hated foreign tyrant.
This strange change in France from liberator to despot is worthy of some attention. It is not good for a nation, any more than for an individual, to be too successful. Moreover, the doctrine of liberty, whether in the individualist or nationalist sense, if carried to extreme, is liable to abuse. All to-day are aware that sheer individualism in the economic sphere is an almost unmitigated evil; sheer individualism in the political sphere and sheer nationalism are equally evil. France at the beginning of last century was suffering from too much success, too much political liberty, too much nationalism. Having overthrown the old regime within the State quickly and easily, she began to think she could do without the State altogether: the result was anarchy, for which the only remedy is despotism. Having, again, suddenly become conscious of her power and mission as a nation, she began to send her armies across her frontiers to carry the gospel of her peculiar "culture" to other and more benighted nations: the result was occupation, which degenerated into conquest. Despotism within and conquest without, both being summed up in the one word Napoleon—such was the fate of the Mother of Liberty, who had loved her child "not wisely but too well." Yet Napoleonism was a very necessary stage in the development of modern Europe. It was the tramp of the invader which did more than anything else to awake sleeping nationalism all over the Continent; it was before the roar of Napoleon's cannon that the artificial boundaries which had divided peoples crumbled to dust. Napoleon cleared the ground, and even did something toward laying the foundations of the great modern Nation-States, Germany and Italy. What Napoleon did for Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Germany, the Napoleon-State among nations to-day, is doing for Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Sec.3. The Congress of Vienna and the International Idea.—The overthrow of Napoleon was due in a large measure to the spirit of nationalism which his conquests had evoked against him among the various peoples of Europe; the rewards of that overthrow, however, were reaped not by the peoples, but by the dynasties and State-systems of the old regime. The Congress of the Powers which met at Vienna in 1814 to resettle the map of Europe, after the upheavals and wars of the previous twenty-five years, was a terrible disappointment; and we, who are now hopefully looking forward to a similar Congress at the end of the present war, cannot do better than study the great failure of 1814, and take warning from it. The phrases which heralded the approaching Congress were curiously and disquietingly similar to those on the lips of our public men and journalists to-day when they speak of the "settlement" before us. "The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World," which had become a remote dream when Tennyson first coined the expression in 1842, seemed in 1814 on the eve of accomplishment. The work of the Congress was to be no less than "the reconstruction of the moral order," "the regeneration of the political system of Europe," the establishment of "an enduring peace founded on a just redistribution of political forces," the institution of an effective and a permanent international tribunal, the encouragement of the growth of representative institutions, and, last but not least, an arrangement between the Powers for a gradual and systematic disarmament. "It seemed," writes Sir A.W. Ward, "as if the states composing the European family, free once more to take counsel together on terms of independence, were also free to determine their own destinies." The Congress of Vienna was to inaugurate a New Era. Such of these views, however, as pointed in a democratic or nationalistic direction represented the expectations of the peoples, not the intentions of the crowned heads and diplomatists who met at the Austrian capital. Among the members of the Congress the only man who at first voiced these aspirations of the world at large was the Russian Tsar, Alexander I., and such concessions to popular opinion as were made were due to what the English plenipotentiary, Lord Castlereagh, described as the "sublime mysticism and nonsense" of the Emperor.
[Footnote 1: Cambridge Modern History, vol. ix. p. 577.]
Instead, therefore, of establishing a new era, the Congress did its utmost to restore the old one. Everything which had happened in Europe since the outbreak of the French Revolution was regarded as a bad dream, the principles of popular freedom and national liberty were completely ignored, and an attempt was made to rivet again on the limbs of Europe the shackles of the antiquated frontiers which had been struck off by the hammer of Napoleon. Everywhere the "national idea" was trampled upon. Germany and Italy were put back again into the eighteenth century, Austria's territory in the latter country being largely increased; Norway was unwillingly yoked with Sweden, and Belgium with Holland; Switzerland was made to surrender her democratic constitution and to return to the aristocratic cantonal system of the past; and, lastly, Poland remained dismembered.
The Allies, while fighting Napoleon, had issued the following proclamation to the world, couched in language almost identical with that used by the Allies who are now fighting Germany: "Nations will henceforth respect their mutual independence; no political edifices shall henceforth be erected on the ruins of formerly independent States; the object of the war, and of the peace, is to secure the rights, the freedom, and the independence of all nations." The Congress of Vienna failed to redeem these pledges: firstly, because its members had not grasped the principle of nationality, and used "nation" and "State" as if they were synonymous terms; secondly, because they did not represent the peoples whose destinies they took it upon them to determine, and made no attempt whatever to consult the views of the various masses of population which they parcelled out among themselves like so much butter. They honestly tried to lay the foundations of a permanent peace; but their method of doing so was not to satisfy the natural aspirations of the European nations and so leave them nothing to fight about, but to establish such an exact equipoise among the great States, by a nice distribution of the aforesaid butter in their respective scales, that they would be afraid to go to war with each other, lest they might upset the so-called "balance of power." The "settlement" of 1814, therefore, left a heritage of future trouble behind it which has kept Europe disturbed throughout the nineteenth century, and is directly responsible for the present war. The real settlement is yet to come; and if we of this generation are to make it a final one we must avoid the errors committed by the Congress of a hundred years ago.
[Footnote 1: Alison Phillips, Modern Europe, p. 8.]
Yet, when all is said, the Congress of Vienna represents an important milestone along the road of progress. It is a great precedent. As a disillusioned contemporary admitted, it "prepared the world for a more complete political structure; if ever the powers should meet again to establish a political system by which wars of conquest would be rendered impossible and the rights of all guaranteed, the Congress of Vienna, as a preparatory assembly, will not have been without use." There is a prophetic ring about this, very welcome to us of the twentieth century. We cannot think altogether unkindly of our great-grandfathers' ill-judged attempt to avert the calamity which has now broken over us.
[Footnote 1: Friedrich von Gentz, quoted in Camb. Mod. Hist. vol. x. p. 2.]
Nor was the Congress altogether barren of positive result; for it gave birth to that conception of a "Confederation of Europe," which, though never realised, has been one of the guiding ideas of nineteenth-century politics. As this solution of the world's problems is likely to be urged upon us with great insistency at the conclusion of the present war, it will be well to look a little more closely into it and to see why it failed to secure the allegiance of Europe a hundred years ago. The Congress had met at Vienna and settled all outstanding questions, to the satisfaction of its members; why should it not meet periodically, and constitute itself a supreme international tribunal? The question had only to be asked to receive the approbation of all concerned. The dreamer, Alexander I., at once saw the destinies of the world entrusted to a Holy Alliance, which would rule according to "the sacred principles of the Christian religion"; and even the more practical mind of Castlereagh conceived that a council of the great powers, "endowed with the efficiency and almost the simplicity of a single State," was a possibility.
Yet, it is quite clear to-day that, at that time and under those conditions, the establishment of a permanent and effective Confederation of Europe would have proved disastrous to the world. The Congress of Vienna was followed by further congresses in 1818, 1819, 1820, and 1822; and each succeeding conference revealed to Europe more clearly the true character of the new authority into whose hands the power was slipping. Certain very dangerous tendencies became, for example, apparent. The first conference had assembled to confer the blessings of order upon a continent ravaged by the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars of France. Hence the Confederation of Europe started life as a kind of anti-Jacobin society, whose main business it was to suppress revolution, whether it took the nationalistic or democratic form. Furthermore, the interference with the internal affairs of France in 1814 and 1815 tended to establish a precedent for interference with the internal affairs of any country. The Holy Alliance, therefore, soon assumed the character of a "Trust" of absolute monarchs, determined to aid each other when threatened by risings or agitations among their peoples, and to crush liberal aspirations wherever they were to be found in other parts of Europe. The popular desire for peace was exploited in the interests of unpopular government; settlement by conference in regard to international matters was extended to settlement by a cabal of irresponsible crowned heads in regard to internal constitutional and national questions; a clique of despots threatened the liberties of the world and proposed to back up their decisions by using their armies as police. One government, however, even in that period of reaction, refused to lend its countenance to such proceedings. England at first protested and at length took up an attitude of complete opposition, and it is due to her that the Confederation never became really effective. She had to choose between peace and liberty, and she chose the latter.
[Footnote 1: See Alison Phillips, The Confederation of Europe, together with his chapter on "The Congresses, 1815-1822" in vol. x. of the Cambridge Modern History. The whole subject of the Concert of Europe, which can only be touched upon here, is of great importance. It is again referred to in Chap. VIII.; see pp. 374 ff.]
The truth is that there were three ideas in the air at the beginning of the nineteenth century, all excellent in themselves, but quite impossible to be realised at one and the same period. Two of these, the social or democratic idea and the national idea, were made, as we have seen, living issues by the French Revolution; the third, which may be called the international idea, was raised by the Congress of Vienna. It was an old idea, of course, for it had been embodied in that shadowy "Holy Roman Empire" which was the medieval dream of Rome the Great; but its form was new, and now for the first time it became a dream of the future rather than a dream of the past. What men did not see then, and still for the most part fail to see, is that the human race can only work out these three ideas properly in a certain order. Democracy and nationhood may, as in the case of Italy, be acquired by a people at the same moment; but without the realisation of the national idea it is hardly possible to conceive of democratic government for any country. The national idea, therefore, precedes the social idea, as Mazzini rightly insists. Still more must it precede the international idea. By this it is not meant that every nation in the world must have grown to self-consciousness and have possessed itself of freedom before we come within sight of a world-concert and world-peace. But certainly in Europe itself the national question had to be settled before there could be any chance of establishing an international tribunal. It is equally certain that the social idea also claims preference of the international idea. The great danger of setting up "an effective machine for regulating the affairs of Europe" is that the machine may get into the wrong hands. The Holy Alliance is a warning, which should not be forgotten. It became an obstruction to progress, a strait-waistcoat which threatened to strangle the liberties of Europe, because it got into the hands of a "vested interest," the dynastic interest, which was hostile both to nationalism and democracy.
Since 1814, however, there have been great strides along the paths both of democracy and of nationalism. And if Germany loses this war, the congress of the settlement will meet in a very different atmosphere from that in which its predecessor assembled at Vienna. It will be a conference of powers victorious over Reaction not Revolution, and pledged to the support of a liberal programme. And yet if such a conference became a permanent feature of European life, if, in other words, a new attempt were made to set up an international tribunal, it might easily become as dangerous to the liberties of the people as ever was the Holy Alliance. The dynastic principle it is to be hoped, will never again threaten the world's peace or progress; but there are other vested interests besides the dynastic one. During the nineteenth century economic development has given an enormous impetus to international movements and cosmopolitanism generally. Unfortunately political development, though great, has not by any means kept pace with the economic; in other words, it is still possible in most countries, and in some more possible than in others, for a small oligarchy to gain control of the political machine.
Again, if there is one thing in the world more international than Labour, it is Capital; and, as Mr. Norman Angell has shown, it is the capitalist who is hardest hit by international war and who stands to gain most from its abolition. European capital is almost certain to have a large say in the settlement, and considerable influence in the counsels of any new Concert of Europe that might come into existence. Now suppose—a not impossible contingency—that a ring of capitalists gained complete control of some politically backward country like Russia, and suppose a grave crisis arose in the Labour world in England or France, what would be easier than for arrangements to be made at the international conference for the transference of Russian troops to the west, "to preserve the sacred rights of property and the peace of Europe"? This may seem a somewhat fantastic supposition, yet it was precisely in this way and on grounds like these that the Holy Alliance interfered with the internal affairs of European countries during the second and third decade of last century, and even as late as 1849 we have Russia, still faithful to the principles of thirty years before, coming to the assistance of Austria in her suppression of the liberties of Hungary. It was a healthy instinct in the English people that led them to break up the Concert of Europe in 1818—"a system which not only threatened the liberties of others, but might, in the language of the orators of the Opposition, in time present the spectacle of Cossacks encamped in Hyde Park to overawe the House of Commons"; and, if the prevailing "internationalism" has not quite blinded their eyes to-day, they will scrutinise with the greatest possible care any new proposals to re-erect the Concert of Europe as a permanent and authoritative tribunal. What the world needs at present is more nationalism and more democracy. And it is only after these two great nineteenth-century movements have worked themselves out to the full, at least on the continent of Europe, that mankind will be able safely to make experiments towards the realisation of the third and crowning principle, the principle of a European Commonwealth.
[Footnote 1: Cambridge Modern History, vol. x. p. 16.]
The national problems which the Congress of Vienna bequeathed to posterity may be seen at a glance by looking at a political map of Europe in 1815. The entire centre of the Continent from Ostend to Palermo, and from Koenigsberg to Constantinople, was left a political chaos. And it is not too much to say that the history of Europe from 1814 to 1914 is the history of the settlement of this vast area. The only State whose frontiers have not altered during this period is Switzerland, and even that country seized the opportunity which a disturbed Europe offered her in 1848, to substitute a unified federal system for the constitution imposed upon her in 1815. The rest of the area falls into six sections: (1) The kingdom of the Netherlands, containing the two distinct and often antagonistic nations, Belgium and Holland; (2) the German nationality split up into no less than thirty-eight sovereign States, loosely held together in a "confederation"; (3) the Italian nationality, distributed under eight independent governments, including four duchies, two kingdoms, the Papal States, and the provinces under Austrian rule; (4) the Polish nationality, divided up between the three Powers, Prussia, Russia, and Austria; (5) the Austrian Empire, comprising a dozen distinct nationalities; and (6) the Ottoman Empire, in which at least five different Christian peoples groaned beneath the sway of the Mohammedan Turk. Thus, if we may regard the inhabitants of the southern Netherland provinces, for the moment, as of one nationality, there were roughly ten great nationalities, the Germans, the Italians, the Belgians, the Poles, the Bohemians, the Hungarians, the Southern Slavs, the Rumanians, the Bulgarians, and the Greeks, all left with national aspirations unsatisfied, all hampered by State frontiers which had no correspondence with their natural boundaries. Can we wonder that there have been wars in the nineteenth century? Should we not rather wonder that those wars have not been greater and more numerous? For the Congress of the Powers in 1814 having failed to give the nationalities what they wanted, nothing remained for them but to seize it for themselves. The only alternative to settlement by conference is "blood and iron," and it is with "blood and iron" that nearly every nationality which has attained nationhood in the last hundred years has cemented the structure of its State.
[Footnote 2: Napoleon had succeeded in reducing the number from 360 to 38.]
It is not our purpose in the present chapter to deal with the whole of this vast area; the three eastern sections, Poland, the Austrian Empire, and Turkey, present special problems of their own, and therefore need special treatment. Still less do we intend to write a history of the nineteenth century, or even to adhere to a chronological treatment. Rather our object is to exemplify the principle of nationality by watching it at work in the three western sections of the central European area; to show how the national idea has been moulded in Belgium, Italy, and Germany, by the various problems which the nationalities in these countries have had to face, and the forces which they have overcome; and, lastly, to indicate the part which an over-developed nationalism in Germany has played in bringing about the war of 1914.
Sec.4. The National Idea in Belgium and the Problem of Small Nations.—The problem of the Netherlands, which it will be convenient to deal with first, introduces us to an aspect of nationhood which we have hitherto not touched upon. "The chief forces which hold a community together and cause it to constitute one state," wrote Sir John Seeley, "are three,—common nationality, common religion, and common interest. These may act in various degrees of intensity, and they may also act singly or in combination." In the Low Countries religion has up to the present been a stronger nation-making force than nationality. Three nationalities, each with its own language, live there side by side,—the Dutch, the Flemings, and the Walloons; but of these the Dutch and the Flemings are very closely allied racially, Flemish being only a slight variant of the Dutch language. It would therefore seem natural on the face of it that these two sections would amalgamate together, leaving the Walloons to attach themselves to their French cousins. That it is not so is due to the fact that the Flemings and the Dutch are adherents of two different and mutually hostile creeds, and that this distinction in their faith has been stamped upon the national memories by the whole history of their past. Holland, the stronghold of Calvinism, had at the end of the sixteenth century thrown off the yoke of Catholic Spain and asserted its independence, while the Belgic provinces, after Alva had cruelly crushed out such Protestantism as existed among their peoples, returned to the faith and the allegiance of their fathers, and remained part of the Hapsburg inheritance until the Congress of Vienna. Thus the cleavage between Protestantism and Catholicism has made two nations out of one Low German nationality in the Netherlands, as it threatens to do with one Celtic nationality in Ireland. On the other hand, their common Catholic faith has welded Flemings and Walloons together, making one nation out of two nationalities far more racially distinct than the Flemings and the Dutch, and this amalgamation has acquired a certain flavour of common nationality from the fact that the language of the upper classes is French.