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Title: Ordeal by Battle
Author: Oliver, Frederick Scott
Language: English
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With that they looked upon him, and began to reply in this sort: SIMPLE
said, _I see no danger_; SLOTH said, _Yet a little more sleep_; and
PRESUMPTION said, _Every Vat must stand upon his own bottom_.  And so
they lay down to sleep again, and CHRISTIAN went on his way.

_The Pilgrim's Progress_.









  _Works by the Same Author_

  ALEXANDER HAMILTON (An Essay on American Union).
    LIBRARY EDITION.  Messrs. CONSTABLE & Co., London.
    LIBRARY EDITION.  Messrs. G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, New York.

  FEDERALISM AND HOME RULE (Letters of Pacificus).









It is hardly necessary to plead, in extenuation of those many faults
which any impartial reader will discover in the following pages, the
impossibility of discussing events which are unfolding themselves
around us, in the same detached spirit as if we were dealing with past
history.  The greater part of this volume has been written in haste,
and no one is more alive to its shortcomings than the author himself.

Faults of style are a small matter, and will be easily forgiven.  It
has not been the aim to produce a work of literary merit, but solely to
present a certain view of public affairs.  It is to be hoped that
actual errors of fact are rare.  Inconsistencies however--or apparent
inconsistencies--cannot be altogether avoided, even by careful
revision.  But the greatest difficulty of all is to keep a true sense
of proportion.

In Part I.--_The Causes of War_--an attempt has been made to state,
very briefly, why it has hitherto proved impossible to eliminate the
appeal to arms from human affairs; to set out the main incidents which
occurred at the opening of the present European struggle; to explain
the immediate occasions, as {x} well as the more permanent and
deep-seated causes, of this conflict; to consider some of the most
glaring miscalculations which have arisen out of misunderstanding
between nations.

In Part II.--_The Spirit of German Policy_--an attempt has been made to
understand the ambitions of our chief antagonist, and to trace the
manner in which these ambitions have been fostered, forced, and
corrupted by a priesthood of learned men.  The relations which exist
between this Pedantocracy and the Bureaucracy, the Army, the Rulers,
and the People of Germany have been examined.  It would appear that
under an academic stimulus, healthy national ambitions have become
morbid, have resulted in the discovery of imaginary grievances, and
have led the Governing Classes of Germany to adopt a new code of morals
which, if universally adhered to, would make an end of human society.
On the other hand, it would also appear that the German People have
accepted the policy of their rulers, without in any way accepting, or
even understanding, the morality upon which this policy is founded.  It
is also important for us to realise the nature of the judgment--not
altogether unjustified--which our enemies have passed upon the British
character, and upon our policy and institutions.

In Part III.--_The Spirit of British Policy_--our own political course
since the beginning of the century has been considered--the
difficulties arising out of the competition for priority between aims
which are {xi} not in themselves antagonistic: between Social Reform,
Constitutional Reform, and Imperial Defence--the confusion which has
resulted from the inadequacy of one small parliament, elected upon a
large variety of cross issues, for dealing with these diverse
needs--the lowering of the tone of public life, the depreciation in the
character of public men, which have come about owing to these two
causes, and also to a third--the steadily increasing tyranny and
corruption of the party machines.

The aim of British Foreign Policy has been simply--Security.  Yet we
have failed to achieve Security, owing to our blindness, indolence, and
lack of leadership.  We have refused to realise that we were not living
in the Golden Age; that Policy at the last resort depends on Armaments;
that Armaments, to be effective for their purpose, must correspond with
Policy.  Political leaders of all parties up to the outbreak of the
present war ignored these essentials; or if they were aware of them, in
the recesses of their own consciousness, they failed to trust the
People with a full knowledge of the dangers which threatened their
Security, and of the means by which alone these dangers could be

The titles of Parts II. and III. are similar--_The Spirit of German
Policy_ and _The Spirit of British Policy_; but although the titles are
similar the treatment is not the same.  Confession of a certain failure
in proportion must be made frankly.  The two pieces do not balance.
German Policy is viewed {xii} from without, at a remote distance, and
by an enemy.  It is easier in this case to present a picture which is
clear, than one which is true.  British Policy, on the of other hand,
is viewed from within.  If likewise it is tinged with prejudice, the
prejudice is of a different character.  Both Parts, I fear, diverge to
a greater or less extent from the main purpose of the book.  Mere
excision is easy; but compression is a difficult and lengthy process,
and I have not been able to carry it so far as I could have wished.

In Part IV.--_Democracy and National Service_--an attempt has been made
to deal with a problem which faces us at the moment.  Democracy is not
unlike other human institutions: it will not stand merely by its own
virtue.  If it lacks the loyalty, courage, and strength to defend
itself when attacked, it must perish as certainly as if it possessed no
virtue whatsoever.  Manhood suffrage implies manhood service.  Without
the acceptance of this principle Democracy is merely an imposture.

I prefer 'National Service' to 'Conscription,' not because I shrink
from the word 'Conscription,' but because 'National Service' has a
wider sweep.  The greater includes the less.  It is not only military
duties which the State is entitled to command its citizens to perform
unquestioningly in times of danger; but also civil duties.  It is not
only men between the ages of twenty and thirty-eight to whom the State
should have the right to give orders; but men and women of all ages.
Under conditions of {xiii} modern warfare it is not only armies which
need to be disciplined; but whole nations.  The undisciplined nation,
engaged in anything like an equal contest with a disciplined nation,
will be defeated.

The Coalition Government

This volume was in type before the Coalition Government was formed; but
there is nothing in it which I wish to change in view of that event.
This book was not undertaken with the object of helping the Unionists
back into power, or of getting the Liberals out of power.

The new Cabinet contains those members of the late one in whom the
country has most confidence.  Lord Kitchener, Sir Edward Grey, Mr.
Lloyd George, and Mr. Churchill have all made mistakes.  In a great
crisis it is the bigger characters who are most liable to make
mistakes.  Their superiority impels them to take risks which the
smaller men, playing always for safety, are concerned to avoid.

The present Ministry also contains representatives of that class of
politicians which, according to the view set forth in the following
pages, is primarily responsible for our present troubles.
Lawyer-statesmanship, which failed to foresee the war, to prepare
against it, and to conduct it with energy and thoroughness when it
occurred, still occupies a large share of authority.  Possibly
ministers of this school {xiv} will now walk in new ways.  In any case,
they are no longer in a position of dangerous predominance.

The Coalition Government, having wisely refused to part with any of
those men who rose to the emergency, and having received an infusion of
new blood (which may be expected to bring an accession of vigour)
starts upon its career with the goodwill and confidence of the People.

What has happened, however, is a revolution upon an unprecedented
scale--one which is likely to have vast consequences in the future.
The country realises this fact, and accepts it as a matter of
course--accepts it indeed with a sigh of relief.  But in other
quarters, what has just happened is hardly realised at all--still less
what it is likely to lead to in the future.

During the 'Cabinet Crisis' one read a good deal of stuff in the
newspapers, and heard still more by word of mouth, which showed how
far, during the past nine months, public opinion has moved away from
the professionals of politics; how little account it takes of them;
also how much these gentlemen themselves mistake the meaning of the
present situation.

In political circles one has heard, and read, very frequently of late,
expressions of regret--on the one hand that Unionists should have come
to the assistance of a discredited and bankrupt administration--on the
other hand that a government, secure in the confidence of the country,
should, through a mistaken {xv} sense of generosity, have admitted its
opponents to a share in the glory and prestige of office.  One has
read, and heard, cavillings at the idea of appointing this, or that,
public character to this, or that, office, as a thing beyond what this,
or that, party 'could fairly be expected to stand.'  Reports have
appeared of meetings of 'a hundred' perturbed Liberals; and very
possibly meetings, though unreported, of equally perturbed Unionists
have also been held.  An idea seems still to be prevalent in certain
quarters, that what has just occurred is nothing more important than an
awkward and temporary disarrangement of the party game; and that this
game will be resumed, with all the old patriotism and good feeling, so
soon as war is ended.  But this appears to be a mistaken view.  You
cannot make a great mix-up of this sort without calling new parties
into existence.  When men are thrown into the crucible of a war such as
this, the true ore will tend to run together, the dross to cake upon
the surface.  No matter to what parties they may have originally owed
allegiance, the men who are in earnest, and who see realities, cannot
help but come together.  May be for several generations the annual
festivals of the National Liberal Federation and the Union of
Conservative Associations will continue to be held, like other
picturesque survivals of ancient customs.  When Henry VII. was crowned
at Westminster, the Wars of the Roses ended; the old factions of York
and Lancaster were dissolved, and {xvi} made way for new associations.
Something of the same sort has surely happened during the past
month--Liberal and Conservative, Radical and Tory have ceased for the
present to be real divisions.  They had recently become highly
artificial and confusing; now they are gone--it is to be hoped for ever.

Will the generation which is fighting this war--such of them as may
survive--be content to go back to the old barren wrangle when it is
done?  Will those others who have lost husbands, sons, brothers,
friends--all that was dearest to them except the honour and safety of
their country--will they be found willing to tolerate the idea of
trusting their destinies ever again to the same machines, to be driven
once more to disaster by the same automatons?  To all except the
automatons themselves--who share with the German Supermen the credit of
having made this war--any such resumption of business on
old-established lines appears incredible.  There is something pathetic
in the sight of these huckstering sentimentalists still crying their
stale wares and ancient make-believes at the street corners, while
their country is fighting for its life.  They remind one, not a little,
of those Pardoners of the fourteenth century who, as we read in history
books, continued to hawk their _Indulgences_ with unabated industry
during the days of the _Black Death_.


It is necessary to offer a few words of explanation as to how this book
came to be written.  During the months of November and December 1912
and January 1913, various meetings and discussions took place under
Lord Roberts's roof and elsewhere, between a small number of persons,
who held widely different views, and whose previous experience and
training had been as different as were their opinions.

Our efforts were concerned with endeavouring to find answers to several
questions which had never been dealt with candidly, clearly, and
comprehensively in the public statements of political leaders.  It was
clear that there was no 'national' policy, which the British people had
grasped, accepted, and countersigned, as was the case in France.  But
some kind of British policy there must surely be, notwithstanding the
fact it had never been disclosed.  What were the aims of this policy?
With what nation or nations were these aims likely to bring us into
collision?  What armaments were necessary in order to enable us to
uphold this policy and achieve these aims?  How, and when, and where
would our armaments be required in the event of war?  Assuming (as we
did in our discussions) that our naval forces were adequate, was the
same statement true of our military forces?  And if it were not true,
by what means could the necessary increases be obtained?

The final conclusion at which we arrived was that National Service was
essential to security.  {xviii} Under whatever aspect we regarded the
problem we always returned--even those of us who were most unwilling to
travel in that direction--to the same result.  So long as Britain
relied solely upon the voluntary principle, we should never possess
either the Expeditionary Force or the Army for Home Defence which were
requisite for safety.

It fell to me during the winter 1912-1913 to draft the summary of our
conclusions.  It was afterwards decided--in the spring of 1913--that
this private Memorandum should be recast in a popular form suitable for
publication.  I was asked to undertake this, and agreed to do so.  But
I underestimated both the difficulties of the task and the time which
would be necessary for overcoming them.

When we met again, in the autumn of that year, the work was still far
from complete, and by that time, not only public attention, but our
own, had become engrossed in other matters.  The Irish controversy had
entered upon a most acute and dangerous stage.  Lord Roberts put off
the meetings which he had arranged to address during the ensuing months
upon National Service, and threw his whole energies into the endeavour
to avert the schism which threatened the nation, and to find a way to a
peaceful settlement.  Next to the security and integrity of the British
Empire I verily believe that the thing which lay nearest his heart was
the happiness and unity of Ireland.

It is needless to recall how, during the ensuing {xix} months, affairs
in Ireland continued to march from bad to worse--up to the very day
when the menace of the present war suddenly arose before the eyes of

During August 1914 I went through the old drafts and memoranda which
had now been laid aside for nearly a year.  Although that very thing
had happened which it had been the object of our efforts to avert, it
seemed to me that there might be advantages in publishing some portion
of our conclusions.  The form, of course, would have to be entirely
different; for the recital of prophecies which had come true, though it
might have possessed a certain interest for the prophets themselves,
could have but little for the public.

Early in September I consulted Lord Roberts, and also such of my
friends, who had originally worked with me, as were still within reach.
Finding that their opinion agreed with my own upon the desirability of
publication, I laid out a fresh scheme, and set to for a third time at
the old task.  But as the work grew, it became clear that it would
contain but little of the former Memorandum, and much which the former
Memorandum had never contemplated.  So many of our original
conclusions, laboriously hammered out to convince the public in the
spring of the year 1913, had become by the autumn of 1914, the most
trite of commonplaces.  And as for the practical scheme which we had
evolved--endeavouring to keep our demands at the most modest {xx}
minimum--it was interesting chiefly by reason of its triviality when
contrasted with the scale of warlike preparations upon which the
Government was now engaged.  Practically, therefore, the whole of the
present volume is new--not merely redrafted, but for the most part new
in substance.

The author's acknowledgements.

I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to the friends with whom I have
studied the problems of policy and defence for some years past.  The
responsibility for the contents and publication of the present volume
is mine alone; but I have used their ideas without hesitation, and have
drawn largely upon the notes and memoranda which they drafted for my
assistance.  I wish also to thank several others--one in chief--for the
kindness with which, upon the present occasion, they have given me help
and criticism as these pages were passing through the press.

There is also another source to which I wish here gratefully to confess
my obligations.  During the past five years there have appeared in _The
Round Table_ certain articles upon the relations of England with
Germany[1] which have been characterised by {xxi} a remarkable degree
of prescience and sanity.  At a certain point, however, there is a
difference between the views expressed in _The Round Table_ and those
expressed in the following pages--a difference of stress and emphasis
perhaps, rather than of fundamental opinion, but still a difference of
some importance.  I have dealt with this in the concluding chapter.

I should like to make one other acknowledgment of a different kind.  I
have known the editor of _The National Review_ from a date long before
he assumed his onerous office--from days when we were freshmen together
by the banks of the Cam.  During a period of upwards of thirty years, I
cannot remember that I have ever had the good fortune to see absolutely
eye to eye with Mr. Maxse upon any public question.  Even now I do not
see eye to eye with him.  In all probability I never shall.  At times
his views have been in sharp opposition to my own.  But for these very
reasons--if he will not resent it as an impertinence--I should like to
say here how greatly I respect him for three qualities, which have been
none too common among public men in recent times--first, for the
clearness with which he grasps and states his beliefs; secondly, for
the courageous constancy with which he holds to them through good and
evil report; thirdly, for the undeviating integrity of his public
career.  Next to Lord Roberts, he did more perhaps than any
other--though unavailingly--to arouse public opinion to the dangers
{xxii} which menaced it from German aggression, to call attention to
the national unpreparedness, and to denounce the blindness and
indolence which treated warnings with derision.

Lord Roberts.

Lord Roberts's responsibility for the contents of this volume, as for
its publication at the present time, is nil.  And yet it would never
have been undertaken in the first instance except at his wish, nor
re-undertaken in September last without his encouragement.  There are
probably a good many besides myself who owe it to his inspiration, that
they first made a serious attempt to study policy and defence as two
aspects of a single problem.  I also owe to him many things besides

The circumstances of Lord Roberts's death were befitting his character
and career.  The first great battle of Ypres was ended.  The British
line had held its own against tremendous odds of men and guns.  He had
no doubt of the ultimate result of the war, and during his visit to
France and Flanders inspired all who saw him by the quiet confidence of
his words and manner.  After the funeral service at Headquarters a
friend of his and mine wrote to me describing the scene.  The religious
ceremony had taken place in the entrance hall of the Maine at St. Omer.
It was a day of storms; but as the coffin was borne out "the sun
{xxiii} appeared, and made a magnificent rainbow on a great black block
of cloud across the square; and an airman flew across from the rainbow
into the sunlight."

If I were asked to name Lord Roberts's highest intellectual quality I
should say unhesitatingly that it was his instinct.  And if I were
asked to name his highest moral quality I should say, also
unhesitatingly, that it was the unshakeable confidence with which he
trusted his instinct.  But the firmness of his trust was not due in the
least to self-conceit, or arrogance, or obstinacy.  He obeyed his
instinct as he obeyed his conscience--humbly and devoutly.  The
dictates of both proceeded from the same source.  It was not his own
cleverness which led him to his conclusions, but the hand of Providence
which drew aside a veil, and enabled him to see the truth.  What gave
him his great strength in counsel, as in the field, was the simple
modesty of his confidence.

He was a poor arguer; I think argument was painful to him; also that he
regarded it as a sad waste of the short span of human life.  It was not
difficult to out-argue him.  Plausible and perspicacious persons often
left him, after an interview, under the firm impression that they had
convinced him.  But as a rule, he returned on the morrow to his old
opinion, unless his would-be converters had brought to his notice new
facts as well as new arguments.


He arrived at an opinion neither hastily nor slowly, but at a moderate
pace.  He had the gift of stating his conclusion with admirable
lucidity; and if he thought it desirable, he gave the reasons for his
view of the matter with an equal clearness.  But his reasons, like his
conclusion, were in the nature of statements; they were not stages in
an argument.  There are as many unanswerable reasons to be given for as
against most human decisions.  Ingenuity and eloquence are a curse at
councils of war, and state, and business.  Indeed, wherever action of
any kind has to be determined upon they are a curse.  It was Lord
Roberts's special gift that, out of the medley of unanswerable reasons,
he had an instinct for selecting those which really mattered, and
keeping his mind close shut against the rest.

It is superfluous to speak of his courtesy of manner and kindness of
heart, or of his unflagging devotion--up till the very day of his
death--to what he regarded as his duty.  There is a passage in
Urquhart's translation of _Rabelais_ which always recalls him to my
mind:--_He was the best little great good man that ever girded a sword
on his side; he took all things in good part, and interpreted every
action in the best sense_.  In a leading German newspaper there
appeared, a few days after his death, the following reference to that
event:--"It was not given to Lord Roberts to see the realisation of his
dreams of National Service; but the blows struck on the Aisne were
hammer-strokes which might after a long {xxv} time and bitter need
produce it.  Lord Roberts was an honourable and, through his renown, a
dangerous enemy ... personally an extraordinarily brave enemy.  Before
such a man we lower our swords, to raise them again for new blows dealt
with the joy of conflict."

Nor was this the only allusion of the kind which figured in German
newspapers 'to the journey of an old warrior to Walhalla,' with his
final mission yet unaccomplished, but destined to be sooner or later
accomplished, if his country was to survive.  In none of these
references, so far as I have been able to discover, was there the least
trace of malice against the man who had warned his fellow-countrymen,
more clearly than any other, against the premeditated aggression of
Germany.  This seems very strange when we recollect how, for nearly two
years previously, a large section of the British nation had been
engaged in denouncing Lord Roberts for the outrageous provocations
which he was alleged to have offered to Germany--in apologising to
Germany for his utterances--in suggesting the propriety of depriving
him of his pension in the interests of Anglo-German amity.  What this
section has itself earned in the matter of German gratitude we know
from many hymns and other effusions of hate.


Hugh Dawnay and John Gough.

I have dedicated this volume to the memory of John Gough and Hugh
Dawnay, not solely on grounds of friendship, but also because from both
I received, at different times, much help, advice, and criticism--from
the latter when the original Memorandum was in course of being
drafted--from both when it was being reconsidered with a view to
publication.  Whether either of them would agree with the statement in
its present form is more than I can venture to say, and I have no
intention of claiming their authority for conclusions which were never
seen by them in final shape.

In the first instance (November 1912-March 1913) Dawnay[2] and I worked
together.  His original notes and memoranda are to a large extent
incorporated in Parts III. and IV.--so closely, however, that I cannot
now disentangle his from my own.  The calculations as to numbers and
probable distribution of the opposing forces, were almost entirely his.
I have merely endeavoured here--not so successfully as I could wish--to
bring them up to the date of the outbreak of war.

Dawnay took out his squadron of the 2nd Life Guards to France early in
August.  Already, however, he had been appointed to the Headquarters
General Staff, on which he served with distinction, until early in
October, when he succeeded to the command {xxvii} of his regiment.  He
fell at Zwarteleen near Ypres on the 6th of November 1914--one of the
most anxious days during the four weeks' battle.

His friends have mourned his death, but none of them have grudged it;
for he died, not merely as a brave man should--in the performance of
his duty--but after having achieved, with consummate skill and daring,
his part in an action of great importance.  On the afternoon of this
day General Kavanagh's Brigade of Household Cavalry[3]--summoned in
haste--dismounted, and threw back a German attack which had partially
succeeded in piercing the allied line at the point of junction between
the French and English forces.  This successful counter-attack saved
the right flank of Lord Cavan's Guards' Brigade from a position of
extreme danger, which must otherwise, almost certainly, have resulted
in a perilous retreat.  The whole of this Homeric story is well worth
telling, and some day it may be told; but this is not the place.

Dawnay was fortunate inasmuch as he lost his life, not as so many brave
men have done in this war--and in all others--by a random bullet, or as
the result of somebody's blunder, or in an attempt which failed.  On
the contrary he played a distinguished, and possibly a determining
part, in an action which succeeded, and the results of which were

He was not merely a brave and skilful soldier {xxviii} when it came to
push of pike, but a devoted student of his profession in times of
peace.  The mixture of eagerness and patience with which he went about
his work reminded one, not a little, of that same combination of
qualities as it is met with sometimes among men of science.

Hunting accidents, the privations of Ladysmith followed by enteric,
divers fevers contracted in hot climates, and the severity of a
campaign in Somaliland, had severely tried his constitution--which
although vigorous and athletic was never robust--and had increased a
tendency to headaches and neuralgia to which he had been subject ever
since boyhood.  Yet he treated pain always as a despicable enemy, and
went about his daily business as indefatigably when he was in
suffering, as when he was entirely free from it, which in later years
was but rarely.

Dawnay had a very quick brain, and held his views most positively.  It
was sometimes said of him that he did not suffer fools gladly, and this
was true up to a point.  He was singularly intolerant of presumptuous
fools, who laid down the law about matters of which they were wholly
ignorant, or who--having acquired a smattering of second-hand
knowledge--proceeded to put their ingenious and sophistical theories
into practice.  But for people of much slower wits than himself--if
they were trying honestly to arrive at the truth--he was usually full
of sympathy.  His tact and patience upon great occasions were two of
his noblest qualities.


In some ways he used to remind me, not a little, of Colonel Henry
Esmond of Castlewood, Virginia.  In both there was the same hard core
of resistance against anything, which appeared to challenge certain
adamantine principles concerning conduct befitting a gentleman.  On
such matters he was exceedingly stiff and unyielding.  And he resembled
the friend of Lord Bolingbroke, and General Webb, and Dick Steele also
in this, that he was addicted to the figure of irony when crossed in
discussion.  One imagines, however, that Colonel Esmond must have kept
his countenance better, and remained imperturbably grave until his
shafts had all gone home.  In Dawnay's case the sight of his opponent's
lengthening face was, as a rule, too much for his sense of humour, and
the attack was apt to lose some of its force--certainly all its
fierceness--in a smile which reminded one of Carlyle's
description--'sunlight on the sea.'

The following extract from a letter written by one of his friends who
had attended the War Service at St. Paul's gives a true picture: "A
sudden vision arose in my imagination of Hugh Dawnay striding down the
choir, in full armour, like St. Michael--with his head thrown back, and
that extraordinary expression of resolution which he always seemed to
me to possess more than any one I have ever seen.  His wide-apart eyes
had more of the spirit of truth in them than almost any--also an
intolerance of falsehood--or rather perhaps a disbelief in its
existence...."  This is true.  He was one of {xxx} that race of men
whose recumbent figures are seen in our old churches and cathedrals,
with hands clasping crusaders' swords against their breasts, their
hounds couching at their feet.

In physique and temperament Hugh Dawnay and John Gough[4] were in most
respects as unlike a pair of friends as ever walked this earth; but we
might have searched far before we could have found two minds which, on
most matters connected with their profession, were in more perfect
accord.  Dawnay, younger by four years, had served under Gough in
trying times, and regarded him (an opinion which is very widely shared
by seniors as well as juniors) as one of the finest soldiers of his
age.  Though Dawnay was slender and of great height, while Gough was
rather below the middle stature, broad and firmly knit, there was one
striking point of physical resemblance between them, in the way their
heads were set upon their shoulders.  There was something in the
carriage of both which seemed to take it for granted that they would be
followed wherever they might chose to lead.  In Lord Roberts, and also
in a strikingly different character--Mr. Chamberlain--there was the
same poise, the same stable equilibrium, without a trace in it of
self-consciousness or constraint.  It may be that the {xxxi} habit of
command induces this bearing in a man; or it may be that there is
something in the nature of the man who bears himself thus which forces
him to become a leader.

Gough took no part in the preparation of the original Memorandum; but
in March 1913 he discussed it with me[5] and made various criticisms
and suggestions, most of which have been incorporated here.  His chief
concern with regard to all proposals for a National Army was, that the
period of training should be sufficient to allow time for turning the
average man into a soldier who had full confidence in himself.  "When
war breaks out"--I can hear his words--"it's not recruits we want: it's
soldiers we want: that is, if our object is to win the war as speedily
as possible, and to lose as few lives as possible."  Under normal peace
conditions he put this period at a minimum of two years for infantry;
but of course he would have admitted--and did, in fact, admit when I
saw him last December--that under the stress and excitement of war the
term might be considerably shortened.

His chief concern in 1913 was with regard to shortage of officers.  He
criticised with great severity the various recent attempts at reforming
our military {xxxii} system, not only on the ground that we had chosen
to rely upon training our national forces after war had actually broken
out (in his view a most disastrous decision); but also because we had
not taken care to provide ourselves against the very emergency which
was contemplated, by having a reserve of officers competent to
undertake the training of the new army in case of need.

I went to see him at Aldershot on the Friday before war was declared,
and found, as I expected, that he regarded it as inevitable.  He had
undergone a very severe operation in the early summer, and was still
quite unfit to stand the strain of hard exercise.  It had been arranged
that we were to go together, a few days later, to Sweden, for six
weeks' shooting and fishing in the mountains.  He was very anxious to
return to England for the September manoeuvres.  His surgeon,[6]
however, forbade this, on the ground that even by that time he would
not be fit to sit for a whole day in the saddle.

He was in two moods on this occasion.  He was as light-hearted as a boy
who is unexpectedly released from school; the reason being that the
Army Medical Officer had that morning passed him as physically fit to
go abroad with Sir Douglas Haig, to whom he had acted as Senior Staff
Officer since the previous autumn.


His other mood was very different.  The war which he had foreseen and
dreaded, the war which in his view might have been avoided upon one
condition, and one only--if England had been prepared--had come at
last.  I don't think I have ever known any one--certainly never any
anti-militarist--whose hatred and horror of war gave the same
impression of intensity and reality as his.  Not metaphorically, but as
a bare fact, his feelings with regard to it were too deep for words; he
would suddenly break off speaking about things which had occurred in
his own experience; in particular, about loss of friends and comrades.
He was an Irishman, and had not the impassive coldness of some of the
great soldiers.  But most of all he hated war when it was not
inevitable--when with foresight and courage it might have been
averted--as in his opinion this war might have been.

In radium there is said to be a virtue which enables it to affect
adjacent objects with its own properties, and to turn them, for a time,
and for certain purposes, into things of the same nature as itself.
Certain rare human characters possess a similar virtue; but although I
have met with several of these in my life, there is none of them all
who seemed to me to possess this quality in quite so high a degree as
Gough.  He was an alchemist who made fine soldiers out of all sorts and
conditions of men, and whose spirit turned despondency out of doors.

The clearness of his instinct and the power of his {xxxiv} mind were
not more remarkable than his swiftness of decision and indomitable
will.  There are scores--probably hundreds--of young officers who
fought by his side, or under him, at Ypres and elsewhere, who years
hence, when they are themselves distinguished--perhaps great and
famous--and come, in the evening of their days, to reckon up and
consider the influences which have shaped their careers, will place his
influence first.  And there are boys looking forward to the day when
they shall be old enough to serve in the King's Army, chiefly from the
love and honour in which they held this hero, with his winning smile
and superb self-confidence.

He has left behind him a tradition, if ever man did.  You will find it
everywhere, among young and old--among all with whom he ever came into
touch.  Nor is the tradition which he has left merely among soldiers
and with regard to the art of war, but also in other spheres of private
conduct and public life.  He had strong prejudices as well as
affections, which made him sometimes judge men unfairly, also on the
other hand too favourably; but he banished all meanness from his
neighbourhood, all thoughts of self-interest and personal advancement.
Duty, discipline, self-discipline, and the joy of life--these were the
rules he walked by; and if you found yourself in his company you had
perforce to walk with him, keeping up with his stride as best you could.

We value our friends for different qualities, and would have their
tradition fulfil itself in different {xxxv} ways.  Those of us who
counted these two--'Johnnie' Gough and Hugh Dawnay--among our friends
will wish that our sons may be like them, and follow in their footsteps.



[1] _The Round Table_ (quarterly Review).  Macmillan & Co., Ltd.  Of
the articles referred to the chief are: 'Anglo-German Rivalry'
(November 1910); 'Britain, France, and Germany' (December 1911); 'The
Balkan War and the Balance of Power' (June 1913); 'Germany and the
Prussian Spirit' (September 1914); 'The Schism of Europe' (March 1915).
It is to be hoped that these and some others may be republished before
long in more permanent form.

[2] Major the Hon. Hugh Dawnay, D.S.O., _b._ 1875; educated Eton and
Sandhurst; Rifle Brigade, 1895; Nile Campaign and Omdurman, 1898; South
Africa, 1899-1900; Somaliland, 1908-1910; 2nd Life Guards, 1912;
France, August-November 1914.

[3] This Brigade was known during the battle of Ypres as 'the Fire
Brigade,' for the reason that it was constantly being called up on a
sudden to extinguish unforeseen conflagrations.

[4] Brigadier-General John Edmund Gough, V.C., C.M.G., C.B., A.D.C. to
the King; _b._ 1871; educated Eton and Sandhurst; Rifle Brigade, 1892;
British Central Africa, 1896-1897; Nile Campaign and Omdurman, 1898;
South Africa, 1899-1902; Somaliland, 1902-1903 and 1908-1909; France,
August 1914-February 1915.

[5] At St. Jean de Luz, when he was endeavouring, though not very
successfully, to shake off the after-effects of his last Somaliland
campaign.  He was then engaged in correcting the proofs of the volume
of his Staff College lectures which was subsequently published under
the title _Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville_ (Rees)--a most vivid
and convincing narrative.  In the intervals of work and golf he spent
much of his time in visiting Wellington's adjacent battlefields and
studying his passage of the Bidassoa and forcing of the Pyrenees.

[6] Gough's many friends will ever feel a double debt of gratitude to
that distinguished surgeon, Sir Berkeley Moynihan, who by this
operation restored him, after several years of ill-health and
suffering, almost to complete health; and who once again--when by a
strange coincidence of war he found his former patient lying in the
hospital at Estaires the day after he was brought in wounded--came to
his aid, and all but achieved the miracle of saving his life.
















  Peace is the greatest of British interests                        3
  Peaceful intentions will not ensure peace                         4
  Futility of Pacifism                                              6
  Causes of wars in general                                         8
  Causes of the American Civil War                                 10
  Influence of ideas of duty and self-sacrifice                    11



  July-August 1914                                                 13
  Reality or illusion                                              15
  The Serajevo murders                                             16
  Austria and Servia                                               17
  English efforts to preserve peace                                18
  Mobilisation in Germany and Russia                               19
  Questions of neutrality                                          19
  German Army enters Luxemburg, Belgium, and France                20
  General conflagration                                            20



  Why did war occur?                                               22
  Servia did not want war                                          22
  Neither did Russia or France                                     23
  Nor Belgium or England                                           25
  Austria wanted war with Servia alone                             26
  Germany encouraged Austria to bring on war                       29
  Germany desired war believing that England would remain neutral  29
  Austrian eleventh-hour efforts for peace frustrated by Germany   30
  Sir Edward Grey's miscalculation                                 31
  M. Sazonof thought war could have been avoided by plain speaking 32
  Sir Edward Grey's reasons against plain speaking                 33
  Which was right?                                                 34



  Was war inevitable?                                              36
  Not if England had been prepared morally and materially          37
  Previous apprehensions of war                                    38
  Peculiar characteristics of German animosity                     39
  British public opinion refused to treat it seriously             40



  Who actually caused the conflagration?                           42
  Influence of the Professors, Press, and People of Germany        43
  Influence of the Court, Army, and Bureaucracy                    44
  Various political characters                                     46
  The Kaiser                                                       48
  There was no master-spirit                                       51



  Hero-worship and sham super-men                                  53
  The Blunders of Bureaucracy                                      55
  As to the time-table of the war                                  55
  As to the quality of the French Army                             55
  As to the opinion of the world                                   56
  As to the treatment of Belgium                                   57
  As to British neutrality                                         58
  As to the prevalence of Pacifism in England                      59
  As to Civil War in Ireland                                       62
  As to rebellion in South Africa                                  64
  As to Indian sedition                                            65
  As to the spirit of the self-governing Dominions                 67
  Lack of instinct and its consequences                            67



  Great events do not proceed from small causes                    69
  German hatred of England                                         70
  This is the German people's war                                  71
  Their illusion that England brought it about                     73
  Difficulties in the way of international understandings          73
  British and German diplomacy compared                            74
  German distrust and British indifference                         78
  British policy as it appears to German eyes                      79
  Vacillation mistaken for duplicity                               80
  German policy as it appears to British eyes                      81





  National dreams                                                  87
  1789 and after                                                   87
  The first German dream--Union                                    88
  How it was realised                                              89
  What the world thought of it                                     90
  Material development in Germany                                  91
  The peace policy of Bismarck                                     92



  Nightmares and illusions                                         94
  Grievances against England, France, and Russia                   96
  The second German dream--Mastery of the World                    97
  Absorption of Belgium, Holland, and Denmark                      98
  The Austro-Hungarian inheritance                                 98
  The Balkan peninsula                                             99
  Turkey in Asia                                                  100
  German diplomacy at Constantinople                              101
  The Baghdad Railway                                             102
  The hoped-for fruits of 'inevitable' wars                       103
  The possession of Africa                                        103
  The Chinese Empire                                              104



  Qualities of the German vision                                  106
  Symmetry and vastness are dangerous ideals                      107
  Frederick the Great and Bismarck                                108
  German predisposition to follow dreamers                        108
  Grotesque proportions of the Second German dream                109
  The two Americas                                                110
  Pacifism and Militarism meet at infinity                        111



  Germany goes in search of an ethical basis                      113
  Special grievances against France and England                   114
  German thinkers recast Christian morals                         115
  Heinrich von Treitschke                                         116
  _The principle of the state is power_                           117
  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche                                     118
  His contempt for British and Prussian ideals                    119
  General von Bernhardi                                           122
  New morality never accepted by the German people                123
  Thrown over even by 'the brethren' when war occurred            124
  Causes of this apostasy                                         126



  German education a drill system                                 127
  Intellectuals are ranged on the government side                 129
  Eighteenth-century France and modern Germany                    129
  Contrast between their bureaucracies                            130
  Between the attitude of their intellectuals                     131
  Between their fashions of fancy dress                           131
  Dangers to civilisation from within and without                 132
  Political thinkers are usually destructive                      133
  Unfitness of priesthoods for practical affairs                  135
  Contrast between priests and lawyers                            137
  Natural affinity between soldiers and priests                   139
  Unforeseen consequences of German thoroughness                  140
  May lead ultimately to ostracism of Germany                     140
  Types of German agents                                          141
  Treacherous activities in time of peace                         142
  The German political creed                                      144
  The true aim of this war                                        146



  Intelligence and enterprise of the Germans                      149
  They are nevertheless devoted to their own institutions         150
  German system is not reactionary but the reverse                151
  Experts are honoured and trusted                                151
  German esteem for men of learning                               152
  And for the military caste                                      153
  And for their Kaiser                                            155
  German contempt for party government                            156
  And for the character of British official news                  157
  And for the failure of the British Government to trust
        the people                                                160
  And for its fear of asking the people to make sacrifices        161
  And for the voluntary system                                    162
  Their pride in the successes of German arms                     163
  And in the number and spirit of their new levies                163
  Which they contrast with British recruiting                     164
  The methods of which they despise                               165
  What is meant by 'a popular basis' of government?               166



  Two issues between England and Germany                          167
  Democracy cannot endure unless capable of self-defence          168
  Democracy good and bad                                          169
  Self-criticism may be carried too far                           171
  The two dangers of democracy--German _Arms_ and German _Ideas_  173
  Fundamental opposition between the spirit of German policy
        and our own                                               173
  German people have not accepted the moral ideas of their
        priesthood                                                174
  Recantation among 'the brethren' themselves on outbreak of war  175
  The cult of war                                                 176





  In this war Democracy is fighting for its existence             181
  Against highly organised materialism                            183
  The opening of the twentieth century                            186
  Spirit of constitutional change                                 188
  Disappearance of great figures from the scene                   189
  Change in character of the House of Commons                     192
  Dearth of leadership                                            194
  Consequent demoralisation of parties                            195
  And widespread anxiety                                          196
  Pre-eminence of Mr. Asquith                                     197
  His Parliamentary supremacy                                     198
  His maxim--_wait-and-see_                                       199
  Character of his oratory                                        199
  Increasing prominence of lawyers in politics                    200
  Their influence on Parliamentary institutions and national
        policy                                                    201
  Mr. Asquith's limitations                                       203



  Situation at the death of Queen Victoria                        207
  Comfort and security are not synonymous                         208
  Two problems absorbed public attention                          209
  Social and Constitutional Reform                                209
  A third problem, security, was overlooked                       210
  Social Reform intrinsically the most important                  211
  The urgent need of peace                                        212
  Earnestness of public opinion                                   212
  How it was baulked by circumstances                             213
  Limitations of popular judgment                                 214
  Want of leadership                                              216
  Strangulation of sincerity by party system                      218
  The artificial opposition of three great ideas                  221



  The aim of British policy                                       223
  Organised and unorganised defences                              223
  Policy depends on armaments, armaments on policy                225
  Difficulty of keeping these principles in mind                  226
  Diplomacy to-day depends more than ever on armaments            228
  The sad example of China                                        229
  Policy should conform to national needs                         230
  Dangers threatening British security (1901-1914)                231
  The Committee of Imperial Defence                               232
  Reasons of its comparative failure                              234
  Parliament and the people were left uneducated                  235
  Naval preparations were adequate                                236
  Military preparations were absurdly inadequate                  237
  Our Foreign policy rested on an entirely false assumption as
        regards the adequacy of our Army                          238



  Security required that we should take account of Europe         241
  German aim--the suzerainty of Western Europe                    243
  Maintenance of the _Balance of Power_                           244
  This is the unalterable condition of British security           245
  This need produced the Triple Entente                           247
  Splendid isolation no longer compatible with security           249
  Meaning of a defensive war                                      249
  Defence of north-eastern frontier of France essential to
        British security                                          250



  The British 'Expeditionary Force'                               252
  Numbers as a test of adequacy                                   253
  Relations of Italy with Germany and Austria in event of war     254
  Troops for defence of coasts and neutral frontiers              256
  Germany must hold Russia in check with superior numbers         256
  Germany would then endeavour to crush France                    257
  Having a superiority of 500,000 men available for this purpose  257
  Why neutrality of Holland was a German interest                 258
  Why neutrality of Belgium was an obstacle to Germany            259
  Inadequacy of our own Army to turn the scales                   260
  Our armaments did not correspond with our policy                261
  Ministerial confidence in the 'voluntary system'                261
  Three periods of war--the _onset_, the _grip_, and the _drag_   263
  In 1870 the _onset_ decided the issue                           264
  By 1914 the power of swift attack had increased                 265
  Forecasts confirmed by experience (Aug.-Sept. 1914)             266
  Immense value of British sea-power                              266
  No naval success, however, can win a European war               267
  Naval supremacy not the only essential to British security      268



  Changes between August 1911 and August 1914                     269
  Sensational German increases in 1913 took full effect within
        a year                                                    270
  Inability of France to counter this effort unaided              270
  French increase could not take effect till 1916                 271
  Russian and Austrian increases                                  272
  No attempt to increase British Army though it is below strength 273
  Balkan wars (1912-1913)                                         273
  Their effect on _Balance of Power_                              274
  Reasons why they did not lead to general conflagration          275
  Germany's two dates: June 1914-June 1916                        275



  Why should we suspect Germany of evil intentions?               277
  The German Fleet was a challenge to British security            278
  Candour of German publicists                                    278
  British Government finds comfort in official assurances
        of Berlin                                                 279
  Disregarded warnings                                            279
  _First Warning_                                                 279
  (1905-1906) Morocco incident                                    279
  After which British naval programme was reduced                 280
  _Second Warning_                                                281
  (1908-1909) Secret acceleration and increase of German
        naval programme                                           281
  Imperial Defence Conference                                     281
  _Third Warning_                                                 282
  (1910) German sincerity under suspicion                         282
  The Constitutional Conference                                   283
  Secret de Polichinelle                                          283
  Failure of British Government to trust the people               284
  _Fourth Warning_                                                285
  (1911) The Agadir incident                                      285
  Mr. Lloyd George's speech                                       285
  Consequences of various kinds                                   286
  _Fifth Warning_                                                 287
  (1912) Lord Haldane's rebuff                                    287
  Menacing nature of German proposals                             288
  Dangers of amateur diplomacy                                    289
  German love of irregular missions                               290
  _Sixth Warning_                                                 294
  (1913) German Army Bill and War Loan                            294
  British Government ignore the danger                            295
  Neglect military preparations                                   297
  Shrink from speaking plainly to the people                      298
  Difficulties of Sir Edward Grey                                 298
  Enemies in his own household                                    299
  Radical attacks on Foreign Secretary and First Lord of
        Admiralty fomented by Germany                             299
  Attitude of a leaderless Cabinet                                300
  Parallelogram of fears determines drift of policy               301
  Evil effects of failure to educate public opinion               302
  Danger of breaking the Liberal party                            303
  Occasional efficacy of self-sacrifice                           303
  War not inevitable had England been prepared                    304





  Public opinion puzzled by military problems                     309
  The nation's growing anxiety and distrust (1909-1914)           310
  Army affairs a shuttlecock in the political game                312
  'The blood taxes'                                               313
  The nation realised it had not been treated with candour        313
  Powerful British Army the best guarantee for European peace     314
  Alone among European nations Britain had not an army
        commensurate to her population, policy, and resources     316



  The _Regular Army_                                              317
  Three classes of reserves                                       318
  The _Army Reserve_                                              318
  The _Special Reserve_                                           319
  The _Territorial Army_                                          320
  The numbers of trained soldiers immediately available for war   321
  These were inadequate to redress the balance against the
        Triple Entente                                            322
  In the _onset_ period untrained and half-trained troops
        were of no use                                            322
  Shortage of officers capable of training raw troops             323
  Lord Haldane's failure to carry out his own principles          324
  Moral effect of our support of France at Agadir crisis          326
  Adverse changes between 1911 and 1914                           326
  Size of British striking force necessary as complete
        were of against a coolly calculated war                   327
  Reserves required behind this striking force                    328
  South African War no precedent for a European war               330



  The Manchester speech (October 22, 1912)                        332
  Liberal denunciation and Unionist coolness                      332
  Attack concentrated on three passages                           333
  Two of these have been proved true by events                    334
  The other was misinterpreted by its critics                     335
  Liberal criticism                                               336
  Unionist criticism                                              341
  Ministerial rebukes                                             343
  No regret has ever been expressed subsequently for any of
        these attacks                                             347



  All Lord Roberts's warnings were proved true                    350
  Many people nevertheless still believed that the voluntary
        system was a success                                      351
  Lord Kitchener as Secretary of State for War                    353
  His previous record of success                                  354
  His hold on public confidence                                   354
  His grasp of the simple essentials                              355
  His determination to support France and make a New Army         355
  His remarkable achievements                                     356
  His want of knowledge of British political and industrial
        conditions                                                356
  His colleagues, however, understood these thoroughly            357



  Industrial congestion at the outbreak of war                    358
  Need for looking far ahead and organising production of war
        material                                                  359
  The danger of labour troubles                                   360
  Outcry about shortage of supplies                               360
  Official denials were disbelieved                               361



  The first need was men                                          364
  A call for volunteers the only way of meeting it                364
  The second need was a system to provide men as required
        over the period of the war                                365
  No system was devised                                           365
  The Government shrank from exercising its authority             366
  Trusted to indirect pressure                                    366
  And sensational appeals                                         367
  They secured a new army of the highest quality                  368
  But they demoralised public opinion by their methods            369
  Public opinion at the outbreak of war was admirable             372
  It was ready to obey orders                                     373
  No orders came                                                  374
  The triumph of the voluntary system                             376
  From the point of view of a Belgian or a Frenchman the
        triumph is not so clear                                   377
  The voluntary system is inadequate to our present situation     379
  Folly of waiting for disaster to demonstrate the necessity
        of National Service                                       380



  British methods of recruiting in normal times                   382
  _The Conscription of Hunger_                                    382
  The cant of the voluntary principle                             384
  The 'economic' fallacy                                          385
  The fallacy of underrating the moral of conscript armies        387
  The army which we call 'voluntary' our enemies call 'mercenary' 389
  'Mercenary' describes not the British Army but the British
        People                                                    389
  The true description of the British Army is 'Professional'      390
  The theory of the British Army                                  391
  That officers should pay for the privilege of serving           391
  That the rank and file should contract for a term of years      392
  Under pressure of want                                          392
  At pay which is below the market rate                           392
  This contract is drastically enforced                           393
  With the full approval of anti-militarist opinion               393
  Inconsistencies of the anti-militarists                         394
  Their crowning inconsistency                                    395
  Other industries put pressure on society                        396
  Why should not a professional army?                             396
  The example of Rome                                             397
  A professional army when it first interferes in politics
        usually does so as a liberator                            397
  Then military despotism follows speedily                        399
  A fool's paradise                                               399



  Bugbears                                                        401
  Conflict of 'opinion' with 'the facts'                          402
  An army is no defence unless it is available for service
        abroad                                                    402
  The Industrial Epoch (1832-1886)                                403
  Its grudging attitude towards the Army                          403
  Honour paid by conscript nations to their armies                406
  Democracy cannot subsist without personal service               406
  During the Industrial Epoch exemption from Personal Service
        was regarded as the essence of Freedom                    408
  War was regarded as an anachronism                              409
  Since 1890 there has been a slow but steady reaction from
        these ideas                                               410
  Volunteer movement and Territorial Army compared                411
  Effect of the Soudan campaign and South African War             411
  Effect of more recent events                                    412
  Have we passed out of a normal condition into an abnormal
        one, or the reverse?                                      412
  Germany's great grievance against Britain: we thought to
        hold our Empire without sacrifices                        413
  The Freiherr von Hexenküchen's views--
    (1) On our present case of conscience                         416
    (2) On our voluntary system                                   416
  The American Civil War                                          417
  Lincoln insisted on conscription (1863)                         418
  His difficulties                                                418
  Results of his firmness                                         419
  Difference in our own case                                      419
  Our need for conscription is much greater                       419
  It is also far easier for our Government to enforce it          420



  The objects of this book                                        421
  Criticism of naval and military strategy is no part of its
        purpose                                                   422
  Nor the ultimate political settlement of Europe                 424
  Nor an inquisition into 'German atrocities'                     424
  But the basis of Germany's policy must be understood            425
  And what we are fighting for and against                        425
  The causes of German strength                                   427
  The causes of British weakness                                  427
  Illusions as to the progress of the war                         428
  The real cause of our going to war                              430
  Democracy is not by its nature invincible                       431
  Leadership is our chief need                                    433
  The folly of telling half-truths to the People                  435



Then _Apollyon_ strodled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and
said, I am void of fear in this matter, prepare thyself to die; for I
swear by my infernal Den, that thou shalt go no further; here will I
spill thy soul.

And with that he threw a flaming Dart at his breast, but _Christian_
had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the
danger of that.

Then did _Christian_ draw, for he saw 'twas time to bestir him: and
_Apollyon_ as fast made at him, throwing Darts as thick as Hail; by the
which, notwithstanding all that _Christian_ could do to avoid it,
_Apollyon_ wounded him in his _head_, his _hand_, and _foot_: this made
_Christian_ give a little back; _Apollyon_ therefore followed his work
amain, and _Christian_ again took courage, and resisted as manfully as
he could.  This sore Combat lasted for above half a day, even till
_Christian_ was almost quite spent; for you must know that _Christian_,
by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then _Apollyon_ espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to
_Christian_, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with
that _Christian's_ sword flew out of his hand.  Then said _Apollyon, I
am sure of thee now_: and with that he had almost pressed him to death,
so that _Christian_ began to despair of life.  But as God would have
it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a
full end of this good man, _Christian_ nimbly reached out his hand for
his Sword, and caught it, saying, _Rejoice not against me, O mine
enemy! when I fall I shall arise_; and with that gave him a deadly
thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal
wound: _Christian_ perceiving that, made at him again, saying, _Nay, in
all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved
us_.  And with that _Apollyon_ spread forth his dragon's wings, and
sped him away, that _Christian_ for a season saw him no more.

In this Combat no man can imagine, unless he had seen and heard as I
did, what yelling and hideous roaring, _Apollyon_ made all the time of
the fight; he spake like a Dragon....

_The Pilgrim's Progress._




It is a considerable number of years since the most distinguished Tory
statesman of his time impressed upon his fellow-countrymen as a maxim
of policy, that _Peace is the greatest of British interests_.  There
was an unexpectedness about Lord Salisbury's words, coming as they did
from the leader of a party which had hitherto lain under suspicion of
jingoism, which gave the phrase almost the colour of an epigram.  The
truth of the saying, however, gradually became manifest to all men; and
thereupon a new danger arose out of this very fact.

As a nation we are in some ways a great deal too modest; or it may be,
looking at the matter from a critical standpoint, too self-centred.  We
have always been inclined to assume in our calculations that we
ourselves are the only possible disturbers of the peace, and that if we
do not seek war, or provoke it, no other Power will dream of forcing
war upon us.  This unfortunately has rarely been the case; and those
persons who, in recent times, have refused most scornfully to consider
the lessons of past history, have now at last learned from a sterner
schoolmaster the falseness of their favourite doctrine.

The United Kingdom needed and desired peace, so {4} that it might
proceed undistracted, and with firm purpose, to set its house in order.
The Dominions needed peace, so that they might have time to people
their fertile but empty lands, to strike deep roots and become secure.
To the Indian Empire and the Dependencies peace was essential, if a
system of government, which aimed, not unsuccessfully, at giving
justice and fostering well-being, was to maintain its power and
prestige unshaken.  The whole British race had nothing material to gain
by war, but much to lose, much at any rate which would be put in
jeopardy by war.  In spite of all these weighty considerations which no
man of sense and knowledge will venture to dispute, we should have been
wiser had we taken into account the fact, that they did not apply to
other nations, that in the main they affected ourselves alone, and that
our case was no less singular than, in one sense at all events, it was

We did not covet territory or new subjects.  Still less were we likely
to engage in campaigns out of a thirst for glory.  In the latter
particular at least we were on a par with the rest of the world.  The
cloud of anxiety which for ten or more years has brooded over the great
conscript nations, growing steadily darker, contained many dangers, but
among these we cannot reckon such antiquated motives as trivial
bravado, light-hearted knight-errantry, or the vain pursuit of military

What is called in history books 'an insult' seemed also to have lost
much of its ancient power for plunging nations into war.  The
Chancelleries of Europe had grown cautious, and were on the watch
against being misled by the emotions of the moment.  A sensational but
unintended injury was not allowed to drive us {5} into war with Russia
in 1904, and this precedent seemed of good augury.  Moreover, when
every statesman in Europe was fully alive to the electric condition of
the atmosphere, a deliberate insult was not very likely to be offered
from mere ill-manners or in a fit of temper, but only if there were
some serious purpose behind it, in which case it would fall under a
different category.

Fear was a great danger, and everybody knew it to be so--fear lest this
nation, or that, might be secretly engaged in strengthening its
position in order to crush one of its neighbours at some future date,
unless that neighbour took time by the forelock and struck out
forthwith.  Among the causes which might bring about a surprise
outbreak of war this was the most serious and probable.  It was
difficult to insure against it.  But though perilous in the extreme
while it lasts, panic is of the nature of an epidemic: it rages for a
while and passes away.  It had been raging now with great severity ever
since 1909,[1] and by midsummer 1914 optimists were inclined to seek
consolation in the thought that the crisis must surely be over.


More dangerous to peace in the long run even than fear, were certain
aims and aspirations, which from one standpoint were concrete and
practical, but regarded from another were among the cloudiest of
abstractions--'political interests,' need of new markets, hunger for
fresh territory to absorb the outflow of emigrants, and the like; on
the other hand, those hopes and anxieties which haunt the {6}
imaginations of eager men as they look into the future, and dream
dreams and see visions of a grand national fulfilment.

If the British race ever beheld a vision of this sort, it had been
realised already.  We should have been wise had we remembered that this
accomplished fact, these staked-out claims of the British Empire,
appeared to fall like a shadow across visions seen by other eyes,
blotting out some of the fairest hopes, and spoiling the noble
proportions of the patriot's dream.

There is a region where words stumble after truth, like children
chasing a rainbow across a meadow to find the pot of fairy gold.
Multitudinous volumes stuffed with the cant of pacifism and militarism
will never explain to us the nature of peace and war.  But a few bars
of music may sometimes make clear things which all the moralists, and
divines, and philosophers--even the poets themselves for the most part,
though they come nearer to it at times than the rest--have struggled
vainly to show us in their true proportions.  The songs of a nation,
its national anthems--if they be truly national and not merely some
commissioned exercise--are better interpreters than state papers.  A
man will learn more of the causes of wars, perhaps even of the rights
and wrongs of them, by listening to the burst and fall of the French
hymn, the ebb and surge of the Russian, in Tschaikovsky's famous
overture, than he ever will from books or speeches, argument or oratory.


Yet there are people who think it not impossible to prove to mankind by
logical processes, that the loss which any great nation must inevitably
sustain through war, will far outweigh any advantages which {7} can
ensue from it, even if the arms of the conqueror were crowned with
victories greater than those of Caesar or Napoleon.  They draw us
pictures of the exhaustion which must inevitably follow upon such a
struggle conducted upon the modern scale, of the stupendous loss of
capital, destruction of credit, paralysis of industry, arrest of
progress in things spiritual as well as temporal, the shock to
civilisation, and the crippling for a generation, probably for several
generations, possibly for ever, of the victorious country in its race
with rivals who have wisely stood aside from the fray.  These arguments
may conceivably be true, may in no particular be over-coloured, or an
under-valuation, either of the good which has been attained by battle,
or of the evils which have been escaped.  But they would be difficult
to establish even before an unbiassed court, and they are infinitely
more difficult to stamp upon popular belief.

It is not sufficient either with statesmen or peoples to set before
them a chain of reasoning which is logically unanswerable.  Somehow or
other the new faith which it is desired to implant, must be rendered
independent of logic and unassailable by logic.  It must rise into a
higher order of convictions than the intellectual before it can begin
to operate upon human affairs.  For it is matched against opinions
which have been held and acted upon so long, that they have become
unquestionable save in purely academic discussions.  At those decisive
moments, when action follows upon thought like a flash, conclusions
which depend upon a train of reasoning are of no account: instinct will
always get the better of any syllogism.


So when nations are hovering on the brink of war, it is impulse,
tradition, or some stuff of the imagination--misused deliberately, as
sometimes happens, by crafty manipulators--which determines action much
more often than the business calculations of shopkeepers and
economists.  Some cherished institution seems to be threatened.  Some
nationality supposed--very likely erroneously--to be of the same flesh
and blood as ourselves, appears--very likely on faulty information--to
be unjustly oppressed.  Two rival systems of civilisation, of morals,
of religion, approach one another like thunder-clouds and come together
in a clash.  Where is the good at such times of casting up sums, and
exhibiting profit-and-loss accounts to the public gaze?  People will
not listen, for in their view considerations of prosperity and the
reverse are beside the question.  Wealth, comfort, even life itself,
are not regarded; nor are the possible sufferings of posterity allowed
to count any more than the tribulations of to-day.  In the eyes of the
people the matter is one of duty not of interest.  When men fight in
this spirit the most lucid exposition of material drawbacks is worse
than useless; for the national mood, at such moments, is one of
self-sacrifice.  The philosopher, or the philanthropist, is more likely
to feed the flames than to put them out when he proves the certainty of
loss and privation, and dwells upon the imminent peril of ruin and

The strength of the fighter is the strength of his faith.  Each new
Gideon who goes out against the Midianites fancies that the sword of
the Lord is in his hand.  He risks all that he holds dear, in order
that he may pull down the foul images of Baal and build up an altar to
Jehovah, in order that his race {9} may not be shorn of its
inheritance, in order that it may hold fast its own laws and
institutions, and not pass under the yoke of the Gentiles.  This habit
of mind is unchanging throughout the ages.  What moved men to give
their lives at Marathon moved them equally, more than a thousand years
later, to offer the same sacrifice under the walls of Tours.  It is
still moving them, after yet another thousand years and more have
passed away, in the plains of Flanders and the Polish Marshes.


When the Persian sought to force the dominion of his ideals upon the
Greek, the states of Hellas made head against him from the love and
honour in which they held their own.  When the successors of the
Prophet, zealous for their faith, confident in the protection of the
One God, drove the soldiers of the Cross before them from the passes of
the Pyrenees to the vineyards of Touraine, neither side would have
listened with any patience to a dissertation upon the inconveniences
resulting from a state of war and upon the economic advantages of
peace.  It was there one faith against another, one attitude towards
life against another, one system of manners, customs, and laws against
another.  When a collision occurs in this region of human affairs there
is seldom room for compromise or adjustment.  Things unmerchantable
cannot be purchased with the finest of fine gold.

In these instances, seen by us from far off, the truth of this is
easily recognised.  But what some of our recent moralists have
overlooked, is the fact that forces of precisely the same order exist
in the world of to-day, and are at work, not only among the fierce
Balkan peoples, in the resurgent empire of Japan, and in the great
military nations--the French, the {10} Germans, and the Russians--but
also in America and England.  The last two pride themselves upon a
higher civilisation, and in return are despised by the prophets of
militarism as worshippers of material gain.  The unfavourable and the
flattering estimate agree, however, upon a single point--in assuming
that our own people and those of the United States are unlikely to
yield themselves to unsophisticated impulse.  This assumption is wholly


If we search carefully, we shall find every where underlying the great
struggles recorded in past history, no less than those which have
occurred, and are now occurring, in our own time, an antagonism of one
kind or another between two systems, visions, or ideals, which in some
particular were fundamentally opposed and could not be reconciled.
State papers and the memoranda of diplomatists, when in due course they
come to light, are not a little apt to confuse the real issues, by
setting forth a diary of minor incidents and piquant details, not in
their true proportions, but as they appeared at the moment of their
occurrence to the eyes of harassed and suspicious officials.  But even
so, all the emptying of desks and pigeon-holes since the great American
Civil War, has not been able to cover up the essential fact, that in
this case a million lives were sacrificed by one of the most
intelligent, humane, and practical nations upon earth, and for no other
cause than that there was an irreconcilable difference amongst them,
with regard to what St.  Paul has called 'the substance of things hoped
for.'  On the one side there was an ideal of Union and a determination
to make it prevail: on the other side there was an ideal of
Independence and an equal determination to defend it whatsoever {11}
might be the cost.  If war on such grounds be possible within the
confines of a single nation, nurtured in the same traditions, and born
to a large extent of the same stock, how futile is the assurance that
economic and material considerations will suffice to make war
impossible between nations, who have not even the tie of a common

A collision may occur, as we know only too well, even although one of
two vessels be at anchor, if it happens to lie athwart the course of
the other.  It was therefore no security against war that British
policy did not aim at any aggrandisement or seek for any territorial
expansion.  The essential questions were--had we possessions which
appeared to obstruct the national aspirations and ideals of others; and
did these others believe that alone, or in alliance, they had the power
to redress the balance?

The real difficulty which besets the philanthropist in his endeavour to
exorcise the spirit of war is caused, not by the vices of this spirit,
but by its virtues.  In so far as it springs from vainglory or
cupidity, it is comparatively easy to deal with.  In so far as it is
base, there is room for a bargain.  It can be compounded with and
bought off, as we have seen before now, with some kind of material
currency.  It will not stand out for very long against promises of
prosperity and threats of dearth.  But where, as at most crises, this
spirit is not base, where its impulse is not less noble, but more noble
than those which influence men day by day in the conduct of their
worldly affairs, where the contrast which presents itself to their
imagination is between duty on the one hand and gain on the other,
between self-sacrifice and self-interest, between their country's need
and {12} their own ease, it is not possible to quench the fires by
appeals proceeding from a lower plane.  The philanthropist, if he is to
succeed, must take still higher ground, and higher ground than this it
is not a very simple matter to discover.

[1] The increase and acceleration of German shipbuilding was discovered
by the British Government in the autumn of 1908, and led to the
Imperial Defence Conference in the summer of the following year.




When war came, it came suddenly.  A man who had happened to fall sick
of a fever on St. Swithin's day 1914, but was so far on the way to
convalescence four weeks later as to desire news of the outside world,
must have been altogether incredulous of the tidings which first
greeted his ears.

When he fell ill the nations were at peace.  The townspeople of Europe
were in a holiday humour, packing their trunks and portmanteaus for
'land travel or sea-faring.'  The country people were getting in their
harvest or looking forward hopefully to the vintage.  Business was
prosperous.  Credit was good.  Money, in banking phraseology, was
'cheap.'  The horror of the Serajevo assassinations had already faded
almost into oblivion.  At the worst this sensational event was only an
affair of police.  Such real anxiety as existed in the United Kingdom
had reference to Ireland.

We can imagine the invalid's first feeble question on public
affairs:--'What has happened in Ulster?'--The answer, 'Nothing has
happened in Ulster.'--The sigh of relief with which he sinks back on
his pillows.

When, however, they proceed to tell him what has happened, elsewhere
than in Ulster, during the {14} four weeks while they have been
watching by his bedside, will he not fancy that his supposed recovery
is only an illusion, and that he is still struggling with the phantoms
of his delirium?

For what will they have to report?  That the greater part of the world
which professes Christianity has called out its armies; that more than
half Europe has already joined battle; that England, France, Russia,
Belgium, Servia, and Montenegro on the one side are ranged against
Germany and Austria on the other.  Japan, they will tell him, is upon
the point of declaring war.  The Turk is wondering if, and when, he may
venture to come in; while the Italian, the Roumanian, the Bulgar, the
Greek, the Dutchman, the Dane, and the Swede are reckoning no less
anxiously for how short or long a period it may still be safe for them
to stand out.  Three millions of men, or thereabouts--a British Army
included--are advancing against one another along the mountain barriers
of Luxemburg, Lorraine, and Alsace.  Another three millions are engaged
in similar evolutions among the lakes of East Prussia, along the
river-banks of Poland, and under the shadow of the Carpathians.  A
large part of Belgium is already devastated, her villages are in ashes
or flames, her eastern fortresses invested, her capital threatened by
the invader.

Nine-tenths or more of the navies of the world are cleared for action,
and are either scouring the seas in pursuit, or are withdrawn under the
shelter of land-batteries watching their opportunity for a stroke.
Air-craft circle by day and night over the cities, dropping bombs, with
a careless and impartial aim, upon buildings both private and public,
both sacred and profane, upon churches, palaces, hospitals, {15} and
arsenals.  The North Sea and the Baltic are sown with mines.  The trade
of the greater part of industrial Europe is at a standstill; the rest
is disorganised; while the credit and finances, not merely of Europe,
but of every continent, are temporarily in a state either of chaos or

[Sidenote: A NIGHTMARE]

To the bewildered convalescent all this may well have seemed
incredible.  It is hardly to be wondered at if he concluded that the
fumes of his fever were not yet dispersed, and that this frightful
phantasmagoria had been produced, not by external realities, but by the
disorders of his own brain.

How long it might have taken to convince him of the truth and substance
of these events we may judge from our own recent experience.  How long
was it after war broke out, before even we, who had watched the trouble
brewing through all its stages, ceased to be haunted, even in broad
daylight, by the feeling that we were asleep, and that the whole thing
was a nightmare which must vanish when we awoke?  We were faced (so at
least it seemed at frequent moments) not by facts, but by a spectre,
and one by no means unfamiliar--the spectre of Europe at war, so long
dreaded by some, so scornfully derided by others, so often driven away,
of late years so persistently reappearing.  But this time the thing
refused to be driven away.  It sat, hunched up, with its head resting
on its hands, as pitiless and inhuman as one of the gargoyles on a
Gothic cathedral, staring through us, as if we were merely vapour, at
something beyond.

So late as Wednesday, July 29--the day on which Austria declared war on
Servia--there was {16} probably not one Englishman in a hundred who
believed it possible that, within a week, his own country would be at
war; still less, that a few days later the British Army would be
crossing the Channel to assist France and Belgium in repelling a German
invasion.  To the ordinary man--and not merely to the ordinary man, but
equally to the press, and the great majority of politicians--such
things were unthinkable until they occurred.  Unfortunately, the
inability to think a thing is no more a protection against its
occurrence than the inability to see a thing gives security to the

The sequence of events which led up to the final disaster is of great
importance, although very far from being in itself a full explanation
of the causes.

On June 28, 1914, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, together
with his consort, was murdered by a young Bosnian at Serajevo, not far
distant from the southern frontier.  The Imperial authorities
instituted a secret enquiry into the circumstances of the plot, as a
result of which they professed to have discovered that it had been
hatched at Belgrade, that Government officials were implicated in it,
and that so far from being reprobated, it was approved by Servian
public opinion.[1]

On Thursday, July 23--a month after the tragedy--Austria suddenly
delivered an ultimatum to Servia, and demanded an acceptance of its
terms within forty-eight hours.  The demands put forward were {17}
harsh, humiliating, and unconscionable.  They were such as could not
have been accepted, as they stood, by any nation which desired to
preserve a shred of its independence.  They had been framed with the
deliberate intention, either of provoking a refusal which might afford
a pretext for war, or of procuring an acceptance which would at once
reduce the Servian Kingdom to the position of a vassal.  Even in Berlin
it was admitted[2] that this ultimatum asked more than it was
reasonable to expect Servia to yield.  But none the less, there can be
but little doubt that the German ambassador at Vienna saw and approved
the document before it was despatched, and it seems more than likely
that he had a hand in drafting it.  It also rests on good authority
that the German Kaiser was informed beforehand of the contents, and
that he did not demur to its presentation.[3]


On the evening of Saturday, July 25, the Servian Government, as
required, handed in its answer.  The purport of this, when it became
known to the world, excited surprise by the humility of its tone and
the substance of its submission.  Almost everything that {18} Austria
had demanded was agreed to.  What remained outstanding was clearly not
worth quarrelling about, unless a quarrel were the object of the
ultimatum.  The refusal, such as it was, did not close the door, but,
on the contrary, contained an offer to submit the subjects of
difference to the Hague Convention.[4]

The document was a lengthy one.  The Austrian minister at Belgrade
nevertheless found time to read it through, to weigh it carefully, to
find it wanting, to ask for his passports, and to catch his train, all
within a period not exceeding three-quarters of an hour from the time
at which it was put into his hands.[5]

When these occurrences became known, the English Foreign Minister
immediately made proposals for a conference between representatives of
Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain, with the object of
discovering some means of peaceful settlement.[6] France and Italy
promptly accepted his invitation.[7] Germany, while professing to
desire mediation, did not accept it.[8]  Consequently Sir Edward Grey's
effort failed; and before he was able to renew it in any more
acceptable form, Austria, acting with a promptitude almost unique in
her annals, declared war upon Servia, and hostilities began.

It is unnecessary to enter here into an examination of the feverish and
fruitless attempts to preserve peace, which were made in various
quarters during the next four and twenty hours.  They present a {19}
most pathetic appearance, like the efforts of a crew, sitting with oars
unshipped, arguing, exhorting, and imploring, while their boat drifts
on to the smooth lip of the cataract.


Russia ordered the mobilisation of her Southern armies, alleging that
she could not stand by while a Slav nation was being crushed out of
existence, despite the fact that it had made an abject submission for
an unproved offence.[9]

Subsequently, on Friday, July 31, Russia--having, as she considered,
reasons for believing that Germany was secretly mobilising her whole
forces--proceeded to do likewise.[10]

Germany simultaneously declared 'a state of war' within her own
territories, and a veil instantly fell upon all her internal
proceedings.  She demanded that Russia should cease her mobilisation,
and as no answer which satisfied her was forthcoming, but only an
interchange of telegrams between the two sovereigns--disingenuous on
the one side and not unreasonably suspicious on the other--Germany
declared war on Russia on Saturday, August 1.

On Saturday and Sunday, war on a grand scale being by this time
certain, the chief interest centred in questions of neutrality.
Germany enquired of France whether she would undertake to stand
aside--knowing full well beforehand that the terms of the Dual Alliance
compelled the Republic to lend assistance if Russia were attacked by
more than one power.  {20} Sir Edward Grey enquired of France and
Germany if they would undertake to respect the integrity of Belgium.
France replied in the affirmative.  Germany declined to commit herself,
and this was rightly construed as a refusal.[11]

While this matter was still the subject of diplomatic discussion the
German Army advanced into the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, and was
correctly reported as having entered Belgian territory near Liège and
French territory near Cirey.

On the evening of Sunday, August 2, the German Government presented an
ultimatum to Belgium[12] demanding free passage for its troops, thereby
putting its intentions beyond all doubt.

On the same day Italy issued a declaration of neutrality, making it
clear that, although a member of the Triple Alliance, she did not
consider herself bound to support her allies in a war of aggression.[13]

Meanwhile Germany had been making enquiries as to the attitude of
England, and, startled to discover that this country might not be
willing tamely to submit to the violation of Belgium and invasion of
France, proceeded to state, under cross-examination, the price she was
prepared to pay, or at any rate to promise, for the sake of securing
British neutrality.[14]


On Tuesday, August 4, the British Ambassador at Berlin presented an
ultimatum which demanded an assurance, before midnight, that the
integrity of Belgium would not be violated.  The answer was given
informally at a much earlier hour by the {21} bombardment of Liège; and
shortly before midnight England declared war on Germany.[15]

Two days later Austria declared herself to be at war with Russia, and
within a week from that date Great Britain and France issued a similar
declaration against Austria.

[1] There is perhaps as much reason, certainly no more, for believing
that an official clique at Belgrade plotted the Serajevo murders, as
that an official clique at Vienna connived at them, by deliberately
withdrawing police protection from the unfortunate and unpopular
Archduke on the occasion of his visit to a notorious hotbed of sedition.

[2] Herr von Jagow "also admitted that the Servian Government could not
swallow certain of the Austro-Hungarian demands....  He repeated very
earnestly that, though he had been accused of knowing all the contents
of that note, he had in fact no such knowledge."--Sir H. Rumbold at
Berlin to Sir Edward Grey (White Paper, No. 18).

[3] "Although I am unable to verify it, I have private information that
the German Ambassador (_i.e._ at Vienna) knew the text of the Austrian
ultimatum to Servia before it was despatched and telegraphed it to the
German Emperor.  I know from the German Ambassador himself that he
endorses every line of it."--British Ambassador at Vienna to Sir Edward
Grey (White Paper, No. 95).  (Cf. also White Book, Nos. 95 and 141;
French Yellow Book, No. 87; Russian Orange Book, No. 41.)

"The German Ambassador (_i.e._ in London) read me a telegram from the
German Foreign Office saying that his Government had not known
beforehand, and had no more than other Powers to do with the stiff
terms of the Austrian note to Servia."--Sir Edward Grey to the British
Ambassador in Berlin (White Paper, No. 25).  (Cf. also French Yellow
Book, Nos. 17, 30, 36, 41, 57, and 94.)

[4] Last paragraph of Reply of Servian Government to Austro-Hungarian

[5] White Paper, Nos. 20 and 23.

[6] White Paper, No. 36.

[7] White Paper, Nos. 35, 42, and 52.

[8] White Paper, Nos. 43 and 71.  Cf. also German White Book, Nos. 12
and 15.

[9] White Paper, No. 113; Russian Orange Book, No. 77; French Yellow
Book, No. 95.

[10] These suspicions were well founded.  German mobilisation began at
least two days earlier (White Paper, No. 113; French Yellow Book, Nos.
60, 88, 89, and 106).

[11] White Paper, Nos. 114, 122, 123, and 125.

[12] Belgian Grey Book, No. 20; French Yellow Book, No. 141.

[13] White Paper, No. 152; French Yellow Book, No. 124.

[14] White Paper, Nos. 85 and 123.

[15] "I found the Chancellor very agitated.  His Excellency at once
began a harangue which lasted for about twenty minutes.  He said that
the step taken by His Majesty's Government was terrible to a degree:
just for a word--'neutrality,' a word which in war time had so often
been disregarded--just for a scrap of paper Great Britain was going to
make war on a kindred nation, who desired nothing better than to be
friends with her."--British Ambassador at Berlin to Sir Edward Grey
(White Paper, No. 160).




Such is the chronological order of events; but on the face of it, it
explains little of the underlying causes of this conflagration.  Why
with the single exception of Italy had all the great naval and military
powers of Europe, together with several smaller nations, suddenly
plunged into war?  Which of the combatants wanted war? ... To the
latter question the answer can be given at once and with
certainty--save Germany and Austria no nation wanted war, and even
Germany and Austria did not want _this_ war.


Whatever opinion we may entertain of the Servian character or of her
policy in recent times, it is at all events certain that she did not
desire war with Austria.  That she submitted to the very depths of
humiliation in order to avoid war cannot be doubted by any one who has
read her reply to the demands put forward by Vienna.  Only a few months
since, she had emerged from two sanguinary wars--the first against
Turkey and the second against Bulgaria--and although victory had
crowned her arms in both of these contests, her losses in men and
material had been very severe.

That Russia did not desire war was equally plain.  {23} She was still
engaged in repairing the gigantic losses which she had sustained in her
struggle with Japan.  At least two years must elapse before her new
fleet would be in a condition to take the sea, and it was generally
understood that at least as long a period would be necessary, in order
to carry through the scheme of reorganisation by which she hoped to
place her army in a state of efficiency.  Whatever might be the
ultimate designs of Russia, it was altogether incredible that she would
have sought to bring about a war, either at this time or in the near

Russia, like England, had nothing to gain by war.  Her development was
proceeding rapidly.  For years to come her highest interest must be
peace.  A supreme provocation was necessary in order to make her draw
the sword.  Such a provocation had been given in 1909 when, ignoring
the terms of the Treaty of Berlin, Austria had formally annexed the
provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  But at that time Russia's
resources were not merely unprepared; they were utterly exhausted.
Menaced simultaneously by Vienna and Berlin, she had been forced on
that occasion to stand by, while her prestige in the Balkan peninsula
suffered a blow which she was powerless to ward off.  Now a further
encroachment was threatened from the same quarters.  A Serb power which
looked to St. Petersburg[1] for protection was to be put under the heel
of Austria.

Nor can any one believe that France wanted war.  It is true that for a
year, or rather more, after the Agadir episode[2] the spirit of France
was perturbed.  But no Foreign Office in the world--least of all that
{24} of Germany--was so ill-informed as to believe that the sporadic
demonstrations, which occurred in the press and elsewhere, were caused
by any eagerness for adventure or any ambition of conquest.  They were
due, as every calm observer was aware, to one thing and one thing
only--the knowledge that the Republic had come to the very end of her
human resources; that all her sons who were capable of bearing arms had
already been enrolled in her army; that she could do nothing further to
strengthen her defences against Germany, who up to that time, had taken
for military training barely one half of her available male population,
and who was now engaged in increasing her striking power both by land
and sea.  The cause of this restlessness in France was the fear that
Germany was preparing an invincible superiority and would strike so
soon as her weapon was forged.  If so, would it not be better for
France to strike at once, while she had still a fighting chance, and
before she was hopelessly outnumbered?  But this mood, the product of
anxiety and suspense, which had been somewhat prevalent in
irresponsible quarters during the autumn of 1912 and the early part of
the following year, had passed away.  Partly it wore itself out; partly
popular interest was diverted to other objects of excitement.

France, during the twelve months preceding Midsummer 1914, had been
singularly quiescent as regards foreign affairs.  Her internal
conditions absorbed attention.  Various events had conspired to disturb
public confidence in the fidelity of her rulers, and in the adequacy of
their military preparations.  The popular mood had been sobered,
disquieted, and scandalised to such a point that war, {25} so far from
being sought after, was the thing of all others which France most
wished to avoid.


It is unnecessary to waste words in establishing the aversion of
Belgium from war.  There was nothing which she could hope to gain by it
in any event.  Suffering and loss--how great suffering and loss even
Belgium herself can hardly have foreseen--were inevitable to her civil
population, as well as to her soldiers, whether the war went well or
ill.  Her territory lay in the direct way of the invaders, and was
likely, as in times past, to become the 'cockpit of Europe.'  She was
asked to allow the free passage of the Germanic forces.  She was
promised restoration of her independence and integrity at the end of
the war.  But to grant this arrogant demand would have been to destroy
her dynasty and wreck her institutions; for what King or Constitution
could have withstood the popular contempt for a government which
acquiesced in national degradation?  And to believe the promise, was a
thing only possible for simpletons; for what was such an assurance
worth, seeing that, at the very moment of the offer, Germany was
engaged in breaking her former undertaking, solemnly guaranteed and
recorded, that the neutrality of Belgium should be respected?  That the
sympathies of Belgium would have been with France in any event cannot
of course be doubted; for a French victory threatened no danger,
whereas the success of German arms was a menace to her independence,
and a prelude to vassalage or absorption in the Empire.

Neither the British people nor their Government wanted war.  In the end
they accepted it reluctantly, and only after most strenuous efforts had
been made {26} to prevent its occurrence.  To the intelligent foreign
observer, however unfriendly, who has a thorough understanding of
British interests, ideas, and habits of mind this is self-evident.  He
does not need a White Paper to prove it to him.

It is clear that Austria wanted war--not this war certainly, but a snug
little war with a troublesome little neighbour, as to the outcome of
which, with the ring kept, there could be no possibility of doubt.  She
obviously hoped that indirectly, and as a sort of by-product of this
convenient little war, she would secure a great victory of the
diplomatic sort over her most powerful neighbour--a matter of
infinitely more consequence to her than the ostensible object of her

The crushing of Servia would mean the humiliation of Russia, and would
shake, for a second time within five years, the confidence of the
Balkan peoples in the power of the Slav Empire to protect its kindred
and co-religionists against the aggression of the Teutons and Magyars.
Anything which would lower the credit of Russia in the Balkan peninsula
would be a gain to Austria.  To her more ambitious statesmen such an
achievement might well seem to open the way for coveted expansions
towards the Aegean Sea, which had been closed against her, to her great
chagrin, by the Treaty of Bucharest.[3]  To others, whose chief anxiety
was to preserve peace in their own time, and to prevent the
Austro-Hungarian State from splitting asunder, the repression of Servia
seemed to promise security against the growing unrest and discontent of
the vast Slav population which was included in the Empire.



For something nearer two centuries than one the Austro-Hungarian Empire
has been miscalculating and suffering for its miscalculations, until
its blunders and ill-fortune have become a byword.  Scheming ever for
safety, Austria has never found it.  The very modesty of her aim has
helped to secure its own defeat.  Her unvarying method has been a timid
and unimaginative repression.  In politics, as in most other human
affairs, equilibrium is more easily attained by moving forward than by
standing still.  Austria has sought security for powers, and systems,
and balances which were worn out, unsuited to our modern world, and
therefore incapable of being secured at all.  The more she has schemed
for safety the more precarious her integrity has become.  There are
things which scheming will never accomplish--things which for their
achievement need a change of spirit, some new birth of faith or
freedom.  But in Vienna change in any direction is ill-regarded, and
new births are ever more likely to be strangled in their cradles than
to arrive at maturity.

Distracted by the problem of her divers, discordant, and unwelded[4]
races, Austria has always inclined to put her trust in schemers who
were able to produce some plausible system, some ingenious device, some
promising ladder of calculation, or miscalculation, for reaching the
moon without going through the clouds.  In the present case there can
be no doubt that she allowed herself to be persuaded by her German
neighbours that Russia was not in a position to make {28} an effective
fight, and would therefore probably stand by, growling and showing her
teeth.  Consequently it was safe to take a bold line; to present Servia
with an ultimatum which had been made completely watertight against
acceptance of the unconditional and immediate kind; to reject any
acceptance which was not unconditional and immediate; to allow the
Government of King Peter no time for second thoughts, the European
Powers no time for mediation, her own Minister at Belgrade time only to
give one hasty glance at the reply, call for his passports, and catch
his train.  So far as poor humanity can make certain of anything,
Austria, with German approval and under German guidance, made certain
of war with Servia.

But the impression produced, when this matter first began to excite
public attention, was somewhat different.  Foreign newspaper
correspondents at Vienna and Berlin were specially well cared for after
the Serajevo murders, and when the ultimatum was delivered, they
immediately sent to England and elsewhere accounts of the position
which made it appear, that the Austrian Government and people, provoked
beyond endurance by the intrigues of Servia, had acted impetuously,
possibly unwisely, but not altogether inexcusably.

At this stage the idea was also sedulously put about that the Kaiser
was behaving like a gentleman.  It was suggested that Germany had been
left very much in the dark until the explosion actually occurred, and
that she was now paying the penalty of loyalty to an indiscreet friend,
by suffering herself to be dragged into a quarrel in which she had
neither interest nor concern.  In these early days, when {29} Sir
Edward Grey was striving hopefully, if somewhat innocently, after
peace, it was assumed by the world in general, that Germany, for her
own reasons, must desire, at least as ardently as the British Foreign
Minister, to find a means of escape from an exceedingly awkward
position, and that she would accordingly use her great influence with
her ally to this end.  If there had been a grain of truth in this
assumption, peace would have been assured, for France and Italy had
already promised their support.  But this theory broke down very
speedily; and as soon as the official papers were published, it was
seen never to have rested on the smallest basis of fact.


So far from Germany having been dragged in against her will, it was
clear that from the beginning she had been using Austria as an agent,
who was not unwilling to stir up strife, but was only half-conscious of
the nature and dimensions of the contest which was bound to follow.  It
is not credible that Germany was blind to the all-but-inevitable
results of letting Austria loose to range around, of hallooing her on,
and of comforting her with assurances of loyal support.  But it may
well be believed that Austria herself did not see the situation in the
same clear light, and remained almost up to the last, under the
delusion, which had been so industriously fostered by the German
ambassador at Vienna, that Russia could not fight effectively and
therefore would probably choose not to fight at all.

But although Austria may have had no adequate conception of the
consequences which her action would bring about, it is certain that
Germany foresaw them, with the single exception of British {30}
intervention; that what she foresaw she also desired; and further, that
at the right moment she did her part, boldly but clumsily, to guard
against any miscarriage of her schemes.

Germany continued to make light of all apprehensions of serious danger
from St. Petersburg; but at the eleventh hour Austria appears suddenly
to have realised for herself the appalling nature of the catastrophe
which impended.  Something happened; what it was we do not know, and
the present generation will probably never know.  We may conjecture,
however--but it is only conjecture--that by some means or other the
intrigues of the war cabal at Vienna--the instrument of German policy,
owing more fealty to the Kaiser than to their own Emperor--had been
unmasked.  In hot haste they were disavowed, and Austria opened
discussions with Russia 'in a perfectly friendly manner,'[5] and with
good hopes of success, as to how the catastrophe might still be averted.

On Thursday, July 30, we are informed, the tension between Vienna and
St. Petersburg had greatly relaxed.  An arrangement compatible with the
honour and interests of both empires seemed almost in sight when, on
the following day, Germany suddenly intervened with ultimatums to
France and Russia, of a kind to which only one answer was possible.
The spirit of the Ems telegram[6] had inebriated a duller generation.
"A few days' delay," our Ambassador at Vienna concludes, "might in all
{31} probability have saved Europe from one of the greatest calamities
in history."[7]


As we turn over the official pages in which the British Government has
set out its case, we are inclined to marvel--knowing what we now
know--that our Foreign Minister should have shown so much zeal and
innocence in pleading the cause of peace on high grounds of humanity,
and with a faith, apparently unshaken to the last, that in principle at
least, the German Government were in full agreement with his aims.  The
practical disadvantages of being a gentleman are that they are apt to
make a man too credulous and not sufficiently inquisitive.  Sir Edward
Grey acted according to his nature.  His miscalculation was one which
his fellow-countrymen have not hesitated to forgive.  But clearly he
misjudged the forces which were opposed to him.  He was deceived by
hollow assurances.  He beat hopefully, but vainly and pathetically,
against a door which was already barred and bolted, and behind which
(could he but have seen) the Kaiser, with his Ministers and Staff, was
wholly absorbed in the study of war maps and tables of mobilisation.

Sir Edward Grey failed to prevent war, and in the circumstances it is
hardly to be wondered at.  But if he failed in one direction he
succeeded in another.  His whole procedure from first to last was so
transparently disinterested and above board that, when war did actually
come upon us, it found us, not merely as a nation, but also as an
Empire, more united than we have ever been at any crisis, since the
Great Armada was sighted off Plymouth Sound.  English people felt that
whatever else there {32} might be to reproach themselves with, they at
any rate went into the fight with clean hands.  What is even more
remarkable, the people of all neutral countries, with the possible
exception of the rigid moralists of Constantinople, appeared for once
to share the same opinion.

This was a great achievement; nearly, but not quite, the greatest of
all.  To have prevented war would have been a greater achievement
still....  But was war inevitable?  Or was M. Sazonof right, when he
said to our Ambassador, on the morning of the day when Servia replied
to the Austrian ultimatum,[8] that if Britain then took her stand
firmly with France and Russia there would be no war; but that if we
failed them then, rivers of blood would flow, and in the end we should
be dragged into war?[9]

Sir Edward Grey refused to take this course.  He judged that a
pronouncement of such a character would appear in the light of a menace
to the governments of Germany and Austria, and also to public opinion
in those countries; that it would only stiffen their backs; that a more
hopeful way of proceeding was for England to deal with Germany as a
friend, letting it be understood that if our counsels of moderation
were disregarded, we might be driven most reluctantly into the camp of
her enemies.  To this, when it was urged by our Ambassador at St.
Petersburg, the Russian Minister only replied--and the words seem to
have in them a note of tragedy and weariness, as if the speaker well
knew that he was talking to deaf ears--that unfortunately Germany was
convinced that she could count upon the neutrality of Britain.[10]


The alternative was to speak out as Mr. Lloyd George spoke at the time
of the Agadir crisis, 'to rattle the sabre,' and to take our stand 'in
shining armour' beside the other two members of the Entente.

Sir Edward Grey believed that this procedure would not have the effect
desired, but the reverse.  Further, it would have committed this
country to a policy which had never been submitted to it, and which it
had never considered, far less approved, even in principle.  The Agadir
precedent could be distinguished.  There the danger which threatened
France arose directly out of treaty engagements with ourselves.  Here
there was no such particular justification, but a wide general question
of the safety of Europe and the British Empire.

With regard to this wider question, notwithstanding its imminence for a
good many years, the British Empire had not made up its mind, nor
indeed had it ever been asked to do so by those in authority.  Sir
Edward Grey appears to have thought that, on democratic principles, he
had not the right to make such a pronouncement as M. Sazonof desired;
and that even if this pathway might have led to peace, it was one which
he could not tread.

The one alternative was tried, and failed.  We proffered our good
offices, we urged our counsels of moderation, all in vain.  That, at
any rate, is among the certainties.  And it is also among the
certainties that, although this alternative failed, it brought us two
signal benefits, in the unity of our own people and the goodwill of the

About the other alternative, which was not tried, we cannot of course
speak with the same sureness.  If Sir Edward Grey had taken the step
which {34} M. Sazonof desired him to take, he would at once have been
vehemently opposed and denounced by a very large body of his own
fellow-countrymen, who, never having been taken frankly into the
confidence of the Government with regard to the foundations of British
policy, were at this early stage of the proceedings almost wholly
ignorant of the motives and issues involved.  This being so, if war had
ensued, we should then have gone into it a divided instead of a united
nation.  On the other hand, if peace had ensued, it must have been a
patched-up ill-natured peace; and it is not improbable that Sir Edward
Grey would have been driven from office by enemies in his own
household, playing the game of Germany unconsciously, as on previous
occasions, and would have brought the Cabinet down with him in his
fall.  For at this time, owing to domestic difficulties, the Government
stood in a very perilous position, and it needed only such a mutiny, as
a bold departure in foreign affairs would almost certainly have
provoked among the Liberal party, to bring Mr. Asquith's government to
an end.

As one reads and re-reads the official documents in our present
twilight, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that on the main
point Sir Edward Grey was wrong and M. Sazonof right.  Germany, with
her eyes wide open, had determined on war with Russia and France,
unless by Russia's surrender of her prestige in the Balkans--a
surrender in its way almost as abject as that which had already been
demanded of Servia--the results of victory could be secured without
recourse to arms.  Germany, nevertheless, was not prepared for war with
Britain.  She was reckoning with confidence on our standing aside, {35}
on our unwillingness and inability to intervene.[11]  If it had been
made clear to her, that in case she insisted on pressing things to
extremity, we should on no account stand aside, she might then have
eagerly forwarded, instead of deliberately frustrating, Austria's
eleventh-hour negotiations for an accommodation with St. Petersburg.

No one, except Germans, whose judgments, naturally enough, are
disordered by the miscarriage of their plans, has dreamed of bringing
the charge against Sir Edward Grey that he wished for war, or fomented
it, or even that through levity or want of vigilance, he allowed it to
occur.  The criticism is, that although his intentions were of the
best, and his industry unflagging, he failed to realise the situation,
and to adopt the only means which might have secured peace.

The charge which is not only alleged, but established against Austria
is of a wholly different order.  It is that she provoked war--blindly
perhaps, and not foreseeing what the war would be, but at any rate
recklessly and obstinately.

The crime of which Germany stands accused is that she deliberately
aimed at war, and that when there seemed a chance of her plan
miscarrying, she promptly took steps to render peace impossible.  Among
neutral countries is there one, the public opinion of which has
acquitted her?  And has not Italy, her own ally, condemned her by
refusing assistance on the ground that this war is a war of German

[1] The name of the Russian capital was not changed until after the
declaration of war, and therefore St. Petersburg is used in this
chapter instead of Petrograd.

[2] July-September 1911.

[3] August 1913.

[4] The total population of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including
Bosnia-Herzegovina, is roughly 50 millions.  Of these 11 millions are
Germans and 10 millions Magyars.  About 24 millions are composed of a
strange variety of Slav races.  The remaining 5 millions consist of
Italians, Roumanians, and Jews.

[5] White Paper, No. 161.

[6] A harmless and unprovocative telegram from the King of Prussia to
Bismarck in July 1870 was, by the latter, so altered in tone that when
published it achieved the intention of its editor and served as 'a red
rag to the Gallic bull' and brought about the declaration of war by
Napoleon III.--Bismarck's _Reflections and Reminiscences_, vol. ii. p.

[7] White Paper, No. 161.

[8] Saturday, July 25.

[9] White Paper, No. 17.

[10] Ibid. Nos. 17 and 44.

[11] A proof of this is the outburst of hatred in Germany against
England so soon as we ranged ourselves with France and Russia.




The East has been drawn into the circle of this war as well as the
West, the New World as well as the Old; nor can any man feel certain,
or even hopeful, that the conflagration will be content to burn itself
out where it is now raging, and will not spread across further
boundaries....  It is therefore no matter of surprise that people
should be asking themselves--"Of what nature is this war?  Is it one of
those calamities, like earthquake or tempest, drought or flood, which
lawyers describe as 'the act of God'?  Or is it a thing which, having
been conceived and deliberately projected by the wit of man, could have
been averted by human courage and judgment?  Was this war, or was it
not, inevitable?" ... To which it may be answered, that no war is
inevitable until it occurs; and then every war is apt to make
pretensions to that character.

In old times it was the Fates, superior even to Zeus, who decreed wars.
In later days wars were regarded as the will of God.  And to-day
professional interpreters of events are as ready as ever with
explanations why this war was, in the nature of things, unavoidable.
Whether the prevailing priesthood wears white robes and fillets, or
rich vestments, or {37} cassocks and Geneva bands, or the severer
modern garb of the professor or politician, it appears to be equally
prone to dogmatic blasphemy.  There is no proof that this war was
pre-ordained either by a Christian God or by the laws of Pagan Nature.


One may doubt if any war is inevitable.  If statesmen can gain time the
chances are that they will gain peace.  This was the view of public
opinion throughout the British Empire down to July 1914.  It was in a
special sense the view of the Liberal party; and their view was
endorsed, if not by the whole body of Unionists, at any rate by their
leader, in terms which admitted of no misunderstanding.[1]  It is also
the point of view from which this book is written....  This war was not
inevitable; it could have been avoided, but on one condition--_if
England had been prepared_.

England was not prepared either morally or materially.  Her rulers had
left her in the dark as to the dangers which surrounded her.  They had
neglected to make clear to her--probably even to themselves--the
essential principles of British policy, and the sacrifices which it
entailed.  They had failed to provide armaments to correspond with this
policy.  When the crisis arose their hands were tied.  They had to sit
down hurriedly, and decipher their policy, and find out what it meant.
Still more hurriedly they had to get it approved, not merely by their
fellow-countrymen, but by their own colleagues--a work, if rumour[2]
speaks truly, of {38} considerable difficulty.  Then they found that
one of the main supports was wanting; and they had to set to work
frantically to make an army adequate to their needs.

But it was too late.  By this time their policy had fallen about their
ears in ruins.  For their policy was the neutrality of Belgium, and
that was already violated.  Their policy was the defence of France, and
invasion had begun.  Their policy was peace, and peace was broken.  The
nation which would enjoy peace must be strong enough to enforce peace.

The moods of nations pass like clouds, only more slowly.  They bank up
filled with menace; we look again and are surprised to find that they
have melted away as silently and swiftly as they came.  One does not
need to be very old to recall various wars, deemed at one time or
another to be inevitable, which never occurred.  In the 'sixties' war
with the second Empire was judged to be inevitable; and along our
coasts dismantled forts remain to this day as monuments of our fathers'
firm belief in the imminence of an invasion.  In the 'seventies,' and
indeed until we had entered the present century, war with Russia was
regarded as inevitable by a large number of well-informed people; and
for a part of this period war with the French Republic was judged to be
no less so.  Fortune on the whole was favourable.  Circumstances
changed.  The sense of a common danger healed old antagonisms.  Causes
of chronic irritation disappeared of themselves, or were removed by
diplomatic surgery.  And with the disappearance of these inflammatory
centres, misunderstandings, prejudices, and suspicions began to vanish
also.  {39} Gradually it became clear, that what had been mistaken on
both sides for destiny was nothing more inexorable than a fit of
temper, or a conflict of business interests not incapable of
adjustment.  And in a sense the German menace was less formidable than
any of these others, for the reason that it was a fit of temper on one
side only--a fit of temper, or megalomania.  We became fully conscious
of the German mood only after the end of the South African War, when
its persistence showed clearly that it arose, not from any sympathy
with the Dutch, but from some internal cause.  When this cause was
explained to us it seemed so inadequate, so absurd, so unreal, so
contrary to the facts, that only a small fraction of our nation ever
succeeded in believing that it actually existed.  We had been taught by
Carlyle, that while the verities draw immortal life from the facts to
which they correspond, the falsities have but a phenomenal existence,
and a brief influence over the minds of men.  Consequently the greater
part of the British people troubled their heads very little about this
matter, never thought things would come to a crisis, or lead to serious
mischief; but trusted always that, in due time, the ridiculous
illusions of our neighbours would vanish and die of their own inanity.


We listened with an equal wonder and weariness to German complaints
that we were jealous of her trade and bent on strangling it; that we
grudged her colonial expansion, and were intriguing all the world over
to prevent it; that we had isolated her and ringed her round with
hostile alliances.  We knew that these notions were all entirely false.
We knew that, so far from hampering German commerce, {40} our Free
Trade system in the United Kingdom, in the Dependencies, and in the
Indian Empire had fostered it and helped its rapid and brilliant
success more than any other external factor.

For fully thirty years from 1870--during which period what remained of
the uncivilised portions of the world was divided up, during which
period also Germany was the most powerful nation in Europe, and could
have had anything she wanted of these new territories almost for the
asking--Bismarck and the statesmen of his school, engrossed mainly in
the European situation, set little store by colonies, thought of them
rather as expensive and dangerous vanities, and abstained deliberately
from taking an energetic part in the scramble.  We knew, that in Africa
and the East, Germany had nevertheless obtained considerable
possessions, and that it was, primarily her own fault that she had not
obtained more.  We assumed, no doubt very foolishly, that she must
ultimately become aware of her absurdity in blaming us for her own
neglect.  We forgot human nature, and the apologue of the drunkard who
cursed the lamp-post for its clumsiness in getting in his way.

The British people knew that Germany was talking nonsense; but
unfortunately they never fully realised that she was sincere, and meant
all the things she said.  They thought she only half believed in her
complaints, as a man is apt to do when ill-temper upsets his
equanimity.  They were confident that in the end the falsities would
perish and the verities remain, and that in the fulness of time the two
nations would become friends.

As to this last the British people probably judged correctly; but they
entirely overlooked the fact, {41} that if truth was to be given a
chance of prevailing in the end, it was important to provide against
mischief which might very easily occur in the meantime.  Nor did their
rulers, whose duty it was, ever warn them seriously of this necessity.


When a man works himself up into a rage and proceeds to flourish a
loaded revolver, something more is necessary for the security of the
bystanders than the knowledge that his ill-temper does not rest upon a
reasonable basis.  War was not inevitable, certainly; but until the
mood of Germany changed, it was exceedingly likely to occur unless the
odds against the aggressor were made too formidable for him to face.
None of the governments, however, which have controlled our national
destinies since 1900, ever developed sufficient energy to realise the
position of affairs, or ever mustered up courage to tell the people
clearly what the risks were, to state the amount of the premium which
was required to cover the risks, and to insist upon the immediate duty
of the sacrifice which imperial security inexorably demanded.

[1] "I hear it also constantly said--there is no use shutting our eyes
or ears to obvious facts--that owing to divergent interests, war some
day or other between this country and Germany is inevitable.  I never
believe in these inevitable wars."--Mr. Bonar Law in _England and

[2] Rumour finds confirmation in the White Paper; also in an interview
with Mr. Lloyd George, reported in _Pearson's Magazine_, March 1915, p.
265, col. ii.




Although in a technical sense the present war was brought on by
Austrian diplomacy, no one, in England at least, is inclined to rate
the moral responsibility of that empire at the highest figure.  It is
in Germany that we find, or imagine ourselves to have found, not only
the true and deep-seated causes of the war, but the immediate occasions
of it.

Not the least of our difficulties, however, is to decide the point--Who
is Germany?  Who was her man of business?  Who acted for her in the
matter of this war?  Who pulled the wires, or touched the button that
set the conflagration blazing?  Was this the work of an individual or a
camarilla?  Was it the result of one strong will prevailing, or of
several wills getting to loggerheads--wills not particularly strong,
but obstinate, and flustered by internal controversy and external
events?  What actually happened--was it meant by the 'super-men' to
happen, or did it come as a shock--not upon 'supermen' at all--but upon
several groups of surprised blunderers?  These questions are not likely
to be answered for a generation or more--until, if ever, the archives
of Vienna and Berlin give up their {43} secrets--and it would therefore
be idle to waste too much time in analysis of the probabilities.

The immediate occasion of the catastrophe has been variously attributed
to the German court, army, bureaucracy, professors, press, and people.
If we are looking only for a single thing--the hand which lit the
conflagration--and not for the profounder and more permanent causes and
origins of the trouble, we can at once dismiss several of these
suspects from the dock.

[Sidenote: MEN OF LETTERS]

Men of learning and letters, professors of every variety--a class which
has been christened 'the Pedantocracy' by unfriendly critics--may be
all struck off the charge-sheet as unconcerned in the actual
delinquency of arson.

In fact, if not in name, these are a kind of priesthood, and a large
part of their lives' work has been to spread among German youth the
worship of the State under Hohenzollern kingship.  It is impossible of
course to make 'a silk purse out of a sow's ear,' a religion out of a
self-advertising dynasty, or a god out of a machine.  Consequently,
except for mischief, their efforts have been mainly wasted.  Over a
long period of years, however, they have been engaged in heaping up
combustibles.  They have filled men's minds to overflowing with notions
which are very liable to lead to war, and which indeed were designed
for no other purpose than to prepare public opinion for just such a war
as this.  Their responsibility therefore is no light one, and it will
be dealt with later.  But they are innocent at all events of complicity
in this particular exploit of fire-raising; and if, after the event,
they have sought to excuse, vindicate, and uphold the action of their
rulers it would be hard measure to condemn them for that.


Nor did the press bring about the war.  In other countries, where the
press is free and irresponsible, it has frequently been the prime mover
in such mischief; but never in Germany.  For in Germany the press is
incapable of bringing about anything of the political kind, being
merely an instrument and not a principal.

Just as little can the charge of having produced the war be brought
against the people.  In other countries, where the people are used to
give marching orders to their rulers, popular clamour has led to
catastrophe of this kind more frequently than any other cause.  But
this, again, has never been so in Germany.  The German people are
sober, steadfast, and humble in matters of high policy.  They have
confidence in their rulers, believe what they are told, obey orders
readily, but do not think of giving them.  When war was declared, all
Germans responded to the call of duty with loyalty and devotion.  Nay,
having been prepared for at least a generation, they welcomed war with
enthusiasm.  According to the lights which were given them to judge by,
they judged every whit as rightly as our own people.  The lights were
false lights, hung out deliberately to mislead them and to justify
imperial policy.  But this was no fault of theirs.  Moreover, the
judgment which they came to with regard to the war was made after the
event, and cannot therefore in any case be held responsible for its
occurrence.  This is a people's war surely enough, but just as surely,
the people had no hand in bringing it about.

The circle of the accused is therefore narrowed down to the Court, the
Army, and the Bureaucracy.  And there we must leave it for the
present--a joint indictment against all three.  But whether these {45}
parties were guilty, all three in equal measure, we cannot conjecture
with the least approach to certainty.  Nor can we even say precisely of
what they were guilty--of misunderstanding--of a quarrel among
themselves--of a series of blunders--or of a crime so black and
deliberate, that no apologist will be able ever to delete it from the
pages of history.  On all this posterity must be left to pronounce.


It is only human nevertheless to be curious about personalities.
Unfortunately for the satisfaction of this appetite, all is darkness as
to the German Army.  We may suspect that the Prussian junker, or
country gentleman, controls and dominates it.  But even as to this we
may conceivably be wrong.  The military genius of some Hanoverian,
Saxon, or Bavarian may possess the mastery in council.  As to the real
heads of the army, as to their individual characters, and their potency
in directing policy we know nothing at all.  After nine months of war,
we have arrived at no clear notion, even with regard to their relative
values as soldiers in the field.  We have even less knowledge as to
their influence beforehand in shaping and deciding the issues of war
and peace.

This much, however, we may reasonably deduce from Bernhardi and other
writers--that military opinion had been anxious for some considerable
number of years past, and more particularly since the Agadir
incident,[1] lest war, which it regarded as ultimately inevitable,
should be delayed until the forces ranged against Germany, especially
upon her Eastern frontier, were too strong for her to cope with.

In the pages of various official publications, and in newspaper reports
immediately before and after {46} war began, we caught glimpses of
certain characters at work; but these were not professional soldiers;
they were members of the Court and the Bureaucracy.

Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg, the Imperial Chancellor, comes upon the
scene--a harassed and indignant official--sorely flustered--not by any
means master of his temper--not altogether certain of his facts--in
considerable doubt apparently as to whether things have not passed
behind his back which he ought to have been told of by higher powers,
but was not.  He appears to us as a diligent and faithful servant,--one
who does not seek to impose his own decisions, but to excuse, justify,
and carry out, if he can, decisions which have been made by others,
more highly placed and greedier of responsibility than himself.

Herr von Jagow, the Foreign Minister, is much affected.  He drops
tears--or comes somewhere near dropping them--over the lost hopes of a
peaceful understanding between England and Germany.  We can credit the
sincerity of his sorrow all the more easily, for the reason that Herr
von Jagow behaves throughout the crisis as the courteous gentleman;
while others, who by position were even greater gentlemen, forget
momentarily, in their excitement, the qualities which are usually
associated with that title.

Then there is the German Ambassador at Vienna--obviously a
firebrand--enjoying, one imagines, the confidence of the war parties in
both capitals: also apparently a busy intriguer.  The documents show
him acting behind the back of the Berlin Foreign Office, and
communicating direct with the Kaiser.

We gather very clearly that he egged on the {47} statesmen of Vienna,
with great diligence and success, to press Servia to extremes, and to
shear time so short that peace-makers had nothing left to catch hold
of.  Russia, he assured them, would never carry her opposition to the
point of war.  Even if she did so, he argued with much plausibility,
she would be negligible.  For she stood midway in a great military and
naval reformation, than which no situation is more deplorable for the
purposes of carrying on a campaign.


When Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, took his
departure at the outbreak of war, he probably left no single enemy
behind him.  A simple, friendly, sanguine figure, with a pardonable
vanity which led him to believe the incredible.  He produced what is
called in the cant of the day 'an atmosphere,' mainly in drawing-rooms
and newspaper offices, but occasionally, one conjectures, even in
Downing Street itself.  His artistry was purely in air and touched
nothing solid.  He was useful to his employers, mainly because he put
England off her guard.  He would not have been in the least useful if
he had not been mainly sincere.

But though he was useful to German policy, he was not trusted by the
powers in Berlin to attend to their business at the Court of St.
James's except under strict supervision.  What precisely were the
duties of Baron von Kuhlmann, Councillor to the Embassy?  He was always
very cheerful, and obliging, and ready to smooth any little difficulty
out of the way.  On the other hand, he was also very deft at inserting
an obstacle with an air of perfect innocence, which imposed on nearly
every one--even occasionally on the editors of newspapers.  For {48}
some reason, however, very few people were willing to accept this
plausible diplomatist's assurances without a grain or two of salt.
Indeed quite a large number were so misled by their prejudices against
him, that they were convinced his prime vocation was that of a spy--a
spy on the country to which he was accredited and on the Ambassador
under whom he served.[2]

[Illustration: THE KAISER]

We know more of the Kaiser than of any of these others, and we have
known him over a much longer period.  And yet our knowledge of him has
never enabled us to forecast his actions with any certainty.  British
ministers and diplomatists, whose business it is to gauge, not only the
muzzle-velocity of eminent characters, but also the forces of their
recoil, never seem to have arrived at any definite conclusions with
regard to this baffling personality.  Whatever he did or did not do,
they were always surprised by it, which gives us some measure of their
capacity if not of his.

The Kaiser is pre-eminently a man of moods.  At one time he is Henry
the Fifth, at another Richard the Second.  Upon occasions he appears as
Hamlet, cursing fate which impels him to make a decision.  Within the
same hour he is Autolycus crying up his wares with an unfeigned
cheerfulness.  He is possessed by the demon of quick-change and
restlessness.  We learn on good authority that he possesses an almost
{49} incredible number of uniforms which he actually wears, and of
royal residences which he occasionally inhabits.  He clothes himself
suitably for each brief occasion, and sleeps rarely, if reports can be
believed, for more than two nights together under the same roof.  He is
like an American millionaire in his fondness for rapid and sudden
journeys, and like a democratic politician in his passion for

The phenomena of the moment--those which flicker upon the surface of
things--engage his eager and vivacious interest.  Upon such matters his
commentaries are often apt and entertaining.  But when he attempts to
deal with deeper issues, and with the underlying principles and causes
of human action, his utterances immediately lose the mind's attention
and keep hold only of the ear's, by virtue of a certain resonance and
blatancy.  When the Kaiser discourses to us, as he often does, upon the
profundities of politics, philosophy, and religion, he falls instantly
into set forms, which express nothing that is living and real.  He
would have the world believe, and doubtless himself sincerely believes,
that he has plunged, like a pearl-diver, into the deeps, and has
returned thence laden with rich treasures of thought and experience.
But in truth he has never visited this region at all, being of a nature
far too buoyant for such enterprises.  He has not found truth, but only
remembered phrases.

The Kaiser is frequently upbraided for his charm of manner by people
who have come under its influence and been misled.  One of the
commonest accusations against him is that of duplicity; but indeed it
seems hardly more just to condemn him for duplicity than it would be to
praise him for sincerity.  He is a man dangerous to have dealings with,
but this {50} is owing to the irresponsible effervescence of his ideas.
At any given moment he probably means the greater part of what he says;
but the image of one moment is swiftly expelled and obliterated by that
of the next.  The Kaiser's untrustworthiness arises not from duplicity,
so much as from the quickness of his fancy, the shallowness of his
judgment, and the shortness of his memory.  That his communications
frequently produce the same effects as duplicity, is due to the fact
that he recognises no obligation either to stand by his word, or to
correct the impression which his hasty assurances may have produced in
the mind of his interlocutor.  The statesman who is won over to-day by
his advocacy of an English alliance, is astounded on the morrow to find
him encouraging an English pogrom.[3]



When a violent convulsion shakes the world people immediately begin to
look about them for some mighty and malevolent character who can be
held responsible for it.  To the generations which knew them, Cromwell,
Napoleon, and Bismarck all figured as Antichrist.  But in regard to the
policy which produced the present war, of what man can it be said
truly, either that he controlled that policy, or that he brought about
the results which he aimed at?  Which of the great personages concerned
possesses the sublime qualities of the spirit of evil?[4]

It is conceivable, though very unlikely, that behind the scenes there
was some strong silent man who worked the others like puppets on a
string; but among those who have made themselves known to us in the
pages of White Papers and the like, there is none whose features bear
the least resemblance to our conception of Antichrist; none who had
firm {52} control of events, or even of himself.  There is none of whom
it is possible to say truly that he achieved the results at which he

It is clear that the war which the joint efforts of these great
personages brought into existence was a monstrous birth, and that it
filled those who were responsible for it with dismay, only a degree
less than it shocked other people.  For proof of this, it is
unnecessary to look further than the miscalculations of the political
kind which became recognised for such within a few weeks after war was

[1] July 1911.

[2] Prussian policy appears to be modelled upon the human body.  Just
as man is endowed with a duality of certain organs--eyes, nostrils,
lungs, kidneys, etc.--so Prussian policy appears to proceed upon the
principle of a double diplomatic representation, two separate Foreign
Office departments, etc., etc.  It is no doubt an excellent plan to
have a second string to your bow; but it is not yet clear how far this
can be carried with advantage in delicate negotiations without
destroying confidence in your sincerity.

[3] A labour leader, highly impressed by the spectacle, gave a vivid
description of an equestrian parade through the streets of Berlin after
the declaration of war--the Kaiser in helmet of gold, seated on his
white charger, frowning terribly, in a kind of immobility, as if his
features had been frozen into this dramatically appropriate
expression--following behind him in a carriage the Crown Prince and
Princess, all vivacity and smiles, and bows to this side and the
other--a remarkable contrast!

It is interesting to contrast the ornate and flamboyant being whom we
know as Kaiser Wilhelm the Second with Carlyle's famous description of
the great Frederick:--

"A highly interesting lean little old man, of alert though slightly
stooping figure; whose name among strangers was King Friedrich the
Second, or Frederick the Great of Prussia, and at home among the common
people, who much loved and esteemed him, was _Vater Fritz_,--Father
Fred,--a name of familiarity which had not bred contempt in that
instance.  He is a King every inch of him, though without the trappings
of a King.  Presents himself in a Spartan simplicity of vesture; no
crown but an old military cocked-hat,--generally old, or trampled and
kneaded into absolute _softness_, if new;--no sceptre but one like
Agamemnon's, a walking-stick cut from the woods, which serves also as a
riding-stick (with which he hits the horse 'between the ears' say
authors);--and for royal robes, a mere soldier's blue coat with red
facings, coat likely to be old, and sure to have a good deal of Spanish
snuff on the breast of it; rest of the apparel dim, unobtrusive in
colour or cut, ending in high over-knee military boots, which may be
brushed (and, I hope, kept soft with an underhand suspicion of oil),
but are not permitted to be blackened or varnished; Day and Martin with
their soot-pots forbidden to approach.

"The man is not of godlike physiognomy, any more than of imposing
stature or costume; close-shut mouth with thin lips, prominent jaws and
nose, receding brow, by no means of Olympian height; head, however, is
of long form, and has superlative gray eyes in it.  Not what is called
a beautiful man; nor yet, by all appearance, what is called a happy.
On the contrary, the face bears evidence of many sorrows, as they are
termed, of much hard labour done in this world; and seems to anticipate
nothing but more still coming.  Quiet stoicism, capable enough of what
joy there were, but not expecting any worth mention; great unconscious
and some conscious pride, well tempered with a cheery mockery of
humour,--are written on that old face; which carries its chin well
forward, in spite of the slight stoop about the neck; snuffy nose
rather flung into the air under its old cocked hat,--like an old snuffy
lion on the watch; and such a pair of eyes as no man or lion or lynx of
that century bore elsewhere, according to all the testimony we
have."--Carlyle, _History of Frederick the Great_, Bk. I. chap. i.

[4] A friend who has been kind enough to read the proofs of this volume
takes exception to the rating of Antichrist.  The Devil, he maintains,
is not at all a clever or profound spirit, though he is exceedingly
industrious.  The conception of him in the old Mystery Plays, where he
figures as a kind of butt, whose elaborate and painfully constructed
schemes are continually being upset owing to some ridiculous oversight,
or by some trivial accident, is the true Satan; the Miltonic idea is a
poetical myth, not in the least borne out by human experience.




In the world's play-house there are a number of prominent and
well-placed seats, which the instinct of veneration among mankind
insists on reserving for Super-men; and as mankind is never content
unless the seats of the super-men are well filled, 'the Management'--in
other words, the press, the publicists, and other manipulators of
opinion--have to do the best they can to find super-men to sit in them.
When that is impossible, it is customary to burnish up, fig out, and
pass off various colourable substitutes whom it is thought, may be
trusted to comport themselves with propriety until the curtain falls.
But those resplendent creatures whom we know so well by sight and fame,
and upon whom all eyes and opera-glasses are directed during the
_entr'-actes_, are for the most part not super-men at all, but merely
what, in the slang of the box-office, is known as 'paper.'  Indeed
there have been long periods, even generations, during which the
supposed super-men have been wholly 'paper.'

Of course so long as the super-men substitutes have only to walk to
their places, to bow, smile, frown, overawe, and be admired, everything
goes safely enough.  The audience is satisfied and the {54}
'management' rubs its hands.  But if anything has to be done beyond
this parade business, if the unexpected happens, if, for instance,
there is an alarm of fire--in which case the example set by the
super-creatures might be of inestimable assistance--the 'paper' element
is certain to crumple up, according to the laws of its nature, being
after all but dried pulp.  Something of this kind appears to have
happened in various great countries during the weeks which immediately
preceded and followed the outbreak of war, and in none was the
crumpling up of the supermen substitutes more noticeable than in

The thoroughness of the German race is no empty boast.  All the world
knows as much by experience in peace as well as war.  Consequently,
people had said to themselves: "However it may be with other nations,
in Germany at all events the strings of foreign policy are firmly held
in giant fingers."  But as day succeeded day, unmasking one
miscalculation after another, it became clear that there must have been
at least as much 'paper' in the political high places of Germany as

Clearly, although this war was made in Germany, it did not at all
follow the course which had been charted for it in the official
forecasts.  For the German bureaucracy and general staff had laid their
plans to crush France at the first onset--to crush her till the bones
stuck out through her skin.  And they had reckoned to out-general
Russia and roll back her multitudes, as yet unorganised--so at least it
was conceived--in wave upon wave of encroaching defeat.

Having achieved these aims before the fall of the leaf, Germany would
have gained thereby another {55} decade for the undisturbed development
of wealth and world-power.  Under Prussian direction the power of
Austria would then be consolidated within her own dominions and
throughout the Balkan Peninsula.  At the end of this interval of
vigorous recuperation, or possibly earlier, Germany would attack
England, and England would fall an easy prey.  For having stood aside
from the former struggle she would be without allies.  Her name would
stink in the nostrils of Russia and France; and indeed to the whole
world she would be recognised for what she was--a decadent and coward
nation.  Even her own children would blush for her dishonour.

That these were the main lines of the German forecast no man can doubt,
who has watched and studied the development of events; and although it
is as yet too early days to make sure that nothing of all this vast
conception will ever be realised, much of it--the time-table at all
events--has certainly miscarried for good and all.


According to German calculations England would stand aside; but England
took part.  Italy would help her allies; but Italy refused.  Servia was
a thing of naught; but Servia destroyed several army corps.  Belgium
would not count; and yet Belgium by her exertions counted, if for
nothing more, for the loss of eight precious days, while by her
sufferings she mobilised against the aggressor the condemnation of the
whole world.

The Germans reckoned that the army of France was terrible only upon
paper.  Forty-five years of corrupt government and political peculation
must, according to their calculations, have paralysed the {56} general
staff and betrayed the national spirit.  The sums voted for equipment,
arms, and ammunition must assuredly have been spirited away, as under
The Third Empire, into the pockets of ministers, senators, deputies,
and contractors.  The results of this régime would become apparent, as
they had done in 1870, only in the present case sooner.

War was declared by the Third Napoleon at mid-July, by William the
Second not until August 1; but Sedan or its equivalent would occur,
nevertheless, in the first days of September, in 1914 as in 1870.  In
the former contest Paris fell at the end of six months; in this one,
with the aid of howitzers, it would fall at the end of six weeks.

Unfortunately for this confident prediction, whatever may have been the
deficiency in the French supplies, however dangerous the consequent
hitches in mobilisation, things fell out quite differently.  The spirit
of the people of France, and the devotion of her soldiers, survived the
misfeasances of the politicians, supposing indeed that such crimes had
actually been committed.

It was a feature of Bismarck's diplomacy that he put a high value upon
the good opinion of the world, and took the greatest pains to avoid its
condemnation.  In 1870, as we now know, he schemed successfully, to
lure the government of Napoleon the Third into a declaration of war,
thereby saddling the French government with the odium which attaches to
peace-breakers.[1]  But in the case of the present war, {57} which, as
it out-Bismarcked Bismarck in deliberate aggressiveness, stood all the
more in need of a tactful introduction to the outside world, the
precautions of that astute statesman were neglected or despised.  From
the beginning all neutral nations were resentful of German procedure,
and after the devastation of Belgium and the destruction of Louvain,
the spacious morality of the Young Turks alone was equal to the
profession of friendship and admiration.


The objects which Germany sought to gain by the cruelties perpetrated,
under orders, by her soldiers in Belgium and Northern France are clear
enough.  These objects were certainly of considerable value in a
military as well as in a political sense.  One wonders, however, if
even Germany herself now considers them to have been worth the
abhorrence and disgust which they have earned for her throughout the
civilised world.

In nothing is the sham super-man more easily detected than in the
confidence and self-complacency with which he pounces upon the
immediate small advantage, regardless of the penalty he will have to
pay in the future.  By spreading death and devastation broadcast in
Belgium the Germans hoped to attain three things, and it is not
impossible that they have succeeded in attaining them all.  They sought
to secure their communications by putting the fear of death, and worse
than death, into the hearts of the civil population.  They sought to
send the countryside fleeing terror-stricken before their advance,
choking and cumbering the highways; than which nothing is ever more
hampering to the operations of an army in retreat, or more depressing
to its spirits.  But chiefly they desired to set a ruthless
object-lesson before the {58} eyes of Holland, in order to show her the
consequences of resistance; so that when it came to her turn to answer
a summons to surrender she might have the good sense not to make a
fuss.  They desired in their dully-calculating, official minds that
Holland might never forget the clouds of smoke, from burning villages
and homesteads, which the August breezes carried far across her
frontiers; the sights of horror, the tales of suffering and ruin which
tens of thousands of starved, forlorn, and hurrying fugitives brought
with them when they came seeking sanctuary in her territories.  But if
the Germans gained all this, and even if they gained in addition the
loving admiration of the Young Turks, was it worth while to purchase
these advantages at such a price?  It seems a poor bargain to save your
communications, if thereby you lose the good opinion of the whole world.

What is of most interest to ourselves, however, in the long list of
miscalculations, is the confidence of Germany that Britain would remain
neutral.  For a variety of reasons which satisfied the able bureaucrats
at Berlin, it was apparently taken for granted by them that we were
determined to stand out; and indeed that we were in no position to come
in even if we would.  We conjecture that the reports of German
ambassadors, councillors, consuls, and secret service agents must have
been very certain and unanimous in this prediction.


According to the German theory, the British race, at home and abroad,
was wholly immersed in gain, and in a kind of pseudo-philanthropy--in
making money, and in paying blackmail to the working-classes in order
to be allowed to go on making money.  {59} Our social legislation and
our 'People's Budgets' were regarded in Germany with contempt, as sops
and shams, wanting in thoroughness and tainted with hypocrisy.

English politicians, acting upon the advice of obliging financiers, had
been engaged during recent years (so grossly was the situation
misjudged by our neighbours) in imposing taxation which hit the trader,
manufacturer, and country-gentleman as hard as possible; which also hit
the working-class hard, though indirectly; but which left holes through
which the financiers themselves--by virtue of their international
connections and affiliations--could glide easily into comparative

From these faulty premisses, Germans concluded that Britain was held in
leading-strings by certain sentimentalists who wanted vaguely to do
good; and that these sentimentalists, again, were helped and guided by
certain money-lenders and exploiters, who were all very much in favour
of paying ransom out of other people's pockets.  A nation which had
come to this pass would be ready enough to sacrifice future
interests--being blind to them--for the comforts of a present peace.

The Governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions were largely
influenced--so it was believed at Berlin--by crooks and cranks of
various sorts, by speculators and 'speculatists,'[2] many of them of
foreign origin or descent--who preached day in and day out the doctrine
that war was an anachronism, _vieux jeu_, even an impossibility in the
present situation of the world.

[2] 'Speculatists' was a term used by contemporary American writers to
describe the eloquent theorists who played so large a part in the
French Revolution.


The British Government appeared to treat these materially-minded
visionaries with the highest favour.  Their advice was constantly
sought; they were recipients of the confidences of Ministers; they
played the part of Lords Bountiful to the party organisations; they
were loaded with titles, if not with honour.  Their abhorrence of
militarism knew no bounds, and to a large extent it seemed to German,
and even to English eyes, as if they carried the Cabinet, the
party-machine, and the press along with them.

'Militarism,' as used by these enthusiasts, was a comprehensive term.
It covered with ridicule and disrepute even such things as preparation
for the defence of the national existence.  International law was
solemnly recommended as a safer defence than battleships.

Better certainly, they allowed, if militarism could be rooted out in
all countries; but at any rate England, the land of their birth or
adoption, must be saved from the contamination of this brutalising
idea.  In their anxiety to discredit Continental exemplars they even
went so far as to evolve an ingenious theory, that foreign nations
which followed in the paths of militarism, did so at serious loss to
themselves, but with wholly innocent intentions.  More especially, they
insisted, was this true in the case of Germany.

The Liberal party appeared to listen to these opinions with respect;
Radicals hailed them with enthusiasm; while the Labour party was at one
time so much impressed, as to propose through some of its more
progressive spirits that, in the exceedingly unlikely event of a German
landing, working-men {61} should continue steadily at their usual
labours and pay no heed to the military operations of the invaders.

In Berlin, apparently, all this respect and enthusiasm for pacifism,
together with the concrete proposals for putting its principles into
practice, were taken at their face value.  There at any rate it was
confidently believed that the speculators and the 'speculatists' had
succeeded in changing or erasing the spots of the English leopard.


But in order to arrive at such a conclusion as this the able German
bureaucrats must have understood very little, one would think, of human
nature in general, and of British human nature in particular.  Clearly
they built more hopes on our supposed conversion to pacifism than the
foundations would stand.  They were right, of course, in counting it a
benefit to themselves that we were unprepared and unsuspicious of
attack; that we had pared down our exiguous army and stinted our navy
somewhat beyond the limits of prudence.  They were foolish, however,
not to perceive that if the British people found themselves confronted
with the choice, between a war which they believed to be righteous, and
a peace which they saw clearly would not only be wounding to their own
honour but ruinous to their security, all their fine abstract
convictions would go by the board; that party distinctions would then
for the time being disappear, and the speculators and the
'speculatists' would be interned in the nethermost pit of national
distrust....  In so far, therefore, as the Germans reckoned on our
unpreparedness they were wise; but in counting upon British neutrality
they were singularly wide of the mark.


One imagines that among the idealists of Berlin there must surely have
been a few sceptics who did not altogether credit this wholesale
conversion and quakerisation of the British race.  But for these
doubters, if indeed they existed, there were other considerations of a
more practical kind which seemed to indicate that Britain must
certainly stand aside.

The first and most important of these was the imminence of civil war in
Ireland.  If Prince Lichnowsky and Baron von Kuhlmann reported that
this had become inevitable, small blame to their perspicacity!  For in
this their judgment only tallied with that of most people in the United
Kingdom who had any knowledge of the true facts.

In March an incident occurred among the troops stationed in Ireland
which must have given comfort at Berlin, even in greater measure than
it caused disquiet at home.  For it showed in a vivid flash the
intrinsic dangers of the Irish situation, and the tension, almost to
breaking-point, which existed between the civil authorities and the
fighting services.

It also showed, what in the circumstances must have been peculiarly
reassuring to the German Government, that our Navy and Army were under
the charge of Ministers whose judgments were apt to be led captive by
their tempers.  Although the Secretary of State for War did not remain
in office for many days to encourage the hearts of the general staff at
Berlin, his important post was never filled.  It was only occupied and
kept warm by the Prime Minister, whose labours and
responsibilities--according to the notions of the Germans, who are a
painstaking and thorough people--were already enough for one man to
undertake.  Moreover, the First {63} Lord of the Admiralty had not
resigned; and it was perhaps natural, looking at what had just
happened, to conclude that he would be wholly incapable of the sound
and swift decision by which a few months later he was destined to atone
for his recent blunder.


Moreover, although the Curragh incident, as it was called, had been
patched over in a sort of way, the danger of civil war in Ireland had
not diminished in the least by Midsummer.  Indeed it had sensibly
increased.  During the interval large quantities of arms and ammunition
had been imported by Ulstermen in defiance of the Government, and
Nationalists were eagerly engaged in emulating their example.  The
emergency conference of the leaders of parties which the King, acting
upon the desperate advice of his Ministers, had called together at
Buckingham Palace ended in complete failure.

On Monday the 27th of July readers of the morning newspapers, looking
anxiously for news of the Servian reply to the Austrian ultimatum,
found their eyes distracted by even blacker headlines, which announced
that a Scots regiment had fired on a Dublin mob.

How the bureaucrats of Berlin must have rubbed their hands and admired
their own prescience!  Civil war in Ireland had actually begun, and in
the very nick of time!  And this occurrence, no less dramatic than
opportune, was a triumph not merely for German foresight but for German
contrivance--like a good many other things, indeed, which have taken
place of late.  When the voyage of the good ship _Fanny_, which in
April carried arms to the coast of Antrim, comes to be written, and
that of the anonymous yacht which sailed from German waters,
transhipped its {64} cargo in the channel, whence it was safely
conveyed by another craft to Dublin Bay to kindle this blaze in
July--when these narratives are set out by some future historian, as
they deserve to be, but not until then, it will be known how zealously,
benevolently, and impartially our loyal and kindly Teuton cousins
forwarded and fomented the quarrel between Covenanter and Nationalist.
What the German bureaucrats, however, with all their foresight,
apparently did not in the least foresee, was that the wound which they
had intentionally done so much to keep open, they would speedily be
helping unintentionally to heal.

With regard to South Africa, German miscalculation and intrigue pursued
a somewhat similar course, though with little better results.  It was
assumed that South Africa, having been fully incorporated in the Empire
as a self-governing unit only twelve years earlier, and as the result
of a prolonged and sanguinary war, must necessarily be bent on severing
the British connection at the earliest opportunity.  The Dutch, like
the frogs in the fable, were imagined to be only awaiting a favourable
moment to exchange the tyranny of King Log for the benevolent rule of
King Stork.

In these forecasts, however, various considerations were overlooked.
In the first place, the methods of incorporation pursued by the British
in South Africa were as nearly as possible the opposite of those
adopted by Prussia in Poland, in Schleswig-Holstein, and in
Alsace-Lorraine.  In many quarters there were doubtless bitter memories
among the Dutch, and in some others disappointed ambition still ached;
{65} but these forces were not enough to plunge into serious civil war
two races which, after nearly a century of strife and division, had but
a few years before entered into a solemn and voluntary covenant to make
a firm union, and dwell henceforth in peace one with another.  What
object could there be for Dutchmen to rise in rebellion against a
government, which consisted almost exclusively of Dutch statesmen, and
which had been put in office and was kept there by the popular vote?


What German intrigue and bribery could do it did.  But Dutchmen whose
recollections went back so far as twenty years were little likely to
place excessive confidence in the incitements and professions of
Berlin.  They remembered with what busy intrigues Germany had in former
times encouraged their ambitions, with what a rich bribery of promises
she had urged them on to war, with what cold indifference, when war
arose, she had left them to their fate.  They also remembered how, when
their aged President, an exiled and broken-hearted man, sought an
interview with the great sovereign whose consideration for him in his
more prosperous days had never lacked for warmth, he received for an
answer, that Berlin was no place for people who had been beaten to come
whining, and was turned from the door.

In India, as in South Africa, Germany entertained confident hopes of a
successful rising.  Had not the Crown Prince, a shrewd judge, visited
there a few years earlier and formed his own estimate of the situation?
Was there not a widely spread network of sedition covering the whole of
our Eastern Empire, an incendiary press, and orators who openly
counselled {66} violence and preached rebellion?  Had not riots been
increasing rapidly in gravity and number?  Had not assassins been
actively pursuing their trade?  Had not a ship-load of Indians just
been refused admission to Canada, thereby causing a not unnatural
outburst of indignation?

How far German statesmen had merely foreseen these things, how far they
had actually contrived them, we are as yet in ignorance; but judging by
what has happened in other places--in Ireland, South Africa, Belgium,
and France--it would surprise no one to learn that the bombs which were
thrown at the Viceroy and his wife with tragic consequences owed
something to German teaching.  It is unlikely that German emissaries
had been less active in fomenting unrest in India than elsewhere among
the subjects of nations with which they were ostensibly at peace; while
the fact that the Crown Prince had but recently enjoyed the hospitality
of the Viceregal Court was only a sentimental consideration unworthy of
the attention of super-men.

Moreover, it had for long been abundantly clear, on _a priori_ grounds,
to thinkers like Treitschke and Bernhardi that India was already ripe
for rebellion on a grand scale.  There are but two things which affect
the Indian mind with awe and submission--a sublime philosophy and a
genius for war.  The English had never been philosophers, and they had
ceased to be warriors.  How, then, could a race which worshipped only
soldiers and sages be expected to reverence and obey a garrison of
clerks and shopkeepers?  A war between England and Germany would
provide an opportunity for making an end for ever of the British Raj.



The self-governing Dominions were believed to be affected with the same
decadent spirit and fantastic illusions as their Mother Country; only
with them these cankers had spread more widely, were more logically
followed out in practice, and less tempered and restrained by
aristocratic tradition.  Their eloquent outpourings of devotion and
cohesion were in reality quite valueless; merely what in their own
slang is known as 'hot air.'  They hated militarism in theory and
practice, and they loved making money with at least an equal fervour.
Consequently, it was absurd to suppose that their professions of
loyalty would stand the strain of a war, by which not only their
national exchequers, but the whole mass of the people must inevitably
be impoverished, in which the manhood of the Dominions would be called
on for military service, and their defenceless territories placed in
danger of invasion.

It was incredible to the wise men at Berlin that the timid but clear
minds of English Statesmen had not appreciated these obvious facts.
War, therefore, would be avoided as long as possible.  And when at a
later date, war was forced by Germany upon the pusillanimous islanders,
the Dominions would immediately discern various highly moral pleas for
standing aloof.  Germany, honouring these pleas for the time being with
a mock respect, would defer devouring the Dominions until she had
digested the more serious meal.

It will be seen from all this how good the grounds were on which the
best-informed and most efficient bureaucracy in the world decided that
the British Empire would remain neutral in the present war.  {68}
Looked at from the strictly intellectual standpoint, the reasons which
satisfied German Statesmen with regard to Britain's neutrality were
overwhelming, and might well have convinced others, of a similar
outlook and training, who had no personal interest whatsoever in coming
to one conclusion rather than another.

None the less the judgment of the Kaiser and his Ministers was not only
bad, but inexcusably bad.  We expect more from statesmen than that they
should arrive at logical conclusions.  Logic in such cases is nothing;
all that matters is to be right; but unless instinct rules and reason
serves, right judgment will rarely be arrived at in such matters as
these.  If a man cannot feel as well as reason, if he cannot gauge the
forces which are at work among the nations by some kind of
second-sight, he has no title to set up his bills as a statesman.  It
is incredible that Lincoln, Cavour, or Bismarck would ever have
blundered into such a war as this, under the delusion that Britain
could remain neutral even if she would.  Nor would any of these three
have been so far out in his reckoning as to believe, that the immediate
effect of such a war, if Britain joined in it, would be the disruption
of her empire.  They might have calculated that in the event of the war
being prolonged and disastrous to England, disintegration would in the
end come about; but without stopping to reason the matter out, they
would have known by instinct, that the first effect produced by such a
war would be a consolidation and knitting together of the loose
Imperial fabric, and a suspension, or at least a diminution, of
internal differences.

[1] British public opinion in regard to that war was divided roughly
according to party lines, the Conservatives favouring France on
sentimental grounds, the Liberals favouring Germany as a
highly-educated, peace-loving people who had been wantonly attacked.




In the foregoing pages an attempt has been made to consider the series
of events which immediately preceded the recent outbreak of war.  But
the most complete account of moves and counter-moves, and of all the
pretexts, arguments, demands, and appeals which were put forward by the
various governments concerned, with the object of forcing on,
justifying, circumscribing, or preventing the present struggle, can
never give us the true explanation of why it occurred.  For this we
must look much further back than Midsummer last, and at other things
besides the correspondence between Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors.

Nobody in his senses believes that Europe is at present in a convulsion
because the heir-presumptive to the throne of Austria was murdered at
Serajevo on the 28th of June.  This event was tragic and deplorable,
but it was merely a spark--one of that cloud of sparks which is always
issuing from the chimney-stack of the European furnace.  This one by
ill-luck happened to fall upon a heap of combustibles, and set it in a

Great events, as the Greeks discovered several thousand years ago, do
not spring from small causes, {70} though more often than not they have
some trivial beginning.  How came it that so much inflammable material
was lying ready to catch fire?

To answer this question truthfully we need more knowledge of men and
things than is given in those books, of varying hue, which the
Chancelleries of Europe have published to explain their causes of
action.  The official sources provide much valuable information; but
they will never explain to us why public opinion in Germany, ever since
the beginning of the present century, has been inflamed with hatred
against this country.  Nor will they ever give us any clear idea as to
what extent, and where, the practical aims and policies of that nation
and our own were in conflict.

According to the state papers, it would appear that Russia was drawn
into this war because of Servia, and France because of Russia, and
Belgium because of France, and we ourselves because of Belgium; but it
may well be doubted if even the first of this row of ninepins would
have been allowed to fall, had it not been for the feelings which the
German people and their rulers entertained towards Britain.

It is always hard for a man to believe in the sincerity, friendliness,
and peaceful intentions of one against whom he is himself engaged in
plotting an injury.  German distrust of England was based upon the
surest of all foundations--upon her own fixed and envious determination
to overthrow our empire and rob us of our property.  Her own mind being
filled with this ambition, how could she be otherwise than incredulous
of our expressions of goodwill?  How could she conceive that we were so
blind as not to have penetrated her thoughts, so deaf as not to have
heard the threats which her public characters {71} were proclaiming so
openly?  Consequently when British Statesmen uttered amiable assurances
they were judged guilty of a treacherous dissimulation....  One can
only shrug one's shoulders, marvelling at the nightmares and suspicions
which a bad conscience is capable of producing even among intelligent


It has been the fashion for half a century or more to talk of the
Balkans as the danger-point of European peace.  In a sense this is
true.  The crust is very thin in that region, and violent eruptions are
of common occurrence.  But the real danger of upheaval comes, not so
much from the thinness of the crust, as from the violence of the
subterranean forces.  Of these, by far the most formidable in recent
times have been the attitude of public opinion in Germany towards
England--the hatred of England which has been sedulously and
systematically inculcated among the people of all ranks--the suspicions
of our policy which have been sown broadcast--the envy of our position
in the world which has been instilled, without remission, by all and
sundry the agencies and individuals subject to the orders and
inspiration of government.  An obsession has been created, by these
means, which has distorted the whole field of German vision.  National
ill-will accordingly has refused to yield to any persuasion.  Like its
contrary, the passion of love, it has burned all the more fiercely,
being unrequited.

The fact which it is necessary to face, fairly and squarely, is that we
are fighting the whole German people.  We may blame, and blame justly,
the Prussian junkers, the German bureaucracy, the Kaiser himself, for
having desired this war, schemed {72} for it, set the match to it by
intention or through a blunder; but to regard it as a Kaiser's war, or
a junkers' war, or a bureaucrats' war is merely to deceive ourselves.
It is a people's war if ever there was one.  It could not have been
more a people's war than it is, even if Germany had been a democracy
like France or England.

The Kaiser, as regards this matter, is the mirror of his people.  The
Army and the Navy are his trusted servants against whom not a word will
be believed.  The wisdom of the bureaucracy is unquestioned.  In
matters of faith the zealous eloquence of the learned men is wholly
approved.  All classes are as one in devotion, and are moved by the
same spirit of self-sacrifice.  Hardly a murmur of criticism has been
heard, even from the multitudes who at other times march under the red
flag of Socialism.

Although a German panic with regard to Russia may have been the
proximate occasion of this war, the force which most sustains it in its
course is German hatred of England.  We must recognise this fact with
candour, however painful it may be.  And we must also note that, during
the past nine months, the feelings against England have undergone a
change by no means for the better.

At the beginning the German people, if we may judge from published
utterances, were convinced that the war had been engineered by Russia,
and that England had meanly joined in it, because she saw her chance of
crushing a dangerous and envied rival.

Two months later, however, it was equally clear that the German people
were persuaded--Heaven {73} knows how or why!--that the war had been
engineered by England, who was using France and Russia as her tools.
Behind Russia, France, Belgium, Servia, and Japan--according to this
view--stood Britain--perfidious throughout the ages--guiding her
puppets with indefatigable skill to the destruction of German trade,
colonies, navy, and world-power.


Confiding Germany, in spite of all her unremitting abuse of Britain,
had apparently, for some reason, really believed her to be a friend and
a fellow Teuton!  Could any treachery have been blacker than our own in
outraging these family affections?  And for Britain to support the Slav
and the Celt against the Teuton, was judged to be the worst treachery
of all--race treachery--especially by the Prussians, who, having
forgotten that they themselves are half Slavs, seemed also to have
forgotten that the British are largely Celts.

Every Englishman, whether he be an admirer of Sir Edward Grey's
administration of Foreign Affairs or not, knows these dark suspicions
to be merely nonsense.  He knows this as one of the common certainties
of existence--just as he knows that ginger is hot i' the mouth.  Every
Englishman knows that Sir Edward Grey, his colleagues, his advisers,
his supporters in Parliament and out of it, and the whole British race
throughout the world, hated the idea of war, and would have done--and
in fact did, so far as in them lay--everything they could think of to
avert it.  Yet the German people do not at present believe a single
word of this; and there must be some reason for their disbelief as for
other things.

Unfortunately the nations of the world never {74} see one another face
to face.  They carry on their intercourse, friendly and otherwise, by
high-angle fire, from hidden batteries of journalistic howitzers.
Sometimes the projectiles which they exchange are charged with ideal
hate which explodes and kills; at others with ideal love and admiration
which dissolve in golden showers, delightful and amazing to behold.
But always the gunners are invisible to each other, and the ideal love
and admiration are often as far removed from the real merits of their
objective as the ideal hate.

That there was no excuse, beyond mere fancy on Germany's part, for her
distrust of British policy, no one, unless he were wholly ignorant of
the facts, would dream of maintaining.  During the years which have
passed since 1870, our intentions have very rarely been unfriendly.
Still more rarely, however, have we ever shown any real comprehension
of the German point of view.  Never have we made our policy clear.  The
last is hardly to be wondered at, seeing that we had not ourselves
taken the pains to understand it.

On occasions, it is true, we have been effusive, and have somewhat
overstepped the limits of dignity, plunging into a gushing
sentimentality, or else wheedling and coaxing, with some material
object--the abatement of naval expenditure, for example--showing very
plainly through our blandishments.  And as our methods at these times
have been lacking in self-respect, it is not wonderful if they have
earned little or no respect from others.  Our protestations that we
were friends, our babble about blood-relationship, were suspected to
have their origin in timidity; our appeals for restriction of
armaments, {75} to our aversion from personal sacrifice and our senile


Until lately these lapses into excessive amiability, it must be
allowed, were not very frequent.  The main excuse for German suspicion
is to be found elsewhere--in the dilatoriness of our foreign policy--in
its inability to make up its mind--in its changeability after its mind
might have been supposed made up--in its vagueness with regard to the
nature of our obligations towards other powers--whom we would support,
and to what extent, and upon what pleas.

Irritation on the part of Germany would have been natural in these
circumstances, even if she had not been in the mood to suspect dark
motives in the background.  From the days of Lord Granville to those of
Sir Edward Grey, we had been dealing with a neighbour who, whatever her
failings might be, was essentially businesslike in her methods.  We, on
the other hand, continued to exhibit many of those faults which are
most ill-regarded by business men.  We would not say clearly what
regions came within our sphere of influence.  We would not say clearly
where Germany might go and where we should object to her going; but
wherever she went, we were apt after the event to grumble and make

The delay and indecision which marked Lord Granville's dealings with
Bismarck over the partition of Africa were both bad manners in the
international sense, and bad policy.  The neglect of Sir Edward Grey,
after Agadir, to make clear to his fellow-countrymen, and to the world
at large, the nature and extent of our obligations to France, was bad
business.  Next {76} to the British people and our present allies,
Germany had the best reason to complain of this procedure, or rather of
this failure to proceed.

The blame for this unfortunate record rests mainly upon our political
system, rather than on individuals.  We cannot enjoy the benefits of
the most highly developed party system in the world, without losing by
it in various directions.  A change of Government, actual or impending,
has more often been the cause of procrastination and uncertainty than
change in the mind of the Foreign Minister.  There are people who
assure us that this must always be so, that it is one of the inherent
weaknesses of party government, and even of democracy itself.  This is
not altogether true.  It is true, however, that whereas statesmen may
be reticent and keep their own counsel under an autocracy, they are
bound to be frank, and simple, and outspoken as to their aims, where
their power is drawn directly from popular support.


The criticism against British foreign policy for upwards of a century,
is that it has aimed at managing our international relations on a
system of hoodwinking the people, which is altogether incompatible with
the nature of our institutions.  The evils which have resulted from
this mistake are not confined to ourselves, but have reacted abroad.
"With whom," we can imagine some perplexed foreign Chancellor asking
himself--"with whom does power really rest in England?  With the
Government or with the people?  With which of these am I to deal?  To
which must I address myself?  As regards France there is little
difficulty, for her policy is national, and agreed on all hands.  But
in England, so far as we can judge, the people have no idea of {77}
being dragged under any circumstances into a European war; while on the
other hand, the Government is obviously drifting, consciously or
unconsciously, into continental relations which, in certain events, can
lead to no other result...."  Nor is it surprising that under these
conditions German diplomacy should have directed itself of late, with
much industry, to the cultivation of public opinion in this country,
and should at times have treated our Government with scant respect.

The fact is that the two nations, which had most to gain by
clear-sighted and tactful foreign policy, were perhaps of all nations
in the world the least well served in that particular.  English
relations with Germany have for many years past been more mismanaged
than anything except German relations with England.  In their mutual
diplomacy the fingers of both nations have been all thumbs.

It is not to be wondered at that two characters so antagonistic in
their natures and methods as English and German foreign policy should
have come to regard one another as impossible.  The aggressive
personage who does know his own mind, and the vague, supercilious
personage who does not, have only one point in common--that they
understand and care very little about the feelings of other people.
But although this is a point in common, it is anything but a point of

{78} The causes of what has happened will never be clear to us unless
we can arrive at some understanding of the ideas, aspirations, and
dreams which have filled the minds of the German people and our own
during recent years.  On logical grounds we must consider the case of
Germany first, for the reason that all the warmth of enmity has
proceeded from her side, and, until recent events suddenly aroused the
Old Adam in us, the uncharitable sentiments of our neighbours were not
at all cordially reciprocated over here.

As in romantic drama, according to the cynics, there is usually one who
loves and another who allows itself to be loved, so in this case there
was one who hated and another who allowed itself to be hated.  The
British nation could not understand why the Germans were so angry and
suspicious.  Nor would it trouble to understand.  It was bored with the
whole subject; and even the irritation which it felt at having to find
huge sums annually for the Navy did not succeed in shaking it out of
its boredom.


The most careful analysis of our thoughts about Germany would do little
to explain matters, because, as it happened, by far the greater part of
our thoughts was occupied with other things.  Indeed we thought about
Germany as little as we could help thinking; and although we regretted
her annoyance, {79} our consciences absolved us from any responsibility
for it.

It was entirely different with Germany.  For many years past she had
been more occupied with her grievances against Britain, and with the
complications and dangers which would beset any attempt at redress,
than with any other single subject; or indeed, so it would appear, with
all other subjects put together.

It is important to understand the German point of view, but it is
difficult.  For at once we are faced with the eternal obstacle of the
foreigner, who sets out in search of a simple explanation.  The mind of
the ordinary man, like that of the philosopher, is hypnotised by a
basic assumption of the One-ness of Things.  He wants to trace all
trouble to a single root, as if it were a corn and could be extracted.
But in an enquiry like the present we are confronted at every turn with
the Two-ness of Things, or indeed with the Multiplicity of Things.

We have only to read a few pages of any German book on England to see
that the other party to the dispute is confronted with exactly the same
difficulty.  We are amazed, and perhaps not altogether chagrined, to
discover that, to German eyes, British policy appears to be a thing of
the most rigorous consistency.  It is deliberate, far-sighted, and
ruthless.  It is pursued with constancy from decade to decade--nay from
century to century--never faltering, never retreating, but always going
forward under Whig and Tory, Liberal and Conservative alike, to the
same goal.  And we of course know, if we know anything, that this
picture, though very flattering to our political instinct, is untrue.


If Englishmen know anything at all, they know that the foreign policy
of this country during the last fifty years--under Lord Beaconsfield,
and Mr. Gladstone, Lord Salisbury, and Mr. Asquith--has been at times a
series of the most eccentric wobbles and plunges, like a kite which is
drawn at the wrong angle to the wind.  Nay, even as regards our
participation in this very War--which in the German White Book is
asserted to have been preconceived and undertaken by us with a craft
and coolness worthy of Machiavelli himself--we can see from our own
White Paper that the final decision wavered this way and the other,
from day to day during the critical week, neither the Cabinet nor
public opinion being clear and unanimous as to the course which ought
to be pursued.

Vacillation in national policy usually appears to hostile observers in
the light of perfidy.  And it must be admitted that there is good
excuse for the mistake, seeing that weakness in such high matters is
quite as likely to injure everybody concerned as wickedness itself.

Assuredly no sensible person who was required to make a defence of
British foreign policy, either during the century which has passed
since the battle of Waterloo, or in the much shorter period since the
death of Queen Victoria, would ever dream of doing so on the ground
that its guiding principles have been consistency and singleness of
purpose.  These, indeed, are almost the last virtues he would think of
claiming for it.  And yet these are the very qualities which foreign
nations are inclined to attribute to British statesmen, by way of
praise or blame.  Our failures are apt to be overlooked by outside {81}
observers; our successes on the other hand are plain and memorable.
Other nations assume that because we have happened to achieve some
particular result, we must therefore have deliberately and patiently
set out to achieve it.  Much more often this result has been due either
to pure good luck or else to some happy inspiration of the moment.

A wise apologist for our foreign policy would at once concede that it
has frequently been characterised by feebleness and indecision, and
almost always by a want of clear perception of the end in view; but he
could contend with justice that upon the whole, for upwards of a
century, it has meant well by other nations, and that accusations of
far-sighted duplicity are purely ridiculous.

Our own temptation on the other hand is to visualise a single, gross,
overbearing, and opinionated type of the Teuton species.  We tend to
ignore important differences; and because German public opinion appears
to be unanimous in regard to the present War, we are apt to overlook
the fact that the love and admiration of the Bavarian and the Saxon for
the Prussian are probably some degrees less cordial than those which
the men of Kerry and Connemara entertain for the Belfast Covenanters.
And we incline also to forget, that though opinion in Germany in favour
of war became solid so soon as war was apprehended, and certainly
before it was declared, it is exceedingly unlikely, that even in
governing circles, there was an equal unanimity as to the procedure
which led up to the climax.


If it were really so, the case is unique in history, which shows us at
every other crisis of this sort always the same triangle of forces--a
War party, a Peace {82} party, and a Wait-and-See party; each of them
pulling vigorously in its own direction; each intriguing against, and
caballing with, the other two by turns; until at last the group, still
struggling, falls back on the side of safety or, as in the recent
instance, pitches over the edge of the precipice.

It would be very hard to persuade any student of history that something
of this sort was not occurring both in Vienna and Berlin during the
months of June and July 1914.  While he would admit to more than a
suspicion that intelligences had been passing for a considerably longer
period--for a year at least[2]--between the War parties in these two
capitals, he would be inclined to take the view, that in the last stage
of all, the Berlin group went staggering to perdition, dragging after
it the Vienna group, which by that time was struggling feebly in the
opposite direction.


When we come to consider the German case it is wise to bear in mind the
erroneous judgments which foreigners have passed upon ourselves.  It is
probable that the One-ness of things which we discover in their actions
is to some extent an illusion, like that which they have discovered in
our own.  Indeed it is a fruitless task to hunt for logic and
consistency in things which, in their nature, are neither logical nor
consistent.  For most of us, who have but a limited range of German
books, state papers, journalism, and acquaintances to judge from, it
would be vain and foolish to pretend that in a chapter, or a volume, we
can lay bare the German attitude of {83} mind.  The most we can hope to
do is to illuminate this complex subject at certain points; and these
for the most part are where the edges rub, and where German policy and
temperament have happened to come into conflict with our own.

[1] If we may offer a very homely simile--German policy may be compared
to a rude heavy fellow, who comes shoving his way into a crowded bus,
snorting aggressively, treading on everybody's corns, poking his
umbrella into people's eyes, and finally plumping himself down without
a word of regret or apology, between the two meekest and most
helpless-looking of the passengers.

British diplomacy, on the other hand, bears a close resemblance to a
nuisance, equally well known to the bus public, and no less dreaded.
It reminds us constantly of that dawdling, disobliging female who never
can make up her mind, till the bus has actually started, whether she
wants to go to Shepherd's Bush or the Mansion House.  If she has taken
a seat she insists on stopping the conveyance in order to get out.  If
she has remained gaping on the pavement she hails it in order to get
in.  She cares nothing about the inconvenience caused thereby to other
passengers, who do know whither they want to be conveyed, and desire to
arrive at their destination as quickly as possible.

[2] We have recently learned from Signor Giolitti, ex-Premier of Italy,
that in August 1913 the Foreign Minister, the late Marquis di San
Giuliano, was sounded by Austria-Hungary as to whether he would join in
an attack upon Servia.



CHRISTIAN: Met you with nothing else in that Valley?

FAITHFUL: Yes, I met with _Shame_.  But of all the Men I met with in my
Pilgrimage, he I think bears the wrong name: ... this boldfaced
_Shame_, would never have done.

CHRISTIAN: Why, what did he say to you?

FAITHFUL: What!  Why he objected against Religion itself; he said it
was a pitiful low sneaking business for a Man to mind Religion; he said
that a tender conscience was an unmanly thing, and that for a Man to
watch over his words and ways, so as to tye up himself from that
hectoring liberty that the brave spirits of the times accustom
themselves unto, would make me the Ridicule of the times.

He objected also, that but few of the Mighty, Rich, or Wise, were ever
of my opinion; nor any of them, neither, before they were perswaded to
be Fools, and to be of a voluntary fondness to venture the loss of all,
_for no body else knows what_.

Yea, he did hold me to it at that rate also about a great many more
things than here I relate; as, that it was a _shame_ ... to ask my
neighbour forgiveness for petty faults, or to make restitution where I
had taken from any.  He said also that Religion made a man grow strange
to the great because of a few vices (which he called by finer names)....

_The Pilgrim's Progress_.




All nations dream--some more than others; while some are more ready
than others to follow their dreams into action.  Nor does the
prevalence, or even the intensity, of these national dreams seem to
bear any fixed relation to the strength of will which seeks to turn
them into achievement.

After 1789 there was a great deal of dreaming among the nations of
Europe.  At the beginning of it all was revolutionary France, who
dreamed of offering freedom to all mankind.  A few years later, an
altogether different France was dreaming furiously of glory for her own
arms.  In the end it was still France who dreamed; and this time she
sought to impose the blessings of peace, order, and uniformity upon the
whole world.  Her first dream was realised in part, the second wholly;
but the third ended in ruin.

Following upon this momentous failure came a short period when the
exhausted nations slept much too soundly to dream dreams.  During this
epoch Europe was parcelled out artificially, like a patch-work quilt,
by practical and unimaginative diplomatists, anxious certainly to take
securities for a lasting {88} peace, but still more anxious to bolster
up the ancient dynasties.

Against their arbitrary expedients there was soon a strong reaction,
and dreaming began once more among the nations, as they turned in their
sleep, and tried to stretch their hampered limbs.  At the beginning
their dreaming was of a mild and somewhat futile type.  It called
itself 'liberalism'--a name coined upon the continent of Europe.  It
aimed by methods of peaceful persuasion, at reaching the double goal of
nationality as the ideal unit of the state, and popular representation
as the ideal system of government.  Then the seams of the patchwork,
which had been put together with so much labour at Vienna[1] and
Aix-la-Chapelle,[2] began to gape.  Greece struggled with some success
to free herself from the Turk,[3] and Belgium broke away from
Holland,[4] as at a much later date Norway severed her union with
Sweden.[5]  In 1848 there were revolutions all over Europe, the objects
of which were the setting up of parliamentary systems.  In all
directions it seemed as if the dynastic stitches were coming undone.
Italy dreamed of union and finally achieved it,[6] expelling the
Austrian encroachers--though not by peaceful persuasion--and
disordering still further the neatly sewn handiwork of Talleyrand,
Metternich, and Castlereagh.  Finally, the Balkans began to dream of
Slav destinies, unrealisable either under the auspices of the Sublime
Porte or in tutelage to the Habsburgs.[7]


But of all the nations which have dreamed since days long before
Napoleon, none has dreamed more {89} nobly or more persistently than
Germany.  For the first half of the nineteenth century it seemed as if
the Germans were satisfied to behold a vision without attempting to
turn it into a reality.  Their aspirations issued in no effective
action.  They dreamed of union between their many kingdoms,
principalities, and duchies, and of building up a firm empire against
which all enemies would beat in vain; but until 1864 they had gone but
a few steps towards the achievement of this end.

Then within a period of seven years, Prussia, the most powerful of the
German states, planned, provoked, and carried to a successful issue
three wars of aggression.  By a series of swift strokes, the genius of
Bismarck snatched Schleswig-Holstein from the Danes, beat down the
pretensions of Austria to the leadership of the Teutonic races, and
wrested the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine from France.  When Denmark
was invaded by Germanic armies in February 1864, the vision of unity
seemed as remote as ever; by January 1871 it was fully achieved.  When
at Versailles, in the Hall of Mirrors, in the stately palace of the
Bourbons, King William accepted from the hands of his peers--the
sovereign rulers of Germany--an imperial crown, the dream of centuries
was fulfilled.

Austria, indeed, stood aloof; but both by reason of her geographical
situation and the heterogeneous ancestry of her people that was a
matter only of small account.  Union was, for all practical purposes
complete.  And what made the achievement all the more marvellous was
the fact, that the vision had been realised by methods which had no
place in the gentle speculations of those, who had cherished the {90}
hope of unity with the most fervent loyalty.  It had been accomplished
by the Prussians, who of all races between the Alps and the Baltic,
between the mountain barriers of Burgundy and the Polish Marshes, are
the least German in blood,[8] and who of all Germans dream the least.
It had been carried through, not by peaceful persuasion, nor on any
principles of Liberalism, nor in any of the ways foreseen by the
philosophers and poets who had beheld visions of the millennium.  Union
was the triumph of craft and calculation, courage and resolve, 'blood
and iron.'

The world in general, whose thoughts at this time were much more
congenially occupied with International Exhibitions, and Peace
Societies, and the ideals of Manchester statesmanship, was inclined to
regard the whole of this series of events as an anachronism--as the
belated offspring of 'militarism' and 'feudalism.'  These were well
known to be both in their dotage; they could not possibly survive for
many years.  What had happened, therefore, did not startle mankind
simply because the nature of it was not understood.  The spirit of the
age, wholly possessed, as it was, by an opposite set of ideas, was
unable to comprehend, to believe in, or even to consider with patience,
phenomena which, according to prevailing theories, had no reasonable
basis of existence.

In some quarters, indeed, efforts were made to gloss over the
proceedings of Prince Bismarck, and to fit them into the fashionable
theory of a universe, flowing with the milk of human kindness and the
{91} honey of material prosperity.  It was urged that the Germans were
a people, pure in their morals, industrious in their habits, the
pioneers of higher education and domestic economy.  For the most part,
British and American public opinion was inclined to regard these
various occurrences and conquests as a mediaeval masquerade, in rather
doubtful taste, but of no particular significance and involving no
serious consequences.  Even in that enlightened age, however, there
were still a few superstitious persons who saw ghosts.  To their eyes
the shade of Richard Cobden seemed in some danger of being eclipsed in
the near future by that of Niccolo Machiavelli; though the former had
died in great honour and prestige only a few years earlier, while the
latter had been dead, discredited, and disavowed for almost as many


After 1870 Germany entered upon a period of peaceful prosperity.
Forges clanged, workshops throbbed, looms hummed, and within twenty
years, the ebb of emigration had entirely ceased.  Indeed, not only was
there work in the Fatherland for all its sons, but for others besides;
so that long before another twenty years had passed away, the tide had
turned and immigrants were pouring in.

At first the larger part of German exports was cheap and nasty, with a
piratical habit of sailing under false colours, and simulating
well-known British and other national trade-marks.  But this was a
brief interlude.  The sagacity, thoroughness, and enterprise of
manufacturers and merchants soon guided their steps past this dangerous
quicksand, and the label _made in Germany_ ceased to be a reproach.


Students and lovers of truth laboured at discovery; and hard upon their
heels followed a crowd of practical inventors--the gleaners,
scavengers, and rag-pickers of science.  Never had the trade of any
country thriven with a more wonderful rapidity.  Though still of
necessity a borrower by very reason of her marvellous expansion,
Germany nevertheless began to make her influence felt in the financial
sphere.  Her own ships carried her products to the ends of the earth,
and fetched home raw materials in exchange.  And not only this, her
merchant fleets began to enter into successful competition for the
carrying trade of the world, even with the Mistress of the Seas herself.


For a score of years after the fall of Paris, Germany found but little
time for dreaming.  Meanwhile, by an astute if somewhat tortuous
policy, and under the impenetrable shield of the finest army in Europe,
Bismarck kept safe the empire which he had founded.  He declined to be
drawn into adventures either at home or abroad, either in the new world
or the old.  He opposed the colonial aspirations of a few visionaries,
who began to make some noise towards the end of his long reign, and
silenced them with some spacious but easy acquisitions in Africa and
the East.  He consolidated the Prussian autocracy, and brought its
servant, the bureaucracy, to the highest pitch of efficiency.  He
played with the political parties in the Reichstag as if they had been
a box of dominoes, combining them into what patterns he pleased.  At
the same time he fostered the national well-being with ceaseless
vigilance, and kept down popular discontent by the boldness and
thoroughness of his social legislation.  But for Bismarck himself {93}
the age of adventure was past.  It was enough that by the labours of an
arduous lifetime, he had made of Germany a puissant state, in which all
her children, even the most restless, could find full scope for their
soaring ambitions.

[1] 1814.

[2] 1818.

[3] 1821-1829.

[4] 1830.

[5] 1905.

[6] 1859-1861.

[7] 1875-1878.

[8] The admixture of Slavonic and Wendish blood in the Prussian stock
is usually calculated by ethnologists at about half and half.




With the dismissal of Bismarck in 1890, Germany entered upon a new
phase.  Then once again her people began to dream, and this time
furiously.  They had conquered in war.  They had won great victories in
peace.  According to their own estimate they were the foremost thinkers
of the world.  They found themselves impelled by a limitless ambition
and a superb self-confidence.  But the vision which now presented
itself to their eyes was disordered and tumultuous.  Indeed it was less
dream than nightmare; and in some degree, no doubt, it owed its origin,
like other nightmares, to a sudden surfeit--to a glut of material

Why did Germany with her larger population still lag behind Britain in
commerce and shipping?  Surely the reason could only be that Britain,
at every turn, sought to cripple the enterprise of her young rival.
Why had Britain a great and thriving colonial empire, while Germany had
only a few tracts of tropical jungle and light soil, not particularly
prosperous or promising?  The reason could only be that, out of
jealousy, Britain had obstructed Teutonic acquisition.  Why was Germany
tending {95} to become more and more isolated and unpopular in Europe?
The reason could only be that the crafty and unscrupulous policy of
Britain had intrigued, with some success, for her political ostracism.


It is useless to argue with a man in a nightmare.  He brushes reason
aside and cares not for facts.  But to seekers after truth it was
obvious, that so far from making any attack upon German commerce,
Britain, by adhering to her system of free trade at home and in her
dependencies, had conferred a boon immeasurable on this new and eager
competitor.  So far from hindering Germany's acquisition of colonies,
Britain had been careless and indifferent in the matter; perhaps too
much so for the security of some of her own possessions.  It was
Bismarck, much more than Britain, who had put obstacles in the way of
German colonial expansion.  With a sigh of relief (as we may imagine)
this great statesman saw the partition of the vacant territories of the
world completed, and his fellow-countrymen thereby estopped from
wasting their substance, and dissipating their energies, in costly and
embarrassing adventures.  So far from holding aloof from Germany or
attempting to isolate her among European nations, we had persisted in
treating her with friendliness, long after she had ceased to be
friendly.  One of our leading statesmen had even gone the length of
suggesting an alliance, and had been denounced immediately by the whole
German press, although it was understood at the time that he had spoken
with the august encouragement of the Kaiser and his Chancellor.[2]  It
was Germany herself, deprived of the guidance of Bismarck, who by
blustering at {96} her various neighbours, and threatening them in
turn, had aroused their suspicions and achieved her own isolation.

The grievances against Britain which figured in the phantasmagoria of
the German nightmare were obviously tinged with envy.  There were other
grievances against France, and these were tinged with annoyance.  For
France, although she had been beaten on to her knees, had nevertheless
had the impudence to make a successful recovery.  There were also
grievances against Russia, and these were tinged with fear.  Her vast
adjacent territories and teeming population, her social and industrial
progress, the reformation of her government, and the rapid recuperation
of her military and naval power, constituted in German eyes the gravest
menace of all.

Self-confidence and ambition were the original stuff--the warp and the
weft--of which the German dream was made; but these admirable and
healthy qualities rapidly underwent a morbid deterioration.  Ambition
degenerated into groundless suspicion, and self-confidence into
arrogance.  It was a considerable time, however, before Germany was
realised to have become a public danger by reason of her mental
affliction.  Until her prophets and high priests began preaching from
the housetops as a divine ordinance, that Germany was now so great,
prosperous, and prolific as to need the lands of her neighbours for her
expansion, her symptoms were not generally recognised.  It was not
really pressure of population, but only the oppression of a nightmare
which had brought her to this restless and excited condition.  In terms
of psychology, the disease from which Germany has been suffering of
late years is {97} known as megalomania, in the slang of the
street-corner as madness of the swollen head.

The dreams of a nation may be guided well or ill by statesmen, or they
may be left altogether unguided.  The dreams of Italy under Cavour, and
those of Germany under Bismarck, were skilfully fostered and directed
with great shrewdness to certain practical ends.  But in considering
the case of Germany under William the Second, our feeling is that
although popular imaginings have been controlled from above with even
greater solicitude than before, the persons who inspired and regulated
them have been lacking in the sense of proportion.  The governing power
would seem to have been the victim of changing moods, conflicting
policies, and disordered purposes.


When we piece together the various schemes for the aggrandisement of
the Fatherland, which German writers have set forth with increasing
boldness and perfect gravity during the past ten years, we are
confronted with an immense mosaic--a conception of the most grandiose
character.  On examination each of these projects is found to be based
upon two fundamental assumptions:--The first, that the present
boundaries of Germany and her possessions overseas are too narrow to
contain the legitimate aspirations of the German race:--The second that
it is the immediate interest of Germany, as well as a duty which she
owes to posterity, to remedy this deficiency, by taking from her
neighbours by force what she requires for her own expansion.  There is
a third assumption, not however of a political so much as an ethical
character, which is stated with {98} equal frankness and
conviction--that war on an extensive scale is necessary, from time to
time, in order to preserve the vigour of the German people and their
noble spirit.

One school of dreamers, with its gaze fixed upon the Atlantic
trade-routes, insists upon the absurdity of resting content with a
western sea-board of some two hundred miles.  The estuaries of the Elbe
and the Weser alone are exclusively German; that of the Ems is shared
with the Dutch; while the far more valuable harbour-mouths of the Rhine
and the Scheldt are in the possession of Holland and Belgium.  Put into
plain language what this means is, that both Holland and Belgium must
be incorporated in the German Empire; if by treaty, so much the better
for all parties concerned; but if diplomacy should fail to accomplish
the desired absorption, then it must be brought about by war.  Nor has
it been overlooked, that in order to complete the rectification, and to
secure the keys of the Baltic, it would be necessary to 'admit' Denmark
also into the privileges of the Germanic Empire.

Another school looks to the south-east and broods upon the day, not far
distant, when the Germans of Austria-Hungary--a small but dominating
minority of the whole population--will be driven, by reasons of
self-defence, to seek a federal inclusion in the Empire of the
Hohenzollerns.  And it is surmised that for somewhat similar reasons
the Magyars of Hungary will at the same time elect to throw in their
lot with Teutons rather than with Slavs.

When that day arrives, however, it is not merely the German and Magyar
territories of the Habsburg Emperor-King which will need to be
incorporated {99} in the Hohenzollern Empire, but the whole congeries
of nations which at present submits, more or less reluctantly, to the
rule of Vienna and Buda-Pest.  There must be no break-up of the empire
of Francis Joseph, no sentimental sacrifice to the mumbo-jumbos of
nationality.  The Italians of Trieste and Fiume, the Bohemians, the
Croats, the Serbs, the Roumanians of Transylvania, and the Poles of
Galicia must all be kept together in one state, even more firmly than
they are to-day.  The Germans of Austria will not be cordially
welcomed, unless they bring this dowry with them to the altar of
imperial union.


But to clear eyes, looking into the future, more even than this appears
to be necessary.  Austria will be required to bring with her, not
merely all her present possessions, but also her reversionary
prospects, contingent remainders, and all and sundry her rights of
action throughout the whole Balkan peninsula, which sooner or later
must either accept the hegemony of the German Empire or submit to
annexation at the sword's point.  Advantageous as it would be for the
Fatherland to obtain great harbours for her commerce at the head of the
Adriatic, these acquisitions might easily become valueless in practice
if some rival barred the right of entry through the Straits of Otranto.
Salonica again, in her snug and sheltered corner of the Aegean, is
essential as the natural entrepôt for the trade of Asia Minor and the
East; while there can be no hope, until the mouths of the Danube, as
well as the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, are firmly held, of turning
the Black Sea into a Germanic lake.

The absorption of the Balkan peninsula, involving {100} as it must the
occupation of Constantinople and European Turkey, would carry with it,
as a natural consequence, the custody of the Sultan and the control of
his Asiatic dominions.  These vast territories which extend from Smyrna
to the Caucasus, from Syria to the Persian Gulf, from the Black Sea to
the Gulf of Aden, contain some of the richest and most fertile tracts
upon the surface of the globe.  Massacre, misrule, and oppression have
indeed converted the greater part of these regions into a state hardly
to be distinguished from the barest deserts of Arabia.  But a culture
which has lapsed through long neglect may be reclaimed by new
enterprise.  All that is required to this end is such shelter and
encouragement as a stable government would afford.

What more suitable instrument for this beneficent recovery than the
peculiar genius of the Teuton race?  Would not the whole world gain by
the substitution of settled order for a murderous anarchy, of tilth and
industry for a barren desolation?  The waters of Tigris and Euphrates
are still sweet.  It needs but the energy and art of man to lead them
in channelled courses, quenching the longings of a thirsty land, and
filling the Mesopotamian waste with the music of a myriad streams.  The
doom of Babylon is no curse eternal.  It awaits but the sword of
Siegfried to end the slumbers of two thousand years.  Where great
cities and an ancient civilisation lie buried under drifted sand, great
cities may be raised once more, the habitations of a hardier race, the
seminaries of a nobler civilisation.

This vision, more fanciful and poetically inspired than the rest, has
already advanced some considerable {101} way beyond the frontiers of
dreamland.  When the Turko-Russian War came to an end[3] the influence
of Germany at Constantinople was as nearly as possible nil; and so long
as Bismarck remained in power, no very serious efforts were made to
increase it.  But from the date of Bismarck's dismissal[4] down to the
present day, it has been the steady aim of German policy to control the
destinies of the Turkish Empire.  These attempts have been persistent,
and in the main successful.


It mattered not what dubious personage or party might happen to be in
the ascendant at Stamboul, the friendship of Germany was always
forthcoming.  It was extended with an equal cordiality to Abdul Hamid;
to the Young Turks when they overthrew Abdul Hamid; to the
Reactionaries when they overthrew the Young Turks; to the Young Turks
again when they compounded matters with the Reactionaries.  The
largesse of Berlin bankers refreshed the empty treasuries of each
despot and camarilla in turn, so soon as proofs could be produced of
positive, or even of presumptive predominance.  At the same time the
makers of armaments, at Essen and elsewhere, looked to it, that a
sufficient portion of these generous loans was paid in kind, and that
the national gain was not confined to high policy and high finance.
The reform of the Turkish army was taken in hand zealously by Prussian
soldiers.  Imperial courtesies cemented the bricks which usury,
commerce, and diplomacy had laid so well.  At a time when the late
Sultan was ill-regarded by the whole of Europe, on account of his
supposed complicity in Armenian massacres, the {102} magnanimity of the
Kaiser took pity on the pariah, and a visit of honour to the Bosphorus
formed an incident in the Hohenzollern pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre.

The harvest of these endeavours was reaped at a later date in the form
of vast concessions for lines of railway running through Asia Minor to
the Persian Gulf.  It is needless to enter here into a discussion of
the famous and still unsettled controversy regarding the Baghdad route,
except to say that this project for the benefit, not merely of Turkey,
but of the whole human race, was to be realised under German direction
and according to German plans and specifications; it was to be
administered under German control; but it was to be paid for in the
main out of the savings of England and France.

The scheme was no less bold than ingenious.  Obligations were imposed
upon Turkey which it was clearly impossible for Turkey to discharge.
In the event of her failure it was likely to go hard with the original
shareholders, and somewhat hard with the Sublime Porte itself; but on
the other hand it was not likely to go hard with Germany, or to involve
her in anything more irksome than a labour of love--a protectorate over
Asia Minor and Arabia.[5]

These are the main dreams which German writers, with a genuine
enthusiasm and an engaging frankness, have set out in the pages of
books and periodicals--the North Sea dream, the Austrian dream, the
Balkan dream, and the Levantine dream.  But these dreams by no means
exhaust the Teuton fancy.

Wars are contemplated calmly as inevitable {103} incidents in the
acquisition of world-power--war with France, war with England, war
either of army corps or diplomacy with Belgium, Holland, and Denmark.
And as victory is also contemplated, just as confidently, various
bye-products of considerable value are likely to be secured during the
process, and as a result.


The greater part of north-western Africa, which lies along the
seaboards of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, is under the French
flag.  The greater part of eastern Africa from Alexandria to Capetown
is in the hands of the British.  The central region of Africa is
Belgian.  In the north there is Tripoli which is now Italian; and in
various quarters patches and scattered islands which are Portuguese.
The former might be tolerated as a harmless enclave; the latter might
readily be acquired by compulsory purchase.  What would then remain of
the Dark Continent is already German.  So that, as the results of the
wars and victories which are considered by German thinkers to be
inevitable, the whole of Africa would shortly pass into German hands.

With the destinies of Africa in the keeping of a virile race,
accustomed to face great problems in no piecemeal fashion, but as a
whole, vast transformations must ensue.  Before their indomitable will
and scientific thoroughness, the dusky savage will lay aside his
ferocity, and toil joyously at the arts of peace.  Under an
indefatigable and intelligent administration, desert, jungle, forest,
and swamp will yield their appropriate harvests.  Timber, oil, cotton,
rubber, tea, coffee, and every variety of raw material will gradually
become available in limitless supplies.  Jewels and precious metals
will {104} be dug out of the bowels of the earth.  Flocks and herds
will roam in safety over the rich uplands--no robber bands to drive
them off; no wild beasts to tear them limb from limb; no murrain or
envenomed fly to strike them down by tens of thousands.  For as the
armies of the Kaiser are invincible against all human foes, so also are
his men of science invincible, in their ceaseless war against disease
of man and beast.  In the end they also will conquer in their own
sphere, no less certainly than the soldier in his; for their courage is
as high and their devotion faces death, or worse than death, with

The Dark Continent, which in all its history has never known either
peace or order, will then at last know both.  Even the stiff-necked
Africander, jealous of his antique shibboleths of freedom, will not
refuse incorporation in an Empire to which the land of his forefathers
will already have become bound in federal ties.  And the dowry which
Holland is expected to bring with her, will be not only the good will
of the South African Dutch, but the rich islands of the East, where
merchant-adventurers planted her flag, in days when the fleets of
Rotterdam disputed, not unsuccessfully, with London herself the primacy
of the seas.


Finally, there is the dream of the farthest East.  This is of such
simple grandeur that it may be stated in a few sentences.  When the war
between China and Japan came to an end in 1895 Germany, acting in
concert with France and Russia, forced the victorious troops of the
Mikado to forgo all the fruits of their conquest.  When three years
later Germany herself seized upon the reversion of Kiao-Chau, she {105}
saw a vision of an empire, greater than that which had been secured to
her envied rival by the daring of Clive and the forethought of Warren
Hastings.  If England could hold and rule India, a mightier than
England could surely hold and rule China, containing though it does a
full quarter of the human race.

[1] "L'Allemand est né bête; la civilisation l'a, rendu

[2] Mr. Chamberlain at Leicester on November 30, 1899.

[3] March 1878.  Treaty of Berlin, July 1878.

[4] 1890.

[5] Cf. _The Anglo-German Problem_, by C. Sarolea, p. 247, and




The German project of empire is a gorgeous fabric.  The weft of it is
thread of gold, but the warp of it has been dipped in the centaur's
blood.  It is the pride of its possessor; but it is likely to be his
undoing.  It ravishes his fancy with the symmetry and vastness of the
pattern; yet these very two qualities, which so much excite his
admiration, have shown themselves in the past singularly unpropitious
to high imperial adventures.

No man of action worthy of the name will ever take history for his
guide.  He would rightly refuse to do so, even were it possible, which
it is not, to write history truthfully.  But with all their
deficiencies, history books have certain sibylline qualities which make
them worth consulting upon occasions; and as to symmetry and vastness
this oracle, if consulted, would speak clearly enough.  Of all false
enticements which have lured great princes to their ruin, these two
have the biggest tale of victims to their score.


The British Empire, like the Roman, built itself slowly.  It was the
way of both nations to deal with needs as needs occurred, and not
before.  Neither of them charted out their projects in advance, {107}
thereafter working to them, like Lenôtre, when he laid out the gardens
of Versailles.  On the contrary, a strip was added here, a kingdom
there, as time went on, but not in accordance with any plan or system.
In certain cases, no doubt, the reason for annexation was a simple
desire for possession.  But much more often the motive was apprehension
of one kind or another.  Empire-builders have usually achieved empire
as an accident attending their search after security--security against
the ambition of a neighbour, against lawless hordes which threaten the
frontier, against the fires of revolution and disorder spreading from
adjacent territories.  Britain, like Rome before her, built up her
empire piecemeal; for the most part reluctantly; always reckoning up
and dreading the cost, labour, and burden of it; hating the
responsibility of expansion, and shouldering it only when there seemed
to be no other course open to her in honour or safety.  Symmetry did
not appeal to either of these nations any more than vastness.  Their
realms spread out and extended, as chance and circumstances willed they
should, like pools of water in the fields when floods are out.

We cannot but distrust the soundness of recent German policy, with its
grandiose visions of universal empire, if we consider it in the light
of other things which happened when the world was somewhat younger,
though possibly no less wise.  The great imaginative conquerors, though
the fame of their deeds still rings down the ages, do not make so brave
a show, when we begin to examine into the permanency of their
achievements.  The imperial projects of Alexander, of the Habsburgs,
the Grand Monarque, and Napoleon--each of whom drew out {108} a vast
pattern and worked to it--are not among those things which can be said
with any justice to have endured.  None of them were ever fully
achieved; while some were broken in pieces, even during the lifetimes
of their architects.

To treat the whole world as if it were a huge garden, for which one
small race of men, who have worked busily in a single corner of it, can
aspire to make and carry out an all-comprehending plan, is in reality a
proof of littleness and not largeness of mind.  Such vaulting ambitions
are the symptoms of a dangerous disease, to be noted and distrusted.
And none ever noted these tendencies more carefully or distrusted them
more heartily than the two greatest statesmen whom Prussia has
produced.  Frederick the Great rode his own Pegasus-vision on curb and
martingale.  The Great Bismarck reined back the Pegasus-vision of his
fellow-countrymen on to its haunches with an even sterner hand.  "One
cannot," so he wrote in later years--"one cannot see the cards of
Providence so closely as to anticipate historical development according
to one's own calculation."


Those very qualities of vastness and symmetry which appear to have such
fatal attraction for the pedantocracy repel the practical statesman;
and woe to the nation which follows after the former class rather than
the latter, when the ways of the two part company!  To the foreign
observer it seems as if Germany, for a good many years past, has been
making this mistake.  Perhaps it is her destiny so to do.  Possibly the
reigns of Frederick and Bismarck were only interludes.  For Germany
followed the pedantocracy during a century or more, {109} while it
preached political inaction and contentment with a shorn and parcelled
Fatherland.  She was following it still, when Bismarck turned
constitutionalism out of doors and went his own stern way to union.
And now once again she seems to be marching in a fatal procession after
the same Pied Pipers, who this time are engaged, with a surpassing
eloquence and fervour, in preaching discontent with the narrow limits
of a united empire, and in exhorting their fellow-countrymen to proceed
to the Mastery of the World.

Among an imaginative race like the Germans, those who wield the weapons
of rhetoric and fancy are only too likely to get the better of those
surer guides, who know from hard experience that the world is a diverse
and incalculable place, where no man, and no acre of land, are
precisely the same as their next-door neighbours, where history never
repeats itself, and refuses always--out of malice or disdain--to travel
along the way which ingenious Titans have charted for it.  But it is
not every generation which succeeds in producing a Frederick the Great
or a Bismarck, to tame the dreamers and use them as beasts of draught
and burden.

The complete mosaic of the German vision is an empire incomparably
greater in extent, in riches, and in population, than any which has yet
existed since the world first began to keep its records.  Visionaries
are always in a hurry.  This stupendous rearrangement of the Earth's
surface is confidently anticipated to occur within the first half of
the present century.  It is to be accomplished by a race distinguished
for its courage, industry, and devotion,--let us admit so much without
grudging.  {110} But in numbers--even if we count the Teutons of the
Habsburg Empire along with those of the Hohenzollern--it amounts upon
the highest computation to less than eighty millions.  This is the
grain of mustard-seed which is confidently believed to have in it 'the
property to get up and spread,' until within little more than a
generation, it will dominate and control more than seven hundred
millions of human souls.

Nor to German eyes, which dwell lovingly, and apparently without
misgiving, upon this appalling prospect of symmetry and vastness, are
these the sum total of its attractions.  The achievement of their
vision would bring peace to mankind.  For there would then be but two
empires remaining, which need give the overlords of the world the
smallest concern.  Of these Russia, in their opinion, needs a century
at least in which to emerge out of primitive barbarism and become a
serious danger; while in less than a century, the United States must
inevitably crumble to nonentity, through the worship of false gods and
the corruption of a decadent democracy.  Neither of these two empires
could ever hope to challenge the German Mastery of the World.

In South America as in North, there is already a German garrison,
possessing great wealth and influence.  And in the South, at any rate,
it may well become, very speedily, an imperative obligation on the
Fatherland to secure, for its exiled children, more settled conditions
under which to extend the advantages of German commerce and Kultur.
President Monroe has already been dead a hundred years or more.
According to the calculations of the pedantocracy, his famous doctrine
will need some stronger {111} backing than the moral disapprobation of
a hundred millions of materially-minded and unwarlike people, in order
to withstand the pressure of German diplomacy, if it should summon
war-ships and transports to its aid.


So in the end we arrive at an exceedingly strange conclusion.  For that
very thing, which the philanthropists have all these years been vainly
endeavouring to bring about by means of congresses of good men, and
resolutions which breathe a unanimity of noble aspirations, may be
achieved in a single lifetime by a series of bold strokes with the
German sword.  Then at last Universal Peace will have been secured.

At this point the Prussian professor and the pacifist apostle, who
turned their backs upon one another so angrily at the beginning, and
started off, as it seemed, in opposite directions, are confronting one
another unexpectedly at the other side of the circle of human
endeavour.  They ought surely to shake hands; for each, if he be
honest, will have to own himself the convert of the other.  "You admit
then after all," cries the triumphant Pacifist, "that Peace is the real
end of human endeavour!"  "Whether or no," grunts the other in reply,
"this at any rate was the only road to it."

One wonders--will the Pacifist be content?  He has reached his goal
sure enough; though by means which he has been accustomed to denounce
as the end of all true morality?  Will the Professor, on the other
hand, be well pleased when he discovers that by the very triumph of his
doctrines he has made war for ever impossible,--manliness, therefore,
and all true virtue likewise impossible,--thereby damning {112} the
souls of posterity to the end of time?  "To put questions in this
quarter with a hammer, and to hear perchance that well-known hollow
sound which tells of blown-out frogs"[1]--this is a joy, no doubt; and
it is all we are ever likely to arrive at by the cross-examination of

[1] Nietzsche, _The Twilight of Idols_.




The dream of German expansion, as year by year it took firmer hold upon
the popular imagination, produced, as might have been expected, a
desire that it might be realised.  From the stage of vague and ardent
longing it was but a short way to the next, where a determined will
began to put forth efforts towards achievement.  But as mankind in the
mass, whether in Germany or England, is still to some extent hampered
by human nature, by a number of habits, traditions, and instincts, and
by various notions of good and evil, justice and injustice--which the
subtlest philosophers and most eloquent rhetoricians have not yet
succeeded in eradicating--a need was felt for what the text-books in
their solemn nomenclature call _an ethical basis_.  In plain words, the
German people wanted to have right on their side--if possible,
old-fashioned, Sunday-school, copy-book Right.  Failing that, even such
a plea as the wolf maintained against the lamb would be a great deal
better than nothing.

This tendency in a nation to look about for justification and a
righteous plea, when it is preparing to possess itself of property
belonging to its neighbours, is for the most part a subconscious
process, not only {114} among the common people, but also among the
leaders themselves.  It resembles the instinct among hens which
produces in them an appetite for lime when the season has come to begin
laying.  It was through some natural impulse of this sort, and not
through mere cynicism, hypocrisy, or cool calculation, that German
publicists discovered all the grievances which have been already
touched upon.  For even if the possession of these grievances did not
altogether give the would-be aggressors right up to the point of
righteousness, it certainly put their neighbours in the wrong, and
branded the French dove and the British lamb with turpitude in the eyes
of the German people.  The grievances against France were, that
although she had been vanquished in 1870, although her population had
actually decreased since that date, and although therefore she had
neither the right to nor any need for expansion, she had nevertheless
expanded in Africa as well as in the East, to a far greater extent than
Germany herself, the victorious power, whose own population had
meanwhile been increasing by leaps and bounds.


The grievances against Britain were that she was supposed to have made
war upon German trade, to have prevented her young rival from acquiring
colonies, and to have intrigued to surround the Teuton peoples with a
ring of foes.  Britain had helped France to occupy and hold her new
territories.  Britain had been mainly responsible for the diplomatic
defeat of Germany at Algeciras in 1905 and again over Agadir in 1911.
Moreover when Germany, during the South African war, had attempted, in
the interests of international morality, to combine the nations against
us, we had foiled her high-minded {115} and unselfish endeavours.  When
at an earlier date she had sought, by the seizure of Kiao-Chau and by a
vigorous concentration, to oust British influence and trade from their
position of predominance in China, we had countered her efforts by the
occupation of Wei-hai-wei and the Japanese alliance.

As regards command of the sea we had likewise frustrated German
ambitions.  After a certain amount of vacillation, and a somewhat
piteous plea for a general diminution of armaments--backed up by an
arrest of our own, which Germany interpreted, perhaps not unnaturally,
as a throwing up of the sponge and beginning of the end of our naval
supremacy--we had actually had the treachery (for it was nothing less)
to upset all her calculations, and turn all her efforts and
acceleration to foolishness, by resuming the race for sea-power with
redoubled energy.  And although to our own eyes, and even possibly to
the eyes of impartial observers, none of these doings of ours--in so
far as they were truly alleged--could be rightly held to constitute any
real grievance, that consideration was irrelevant.  For when a man is
in search of a grievance he will find it, if he be earnest enough, in
the mere fact that his intended adversary stammers, or has a wart upon
his nose.

German statesmen were happy in having established these grievances to
their own satisfaction; but something more was necessary in order that
their morality might rest upon a sure foundation.  German policy must
be absolutely right, and not merely relatively right by contrast with
those neighbours whose power she sought to overthrow, and whose
territories she wished to annex.  And although this {116} effort to
establish German policy on the principle of Right involved a recasting
of Christian morality, it was not shirked on that account.  On the
contrary it was undertaken in a most energetic spirit.

The first great influence in this readjustment of popular conceptions
of right and wrong was the historian Heinrich von Treitschke.[1]  He
boldly differentiated the moral obligations of the private individual
from those of a government charged with the destinies of a nation.[2]
The duties of a man to his family, neighbours, and society Treitschke
left undisturbed.  In this sphere of human life the teaching of the
Sermon on the Mount not only remained unchallenged, but was upheld and
reinforced.  Statecraft, however, fell under a different category.


The true principle of private conduct was Love for one's Neighbour, but
the true principle of the state was Power.  The duty of a virtuous
ruler was to seek power, more power, and always more power, on behalf
of the nation he was called upon to govern.  The internal power of the
state over the action of its own subjects was absolute, and it was a
duty owed by each generation of rulers to posterity, to see to it that
in their own time, the external power of the {117} state was increased
at the expense of its neighbours.[3]  To secure this end wars were
inevitable; and despite the sufferings which wars entailed, they were
far from regrettable, for the reason that they preserved the vigour,
unity, and devotion of the race, while stimulating the virtues of
courage and self-sacrifice among private citizens.[4]

Nations, he maintained, cannot safely stand still.  They must either
increase their power or lose it, expand their territories or be
prepared to see them shorn away.  No growth of spiritual force or
material well-being within the state will preserve it, if it fails to
extend its authority and power among its neighbours.  Feelings of
friendliness, chivalry, and pity are absurd as between nations.  To
speak even of justice in such a connection is absurd.  Need and Might
together constitute Right.  Nor ought the world to regret the eating-up
of weak nations by the strong, of small nations by the great,
because--a somewhat bold conclusion--great and powerful nations alone
are capable of producing what the world requires in thought, art,
action, and virtue.  For how can these things flourish nobly in a
timid, cowering state, which finds itself driven by force of
circumstances to make-believes and fictions, to {118} the meanest
supplications and to devices of low cunning, in order to preserve an
independence which, as it can only exist on sufferance, is nothing
better than a sham?[5]

As the Hohenzollerns, the noblest and most capable of modern dynasties,
had never been content merely to reign, but had always maintained their
'divine right' of ruling and dominating the Prussian Kingdom--as
Prussia itself, the most manly and energetic of modern nations, had not
been content merely to serve as the figurehead of a loose
confederation, but had insisted upon becoming supreme master and
imposing its own system, policy, and ideals upon all Germany--so was it
the duty and destiny of united Germany, under these happy auspices,
having been taught and seasoned by long centuries of stern and painful
apprenticeship, to issue forth in the meridian vigour of her age and
seize upon the Mastery of the World.


If Treitschke, the eloquent historian, succeeded to his own
satisfaction and that of a very large proportion of German statesmen,
soldiers, intellectuals, and publicists in taking high policy
altogether out of the jurisdiction of Christian morals, Friedrich
Wilhelm Nietzsche,[6] the even more eloquent and infinitely more subtle
poet-philosopher, made a cleaner and {119} bolder cut, and got rid of
Christian morality even in the sphere of private conduct.

Nietzsche was but little interested or concerned in the practical
problems of statecraft which engrossed the patriotic mind of
Treitschke.  The destinies of the German nation were for him a small
matter in comparison with those of the human race.  But nevertheless
his vigorously expressed contempt for the English, their ways of life
and thought, the meanness of their practical aims, and the degradation
of their philosophic ideals,[7] was comforting to his
fellow-countrymen, who were relieved to find that the nation whom they
desired to despoil was so despicable and corrupt.  This train of
argument was deceptive and somewhat dangerous; for it led his German
readers to overlook the fact, that the broad front of his attack aimed
at enveloping and crushing the cherished traditions of the Teuton race
no less than those of the Anglo-Saxon.[8]


Nietzsche's derision and dislike of the Prussian spirit, of militarism,
and of what he conceived to be the spurious principle of nationality,
his vague, disinterested cosmopolitanism or Europeanism, are as the
poles apart from the aims and ideas of Treitschke and the German
patriots.[9]  Nietzsche is not concerned to evolve a sovereign and
omnipotent state, but a high overmastering type of man, who shall
inherit the earth and dominate--not for their good, but for his
own--the millions who inhabit it.  His ideal is a glorious aristocracy
of intellect, beauty, courage, self-control, felicity, and power,
scornfully smiling, exuberantly vital.  The evolution, ever higher and
higher, of this fine oligarchy of super-men is the one absolute end of
human endeavour.  The super-men will use and direct the force and
instincts of 'the herd'--even the capacities of kings, soldiers,
law-givers, {121} and administrators--to make the world a fit place for
their own development.  The millions of slaves are to be considered
merely as a means to this end.  Concern about them for their own sakes,
above all pity for their sufferings, or regard on the part of the
super-men for their resentment--except to guard against it--is a
mistake.  The serenity of the superman must not allow itself to be
disturbed and distracted by any such considerations.  It is for him to
take what he needs or desires, to impose order on the world, so that it
may be a fit environment for the evolution of his own caste, and, so
far as he can compass it, to live like the gods.[10]


It is clear that although Nietzsche chaunts a pæan in admiration of
"the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and
victory,"[11] and although he is constantly found, as it were, humming
this refrain, he had no intention of taking the Prussian as his ideal
type--still less of personifying Prussia itself as a super-state
engaged in a contest for supremacy with a herd of inferior nations.  He
does not trouble himself in the least about nations, but only about
individual men.  Yet, like others who have had the gift of memorable
speech, he might {122} well marvel, were he still alive, at the
purposes to which his words have been turned by orators and
journalists, desirous to grind an edge on their own blunt axes.

General von Bernhardi[12] may be taken as a type of the sincere but
unoriginal writer who turns all texts to the support of his own sermon.
He is an honest, literal fellow.  In spite of all his ecstatic flights
of rhetoric he is never at all in the clouds--never any farther from
the earth's surface than hopping distance.  Notwithstanding, he quietly
appropriates any Nietzschean aphorisms the sound and shape of which
appear to suit his purpose, and uses them to drive home his very simple
and concrete proposition that it is the duty of Germany to conquer the

One imagines from his writings that Bernhardi has no quarrel with
Christianity, no wish whatsoever to overturn our accepted notions of
morality.  He is merely a soldier with a fixed idea, and he is very
much in earnest.  His literary methods remind one somewhat of the
starlings in spring-time, perched on the backs of sheep and cattle,
picking off the loose hairs to line their nests.  This is the highly
practical and soldierly use to which he puts philosophers, poets, and
men of letters generally--laying them under contribution to garnish his


It is probably true that the average soldier who fought on the German
side at Ypres and elsewhere {123} was hardly more conversant with the
writings of Treitschke, Nietzsche, and Bernhardi than the average
British soldier opposed to him was with those of Herbert Spencer, Mr.
Bernard Shaw, and Mr. Norman Angell.  It is very unlikely, however,
that the battle of Ypres would ever have been fought had it not been
for the ideas which sprang from these and similar sources.  The
influence of the written and spoken word upon German policy and action
is glaringly manifest.[13]  It inspired and supported the high
bureaucrats at Berlin, and had equally to do, if indirectly, with the
marching of the humblest raw recruits shoulder to shoulder to be shot
down on the Menin Road.  For by a process of percolation through the
press and popular literature, the doctrines of these teachers--diluted
somewhat, it is true, and a good deal disguised and perverted--had
reached a very wide audience.  Though the names of these authors were
for the most part unknown, though their opinions had never been either
understood or accepted by the common people, the effects of their
teaching had made themselves felt in every home in Germany.

The German private soldier would not have been shot down unless these
eloquent sermons had been preached.  None the less, he had never
grasped or understood, far less had he adhered to and professed, the
cardinal doctrines which they contained.  He still believed in the
old-fashioned morality, and thought that states as well as individual
men were bound to act justly.  It was this faith which gave {124} him
his strength, and made him die gladly.  For he believed that Germany
had acted justly, the Allies unjustly, that it was his task, along with
other good men and true, to win victory for his Emperor and safety for
his Fatherland, and to crush the treacherous and malignant aggressors.

In spite of all this preliminary discoursing which had been going on
for many years past, like artillery preparation before an infantry
attack--about world-power, will-to-power, and all the rest of
it--nothing is more remarkable than the contrast presented, immediately
after war broke out, between the blatancy of those writers who had
caused the war and the bleating of those (in many cases the same) who
sought to justify Germany's part in it to their countrymen and the

On the enlightened principles of Treitschke and Bernhardi, Britain
would have acted not only wisely, but in the strictest accordance with
her duty to her own state, had she indeed contrived and compassed this
war, believing circumstances to be favourable for herself and
unfavourable for Germany.  Not another shred of right or reason was
required.[14]  But when war actually burst out, all these new-fangled
doctrines went by the board.  Though the ink was hardly dry upon
Bernhardi's latest exhortation--of which several hundred thousand
copies had been sold, and in which he urged his fellow-countrymen to
watch their time and make war when it suited them, without remorse and
no matter on what {125} plea--in spite of this fact, there was a
singular lack of Stoicism among 'the brethren' when war was declared
against Russia and France.  When Britain joined in, and when things
began to go less well than had been expected, Stoicism entirely
disappeared.  Indeed there is something highly ludicrous, at the same
time painful--like all spectacles of human abasement--in the chorus of
whines and shrill execration, which at once went up to heaven from that
very pedantocracy whose leaders, so short a time before, had been
preaching that, as between the nations of the earth, Might is Right,
and Craft is the trusty servant of Might.[15]


These scolding fakirs were of an infinite credulity, inasmuch as they
believed that Sir Edward Grey was the reincarnation of Machiavelli.
Yet on their own principles, what was there in this discovery to be in
the least shocked at?  British statesmen (it is hardly necessary to
repeat it) had not walked in the footsteps of the Florentine; had not
provoked the war; had not wished for it; had tried with all their might
to prevent it; but if they had done the very reverse, would they not
merely have been {126} taking a leaf out of the sacred book of the
pedantocracy--out of Bernhardi's book, out of Nietzsche's book, out of
Treitschke's book?  Why, then, all these unpleasant howlings and

The answers are not hard to find.  The careful plans and theories of
the German bureaucrats had been turned topsy-turvy because England had
joined in the war when, according to the calculations of the augurs,
she should have remained neutral.  That mistake must have been
sufficiently annoying in itself to disturb the equanimity even of
professional philosophers.  And further, in spite of all the ingenious,
eloquent, and sophistical exhortations of the prophets, the old
morality still kept its hold upon the hearts of men.  When trouble
arose they turned to it instinctively--priesthood as well as
people--and the later gospel fell flat like a house of cards.
Immediately war came there was an appeal to old-fashioned justice, and
the altars of the little, new-fangled, will-to-power gods were deserted
by their worshippers.

When statesmen are laying out policies, and moralists are setting up
systems, it is worth their while to make certain that they are not, in
fact, engaged upon an attempt to make water flow uphill; above all,
that their ingenious new aqueducts will actually hold water, which in
this instance they certainly did not.

[1] Heinrich von Treitschke, son of a Saxon general of
Bohemian-Slavonic origin; born at Dresden 1834.  Deafness following
upon a fever in childhood prevented him from adopting the profession of
arms; 1858-1863 lectured on history at Leipzig; 1863-1866 professor at
Freiburg; 1866-1874 professor at Heidelberg; 1874 until his death in
1896 professor of history and politics at Berlin.

[2] "Thus it follows from this, that we must distinguish between public
and private morality.  The order of rank of the various duties must
necessarily be for the State, as it is power, quite other than for
individual men.  A whole series of these duties, which are obligatory
on the individual, are not to be thought of in any case for the State.
To maintain itself counts for it always as the highest commandment;
that is absolutely moral for it.  And on that account we must declare
that of all political sins that of weakness is the most reprehensible
and the most contemptible; it is in politics the sin against the Holy
Ghost...."--_Selections_, p. 32.

[3] "That must not hinder us from declaring joyfully that the gifted
Florentine, with all the vast consequence of his thinking, was the
first to set in the centre of all politics the great thought: _The
State is power_.  For that is the truth; and he who is not man enough
to look this truth in the face ought to keep his hands off
politics."--_Ibid._ p. 28.

[4] "... to the historian who lives in the world of will it is
immediately clear that the demand for a perpetual peace is thoroughly
reactionary; he sees that with war all movement, all growth, must be
struck out of history.  It has always been the tired, unintelligent,
and enervated periods that have played with the dream of perpetual
peace...."--_Selections_, p. 25.

"It is precisely political idealism that demands wars, while
materialism condemns them.  What a perversion of morality to wish to
eliminate heroism from humanity!"--_Ibid._ p. 24.

[5] "... if we survey history in the mass, it is clear that all real
masterpieces of poetry and art arose upon the soil of great
nationalities;" and "The poet and artist must be able to react upon a
great nation.  When did a masterpiece ever arise among a petty little
nation?"--_Ibid._ p. 19.

[6] Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, son of a village pastor of Polish
ancestry; born at Röcken in Saxony 1844; served in the German army for
a few months in 1867; injured in mounting his horse; 1869-1879
professor of classical philology at Bale which entailed naturalisation
as a Swiss subject; served in ambulance in war of 1870-1871; 1879-1889
in bad health, wrote and travelled; 1889 became insane and remained so
till his death in 1900.

[7] "What is lacking in England, and has always been lacking, that
half-actor and rhetorician knew well enough, the absurd muddlehead,
Carlyle, who sought to conceal under passionate grimaces what he knew
about himself: namely, what was lacking in Carlyle, real _power_ of
intellect, real _depth_ of intellectual perception, in short,
philosophy."--_Beyond Good and Evil_, p. 210.

"The Englishman, more gloomy, sensual, headstrong, and brutal than the
German--is for that very reason, as the baser of the two, also the most
pious."--_Ibid._ p. 211.

"The English coarseness and rustic demureness is still more
satisfactorily disguised by Christian pantomime, and by praying and
psalm-singing (or, more correctly, it is thereby explained and
differently expressed); and for the herd of drunkards and rakes who
formerly learned moral grunting under the influence of Methodism (and
more recently as the 'Salvation Army'), a penitential fit may really be
the relatively highest manifestation of 'humanity' to which they can be
elevated."--_Ibid._ p. 211.

"The European ignobleness, the plebeianism of modern ideas, is
England's work and invention."--_Ibid._ p. 213.

[8] "I believe only in French culture, and regard everything else in
Europe which calls itself 'culture' as a misunderstanding.  I do not
even take the German kind into consideration....  The few instances of
higher culture with which I have met in Germany were all French in
their origin."--_Ecce Homo_, p. 27.

"Wherever Germany extends her sway, she _ruins_ culture."--_Ibid._ p.

"Culture and the state are antagonists: a 'culture-state' is merely a
modern idea.  The one lives upon the other, the one flourishes at the
expense of the other.  All great periods of culture have been periods
of political decline; that which was great from the standpoint of
culture was always unpolitical--even anti-political....  In the history
of European culture the rise of the (German) Empire signifies, above
all, a displacement of the centre of gravity.  Everywhere people are
already aware of this: in things that really matter--and these after
all constitute culture--the Germans are no longer worth considering....
The fact that there is no longer a single German philosopher worth
mentioning is an increasing wonder."--_The Twilight of the Idols_, p.

"Every great crime against culture for the last four centuries lies on
their [the German] conscience....  It was the Germans who caused Europe
to lose the fruits, the whole meaning of her last period of
greatness--the period of the Renaissance...."--_Ecce Homo_, p. 124.

"The future of German culture rests with the sons of Prussian
officers."--_The Genealogy of Morals_, p. 222.

"If any one wishes to see the 'German soul' demonstrated _ad oculos_,
let him only look at German taste, at German arts and manners: what
boorish indifference to 'taste'!"--_The Antichrist_.

[9] "What quagmires and mendacity there must be about if it is
possible, in the modern European hotchpotch, to raise questions of

A Nation--"Men who speak one language and read the same
newspapers."--_The Genealogy of Morals_, p. 226.

[10] "A boldly daring, splendidly overbearing, high-flying, and
aloft-up-dragging class of higher men, who had first to teach their
century--and it is the century of the _masses_--the conception 'higher
man.'"--_Beyond Good and Evil_, p. 219.

"This man of the future, this tocsin of noon and of the great verdict,
which renders the will again free, who gives back to the world its goal
and to man his hope, this Antichrist and Antinihilist, this conqueror
of God and of Nothingness--_he must one day come_."--_The Genealogy of
Morals_, p. 117.

[11] "The blonde beast that lies at the core of all aristocratic
races."--_The Genealogy of Morals_, p. 42.

"The profound, icy mistrust which the German provokes, as soon as he
arrives at power,--even at the present time,--is always still an
aftermath of that inextinguishable horror with which for whole
centuries Europe has regarded the wrath of the blonde Teuton

[12] Friedrich von Bernhardi: born 1849 at St. Petersburg, where his
father Theodor von Bernhardi was a Councillor of the Prussian Legation;
entered a Hussar regiment in 1869; military attaché at Berne in 1881;
in 1897 he was chief of the General Staff of the 16th Army Corps; in
1908 he was appointed commander of the 7th Army Corps; retired in the
following year.  He was a distinguished cavalry general, and is
probably the most influential German writer on current
politico-military problems.

[13] Probably not less so upon British policy and inaction.  As water
is the result of blending oxygen and hydrogen in certain proportions,
so is the present war the resultant of German militarism and British
anti-militarism in combination.

[14] "Every State has as sovereign the undoubted right to declare war
when it chooses, consequently every State is in the position of being
able to cancel any treaties which have been concluded."--Treitschke,
_Selections_, p. 15.

"It is not only the right, but the moral and political duty of the
statesman to bring about a war."--Bernhardi, _Germany and the Next
War_, p. 41

[15] Towards the end of March 1915 General von Bernhardi published in
the _New York Sun_ an article the object of which was to explain to the
American people how much his previous writings had been misunderstood
and perverted by the malice of the enemy.  Long before this date,
however, there was strong presumptive evidence that the distinguished
military author was unfavourably regarded by the Super-men at Berlin.
He had been useful before the war for preparing the Teutonic youth for
Armageddon; but after hostilities began it was discovered that, so far
as neutral opinion was concerned, it would have been better had he been
wholly interdicted from authorship under the national
motto--_verboten_.  As to the tenour of imperial communications to the
popular fire-eating publicist during the winter 1914-1915, might we
venture to paraphrase them into the vulgar vernacular as
follows?--"We've got to thank you and your damned books, more than
anything else, for the present mess with America.  Get busy, and
explain them all away if you can."--Any one of the labours of Hercules
was easier.




The thoroughness and efficiency of the Germans are admitted even by
hostile critics.  In the practical sphere they have excelled in
military preparations, in the encouragement of industry, and in the
organisation of finance.  But they have achieved an even more
remarkable success than any of these; for they have so arranged their
educational system that it is drilled hardly less admirably than their
army.[1]  From the primary schools to the universities everything is
ordered, so that the plastic mind of youth is forced into a political
mould which suits the purposes of government.  Patriotism of the
pattern approved by the authorities is inculcated directly or
indirectly in every class-room.  While thought is left ostentatiously
free in regard to private morals and religious foundations, the duties
of the citizen to the state, the duties of the state to posterity, the
relations of Germany to the outside world, are subjects upon which
independent speculation is not tolerated.


Even schoolmasters and professors have their ambitions; but unless they
contribute their quota to the support of imperial ideals, their careers
are unlikely to prosper.  It is not enough that a lecturer should not
run counter to state policy; he must actively promote its ends before
he can hope to be transferred to a sphere of greater dignity and
influence.  Pedagogy is a branch of the Civil Service just as much as
the Treasury or the Public Health Department.  Teachers from the lowest
to the highest grades are the stipendiaries of the bureaucracy.  If
they render useful services they are promoted.  If they fail to render
useful services they are passed over.  If they indulge in dangerous
speculations they are sent adrift.  Not merely the army, but the whole
German nation, is disciplined, during the period of its impressionable
youth, with the object of inclining its mind to support state policy
through thick and thin.

The schools feed the universities; the universities feed the press, the
learned professions, and the higher grades in industry and finance.
Private conversation, as well as what is published in newspapers,
magazines, and books, bears the impress of the official mint to a
degree unthinkable in England or America, Russia or France.  Theories
of politics are devised by ingenious sophists, exactly as the machinery
at Essen is contrived by engineers--for the express purpose of
forwarding Prussian policy.  History is twisted and distorted in order
to prepare the way for imperial ambitions by justifying them in advance.

It is a signal triumph for the thoroughness of German methods that all
the thinkers, dreamers, {129} poets, and prophets, with but a few
exceptions, should have been commandeered and set to work thinking,
dreaming, poetising, and prophesying to the glory of the Kaiser, and
his army, and his navy, and his counsellors, and his world policy, and
the conquests and expansion which are entailed therein.


It is somewhat startling, however, to find the intellectuals thus
mobilised, and all but unanimous, on the official side; for hitherto in
history they have rarely agreed among themselves, and the greater part
have usually favoured the Opposition rather than the Government.  Nor
does this close alliance between learning and the bureaucracy seem
altogether satisfactory.  For thought loses its fine edge when it is
set to cut millstones of state.  It loses its fine temper in the red
heat of political controversy.  By turning utilitarian it ceases to be
universal; and what is perhaps even worse, it ceases to be free.  It
tends more and more to become the mere inventor of things which will
sell at a profit; less and less the discoverer of high principles which
the gods have hidden out of sight.  It would hardly be possible to
imagine a more complete reversal of attitude than that which has
occurred in Germany between the beginning of the nineteenth century and
the present time; and though this change may serve admirably the
immediate purposes of the state, it does not augur well for the future
of German thought.

The similarities and contrasts of history are interesting to
contemplate.  In the ferment of thought and action which occurred in
France during the generation preceding the battle of Valmy, and that
other which has been going on in Germany in the {130} generation
preceding the battle of the Marne, there are various likenesses and
unlikenesses.  In France before the Revolution, as in Germany to-day, a
bureaucracy, responsible solely to the monarch, directed policy and
controlled administration.  But in France this bureaucracy was
incompetent, unpractical, and corrupt.  Its machinery was clogged with
dead matter of every kind, with prejudices, traditions, and statutes,
many of which had outlived their original purposes.  The _Struldbrugs_,
discovered by Gulliver during his voyages, were a race of men whose
mortal souls were incased in immortal bodies.  The French monarchy was
of this nature, and the soul of it was long since dead.  Inefficiency
was everywhere apparent; and, as a natural consequence, the whole
system had become a butt, at which each brilliant writer in turn
levelled his darts of derision and contempt.

In Germany, although the political mechanism is the same, the
conditions are diametrically the opposite.  The bureaucracy and the
monarchy which it supports, have proved themselves highly efficient and
adaptive.  The arrangement has worked with a marvellous success.  It
has cherished the material, if not the spiritual, well-being of the
people.  The wealth-producing and belly-filling activities of the race
have been stimulated to an extent never yet attained by any form of
government, either popular or despotic.  Administration has been
honest, thrifty, and singularly free from the usual dull negatives of
officialdom and the pedantries of red tape.  In all directions
industrial prosperity has increased, under the fostering care of the
state, by leaps and bounds.  Anything more remote from the bankrupt
empire of {131} Louis XVI. it would be impossible to conceive.  And as
a natural consequence, brilliant German writers have for the most
part[2] spent their forces of rhetoric and fancy in idealising the
grandeur and nobility of an order of things, under which resources,
comfort, and luxury have expanded with such amazing strides.


In the case of France the aim of the intellectuals was to pull down
existing institutions, in that of Germany it has been to bolster them
up, to extend and develop them to their logical conclusions.  But the
second were no less agents of destruction than the first.  Each alike,
as a condition of success, required that a new order of moral and
political ideas should be set up; each attained a certain measure of
success; and the results which followed were those which usually
follow, when new wine is poured into old bottles.

The ideas of the French Revolution cast themselves into the mould of
republicanism.  A picture wholly imaginary and fictitious was drawn of
the institutions of Greece and Rome in ancient days.  _Liberty_,
_Equality_, and _Fraternity_ were believed to have been the foundations
of these famous states.  Patriots on the banks of the Seine conceived
themselves to be re-incarnations of Aristides and the Gracchi, of
Pericles, of one Brutus or the other--it mattered little which.
Political idealism passed rapidly into a kind of religious fervour.

The German masquerade is very different from this, but it is no less a
masquerade.  What covers the new faith, indeed, is not plumage borrowed
from the Greeks and Romans, but habiliments which are supposed to have
clad the heroic forms of ancestral Teutons.  The student on his way to
doctor's degree--the {132} intelligent clerk scanning the high-road to
fortune from the eminence of office-stool--dream in their pensive
leisure to emulate the heroes of Asgard, to merit and enjoy the glories
of Valhalla.  But the noble shapes and gorgeous colourings in which the
modern young German of honest, sober, and industrious character has
chosen to see his destiny prefigured, are no less imaginary and
fictitious than those others, with which eloquent notaries'-clerks, and
emancipated, unfrocked priests, decked themselves out for the
admiration of the Paris mob.  In Germany as in France political
idealism passed into a kind of religious fervour, which inspired men to
a mimicry of old-Wardour-Street shams, and led them to neglect the
development of their own true natures.

During quiet times that stream of events, which we are wont to call
human progress, is occupied incessantly in throwing up dams, of one
sort or another, throughout the world.  Tree-trunks and logs, which
have been swept down by former floods of conquest and invasion, jam at
some convenient rocky angle, as the river falls to its normal level.
Against these obstacles the drift and silt of habit, custom, law,
convention, prejudice, and tradition slowly collect, settle, and
consolidate.  An embankment is gradually formed, and the waters are
held up behind it ever higher and higher.  The tribal pool becomes a
pond or nation; and this again, if conditions remain favourable--for so
long, that is to say, as there are no more raging and destructive
floods,--extends into a lake or inland sea of empire....  "See," cry
the optimists, "see what a fine, smooth, silvery sheet of civilisation,
culture, wealth, happiness, comfort, and {133} what not besides, where
formerly there was but an insignificant torrent brawling in the gorge!"
... But the pessimists, as is their nature, shake their heads, talk
anxiously of the weight of waters which are banking up behind, and of
the unreliable character of the materials out of which the dam has
grown.  "Some day," they warn us, "the embankment will burst under the
heavy pressure; or, more likely still, some ignorant, heedless, or
malicious person will begin to fiddle and tamper with the casual
structure; and then what may we expect?"


There has been considerable nervousness of late among rulers of nations
as to the soundness of their existing barrages.  For the most part,
however, they have concerned themselves with internal dangers--with
watching propagandists of the socialist persuasion--with keeping these
under a kind of benevolent police supervision, and in removing
ostentatiously from time to time the more glaring of their alleged
grievances.  This procedure has been quite as noticeable in the case of
autocracies, as in countries which enjoy popular institutions.

Treitschke and Bernhardi--even Nietzsche himself--valued themselves far
more highly as builders-up than as pullers-down.  It is always so with
your inspired inaugurators of change.  It was so with Rousseau and
those other writers, whose thoughts, fermenting for a generation in the
minds of Frenchmen, brought about the Revolution.  The intellectuals of
the eighteenth century, like those of the nineteenth, aimed at getting
rid of a great accumulation of insanitary rubbish.  But this was only a
troublesome preliminary, to be hurried through with as quickly as
possible, in order that the much greater {134} work of construction
might proceed upon the cleared site.

Treitschke made a hole in the German dam when he cut an ancient
commonplace in two, and tore out the one half of it.  Nietzsche turned
the hole into a much vaster cavity by pulling out the other half.
Bernhardi and the pedantocracy worked lustily at the business, with the
result that a great part of the sticks, stones, and mud of tradition
are now dancing, rumbling, and boiling famously in the flood.  Whether
they have injured our dam as well as their own, we are hardly as yet in
a position to judge.

The profounder spirit of Nietzsche realised clearly enough the
absurdity of supposing that the conflicting beliefs and aspirations of
mankind could all be settled and squared in a few bustling
decades--that the contradictions, paradoxes, and antinomies of national
existence could be written off with a few bold strokes of the sword,
and the world started off on the road to perfection, like a brisk
debtor who has purged his insolvency in the Bankruptcy Court.  But the
enthusiasm of Treitschke and Bernhardi made them blind to these
considerations.  Had not the formula been discovered, which would
overcome every obstacle--that stroke of genius, the famous bisection of
the commonplace?  For private conduct, the Sermon on the Mount; for
high statecraft, Machiavelli's _Prince_!  Was ever anything simpler,
except perhaps the way of Columbus with the egg?

When we push our examination further, into the means which Germany has
been urged by her great thinkers to employ in preparing for this
premeditated war, for provoking it when the season should be ripe,
{135} and for securing victory and spoils, we are struck more than ever
by the gulf which separates the ideas of the German pedantocracy from
those of the rest of the world.  Nor can we fail to be impressed by the
matter-of-fact and businesslike way in which the military and civil
powers have set to work to translate those notions into practice.


No kind of priesthood has ever yet exercised a great and direct
influence upon national policy without producing calamity.  And by an
ill fate, it has always been the nature of these spiritual guides to
clutch at political power whenever it has come within their reach.

Of all classes in the community who are intellectually capable of
having ideas upon public affairs, a priesthood--or what is the same
thing, a pedantocracy--is undoubtedly the most mischievous, if it
succeeds in obtaining power.  It matters not a whit whether they
thunder forth their edicts and incitements from church pulpits or
university chairs, whether they carry their sophistical projects up the
back stairs of Catholic King or Lutheran Kaiser, whether, having shaved
their heads and assumed vows of celibacy, they dwell in ancient
cloisters, or, having taken unto themselves wives and begotten
children, they keep house in commonplace villa residences.  None of
these differences is essential, or much worth considering.  The one
class is as much a priesthood as the other, and the evils which proceed
from the predominance of the one, and the other, are hardly

They stand ostentatiously aloof from the sordid competitions of worldly
business.  They have forsworn, or at any rate forgone, the ordinary
prizes of {136} wealth and position.  And for these very reasons they
are ill equipped for guiding practical affairs.  Their abstinences are
fatal impediments, and render them apt to leave human nature out of
their reckoning.  They are wanting in experience of the difficulties
which beset ordinary men, and of the motives which influence them.
Knowing less of such matters (for all their book learning) than any
other class of articulately-speaking men, they find it by so much the
easier to lay down rules and regulations for the government of the

To a priesthood, whether ecclesiastical or academic, problems of
politics and war present themselves for consideration in an engaging
simplicity.  They evolve theories of how people live, of how they ought
to live; and both sets of theories are mainly cobwebs.  There is no
place in their philosophy for anything which is illogical or untidy.
Ideas of compromise and give-and-take, are abominations in priestly
eyes--at any rate when they are engaged in contemplation of worldly
affairs.  And seeing that the priesthood aspires, nevertheless, to
govern and direct a world which is illogical and needs humouring, there
is nothing wonderful, if when it has achieved power, it should blunder
on disaster in the name of principle, and incite men to cruelties in
the name of humanity.  'Clericalism,' said a French statesman, and
English statesmen have echoed his words--'Clericalism is the enemy.'
And this is right, whether the priesthood be that of Rome or John
Calvin, of economic professors expounding Adam Smith in the interests
of Manchester, or history professors improving upon Treitschke in the
interests of the Hohenzollern dynasty.



Priests and professors when they meddle in politics are always the
same.  They sit in their studies or cells, inventing fundamental
principles; building thereon great edifices of reasoned or sentimental
brickwork which splits in the sun and crumbles in the storm.
Throughout the ages, as often as they have left their proper sphere,
they have been subject to the same angry enthusiasms and savage
obstinacies.  Their errors of judgment have been comparable only to
their arrogance.  Acts of cruelty and treachery, meanness and
dishonour,[3] which would revolt the ordinary German or Englishman,
commend themselves readily, on grounds of sophistry or logic, to these
morbid ascetics, so soon as they begin busying themselves with the
direction of public affairs.

It would be unfair to judge any country by its political professors.
At the same time, if any country is so foolish as to follow such
guides, there is a probability of mischief in national--still more in
international--affairs.  For they are as innocent as the lawyers
themselves, of any knowledge of the real insides of things.  They
differ of course from the lawyers in many ways.  They are ever for
making changes for the sake of symmetry; while the man of law is for
keeping as he is until the last moment; or at any rate until it is
clearly his interest to budge.  A priesthood has a burning faith in its
own hand-wrought idols; the lawyer on the contrary, does not go readily
to the stake, does not catch fire easily, being rather of the nature of
asbestos.  When lawyers monopolise political power--even when they
merely {138} preponderate, as of late years they have seemed to do more
and more in all democratic countries, whether of the monarchical or
republican type--they invariably destroy by insensible gradations that
which is most worth preserving in man or state, the soul.  But they do
not bring on sudden catastrophe as a priesthood does; their method is
to strangle slowly like ivy.

In England, nowadays--indeed ever since the 'eighties, when professors
of Political Economy became discredited as political guides--there are
not many evidences of priestly influence.  Certainly there is nothing
of an organised kind.  What exists is erratic and incalculable.  There
is much clamour; but it is contradictory, spasmodic, and inconstant,
without any serious pretence, either of learning or science, to support
it.  Each of our prophets is in business for himself.  There is no
tinge of Erastianism about any of them.  For the most part they are the
grotesques and _lions comiques_ of the world of letters, who prophesy
standing on their heads, or grinning through horse-collars, and
mistaking always "the twinkling of their own sophisticated minds for

Alliance between a priesthood and a bureaucracy tends gradually to
produce, as in the case of China, an oppressive uniformity--not unlike
that aimed at by the more advanced socialists--where every fresh
innovation is a restriction hampering the natural bent.  On the other
hand an alliance between a priesthood and a military caste--especially
when the bureaucracy is ready to act in sympathy--is one of the
commonest causes of international convulsions.



Oddly enough, the soldier, who affects to despise men of words and
make-believes, and who on this account has an instinctive dislike and
distrust of the lawyer--so violent indeed that it often puts him in the
wrong, and leaves him at the mercy of the object of his contempt--is
dangerously apt to become the tool of anything which bears a likeness
to Peter the Hermit.  It is not really the lawyer's confidence in the
efficacy of words which revolts the soldier, nearly so much as the kind
of words used, the temperament of him who uses them, and the character
of the make-believes which it is sought to establish.  The
unworldliness, simplicity, idealism, and fervour of the priesthood make
strong appeals to a military caste, which on the contrary is repelled
by what it conceives to be the cynicism, opportunism, and self-seeking
of lawyer statecraft.

More especially is it difficult for the military caste to resist the
influence of the priesthood when, as in Germany of recent years, they
have insisted upon giving the warrior the most important niche in their
temple, and on burning incense before him day and night.  Working
industriously in their studies and laboratories they have found moral
justification for every course, however repugnant to established ideas,
which may conceivably make it easier to attain victory and conquest.
The soldier might have scruples about doing this or that; but when he
is assured by inspired intellectuals, that what would best serve his
military ends is also the most moral course of action, how can
he--being a man of simple mind--presume to doubt it; though he may
occasionally shudder as he proceeds to put it into execution?


German thoroughness is an admirable quality, but even thoroughness may
be carried to extremes which are absurd, or something worse.

No nation has a right to complain if another chooses to drill armies,
build fleets, accumulate stores of treasure, weapons, and material; nor
is it incumbent upon any nation to wear its heart upon its sleeve, or
to let the whole world into its secrets, military or political.  In so
far as Germany has acted upon these principles she was well within her
rights.  As a result we have suffered heavily; but we must blame
ourselves for being ill-prepared; we have no justification for
complaining because Germany was well-prepared.

There are some kinds of preparation, however, which it does not seem
possible to justify, if the world is to consist as heretofore of a
large number of independent states, between whose citizens it is
desirable to maintain a certain friendliness and freedom of
intercourse.  German activities in various directions, for many years
before war broke out, make one wonder what state of things was
contemplated by German statesmen, as likely to prevail when war should
be over.  What, for instance, is to be the status of Germans visiting
or residing in other countries--seeking to trade with them--to borrow
money from them--to interchange with them the civilities of ordinary
life, or those more solemn courtesies which are practised by societies
of learning and letters?  Will the announcement _civis Germanicus sum_
be enough henceforth to secure the stranger a warm welcome and respect?
Or will such revelation of his origin be more likely to lead to his
speedy re-embarkation for the land of his nativity?



Spying has always been practised since the beginning of time; but it
has rarely been conducted in such a manner as to produce general
uneasiness, or any sensible restraint upon private relations.
Logically, it would be unfair to condemn recent German enterprises in
this direction, seeing that she has only extended an accepted nuisance
on to a much vaster scale.  But here again logic is a misleading guide.
There is something in the very scale of German espionage which has
changed the nature of this institution.  It has grown into a huge
organised industry for the debauching of vain, weak, and greedy
natures; for turning such men--for the most part without their being
aware of it--into German agents.  The result of Teutonic thoroughness
in this instance is a domestic intrusion which is odious, as well as a
national menace which cannot be disregarded.  Many of these hostile
agencies may surely be termed treacherous, seeing that they have aimed,
under the guise of friendly intercourse, at forwarding schemes of
invasion and conquest.

We are familiar enough with the vain purse-proud fellow, who on the
strength of a few civil speeches from the Kaiser--breathing friendship
and the love of peace--has thenceforward flattered himself that his
mission in life was to eradicate suspicion of German intentions from
the minds of his British fellow-countrymen.  This is the unconscious
type of agent, useful especially in sophisticated circles, and among
our more advanced politicians of anti-militarist sympathies.

Then we have the naturalised, or unnaturalised, magnate of finance or
industry, to whom business prosperity is the great reality of life,
politics and {142} patriotism being by comparison merely things of the
illusory sort.  It would cause him no very bitter anguish of heart to
see England humiliated and her Empire dissolved, providing his own
cosmopolitan undertakings continued to thrive undisturbed by horrid
war.  He, also, has very likely been the recipient of imperial
suavities.  In addition to this, however, he has been encouraged to
imagine that he enjoys in a peculiar degree the confidence of the
German Foreign Office.  The difficulties which so shrewd a fellow must
have in believing in the innocence of German intentions must be
considerable at the outset; but they are worn away by the constant
erosion of his private interests.  Britain must not cross
Germany:--that is his creed in a nutshell.  This is the semi-conscious
type of agent; and he carries great weight in business circles, and
even sometimes in circles much higher than those frequented by the

We may resent such influences as these, now that we have become more or
less sensible of the effect which they have had during recent years in
hindering our preparations for defence; but here we cannot fairly
charge Germany with any breach of custom and tradition.  We must blame
ourselves for having given heed to their counsellors.  But it is
different when we come to such things as the wholesale corruption of
the subjects of friendly nations--a network of careful intrigue for the
promotion of rebellion--lavish subsidies and incitements for the
purpose of fostering Indian unrest, Egyptian discontent, and South
African treason--the supply of weapons and munitions of war on the
shortest notice, and most favourable terms, to any one and every one
who {143} seems inclined to engage in civil war in Ireland or elsewhere.


The whole of this procedure has been justified in advance and advocated
in detail by Bernhardi and the priesthood.  Belgium, France, Russia,
and Britain are doubtless peculiarly alive to the iniquity of these
practices, for the reason that their moral judgment has been sharpened
by personal suffering.  But they do not denounce the system solely
because they themselves have been injured by it, but also because it
seems to them to be totally at variance with all recent notions
regarding the comity of nations.  If we may use such an old-fashioned
term, it appears to us to be wrong.

If methods such as these are henceforth to be practised by the world in
general, must not all international communion become impossible, as
much in time of peace as during a war?  Indeed must not human existence
itself become almost intolerable?  Friendliness, hospitality,
courtesies of every sort, between men and women of one country and
those of another, must cease absolutely, if the world should become a
convert to these German doctrines.  Travel must cease; for no one likes
to be stripped naked and searched at every frontier.  Trade and
financial operations must also be restricted, one would imagine, to
such an extent that ultimately they will wither and die.

And if the world in general after the war is ended does not become a
convert to these German doctrines of treacherous preparation, made in
friendly territories during time of peace, what then will be its
attitude towards Germany and the Germans; for they presumably have no
intention of abandoning these {144} practices?  It is an unpleasant
problem, but it will have to be faced sooner or later.

For obviously, although every sensible man believes, and many of us
know by actual experience, that the instincts of Germans, in all
private relations, are as loyal and honourable as those of most other
races which inhabit the earth, no nation can afford any longer to have
dealings with them on equal terms, if they have decided to allow their
instincts to be used and abused, over-ridden and perverted, by a
bureaucracy whose ideal is thoroughness, and by a priesthood which has
invented a new system of morals to serve a particular set of ends.  Not
only the allied nations which are at present at war with Germany, but
any country whose interests may conceivably, at any future time, come
into conflict with those of that far-sighted empire, will be forced in
self-defence to take due precautions.  It is clear enough that more
efficacious means than mere scraps of naturalisation paper will be
needed to secure mankind against the abuse of its hospitality by
Teutonic theorists.


The whole of this strange system, those methods which, even after
somewhat painful experience of their effects, we are still inclined in
our less reflective moments to regard as utterly incredible--is it
possible to summarise them in a few sentences?  What are the accepted
maxims, the orthodox formulas of Prussian statecraft?

Power, more power, world-power; these according to German theory, as
well as practice, should be the dominant principles of the state.

When a nation desires territories belonging to its neighbours, let it
take them, if it is strong enough.  {145} No further justification is
needed than mere appetite for possession, and the strength to satisfy

War is in itself a good thing and not a bad.  Like a purge, or a course
of the waters of Aix, it should be taken, every half-century or so, by
all nations which aim at preserving the vigour of their constitutions.

During the intervening periods the chief duty of the state is to
prepare for war, so that when it comes, victory, and with it benefits
of the material, as well as of the spiritual sort, may be secured.

No means which will help to secure victory are immoral, whether in the
years preceding the outbreak of hostilities, or afterwards, when the
war is in full course.  If the state, aided by its men of science,
could find any safe and secret means of sending a plague, as an advance
guard, to ravage the enemy, where is the objection?  The soul of a
Prussian soldier might revolt against this form of warfare, but at what
point would it conflict with the teachings of the priesthood?  Nor can
we imagine, were the thing possible, that the bureaucracy would allow
itself to be hampered by any scruples.

As to the declaration of war, let it be made when the state is in a
strong position and its prey in a weak one.  This is the all-important
consideration.  The actual pretext is only a secondary matter, though
worthy of attention for the effect it may have on the action of
neutrals.  And as war is a game of chance, it is wise and right to
'correct fortune,' so far as this can be accomplished during years of
peace and under the cloak of amity, by the aid of spies, secret agents,
accomplices, traitors, rebels, and what not besides.

The state which has evolved this system and laid {146} down these
rules, without the least attempt at secrecy or concealment, is the most
efficient machine of the fighting and administrative kind at present
existing in the world--perhaps which has ever existed in the world.
But as you increase the size, power, and complexity of a machine there
are obvious dangers unless you can also increase the calibre of the men
who have to drive and direct it.  This is a much more difficult problem
than the other; and there is no evidence to show that it has been
solved in the case of Germany.  The more powerful the machine, the
greater is apt to be the disaster if it is mishandled.

In history the blunders of bureaucracy are a by-word.  They have been
great and many, even when, as in Germany to-day, the bureaucracy is in
the full vigour of its age, and in the first flower of uprightness; for
a bureaucracy, in order to retain its efficiency, must remain
incorruptible, and that is one of the hardest things to secure.

As for the priesthoods, if they are to be of any use, their faith must
burn brightly.  And the faith of a priesthood is very apt to burn
itself out--very apt also to set fire to other things during the
process; even to the edifice of popular virtue and the imperial purple
itself, which things--unlike the Phoenix, the Salamander, and the
Saint--are none the better or stronger for being burned.

We are constantly being told by high authorities that the moral
objective of the present war is 'to put down militarism,' and 'abolish
it' off the face of the earth.  There are few of us who do not wish
that this aim may be crowned with success; but militarism is a tough
weed to kill, and something {147} more than the mere mowing of it down
by some outside scythesman will be necessary, one imagines, in order to
get rid of it.


The true moral objective of the war is something much more important
than this.  A blacker evil than militarism is that violation of private
trust and public honour which is known as the Prussian System, and
which has recently been 'marching through rapine, to the
disintegration,' not of a single nation, or group of nations, but of
the whole fabric of human society, including its own.  It is an
elaborate contrivance of extreme artificiality, a strange perversion of
the nature of man.  These are its inherent weaknesses; and fortunately,
by reason of them, it is more vulnerable to hard blows than militarism
which, with all its vices, and extravagancies, is rooted in instincts
which are neither depraved nor ignoble.

Militarism might continue to thrive under adversity, and after the
heaviest defeat, as it has done in times past; but the life of the
Prussian System--that joint invention of the most efficient bureaucracy
in the world, and of a priesthood whose industry can only be matched by
its sycophancy and conceit--hangs upon the thread of success.  Like the
South Sea Bubble, or any of those other impostures of the financial
sort, which have temporarily beguiled the confidence of mankind, it
must collapse utterly under the shock of failure.  It depends entirely
on credit, and its powers of recuperation are nil.  When its assets are
disclosed, the characters of its promoters will be understood.  The
need, therefore, is to bring it at all costs to a complete
demonstration of failure.


We have been urged by our own anti-militarists not to inflict suffering
and humiliation on Germany.  But this is not a matter of the slightest
importance one way or the other.  It has but little to do with the
issue which it is our business to settle, if we have the good fortune
to come out victorious from the present struggle.  To set up the
suffering and humiliation of Germany as the object of high policy would
cover the Allies with contempt; but to shrink from such things, if they
should happen to stand between the Allies and the utter moral
bankruptcy of the Prussian System, would overwhelm them with a burden
far heavier and more shameful than contempt.

[1] "We may declare that the problem of training in arms and turning to
real account the energies of the nation was first undertaken in
thorough earnestness by Germany.  _We possess in our army a
characteristic, necessary continuation of the school-system_.  For many
men there is no better means of training; for them drilling, compulsory
cleanliness, and severe discipline are physically and morally
indispensable in a time like ours, which unchains all
spirits."--Treitschke, _Selections_, pp. 106-107.

[2] Nietzsche is one of the rare exceptions.

[3] Cf. Professor Kuno Meyer, _Times_, December 24, 1914, and March 8,




A German might fairly contend that British criticism of his moral ideas
and political system is tainted throughout by ignorance and prejudice,
and that all our talk of autocracy, bureaucracy, pedantocracy, military
caste, and sham constitutionalism is merely an attempt to avoid the
real issue by calling things, which we happen to dislike, by bad names.
Political institutions, he might insist, must be judged by their
fruits.  If this test were applied, Germany in his opinion would have
nothing to fear in any comparison.

"We Germans," writes a correspondent, the Freiherr von Hexenküchen,[1]
"are not inferior in intelligence or education to any other race.  Had
this been so, we could never have reached, in so short a period as four
decades, the proud position which we now occupy in science, invention,
manufacture, commerce, finance, and administration.[2] {150}
Consequently, if we are well content to live under the institutions we
possess, this cannot be put down either to our want of enterprise or to
the dulness of our understandings.

"Our people have already shown that they are willing to fight and die
for these very institutions which you Englishmen affect to regard with
so much contempt.  Possibly your people are equally willing to fight
and die for theirs.  I do not deny this; but it is not yet proved; it
remains to be proved.

"I do not assert that your people are inferior to mine in their
readiness to fight and die when they are actually faced with a great
national danger.  But I do claim that mine are superior to yours in the
constancy of their devotion to duty.  For a hundred years past--not
only in periods of stress and danger, which stirred the national
imagination, but equally in times of peace and prosperity, which always
tend to encourage the growth of comfort and the love of ease--each
succeeding generation has been found willing to train itself in the use
of arms, so as to be prepared, if occasion should arise, to defend the

"When the present war broke out was there a firmer loyalty or a more
patriotic response to the call to arms among your people or among mine?
Will your people fight and suffer more gladly for their 'democratic'
ideals than mine will for their Kaiser and Fatherland? ... Surely, upon
your own principles no comparison should be possible between the warmth
of your devotion and the tepidity of ours.

"Is our system really so reactionary and mechanical as you imagine?  In
an age which has learned {151} as its special lesson the advantages, in
ordinary business affairs of life, of organisation, thoroughness, long
views, reticence, and combined effort, guided by a strong central
control, is it reaction, or is it progress, to aim at applying the same
principles to the greatest, most complex, and infinitely most important
of all businesses--that of government itself?  Can a nation hope to
survive which refuses, in the name of freedom, to submit to control in
these respects, if it should be faced by competition with another,
which has been wise enough to employ quiet experts instead of
loquacious amateurs--any more than a cotton mill could escape
bankruptcy were it managed on a system of party government?

"Our civil service, which you are pleased to describe as a Bureaucracy,
is distinguished among all others existing at the present time, by the
calibre of its members, by its efficiency and honesty, by its poverty,
and not less by the honour in which it is held notwithstanding its
poverty.  You laugh at our love for calling men, and also their wives,
by the titles of their various offices--Herr this and Frau that, from
the humblest inspector of drains to the Imperial Chancellor himself!
And no doubt there is a ludicrous side to this practice.  But it marks
at least one important thing--that membership of our civil service is
regarded as conferring honour.  So far, we have succeeded in
maintaining public officials of all grades in higher popular respect
than men who devote their lives to building up private fortunes, and
also to those others who delight and excel in interminable debate.

"You are used to boast, and I daresay rightly {152} of the personal
honesty and pecuniary disinterestedness of your politicians; and you
assume as a matter of course that your civil servants, with such high
standards and examples ever before their eyes, are likewise
incorruptible.  We invert this order.  With us the honour of our civil
servants is the chief thing; we assume that our politicians must follow
suit.  They are probably as upright as your own, thanks partly to
tradition, but also to the vigilance of their superiors, the
professionals, who carry on the actual business of government.  With
you the fame of the showy amateur fills the mouths of the public.  We,
on the contrary, exalt the expert, the man who has been trained to the
job he undertakes.  In so doing we may be reactionaries and you may be
progressives; but the progress of Germany since 1870--a progress in
which we are everywhere either already in front of you, or else
treading closely on your heels--does not seem to furnish you with a
conclusive argument.

"As for what you call our Pedantocracy, meaning thereby our professors
and men of letters, it is true that these exercise a great influence
upon public opinion.  We have always respected learning and thought.
It is in the German nature so to do.  I admit that our learned ones are
rather too much inclined to imagine, that because they are students of
theory, they are therefore qualified to engage in practice.  They are
apt to offer their advice and service officiously, and occasionally in
a ridiculous manner.  But, if my recollection of the English newspapers
be correct, this is no more so with us than with you.  There is
apparently something in the professorial nature which impels men of
this {153} calling to the drafting of manifestoes and the signing of
round-robins in times of excitement.  They may be officious and absurd,
but they are not wholly despicable, since they act thus quite as much
from earnestness as from vanity.  If our academicians on such occasions
mislead more people than your own it is due to their virtues, to the
greater zeal and success with which they have won the confidence of
their former pupils.[3]


"You are fond of sneering at our Military Caste and attribute to it the
most malign influence upon public affairs.  But there again, believe
me, you exaggerate.  Our officers are undoubtedly held in great
respect, even in some awe.  And the reason is that they are known to be
brave, and like those you call the bureaucracy, to have preferred
comparative poverty in the public service to the pursuit of riches.  To
say that they have no influence upon policy would of course be absurd.
It is inevitable that in the present state of the world, soldiers will
always have great influence in certain departments of public affairs.
This must be so in any country {154} which is not plunged in dreams.
For it is their business to guarantee national security, and to keep
watch over the growth of military strength among the neighbours and
rivals of Germany.  If the general staff foresees dangers, and can give
reasonable grounds for its anticipations, it is clear that the military
view must carry weight with the Kaiser and his ministers.  And surely
there can be no question that this is right.

"The officers of the German Army are a caste, if you like to put it
that way.  But in every form of government under the sun, unless
conceivably in some tiny oriental despotism, the predominance of a
certain caste, or the competition between different castes, is
absolutely essential to the working of the machinery.

"It is not regrettable in our opinion if a caste, which has
considerable weight in public affairs, is a manly one, contemptuous of
wealth and sophistry, ready always to risk its own life for the faith
which is in it.  The influence of a military caste may have its
drawbacks; but at any rate it has kept the peace in Germany for not far
short of half a century--kept it successfully until, as some people
have thought, the professors acquired too large a share of power.

"Is it so certain, moreover, that the lawyer caste, the
self-advertising caste, and the financial caste are not all of them a
great deal worse, even a great deal more dangerous to peace?  Is a
country any more likely to be safe, happy, and prosperous under the
régime of a talking caste--of windbags resourcefully keeping their
bellows full of air, and wheedling the most numerous with transparent
{155} falsehoods--than where civil servants of tried wisdom and
experience are responsible for carrying on affairs of state, aided at
their high task by sober military opinion?[4]

"As for our Kaiser, whom you regard as a crafty and ambitious tyrant,
he appears in our view as the incarnation of patriotic duty, burdened
though not overwhelmed by care--a lover of peace, so long as peace may
be had with honour and safety; but if this may not be, then a stern,
though reluctant, drawer of the sword.  It is true that the Kaiser's
government is in many important respects a purely personal government.
His is the ultimate responsibility for high policy.  He fulfils the
function in our system of that strong central power, without which the
most ingeniously constructed organisation is but impotence.


"The German people are ahead of the English and the Americans in
self-knowledge; for they realise that there are many things
appertaining to government, which cannot be discussed in the
newspapers, or on the platform, any more than the policy and conduct of
a great business can be made known in advance to the staff, and to
trade competitors all over the world.  And so, believing the Kaiser's
government to be honest, capable, and devoted to the public weal, the
German people trust it without reservation to decide when action shall
be taken in a variety of spheres.

"This system of ours which is founded in reason, and in experience of
modern conditions, and which {156} is upheld by the unfaltering
confidence of a great people, you are wont to condemn as tyrannical and
reactionary.  But can democracy stand against it?--Democracy infirm of
purpose, jealous, grudging, timid, changeable, unthorough, unready,
without foresight, obscure in its aims, blundering along in an age of
lucidity guided only by a faltering and confused instinct!  Given
anything like an equal contest, is it conceivable that such an
undisciplined chaos can prevail against the Hohenzollern Empire?

"Of late your newspapers have been busily complaining of what they call
'German lies,' 'boastfulness,' and 'vulgar abuse.'  They have taunted
our government with not daring to trust the people.  Our Headquarters
bulletins have been vigorously taken to task by the Allies on these and
other grounds.

"But all nations will acclaim their victories louder than they will
trumpet their defeats.  This is in human nature.  No official
communiqué will ever be a perfect mirror of truth.  It will never give
the whole picture, but only a part; and by giving only a part it will
often mislead.  Were we to believe literally what the various
governments have hitherto given out as regards their respective
advances, the Germans by this time might perhaps have been at Moscow in
the East and somewhere about the Azores in the West.  But by the same
token the Russians should have been on the Rhine and the French and
English Allies at Berlin.

"I read your newspapers, and I read our own.  I do not think our
journalists, though they do their best, can fairly claim to excel yours
in the contest {157} of boastfulness and vulgar abuse.  And as regards
the utterances of responsible public men in our two countries, can you
really contend that we Germans are more open to the reproach of
vainglorious and undignified speech than the British?  Our Kaiser
denies having used the words, so often attributed to him in your press,
about 'General French's contemptible little army,' and in Germany we
believe his denial.  But even if he did in fact utter this expression,
is it not quite as seemly and restrained as references to 'digging rats
out of a hole'--as applied to our gallant navy--or to that later
announcement from the same quarter which was recently addressed to the
Mayor of Scarborough about 'baby-killers'?  Such expressions are
regrettable, no doubt, but not of the first importance.  They are a
matter of temperament.  An ill-balanced, or even a very highly-strung
nature, will be betrayed into blunders of this sort more readily than
the phlegmatic person, or one whose upbringing has been in circles
where self-control is the rule of manners.


"But what puzzles us Germans perhaps more than any of your other
charges against us is, when you say that our rulers do not trust the
people as the British Government does.

"You accuse our War Office of publishing accounts of imaginary
victories to revive our drooping confidence, and of concealing actual
disasters lest our country should fall into a panic of despondency.
There was surely nothing imaginary about the fall of Liège, Namur,
Maubeuge, Laon, or La Fere.  The engagements before Metz, at Mons,
Charleroi, and Amiens, the battles of Lodz and Lyck, were {158} not
inconsiderable successes for German arms, or at the very least for
German generalship.  The victory of Tannenberg was among the greatest
in history, reckoning in numbers alone.  Our government made no secret
of the German retirement--retreat if you prefer the term--from the
Marne to the Aisne, or of that other falling back after the first
attempt on Warsaw.  Naturally they laid less emphasis on reverses than
on conquests, but what government has ever acted otherwise?  Certainly
not the French, or the Russian, or your own.  And what actual disasters
have we concealed?  In what respect, as regards the conduct of this
war, have we, the German people, been trusted less than yours?

"I am especially interested, I confess, as a student of British
politics, in this matter of 'trusting the people.'  All your great
writers have led me to believe that here lies the essential difference
between your system and ours, and that the great superiority of yours
to ours is demonstrated in the confidence which your statesmen never
hesitate to place in the wisdom, fortitude, and patriotism of the
people.  Frankly, I do not understand it.  Trust must surely have some
esoteric meaning when applied to your populace which foreigners are
unable to apprehend.  I can discover no other sense in your phrase
about 'trusting the people,' than that they are trusted not to find out
their politicians.  It certainly cannot be believed that you trust your
people to hear the truth; for if so why has your government practised
so rigorous an economy of this virtue, doling it out very much as we
have lately been doing with our wheat and potatoes?



"Has your government not concealed actual disaster--concealed it from
their own people, though from no one else; for all the world was on the
broad grin?  Everybody knew of your misfortune save a certain large
portion of the British public.  The motive of your government could not
have been to hide it away from the Germans, or the Austrians, or from
neutrals, for the illustrated papers all over the globe, even in your
own colonies, contained pictures reproduced from photographs of the
occurrence.  It was only possible to muzzle the press and blindfold the
people of the United Kingdom, and these things your government did;
acting no doubt very wisely.

"Again after the great German victory over the Russians at Tannenberg
in September last, an official bulletin of simple and conspicuous
candour was published at Petrograd which confirmed in most of the . . .
. . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . .
. . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . .
. . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .

"Why did your Press Bureau during the heavy fighting from the middle of
October to the middle of November persist in maintaining that 'the
British are still gaining ground.'  The British resistance from the
beginning to the end of the four weeks' battle round Ypres is not
likely to be forgotten by our German soldiers, still less to be
belittled by them.  {160} It was surely a great enough feat of arms to
bear the light of truth.  But. . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  . . .
. . . .

"But is the same true of the British people?  Can they be trusted to
bear the light of truth?

"You cannot wonder if we Germans, and for that matter the whole world,
have drawn certain conclusions from these and other incidents.  We do
not doubt that your ministers have acted wisely in suppressing bad
tidings; but why should they have taken all those pains and endured the
derision, while incurring the distrust, of foreign countries--a
material injury, mind you, and not merely a sentimental one--unless
they had known, only too well, that publication of this or that piece
of news would have too painfully affected the nerves of your people?
Concealment of checks, reverses, and disasters which had not already
become known to the Austrians and ourselves might have served a useful
military purpose; but what purpose except that of a sedative for
British public opinion could be served by the concealment of such
matters when we, your enemies, knew them already?  Have you ever
thought of asking your American friends in what order they would place
the candour of the official communications which emanate from Berlin,
Petrograd, Paris, and London?

"Shortly before Christmas one of your legal ministers, who, I
understand, is specially responsible for looking after the Press
Bureau, explained to the House of Commons the principles by which he
had been guided in the suppression of news and comment.  He should
refuse, he said, to publish any criticism {161} which might tend to
disturb popular confidence in the Government, or which might cause the
people of England to think that their affairs were in a really serious
state.  On practical grounds there is no doubt something to be said for
such a policy; but (will you tell me?) has any autocratic government
ever laid down a more drastic rule for blindfolding the people in order
to preserve its own existence?[5]


"Pondering upon these things, I scratch my head and marvel what you can
possibly have had in yours, when you used to assure us that the
surpassing merit of the English political system was that it trusted
the people, the inherent weakness of ours, the Austrian, and the
Russian that they did not.

"Your Prime Minister, speaking in the early autumn, thus adjured the
men of Wales:--'Be worthy of those who went before you, and leave to
your children the richest of all inheritances, the memory of fathers
who, in a great cause, put self-sacrifice before ease, and honour above
life itself.'  These are noble words, of Periclean grandeur.  But have
they met with a general response?  Are these sentiments prevalent
outside government circles, among those--the bulk of your people--who
do not come under the direct influence of ministerial inspiration and
example?  If so, why then {162} have your rulers not screwed up their
courage to call for national service?  Why do they still continue to
depend for their recruits upon sensational advertisements, newspaper
puffs, oratorical entreaties, and private influence of a singularly
irregular sort?

"Is not this the reason?--Your government is afraid--even in this great
struggle, where (as they put it) your future existence as a nation is
at stake--that the English people--or at any rate so large a proportion
of them, as if rendered uncomfortable could create a political
disturbance--is not even yet prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.
And so, to the amazement of us Germans, you let the older men, with
families dependent on them, go forth to the war, urged on by a high
sense of duty, while hundreds of thousands of young unmarried men are
still allowed to stay at home.


"You are still, it would appear, enamoured of your voluntary system.
You have not yet abandoned your belief that it is the duty of the man,
who possesses a sense of duty, to protect the skin, family, and
property of the man who does not.  To us this seems a topsy-turvy
creed, and not more topsy-turvy than contemptible.  In Germany and
France--where for generations past the doctrine of private sacrifice
for the public weal is ingrained, and has been approved in principle
and applied in practice with unfaltering devotion--a 'voluntary' system
might conceivably have some chance of providing such an army as you are
in search of.  But to the United Kingdom surely it is singularly
inapplicable?  Let me illustrate my meaning by a comparison.


"Our Kaiser in his New Year's message--which in Germany we all read
with enthusiasm, and considered very noble and appropriate--summed up
the military situation by saying that after five months' hard and hot
fighting the war was still being waged almost everywhere off German
soil, and on the enemies' territories.  And he summed up the domestic
situation by saying (and this, believe me, is true) that our nation
stands in unexampled harmony, prepared to sacrifice its heart's blood
for the defence of the Fatherland.  Another three months have passed
away, and these statements still hold good.

"The point to which I chiefly wish to call your attention is one of
numbers, and I will take my estimates of numbers from your own most
famous newspaper experts.

"Your claim, as I understand it, is that on New Year's Day 1915 you
had--exclusive of Indian troops and Dominion contingents--between
2,000,000 and 2,500,000 men training and in the field.

"Germany alone (here again I quote your English experts), without
reckoning Austria, has actually put into the field during the past five
months 5,000,000 men.  Of these it is stated by your newspapers that
she has lost in round figures 1,500,000, who have either been killed,
or taken prisoners, or are too severely wounded to return as yet to the
fighting line.  But in spite of this depletion, your military
statisticians tell us that Germany and her ally, at New Year's Day,
still outnumbered the Allies on both the Eastern and the Western

"The same high authorities tell us further, that {164} during this
period of five months, the German Government has called upon the civil
population, has appealed to able-bodied men who had previously been
exempt from military service, and that by this means it has obtained,
and has been engaged in training, arming, and equipping another
4,000,000 or 4,500,000 who, it is anticipated, will become available
for war purposes in new formations, during the spring and summer of the
present year.

"Our Government, therefore, according to your own account, has not been
afraid to ask the civil population to serve, and this is the response.
Does it look as if the national spirit had been quenched under our
autocratic system?

"Out of our whole population of sixty-five millions we have apparently
raised for military service on land and naval service at sea, between
9,000,000 and 11,000,000 men since this war began.  Out of your whole
population of forty-five millions you have succeeded in raising for
these same purposes only something between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 men.
And in your case, be it observed, in order to attract recruits, you
have offered good wages and munificent separation allowances; while in
our case men serve without pay.

"This numerical comparison is worth carrying a stage further.  Germany
and her ally have between them a total population of 115,000,000.  The
United Kingdom (including the people of European stock who inhabit the
various Dominions), France, Russia, Belgium, Servia, and Montenegro
number in round figures about 280,000,000.  Roughly speaking, these are
odds of seven to three against us.  And I am leaving out of account all
the non-European races--the {165} Turks on the one side, the Japanese
and the Indians on the other.  If these were included the odds would be
much heavier.

"And yet our Kaiser spoke but the simple truth, when he told us on New
Year's Day that, after five months of war, the German armies were
almost everywhere on the territories of their enemies.  We are not only
keeping you back and defying all your efforts to invade us; but like
the infant Hercules, we have gripped you by your throats, and were
holding you out at arm's length!


"I do not of course pretend to look at this matter except from the
German standpoint; but is there any flaw in my reasoning, is there
anything at all unfair, if I thus sum up my conclusions?--By Midsummer
next--after stupendous efforts of the oratorical and journalistic
kind--after an enormous amount of shouting, music-hall singing, cinema
films, and showy advertising of every description--after making great
play with the name and features of a popular field-marshal, in a manner
which must have shocked both his natural modesty and soldierly
pride--after all this you expect, or say you expect, that you will
possess between two and two-and-a-half millions of men trained, armed,
equipped, and ready to take the field.

"As against this, during the same period, and out of the less military
half of our male population, without any shouting or advertising to
speak of, we shall have provided approximately double that number.  We
have raised these new forces quietly, without any fuss, and without a
word of protest from any of our people.  We are training them without
any serious difficulty.  We are arming {166} them, equipping them,
clothing them, and housing them without any difficulty at all.

"To conclude this interesting contrast, may I ask you--is it true, as
the French newspapers allege, that you are about to invite, or have
already invited, your Japanese Allies to send some portion of their
Army to European battlefields?  With what face can you make this appeal
when you have not yet called upon your own people to do, what every
other people engaged in the present struggle, has already done?

"After you have pondered upon this strange and startling contrast, will
you still hold to the opinion that the German system--which you have
affected to despise, on the ground that it does not rest upon what you
are pleased to term 'a popular basis'--is at any point inferior to your
own in its hold upon the hearts of the people?

"What is meant by the phrase--'a popular basis'?  Is it something
different from the support of the people, the will of the people, the
devotion of the people?  And if it is different, is it better--judging,
that is, by its results in times of trouble--or is it worse?"

So the cultured Freiherr, watching democracy at work in Britain, its
ancient home, concludes with this question--"Is this timid, jealous,
and distracted thing possessed of any real faith in itself; and if so,
will it fight for its faith to the bitter end?  Is the British system
one which even the utmost faith in it can succeed in propping up?  Does
it possess any inherent strength; or is it merely a thing of
paste-board and make-believe, fore-ordained to perish?"

[1] This letter, which is dated April 1, 1915, arrived at its
destination (via Christiania and Bergen) about ten days later.  It had
not the good fortune, however, to escape the attentions of the Censor,
the ravages of whose blacking-brush will be noted in the abrupt
termination of sundry paragraphs.

[2] "The empires which during the past forty years have made the
greatest relative material progress are undoubtedly Germany and
Japan--neither of them a democracy, but both military states."

[3] It is not quite clear to what incidents the Freiherr is referring.
He may be thinking of a certain round-robin which appeared a few days
before the war, giving a most handsome academic testimonial of humanity
and probity to the German system; or he may have in mind a later
manifestation in February last, when there suddenly flighted into the
correspondence columns of the _Nation_ a 'gaggle' of university geese,
headed appropriately enough by a Professor of Political Economy, by
name Pigou, who may be taken as the type of that peculiarly British
product, the unemotional sentimentalist.  To this 'gaggle' of the
heavier fowls there succeeded in due course a 'glory' of poetical and
literary finches, twittering the same tune--the obligation on the
Allies not to inflict suffering and humiliation on Germany--on Germany,
be it remembered, as yet unbeaten, though this was rather slurred over
in their spring-song of lovingkindness.  The Freiherr, plunged in his
heathen darkness, no doubt still believed Germany to be not only
unbeaten but victorious, and likely to continue on the same course.  He
must therefore have been somewhat puzzled by so much tender concern on
the part of our professors, etc. for sparing his feelings at the end of
the war.

[4] Comment has already been made on the difficulty each nation has in
understanding the spirit of the institutions of its neighbours.  If
this is borne in mind these depreciatory references of the Freiherr may
be forgiven.

[5] I have had considerable difficulty in discovering the basis of this
extraordinary charge.  It seems to consist of the following passage
from a speech by Sir Stanley Buckmaster, the Solicitor-General and
Chairman of the Press Bureau on November 12, 1914.  It is distressing
to see how far national prejudice is apt to mislead a hostile critic
like the Freiherr von Hexenküchen: "Criticism of the Government, or of
members of the Government, is not that which I have ever stopped,
except when such criticism is of such a character that it might destroy
public confidence in the Government, which at this moment is charged
with the conduct of the war, or might in any way weaken the confidence
of the people in the administration of affairs, or otherwise cause
distress or disturbance amongst people in thinking their affairs were
in a really serious state."




The Freiherr's discourse raises a large number of questions, some of
them unarguable.  Others again are too much so; for if once started
upon, argument with regard to them need never end.  Some of his
contentions have already been dealt with in previous chapters; some on
the other hand, such as the British methods of recruiting, will be
considered later on.  It must, however, be admitted that his taunts and
criticisms do not all rebound with blunted points from our shield of
self-complacency; some, if only a few, get home and rankle.

We are challenged to contrast our faith in our own political
institutions with that of the Germans in theirs; also to measure the
intrinsic strength of that form of political organisation called
'democracy' against that other form which is known as 'autocracy.'

The German state is the most highly developed and efficient type of
personal monarchy at present known to the world.  Its triumphs in
certain directions have been apparent from the beginning.  It would be
sheer waste of time to dispute the fact that Germany was incomparably
better prepared, organised, and educated for this war--the purpose of
which was the spoliation of her {168} neighbours--than any of her
neighbours were for offering resistance.

But what the Freiherr does not touch upon at all is the conflict
between certain underlying ideas of right and wrong--old ideas, which
are held by Russia, France, and ourselves, and which now find
themselves confronted by new and strange ideas which have been
exceedingly prevalent among the governing classes in Germany for many
years past.  He does not raise _this_ issue, any more than his
fellow-countrymen now raise it either in America or at home.  It is
true that there was a flamboyant outburst from a few faithful
Treitschkians and Nietzschians, both in prose and poetry, during those
weeks of August and September which teemed with German successes; but
their voices soon sank below audibility--possibly by order
_verboten_--in a swiftly dying fall.  We, however, cannot agree to let
this aspect of the matter drop, merely because patriotic Germans happen
to have concluded that the present time is inopportune for the
discussion of it.

There are two clear and separate issues.  From the point of view of
posterity the more important of these, perhaps, may prove to be this
conflict in the region of moral ideas.  From the point of view of the
present generation, however, the chief matter of practical interest is
the result of a struggle for the preservation of our own institutions,
against the aggression of a race which has not yet learned the last and
hardest lesson of civilisation--how to live and let live.

[Sidenote: DEMOCRACY]

The present war may result in the bankruptcy of the Habsburg and
Hohenzollern dynasties.  It is very desirable, however, to make clear
the fact {169} that the alternative is the bankruptcy of 'democracy.'
Our institutions are now being subjected to a severer strain than they
have ever yet experienced.  Popular government is standing its trial.
It will be judged by the result; and no one can say that this is an
unfair test to apply to human institutions.

No nation, unless it be utterly mad, will retain a form of government
which from some inherent defect is unable to protect itself against
external attack.  Is democratic government capable of looking ahead,
making adequate and timely preparation, calling for and obtaining from
its people the sacrifices which are necessary in order to preserve
their own existence?  Can it recover ground which has been lost, and
maintain a long, costly, and arduous struggle, until, by victory, it
has placed national security beyond the reach of danger?

Defeat in the present war would shake popular institutions to their
foundations in England as well as France; possibly also in regions
which are more remote than either of these.  But something far short of
defeat--anything indeed in the nature of a drawn game or
stalemate--would assuredly bring the credit of democracy so low that it
would be driven to make some composition with its creditors.

Words, like other currencies, have a way of changing their values as
the world grows older.  Until comparatively recent times 'democracy'
was a term of contempt, as 'demagogue' still is to-day.

The founders of American Union abhorred 'Democracy,'[1] and took every
precaution which occurred to them in order to ward it off.  Their aim
was {170} 'Popular,' or 'Representative Government'--a thing which they
conceived to lie almost at the opposite pole.  Their ideal was a state,
the citizens of which chose their leaders at stated intervals, and
trusted them.  Democracy, as it appeared in their eyes, was a political
chaos where the people chose its servants, and expected from them only
servility.  There was an ever-present danger, calling for stringent
safeguards, that the first, which they esteemed the best of all
constitutional arrangements, would degenerate into the second, which
they judged to be the worst.

Until times not so very remote it was only the enemies of
Representative Government, or its most cringing flatterers, who spoke
of it by the title of Democracy.  Gradually, however, in the looseness
of popular discussions, the sharpness of the original distinction wore
off, so that the ideal system and its opposite--the good and the
evil--are now confounded together under one name.  There is no use
fighting against current terminology; but it is well to bear in mind
that terminology has no power to alter facts, and that the difference
between the two principles still remains as wide as it was at the

When a people becomes so self-complacent that it mistakes its own
ignorance for omniscience--so jealous of authority and impatient of
contradiction that it refuses to invest with more than a mere shadow of
power those whose business it is to govern--when the stock of
leadership gives out, or remains hidden and undiscovered under a litter
of showy refuse--when those who succeed in pushing themselves to the
front are chiefly concerned not to lead, but merely to act the parts of
leaders 'in silver slippers and amid applause'--when the chiefs of
parties are {171} so fearful of unpopularity that they will not assert
their own opinions, or utter timely warnings, or proclaim what they
know to be the truth--when such things as these come to pass the nation
has reached that state which was dreaded by the framers of the American
Constitution, and which--intending to warn mankind against it--they
branded as 'Democracy.'


Self-criticism makes for health in a people; but it may be overdone.
If it purges the national spirit it is good; but if it should lead to
pessimism, or to some impatient breach with tradition, it is one of the
worst evils.  One is conscious of a somewhat dangerous tendency in
certain quarters at the present time to assume the worst with regard to
the working of our own institutions.

Critics of this school have pointed out (what is undoubtedly true) that
Germany has been far ahead of us in her preparations.  Every month
since war began has furnished fresh evidence of the far-sightedness,
resourcefulness, thoroughness, and efficiency of all her military
arrangements.  Her commercial and financial resources have also been
husbanded, and organised in a manner which excites our unwilling
admiration.  And what perhaps has been the rudest shock of all, is the
apparent unity and devotion of the whole German people, in support of a
war which, without exaggeration, may be said to have cast the shadow of
death on every German home.

These critics further insist that our own nation has not shown itself
more loyal, and that it did not rouse itself to the emergency with
anything approaching the same swiftness.  Timidity and a wilful {172}
self-deception, they say, have marked our policy for years before this
war broke out.  They marked it again when the crisis came upon us.
Have they not marked it ever since war began?  And who can have
confidence that they will not continue to mark it until the end,
whatever the end may be?

The conclusion therefore at which our more despondent spirits have
arrived, is that the representative system has already failed us--that
it has suffered that very degradation which liberal minds of the
eighteenth century feared so much.  How can democracy in the bad
sense--democracy which has become decadent--which is concerned mainly
with its rights instead of with its duties--with its comforts more than
with the sacrifices which are essential to its own preservation--how
can such a system make head against an efficient monarchy sustained by
the enthusiastic devotion of a vigorous and intelligent people?

It does not seem altogether wise to despair of one's own institutions
at the first check.  Even democracy, in the best sense, is not a
flawless thing.  Of all forms of government it is the most delicate,
more dependent than any other upon the supply of leaders.  There are
times of dearth when the crop of leadership is a short one.  Nor are
popular institutions, any more than our own vile bodies, exempt from
disease.  Disease, however, is not necessarily fatal.  The patient may
recover, and in the bracing air of a national crisis, such as the
present, conditions are favourable for a cure.

And, after all, we may remind these critics that in 1792 democracy did
in fact make head pretty successfully against monarchy.  Though it was
miserably unprovided, untrained, inferior to its enemies in everything
{173} save spirit and leadership, the states of Europe
nevertheless--all but England--went down before it, in the years which
followed, like a row of ninepins.  Then as now, England, guarded by
seas and sea-power, had a breathing-space allowed her, in which to
adjust the spirit of her people to the new conditions.  That Germany
will not conquer us with her arms we may well feel confident.  But
unless we conquer her with _our arms_--and this is a much longer
step--there is a considerable danger that she may yet conquer us with
_her ideas_.  In that case the world will be thrown back several
hundred years; and the blame for this disaster, should it occur, will
be laid--and laid rightly--at the door of Democracy, because it vaunted
a system which it had neither the fortitude nor the strength to uphold.


When we pass from the conflict between systems of government, and come
to the other conflict of ideas as to right and wrong, we find ourselves
faced with an antagonism which is wholly incapable of accommodation.
In this war the stakes are something more than any of the material
interests involved.  It is a conflict where one faith is pitted against
another.  No casuistry will reconcile the ideal which inspires English
policy with the ideal which inspires German policy.  There is no
sense--nothing indeed but danger--in arguing round the circle to prove
that the rulers of these two nations are victims of some frightful
misunderstanding, and that really at the bottom of their hearts they
believe the same things.  This is entirely untrue: they believe quite
different things; things indeed which are as nearly as possible


Our own belief is old, ingrained, and universal.  It is accepted
equally by the people and their rulers.  We have held it so long that
the articles of our creed have become somewhat blurred in
outline--overgrown, like a memorial tablet, by moss and lichen.

In the case of our enemy the tablet is new and the inscription sharp.
He who runs may read it in bold clear-cut lettering.  But the belief of
the German people in the doctrine which has been carved upon the stone
is not yet universal, or anything like universal.  It is not even
general.  It is fully understood and accepted only in certain strata of
society; but it is responsible, without a doubt, for the making in cold
blood of the policy which has led to this war.  When the hour struck
which the German rulers deemed favourable for conquest, war, according
to their creed, became the duty as well as the interest of the

But so soon as war had been declared, the German people were allowed
and even encouraged to believe that the making of war from motives of
self-interest was a crime against humanity--the Sin against the Holy
Ghost.  They were allowed and encouraged to believe that the Allies
were guilty of this crime and sin.  And not only this, but war itself,
which had been hymned in so many professorial rhapsodies, as a noble
and splendid restorer of vigour and virtue, was now execrated with
wailing and gnashing of teeth, as the most hideous of all human

It is clear from all this that the greater part of the German people
regarded war in exactly the same light as the whole of the English
people did.  In itself it was a curse; and the man who deliberately
contrived it for his own ends, or even for those of his {175} country,
was a criminal.  The German people applied the same tests as we did,
and it is not possible to doubt that in so doing they were perfectly
sincere.  They acted upon instinct.  They had not learned the later
doctrines of the pedantocracy, or how to steer by a new magnetic pole.
They still held by the old Christian rules as to duties which exist
between neighbours.  To their simple old-fashioned loyalty what their
Kaiser said must be the truth.  And what their Kaiser said was that the
Fatherland was attacked by treacherous foes.  That was enough to banish
all doubts.  For the common people that was the reality and the only
reality.  Phrases about world-power and will-to-power--supposing they
had ever heard or noticed them--were only mouthfuls of strange words,
such as preachers of all kinds love to chew in the intervals of their


When the priests and prophets found themselves at last confronted by
those very horrors which they had so often invoked, did their new-found
faith desert them, or was it only that their tongues, for some reason,
refused to speak the old jargon?  Judging by their high-flown
indignation against the Allies it would rather seem as if, in the day
of wrath, they had hastily abandoned sophistication for the pious
memories of their unlettered childhood.  Their apostasy was too well
done to have been hypocrisy.

With the rulers it was different.  They knew clearly enough what they
had done, what they were doing, and what they meant to do.  When they
remained sympathetically silent, amid the popular babble about the
horrors of war and iniquity of peace-breakers, their tongues were not
paralysed by remorse--they were merely in their cheeks.  Their {176}
sole concern was to humour public opinion, the results of whose
disapproval they feared, quite as much as they despised its judgment.

That war draws out and gives scope to some of the noblest human
qualities, which in peace-time are apt to be hidden out of sight, no
one will deny.  That it is a great getter-rid of words and phrases,
which have no real meaning behind them--that it is a great winnower of
true men from shams, of staunch men from boasters and blowers of their
own trumpets--that it is a great binder-together of classes, a great
purifier of the hearts of nations, there is no need to dispute.
Occasionally, though very rarely, it has proved itself to be a great
destroyer of misunderstanding between the combatants themselves.

But although the whole of this is true, it does not lighten the guilt
of the deliberate peace-breaker.  Many of the same benefits, though in
a lesser degree, arise out of a pestilence, a famine, or any other
great national calamity; and it is the acknowledged duty of man to
strive to the uttermost against these and to ward them off with all his
strength.  It is the same with war.  To argue, as German intellectuals
have done of late, that in order to expand their territories they were
justified in scattering infection and deliberately inviting this
plague, that the plague itself was a thing greatly for the advantage of
the moral sanitation of the world--all this is merely the casuistry of
a priesthood whom the vanity of rubbing elbows with men of action has
beguiled of their salvation.


Somewhere in one of his essays Emerson introduces an interlocutor whom
he salutes as 'little Sir.'  One feels tempted to personify the whole
corporation of German pedants under the same title.  When they {177}
talk so vehemently and pompously about the duty of deliberate
war-making for the expansion of the Fatherland, for the fulfilment of
the theory of evolution, even for the glory of God on high, our minds
are filled with wonder and a kind of pity.

Have they ever seen war except in their dreams, or a countryside in
devastation?  Have they ever looked with their own eyes on shattered
limbs, or faces defaced, of which cases, and the like, there are
already some hundreds of thousands in the hospitals of Europe, and may
be some millions before this war is ended?  Have they ever
reckoned--except in columns of numerals without human meaning--how many
more hundreds of thousands, in the flower of their age, have died and
will die, or--more to be pitied--will linger on maimed and impotent
when the war is ended?  Have they realised any of these things, except
in diagrams, and curves, and statistical tables, dealing with the
matter--as they would say themselves, in their own dull and dry
fashion--'under its broader aspects'--in terms, that is, of population,
food-supply, and economic output?

Death, and suffering of many sorts occur in all wars--even in the most
humane war.  And this is not a humane war which the pedants have let
loose upon us.  Indeed, they have taught with some emphasis that
humanity, under such conditions, is altogether a mistake.

"Sentimentality!" cries the 'little Sir' impatiently, "sickly
sentimentality!  In a world of men such things must be.  God has
ordained war."

Possibly.  But what one feels is that the making of war is the Lord's
own business and not the 'little Sir's.'  It is the Lord's, as
vengeance is, and {178} earthquakes, floods, and droughts; not an
office to be undertaken by mortals.

The 'little Sir,' however, has devised a new order for the world, and
apparently he will never rest satisfied until Heaven itself conforms to
his initiative.  He is audacious, for like the Titans he has challenged
Zeus.  But at times we are inclined to wonder--is he not perhaps trying
too much?  Is he not in fact engaged in an attempt to outflank
Providence, whose pivot is infinity?  And for this he is relying solely
upon the resources of his own active little finite mind.  He presses
his attack most gallantly against human nature--back and forwards, up
and down--but opposing all his efforts is there not a screen of
adamantine crystal which cannot be pierced, of interminable superficies
which cannot be circumvented?  Is he not in some ways like a wasp,
which beats itself angrily against a pane of glass?

[1] Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay.



I saw then in my dream that he went on _thus_, even until he came at a
bottom, where he saw, a little out of the way, three Men fast asleep
with Fetters upon their heels.

The name of the one was _Simple_, another _Sloth_, and the third

_Christian_ then seeing them lie in this case, went to them, if
Peradventure he might awake them.  And cried, you are like them that
sleep on the top of a Mast, for the dead Sea is under you, a Gulf that
hath no bottom.  Awake therefore and come away; be willing also, and I
will help you off with your Irons.  He also told them, If he that goeth
about like a _roaring Lion_ comes by, you will certainly become a prey
to his teeth.

With that they lookt upon him, and began to reply in this sort:
_Simple_ said, _I see no danger_; _Sloth_ said, _Yet a little more
sleep_; and _Presumption_ said, _Every Vat must stand upon his own
bottom_.  And so they lay down to sleep again, and _Christian_ went on
his way.

_The Pilgrim's Progress_.




(_January_ 1901-_July_ 1914)

It is not true to say that this is a war between the rival principles
of democracy and autocracy.  A too great absorption in our own
particular sector of the situation has led certain writers to put
forward, as a general explanation, this formula which is not only
inadequate, but misleading.  The real issue is something wider and
deeper than a struggle between forms of government.  It is concerned
with the groundwork of human beliefs.

And yet it is unquestionably true to say, that by reason of Germany's
procedure, this war is being waged against democracy--not perhaps by
intention, but certainly in effect.  For if the Allies should be
defeated, or even if they should fail to conquer their present enemies,
the result must necessarily be wounding to the credit of popular
institutions all the world over, fatal to their existence in Europe at
any rate, fatal conceivably at no long distance of time to their
existence elsewhere than in Europe.  For mankind, we may be sure, is
not going to put up with any kind of government merely because it is
ideally beautiful.  No system will be tolerated {182} indefinitely
which does not enable the people who live under it to protect
themselves from their enemies.  The instinct of self-preservation will
drive them to seek for some other political arrangement which is
competent, in the present imperfect condition of the world, to provide
the first essential of a state, which is Security.

But although the whole fabric of democracy is threatened by this war,
the principle of autocracy is not challenged by it either directly or
indirectly.  France and England are not fighting against personal
monarchy any more than Russia is fighting against popular government.
So far as the forms of constitutions are concerned each of the Allies
would be well content to live and let live.  They are none of them
spurred on by propagandist illusions like the armies of the First
Republic.  Among Russians, devotion to their own institutions, and
attachment to the person of their Emperor are inspired not merely by
dictates of political expediency and patriotism, but also by their
sense of religious duty.[1]  It is inconceivable that the national
spirit of Russia could ever have been roused to universal enthusiasm
merely in order to fight the battles of democracy.  And yet Russia is
now ranged side by side with the French Republic and the British
Commonwealth in perfect unison.  What has induced her to submit to
sacrifices--less indeed than those of Belgium, but equal to those of
France, and much greater so far than our own--unless some issue was at
stake wider and deeper even than the future of popular government?

The instincts of a people are vague and obscure.  The reasons which are
put forward, the motives {183} which appear upon the surface, the
provocations which lead to action, the immediate ends which are sought
after and pursued, rarely explain the true causes or proportions of any
great national struggle.  But for all that, the main issue, as a rule,
is realised by the masses who are engaged, although it is not realised
through the medium of coherent argument or articulate speech.

The present war is a fight, not between democracy and autocracy, but
between the modern spirit of Germany and the unchanging spirit of
civilisation.  And it is well to bear in mind that the second of these
is not invincible.  It has suffered defeat before now, at various
epochs in the world's history, when attacked by the same forces which
assail it to-day.  Barbarism is not any the less barbarism because it
employs weapons of precision, because it avails itself of the
discoveries of science and the mechanism of finance, or because it
thinks it worth while to hire bands of learned men to shriek pæans in
its praise and invectives against its victims.  Barbarism is not any
the less barbarism because its methods are up to date.  It is known for
what it is by the ends which it pursues and the spirit in which it
pursues them.


The modern spirit of Germany is materialism in its crudest form--the
undistracted pursuit of wealth, and of power as a means to wealth.  It
is materialism, rampant and self-confident, fostered by the
state--subsidised, regulated, and, where thought advisable, controlled
by the state--supported everywhere by the diplomatic resources of the
state--backed in the last resort by the fleets and armies of the state.
It is the most highly organised machine, {184} the most deliberate and
thorough-going system, for arriving at material ends which has ever yet
been devised by man.  It is far more efficient, but not a whit less
material, than 'Manchesterism' of the Victorian era, which placed its
hopes in 'free' competition, and also than that later development of
trusts and syndicates--hailing from America--which aims at levying
tribute on society by means of 'voluntary' co-operation.  And just as
the English professors, who fell prostrate in adoration before the
prosperity of cotton-spinners, found no difficulty in placing
self-interest upon the loftiest pedestal of morality, so German
professors have succeeded in erecting for the joint worship of the
Golden Calf and the War-god Wotun, high twin altars which look down
with pity and contempt upon the humbler shrines of the Christian faith.

The morality made in Manchester has long ago lost its reputation.  That
which has been made in Germany more recently must in the end follow
suit; for, like its predecessor, it is founded upon a false conception
of human nature and cannot endure.  But in the interval, if it be
allowed to triumph, it may work evil, in comparison with which that
done by our own devil-take-the-hindmost philosophers sinks into


Looking at the present war from the standpoint of the Allies, the
object of it is to repel the encroachments of materialism, working its
way through the ruin of ideas, which have been cherished always, save
in the dark ages when civilisation was overwhelmed by barbarism.
Looking at the matter from our own particular standpoint, it is also
incidentally a struggle for the existence of democracy.  The chief
question {185} we have to ask ourselves is whether our people will
fight for their faith and traditions with the same skill and courage as
the Germans for their material ends?  Will they endure sacrifices with
the same fortitude as France and Russia?  Will they face the inevitable
eagerly and promptly, or will they play the laggard and by delay ruin
all--themselves most of all? ... This war is not going to be won for us
by other people, or by some miraculous intervention of Providence, or
by the Germans running short of copper, or by revolutions in Berlin,
nor even by the break-up of the Austrian Empire.  In order to win it we
shall have to put out our full strength, to organise our resources in
men and material as we have never done before during the whole of our
history.  We have not accomplished these things as yet, although we
have expressed our determination, and are indeed willing to attempt
them.  We were taken by surprise, and the immediate result has been a
great confusion, very hard to disentangle.

Considering how little, before war began, our people had been taken
into the confidence of successive governments, as to the relations of
the British Empire with the outside world; how little education of
opinion there had been, as to risks, and dangers, and means of defence;
how little leading and clear guidance, both before and since, as to
duties--considering all these omissions one can only marvel that the
popular response has been what it is, and that the confusion was not
many times worse.

What was the mood of the British race when this war broke upon them so
unexpectedly?  To what extent were they provided against it in a
material sense?  And still more important, how far were {186} their
minds and hearts prepared to encounter it?  It is important to
understand those things, but in order to do this it is necessary to
look back over a few years.

By a coincidence which may prove convenient to historians, the end of
the nineteenth century marked the beginning of a new epoch[2]--an
interlude, of brief duration as it proved--upon which the curtain was
rung down shortly before midnight on the 4th of August 1914.

Between these two dates, in a space of something over thirteen years,
events had happened in a quick succession, both within the empire and
abroad, which disturbed or dissolved many ancient understandings.  The
spirit of change had been busy with mankind, and needs unknown to a
former generation had grown clamorous.  Objects of hope had presented
themselves, driving old ideas to the wall, and unforeseen dangers had
produced fresh groupings, compacts, and associations between states,
and parties, and individual men.

In Europe during this period the manifest determination of Germany to
challenge the naval supremacy of Britain, by the creation of a fleet
designed and projected as the counterpart of her overwhelming army, had
threatened the security of the whole continent, and had put France,
Russia, and England upon terms not far removed from those of an
alliance.  The gravity of this emergency had induced our politicians to
exclude, for the time being, this department of public affairs from the
bitterness of their party struggles; and it had also drawn {187} the
governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions into relations
closer than ever before, for the purpose of mutual defence.[3]


In the meanwhile there had been developments even more startling in the
hitherto unchanging East.  Japan, as the result of a great war,[4] had
become a first-class power, redoubtable both by sea and land.  China,
the most populous, the most ancient, and the most conservative of
despotisms, had suddenly sought her salvation under the milder
institutions of a republic.[5]

The South African war, ended by the Peace of Pretoria, had paved the
way for South African Union.[6] The achievement of this endeavour had
been applauded by men of all parties; some finding in it a welcome
confirmation of their theories with regard to liberty and
self-government; others again drawing from it encouragement to a still
bolder undertaking.  For if South Africa had made a precedent, the
existing state of the world had supplied a motive, for the closer union
of the empire.

Within the narrower limits of the United Kingdom changes had also
occurred within this period which, from another point of view, were
equally momentous.  In 1903 Mr. Chamberlain had poured new wine into
old bottles, and in so doing had hastened the inevitable end of
Unionist predominance by changing on a sudden the direction of party
policy.  In the unparalleled defeat which ensued two and a half years
later the Labour party appeared for the first time, formidable both in
numbers and ideas.

A revolution had likewise been proceeding in {188} our institutions as
well as in the minds of our people.  The balance of the state had been
shifted by a curtailment of the powers of the House of Lords[7]--the
first change which had been made by statute in the fundamental
principle of the Constitution since the passing of the Act of
Settlement.[8]  In July 1914 further changes of a similar character,
hardly less important under a practical aspect, were upon the point of
receiving the Royal Assent.[9]

Both these sets of changes--that which had been already accomplished
and the other which was about to pass into law--had this in common,
that even upon the admissions of their own authors they were
incomplete.  Neither in the Parliament Act nor in the Home Rule Act was
there finality.  The composition of the Second Chamber had been set
down for early consideration, whilst a revision of the constitutional
relations between England, Scotland, and Wales was promised so soon as
the case of Ireland had been dealt with.

It seemed as if the modern spirit had at last, in earnest, opened an
inquisition upon the adequacy of our ancient unwritten compact, which
upon the whole, had served its purpose well for upwards of two hundred
years.  It seemed as if that compact were in the near future to be
tested thoroughly, and examined in respect of its fitness for dealing
with the needs of the time--with the complexities and the vastness of
the British Empire--with the evils which prey upon us from within, and
with the dangers which threaten us from without.

Questioners were not drawn from one party alone.  {189} They were
pressing forwards from all sides.  It was not merely the case of
Ireland, or the powers of the Second Chamber, or its composition, or
the general congestion of business, or the efficiency of the House of
Commons: it was the whole machinery of government which seemed to need
overhauling and reconsideration in the light of new conditions.  Most
important of all these constitutional issues was that which concerned
the closer union of the Empire.


It was little more than eighty years since the Iron Duke had described
the British Constitution as an incomparably devised perfection which
none but a madman would seek to change.  That was not now the creed of
any political party or indeed of any thinking man.  No one was
satisfied with things as they were.  Many of the most respectable old
phrases had become known for empty husks, out of which long since had
dropped whatever seed they may originally have contained.  Many of the
old traditions were dead or sickly, and their former adherents were now
wandering at large, like soldiers in the middle ages, when armies were
disbanded in foreign parts, seeking a new allegiance, and constituting
in the meanwhile a danger to security and the public peace.

And also, within this brief period, the highest offices had become
vacant, and many great figures had passed from the scene.  Two
sovereigns had died full of honour.  Two Prime Ministers had also died,
having first put off the burden of office, each at the zenith of his
popularity.  Of the two famous men upon the Unionist side who remained
when Lord Salisbury tendered his resignation, the one since 1906 had
been wholly withdrawn from public life, {190} while the other, four
years later, had passed the leadership into younger hands.[10]

There is room for an almost infinite variety of estimate as to the
influence which is exercised by pre-eminent characters upon public
affairs and national ideals.  The verdict of the day after is always
different from that of a year after.  The verdict of the next
generation, while differing from both, is apt to be markedly different
from that of the generation which follows it.  The admiration or
censure of the moment is followed by a reaction no less surely than the
reaction itself is followed by a counter-reaction.  Gradually the
oscillations become shorter, as matters pass out of the hands of
journalists and politicians into those of the historian.  Possibly
later judgments are more true.  We have more knowledge, of a kind.
Seals are broken one by one, and we learn how this man really thought
and how the other acted, in both cases differently from what had been
supposed.  We have new facts submitted to us, and possibly come nearer
the truth.  But while we gain so much, we also lose in other
directions.  We lose the sharp savour of the air.  The keen glance and
alert curiosity of contemporary vigilance are lacking.  Conditions and
circumstances are no longer clear, and as generation after generation
passes away they become more dim.  The narratives of the great
historians and novelists are to a large extent either faded or false.
We do not trust the most vivid presentments written by the man of
genius in his study a century after the event, while we know well that
even the shrewdest of contemporaneous observers is certain to omit many
{191} of the essentials.  If Macaulay is inadequate in one direction,
Pepys is equally inadequate in another.  And if the chronicler at the
moment, and the historian in the future are not to be wholly believed,
the writer who comments after a decade or less upon things which are
fresh in his memory is liable to another form of error; for either he
is swept away by the full current of the reaction, or else his
judgments are embittered by a sense of the hopelessness of swimming
against it.


This much, however, may be said safely--that the withdrawal of any
pre-eminent character from the scene, whether it be Queen Victoria or
King Edward, Lord Salisbury or Mr. Chamberlain, produces in a greater
or less degree that same loosening of allegiance and disturbance of
ideas, which are so much dreaded by the conservative temperament from
the removal of an ancient institution.  For a pre-eminent character is
of the same nature as an institution.  The beliefs, loyalties, and
ideals of millions were attached to the personality of the Queen.  The
whole of that prestige which Queen Victoria drew from the awe,
reverence, affection, and prayers of her people could not be passed
along with the crown to King Edward.  The office of sovereign was for
the moment stripped and impoverished of some part of its strength, and
was only gradually replenished as the new monarch created a new, and to
some extent a different, loyalty of his own.  So much is a truism.
But, when there is already a ferment in men's minds, the disappearance
in rapid succession of the pre-eminent characters of the age helps on
revolution by putting an end to a multitude of customary attachments,
and by setting sentiments adrift to wander in search of new heroes.


A change of some importance had also come over the character of the
House of Commons.  The old idea that it was a kind of grand jury of
plain men, capable in times of crisis of breaking with their parties,
had at last finally disappeared.  In politics there was no longer any
place for plain men.  The need was for professionals, and professionals
of this sort, like experts in other walks of life, were worthy of their

The decision to pay members of Parliament came as no surprise.  The
marvel was rather that it had not been taken at an earlier date, seeing
that for considerably more than a century this item had figured in the
programmes of all advanced reformers.  The change, nevertheless, when
it came, was no trivial occurrence, but one which was bound
fundamentally to affect the character of the popular assembly; whether
for better or worse was a matter of dispute.

Immense, however, as were the possibilities contained in the conversion
of unpaid amateurs into professional and stipendiary politicians, what
excited even more notice at the time than the thing itself, were the
means by which it was accomplished.  No attempt was made to place this
great constitutional reform definitely and securely upon the statute
book.  To have followed this course would have meant submitting a bill,
and a bill would have invited discussion at all its various stages.
Moreover, the measure might have been challenged by the House of Lords,
in which case delay would have ensued; and a subject, peculiarly
susceptible to malicious misrepresentation, would have been
kept--possibly for so long as three years--under the critical eyes of
public opinion.  {193} Apparently this beneficent proposal was one of
those instances, so rare in modern political life, where neither
publicity nor advertisement was sought.  On the contrary, the object
seemed to be to do good by stealth; and for this purpose a simple
financial resolution was all that the law required.  The Lords had
recently been warned off and forbidden to interfere with money matters,
their judgment being under suspicion, owing to its supposed liability
to be affected by motives of self-interest.  The House of Commons was
therefore sole custodian of the public purse; and in this capacity its
members were invited to vote themselves four hundred pounds a year all
round, as the shortest and least ostentatious way of raising the
character and improving the quality of the people's representatives.


Even by July 1914 the effect of this constitutional amendment upon our
old political traditions had become noticeable in various directions.
But the means by which it was accomplished are no less worthy of note
than the reform itself, when we are endeavouring to estimate the
changes which have come over Parliament during this short but
revolutionary epoch.  The method adopted seemed to indicate a novel
attitude on the part of members of the House of Commons towards the
Imperial Exchequer, on the part of the Government towards members of
the House of Commons, and on the part of both towards the people whom
they trusted.  It was adroit, expeditious, and businesslike; and to
this extent seemed to promise well for years to come, when the
professionals should have finally got rid of the amateurs, and taken
things wholly into their own hands.  Hostile critics, it is true,
denounced the {194} reform bluntly as corruption, and the method of its
achievement as furtive and cynical; but for this class of persons no
slander is ever too gross--_They have said.  Quhat say they?  Let them
be saying_.

The party leaders were probably neither worse men nor better than they
had been in the past; but they were certainly smaller; while on the
other hand the issues with which they found themselves confronted were

Great characters are like tent-pegs.  One of their uses is to prevent
the political camp from being blown to ribbons.  Where they are too
short or too frail, we may look for such disorders as have repeated
themselves at intervals during the past few years.  A blast of anger or
ill-temper has blown, or a gust of sentiment, or even a gentle zephyr
of sentimentality, and the whole scene has at once become a confusion
of flapping canvas, tangled cordage, and shouting, struggling humanity.
Such unstable conditions are fatal to equanimity; they disturb the
fortitude of the most stalwart follower, and cause doubt and distrust
on every hand.

Since the Liberal Government came into power in the autumn of 1905,
neither of the great parties had succeeded in earning the respect of
the other; and as the nature of man is not subject to violent
fluctuations, it may safely be concluded that this misfortune had been
due either to some defect or inadequacy of leadership, or else to
conditions of an altogether extraordinary character.

During these ten sessions the bulk of the statute book had greatly
increased, and much of this increase was no doubt healthy tissue.  This
period, notwithstanding, {195} will ever dwell in the memory as a
squalid episode.  Especially is this the case when we contrast the high
hopes and promises, not of one party alone, with the results which were
actually achieved.


Democracy, if the best, is also the most delicate form of human
government.  None suffers so swiftly or so sorely from any shortage in
the crop of character.  None is so dependent upon men, and so little
capable of being supported by the machine alone.  When the leading of
parties is in the hands of those who lack vision and firmness, the
first effect which manifests itself is that parties begin to slip their
principles.  Some secondary object calls for and obtains the sacrifice
of an ideal.  So the Unionists in 1909 threw over the order and
tradition of the state, the very ark of their political covenant, when
they procured the rejection of the Budget by the House of Lords.  So
the Liberal Government in 1910, having solemnly undertaken to reform
the constitution--a work not unworthy of the most earnest
endeavour--went back upon their word, and abandoned their original
purpose.  For one thing they grew afraid of the clamour of their
partisans.  For another they were tempted by the opportunity of
advantages which--as they fondly imagined--could be easily and safely
secured during the interval while all legislative powers were
temporarily vested in the Commons.  Nor were these the only instances
where traditional policy had been diverted, and where ideals had been
bargained away, in the hope that thereby objects of a more material
sort might be had at once in exchange.

The business of leadership is to prevent the abandonment of the long
aim for the sake of the short.  The rank and file of every army is at
all times most {196} dangerously inclined to this fatal temptation, not
necessarily dishonestly, but from a lack of foresight and sense of

Some dim perception of cause and effect had begun to dawn during the
years 1912 and 1913 upon the country, and even upon the more sober
section of the politicians.  An apprehension had been growing rapidly,
and defied concealment, that the country was faced by a very formidable
something, to which men hesitated to give a name, but which was clearly
not to be got rid of by the customary methods of holding high debates
about it, and thereafter marching into division lobbies.  While in
public, each party was concerned to attribute the appearance of this
unwelcome monster solely to the misdeeds of their opponents, each party
knew well enough in their hearts that the danger was due at least in
some measure to their own abandonment of pledges, principles, and

At Midsummer 1914 most people would probably have said that the
immediate peril was Ireland and civil war.  A few months earlier many
imagined that trouble of a more general character was brewing between
the civil and military powers, and that an issue which they described
as that of 'the Army versus the People' would have to be faced.  A few
years earlier there was a widespread fear that the country might be
confronted by some organised stoppage of industry, and that this would
lead to revolution.  Throughout the whole of this period of fourteen
years the menace of war with Germany had been appearing, and
disappearing, and reappearing, very much as a whale shows his back,
dives, rises at some different spot, and dives again.  For the moment,
{197} however, this particular anxiety did not weigh heavily on the
public mind.  The man in the street had been assured of late by the
greater part of the press and politicians--even by ministers
themselves--that our relations with this formidable neighbour were
friendlier and more satisfactory than they had been for some
considerable time.


At Midsummer 1914, that is to say about six weeks before war broke out,
the pre-eminent character in British politics was the Prime Minister.
No other on either side of the House approached him in prestige, and so
much was freely admitted by foes as well as friends.

When we are able to arrive at a fair estimate of the man who is
regarded as the chief figure of his age, we have an important clue to
the aspirations and modes of thought of the period in which he lived.
A people may be known to some extent by the leaders whom it has chosen
to follow.

Mr. Asquith entered Parliament in 1886, and before many months had
passed his reputation was secure.  Mr. Gladstone, ever watchful for
youthful talent, promoted him at a bound to be Home Secretary, when the
Cabinet of 1892 came into precarious existence.  No member of this
government justified his selection more admirably.  But the period of
office was brief.  Three years later, the Liberal party found itself
once again in the wilderness, where it continued to wander, rent by
dissensions both as to persons and principles, for rather more than a

When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman returned to office in the autumn of
1905, Mr. Asquith became {198} Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was
speedily accepted as the minister next in succession to his chief.  He
was then just turned fifty, so that, despite the delays which had
occurred, it could not be said that fortune had behaved altogether
unkindly.  Two and a half years later, in April 1908, he succeeded to
the premiership without a rival, and without a dissentient voice.

The ambition, however, which brought him so successfully to the highest
post appeared to have exhausted a great part of its force in
attainment, and to have left its possessor without sufficient energy
for exercising those functions which the post itself required.  The
career of Mr. Asquith in the highest office reminds one a little of the
fable of the Hare and the Tortoise.  In the race which we all run with
slow-footed fate, he had a signal advantage in the speed of his
intellect, in his capacity for overtaking arrears of work which would
have appalled any other minister, and for finding, on the spur of the
moment, means for extricating his administration from the most
threatening positions.  But of late, like the Hare, he had come to
believe himself invincible, and had yielded more and more to a drowsy
inclination.  He had seemed to fall asleep for long periods, apparently
in serene confidence that, before the Tortoise could pass the
winning-post, somebody or something--in all probability the Unionist
party with the clamour of a premature jubilation--would awaken him in
time to save the race.

So far as Parliament was concerned, his confidence in his own qualities
was not misplaced.  Again and again, the unleadered energies or
ungoaded indolence of his colleagues landed the Government {199} in a
mess.  But as often as this happened Mr. Asquith always advanced upon
the scene and rescued his party, by putting the worst blunder in the
best light.  He obligingly picked his stumbling lieutenants out of the
bogs into which--largely, it must be admitted, for want of proper
guidance from their chief--they had had the misfortune to fall.  Having
done this in the most chivalrous manner imaginable, he earned their
gratitude and devotion.  In this way he maintained a firm hold upon the
leadership; if indeed it can properly be termed leadership to be the
best acrobat of the troupe, and to step forward and do the feats after
your companions have failed, and the audience has begun to 'boo.'

[Sidenote: WAIT AND SEE]

Some years ago Mr. Asquith propounded a maxim--_wait-and-see_--which
greatly scandalised and annoyed the other side.  This formula was the
perfectly natural expression of his character and policy.  In the
peculiar circumstances of the case it proved itself to be a successful
parliamentary expedient.  Again and again it wrought confusion among
his simple-minded opponents, who--not being held together by any firm
authority--followed their own noses, now in one direction, now in
another, upon the impulse of the moment.  It is probable that against a
powerful leader, who had his party well in hand, this policy of
makeshift and delay would have brought its author to grief.  But
Unionists were neither disciplined nor united, and they had lacked
leadership ever since they entered upon opposition.

For all its excellency, Mr. Asquith's oratory never touched the heart.
And very rarely indeed did it succeed in convincing the cool judgment
of people who had experience at first hand of the matters {200} under
discussion.  There was lacking anything in the nature of a personal
note, which might have related the ego of the speaker to the sentiments
which he announced so admirably.  Also there was something which
suggested that his knowledge had not been gained by looking at the
facts face to face; but rather by the rapid digestion of minutes and
memoranda, which had been prepared for him by clerks and secretaries,
and which purported to provide, in convenient tabloids, all that it was
necessary for a parliamentarian to know.

The style of speaking which is popular nowadays, and of which Mr.
Asquith is by far the greatest master, would not have been listened to
with an equal favour in the days of our grandfathers.  In the
Parliaments which assembled at Westminster in the period between the
passing of the Reform Bill and the founding of the Eighty Club,[11] the
country-gentlemen and the men-of-business--two classes of humanity who
are constantly in touch with, and drawing strength from, our mother
earth of hard fact[12]--met and fought out their differences during two
generations.  In that golden age it was all but unthinkable that a
practising barrister should ever have become Prime Minister.  The legal
profession at this time had but little influence in counsel; still less
in Parliament and on the platform.  The middle classes were every whit
as jealous and distrustful {201} of the intervention of the
lawyer-advocate in public affairs as the landed gentry themselves.  But
in the stage of democratic evolution, which we entered on the morrow of
the Mid-Lothian campaigns, and in which we still remain, the popular,
and even the parliamentary, audience has gradually ceased to consist
mainly of country-gentlemen interested in the land, and of the
middle-classes who are engaged in trade.  It has grown to be at once
less discriminating as to the substance of speeches, and more exacting
as to their form.


A representative assembly which entirely lacked lawyers would be
impoverished; but one in which they are the predominant, or even a very
important element, is usually in its decline.  It is strange that an
order of men, who in their private and professional capacities are so
admirable, should nevertheless produce baleful effects when they come
to play too great a part in public affairs.  Trusty friends, delightful
companions, stricter perhaps than any other civil profession in all
rules of honour, they are none the less, without seeking to be so, the
worst enemies of representative institutions.  The peculiar danger of
personal monarchy is that it so easily submits to draw its inspiration
from an adulatory priesthood, and the peculiar danger of that modern
form of constitutional government which we call democracy, is that
lawyers, with the most patriotic intentions, are so apt to undo it.

Lawyers see too much of life in one way, too little in another, to make
them safe guides in practical matters.  Their experience of human
affairs is made up of an infinite number of scraps cut out of other
people's lives.  They learn and do hardly anything {202} except through
intermediaries.  Their clients are introduced, not in person, but in
the first instance, on paper--through the medium of solicitors'
'instructions.'  Litigants appear at consultations in their counsel's
chambers under the chaperonage of their attorneys; their case is
considered; they receive advice.  Then perhaps, if the issue comes into
court, they appear once again, in the witness-box, and are there
examined, cross-examined, and re-examined under that admirable system
for the discovery of truth which is ordained in Anglo-Saxon countries,
and which consists in turning, for the time being, nine people in every
ten out of their true natures into hypnotised rabbits.  Then the whole
thing is ended, and the client disappears into the void from whence he
came.  What happens to him afterwards seldom reaches the ears of his
former counsel.  Whether the advice given to him in consultation has
proved right or wrong in practice, rarely becomes known to the great
man who gave it.

Plausibility, an alert eye for the technical trip or fall--the great
qualities of an advocate--do not necessarily imply judgment of the most
valuable sort outside courts of law.  The farmer who manures, ploughs,
harrows, sows, and rolls in his crop is punished in his income, if he
has done any one of these things wrongly, or at the wrong season.  The
shopkeeper who blunders in his buying or his selling, or the
manufacturer who makes things as they should not be made, suffers
painful consequences to a certainty.  His error pounds him relentlessly
on the head.  Not so the lawyer.  His errors for the most part are
visited on others.  His own success or non-success is largely a matter
of words and pose.  If he is confident and {203} adroit, the dulness of
the jury or the senility of the bench can be made to appear, in the
eyes of the worsted client, as the true causes of his defeat.  And the
misfortune is that in politics, which under its modern aspect is a
trade very much akin to advocacy, there is a temptation, with all but
the most patriotic lawyers, to turn to account at Westminster the skill
which they have so laboriously acquired in the Temple.

Of course there have been, and will ever be, exceptions.  Alexander
Hamilton was a lawyer, though he was a soldier in the first instance.
Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer.  But we should have to go back to the
'glorious revolution' of 1688 before we could find a parallel to either
of these two in our own history.  Until the last two decades England
has never looked favourably on lawyer leaders.  This was regarded by
some as a national peculiarity; by others as a safeguard of our
institutions.  But by the beginning of the twentieth century it was
clear that lawyers had succeeded in establishing their predominance in
the higher walks of English politics, as thoroughly as they had already
done wherever parliamentary government exists throughout the world.


During this epoch, when everything was sacrificed to perspicuity and
the avoidance of boredom, Mr. Asquith's utterances led the fashion.
His ministry was composed to a large extent of politicians bred in the
same profession and proficient in the same arts as himself; but he
towered above them all, the supreme type of the lawyer-statesman.

His method was supremely skilful.  In its own way it had the charm of
perfect artistry, even though {204} the product of the art was hardly
more permanent than that of the _cordon bleu_ who confections ices in
fancy patterns.  And not only was the method well suited to the taste
of popular audiences, but equally so to the modern House of Commons.
That body, also, was now much better educated in matters which can be
learned out of newspapers and books; far more capable of expressing its
meanings in well-chosen phrases arranged in a logical sequence; far
more critical of words--if somewhat less observant of things--than it
was during the greater part of the reign of Queen Victoria.

To a large extent the House of Commons consisted of persons with whom
public utterance was a trade.  There were lawyers in vast numbers,
journalists, political organisers, and professional lecturers on a
large variety of subjects.  And even among the labour party, where we
might have expected to find a corrective, the same tendency was at
work, perhaps as strongly as in any other quarter.  For although few
types of mankind have a shrewder judgment between reality and dialectic
than a thoroughly competent 'workman,' labour leaders were not chosen
because they were first-class workmen, but because they happened to be
effective speakers on the platform or at the committee table.

To a critic, looking on at the play from outside, Mr. Asquith's oratory
appeared to lack heart and the instinct for reality; his leadership,
the qualities of vigilance, steadfastness, and authority.  He did not
prevail by personal force, but by adroit confutation.  His debating, as
distinguished from his political, courage would have been admitted with
few reservations even by an opponent.  {205} Few were so ready to meet
their enemies in the gate of discussion.  Few, if any, were so capable
of retrieving the fortunes of their party--even when things looked
blackest--if it were at all possible to accomplish this by the weapons
of debate.  But the medium must be debate--not action or counsel--if
Mr. Asquith's pre-eminence was to assert itself.  In debate he had all
the confidence and valour of the _maître d'armes_, who knows himself to
be the superior in skill of any fencer in his own school.


Next to Lord Rosebery he was the figure of most authority among the
Liberal Imperialists, and yet this did not sustain his resolution when
the Cabinet of 1905 proceeded to pare down the naval estimates.  He was
the champion of equal justice, as regards the status of Trades Unions,
repelling the idea of exceptional and favouring legislation with an
eloquent scorn.  Yet he continued to hold his place when his principles
were thrown overboard by his colleagues in 1906.  Again when he met
Parliament in February 1910 he announced his programme with an air of
heroic firmness.[13]  It is unnecessary to recall the particulars of
this episode, and how he was upheld in his command only upon condition
that he would alter his course to suit the wishes of mutineers.  And in
regard to the question of Home Rule, his treatment of it from first to
last had been characterised by the virtues of patience and humility,
rather than by those of prescience or courage.

A 'stellar and undiminishable' something, around which the qualities
and capacities of a man revolve obediently, and under harmonious
restraint--like {206} the planetary bodies--is perhaps as near as we
can get to a definition of human greatness.  But in the case of Mr.
Asquith, for some years prior to July 1914, the central force of his
nature had seemed inadequate for imposing the law of its will upon
those brilliant satellites his talents.  As a result, the solar system
of his character had fallen into confusion, and especially since the
opening of that year had appeared to be swinging lop-sided across the
political firmament hastening to inevitable disaster.

[1] Cf. 'Russia and her Ideals,' _Round Table_, December 1914.

[2] Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901.

[3] Imperial Conference on Defence, summer of 1909.

[4] 1904-1905.

[5] 1911.

[6] May 1902.

[7] Parliament Act became law August 1911.

[8] 1689.

[9] Home Rule Bill became law August 1914.

[10] Mr. Chamberlain died July 2, 1914; Mr. Balfour resigned the
leadership of the Unionist party on November 8, 1911.

[11] 1832-1880.

[12] They had an excellent sense of reality as regards their own
affairs, and there between them covered a fairly wide area; but they
were singularly lacking either in sympathy or imagination with regard
to the affairs of other nations and classes.  Their interest in the
poor was confined for the most part to criticism of _one another_ with
regard to conditions of labour.  The millowners thought that the
oppression of the peasantry was a scandal; while the landowners
considered that the state of things prevailing in factories was much
worse than slavery.  Cf. Disraeli's _Sybil_.

[13] _I.e._ curtailment of the powers of the House of Lords and its
reform.  Only the first was proceeded with.




At the death of Queen Victoria the development of the British
Commonwealth entered upon a new phase.  The epoch which followed has no
precedent in our own previous experience as a nation, nor can we
discover in the records of other empires anything which offers more
than a superficial and misleading resemblance to it.  The issues of
this period presented themselves to different minds in a variety of
different lights; but to all it was clear that we had reached one of
the great turning-points in our history.

The passengers on a great ocean liner are apt to imagine, because their
stomachs are now so little troubled by the perturbation of the waves,
that it no longer profits them to offer up the familiar prayer 'for
those in peril on the sea.'  It is difficult for them to believe in
danger where everything appears so steady and well-ordered, and where
they can enjoy most of the distractions of urban life, from a
cinematograph theatre to a skittle-alley, merely by descending a gilded
staircase or crossing a brightly panelled corridor.  But this agreeable
sense of safety is perhaps due in a greater degree to fancy, than to
the changes which have taken place in the essential facts.  As dangers
have been diminished in one direction {208} risks have been incurred in
another.  A blunder to-day is more irreparable than formerly, and the
havoc which ensues upon a blunder is vastly more appalling.  An error
of observation or of judgment--the wrong lever pulled or the wrong
button pressed--an order which miscarries or is overlooked--and twenty
thousand tons travelling at twenty knots an hour goes to the bottom,
with its freight of humanity, merchandise, and treasure, more easily,
and with greater speed and certainty, than in the days of the old
galleons--than in the days when Drake, in the _Golden Hind_ of a
hundred tons burden, beat up against head winds in the Straits of
Magellan, and ran before the following gale off the Cape of Storms.

Comfort, whether in ships of travel or of state, is not the same thing
as security.  It never has been, and it never will be.

The position after Queen Victoria's death also differed from all
previous times in another way.  After more than three centuries of
turmoil and expansion, the British race had entered into possession of
an estate so vast, so rich in all natural resources, that a sane mind
could not hope for, or even dream of, any further aggrandisement.
Whatever may be the diseases from which the British race suffered
during the short epoch between January 1901 and July 1914, megalomania
was certainly not one of them.

The period of acquisition being now acknowledged at an end, popular
imagination became much occupied with other things.  It assumed, too
lightly and readily perhaps, that nothing was likely to interfere with
our continuing to hold what we had got.  If there was not precisely a
law of nature, which precluded the possessions of the British Empire
from ever being {209} taken away, at any rate there was the law of
nations.  The public opinion of the world would surely revolt against
so heinous a form of sacrilege.  Having assumed so much, placidly and
contentedly, and without even a tremor either as to the good-will or
the potency of the famous Concert of Europe, the larger part of public
opinion tended to become more and more engrossed in other problems.  It
began to concern itself earnestly with _the improvement of the
condition of the people_, and with _the reform and consolidation of
institutions_.  Incidentally, and as a part of each of these
endeavours, the development of an estate which had come, mainly by
inheritance, into the trusteeship of the British people, began
seriously to occupy their thoughts.


These were problems of great worth and dignity, but nevertheless there
was one condition of their successful solution, which ought to have
been kept in mind, but which possibly was somewhat overlooked.  If we
allowed ourselves to be so much absorbed by these two problems that we
gave insufficient heed to our defences, it was as certain as any human
forecast could be, that the solution of a great deal, which was
perplexing us in the management of our internal affairs, would be
summarily taken out of the hands of Britain and her Dominions and
solved according to the ideas of strangers.

If we were to bring our policy of social and constitutional improvement
and the development of our estate to a successful issue, we must be
safe from interruption from outside.  We must secure ourselves against
foreign aggression; for we needed time.  Our various problems could not
be solved in a day or even in a generation.  The most urgent {210} of
all matters was _security_, for it was the prime condition of all the

We desired, not merely to hold what we had got, but to enjoy it, and
make it fructify and prosper, in our own way, and under our own
institutions.  For this we needed peace within our own sphere; and
therefore it was necessary that we should be strong enough to enforce

During the post-Victorian period--this short epoch of transition--there
were therefore three separate sets of problems which between them
absorbed the energies of public men and occupied the thoughts of all
private persons, at home and in the Dominions, to whom the present and
future well-being of their country was a matter of concern.

The first of these problems was _Defence_: How might the British
Commonwealth, which held so vast a portion of the habitable globe, and
which was responsible for the government of a full quarter of all the
people who dwelt thereon--how might it best secure itself against the
dangers which threatened it from without?

The second was the problem of _the Constitution_: How could we best
develop, to what extent must we remake or remould, our ancient
institutions, so as to fit them for those duties and responsibilities
which new conditions required that they should be able to perform?
Under this head we were faced with projects, not merely of local
self-government, of 'Home Rule,' and of 'Federalism'; not merely with
the working of the Parliament Act, with the composition, functions, and
powers of the Second Chamber, with the Referendum, the Franchise, and
{211} such like; but also with that vast and even more perplexing
question--what were to be the future relations between the Mother
Country and the self-governing Dominions on the one hand, and between
these five democratic nations and the Indian Empire and the
Dependencies upon the other?

For the third set of problems no concise title has yet been found.
_Social Reform_ does not cover it, though perhaps it comes nearer doing
so than any other.  The matters involved here were so multifarious and,
apparently at least, so detached one from another--they presented
themselves to different minds at so many different angles and under
such different aspects--that no single word or phrase was altogether
satisfactory.  But briefly, what all men were engaged in searching
after--the Labour party, no more and no less than the Radicals and the
Tories--was how we could raise the character and material conditions of
our people; how by better organisation we could root out needless
misery of mind and body; how we could improve the health and the
intelligence, stimulate the sense of duty and fellowship, the
efficiency and the patriotism of the whole community.

Of these three sets of problems with which the British race has
recently been occupying itself, this, the third, is intrinsically by
far the most important.


It is the most important because it is an end in itself whereas the
other two are only the means for achieving this end.  Security against
foreign attack is a desirable and worthy object only in order to enable
us to approach this goal.  A strong and flexible constitution is an
advantage only because we believe it will enable us to achieve our
objects, better and more quickly, than if we are compelled to go on
working {212} under a system which has become at once rigid and
rickety.  But while we were bound to realise the superior nature of the
third set of problems, we should have been careful at the same time to
distinguish between two things which are very apt to be confused in
political discussions--_ultimate importance_ and _immediate urgency_.

We ought to have taken into our reckoning both the present state of the
world and the permanent nature of man--all the stuff that dreams and
wars are made on.  We desired peace.  We needed peace.  Peace was a
matter of life and death to all our hopes.  If defeat should once break
into the ring of our commonwealth--scattered as it is all over the
world, kept together only by the finest and most delicate
attachments--it must be broken irreparably.  Our most immediate
interest was therefore to keep defeat, and if possible, war, from
bursting into our sphere--as Dutchmen by centuries of laborious
vigilance have kept back the sea with dikes.

The numbers of our people in themselves were no security; nor our
riches; nor even the fact that we entertained no aggressive designs.
For as it was said long ago, 'it never troubles a wolf how many the
sheep be.'  They find no salvation in their heavy fleeces and their fat
haunches; nor even in the meekness of their hearts, and in their
innocence of all evil intentions.

The characteristic of this period may be summed up in one short
sentence; the vast majority of the British people were bent and
determined--as they had never been bent and determined before--upon
leaving their country better than they had found it.


To some this statement will seem a paradox.  "Was there ever a time,"
they may ask, "when there had been so many evidences of popular unrest,
discontent, bitterness and anger; or when there had ever appeared to be
so great an inclination, on the one hand to apathy and cynicism, on the
other hand to despair?"


Were all this true, it would still be no paradox; but only a natural
consequence.  Things are very liable to slip into this state, when men
who are in earnest--knowing the facts as they exist in their respective
spheres; knowing the evils at first hand; believing (very often with
reason) that they understand the true remedies--find themselves
baulked, and foiled, and headed off at every turn, their objects
misconceived and their motives misconstrued, and the current of their
wasted efforts burying itself hopelessly in the sand.  Under such
conditions as these, public bodies and political parties
alike--confused by the multitude and congestion of issues--are apt to
bestow their dangerous attentions, now on one matter which happens to
dart into the limelight, now upon another; but in the general hubbub
and perplexity they lose all sense, both of true proportion and natural
priority.  Everything is talked about; much is attempted in a
piecemeal, slap-dash, impulsive fashion; inconsiderably little is
brought to any conclusion whatsoever; while nothing, or next to
nothing, is considered on its merits, and carried through thoughtfully
to a clean and abiding settlement....  The word 'thorough' seemed to
have dropped out of the political vocabulary.  In an age of specialism
politics alone was abandoned to the Jack-of-all-trades.


This phenomenon--the depreciated currency of public character--was not
peculiar to one party more than another.  It was not even peculiar to
this particular time.  It has shown itself at various epochs--much in
the same way as the small-pox and the plague--when favoured by
insanitary conditions.  The sedate Scots philosopher, Adam Smith,
writing during the gloomy period which fell upon England after the
glory of the great Chatham had departed, could not repress his
bitterness against "that insidious and crafty animal, vulgarly called a
statesman or politician, whose councils are directed by the momentary
fluctuations of affairs."  It would seem as if the body politic is not
unlike the human, and becomes more readily a prey to vermin, when it
has sunk into a morbid condition.

Popular judgment may be trusted as a rule, and in the long run, to
decide a clear issue between truth and falsehood, and to decide it in
favour of the former.  But it becomes perplexed, when it is called upon
to discriminate between the assurances of two rival sets of showmen,
whose eagerness to outbid each other in the public favour leaves
truthfulness out of account.  In the absence of gold, one brazen
counterfeit rings very much like another.  People may be suspicious of
both coins; but on the whole their fancy is more readily caught by the
optimist effigy than the pessimist.  They may not place entire trust in
the 'ever-cheerful man of sin,' with his flattery, his abounding
sympathy, his flowery promises, and his undefeated hopefulness; but
they prefer him at any rate to 'the melancholy Jaques,' booming
maledictions with a mournful {215} constancy, like some bittern in the
desolation of the marshes.

So far as principles were concerned most of the trouble was
unnecessary.  Among the would-be reformers--among those who sincerely
desired to bring about efficiency within their own spheres--there was
surprisingly little that can truly be called antagonism.  But
competition of an important kind--competition for public attention and
priority of treatment--had produced many of the unfortunate results of
antagonism.  It was inevitable that this lamentable state of things
must continue, until it had been realised that one small body of men,
elected upon a variety of cross issues, could not safely be left in
charge of the defence of the Empire, the domestic welfare of the United
Kingdom, and the local government of its several units.


It was not merely that the various aims were not opposed to one
another; they were actually helpful to one another.  Often, indeed,
they were essential to the permanent success of one another.  The man
who desired to improve the conditions of the poor was not, therefore,
the natural enemy of him who wanted to place the national defences on a
secure footing.  And neither of these was the natural enemy of others
who wished to bring about a settlement of the Irish question, or of the
Constitutional question, or of the Imperial question.  But owing partly
to the inadequacy of the machinery for giving a free course to these
various aspirations--partly to the fact that the machinery itself was
antiquated, in bad repair, and had become clogged with a variety of
obstructions--there was an unfortunate tendency on the part of every
one who had any particular object very much {216} at heart, to regard
every one else who was equally concerned about any other object as an
impediment in his path.

The need of the time, of course, was leadership--a great man--or better
still two great men, one on each side--like the blades of a pair of
scissors--to cut a way out of the confusion by bringing their keen
edges into contact.  But obviously, the greater the confusion the
harder it is for leadership to assert itself.  We may be sure enough
that there were men of character and capacity equal to the task if only
they could have been discovered.  But they were not discovered.

There were other things besides the confusion of aims and ideas which
made it hard for leaders to emerge.  The loose coherency of parties
which prevailed during the greater part of the nineteenth century had
given place to a set of highly organised machines, which employed
without remorse the oriental method of strangulation, against
everything in the nature of independent effort and judgment.  The
politician class had increased greatly in numbers and influence.  The
eminent and ornamental people who were returned to Westminster filled
the public eye, but they were only a small proportion of the whole; nor
is it certain that they exercised the largest share of authority.  When
in the autumn of 1913 Sir John Brunner determined to prevent Mr.
Churchill from obtaining the provisions for the Navy which were judged
necessary for the safety of the Empire, the method adopted was to raise
the National Liberal Federation against the First Lord of the
Admiralty, and through the agency of that powerful organisation to
bring pressure to bear {217} upon the country, members of Parliament,
and the Cabinet itself.


It is unpopular to say that the House of Commons has deteriorated in
character, but it is true.  An assembly, the members of which cannot
call their souls their own, will never tend in an upward direction.
The machines which are managed with so much energy and skill by the
external parasites of politics, have long ago taken over full
responsibility for the souls of their nominees.  According to
'Gresham's law,' bad money, if admitted into currency, will always end
by driving out good.  A similar principle has been at work for some
time past in British public life, by virtue of which the baser kind of
politicians, having got a footing, are driving out their betters at a
rapid pace.  Few members of Parliament will admit this fact; but they
are not impartial judges, for every one is naturally averse from
disparaging an institution to which he belongs.

During the nineteenth century, except at the very beginning, and again
at the very end of it, very few people ever thought of going into
Parliament, or even into politics, in order that they might thrive
thereby, or find a field for improving their private fortunes.  This
cannot be said with truth of the epoch which has just ended.  There has
been a change both in tone and outlook during the last thirty years.
Things have been done and approved by the House of Commons, elected in
December 1910, which it is quite inconceivable that the House of
Commons, returned in 1880, would ever have entertained.  The
Gladstonian era had its faults, but among them laxity in matters of
finance did not figure.  Indeed private members, as well as statesmen,
not infrequently {218} crossed the border-line which separates purism
from pedantry; occasionally they carried strictness to the verge of
absurdity; but this was a fault in the right direction--a great
safeguard to the public interest, a peculiarly valuable tendency from
the standpoint of democracy.

A twelvemonth ago a number of very foolish persons were anxious to
persuade us that the predominant issue was the Army _versus_ the
People.  But even the crispness of the phrase was powerless to convince
public opinion of so staggering an untruth.  The predominant issue at
that particular moment was only what it had been for a good many years
before--the People _versus_ the Party System.

[Sidenote: NEED OF RICH MEN]

What is apt to be ignored is, that with the increase of wealth on the
one hand, and the extension of the franchise on the other, the Party
System has gradually become a vested interest upon an enormous
scale,--like the liquor trade of which we hear so much, or the _haute
finance_ of which perhaps we hear too little.  Rich men are required in
politics, for the reason that it is necessary to feed and clothe the
steadily increasing swarms of mechanics who drive, and keep in repair,
and add to, that elaborate machinery by means of which the Sovereign
People is cajoled into the belief that its Will prevails.  From the
point of view of the orthodox political economist these workers are as
unproductive as actors, bookmakers, or golf professionals; but they
have to be paid, otherwise they would starve, and the machines would
stop.  So long as there are plenty of rich men who desire to become
even richer, or to decorate their names with titles, or to move in
shining circles, this is not at all likely to occur, unless the Party
System {219} suddenly collapsed, in which case there would be acute

There are various grades of these artisans or mechanicians of politics,
from the professional organiser or agent who, upon the whole, is no
more open to criticism than any other class of mankind which works
honestly for its living--down to the committee-man who has no use for a
candidate unless he keeps a table from which large crumbs fall in
profusion.  The man who supplements his income by means of politics is
a greater danger than the other who openly makes politics his vocation.
The jobbing printer, enthusiastically pacifist or protectionist, well
paid for his hand-bills, and aspiring to more substantial contracts;
the smart, ingratiating organiser, or hustling, bustling journalist,
who receives a complimentary cheque, or a bundle of scrip, or a seat on
a board of directors from the patron whom he has helped to win an
election--very much as at ill-regulated shooting parties the
head-keeper receives exorbitant tips from wealthy sportsmen whom he has
placed to their satisfaction--all these are deeply interested in the
preservation of the Party System.  Innocent folk are often heard
wondering why candidates with such strange names--even stranger
appearance--accents and manner of speech which are strangest of
all--are brought forward so frequently to woo the suffrages of urban
constituencies.  Clearly they are not chosen on account of their
political knowledge; for they have none.  There are other aspirants to
political honours who, in comeliness and charm of manner, greatly excel
them; whose speech is more eloquent, or at any rate less
unintelligible.  Yet London caucuses in particular have {220} a great
tenderness for these bejewelled patriots, and presumably there must be
reasons for the preference which they receive.  One imagines that in
some inscrutable way they are essential props of the Party System in
its modern phase.

The drawing together of the world by steam and electricity has brought
conspicuous benefits to the British Empire.  The five self-governing
nations of which it is composed come closer together year by year.
Statesmen and politicians broaden the horizons of their minds by swift
and easy travel.  But there are drawbacks as well as the reverse under
these new conditions.  To some extent the personnel of democracy has
tended to become interchangeable, like the parts of a bicycle; and
public characters are able to transfer their activities from one state
to another, and even from one hemisphere to another, without a great
deal of difficulty.  This has certain advantages, but possibly more
from the point of view of the individual than from that of the
Commonwealth.  After failure in one sphere there is still hope in
another.  Mr. Micawber, or even Jeremy Diddler, may go the round, using
up public confidence at one resting-place after another.  For the Party
System is a ready employer, and providing a man has a glib tongue, a
forehead of brass, or an open purse, a position will be found for him
without too much enquiry made into his previous references.


In a world filled with confusion and illusion the Party System has
fought at great advantage.  Indeed it is generally believed to be so
firmly entrenched that nothing can ever dislodge it.  There are
dangers, however, in arguing too confidently from use and wont.
Conspicuous failure or disaster might bring {221} ruin on this revered
institution, as it has often done in history upon others no less
venerable.  The Party System has its weak side.  Its wares are mainly
make-believes, and if a hurricane happens to burst suddenly, the caucus
may be left in no better plight than Alnaschar with his overturned
basket.  The Party System is not invulnerable against a great man or a
great idea.  But of recent years it has been left at peace to go its
own way, for the reason that no such man or idea has emerged, around
which the English people have felt that they could cluster confidently.
There has been no core on which human crystals could precipitate and
attach themselves, following the bent of their nature towards a firm
and clear belief--or towards the prowess of a man--or towards a Man
possessed by a Belief.  The typical party leader during this epoch has
neither been a man in the heroic sense, nor has he had any belief that
could be called firm or clear.  For the most part he has been merely a
Whig or Tory tradesman, dealing in opportunism; and for the
predominance of the Party System this set of conditions was almost
ideal.  It was inconceivable that a policy of wait-and-see could ever
resolve a situation of this sort.  To fall back on lawyerism was
perhaps inevitable in the circumstances; but to think that it was
possible to substitute lawyerism for leadership was absurd.

And yet amid this confusion we were aware--even at the time--and can
see much more clearly now the interlude is ended--that there were three
great ideas running through it all, struggling to emerge, to make
themselves understood, and to get themselves realised.  But
unfortunately what were realities to ordinary men were only counters
according {222} to the reckoning of the party mechanicians.  The
_first_ aim and the _second_--the improvement of the organisation of
society and the conditions of the poor--the freeing of local
aspirations and the knitting together of the empire--were held in
common by the great mass of the British people, although they were
viewed by one section and another from different angles of vision.  The
_third_ aim, however--the adequate defence of the empire--was not
regarded warmly, or even with much active interest, by any organised
section.  The people who considered it most earnestly were not engaged
in party politics.  The manipulators of the machines looked upon the
_first_ and the _second_ as means whereby power might be gained or
retained, but they looked askance upon the _third_ as a perilous
problem which it was wiser and safer to leave alone.  The great
principles with which the names--among others--of Mr. Chamberlain, Lord
Roberts, and Mr. Lloyd George are associated, were at no point opposed
one to another.  Each indeed was dependent upon the other two for its
full realisation.  And yet, under the artificial entanglements of the
Party System, the vigorous pursuit of any one of the three seemed to
imperil the success of both its competitors.




In the post-Victorian epoch, which we have been engaged in considering,
the aim of British foreign policy may be summed up in one
word--Security.  It was not aggression; it was not revenge; it was not
conquest, or even expansion of territories; it was simply Security.

It would be absurd, of course, to imagine that security is wholly, or
even mainly, a question of military preparations.  "All this is but a
sheep in a lion's skin, where the people are of weak courage;" or where
for any reason, the people are divided among themselves or disaffected
towards their government.

The defences of every nation are of two kinds, the organised and the
unorganised; the disciplined strength of the Navy and the Army on the
one hand, the vigour and spirit of the people upon the other.

The vigour of the people will depend largely upon the conditions under
which they live, upon sufficiency of food, the healthiness or otherwise
of their employments and homes, the proper nourishment and upbringing
of their children.  It is not enough that rates of wages should be
good, if those who earn them {224} have not the knowledge how to use
them to the best advantage.  It is not always where incomes are lowest
that the conditions of life are worst.  Measured by infant mortality,
and by the health and general happiness of the community, the crofters
of Scotland, who are very poor, seem to have learned the lesson _how to
live_ better than the highly paid workers in many of our great
manufacturing towns.

Education--by which is meant not merely board-school instruction, but
the influence of the home and the surrounding society--is not a less
necessary condition of vigour than wages, sanitary regulations, and
such like.  The spiritual as well as the physical training of children,
the nature of their amusements, the bent of their interests, the
character of their aims and ideals, at that critical period when the
boy or girl is growing into manhood or womanhood--all these are things
which conduce directly, as well as indirectly, to the vigour of the
race.  They are every bit as much a part of our system of national
defence as the manoeuvring of army corps and the gun-practice of

The _spirit_ of the people, on the other hand, will depend for its
strength upon their attachment to their own country; upon their
affection for its customs, laws, and institutions; upon a belief in the
general fairness and justice of its social arrangements; upon the good
relations of the various classes of which society is composed.  The
spirit of national unity is indispensable even in the case of the most
powerful autocracy.  It is the very foundation of democracy.  Lacking
it, popular government is but a house of cards, which the first serious
challenge from without, or the first strong outburst of {225}
discontent from within will bring tumbling to the ground.  Such a
feeling of unity can only spring from the prevalence of an opinion
among every class of the community, that their own system, with all its
faults, is better suited to their needs, habits, and traditions than
any other, and that it is worth preserving, even at the cost of the
greatest sacrifices, from foreign conquest and interference.


While a people sapped by starvation and disease will be wanting in the
_vigour_ necessary for offering a prolonged and strenuous resistance,
so will a people, seething with class hatred and a sense of tyranny and
injustice, be wanting in the _spirit_.  The problem, however, of these
unorganised defences, fundamental though it is, stands outside the
scope of the present chapter, which is concerned solely with those
defences which are organised.

The beginning of wisdom with respect to all problems of defence is the
recognition of the two-headed principle that _Policy depends on
Armaments just as certainly as Armaments depend on Policy_.

The duty of the Admiralty and the War Office is to keep their armaments
abreast of the national endeavour.  It is folly to do more: it is
madness to do less.  The duty of the Foreign Minister is to restrain
and hold back his policy, and to prevent it from ambitiously outrunning
the capacity of the armaments which are at his disposal.  If he does
otherwise the end is likely to be humiliation and disaster.

When any nation is unable or unwilling to provide the armaments
necessary for supporting the policy which it has been accustomed to
pursue and would {226} like to maintain, it should have the sense to
abandon that policy for something of a humbler sort before the bluff is
discovered by the world.[1]

It may possibly appear absurd to dwell with so much insistence upon a
pair of propositions which, when they are set down in black and white,
will at once be accepted as self-evident by ninety-nine men out of a
hundred.  But plain and obvious as they are, none in the whole region
of politics have been more frequently ignored.  These two principles
have been constantly presenting themselves to the eyes of statesmen in
a variety of different shapes ever since history began.

It may very easily happen that the particular policy which the desire
for security requires, is one which the strength of the national
armaments at a given moment will not warrant the country in pursuing.
Faced with this unpleasant quandary, what is Government to do, if it be
convinced of the futility of trying to persuade the people to incur the
sacrifices necessary for realising the national aspirations?  Is it to
give up the traditional policy, and face the various consequences which
it is reasonable to anticipate?  Or is it to persevere in the policy,
and continue acting as if the forces at its disposal were sufficient
for its purpose, when in fact they are nothing of the kind?  To follow
the former course {227} calls for a surrender which the spirit of the
people will not easily endure, and which may even be fatal to the
independent existence of the state.  But to enter upon the latter is
conduct worthy of a fraudulent bankrupt, since it trades upon an
imposture, which, when it is found out by rival nations, will probably
be visited by still severer penalties.

But surely Government has only to make it clear to the people that,
unless they are willing to bring their armaments abreast of their
policy, national aspirations must be baulked and even national safety
itself may be endangered.  When men are made to understand these
things, will they not certainly agree to do what is necessary, though
they may give their consent with reluctance?[2]


It is very certain, however, that this outside view of the case
enormously underrates the difficulties which stare the politician out
of countenance.  In matters of this sort it is not so easy a thing to
arrive at the truth; much less to state it with such force and
clearness that mankind will at once recognise it for truth, and what is
said to the contrary for falsehood.  The intentions of foreign
governments, and the dangers arising out of that quarter, are subjects
which it is singularly difficult to discuss frankly, without incurring
the very evils which every government seeks to avoid.  And if these
things are not easy to discuss, it is exceedingly easy for faction or
fanatics to misrepresent them.[3]  Moreover, the lamentations of the
Hebrew prophets bear witness to the {228} deafness and blindness of
generations into whom actual experience of the evils foretold had not
already burnt the lesson which it was desired to teach.  Evils which
have never been suffered are hard things to clothe with reality until
it is too late, and words, even the most eloquent and persuasive, are
but a poor implement for the task.

The policy of a nation is determined upon, so as to accord with what it
conceives to be its honour, safety, and material interests.  In the
natural course of events this policy may check, or be checked by, the
policy of some other nation.  The efforts of diplomacy may be
successful in clearing away these obstructions.  If so, well and good;
but if not, there is nothing left to decide the issue between the two
nations but the stern arbitrament of war.

Moreover, diplomacy itself is dependent upon armaments in somewhat the
same sense as the prosperity of a merchant is dependent upon his credit
with his bankers.  The news system of the world has undergone a
revolution since the days before steam and telegraphs.  It is not
merely more rapid, but much ampler.  The various governments are kept
far more fully informed of one another's affairs, and as a consequence
the great issues between nations have become clear and sharp.  The most
crafty and smooth-tongued ambassador can rarely wheedle his opponents
into concessions which are contrary to their interests, unless he has
something more to rely upon than his own guile and plausibility.  Army
corps and battle fleets looming in the distance are better persuaders
than the subtlest arguments and the deftest flattery.

What, then, is the position of a statesman who {229} finds himself
confronted by a clash of policies, if, when the diplomatic deadlock
occurs, he realises that his armaments are insufficient to support his
aim?  In such an event he is faced with the alternative of letting
judgment go by default, or of adding almost certain military disaster
to the loss of those political stakes for which his nation is
contending with its rival.  Such a position must be ignominious in the
extreme; it might even be ruinous; and yet it would be the inevitable
fate of any country whose ministers had neglected the maxim that policy
in the last resort is dependent upon armaments.


If we are in search of an example we shall find it ready to our hand.
The Empire of China is comparable to our own at least in numbers; for
each of them contains, as nearly as may be, one quarter of the whole
human race.  And as China has hitherto failed utterly to make her
armaments sufficient, under the stress of modern conditions, to support
even that meek and passive policy of possession which she has
endeavoured to pursue, so she has been compelled to watch in
helplessness while her policy has been disregarded by every adventurer.
She has been pressed by all the nations of the world and obliged to
yield to their demands.  Humiliating concessions have been wrung from
her; favours even more onerous, in the shape of loans, have been forced
upon her.  The resources with which nature has endowed her have been
exploited by foreigners against her will.  Her lands have been shorn
from her and parcelled out among those who were strong, and who
hungered after them.  This conquest and robbery has proceeded both by
wholesale and retail.  {230} Because she yielded this to one claimant,
another, to keep the balance even, has insisted upon that.  Safe and
convenient harbours, fortified places, islands, vast stretches of
territory, have been demanded and taken from her almost without a
struggle; and all this time she has abstained with a timid caution from
anything which can justly be termed provocation.  For more than half a
century, none the less, China has not been mistress in her own house.

The reason of this is plain enough--China had possessions which other
nations coveted, and she failed to provide herself with the armaments
which were necessary to maintain them.

The British people likewise had possessions which other nations
coveted--lands to take their settlers, markets to buy their goods,
plantations to yield them raw materials.  If it were our set
determination to hold what our forefathers won, two things were
necessary: the first, that our policy should conform to this aim; the
second, that our armaments should be sufficient to support our policy.

A nation which desired to extend its possessions, to round off its
territories, to obtain access to the sea, would probably regard
conquest, or at all events absorption, as its highest immediate
interest.  This would be the constant aim of its policy, and if its
armaments did not conform to this policy, the aim would not be
realised.  Examples both of failure and success are to be found in the
history of Russia from the time of Peter the Great, and in that of
Prussia from the days of the Great Elector.

A nation--like England or Holland in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries--which {231} was seeking to secure against its
commercial rivals, if necessary by force of arms, new markets among
civilised but unmilitary races, would require a policy and armaments to


The British Empire in the stage of development which it had reached at
the end of the Victorian era did not aim at acquisition of fresh
territories or new markets, save such as might be won peacefully by the
skill and enterprise of its merchants.  It sought only to hold what it
already possessed, to develop its internal resources, and to retain
equal rights with its commercial rivals in neutral spheres.  But in
order that those unaggressive objects might be realised, there was need
of a policy, different indeed from that of Elizabeth, of Cromwell, or
of Chatham, but none the less clear and definite with regard to its own
ends.  And to support this policy there was need of armaments, suitable
in scale and character.

It was frequently pointed out between the years 1901 and 1914 (and it
lay at the very root of the matter), that while we were perfectly
satisfied with things as they stood, and should have been more than
content--regarding the subject from the standpoint of our own
interests--to have left the map of the world for ever, as it then was
drawn, another nation was by no means so well pleased with existing
arrangements.  To this envious rival it appeared that we had taken more
than our fair share--as people are apt to do who come early.  We had
wider territories than we could yet fill with our own people; while our
neighbour foresaw an early date at which his race would be overflowing
its boundaries.  We had limitless resources in the Dominions and
Dependencies {232} overseas, which when developed would provide a
united empire with markets of inestimable value.  In these respects
Germany was in a less favourable position.  Indeed, with the exceptions
of Russia and the United States, no other great Power was so
fortunately placed as ourselves; and even these two nations, although
they had an advantage over the British Empire by reason of their huge
compact and coterminous territories, still did not equal it in the
vastness and variety of their undeveloped resources.

Clearly, therefore, the policy which the needs of our Commonwealth
required at this great turning-point in its history, was not only
something different from that of any other great Power, but also
something different from that which had served our own purposes in
times gone by.  Like China, our aim was peaceful possession.  Unlike
China, we ought to have kept in mind the conditions under which alone
this aim was likely to be achieved.  It might be irksome and contrary
to our peaceful inclinations to maintain great armaments when we no
longer dreamed of making conquests; but in the existing state of the
world, armaments were unfortunately quite as necessary for the purpose
of enabling us to hold what we possessed, as they ever were when our
forefathers set out to win the Empire.


In 1904, with the object of promoting harmony between the policy and
armaments of the British Empire, Mr. Balfour created the Committee of
Imperial Defence.  This was undoubtedly a step of great importance.
His purpose was to introduce a system, by means of which ministers and
high officials responsible for the Navy and Army would {233} be kept in
close touch with the trend of national policy, in so far as it might
affect the relations of the Commonwealth with foreign Powers.  In like
manner those other ministers and high officials, whose business it was
to conduct our diplomacy, maintain an understanding with the Dominions,
administer our Dependencies, and govern India, would be made thoroughly
conversant with the limitations to our naval and military strength.
Having this knowledge, they would not severally embark on
irreconcilable or impracticable projects or drift unknowingly into
dangerous complications.  The conception of the Committee of Imperial
Defence, therefore, was due to a somewhat tardy recognition of the
two-headed principle, that armaments are mere waste of money unless
they conform to policy, and that policy in the last resort must depend
on armaments.

The Committee was maintained by Mr. Balfour's successors, and was not
allowed (as too often happens when there is a change of government) to
fall into discredit and disuse.[4]  But in order that this body of
statesmen and experts might achieve the ends in view, it was essential
for them to have realised clearly, not only the general object of
British policy--which indeed was contained in the single word
'Security'--but also the special dangers which loomed in the near
future.  They had then to consider what reciprocal obligations had
already been contracted with other nations, whose interests were to
some extent the same as our own, and what further undertakings of a
similar character it might be desirable to enter {234} into.  Finally,
there were the consequences which these obligations and undertakings
would entail in certain contingencies.  It was not enough merely to
mumble the word 'Security' and leave it at that.  What security implied
in the then existing state of the world was a matter which required to
be investigated in a concrete, practical, and business-like way.

Unfortunately, the greater part of these essential preliminaries was
omitted, and as a consequence, the original idea of the Committee of
Imperial Defence was never realised.  Harmonious, flexible, and of
considerable utility in certain directions, it did not work
satisfactorily as a whole.  The trend of policy was, no doubt, grasped
in a general way; but, as subsequent events have proved, the conditions
on which alone that line could be maintained, and the consequences
which it involved, were not at any time clearly understood and boldly
faced by this august body in its corporate capacity.

The general direction may have been settled; but certainly the course
was not marked out; the rocks and shoals remained for the most part
uncharted.  The committee, no doubt, had agreed upon a certain number
of vague propositions, as, for example, that France must not be crushed
by Germany, or the neutrality of Belgium violated by any one.  They
knew that we were committed to certain obligations--or, as some people
called them, 'entanglements'--and that these again, in certain
circumstances, might commit us to others.  But what the whole amounted
to was not realised in barest outline, by the country, or by
Parliament, or by the Government, or even, we may safely conjecture, by
the Committee itself.  {235} We have the right to say this, because, if
British policy had been realised as a whole by the Committee of
Imperial Defence, it would obviously have been communicated to the
Cabinet, and in its broader aspects to the people; and this was never
done.  It is inconceivable that any Prime Minister, who believed, as
Mr. Asquith does, in democratic principles, would have left the country
uneducated, and his own colleagues unenlightened, on a matter of so
great importance, had his own mind been clearly made up.


When the crisis occurred in July 1914, when Germany proceeded to
action, when events took place which for years past had been foretold
and discussed very fully on both sides of the North Sea, it was as if a
bolt had fallen from the blue.  Uncertainty was apparent in all
quarters.  The very thing which had been so often talked of had
happened.  Germany was collecting her armies and preparing to crush
France.  The neutrality of Belgium was threatened.  Yet up to, and on,
Sunday, August 2, there was doubt and hesitation in the Cabinet, and
until some days later, also in Parliament and the country.[5]

When, finally, it was decided to declare war, the course of action
which that step required still appears to have remained obscure to our
rulers.  Until the Thursday following it was not decided to send the
Expeditionary Force abroad.  Then, out of timidity, only two-thirds of
it were sent.[6]  Transport arrangements which were all ready for
moving the whole force had to be hastily readjusted.  The delay was
{236} not less injurious than the parsimony; and the combination of the
two nearly proved fatal.

If the minds of the people and their leaders were not prepared for what
happened, if in the moral sense there was unreadiness; still more
inadequate were all preparations of the material kind--not only the
actual numbers of our Army, but also the whole system for providing
expansion, training, equipment, and munitions.  It is asking too much
of us to believe that events could have happened as they did in England
during the fortnight which followed the presentation of the Austrian
Ultimatum to Servia, had the Committee of Imperial Defence and its
distinguished president taken pains beforehand to envisage clearly the
conditions and consequences involved in their policy of 'Security.'

As regards naval preparations, things were better indeed than might
have been expected, considering the vagueness of ideas in the matter of
policy.  We were safeguarded here by tradition, and the general idea of
direction had been nearly sufficient.  There was always trouble, but
not as a rule serious trouble, in establishing the case for increases
necessary to keep ahead of German efforts.  There had been pinchings
and parings--especially in the matter of fast cruisers, for lack of
which, when war broke out, we suffered heavy losses--but except in one
instance--the abandonment of the Cawdor programme--these had not
touched our security at any vital point.

Thanks largely to Mr. Stead, but also to statesmen of both parties, and
to a succession of Naval Lords who did not hesitate, when occasion
required it, to risk their careers (as faithful servants ever will)
rather than certify safety where they saw danger--thanks, {237}
perhaps, most of all to a popular instinct, deeply implanted in the
British mind, which had grasped the need for supremacy at sea--our
naval preparations, upon the whole, had kept abreast of our policy for
nearly thirty years.

As regards the Army, however, it was entirely different.  There had
been no intelligent effort to keep our military strength abreast of our
policy; and as, in many instances, it would have been too bitter a
humiliation to keep our policy within the limits of our military
strength, the course actually pursued can only be described fitly as a
game of bluff.

There had never been anything approaching agreement with regard to the
functions which the Army was expected to perform.  Not only did
political parties differ one from another upon this primary and
fundamental question, but hardly two succeeding War Ministers had
viewed it in the same light.  There had been schemes of a bewildering
variety; but as the final purpose for which soldiers existed had never
yet been frankly laid down and accepted, each of these plans in turn
had been discredited by attacks, which called in question the very
basis of the proposed reformation.


While naval policy had been framed and carried out in accordance with
certain acknowledged necessities of national existence, military policy
had been alternately expanded and deflated in order to assuage the
anxieties, while conforming to the prejudices--real or supposed--of the
British public.  In the case of the fleet, we had very fortunately
arrived, more than a generation ago, at the point where it was a
question of what the country needed; as regards the {238} Army, it was
still a question of what the country would stand.  But how could even a
politician know what the country would stand until the full case had
been laid before the country?  How was it that while Ministers of both
parties had the courage to put the issue more or less nakedly in the
matter of ships, they grew timid as soon as the discussion turned on
army corps?  If the needs of the Commonwealth were to be the touchstone
in the one case, why not also in the other?  The country will stand a
great deal more than the politicians think; and it will stand almost
anything better than vacillation, evasion, and untruth.  In army
matters, unfortunately, it has had experience of little else since the
battle of Waterloo.

Mathematicians, metaphysicians, and economists have a fondness for what
is termed 'an assumption.'  They take for granted something which it
would be inconvenient or impossible to prove, and thereupon proceed to
build upon it a fabric which compels admiration in a less or greater
degree, by reason of its logical consistency.  There is no great harm
in this method so long as the conclusions, which are drawn from the
airy calculations of the study, are confined to the peaceful region of
their birth; but so soon as they begin to sally forth into the harsh
world of men and affairs, they are apt to break at once into shivers.
When the statesman makes an assumption he does so at his peril; or,
perhaps, to speak more correctly, at the peril of his country.  For if
it be a false assumption the facts will speedily find it out, and
disasters will inevitably ensue.


Our Governments, Tory and Radical alike, have {239} acted in recent
times as if the British Army were what their policy required it to
be--something, that is, entirely different from what it really was.
Judging by its procedure, the Foreign Office would appear to have made
the singularly bold assumption that, in a military comparison with
other nations, Britain was still in much the same relative position as
in the days of Napoleon.  Sustained by this tenacious but fantastic
tradition, Ministers have not infrequently engaged in policies which
wiser men would have avoided.  They have uttered protests, warnings,
threats which have gone unheeded.  They have presumed to say what would
and would not be tolerated in certain spheres; but having nothing
better behind their despatches than a mere assumption which did not
correspond with the facts, they have been compelled to endure rebuffs
and humiliations.  As they had not the prudence to cut their coat
according to their cloth, it was only natural that occasionally they
should have had to appear before the world in a somewhat ridiculous

British statesmen for nearly half a century had persisted in acting
upon two most dangerous assumptions.  They had assumed that one branch
of the national armaments conformed to their policy, when in fact it
did not.  And they had assumed also, which is equally fatal, that
policy, if only it be virtuous and unaggressive, is in some mysterious
way self-supporting, and does not need to depend on armaments at all.

The military preparations of Britain were inadequate to maintain the
policy of Security, which British Governments had nevertheless been
engaged in pursuing for many years prior to the outbreak of {240} the
present war.[7]  On the other hand, the abandonment of this policy was
incompatible with the continuance of the Empire.  We could not hope to
hold our scattered Dependencies and to keep our Dominions safe against
encroachments unless we were prepared to incur the necessary sacrifices.

[1] American writers have urged criticism of this sort against the
armaments of the U.S.A., which they allege are inadequate to uphold the
policy of the 'Monroe Doctrine.'  The German view of the matter has
been stated by the Chancellor (April 7, 1913) when introducing the Army
Bill:--"History knows of no people which came to disaster because it
had exhausted itself in the making of its defences; but history knows
of many peoples which have perished, because, living in prosperity and
luxury, they neglected their defences.  A people which thinks that it
is not rich enough to maintain its armaments shows merely that it has
played its part."

[2] So the argument runs, and the course of our naval policy since Mr.
Stead's famous press campaign in 1884 will be cited as an encouragement.

[3] _E.g._ in the winter of 1908 and spring of 1909, when an
influential section of the supporters of the present Cabinet chose to
believe the false assurances of the German Admiralty, and freely
accused their own Government of mendacity.

[4] Innovations of this particular sort have possibly a better chance
of preserving their existence than some others.  'Boards are screens,'
wrote John Stuart Mill, or some other profound thinker; and in politics
screens are always useful.

[5] This is obvious from the White Paper without seeking further
evidence in the ministerial press or elsewhere.

[6] Of the six infantry divisions included in the Expeditionary Force
only four were sent in the first instance; a fifth arrived about August
24; a sixth about mid-September.

[7] "Our Army, as a belligerent factor in European politics, is almost
a negligible quantity.  This Empire is at all times practically
defenceless beyond its first line.  Such an Empire invites war.  Its
assumed security amid the armaments of Europe, and now of Asia, is
insolent and provocative" (Lord Roberts, October 22, 1912).  Nothing
indeed is more insolent and provocative, or more likely to lead to a
breach of the peace, than undefended riches among armed men.




During the whole period of rather more than thirteen years--which has
been referred to in previous pages as the post-Victorian epoch, and
which extended roughly from January 1901, when Queen Victoria died, to
July 1914, when war was declared--the British Army remained inadequate
for the purpose of upholding that policy which British statesmen of
both parties, and the British people, both at home and in the
Dominions, were engaged in pursuing--whether they knew it or not--and
were bound to pursue, unless they were prepared to sacrifice their

The aim of that policy was the security of the whole empire.  This much
at any rate was readily conceded on all hands.  It was not enough,
however, that we approved the general aim of British policy.  A broad
but clear conception of the means by which our Government hoped to
maintain this policy, and the sacrifices which the country would have
to make in order to support this policy, was no less necessary.  So
soon, however, as we began to ask for further particulars, we found
ourselves in the region of acute controversy.  'Security' was a
convenient political formula, which could be accepted as readily by the
{242} man who placed his trust in international law, as by his
neighbour who believed in battle fleets and army corps.

In considering this question of security we could not disregard Europe,
for Europe was still the storm-centre of the world.  We could not
afford to turn a blind eye towards the ambitions and anxieties of the
great continental Powers.  We were bound to take into account not only
their visions but their nightmares.  We could not remain indifferent to
their groupings and alliances, or to the strength and dispositions of
their armaments.

That the United Kingdom was a pair of islands lying on the western edge
of Europe, and that the rest of the British Empire was remote, and
unwilling to be interested in the rivalries of the Teuton, Slav, and
Latin races, did not affect the matter in the least.  Nowadays no
habitable corner of the earth is really remote; and as for willingness
or unwillingness to be interested, that had nothing at all to do with
the question.  For it was clear that any Power, which succeeded in
possessing itself of the suzerainty of Europe, could redraw the map of
the world at its pleasure, and blow the Monroe Doctrine, no less than
the British Empire, sky-high.

Looking across thousands of leagues of ocean, it was difficult for the
Dominions and the United States to understand how their fortunes, and
the ultimate fate of their cherished institutions, could possibly be
affected by the turmoil and jealousies of--what appeared in their eyes
to be--a number of reactionary despotisms and chauvinistic democracies.
Even the hundred and twenty leagues which separate Hull from Emden, or
the seven which divide Dover from Calais, were enough to convince many
people {243} in the United Kingdom that we could safely allow Europe to
'stew in her own juice.'  But unfortunately for this theory, unless a
great continental struggle ended like the battle of the Kilkenny cats,
the outside world was likely to find itself in an awkward predicament,
when the conqueror chose to speak with it in the gates, at a time of
his own choosing.

British policy since 1901 had tended, with ever increasing
self-consciousness, towards the definite aim of preventing Germany from
acquiring the suzerainty of Western Europe.  It was obvious that German
predominance, if secured, must ultimately force the other continental
nations, either into a German alliance, or into a neutrality favourable
to German interests.  German policy would then inevitably be directed
towards encroachments upon British possessions.  Germany had already
boldly proclaimed her ambitions overseas.  Moreover, she would find it
pleasanter to compensate, and soothe the susceptibilities of those
nations whom she had overcome in diplomacy or war, and to reward their
subsequent services as allies and friendly neutrals, by paying them out
of our property rather than out of her own.  For this reason, if for no
other, we were deeply concerned that Germany should not dominate Europe
if we could help it.

[Sidenote: GERMAN AIMS]

During this period, on the other hand, Germany appeared to be setting
herself more and more seriously to acquire this domination.  Each
succeeding year her writers expressed themselves in terms of greater
candour and confidence.  Her armaments were following her policy.  The
rapid creation of a fleet--the counterpart of the greatest army in
Europe--and the recent additions to the striking power of her {244}
already enormous army could have no other object.  Certainly from 1909
onwards, it was impossible to regard German preparations as anything
else than a challenge, direct or indirect, to the security of the
British Empire.

Consequently the direction of British policy returned, gradually,
unavowedly, but with certainty, to its old lines, and became once more
concerned with the maintenance of the _Balance of Power_ as the prime
necessity.  The means adopted were the Triple Entente between Britain,
France, and Russia.  The object of this understanding was to resist the
anticipated aggressions of the Triple Alliance, wherein Germany was the
predominant partner.


The tendency of phrases, as they grow old, is to turn into totems, for
and against which political parties, and even great nations, fight
unreasoningly.  But before we either yield our allegiance to any of
these venerable formulas, or decide to throw it out on the scrap-heap,
there are advantages in looking to see whether or not there is some
underlying meaning which may be worth attending to.  It occasionally
happens that circumstances have changed so much since the original idea
was first crystallised in words, that the old saying contains no value
or reality whatsoever for the present generation.  More often, however,
there is something of permanent importance behind, if only we can
succeed in tearing off the husk of prejudice in which it has become
encased.  So, according to Disraeli, "the _divine right_ of Kings may
have been a plea for feeble tyrants, but the divine right of government
is the keystone of human progress."  For many years the phrase _British
interests_, which used to figure so largely in speeches {245} and
leading articles, has dropped out of use, because it had come to be
associated unfavourably with bond-holders' dividends.  The fact that it
also implied national honour and prestige, the performance of duties
and the burden of responsibilities was forgotten.  Even the doctrine of
_laissez faire_, which politicians of all parties have lately agreed to
abjure and contemn, has, as regards industrial affairs, a large kernel
of practical wisdom and sound policy hidden away in it.  But of all
these derelict maxims, that which until quite recently, appeared to be
suffering from the greatest neglect, was the need for maintaining the
_Balance of Power_ in Europe.  For close on two generations it had
played no overt part in public controversy, except when some Tory
matador produced it defiantly as a red rag to infuriate the Radical

If this policy of the maintenance of the _Balance of Power_ has been
little heard of since Waterloo, the reason is that since then, until
quite recently, the _Balance of Power_ has never appeared to be
seriously threatened.[1]  And because the policy of maintaining this
balance was in abeyance, many people have come to believe that it was
discredited.  Because it was not visibly and actively in use it was
supposed to have become entirely useless.

This policy can never become useless.  It must inevitably come into
play, so soon as any Power appears to be aiming at the mastery of the
continent.  It will ever remain a matter of life or death, to the
United Kingdom and to the British Empire, that no continental state
shall be allowed to obtain {246} command, directly or indirectly, of
the resources, diplomacy, and armaments of Europe.

In the sixteenth century we fought Philip of of Spain to prevent him
from acquiring European predominance.  In the seventeenth, eighteenth,
and nineteenth centuries we fought Louis XIV., Louis XV., and Napoleon
for the same reason.  In order to preserve the balance of power, and
with it our own security, it was our interest under Elizabeth to
prevent the Netherlands from being crushed by Spain.  Under later
monarchs it was our interest to prevent the Netherlands, the lesser
German States, Prussia, Austria, and finally the whole of Europe from
being crushed by France.  And we can as ill afford to-day to allow
France to be crushed by Germany, or Holland and Belgium to fall into
her power.  The wheel has come round full circle, but the essential
British interest remains constant.

The wheel is always turning, sometimes slowly, sometimes with startling
swiftness.  Years hence the present alliances will probably be
discarded.  It may be that some day the danger of a European
predominance will appear from a different quarter--from one of our
present allies, or from some upstart state which may rise to power with
an even greater rapidity than the Electorate of Brandenburg.  Or it may
be that before long the New World, in fact as well as phrase, may have
come in to redress the balance of the Old.  We cannot say, because we
cannot foresee what the future holds in store.  But from the opening of
the present century, the immediate danger came from Germany, who hardly
troubled to conceal the fact that she was aiming at predominance by
mastery of the Low Countries and by crushing France.



That this danger was from time to time regarded seriously by a section
of the British Cabinet, we know from their own statements both before
war broke out and subsequently.  It was no chimera confined to the
imaginations of irresponsible and panic-stricken writers.  In sober
truth the balance of power in Europe was in as much danger, and the
maintenance of it had become as supreme a British interest, under a
Liberal government at the beginning of the twentieth century, as it
ever was under a Whig government at the close of the seventeenth and
opening of the eighteenth.

The stealthy return of this doctrine into the region of practical
politics was not due to the prejudices of the party which happened to
be in power.  Quite the contrary.  Most Liberals distrusted the phrase.
The whole mass of the Radicals abhorred it.  The idea which lay under
and behind the phrase was nevertheless irresistible, because it arose
out of the facts.  Had a Socialist Government held office, this policy
must equally have imposed itself and been accepted with a good or ill
grace, for the simple reason that, unless the balance of power is
maintained in Europe, there can be no security for British freedom,
under which we mean, with God's help, to work out our own problems in
our own way.

English statesmen had adopted this policy in fact, if
unavowedly--perhaps even to some extent unconsciously--when they first
entered into, and afterwards confirmed, the Triple Entente.  And having
once entered into the Triple Entente it was obvious that, without
risking still graver consequences, we could never resume the detached
position which we occupied before we took that step.  It is difficult
to {248} believe--seeing how the danger of German predominance
threatened France and Russia as well as ourselves--that we should not
have excited the ill-will of those two countries had we refused to make
common cause by joining the Triple Entente.  It was obvious, however,
to every one that we could not afterwards retire from this association
without incurring their hostility.  If we had withdrawn we should have
been left, not merely without a friend in Europe, but with all the
chief Powers in Europe our enemies--ready upon the first favourable
occasion to combine against us.

There is only one precedent in our history for so perilous a
situation--when Napoleon forced Europe into a combination against us in
1806.  And this precedent, though it then threatened our Empire with
grave dangers, did not threaten it with dangers comparable in gravity
with those which menaced us a century later.

The consequences of breaking away from the Triple Entente were
sufficiently plain.  "We may build ships against one nation, or even
against a combination of nations.  But we cannot build ships against
half Europe.  If Western Europe, with all its ports, its harbours, its
arsenals, and its resources, was to fall under the domination of a
single will, no effort of ours would be sufficient to retain the
command of the sea.  It is a balance of power on the continent, which
alone makes it possible for us to retain it.  Thus the maintenance of
the balance of power is vital to our superiority at sea, which again is
vital to the security of the British Empire."[2]


Security in the widest sense was the ultimate end of our
policy--security of mind, security from periodic panic, as well as
actual military security.  Looked at more closely, the immediate end
was defence--the defence of the British Empire and of the United


In the existing condition of the world a policy of 'splendid isolation'
was no longer possible.  Conditions with which we are familiar in
commercial affairs, had presented themselves in the political sphere,
and co-operation on a large scale had become necessary in order to
avoid bankruptcy.  England had entered into the Triple Entente because
her statesmen realised, clearly or vaguely, that by doing so we should
be better able to defend our existence, and for no other reason.

After 1911 it must have been obvious to most people who considered the
matter carefully that in certain events the Triple Entente would become
an alliance.  It is the interest as well as the duty of allies to stand
by one another from first to last, and act together in the manner most
likely to result in victory for the alliance.  What then was the manner
of co-operation most likely to result in victory for that alliance
which lay dormant under the Triple Entente?

But first of all, to clear away one obscurity--_Invasion_ was not our
problem; _Defence_ was our problem; for the greater included the less.

The word 'defence' is apt to carry different meanings to different
minds.  The best defence of England and British interests, at any given
time, may or may not consist in keeping our main army in the United
Kingdom and waiting to be attacked here.  It all depends upon the
special circumstances {250} of each case.  The final decision must be
governed by one consideration, and one only--how to strike the
speediest, heaviest, and most disabling blow at the aggressor.  If by
keeping our army in England and endeavouring to lure the enemy into our
toils, that end is most likely to be accomplished, then it is obviously
best to keep our army here.  If by sending it into the north of France
to combine with the French the supreme military object has a superior
chance of being achieved, then it is best to send it into the north of

A defensive war cannot be defined and circumscribed as a war to drive
out invaders, or even to prevent the landing of invaders.  The best way
to defend your castle may be to man the walls, to fall upon the enemy
at the ford, to harry his lands, or even to attack him in his castle.
There is no fixed rule.  The circumstances in each case make the rule.


A war is not less a defensive war if you strike at your enemy in his
own territory, or if you come to the aid of your ally, whose territory
has been invaded or is threatened.  In the circumstances which
prevailed for a considerable number of years prior to the outbreak of
the present war, it gradually became more and more obvious, that our
soundest defence would be joint action with France upon her
north-eastern frontier.  For there, beyond any doubt, would Germany's
supreme effort be made against the Triple Entente.  If the attack
failed at that point, it would be the heaviest and most disabling blow
which our enemy could suffer.  If, on the other hand, it succeeded,
France and England would have to continue the struggle on terms
immensely less favourable.


This opinion was not by any means unanimously or clearly held; but
during the summer of 1911 and subsequently, it was undoubtedly the
hypothesis upon which those members of our Government relied, who were
chiefly responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs.  Unfortunately
Parliament and the country had never accepted either the policy or its
consequences; they had never been asked to accept either the one or the
other; nor had they been educated with a view to their acceptance.

At that time the error was exceedingly prevalent, that it is a more
comfortable business fighting in your own country than in somebody
else's.  From this it followed that it would be folly to engage in what
were termed disapprovingly 'foreign adventures,' and that we should be
wise to await attack behind our own shores.  Recent events have wrought
such a complete and rapid conversion from this heresy, that it is no
longer worth while wasting words in exposing it.  It is necessary,
however, to recall how influential this view of the matter was, not
only up to the declaration of war, but even for some time afterwards.

As to the precise form of co-operation between the members of the
Triple Entente in case of war, there could be no great mystery.  It was
obvious to any one who paid attention to what happened during the
summer and autumn of 1911, that in the event of Germany attacking
France over the Agadir dispute, we had let it be understood and
expected, that we should send our Expeditionary Force across the
Channel to co-operate with the French army on the north-eastern

[1] It can hardly be overlooked, however, that this principle, rightly
or wrongly interpreted, had something to do with the Crimean War
(1854-56) and with the British attitude at the Congress of Berlin

[2] Viscount Milner in the _United Service Magazine_, January 1912.




(August 1911)

The full gravity of the Agadir incident, though apparent to other
nations, was never realised by the people of this country.  The crisis
arose suddenly in July 1911.  Six weeks later it had subsided; but it
was not until well on in the autumn that its meanings were grasped,
even by that comparatively small section of the public who interest
themselves in problems of defence and foreign affairs.  From October
onwards, however, an increasing number began to awake to the fact, that
war had only been avoided by inches, and to consider seriously--many of
them for the first time in their lives--what would have happened if
England had become involved in a European conflict.


From various official statements, and from discussions which from time
to time had taken place in Parliament, it was understood that our
'Expeditionary Force' consisted of six infantry divisions, a cavalry
division, and army troops;[1] also that the national resources
permitted of this force being kept up to full strength for a period of
at least six months, after making all reasonable deductions for the
wastage of {253} war.  Was this enough?  Enough for what? ... To uphold
British policy; to preserve Imperial security; to enable the Triple
Entente to maintain the balance of power in Europe.  These were vague
phrases; what did they actually amount to? ... The adequacy or
inadequacy of such an army as this for doing what was required of
it--for securing speedy victory in event of war--or still better for
preserving peace by the menace which it opposed to German schemes of
aggression--can only be tested by considering the broad facts with
regard to numbers, efficiency, and readiness of all the armies which
would be engaged directly, or indirectly, in a European struggle.

War, however, had been avoided in 1911, and not a few people were
therefore convinced that the menace of the available British army,
together with the other consequences to be apprehended from the
participation of this country, had been sufficient to deter Germany
from pursuing her schemes of aggression, if indeed she had actually
harboured any notions of the kind.  But others, not altogether
satisfied with this explanation and conclusion, were inclined to press
their enquiries somewhat further.  Supposing war had actually been
declared, would the British force have been sufficient--acting in
conjunction with the French army--to repel a German invasion of France
and Belgium, to hurl back the aggressors and overwhelm them in defeat?
Would it have been sufficient to accomplish the more modest aim of
holding the enemy at his own frontiers, or even--supposing that by a
swift surprise he had been able to overrun Belgium--at any rate to keep
him out of France?


When people proceeded to seek for answers to these questions, as many
did during the year 1912, they speedily discovered that, in
considerations of this sort, the governing factor is numbers--the
numbers of the opposing forces available at the outbreak of war and in
the period immediately following.  The tremendous power of national
spirit must needs be left out of such calculations as a thing
immeasurable, imponderable, and uncertain.  It was also unsafe to
assume that the courage, intelligence, efficiency, armament, transport,
equipment, supplies, and leadership of the German and Austrian armies
would be in any degree inferior to those of the Triple Entente.
Certain things had to be allowed for in a rough and ready way;[2] but
the main enquiry was forced to concern itself with numerical strength.

There was not room for much disagreement upon the broad facts of the
military situation, among soldiers and civilians who, from 1911
onwards, gave themselves to the study of this subject at the available
sources of information; and their estimates have been confirmed, in the
main, by what has happened since war began.  The Intelligence
departments of London, Paris, and Petrograd--with much ampler means of
knowledge at their disposal--can have arrived at no other conclusions.
What the English War Office knew, the Committee of Imperial Defence
likewise knew; and the leading members of the Cabinet, if not the whole
Government, must be presumed to have been equally well informed.

It was assumed in these calculations, that in case of tension between
the Triple Entente and the Triple {255} Alliance, the latter would not
be able--in the first instance at all events--to bring its full
strength into the struggle.  For unless Germany and Austria managed
their diplomacy before the outbreak of hostilities with incomparable
skill, it seemed improbable that the Italian people would consent to
engage in a costly, and perhaps ruinous, war--a war against France,
with whom they had no quarrel; against England, towards whom they had
long cherished feelings of friendship; on behalf of the Habsburg
Empire, which they still regarded--and not altogether
unreasonably--with suspicion and enmity.


But although the neutrality of Italy might be regarded as a likelihood
at the opening of the war, it could not be reckoned on with any
certainty as a permanent condition.  For as no one can forecast the
course of a campaign, so no one can feel secure that the unexpected may
not happen at any moment.  The consequences of a defeat in this quarter
or in that, may offer too great temptations to the cupidity of
onlookers; while diplomacy, though it may have bungled in the
beginning, is sure to have many opportunities of recovering its
influence as the situation develops.  Consequently, unless and until
Italy actually joined in the struggle on the side of the Triple
Entente, a considerable section of the French army would, in common
prudence, have to be left on guard upon the Savoy frontier.

In a war brought on by the aggressive designs of Germany, the only
nations whose participation could be reckoned on with certainty--and
this only supposing that Britain stood firmly by the policy upon which
her Government had embarked--were Russia, {256} France, and ourselves
on the one side, Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other.

It would certainly be necessary for Germany, as well as Austria, to
provide troops for coast defences, and also for the frontiers of
neutral countries, which might have the temptation, in certain
circumstances, to deneutralise themselves at an inconvenient moment, if
they were left unwatched.  On the north and west were Denmark, Holland,
and Belgium, each of which had a small field army, besides garrison and
fortress troops which might be turned to more active account upon an
emergency.  On the south and east were Montenegro, Servia, and
Roumania, whose military resources were on a considerable scale, and
whose neutrality was not a thing altogether to be counted on, even
before the Balkan war[3] had lowered the prestige of Turkey.  In
addition there was Italy, who although a pledged ally in a defensive
war was not likely, for that reason, to consider herself bound to
neutrality, benevolent or otherwise, if in her judgment, the particular
contingencies which called for her support had not arisen at the outset.


After taking such precautions as seemed prudent under these heads,
Germany would then be obliged to detach for service, in co-operation
with the Austrians in Poland, and along the whole eastern border, a
sufficient number of army corps to secure substantial superiority over
the maximum forces which Russia, hampered by an inadequate railway
system and various military considerations,[4] could {257} be expected
to bring into the field and maintain there during the first few months
of the war.

It was reckoned[5] after taking all these things into account, that
Germany would have available, for the invasion of France, an army
consisting of some ninety divisions--roughly, rather more than a
million and three-quarters of men--and that she could maintain this
force at its full strength--repairing the wastage of war out of her
ample reserves--for a period of at least six months.  It was assumed
that the Kaiser, relying upon the much slower mobilisation of Russia,
would undoubtedly decide to use the whole of this huge force in the
west, in the hope that before pressure could begin to make itself felt
in the east, France would either have been crushed, as she was in 1870,
or so much mangled that it would be possible to send reinforcements of
an overwhelming character to make victory secure in Poland.

Against this German force of 1,800,000, France, according to the best
information available, could put into the field and maintain at full
strength for a similar period of six months about 1,300,000 men.  But
this was the utmost that could be expected of the French, and the
initial discrepancy of 500,000 men was very serious.  It precluded all
reasonable hope on their part of being able to take the offensive, to
which form of warfare the genius of the people was most adapted.  It
would compel them to remain on the defensive, for which it was believed
at that {258} time--though wrongly, as events have proved--that they
were ill suited by temperament as well as tradition.

If England joined in the war by land as well as sea the numerical
deficiency would be reduced to 340,000 on the arrival of our
Expeditionary Force.  In this connection, as well as for other reasons,
the attitude of Holland and Belgium, and that of Germany with respect
to these two countries, were clearly matters of high importance.

Holland had a field army of four divisions, and her interests could be
summed up in the words, 'preservation of independence.'  She would
naturally wish to avoid being actively embroiled in the war on one side
or the other; and, fortunately for her, she had every reason to believe
that her neutrality would not be disturbed or questioned.  Her
territories lay to one side of the probable campaign area, and
moreover, whatever might be the ulterior designs of Germany with regard
to western expansion, it was obvious that her immediate interests must
necessarily lie in Dutch neutrality, which would be infinitely more
useful to her than a Dutch alliance.  For Holland holds the mouths of
the Scheldt and Rhine, and so long as she remained neutral, it was
anticipated that imports and exports would readily find their way into
and out of Germany.  This advantage would cease were Britain to
establish a blockade of these inlets, as she would certainly do if they
belonged to a hostile Power.


In certain respects Belgium was in the same case as Holland.  She
likewise had a field army of four divisions, and her interests could be
summed up in the words, 'preservation of independence.'  But {259} here
all resemblance between the two countries ended.

Belgium was not merely the southern portion (Holland being the
northern) of that Naboth's vineyard, the possession of which German
visionaries had proclaimed to be essential to Teutonic world-power.
Belgium was more even than this.  If the permanent possession of
Belgian territory was a political object in the future, temporary
occupation was no less a military necessity of the present.  For in
order that Germany might benefit in full measure by her numerical
superiority, Belgian roads and railways were required, along which to
transport her troops, and Belgian hills and plains on which to deploy
them.  If Germany were confined to the use of her own frontiers she
would not only lose in swiftness of attack, but her legions would be
piled up, one behind another, like a crowd coming out of a theatre.
She needed space on which to spread out her superior numbers in order
that her superior numbers might make certain of victory.

There was an idea at this time (1911-12) that Germany would be
satisfied to keep to the south-east of the fortified line of the
Meuse--moving through Luxemburg and the mountains of the Ardennes--and
that if Belgium saw fit to yield, under protest, to _force majeure_,
the northern region, containing the great plain of Flanders and all
cities of importance, would be left inviolate.  This theory was
probably erroneous, for the reason that--as the event has
shown--Germany required a greater space and more favourable ground,
than would have been provided under this arrangement, in order to bring
her great superiority to bear.


With the French on the other hand there was no similar advantage to be
gained by the violation of Belgian neutrality.  From their point of
view the shorter the battle front could be kept the better.  If Belgium
chose to range herself by the side of France as a willing ally it would
undoubtedly be a great gain; but if she chose to remain neutral the
French could have no object in invading or occupying her territories.

It was assumed, and no doubt rightly, that, like Holland, Belgium would
prefer to remain neutral--leaving the question of future absorption to
take care of itself--provided she could do this without enduring the
humiliation of allowing foreign armies to violate her soil.  For she
knew that, in the event of a French victory, her independence would
remain assured; whereas, if the Germans were successful, she would have
avoided awakening their hostility and giving them an excuse for
annexation.  But even if Belgium, under gross provocation, were forced
to take sides against Germany, the deficit in numbers on the side of
the Triple Entente would only be reduced by some eighty or a hundred
thousand men.  The deficit would still stand, roughly, at a quarter of
a million men.


In view of the foregoing considerations it was clearly absurd to think
that our own small force was at all adequate, in a military sense, to
deter Germany from engaging in a war of aggression.  Had we been able,
during the years 1912 to 1914, to see into the minds of the German
General Staff we should probably have realised that this inadequacy was
even greater than it appeared.  We should then have {261} known that
the numbers of the Kaiser's striking force had been carefully
understated; and that the amount of preparations in the way of material
had been hidden away with an equal industry.  We should also have
learned, that the sending of our army abroad was viewed with scepticism
in German military circles, as an event hardly likely to occur.  But
even if our Expeditionary Force did go, it was altogether inadequate to
redress the adverse balance; still more inadequate to bring an
immediate victory within the range of practical possibility.  It was
inadequate to hold back the premeditated invasion, either at the German
frontier, or even at the French frontier.  It was inadequate to make
Belgian resistance effective, even if that nation should determine to
throw in its lot with the Triple Entente.

As a matter of the very simplest arithmetic our land forces were
inadequate for any of these purposes.  They were unequal to the task of
maintaining the balance of power by giving a numerical superiority to
the armies of the Triple Entente.  Our armaments therefore did not
correspond with our policy.  It was clear that they would not be able
to uphold that policy if it were put to the supreme test of war.  It
was impossible to abandon our policy.  It was not impossible, and it
was not even in 1912 too late, to have set about strengthening our
armaments.  Nothing of the kind, however, was undertaken by the
Government, whose spokesmen, official and unofficial, employed
themselves more congenially in deriding and rebuking Lord Roberts for
calling attention to the danger.

Of course if it had been possible to place reliance upon the statement
of the English War Minister, {262} made little more than a year before
war broke out,[6] that every soldier under the voluntary system is
worth ten conscripts, we and our Allies would have been in a position
of complete security.  In that case our force of 160,000 would have
been the equivalent of 1,600,000 Germans, and we should from the first
have been in a superiority of more than a million over our enemies.

Even if we could have credited the more modest assumption of the
Attorney-General--made nearly four months after war broke out--that one
volunteer was worth three 'pressed' men, the opposing forces would have
been somewhere about an equality.[7]

Unfortunately both these methods of ready-reckoning were at fault,
except for their immediate purpose of soothing, or deluding the
particular audiences to which they were addressed.  The words were
meaningless and absurd in a military sense; though conceivably they
possessed some occult political virtue, and might help, for a time at
least, to avert the retribution which is due to unfaithful stewards.

Both these distinguished statesmen, as well as {263} many of their
colleagues and followers, were beset by the error of false opposites.
A soldier who has enlisted voluntarily, and another who is a conscript
or 'pressed' man, have equally to fight their country's enemies when
they are ordered to do so.  In both cases the particular war may be
against their consciences and judgments; and their participation in it
may therefore be involuntary.

Of two men--equal in age, strength, training, and courage--one of whom
believes his cause to be just, while the other does not, there can be
no doubt that the former will fight better than the latter--even though
the latter was enlisted under the voluntary system while the former was
a conscript or 'pressed' man.  In this sense the superiority of the
'voluntary' principle is incontestable.  But is there any evidence to
show, that either the original soldiers, or the new levies, of the
German army are risking their lives in this war any less willingly than
our own countrymen, who went out with the Expeditionary Force, or those
others who have since responded to Lord Kitchener's appeal?  Is there
any reason to suppose that they are fighting any less bravely and

Another matter of importance in these calculations with regard to the
military strength of the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance was the
time limit.


There are three periods in war.  There is the _onset_ of war, where
swiftness of action is what tells most; there is the _grip_ of war,
where numbers of {264} trained men are what tell most; and there is the
_drag_ of war, when what tells most is the purse.

Speaking by the book, it is of course numbers which tell all the way
through.  At the beginning--in the _onset_--the aim is to hurl superior
numbers at a vital point--taking the enemy by surprise, and thereby
disordering his whole plan of campaign--very much as you knock a limpet
off a rock, with a sharp unexpected blow.

If this effort fails to settle matters, then we are in the _grip_.
Here it is a case of sheer heavy slogging of all the available trained
troops.  The weaker side is driven to the defensive.  It is found
making use of every artificial and natural advantage to counteract the
superiority which threatens it, and which must speedily prevail, if
only it be superior enough.

Finally, after a longer or shorter period of indecisive deadlock, the
time comes when trained troops and material of war accumulated in
advance begin to run short--when new levies, raised since the war broke
out, begin to take the field, well or ill equipped, well or ill armed,
as the case may be.  When this stage is reached we are in the _drag_ of
war; and the side which can best afford to feed, clothe, and arm its
fresh reinforcements stands at an enormous advantage.

In 1870 war was announced on July 15th, and formally declared on the
19th.  Three weeks later, on August 6th, the important battles of
Woerth and Spicheren were won by the Germans.  On September 2nd, the
issue of the war was decided, when the Emperor of the French, with his
main army, surrendered at Sedan.  Metz fell in the last days of
October, and Paris on the first day of March in the {265} following
year.  In that war the _onset_ settled everything.  There was no real
_grip_ of the opposing forces.  The German attack had been so swift,
vigorous, and successful that France was knocked out in the first round.


The speed with which great armies can be mobilised and hurled against
one another has not diminished in the forty odd years which have
elapsed since the _débâcle_.  On the contrary, the art of war has been
largely concerned in the interval with the vital question, how to get
in the first deadly blow.

The military view was, that probably not earlier than the fifteenth
day--certainly not later than the twenty-first--a battle would take
place which must be of the highest importance, and which might quite
well be decisive.  It might make ultimate German victory only a matter
of time; or it might only determine whether the ensuing campaign was to
be waged on French or German soil--whether there was to be a German
invasion of France or a Franco-British invasion of Germany.
Consequently, if our Expeditionary Force was to render assistance at
the critical time, it must reach its position on the frontier within a
fortnight of the outbreak of war.

As to the _drag_ of war, the Triple Entente had the advantage, if that
stage were ever reached.  For the purses of England, France, and Russia
were much longer than those of Germany and Austria.  It was important,
however, to remember that there would be no hope for us in the _drag_
of war, if Germany could deliver a heavy enough blow at the beginning,
as she did in 1870.

These were the considerations as to time, which presented themselves to
students of the military {266} situation during the breathing space
which followed upon the Agadir crisis.  The substantial accuracy of
this forecast was confirmed by what happened during August and
September of last year.  In 1914 war was declared by Germany on August
1st.  For several days before she had been engaged actively in
mobilisation.  Three weeks later three important battles--on the road
to Metz, at Charleroi, and at Mons[9]--were won by the Germans.  If it
had not been for the unexpected obstacle of Liège the last two
engagements would in all probability have been fought at an even
earlier date, and in circumstances much more unfavourable to the
Franco-British forces.  But in the early days of September, instead of
the crushing defeat of Sedan, there was the victory of the Marne, and
the Germans were forced to retreat to entrenched positions north of the

The _onset_ period was ended; but the issue had not been settled as in
1870.  France and England had not been knocked out in the first round.
To this extent the supreme German endeavour had miscarried.
Nevertheless a great advantage had been secured by our enemies,
inasmuch as it was now apparent that the ensuing campaign--the _grip_
of war--would be contested, not on German soil, but in France and


The value of the assistance which the British Navy would be able to
render to the cause of the Triple Entente was a consideration of the
highest importance.  But while the fleet, if the national confidence in
it were justified, would render invaluable assistance to military
operations, it was necessary {267} to bear in mind--what Englishmen in
recent times have been very apt to forget--that no success at sea,
whether it consisted in the wholesale destruction of hostile ships, or
in an absolute blockade of the enemy's coast, could by itself determine
the main issue of a European contest of this character.  Disaster in a
land battle could not be compensated for, nor could the balance of
power be maintained, by any naval victory.  War would not be brought to
an end favourable to the Triple Entente, even by a victory as complete
as that of Trafalgar.  It is also well to remember that peace came, not
after Trafalgar, but after Waterloo, nearly ten years later.

The strange idea that the security of the British Empire can be
maintained by the Navy alone, seems to be derived by a false process of
reasoning, from the undeniable truth, that the supremacy of our Navy is
essential to our security.  But though it is essential--and the first
essential--it is not the only essential of security.

An insular Power, largely dependent on sea-borne food supplies and raw
materials for its industries--a Power which governs an empire in the
East, which has dependencies scattered in every sea, which is
politically united with immense but sparsely peopled dominions in the
four quarters of the globe--must keep command of the sea.  If that
supremacy were once lost the British Empire, as an empire, would come
to an end.  Its early dissolution would be inevitable.  Therefore it is
true enough to say that if the German Alliance--or any other
alliance--were to win a decisive naval victory against Britain, it
would end the war completely and effectively so far as we were


But the converse is not the case, and for obvious reasons.  In a
contest with a continental enemy who conquers on land, while we win
victory after victory at sea, the result will not be a settlement in
our favour, but a drawn issue.  And the draw will be to his advantage,
not our own.  For having overthrown the balance of power by reason of
his successful campaign and invasions, he will then be free to
concentrate his whole energies upon wresting away naval supremacy from
the British Empire.  In time the Sea Power which is only a Sea Power
will be overborne with numbers, and finally worsted by the victorious
Land Power.  For how is it possible to fight with one hand against an
enemy with two hands?  The fleets of Europe which at last must be
combined against us, if we allow any rival to obtain a European
predominance, are too heavy odds.  German preparations alone were
already causing us grave anxiety nearly three years before the Agadir
crisis occurred.  How then could we hope to build against the whole of
Europe?  Or even against half of Europe, if the other half remained
coldly neutral?

[1] In all about 160,000 men, of whom some 25,000 were non-combatants.

[2] Such, for instance, as the fact that the time-table of German
mobilisation appeared to be somewhat more rapid than that of the
French, and much more so than that of the Russians.

[3] The first Balkan war broke out in the autumn of 1912.

[4] Russia had anxieties of her own with regard to the intentions of
Roumania, of Turkey in Persia and the Caucasus, and of China and Japan
in the Far East.

[5] These calculations were worked out in various ways, but the net
results arrived at were always substantially the same.  In view of the
fact that the main conclusions have been amply proved by the results of
the present war, it does not seem worth while to weary the reader with
more sums in arithmetic than are absolutely necessary.

[6] Colonel Seely at Heanor, April 26, 1913.

[7] Sir John Simon (Attorney-General and a Cabinet Minister), at
Ashton-under-Lyne, November 21, 1914....  This speech is instructive
reading.  It is also comforting for the assurance it contains, that if
the speaker approved of our taking part in this war (as he vowed he
did) his audience might rest satisfied that it was indeed a righteous
war; seeing that war was a thing which, on principle, he (Sir John
Simon) very much reprehended.  And yet we are not wholly convinced and
reassured.  There is a touch of over-emphasis--as if perhaps, after
all, the orator needed the support of his own vehemence to keep him
reminded of the righteousness.  The pacifist in war-paint is apt to
overact the unfamiliar part.  One wonders from what sort of British
officer at the front the Attorney-General had derived the impression
that 'one' of our own voluntary soldiers--gallant fellows though they
are--is the equal of 'three' of the Germans who face him, or of the
Frenchmen who fight by his side....  This speech puts us not a little
in mind of _Evangelist's_ warning to _Christian_, with regard to _Mr.
Legality's_ fluent promises to relieve him of his burden--"There is
nothing in all this noise save a design to beguile thee of thy

[8] Sir John Simon clinched his arithmetical calculation of 'three' to
'one,' by stating that 'the Kaiser already knew it'; and this
reassuring statement was received with 'laughter and cheers.'  The
laughter we can understand.

[9] The battle in Northern Alsace was fought on August 21 and 22.  A
French army was driven back at Charleroi on the 22nd, and the British
at Mons on the 23rd.

[10] September 6-12.




(August 1914)

Such was the position of affairs at July 1911, as it appeared to the
eyes of people who--during the ensuing period--endeavoured to arrive at
an understanding of the problem without regard to the exigencies of
party politics.  Between that date and July 1914, when war broke out,
various changes took place in the situation.  The general effect of
these changes was adverse to Britain and her allies.

In 1911 the German estimates provided for considerable increases,
especially in artillery and machine-guns.  The peace strength of the
Army was raised.

In the following year, 1912, further additions were made to the peace
strength, and two new army corps were formed out of existing units--one
for the Polish, the other for the French frontier.  Artillery and
machine-guns were very greatly increased in the ordinary estimates of
that year, and again in those of 1913.  In addition, Germany at the
same time added a squadron to her fleet in the North Sea, by arranging
to keep more ships permanently in commission.



But early in 1913 it became known, that the German Government was about
to introduce an Army Bill, providing for immense and sensational
additions.  The sum of £50,000,000 was to be raised by loan for initial
expenditure.  The increased cost of upkeep on the proposed new
establishment would amount to £9,500,000 per annum.  Sixty-three
thousand more recruits were to be taken each year.  The total peace
strength of the Army was to be raised by approximately 200,000 men.
Nearly four millions sterling was to be spent on aircraft, and ten and
a half on fortifications; while the war-chest was to be raised from six
to eighteen millions.  Twenty-seven thousand additional horses were to
be purchased.

These proposals were timed to take effect the same autumn; so that by
the following Midsummer (1914), the military strength of Germany would
have reaped the main benefit which was anticipated from the enormous

It was not in the power of France to increase the actual total of her
numbers, because for many years past she had already taken every man
who was physically fit for military service.  About eighty per cent of
the young Frenchmen who came each year before the revision boards had
been enlisted; whereas in Germany--up to the passing of the new Army
Law--considerably less than fifty per cent had been required to serve.
The German Army as a consequence was composed of picked men, while the
French Army contained a considerable proportion who were inferior both
in character and physique.

But in the face of the new German menace France had to do the best she
could.  She had to do it alone, for the reason that the British
Government {271} entertained conscientious and insuperable objections
to bearing its due share of the burden.

Already, prior to the sensational expansion of Germany in 1913, France
had endeavoured to counteract the current yearly increases in the
military estimates of her neighbour, by various reorganisations and
regroupings of active units, and by improvements calculated to improve
the efficiency of the reserves.  But when information was
forthcoming[1] as to the nature and extent of the developments proposed
under the German Army Bill of 1913, it was at once realised that more
drastic measures were essential to national safety.

Before the German projects were officially announced, the French
Government took the bold step of asking the legislature to sanction a
lengthening of the period of active military service from two years to
three, and an extension of the age limit of the reserves from
forty-seven to forty-nine.  Power was also taken to summon, in case of
emergency, the annual contingent of recruits a year before their due
time.  Increases in artillery, engineers, railways, barrack
accommodation, and subsidiary services were asked for and obtained.
The cost of these, when the whole sum came to be calculated, was found
to amount to £32,000,000.

Apart, therefore, from material preparations of one kind and another,
Germany was taking steps to add 200,000 men to her striking force, and
the intentions of France were approximately the same.  In the {272}
case of Germany, however, the increases of strength would be operative
by Midsummer 1914, while with France they would not take effect until
two years later.[2]

Germany, moreover, was arranging to take 63,000 more recruits annually.
France was unable to obtain any more recruits, as she already took all
that were fit to bear arms.  The increase in her striking force was
made mainly at the expense of her reserves.  Year by year, therefore,
the numerical inferiority of France must become more marked.

Russia meanwhile was proceeding with her programme of military
extension and reorganisation which had been decided on after the
Japanese war.  A great part of her expenditure was being devoted to the
improvement of her exceedingly defective system of railways and
communications, and to the fortification of the Gulf of Finland.

Austria did not remain stationary in military preparations any more
than her neighbours.  Her intake of recruits was 181,000 in 1912.  It
was decided to raise it to 206,000 in 1913, and again to 216,000 in

In the British Army, during this critical period, there had of course
been no increases, but the reverse.


The Regular Forces, which had been, reduced in 1906 by nine
battalions,[3] were in 1914 some eight thousand men under their nominal
strength.  The Territorials, which had never yet reached the figure
postulated by their originator, were at this date about 47,000 short.
The Army Reserve was doomed in the near future to an automatic
shrinkage on a considerable scale, owing to the reductions which had
been effected in the Regular Forces, from which the reservists were
drawn at the expiry of their terms of service.

Actually, therefore, the weakness of our own military position had
become more marked since 1911.  Relatively it had undergone an even
greater change for the worse, owing to the stupendous German programme,
to the fact that we had lagged behind in the matter of aircraft, and
that our naval preponderance was not so great as it had been three
years earlier.


The events which occurred in the Turkish peninsula between October
1912, when the first Balkan war broke out, and August 1913, when the
second was ended by the Treaty of Bucharest, were not without their
bearing upon the general balance of power in Europe.  Turkey had
collapsed before the onset of {274} the allied states of Montenegro,
Servia, Bulgaria, and Greece, and this was a serious injury to German
interests.  The Ottoman Empire had been warmly suitored, over a long
period of years, by the diplomacy of Berlin, with a view to
co-operation in certain contingencies.  On the other hand, the result
of the second war--fomented by the intrigues of Vienna--in which
Bulgaria was finally overpowered by the other three states, destroyed
for the time being Slav solidarity, and thereby considerably relieved
the apprehensions of Austria with regard to her southern frontier and
recently annexed provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina....
Profit-and-loss accounts of this sort are impossible to work out upon
an arithmetical basis, and perhaps the chief importance of such
occurrences as these lies in the effect which they produce upon the
nerves of the onlookers.  On the whole--judging by the tone of
diplomacy at the time--the Balkan series of events appeared to have
raised greater anxieties in the Chancelleries of Germany and Austria
than in any other quarter; though why this should have been so, it is
difficult to understand.

Looking back at the Balkan struggle in the light of subsequent events,
it appears to us now a great deal less remarkable for what it actually
produced than for what it failed to produce.  It failed to set Europe
in a blaze, and yet it afforded far better opportunities for doing this
than the Serajevo murders in June 1914.

The full inner history of the negotiations between the Great Powers,
for six months prior to the Treaty of Bucharest, will be interesting
reading, if it ever sees the light.  If even one of them had chosen to
work for war during this period, nothing could have {275} kept the
peace.  If one or two of them had been apathetic, war must inevitably
have come of itself.  But even France--who at that time was showing
signs of superficial excitement, and on that account was credited, not
only in the German press, but in a section of our own, with
chauvinistic designs--worked hard for peace.  It is certain that
Germany desired peace; many well-informed people indeed believed that
at this time she desired peace more ardently than any other state.  It
is true that a few days before the Treaty of Bucharest was signed,
Italy had been secretly sounded by Austria as to whether she would join
with her two allies in making an attack on Servia; but the Italian
reply being of a kind that took away all hope of securing the military
assistance of that country in the proposed adventure, the Concert of
Europe continued to perform the pacific symphony apparently in perfect


The policy of Germany, in 1912 and 1913, to preserve peace, and her
efforts--equally successful--in the following year to provoke war, were
probably due to one and the same cause.  Two dates from Germany's point
of view were of supreme importance--_the summer of 1914_, when her new
military preparations would be complete, and when the Kiel
Canal--having been widened and deepened[4]--would {276} be available
for the passage of Dreadnoughts; _the summer of 1916_, by which date
the French Army increases were due to take effect, and the Russian
scheme of military reorganisation would have been carried through.
From the point of view of Berlin and Vienna war could be waged to
greatest advantage so soon as the first of these two dates had been
reached.  If, however, Italy, always a doubtful participator, could
have been tempted by self-interest to make common cause with her allies
in the summer of 1913, the certainty of her adherence would have turned
the scales in favour of the earlier date.  For Italy could put an army
of 700,000 men into the field; and this no doubt would have more than
compensated for the benefits which might have been lost by anticipating
the ideal moment by a year.

[1] Germany took time by the forelock, and began to carry through the
contemplated programme before disclosing the terms of the Army Bill to
the legislature.  Consequently her intentions were known in a general
way to every Intelligence department in Europe, long before they were
actually announced.

[2] In going through the memoranda upon which this chapter is based, I
came across a paper written at the end of July 1913 by a retired
soldier friend, in answer to a request on my part for certain technical
information as to French and German preparations.  On the margin of the
document, which gives a very full and able analysis, he had added the
following postscript as an expression of his personal opinion.
"_N.B.--Most Important_: The German Bill takes immediate effect.  The
French only takes effect in 1916 because (1) the French are not going
to retain the class which finishes its service this year with the
colours; (2) comparatively few are fit for enrolment at twenty; (3)
there has been great delay in Parliament ... _A year from now will be
the critical time_.  Germany will have had the full benefit from her
Bill, whereas France will have a mass of young recruits still under
instruction.  The strain on officers will be tremendous in order to
knock this mass of raw men into shape."  It is rarely that a prophecy
is fulfilled practically to a day.

[3] Mr. Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, in justifying this
reduction explained that 'his infantry was in excess, the artillery was
deficient.'  He would rather not have cut off these nine battalions,
"but he could not use them.  He had four more than he could mobilise"
(Auchterarder, December 29, 1906).  In his view "the first step to
doing anything for developing the national basis of the Army was to cut
something off the Regular Forces" (Newcastle, September 15, 1906).  "He
did not think Compulsory Training would be adopted in this country
until after England had been invaded once or twice" (London, December
1, 1911).  The British, however, had the best reasons for feeling
secure: they "were always a nation of splendid fighters.  They were
never ready, but they fought the better the less ready they were..."
(Glasgow, January 6, 1912).

[4] On June 23, 1914, the Emperor William opened the new lock at the
North Sea end of the Kiel Canal.  On the following day he performed the
same function at the Baltic end.  The _Times_ correspondent remarks
that the Emperor's passage through the Canal on this occasion was of
symbolical rather than practical significance, as on the one hand
German Dreadnoughts had already used the widened passage
experimentally, while on the other hand it would be a long time before
the whole work was finished.  He continues: "The extension works, which
were begun in 1907, are, however, of vast importance, especially to the
Navy.  The Canal has been made two metres deeper, and has been doubled
in breadth.  The places at which large ships can pass one another have
been increased in number, and at four of them Dreadnoughts can be
turned.  There are now four, instead of two, at each end, which means a
great saving of time in getting a fleet through.  Above all, the
distance between Kiel and Wilhelmshaven for battleship purposes is
reduced from more than 500 to only 80 nautical miles.  The new locks at
Brunsbüttel and Holtenau are the largest in the world."--The _Times_,
June 25, 1914.




It may be said--up to the very outbreak of war it was said very
frequently--that the mere power and opportunity to make an outrageous
attack are nothing without the will to do so.  And this is true enough.
Every barber who holds his client by the nose could cut his throat as
easily as shave his chin.  Every horse could kick the groom, who rubs
him down, into the next world if he chose to do so.  What sense, then,
could there be in allowing our minds to be disturbed by base suspicions
of our enterprising and cultured neighbour?  What iota of proof was
there that Germany nourished evil thoughts, or was brooding on visions
of conquest and rapine?

So ran the argument of almost the whole Liberal press; and a
considerable portion of the Unionist press echoed it.  Warnings were
not heeded.  They came only from unofficial quarters, and therefore
lacked authority.  Only the Government could have spoken with
authority; and the main concern of members of the Government, when
addressing parliamentary or popular audiences, appeared to be to prove
that there was no need for anxiety.  They went further in many
instances, and denounced {278} those persons who ventured to express a
different opinion from this, as either madmen or malefactors.
Nevertheless a good deal of proof had already been published to the
world--a good deal more was known privately to the British
Government--all of which went to show that Germany had both the will
and intention to provoke war, if a favourable opportunity for doing so
should present itself.

For many years past--in a multitude of books, pamphlets, leading
articles, speeches, and university lectures--the Germans had been
scolding us, and threatening us with attack at their own chosen moment.
When Mr. Churchill stated bluntly, in 1912, that the German fleet was
intended as a challenge to the British Empire, he was only repeating,
in shorter form and more sober language, the boasts which had been
uttered with yearly increasing emphasis and fury, by hundreds of German
patriots and professors.

With an engaging candour and in every fount of type, unofficial Germany
had made it abundantly clear how she intended to carry her designs into
execution--how, first of all, France was to be crushed by a swift and
overwhelming attack--how Russia was then to be punished at leisure--how
after that, some of the nations of Europe were to be forced into an
alliance against the British Empire, and the rest into a neutrality
favourable to Germany--how finally the great war, which aimed at making
an end of our existence, was to begin.  And though, from time to time,
there were bland official utterances which disavowed or ignored these
outpourings, the outpourings continued all the same.  And each year
they became more copious, and achieved a readier sale.


Those, however, who were responsible for British policy appear to have
given more credit to the assurances of German diplomacy than to this
mass of popular incitement.  The British nation has always chosen to
plume itself upon the fact that the hearts of British statesmen are
stronger than their heads; and possibly their amiable credulity, in the
present instance, might have been forgiven, had their means of
ascertaining truth been confined to the statements of incontinent
publicists and responsible statesmen.  But there were other proofs
available besides words of either sort.


The Liberal Government came into office in the autumn of 1905.
Ministers can hardly have had time to master the contents of their
various portfolios, before German aggression burst rudely in upon them.
Conceivably the too carefully calculating diplomatists of Berlin had
concluded, that the principles of the new Cabinet would tend to keep
England neutral under any provocation, and that a heaven-sent
opportunity had therefore arrived for proceeding with the first item in
their programme by crushing France.  It is a highly significant fact
that early in 1906, only a few months after Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman's advent to power, he found himself faced with the
prospect of a European war, which was only averted when our Foreign
Minister made it clear to Germany, that in such an event this country
would range herself upon the side of France.[1]


This was the _first_ warning.


The British answer to it was to utter renewed protestations Of friendly
confidence.  As an earnest of our good intentions, the shipbuilding
programme[2] of the previous Government was immediately reduced.  The
burden of armaments became the burden of innumerable speeches.  In
well-chosen words Germany was coaxed and cajoled to acquiesce in our
continued command of the sea; but finding in our action or inaction an
opportunity for challenging it, she turned a polite ear--but a deaf
one--and pushed forward her preparations with redoubled speed.  In vain
did we on our part slow down work at our new naval base in the Firth of
Forth.  In vain did we reduce our slender army to even smaller
dimensions.[3]  In vain did we plead disinterestedly with Germany, for
a reduction in the pace of competition in naval armaments, on the terms
that we should be allowed to possess a fleet nearly twice as strong as
her own.  For the most part, during this period, official Germany
remained discreetly silent, for the reason that silence served her
purpose best; but when the persistency of our entreaties made some sort
of {281} answer necessary, we were given to understand by unofficial
Germany--rather roughly and gruffly--that a certain class of requests
was inadmissible as between gentlemen.

Then suddenly, having up to that time lulled ourselves into the belief
that our fine words had actually succeeded in buttering parsnips, we
awoke--in the late autumn of 1908--to the truth, and fell immediately
into a fit of panic.  Panic increased during the winter and following
spring, and culminated during the summer, in an Imperial Defence
Conference with the Dominions.

We had curtailed our shipbuilding programme and slowed down our
preparations.  Thereby we had hoped to induce Germany to follow suit.
But the effect had been precisely the opposite: she had increased her
programme and speeded up her preparations.  At last our Government
became alive to what was going on, and in tones of reverberant anxiety
informed an astonished nation that the naval estimates called for large

Ministers, indeed, were between the devil and the deep sea.  The
supremacy of the British Fleet was menaced; the conscience of the
Radical party was shocked--shocked not so much at the existence of the
menace as at official recognition of it, and at the cost of insuring
against it.  It was so much shocked, indeed, that it took refuge in
incredulity; and--upon the strength of assurances which were of course
abundantly forthcoming from the German Admiralty, who averred upon
their honour that there had been neither addition nor
acceleration--roundly accused its own anointed ministers of bearing
false witness against an innocent neighbour.


None the less, large sums were voted, and the Dominions came forward
with generous contributions.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, indeed, who had been nourished and brought up on a
diet of dried phrases, was sceptical.  To this far-sighted statesman
there appeared to be no German menace either then or subsequently.  The
whole thing was a mere nightmare, disturbing the innocent sleep of
Liberalism and democracy.[4]

This was the _second_ warning.


The _third_ warning came in the form of subterranean rumblings,
inaudible to the general public, but clearly heard by ministerial ears.

In July 1909, while the Imperial Conference on Defence was in session,
Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg succeeded Prince Bülow as German Chancellor.
Up to that time there had been the menace of the mailed fist, the
rattling sabre, and the shining armour.  Henceforward there was the
additional menace of a diplomacy playing for time, with a careless and
unconcealed contempt for the intelligence, the courage, and the honour
of the British people and their statesmen.[5]  The German Government
had clearly formed the opinion that our ministers were growing more and
more afraid of {283} asking their party to support increased naval
estimates, and that it was only necessary to go on, alternately
dangling and withdrawing illusory proposals for a naval understanding
and a general agreement, in order to steal ahead of us in the race.
Here, as in many other instances, the Germans had observed not
altogether incorrectly; but they had drawn the wrong inference from the

During the summer and autumn of 1910 was held the famous but futile
Constitutional Conference, the primary object of which was to settle
the quarrel between the two Houses of Parliament.  With steadily
increasing clumsiness, German diplomacy, through all this anxious time,
was engaged in holding out its hand and withdrawing it again; until
even men whose minds were worried with more immediate cares, could no
longer ignore the gravity of the situation.

The Conference adjourned for the holiday season, but resumed its
sessions in October.  The public assurances of those who took part in
it on both sides agree in this, that nothing except the special subject
for which it had been called into existence was ever discussed at its
meetings.  But many other things were certainly discussed outside its
meetings--on the doorstep and the staircase, and in the anterooms.
Among these topics the dangers of the international situation, and the
peril of imperial security were the chief.

In October and November 1910 there was a great secret of Polichinelle.
Conceivably we may learn from some future historian even more about it
than we knew at the time.  All that need be said here with reference to
the matter is, that many persons on {284} both sides found themselves
faced with a position of affairs, where the security of the country
plainly required measures for its defence, of a character and upon a
scale, which neither political party could hope to carry through
Parliament and commend to the country, unless it were supported by the
more responsible section of its opponents.

Neither party, however, was willing to pay the price necessary for the
support of the other, and as a consequence imperial interests suffered.
It is not necessary, however, to conclude from this lamentable failure
that a sordid spirit of faction was the explanation.  In the
constitutional sphere certain principles were in conflict, which the
parties concerned had the honesty to hold by, but lacked the sympathy,
and possibly the intelligence, to adjust.  The acrimony of an immediate
controversy distorted the vision of those engaged in it; so that the
proportions of domestic and foreign dangers were misjudged.

The failure of this constitutional conference was welcomed at the time
by exultant shoutings among many, perhaps the majority, of the rank and
file of politicians upon both sides.  It was not so regarded, however,
by the country, which in a remarkable degree refused to respond to the
incitements of violence and hatred with which it was plied during the
ensuing election.  There was at this time, for no very definite reason,
a widespread popular uneasiness, and something approaching a general
disgust with politicians.

Among more considerate men on both sides, the breakdown was frankly
spoken of as one of the great calamities in our political history.  It
was more {285} than that.  It was in reality one of the greatest which
have ever befallen Europe.


During the following July (1911), while in this country we were deeply
engaged in the bitter climax of the constitutional struggle, there
sounded a _fourth_ strident warning from the gong of the German

The Agadir incident is one of the strangest which have occurred in
British history during recent years.  Its full gravity was not realised
outside a very narrow circle at the time of its occurrence; and when
subsequently it became more widely understood there was a curious
conspiracy to hush it up--or, perhaps, not so much a conspiracy, as a
general instinct of concealment--a spontaneous gesture of modesty--as
if the British nation had been surprised bathing.

At the beginning of July the German cruiser _Panther_ appeared at
Agadir in Morocco.  This visit was intended and understood as a direct
challenge to France.  Diplomacy was immediately in a stir.

Three weeks later Mr. Lloyd George spoke at the Mansion House, making
it clear that England would not tolerate this encroachment.  Even amid
the anger and excitement which attended the last stages of the
Parliament Bill, this statement created a deep impression throughout
the country, and a still deeper impression in other countries.

Then the crisis appeared to fade away.  Germany was supposed to have
become amenable.  We returned to our internecine avocations.  The
holiday season claimed its votaries, and a great railway strike upset
many of their best-laid plans.  The inhabitants of the United Kingdom
are accustomed to think {286} only on certain topics during August and
September, and it is hard to break them of their habits.  To reconsider
a crisis which had arisen and passed away some two and a half months
earlier, was more than could be expected of us when we returned to work
in the autumn.

But Mr. Lloyd George's speech was capable of only one
interpretation,--if Germany had persisted in her encroachment, this
country would have gone to war in August or September 1911 in support
of France.  His words had no other meaning, and every highly placed
soldier and sailor was fully aware of this fact, and made such
preparations in his own sphere as the case required.  But from what has
transpired subsequently, it does not seem at all clear that more than
two or three of the Cabinet in the least realised what was happening.
Parliament did not understand the situation any more than the country

Later on, when people had time to concentrate their minds on such
matters, there was a thrill of post-dated anxiety--a perturbation and
disapproval; criticism upon various points; a transference of Mr.
McKenna from the Admiralty to the Home Office, and of Mr. Churchill
from the Home Office to the Admiralty.  Indignant anti-militarists,
supporters for the most part of the Government, allowed themselves to
be mysteriously reduced to silence.  Business men, who had been shocked
when they learned the truth, suffered themselves to be persuaded that
even the truth must be taken with a pinch of salt.  There was, in fact,
a sort of general agreement that it was better to leave the summer
embers undisturbed, lest a greater conflagration {287} might ensue.
The attitude of the orthodox politician was that of a nervous person
who, hearing, as he imagines, a burglar in his bedroom, feels happier
and safer when he shuts his eyes and pulls the blankets over his head.


A few months later, at the beginning of the following year (1912), the
_fifth_ warning of the series was delivered.

It differed from its predecessors inasmuch as it was addressed to the
ears of the British Government alone.  Neither the Opposition nor the
country heard anything of it until more than two years later--until the
battles of Alsace, of Charleroi, and of Mons had been lost--until the
battle of the Marne had been won--until the British Army was moving
north to take up a position in Flanders.  Then we learned that, when
Lord Haldane had visited Berlin in the month of February 1912, he had
done so at the special request of the Kaiser, in order to consider how
Anglo-German misunderstandings might be removed.

Lord Haldane would have acted more wisely had he stopped his journey
_en route_, and never entered Berlin at all.  For, two days before the
date appointed for his visit, proposals for large increases of the
German Army and Navy were laid before the Reichstag.  His mission was
to abate competition in armaments, and here was an encouraging
beginning!  Was it contempt, or insolence, or a design to overawe the
supposed timidity of the emissary; or was it merely a blundering effort
to steal a march in the negotiations by facing the ambassador on his
arrival with a _fait accompli_?  Possibly it was a combination of all
these; but at any rate it was {288} exceedingly clumsy, and no less
significant than clumsy.

As to the mission--Germany was willing in a vague way to
'retard'--whatever that may mean--though not to abandon, or reduce, her
naval programme, providing the British Government would agree to remain
neutral in any war which Germany might choose to wage.  France might be
crushed and Belgium annexed; but in either event England must stand
aside and wait her turn.  On no other terms would the Kaiser consent to
a _rapprochement_ with this country, or allow the blessed words
'retardation of the naval programme' to be uttered by official lips.

An undertaking of this tenor went beyond those assurances of
non-aggressive intent which Lord Haldane, on behalf of his own
Government, was fully prepared to give.  We would not be a party to any
unprovoked attack on Germany--was not that sufficient?  It was plainly
insufficient.  It was made clear that Germany desired a free hand to
establish herself in a position of supremacy astride of Europe.  So
Lord Haldane returned profitless from his wayfaring, and the British
Government was at its wits' end how to placate the implacable.

The way they chose was well-doing, in which they wearied themselves
perhaps overmuch, especially during the Balkan negotiations.  For
Germany did not want war at that time, for the reasons which have been
given already.  And so, rather surlily, and with the air of one who was
humouring a crank--a pusillanimous people whose fixed idea was
pacifism--she consented that we should put ourselves to vast trouble to
keep the peace for her benefit.  If {289} war had to come in the end,
it had much better have come then--so far as we were concerned--seeing
that the combined balance of naval and military power was less
unfavourable to the Triple Entente at the beginning of 1913 than it was
some fifteen months later....  This was all the notice we took of the
fifth warning.  We earned no gratitude by our activities, nor added in
any way thereby to our own safety.


The Haldane mission is a puzzle from first to last.  The Kaiser had
asked that he should be sent....  For what purpose? ... Apparently in
order to discuss the foreign policy of England and Germany.  But surely
the Kaiser should have been told that we kept an Ambassador at Berlin
for this very purpose; an able man, habituated to stand in the strong
sunlight of the imperial presence without losing his head; but, above
all, qualified to converse on such matters (seeing that they lay within
his own province) far better than the most profound jurist in
Christendom.  Or if our Ambassador at Berlin could not say what was
required, the German Ambassador in London might easily have paid a
visit to Downing Street; or the Foreign Ministers of the two countries
might have arranged a meeting; or even the British Premier and the
German Chancellor might have contrived to come together.  Any of these
ways would have been more natural, more proper, more likely (one would
think) to lead to business, than the way which was followed.

One guesses that the desire of the Kaiser that Lord Haldane should be
sent, was met half-way by the desire of Lord Haldane to go forth; that
there was some temperamental affinity between these {290} two
pre-eminent characters--some attraction of opposites, like that of the
python and the rabbit.

Whatever the reasons may have been for this visit, the results of it
were bad, and indeed disastrous.  To have accepted the invitation was
to fall into a German trap; a trap which had been so often set that one
might have supposed it was familiar to every Foreign Office in Europe!
Berlin has long delighted in these extra-official enterprises,
undertaken behind the backs of accredited representatives.  Confidences
are exchanged; explanations are offered 'in the frankest spirit';
sometimes understandings of a kind are arrived at.  But so far as
Germany is concerned, nothing of all this is binding, unless her
subsequent interests make it desirable that it should be.  The names of
the irregular emissaries, German, British, and cosmopolitan, whom the
Kaiser has sent to London and received at Berlin--unbeknown to his own
Foreign Office--since the beginning of his reign, would fill a large
and very interesting visitors' book.  One would have imagined that even
so early as February 1912 this favourite device had been found out and
discredited even in Downing Street.

Lord Haldane was perhaps even less well fitted for such an embassy by
temperament and habit of mind, than he was by position and experience.
Lawyer-statesmanship, of the modern democratic sort, is of all forms of
human agency the one least likely to achieve anything at Potsdam.  The
British emissary was tireless, industrious, and equable.  His
colleagues, on the other hand, were overworked, indolent, or flustered.
Ready on the shortest notice to mind everybody else's business, he was
allowed to mind far too much of it; and he appears to have {291} minded
most of it rather ill than well.  He was no more suited to act for the
Foreign Office than King Alfred was to watch the housewife's cakes.


The man whose heart swells with pride in his own ingenuity usually
walks all his life in blinkers.  It is not surprising that Lord
Haldane's visit to the Kaiser was a failure, that it awoke distrust at
the time, or that it opened the way to endless misrepresentation in the
future.  What surprises is his stoicism; that he should subsequently
have shown so few signs of disappointment, distress, or mortification;
that he should have continued up to the present moment to hold himself
out as an expert on German psychology;[6] that he should be still
upheld by his journalistic admirers, to such an extent that they even
write pamphlets setting out to his credit 'what he did to thwart

We have been told by Mr. Asquith,[8] what was thought by the British
Government of the outcome of Lord Haldane's embassy.  We have also been
informed by Germany, what was thought of it by high officials at
Berlin; what inferences they drew from these conversations; what hopes
they founded upon them.  We do not know, however, what was thought of
the incident by the other two members of the Entente; how it impressed
the statesmen of Paris and Petrograd; for they must have known of the
occurrence--the English representative not being one whose comings and
goings would easily {292} escape notice.  The British people were told
nothing; they knew nothing; and therefore, naturally enough, they
thought nothing about the matter.

The British Cabinet--if Mr. Asquith's memory is to be relied on--saw
through the devilish designs of Germany so soon as Lord Haldane, upon
his return, unbosomed himself to the conclave in quaking whispers.  We
know from the Prime Minister, that when he heard how the Kaiser
demanded a free hand for European conquests, as the price of a friendly
understanding with England, the scales dropped from his eyes, and he
realised at once that this merely meant the eating of us up later.  But
one cannot help wondering, since Mr. Asquith was apparently so
clear-sighted about the whole matter, that he made no preparations
whatsoever--military, financial, industrial, or even naval (beyond the
ordinary routine)--against an explosion which--the mood and intentions
of Germany being what they were now recognised to be--might occur at
any moment.


As to what Germany thought of the incident we know of course only what
the high personages at Berlin have been pleased to tell the world about
their 'sincere impressions.'  They have been very busy doing this--hand
upon heart as their wont is--in America and elsewhere.  According to
their own account they gathered from Lord Haldane's mission that the
British Government and people were very much averse from being drawn
into European conflicts; that we now regretted having gone quite so far
as we had done in the past, in the way of entanglements and
understandings; that while we could not stand by, if any other country
was being threatened directly on account of arrangements it {293} had
come to with England, England certainly was by no means disposed to
seek officiously for opportunities of knight-errantry.  In simple words
the cases of Tangier and Agadir were coloured by a special obligation,
and were to be distinguished clearly from anything in the nature of a
general obligation or alliance with France and Russia.

It is quite incredible that Lord Haldane ever said anything of this
kind; for he would have been four times over a traitor if he had--to
France; to Belgium; to his own country; also to Germany whom he would
thus have misled.  It is also all but incredible that a single high
official at Berlin ever understood him to have spoken in this sense.
But this is what the high officials have assured their own countrymen
and the whole of the neutral world that they did understand; and they
have called piteously on mankind to witness, how false the British
Government was to an honourable understanding, so soon as trouble arose
in July last with regard to Servia.  Such are some of the penalties we
have paid for the luxury of indulging in amateur diplomacy.

The German bureaucracy, however, always presses things too far.  It is
not a little like Fag in _The Rivals_--"whenever it draws on its
invention for a good current lie, it always forges the endorsements as
well as the bill."  As a proof that the relations of the two countries
from this time forward were of the best, inferences have been drawn
industriously by the high officials at Berlin as to the meaning and
extent of Anglo-German co-operation during the Balkan wars; as to
agreements with regard to Africa already signed, but not published, in
which Downing {294} Street had shown itself 'surprisingly
accommodating'; as to other agreements with regard to the Baghdad
Railway, the Mesopotamian oil-fields, the navigation of the Tigris, and
access through Basra to the Persian Gulf.  These agreements, the
earnest of a new _entente_ between the Teuton nations--the United
States subsequently to be welcomed in--are alleged to have been already
concluded, signed and awaiting publication when war broke out.[9]  Then
trouble arises in Servia; a mere police business--nothing more--which
might have been settled in a few days or at any rate weeks, if
perfidious Albion had not seized the opportunity to work upon Muscovite
suspicions, in order to provoke a world-war for which she had been
scheming all the time!


The _sixth_ warning was the enormous German Army Bill and the
accompanying war loan of 1913.  By comparison, the five previous
warnings were but ambiguous whispers.  And yet this last reverberation
had apparently no more effect upon the British Government than any of
the rest.

With all these numerous premonitions the puzzle is, how any government
could have remained in doubt as to the will of Germany to wage war
whenever {295} her power seemed adequate and the opportunity favourable
for winning it.  The favourite plea that the hearts of Mr. Asquith and
his colleagues were stronger than their heads does not earn much
respect.  Knowing what we do of them in domestic politics, this excuse
would seem to put the quality of their heads unduly low.  The true
explanation of their omissions must be sought elsewhere than in their
intellects and affections.

It is important to remember that none of the considerations which have
been set out in this chapter can possibly have been hidden from the
Foreign Office, the War Office, the Admiralty, the Prime Minister, the
Committee of Imperial Defence, or the inner or outer circles of the
Cabinet.  Important papers upon matters of this kind go the round of
the chief ministers.  Unless British public offices have lately fallen
into a state of more than Turkish indolence, of more than German
miscalculation, it is inconceivable that the true features of the
situation were not laid before ministers, dinned into ministers, proved
and expounded to ministers, by faithful officials, alive to the dangers
which were growing steadily but rapidly with each succeeding year.  And
although we may only surmise the vigilant activity of these
subordinates, we do actually know, that Mr. Asquith's Government was
warned of them, time and again, by other persons unconcerned in party
politics and well qualified to speak.

But supposing that no one had told them, they had their own wits and
senses, and these were surely enough.  A body of men whose first duty
is the {296} preservation of national security--who are trusted to
attend to that task, paid for performing it, honoured under the belief
that they do attend to it and perform it--cannot plead, in excuse for
their failure, that no one had jogged their elbows, roused them from
their slumbers or their diversions, and reminded them of their duty.


Mr. Asquith and his chief colleagues must have realised the
interdependence of policy and armaments; and they must have known, from
the year 1906 onwards, that on the military side our armaments were
utterly inadequate to maintain our policy.  They must have known that
each year, force of circumstances was tending more and more to
consolidate the Triple Entente into an alliance, as the only means of
maintaining the balance of power, which was a condition both of the
freedom of Europe and of British security.  They knew--there can be no
doubt on this point--what an immense numerical superiority of armed
forces Germany and Austria together could bring, first against France
at the _onset_ of war, and subsequently, at their leisure, against
Russia during the _grip_ of war.  They knew that a British
Expeditionary Army of 160,000 men would not make good the
difference--would come nowhere near making good the difference.  They
must have known that from the point of view of France and Belgium, the
special danger of modern warfare was the crushing rapidity of its
opening phase.  They must have been kept fully informed of all the
changes which were taking place in the military situation upon the
continent to the detriment of the Triple Entente.  They had watched the
Balkan war and measured its effects.  They knew {297} the meanings of
the critical dates--1914-1916--better, we may be sure, than any section
of their fellow-countrymen.  And even although they might choose to
disregard, as mere jingoism, all the boasts and denunciations of German
journalists and professors, they must surely have remembered the events
which preceded the conference at Algeciras, and those others which led
up to the Defence Conference of 1909.  They can hardly have forgotten
the anxieties which had burdened their hearts during the autumn of
1910.  Agadir cannot have been forgotten; the memory of Lord Haldane's
rebuff was still green; and the spectre of the latest German Army Bill
must have haunted them in their dreams.

There is here no question of being wise after the event.  The meaning
of each of these things in turn was brought home to the Prime Minister
and his chief colleagues as it occurred--firstly, we may be sure, by
their own intelligence--secondly, we may be equally sure, by the
reports of their responsible subordinates--thirdly, by persons of
knowledge and experience, who had no axe to grind or interest to serve.

It is therefore absurd to suppose that ministers could have failed to
realise the extent of the danger, or of our unpreparedness to meet it,
unless they had purposely buried their heads in the sand.  They knew
that they had not a big enough army, and that this fact might ruin
their whole policy.  Why did they never say so?  Why, when Lord Roberts
said so, did they treat him with contumely, and make every effort to
discredit him?  Why was nothing done by them during their whole period
of office to increase the Army and thereby diminish the {298} numerical
superiority of their adversaries.  On the contrary, they actually
reduced the Army, assuring the country that they had no use for so many
trained soldiers.  Moreover, the timidity or secretiveness of the
Government prevented England from having, what is worth several army
corps, and what proved the salvation of France--a National Policy,
fully agreed and appealing to the hearts and consciences of the whole

The answers to these questions must be sought in another sphere.  The
political situation was one of great perplexity at home as well as
abroad, and its inherent difficulties were immeasurably increased by
the character and temperament of Mr. Asquith, by the nature no less of
his talents than of his defects.  The policy of wait-and-see is not
necessarily despicable.  There are periods in which it has been the
surest wisdom and the truest courage; but this was not one of those
periods, nor was there safety in dealing either with Ireland or with
Germany upon this principle.  When a country is fully prepared it can
afford to wait and see if there will be a war; but not otherwise.

Sir Edward Grey is a statesman whose integrity and disinterestedness
have never been impugned by friend or foe; but from the very beginning
of his tenure of office he has appeared to lack that supreme quality of
belief in himself which stamps the greatest foreign ministers.  He has
seemed at times to hesitate, as if in doubt whether the dangers which
he foresaw with his mind's eye were realities, or only nightmares
produced by his own over-anxiety.  We have a feeling also that in the
conduct of his office he had {299} played too lonely a part, and that
such advice and sympathy as he had received were for the most part of
the wrong sort.  What he needed in the way of counsel and companionship
was simplicity and resolution.  What he had to rely on was the very
reverse of this.

Lord Haldane, as we have learned recently, shared largely in the work
of the Foreign Office; a man of prodigious industry, but
over-ingenious, and of a self-complacency which too readily beguiled
him into the belief that there was no opponent who could not be
satisfied, no obstacle which could not be made to vanish--by argument.


Moreover, Sir Edward Grey had to contend against enemies within his own
household.  In the Liberal party there was a tradition, which has never
been entirely shaken off, that all increase of armaments is
provocative, and that all foreign engagements are contrary to the
public interest.  After the Agadir crisis he was made the object of a
special attack by a large and influential section of his own party and
press, and was roundly declared to be no longer possible as Foreign
Minister.[10]  There can be no doubt that the attempt to force Sir
Edward Grey's resignation in the winter 1911-1912 was fomented by
German misrepresentation and intrigue, skilfully acting upon the
peculiar susceptibilities of radical fanaticism.  Nor is there any
doubt that the attacks which were made upon the policy of Mr.
Churchill, from the autumn of 1912 onwards, were fostered by {300} the
same agency, using the same tools, and aiming at the same objects.

The orthodoxy of Mr. Churchill was suspect on account of his Tory
ancestry and recent conversion; that of Sir Edward Grey on the ground
that he was a country gentleman, bred in aristocratic traditions,
trained in Foreign Affairs under the dangerous influences of Lord
Rosebery, and therefore incapable of understanding the democratic dogma
that loving-kindness will conquer everything, including Prussian

Surely no very vivid imagination is needed to penetrate the mystery of
Cabinet discussions on defence for several years before war broke out.
Behind the Cabinet, as the Cabinet well knew, was a party, one half of
which was honestly oblivious of all danger, while the other half feared
the danger much less than it hated the only remedy.  Clearly the bulk
of the Cabinet was in cordial sympathy either with one or other of
these two sections of their party.  Sir Edward Grey accordingly had to
defend his policy against an immense preponderance of settled
convictions, political prejudices, and personal interests.  And at the
same time he seems to have been haunted by the doubt lest, after all,
his fears were only nightmares.  Mr. Churchill, there is no difficulty
in seeing, must have fought very gallantly; but always, for the reason
already given, with one hand tied behind his back.  He had all his work
cut out to maintain the Navy, which was under his charge, in a state of
efficiency; and this upon the whole he succeeded in doing pretty


If we may argue back from public utterances to Cabinet discussions, it
would appear that the only assistance--if indeed it deserved such a
name--which was forthcoming to these two, proceeded from Mr. Asquith
and Lord Haldane.  The former was by temperament opposed to clear
decisions and vigorous action.  The latter--to whom the mind of Germany
was as an open book--bemused himself, and seems to have succeeded in
bemusing his colleagues to almost as great an extent.

In fancy, we can conjure up a scene which must have been enacted, and
re-enacted, very often at Number 10 Downing Street in recent years.  We
can hear the warnings of the Foreign Minister, the urgent pleas of the
First Lord of the Admiralty, the scepticism, indifference, or hostility
expressed by the preponderant, though leaderless, majority in the
Cabinet.  _Simple_ said, _I see no danger_; _Sloth_ said, _Yet a little
more sleep_; and _Presumption_ said, _Every Vat must stand upon his own
bottom_....  We can almost distinguish the tones of their Right
Honourable voices.


The situation was governed by an excessive timidity--by fear of
colleagues, of the caucus, of the party, and of public opinion--by fear
also of Germany.  Mr. Asquith, and the Cabinet of which he was the
head, refused to look their policy between the eyes, and realise what
it was, and what were its inevitable consequences.  They would not
admit that the _Balance of Power_ was an English interest, or that they
were in any way concerned in maintaining it.  They would not admit that
our Entente with France and Russia was in fact an alliance.  They
thought they could send British officers to arrange plans of {302}
campaign with the French General Staff--could learn from this source
all the secret hopes and anxieties of France--could also withdraw the
greater part of their fleet from the Mediterranean, under arrangement
for naval co-operation with our present ally[12]--all without
committing this country to any form of understanding!  They boasted
that they had no engagements with France, which puzzled the French and
the Russians, and convinced nobody; save possibly themselves, and a
section of their own followers.  They had in fact bound the country to
a course of action--in certain events which were not at all
improbable--just as surely by drifting into a committal, as if they had
signed and sealed a parchment.  Yet they would not face the imperative
condition.  They would not place their armaments on a footing to
correspond with their policy.

Much of this is now admitted more or less frankly, but justification is
pleaded, in that it was essential to lead the country cautiously, and
that the Government could do nothing unless it had the people behind
it.  In these sayings there is a measure of truth.  But as a matter of
fact the country was not led at all.  It was trapped.  Never was there
the slightest effort made by any member of the Government to educate
the people with regard to the national dangers, {303} responsibilities,
and duties.  When the crisis occurred the hand of the whole British
Empire was forced.  There was no other way; but it was a bad way.  And
what was infinitely worse, was the fact that, when war was
declared--that war which had been discussed at so many Cabinet meetings
since 1906--military preparations were found to be utterly inadequate
in numbers; and in many things other than numbers.  The politician is
right in thinking that, as a rule, it is to his advantage if the people
are behind him; but there are times when we can imagine him praying
that they may not be too close.

We have been given to understand that it was impossible for the
Government to acknowledge their policy frankly, to face the
consequences, and to insist upon the necessary preparations in men and
material being granted.  It was impossible, because to have done so
would have broken the Liberal party--that great instrument for good--in
twain.  The Cabinet would have fallen in ruin.  The careers of its most
distinguished members would have been cut short.  Consider what
sacrifices would have been contained in this catalogue of disasters.

That is really what we are now beginning to consider, and are likely to
consider more and more as time goes on.


A great act of self-sacrifice--a man's, or a party's--may sometimes
make heedless people realise the presence of danger when nothing else
will.  Suppose Mr. Asquith had said, "I will only continue to hold
office on one condition," and had named the condition--'that armaments
should correspond to policy'--the only means of safety.  He might
thereupon have disappeared into the chasm; but like Curtius he {304}
might have saved the City.  It would have made a great impression, Mr.
Asquith falling from office for his principles.  Those passages of
Periclean spoken after war broke out, about the crime of Germany
against humanity--about sacrificing our own ease--about duty, honour,
freedom, and the like--were wonderfully moving.  Would there, however,
have been occasion for them, if in the orator's own case, the sacrifice
had been made before the event instead of after it, or if he had
faithfully performed the simplest and chief of all the duties attaching
to his great position?

The present war, as many of us thought, and still think, was not
inevitable.  None have maintained this opinion in the past with greater
vehemence than the Liberal party.  But the conditions on which it could
have been avoided were, that England should have been prepared, which
she was not; and that she should have spoken her intentions clearly,
which she did not.

[Sidenote: THE PRICE PAID]

When the war is ended, or when the tide of it has turned and begun to
sweep eastward, there will be much coming and going of the older
people, and of women, both young and old, between England and France.
They have waited, and what is it that they will then be setting forth
to see? ... From Mons to the Marne, and back again to Ypres, heaps of
earth, big and little, shapeless, nameless, numberless--the graves of
men who did not hesitate to sacrifice either their careers or their
lives when duty called them.  Desolation is the heaviest sacrifice of
all; and those who will, by and by, go on this pilgrimage have suffered
it, ungrudgingly and with pride, because their country needed it.  If
this war was {305} indeed inevitable there is no more to be said.  But
what if it was not inevitable?  What if there would have been no war at
all--or a less lingering and murderous war--supposing that those, who
from the trust reposed in them by their fellow-countrymen should have
been the first to sacrifice their careers to duty, had not chosen
instead to sacrifice duty to their careers?  It was no doubt a service
to humanity to save the careers of politicians from extinction, to keep
ministers in office from year to year, to preserve the Liberal
party--that great instrument for good--unfractured.  These benefits
were worth a great price; but were they worth quite so great a price as
has been paid?

[1] The Editor of the _Westminster Gazette_ should be an unimpeachable
witness: "The (German) Emperor's visit to Tangier (March 1905) was
followed by a highly perilous passage of diplomacy, in which the German
Government appeared to be taking risks out of all proportion to any
interest they could have had in Morocco.  The French sacrificed their
Foreign Minister (M. Delcasse) in order to keep the peace, but the
Germans were not appeased, and the pressure continued.  It was the
general belief at this time, that nothing but the support which the
British government gave to the French averted a catastrophe in the
early part of 1906, or induced the Germans to accept the Algeciras
conference as the way out of a dangerous situation."--_The Foundations
of British Policy_ (p. 15), by J. A. Spender.

[2] The Cawdor Programme.

[3] Mr. Haldane reduced the Army by nine battalions (_i.e._ 9000 men)
in 1906.  He stated that he had no use for them.  This meant a great
deal more, when the reserve-making power is taken into
consideration....  "The Regular Army ... has been reduced by over
30,000 men; not only a present, but a serious prospective loss."--Lord
Roberts in the House of Lords, April 3, 1913.

[4] Even four years later we find Sir Wilfrid Laurier wedded to the
belief that the German Emperor was one of the great men of the present
age; wonderfully endowed by intellect, character, and moral fibre; his
potent influence was always directed towards peace.--Canadian _House of
Commons Debates_, February 27, 1913, 4364.  The whole of this speech
(4357-4364) in opposition to Mr. Borden's Naval Forces Bill is
interesting reading, as is also a later speech, April 7, 1913, on the
same theme (7398-7411).

[5] _How Britain Strove for Peace_, by Sir Edward Cook: especially pp.
18-35; also _Why Britain is at War_, by the same author.  These two
pamphlets are understood to be a semi-official statement authorised by
the British Government.

[6] Lord Haldane has explained German conduct in the present war by a
sudden change of spirit, such as once befell a collie dog which owned
him as master, and which after a blameless early career, was possessed
by a fit of depravity in middle life and took to worrying sheep.  Thus
in a single metaphor he extenuates the German offence and excuses his
own blindness!

[7] "Lord Haldane: What he did to thwart Germany."  Pamphlet published
by the _Daily Chronicle_.

[8] At Cardiff, October 2, 1914.

[9] If this were really so, it is remarkable that Germany has not
published these opiate documents, which lulled her vigilance and were
the cause of her undoing.  In the _New York Evening Post_ (February 15,
1915) there is a letter signed 'Historicus' in which the German version
of the facts is not seriously questioned, although a wholly different
inference is drawn: "This extremely conciliatory attitude of England is
another proof of the pacific character of her foreign policy.  But,
unfortunately, German political thought regards force as the sole
controlling factor in international relations, and cannot conceive of
concessions voluntarily made in answer to claims of a more or less
equitable nature.  To the German mind such actions are infallible
indications of weakness and decadence.  Apparently Grey's attitude
towards German claims in Turkey and Africa was so interpreted, and the
conclusion was rashly reached that England could be ignored in the
impending world-war."

[10] "The time has now come to state with a clearness which cannot be
mistaken that Sir Edward Grey as Foreign Secretary is
impossible."--_Daily News_, January 10, 1912.  The _Daily News_ was not
a lonely voice speaking in the wilderness.  Similar threats have been
levelled against Mr. Churchill.

[11] It has been stated on good authority, that Mr. McKenna upheld the
national interests with equal firmness, and against equal, if not
greater opposition, while he was at the Admiralty.

[12] A large section of the Liberal party watched with jealous anxiety
our growing intimacy with France.  In 1913, however, they discovered in
it certain consolations in the withdrawal of our ships of war from the
Mediterranean; and they founded upon this a demand for the curtailing
of our own naval estimates.  France according to this arrangement was
to look after British interests in the Mediterranean, Britain
presumably was to defend French interests in the Bay of Biscay and the
Channel.  When, however, the war-cloud was banking up in July 1914,
these very people who had been most pleased with our withdrawal from
the Mediterranean, were those who urged most strongly that we should
now repudiate our liabilities under the arrangement.



Now I saw still in my Dream, that they went on until they were come to
the place that _Simple_ and _Sloth_ and _Presumption_ lay and slept in,
when _Christian_ went by on Pilgrimage.  And behold they were hanged up
in irons, a little way off on the other side.

Then said _Mercy_ to him that was their Guide and Conductor, What are
those three men?  And for what are they hanged there?

GREAT-HEART: These three men were men of very bad qualities, they had
no mind to be Pilgrims themselves, and whosoever they could they
hindered.  They were for sloth and folly themselves, and whoever they
could persuade with, they made so too, and withal taught them to
presume that they should do well at last.  They were asleep when
_Christian_ went by, and now you go by they are hanged.

MERCY: But could they persuade any to be of their opinion?

GREAT-HEART: Yes, they turned several our of the way.  There was
_Slow-pace_, that they persuaded to do as they.  They also prevailed
with one _Short-wind_, with one _No-heart_, with one
_Linger-after-lust_, and with one _Sleepy-head_, and with a young woman
her name was _Dull_, to turn out of the way and become as they.
Besides they brought up an ill report of your Lord, persuading others
that he was a Task-master.  They also brought up an evil report of the
good Land saying 'twas not half so good as some pretend it was.  They
also began to vilify his Servants, and to count the very best of them
meddlesome troublesome busy-bodies.

_The Pilgrim's Progress_.




Many people who were not in the habit of concerning themselves with
party politics endeavoured, during the autumn of 1911, and from that
time forward, to straighten out their ideas on the twin problems of
Foreign Policy and Defence.  They were moved thereto mainly by the
Agadir incident.  Moreover, a year later, the Balkan war provided an
object lesson in the success of sudden onset against an unprepared
enemy.  Gradually also, more and more attention was focussed upon the
large annual increases in preparation of the warlike sort, which
successive budgets, presented to the Reichstag, had been unable to hide
away.  In addition to these, came, early in 1913, the sensational
expansion of the German military establishment and the French reply to
it, which have already been considered.

Private enquirers of course knew nothing of Lord Haldane's rebuff at
Berlin in 1912, for that was a Government secret.  Nor had they any
means of understanding more than a portion of what was actually afoot
on the Continent of Europe in the matter of armaments and military
preparations.  Their sole sources of information were official papers
and public discussions.  Many additional facts beyond {310} these are
brought to the notice of governments through their secret intelligence
departments.  All continental powers are more or less uncandid, both as
regards the direction and the amount of their expenditure on armaments.
In the case of Germany concealment is practised on a greater scale and
more methodically than with any other.  Ministers obviously knew a
great deal more than the British public; but what was known to the
man-in-the-street was sufficiently disquieting, when he set himself to
puzzle out its meanings.

At this time (during 1912, and in the first half of 1913, until anxiety
with regard to Ireland began to absorb public attention) there was a
very widely-spread and rapidly-growing concern as to the security of
the country.  For nearly seven years Lord Roberts, with quiet
constancy, had been addressing thin and, for the most part, inanimate
gatherings on the subject of National Service.  Suddenly he found
himself being listened to with attention and respect by crowded

Lord Roberts had ceased to be Commander-in-Chief in 1904.  After his
retirement, and in the same year, he revisited the South African
battlefields.  During this trip, very reluctantly--for he was no lover
of change--he came to the conclusion that in existing circumstances
'national service' was a necessity.  On his return to England he
endeavoured to persuade Mr. Balfour's Government to accept his views
and give effect to them.  Failing in this, he resigned his seat upon
the Committee of Imperial Defence in 1905, in order that he might be
able to advocate his opinion freely.  He was then in his seventy-fourth
year.  It was not, however, {311} until seven years later[1] that his
words can be said to have arrested general attention.


The truth was that the nation was beginning to be dissatisfied with
what it had been told by the party speakers and newspapers, on the one
side and the other, regarding the state of the national defences.  It
had not even the consolation of feeling that what the one said might be
set against the other, and truth arrived at by striking a balance
between them.  This method of the party system, which was supposed to
have served fairly well in other matters, failed to reassure the nation
with regard to its military preparations.  The whole of this subject
was highly complicated, lent itself readily to political mystery, and
produced in existing circumstances the same apprehensions among
ordinary men as those of a nervous pedestrian, lost in a fog by the
wharf side, who finds himself beset by officious and quarrelsome touts,
each claiming permission to set him on his way.

The nation was disquieted because it knew that it had not been told the
whole truth by either set of politicians.  It suspected the reason of
this to be that neither set had ever taken pains to understand where
the truth lay.  It had a notion, moreover, that the few who really
knew, were afraid--for party reasons--to speak out, to state their
conclusions, and to propose the proper remedies, lest such a course
might drive them from office, or prevent them from ever holding it.
Beyond any doubt it was true that at this time many people were
seriously disturbed by the unsatisfactory character of recent
Parliamentary discussions, and earnestly desired to know {312} the real
nature of the dangers to be apprehended, and the adequacy of our
preparations for meeting them.

There had always been a difficulty in keeping the Army question from
being used as a weapon in party warfare.  As to this--looking back over
a long period of years--there was not much to choose between the
Radicals, Liberals, or Whigs upon the one hand, and the Unionists,
Conservatives, or Tories on the other.  Military affairs are
complicated and technical; and the very fact that the line of country
is so puzzling to the ordinary man had preserved it as the happy
hunting-ground of the politician.  When an opportunity presented itself
of attacking the Government on its army policy, the opposition--whether
in the reign of Queen Victoria or in that of Queen Anne--rarely
flinched out of any regard for the national interest.  And when
Parliamentary considerations and ingrained prejudices made it seem a
risky matter to undertake reforms which were important, or even
essential, the Government of the day just as rarely showed any
disposition to discharge this unpopular duty.

While at times naval policy, and even foreign policy, had for years
together been removed out of the region of purely party criticism, army
policy had ever remained embarrassed by an evil tradition.  From the
time of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, to the time of
Field-Marshal Sir John French--from a date, that is, only a few years
after our modern Parliamentary system was inaugurated by the 'Glorious
Revolution,' down to the present day--the characteristic of almost
every opposition with regard to this matter, had been factiousness, and
that of {313} almost every Government evasion.  Neither the one side
nor the other had ever seemed able to approach this ill-fated topic
with courage or sincerity, or to view it with steady constancy from the
standpoint of the national interest.


For several years past the country had been watching a conspicuous
example of this ingrained habit of manoeuvring round the Army in order
to obtain party advantage.  From 1912 onwards, until more interesting
perplexities provided a distraction, a great part of the Liberal press
and party had been actively engaged in the attempt to fix the Unionist
party with responsibility for the proposals of the National Service
League.  The Opposition, it is hardly necessary to record, were
innocent of this charge--criminally innocent; but it was nevertheless
regarded as good party business to load them with the odium of
'conscription.'  The 'blood-taxes,' as it was pointed out by one
particularly zealous journal, would be no less useful than the
'food-taxes' as an 'election cry,' which at this time--more than ever
before--appeared to have become the be-all and end-all of party

It was obvious to the meanest capacity that these industrious
politicians were not nearly so much concerned with the demerits, real
or supposed, of National Service, as with making their opponents as
unpopular as possible.  In such an atmosphere of prejudice it would
have required great courage and determination in a statesman to seek
out and proclaim the true way to security, were it national service or
anything else which entailed a sacrifice.

Was it wonderful that when people examined the signs of the times in
the early part of 1913, {314} they should have found themselves
oppressed by feelings of doubt and insecurity?  A huge German military
increase; a desperate French effort in reply; war loans (for they were
nothing else) on a vast scale in both countries--what was the meaning
of it all?  To what extent was British safety jeopardised thereby?

To these questions there was no answer which carried authority; the
official oracles were dumb.  We are a democratic country, and yet none
of our rulers had ever yet spoken plainly to us.  None of the
Secretaries for War, none of the Prime Ministers since the beginning of
the century, had ever stated the issue with uncompromising simplicity,
as the case required.  None of them had ever taken the country into his
confidence, either as to the extent of the danger or as to the nature
of the remedy.  It is necessary to assume--in the light of subsequent
events--that these statesmen had in fact realised the danger, and were
not ignorant of the preparations which were required to forestall it.
Certainly it is hard to believe otherwise; but at times, remembering
their speeches and their acts, one is inclined to give them the
benefit, if it be a benefit, of the doubt.


The question at issue was in reality a graver matter than the security
of the United Kingdom or the British Empire.  The outlook was wider
even than this.  The best guarantee for the preservation of the peace
of Europe, and of the World, would have been a British army
proportionate to our population and resources.  There could be no doubt
of this.  For half a century or more we had, half unconsciously,
bluffed Europe into the belief that we did in fact possess such an
army; but gradually it had become {315} plain that this was not the
case.  Since the Agadir incident the real situation was apparent even
to the man in the street--in Paris, Berlin, Brussels, the Hague,
Vienna, Rome, and Petrograd--in every capital, indeed, save perhaps in
London alone.

If England had possessed such an army as would have enabled her to
intervene with effect in European affairs, she would almost certainly
never have been called upon to intervene.[2]  Peace in that case would
have preserved itself.  For Europe knew--not from our professions, but
from the obvious facts, which are a much better assurance--that our
army would never be used except for one purpose only, _to maintain the
balance of Power_.  She knew this to be our only serious concern; and,
except for the single nation which, at any given time, might be aiming
at predominance, it was also the most serious concern of the whole of
Europe.  She knew us to be disinterested, in the diplomatic sense, with
regard to all other European matters.  She knew that there was nothing
in Europe which we wished to acquire, and nothing--save in the extreme
south-west, a rock called Gibraltar, and in the Mediterranean an island
called Malta--which we held and were determined to maintain.  In the
chancelleries of Europe all this was clearly recognised.  And more and
more it was {316} coming to be recognised also by the organs of public
opinion on the Continent.

The population of France is roughly forty millions; that of Germany}
sixty-five millions; that of the United Kingdom, forty-five millions.
As regards numbers of men trained to bear arms, France by 1911 had
already come to the end of her resources; Germany had still
considerable means of expansion; Britain alone had not yet seriously
attempted to put forth her strength.  Had we done so in time the effect
must have been final and decisive; there would then have been full
security against disturbance of the peace of Europe by a deliberately
calculated war.

Europe's greatest need therefore was that Britain should possess an
army formidable not only in valour, but also in numbers: her greatest
peril lay in the fact that, as to the second of these requirements,
Britain was deficient.  No power from the Atlantic seaboard to the Ural
Mountains, save that one alone which contemplated the conquest and
spoliation of its neighbours, would have been disquieted--or indeed
anything else but reassured--had the British people decided to create
such an army.  For by reason of England's peculiar interests--or rather
perhaps from her lack of all direct personal interests in European
affairs, other than in peace and the balance of power--she was marked
out as the natural mediator in Continental disputes.  In these high
perplexities, however, it is not the justice of the mediator which
restrains aggression, so much as the fear inspired by his fleets and
the strength of his battalions.

[1] October 1913.

[2] This view was held by no one more strongly than by Lord Roberts.
During the last five-and-twenty years the writer has probably seen as
much of soldiers as falls to the lot of most civilians, but nowhere,
during that period, from the late senior Field-Marshal downwards, has
he ever encountered that figment of the pacifist imagination of which
we read so much during 1912-1914--"a military clique which desires to
create a conscript army on the European model for purposes of
aggression on the continent of Europe."  The one thought of all
soldiers was adequate defence.  Their one concern was _how to prevent
war_....  M. Clemenceau once urged that Lord Roberts should receive the
Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of 'conscription' in England.  This
proposal was made quite seriously.




The doubt and anxiety of public opinion in 1912 were not allayed when
the strength and composition of the British Army came to be considered.

Leaving out of account those troops which were recruited and maintained
in India, the Dominions, and the Dependencies, the actual number of
British regulars employed in garrison duty abroad was in round figures
125,000 men.  The number in the United Kingdom was approximately the
same; but by no means the whole of these were fit to take the field.
The total strength of the _Regular Army_ in 1912-1913 might therefore
be taken at somewhere between 250,000 and 254,000 men,[1] of whom half
were permanently out of this country, while from 25,000 to 50,000 could
not be reckoned on as available in case of war, for the reason that
they were either recent recruits or 'immatures.'[2]


The reserves and additional troops which would be called out in the
event of a serious war were so different in character that it was
impossible simply to throw them into a single total, and draw
conclusions therefrom according to the rules of arithmetic.  For when
people spoke of the _Army Reserve_, the _Special Reserve_, and the
_Territorial Army_, they were talking of three things, the values of
which were not at all comparable.  The first were fully trained
fighting soldiers; the second were lads with a mere smattering of their
trade; while the third were little more than an organised schedule of
human material--mainly excellent--which would become available for
training only at the outbreak of war, and whose liability for service
was limited to home defence.  The sum-total of these reserves and
additional troops was roughly 450,000 men; but this row of figures was
entirely meaningless, or else misleading, until the significance of its
various factors was grasped.[3]


The first of these categories, the _Army Reserve_, was the only one
which could justly claim to rank as a true reserve--that is, as a
fighting force, from the outbreak of war equal in calibre to the
Continental {319} troops against which, it would be called upon to take
the field.

The _Army Reserve_ consisted of men who had served their full time in
the _Regular Army_.  They were therefore thoroughly trained and
disciplined, needing only a few days--or at most weeks--to rub the rust
off them.[4]  Nominally their numbers were 137,000[5] men; but as over
8000 of these were living out of the United Kingdom the net remainder
had to be taken at something under 130,000.  Moreover, as the _Army
Reserve_ depended automatically upon the strength of the _Regular
Army_, and as the strength of this had recently been reduced, it seemed
necessarily to follow that ultimately there would be a considerable

The second category to which the name of a reserve was given was the
_Special Reserve_.  This, however, was no true reserve like the first,
for it was wholly unfit to take the field upon the outbreak of
hostilities.  It was the modern substitute for the Militia, and was
under obligation to serve abroad in time of war.  The term of
enlistment was six years, and the training nominally consisted of six
months in the first year, and one month in camp in each of the
succeeding years.  But in practice these conditions had been greatly
relaxed.  It was believed that, upon the average, the term of training
amounted to even less than the proposals of the National Service {320}
League,[6] which had been criticised from the official
standpoint--severely and not altogether unjustly--on the ground that
they would not provide soldiers fit to be drafted immediately into the
fighting line.

Notwithstanding the inadequacy of its military education, this _Special
Reserve_ was relied upon in some measure for making up the numbers of
our Expeditionary Force[7] at the commencement of war, and individuals
from it, and even in some cases units, would therefore have been sent
out to meet the conscript armies of the Continent, to which they were
inferior, not only in length and thoroughness of training, but also in
age.  It was important also to bear in mind that they would be led by
comparatively inexperienced and untrained officers.  The strength of
the _Special Reserve_ was approximately 58,000[8] men, or lads.  Under
the most favourable view it was a corps of apprentices whose previous
service had been of a very meagre and desultory character.

The third category was the _Territorial Army_, whose term of service
was four years and whose military training, even nominally, only
consisted of fifteen days in camp each year, twenty drills the first
year, and ten drills each year after that.  In reality this training
had, on the average, consisted of very much less.  This force was not
liable for service abroad, but only for home defence.

The minimum strength of the _Territorial Army_ {321} was estimated
beforehand by Lord Haldane at 316,000 men; but these numbers had never
been reached.  The approximate strength was only 260,000 men, of whom
only about half had qualified, both by doing fifteen days in camp, and
by passing an elementary test in musketry.[9]  These numbers had
recently shown a tendency to shrink rather than swell.[10]


The value of the _Territorial Army_, therefore, was that of excellent,
though in certain cases immature, material, available for training upon
the outbreak of war.  But in spite of its high and patriotic spirit it
was wholly unfit to take the field against trained troops until it had
undergone the necessary training.

In the event of war we could not safely reckon upon being able to
withdraw our garrisons from abroad.[11]  Consequently, in the first
instance, and until the _Special Reserve_ and the _Territorial Army_
had been made efficient, all we could reasonably depend upon for
serious military operations, either at home or abroad, were that part
of the _Regular Army_ which was in the United Kingdom, and the _Army

In round figures therefore our soldiers immediately available for a
European war (_i.e._ that portion of the _Regular Army_ which was
stationed at home and the _Army Reserve_) amounted on mobilisation to
something much under 250,000 men.  Our apprentice troops (the _Special
Reserve_), who were really considerably less than _half_-made, numbered
something {322} under 60,000 men.  Our _un_made raw material (the
_Territorial Army_), excellent in quality and immediately available for
training, might be taken at 260,000 men.

The main consideration arising out of this analysis was of course the
inadequacy of the British Army to make good the numerical deficiency of
the Triple Entente in the Western theatre during the _onset_ and the
_grip_ of war.  Supposing England to be involved in a European war,
which ran its course and was brought to a conclusion with the same
swiftness which had characterised every other European war within the
last half century, how were our _half_-made and our _un_made troops to
be rendered efficient in time to effect the result in any way


There was yet another consideration of great gravity.  If our full
Expeditionary Force were sent abroad we should have to strain our
resources to the utmost to bring it up to its full nominal strength and
keep it there.  The wastage of war would necessarily be very severe in
the case of so small a force; especially heavy in the matter of
officers.  Consequently, from the moment when this force set sail,
there would be a dearth of officers in the United Kingdom competent to
train the _Special Reserve_, the _Territorial Army_, and the raw
recruits.  Every regular and reserve officer in the country would be
required in order to mobilise the Expeditionary Force, and keep it up
to its full strength during the first six months.  As things then stood
there was a certainty--in case of war--of a very serious shortage of
officers of suitable experience and age to undertake the duties, which
{323} were required under our recently devised military system.[12]

Half-made soldiers and raw material alike would therefore be left to
the instruction of amateur or hastily improvised officers--zealous and
intelligent men without a doubt; but unqualified, owing to their own
lack of experience, for training raw troops, so as to place them
rapidly on an equality with the armies to which they would find
themselves opposed.  What the British system contemplated, was as if
you were to send away the headmaster, and the assistant-masters, and
the under-masters, leaving the school in charge of pupil-teachers.

In no profession is the direct personal influence of teaching and
command more essential than in the soldier's.  In none are good
teachers and leaders more able to shorten and make smooth the road to
confidence and efficiency.  Seeing that we had chosen to depend so
largely upon training our army after war began, it might have been
supposed, that at least we should have taken care to provide ourselves
with a sufficient number of officers and non-commissioned officers,
under whose guidance the course of education would be made as thorough
and as short as possible.  This was not the case.  Indeed the reverse
was the case.  Instead of possessing a large number of officers and
non-commissioned officers, beyond those actually required at the
outbreak of war for the purpose of {324} starting with, and repairing
the wastage in the Expeditionary Force, we were actually faced, as
things then stood, with a serious initial shortage of the officers
required for this one purpose alone.

Lord Haldane in framing the army system which is associated with his
name chose to place his trust in a small, highly-trained expeditionary
force for immediate purposes, to be supplemented at a later date--if
war were obliging enough to continue for so long--by a new army of
which the _Territorials_ formed the nucleus, and which would not begin
its real training until after the outbreak of hostilities.  Under the
most favourable view this plan was a great gamble; for it assumed that
in the war which was contemplated, the _onset_ and the _grip_ periods
would be passed through without crushing disaster, and that England
would, in due course, have an opportunity of making her great strength
felt in the _drag_.  It will be said that Lord Haldane's assumption has
been justified by recent events, and in a sense this is true; but by
what merest hair-breadth escape, by what sacrifices on the part of our
Allies, at what cost in British lives, with what reproach to our
national good name, we have not yet had time fully to realise.

But crediting Lord Haldane's system, if we may, with an assumption
which has been proved correct, we have reason to complain that he did
not act boldly on this assumption and make his scheme, such as it was,
complete and effective.  For remember, it was contemplated that the
great new army, which was to defend the existence of the British Empire
in the final round of war, should be raised and trained upon the
voluntary principle--upon a wave of patriotic enthusiasm--after war
broke out.  This new army {325} would have to be organised, clothed,
equipped, armed, and supplied with ammunition.  The 'voluntary
principle' did not apply to matters of this kind.  It might therefore
have been expected that stores would be accumulated, and plans worked
out upon the strictest business principles, with philosophic
thoroughness, and in readiness for an emergency which might occur at
any moment.


Moral considerations which precluded 'conscription' did not, and could
not, apply to inanimate material of war, or to plans and schedules of
army corps and camps, or to a body of officers enlisted of their own
free will.  It may have been true that to impose compulsory training
would have offended the consciences of free-born Britons; but it was
manifestly absurd to pretend that the accumulation of adequate stores
of artillery and small arms, of shells and cartridges, of clothing and
equipment, could offend the most tender conscience--could offend
anything indeed except the desire of the tax-payer to pay as few taxes
as possible.

If the British nation chose to bank on the assumption, that it would
have the opportunity given it of 'making good' during the _drag_ of
war, it should have been made to understand what this entailed in the
matter of supplies; and most of all in reserve of officers.  All
existing forces should at least have been armed with the most modern
weapons.  There should have been arms and equipment ready for the
recruits who would be required, and who were relied upon to respond to
a national emergency.  There should have been ample stores of every
kind, including artillery, and artillery ammunition, for that
Expeditionary Force upon which, during the first {326} six months we
had decided to risk our national safety.

But, in fact, we were provided fully in none of these respects.  And
least of all were we provided in the matter of officers.  There was no
case of conscience at stake; but only the question of a vote in the
House of Commons.  We could have increased our establishment of
officers by a vote; we could have laid in stores of ammunition, of
clothing, of equipment by a vote.  But the vote was not asked for--it
might have been unpopular--and therefore Lord Haldane's scheme--in its
inception a gamble of the most hazardous character--was reduced to a
mere make-believe, for the reason that its originator lacked confidence
to back his own 'fancy.'

Looking back at the Agadir incident, it seemed plain enough, from a
soldier's point of view, that the British Expeditionary Force was
inadequate, in a purely military sense, to redress the adverse balance
against the French, and beat back a German invasion.  The moral effect,
however, of our assistance would undoubtedly have been very great, in
encouraging France and Belgium by our comradeship in arms, and in
discouraging Germany, by making clear to her the firmness of the Triple

But by the summer of 1914--three years later--this position had
undergone a serious change.  In a purely military sense, the value of
such aid as it had been in our power to send three years earlier, was
greatly diminished.  The increase in the German striking force over
that of France, which had taken effect since 1911, was considerably
greater than the total numbers of the army which we held prepared {327}
for foreign service.  This was fully understood abroad; and the
knowledge of it would obviously diminish the moral as well as the
material effect of our co-operation.


In order that the combined forces of France and England might have a
reasonable chance of holding their own[13] against Germany, until
Russian pressure began to tell, the smallest army which we ought to
have been able to put in the field, and maintain there for six months,
was not less than twice that of the existing Expeditionary Force.  From
a soldier's point of view 320,000 men instead of 160,000 was the very
minimum with which there might be a hope of withstanding the German
onset; and for the purpose of bringing victory within sight it would
have been necessary to double the larger of these figures.  In order to
reach the end in view, Britain ought to have possessed a striking force
at least half as large as that of France, in round figures between
600,000 and 750,000 men.

This was how the matter appeared in 1912, viewed from the standpoint of
a soldier who found himself asked to provide a force sufficient, not
for conquest--not for the purpose of changing the map of Europe to the
advantage of the Triple Entente--but merely in order to safeguard the
independence of Belgium and Holland, to prevent France from being
crushed by Germany,[14] and to preserve the security of the British


The political question which presented itself to the minds of enquirers
was this--If the British nation were told frankly the whole truth about
the Army, would it not conceivably decide that complete insurance was a
better bargain than half measures?  What force ought we to be prepared
to send to France during the first fortnight of war in order to make it
a moral certainty that Germany would under no circumstances venture to
attack France?

To questions of this sort it is obviously impossible to give certain
and dogmatic answers.  There are occasions when national feeling runs
away with policy and overbears considerations of military prudence.
The effects of sudden panic, of a sense of bitter injustice, of blind
pride or overweening confidence, are incalculable upon any mathematical
basis.  But regarding the matter from the point of view of the Kaiser's
general staff, whose opinion is usually assumed to be a determining
factor in German enterprises, a British Expeditionary Force, amounting
to something over 600,000 men, would have been sufficient to prevent
the occurrence of a coolly calculated war.  And in the event of war
arising out of some uncontrollable popular impulse, a British Army of
this size would have been enough, used with promptitude and under good
leadership, to secure the defeat of the aggressor.

An Expeditionary Force of 320,000 men would mean fully trained reserves
of something over 210,000 in order to make good the wastage of war
during a campaign of six months.  Similarly an Expeditionary Force of
600,000 would mean reserves of 400,000.  In the former case a total of
530,000 trained soldiers, {329} and in the latter a total of 1,000,000,
would therefore have been required.[15]

Even the smaller of these proposed increases in the Expeditionary Force
would have meant doubling the number of trained soldiers in the British
Army; the larger would have meant multiplying it by four.  Under what
system would it be possible to achieve these results if public opinion
should decide that either of them was necessary to national security?
The answer was as easy to give as the thing itself seemed hard to carry


It had become clear a good deal earlier than the year 1914 that the
limit of voluntary enlistment, under existing conditions, had already
been reached for the Regular as well as the _Territorial_ Army.  If,
therefore, greater numbers were required they could only be provided by
some form of compulsory service.  There was no getting away from this
hard fact which lay at the very basis of the situation.

If security were the object of British policy, the Expeditionary Force
must be fully trained before war broke out.  It would not serve the
purpose for which it was intended, if any part of it, or of its
reserves, needed to be taught their trade after war began.
Thoroughness of training--which must under ordinary circumstances[16]
be measured by length of {330} training--appeared to be a factor of
vital importance.  Given anything like equality in equipment,
generalship, and position, men who had undergone a full two years'
course--like the conscript armies of the Continent--ought to have no
difficulty in defeating a much larger force which had less discipline
and experience.

The lessons of the South African War were in many ways very useful; but
the praise lavishly, and justly, given to volunteer battalions by Lord
Roberts and other distinguished commanders, needed to be studied in the
light of the circumstances, and these were of a peculiar character.
For one thing our antagonists, the Boers, were not trained troops, and
moreover, their policy to a large extent was to weary us out, by
declining decisive action and engaging us in tedious pursuits.  Our
volunteers, for the most part, were picked men.  Although only
half-trained--perhaps in the majority of cases wholly
untrained--circumstances in this case permitted of their being given
the time necessary for gaining experience in the field before being
required to fight.  This was an entirely different state of affairs
from what might be looked for in a European war, in a densely peopled
country, covered with a close network of roads and railways--a war in
which great masses of highly disciplined soldiers would be hurled
against one another systematically, upon a settled plan, until at last
superiority at one point or another should succeed in breaking down
resistance.  The South African war and a European war were two things
not in the least comparable.


Before the nation could be expected to come to a final decision with
regard to the insurance premium {331} which it was prepared to pay, it
would require to be fully informed upon a variety of subordinate points
of much importance.  Cost was a matter which could not be put lightly
on one side; our peculiar obligations in regard to foreign garrisons
was another; the nature of our industrial system was a third; and there
were many besides.  But the main and governing consideration, if we
wished to retain our independence as a nation, was--what provisions
were adequate to security?  The people wanted to know, and had a right
to know, the facts.  And in the end, with all due regard for our
governors, and for the self-importance of political parties, it was not
either for ministers or partisans to decide this question on behalf of
the people; it was for the people, on full and honest information, to
decide it for themselves.

[1] These rough totals were approximately the same in the autumn of
1912, and at the outbreak of war in July 1914.

[2] The exact number of men who could remain in the units when
mobilised was difficult to assess, for the reason that it varied
considerably according to the trooping season, which begins in August
and ends in February.  February was therefore the most unfavourable
month for comparison, and it is probably not far from the truth to say
that at that date 50,000 men out of our nominal home army were
unavailable in case of war.  Under the extreme stress of circumstances,
it had recently been decided that boys of nineteen might serve in
Europe in the event of war, so that a good many 'immatures' were now
nominally 'mature.'  Only nominally, however, for even a war minister
could not alter the course of nature by a stroke of the pen.

[3] Without wearying the reader too much with figures the German
strength may be briefly indicated.  That country has a population
roughly half as large again as our own (65 millions against 45).  The
total of fully trained men whom the German Government could mobilise at
the declaration of war was something over 4,500,000.  Of these some
2,400,000 composed the 'striking force'; the remaining 2,100,000 or
thereabouts, the reserve for making good wastage of war.  But in
addition, Germany had scheduled and inscribed in her Ersatz, or
recruiting reserve, and in the Landsturm, fully 5,000,000 untrained and
partially trained men, with ample equipment and military instructors
for them all.  A large proportion of these would be enrolled on
mobilisation, and would undertake garrison and other duties, for which
they would be fitted after a short period of service, thus freeing all
fully trained men for service in the field.

[4] For purposes of immediate mobilisation, however, Continental
reservists are superior to our own, because in the British Army they
lose touch with their regiments, and in case of war will in many cases
be serving with officers and comrades whom they know nothing about;
whereas in Germany (for example) they come up for periods of training
with the regiments to which they belong.  Also, at the outset, the
proportion of reservists to serving soldiers will be much greater in
our case.

[5] This was in 1912.  Their numbers appear to have increased somewhat.
In July 1914 they were something over 146,000.

[6] Viz. four months for infantry and six for cavalry.

[7] Twenty-seven battalions of the Special Reserve were scheduled to go
out as complete units for duty on lines of communication, etc.  The
report on recruiting for 1912 says that the great majority of recruits
for the Special Reserve join between the ages of seventeen and
nineteen.  It is hardly necessary to point out the folly of putting
boys of this age in a situation where they will be peculiarly liable to
disease.  Continental nations employ their oldest classes of reserves
for these duties.

[8] In July 1914 about 61,000.

[9] _I.e._ in the autumn of 1912.  They were, therefore, 56,000 short
of Lord Haldane's estimate.

[10] Latterly there was a slight improvement in recruiting.  In July
1914 the numbers (including permanent staff) were a little over
268,000--48,000 short of Lord Haldane's estimate.

[11] The fact that in certain cases we did so withdraw our garrisons in
1914-1915 without disaster does not invalidate this calculation.

[12] The experience of the past few months makes this criticism appear
absurd--in its _under_statement.  But of course what was contemplated
in 1912-13 was not anything upon the gigantic scale of our present 'New
Army'; but only (a) the _Special Reserve_, (b) the _Territorial Army_,
possibly doubled in numbers during the first six months, and (c) fresh
recruits for the _Regular Army_ upon a very considerably enhanced
scale.  But even for these purposes which were foreseen, the provision
of officers was quite inadequate; so inadequate indeed as to appear
from the soldier's point of view in the light of a parliamentary farce.

[13] _I.e._ of holding the Germans at the French frontier and keeping
them out of Belgium should they attempt to invade that country.

[14] At the time these totals were worked out the results appeared very
startling to the lay mind.  Recent experience, however, has proved that
the soldiers who worked them out were right when they described them as
'modest estimates.'

[15] In this calculation the wastage of war during the first six months
has been taken at two-thirds.  With the smaller force of 160,000 men,
practically the whole army would be in the fighting line all the time,
and the wastage consequently would be heavier.  It could not wisely be
assumed at less than three-fourths for the same period.

[16] Obviously the better and more experienced the officers, the higher
the quality of the recruits, and the keener their spirit, the more
quickly the desired result will be achieved.  The last two have been
very potent factors in the rapid education of our present 'New Army.'
In a time of abnormal patriotic impulse, the length of time required
will be much shortened.  Since August 1914 the lack of experienced
officers has been the great difficulty.




Lord Roberts addressed many meetings in favour of National Service
during the years which followed his return from South Africa in 1905;
but the first of his speeches to arrest widespread popular attention
was delivered in the Free Trade Hall at Manchester, on October 22,
1912.  A popular audience filled the building to overflowing, listened
with respect, and appeared to accept his conclusions with enthusiasm.
His words carried far beyond the walls of the meeting-place, and caused
something approaching a sensation, or, as some thought, a scandal, in
political circles.

Of the commentators upon this speech the greater part were Liberals,
and these condemned his utterances with unanimity in somewhat violent
language.  Official Unionism was dubious, uncomfortable, and
disapproving: it remained for the most part dumb.  A few voices were
raised from this quarter in open reprobation; a few others proclaimed
their independence of party discipline and hastened to approve his

There was no doubt of one thing--Lord Roberts's speech had at last
aroused public interest.  For the first time during the National
Service agitation {333} blood had been drawn.  This was mainly due to
the object-lesson in the consequences of military unpreparedness, which
the first Balkan War was just then unfolding before the astonished eyes
of Europe.  In addition, those people, who for a year past had been
puzzling their heads over the true meaning of the Agadir crisis, had
become impressed with the urgent need for arriving at a clear decision
with regard to the adequacy of our national defences.


The speech was a lucid and forcible statement of the need for
compulsory military training.  It was interesting reading at the time
it was delivered, and in some respects it is even more interesting
to-day.  It was compactly put together, not a thing of patches.  A man
who read any part of it would read it all.  Yet in accordance with
custom, controversy raged around three isolated passages.

The _first_ of these runs as follows: "In the year 1912, our German
friends, I am well aware, do not--at least in sensible circles--assert
dogmatically that a war with Great Britain will take place this year or
next; but in their heart of hearts they know, every man of them,
that--just as in 1866 and just as in 1870--war will take place the
instant the German forces by land and sea are, by their superiority at
every point, as certain of victory as anything in human calculation can
be made certain.  Germany strikes when Germany's hour has struck.  That
is the time-honoured policy of her Foreign Office.  That was the policy
relentlessly pursued by Bismarck and Moltke in 1866 and 1870.  It has
been her policy decade by decade since that date.  It is her policy at
the present hour."


The _second_ passage followed upon the first: "It is an excellent
policy.  It is or should be the policy of every nation prepared to play
a great part in history.  Under that policy Germany has, within the
last ten years, sprung, as at a bound, from one of the weakest of naval
powers to the greatest naval power, save one, upon this globe."

The _third_ passage came later: "Such, gentlemen, is the origin, and
such the considerations which have fostered in me the growth of this
conviction--the conviction that in some form of National Service is the
only salvation of this Nation and this Empire.  The Territorial Force
is now an acknowledged failure--a failure in discipline, a failure in
numbers, a failure in equipment, a failure in energy."[1]

The accuracy of the _first_ and _third_ of these statements now stands
beyond need of proof.  It was not truer that Germany would strike so
soon as her rulers were of opinion that the propitious hour had struck,
than it was that, when the British Government came to take stock of
their resources at the outbreak of war, they would find the Territorial
Army to be lacking in the numbers, equipment, training, and discipline,
which alone could have fitted it for its appointed task--the defence of
our shores against invasion.  Slowly, and under great difficulties, and
amid the gravest anxieties these defects had subsequently to be made
good, hampering the while our military operations in the critical

The _second_ statement was of a different character, and taken by
itself, without reference to the context, lent itself readily to
misconception as well as {335} misconstruction.  A certain number of
critics, no doubt, actually believed, a still larger number affected to
believe, that Lord Roberts was here advocating the creation of a
British army, for the purpose of attacking Germany, without a shred of
justification, and at the first favourable moment.

The whole tenor of this speech, however, from the first line to the
last, made it abundantly clear that in Lord Roberts's opinion Britain
could have neither motive nor object for attacking Germany; that the
sole concern of England and of the British Empire with regard to
Germany was, how we might defend our possessions and secure ourselves
against her schemes of aggression.


Lord Roberts, however, had in fact pronounced the intentions which he
attributed to Germany to be 'an excellent policy,' and had thereby
seemed to approve, and recommend for imitation, a system which was
revolting to the conscience of a Christian community.

The idea that Lord Roberts could have had any such thoughts in his mind
seemed merely absurd to any one who knew him; nay, it must also have
seemed inconceivable to any one who had taken the trouble to read the
speech itself in an unprejudiced mood.  To an ordinary man of sense it
did not need Lord Roberts's subsequent letter of explanation[2] to set
his opinions in their true light.  It was clear that his object, in
this 'peccant passage,' had merely been to avoid a pharisaical
condemnation of German methods and ambitions, and to treat that country
as a worthy, as well as a formidable, antagonist.  Being a soldier,
{336} however,--not a practised platform orator alive to the dangers of
too-generous concession--he went too far.  The words were unfortunately
chosen, seeing that so many critics were on the watch, not to discover
the true meaning of the speech, but to pounce on any slip which might
be turned to the disadvantage of the speaker.

At first there was an attempt on the part of certain London[3] Liberal
journals to boycott this speech.  Very speedily, however, it seemed to
dawn upon them that they had greater advantages to gain by denouncing
it.  A few days later, accordingly, the torrent of condemnation was
running free.  The ablest attack appeared in the _Nation_,[4] and as
this pronouncement by the leading Radical weekly was quoted with
approval by the greater part of the ministerial press throughout the
country, it may fairly be taken as representing the general view of the


The article was headed _A Diabolical Speech_, and its contents
fulfilled the promise of the title.  "There ought," said the writer,
"to be some means of bringing to book a soldier, in the receipt of
money from the State, who speaks of a friendly Power as Lord Roberts
spoke of Germany."  He was accused roundly of predicting and
encouraging a vast and 'hideous conflict' between the two countries.
Lord Roberts was a 'successful'[5] {337} soldier; but 'without training
in statesmanship.'  He 'had never shown any gift for it.'  His was 'an
average Tory intellect.'  He was a 'complete contrast to Wellington,
who possessed two great qualities; for "he set a high value on peace,
and he knew how to estimate and bow to the governing forces of national
policy....  Lord Roberts possesses neither of these attributes.  He is
a mere jingo in opinion and character, and he interprets the life and
interests of this nation and this Empire by the crude lusts and fears
which haunt the unimaginative soldier's brain."

We may pause at this breathing-place to take note of the healing
influences of time.  Radical journalists of 1832, and thereabouts, were
wont to say very much the same hard things of the Duke of Wellington,
as those of 1912 saw fit to apply to Earl Roberts....  We may also
remark in passing, upon the errors to which even the most brilliant of
contemporary judgments are liable.  There has never been a man in our
time who set a higher value on peace than Lord Roberts did.  He
realised, however, not only the intrinsic value of peace, but its
market cost.  His real crime, in the eyes of pacifists, was that he
stated publicly, as often as he had the chance, what price we must be
prepared to pay, if we wanted peace and not war.  It was in this sense,
no doubt, that he did not know 'how to estimate and bow to the
governing forces of national policy.'  His blunt warnings broke in
rudely and crudely upon the comfortable discourse of the three
counsellors--_Simple_, _Sloth_, and _Presumption_, who, better than any
others, were skilled in estimating the 'governing forces,' and the
advantages to be gained by bowing to them.


The writer in the _Nation_ then proceeded to riddle Lord Roberts's
theories of defence.  "He desires us to remain a 'free nation' in the
same breath that he invites us to come under the yoke of
conscription"--intolerable, indeed, that the citizens of a free nation
should be ordered to fit themselves for defending their common
freedom--"conscription, if you please, for the unheard-of purpose of
overseas service in India and elsewhere...."  This invitation does not
seem to be contained in this, or any other of Lord Roberts's speeches;
but supposing it to have been given, it was not altogether
'unheard-of,' seeing that, under the law of conscription prevalent (for
example) in Germany, conscript soldiers can be sent to Palestine, or
tropical Africa as lawfully as into Luxemburg, Poland, or France.
According to the _Nation_, the true theory of defence was Sea Power;
but this, it appeared, could not be relied on for all time....  "While
our naval monopoly--like our commercial monopoly--cannot exist for
ever, our sea power and our national security depend on our ability to
crush an enemy's fleet....  We were never so amply insured--so
over-insured--against naval disaster as we are to-day."


"Lord Roberts's proposition, therefore," the writer continued, "is
merely foolish; it is his way of commending it, which is merely wicked.
He speaks of war as certain to take place 'the instant' the German
forces are assured of 'superiority at every point,' and he discovers
that the motto of German foreign policy is that _Germany strikes when
Germany's hour has struck_.  Germany does not happen to have struck
anybody since 1870, and she struck then to secure national unity, and
to put an end to {339} the standing menace of French imperialism.
Since then she has remained the most peaceful and the most
self-contained, though doubtless not the most sympathetic, member of
the European family....  Germany, the target of every cheap dealer in
historic slapdash, is in substance the Germany of 1870" (_i.e._ in
extent of territory), "with a great industrial dominion superadded by
the force of science and commercial enterprise.  That is the story
across which Lord Roberts scrawls his ignorant libel....  By direct
implication he invites us to do to Germany what he falsely asserts she
is preparing to do to us.  These are the morals, fitter for a wolf-pack
than for a society of Christian men, commended as 'excellent policy' to
the British nation in the presence of a Bishop of the Anglican Church."

This was very vigorous writing; nor was there the slightest reason to
suspect its sincerity.  In the nature of man there is a craving to
believe; and if a man happens to have his dwelling-place in a world of
illusion and unreality, it is not wonderful that he should believe in
phantoms.  The credulity of the _Nation_ might appear to many people to
amount to fanaticism; but its views were fully shared, though less
tersely stated, by the whole Liberal party, by the greater proportion
of the British people, and not inconceivably by the bulk of the
Unionist opposition as well.  The Government alone, who had learned the
true facts from Lord Haldane eight months earlier, knew how near Lord
Roberts's warnings came to the mark.

This article set the tone of criticism.  The _Manchester Guardian_
protested against the "insinuation that the German Government's views
of international {340} policy are less scrupulous and more cynical than
those of other Governments."  Germany has never been accused with
justice "of breaking her word, of disloyalty to her engagements, or of
insincerity.  Prussia's character among nations is, in fact, not very
different from the character which Lancashire men give to themselves as
compared with other Englishmen.  It is blunt, straightforward, and
unsentimental...."  How foolish, moreover, are our fears of Germany
when we come to analyse them.  "We have no territory that she could
take, except, in tropical Africa, which no sane man would go to war
about.  Our self-governing colonies could not in any case be held by
force; and Canada is protected in addition by the Monroe doctrine.
Egypt is not ours to cede.  Malta could not be had without war with
Italy nor India without war with Russia."[6]

This was a proud statement of the basis of British security, and one
which must have warmed the hearts, and made the blood of Cromwell and
Chatham tingle in the shades.  Egypt, which we had rescued from a chaos
of civil war, bankruptcy, and corruption, which during more than thirty
years we had administered as just stewards for the benefit of her
people, which we had saved from conquest and absorption by savage
hordes--Egypt was not ours to cede.  For the rest our dependencies were
not worth taking from us, while our 'colonies' could defend themselves.
By the grace of Italy's protection we should be secured in the
possession of Malta.  India would be preserved to us by the goodwill of
Russia, and Canada by the strong arm of the United States....  {341}
Such at that time were the views of the Liberal journal foremost in
character and ability.


Somewhat later the _Daily News_ took the field, making up for lost time
by an exuberance of misconstruction....  "The whole movement as
represented by the National Service League is definitely unmasked as an
attempt to get up, not defence, but an invasion of German territory.
This discovery, which for years has been suspected, is most valuable as
showing up the real object of the League, with its glib talk about
military calisthenics.  Lord Roberts may have been indiscreet, but at
least he has made it clear that what the League wants is war."[7]

On the same day, in order that the Liberals might not have a monopoly
of reprobation, the _Evening Standard_, in an article entitled _A Word
with Lord Roberts_, rated him soundly for having "made an attack upon
Germany and an attack upon the Territorial Force...."  "It is mere
wanton mischief-making for a man with Lord Roberts's unequalled
prestige to use words which must drive every German who reads them to
exasperation."  And yet no signs whatsoever were forthcoming that so
much as a single Teuton had been rendered desperate, or had taken the
words as in the least degree uncomplimentary.  Up to the day of his
death--and indeed after his death[8]--Lord Roberts was almost the only
Englishman of his time of whom Germans spoke with consistent
respect....  "Do not," continues this lofty and sapient mentor, "Do not
let us talk as if the Kaiser could play the part of a Genghis Khan or
an Attila, ravening round the world at the head of armed {342} hordes
to devour empires and kingdoms."[9]  And yet how otherwise has the
whole British Press been talking ever since the middle of August 1914?
If during this period of nine months, the _Evening Standard_ has kept
all reference to Attila and his Huns out of its columns, its continence
is unique.

It would serve no useful purpose to set out further items of criticism
and abuse from the leader and correspondence columns of newspapers, or
from the speeches of shocked politicians.  The _Nation_, the
_Manchester Guardian_, and the _Daily News_ are entitled, between them,
to speak for the Liberal party; and if it cannot be said that the
_Evening Standard_ is quite similarly qualified in respect of the
Unionists, there is still no doubt that the views which it expressed
with so much vigour, prescience, and felicity were held by many
orthodox members of its party.

Colonel Bromley-Davenport, for example, who had been Financial
Secretary to the War Office in the late Unionist Government, spoke out
strongly against Lord Roberts's comments upon the efficiency of the
Territorial Force.  'Compulsory service,' in his opinion, 'was not
necessary....'  And then, with a burst of illuminating candour--"Which
of the great parties in the state would take up compulsory service and
fight a general election upon it?  The answer was that neither of the
parties would; and to ask for compulsory military service was like
crying for the moon."[10]  The power of any proposal for winning
elections was to be the touchstone of its truth.  It would be
impossible to state more concisely the attitude of the orthodox
politician.  {343} Which party, indeed, we may well ask, would have
fought a general election on anything, however needful, unless it hoped
to win on it?


The attitude of Ministers, however, with regard to Lord Roberts's
speech is much more worthy of remark than that of independent
journalists and members of Parliament.  For the Government knew several
very important things which, at that time, were still hidden from the
eyes of ordinary men.

It was eight months since Lord Haldane had returned from Germany,
concealing, under a smiling countenance and insouciant manner, a great
burden of care at his heart.  If on his return he spoke cheerily on
public platforms about the kindness of his entertainment at Berlin, and
of the greatness and goodness of those with whom he had there walked
and talked, this was merely in order that his fellow-countrymen might
not be plunged in panic or despondency.  He had learned the mind of
Germany, and it was no light lesson.  He had imparted his dreadful
secret to his colleagues, and we have learned lately from Mr. Asquith
himself what that secret was....  The rulers of Germany, 'to put it
quite plainly,' had asked us for a free hand to overbear and dominate
the European world, whenever they deemed the opportunity favourable.
They had demanded this of the astounded British emissary, "at a time
when Germany was enormously increasing both her aggressive and
defensive resources, and especially upon the sea."  To such a demand
but one answer was possible, and that answer the British Government had
promptly given--so we are led to infer--in clear and ringing tones of


The Government knew for certain what nobody else did.  They knew what
the aims of Germany were, and consequently they knew that Lord Roberts
had spoken nothing but the truth.

And yet, strange to relate, within a few days we find Mr. Runciman, a
member of the Cabinet, administering a severe castigation to Lord
Roberts.  The Manchester speech was "not only deplorable and
pernicious,' but likewise 'dangerous.'  If it was resented in Germany,
Mr. Runciman 'would like Germany to know that it is resented no less in
England...."  Lord Roberts had been a great organiser of the National
Service League, the object of which was 'practically conscription'; but
"he knows little of England, and certainly little of the North of
England, if he imagines we are ever likely to submit to
conscription"--not even apparently (for there are no reservations) as
an alternative to conquest; or as a security against murder, arson, and
rape....  "War is only inevitable when statesmen cannot find a way
round, or through, difficulties that may arise; or are so wicked that
they prefer the hellish method of war to any other method of solution;
or are so weak as to allow soldiers, armament makers, or scaremongers
to direct their policy."[12]  Lord Roberts was not, of course, an
armament maker, but he was a scaremonger and a soldier, and as such had
no right to state his views as to how peace might be kept.

When Sir Edward Grey was asked if any representation had been addressed
by Germany to the {345} Foreign Office with reference to Lord Roberts's
utterances, he deprecated, with frigid discretion, the idea that either
Government should make official representation to the other about
'unwise or provocative speeches.'[13]  When Sir William Byles plied the
Secretary of State for War, Colonel Seely, with questions as to the
revocability of Lord Roberts's pension, the answer was solemn and
oracular, but no rebuke was administered to the interrogator.[14]


But perhaps the most puzzling thing of all, is the persistency with
which Mr. Acland (Sir Edward Grey's Under-Secretary) pursued Lord
Roberts for some three weeks after the rest were finished with him.  It
might have been expected that Mr. Acland's chief, who knew 'the
dreadful secret,' would have curbed his subordinate's excess of zeal.

Mr. Acland distorted the Manchester speech into an appeal to the
British people to put themselves "in a position to strike at the
Germans, and to smash them in a time of profound peace, and without
cause."  And this fanciful gloss he rightly denounces, in accents which
remind us not a little of the Reverend Robert Spalding, as 'nothing
less than a wicked proposal.'[15] ... For England to adopt compulsory
military service would be "an utterly criminal and provocative
proceeding against other countries of the world...."  Here, indeed, is
much food for wonder.  What single country of the world would have
regarded the adoption of national service by England as 'provocative'?
What single country, except Germany, would even have objected to it?
And what more right would Germany have had to object {346} to our
possessing a formidable army, than we had right to object to her
possessing a formidable navy?

When some days later Mr. Acland is reproached with having
misrepresented Lord Roberts's original statement, he replies loftily
that he "was justified at the time in supposing that this was his real
meaning."[16]  One wonders why.  Lord Roberts had said nothing which
any careful reader of his whole speech--an Under-Secretary for Foreign
Affairs, for example, quoting and speaking with a due sense of his
great responsibilities--could conceivably have understood to bear this

A fortnight later Mr. Acland returns to the charge once more.  "Lord
Roberts," he says courteously, "has since explained that he did not
mean what his words seemed so plainly to mean"--that is, the smashing
of Germany in time of profound peace and without any cause....  Danger
to peace, the representative of the Foreign Office assures his
audience, "does not come from any action of His Majesty's Government.
It arises, if at all, from irresponsible utterances such as those which
we heard from Lord Roberts.  I very much regret that harm must have
been done between the two countries by Lord Roberts's speech."[17]

Although an under-secretary does not always enjoy the full confidence
of his official superior, he would presumably obey orders--even an
order to hold his tongue--if any were given.  Consequently, although
Lord Haldane's dreadful secret may have been kept from Mr. Acland, as
unfit for his innocent {347} and youthful ears, it is surprising that
he was never warned of the dangers of the path in which he was so
boldly treading.  The discourtesies of youth to age are not easily
forgiven, especially where they are founded upon misrepresentation, and
when, as in this case, the older man was right and the younger wrong as
to the facts.


It will be said--it has indeed been already said--by way of excuse for
the reticence of the Government with regard to the intentions, which
German statesmen revealed to Lord Haldane, at Berlin, in February
1912--that by keeping back from the country the knowledge which members
of the Cabinet possessed, they thereby prevented an outbreak of passion
and panic which might have precipitated war.  This may be true or
untrue; it can neither be proved nor controverted; but at any rate it
was not in accordance with the principle of trusting the people; nor
would it have prevented the Government and their supporters--when war
broke out--from making amends to Lord Roberts and others whom, on
grounds of high policy, they had felt themselves obliged, in the past
to rebuke unjustly and to discredit without warrant in the facts.  This
course was not impossible.  Peel, a very proud man, made amends to
Cobden, and his memory does not stand any the lower for it.

With regard to those journalists and private politicians whose mistakes
were not altogether their own fault--being due in part at least, to the
concealment of the true facts which the Government had practised--it
would not have been in the least wounding to their honour to express
regret, that they had been unwittingly the means of misleading the
people, and traducing those who were endeavouring to lead {348} it
right.  In their patriotic indignation some of these same journalists
and politicians had overstepped the limits of what is justifiable in
party polemics.  They had attacked the teaching at the Military
Colleges, because it sought to face the European situation frankly, and
to work out in the lecture-room the strategical and tactical
consequences which, in case of war, might be forced upon us by our
relations with France and Russia.  It would have done these high-minded
journalists no harm in the eyes of their fellow-countrymen, had they
acknowledged frankly that when in former days they had denounced the
words of Lord Roberts as 'wicked' and his interpretation of the
situation as inspired by "the crude lusts and fears which haunt the
unimaginative soldier's brain"--when they had publicly denounced as 'a
Staff College Cabal' teachers who were only doing their duty--they had
unwittingly been guilty of a cruel misjudgment.


It is not a little remarkable that in 1912--indeed from 1905 to
1914--Lord Roberts, who, according to the Nation, possessed but 'an
average Tory intellect,' should have trusted the people, while a
democratic Government could not bring itself to do so.  The Cabinet,
which knew the full measure of the danger, concealed it out of a
mistaken notion of policy.  Their henchmen on the platform and in the
press did not know the full measure of the danger.  They acted either
from natural prejudice, or official inspiration--possibly from a
mixture of both--when they made light of the danger and held up to
scorn any one who called attention to it.  The whole body of
respectable, word-worshipping, well-to-do Liberals and Conservatives,
whom nothing could stir out of {349} their indifference and scepticism,
disapproved most strongly of having the word 'danger' so much as
mentioned in their presence.  The country would to-day forgive all of
these their past errors more easily if, when the crisis came, they had
acted a manly part and had expressed regret.  But never a word of the
sort from any of these great public characters!

[1] Manchester, October 22, 1912.  Quoted from _Lord Roberts's Message
to the Nation_ (Murray), pp. 4-6 and p. 12.  The date, however, is
there given wrongly as October 25.

[2] _Manchester Guardian_, November 5, 1912.

[3] This was not so, however, with the Liberal newspaper of greatest
influence in the United Kingdom--the _Manchester Guardian_--which gave
a full and prominent report of Lord Roberts's meeting.  This journal is
honourably free from any suspicion of using the suppression of news as
a political weapon.

[4] October 26, 1912.  Like the _Manchester Guardian_, the _Nation_
made no attempt to boycott the speech.

[5] 'Successful,' not 'distinguished' or 'able' is the word.  The
amiable stress would appear to be on luck rather than merit.

[6] _Manchester Guardian_, October 28, 1912.

[7] _Daily News_, October 30, 1912.

[8] See Preface.

[9] _Evening Standard_, October 30, 1912.

[10] _Morning Post_, October 30, 1912.

[11] Mr. Asquith at Cardiff, October 2, 1914.

[12] Mr. Runciman at Elland, _Manchester Guardian_, October 26, 1912.
Sir Walter Runciman, the father of this speaker, appears to be made of
sterner stuff.  After the Scarborough raid he denounced the Germans as
"heinous polecats."

[13] _Times_, Parliamentary Report, October 30, 1912.

[14] _Ibid_.  November 1, 1912.

[15] Mr. Acland at Taunton, the _Times_, November 5, 1912.

[16] Letter in the _Times_, November 11, 1912.

[17] Mr. Acland at Rochdale, the _Times_, November 25, 1912.




Lord Roberts had been seeking for seven years to persuade the nation to
realise that it was threatened by a great danger; that it was
unprepared to encounter the danger; that by reason of this
unpreparedness, the danger was brought much nearer.  Until October
1912, however, he had failed signally in capturing the public ear.  The
people would not give him their attention either from favour or
indignation.  The cause of which he was the advocate appeared to have
been caught in an academic backwater.

But from that time forward, Lord Roberts had no reason to complain of
popular neglect.  Overcoming his natural disinclination to platform
oratory and political agitation, sacrificing his leisure, putting a
dangerous strain upon his physical strength, he continued his
propaganda at a series of great meetings in the industrial centres.
Everywhere he was listened to with respect, and apparently with a great
measure of agreement.  Only on one occasion was he treated with
discourtesy, and that was by a civic dignitary and not by the audience.
But he had now become an important figure in the political conflict,
and he had to take the consequences, in a stream of abuse and
misrepresentation from the party which {351} disapproved of his
principles; while he received but little comfort from the other party,
which lived in constant terror lest it might be thought to approve of
them.  Lord Roberts's advocacy of national service continued up to the
autumn of 1913, when the gravity of the situation in Ireland made it
impossible to focus public interest on any other subject.


After the present war had run its course for a month or two, the minds
of many people reverted to what Lord Roberts had been urging upon his
fellow-countrymen for nine years past.  His warnings had come true;
that at any rate was beyond doubt.  The intentions which he had
attributed to Germany were clearly demonstrated, and likewise the
vastness and efficiency of her military organisation.  The inadequacy
of British preparations was made plain.  They were inadequate in the
sense that they had failed to deter the aggressor from a breach of the
peace, and they had been equally inadequate for withstanding his
_onset_.  The deficiencies of the Territorial Army in numbers,
discipline, training, and equipment had made it impossible to entrust
it with the responsibility of Home Defence immediately upon the
outbreak of war.  As a consequence of this, the whole of the Regular
Army could not be released for foreign service, although Sir John
French's need of reinforcements was desperate.  Notwithstanding,
however, that Lord Roberts's warnings had come true, many people
professed to discover in what had happened a full justification--some
even went so far as to call it a 'triumph'--for the voluntary system.

Even after the first battle of Ypres, those who held such views had no
difficulty in finding evidences {352} of their truth on all hands.
They found them in the conduct of our army in France, and in the
courage and devotion with which it had upheld the honour of England
against overwhelming odds.  They found it in the response to Lord
Kitchener's call for volunteers, and in the eagerness and spirit of the
New Army.  They found it in our command of the sea, in the spirit of
the nation, and in what they read in their newspapers about the
approval and admiration of the world.

In the short dark days of December and January we were cheered by many
bold bills and headlines announcing what purported to be victories; and
we were comforted through a sad Christmastide by panegyrics on British
instinct, pluck, good-temper, energy, and genius for muddling through.
Philosophic commentators pointed out that, just as Germany was becoming
tired out and short of ammunition, just as she was bringing up troops
of worse and worse quality, we should be at our very best, wallowing in
our resources of men and material of war.  Six months, a year, eighteen
months hence--for the estimates varied--Britain would be invincible.
Economic commentators on the other hand impressed upon us how much
better it was to pay through the nose now, than to have been bleeding
ourselves white as the Germans, the French, and the Russians were
supposed (though without much justification) to have been doing for a

To clinch the triumph of the voluntary system--when the Hour came the
Man came with it.


Many of these things were truly alleged.  Lord Kitchener at any rate
was no mirage.  The gallantry of our Army was no illusion; indeed, its
heroism {353} was actually underrated, for the reason that the extent
of its peril had never been fully grasped.  Although British commerce
had suffered severely from the efforts of a few bold raiders, the
achievements of our Navy were such that they could quite fairly be
described, as having secured command of the sea.[1]  The German fleet
was held pretty closely within its harbours.  We had been able to move
our troops and munitions of war wherever we pleased, and so far,
without the loss of a ship, or even of a man.  Submarine piracy--a
policy of desperation--had not then begun.  The quality of the New
Army, the rapidity with which its recruits were being turned into
soldiers, not only impressed the public, but took by complete surprise
the severest of military critics.

This is not the place for discussing how Lord Kitchener came to be
appointed Secretary of State for War, or to attempt an estimate of his
character and career.[2]  He was no politician, but a soldier {354} and
an administrator.  He was in his sixty-fifth year, and since he had
left the Royal Military Academy in 1871, by far the greater part of his
work had been done abroad--in the Levant, Egypt, South Africa, and
India.[3]  In no case had he ever failed at anything he had undertaken.
The greater part of his work had been completely successful; much of it
had been brilliantly successful.  He believed in himself; the country
believed in him; foreign nations believed in him.  No appointment could
have produced a better effect upon the hearts of the British people and
upon those of their Allies.  The nation felt--if we may use so homely
an image in this connection--that Lord Kitchener was holding its hand
confidently and reassuringly in one of his, while with the other he had
the whole race of politicians firmly by the scruff, and would see to it
that there was no nonsense or trouble in that quarter.

It is no exaggeration to say that from that time to this,[4] Lord
Kitchener's presence in the Cabinet {355} has counted for more with the
country, than that of any other minister, or indeed than all other
ministers put together.  That in itself proves his possession of very
remarkable qualities; for nine such months of public anxiety and
private sorrow, as England has lately known, will disturb any
reputation which is not firmly founded upon merit.  During this time we
have seen other reputations come and go; popularities made, and unmade,
and remade.  We have seen great figures all but vanish into the mist of
neglect.  But confidence in Lord Kitchener has remained constant
through it all.  Things may have gone wrong; the Government may have
made mistakes; even the War Office itself may have made mistakes; yet
the faith of the British people in the man of their choice has never
been shaken for an instant.


The highest of all Lord Kitchener's merits is, that being suddenly
pitchforked into office by an emergency, he nevertheless grasped at
once the two or three main features of the situation, and turned the
whole force of his character to dealing with them, letting the smaller
matters meanwhile fall into line as best they might.  He grasped the
dominating factor--that it was essential to subordinate every military
and political consideration to supporting France, whose fight for her
own existence was equally a fight for the existence of the British
Empire.  He grasped the urgent need for the enrolment of many hundreds
of thousands of men fit for making into soldiers, if we were to win
this fight and not lose it.  He grasped the need for turning these
recruits into soldiers at a pace which hardly a single military expert
believed to be possible.  He may, or may {356} not, have fully grasped
at the beginning, the difficulties--mainly owing to dearth of
officers--with which he was faced: but when he did grasp them, by some
means or another, he succeeded in overcoming them.

It is dangerous to speak of current events in confident superlatives;
but one is tempted to do so with regard to the training of the New
Army.  Even the most friendly among expert critics believed that what
Lord Kitchener had undertaken was a thing quite impossible to do in the
prescribed time.  Yet he has done it.  And not only the friendly, but
also the severest critics, have admitted that the New Army is already
fit to face any continental army, and that, moreover, to all
appearance, it is one of the finest armies in history.  The sternest
proof is yet to come; but it is clear that something not far short of a
miracle has been accomplished.

If we search for an explanation of the miracle, we find it quite as
much in Lord Kitchener's character as in his methods.  Fortunately what
was so painfully lacking in the political sphere was present in the


Despite the support which Lord Kitchener derived from the public
confidence he laboured under several very serious disadvantages.  A man
cannot spend almost the whole of his working life out of England, and
then return to it at the age of sixty-four, understanding all the
conditions as clearly as if he had never left it.  Lord Kitchener was
ignorant not only of English political conditions, but also of English
industrial conditions, which in a struggle like the present are
certainly quite as important as the other.  He may well have consoled
himself, however, with the reflection that, although he himself was
{357} lacking in knowledge, his colleagues were experts in both of
these spheres.

It was inevitable that Lord Kitchener must submit to the guidance of
Ministers in the political sphere, providing they agreed with his main
objects--the unflinching support of France, and the creation of the New

In the industrial sphere, on the other hand, it was the business of
Ministers, not merely to keep themselves in touch with Lord Kitchener's
present and future needs, and to offer their advice and help for
satisfying them, but also to insist upon his listening to reason, if in
his urgent need and unfamiliarity with the business world, he was seen
to be running upon danger in any direction.

It is impossible to resist the impression that, while his colleagues
held Lord Kitchener very close by the head as to politics, and
explained to him very clearly what they conceived the people would
stand and would not stand, they did not show anything like the same
vigilance or determination in keeping him well advised as to the means
of procuring the material of war.

[1] Partly by good fortune, but mainly owing to the admirable
promptitude and skill with which our naval resources were handled, the
bulk of the German fleet was imprisoned from the outset.  We did not
experience anything like the full effect of our unpreparedness.  If Mr.
Churchill had not taken his decision on the day following the delivery
of the Austrian ultimatum to Servia (July 24) by postponing the
demobilisation of the Fleet--to the great scandal of his own party,
when the facts first became known--there would have been a very
different tale to tell as regards the fate of the British merchant
service on the high seas.

[2] Critics of the present Government, such as the editor of the
_National Review_, have maintained that Lord Kitchener was forced upon
an unwilling Cabinet by the pressure of public opinion; that although
he was in England throughout the crisis he was allowed to make all his
preparations for returning to Egypt, and was only fetched back as he
was on the point of stepping aboard the packet; that the well-known
form of Lord Haldane had been seen at the War Office, and that if the
Lord Chancellor had, as was intended, relinquished his legal position
in order to become Secretary of State for War, we should probably not
have sent abroad our Expeditionary Force.  It is undeniable that during
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (August 2, 3, and 4) London was buzzing
with a strange rumour (which was fathered altogether falsely upon the
French Ambassador) that France did not ask for or require our
assistance on land; but only at sea.  If this were so the absurdity of
sending our Expeditionary Force would have been obvious.  It is
noteworthy that a usually well-inspired section of the Ministerial
Press--even after they had reluctantly accepted war as inevitable--were
still maintaining stoutly, even so late as Tuesday and Wednesday (4th
and 5th), that the Expeditionary Force should not be allowed to cross
the channel.  Lord Kitchener was appointed on the Thursday, and the
Expeditionary Force began to go abroad the following week.  The chapter
of English political history which begins with the presentation of the
Austrian ultimatum to Servia on the 23rd of July, and ends with the
appointment of Lord Kitchener on the 6th of August, will no doubt prove
to be one of the most interesting in our annals.  Whether it will prove
to be one of the most glorious or one of the most humiliating
exhibitions of British statesmanship we cannot say until we possess
fuller knowledge than we do at present of the attitude of ministers at
the Cabinets of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (July 31, August 1 and 2).

[3] Palestine, 1874-1878; Cyprus, 1878-1882; Egypt, 1882-1899; South
Africa, 1899-1902; India, 1902-1909; Egypt, 1911-1914.  Only during the
years 1871-1874 and 1909-1911 does Lord Kitchener appear to have been
freed from foreign service, and during a part of the latter interval he
was travelling in China and Japan.

[4] End of May 1915.




As regards the business world the position at this time[1] was a
singularly difficult one.  Within a few days of the outbreak of war,
orders from all parts of the globe were forthcoming, on so vast a scale
that the ordinary means of coping with them were wholly inadequate.  It
was not possible to walk out of the War Office and buy what was wanted
in the shops.  In a very brief period the whole industrial system of
the United Kingdom was congested with orders.

In Lord Kitchener's former experience of military and civil
administration the difficulty had usually been to get the money he
needed, in order to carry out his reforms and undertakings.  But here
was a case where he could have all the money he chose to ask for; it
was the commodities themselves which could not be had either for money
or love.


When war broke out the industries of France and Belgium were
paralysed--the former temporarily, the latter permanently.  We could
buy nothing in France; France, on the other hand, was buying eagerly in
England.  And so was Russia, not herself as yet a great industrial
producer.  And so were Belgium, {359} Servia, Italy, Roumania, Greece,
Japan--indeed the whole world, more or less--belligerents and neutrals
alike--except the two Powers with which we were at war.  All these
competitors were in the field against the War Office, running up
prices, and making the fortunes of enterprising middlemen, who flocked
to the feast, like vultures from all corners of the sky.  The
industrial situation, therefore, needed the sternest regulation, and
needed it at once.  For it was essential to secure our own
requirements, and to make certain that our Allies secured theirs, at a
fair price and in advance of all other purchasers.

Moreover, it was obviously necessary to look an immense way ahead,
especially as regards munitions of war; to aid with loans, and
encourage with orders, firms able and willing to make what was
required.  It was essential that makers of arms and supplies should be
stimulated to undertake vast increases of their staff and plant.
Before the battle of the Marne was ended it was known, only too well,
that every nation in Europe--with the single exception of Germany--had
grossly underestimated the expenditure of artillery ammunition under
conditions of modern warfare.  It was of the most immediate urgency to
concert with our Allies, and with our manufacturers, in order to set
this trouble right.  It was as necessary for the Allies to organise
their resources as it was for them to organise their armies.  The
second, indeed, was impossible without the first, as Germany well knew,
and in her own case had already practised.

Finally, there was the problem--half industrial, half political--of
labour; its hours, conditions, and remuneration.  Without the utmost
vigilance and {360} sympathy, without a constant inspiration of duty,
without political leadership which appealed to the imagination and
heart of the people, there were bound to be endless troubles and
confusion; there were bound to be disputes, quarrels, stoppages, and

The prices of certain munitions and materials were almost anything the
makers liked to name.  Money was flying about, and everybody was aware
of it.  Human nature was sorely tempted.  The future was anxious and
uncertain.  People dependent for a living on their own exertions, were
beset with a dangerous inclination to hold out their pitchers, in the
hopes of catching some portion of the golden shower while it lasted.
The idea that workmen were, on the average, any greedier than their
masters is only held by persons who have little knowledge of the facts.
Cost of living had risen rapidly; this might have been foreseen from
the beginning, as well as the dangers which it contained.

In such circumstances as these the baser appetites of mankind are
always apt to break loose and gain the upper hand, unless there is a
firm leadership of the nation.  That is where the statesman should come
in, exercising a sagacious control upon the whole organisation of
industry; impressing on masters the need for patience and sympathy; on
their men the need for moderation; on all the need for sacrifices.

During the months of February, March, and April 1915 there was a loud
outcry, led by a member of the Government, deploring the lack of
munitions of war, and attributing the deficiency to a want of industry
and energy on the part of a {361} section of the working classes.
Their frequent abstentions were condemned, and drunkenness was alleged
to have been, in many cases, a contributory cause.


Then Mr. Asquith came forward and astonished the world by denying
stoutly that there was, or ever had been, any deficiency in munitions
of war.[2]  He assured the country that so long ago as September he had
"appointed a committee ... to survey the situation."[3]  He said
nothing about irregularity of work, or about drunkenness as a cause of
it.  On the contrary, he produced the impression that the Army was as
well provided as it could be, and that the behaviour of the whole world
of industry had {362} been as impeccable as the foresight and energy of
the Government.

The country found it difficult to reconcile these various statements
one with another.  It found it still more difficult to reconcile Mr.
Asquith's assurances with what it had heard, not only from other
Ministers, but from generals in their published communications.
Private letters from the front for months past had told a very
different story from that which was told, in soothing tones, to the
Newcastle audience.  These had laid stress upon the heavy price paid in
casualties, and the heavy handicap imposed on military operations,
owing to shortage of artillery ammunition.  The appointment of the
Committee alone was wholly credited; the rest of these assurances were


Indeed it was impossible to doubt that there had been miscalculation
and want of foresight in various directions; and it would have been
better to admit it frankly.  The blame, however, did not rest upon Lord
Kitchener's shoulders, but upon those of his colleagues.  They
understood the industrial conditions of the United Kingdom; he did not
and could not; and they must have been well aware of this fact.  It was
not Lord Kitchener's business, nor had he the time, to make himself
familiar with those matters which are so well understood by the Board
of Trade, the Local Government Board, and the Treasury.  His business
was to help France, to get recruits as best he could, to train them as
soon as he could, and to send them out to beat the Germans.  It was the
business of the Government--expert in British political and industrial
conditions--to put him in the way of getting his recruits, and the
equipment, {363} supplies, and munitions of war which were necessary
for making them effective.[4]

[1] I am specially referring to August-December 1914.

[2] "I saw a statement the other day _that the operations not only of
our Army but of our Allies were being crippled, or at any rate
hampered, by our failure to provide the necessary ammunition_.  There
is not a word of truth in that statement.  I say there is not a word of
truth in that statement which is the more mischievous because if it
were believed, it is calculated to dishearten our troops, to discourage
our Allies, and to stimulate the hopes and activities of our enemies.
Nor is there any more truth in the suggestion that the Government, of
which I am the head, have only recently become alive to the importance
and the urgency of these matters.  On the contrary, in the earliest
days of the war, when some of our would-be instructors were thinking of
quite other things, they were already receiving our anxious attention,
and as far back, I think, as the month of September I appointed a
Committee of the Cabinet, presided over by Lord Kitchener, to survey
the situation from this point of view--a Committee whose labours and
inquiries resulted in a very substantial enlargement both on the field
and of machinery of supply....

"No, the urgency of the situation--and, as I shall show, the urgency is
great--can be explained without any resort to recrimination or to
blame.  It is due, in the main, to two very obvious causes.  It is due,
first of all, to the unprecedented scale upon which ammunition on both
sides has been, and is being, expended.  _It not only goes far beyond
all previous experience, but it is greatly in advance of the forecasts
of the best experts_."--Mr. Asquith at Newcastle, April 20, 1915.

[3] There has certainly been no lack of appointments either of
committees or individuals.  So lately as the 7th of April the
newspapers announced a War Office Committee "to secure that the supply
of munitions of war shall be sufficient to meet all requirements."
About a week later came the announcement of a still more august
committee--'The Output Committee'--with Mr. Lloyd-George as Chairman
and Mr. Balfour as a member of it.  If war could be won by appointing
committees and creating posts, victory ought long ago to have been

[4] Since this chapter was printed (May 1915) public opinion has been
somewhat distracted by a sensational wrangle as to whether or not the
right kind of ammunition had been supplied.  These are technical
matters upon which the ordinary man is no judge.  The main point is
that--certainly until quite recently--enough ammunition was not
supplied; nor anything like enough; and this was due to the failure to
look far enough ahead in the early days of the war; and to organise our
industrial system to meet the inevitable requirements.




If Lord Kitchener is not to be held primarily responsible for the delay
in providing war material, just as little is he to be blamed for the
methods of recruiting.  For he had to take what the politicians told
him.  He had to accept their sagacious views of what the people would
stand; of 'what they would never stand'; of what 'from the House of
Commons' standpoint' was practicable or impracticable.

Lord Kitchener wanted men.  During August and September he wanted them
at once--without a moment's delay.  Obviously the right plan was to ask
in a loud voice who would volunteer; to take as many of these as it was
possible to house, clothe, feed, and train; then to sit down quietly
and consider how many more were likely to be wanted, at what dates, and
how best they could be got.  But as regards the first quarter of a
million or so, which there were means for training at once, there was
only one way--to call loudly for volunteers.  The case was one of
desperate urgency, and as things then stood, it would have been the
merest pedantry to delay matters until a system, for which not even a
scheme or skeleton existed before the emergency arose, had been
devised.  The rough and ready {365} method of calling out loudly was
open to many objections on the score both of justice and efficiency,
but the all-important thing was to save time.


Presumably, by and by, when the first rush was over, the Cabinet did
sit down round a table to talk things over.  We may surmise the
character of the conversation which was then poured into Lord
Kitchener's ears--how England would never stand this or that; how no
freeborn Englishman--especially north of the Humber and the Trent,[1]
whence the Liberal party drew its chief support--would tolerate being
tapped on the shoulder and told to his face by Government what his duty
was; how much less would he stand being coerced by Government into
doing it; how he must be tapped on the shoulder and told by other
people; how he must be coerced by other people; how pressure must be
put on by private persons--employers by threats of dismissal--young
females of good, bad, and indifferent character by blandishments and
disdain.  The fear of starvation for the freeborn Englishman and his
family--at that time a real and present danger with many minds--or the
shame of receiving a white feather, were the forces by which England
and the Empire were to be saved at this time of trial.  Moreover, would
it not lead to every kind of evil if, at this juncture, the country
were to become annoyed with the Government?  Better surely that it
should become annoyed with any one rather than the Government, whose
patriotic duty, therefore, was to avoid unpopularity with more devoted
vigilance than heretofore, if such a thing were possible.

One can imagine Lord Kitchener--somewhat weary {366} of discussions in
this airy region, and sorely perplexed by all these cobwebs of the
party system--insisting doggedly that his business was to make a New
Army, and to come to the assistance of France, without a day's
unnecessary delay.  He must have the men; how was he to get the men?

And one can imagine the response.  "Put your trust in us, and we will
get you the men.  We will go on shouting.  We will shout louder and
louder.  We will paste up larger and larger pictures on the hoardings.
We will fill whole pages of the newspapers with advertisements drawn up
by the 'livest publicity artists' of the day.  We will enlist the
sympathies and support of the press--for this is not an Oriental
despotism, but a free country, where the power of the press is
absolute.  And if the sympathies of the press are cool, or their
support hangs back, we will threaten them with the Press Bureau.  We
will tell the country-gentlemen, and the men-of-business, that it is
their duty to put on the screw; and most of these, being easily
hypnotised by the word 'duty,' will never dream of refusing.  If their
action is resented, and they become disliked it will be very
regrettable; but taking a broad view, this will not be injurious to the
Liberal party in the long run.

"Leave this little matter, Lord Kitchener, to experts.  Lend your great
name.  Allow us to show your effigies to the people.  Consider what a
personal triumph for yourself if, at the end of this great war, we can
say on platforms that you and we together have won it on the Voluntary
System.  Trust in us and our methods.  We will boom your {367} New
Army, and we will see to it at the same time that the Government does
not become unpopular, and also, if possible, that the Empire is saved."


So they boomed the Voluntary System and the New Army in Periclean
passages; touched with awe the solemn chords; shouted as if it had been

Two specimens, out of a large number of a similar sort--the joint
handiwork apparently of the 'publicity artists,' bettering the moving
appeals of the late Mr. Barnum, and of the party managers, inspired by
the traditions of that incomparable ex-whip, Lord Murray of
Elibank--are given below.[2]  It is of course impossible to do justice
here to the splendour of headlines and leaded capitals; but the nature
of the appeal will be gathered clearly enough.  Briefly, the motive of
it was to avoid direct compulsion by Government--which would have
fallen equally and fairly upon all--and to substitute for this,
indirect compulsion and pressure by private individuals--which must of
necessity operate unequally, unfairly, and invidiously.  To say that
this sort of thing is not compulsion, is to say what is untrue.  If, as
appears to be the case, the voluntary system has broken down, and we
are to have compulsion, most honest men and women will prefer that the
compulsion should be fair rather than unfair, direct rather than
indirect, and that it should be exercised by those responsible for the
government of the country, rather than by private persons who cannot
compel, but can only penalise.


By these means, during the past six months, a great army has been got
together--an army great in numbers,[3] still greater in spirit;
probably one of the noblest armies ever recruited in an cause.  And
Lord Kitchener has done his part by training this army with
incomparable energy, and by infusing into officers and men alike his
own indomitable resolution.

The high quality of the New Army is due to the fact that the bulk of it
consists of two kinds of men, who of all others are the best material
for soldiers.  It consists of men who love fighting for its own sake--a
small class.  It also consists of men who hate fighting, but whose
sense of duty is their guiding principle--fortunately a very large
class.  It consists of many others as well, driven on by divers
motives.  But the spirit of the New Army--according to the {369}
accounts of those who are in the best position to judge--is the spirit
of the first two classes--of the fighters and the sense-of-duty men.
It is these who have leavened it throughout.


This magnificent result--for it is magnificent, whatever may be thought
of the methods which achieved it--has been claimed in many
quarters--Liberal, Unionist, and non-party--as a triumph for the
voluntary system.  But if we proceed to question it, how voluntary was
it really?  Also how just?  Did the New Army include all, or anything
like all, those whose clear duty it was to join?  And did it not
include many people who ought never to have been asked to join, or even
allowed to join, until others--whose ages, occupations, and
responsibilities marked them out for the first levies--had all been
called up?

There is also a further question--did the country, reading these
various advertisements and placards--heroic, melodramatic, pathetic,
and facetious--did the country form a true conception of the gravity of
the position?  Was it not in many cases confused and perplexed by the
nature of the appeal?  Did not many people conclude, that things could
not really be so very serious, if those in authority resorted to such
flamboyant and sensational methods--methods so conspicuously lacking in
dignity, so inconsistent with all previous ideas of the majesty of
Government in times of national peril?

The method itself, no doubt, was only unfamiliar in so far as it used
the King's name.  It was familiar and common enough in other
connections.  But a method which might have been unexceptionable for
calling attention to the virtues of a shop, a soap, a {370} circus, or
a pill, seemed inappropriate in the case of a great nation struggling
at the crisis of its fate.[4]

Each of us must judge from his own experience of the effect produced.
The writer has heard harsher things said of these appeals by the poor,
than by the well-to-do.  The simplest and least sophisticated minds are
often the severest critics in matters of taste as well as morals.  And
this was a matter of both.  Among townspeople as well as countryfolk
there were many who--whether they believed or disbelieved in the urgent
need, whether they responded to the appeal or did not respond to
it--regarded the whole of this 'publicity' campaign with distrust and
dislike, as a thing which demoralised the country, which was revolting
to its honour and conscience, and in which the King's name ought never
to have been used.[5]



On the part of the working-classes there were other objections to the
methods employed.  They resented the hints and instructions which were
so obligingly given by the 'publicity artists' and the 'party managers'
to the well-to-do classes--to employers of all sorts--as to how they
should bring pressure to bear upon their dependents.  And they
resented--especially the older men and those with family
responsibilities--the manner in which they were invited by means of
circulars to signify their willingness to serve--as they imagined in
the last dire necessity--and when they had agreed patriotically to do
so, found themselves shortly afterwards called upon to fulfil their
contract.  For they knew that in the neighbouring village--or in the
very next house--there were men much more eligible for military {372}
service in point of age and freedom from family responsibilities, who,
not having either volunteered, or filled up the circular, were
accordingly left undisturbed to go about their daily business.[6]

The attitude of the country generally at the outbreak of war was
admirable.  It was what it should have been--as on a ship after a
collision, where crew and passengers, all under self-command, and
without panic, await orders patiently.  So the country waited--waited
for clear orders--waited to be told, in tones free from all ambiguity
and hesitation, what they were to do as classes and as individuals.
There was very little fuss or confusion.  People were somewhat dazed
for a short while by the financial crisis; but the worst of that was
soon over.  They then said to themselves, "Let us get on with our
ordinary work as hard as usual (or even harder), until we receive
orders from those responsible for the ship's safety, telling us what we
are to do."


There was a certain amount of sparring, then and subsequently, between
high-minded journalists, who {373} were engaged in carrying on their
own _business as usual_, and hard-headed traders and manufacturers who
desired to do likewise.  The former were perhaps a trifle too
self-righteous, while the latter took more credit than they deserved
for patriotism, seeing that their chief merit was common sense.  To
have stopped the business of the country would have done nobody but the
Germans any good, and would have added greatly to our national

At times of national crisis, there will always be a tendency, among
most men and women, to misgivings, lest they may not be doing the full
measure of their duty.  Their consciences become morbidly active; it is
inevitable that they should; indeed it would be regrettable if they did
not.  People are uncomfortable, unless they are doing something they
have never done before, which they dislike doing, and which they do
less well than their ordinary work.  In many cases what they are
inspired to do is less useful than would have been their ordinary work,
well and thoughtfully done.  At such times as these the _Society for
Setting Everybody Right_ always increases its activities, and enrols a
large number of new members.  But very soon, if there is leadership of
the nation, things fall into their proper places and proportions.
Neither business nor pleasure can be carried on as usual, and everybody
knows it.  There must be great changes; but not merely for the sake of
change.  There must be great sacrifices in many cases; and those who
are doing well must give a helping hand to those others who are doing
ill.  But all--whether they are doing well or ill from the standpoint
of their own private interests--must be prepared to do what the leader
of the nation orders them to do.  {374} This was fully recognised in
August, September, October, and November last.  The country expected
orders--clear and unmistakable orders--and it was prepared to obey
whatever orders it received.

But no orders came.  Instead of orders there were appeals, warnings,
suggestions, assurances.  The panic-monger was let loose with his
paint-box of horrors.  The diffident parliamentarian fell to his usual
methods of soothing, and coaxing, and shaming people into doing a very
vague and much-qualified thing, which he termed their duty.  But there
was no clearness, no firmness.  An ordinary man will realise his duty
so soon as he receives a definite command, and not before.  He received
no such command; he was lauded, lectured, and exhorted; and then was
left to decide upon his course of action by the light of his own reason
and conscience.[7]

He was not even given a plain statement of the {375} true facts of the
situation, and then left at peace to determine what he would do.  He
was disturbed in his meditations by shouting--more shouting--ever
louder and louder shouting--through some thousands of megaphones.  The
nature of the appeal was emotional, confusing, frenzied, and at times
degrading.  Naturally the results were in many directions most
unsatisfactory, unbusinesslike, and disorderly.  The drain of
recruiting affected industries and individuals not only unequally and
unfairly, but in a way contrary to the public interest.  If Government
will not exercise guidance and control in unprecedented circumstances,
it is inevitable that the country must suffer.


To judge from the placards and the posters, the pictures and the
language, a casual stranger would not have judged that the British
Empire stood at the crisis of its fate; but rather that some World's
Fair was arriving shortly, and that these were the preliminary
flourishes.  Lord Kitchener cannot have enjoyed the pre-eminence which
was allotted to him in our mural decorations, and which suggested that
he was some kind of co-equal with the famous Barnum or Lord George
Sanger.  Probably no one alive hated the whole of this orgie of vulgar
sensationalism, which the timidity of the politicians had forced upon
the country, more than he did.[8]


Having stirred up good and true men to join the New Army, whether it
was rightly their turn or not; having got at others in whom the
voluntary spirit burned less brightly, by urging their employers to
dismiss them and their sweethearts to throw them over if they refused
the call of duty, the 'publicity artists' and the 'party managers'
between them undoubtedly collected for Lord Kitchener a very fine army,
possibly the finest raw material for an army which has ever been got
together.  And Lord Kitchener, thereupon, set to work, and trained this
army as no one but Lord Kitchener could have trained it.

These results were a source of great pride and self-congratulation
among the politicians.  The voluntary principle--you see how it works!
What a triumph!  What other nation could have done the same?

Other nations certainly could not have done the same, for the reason
that there are some things which one cannot do twice over, some things
which one cannot give a second time--one's life for example, or the
flower of the manhood of a nation to be made into soldiers.

Other nations could not have done what we were doing, because they had
done it already.  They had their men prepared when the need
arose--which we had not.  Other nations were engaged in holding the
common enemy at enormous sacrifices until we made ourselves ready;
until we--triumphing in our {377} voluntary system, covering ourselves
in self-praise, and declaring to the world, through the mouths of Sir
John Simon and other statesmen, that each of our men was worth at least
three of their 'pressed men' or conscripts--until we came up leisurely
with reinforcements--six, nine, or twelve months hence--supposing that
by such time, there was anything still left to come up for.  If the
Germans were then in Paris, Bordeaux, Brest, and Marseilles, there
would be--temporarily at least--a great saving of mortality among the
British race.  If, on the other hand, the Allies had already arrived at
Berlin without us, what greater triumph for the voluntary principle
could possibly be imagined?

[Sidenote: A FRENCH VIEW]

Putting these views and considerations--which have so much impressed us
all in our own recent discussions--before a French officer, I found him
obstinate in viewing the matter at a different angle.  He was inclined
to lay stress on the case of Northern France, and even more on that of
Belgium, whose resistance to the German invasion we had wished for and
encouraged, and who was engaged in fighting our battles quite as much
as her own.  The voluntary principle, in spite of its triumphs at
home--which he was not concerned to dispute--had not, he thought, as
yet been remarkably triumphant abroad; and nine months had gone by
since war began.

He insisted, moreover, that for years before war was declared, our
great British statesmen could not have been ignorant of the European
situation, either in its political or its military aspects.  Such
ignorance was inconceivable.  They must have suspected the intentions
of Germany, and they must have known the numbers of her army.  England
had common {378} interests with France.  Common interests, if there be
a loyal understanding, involve equal sacrifices--equality of sacrifice
not merely when the push comes, but in advance of the crisis, in
preparation for it--a much more difficult matter.  Why then had not our
Government told the British people long ago what sacrifice its safety,
no less than its honour, required of it to give?

I felt, after talking to my friend for some time, that although he
rated our nation in some ways very highly indeed, although he was
grateful for our assistance, hopeful of the future, confident that in
Lord Kitchener we had found our man, nothing--nothing--not even
selections from Mr. Spender's articles in the _Westminster Gazette_, or
from Sir John Simon's speeches, or Sir John Brunner's assurances about
the protection afforded by international law--could induce him to share
our own enthusiasm for the voluntary system....  _The triumph of the
voluntary system_, he cried bitterly, _is a German triumph: it is the
ruin of Belgium and the devastation of France_.

And looking at the matter from a Frenchman's point of view, there is
something to be said for his contention.

Apart from any objections which may exist to British methods of
recruiting since war broke out--to their injustice, want of dignity,
and generally to their demoralising effect on public opinion--there are
several still more urgent questions to be considered.  Have those
methods been adequate?  And if so, are they going to continue adequate
to the end?  Is there, in short, any practical need for conscription?


We do not answer these questions by insisting that, if there had been
conscription in the past, we should have been in a much stronger
position when war broke out; or by proving to our own satisfaction,
that if we had possessed a national army, war would never have
occurred.  Such considerations as these are by no means done with; they
are indeed still very important; but they lie rather aside from the
immediate question with which we are now faced, and which, for lack of
any clear guidance from those in authority, many of us have been
endeavouring of late to solve by the light of our own judgment.


The answer which the facts supply does not seem to be in any doubt.  We
need conscription to bring this war to a victorious conclusion.  We
need conscription no less in order that we may impose terms of lasting
peace.  Conscription is essential to the proper organisation not only
of our manhood, but also of our national resources.[9]  Judging by the
increasing size, frequency, and shrillness of recent recruiting
advertisements, conscription would seem to be equally essential in
order to secure the number of recruits necessary for making good the
wastage of war, even in the present preliminary stage of the war.  And
morally, conscription is essential in order that the whole nation may
realise, before it is too late, the life-or-death nature of the present
struggle; in order also that other nations--our Allies as well as our
enemies--may understand--what they certainly do not understand at
present--that our spirit is as firm and self-sacrificing as their own.

The voluntary system has broken down long ago.  {380} It broke down on
the day when the King of England declared war upon the Emperor of
Germany.  From that moment it was obvious that, in a prolonged war, the
voluntary system could not be relied upon to give us, in an orderly and
businesslike way, the numbers which we should certainly require.  It
was also obvious that it was just as inadequate for the purpose of
introducing speed, order, and efficiency into the industrial world, as
strength into our military affairs.

So far, however, most of the accredited oracles of Government have
either denounced national military service as un-English, and a sin
against freedom; or else they have evaded the issue, consoling their
various audiences with the reflection, that it will be time enough to
talk of compulsion, when it is clearly demonstrated that the voluntary
system can no longer give us what we need.  It seems improvident to
wait until the need has been proved by the painful process of failure.
The curses of many dead nations lie upon the procrastination of
statesmen, who waited for breakdown to prove the necessity of
sacrifice.  Compulsion, like other great changes, cannot be
systematised and put through in a day.  It needs preparation.  If the
shoe begins to pinch severely in August, and we only then determine to
adopt conscription, what relief can we hope to experience before the
following midsummer?  And in what condition of lameness may the British
Empire be by then?

"But what," it may be asked, "of all the official and semi-official
statements which have been uttered in a contrary sense?  Surely the
nation is bound to trust its own Government, even although no {381}
facts and figures are offered in support of their assurances."


Unfortunately it is impossible to place an implicit faith in official
and semi-official statements, unless we have certain knowledge that
they are confirmed by the facts.  There has been an abundance of such
statements in recent years--with regard to the innocence of Germany's
intentions--with regard to the adequacy of our own preparations--while
only a few weeks ago Mr. Asquith himself was assuring us that neither
the operations of our own army, nor those of our Allies' armies, had
ever been crippled, or even hampered, by any want of munitions.

When, therefore, assurances flow from the same source--assurances that
there is no need for compulsory military service--that the voluntary
system has given, is giving, and will continue to give us all we
require--we may be forgiven for expressing our incredulity.  Such
official and semi-official statements are not supported by any clear
proofs.  They are contradicted by much that we have heard from persons
who are both honest, and in a position to know.  They are discredited
by our own eyes when we read the recruiting advertisements and posters.
It seems safer, therefore, to dismiss these official and semi-official
assurances, and trust for once to our instinct and the evidence of our
own senses.  It seems safer also not to wait for complete breakdown in
war, or mortifying failure in negotiations for peace, in order to have
the need for national service established beyond a doubt.

[1] Cf. Mr. Runciman, _ante_, p. 344.

[2] (A) Four questions to the women of England.

1. You have read what the Germans have done in Belgium.  Have you
thought what they would do if they invaded England?

2. Do you realise that the safety of your Home and Children depends on
our getting more men now?

3. Do you realise that the one word "Go" from _you_ may send another
man to fight for our King and Country?

4. When the War is over and your husband or your son is asked 'What did
you do in the great War?'--is he to hang his head because you would not
let him go?

Women of England do your duty!  Send your men _to-day_ to join our
glorious Army.


(B) Five questions to those who employ male servants.

1. Have you a butler, groom, chauffeur, gardener, or gamekeeper serving
_you_ who, at this moment should be serving your King and Country?

2. Have you a man serving at your table who should be serving a gun?

3. Have you a man digging your garden who should be digging trenches?

4. Have you a man driving your car who should be driving a transport

5. Have you a man preserving your game who should be helping to
preserve your Country?

A great responsibility rests on you.  Will you sacrifice your personal
convenience for your Country's need?

Ask your men to enlist _to-day_.

The address of the nearest Recruiting Office can be obtained at any
Post Office.


[3] How many we have not been told; but that the numbers whatever they
may be do not yet reach nearly what is still required we know from the
frantic character of the most recent advertisements.

[4] With apologies for the dialect, in which I am not an expert, I
venture to set out the gist of a reply given to a friend who set
himself to find out why recruiting was going badly in a Devonshire
village....  "We do-ant think nought, Zur, o' them advertaizements and
noospaper talk about going soldgering.  When Guv'ment needs soldgers
really sore, Guv'ment'll say so clear enough, like it does when it
wants taxes--'_Come 'long, Frank Halls, you're wanted._' ... And when
Guv'ment taps Frank Halls on showlder, and sez this, I'll go right
enough; but I'll not stir foot till Guv'ment does; nor'll any man of
sense this zide Exeter."

[5] The following letter which appeared in the _Westminster Gazette_
(January 20, 1915), states the case so admirably that I have taken the
liberty of quoting it in full:

"DEAR SIR--Every day you tell your readers that we are collecting
troops by means of voluntary enlistment, yet it is self-evident that
our recruiting campaign from the first has been a very noisy and a very
vulgar compulsion, which in a time of immense crisis has lowered the
dignity of our country and provoked much anxiety among our Allies.  Our
national habit of doing the right thing in the wrong way has never been
exercised in a more slovenly and unjust manner.  It is a crime against
morals not to use the equitable principles of national service when our
country is fighting for her life; and this obvious truth should be
recognised as a matter of course by every true democrat.  A genuinely
democratic people, proud of their past history, and determined to hold
their own against Germany's blood-lust, would have divided her male
population into classes, and would have summoned each class to the
colours at a given date.  Those who were essential to the leading
trades of the country would have been exempted from war service in the
field, as they are in Germany; the younger classes would have been
called up first, and no class would have been withdrawn from its civil
work until the military authorities were ready to train it.  Instead of
this quiet and dignified justice, this admirable and quiet unity of a
free people inspired by a fine patriotism, we have dazed ourselves with
shrieking posters and a journalistic clamour against 'shirkers,' and
loud abuse of professional footballers; and now an advertisement in the
newspapers assures the women of England that _they_ must do what the
State declines to achieve, that they must send their men and boys into
the field since their country is fighting for her life.  What
cowardice!  Why impose this voluntary duty on women when the State is
too ignoble to look upon her own duty in this matter as a moral

"The one virtue of voluntary enlistment is that it should be
voluntary--a free choice between a soldier's life and a civilian's
life.  To use moral pressure, with the outcries of public indignation,
in order to drive civilians from their work into the army--what is this
but a most undignified compulsion?  And it is also a compulsion that
presses unequally upon the people, for its methods are without system.
Many families send their all into the fighting line; many decline to be
patriotic.  A woman said to me yesterday: 'My husband has gone, and I
am left with his business.  Why should he go?  Other women in my
neighbourhood have their husbands still, and it's rubbish to say that
the country is in danger when the Government allows and encourages this
injustice in recruiting.  If the country is in danger all the men
should fight--if their trade work is unnecessary to the armies."

"This point of view is right; the wrong one is advocated by you and by
other Radicals who dislike the justice of democratic equality.--Yours

[6] There have been bitter complaints of this artful way of getting
recruits, as a boy 'sniggles' trout.  The following letter to the Times
(April 21, 1915) voices a very widely spread sense of injustice:

"SIR--Will you give me the opportunity to ask a question, which I think
you will agree is important?  When the Circular to Householders was
issued, many heads of families gave in their names on the assumption
that they would be called up on the last resort, and under
circumstances in which no patriotic man could refuse his help.  Married
men with large families are now being called up apparently without the
slightest regard to their home circumstances.  Many of the best of them
are surprised and uneasy at leaving their families, but feel bound in
honour to keep their word, some even thinking they have no choice.  The
separation allowances for these families will be an immense burden on
the State, and, if the breadwinner falls, a permanent burden.  Is the
need for men still so serious and urgent as to justify this?  If it is,
then I for one, who have up to now hoped that the war might be put
through without compulsion, feel that the time has come to 'fetch' the
unmarried shirkers, and I believe there is a wide-spread and growing
feeling to that effect.--I am, Sir, etc., CHARLES G. E. WELBY."

[7] An example of the apparent inability of the Government to do
anything thoroughly or courageously is found in a circular letter to
shopkeepers and wholesale firms, which was lately sent out by the Home
Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade.  The object of this
enquiry--undertaken at leisure, nine months after the outbreak of
war--is to obtain information as to the number of men of military age,
who are still employed in these particular trades, and as to the
willingness of their employers to spare them if required, and to
reinstate them at the end of the war, etc., etc.

The timid futility of this attempt at organising the resources of the
country is shown _first_ by the fact that it left to the option of each
employer whether he will reply or not.  Businesses which do not wish to
have their employees taken away need not give an answer.  It is
compulsory for individuals to disclose all particulars of their income;
why, therefore, need Government shrink from making it compulsory upon
firms to disclose all particulars of their staffs? ... The _second_
vice of this application is that the information asked for is quite
inadequate for the object.  Even if the enquiry were answered
faithfully by every employer and householder in the country, it would
not give the Government what they require for the purposes of
organising industry or recruiting the army....  In the _third_ place, a
certain group of trades is singled out at haphazard.  If it is desired
to organise the resources of the country what is needed is a general
census of all males between 16 and 60.

One does not know whether to marvel most at the belated timorousness of
this enquiry, or at the slatternly way in which it has been framed.

[8] One who is no longer alive--Queen Victoria--would possibly have
hated it even more.  Imagine her late Majesty's feelings on seeing the
walls of Windsor plastered with the legend--'_Be a sport: Join
to-day_'--and with other appeals of the same elevating character! ...
But perhaps the poster which is more remarkable than any
other--considering the source from which it springs--is one showing a
garish but recognisable portrait of Lord Roberts, with the motto, '_He
did his duty.  Will you do yours?_'  If the timidity of politicians is
apparent in certain directions, their courage is no less noteworthy in
others.  The courage of a Government (containing as it does Mr.
Asquith, Lord Haldane, Mr. Runciman, Sir John Simon, Mr. Harcourt, and
Mr. Acland--not to mention others) which can issue such a poster must
be of a very high order indeed.  One wonders, however, if this placard
would not be more convincing, and its effect even greater, were the
motto amplified, so as to tell the whole story: "_He did his duty; we
denounced him for doing it.  We failed to do ours; will you, however,
do yours?_"

[9] This aspect is very cogently stated in Mr. Shaw Sparrow's letter to
the _Westminster Gazette_ quoted on pp. 370-371.




If 'National Service,' or 'Conscription,' has actually become necessary
already, or may conceivably become so before long, it seems worth while
to glance at some of the considerations which have been urged in favour
of this system in the past, and also to examine some of the causes and
conditions which have hitherto led public opinion in the United
Kingdom, as well as in several of the Dominions, to regard the
principle of compulsion with hostility and distrust.  The true nature
of what we call the 'Voluntary System,' and the reasons which have
induced a large section of our fellow-countrymen to regard it as one of
our most sacred institutions, are worth looking into, now that
circumstances may force us to abandon it in the near future.

Beyond the question, whether the system of recruiting, which has been
employed during the present war, can correctly be described as
'voluntary,' there is the further question, whether the system, which
is in use at ordinary times, and which produces some 35,000 men per
annum, can be so described.  Lord Roberts always maintained that it
could not, and that its true title was 'the Conscription of Hunger.'



Any one who has watched the recruiting-sergeant at work, on a raw cold
day of winter or early spring, will be inclined to agree with Lord
Roberts.  A fine, good-humoured, well-fed, well-set-up fellow, in a
handsome uniform, with rows of medals which light up the mean and dingy
street, lays himself alongside some half-starved poor devil, down in
his luck, with not a rag to his back that the north wind doesn't blow
through.  The appetites and vanities of the latter are all of them
morbidly alert--hunger, thirst, the desire for warmth, and to cut a
smart figure in the world.  The astute sergeant, though no professor of
psychology, understands the case thoroughly, as he marks down his man.
He greets him heartily with a 'good day' that sends a glow through him,
even before the drink at the Goat and Compasses, or Green Dragon has
been tossed off, and the King's shilling accepted.

Not that there is any need for pity or regret.  These young men with
empty bellies, and no very obvious way of filling them, except by
violence--these lads with gloom at their hearts, in many cases with a
burden of shame weighing on them at having come into such a forlorn
pass--in nine cases out of ten enlistment saves them; perhaps in more
even than that.

But talk about compulsion and the voluntary principle!  What strikes
the observer most about such a scene as this is certainly not anything
which can be truly termed 'voluntary.'  If one chooses to put things
into ugly words--which is sometimes useful, in order to give a shock to
good people who are tending towards self-righteousness in their worship
of phrases--this is the compulsion of hunger and {384} misery.  It
might even be contended that it was not only compulsion, but a mean,
sniggling kind of compulsion, taking advantage of a starving man.

The law is very chary of enforcing promises made under duress.  If a
man dying of thirst signs his birthright away, or binds himself in
service for a term of years, in exchange for a glass of water, the ink
and paper have no validity.  But the recruit is firmly bound.  He has
made a contract to give his labour, and to risk his life for a long
period of years, at a wage which is certainly below the market rate;
and he is held to it.  Things much more 'voluntary' than this have been
dubbed 'slavery,' and denounced as 'tainted with servile conditions.'
And the loudest denunciators have been precisely those
anti-militarists, who uphold our 'voluntary' system with the hottest
fervour, while reprobating 'compulsion' with the utmost horror.


We have heard much caustic abuse of the National Service League.  It
has been accused of talking 'the cant of compulsion'; by which has been
meant that certain of its members have put in the forefront of their
argument the moral and physical advantages which they imagine universal
military training would confer upon the nation.  Some may possibly have
gone too far, and lost sight of the need of the nation, in their
enthusiasm for the improvement of the individual.  But if occasionally
their arguments assume the form of cant, can their lapse be compared
with the cant which tells the world smugly that the British Army is
recruited on the voluntary principle?

The 'economic argument,' as it is called, is another example.  The
country would be faced with {385} ruin, we are told, if every
able-bodied man had to give 'two of the best years of his life,'[1] and
a week or two out of each of the ensuing seven, to 'unproductive'
labour.  Sums have been worked out the to hundreds of millions
sterling, with the object of showing that the national loss, during a
single generation, would make the national debt appear insignificant.
How could Britain maintain her industrial pre-eminence weighted with
such a handicap?

One answer is that Britain, buoyed up though she has been by her
voluntary system, has not lately been outstripping those of her
competitors who carried this very handicap which it is now proposed
that she should carry; that she has not even been maintaining her
relative position in the industrial world in comparison, for example,
with Germany.

But there is also another answer.  If you take a youth at the plastic
age when he has reached manhood, feed him on wholesome food, subject
him to vigorous and varied exercise, mainly in the open air, discipline
him, train him to co-operation with his fellows, make him smart and
swift in falling-to at whatever work comes under his hand, you are
thereby giving him precisely what, for his own sake and that of the
country, is most needed at the present time.  You are giving him the
chance of developing his bodily strength under healthy conditions, and
you are giving him a general education and moral training which, in the
great majority of cases, will be of great value to him in all his after

It is the regret of every one, who has studied our industrial system
from within, that men wear out too {386} soon.  By the time a man
reaches his fortieth year--often earlier--he is too apt, in many
vocations, to be an old man; and for that reason he is in danger of
being shoved out of his place by a younger generation.

This premature and, for the most part, unnecessary ageing is the real
economic loss.  If by taking two years out of a man's life as he enters
manhood, if by improving his physique and helping him to form healthy
habits, you can thereby add on ten or fifteen years to his industrial
efficiency, you are not only contributing to his own happiness, but are
also adding enormously to the wealth and prosperity of the country.
Any one indeed, who chooses to work out sums upon this hypothesis, will
hardly regard the national debt as a large enough unit for comparison.
The kernel of this matter is, that men wear out in the working classes
earlier than in others, mainly because they have no break, no rest, no
change, from the day they leave school to take up a trade, till the day
when they have to hand in their checks for good and all.  It is not
effort, but drudgery, which most quickly ages a man.  It is the
rut--straight, dark, narrow, with no horizons, and no general view of
the outside world--which is the greatest of social dangers.  More than
anything else it tends to narrowness of sympathy and bitterness of


It would be cant to claim that universal military training will get rid
of this secular evil; but to say that it will help to diminish it is
merely the truth.  The real 'cant' is to talk about the economic loss
under conscription; for there would undoubtedly be an immense economic

But indeed the advocacy of the voluntary system {387} is stuffed full
of cant....  We are all proud of our army; and rightly so.  But the
opponents of universal military service go much further in this
direction than the soldiers themselves.  They contrast our army, to its
enormous advantage, with the conscript armies of the continent, which
they regard as consisting of vastly inferior fighting men--of men, in a
sense despicable, inasmuch as their meek spirits have submitted tamely
to conscription.

Colonel Seely, who, when he touches arithmetic soars at once into the
region of poetry, has pronounced confidently that one of our voluntary
soldiers is worth ten men whom the law compels to serve.  Sir John
Simon was still of opinion--even after several months of war--that one
of our volunteers was worth at least three conscripts; and he was
convinced that the Kaiser himself already knew it.  What a splendid
thing if Colonel Seely were right, or even if Sir John Simon were right!

But is either of them right?  So far as our voluntary army is
superior--and it was undoubtedly superior in certain respects at the
beginning of the war--it was surely not because it was a 'voluntary'
army; but because, on the average, it had undergone a longer and more
thorough course of training than the troops against which it was called
upon to fight.  Fine as its spirit was, and high as were both its
courage and its intelligence, who has ever heard a single soldier
maintain that--measured through and through--it was in those respects
superior to the troops alongside which, or against which it fought?

As the war has continued month after month, and men with only a few
months' training have been {388} drafted across the Channel to supply
the British wastage of war, even this initial superiority which came of
longer and more thorough training has gradually been worn away.  A time
will come, no doubt--possibly it has already come--when Germany, having
used up her trained soldiers of sound physique, has to fall back upon
an inferior quality.  But that is merely exhaustion.  It does not prove
the superiority of the voluntary system.  It does not affect the
comparison between men of equal stamina and spirit--one set of whom has
been trained beforehand in arms--the other not put into training until
war began.

Possibly Colonel Seely spoke somewhat lightly and thoughtlessly in
those serene days before the war-cloud burst; but Sir John Simon spoke
deliberately--his was the voice of the Cabinet, after months of grim
warfare.  To describe his utterances as cant does not seem unjust,
though possibly it is inadequate.  We are proud of our army, not merely
because of its fine qualities, but for the very fact that it is what we
choose to call a 'voluntary' army.  But what do they say of it in
foreign countries?  What did the whole of Europe say of it during the
South African War?  What are the Germans saying of it now?

Naturally prejudice has led them to view the facts at a different
angle.  They have seldom referred to the 'voluntary' character of our
army.  That was not the aspect which attracted their attention, so much
as the other aspect, that our soldiers received pay, and therefore,
according to German notions, 'fought for hire.'  At the time of the
South African War all continental nations said of our army what {389}
the Germans still say--not that it was a 'voluntary' army, but that it
was a 'mercenary' army; and this is a much less pleasant-sounding


In this accusation we find the other kind of cant--the cant of
militarism.  For if ours is a mercenary army, so is their own, in so
far as the officers and non-commissioned officers are concerned.  But
as a matter of fact no part, either of our army or the existing German
army, can with any truth be described as 'mercenaries'; for this is a
term applicable only to armies--much more common in the past in Germany
than anywhere else--who were hired out to fight abroad in quarrels
which were not their own.

But although this German accusation against the character of our troops
is pure cant, it would not be wholly so were it levelled against the
British people.  Not our army, but we ourselves, are the true
mercenaries; because we pay others to do for us what other nations do
for themselves.  In German eyes--and perhaps in other eyes as well,
which are less willing to see our faults--this charge against the
British people appears maintainable.  It is incomprehensible to other
nations, why we should refuse to recognise that it is any part of our
duty, _as a people_, to defend our country; why we will not admit the
obligation either to train ourselves to arms in time of peace, or to
risk our lives in time of war; why we hold obstinately to it that such
things are no part of {390} our duty as a people, but are only the duty
of private individuals who love fighting, or who are endowed with more
than the average sense of duty.

"As for you, the great British People," writes Hexenküchen
contemptuously, "you merely fold your hands, and say self-righteously,
that your duty begins and ends with paying certain individuals to fight
for you--individuals whose personal interest can be tempted with
rewards; whose weakness of character can be influenced by taunts, and
jeers, and threats of dismissal; or who happen to see their duty in a
different light from the great majority which calls itself (and is _par
excellence_) the British People...."  This may be a very prejudiced
view of the matter, but it is the German view.  What they really mean
when they say that England is to be despised because she relies upon a
mercenary army, is that England is to be despised because, being
mercenary, she relies upon a professional army.  The taunt, when we
come to analyse it, is found to be levelled, not against the hired, but
against the hirers; and although we may be very indignant, it is not
easy to disprove its justice.

The British nation, if not actually the richest, is at any rate one of
the richest in the world.  It has elected to depend for its safety upon
an army which cannot with justice be called either 'voluntary' or
'mercenary,' but which it is fairly near the truth to describe as
'professional.'  The theory of our arrangement is that we must somehow,
and at the cheapest rate, contrive to tempt enough men to become
professional soldiers to ensure national safety.  Accordingly we offer
such inducements to take up {391} the career of arms--instead of the
trades of farm labourer, miner, carpenter, dock hand, shopkeeper,
lawyer, physician, or stockbroker--as custom and the circumstances of
the moment appear to require.

In an emergency we offer high pay and generous separation allowances to
the private soldier.  In normal times we give him less than the market
rate of wages.


The pay of junior or subaltern officers is so meagre that it cannot, by
any possibility, cover the expenses which Government insists upon their
incurring.  Captains, majors, and lieutenant-colonels are paid much
less than the wages of foremen or sub-managers in any important
industrial undertaking.  Even for those who attain the most brilliant
success in their careers, there are no prizes which will stand
comparison for a moment with a very moderate degree of prosperity in
the world of trade or finance.  They cannot even be compared with the
prizes open to the bar or the medical profession.

Hitherto we have obtained our officers largely owing to a firmly rooted
tradition among the country gentlemen and the military
families--neither as a rule rich men, or even very easy in their
circumstances as things go nowadays--many of them very poor--a
tradition so strong that it is not cant, but plain truth, to call it
sense of duty.  There are other motives, of course, which may lead a
boy to choose this profession--love of adventure, comparative freedom
from indoor life, pleasant comradeship, and in the case of the middle
classes, recently risen to affluence, social aspirations.  But even in
the last there is far more good than harm; though in anti-militarist
circles it is the unworthy aim which is usually dwelt upon with {392} a
sneering emphasis.  For very often, when a man has risen from humble
circumstances to a fortune, he rejoices that his sons should serve the
state, since it is in his power to make provision.  The example of his
neighbours, whose ancestors have been living on their acres since the
days of the Plantagenets or the Tudors, is a noble example; and he is
wise to follow it.

In the case of the rank and file of our army, a contract for a term of
years (with obligations continuing for a further term of years) is
entered into, and signed, under the circumstances which have already
been considered.  We are faced here with a phenomenon which seems
strange in an Age which has conceded the right to 'down tools,' even
though by so doing a solemn engagement is broken--in an Age which has
become very fastidious about hiring agreements of most kinds, very
suspicious of anything suggestive of 'servile conditions' or 'forced
labour,' and which deprecates the idea of penalising breach of
contract, on the part of a workman, even by process in the civil courts.

As regards a private soldier in the British army, however, the Age
apparently has no such compunctions.  His contract has been made under
duress.  Its obligations last for a long period of years.  The pay is
below the ordinary market rates.  Everything in fact which, in equity,
would favour a revision, pleads in favour of the soldier who demands to
be released.  But let him plead and threaten as he please, he is not
released.  It is not a case of suing him for damages in the civil
courts, but of dealing with him under discipline and mutiny acts, the
terms of which are simple and drastic--in {393} peace time
imprisonment, in war time death.  Without these means of enforcing the
'voluntary' system the British people would not feel themselves safe.

This phenomenon seems even stranger, when we remember that a large and
influential part of the British people is not only very fastidious as
to the terms of all other sorts of hiring agreements, as to rates of
pay, and as to the conditions under which such contracts have been
entered into--that it is not only most tender in dealing with the
breach of such agreements--but that it also regards the object of the
agreement for military service with particular suspicion.  This section
of the British people is anti-militarist on conscientious grounds.  One
would have thought, therefore, that it might have been more than
usually careful to allow the man, who hires himself out for lethal
purposes, to have the benefit of second thoughts; or even of third,
fourth, and fifth thoughts.  For he, too, may develop a conscience when
his belly is no longer empty.  But no: to do this would endanger the
'voluntary' system.


This anti-militarist section of the British people is composed of
citizens who, if we are to believe their own professions, love peace
more than other men love it, and hate violence as a deadly sin.  They
are determined not to commit this deadly sin themselves; but being
unable to continue in pursuit of their material and spiritual affairs,
unless others will sin in their behalf, they reluctantly agree to
hire--at as low a price as possible--a number of wild fellows from the
upper classes and wastrels from the lower classes--both of whom they
regard as approximating to the reprobate type--to defend their
property, to keep {394} their lives safe, to enforce their Will as it
is declared by ballot papers and House of Commons divisions, and to
allow them to continue their careers of beneficent self-interest

But for all that, we are puzzled by the rigour with which the contract
for military service is enforced, even to the last ounce of the pound
of flesh.  Not a murmur of protest comes from this section of the
British people, although it has professed to take the rights of the
poorer classes as its special province.  The explanation probably is
that, like King Charles I., they have made a mental reservation, and
are thus enabled to distinguish the case of the soldier from that of
his brother who engages in a civil occupation.

Roughly speaking, they choose to regard the civilian as virtuous, while
the soldier, on the other hand, cannot safely be presumed to be
anything of the sort.  Sometimes indeed--perhaps more often than
not--he appears to them to be distinctly unvirtuous.  The presumption
is against him; for if he were really virtuous, how could he ever have
agreed to become a soldier, even under pressure of want?  For
regulating the service of such men as these force is a regrettable, but
necessary, instrument.  The unvirtuous man has agreed to sin, and the
virtuous man acts justly in holding him to his bargain.  If a soldier
develops a conscience, and insists on 'downing tools' it is right to
imprison him; even in certain circumstances to put him against a wall
and shoot him.

These ideas wear an odd appearance when we come to examine them
closely, and yet not only did they exist, but they were actually very
prevalent down to the outbreak of the present war.  They {395} seem to
be somewhat prevalent, even now, in various quarters.  But surely it is
strange that virtuous citizens should need the protection of unvirtuous
ones; that they should underpay; that they should adopt the methods of
'forced labour' as a necessary part of the 'voluntary system'; that
they should imprison and shoot men for breach of hiring
agreements--hiring agreements for long periods of years, entered into
under pressure of circumstances.


But there is a thing even stranger than any of these.  Considering how
jealous the great anti-militarist section of our fellow-countrymen is
of anything which places the army in a position to encroach upon, or
overawe, the civil power, it seems very remarkable that they should
nevertheless have taken a large number of men--whose morals, in their
view, were below rather than above the average--should have armed them
with rifles and bayonets, and spent large sums of money in making them
as efficient as possible for lethal purposes, while refusing firmly to
arm _themselves_ with anything but ballot-boxes, or to make themselves
fit for any form of self-defence.

It seems never to have crossed the minds of the anti-militarist section
that those whom they thus regard--if not actually with moral
reprehension, at any rate somewhat askance--might perhaps some day
discover that there were advantages in being armed, and in having
become lethally efficient; that having studied the phenomena of
strikes, and having there seen force of various kinds at work--hiring
agreements broken, combinations to bring pressure on society
successful, rather black things occasionally hushed up and
forgiven--soldiers might draw their own conclusions.  Having grown
tired of pay lower {396} than the market rate, still more tired of
moral lectures about the wickedness of their particular trade, and of
tiresome old-fashioned phrases about the subordination of the military
to the civil power--what if they, like other trades and classes, should
begin to consider the propriety of putting pressure on society, since
such pressure appears nowadays to be one of the recognised instruments
for redress of wrongs? ... Have not professional soldiers the power to
put pressure on society in the twentieth century, just as they have
done, again and again, in past times in other kingdoms and democracies,
where personal freedom was so highly esteemed, that even the freedom to
abstain from defending your country was respected by public opinion and
the laws of the land?

But nonsense!  In Germany, France, Russia, Austria, Italy, and other
conscript countries armies are hundreds of times stronger than our own,
while the soldiers in these cases are hardly paid enough to keep a
smoker in pipe-tobacco.  And yet they do not think of putting pressure
on society, or of anything so horrible.  This of course is true; but
then, in these instances, the Army is only Society itself passing, as
it were, like a may-fly, through a certain stage in its life-history.
Army and Society in the conscript countries are one and the same.  A
man does not think of putting undue pressure upon himself.  But in our
case the Army and Society are not one and the same.  Their relations
are those of employer and employed, as they were in Rome long ago; and
as between employer and employed, there are always apt to be questions
of pay and position.

It is useful in this connection to think a little of Rome with its
'voluntary' or 'mercenary' or {397} 'professional' army--an army
underpaid at first, afterwards perhaps somewhat overpaid, when it
occurred to its mind to put pressure on society.

But Rome in the first century was a very different place from England
in the twentieth.  Very different indeed!  The art and rules of war
were considerably less of an expert's business than they are to-day.
Two thousand years ago--weapons being still somewhat
elementary--gunpowder not yet discovered--no railway trains and tubes,
and outer and inner circles, which now are as necessary for feeding
great cities as arteries and veins for keeping the human heart
going--private citizens, moreover, being not altogether unused to
acting with violence in self-defence--it might have taken, perhaps,
100,000 disciplined and well-led reprobates a week or more to hold the
six millions of Greater London by the throat.  To-day 10,000 could do
this with ease between breakfast and dinner-time.  Certainly a
considerable difference--but somehow not a difference which seems
altogether reassuring.

Since the days of Oliver Cromwell the confidence of the
anti-militarists in the docility of the British Army has never
experienced any serious shock.  But yet, according to the theories of
this particular school, why should our army alone, of all trades and
professions, be expected not to place its own class interests before
those of the country?


When professional armies make their first entry into practical politics
it is almost always in the role of liberators and defenders of justice.
An instance might easily occur if one or other set of politicians, in a
fit of madness or presumption, were to ask, or order, the British Army
to undertake certain {398} operations against a section of their
fellow-countrymen, which the soldiers themselves judged to be contrary
to justice and their own honour.

Something of this kind very nearly came to pass in March 1914.  The
Curragh incident, as it was called, showed in a flash what a perilous
gulf opens, when a professional army is mishandled.  Politicians, who
have come by degrees to regard the army--not as a national force, or
microcosm of the people, but as an instrument which electoral success
has placed temporarily in their hands, and which may therefore be used
legitimately for forwarding their own party ends--have ever been liable
to blunder in this direction.

Whatever may have been the merits of the Curragh case, the part which
the British Army was asked and expected to play on that occasion, was
one which no democratic Government would have dared to order a
conscript army to undertake, until it had been ascertained, beyond any
possibility of doubt, that the country as a whole believed extreme
measures to be necessary for the national safety.

If professional soldiers, however high and patriotic their spirit, be
treated as mercenaries--as if, in their dealings with their
fellow-countrymen, they had neither souls nor consciences--it can be no
matter for surprise if they should come by insensible degrees to think
and act as mercenaries....  One set or other of party politicians--the
occurrence is quite as conceivable in the case of a Unionist Government
as in that of a Liberal--issues certain orders, which it would never
dare to issue to a conscript army, and these orders, to its immense
surprise, are not obeyed.  Thereupon a Government, which only the day
before {399} seemed to be established securely on a House of Commons
majority and the rock of tradition, is seen to be powerless.  The army
in its own eyes--possibly in that of public opinion also--has stood
between the people and injustice.  It has refused to be made the
instrument for performing an act of tyranny and oppression.  Possibly
in sorrow and disgust it dissolves itself and ceases to exist.
Possibly, on the other hand, it glows with the approbation of its own
conscience; begins to admire its own strength, and not improbably to
wonder, if it might not be good for the country were soldiers to put
forth their strong arm rather more often, in order to restrain the
politicians from following evil courses.  This of course is the end of
democracy and the beginning of militarism.

An army which starts by playing the popular role of benefactor, or
liberator, will end very speedily by becoming the instrument of a
military despotism.  We need look no farther back than Cromwell and his
major-generals for an example.  We have been in the habit of regarding
such contingencies as remote and mediaeval; none the less we had all
but started on this fatal course in the spring and summer of last year.
We were then saved, not by the wisdom of statesmen--for these only
increased the danger by the spectacle which they afforded of timidity,
temper, and equivocation--but solely by the present war which, though
it has brought us many horrors, has averted, for a time at least, what
is infinitely the worst of all.


The conclusion is plain.  A democracy which asserts the right of
manhood suffrage, while denying the duty of manhood service, is living
in a fool's paradise.


A democracy which does not fully identify itself with its army, which
does not treat its army with honour and as an equal, but which treats
it, on the contrary, as ill-bred and ill-tempered people treat their
servants--with a mixture, that is, of fault-finding and
condescension--is following a very perilous path.

An army which does not receive the treatment it deserves, and which at
the same time is ordered by the politicians to perform services which,
upon occasions, it may hold to be inconsistent with its honour, is a
danger to the state.

A democracy which, having refused to train itself for its own defence,
thinks nevertheless that it can safely raise the issue of 'the Army
versus the People,' is mad.

[1] This was the German period of training for infantry.  The National
Service League proposal was four months.

[2] The pay of the French private soldier is, I understand, about a
sou--a halfpenny--a day.  In his eyes the British soldier in the next
trench, who receives from a shilling to eighteenpence a day--and in the
case of married men a separation allowance as well--must appear as a
kind of millionaire.  During the South African War the pay of certain
volunteer regiments reached the preposterous figure of five shillings a
day for privates.  Men serving with our army as motor drivers--in
comparative safety--receive something like six shillings or seven and
sixpence a day.




Prior to the present war the chief bugbears encountered by Lord
Roberts, and indeed by all others whose aim it was to provide this
country with an army numerically fit to support its policy, were the
objections, real or imaginary, of the British race to compulsory
service, and more particularly to compulsory service in foreign lands.
These prejudices were true types of the bugbear; for they were born out
of opinion and not out of the facts.

The smaller fry of politicians, whose fears--like those of the
monkeys--are more easily excited by the front-row of things which are
visible, than by the real dangers which lurk behind in the shadow, are
always much more terrified of opinion than of the facts.  This is
precisely why most politicians remain all their lives more unfit than
any other class of man for governing a country.  Give one of these his
choice--ask him whether he will prefer to support a cause where the
facts are with him, but opinion is likely for many years to be running
hard against him, or another cause where these conditions are
reversed--of course he will never hesitate a moment about choosing the
latter.  And very probably his manner {402} of answering will indicate,
that he thinks you insult his intelligence by asking such a question.

It is only the very rare type of big, patient politician, who realises
that the facts cannot be changed by opinion, and that in the end
opinion must be changed by the facts, if the two happen to be opposed.
Such a one chooses accordingly, to follow the facts in spite of

The little fellows, on the contrary, with their large ears glued
anxiously to the ground, keep ever muttering to themselves, and
chaunting in a sort of rhythmical chorus, the most despicable
incantation in the whole political vocabulary:--"We who aspire to be
leaders of the People must see to it that we are never in advance of
the People....  The People will never stand this: the People will never
stand that....  Away with it therefore; and if possible attach it like
a mill-stone round the necks of our enemies."

Of course they are quite wrong.  The People will stand anything which
is necessary for the national welfare, if the matter is explained to
them by a big enough man in accents of sincerity.

A defensive force which will on no account cross the frontier is no
defensive force at all.  It is only a laughing-stock.

A frontier is sometimes an arbitrary line drawn across meadow and
plough; sometimes a river; sometimes a mountain range; sometimes, as
with ourselves, it is a narrow strip of sea--a 'great ditch,' as
Cromwell called it contemptuously.

The awful significance, however, of the word 'frontier' seems to deepen
and darken as we pass {403} from the first example to the fourth.  And
there is apparently something more in this feeling than the terrors of
the channel crossing or of a foreign language.  Territorials may be
taken to Ireland, which is a longer sea-journey than from Dover to
Calais; but to be 'butchered abroad'--horrible!

It is horrible enough to be butchered anywhere, but why more horrible
in the valley of the Rhine than in that of the Thames?  If national
safety demands butchery, as it has often done in the past, surely the
butchery of 50,000 brave men on the borders of Luxemburg is a less evil
than the butchery of twice that number in the vicinity of Norwich?  And
if we are to consider national comfort as well as safety, it is surely
wise to follow the German example and fight in any man's country rather
than in our own.  The only question of real importance is this:--At
what place will the sacrifice of life be most effective for the defence
of the country?  If we can answer that we shall know also where it will
be lightest.[1]


The school of political thought which remained predominant throughout
the great industrial epoch (1832-1886) bitterly resented the
assumption, made by certain classes, that the profession of arms was
more honourable in its nature, than commerce and other peaceful
pursuits.  The destruction of this supposed fallacy produced a great
literature, and even a considerable amount of poetry.  It was a
frequent theme at the opening of literary institutes and technical
colleges, and also at festivals of chambers of commerce {404} and
municipalities.  Professors of Political Economy expounded the true
doctrine with great vehemence, and sermons were preached without number
upon the well-worn text about the victories of peace.

This reaction was salutary up to a point.  It swept away a vast
quantity of superannuated rubbish.  International relations were at
this time just as much cumbered with old meaningless phrases of a
certain sort, in which vainglory was the chief ingredient, as they have
recently been cumbered with others of a different sort in which
indolence was the chief ingredient.  Inefficiency, indifference,
idleness, trifling, and extravagance were a standing charge against
soldiers as a class; and though they were never true charges against
the class, they were true, for two generations following after
Waterloo, against a large number of individuals.  But this reaction,
like most other reactions, swept away too much.


A mercenary soldiery which looks to enrich itself by pay and plunder is
an ignoble institution.  It has no right to give itself airs of honour,
and must be judged like company promotion, trusts, or any of the many
other predatory professions of modern times.  It is also a national
danger, inasmuch as its personal interest is to foment wars.  The
British Army has never been open to this charge in any period of its

A profession in which it is only possible, by the most severe
self-denial and economy, for an officer--even after he has arrived at
success--to live on his pay, to marry, and to bring up a family, can
hardly be ranked as a money-making career.  Pecuniary motives, indeed,
were never the charge against 'the military' except among the
stump-orator class.  But {405} professional indifference and
inefficiency were, at that particular time, not only seriously alleged,
but were also not infrequently true.  It was a good thing that
slackness should be swept away.  That it has been swept away pretty
thoroughly, every one who has known anything about the Army for a
generation past, is well aware.

But the much-resented claim to a superiority in the matter of honour is
well founded, and no amount of philosophising or political-economising
will ever shake it.  Clearly it is more honourable for a man to risk
his life, and what is infinitely more important--his reputation and his
whole future career--in defence of his country, than it is merely to
build up a competency or a fortune.  The soldier's profession is beset
by other and greater dangers than the physical.  Money-making pursuits
are not only safer for the skin, but in them a blunder, or even a
series of blunders, does not banish the hope of ultimate success.  The
man of business has chances of retrieving his position.  Many bankrupts
have died in affluence.  In politics, a man with a plausible tongue and
a certain quality of courage, will usually succeed in eluding the
consequences of his mistakes, by laying the blame on other people's
shoulders.  But the soldier is rarely given a second chance; and he may
easily come down at the first chance, through sheer ill-luck, and not
through any fault of his own.  Such a profession confers honour upon
its members.

Law, trade, and finance are not in themselves, as was at one time
thought, dishonourable pursuits; but neither are they in themselves
honourable.  They are neither the one nor the other.  It casts no slur
upon a man to be a lawyer, a tradesman, or a banker; {406} but neither
does it confer upon him any honour.  But military service does confer
an honour.  The devotion, hardship, and danger of the soldier's life
are not rewarded upon a commercial basis, or reckoned in that currency.

Some people are inclined to mock at the respect--exaggerated as they
think--which is paid by conscript countries to their armies.  For all
its excesses and absurdities, this respect is founded upon a true
principle--a truer principle of conduct than our own.  In countries
where most of the able-bodied men have given some years of their lives
gratuitously to the service of their country, the fact is brought home
to them, that such service is of a different character from the
benefits which they subsequently confer upon the State by their
industry and thrift, or by growing rich.


From the national point of view, it is ennobling that at some period of
their lives the great majority of citizens should have served the
commonwealth disinterestedly.  This after all is the only principle
which will support a commonwealth.  For a commonwealth will not stand
against the shocks, which history teaches us to beware of, merely by
dropping papers, marked with a cross, into a ballot-box once every five
years, or even oftener.  It will not stand merely by taking an
intelligent interest in events, by attending meetings and reading the
newspapers, and by indulging in outbursts of indignation or enthusiasm.
It will only stand by virtue of personal service, and by the readiness
of the whole people, generation by generation, to give their lives
and--what is much harder to face--the time and irksome preparation
which are necessary for making the {407} sacrifice of their
lives--should it be called for--effective for its purpose.

If the mass of the people, even when they have realised the need, will
not accept the obligation of national service they must be prepared to
see their institutions perish, to lose control of their own destinies,
and to welcome another master than Democracy, who it may well be, will
not put them to the trouble of dropping papers, marked with a cross,
into ballot-boxes once in five years, or indeed at all.  For a State
may continue to exist even if deprived of ballot-boxes; but it is
doomed if its citizens will not in time prepare themselves to defend it
with their lives.

The memories of the press-gang and the militia ballot are dim.  Both
belong to a past which it is the custom to refer to with reprobation.
Both were inconsistent with equal comradeship between classes; with
justice, dignity, honour, and the unity of the nation; and on these
grounds they are rightly condemned.

But the press-gang and the militia ballot have been condemned, and are
still condemned, upon other grounds which do not seem so firm.  Both
have been condemned as contravening that great and laudable principle
of British freedom which lays it down that those who like fighting, or
prefer it to other evils--like starvation and imprisonment--or who can
be bribed, or in some other way persuaded to fight, should enjoy the
monopoly of being 'butchered,' both abroad and at home.  And it has
been further maintained by those who held these views, that people who
do not like fighting, but choose rather to stay at home talking,
criticising, enjoying {408} fine thrills of patriotism, making money,
and sleeping under cover, have some kind of divine right to go on
enjoying that form of existence undisturbed.  Since the Wars of the
Roses the latter class has usually been in a great majority in England.
Even during the Cromwellian Civil War the numbers of men, capable of
bearing arms, who actually bore them, was only a smallish fraction of
the entire population.

The moral ideals of any community, like other things, are apt to be
settled by numbers.  With the extension of popular government, and the
increase of the electorate, this tendency will assert itself more and
more.  But providing the people are dealt with plainly and frankly,
without flattery or deceit--like men and not as if they were greedy
children--the moral sense of a democracy will probably be sounder and
stronger than that of any other form of State.

Even in England, however, there have been lapses, during which the
people have not been so treated, and the popular spirit has sunk, owing
to mean leadership, into degradation.  During the whole of the
industrial epoch the idea steadily gained in strength, that those whose
battles were fought for them by others, approached more nearly to the
type of the perfect citizen than those others who actually fought the
battles; that the protected were worthier than the protectors.

According to this view the true meaning of 'freedom' was exemption from
personal service.  The whole duty of the virtuous citizen with regard
to the defence of his country began and ended with paying a policeman.
With the disappearance of imminent and visible danger, the reprobate
qualities of the soldier became speedily a pain and a scandal {409} to
godly men.  In time of peace he was apt to be sneered at and decried as
an idler and a spendthrift, who would not stand well in a moral
comparison with those steady fellows, who had remained at home, working
hard at their vocations and investing their savings.


The soldier, moreover, according to Political Economy, was occupied in
a non-productive trade, and therefore it was contrary to the principles
of that science to waste more money upon him than could be avoided.
Also it was prudent not to show too much gratitude to those who had
done the fighting, lest they should become presumptuous and formidable.

This conception of the relations between the army and the civilian
population has been specially marked at several periods in our
history--after the Cromwellian wars; after the Marlborough wars; after
1757; but during the half century which followed Waterloo it seemed to
have established itself permanently as an article of our political

After 1815 there was an utter weariness of fighting, following upon
nearly a quarter of a century of war.  The heroism of Wellington's
armies was still tainted in the popular memory by the fact that the
prisons had been opened to find him recruits.  The industrial expansion
and prodigious growth of material wealth absorbed men's minds.
Middle-class ideals, middle-class prosperity, middle-class irritation
against a military caste which, in spite of its comparative poverty,
continued with some success to assert its social superiority, combined
against the army in popular discussions.  The honest belief that wars
were an anachronism, and that the world was now {410} launched upon an
interminable era of peace, clothed the nakedness of class prejudice
with some kind of philosophic raiment.  Soldiers were no longer needed;
why then should they continue to claim the lion's share of honourable

Up to August 1914 the chief difficulties in the way of army reformers
were how to overcome the firmly-rooted ideas that preparations for war
upon a great scale were not really necessary to security, and that, on
those rare occasions when fighting might be necessary, it should not be
undertaken by the most virtuous class of citizens, but by others whose
lives had a lower value.  If the citizen paid it was enough; and he
claimed the right to grumble even at paying.  This was the old Liberal
faith of the eighteen-fifties, and it remained the faith of the
straitest Radical sect, until German guns began to batter down the
forts of Liège.

[Sidenote: A CHANGE OF TONE]

But any one who remembers the state of public opinion between 1870 and
1890, or who has read the political memoirs of that time, will realise
that a change has been, very slowly and gradually, stealing over public
opinion ever since the end of that epoch.  In those earlier times the
only danger which disturbed our national equanimity, and that only very
slightly, was the approach of Russia towards the north-western frontier
of India.  The volunteer movement came to be regarded more and more by
ordinary people in the light of a healthy and manly recreation, rather
than as a duty.  A lad would make his choice, very much as if
volunteering were on a par with rowing, sailing, hunting, or polo.  It
is probably no exaggeration to say that nine volunteers out of every
ten, who {411} enrolled themselves between 1870 and 1890, never
believed for a single moment that there was a chance of the country
having need of their services.  Consequently, except in the case of a
few extreme enthusiasts, it never appeared that there was anything
unpatriotic in not joining the volunteers.

One has only to compare this with the attitude which has prevailed
since the Territorial Army came into existence, to realise that there
has been a stirring of the waters, and that in certain quarters a
change had taken place in the national mood.  With regard to the
Territorials the attitude of those who joined, of those who did not
join, of the politicians, of the press, of public opinion generally was
markedly different from the old attitude.  It was significant that a
man who did not join was often disposed to excuse and to justify his
abstention.  The conditions of his calling, or competing duties made it
impossible for him; or the lowness of his health, or the highness of
his principles in some way interfered.  There was a tendency now to
explain what previously would never have called for any explanation.

The causes of this change are not less obvious than its symptoms.  It
is an interesting coincidence that Lord Kitchener had a good deal to do
with it.  The destruction of the bloodthirsty tyranny of the Khalifa
(1898), and the rescue of a fertile province from waste, misery, and
massacre, caused many people to look with less disapproving eyes than
formerly upon the profession of the soldier.  The long anxieties of the
South African War, and the levies of volunteers from all parts of the
Empire, who went out to take a share in it, forced men to think not
only more kindly of soldiers, but also to think {412} of war itself no
longer as an illusion but as a reality.[2]

The events which happened during the last decade--the creation of the
German Navy--the attempt and failure of the British Government to abate
the rivalry in armaments--the naval panic and the hastily summoned
Defence Conference in 1909--the Russo-Japanese war--the Agadir
crisis--the two Balkan wars--the military competition between Germany
and France--all these combined to sharpen the consciousness of danger
and to draw attention to the need for being prepared against it.

These events, which crowded the beginning of the twentieth century,
stirred and troubled public opinion in a manner which not only Mr.
Cobden, who died in 1865, but almost equally Mr. Gladstone, who
survived him by more than thirty years, would have utterly refused to
credit.  Both these statesmen had been convinced that the world was
moving steadily towards a settled peace, and that before another
century had passed away--possibly even in a single generation--their
dreams of general disarmament would be approaching fulfilment.

And to a certain extent our own generation remains still affected by
the same notions.  Amid the thunders of more than a thousand miles of
battle we still find ourselves clinging tenaciously to the belief, that
the world has entered suddenly, and unexpectedly, upon an abnormal
period which, from {413} its very nature, can only be of very brief
duration.  This comforting conviction does not appear to rest upon
solid grounds.  In the light of history it would not seem so certain
that we have not passed out of an abnormal period into the normal--if
lamentable--condition when a nation, in order to maintain its
independence, must be prepared at any moment to fight for its life.

It would be profitless to pursue these speculations.  It is enough for
our own generation that we now find ourselves in a situation of the
gravest danger; and that it depends upon the efforts which we as a
nation put forth, more than upon anything else, whether the danger will
pass away or settle down and become chronic.


Although we failed to perceive or acknowledge the danger until some
nine months ago, it had been there for at least fifteen years, probably
for twice that number.

German antagonism to England has been compounded of envy of our
possessions, contempt for our character, and hatred of our good
fortune.  What galled our rival more than anything else, was the fact
that we enjoyed our prosperity, and held our vast Empire, upon too easy
terms.  The German people had made, and were continuing to make,
sacrifices to maintain their position in the world, while the British
people in their view were making none.  And if we measure national
sacrifices by personal service, and not merely in money payments, it is
difficult to see what answer is to be given to this charge.

It is clear that unless the result of this war be to {414} crush
Germany as completely as she herself hoped at the beginning of it, to
crush France, our own danger will remain, unless Germany's chief
grievance against us is meanwhile removed.  It is not a paradox, but
merely a statement of plain fact, to say that Germany's chief grievance
against ourselves was, that we were not prepared to withstand her
attack.  Her hatred, which has caused, and still causes us so much
amazement, was founded upon the surest of foundations--a want of
respect.  The Germans despised a nation which refused to recognise that
any obligation rested on its citizens, to fit themselves, by serious
training, for defence of their inheritance.  And they will continue to
despise us when this war is over if we should still fail to recognise
this obligation.  Despising us, they will continue also to hate us; the
peace of the world will still be endangered; and we shall not, after
all our sacrifices, have reached the security at which we aimed.


We may end this war without winning it, and at the same time without
being defeated.  And although it appears to be still believed by some
persons that we can win, in some sort of fashion, without accepting the
principle of national service, even those who entertain this dangerous
confidence will hardly dare to deny that, after a war which ends
without a crowning victory, we shall have to accept conscription at
once upon the signature of peace.

For it should be remembered that we have other things to take into
account besides the mood of Germany.  If we stave off defeat, only with
the assistance of allies--all of whom have long ago adopted universal
military service in its most rigorous {415} form--we shall have to
reckon with their appraisement of the value of our assistance.  If we
are to judge by Germany's indomitable enterprise during the past two
generations, she is likely to recover from the effects of this war at
least as rapidly as ourselves.  And when she has recovered, will she
not hunger again for our possessions, as eagerly as before, if she sees
them still inadequately guarded?  And maybe, when that time comes,
there may be some difficulty in finding allies.  For a Power which
declines to recognise the obligation of equal sacrifices, which refuses
to make preparations in time of peace, and which accordingly, when war
occurs, is ever found unready, is not the most eligible of comrades in

In a recent letter the Freiherr von Hexenküchen refers, in his sour
way, to some of the matters which have been discussed in this
chapter....  "The British People," he writes, "appear to be mightily
exercised just now about their own and their neighbours' consciences;
about what they may or may not do with decency; about whether or no
football matches are right; or race-meetings; or plays, music-hall
entertainments, concerts, the purchase of new clothes, and the drinking
of alcohol; whether indeed any form of enjoyment or cheerfulness ought
to be tolerated in present circumstances.

"But although you vex yourselves over these and other problems of a
similar kind, you never seem to vex yourselves about the abscess at the
root of the tooth.

"The Holy Roman Empire, which was not holy, nor Roman, nor yet an
empire, reminds me not a little of your so-called voluntary military
system, {416} which is not voluntary, nor military, nor yet a system.
It is only a chaos, a paradox, and a laughing-stock to us Germans.

"It is our army, and not yours, which really rests on a voluntary
basis.  Our whole people for a century past have voluntarily accepted
the obligation of universal military service.  Those amongst us who
have raised objections to this system are but an inconsiderable
fraction; negligible at any time, but in this or any other great
crisis, not merely negligible, but altogether invisible and inaudible.

"Our people desire their army to be as it is, otherwise it would not be
as it is.  No Kaiser, or Bureaucracy, or General Staff could impose
such a system against the public will and conscience.  Your people, on
the other hand, have refused _as a people_ to accept the military
obligation.  By various devices they endeavour to fix the burden on the
shoulders of individuals.  Is this the true meaning of the word
'voluntary'--_to refuse?_ ... Sir, I desire to be civil; but was there
ever a more conspicuous instance of cant in the whole history of the
world, than your self-righteous boastings about your 'voluntary'
military system?

"You may wonder why I bracket these two things together--your
soul-searchings about amusements of all kinds, and your nonsensical
panegyrics on the voluntary' principle....  To my eyes they are very
closely connected.


"Cheerfulness is a duty in time of war.  Every man or woman who smiles,
and keeps a good heart, and goes about his or her day's work gaily,
helps by so much to sustain the national spirit.  Not good, but harm,
is done to the conduct of the war, {417} by moping and brooding over
casualty lists, and by speculations as to disasters which have
occurred, or are thought to be imminent.  But there is one essential
preliminary to national cheerfulness--before a nation can be cheerful
it must have a good conscience; and it cannot have a good conscience
unless it has done its duty.

"Your nation has a bad conscience.  The reason is that, _as a nation_,
it has not done its duty.  This may be the fault of the leaders who
have not dared to speak the word of command.  But the fact remains,
that you well know--or at any rate suspect in your hearts--that you
have not done your whole duty.  And consequently you cannot be really
cheerful about anything.  As you go about your daily work or
recreations, you are all the while looking back over your shoulders
with misgiving.  _As a nation_ you have not--even yet--dedicated
yourselves to this war.  When you have done so--if ever you do--your
burden of gloom and mistrust will fall from your back, like that of
_Christian_ as he passed along the highway, which is fenced on either
side with the Wall that is called _Salvation_."

In the great American Civil War, the Southern States, which aimed at
breaking away from the Union, adopted conscription within a year from
the beginning.  They were brave fighters; but they were poor, and they
were in a small minority.  The Northern States--confident in their
numbers and wealth--relied at first upon the voluntary system.  It gave
them great and gallant armies; but these was not enough; and as months
went by President Lincoln realised that they were not enough.


Disregarding the entreaties of his friends, to beware of asking of the
people 'what the people would never stand,' disregarding the clamours
of his enemies about personal freedom, he insisted upon conscription,
believing that by these means alone the Union could be saved.  And what
was the result?  A section of the press foamed with indignation.  Mobs
yelled, demonstrated, and in their illogical fury, lynched negroes,
seeing in these unfortunates the cause of all their troubles.  But the
mobs were not the American people.  They were only a noisy and
contemptible minority of the American people, whose importance as well
as courage had been vastly over-rated.  The quiet people were in deadly
earnest, and they supported their President.[3]


But the task which Lincoln set himself was one of the hardest that a
democratic statesman ever undertook.  The demand which he determined to
make, and did make, may well have tried his heart as he sat alone in
the night watches.  For compulsion was a violation of the habits and
prejudices of the old American stock, while it was even more
distasteful to new immigrants.  It was contrary to the traditions and
theories of the Republic, and, as many thought, to its fundamental
principles.  It was open to scornful attack on grounds of sentiment.
Against a foe who were so weak, both in numbers and wealth, how
humiliating to be driven to such desperate measures!  But most of
all--outweighing all other considerations--this war of North and South
was not only war, but civil war.  Families and lifelong friendships
were divided.  What compulsion meant, therefore, in this case was, that
brothers were to be forced to {419} kill brothers, husbands were to be
sent out to slay the kinsmen of their wives, or--as they marched with
Sherman through Georgia--to set a light with their own hands to the old
homesteads where they had been born.  Between the warring States there
were no differences of blood, tradition, or religion; or of ideas of
right and wrong; no hatred against a foreign race; only an acute
opposition of political ideals.  Compulsion, therefore, was a great
thing to ask of the American people.  But the American people are a
great people, and they understood.  And Lincoln was a great man,--one
of the greatest, noblest, and most human in the whole of history,--and
he did not hesitate to ask, to insist, and to use force.  What the end
was does not need to be stated here; except merely this, that a
lingering and bloody war was thereby greatly shortened, and that the
Union was saved.

The British Government and people are faced to-day with some, but not
all--and not the greatest--of Lincoln's difficulties.  Our traditions
and theories are the same, to a large extent, as those which prevailed
in America in 1863.  But unlike the North we have had recent experience
of war, and also of the sacrifices which war calls for from the
civilian population.  By so much the shock of compulsion would find us
better prepared.

But the other and much greater difficulties which beset Lincoln do not
exist in the case of the British Government.  We are not fighting
against a foe inferior in numbers, but against one who up till now has
been greatly superior in numbers--who has also been greatly superior in
equipment, and preparation, and in deeply-laid plans.  We are fighting
against {420} a foe who has invaded and encroached; not against one who
is standing on the defensive, demanding merely to be let go free.  The
family affections and friendships which would be outraged by
conscription in this war against Germany are inconsiderable; mere dust
in the balance.  The present war is waged against a foreign nation; it
is not civil war.  It is waged against an enemy who plainly seeks, not
his own freedom, but our destruction, and that of our Allies.  It is
waged against an enemy who by the treacherous thoroughness of his
peace-time preparations, appears to our eyes to have violated good
faith as between nations, as in the conduct of the campaign he has
disregarded the obligations of our common humanity, We may be wrong; we
may take exaggerated views owing to the bitterness of the struggle; but
such is our mind upon the matter.

Lincoln's task would have been light had such been the mind of the
Northern States half a century ago, and had he been faced with nothing
more formidable than the conditions which prevail in England to-day.
It does not need the courage of a Lincoln to demand from our people a
sacrifice, upon which the safety of the British Empire depends, even
more certainly, than in 1863 did that of the American Union.

[1] Once more it is desirable to correct the erroneous impression that
the conscript armies of continental powers are under no liability to
serve outside their own territories or overseas.

[2] Influences of another kind altogether had much to do with the
cleansing of public opinion--the writings of Henley, of Mahan, and of
Mr. Rudyard Kipling.  Though not so well known as the works of these,
Henderson's _Life of Stonewall Jackson_ has nevertheless changed many
courses of thought, and its indirect effect in removing false standards
has been very great.  I can never sufficiently acknowledge my personal
debt to these four.

[3] Cf. _Round Table_, March 1915, 'The Politics of War.'




If in the foregoing pages the Liberal party has come in for the larger
share of criticism, the reason is, that during the ten critical years,
while dangers were drawing to a head, a Liberal Government chanced to
be in power.  That things would have been managed better and more
courageously had the Unionists been in power may be doubted; and
certainly it is no part of my present task to champion any such theory.

The special type of politician whose influence has wrought so much evil
of late is no peculiar product of the Liberal party.  He is the product
of the party system in its corrupt decadence.  You find him in the
ranks of the Opposition as well as in those of the Ministerialists,
just as you find good and true men in both.  In this last lies our
hope.  In our present trouble good and true men have a chance of taking
things into their own hands, which has been denied to them for many

This book has been written to establish the _Need_ for National
Service, in order that the British Empire may maintain itself securely
in the present {422} circumstances of the world.  If this contention be
true it is obvious that a corresponding _Duty_ lies upon the whole
nation to accept the burden of military service.

Neither need nor duty has ever been made clear to the British people by
their leaders.  Owing to the abuses of the party system, increasing
steadily over a considerable period of years, a certain type of
politician has been evolved, and has risen into great prominence--a
type which does not trust the people, but only fears them.  In order to
maintain themselves and their parties in power, politicians of this
type have darkened the eyes and drugged the spirit of the nation.

It is no part of the plan of this volume to offer criticisms upon the
naval and military aspects of the present war, or upon the wisdom or
unwisdom of the operations which have been undertaken by land and sea.
All that need be said in this connection may be put into a very few

As we read and re-read British history we cannot but be impressed with
the fact that our leading statesmen, misled by the very brilliancy of
their intellectual endowments, have always been prone to two errors of
policy, which the simpler mind of the soldier instinctively avoids.
They have ever been too ready to conclude prematurely that a certain
line of obstacles is so formidable that it cannot be forced; and they
have also ever been too ready to accept the notion, that there must
surely be some ingenious far way round, by which they may succeed in
circumventing the infinite.


The defect of brilliant brains is not necessarily a {423} want of
courage--daring there has usually been in plenty--but they are apt to
lack fortitude.  They are apt to abandon the assault upon positions
which are not really invulnerable, and to go off, chasing after
attractive butterflies, until they fall into quagmires.  Dispersion of
effort has always been the besetting sin of British statesmen and the
curse of British policy.  There is no clearer example of this than the
case of William Pitt the Younger, who went on picking up sugar islands
all over the world, when he ought to have been giving his whole
strength to beating Napoleon.

Very few obstacles are really insurmountable, and it is usually the
shortest and the safest course to stick to what has been already begun.
Especially is this the case when your resources in trained soldiers and
munitions of war are painfully restricted.  At the one point, where you
have decided to attack, the motto is _push hard_; and at all others,
where you may be compelled to defend yourselves, the motto is _hold

The peril of British war councils in the past has always been (and
maybe still is) the tendency of ingenious argument to get the better of
sound judgment.  In the very opposite of this lies safety.  We find the
true type of high policy, as well as of successful campaigning, in the
cool and patient inflexibility of Wellington, holding fast by one main
idea, forcing his way over one obstacle after another which had been
pronounced invincible--through walled cities; into the deep valleys of
the Pyrenees; across the Bidassoa--till from the crests of the Great
Rhune and the Little his soldiers looked down at last upon the plains
of France.


Our most urgent problem with regard to the present war, is how we may
win it most thoroughly; but, in addition to this, there are two
questions which have recently engaged a good deal of public attention.
There is a _Political_ question--what sort of European settlement is to
take place after the war?  And there is also a _Criminal_
question--what sort of punishment shall be meted out, if crimes,
contrary to the practice of war among civilised and humane states, have
been committed by our antagonists?

I have not attempted to deal with either of these.  They do not seem to
be of extreme urgency; for unless, and until, we win the war it is
somewhat idle to discuss the ultimate fate of Europe or the penalty of
evil deeds.  You cannot restore stolen property until you have
recovered it, and you cannot punish a malefactor, nor is it very
convenient even to try him, while he is still at large.  If that be
true, which was said of old by a great king--_I do not make peace with
barbarians but dictate the terms of their surrender_--we are still a
long way from that.

I have not occupied myself therefore with what are termed 'German
atrocities.'  So far as this matter is concerned, I am satisfied to let
it rest for the present upon the German statement of intentions before
war began,[1] and upon the proclamations which {425} have been issued
subsequently, with the object of justifying their mode of operations by
sea and land.  The case against Germany on her own admission, is quite
strong enough without opening a further inquisition under this


It is essential, however, to realise the falsities and perversities
upon which the great fabric of German policy is founded; for otherwise
we shall never understand either the nature of the enemy with whom we
are at present engaged, or the full extent of the danger by which, not
only we, but civilisation itself is now threatened.  It is essential
that the whole British race should understand the nature of the evils
_against_ which they are fighting--the ambitions of Germany--the
ruthless despotism of the Prussian system--the new theories of right
and wrong which have been evolved by thinkers who have been paid,
promoted, and inspired by the State, in order to sanctify the imperial
policy of spoliation.

It is also essential for us to realise the nature of those things _for_
which we are fighting--what we shall save and secure for our posterity
in case of victory; what we stand to lose in event of defeat.  The
preservation or ruin of our inheritance, spiritual and material--the
maintenance or overthrow of our {426} institutions, traditions, and
ideas--the triumph, of these, or the supplanting of them by a wholly
different order, which to our eyes wears the appearance of a vast
machine under the control of savages--are the main issues of the
present war.  And when now at last, we face them squarely, we begin to
wonder, why of late years, we have been wont to treat problems of
national defence and imperial security with so much levity and

It is profitable to turn our eyes from the contemplation of German
shortcomings inwards upon our own.  If we have been guilty as a people
during recent times of weakness, blindness, indolence, or cowardice, we
should face these facts squarely, otherwise there is but a poor chance
of arriving at better conditions.  If we have refused to listen to
unpleasant truths, and to exchange a drowsy and dangerous comfort
against sacrifices which were necessary for security, it is foolish to
lay the whole blame upon this or that public man, this or that
government.  For, after all, both public men and governments were our
own creation; we chose them because we liked them; because it gave us
pleasure and consolation to listen to their sayings; because their
doings and their non-doings, their un-doings and their mis-doings were
regarded with approval or indifference by the great bulk of our people.

It would be wise also to take to heart the lesson, plainly written
across the record of the last nine months, that the present confusion
of our political system is responsible, as much as anything--perhaps
more than anything--for the depreciated currency of public character.
The need is obvious for a Parliament and a Government chosen by the
Empire, {427} responsible to the Empire, and charged with the security
of the Empire, and with no other task.


Why we are fighting at all is one of our problems; why we are finding
it so hard to win is another.  In what does the main strength of our
enemies consist?  And in what does our own chief weakness consist?

To say that our weakness is to be sought in our own vices, and the
strength of our enemies in their virtues, is of course a commonplace.
But one has only to open the average newspaper to realise the need for
restating the obvious.  For there the contrary doctrine is set forth
daily and weekly with a lachrymose insistency--that our hands are
weakened because we are so good; that the Germans fight at an enormous
advantage because they are so wicked and unscrupulous.

But the things which we are finding hardest to overcome in our foes are
not the immoral gibberings of professors, or the blundering cynicism of
the German Foreign Office, or the methodical savagery of the General
Staff, whether in Belgium or on the High Seas.  These are sources of
weakness and not of strength; and even at the present stage it is clear
that, although they have inflicted immeasurable suffering, they have
done the German cause much more harm than good.

Our real obstacles are the loyalty, the self-sacrifice, and the
endurance of the German people.

The causes of British weakness are equally plain.  Our indolence and
factiousness; our foolish confidence in cleverness, manoeuvres, and
debate for overcoming obstacles which lie altogether outside that
region of human endeavour; our absorption as {428} thrilled spectators
in the technical game of British politics[3]--these vices and others of
a similar character, which, since the beginning of the war we have been
struggling--like a man awakening from a nightmare--to shake off, are
still our chief difficulties.  It is a hard job to get rid of them, and
we are not yet anything like halfway through with it.

It must be clear to every detached observer, that the moral strength of
England in the present struggle--like that of France--does not lie in
Government or Opposition, but in the spirit of the people; that this
spirit has drawn but little support, in the case of either country,
from the leadership and example of the politicians; and that there is
little cause in either case to bless or praise them for the fidelity of
their previous stewardship.  In the case of France this national spirit
was assured at the beginning; in our own case the process of awakening
has proceeded much more slowly.


It is essential to put certain notions out of our heads and certain
other notions into them.  From the beginning of the war, a large part
of the press--acting, we are entitled to suppose, in patriotic
obedience to the directions of the Press Bureau--has fostered ideas
which do not correspond with the facts.  Information has been doled out
and presented in such a way as to destroy all sense of proportion in
the public mind.

It is not an uncommon belief,[4] for example, that we with our
Allies--ever since the first onset, when, {429} being virtuously
unprepared, we were pushed back some little distance--have been doing
much better than the Germans; that for months past our adversaries have
been in a desperate plight--lacking ammunition, on the verge of
bankruptcy and starvation, and thoroughly discouraged.

There is also a tendency to assume--despite Lord Kitchener's grave and
repeated warnings to the contrary--that the war is drawing rapidly to a
conclusion, and that, even if we may have to submit to some
interruption of our usual summer holidays, at any rate we shall eat our
Christmas dinners in an atmosphere of peace and goodwill.

The magnitude of the German victories, both in the East and West,
during the earlier stages of the war, is not realised even now by the
great majority of our fellow-countrymen; while the ruinous consequences
of these victories to our Allies--the occupation of Belgium, of a large
part of northern France, and of Western Poland--is dwelt on far too
lightly.  Nor is it understood by one man in a hundred, that up to the
end of last year, British troops were never holding more than thirty
miles, out of that line of nearly five hundred which winds, like a
great snake, from Nieuport to the Swiss frontier.  On the contrary, it
is quite commonly believed that we have been doing our fair share of
the fighting--or even more--by land as well as sea.

A misleading emphasis of type and comment, together with a dangerous
selection of items of news, are responsible for these illusions; while
the prevalence of these illusions is largely responsible for many of
our labour difficulties.

Such dreams of inevitable and speedy victory {430} are no doubt very
soothing to indolent and timid minds, but they do not make for a
vigorous and resolute spirit in the nation, upon which, more than upon
anything else, the winning of this war depends.

In some quarters there appears still to linger a ridiculous idea that
we went into this war, out of pure chivalry, to defend Belgium.[5]  We
went into it to defend our own existence, and for no other reason.  We
made common cause with Allies who were menaced by the same danger as
ourselves; but these, most fortunately, had made their preparations
with greater foresight than we had done.  The actual fighting has taken
place, so far, in their territories and not in ours; but the issue of
this war is not one whit less a matter of life-or-death for us, than it
is for them.


Quite recently I have seen our present situation described glowingly
and self-complacently as the 'triumph of the voluntary system.'  I must
be blind of both eyes, for I can perceive no 'triumph' and no
'voluntary' system.  I have seen the territories of our Allies seized,
wasted, and held fast by an undefeated enemy.  I have seen our small
army driven back; fighting with as much skill and bravery as ever in
its history; suffering losses unparalleled in its history; holding its
own in the end, but against what overwhelming numbers and by what
sacrifices!  The human triumph is apparent enough; but not that of any
system, voluntary or otherwise.  Neither in this record of nine months'
'hard and hot fighting' on land, nor in {431} the state of things which
now exists at the end of it all, is there a triumph for anything, or
any one, save for a few thousands of brave men, who were left to hold
fast as best they could against intolerable odds.

Certain contemporary writers appear to claim more for that form of
representative government, which we are in the habit of calling
'democracy,' than it is either safe to count on, or true to assert.  In
their eyes democracy seems to possess a superiority in all the higher
virtuous qualities--'freedom,' in particular--and also an inherent
strength which--whatever may be the result of the present war--makes
the final predominance of British institutions only a matter of time.[6]

I do not hold with either of these doctrines.  Universal superiority in
virtue and strength is too wide a claim to put forward for any system
of government.  And 'freedom' is a very hard thing to define.

It is not merely that the form of constitution, which we call
'democracy,' is obviously not the best fitted for governing an
uncivilised or half-civilised people.  There are considerations which
go much deeper than that--considerations of race, religion,
temperament, and tradition.  As it has been in the past, so conceivably
it may be again in the future, that a people, which is in the highest
degree civilised and humane, will seek to realise its ideals of freedom
in some other sphere than the control of policy and legislation
according to the electoral verdicts of its {432} citizens.  It is even
possible that its national aspirations may regard some other end as a
higher good even than freedom.  We cannot speak with certainty as to
the whole human race, but only with regard to ourselves and certain
others, who have been bred in the same traditions.

If a personal and autocratic government--the German for example--is
able to arouse and maintain among its people a more ardent loyalty, a
firmer confidence, a more constant spirit of self-sacrifice (in time of
peace as well as war), I can see no good reason for the hope, that
democracy, merely because, in our eyes, it approaches more nearly to
the ideal of the Christian Commonwealth, will be able to maintain
itself against the other.  A highly centralised system of government
has great natural advantages both for attack and defence; and if in
addition it be supported by a more enduring fortitude, and a more
self-denying devotion, on the part of the people, it seems almost
incredible that, in the end, it will not prevail over other forms of
government which have failed to enlist the same support.

The strength of all forms of government alike, whether against foreign
attack or internal disintegration, must depend in the long last upon
the spirit of the people; upon their determination to maintain their
own institutions; upon their willingness to undertake beforehand, as
well as during the excitement of war, those labours and sacrifices
which are necessary for security.  The spirit is everything.  And in
the end that spirit which is strongest is likely to become predominant,
and to impose its own forms, systems, and ideas upon civilised and
uncivilised nations alike.


A considerable part of the world--though it may have adopted patterns
of government which are either avowedly democratic or else are
monarchies of the constitutional sort (in essence the same)--is by no
means wedded to popular institutions; has no deep-rooted traditions to
give them support; could easily, therefore, and without much loss of
self-respect, abandon them and submit to follow new fashions.  But with
the United Kingdom, the self-governing Dominions, and the United States
it is altogether different.

To exchange voluntarily, merely because circumstances rendered it
expedient to do so, a system which is the only one consistent with our
notions of freedom would be an apostasy.  It would mean our immediate
spiritual ruin, and for that reason also our ultimate material ruin.
On the other hand, to continue to exist on sufferance, without a voice
in the destinies of the world, would be an even deeper degradation.  To
be conquered outright, and absorbed, would be an infinitely preferable
fate to either of these.


The nations of the world have one need in common--Leadership.  The
spirit of the people can do much, but it cannot do everything.  In the
end that form of government is likely to prevail which produces the
best and most constant supply of leaders.  On its own theories,
democracy of the modern type ought to out-distance all competitors;
under this system capacity, probity, and vigour should rise most easily
to the top.

In practice, however, democracy has come under the thumb of the Party
System, and the Party System has reached a very high point of
efficiency.  It has {434} bettered the example of the hugest mammoth
store in existence.  It has elaborated machinery for crushing out
independent opinion and for cramping the characters of public men.  In
commending its wares it has become as regardless of truth as a vendor
of quack medicines.  It pursues corruption as an end, and it freely
uses corruption--both direct and indirect--as the means by which it may
attain its end.  If the Party System continues to develop along its
present lines, it may ultimately prove as fatal to the principle of
democracy as the ivy which covers and strangles the elm-trees in our

Leadership is our greatest present need, and it is there that the Party
System has played us false.  To manipulate its vast and intricate
machinery there arose a great demand for expert mechanicians, and these
have been evolved in a rich profusion.  But in a crisis like the
present, mechanicians will not serve our purpose.  The real need is a
Man, who by the example of his own courage, vigour, certainty, and
steadfastness will draw out the highest qualities of the people; whose
resolute sense of duty will brush opportunism aside; whose sympathy and
truthfulness will stir the heart and hold fast the conscience of the
nation.  Leadership of this sort we have lacked.

The Newcastle speech with its soft words and soothing optimism was not
leadership.  It does not give confidence to a horse to know that he has
a rider on his back who is afraid of him.


It is idle at this stage to forecast the issue of the present war.
Nevertheless we seem at last to have begun to understand that there is
but a poor chance of winning it under rulers who are content to wait
and see if by some miracle the war will win itself; {435} or if by
another miracle our resources of men and material will organise
themselves.  Since the battle of the Marne many sanguine expectations
of a speedy and victorious peace have fallen to the ground.  The
constant burden of letters from soldiers at the front is that the
war--so far as England is concerned--is only just beginning.  And yet,
in spite of all these disappointments and warnings, the predominant
opinion in official circles is still, apparently, as determined as ever
to wait and see _what the people will stand_, although it is
transparently clear what they ought to stand, and must stand, if they
are to remain a people.

We cannot forecast with certainty the issue of the present war, but
hope nevertheless refuses to be bound.  There is a false hope and a
true one.  There may be consolation for certain minds, but there is no
safety for the nation, in the simple faith that democracy is in its
nature invincible.  Democracy is by no means invincible.  On the
contrary, it fights at a disadvantage, both by reason of its
inferiority in central control, and because it shrinks from
ruthlessness.  Nevertheless we may believe as firmly as those who hold
this other opinion that in the end it will conquer.  Before this can
happen it must find a leader who is worthy of its trust.

Since August 1914 we have learned many things from experience which we
previously refused to credit upon any human authority.  We are not
altogether done with the past; for it contains lessons and
warnings--about men as well as things--which it would be wasteful to
forget.  But our main concern is with the present.  And we are also
treading very {436} close on the heels of the future, when--as we
trust--the resistance of our enemies will be beginning to flag; when
the war will be drawing to an end; afterwards through anxious years
(how many we cannot guess) when the war has ended, and when the object
of our policy will be to keep the peace which has been so dearly bought.

Lord Roberts was right in his forecast of the danger; nor was he less
right in his perception of England's military weakness and general
unpreparedness for war.  But was he also right as to the principle of
the remedy which he proposed?  And even if he were right as things
stood when he uttered his warnings, is his former counsel still right
in our present circumstances, and as we look forward into the future?
Is it now necessary for us to accept in practice what has always been
admitted in the vague region of theory--that an obligation lies upon
every citizen, during the vigour of his age, to place his services, and
if need be his life, at the disposal of that state under whose shelter
he and all those who are most dear to him have lived?


There is always danger in treating a free people like children; in
humouring them, and coaxing them, and wheedling them with half-truths;
in asking for something less than is really needed, from fear that to
ask for the whole would alarm them too much; with the foolish hope that
when the first demand has been granted it will then be easy enough to
make them understand how much more is still necessary to complete the
fabric of security; that having deceived them once, it will be all the
easier to deceive them again.

As we look back over our country's history we {437} find that it was
those men who told the people the whole truth--or what, at least, they
themselves honestly believed to be the whole truth--who most often
succeeded in carrying their proposals through.  In these matters, which
touch the very life and soul of the nation, all artifice is out of
place.  The power of persuasion lies in the truthfulness of the
advocate, no less than in the truth of his plea.  If the would-be
reformer is only half sincere, if from timidity or regard for popular
opinion he chooses to tell but half his tale--selecting this,
suppressing that, postponing the other to a more propitious season--he
loses by his misplaced caution far more than half his strength.  When
there is a case to be laid before the British People it is folly to do
it piecemeal, by astute stages of pleading, and with subtle
reservations.  If the whole case can be put unflinchingly it is not the
People who will flinch.  The issue may be left with safety to a
tribunal which has never yet failed in its duty, when rulers have had
the courage to say where its duty lay.

[1] "A war conducted with energy cannot be directed merely against the
combatants of the enemy State and the positions they occupy, but it
will and must in like manner seek to destroy the total intellectual and
material resources of the latter.  Humanitarian claims, such as the
protection of men and their goods, can only be taken into consideration
in so far as the nature and object of the war permit.

"International Law is in no way opposed to the exploitation of the
crimes of third parties (assassination, incendiarism, robbery, and the
like) to the prejudice of the enemy....  The necessary aim of war gives
the belligerent the right and imposes on him the duty, according to
circumstances, the duty not to let slip the important, it may be the
decisive advantages to be gained by such means."--_The German War
Book_, issued by the Great General Staff.

[2] Clearly, however, when it comes to the discussion of terms of
peace, not only the political question, but also the criminal question,
will have to be remembered.  Oddly enough the 'pacifist' section, which
has already been clamorous for putting forward peace proposals, seems
very anxious that we should forget, or at any rate ignore, the criminal
question--odd, because 'humanity' is the stuff they have set up their
bills to trade in.

[3] In reality, as regards party politics, we have been for years past
very like those shouting, cigarette-smoking, Saturday crowds at
football matches whom we have lately been engaged in reproving so

[4] Certainly up to April 1915 it was not an uncommon belief.

[5] Mr. Lloyd George, _Pearson's Magazine_, March 1915.

[6] These views are very prevalent among Liberal writers, and they are
clearly implied, if not quite so openly expressed, by Conservatives.
They seem to be assumed in one of the ablest articles which has yet
been written upon the causes of the present war--'The Schism of Europe'
(_Round Table_, March 1915).


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

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