By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Washington and the Riddle of Peace
Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Washington and the Riddle of Peace" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)

                   Washington and the Riddle of Peace

                              H. G. WELLS

                               =New York=
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                         _All rights reserved_

                            Copyright, 1921,
                          THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

                            Copyright, 1922,
                            BY H. G. WELLS.

           Set up and electrotyped. Published January, 1922.

                Printed in the United States of America



These twenty-nine papers do not profess to be a record or description of
the Washington Conference. They give merely the impressions and
fluctuating ideas of one visitor to that conference. They show the
reaction of that gathering upon a mind keenly set upon the idea of an
organized world peace; they record phases of enthusiasm, hope, doubt,
depression and irritation. They have scarcely been touched, except to
correct a word or a phrase here or there; they are dated; in all
essentials they are the articles just as they appeared in the _New York
World_, the _Chicago Tribune_, and the other American and European
papers which first gave them publicity. It is due to the enterprise and
driving energy of the _New York World_, be it noted, that they were ever
written at all. But in spite of the daily change and renewal of mood and
attitude, inevitable under the circumstances, they do tell a consecutive
story; they tell of the growth and elaboration of a conviction of how
things can be done, and of how they need to be done, if our civilization
is indeed to be rescued from the dangers that encompass it and set again
upon the path of progress. They record—and in a very friendly and
appreciative spirit—the birth and unfolding of the “Association of
Nations” idea, the Harding idea, of world pacification, they note some
of the peculiar circumstances of that birth, and they study the chief
difficulties on its way to realization. It is, the writer believes, the
most practical and hopeful method of attacking this riddle of the Sphinx
that has hitherto been proposed.

                                                            H. G. WELLS.

































                                                     Washington, Nov. 7.

The conference nominally for the limitation of armaments that now
gathers at Washington may become a cardinal event in the history of
mankind. It may mark a turning point in human affairs or it may go on
record as one of the last failures to stave off the disasters and
destruction that gather about our race.

In August, 1914, an age of insecure progress and accumulation came to an
end. When at last, on the most momentous summer night in history, the
long preparations of militarism burst their bounds and the little
Belgian village Vise went up in flames, men said: “This is a
catastrophe.” But they found it hard to anticipate the nature of the
catastrophe. They thought for the most part of the wounds and killing
and burning of war and imagined that when at last the war was over we
should count our losses and go on again much as we did before 1914.

As well might a little shopkeeper murder his wife in the night and
expect to carry on “business as usual” in the morning. “Business as
usual”—that was the catchword in Britain in 1914; of all the catchwords
of the world it carries now the heaviest charge of irony.

The catastrophe of 1914 is still going on. It does not end; it increases
and spreads. This winter more people will suffer dreadful things and
more people will die untimely through the clash of 1914 than suffered
and died in the first year of the war. It is true that the social
collapse of Russia in 1917 and the exhaustion of food and munitions in
Central Europe in 1918 produced a sort of degradation and enfeeblement
of the combatant efforts of our race and that a futile conference at
Versailles settled nothing, with an air of settling everything, but that
was no more an end to disaster than it would be if a man who was
standing up and receiving horrible wounds were to fall down and writhe
and bleed in the dust. It would be merely a new phase of disaster. Since
1919 this world has not so much healed its wounds as realized its

Chief among these injuries is the progressive economic breakdown, the
magnitude of which we are only beginning to apprehend. The breakdown is
a real decay that spreads and spreads. In a time of universal shortage
there is an increasing paralysis in production; and there is a paralysis
of production because the monetary system of the world, which was
sustained by the honest co-operation of Governments, is breaking down.
The fluctuations in the real value of money become greater and greater
and they shake and shatter the entire fabric of social co-operation.

Our civilization is, materially, a cash and credit system, dependent on
men’s confidence in the value of money. But now money fails us and
cheats us; we work for wages and they give us uncertain paper. No one
now dare make contracts ahead; no one can fix up a stable wages
agreement; no one knows what one hundred dollars or francs or pounds
will mean in two years’ time.

What is the good of saving? What is the good of foresight? Business and
employment become impossible. Unless money can be steadied and restored,
our economic and social life will go on disintegrating, and it can be
restored only by a world effort.

But such a world effort to restore business and prosperity is _only
possible between governments sincerely at peace_, and because of the
failure of Versailles there is no such sincere peace. Everywhere the
Governments, and notably Japan and France, arm. Amidst the steady
disintegration of the present system of things, they prepare for fresh
wars, wars that can have only one end—an extension of the famine and
social collapse that have already engulfed Russia to the rest of the

In Russia, in Austria, in many parts of Germany, this social decay is
visible in actual ruins, in broken down railways and suchlike machinery
falling out of use. But even in Western Europe, in France and England,
there is a shabbiness, there is a decline visible to any one with a keen

The other day my friend Mr. Charlie Chaplin brought his keen observant
eyes back to London, after an absence of ten years.

“People are not laughing and careless here as they used to be,” he told
me. “It isn’t the London I remember. They are anxious. Something hangs
over them.”

Coming as I do from Europe to America, I am amazed at the apparent
buoyancy and abundance of New York. The place seems to possess an
inexhaustible vitality. But this towering, thundering, congested city,
with such a torrent of traffic and such a concourse of people as I have
never seen before, is, after all, the European door of America; it draws
this superabundant and astounding life from trade, from a trade whose
roots are dying.

When one looks at New York its assurance is amazing; when one reflects
we realize its tremendous peril. It is going on—as London is going on—by
accumulated inertia. With the possible exception of London, the position
of New York seems to me the most perilous of that of any city in the
world. What is to happen to this immense crowd of people if the trade
that feeds it ebbs? As assuredly it will ebb unless the decline of
European money and business can be arrested, unless, that is, the world
problem of trade and credit can be grappled with as a world affair.

The world’s economic life, its civilization, embodied in its great
towns, is disintegrating and collapsing through the strains of the
modern war threat and of the disunited control of modern affairs.

This in general terms is the situation of mankind today; this is the
situation, the tremendous and crucial situation, that President Harding,
the head and spokesman of what is now the most powerful and influential
state in the world, has called representatives from most of the states
in the world to Washington to discuss.

Whatever little modifications and limitations the small cunning of
diplomatists may impose upon the terms of reference of the conference,
the plain common sense of mankind will insist that its essential inquiry
is, “What are we to do, if anything can possibly be done, to arrest and
reverse the slide toward continuing war preparation and war and final
social collapse?” And you would imagine that this momentous conference
would gather in a mood of exalted responsibility, with every conceivable
help and every conceivable preparation to grasp the enormous issues

Let us dismiss any such delusion from our minds.

Let us face a reality too often ignored in the dignified discussion of
such business as this Washington Conference, and that is this: that the
human mind takes hold of such very big questions as the common peace of
the earth and the general security of mankind with very great reluctance
and that it leaves go with extreme alacrity.

We are all naturally trivial creatures. We do not live from year to
year; we live from day to day. Our minds naturally take short views and
are distracted by little, immediate issues. We forget with astonishing
facility. And this is as true of the high political persons who will
gather at Washington as it is of any overworked clerk who will read
about the conference in a street car or on the way home to supper and
bed. These big questions affect everybody, and also they are too big for
anybody. A great intellectual and moral effect is required if they are
to be dealt with in any effectual manner.

I find the best illustration of this incurable drift toward triviality
in myself. In the world of science the microscope helps the telescope
and the infinitely little illuminates the infinitely great.

Let me put myself under the lens: Exhibit 1—If any one has reason to
focus the whole of his mental being upon this Washington Conference it
is I. It is my job to attend to it and to think of it and of nothing
else. Whatever I write about it, wise or foolish, will be conspicuously
published in a great number of newspapers and will do much to make or
mar my reputation. Intellectually, I am convinced of the supreme
possibilities of the occasion. It may make or mar mankind. The smallest
and the greatest of motives march together; therefore my self-love and
my care for mankind. And the occasion touches all my future happiness.

If this downward drift toward disorder and war is not arrested, in a few
years’ time it will certainly catch my sons and probably mutilate or
kill them; and my wife and I, instead of spending our declining years in
comfort, will be involved in the general wretchedness and possibly
perish in some quite miserable fashion, as thousands of just our sort of
family have already perished in Austria and Russia. This is indeed the
outlook for most of us if these efforts to secure permanent peace which
are now being concentrated at Washington fail.

Here surely are reasons enough, from the most generous to the most
selfish, for putting my whole being, with the utmost concentration, into
this business. You might imagine I think nothing but conference, do
nothing but work upon the conference.

Well, I find I don’t.

Before such evils as now advance upon humanity, man’s imagination seems
scarcely more adequate than that of the park deer I have seen feeding
contentedly beside the body of a shot companion.

I am, when I recall my behavior in the last few weeks, astonished at my
own levity. I have been immensely interested by the voyage across the
Atlantic; I have been tremendously amused by the dissertations of a
number of fellow-travellers upon the little affair of Prohibition; I
have been looking up old friends and comparing the New York City of
today with the New York City of fifteen years ago. I spent an afternoon
loitering along Fifth Avenue, childishly pleased by the shops and the
crowd, I find myself tempted to evade luncheon where I shall hear a
serious discussion of the Pacific question, because I want to explore
the mysteries of a chop suey without outside assistance.

Yet no one knows better than I do that this very attractive,
glitteringly attractive, thundering, towering city is in the utmost
danger. Within a very few years the same chill wind of economic disaster
that has wrecked Petersburg and brought death to Vienna and Warsaw may
be rusting and tarnishing all this glistening, bristling vitality. In a
little while, within my lifetime, New York City may stand even more
gaunt, ruinous, empty and haunted than that stricken and terrible ruin,

My mind was inadequate against the confident reality of a warm October
afternoon, against bright clothes and endless automobiles, against the
universal suggestion that everything would shine on forever. And my mind
is something worse than thus inadequate; I find it is deliberately
evasive. It tries to run away from the task I have set it. I find my
mind, at the slightest pretext, slipping off from this difficult tangle
of problems through which the Washington Conference has to make its way.

For instance, I have got it into my head that I shall owe it to myself
to take a holiday after the conference, and two beautiful words have
taken possession of my mind—Florida and the Everglades. A vision of
exploration amidst these wonderful sun-soaked swamps haunts me. I
consult a guide book for information about Washington and the procedure
of Congress, and I discover myself reading about Miami or Indian River.

So it is we are made. A good half of those who read this and who have
been pulling themselves together to think about the hard tasks and heavy
dangers of international affairs will brighten up at this mention of a
holiday in the Everglades—either because they have been there or because
they would like to go. They will want to offer experiences and
suggestions and recommend hotels and guides.

And apart from this triviality of the attention, this pathetic
disposition to get as directly as possible to the nearest agreeable
thoughts which I am certain every statesman and politician at the
conference shares in some measure with the reader and myself, we are
also encumbered, every one of us, with prejudices and prepossessions.

There is patriotism—the passion that makes us see human affairs as a
competitive game instead of a common interest; a game in which “our
side,” by fair means or foul, has to get the better—inordinately—of the
rest of mankind. For my own part, though I care very little for the
British Empire, which I think a temporary, patched-up thing, I have a
passionate pride in being of the breed that produced such men as
Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Cromwell, Newton, Washington, Darwin, Nelson
and Lincoln. And I love the peculiar humor and kindly temper of an
English crowd and the soft beauty of an English countryside with a
strong, possessive passion.

I find it hard to think that other peoples matter quite as much as the
English. I want to serve the English and to justify the English.
Intellectually I know better, but no man’s intelligence is continually
dominant; fatigue him or surprise him, and habits and emotions take
control. And not only that I have this bias which will always tend to
make me run crooked in favor of my own people, but also I come to
Washington with deep, irrational hostilities.

For example: Political events have exasperated me with the present
Polish Government. It is an unhappy thing that Poland should rise from
being the unwilling slave of German and Russian reaction to become the
willing tool of French reaction. But that is no reason why one should
drift into a dislike of Poland and all things Polish, and because Poland
is so ill-advised as to grab more than she is entitled to, that one
should be disposed to give her less than she is entitled to. Yet I do
find a drift in that direction.

And prejudice soon breaks away into downright quarrelsomeness. It is
amusing or distressing, as you will, to find how easily I, as a
professional peacemaker, can be tempted into a belligerent attitude. “Of
course,” I say, ruffled by some argument, “if Japan chooses to be

I make no apologies for this autobiographical tone. It is easier and
less contentious to dissect one’s self than to set to work on any one
else for anatomical ends. This is Exhibit No. 1. We are all like this.
There are no demigods or supermen in our world superior to such
trivialities, limitations, prejudices and patriotisms. We have all got
them, as we have all got livers.

Every soul that gathers in Washington will have something of that
disposition to get away to the immediately pleasant, will be disposed to
take a personal advantage, will have a bias for race and country, will
have imperfectly suppressed racial and national animosities, will be
mentally hurried and crowded. That mental hurrying and crowding has to
be insisted upon.

This will be a great time for Washington, no doubt, to have a very gay
and exciting time. It becomes the focus of the world’s affairs. All
sorts of interesting people are heading for Washington, bright-eyed and
expectant. There will be lunches, dinners, receptions and such like
social occasions in great abundance, dramatic, and encounters,
flirtations, scandals, jealousies and quarrels. Quiet thought,
reconsideration—will Washington afford any hole or cover for such
things? A most distracting time it will be and it will be
extraordinarily difficult to keep its real significance in mind.

So let us repeat here its real significance.

The great war has struck a blow at the very foundations of our
civilization; it has shattered the monetary system which is the medium
of all our economic life. A rotting down of civilization is spreading
now very rapidly and nothing is being done to arrest it. Production
stagnates and dwindles. This can only be restored by the frank
collective action of the chief powers of the world.

At present the chief powers of the world show no signs of the collective
action demanded. They are still obsessed by old-fashioned ideas of
national sovereignty and national competition, and though all verge on
bankruptcy, they maintain and develop fresh armies and fleets. That is
to say, they are in the preparatory stage of another war. So long as
this divided and threatening state of affairs continues there can be no
stability, no real general recovery; shortages will increase, famine
will spread; towns, cities, communications will decay; increasing masses
of starving unemployed will resort to more and more desperate and
violent protests, until they assume a quasi-revolutionary character.
Education will ebb, and social security dwindle and fade into anarchy.
Civilization as we know it will go under and a new Dark Age begin.

And this fate is not threatening civilization; it is happening to
civilization before our eyes. The ship of civilization is not going to
sink in five years’ time or in fifty years’ time. It is sinking now.
Russia is under the water line; she has ceased to produce, she starves;
large areas of Eastern Europe and Asia sink toward the same level; the
industrial areas of Germany face a parallel grim decline; the winter
will be the worst on record for British labor. The pulse of American
business weakens.

To face which situation in the world’s affairs, this crowd of hastily
compiled representatives, and their associates, dependents and
satellites, now gathers at Washington. They are all, from President
Harding down to the rawest stenographer girl, human beings. That is to
say, they are all inattentive, moody, trivial, selfish, evasive,
patriotic, prejudiced creatures, unable to be intelligently selfish
even, for more than a year or so ahead, after the nature of our Exhibit
No. 1.

Every one has some sort of blinding personal interest to distort the
realities that he has to face. Politicians have to think of their
personal prestige and their party associations; naval and military
experts have to think of their careers.

One may argue it is as good a gathering as our present circumstances
permit. Probably there is some good will for all mankind in every one
who comes. Probably not one is altogether blind to the tremendous
disaster that towers over us, but all are forgetful.

And yet this Washington Conference may prove to be the nearest approach
the human will and intelligence has yet made to a resolute grapple
against fate upon this planet. We cannot make ourselves wiser than we
are, but in this phase of universal danger we can at least school
ourselves to the resolve to be charitable and frank with one another to
the best of our ability, to be forgiving debtors, willing to retreat
from hasty and impossible assumptions, seeking patience in hearing and
generosity in action. High aims and personal humility may yet save


                                                     Washington, Nov. 8.

It would seem that the peculiar circumstances of its meeting demand that
the Washington Conference should begin with a foregone futility, the
discussion of the limitation of armaments and of the restrictions of
warfare in certain directions, while nations are still to remain
sovereign and free to make war and while there exists no final and
conclusive court of decision for international disputes except warfare.

A number of people do really seem to believe that we can go on with all
the various states of the earth still as sovereign and independent of
each other as wild beasts in a jungle, with no common rule and no common
law, and yet that we can contrive it that they will agree to make war
only in a mild and mitigated fashion, after due notice and according to
an approved set of regulations. Such ideas are quite seriously
entertained and they are futile and dangerous ideas. A committee of the
London League of Nations Union, for example, has been debating with the
utmost gravity whether the use of poison gas and the sinking of neutral
ships to enforce a blockade should be permitted and whether “all modern
developments” in warfare should not be abolished. “The feasibility of
preventing secret preparations and the advantages of surprise were also
considered.” It is as if warfare was a game.

It is a little difficult to reason respectfully against that sort of
project. One is moved rather to add helpful suggestions in the same
vein. As for example, that no hostilities shall be allowed to begin or
continue except in the presence of a League of Nations referee, who
shall be marked plainly on the chest and pants with the red cross of
Geneva and who—for the convenience of aircraft—shall carry an open
sunshade similarly adorned. He shall be furnished with a powerful
whistle or hand trumpet audible above the noise of modern artillery, and
military operations shall be at once arrested when this whistle is
blown. Contravention of the rules laid down by the League of Nations
shall be penalized according to the gravity of the offense, with
penalties ranging from, let us say, an hour’s free bombardment of the
offender’s position to the entire forces of the enemy being addressed
very severely by the referee and ordered off the field.

In the event of either combatant winning the war, outright by
illegitimate means, it might further be provided that such combatant
should submit to a humiliating peace, just as if the war had been lost.

Unhappily war is not a game but the grimmest of realities, and no power
on earth exists to prevent a nation which is fighting for existence
against another nation from resorting to any expedient however unfair,
cruel and barbarous to enforce victory or avert disaster. Success
justifies every expedient in warfare, and you cannot prevent that being
so. A nation, hoping to win and afterward make friends with its enemy or
solicitous for the approval of some powerful neutral, may conceivably
refrain from effective but objectionable expedients, but that is a
voluntary and strategic restraint. The fact remains that war is an
ultimate and illimitable thing; a war that can be controlled is a war
that could have been stopped or prevented. If our race can really bar
the use of poison gas it can bar the use of any kind of weapon. It is
indeed easier to enforce peace altogether than any lesser limitation of

But it is argued that this much may be true nevertheless, that if the
nations of the world will agree beforehand not to prepare for particular
sorts of war or if they will agree to reduce their military and naval
equipment to a minimum, that this will operate powerfully in preventing
contraventions and in a phase of popular excitement arresting the rush
toward war. The only objection to this admirable proposal is that no
power which has desires or rights that can only be satisfied or
defended, so far as it knows, by war, will ever enter into such a
disarmament agreement in good faith.

Of course countries contemplating war and having no serious intention of
disarming effectually will enter quite readily into conferences upon
disarmament, but they will do so partly because of the excellent
propaganda value of such a participation and mainly because of the
chance it gives them of some restriction which will hamper a possible
antagonist much more than it will hamper themselves. For instance, Japan
would probably be very pleased to reduce her military expenditure to
quite small figures if the United States reduced theirs to the same
amount, because the cost per head of maintaining soldiers under arms is
much less in Japan than in America; and she would be still more ready to
restrict naval armament to ships with a radius of action of 2,000 miles
or less because that would give her a free hand with China and the
Philippines. That sort of haggling was going on between Britain and
Germany at The Hague at intervals before the great war. Neither party
believed in the peaceful intentions of the other nor regarded these
negotiations as anything but strategic moves. And as things were in
Europe it was difficult to regard them in any other way.

No, the limitation of armaments quite as much as the mitigation of
warfare is impossible until war has been made impossible, and then the
complete extinction of armaments follows without discussion; and war can
only be made impossible when the powers of the world have done what the
thirteen original States of American Union found they had to do after
their independence was won, and that is set up a common law and rule
over themselves. Such a project is a monstrously difficult one no doubt,
and it flies in the face of great masses of patriotic cant and of
natural prejudices and natural suspicion, but it is a thing that can be
done. It is the only thing that can be done to avert the destruction of
civilization through war and war preparation. Disarmament and the
limitation of warfare without such a merging of sovereignty look, at the
first glance, easier and more modest proposals, but they suffer from the
fatal defect of absolute impracticability. They are things that cannot
be made working realities. A world that could effectually disarm would
be a world already at one, and disarmament would be of no importance
whatever. Given stable international relations, the world would put
aside its armaments as naturally as a man takes off his coat in winter
on entering a warm house.

And as a previous article has pointed out, wars, preparations for war
and the threat of war are only the more striking aspect of human
disunion at the present time. The smashing up of the world’s currency
system and the progressive paralysis of industry that follows on that is
a much more immediate disaster. That is rushing upon us. This war talk
between Japan and America may end as abruptly as the snarling of two
dogs overtaken by a flood. There may not be another great war after all,
because both in Japan and America social disruption may come first. Upon
financial and economic questions the powers of the earth must get
together very quickly now or perish; the signs get more imperative every
day; and if they get together upon these common issues, then they will
have little reason or excuse for not taking up the merely international
issues at the same time.

There is a curious exaggeration of respect for patriotism and patriotic
excesses in all these projects for disarmament and the mitigation of
warfare. We have to “consider patriotic susceptibilities”; that is the
stereotyped formula of objection to the plain necessity of overriding
the present barbaric sovereignty of separate states by a world rule and
a world law protecting the common interests of the common people of the
world. In practice these “patriotic susceptibilities”; will often be
found to resolve themselves into nothing more formidable than the
conceit and self-importance of some foreign office official. In general
they are little more than a snarling suspiciousness of foreign people.
Most people are patriotically excitable, it is in our human nature, but
that no more excuses this excessive deference to patriotism than it
would excuse a complete tolerance of boozing and of filthy vices and
drunken and lustful outrages because we are all more or less susceptible
to thirst and desire. And while there is all this deference for the most
ramshackle and impromptu of nationalisms there is a complete disregard
of the influence and of the respect due to one of the greatest and most
concentrated interests of our modern world, the finance, the science,
the experts, the labor, often very specialized and highly skilled, of
the armament and munitions and associated trades and industries.

So far as I can ascertain, the advocates of what I may call mere
disarmament propose to scrap this mass of interests more or less
completely, to put its tremendous array of factories, arsenals,
dockyards and so forth out of action, to obliterate its wide-reaching
net of financial relationships, to break up its carefully gathered
staffs, and to pour all its labor, its trained engineers and sailors and
gunners and so forth into the great flood of unemployment into which our
civilization is already sinking. And they do not seem to grasp how
subtle, various and effective the resistance of this great complex of
capable human beings to any such treatment is likely to be. In my supply
of League of Nations literature I find only two intimations of this real
obstacle to the world common weal. One is a suggestion that there should
be no private enterprise in the production of war material at all, and
the other that armament concerns shall not own newspapers. As a
Socialist I am charmed by the former proposal, which would in effect
nationalize, among others, the iron and steel and chemical industries,
but as a practical man I have to confess that the organization of no
existing state is yet at the level of efficiency necessary if the
transfer is to be a hopeful one, and so far as the newspaper restriction
goes, it would surely pass the wit of man to devise rules that would
prevent a great banking combination from controlling armament firms on
the one hand while it financed newspapers on the other.

Yet the fact remains that this great complex of interests, round and
about the armaments interest, is the most real of all the oppositions to
a world federation. It supplies substance, direction and immediate
rewards to the frothy emotions of patriotism; it rules by dividing us
and it realizes that its existence in its present form is conditional
upon the continuance of our suspicions and divisions. It does not
positively want or seek war, but it wants a continuing expectation of
and preparation for war. On the other hand its ruling intelligences must
be coming to understand that in the end it cannot escape sharing in the
economic and social smash down to which we are all now sliding so
rapidly. It is too high a type of organization to be altogether blind
and obdurate. It will not, of course, be represented officially at
Washington for what it is, but in the form of pseudo-patriotic, naval,
military and financial experts it will be better represented than any
other side of human nature. One of the most interesting things to do at
the conference will be to watch its activities.

How much can we common men ask for and hope for from this great power?
Self extinction is too much—even if it were desirable. But it is
reasonable to demand a deflection of its activities to meet the urgent
needs of our present dangers. We do not want the extinction of this
great body of business, metallurgical, chemical, engineering and
disciplined activities, but we do want its rapid diversion from all too
easily attained destructive ends to creative purposes now. A world peace
scheme that does not open out an immediate prospect for the release of
financial and engineering energy upon world-wide undertakings is a
hopeless peace scheme. Enterprise must out. Were this world one
federated state concerned about our common welfare there would be no
overwhelming difficulty in canalizing all this force now spent upon
armament in the direction of improved transport and communications
generally into the making of great bridges, tunnels and the like, into
the rebuilding of our cities upon better lines, into the irrigation and
fertilization of the earth’s deserts and so forth. The way to world
peace lies not in fighting and destroying the armament interests but in
turning them to world service.

But to do such a thing requires a united financial and economic effort;
it cannot be done nationally by little groups of patriots all scheming
against one another. It must be big business for world interests,
unencumbered by national frontiers, or it is impossible.

All these considerations you see converge on the conclusion that there
is no solution of the problem of war, no possibility of a world
recovery, no possibility of arresting the rapid disintegration of our
civilization, except a Pax Mundi, a federated world control,
sufficiently authoritative to keep any single nation in order and
sufficiently coherent to express a world idea. We need an effective
world “Association of Nations,” to use President Harding’s phrase, or we
shall perish. And even in this fantastic dream of Mere Disarmament, of a
world of little independent states, all sovereign, all competing against
each other and all carrying on a mean financial and commercial warfare
against each other to the common impoverishment, all standing in the way
of any large modern-spirited handling of modern needs, yet all remaining
magically disarmed and never making actual war on each other—even if
this dream were possible, it is still utterly detestable—more detestable
even than our present dangers and miseries. For if there are any things
in life worse than pain, fear and destruction, they are boredom,
pettiness and inanity, and such would be the quality of such a world.
However much the diplomatists at Washington may seek to ignore the fact,
may fence their discussion within narrowly phrased agenda, and rule
this, that and the other vital aspect outside the scope of the
conference, the fact remains that there is no way out, no way of escape
for mankind from the monstrous miseries and far more monstrous dangers
of the present time except an organized international co-operation,
based upon a frank and bold resolve to turn men’s minds from ancient
jealousies and animosities to the common aims and the common future of
our race.

If the Washington Conference cannot rise to the level of that idea, then
it were better that the Conference never gathered together.

                        THE TRAIL OF VERSAILLES

Washington, the guide books say, was planned by Major Pierre Charles
L’Enfant in imitation of Versailles. If so, it has broken away from his
intentions. I know Versailles pretty well, and I have gone about
Washington looking vainly for anything more than the remotest
resemblance. There is something European about Washington, I admit, an
Italianate largeness, as though a Roman design has been given oxygen and
limitless space. It is a capital in the expanded Latin style. It has
none of the vertical uplift of a real American city. But Versailles!

Versailles was the home and embodiment of the old French Grand Monarchy
and of a Foreign Policy that sought to dominate, Frenchify and
“Versaillize” the world. A visit to Versailles is part of one’s world
education, a visit to the rather faded, rather pretentious magnificence
of its terraces, to that Hall of Mirrors, all plastered over with little
oblongs of looking-glass, which was once considered so wonderful, to the
stuffy, secretive royal apartments with their convenient back stairs, to
the poor foolishness of the Queen’s toy village, the Little Trianon. A
century and a half ago the people of France, wasted and worn by
incessant wars of aggression, weary of a Government that was an
intolerable burden to them and a nuisance to all Europe, went to
Versailles in a passion and dragged French Policy out of Versailles for
a time.

Unhappily it went back there.

In 1871, when Germany struck down the tawdry imperialism of Napoleon III
(who was also for setting up Emperors in the New World) the Germans had
the excessive bad taste to proclaim a New German Empire in the Hall of
Mirrors. So that Versailles became more than ever the symbol of the
age-long, dreary, pitiful quarrel of the French and Germans for the
inheritance of “the Empire” that has gone on ever since the death of
Charlemagne. There the glory of France had shone; there the glory of
France had been eclipsed. I visited Versailles one autumnal day in 1912,
and it was then a rather mouldy, disheartened, empty, picturesque show
place, pervaded by memories of flounces, furbelows, wigs and red heels
and also by the stronger, less pleasant flavor of that later Prussian

It was surely the least propitious place in the whole world for the
making of a world peace in 1919. It was inevitable that there the Rhine
frontier should loom larger than all Asia and that the German people
should be kept waiting outside to learn what vindictive punishment
victorious France designed for them.

The Peace of Versailles was not a settlement of the world, it was the
crowning of the French revanche. And since Russia had always been below
the horizon of Versailles it was as inevitable that the Russian people,
who had saved France from utter defeat in 1914, who had given far more
dead to the war than France and America put together, and who had
collapsed at last, utterly exhausted by their stupendous war efforts,
should be considered merely as the defaulting debtors of France. Their
Government had incurred vast liabilities chiefly in preparation for this
very war which had restored France to her former glorious ascendancy
over Germany. And now a new, ungracious Government in Russia not only
declared it could not pay up but refused to pretend that it had ever
meant to perform this impossible feat. There could be no dealing with
such a Government. The German people and the Russian people alike had no
voice at Versailles, and the affairs of the world were settled with a
majestic disregard of these outcast and fallen powers.

They were settled so magnificently and badly that now the Washington
Conference, whatever limitations it may propose to set upon itself, has
in effect to review and, if it can, mend or replace that appalling
settlement. The Washington conference has practically to revise the
verdicts of Versailles, in a fresher air and with a wider outlook.

I do not know how near future historians may come to saying that the
Washington conference was planned in imitation of that Versailles
conference, but it certainly does start out with one most unfortunate
resemblance. There seems to be the same tacit assumption that it is
possible to come to some permanent settlement of the world’s affairs
with no representation of either the German or the Russian people at the
conference. The Japanese, the Italians, the French, the Americans and
the British, assisted by modest suggestions from such small sections of
humanity as China and Spanish America, are sitting down to arrangements
that will amount practically to a settlement of the world’s affairs, and
they are doing so without consulting these two great peoples, and quite
without their consent and assistance. This surely runs counter to the
fundamental principle of both American and British political life—that
is to say, the principle of government with the consent of the
governed—and it is indeed an altogether deplorable intention. In some
form these two great peoples will have to be associated with any
permanent settlement, and it will be much more difficult to secure their
assent to any arrangement arrived at without even their formal

It is necessary to remind ourselves of certain elementary facts about
Germany and Russia and their position in the world today. They are facts
within the knowledge of all, and yet they seem to be astonishingly
forgotten in very much of the discussion of the Washington conference.

First, let us recall certain points about Germany. The German people
occupy the most central position in Europe; they exceed in numbers any
other European people except the Russians; their educational level has
been as high or higher than any other people in the world; they are, as
a people, honest, industrious, and intelligent; upon their social and
political well-being and economic prosperity the prosperity of Britain,
Scandinavia, Russia, Italy—and in a lesser degree France—depends. It is
impossible to destroy such a people, it is impossible to wipe them off
the map, but it is possible to ruin them economically and socially. And
if Germany is ruined most of Europe is ruined.

Germany has been overthrown in a great war and it will be well to recall
here certain elementary facts about that war. Under a particularly
aggressive and offensive imperialism system the Germans were plunged
into conflict with most of the rest of the civilized world. But it was
repeatedly declared by the British and by the Americans, if not by
others of the combatants, that they fought not against the German people
but against this German imperialism. The British war propaganda in
particular did its utmost to saturate Germany with that assurance and to
hold out the promise of generous treatment and a complete restoration of
friendship _provided there was a German renunciation of imperialism and

Germany, exhausted and beaten, surrendered in 1918 upon the strength of
these promises and upon the similar promises implied in President
Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The declared ends of the war had been
achieved. The Kaiser bolted, and Germany repented of him publicly and

But the conference at Versailles treated these promises that had been
made to Germany as mere “scraps of paper.” The peace imposed upon the
young German republic was a punitive peace, exactly as punitive as
though there were still a Kaiser in Berlin; it was a vindictive reversal
of the Franco-German treaty of 1871 without a shred of recognition or
tolerance for the chastened Germany that faced her conquerors. The
Germans were dealt with as a race of moral monsters, though no one in
his senses really believes they are very different, man for man, from
English, French or American people; every German was held to be
individually responsible for the war, though every Frenchman, Englishman
and American knows that when one’s country fights one has to fight, and
it is quite natural to fight for it whether it is in the right or not;
and a sustained attack of oppressive occupations, dismemberment, and
impossible demands was begun and still goes on upon the shattered German
civilization—which is at least as vitally necessary to the world as the
French. The British and French nationalist press openly confess that
they do not intend to give Germany a chance of recovery. The European
Allies have now been kicking the prostrate body of Germany for three
years; in a little while they will be kicking a dead body; and since
they are linked geographically to their victim almost as closely as the
Siamese twins were linked together, they will share that victim’s decay.

It is high time that this barbaric insanity, this prolongation of the
combat after surrender, should cease and that the best minds and wills
of Germany and the very reasonable republican government she has set up
for herself should be called into consultation. I could wish that
Washington could so far rise above Versailles as presently to make that
invitation. Sooner or later it will have to be made if the peace of the
world is to be secured.

The absence of Russia from the Washington conference is an even graver
weakness. People seem to have forgotten altogether how the Russians bore
the brunt of the opening years of the great war. Their rapid offensive
in 1914 saved Paris and saved the little British Army from a disastrous
retreat to the sea. The debt of gratitude Britain and France owe to
Russia’s “Unknown Warrior,” that poor unhonored hero and martyr, is
incalculable. But for Russia Germany would probably have won the war
outright before the end of 1916. It was the blood and suffering of the
Russian people saved victory for the Allies; those incredible soldiers
fought often without artillery support, without rifle ammunition,
without boots or food, under conditions almost inconceivable to the
well-supplied French and British and Americans of the western front. And
their tale of killed and wounded exceeds enormously that of any other
combatant. In 1917 Russia collapsed; she was bled white, and she
remained collapsed in spite of the sedulous kicking of her allies to
rouse her to further efforts. The intolerable Rasputin-Czarism went down
in the disaster. After a phase of extreme disorder, and very largely
because of the British hesitation to support the Kerensky Government by
bold naval action in the Baltic, the hard, tyrannous, doctrinaire
government of the Bolsheviki took control.

That government is a bad government; its faults are indeed of a
different order but on the whole, I will admit, it is almost as bad as
the former Czarist Government it superseded. Yet let us remember certain
plain facts about it. It has remained in power to this day because it is
a Russian-speaking government standing for a whole and undivided Russia,
and the Russian people support it because it has defended Russia against
the subsidized raiders of France and Britain, against the Poles and
against the Esthonians and against the Japanese and against every sort
of outside interference with their prostrate country. They prefer
fanatics to foreigners and Bolsheviks to brigands. Frenchmen or
Americans in the same horrible position would probably make the same
choice. The Entente, the Poles, a miscellany of adventurers, have given
the Russians no breathing time to deal with their own Government in
their own fashion. And now, caught by the misadventure of an
unprecedented drought, millions of Russians in the regions disorganized
by Kolchak, Denikene and Wrangel, are starving to death—while Canada and
America have wheat and corn to burn. There is even food to spare in some
parts of Russia, but no adequate means of getting it to the starving
provinces without outside assistance. And the Western World is letting
these Russian millions starve because of the argumentative obstinacy of
the Moscow Government, which hesitated for a time to acknowledge debts
incurred by Russia—very largely for the military preparations which
saved Europe—debts it is now inconceivable that Russia can ever under
any circumstances pay, because of the pitiless resentment of the
creditors of Russia. Yet the suffering of Russia cannot help the western
money lender; they merely give him his revenge.

But even if some millions of Russian men, women and children die this
winter and are added to the count of those who have already perished
through the war—the war that saved Paris from Berlin—it does not follow
that Russia will die. Peoples are not killed in this fashion. These
distresses will not alter the fact that the Russians are the most
numerous people in Europe, and a people of unexampled gifts and
tenacity. Their magnificent resistance to outside interference since
1914 and their toleration of the Bolshevik Government when division
would have been as fatal to them as it has been in China, is a proof of
their solidarity and instinctive political wisdom. There are as many
Russians as there are people in the United States of America, and they
occupy an area as great and far richer in undeveloped resources. In
spite of the monstrous Czarist Government which treated elementary
education as an offense against the State, the prose literature, the
drama, the music, the pictorial art—even the science of the Russians
during the last hundred years—all this compares favorably with that of
the United States. These Russians are indeed one of the very greatest of
people and they have survived tragic experiences that might well have
destroyed any other race. And Washington, I gather, proposes to settle
the peace of Europe, Asia and the Pacific without them.

There is, I know, a very strong case to excuse Washington from sending
an invitation to the existing Russian Government. I would be the last
person in the world to minimize the difficulties the Bolshevik
Government puts in the way of any fair dealings with the western powers;
it is bound by its Communist theory not to recognize them fairly and to
make gestures of preparation for their overthrow. In addition to its
general theoretical obduracy Moscow is also afflicted with a
particularly obdurate, pedantic, argumentative and disastrous Foreign
Minister, Chicherin. But practical necessity knows no theories and the
Bolshevik Government, if only it can save its face, is now
extraordinarily anxious for recognition from and dealings with the
western Governments.

I do not see why the western Governments, having regard to the needs of
Russia, should try to outdo the Bolsheviks in obstinacy, pedantry and
cruelty, nor why they should not make an honest attempt to get along
with the de facto government until it develops naturally into something
else. For such a development only a rough working peace is wanted. Given
that, and a release from impossible debts, Russia, relieved forever from
the black curse of Czarism, will go right on to become a land of
restored cultivation, of resuscitated mines and presently of reawakening
towns, a democratic land of common people more like the free, poor,
farming, prospecting and developing United States of 1840 than anything
else in history.

So long as Russia suffers the Bolshevik Government I think Washington
ought to suffer it, but perhaps in that opinion I go beyond the
possibilities of the case. Then I suggest that at least Washington ought
to set up some well-informed lawyer, some bureau, to play the part of
the Russian advocate at the conference. If Russia is not to be allowed a
vote in the decision of things, let her at least be heard.

Consider what the future must hold for this great people, and mark the
amazing folly of the insults and evils we heap upon their land. Look it
up in an atlas or encyclopaedia. Measure what it is we ignore. In a
score of years Russia may be a renascent land as vigorous as the United
States in 1840. In a century she may be as great and powerful and
civilized as any state on earth. For such powers as France and Britain
and Japan to sit in council upon the fate of the world without her is as
if, in the dark years of 1863 and 1864, they had sat in council upon the
future of America without the United States. Indeed, something of the
sort did happen in those dark years; France, I recall, sent troops and
munitions into Mexico, as recently she has sent them into Poland and
South Russia. And somewhere in the world there is a grave, the grave of
a “white hope,” a reactionary puppet who was to have restored Mexico to
the European system—the friend of the Emperor Napoleon the Third, the
Emperor Maximilian.

When I was a small boy learning the rudiments of geography, the earth
was presented to me in two hemispheres, the Old World and the new. Not
once or twice only has America vindicated her right to that title. Will
Washington confirm that great tradition and open a way of escape now
from the tangled narrowness of Versailles? Are Germany and Russia to
perish amid the incurable quarrels of the Old World or find their
salvation in the New?


                                                    Washington, Nov. 11.

Britain, France, Italy and now the people of the United States, have
honored and buried the bodies of certain Unknown Soldiers, each
according to their national traditions and circumstances. Canada, I
hear, is to follow suit.

So the world expresses its sense that in the great war the only hero was
the common man. Poor Hans and poor Ivan lie rotting yet under the soil
of a hundred battlefields, bones and decay, rags of soiled uniform and
fragments of accoutrements, still waiting for monuments and speeches.
Yet they too were mothers’ sons, kept step, obeyed orders, went singing
into battle, and knew the strange intoxication of soldierly fellowship
and the sense of devotion to something much greater than themselves.

In Arlington Cemetery soldiers of the Confederate South lie honored
equally with the Federal dead, the right or wrong of their cause
altogether forgotten and only their sacrifice remembered. A time will
come when we shall cease to visit the crimes and blunders and
misfortunes of their Governments upon the common soldiers and poor folk
of Germany and Russia, when our bitterness will die out and we shall
mourn them as we mourn our own, as souls who gave their lives and
suffered greatly in one universal misfortune.

A time will come when these vast personifications of conflict, the
Unknown British Soldier, the Unknown American Soldier, the Unknown
French Soldier, etc., will merge into the thought of a still greater
personality, the embodiment of 20,000,000 separate bodies and of many
million broken lives, the Unknown Soldier of the great war.

It would be possible, I suppose, to work out many things concerning him.
We could probably find out his age and his height and his weight and
such like particulars very nearly. We could average figures and
estimates that would fix such matters within a very narrow range of
uncertainty. In race and complexion, I suppose he would be mainly North
European; North Russian, German, Frankish, North Italian, British and
American elements would all have the same trend toward a tallish,
fairish, possibly blue-eyed type; but also there would be a strong
Mediterranean streak in him, Indian and Turkish elements, a fraction of
Mongolian and an infusion of African blood—brought in not only through
the American colored troops but by the free use by the French of their

None of these factors would be strong enough to prevent his being mainly
Northern and much the same mixture altogether as the American citizen of
1950 is likely to be. He would be a white man with a touch of Asia and a
touch of color. And he would be young—I should guess about twenty-one or
twenty-two—still boyish, probably unmarried rather than married, with a
father and mother alive and with the memories and imaginations of the
home he was born in still fresh and vivid in his mind when he died. We
could even, I suppose, figure in general terms how he died. He was
struck in daylight amid the strange noises and confusion of a modern
battlefield by something out of the unknown—bullet, shell fragment or
the like. At the moment he had been just a little scared—every one is a
little scared on a battlefield—but much more excited than scared and
trying hard to remember his training and do his job properly. When he
was hit he was not so much hurt at first as astonished. I should guess
that the first sensation of a man hard hit on a battlefield is not so
much pain as an immense chagrin.

I suppose it would be possible to go on and work out how long it was
before he died after he was hit, how long he suffered and wondered, how
long he lay before his ghost fell in with that immense still muster in
the shades, those millions of his kind who had no longer country to
serve nor years of life before them, who had been cut off as he had been
cut off suddenly from sights and sounds and hopes and passions. But
rather let us think of the motives and feelings that had brought him, in
so gallant and cheerful a frame of mind, to this complete sacrifice.

What did the Unknown Soldier of the great war think he was doing when he
died? What did we, we people who got him into the great war and who are
still in possession of this world of his, what did we persuade him to
think he was doing and what is the obligation we have incurred to him to
atone for his death, for the life and sunlight he will know no more?

He was still too young a man to have his motives very clear. To conceive
what moved him and what he desired is a difficult and disputable task.
M. George Nobelmaire at a recent meeting of the League of Nations
Assembly declared that he had heard French lads whisper “Vive la
France!” and die. He suggested that German boys may have died saying,
“Colonel, say to my mother, ‘Vive l’Allemagne!’” Possibly. But the
French are trained harder in patriotism than any other people. I doubt
if it was the common mood. It was certainly not the common mood among
the British.

I cannot imagine many English boys using their last breath to say “Rule
Britannia!” or “King George for Merry England!” Some of our young men
swore out of vexation and fretted; some, and it was not always the
youngest, became childish again and cried touchingly for their mothers;
many maintained the ironical flippancy of our people to the end; many
died in the vein of a young miner from Durham with whom I talked one
morning in the trenches near Martinpuich, trenches which had been badly
“strafed” overnight. War, he said, was a beastly job, “but we’ve got to
clean this up.” That is the spirit of the lifeboat man or fireman. That
is the great spirit. I believe that was far nearer to the true mind of
the Unknown Soldier than any tinpot Viva-ing of any flag, nation or
empire whatever.

I believe that when we generalize the motives that took the youth who
died in the great war out of the light of life and took them out at
precisely the age when life is most desirable, we shall find that the
dominating purpose was certainly no narrow devotion to the “glory” or
“expansion” of any particular country, but a wide-spirited hostility to
wrong and oppression. That is clearly shown by the nature of the appeals
that were made in every country to sustain the spirit of its soldiers.

If national glory and patriotism had been the ruling motive of these
young men, then manifestly their propaganda would have concerned
themselves mainly with national honor and flag idolatry. But they did
not do so. Nowadays flags fly better on parades and stoop fronts than on
battlefields. The war propagandas dwelt steadily and insistently upon
the wickedness and unrighteousness of the enemy, upon the dangers of
being overwhelmed by foreign tyranny, and particularly upon the fact
that the enemy had planned and made the war. These boys fought best on

So far as the common men in every belligerent country went, therefore,
the great war was a war against wrong, against force, against war
itself. Whatever it was in the thoughts of the diplomatists, it was that
in the minds of the boys who died. In the minds of these young and
generous millions who are personified in the Unknown Soldier of the
great war, in the minds of the Germans and Russians who fought so
stoutly, quite as much as the Americans, British, French or Italians,
the war was a war to end war.

And that marks our obligation.

Every speech that is made beside the graves of these Unknown Soldiers
who lie now in the comradeship of youthful death, every speech which
exalts patriotism above peace, which hints at reparations and revenges,
which cries for mean alliances to sustain the traditions of the
conflict, which exalts national security over the common welfare, which
wags the “glorious flag” of this nation or that in the face of the
universal courage and tragedy of mankind, is an insult and an outrage
upon the dead youth who lies below. He sought justice and law in the
world as he conceived these things, and whoever approaches his resting
place unprepared to serve the establishment of a world law and world
justice, breathing the vulgar cants and catchwords of a patriotism
outworn and of conflicts that he died to end, commits a monstrous
sacrilege and sins against all mankind.

                       THE PRESIDENT AT ARLINGTON

                                                    Washington, Nov. 11.

I am writing this just after my return from the funeral, in the National
Cemetery, of the American Unknown Soldier at Arlington, a very stately
and moving ceremony, under the bright blue sky and the cold, keen air of
a Virginia November day. The body had been lying in state at the Capitol
and it was carried through Washington to the cemetery at the head of a
great procession in which the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, Senators,
members of the House of Representatives, war veterans and a multitude of
societies marched on foot, a march of nearly two hours and a half
duration. Much of this gathering was of the substance of all such
processions, but one or two of the contingents were rich with
association and suggestion.

There were fifty or sixty, I should guess, very old men, bent,
white-headed—one with a conspicuous long, white beard—veterans of a
civil war that was fought out to an end before I was born. They came
close to a contingent of men who had been specially decorated in the
great war, erect and eager, still on the better side of the prime of
life. These older men had fought in a great fight against a division, a
separation that today, thanks to their sacrifice, has become
inconceivable. They had fought to seal the Federal Union of what were
else warring States. The young men who marched before them had fought in
a war upon the greater stage of the whole world. Some day the tale of
those abundant heroes will have shrunken to the dimensions of that
little band of pathetic and glorious old men. Will they live to as
complete an assurance that their cause also has been won forever, the
newer veterans of the greater union that has yet to come?

There were many points of contrast between the ceremony I have just
witnessed in the graceful marble amphitheatre in the beautiful Virginian
open country and the burials that have taken place in the very hearts of
London, Paris and Rome. In the face of a common identity of idea, they
mark an essential difference in the nature of the occasion.

Thursday I went to see the people who were filing past the flag-covered
coffin. It was a crowd fairly representative, I thought, of the
Washington population as one sees it on the streets; all classes were
represented, but chiefly it consisted of that well-dressed, healthy
looking middle class sort of people who predominate in the streets of
most American cities. They came to honor a national hero, the
personification of American courage and loyalty. Few, I think, were
actual mourners of a dead soldier. The couples and groups of people I
saw hurrying up the sloping paths to the entrance of the Capitol, filing
up the steps to the rotunda or dispersing on the other side were
characterized by a sort of bright eagerness and approval.

They contrasted very strongly with my memory of the great column of
still and mournful people under the dark London sky, eight deep,
stretching all up Whitehall and down Northumberland Avenue and along the
Embankment for a great distance, a column which moved on slowly, step by
step, and which faded away at night to be replaced by fresh mourners on
the morrow to do honor to the Unknown Warrior in London. That crowd,
with its wreaths and flowers, represented the families, the lovers, the
sisters and friends of perhaps a quarter of a million of dead men from
London and the south and centre of England; the massed, mute tragedy of
its loss was overwhelming. It reduced all the ceremony that had gathered
it to comparative unimportance. But the remote distances of America
forbade any such concentration of sorrow. There may have been the
relations and friends of perhaps a thousand men upon the scene at
Arlington. The loss to the District of Columbia itself was less than six
hundred killed. A group of wounded men in the amphitheatre struck the
most intimate note. The rest of the gathering at Arlington shared a less
personal grief. They were sympathizers rather than sufferers.

Because of this emotional difference, the Arlington ceremony presented
itself primarily as a ceremony. For most there it was a holiday, a fine
and noble holiday, but a holiday. By it, America did not so much mourn
the tragedy of war as seek to arouse itself to that tragedy. Everywhere
the Stars and Stripes, the most decorative and exhilarating of national
flags, waved and fluttered, and an irresistible expression of America’s
private life and buoyant well-being mingled in the proceedings. For most
of the gathering that coffin under the great flag held nothing they had
ever touched personally; it was not America’s lost treasure of youth,
but rather a warning of the fate that may yet overtake the youth of
America if war is not to end. At Arlington, throughout the length and
breadth of America, when for two minutes at mid-day all work and
movement stopped and America stood still, an innumerable host of fathers
and mothers and wives and friends could whisper thanks to God in their
hearts that their sons and their beloved remained alive.

And I suppose it is largely because America is still so much less
war-stricken than any of the other belligerents of the great war that so
much more powerful a sense of will was apparent in all these
proceedings. The burial of the Unknown Soldier in America was not a
thing in itself as it was in London, in Paris or Rome; it was a solemn
prelude to action, the action of the great conference which is to seek
peace and enduring peace for all mankind. This note was struck even in
the Chaplain’s opening invocation. He said:

“Facing the events of the morrow, when from the workbench of the world
there will be taken an unusual task, we ask that Thou wilt accord
exceptional judgment, foresight and tactfulness of approach to those who
seek to bring about a better understanding among men and nations to the
end that discord, which provokes war, may disappear and that there may
be world tranquillity.”

And the very fine oration of President Harding, following closely upon
this line.

I saw the President for the first time at Arlington. He is a very big,
fine-looking man and his voice is a wonderful instrument. He spoke
slowly and very distinctly, his gestures admirably controlled. He is—how
can I say it?—more statuesque than any of the American Presidents of
recent times, but without a trace in his movements or appearance of
posturing or vanity. Men say he is a sincerely modest man, determined to
do the best that is in him and at once appalled and inspired by the
world situation in which he finds himself among the most prominent
figures. Not only in its main circumstances but in many of its incidents
is the position of the President of the United States appalling. The
President stood in the apse to the right of the Unknown Soldier and to
the other side of him was a black box upon a stand, a box perhaps two
feet by one. This was the receiver that was to carry his voice,
intensely amplified, to still greater gatherings in New York, in San
Francisco and over the whole United States. Never was human utterance so
magnified. Every syllable, every slip was recorded. He slipped once at
an antithesis and was obliged to repeat. From the Atlantic to the
Pacific that slip was noted.

I have heard much detraction of the President both before I came to
America and since I have been here, but here I have found also a growing
and spreading belief in him. And this address of his, rhetorical though
it was in a simple and popular American way, was nevertheless a very
dignified address and one inspired by a spirit that is undeniably great.
Here is a fine saying:

“His patriotism was none less if he craved more than triumph of country;
rather, it was greater if he hoped for a victory for all human kind.
Indeed, I revere that citizen whose confidence in the righteousness of
his country inspired belief that its triumph is the victory of humanity.

“This American soldier went forth to battle with no hatred for any
people in the world, but hating war and hating the purpose of every war
for conquest.”

We are to seek “the rule under which reason and righteousness shall
prevail.” There is to be “the commanding voice of a conscious
civilization against armed warfare,” “a new and lasting era of peace on
earth.” And with a fine instinct for effect the President ended his
oration with the Lord’s Prayer, with its appeal for one universal law
for mankind: “Thy kingdom come on earth....”

Every other gossip tells you that President Harding comes from Main
Street and repeats the story of Mrs. Harding saying: “We’re just folk.”
If President Harding is a fair sample of Main Street, Sinclair Lewis has
not told us the full story and Main Street is destined to save the

                           THE FIRST MEETING

                                                    Washington, Nov. 13.

It was difficult at first to imagine the conference as anything more
than an admirably well managed social occasion.

Continental Hall is a quite charming building, not too big for intimacy,
not too small for a sufficient gathering of people. The chief members of
the delegations had still to assemble; they were to sit at green baize
covered tables in the body of the hall. About this central arena sat the
massed attaches, and under the galleries the press representatives. In
the boxes clustered the ladies of the diplomatic world. Members of the
House of Representatives, the Senators, their friends and a sprinkling
of privileged people occupied the big galleries above.

There was a great chatter of conversation when I entered. Everybody was
greeting friends, flitting from group to group. It was one of those
gatherings where everybody seemed to know everybody. Socially, it was
extraordinarily like a very smart first night in a prominent London

“Last time I came to America,” I found myself saying, “I brought a silk
hat and morning coat, and never wore them once. Now everybody seems to
be wearing a morning coat and a silk hat.” It was the sort of occasion
one dresses for. And that was the tone of the conversation.

It was difficult to believe that this gathering could be the beginning
of anything of supreme historical importance.

Came a slight hush in the conversation. The delegates appeared, all with
tremendously familiar faces taken out of the illustrated papers. They
disposed themselves in their seats in leisurely fashion. One seat
remained vacant for a time—the seat of the President. Then appeared
President Harding, and there was a great clapping of hands. It became
more and more like a first night. Then a hushing of enthusiasm, and
silence, and he spoke.

It was a fine speech, less ornate and more direct than the Arlington
oration. And the galleries above, behaving more and more like a first
night audience, interrupted with rounds of applause whenever there were
definite allusions to disarmament. He finished and declared the
conference open and departed. Mr. Balfour followed, echoing the
President’s sentiments in a few well chosen words and proposing
Secretary Hughes for the Chairman of the conference.

The Hall became aware of a check in the onward flow of the proceedings.
An interpreter got up and repeated Mr. Balfour’s speech in French for
the benefit of the French delegation. He had made a shorthand note as
Mr. Balfour spoke. This, we learned, was to be the procedure throughout
the conference. Every speech, question and interruption was to be dealt
with in this interlinear manner. Fortunately, it was not necessary to do
this in the case of the President’s address, nor was it necessary in the
case of the address of Secretary Hughes, which was now impending because
these had already been printed and distributed and a translation made of

Their linguistic isolation is likely to prove unfortunate for the
French. The Belgian, the Dutch, the Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese
delegations all speak in English and listen to the English speeches.
Consequently, the French are in a position in which they seem to be the
most foreign people present. This must be disconcerting to them now.

It will be much more disconcerting if, at a later stage, German
delegates speaking English should appear upon some extension or side
committee of the conference. But I do not see how it can be avoided. The
French are a little out of touch in the conference because of this; they
must be much more out of touch with the incessant conversation in clubs
and at dinner tables and everywhere in Washington, which makes the
atmosphere in which the conference is working.

This, however, is a note by the way. Secretary Hughes took the chair and
delivered his address. It was a very carefully arranged surprise and its
effect was really dramatical. It jumped the conference abruptly from the
fine generalizations that had hitherto engaged it to immediately
practical things. Secretary Hughes sketched out what was evidently a
carefully worked out scheme, a most explicit scheme, for the complete
cessation of naval armament competition.

America wanted at the very outset, he said, to convince the world that
she meant business in the conference, and so she had taken this
unexpected step of putting immediate practical proposals upon the table.
She would scrap completely all the ships she had still under
construction and all her older ships and she would discontinue all naval
construction for ten years if Britain and Japan would do the same.

She proposed that the naval strength of the three powers concerned
should remain for ten years in the ratio of: Britain, 22; America, 18,
and Japan, 10. In other words, she proposed so to fix things that no two
of these three powers can wage a conclusive naval war against each
other, but with America and Britain in a position to do so jointly
against Japan and with Japan at a great disadvantage against America,
even if she were to risk an inconclusive war with America on the chance
of Britain’s not coming in. And having unfolded this scheme, Secretary
Hughes concluded.

We were a little stunned. We had expected the opening meeting to be
preliminary, to stick to generalities. After Secretary Hughes had
finished, there was a feeling that we wanted to go away and think. But
the members of the House of Representatives were enjoying an unwonted
sense of being in the gallery, quite irresponsibly in the gallery, with
somebody else upon the floor. They burst in upon our statesmanlike
thoughts below with loud cries for “Briand!”

The atmosphere of friendly festival was reestablished. M. Briand spoke
eloquently—saying nothing whatever about the proposals of Secretary
Hughes—and sat down, and his still quite abstract praises of peace were
translated into English.

“Japan!” shouted the members of the House of Representatives, a theatre
gallery now in full cry. Japan spoke in English and its sentiments were
translated into French for the benefit of the foreigners. Japan
expressed admirable sentiments and said nothing whatever about the
proposals of Secretary Hughes.

Thereafter it would have been discourteous not to call for something
from Italy, China, Belgium, Holland and Portugal. They all spoke in
English, even Belgium spoke in English, and what they said was
translated into French. Nobody said anything whatever about the
proposals of Secretary Hughes. The gallery applauded each speech
heartily and the atmosphere of a first night was completely restored. We
dispersed to luncheons and tea parties and to talk before we wrote about
it. And as we tried to get it into focus in our minds it became clear
that much more than a ceremonial opening of the conference had occurred.

Secretary Hughes has made proposals that challenge the whole situation
in the Pacific. For if Japan accepts them—I do not see how they could be
otherwise than acceptable to the British—it puts Japan to so definite
and permanent a disadvantage that it amounts to an abandonment on the
part of Japan of the idea of fighting a war on the Pacific except as the
last desperate defensive resort under the pressure of an unavoidable
attack, and Japan can abandon that idea only if she can see her way
clearly without a war to all that she believes to be vitally necessary
to her.

It is possible to say that Secretary Hughes has narrowed down the work
of the conference by this sudden focusing of attention upon naval
warfare and Japan. But I do not think that is the case. The challenge he
has made cannot be taken up until a number of associated issues are
settled. Certainly his proposals have precipitated the work of the
conference from the clouds and beautiful generalities to the earth and
very concrete realities.

“You accept these proposals,” America says in effect. “If not, why not?”

Japan must accept or reply so and so. So from armaments we shall get to
the aims behind armaments; for no battleship is launched except against
a specific antagonist and for a specific end. And in the matter of aims
also the conference will presently have to consider what each power must
scrap for the common good and what it may be permitted to keep for its
own satisfaction.

Since Secretary Hughes made it clear that the conference is to approach
the inevitable general discussion of world peace by way of the sea and
the Pacific, since for a time France and Europe generally will sit
somewhat out of the limelight, it will be well, perhaps, if in my next
article I discuss a few elementary considerations about Japan.

                             WHAT IS JAPAN?

                                                    Washington, Nov. 15.

Of all the national delegations assembled here in Washington, the most
acutely scrutinized, the most discussed and probably the least
understood is the Japanese. The limelight gravitates toward it, moved,
one feels, not so much by an extreme respect as by an inordinate

Of only one other people—I write as a spectator from overseas—does one
feel the same sense of the possibility of dramatically unexpected
things, and that is the Americans. The Japanese, we feel, we have not
found out, and the Americans, we feel, have not found out themselves.
Already the Americans have sprung one great surprise upon the
conference. Britain, France, Italy and the other powers in attendance
are comparatively calculable—so far as their representation goes. But
Japan is different; it is not built upon the same lines, it follows
different laws.

I went on Sunday night to the press reception at the Japanese
headquarters. The Ambassador is a buoyant man of the world, speaking
excellent English and thoroughly acclimatized to an American press
gathering. But many of the Japanese faces about him set my imagination
busy, putting them back into the voluminous robes and the sashes holding
the double swords with which I had first met them long ago in Japanese
prints, and which would have become them so much better.

Admiral Kato spoke in Japanese and Prince Tokugawa in English; they
welcomed the Hughes proposals with warm generalities and hopes for
peace—as we all hope for peace—with insufficient particulars. I got no
conversation with any Japanese; they were not talking to us; they did
not want to talk; it was a reception of hearty politeness and no
exchanges. I found myself falling back upon an earlier impression.

Some weeks ago I had a very illuminating talk in my garden at home with
two Japanese visitors, Mr. Mashiko and Mr. Negushi, who had come to
discuss various educational ideas with me. And they told me things that
seem to me to be fundamentally important in this question. “We build up
our children,” said Mr. Mushiko, “upon a diametrically different plan
from yours. We turn them the other way round. Obedience and devotion are
our leading thoughts. All our sentiment, all our stories and poetry, the
traditions of centuries, teach loyalty, blind, unquestioning loyalty, of
wife to husband, of man to his lord, of every one to the monarch.

“The loyalty is religious. So far as political and social questions go,
it is fundamental. But your training cultivates independence, free
thought, the unsparing criticism of superiors, institutions,
relationships. Perhaps it is better in the end and more invigorating;
but it seems to us wild and dangerous. * * * We begin to have a sort of
public opinion, but it is still diffident and timid.”

An American and an Englishman, he said, cared for his country because he
believed it belonged to him. A Japanese cared for his country because he
believed he belonged to it. One could not pass from one habit of mind to
the other, he thought, without grave risks and dangers. It is easier to
destroy obedience than to create responsibility.

I was reminded of that conversation the other day by a remark made by a
fellow journalist on the train to Washington:

“A Chinese will tell you what he thinks—like an American—but a Japanese
always feels he is an agent, even if he isn’t an accredited one.”

Now, this is very interesting and probably a very fundamental
comparison. This difference in spirit will make the Japanese people a
very different instrument from the American and English or French
people. It will make the Japanese Government a different thing from the
Governments it will be meeting in Washington. A people built up on
obedience can be held and wielded as no modern democratic people can be
held and wielded. It is different in kind.

Unless this point is kept in mind, there are certain to be great and
possibly dangerous misunderstandings in the Washington discussions.
There have possibly been very dangerous misunderstandings already of the
European powers by the Japanese. The Japanese are likely to think the
Atlantic Governments are more free to decide than they really are, and
that what they say is more conclusive than it really is, and the
Atlantic peoples are likely to think too much of the appearance of a
liberal public opinion in Japan and to imagine that a Japanese
Government may be thrown out and its policy changed much more easily
than is the case. But indeed Japan is a Government, a military
Government, holding its people in its hand like a staff or a weapon,
while America and France and Britain are people operating the
Governments, more or less imperfectly. In no relationship is confusion
upon this point more probable and more dangerous than between Japan and
Britain or France at the present time, and in no connection is there
greater need of perfectly plain statement.

Seeing that Britain is still a monarchy with many aristocratic forms, it
is fatally easy for a Japanese statesman to fall into the belief that
the British Government is as completely in control, and its officials as
able to bind or loose, as the Japanese Government and officials, and
because of this belief to trust to the private assurance and general
attitude of personages in high places far more than they are justified
in doing. The British democracy is very like the American democracy in
its inability to keep watching what is happening overseas; it is
preoccupied by domestic questions and things that are near to it. You
cannot expect a Wiltshire farmer or a Lancashire cotton spinner to keep
up, day by day, with the concession-hunting game in Persia or South
China. But if that game of concession hunting piles up to sufficiently
serious consequences, these democracies are likely to wake up in a
manner quite outside the Japanese range of possibilities. And to a large
extent the same is true of France.

It is the blessed privilege of an irresponsible journalist to say things
that no diplomatist could ever say, and upon the relations of Japan,
America and England there are certain truths that seem to need saying
very plainly at the present time. But though I am an irresponsible
journalist, it is also to be noted that I am a very English Englishman
and that I know the way of thinking of my people.

The British people have been sleeping happily upon the belief that war
with America is impossible. And for them it is impossible. In this
matter the British have a special and extraordinary instinct. They will
not fight the United States of America. I will not go into the peculiar
feelings that produce this disposition; they are feelings great numbers
of Americans do not understand and have indeed taken great pains not to
understand. But to the common British, fighting Americans would have
much the same relation to fighting other peoples that cannibalism would
have to eating meat.

I hear a certain type of American over here slowly and heavily debating
the Hughes proposals on the assumption that there may be a war of
America against Britain and Japan. Such an assumption is—if I may be
permitted the word—idiotic. As a people, the British have not been
thinking very much about the Pacific question. They have been
preoccupied by Ireland and their own economic troubles. But if that
question presently moves toward a level of intensity where war is
possible, let there be no mistake about it in Japan, the ordinary
English will be thinking with the Americans. They will read much the
same stuff because they have the same language, and think in the same
way because they have kindred habits of thought.

It will not matter then what assurances and sentiments the Japanese may
have had for official personages in Great Britain. For we are dealing
here not with a matter of agreements but with a kind of moral
gravitation. If there is a conflict the British masses will want to come
in on the American side, and if it seems likely to be in the least an
inconclusive conflict they will certainly come in. If the rulers of the
Japanese dream that any other combination is possible in the Pacific
they are under as dangerous a delusion as ever lured a great nation to

But there are many signs that if ever the ruling people of Japan
entertained this delusion they are being disillusionized and that they
begin to realize that a war with America in the Pacific will mean a war
with America, Britain, and possibly—to judge from the recent astonishing
remark by that able writer “Pertinax”—France. France may use her
influence at Washington on behalf of Japan in certain matters, but that
is all Japan will get from France. The Japanese, I believe, now fully
realize this, and the trend of recent Japanese utterances is all in the
direction of discussion and the disavowal of any belligerent dreams.

Yet, Japan continues to arm, and though she now disavows war as her
method, she sits very proudly and stiffly in her weapons at the parley.
She may have limited and restrained her dreams, but there is still some
minimum in her mind beyond which she will not retreat without a
struggle. What is that minimum which will satisfy her without war? Will
it satisfy her for good, will it seem so permanently satisfactory to her
that she will be willing not only to set aside the thought of and
preparation for an immediate war, but—what is of far more
importance—enter into such a binding contract for her future
international relationships as will enable her to beat the swords of her
Samurai into ploughshares for good and all?

Is Japan peculiarly an obstacle to the practical, if informal,
federation of the world to which we all hope that things are moving?

When I try to frame a hopeful answer to that question, it occurs to me
with added force that Japan is not a people trying to express itself
through a Government as we Atlantic peoples are, but a Government, a
small ruling class, in effective possession of an obedience-loving
people. And I remember that that small ruling class has a long tradition
of romantic and chivalrous swordsmanship. Is that ruling class going to
keep its power and is it going to preserve its tradition? No one would
be more urgent than I for the complete disarmament of the entire world,
but no one could be more convinced of the unwisdom of disarmament by
America or any other power while any single country in the world
maintains a spirit that must lead at last to a resumption of warfare. TO

But is that Japanese ruling class resolved at any cost, even at the cost
of another World War and at the risk of destroying Japan, to hold onto
its present power and to adhere rigidly to its tradition? In the last
hundred years Japan, because of her aristocracy and because of her
general obedience, has achieved feats of adaptation to new conditions
that are unparalleled in history. As we have noted, there have recently
been indications of further changes in the spirit of Japan.

She is said to be pressing forward with the education of the common
people and the liberation of thought and discussion. In the long run,
what is happening in the schools of Japan is of more importance to
mankind than what is happening in her dockyards. But at present we do
not know what is happening in the schools of Japan. One hears much of
New Japan and Liberal Japan, and there is even an unofficial
representative of the Japanese Opposition in Washington. But, so far as
we can judge at this distance, we must be guided by the policy and
methods of the Japanese Government.

Before we can judge these we must consider the nature of the field in
which they seem to clash most with American ideas and with American and
European interests, namely, China and Eastern Asia generally. In my next
paper I will ask, “What is China?” and consider the nature of the needs
and claims of Japan in regard to China and the prohibitions and the
renunciations the Western powers want to impose upon her. For it is on
account of these restrictions and prohibitions that Japan has been
building her battleships. Her fighting fleet is to secure her a free
hand in China and Siberia; it can have no other purpose. And I shall
take up the question whether the prohibitions and renunciations we want
to force upon Japan are not prohibitions and restrictions that we are
bound in fairness to impose equally upon all powers concerned with China
and the Far East. If the other powers are not prepared for extreme
general retractions and renunciation in China; if they want to bar out
Japan from aggressive practices and exclusive advantages that other
powers retain; if we cling to any sort of racial distinction in these
matters, then I shall submit, we are asking impossible things from Japan
and we are forcing her toward what must must be indeed a very desperate
gamble for her, a refusal to enter into this proposed disarmament
agreement—and that means war.

                        CHINA IN THE BACKGROUND

                                                    Washington, Nov. 16.

The Chinese propaganda in America and Western Europe seems on the whole
to be conducted more efficiently than the Japanese. And the Chinese
student, it seems to me, gets into closer touch with the educated
American and European because his is a democratic and not an
aristocratic habit of mind. He has an intensely Western sense of public

The masses of China may be destitute, ignorant and disordered, but in
their mental habits they are modern and not mediæval, in the same sense
that the Japanese are mediæval and not modern. The Chinese seem to “get
on” with their Western social equivalents better than any of the Asiatic
people. And increasing multitudes of Chinese are learning English today;
it is the second language in China.

Now, if Japan is the figure in the limelight at Washington today, China
is the giant in the background and scene of the present Pacific drama.
We have had so much in the papers lately about these two countries, we
have been treated to such a feast of particulars about them, that most
of us have long since forgotten very thoroughly the broad facts of the
case, and it will be refreshing to recall them here and now.

Let us remind ourselves that China is a country with a population
amounting at the lowest estimate to between twice and three times the
population of the United States, or of France and England put together.
This population has the longest unbroken tradition of peaceful industry
in the world. It is essentially civilized; it respects learning and
civility profoundly. A common literature and ancient traditions keep its
people one.

In the past China has been divided again and again—always to reunite.
But it has become “old-fashioned,” dangerously old-fashioned, perhaps by
reason of its very stability; it has lagged behind most of the world in
the development of its transport and economic possibilities. In mineral
deposits and other natural resources and in the industrial capability of
its sturdy and intelligent population it has more undeveloped wealth
than any other single people in the world. It is only in the last
century or so that China has lagged behind.

Only a few centuries ago China was as civilized as Europe and
politically more stable. In a century or so she may be again the most
civilized and intelligent power in the world, flourishing in fellowship
and perfect understanding with the great states of America and Europe.

She may be—if she is not torn to pieces and kept in a state of
enfeeblement and disorder by the hostile action of external powers.

But at present China is in a state of political impotence. Her Manchu
imperialism has proved itself to be hopelessly inefficient and China is
now struggling to reconstruct upon modern republican lines, obviously
suggested by the American example. A few decades ago Japan astonished
the world by Europeanizing herself upon Prussian lines. China now, under
far less favorable conditions and with a vaster country and a less
disciplined people, is struggling to Americanize herself.

But it is no easy task to make over a people at one stride from a
mediæval autocracy to a modern democracy. It is far easier to
Prussianize than to Americanize, for in the one case you have only to
train an official class and in the other you must educate a whole
people. China is torn by dissensions; the south jars with the north; she
has two or more Governments, each claiming to be THE Chinese Government,
and whole provinces have fallen under the sway of military adventurers.
It is a distressing spectacle, but it was probably an inevitable phase
in the development of New China.

Before we fall a prey to anti-Chinese propaganda it is well to recall
how long it has always taken to build up the necessary understandings
and habits of association upon which a new political system rests.

France, for example, was a land of revolutions and political instability
for nearly a century after the Great Revolution. America wrangled feebly
and dangerously for several years after the War of Independence, before
she established her Federal Government; she only cemented her union
after a colossal struggle; she was not really and securely one until a
century had elapsed.

During these long decades of probation foreign observers preached
endlessly about the fickleness of the French and the political
inefficiency of the Americans and foretold the certainty of a break-up
of the United States, just as today they sneer at Young China and
foretell the political disintegration of the Chinese. And we have to
bear in mind that the forces of reorganization and renewal in China
struggle against peculiar difficulties and interferences quite outside
the happier experiences of France and America. In particular, they
struggle against an intolerable and paralyzing amount of foreign

The brilliant series of adventures and accidents by which a London
trading company added the Empire of Great Mogul as a picturesque but
incongruously big jewel to the British Crown set an extraordinarily bad
precedent in Asiatic affairs. It obsessed European political thought
with the impossible dream of carving up all Asia into similar domains.
The Mogul’s empire was itself an empire of conquest in a land saturated
by ideas of caste, and this gave all these European adventurers the
attitude of high caste men benevolently consuming inferior races.

In that spirit, Europe—with Japan coming in presently as a hopeful
student of European methods—had been trying to cook, carve up and fight
for the portions of China for nearly a century, treating these wonderful
people as an inferior race. The very worst that can be said about Japan
with regard to China is that she has been too vigorously European.

Consider how it would have been with the United States in the years of
discord that led up to the Civil War if these difficulties had been
complicated by three such embarrassments as these: First, that most
foreigners, except now the Germans and Austrians, are outside the reach
of the native courts, that their disputes with Chinese go before special
foreign courts, that they are specially favored in regard to property
and shipping; secondly, that the Chinese Government is restricted from
raising revenue by any tariff above a flat rate of 5 per cent., and that
they are also strictly restricted to 2½ per cent. in their interior dues
upon foreign (but not Chinese) trade, so that they are in fact unable to
raise enough revenue to maintain an efficient Government; and thirdly,
that nearly all the Chinese railways—and as every American knows,
transport is the very life of modern state—are in the grip of this
foreign country or that.

These are the open and manifest inconveniences of the situation, but
behind these more open aspects there is a vast tangle of intervention
between Chinamen and Chinese affairs—schemes for further exploitation,
financial entanglements, vast concession plans and projects for “spheres
of influence” for this aggressive foreign nation or that. And this
foreign influence is not the influence of one foreign power pursuing a
single and consistent policy but a number of competing powers, all
pursuing different ends and pulling things this way and that. How could
any country reconstruct itself while it was entangled in such a net of
interference? No people on earth could do such a thing.

The plain fact is that if China is to reconstruct herself that net has
to be cut away. It is not enough to warn Japan out of China or to say
“open door” for China. The open door is good for the ventilation of that
great apartment, but what is also needed is a clearing out of the
encumbrance inside. These encumbrances are not primarily Japanese.

The five great powers sit at a green table in the form of a horseshoe in
the conference and the four lesser powers are at a straight table like
the armature of a horseshoe magnet. At the left hand corner, next the
Japanese, are the three Chinese representatives. I gather they will be
allowed to say “Shantung” at the conference in moderation but not Thibet
nor Tonquin nor the East China—or indeed any—railway. I doubt if either
Mr. Balfour or M. Briand will nerve himself to say these forbidden
words. But an irresponsible journalist may write them.

If there is to be a real end to war and disarmament there has to be
release of China to free Chinese control, and that means a self-denying
ordinance from ALL the great powers. It will be an easy one for America
and Italy to accept, but it will be a difficult sacrifice indeed for
those two hoary leaders in the break-up of China, Great Britain and
France. Neither country has a bad heart, but long ago in the East they
acquired some very bad habits. This is a time when bad habits lead very
quickly to disaster.

The real test of the quality of the conference will appear when some
issue arises which involves an assertion or denial of the principle of
“Unhand and keep your hands off China.” If the Chinese are worth while,
the conference has to establish that principle. It cannot be gracefully
advanced by America because America has so little to relinquish. It CAN
be established at the initiative of either Britain or France.

It seems plain to me that official America is waiting for some move in
this direction from either or both of these powers. If that principle of
a free China is established at the Washington Conference the way will
have been opened in the not very remote future to a healthy and vigorous
United States of China, a great modern, pacific and progressive power.
And when I write “China” I mean what any sensible man means when he
writes “China”—I mean all those parts of Asia in which the Chinese
people and the Chinese culture prevail. I include at least South
Manchuria, which is as surely Chinese as Texas is American, and which
can no more be GIVEN to any other power without the consent of China
than my overcoat can be given by one passerby to another.

The plain alternative to a released and renascent China is the cutting
up of China among the aggressive powers to the tune of that popular
American air “The Open Door,” the demoralization and disintegration of
the Chinese, international elbowing, competition, quarrels among the
powers who have “shared” China, and, at last, the next great war—which
it will be just as easy for America to keep out of as the great war of

                          THE FUTURE OF JAPAN

                                                    Washington, Nov. 18.

If we adopt as our guiding principle that China is “worth while,” if we
make up our minds—and it seems to me that the American public at least
is making up its mind—that China is to bring itself up to date and to
reorganize itself as a great union of states under purely Chinese
control, and that it is to be protected by mutual agreement among the
powers from outside interference during the age of reorganization, then
it is clear that all dreams of empire in China or any fragments of China
on the part of any other power must cease.

This building up of a united, peaceful China by the conscious,
self-denying action of the chief powers of the world is evidently, under
present conditions, the only sane policy before the powers assembled at
Washington, but it is, unhappily, quite diametrically opposed to all
traditions of competitive nationality. And I find a most extraordinary
conflict going on in men’s minds here in Washington between the manifest
sanities of the world situation and those habits of thought and action
in which we have all been bred. Competitive nationalism and the long
established competitive traditions of European diplomacy have gone far
toward wrecking the world; and they may yet go far toward wrecking the
Washington Conference. We have all got these traditions strong in us,
every one of us. These traditions, these ideas of international
intercourse as a sort of game to beat the other fellow, have as tough a
vitality as the appetite of the wasp, which will go on eating greedily
after its abdomen has been cut off. Indeed, some of the representatives
of the powers at Washington seem still to be clinging to the ambition of
finally devouring China, or large parts of China—a feast which they will
not have the remotest prospect of digesting.

If that sort of thing goes on, a continuation of war preparation, a
renewal of war and the consummation of the social smash now in progress
is inevitable. Yet, on the face of that plain, inevitable consequence,
my diplomatic friends in Washington go on talking about such insane
projects as that of ceding Manchuria to Japan right down the Great Wall;
of giving Japan practical possession of the mines of China; of giving
“compensation” in the matter of Chinese railways to France; of getting
this “advantage” or that for Great Britain, and so forth and so on. I
remain permanently astounded before the Foreign Office officials. They
have such excellent, brilliant minds, but, alas! so highly
specialized—so highly specialized—that at times one doubts whether they
have, in the general sense of the word, any minds at all.

In the face of the universal hopefulness for satisfactory results from
the conference I find myself full of doubts. The naval disarmament
proposal of Secretary Hughes was obviously meant only as the opening
proposition, the quite splendid opening proposition, of the conference.
The second meeting, I felt, would find Mr. Balfour and Admiral Kato and
M. Briand in eloquent sympathy, saying: “Certainly. All this and more
also we can do on the understanding that a stable, explicit, exhaustive,
permanent Pacific agreement can be framed by this conference that will
remove all causes of war whatever.” But the second meeting was
disappointing. One nation after another agreed, as Mr. Balfour, that
“old parliamentary hand,” put it, “in principle. But”——And now we are
all playing four-handed chess with reservations about dockyards, naval
stations, cruisers, large submarines, and the like. We are all trying to
put the effective disarmament onto the other fellow. Meanwhile the nine
powers are sitting in secret session on the Pacific question, and it is
clear from the rumors that nine-handed chess is in progress there.

Yet the fact, plain enough to any one who is not lost in the game of
diplomacy, is that this conference is an occasion for generosity and
renunciation. There is no way out of the Pacific imbroglio except to
disentangle China and form a self-denying ordinance of all the powers
concerned to leave her alone while she reconstructs. I submit that even
Japan, most intent of all the chess players, will do best to fall in
line with such a plan.

Would a world covenant to protect China from aggression and to concede
her the progressive abolition of extra-territorial privileges and the
same unlimited rights over her own railways and soil and revenue that
are enjoyed by the Americans and Japanese over theirs be any serious
harm to Japan? Would it not release Japan from her imitative career as a
pseudo-Britain or a pseudo-Germany and enable her to get on with her own
proper business, which is to be, to the fullest, completest and richest
extent, Japan?

For what, after all, is it that Japan wants? She wants safety, she
declares—just as France wants safety. She wants safety to be Japan, just
as France wants safety to be France and England wants safety to be
England. And she makes these declarations with considerable
justification. For 300 years she believed she had that safety, and we
must admit she was the least dangerous state in the whole world. For 300
years Japan waged no foreign wars; she was a peaceful, self-contained
hermit. It was American enterprise that dragged her out of her seclusion
and fear of Europe that drove her to the practices of modern
imperialism. They are not natural Japanese practices. She fought China
and grabbed Corea, because otherwise Russia would have held it like a
pistol at her throat; she fought Russia, because otherwise Russia would
have held Manchuria and Port Arthur against her; she fought in the Great
War to oust Germany from Shantung. She is now pursuing an entirely
“European” policy in China, intriguing to get a free hand in Manchuria
and Eastern Siberia; scheming for concessions, privileges and the
creation of obedient puppet governments in a dismembered China; planning
to divert the natural resources of China to her own use, primarily
because she fears that otherwise these things will be done by rival
powers and she will be cut off from trade, from raw materials and all
prosperity until at last, when she is sufficiently starved and
enfeebled, she will be attacked and Indiaized. These are reasonable,
honorable fears. They oblige her to keep armed and aggressive; hers is
an “offensive defensive.” There is no other way of allaying her
reasonable, just fears except by a permanent binding association of
world powers to put an end forever to the headlong scramble for Asia
that began a century and a half ago in India between the French and
English, to recognize frankly and to put it upon record that that phase
of history has closed, and to provide some effective means of
restoration now and the prevention of fresh aggressions in the future.

No doubt there is a military caste in Japan loving war and not even
dreading modern war. We have to reckon with that. When we ask Japan to
release China, we ask for something very much against Japanese habits of
thought. Her dominant military note is due both to ancient traditions
and recent experience. Japan had most of the fun and little of the
bitterness of the Great War and her people may conceivably have a
lighter attitude toward aggressive war than any European nation. But if
the alternatives presented to her were on the one hand disarmament and a
self-denying ordinance of the powers in relation to China, and on the
other war against the other chief powers of the world, I doubt if the
patriotism of even the most war-loving Japanese would not outbalance his
war lust. And I cannot imagine any other permanent settlement of the
Pacific situation except a self-denying ordinance to which Japan,
America and the European powers can ever possibly agree.

Now, Japan, disarmed and pledged and self-restrained by treaties and
associations against aggression on the mainland of Asia, would
nevertheless reap enormous benefits from the liberation of China. Given
just and reasonable treaties, she can do very well without armaments.
Her geographical position would make her naturally and properly the
first merchant and the first customer of a renascent China. She would
have the first bid for all the coal and ore and foodstuffs she needed.
American goods and European goods would have to come past her over
thousands of miles of sea. Chinese goods that didn’t come to her would
go elsewhere up a steep hill of freight charges. It is a preposterous
imagination that China would refuse to sell to her nearest and best
customer. Moreover, Japan’s artistic and literary culture, at once so
distinctive and so sympathetic with that of China, would receive
enormous stimulation, as it has done in the past, by a Chinese revival.
Japan would be able to keep in the van of nations not by that headlong
imitation and adoption of European devices into which circumstances have
forced her hitherto, but by a natural and orderly development of her own
idiosyncracies in the face of the enhanced power that modern resources
supply. An association of Japan with other nations to insure
uninterrupted development to China would insure that to Japan also. It
would be a mutual assurance of peace and security.

But there is one set of facts, and one only, that militates against this
idea of a pacific and progressive Japan, a splendid leader in
civilization amidst a brotherhood of nations, and that is this, that
Japan is already overpopulated, she has to import not only food but
industrial raw material, and that her population increases now by the
tremendous figure of half a million a year. That is the reality that
gives substance to the aggressive imperialism of Japan. That is why she
casts about for such regions for expansion as Eastern Siberia—a region
not represented at the conference, and so beyond its purview, and that
is why she covets some preferential control in Chinese metals and
minerals and food. Were it not for this steady invasion of the world by
hungry lives, the principle of Japan for the Japanese, China for the
Chinese, England for the English, Eastern Siberia for its own people,
would give us the simplest, most satisfactory principle for
international peace. But Japan teems.

Has any country a right to slop its population over and beyond its
boundaries or to claim trade and food because of its heedless
self-congestion? Diplomacy is curiously mealy mouthed about many things;
I have made a British official here blush at the words of birth control,
but it is a fact that this aggressive fecundity of peoples is something
that can be changed and restrained within a country, and that this sort
of modesty and innocence that leads to a morbid development of
population and to great wars calls for intelligent discouragement in
international relations.

Japan has modernized itself in many respects, but its social
organization, its family system, is a very ancient and primitive one,
involving an extreme domestication of women and a maximum of babies.
While the sanitation and hygiene of Japan were still mediæval, a
sufficient proportion of these babies died soon and prevented any
overpressure of population, but now that Japan has modernized itself in
most respects it needs to modernize itself in this respect also.

I submit that the troubles arising from excessive fecundity within a
country justify not an aggressive imperialism on the part of that
country, but a sufficient amount of birth control within its proper


                                                Washington, November 20.

The new and really quite beautiful catchword that dominates the
Washington Conference is “security.” The word was produced originally, I
believe, in France. France wants nothing in the world now but security;
she has abandoned all dreams of conquest or glory, all aggressive
economic intentions; she is the white lamb of international affairs,
washed and redeemed by the Great War. Only—she must be secure.

Great Britain, Japan are in complete unison with France on this subject.
Great Britain asks for nothing but a predominant fleet and naval
arsenals in perfect going order. Mr. Balfour’s eloquent speech at the
second session of the conference made the necessity of this for security
incontrovertible. Japan wants East Siberia, the special control of raw
material in Manchuria, a grip upon China, because she is driven by the
same passionate craving for peace and rest. We have had this explained
to us very clearly here in Washington by representative Japanese.

All these powers will accept every proposal Secretary Hughes makes, or
is prepared to make, eloquently and sincerely—“in principle.” They then
proceed to state their minimum requirements for that feeling of security
which is the goal of all peoples at the present time. When these
requirements have been stated it becomes plain that these states are not
to be so much disarmed as stripped for action, with highly efficient
instead of unwieldy and overwhelmingly expensive equipment. They do not
so much propose to give up war as to bring it back by a gentlemanly
agreement within the restricted possibilities of their austere

The French conception of security is particularly attractive. France
stipulates, I gather, for a dominant army upon the Continent of Europe,
for a Germany retained permanently by agreement among the powers at the
extremest pitch of wretchedness and feebleness, for an outcast Russia,
or a series of alliances by which such countries as Poland will be
militarized in the French interest rather than industrialized in their
own. And France, in further pursuit of the idea of perfect peace (for
France), is training great masses of barbaric Senegalese for war, with
the view of using them to police white populations and sustain their
millennium in Europe. They can have no other use now.

If they return to Africa, these trained soldiers will accumulate as a
new and interesting element in African life until some black Napoleon
arises to demand “security” for Africa.

At present France displays an astonishing confidence in the British, but
no doubt, if her amazing peasants and her wonderful soil presently lead
to partial recuperation, she will realize the need of bringing her now
neglected fleet up to “security” standards also. And it is axiomatic
among the experts that no power with a coast line is really secure
unless it has a fleet at least the double of any other fleet that can
possibly operate upon that coast.

These statements are not the facetious inventions of an irresponsible
writer; they are fair samples of the sort of thing that the various
deputations have brought with them to Washington. These are the things
we talk of and are gradually talking out of sight. And if the Washington
Conference served no other purpose at all in the world, it would have
been quite worth while in order to get together all these totally
incomparable conceptions of security and by that approximation to
demonstrate their utter absurdity. Along the lines of either unregulated
or regulated armament there can be no security for any race or people.

The only security for a modern state now is _a binding and mutually
satisfactory_ alliance with the power or powers that might otherwise
attack. The only real security for France against a German revenge is a
generous and complete understanding between the French and German
Republics so that they will have a mutual interest in each other’s
prosperity. Germany is naturally a rather bigger country than France,
and nothing on earth can alter that. Other powers or all the powers may
come into such a treaty as guarantors, but the essential thing for peace
between France and Germany is peace made good and clear between them, a
cessation of mutual injuries and hostile preparations.

The only effectual security for the communications of the British Empire
is the recognition by all mankind that this great system of
English-speaking states round and about the world is a good thing for
all mankind and a resolute effort of these states to keep to that level.
There is no other real security.

This is not “lofty idealism”; it is common sense; and the idea of
“security” by armament and by the enfeeblement of possible rivals is not
a “practical recognition of present limitations,” but a feeble surrender
to entirely vicious tendencies of the human mind.

I believe that for a little while yet Washington will continue its
researches into the meaning of armed “security,” and that then it will
turn its attention to the alternative idea, with which the nimble French
mind has also been playing, and that is security by treaty. The French
have been disposed in the past to welcome an Anglo-American-French
treaty to guarantee France against attack. The idea in that form is
dead, but the possibility of a far more comprehensive agreement, a
loose-fitting but effectual association of all the nations of the world
to keep the peace and arrange their differences by conference, is bound
to recur again as the impossibility of disarmament without settlement
becomes increasingly apparent.

There drifts into my memory here a curious feast of “security” which
occurred long ago in some Eastern equivalent of Versailles. The great
Abbassid family had suffered many things from the Ommayyad Caliphs, and
at last it rose against them and overcame them and secured the
leadership of Islam. The remnants of the Ommayyad clan were summoned to
witness and celebrate the new peace. But some of the Abbassids, inspired
by quite modern ideas of “security,” had all the Ommayyads massacred
before the banquet began. A beautiful carpet was spread over the dead
and dying and the Abbassids feasted thereon. Here was “security” to
satisfy the most exacting modern European ideals. Yet the Abbassids made
little of their security. They never rose to the glory of the Ommayyads;
the drive and strength seemed to have gone out of Arab Islam; their
history for all this “security” is one of division, decline, decay. It
takes all men to make a world.

Let us get through with this futile haggling for national advantages and
securities and let us get on to the organization of that brotherhood
which can alone save the world.

                        FRANCE IN THE LIMELIGHT

                                                Washington, November 21.

The first session of the Washington Conference featured, as the
cinematograph people say, President Harding and Mr. Secretary Hughes;
the second day was Mr. Balfour’s day; this third, from which I have just
come, was the session of M. Briand.

The four personalities contrast very strikingly. President Harding was a
stately figure making a very noble oration in the best American fashion;
Mr. Hughes was hard, exact, clear-cut, very earnest and explicit; Mr.
Balfour slender and stooping, silvery-haired and urbane, made his
carefully worded impromptu speech with a care that left no ragged end to
a sentence and no gap for applause. All three are taller and neater men
than M. Briand, whose mane of hair flows back from his face in leonine
style, whose mobile face and fluent gestures reinforce the stirring
notes of his wonderful voice. His eloquence was so great that many
Congressmen in the gallery above, quite innocent of French, were moved
to applause by the sheer grace and music of the performance.

Eloquence could not save the day or the occasion. M. Briand spoke to a
gathering that was saturated with scepticism for the cause he had to
plead. I watched the quiet, scrutinizing countenances of the six men he
turned about to face as he spoke—Root, Lodge and Hughes, as immobile as
judges; Balfour trying to look like a sympathetic ally in the face of a
discourse that insultingly ignored Great Britain as a factor of the
European situation; Lord Lee, obliquely prostrate and judicial; Geddes,
with that faintly smiling face of his, the mask of an unbeliever.

The voice of the orator rose and fell, boomed at them, pleaded, sought
to stir them—like seas breaking over rocks. Their still implacable
faces, hardly or politely, retained the effect of listening to a special
pleader—a special pleader doing his best, his foamy best, with an
intolerably bad case.

M. Briand put before the conference no definite proposals at all. After
Mr. Hughes, with that magnificent discourse of his, punctuated by “we
propose to scrap,” M. Briand was an anticlimax. France proposed to scrap
nothing. France does not know how to scrap. She learns nothing and
forgets nothing. It is her supreme misfortune. He explained the position
of France in a melodious discourse of apologetics and excuses. The
French contribution to the Disarmament Conference is that France has not
the slightest intention of disarming. She is reducing her term of
service with the colors from three years to two. In a Europe of
untrained men this is not disarmament, but economy.

The great feature of M. Briand’s discourse was his pretense of the
absolute unimportance of England in European affairs. France, for whom,
as Mr. Balfour in a few words of infinite gentleness reminded M. Briand,
France, for whom the British Empire lost a million dead—very nearly as
many men as France herself lost; France, to whose rescue from German
attack came Britain, Russia and presently Italy and America; France, M.
Briand declared, was alone in the world, friendless and terribly
threatened by Germany and Russia. And on the nonsensical assumption of
French isolation, M. Briand unfolded a case that was either—I hesitate
to consider which—and how shall I put that old alternative?—deficient in
its estimate of reality, or else—just special pleading.

The plain fact of the case is that France is maintaining a vast army in
the face of a disarmed world and she is preparing energetically for
fresh warlike operations in Europe and for war under sea against Great
Britain. To excuse this line of action M. Briand unfolded a fabulous
account of the German preparation for a renewal of hostilities; every
soldier in the small force of troops allowed to Germany is an officer or
non-commissioned officer, so that practically the German Army can expand
at any moment to millions, and Germany is not morally disarmed because
Ludendorff—M. Briand quoted him at some length—is still writing and
talking militant nonsense.

Even M. Briand has to admit that the present German Government is honest
and well meaning, but it is a weak Government. It is not the real thing.
The real Germany is the Germany necessary for M. Briand’s argument. And
behind Germany is Russia. He conjured up a great phantom of Soviet
Russia which would have conquered all Europe but for the French Armies
and Poland. That iniquitous attack of Poland upon Russia last May was,
he assured his six quiet-eyed auditors and the rest of us, a violent
invasion of Western civilization by Russia.

“There were those in Germany,” he said in a voice to make our flesh
creep, “who beckoned them on.” The French had saved us from that. The
French Army, with its gallant Senegalese, was the peacemaker and
guardian of all Europe.

One listened incredulous. One waited still incredulous to hear it
over again from the interpreter. Yes, we were confirmed; he really
had said that. Poor, exhausted Russia, who saved Paris, desiring
nothing but to be left alone; bled white, starving, invaded by a
score of subsidized adventurers; invaded from Esthonia, from Poland,
from Japan, in Murmansk, in the Crimea, in the Ukraine, on the
Volga, incessantly invaded, it is this Russia which has put France
on the offensive-defensive!

One is reminded of the navvy who kicked his wife to death to protect
himself from her violence.

(It is interesting to recall here that one of the Kaiser’s favorite
excuses for German armament, when it was Germany and not France which
aspired to dominate Europe, was his acute dread of the Yellow Peril.)

When he talked to the journalists in preparation for this display, M.
Briand excused France for wanting submarines in quantity because, he
said, she was liable to attack upon three coasts, but maturer reflection
omitted this aspect of the French case from M. Briand’s attention. It
was too thick even for an American audience. And even Mr. Balfour, with
all his charming tenderness for a fellow-statesman, could not well have
avoided the plain question, “From whom does France anticipate a sea

France is in about as much danger of an attack upon her three coasts as
the United States of America is upon her Canadian frontier. Her ships
are as safe upon the sea as a wayfarer on Fifth Avenue. If she builds
submarines now, she builds them to attack British commerce and for no
other reason whatever. All the Ludendorffs and Soviets in the world do
not justify a single submarine. Every submarine she launches is almost
as direct a breach of the peace with Britain as though she were to start
target practice at Dover Harbor across the straits, and every one in
England will understand the aim of her action as clearly. As M. Briand,
in his discourse to the journalists, argued that the empire of France
was as far-flung as that of Britain, her need to protect her
communication was as great. This was in the face of Mr. Balfour’s
reminder that Britain can feed its people only for seven weeks if its
overseas supplies are cut off. France can feed from her own soil all the
year round. The argument was not good enough for a boys’ debating
society, and M. Briand, who is prepared to scrap nothing else, was at
least well advised to scrap that.

I will confess that I am altogether perplexed by the behavior of France
at the present time. I do not understand what she believes she is doing
in Europe and I do not understand her position in this conference. Why
could she not have co-operated in this conference instead of making it a
scene of special pleading? I have already said that the French here seem
to be more foreign than any other people and least in touch with the
general feeling of the assembly. They seem to have come here as national
advocates, as special pleaders, without any of that passionate desire to
lay the foundations of a world settlement that certainly animates nearly
every other delegation. They do not seem to understand how people here
regard either the conference or France.

There is indeed a great and enduring enthusiasm for France in America.
Marshal Foch has gone about in America as the greatest of heroes and the
most popular figure. He has been overwhelmed by hospitality and
smothered by every honor America could heap upon him. The French flag is
far more in evidence than the British in both New York and Washington.
This may easily give French visitors the idea that they are exceptional
favorites here and that France can count upon American backing in any
quarrels she chooses to pick with the British or the Germans or

There could be no greater error. The enthusiasm for Foch is largely
personal; he was the General of all the Allies. The enthusiasm for
France is largely traditional and it does not extend to the French
nationals or the present day. America loves, as all liberal and
intelligent men throughout the world must love, France the great
liberator of men’s minds; France of the great Revolution; the France of
art and light, France, the beautiful and the gallant. It is hard to
write bitterly of a country that can give the world an Anatole France,
sane and smiling, or so brave and balanced a gentleman as the late
Robert d’Humiers. But where is that France today? None of that France
has come to the Washington Conference, but only an impenitent apologist
for three years of sins against the peace of the world, an apologist for
national aggression posturing as fear, and reckless greed disguised as

Here in New York and Washington I find just the same steady change of
opinion about France that is going on in London. I want to write it down
as plainly as I can. I want to get it over to my friends in France,
because I have loved France greatly, and I do not think the French
people realize what is going on among the English-speaking peoples.
People here want to see Europe recuperating, and they are beginning to
realize that the chief obstacle to a recuperating Europe is the
obstinate French resolve to dominate the Continent, to revive and carry
out the antiquated and impossible policy of Louis XIV., maintaining an
ancient and intolerable quarrel, setting Pole against German and brewing
mischief everywhere in order to divide and rule, instead of entering
frankly into a European brotherhood.

Feeling about Germany and Austria is changing here, even more rapidly
than in England, to pity and indignation; feeling about Russia is
drifting the same way. One detects these undercurrents in the minds of
the most unlikely people. People are recalling the France of Napoleon
III., that restless and mischievous France, which came so near to a
conflict with America in Mexico and which kept Europe in a fever for a
quarter of a century. It is an enormous loss to the Washington
Conference, it is a misfortune to all the world, that the great
qualities of the French people, their clear-headedness, their powerful
and yet practical imaginations seem at present to be entirely
subordinated to the merely rhetorical and emotional side of the French

                                THUS FAR

                                                    Washington, Nov. 22.

How are we getting on in Washington?

The general mood is hopefulness tempered by congestion, mental and
physical, and by sheer fatigue. There is no rest in Washington, no
cessation. Last winter I was a happy invalid at Amalfi, I sat in the
Italian sunshine, the hours were vast globes of golden time, my mind and
my soul were my own. Now I live to the tune of a telephone bell and the
little feverish American hours slip through my hot, dry hands before I
can turn my thoughts around. I wish I could attend to everything.

The conference has evolved two committees, one on disarmament and one on
Pacific affairs, which meet behind closed doors, so that one has three
or four divergent reports of what has happened to choose from; delegates
at all hours and in devious ways call together the press men to make
more or less epoch-making statements; there are particular conferences
with representative business men of this country and educationists of
that, and so forth; one is called upon by a multitude of well informed
people insistent upon this fact or that point of view, eloquent
sidelights from South China, Albania, Czecho-Slovakia clamor for
attention. And there is a terrible multitude of mere pesterers who want
to do something—they know not what. The weather here is unusually warm
and inclined to be cloudy, a brewhouse atmosphere, due entirely, one
humorist declares, to the tremendous fermentation that is going on.

The fermenting vat overflows with the press of all the world. All the
world, we feel, is present in spirit at Washington.

Three questions stand out as of importance and significance. The naval
disarmament discussion, as one could have foretold, becomes a haggle for
advantages. Each power seeks to disarm the other fellow. Great Britain
detests the big raider submarine and wants none of it; it is America’s
only effective long range weapon. A clamor comes to us from across the
ocean from the French Senate for unlimited submarines. These will be to
attack Great Britain; there can be no other possible use for them.
Perhaps the French Senate does not really want war with Britain, but
this is the way to get it.

Japan is asking for a seven to ten instead of a six to ten basis for
herself. And so on. So long as unsettled differences remain, disarmament
discussions are bound to degenerate in this fashion. Settlements and
sincere disarmament are inseparably interwoven. The French, however,
have led in an important pronouncement, promising evacuations and
renunciations in the Chinese area on the part of France, provided
Britain and Japan follow suit. Lord Riddle, on behalf of Britain, has
followed suit; Britain is ready to relinquish everything, with the
justifiable exception of Hongkong, a purely British creation. And M.
Briand has explained why France must have an awful army to overawe
Europe, but that still leaves certain possibilities of military
restraint open for consideration. We are still discussing whether we may
not hope to see conscription banished from the earth.

When such things swim up through the boiling activities of the
Washington vat, not merely as passing suggestions and happy ideas but
embodied in more or less concrete proposals, we cannot fail, however
jaded we may feel, from also feeling hopeful. The conference has got
only to its third session and we already seem further from war in the
Pacific and nearer security there than at any time in the last two

And these intimations of success in this world discussion, of which
Washington is the controlling nucleus, turn our minds naturally enough
to the continuation and final outcome of this great initiative of
President Harding’s. The more fruitful the conference seems likely to be
in agreements and understandings the more evident is the necessity for
something permanent arising out of it, to hold and maintain, in spirit
and in fact, this accumulation of agreements and understandings.

The Washington Conference before it breaks up and disperses must in some
way lay an egg to reproduce itself. In some fashion it must presently
return. Because we have had to bear in mind that in the final and
conclusive sense of the word the conference can decide nothing. It has
produced a fine and generous atmosphere about it; it will probably
arrive at an effectual temporary solution of a large group of problems,
but the power of final decision rests with Governments and Legislatures
far away.

The American proposals are only suggestive and they have no value as a
treaty, unless they are accepted by the powers and until the American
Senate has confirmed them by a two-thirds majority. M. Briand may have
wished to be generous and broadminded here, but in Paris is this French
Senate, inspired by a mad patriotism that would even now begin to arm
France for an “inevitable” war with Britain. The French Senate has made
a warlike gesture directly at England, has set its feet in a path that
can end only in a supreme disaster for both France and England, and it
did so, one guesses, in order to remind M. Briand that if he dared to be
reasonable, if he dared to be pacific, if he acted for Great France and
mankind, instead of at the dictates of Nationalist France, he did so at
his peril. He would have been accused of betraying his country.
“Conspuez Briand!” they would have cried in their pretty way. So M.
Briand has played the patriot’s role.

In Tokio and in London it is an open secret that the same conflict goes
on; the cables are busy with the struggle between reason and fierce
patriotism. * * * Every concession made by every country at Washington
will go back to the home land to be challenged as “weakness,” as “want
of patriotism,” as “treason.”

In America and Britain the ugly side of this business has still to come,
the outbreak of the patriotic fanatics, of the disappointed politicians
who wanted to come here, of the wrecker journalists, the dealers in
suspicion, the evil minds of a thousand types. And the lassitude that
follows great expectations has also to be reckoned with. What Washington
decides will not be the ultimate outcome; what the world will get at
last in treaties ratified and things accomplished will be the mangled
and tangled remains of the Washington decisions.

For that reason it is imperative that the Washington Conference should
meet again. Its work is not done until its decisions are realized. After
it has sent over its reports to the Goverments and Parliaments it will
adjourn, but it must not cease. With perhaps rather fuller powers, with
perhaps a wider or a different representation of the world, it must come
again to a renewed invitation, to restore once more that atmosphere of
international good will that has been created here, and to go over the
attempts to realize, or the failures to realize, the settlement it has
already worked out. And there will be many questions ripening then for
solution that it cannot deal with now.

Much remains to be done by the Washington Conference, most of its work,
indeed, is still to be done, but enough has been demonstrated already
here to convince any reasonable man that a new thing, a new instrument,
a new organ, has come into human affairs and that it is a thing that the
world needs and cannot do without again. This thing has to recur, has to
grow. It has to become a recurrent world conference. And this being
clear, it is time that public discussion, public opinion, direct itself
to the problem of the renewal of the conference in order that before it
disperses we may be assured that it will meet again.

As a temporary, transitory thing, it will presently fade out of men’s
memories and imaginations; but as a thing going on and living, which has
gone, but which, like the King in circuit, will come again to try the
new issues that have arisen and to try again the experiments that have
fallen short of expectation, it may become the symbol and rallying point
of all that vast amount of sane, humanitarian feeling and all that
devotion to mankind as a whole, and to peace and justice, that has
hitherto been formless and ineffectual in the world, for the need of
such a banner.


                                                Washington, November 23.

The Washington Conference, after its tremendous opening, seems now to be
running into slack water. It has had its three great days, in which
Secretary Hughes and Mr. Balfour and M. Briand have respectively played
the leading parts. The broad lines of a possible naval reduction and of
a possible Chinese and Pacific settlement are shaping themselves in
men’s minds.

M. Briand has spoken and now departs. France will not disarm until she
has a binding treaty which her former allies are not yet prepared to
give her. She ignores the assurances of her proved allies and the
experiences of the Great War. She goes in fear of desolate Russia and
bankrupt Germany and she is “assailable on three coasts.” So she retains
her great armies, and especially her “colonial” army. M. Briand’s
departure has something of the effect of France shaking the dust from
her feet and departing from the conference.

But France cannot step out of her share in the leadership of peace in
this fashion. France has not finished with the conference yet. She will
speak now at Washington with a voice perhaps less romantically
impressive but more practically helpful. She has explained the terrors
of her position and the assembled delegates have said “There! There!” to
her as politely and soothingly as possible. But nobody really believes
in the terrors of her position. Mr. Hughes is a man of great tenacity of
purpose, and his chief reply to M. Briand’s speech is to keep military
disarmament upon the agenda. A third committee of five powers has been
added to the two already in existence to deal with land disarmament. It
is doubtful if it can get very far unless it can bring in German and
Russian representatives to reply to the alarmist charges of M. Briand.

With the formation of this third committee the Washington Conference
would seem to have got as much before it as it is likely to handle. The
Hughes impetus has done its work and done its work well. The conference
has followed his rigorous lead almost too rigorously. It has cut off a
manageable part of the vast problem of world peace and seems well on the
way to manage it. That is exemplary—if limited. To manage a sample is to
go some way toward demonstrating that the whole is manageable. A war on
the Pacific has been averted, I think, at least for some years. But the
more general problem of world peace as one whole, the problem of ending
war for good, still remains untouched, and it is well to bear in mind
that that is so.

It is impossible not to contrast this phase in the life of the
Washington Conference with the great propositions of the opening days,
when President Harding was speaking at Arlington and in the Continental
Building of making an end to offensive—and with that of defensive—war
forever in the world. It is impossible to ignore this shrinkage of aim
and to refrain from measuring the vast omissions. That prelude, one
perceives, was the prelude to something greater than this present
conference, and more than this conference must ensue from it. The
haggling and adjustment that is now going on in the committee of five
powers on naval limitation and in the committee of nine powers on the
Pacific settlement I will not attempt to follow. It is a matter for the
experts and diplomatists; the public is concerned not with the methods
of the wrangle but with the general purport and practical outcome.

We of the general public are incapable of judging upon the merits of
battle cruisers and the possible limits to the size of submarines. Our
concern is to see such things grow rarer and rarer until they disappear.
I will not apologize, therefore, for going outside the conference
chamber for the matter of my next few papers. I will go back from Mr.
Secretary Hughes and his proposals and their consequences to President
Harding and to the great expectations with which the conference

These expectations looked not merely to an arrest of international
competition on the Pacific, and to giving threatened China a breathing
time to bring itself up to modern conditions; they looked frankly toward
the establishment of a world peace. But so far as Europe goes, where as
M. Briand’s speech reminded us, the nations are locked together in a
state of extreme danger, the conference has as yet done nothing. It is
quite possible to believe that it will do very little. It is doubtful if
the peace of Europe can ever be dealt with effectually in Washington.
The troubles of the European Continent are an old, intricate story, and
I believe the attitude ascribed here to the American Centre and West,
the attitude of “let Europe solve her own international problems and not
bother us with them,” is a thoroughly sound and wise one. America has
neither the time and attention to spare nor the particular
understandings needed to grasp the tangled difficulties of Europe. Such
initiatives as those of President Wilson about Danzig and Fiume settle
nothing and leave rankling sores. It is up to Europe to clear up and
simplify itself before it comes into the world arena with America.

It is just within the range of possibility, therefore, that some sort of
European conference may arise out of the Washington gathering. Such a
conference is becoming necessary. The divergence in spirit and aim of
France and Britain that Washington has brought out is not a divergence
to be smoothed over. Better it should flare now than smoulder later. I
have done my own small best to exacerbate it, because I believe that a
brisk quarrel and some plain speaking may clear the air for a better
understanding. Europe needs ventilation. When France, Britain, Italy and
Germany meet together to discuss their common interests, cut through
their impossible entanglements and get rid of their mutual suspicions
and precautions with the frankness of this Washington gathering, with as
open and free a discussion and as ample a public participation, European
affairs will be on the mend.

But there is another issue which America cannot keep out of as she can
keep out of the Franco-German-British situation, and upon this second
issue the world looks to her for some sort of leadership. So far the
Washington Conference has excluded any consideration of the economic and
financial disorder of the world. But that consideration cannot be
indefinitely delayed; it is becoming pressingly necessary. All the while
we are debating here about Japanese autocracy and ambitions, and what we
really mean by the “open door,” and whether we shall have 40,000 or
90,000 tons of submarines, and so on, the economic dissolution of the
world goes on.

The immediate effect of partial disarmament, indeed, both in Britain and
Japan, may be even to increase the economic difficulties of these
countries by throwing considerable masses of skilled labor out of work.
I propose in my next paper to discuss this process of economic and
social dissolution which is now going on throughout the world, beneath
the surface of our formal international relations. It is the larger
reality of the present world situation which the brighter, more dramatic
incidents of the earlier sessions at Washington have for a time thrust
out of our attention.


                                                    Washington, Nov. 25.

In the opening paper of this series I said that Western civilization was
undergoing a very rapid process of disorganization, a process that was
already nearly complete in Russia and that was spreading out to the
whole world. It is a huge secular process demanding unprecedented
collective action among the nations if it is to be arrested and I
welcome the Washington Conference as the most hopeful beginning of such
concerted action.

Now that the Washington Conference has defined its scope and limitations
and got down to a definite scheme of work it will be well to return to
this ampler question of the decline in the world’s affairs.

Now there are great numbers of people, more particularly in America, who
still refuse to recognize this intermittent and variable process, which
resumes and goes on again and rests steady for a time and then hurries,
which is taking all that we know as civilization in Europe toward a
final destruction. The mere statement that this is going on they call
“pessimism,” and with a sort of genial hostility they oppose any attempt
to consider the possibility of any action to turn back the evil process.

I suppose they would call the note of a fire alarm or the toot of a
motor horn “pessimism”—until the thing hit them good and hard. It would
have the same effect of a disagreeable warning and interruption to the
even tenor of their ways. They argue that this alleged decadence is not
going on, or, what is from a soundly practical point of view the same
thing, that it is never going to reach them or anything that they really
care for.

The starvation of Russia down to an empty shell, the break up of China,
the retrogression of Southeastern Europe to barbarism, the sinking of
Constantinople to the level of a drunken brothel, the steadily
approaching collapse of Germany, is nothing to these “optimists.”
America is all right, anyhow, and am I my brother’s keeper? It is just a
phase of misfortune “over there” and the people must get out of it as
they can.

Wait for the swing of the pendulum, the turn of the tide. Things will
come right again—over the heaps of dead. There have been such slumps
before in those countries away over there, notoriously less favored by
God, as they are, than America.

It may be well therefore to go over this matter a little more fully and
to give my grounds for supposing that there is a rot, a coming undone,
going on in our system, that will not necessarily recover—that the
movement isn’t the swing of a pendulum, nor this ebb an ebb that will
turn again. And further, that this rotting process is bound to affect
not merely Europe and Asia, but ultimately America.

Now let us recapitulate in the most general terms what has happened and
is happening at the present time to impoverish and disorganize the
world. First, there has been a very great destruction of life through
the war, especially in Europe. Mostly this has been the killing of young
men who would otherwise have been the flower of the working mass of
these countries at the present time. This in itself is a great loss of
energy, but it is a recoverable loss. A new generation is already
growing up to replace these millions of dead and to efface the economic
loss of this tragic and sorrowful destruction.

Nor is the extraordinary waste of property, of energy and raw material
spent in mere destruction, an irreplaceable loss. Given toil, given
courage, devastated areas can be restored, fresh energies found to
replenish the countless millions and millions of foot pounds of work
wasted upon explosives. Many beautiful things, buildings, works of art
and the like have gone, never to be gotten again, but their place may
conceivably be taken by new efforts of creative, artistic energy, given
toil, given confidence and hope.

Far more serious, from the point of view of the future, than the
destruction of either things or lives, are certain subtler destructions,
because they strike at that toil, that courage and hope and confidence
which are essential to any sort of recuperation.

And foremost is the fact of debt, everywhere, but particularly in the
European countries. All the billions worth of material that was smashed
up and blown to pieces on the front had to be bought from its owners and
to secure it every belligerent Government had to incur debts. Lives cost
little, but material much. The European combatants are overwhelmed with
debts, every European worker and toiler, every European business man, is
a debtor; every European enterprise goes on under a crushing burden of
taxation because of these debts. An attempt has been made to shift this
unendurable burden from the victors to the vanquished, but the
vanquished already had as much as they could carry.

Now when first mankind began to experiment with money and credit the lot
of the debtor was an intolerable one. He might become the slave of his
creditor, he might be subjected to imprisonment and frightful
punishments. But it was early discovered that it was not to the general
advantage, it was not even to the advantage of the creditor, to drive
the debtor to despair. Processes of bankruptcy were devised to clear him
up, get what was possible from him and then release him to a fresh start
and hope.

But we have not yet extended the same leniency to national bankruptcy
because national insolvencies have been rare. And so we have whole
nations in Europe so loaded with debts and punitive charges that every
worker, every business man, will be under his share in this burden from
the cradle to the grave. He will be a debt serf to the domestic or
foreign creditor and all his enterprises will be weighed and discouraged
by this obligation. Debt is one immense and universal discouragement now
throughout all Europe.

But even that might not prevent the recovery of Europe. There is yet
another and profounder evil in operation to prevent people “getting to
work” to reconstruct their shattered economic life. That is the
increasing failure of money to do its work. Europe cannot get to work,
cannot get things going again, because over a large part of the world
the medium of exchange has become untrustworthy and unusable. That is
the immediate thing that is destroying civilization in the Old World.

We have to remember that our whole economic order is based on money. We
do not know any way of working a big business, a manufactory, a large
farm, a mine, except by money payments. Payment in kind, barter and the
like are ancient and clumsy expedients; you cannot imagine a great city
like New York getting along with its industrial and business life on any
such clumsy basis. Every modern city, London, Paris, Berlin, is built on
a money basis and will collapse into utter ruin, as Petersburg has
already collapsed, if money fails. But over large and increasing areas
of Europe money is now of such fluctuating value, its purchasing power
is so uncertain, that men will neither work for it, nor attempt to save
it, nor make any monetary bargains ahead.

Such a thing has never occurred to anything like the same extent in all
history, and it is killing business enterprise altogether and throwing
whole masses of working people out of employment.

Europe without trustworthy money is as paralyzed as a brain without
wholesome blood. She cannot act, she cannot move. Employment becomes
impossible and production dies away. The towns move steadily toward the
starvation that has overtaken Petersburg and the peasants and
cultivators cease to grow anything except to satisfy their own needs. To
go to market with produce, except to barter, is a mockery. The schools
are not working, the hospitals, the public services; the teachers and
doctors and officials cannot live upon their pay, they starve or go

This state of affairs has been brought about by the reckless manufacture
of paper money by nearly every European Government; we can measure their
recklessness roughly by comparing their pre-war and post-war exchanges.
It is only now that we are beginning to realize the enormity of the
disaster which this demoralization of money is bringing upon the world.

We have weakened the link of cash payments, which has hitherto held
civilization together, to the breaking point. As the link breaks, the
machine stops. The modern city will become a formless mob of unemployed
men and the countryside will become a wilderness of food-hoarding
peasants—and since the urban masses will have no food and no means of
commanding it, we may expect the most violent perturbations before they
are persuaded to accept their fate in a philosophical spirit.

Revolutionary social outbreaks are not the results of plots; they are
symptoms of social disease. They are not causes but effects. This is
what I mean when I write of a breakdown of civilization. I mean the
death of town life, which cannot go on without money and the cessation
of organized communications. I mean a breakdown of the organizations for
keeping the peace. I mean an end to organized education.

I mean the smashing of this social order in which we live, through the
smashing of money, which has already occurred to a large extent in
Russia, which is going on in many parts of Eastern Europe, which seems
likely to occur within a few months in Germany, which may spread into
Italy and France, and so to Britain, and even to the American continent,
and which can only be arrested by the most vigorous collection action to
restore validity to money.

Of which vigorous collective action there is in Washington at the
present moment no sign.


                                                Washington, November 26.

In a previous paper I have set out the plain facts of the condition of
Central and Eastern Europe. It is a break-up of the modern civilization
system, due to the smashing up of money, without which organized town
life, factory production, education and systematic communications are
unworkable. If it goes on unchecked to its natural conclusion, Central
and Eastern Europe will follow Russia to a condition in which the towns
will be dying or dead, empty and ruinous, the railroads passing out of
use, and in which few people will be left alive except uneducated and
degenerating peasants and farmers, growing their own food and keeping a
rough order among themselves in their own fashion. We are faced, indeed
with a return to barbarism over all these areas. They are going back to
the conditions of rural Asia Minor or the Balkans.

How far is this degeneration going to spread?

Let us recognize at once that it need spread no further. It is not an
inevitable process. It could be arrested, it could be turned back and a
rapid restoration of our shattered civilization could be set going right
away if the leading powers of the world, sinking their political
ambitions for a time, could meet frankly to work out a bankruptcy
arrangement that would release the impoverished nations from debt and
give them again a valid money, a stable money with a trustworthy
exchange value, that could be accepted with confidence and saved without
deterioration. Upon that things could be set going again quite
hopefully. Education has not so degenerated as yet, habits of work and
trading and intercourse are still strong enough to make such a recovery

Except perhaps in Russia. Russia, for all we know, may have sunken very

But if there is no vigorous world effort made soon the trading class,
the foreman class, the technically educated class, the professional
class, the teachers, and so forth, will have been broken up and
dispersed. These classes are comparatively easy to destroy, extremely
hard to reconstruct. Modern civilization will really have been
destroyed, if not for good, for a long period, over great areas if these
classes go.

And the process is at present still spreading rapidly. If it gets
Germany—and it seems to be getting Germany—then Italy may follow. Italy
is linked very closely to Germany economically and financially. The
death of Germany will chill the economic blood of Italy. Italy is
passionately anxious to disarm on land and sea. But Italy cannot disarm
while France maintains a great army and makes great naval preparations.
France’s refusal to disarm prevents Italy from disarming. The lira sways
and sinks; its value fluctuates not perhaps so widely as do marks and
kronen but much too widely for healthy industrial life and social
security. And Italy is troubled by its restless nationalists, a whooping
flag-waving crew of posturing adventurers without foresight or any
genuine love of country. If nothing is done, I think I would give
Germany about six months and North Italy two years before a
revolutionary collapse occurs.

And France?

This new rhetorical France which remains heavily armed while no man
threatens, which builds new ships to fight non-existent German armies
and guards itself against the threats of long dead German Generals—one
of M. Briand’s hair-raising quotations is to be found in the
Encyclopaedia Britannica and must be nearly twenty years stale—the
renascent France which jostles against Italy and England and believes
that it can humbug America for good and all while it does these things,
will it pull through amid the general disaster of Europe? Will it
achieve its manifest ambition and remain dominant in Europe, the
dominance of the last survivor, the cock upon the dunghill of a general
decay? I doubt it.

Watch the franc upon the exchange as the true meaning of the French
search for “security” dawns upon the world. Watch the subscription to
the next French loan to pay for more submarines and more Senegalese. It
may prove to be too difficult a feat, after all, for France to wreck the
rest of Europe, to destroy her commerce by destroying her customers, and
yet to save herself. When France begins to break, she may break very
quickly. Under the surface of this exuberant French patriotism runs a
deep tide of Communism, raw and red and insanely logical.

We talk of the saner, graver France, the substantial France, that is
masked by the rhetoric of M. Briand and the flag-waving French
nationalists, of a France generous enough to help a fallen foe and great
enough to think of the welfare of mankind. I wish we could hear more of
that saner France. And soon. I can see nothing but a warlike orator,
empty and mischievous, leading France and all Europe to destruction. I
do not see that it is possible for a France of armaments and adventures
to dance along the edge of the abyss without falling in.

When we pass out of the Continental to the Atlantic system and consider
the case of Britain we find a country with a stabler exchange and a
tradition of social give and take stronger and deeper than that of any
other country in Europe. But she is not a self-maintaining country. Her
millions live very largely on overseas trade. She is helplessly
dependent upon the prosperity of other countries, and particularly of
Europe; the ebb of prosperity abroad means ebb for her at home. No other
country feels so acutely the economic prostration of Germany; no other
country suffers so greatly from the restless activities of France. She
is struggling along now with unprecedented masses of unemployed workers,
and the state of affairs abroad offers no hope of any diminution of this
burden. The housing of her great population has degenerated greatly
since the war began; she cannot continue to feed, clothe nor educate her
people as she used to do unless the decay of Continental Europe is

I do not know what political form of expression a great distress in
Britain might take. The tendency toward revolutionary violence is not
very evident in the British temperament, but people who are slow to move
are often slow to stop. The slow violence of the English might not find
expression in revolution and might not expend itself internally. They
might get resentful about France—and perhaps Germany might be feeling
resentful about France too. But I will confess that I cannot yet imagine
what an acutely distressed Britain might or might not do. Yet it is
plain to me that the shadow that lies so dark over Petrograd stretches
as far as London.

Such, compactly, is the condition of Europe today. I submit to the
reader that it is a fair statement of facts in common knowledge. This is
not the Europe of the diplomatists and publicists; it is the Europe of
reality and the common man. It is a process of decline and fall going on
under our eyes, swifter and more extensive than the decline and fall of
the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. Its immediate cause
is the destruction of the monetary system under the burden of war
expenditure and war debts. And the only possible hope that it may be
arrested lies in a prompt and vigorous world conference to put an end to
war expenditures, including even these French war expenditures that M.
Briand’s admirers find so justifiable; to extinguish debts and reinstate
stable and trustworthy money in the world.

There is no evidence yet that the Washington Conference will take up
this task or will even contemplate this task. I find myself in the
trough of the waves today and less confident of the outcome, even the
limited outcome, of things here. I am increasingly doubtful whether the
conference will get as far in the direction of a stabilized Pacific as I
hoped a few days ago.

                            WHAT OF AMERICA?

                                                Washington, November 28.

In my next article I will report progress of the Washington Conference;
in this I will go on with my account in general terms of what is
happening in the world.

I have written of a progressive rapid dissolution of our civilized
organization as the dominant fact of the present time. It is very hard
indeed to keep it in one’s mind here in this city of plenty and lavish
light that anything of the sort is going on. It is amazing how they
splash light about here; the Capitol shines all night like a full moon,
an endless stream of light pours down the Washington Obelisk, light
blinks and glitters and spins about and spills all over the city.

I find it hard to realize the reality of the collapse here myself, and
yet I have seen the streets of one great European city in full daylight
as dead and empty as a skull. I have sought my destination in the chief
thoroughfare of another European capital at night by means of a pocket
electric torch. I at least ought to keep these memories of desolation
clear before me.

I do not see how Americans who have never seen anything of the wrecked
state of Eastern Europe and the shabbiness and privation of the Centre
can be expected to feel and see the vision I find it so hard to keep
vivid in my thoughts. Here is a country where money is still good; the
$10 notes in my pocket assure me I can go down to the Treasury here and
get gold for them whenever I think fit. (I believe them so thoroughly
that I do not even think fit.) My intimations of the progressive
dissolution over there must read like a gloomy fiction. And it is the
hardest, most important fact in the world.

Everywhere here there is festival. I go to splendid balls, to glittering
receptions; I am whirled off to a most hilarious barbecue, an ox in
chains, roasts and drips over a wood fire—think of that in Russia!
Thanksgiving Day was an inordinate feast. The portions of food they give
you in hotels, clubs and restaurants are enormous, by present European
standards; one seems always to be eating little bits and throwing the
rest away.

Neither New York nor Washington shows a trace yet, that I can see, of
the European shadow. There is much unemployment, but not enough yet to
alarm people. Nothing of it has struck upon my perceptions either here
or in New York. In the midst of this gay prosperity comes a letter from
my wife describing how the police had to censor the bitter inscriptions
upon the wreaths that were laid upon the London cenotaph on Armistice
Day and how the veterans of the Great War who marched in the unemployed
processions in London wore pawn tickets in the place of their medals.

I am forced by these contrasts to the question: “Suppose America patches
up a fairly stable peace with Japan; lets Japan accumulate in Manchuria,
Siberia, and finally China; cuts her naval expenditure to nothing, and
allows the rest of the world, including the old English-speaking home,
to slide and go over into the abyss—apart from the moral loss, will she
suffer very greatly?”

That is a very interesting speculation.

I think she may adjust herself to a self-contained system and, in a
sense, pull through. It may involve some very severe stresses. At
present she grows more food than she can eat or waste; she exports
foodstuffs. The American farmer sells so much of his produce for export,
not a very great percentage, but enough to form an important item in his
affairs. Given a Europe and Asia too impoverished and broken up to
import food stuffs, that trade goes. The American farmer will have to
sell to a shrunken demand; he will have either to shrink himself or
undersell his fellow farmer. This will mean bad times for the American
farmer as Europe sinks; farmers will be unable to buy as freely as
usual; many agriculturists will be going out of business.

Firms like Ford will be embarrassed by overproduction. American
manufacturers are also, to a very marked but not overwhelming extent
exporters and much of their internal trade is to the farmers—whose
purchasing power will be diminishing. Bad times for the industrial
regions also will follow the European disaster, perhaps even very bad
times. New York and the Eastern cities, so far as the overseas traffic
goes, may suffer exceptionally. For them there may be less power of
recovery, for with the fall of Europe into barbarism, the centre of
American interests will shift to the interior. But after a series of
crises, a lot of business failures and so on, I do not see why the
United States—if there is no war with Japan—very little reduced from the
large splendor of its present habits, should not still be getting along
in a fashion. America is not tied up to the European system, to live and
die with it, as France or Britain is tied.

And there is a limit also to the areas of the Old World affected by the
collapse of the cash and credit system in Europe. Outside the European
seacoast towns, Asia Minor is not likely to go much lower than it is at
present, though most of Europe sink to the level of the Balkans and Asia
Minor. The dissolution of Asia Minor resulted from the great wars of the
Eastern Empire and Persia; all that land was ruined country before the
days of Islam. It has never recovered and Europe may never recover.

Given an enfeebled Britain, there will probably be a collapse into
conflict and discord throughout most of India; and China, unhelped, may
continue in a state of confusion which is steadily destroying her
ancient educated class and her ancient traditions without replacing them
by any modernized educational organization. But here again upon the
Western Pacific there may be regions which need not go the whole way
down to citylessness, illiteracy and the peasant life.

Japan is still solvent and energetic, the war has probably strained her
very little more than it has strained America, and her participation in
the world credit system is still so recent that, like America, she may
be able to draw herself together and maintain herself and expand her
rule and culture, unimpeded, over the whole of Eastern Asia. She will be
the more able to do this if a phase of disarmament gives her time to
rest and consolidate before her expansion is resumed. A war between
Japan and America would be a long and costly affair and it would no
doubt topple both powers into the same process of dissolution in which
Europe now welters, but I am assuming that America takes no risk of such
a war for the sake of China or suchlike remote cause and that Japan is
not eager for California. An America indifferent to the fall of Europe
would probably not trouble itself seriously if presently Australia came
under Japanese domination. It would not trouble—until the Monroe
Doctrine was invaded. And it would get along very comfortably and

So far as material considerations go, therefore, there is not much force
in an appeal to the ordinary plain man in America to interest himself,
much less to exert himself, in the tangled troubles of Europe and Asia
now. He can remain as proudly “isolated” as his fathers; he can refuse
help, he can “avoid entangling alliances,” and rely on his own strength;
he can weather the smash, insist on pressing any sparks of recovery out
of the European debtor, and so far as he and his children, and possibly
even his children’s children, are concerned, America can expect to go on
living an extremely tolerable life. There will still be plenty of Fords,
plenty of food, movies and other amusing inventions; seed time, harvest
and thanksgiving; no armament and very light taxation and as high a
percentage of moral, well-regulated lives as any community has ever
shown upon this planet. Until that long-distant time when the great
Asiatic Empire of Japan turns its attention seriously to expansion in
the New World.

So far as present material considerations go....

But I belong to one of the races that have populated America. I know the
imagination of my own people and something of most of the peoples who
have sent their best to this land, I have watched the people here, and
listened to them and read about them; there has been no degeneration
here but progress and invigoration, and I will not believe that the
American spirit, distilled from all the best of Europe, will tolerate
this surrender of the future, this quite hoggish abandonment of the
leadership of mankind that continuing isolation implies.

The American people has grown great unawares; it still does not realize
its immense predominance now in wealth, in strength, in hope, happiness
and unbroken courage among the children of men. The cream of all the
white races did not come to this continent to reap and sow and eat and
waste, smoke in its shirtsleeves in a rocking-chair, and let the great
world from which its fathers came go hang. It did not come here for
sluggish ease. It came here for liberty and to make the new beginning of
a greater civilization upon our globe. The years of America’s growth and
training are coming to an end, the phase of world action has begun. All
America is too small a world for the American people; the world of their
interest now is the whole round world.

I have no doubt of the heart and enterprise of America—if America

But does America understand the scale and urgency of the present
situation? Is she prepared to act now? This decadence of Europe is
urgent—urgent. So far, this Washington Conference has not touched more
than the outer threads of the writhing international tangle that has to
be dealt with if European civilization is to be saved.

So far, these economic and financial troubles which are already at a
crisis of disaster in Europe have been treated as though they did not
exist. But they are the very heart of the trouble across the Atlantic,
and with America, the rich creditor of all Europe and the holder of most
of the gold in the world, lie enormous possibilities of salvation. The
political situation becomes more and more subordinated to the economic.

If America is willing, America is able to reinstate Europe and turn back
the decline, _and she is in so strong a position that she can make the
effectual permanent disarmament of Europe a primary condition of her
assistance_. If she have the clearness of mind to set aside the eloquent
apologetics of that one power that is still militant, adventurous and
malignant among the ruins, she can oblige the remnant of Europe to get
together and settle outstanding differences by the sheer strength of her
financial controls. She can demand a “League to Enforce Peace,” and she
can enforce it.

Will she do that now, or will she let this occasion pass from her—never
to return?

                         EBB TIDE AT WASHINGTON

                                                    Washington, Nov. 28.

The League of Nations was the first American initiative toward an
organized world peace. Its beginning, the world-wide enthusiasm evoked
by its early promise, its struggle to exist, its abandonment by America,
its blunders and omissions and the useful, incomplete body that now
represents it at Geneva, are the material of an immense conflicting
literature. For a time at least the League is in the background. It has
not kept hold of the popular imagination of the world.

I will not touch here upon the mistakes and disputes, the possible
arrogance, the possible jealousies, the inadvisable compromises, the
unnecessary concessions that made the League a lesser thing than it
promised to be. I will not discuss why so entirely American a project,
into which many nations came mainly to please America, failed to retain
the official support of the American Government. Of such things the
historian or the novelist may write but not the journalist. The fact
remains that the project was a project noble and hopeful in its
beginnings, a very great thing indeed in human history, a dawn in the
darkness of international conflict and competition, an adventure which
threw a halo of greatness about the Nation that produced it and about
that splendid and yet so humanly limited man who has been chiefly
identified with its promise and its partial failure.

It was, I insist, very largely an American idea, and only America,
because of her freedom from the complex and bitter-spirited traditions
of the European Foreign Offices, could have brought such a proposal into
the arena of practical politics. The American Nation is exceptionally
free from ancient traditions of empire, ascendancy, expansion, glory and
the like. It is haunted by a dream, an obstinate recurrent dream, of a
whole world organized for peace. It comes back to that with a notable

The League of Nations stands now, as it were, on the shelf, an
experiment not wholly satisfactory, not wholly a failure, destined for
searching reconsideration at no distant date. Meanwhile, the American
mind, with much freshness and boldness, has produced this second
experiment, in a widely different direction, the First Washington
Conference for the Limitation of Armaments. The League of Nations was
too definite and cramped in its constitution, too wide in its powers. It
was a premature superstate. One standard objection, and a very
reasonable one, was that America might be outvoted by quite minor powers
and be obliged to undertake responsibilities for which it had no taste.
The second experiment, therefore, has been tried, very properly, with
the loosest of constitutions, and the most severely defined and limited
of aims. We are beginning to see that it too is an experiment, likely to
be successful within its limits but again not wholly satisfactory.
Instead of a world constitution we have had a world conversation.

That conversation has passed from the open sessions of the conference to
the two committees of five upon the limitation of land and sea armaments
and the Pacific Committee of nine. In all these committees there are
wide fluctuations of thought and temper. There are daily communications
to the press from this committee or that, from this delegation or that,
from a score of propagandas. It is really not worth the while of the
ordinary citizen to follow these squabbles and flights and
recriminations and excitements. Certain broad principles have been
established. The ordinary citizen will be advised to hold firmly to
these and see that he gets them carried through.

And now there has been a decided ebb in the high spirit of the
conference. These disputes about details have produced a considerable
amount of fatigue, attention is fatigued and the exploit of M. Briand
has for a time shattered and confused the general mentality. The
American public was in a state of pure and simple enthusiasm for peace
and disarmament and quite unprepared for the exploit of M. Briand. Like
all serious shocks, it did not at first produce its full result.

The mood was so amiable here, so eager for cheering and emotional human
brotherhood, that when France, in the person of M. Briand, snapped her
fingers at the mere idea of disarmament and quoted a twenty-year-old
passage from a dead German Field Marshal to justify a vast army and an
aggressive naval programme in the face of an exhausted Europe, there was
a touching disposition on the part of a considerable section of the
American press to greet this display as in some way conducive to our
millennial efforts. Only a few of us called a spade a spade right away
and declined to pretend that the irony and restrained indignation of Mr.
Balfour and Signor Schanzer were “indorsements” of M. Briand’s
stupendous claim that France with her submarines and Senegalese might do
as she pleased in Europe.

The facts that the caustic and restrained utterances of these gentlemen
could be so construed, and that the London Daily Mail should attempt to
break and mutilate my comments on the French attitude, demonstrate
beyond doubt the need there was for the utmost outspokenness in this
matter. But the situation is now better realized. The air is already
clearer for the outburst. France, we realize, has to stop bullying
Germany and threatening Italy; Europe can only be saved by the honest
and unreserved co-operation of Italy, France and Britain for mutual aid
and reassurance.

The repercussion of the Franco-British clash was immediately evident
upon the other issues of the conference. The practical refusal of France
to join in the generous renunciations of America and Britain, the
feeling of insecurity created in Western Europe weakened Britain in her
ability to work with America on the Pacific for a secure China and for
restraint upon the possible imperialism of Japan. Britain cannot do that
with a hostile neighbor behind her and an uncertain America at her side,
and the prospects of a free China and for an effective limitation of the
Japanese naval strength were greatly imperilled. Japanese demands
stiffened. “Ten to six,” said America. “Ten to seven,” answered Japan.

The effect upon what I might call the Washington state of mind
throughout the world was depressing. The easy onrush of the opening days
was checked. Here was hard work ahead, complications, the traditions and
mental habits of two great European peoples were in conflict and had
somewhat to be adjusted if we were to get on. The Anglo-French Entente,
we discovered, was in a very unsatisfactory state; it had suddenly to be
sent to the wash and the washing had to be done in public, and this
happened at a phase of lassitude. In the ebb of the great enthusiasm all
sorts of buried rocks and shoals became apparent again. Party politics
reappeared—and remained showing.

I am an innocent child in American politics; I know that I make my
artless remarks upon these things at considerable peril. But I gather
from the self-betrayals of one or two influential people that things are
somewhat in this frame. The Democrats feel that so far they have been
almost supernaturally “good” about the conference. They haven’t said a
word by way of criticism; they have hailed and helped and smiled and
cheered. Still——If things should so turn out that a kind of
insufficiency should appear, and if people’s minds should revert
thereupon toward the Democratic League of Nations idea, so much under a
cloud at present, it would be rather more than human not to feel a faint
gleam of pleasure and perhaps even to give the gentlest of pushes to the
process of disillusionment.

And on the other hand, there betrays itself now and then a slight
nervous eagerness on the part of loyal rather than good Republicans to
call anything that happens a success and to become indignant when, as in
the case of the Briand oration, a spade is called a spade. And that
childish, undignified and dwindling tendency of certain American types
to regard all foreign powers in general, and Britain in particular, as
forever engaged in diabolical machinations against the peace and purity
of American life is also increasingly evident. There is an open, if
incoherent, press campaign against disarmament, against the British,
against foreigners generally, against—any troublesome thing you like.

These are ebb tide phenomena. These are the limitations of our poor
humanity under fatigue. None the less, matters have to be thrashed out
and will be thrashed out. As I said in the beginning, it is hard to keep

And so it was high time that the President, who embodies so much of the
simplicity and strength of that real America, in which I am a profound
and obstinate believer, should come back into the limelight from which
he receded after delivering his great speech and leaving the chair on
the opening day of the conference. In the indirect way customary with
Presidents here he has been making some very important pronouncements.

My friend Mr. Michelson some days ago published a sketch of very
important proposals that had already received wide support in the
informal discussions that pervade Washington—for partial rescinding of
the Allied debts, subject to disarmament conditions, to be considered by
a second conference to be presently assembled. Following on this news
the President has been talking for publication of a third experiment in
the form of a second Washington Conference to take up these issues. And
he has also been talking of a third conference to confirm and go on with
the disarmament arrangements, a conference at which Germany and the
Spanish-speaking powers, if not Russia, are apparently to have a voice.
Such a periodic repetition of the conference would presently organize
itself for a continuing life and so develop gradually and naturally into
that Association of Nations we are all seeking.

These are refreshing promises in these days of ebb; they show that the
impulse that began so splendidly two weeks ago is not dead, that the
tide rises toward world discussion and world organized peace will flow
again presently, wider and stronger than its previous flow. And
meanwhile these frank discussions of attitude and detail must go on;
they cannot be ignored, but at the same time they must not be magnified
into incurable quarrels and insurmountable difficulties. They are
unavoidable and necessary things, but not the big things, the main
things. While the tide is out our main projects, stranded in this
estuary that leads perhaps to the ocean of peace, must needs keel over
and look askew; we must scrape our keels, calk leaks and wait for the
great waters to return.


                                                    Washington, Nov. 30.

The power of the American impulse toward a world peace is undeniable. It
has produced in succession the great dream of a League of Nations and
now this second great dream of a gradually developing Association of
Nations arising out of a series of such conferences as this one. No
other nation could have raised such hopes and no other political system
has the freedom of action needed to give these projects the substance
and dignity which the initiative of the head of the state involves.

But if these projects are to carry through into the world of
accomplished realities, if in a lifetime or so this glorious dream of a
world peace—going on, as a world at peace must now inevitably do, from
achievement to achievement—if that dream is to be realized, certain
peculiarities of the American people and the American situation have at
no very distant date to be faced.

All such gatherings and conferences as this are haunted by a peculiar
foggy ghost called “Tact,” which is constantly seeking to cover up and
conceal and obliterate some vitally important but rather troublesome
reality in the matter. “Tact” is apparently a modern survival of the
ancient “Tabu.” For example, a pleasant Indian gentleman sits among the
British delegates at the conference; “Tact” demands that no one shall
ever ask him or of him, “What do you conceive will be the place of India
in that great World Association half a century ahead? Will it still be a
British appendix?” And “Tact” becomes hysterical at the slightest
whisper of the word “Senegalese,” or any inquiry about the possible uses
of the French submarine. And a third question, hitherto veiled by “Tact”
under the very thickest wrappings of fog, to which, greatly daring, I
propose to address myself now, is: “How far is America really prepared
to fix and adhere to any wide schemes for the permanent adjustment of
the world’s affairs that may be arrived at by this conference or its

The other day a friend of mine in New York made a profoundly wise remark
to me. “I have found,” she said, “that one can have nothing and do
nothing without paying for it. If you do well or if you do ill, just the
same you have to pay for it. If a mother wants to do her best by her
children, she must pay for it, in giving up personal ambitions, dreams
of writing or art, throughout the best years of life. If a man wants to
do his best in business or politics, he must sacrifice dreams of travel
and adventure.” And whatever America does with herself in the next few
years, she too must be prepared to pay.

If she desires isolation, moral exaltation, irresponsibility and
self-sufficiency, “America for the Americans and never mind the
consequences,” she must be prepared to witness the decline and fall of
the white civilization in Europe and the consolidation of a profoundly
alien system across the Pacific. If, on the other hand, she now takes up
this task for which she seems so inclined, as the leader and helper of
white civilization, the task of organizing the permanent peace of the
world upon the lines of the system of civilization to which she belongs,
then for that nobler role also there is a price to be paid. She has to
assume not only the dignity but the responsibilities of leadership. She
has not merely to express noble sentiments, but to lay hold upon the
difficulties and intricacies of the problem before her. She has not
merely to criticise but to consider and sympathize and help, and she has
to make decisions and abide by them.

When America really makes decisions, she abides by them—vigorously. The
Monroe Doctrine was such a decision. It has saved South America for
South Americans; it has saved Europe from a ruinous scramble for the
Spanish inheritance. It was the first great feat of Americanism in world
politics. The exponents of “Tact” will, I know, be outraged by the
reminder that for a long time tacit approval of Britain and the
existence of the British fleet provided a support and shield to the
Monroe Doctrine, and also by the further reminder that the one serious
attack upon it was made by Napoleon III. during the American Civil
War—at which time, I admit, the attitude of Great Britain to the
disunited States was also far from impeccable. But helped or assailed,
the Monroe Doctrine held good.

The Washington Conference has developed a position with regard to the
Pacific that calls for an American decision of equal vigor. It is as
plain as daylight that Japanese liberal tendencies can be supported and
the aggressive ambitions of Japanese imperialism can be restrained, that
China can be saved for the Chinese and Eastern Siberia from foreign
conquest, provided America places herself unequivocally side by side
with Great Britain and France in framing and _sustaining_ a definite
system of guarantees and prohibitions in Eastern Asia. The
Anglo-Japanese agreement could be ended in favor of such a new
peace-pact and an enormous step forward toward world peace be made. It
would mark an epoch in world statecraft.

But this means an agreement of the nature of a treaty; a mere
Presidential declaration, which means some later President might set
aside or some newly elected Senate reverse, is not enough. If the reader
will study the position of Australia and of the British commitments in
Eastern Asia, he will see why it is not enough. Britain is not strong
enough to risk being left alone as the chivalrous protector of a weak,
if renascent, China. She has her own people in Australia to consider.
And besides, Britain alone—as the protector of China—after all that has
happened in the past.... It is moral as well as material help in
sustaining the new understanding that the British will require.

The plain fact of the Pacific situation is that there are only three
courses before the world—either unchallenged Japanese domination in
Eastern Asia from now on, or a war to prevent it soon, or an alliance of
America, Britain and Japan, with whatever government China may develop,
and with the other powers concerned, though perhaps less urgently
concerned—an alliance of all these, for mutual restraint and mutual
protection. And it is an equally plain fact, though “Tact” cries “Hush!”
at the words, that the tradition of America for a hundred years, a
tradition which was sustained in her refusal to come into the League of
Nations, has been against any such alliance.

George Washington’s advice to his countrymen to avoid “permanent
alliances” for the balance of power and suchlike ends, and Jefferson’s
reiterated council to his countrymen to avoid “entangling alliances”
have been interpreted too long as injunctions to avoid any alliances
whatever, entangling or disentangling. The habit of avoiding association
in balance-of-power schemes and the like has broadened out into a
general habit of non-association. But alliances which are not aimed at a
common enemy but only at a common end were not, I submit, within the
intention of George Washington.

At any rate, I do not see how the disarmament proposals of Mr. Secretary
Hughes can possibly he accepted without a Pacific settlement, nor how
that settlement can be sustained except by some sort of alliance,
meeting periodically in conference to apply or adapt the settlement to
such particular issues as may arise. If America is not prepared to go as
far as that, then I do not understand the enthusiasm of America for the
Washington Conference. I do not understand the mentality that can
contemplate world disarmament without at least that much provision for
the prevention of future conflicts.

And similarly, I do not see how any effectual disarmament is possible in
Europe or how any dealing with the economic and financial situation
there can be possible unless America is prepared to bind itself in an
alliance of mutual protection and accommodation with at least France,
Germany, Britain and Italy to sustain a similar series of conferences
and adjustments. At the back of the French refusal to disarm there is a
suppressed demand for a protective alliance. That is an entirely
reasonable demand. The form of this alliance that the French have
demanded hitherto is an entangling alliance, an alliance of America and
Britain and France against, at least, Germany and Russia. The necessary
alliance to which France and Britain will presently assent, and which
America will come to recognize as the only way to its peacemaking aims,
will be against no one; it is an alliance of an entirely beneficial
character, an alliance not to entangle but to release.

The disposition of the European delegations and of the British and
foreign writers at Washington to treat the idea of America making
treaties of alliance as outside the range of possibility, as indeed an
idea _tabu_, seems to me a profoundly mistaken one. It is “Tact” in its
extremest form. I have heard talk of the “immense inertia” of political
dogmas held for a hundred years. For “immense inertia” I would rather
write “expiring impulse.” The policy of non-interference in affairs
outside America was an excellent thing, no doubt, for a young Republic
in the self-protective state; it is a policy entirely unworthy of a
Republic which has now become the predominant state in the world.

                       AN ASSOCIATION OF NATIONS

The futility of the idea of a limitation of armaments or any limitation
of warfare as a possible remedy for the present distresses of mankind,
without some sort of permanent settlement of the conflicts of interest
and ambition which lie at the root of warfare, has grown clearer and
clearer with each day’s work of the Washington Conference. And the
conviction that no permanent settlement is conceivable without a binding
alliance to sustain it also grows stronger each day. For security and
peace in the Pacific an alliance of at least America, Britain and Japan
is imperative, and Britain cannot play her part therein unless Europe is
safe also, through a binding alliance of at least France, Germany,
Britain and America. To arrest the economic decadence of the world a
still wider bond is needed.

So the inflexible logic of the situation brings us back to the problem
of a world alliance and a world guarantee, the problem of which the
League of Nations was the first attempted solution. The conference is
being forced toward that ampler problem again, in spite of the severe
restrictions of its agenda. After President Wilson’s “League” comes
President Harding’s “Association.” Senator Borah, in alarm, emerges from
the silence he has hitherto kept during the conference to declare that
this “Association” is only another name for the “League.” On that we may
differ from him. Association and League are alike in seeking to organize
the peace of the world but in every other respect they are different
schemes, differing in aims, scope and spirit.

The primary difference is that, while the League was a very clearly
defined thing, planned complete from the outset, a thing as precise and
inalterable as the United States Constitution, the Harding project is a
tentative, experimental thing, capable of great adaptations by trial and
corrected error, a flexible and living thing that is intended to grow
and change in response to the needs of our perplexing and incalculable

The Harding idea, as it is growing up in people’s minds in Washington,
seems to be something after this fashion: That this present conference
shall be followed by others having a sort of genetic relationship to it,
varying in their scope, in their terms of reference, in the number of
states invited to participate. A successor to the present one seems to
be already imminent in the form of a conference on the economic and
financial disorder of the world. Such a conference would probably
include German and Spanish, and possibly Russian, representatives, and
it might take on in addition to its economic discussion any issues that
this present conference may leave outstanding.

These Washington Conferences, it is hoped, will become a sort of
international habit, will grow into a world institution in which
experience will determine usages and usage harden into a customary rule.
They will become by insensible degrees a World Parliament, with an
authority that will grow or decline with the success or failure of the

One advantage of having experiments made will occur at once to those who
have been present at the plenary sittings of the present conference. The
method of trial and error will afford an opportunity of working out the
grave inconveniences of the language difficulty. It is plain that, with
only three languages going, French, Japanese and English, proceedings
may easily become very tedious; there is no true debate, no possibility
of interpolating a question or a comment, no real and vivid discussion.
The real debating goes on in notes and counter notes, in prearranged
speeches, communications to the press representatives, and so forth.

The plenary sessions exist only to announce or confirm. They are
essentially _ceremonial_. In any polyglot gathering it seems inevitable
that this should be so. The framers of the League of Nations
constitution, with its Council and Assembly, seem to have been far too
much influenced by the analogy of single language governing bodies in
which spontaneous discussion is frequent and free. World conferences are
much more likely to do their work by translated correspondence and by
private sessions of preparatory committees, and to use the general
meeting only for announcement, indorsement and confirmation.

But the preparatory committees are only the first organs developed by
the conference. Certain other organs are also likely to arise out of it
as necessary to its complete function. Whatever agreements are arrived
at here about either the limitation of armaments or the permanent
regulation of the affairs of China and the Pacific, it is clear that
they will speedily become seed beds of troublesome misunderstanding and
divergent interpretation unless some sort of permanent body is created
in each case, with very wide powers intrusted to it by the treaty making
authorities of all the countries concerned to interpret, defend and
apply the provisions of the agreement. Such permanent commissions seem
to me to be dictated by the practical logic of the situation. Quite
apart from the later conferences that President Harding has promised, a
standing Naval Armament Commission and a Pacific Commission, with very
considerable powers to fix things, seems to be a necessary outcome of
the First Washington Conference.

But these two commissions will not cover all the ground involved. This
conference cannot leave European disarmament and the European situation
with its present ragged and raw ends. Nothing has been more remarkable,
nothing deserves closer study by the thoughtful Americans, than the
fluctuations of the British delegation at this conference with regard to
a Pacific settlement. I see that able writer upon Chinese affairs, Dr.
John Dewey, comments upon these changes of front and hints at some
profound disingenuousness on the part of the British. But the reasons
for these fluctuations lie on the surface of things. They are to be
found in the European situation.

Britain, secure in Europe, unthreatened on her Mediterranean routes, can
play the part of a strong supporter of American ideals in China. She
seems, indeed, willing and anxious to do so—in spite of her past. But
threatened in Europe, she can do nothing of the sort. She cannot extend
an arm to help shield China while a knife is held at her throat. So the
Pacific is entangled with the Mediterranean and the coasts of France,
and it becomes plain that a Peace Commission for Europe is a third
necessary consequence of this conference, if this conference is to count
as a success.

Suppose now that this present conference produces the first two
commissions I have sketched and gives way to a second conference, with
an ampler representation of the European powers, which will direct its
attention mainly to the reassurance and disarmament of France and
Germany and Britain, a second conference whose findings may be finally
embodied in this third commission I have suggested; and suppose,
further, that an International Debt and Currency Conference presently
gets to effective work, surely we may claim that the promised
Association of Nations is well on its way towards crystallization.

Simply and naturally, step by step, the President of the United States
will have become the official summoner of a rudimentary World
Parliament. By the time that stage is reached a series of important
questions of detailed organization will have arisen. Each executive
commission, as the successive conference brings these commissions into
being, will require in its several spheres agents, officials, a
secretariat, a home for its archives, a budget. These conferences cannot
go on meeting without the development of such a living and continuing
body of world administration through the commissions they must needs
create. Presumably that body of commissions will grow up mainly in and
about Washington. If it does, it will be the most amazing addition to
Congress conceivable; it will be the voluntary and gradual aggregation
of a sort of loose World Empire round the monument of George Washington.

But I do not see that all these commissions and Parliaments need sit in
Washington or that it is desirable that they should. A world commission
for land disarmament might function in Paris or Rome, a world commission
for finance in New York or London. And meanwhile, at Geneva or in
Vienna, to which place there is some project of removal, the League of
Nations, that first concrete realization of the American spirit, will be
going on in its own rather cramped, rather too strictly defined lines.

It also will have thrown out world organizations in connection with
health, with such world interests as the white slave traffic, and so
forth. It will be conducting European arbitrations and it will be
providing boundary commissions and the like. And somewhere there will
also be a sort of World Supreme Court getting to work upon judicial
international differences.

Now this, I submit, is the way that world unity is likely to arise out
of our dreams into reality, and this partial, dispersed, experimenting
way of growth is perhaps the only way in which it can come about. It is
not so splendid and impressive a vision as that of some World
Parliament, some perfected League, suddenly flashing into being and
assuming the leadership of the world. It will not be set up like a
pavilion but it will grow like a tree. But it is a reality and it comes.
The Association of Nations grows before our eyes.

And meanwhile there is an immense task before teachers and writers,
before parents and talkers and all who instruct and make and change
opinion, and that is the task of building up a new spirit in the hearts
of men and a new dream in their minds, the spirit of fellowship to all
men, the dream of a great world released forever from the obsession of
warfare and international struggle; a great world of steadily developing
unity in which all races and all kinds of men will be free to make their
distinctive contributions to the gathering achievements of the race.


If we are to have any fundamental improvements in the present relations
of nations, if we are to achieve that change of heart which is needed as
the fundamental thing for the establishment of a world peace, then we
must look the facts of international friction squarely in the face. It
is no good pretending there is no jar when there is a jar. This business
of the world peace effort, of which the Washington Conference is now the
centre, is not to smooth over international difficulties; it is to
expose, examine, diagnose and cure them.

Now here is this Franco-British clash, a plain quarrel and one very
disturbing to the American audience. The Americans generally don’t like
this quarrel. They are torn between a very strong traditional affection
for the French and a kind of liking for at least one or two congenial
things about the British. They would like to hear no more of it,
therefore. They just simply want peace. But there the quarrel is. Was it
an avoidable quarrel? Or was it inevitable? Perhaps it is something very
fundamental to the European situation. Perhaps if we analyze it and
probe right down to the final causes of it we may learn something worth
while for the aims and ends of the Washington Conference.

Now, let us get a firm hold upon one very important fact, indeed. This
clash is a clash between the present French Government and the present
British Government, but it is not a clash between all the French and all
the British. It is not an outbreak of national antipathy or any
horrible, irreconcilable thing of that sort. There are elements in
France strongly opposed to the French Government upon the issues raised
in this dispute. There is a section of the English press fantastically
on the “French” side and bitterly opposed even to the public criticism
of the public speeches of the French Premier in English. The party
politics of both France and Britain and, what is worse, those bitter
animosities that centre upon political personalities have got into this

It may help to clear the issue if we disregard the attitude of the two
Governments in naming the sides to the dispute, and if instead of
speaking of the “French” or the “British” sides we speak of the
“Keep-Germany-down” and the “Give-Germany-a-chance” sides, or better, if
we call them the “Insisters,” who insist upon the uttermost farthing of
repayment and penitence from Germany, and the “Believers,” who don’t.
For it is upon Germany that the whole dispute turns.

There is a very powerful “Insister” party in Great Britain; there is a
growing “Believer” party in France. And while France has been steadily
“Insister” since the armistice, Britain and the British Government have
changed round from “Insister” to “Believer” in the last year or so. This
change has produced extraordinary strains and recriminations between
French and British political groups and individuals, as such changes of
front must always do. Such disputes often make far more noise than deep
and vital national misunderstandings, and it is well that the
intelligent observer, and particularly the American observer, should
distinguish the note of the disconcerted party man in a rage from the
note of genuine patriotic anger.

The beginnings of the present trouble are to be found in the Versailles
Conference. There the only “Relievers” seem to have been the American
representatives. Those were the days of the British Khaki election, when
“Hang the Kaiser” and “Make the Germans Pay!” were the slogans that
carried Mr. Lloyd George to power. For about four months the dispute
went on between moderation and overwhelming demands. America stood alone
for moderation. The British insisted upon the uttermost farthing, at
least as strenuously as the French, and it was Gen. Smuts, of all
people, who added the last straw to the intolerable burden of
indebtedness that was then piled upon vanquished and ruined Germany. And
both America and Britain were parties to the arrangements that give
France the power, the Shylock right, of carving into Germany and
disintegrating her more and more if Germany fail to keep up with the
impossible payments that were then fixed upon her.

The position of the French Government in this business is therefore a
perfectly legal and logical one. France can adhere, as M. Briand says
she will, to the Treaty of Versailles, she can flout and disregard any
disposition of the Washington Conference to qualify or revise that
treaty, and the British Government, in a hopelessly embarrassed and
illogical position, can appeal only to the hard logic of reality.

Britain is much more dependent upon her overseas trade than France, and
so the British have earlier realized the enormous injury that the social
and economic breakdown of Russia has done and the still more enormous
injury that the breaking up of Central European civilization will do.

“You are quite within your rights,” these newly converted “Relievers”
say to the obdurate “Insisters,” “but you will wreck all Europe.”

That idea that the possible destruction of civilization has not yet
entered so many minds in France as it has in Britain. Germany is nearer
to France than to Britain, and the fear of a renascent and vindictive
Germany is greater in France than in Britain. In the French mind, the
possibility of a German invasion for revenge twenty years hence still
overshadows the possibility of an economic breakdown in a year or two
years’ time. The British are nearer the breakdown and further from the
Germans. That is the reality of this Franco-British clash.

Upon that reality bad temper, party feeling, personal spites, irrational
prejudices, are building up a great mass of nasty, quarrelsome matter.
And the French Government and the French nationalist majority are
pressing on to naval and military preparations that distinctly threaten
Britain. It is no good pretending that they do not do so when they do.
The French submarines are aimed at Britain.

Empty civilities between France and Britain are of no value in a case of
this sort. Both countries are being worried by their infernal
politicians and both are in a state of financial distress and raw
nerves. It is not a time when deliberation and clear reasoning are easy.
But when we get down to the fundamentals of the case we find that the
antagonism comes out to these two propositions that are not necessarily

  (I) _That Germany, for the good of the whole world, must not be
  destroyed further, but, instead, assisted to keep upon her feet
  (“Relievers”), and_

  (II) _That Germany must nevermore become a danger to France

And these two propositions are completely reconcilable, and this
particular clash can be entirely cured and ended by one thing and by one
thing only, a binding alliance, watched and sustained by a standing
commission of France, Germany, Britain, America, and possibly Italy and
Spain, to guarantee France and Germany from further invasions and
internal interference, if France follows the dictates of her better
nature and the advice of her wiser citizens, foregoes her impossible
claims and lets up on Germany from now on.

_And from no country can the initiative of such an alliance come more
effectively than from the United States of America, the universal
creditor, who can bring home to France, as no other power can, the
beauty and desirability of financial mercifulness._

I submit that these are the broad lines, the elements, the A B C of the
present situation and that there is nothing whatever between France and
Britain that is not entirely secondary and subordinate to this issue
between Insistence and Relief.

And moreover the issue between France in general and Britain in general
is an issue that is going on in parallel forms all over the world. Old
Japan _insists_ upon the Versailles treaty; young Japan would relieve
China,—how much is not yet clear. The American scene is a conflict
between those who insist fiercely upon the British debt and those who
would devise relieving conditions. It is nowhere a struggle between
peoples and races, it is everywhere a struggle between logic and reason,
between the stipulated thing, the traditional thing and the humane and
helpful thing, between old ways of thinking and new, between the letter
and the spirit. Old Shylock was the supreme insister, and since Portia
was the triumphant reliever, we may reasonably look to the woman voter
and the women’s organizations of Britain and America for a particular
impetus towards relief. And the sooner relief comes the better, for once
Shylock’s knife has cut down sufficiently to the living flesh, the cause
of the reliever and of civilization will have been lost forever.

                          A REMINDER ABOUT WAR

                                                 Washington, December 5.

An examination of the situation that has arisen in Europe between
France, England and Germany brings us out to exactly the same conclusion
as an examination of the Pacific situation. There is no other
alternative than this: Either to fight it out and establish the definite
ascendancy of some one power or to form an alliance based on an explicit
settlement, an alliance, indeed, sustaining a common executive
commission to watch and maintain the observance of that settlement.
There is no way out of war but an organized peace. Washington
illuminates that point. We must be prepared to see an Association of
Nations in conference growing into an organic system of world controls
for world affairs and the keeping of the world’s peace, or we must be
prepared for—a continuation of war. So it is worth considering what that
continuation of war will be like. If you will not organize peace through
some such association, then organize for war, for certainly war will
come again to you, or to your children.

And for reasons set out in my earlier papers, reasons amply confirmed by
the experiences of the Washington gathering, a mere limitation of
armaments can be little more than a strategic truce. It may indeed even
cut out expensive items and so cheapen and facilitate war.

Let me note here in passing that the case for some Association of
Nations to discuss and control the common interests of mankind rests on
a wider basis than the mere prevention of war; the economic and social
divisions and discords of mankind provide, perhaps, in the long run, a
stronger and more conclusive argument for human unity than the mere war
evil, but in this paper I will narrow the issue down to war, simply, and
ask the reader to consider the probable nature of war in the future if
the development of warfare is not checked by deliberate human effort.

And I will not deal with the ill-equipped cut-throat war that has been
going on, and, thanks to the divisions and rivalries of France and
Britain, is likely still to go on in Eastern Europe for some time to
come; the wars of the little, self-determined nations that the Treaty of
Versailles set loose upon each other; the raids of Poland into Ukrainia,
and of Roumania into Hungary; and of Serbia into Albania; the
old-fashioned game enlivened by rape and robbery that was brought to its
highest perfection long ago in the Thirty Years’ War. These are not so
much wars as spasms of energy, phases of accelerated destruction, in the
rotting body of East European civilization.

But I mean the sort of war that will come if presently France attacks
England, or if America and Japan start in for a good, long, mutually
destructive struggle. You may say that war between France and England is
unthinkable, but so far from that being the case, certain worthy souls
in France have been thinking about it hard. Hard but not intelligently.
They do not understand the moral impossibility of Britain fighting
America, they have never heard of Canada, they have never examined the
text of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and so they dream of a wonderful
time when America will be fighting England and Japan, and when France,
with magnificent gestures and with submarines and Senegalese at last
gloriously justified, will “come to her aid.” So France will divide and
rule and clamber to dizzy destinies. Blushing and embarrassed American
statesmen have already had to listen, I guess, to some insidious
whispers. Even among our distresses there is something amusing in the
thought of this hot breath of Old World diplomacy on the fresh American
cheek. I do not say that these are the thoughts and acts of France, or
of any great section of the French people, but they are certainly the
thoughts and proceedings of a noisy Nationalist minority in France which
is at present in a position of dangerous ascendancy there.

Still, apart from the fact that the British will always refuse to fight
America, there does seem to be no real reason why, in the absence of a
developing peace alliance to prevent it, either of the other two matches
I have cited should not be played. In the long run, you cannot avoid
fighting if you avoid comprehensive alliances and standing arrangements
for the settlement of differences with the people you may otherwise

So let us try and imagine a war between a pair of these four powers,
five or ten years ahead. They have avoided any entangling alliances, or
agreements, or settlements, kept their freedom of action and are

Let us not fall into the trap of supposing that these wars will follow
the lines of the Great War of 1914–18 and that we shall have a rapid
line-up of great entrenched armies, with massed parks of artillery
behind them, tank attacks and all the rest of it. That sort of war is
already out of fashion, and the fact that these wars that we are
considering will be overseas wars puts any possibility of such a dead
lock of land armies out of the case. The combatants will have to set
about getting at each other in quite other fashions.

Let us recall the maxim that the object of all fighting is to produce a
state of mind in the adversary, a state of mind conducive to a
discontinuance of the struggle and to submission and acquiescence to the
will of the victor. Old-time wars aimed simply at the small antagonist
army and at the antagonist Government, but in these democratic days the
will for peace or war has descended among the people and diffused itself
among them, and it is the state of mind of the whole enemy population
that has become the objective in war. The old idea of an invading army
marching on a capital, gives place, therefore, to a new conception of an
attack through propaganda, through operations designed to produce acute
economic distress, and through the air, upon the enemy population.

I will take the latter branch first. Few people have any clear ideas at
present of the possibilities of air warfare. The closing years of the
Great War gave the world only a very slight experience of what aerial
offensives can be. Always, air operations were subsidiary to the vast
surface engagements of the European belligerents; they were scouting,
irritating, raiding operations; there were neither the funds nor the
energy available to work them out thoroughly. In these possible overseas
wars we are considering, the land armies and the big guns will not be
the main factors and the air and sea forces will. The powers we have
considered will therefore push their air equipment on a quite different
scale; they will be bound to deliver their chief blows with it; we may
certainly reckon on the biggest long-range airplanes possible, on the
largest bombs and the deadliest contents for them. We may certainly
reckon that, within three or four hours of a declaration of war between
France and England, huge bombs of high explosive, or poison gas, or
incendiary stuff, will have got through the always ineffectual barrage
and be livening up the streets of Paris and London. Because it is the
peculiarity of air warfare that there are no _fronts_ and no effectual
parries. You bomb the other fellow almost anywhere, and similarly he
bombs you.

Many people seem to think that America and Japan are too far from each
other for this sort of thing, but I believe there is nothing
insurmountable in these distances for an air offensive. It will be a
question of days instead of hours, that is all, before the babies of
Tokio or San Francisco get their whiffs of the last thing in gas. The
job will be a little more elaborate; it will involve getting the air
material to a convenient distance from the desired objective by means of
a submersible cruiser; that is all the difference.

All the fleets in the world could hot prevent a properly prepared Japan
from pouncing upon some unprotected point of the California or Mexican
coast, setting up a temporary air base there, and getting to work over a
radius of a thousand miles. She might even keep an air base at sea. And
it would be equally easy for America to do likewise to Japan. The
citizen of Los Angeles, as he blew to pieces, or coughed up his lungs
and choked to death, or was crushed under the falling, burning
buildings, could at least console himself by the thought that America
was so thoroughly _prepared_ that his fellow man in Tokio was certainly
getting it worse, and that he blew to pieces on the soundest American
lines unentangled by any alliances with decadent Old World powers. And
an air war between America and Japan need not be confined to the Pacific
Slope. I do not see anything to prevent Japan, if she wanted to do so,
with the aid of a venial neutral or so, getting around into the Atlantic
to New York and testing the stability of the great buildings downtown
with a few five-ton bombs. The submarine would certainly be able to
prevent any armies landing on either side of the Pacific to stop the
preparation and launching of such expeditions.

I do not know how American populations would stand repeated bombing. In
the late war there was not a single intrusion of air warfare into
American home life. The hum of the Gotha and the long crescendo of the
barrage as the thing gets near were not in the list of familiar American
war sounds. Some of the European populations subjected to that kind of
thing got very badly “rattled.” And yet, as I have noted, the whole
force of the combatants was not in the air operations in Europe. One
result in nearly every country was an outbreak of spy mania; everybody
with a foreign name or a foreign look in England, for example, was
suspected of “signalling.” There was much mental trouble; London
possesses now a considerable number of air raid lunatics and air raid
defective children, and these are only the extreme instances of a
widespread overstrain. As the war went on, air stress interwoven with
the acute stresses produced in public life by the development of
propaganda. Public life in France, Germany and England got more and more
crazy about propaganda; there was a fear of insidious whispering
mischief afoot, more like the fear of witchcraft than anything else;
until at last it became dangerous and ineffective to make any utterance
at all except the most ferocious threats and accusations against the
enemy. And a kind of paralysis of suspicion even affected the adoption
of inventions. All this mental and moral confusion and deterioration is
bound to happen in any highly organized community that goes into a well
prepared war again. The only difference will be that it will all be
larger, and intenser, and bitterer, and worse. And I will not even
attempt to elaborate the consequences of the economic attack by
submarines, upon shipping, and by raids of airplane fleets, assisted
possibly by spies and traitors, upon the bridges, factories, depots,
grain stores, ports and so forth, of the combatant countries.

If such things are not practicable across the Pacific now they will be
practicable in ten years’ time.

But my subject at Washington is peace, and not war. I think it was
Nevinson’s recent account of the new things in poison gas that set my
imagination wandering into these possibilities of the Great Alternative
to entangling treaties and difficult settlements. I will return to
certain neglected problems of the Peace Conference in my next article.

                          SOME STIFLED VOICES

                                                 Washington, December 6.

I do not think my outline sketch of the Washington Conference will be
complete if I do not give an account of certain figures and groups in
this simmering Washington gathering who have no official standing
whatever and who are here in the unpopular role of qualifications and
complications of the simpler conception of the Washington issues. They
are not conspicuous absentees as are Germany and Russia. They come upon
the scene but they come rather like that young woman with the baby who
stands reproachfully at the church door watching the wedding in the
melodramatic picture. They are full of reproaches—and intimations of
troubles yet in store.

The other evening, for example, I found myself dining with a comfortably
housed Corean delegation and listening to the tale of a nation

Corea is as much of a nation as—Ireland. She had so recent an
independence that she has treaties with the United States recognizing
and promising to respect her independence. Yet she is now gripped, held
down and treated as Posen was in the days of Prussian possession. She is
being “assimilated” by Japan. “What is to be done about us?” my hosts

One fellow guest thought nothing could be done because the Corean vote
in the United States is not strong enough to affect an election.

Amid the tumult of voices here one hears ever and again an appeal for
something to be done for Corea. Such appeals are addressed chiefly to
American public opinion, but it is also felt to be worth while to let
Britain know, at least to the extent of letting me in on this occasion.
I was introduced to an editor of a Corean paper which had recently been
suppressed, and I listened to an account, an amazing account, of the
freedom of the press as it is understood in Corea under Japanese rule.

Yet it sounded very familiar to me. Indeed, I had listened to much the
same story of suppressions, rather worse suppressions, the night before.
Then I had been the host of two friends of mine, Mr. Houssain and Mr.
Sapre, who have had extensive experiences of suppression in India. They
are both here in much the same spirit as the Coreans.

Whenever I talk to Mr. Houssain we always get to a sort of polite
quarrel in which he treats me more and more like the Indian Government
in its defense, and I become more and more like the British ascendancy.
I adopt, almost inadvertently, as much as is adoptable of the manner and
tone of the late Lord Cromer and say: “Yes, yes. But are you _ripe_ for
self-government?” These gentlemen say frankly that the British rule in
India has displayed so much stupidity in such cases as the Amritsar
massacre, and the recent suffocation of the Moplah prisoners, and that
its complete suppression of any frank public discussion of Indian
affairs in India is so intolerable, that it is becoming unendurable.

Everybody is talking of insurrection in India now; nobody talked of it
three years ago. These have been three years of stupid “firmness.” Now
that that dinner party is past and gone, I can confess that I think Mr.
Houssain’s argument that under British rule India has no chance of
getting politically educated, because she is prevented from airing her
ideas, and that if her discontent is incoherent and disorderly it is
because of the complete suppression, completer now than ever before, of
discussion, is a very strong argument indeed.

India and Britain cannot talk together about their common future if
India remains gagged and without ever a chance of learning to talk. If a
break comes in India it is likely to be a bad and hopeless one, because
of her lack of worked-out political conceptions, due to her long mental
restraint, while all the rest of the world from Corea to Peru has been
trying over political self-expression.

But it is interesting and perhaps not quite so pathetically hopeless as
it seems at the first glance to find these two men in this city, side by
side with the Coreans, trying to get “something done about it” at the
Washington assembly. And a day or so ago I had a call from another
unofficial delegate, a Syrian Moslem who wanted to talk over the
education of his people, also fretting beneath the wide surfaces of the
Treaty of Versailles, with the ambition to manage the affairs of Syria
for themselves.

And as another case of the stifled voice here are the representatives of
the Cantonese Chinese Government, who made a scene the other day when
the Peking representatives went into secret session with the Japanese.
There was an assembly of hostile Chinese shouting “Traitor!” and
things—apparently very disagreeable things—in Chinese. Here again there
is a clamor for attention that gets short drift from the official

And, lest these stifled outcries should fill the American reader with
self-righteousness, I will note in passing that the entrance to the
second plenary conference was besieged by an array of banners reminding
us that that evidently most gentle and worthy man, Mr. Debs, is still in
prison for saying his honest thought about conscription, and also that I
have received, I suppose, over twenty letters about an unfortunate young
Englishman, a minor poet named Mr. Charles Ashleigh, who seems to have
come into America looking like a person of advanced views, to have done
some publicity work for the I. W. W., and to have been caught in a gale
of indiscriminate suppression and given a sentence of ten years for
nothing at all. The offense of Mr. Debs and the alleged offense of Mr.
Ashleigh, I may note further, were a premature craving for universal
peace which might have weakened the will for war.

All these suppressions of opinion strike me as black sins against
civilization, which can only maintain itself and grow and flourish
through the free expression and discussion of ideas. The temptation to
ride off from the main business of the conference upon some Quixotic
championship of Corea or India or Mr. Ashleigh is therefore very
considerable. But when we consider that all these particular injustices
are incidents in that general disorder which permits the aggression of
nation upon nation and which blinds justice with cruel passion and
urgent necessities of war, these cases appear in a different light.

Corea and the suppressed and imprisoned Indian Liberals and Mr. Ashleigh
are like people hit casually in a great combat, and the immediate work
of the ordinary combatant is surely not to specialize upon these special
cases but to go on with the general fight for world peace which will
render the atmosphere that created these particular wrongs impossible.
Japan is attempting to crush and assimilate Corea because Japan wants to
be bigger and stronger, and she wants to be bigger and stronger because
of the fear of war and humiliation. Britain holds down India and is
reluctant to loose her hold on Ireland for the same cause; if she relax,
some one else may seize and use. America also crushes out the
anti-conscriptionist because otherwise he may embarrass the conduct of
the next war.

In the present conference the liberal forces of the world may be able to
establish a precedent that will at once reflect upon the position of
both Corea and India, and to open such a prospect of peace as will make
the release of Messrs. Debs and Ashleigh inevitable. But that can only
be if we stick to the main business of the conference and do not fuss
things up at present with too much focusing upon Corea or India or the
case of Mr. Debs.

The precedent that may be established through the conference is the
liberation of China, when China is militarily impotent and politically
disordered, not only from fresh foreign aggression but from existing
foreign domination. The establishment of such a precedent is a thing of
supreme importance to all men. If the conference does not get so far as
that—so far as to establish the principle that an Asiatic people has a
right to control its own destinies and to protection while it adjusts
these destinies, in spite of the fact that it cannot as an efficient
power defend that right—it will have made a very wide step indeed not
only toward world peace but toward a general liberation of Asiatic
peoples held in tutelage.

It is so important to mankind that that step should be made that I
grudge any diversion of energy to minor injustices, however glaring, or
any complication of the issue whatever. So far as the conference goes, I
am convinced that “Stick to the freedom of China” is the watchword for
all liberal thinkers. By the extent to which China is liberated and
secured the conference will have to be judged. Even the vast problem of
India cannot overshadow that issue.


                                                     Washington, Dec. 7.

It is difficult to think of any subject more completely out of the
agenda of the Washington Conference than the future of India. But none
demands our attention more urgently, if we are to build up anything like
a working conception of an Association of Nations.

Some days ago Senator Johnson declared he had received assurances from
President Harding that no further steps toward a definite organization
of an Association of Nations were to be taken for the present; but these
assurances will not hinder the drift of thoughts and events toward such
a developing system of understandings as must at last, in fact if not in
name, constitute a World Association. Indeed, the less we try to fix
such a thing at present, and the more we think it out, the more probable
and safe is its coming.

Let the President go on, therefore, taking no steps directly toward his
Association but proceeding, as he must do very soon, with some sort of
international conference upon the economic disorders of the world, and
also with the creation of some arrangement, permanent understanding or
whatever other name may be given to that commission which is inevitable
if the peace of the Pacific is to be made secure. Let us who are dealers
in the flimsier preparatory stuff of ideas and public opinion get on
with our discussion of the wider stabilizing understanding that looms

I have already said that from every country world peace and universal
prosperity will demand a price. The price America will need to pay if
she is to impose her conception of a universal peace upon the world is a
great intellectual effort—an effort of sympathy, an abandonment of some
venerated traditions. And in addition she must nerve herself to what may
seem at first very great financial generosities. France must pay by
laying aside an ancient and cherished quarrel, her glorious and tragic
militarism and the last vestige of her imperial ambition. The thought of
predominance and the thought of revenge must be the German sacrifice.
And Britain also must pay in an altered attitude to those wide
“possessions” of hers inhabited by alien peoples that have hitherto
constituted the bulk of her empire.

The destiny of all the English speaking democracies that have risen now
from being British colonies to semi-independent states seems fairly
clear. They will go on to nationhood; their links to Great Britain,
continually less formal and legal and more and more strongly
sympathetic, will be supplemented by their attraction toward America,
due to affinity and a common character. All the mischief makers in the
world cannot, I think, prevent the Dutch-English of South Africa, the
English-French of Canada, the English-French of Australia, the
English-Scotch of New Zealand, the Americans, this new emancipated
Ireland and Britain, being drawn together at last by all their common
habits of thought and speech, and even by the mellowed memories of their
past conflicts, into a conscious brotherhood of independent but
co-operative nations.

The day has come for the Irish to recognize that the future is of more
value than the past. Even without any other states, this girdle of
English speaking states about the globe could be of a great predominant
association. Within this English speaking circle of peoples a whole
series of experiments in separation, independent action, readjustment,
co-operation and federation have been made in the last century and a
half, and are still going on, of the utmost significance in the problem
of human association.

No other series of communities have had such experiences. No other
communities have so much to give mankind in these matters. The German
coalescences have been marred by old methods of force, methods which
have usually failed in the English cases. Spain and Latin America are at
least half a century behind the English speaking world in the arts and
experience of political co-operation.

But when we turn to India we turn to something absolutely outside the
English speaking world girdle.

One of the many manifest faults of that most premature project the
League of Nations was the fiction that brought in India as a
self-governing nation, as if she were the same sort of thing as these
self-governing Western states. It was indeed a most amazing assumption.
India is not a nation, or anything like a nation. India is a confused
variety of states, languages and races, and so far from being
self-governing, her peoples are under an amount of political repression
which is now perhaps greater there than anywhere else in the world.

Politically she is a profound mystery. We do not know what the political
thoughts of these peoples are, nor indeed whether they have in the mass
any political concepts at all parallel to those of the Western
civilizations. The Indian representative at the Washington Conference,
Mr. Srinivastra Sastri, is obviously a British nominee; he is not so
much a representative as a specimen Indian gentleman. We do not know
what national forces there are behind him, or indeed if there is any
collective will behind him at all. But it would be hard to substitute
for him anything very much more representative.

What constituency is there, what Electoral College, to send any one?
India is not in fact so constituted as to send a real representative to
a conference or an Association of Nations at the present time. She is a
thing of a different kind, a different sort of human accumulation. She
belongs to a different order of creature from the English speaking and
European states and from Japan. She is as little fitted to deal on equal
terms with them as a jungle deer, let us say, is to join a conference of
the larger Cetacea in the North Polar seas.

India is far less able to play an effective and genuine part as a member
of an Association of Nations even than China. She has no real democratic
institutions and she may never develop them in forms familiar to
European and American minds. We American and English are too apt to
suppose that our own democratic methods, our voting and elections and
debates and press campaigns and parliamentary methods, which have grown
up through long ages to suit our peculiar idiosyncracies, are
necessarily adaptable to all the world. In India they may prove
altogether misfitting.

India, were she given freedom of self-government, under the stimulus of
modern appliances and modern thought, would probably induce an entirely
different series of institutions from those of Europe, institutions
perhaps equally conducive to freedom and development but different in
kind. And China also, with untrammelled initiatives, may invent methods
of freedom and co-operation at once dissimilar and parallel to Western

But the mention of China brings us back to the possibility of applying
the precedent of China to India. The discussions and perplexities of the
last two or three years which have culminated in the Washington
Conference have slowly worked out and made clear the possibility of a
new method in Asia. This is the method of concerted abstinence and
withdrawal, the idea of a binding agreement of all the nations
interested in China and tempted to make aggressions upon China to come
out of and to keep out of that country while it consolidated itself and
develops upon its own lines.

This new method, which has had its first trial at the Washington
Conference, is a complete reversal of the method of dealing with
politically confused or impotent countries and regions adopted at
Versailles. It is an altogether more civilized and more hopeful method.

Versailles and the League of Nations were ridden by the idea of
mandates. All over the world where disorder or weakness reigned a single
mandatory power was to go in, making vague promises of good behavior, to
rule and exploit that country. It was the thinnest, cheapest camouflage
for annexation; it was a hopeless attempt to continue the worst
territory-seizing traditions of the nineteenth century while seeming to
abandon them. It was Pecksniff imperialism. So we had the snatching of
Syria, of Mesopotamia, and so forth. But any soundly constituted League
or Association of Nations should render that sort of thing unnecessary
and inexcusable.

The reason lying at the base of the British occupation of India, of the
Japanese occupation of Corea, of the French in Indo-China, and so forth,
is a perfectly sound reason so long as there is no Association of
Nations, and it is an entirely worthless one when there is such an
association—it is that some other power may otherwise come into the
occupied and dominated country and use it for purposes of offense. The
case of the British in India, that they have kept an imperial peace for
all the peoples of that land, that they warded off the Afghan raiders
who devastated India in the early eighteenth century and afterward the
long arm of Russia, is a very good one indeed. The British have little
cause to be ashamed of their past in India and many things to be proud
of. But they have very good cause, indeed, for being ashamed of their
disregard of any Indian future. They have sat tight and turned peace
into paralysis. They have not educated enough or released enough. Always
the excuse for suppression has been that fear of the rival.

Well, the whole purpose of an Association of Nations is to eliminate
that fear of a rival and all that that fear entails in war

The Asiatic “empires” over alien peoples, these “possessions” of other
people’s lands and lives, have played their part in the world’s
development. They have become tyrannies and exasperations and tawdry
grounds for rivalry. A real Association of Nations can have no place for
“possessions,” “mandates” or “subject peoples” within its scheme.


                                                     Washington, Dec. 9.

I went to hear the President address Congress on its reassembling on
Tuesday. He spoke to a joint session of the Senate and House of
Representatives held, as is customary, in the chamber of Representatives
because it is the larger of the two chambers.

Hitherto my observations have centred upon the Continental Building and
the Pan-American Building, up by the White House, and they have
concerned the good intentions and great projects that glow and expand
like great iridescent bubbles about the conference that is going on in
this region.

But the conference, whatever freedom it has to think and discuss, has no
power to act. Until the Senate by a two-thirds majority has indorsed the
recommendations of the President, the United States cannot be committed
to any engagement with the outside world. This is a fact that needs to
be written in large letters as a perpetual reminder in the editorial
rooms and diplomatic offices of all those Europeans who write about or
deal with the foreign relations of the United States. For the
Constitution of the United States is as carelessly read over there as
the Anglo-Japanese alliance has been read here, and it is as dangerously
misconceived. Through that first disastrous year of the peace Europe
imagined that the President was the owner rather than the leader of the
United States.

It was with great interest and curiosity, therefore, that I went down to
this assembly at the Capitol to see the President dealing with his
Legislature. Here was the place not of suggestions but of decisions.
What goes through here is accomplished and done—subject only to one
thing, the recognition by the Supreme Court, if it is challenged, that
the thing is constitutional.

I went down with—what shall I say?—some prejudiced expectations. The
Americans resemble the English very closely in one particular—they abuse
their own institutions continually. Prohibition and the police—but these
are outside my scope! I have heard scarcely a good word for Congress
since I landed here, and the Senate, by the unanimous testimony of the
conversationalists of the United States, combines the ignoble with the
diabolical in a peculiarly revolting mixture. Even individual Senators
have admitted as much—with a sinister pride.

It is exactly how we talk about Parliament in London—though with more
justice. But this sort of talk soaks into the innocent from abroad, and,
though one takes none of it seriously, the whole of it produces an
effect. I had the feeling that I was going to see a gathering of
wreckers, a barrier, perhaps an insurmountable barrier, in the way to
the realization of any dream of America taking her place as the leading
power in the world, as the first embodiment of the New Thing in
international affairs.

It puts all this sort of feeling right to see these two bodies in their
proper home and to talk to these creatures of legend, the
Representatives and the Senators. One perceives they are not a malignant
sub-species of mankind; one discovers a concourse of men very interested
about and unexpectedly open-minded upon foreign policy. They are
critical but not hostile to the new projects and ideas. One realizes
that Congress is not a blank barrier but a sieve, and probably a very
necessary sieve, for the new international impulse in America.

The ceremonial of the gathering was simple and with the dignity of
simplicity. The big galleries for visitors, which always impress the
British observer by their size, were full of visitors after their kind,
ladies predominating, and particularly full was the press gallery, which
overhangs the Speaker and the Presidential chair. Some faint vestige of
a sound religious upbringing had reminded me that the first are
sometimes last and the last first; I had fallen into the tail of the
procession of my fellow newspaper men from their special room to the
House of Representatives, and so I found myself with the overflow of the
journalists, not with everything under my chin but very conveniently
seated on the floor of the House behind the Representatives, and feeling
much more like a Congressman than I could otherwise have done.

Away to the right were the members of the Cabinet—the British visitor
always has to remind himself that they cannot be either Representatives
or Senators. Presently the ninety-odd Senators came in by the central
door, two by two, and were distributed upon the seats in front of their
hosts; the Representatives.

There was applause, and I saw Sir Auckland Geddes, with that large, bare
smile of his, and the rest of the British delegation entering from
behind the Chair, for the delegations had also been invited to come down
from the unrealities of the conference and had been assigned the front
row of seats. Other delegations followed and seated themselves. At last
came a hush and the clapping of hands, and the President entered and
went to his place, looking extremely like a headmaster coming in to
address the school assembly at the beginning of the term. He is more
like George Washington in appearance, I perceive, than any intervening

He read his address in that effective voice of his which seems to get
everywhere without an effort. I listened attentively to every sentence
of it, although I knew that upstairs there would be a printed copy of it
for me as soon as the delivery was over. Yet, although I was listening
closely, I also found I was thinking a great deal about this most potent
gathering, for potent it is, which has been raised up now to a position
of quite cardinal importance in human affairs.

President Harding is on what are nowadays for a President exceptionally
good terms with Congress. He means to keep so. In his address he
reiterated his point that even the full constitutional powers of the
President are too great and that he has no intention to use them, much
less to strain them. Nevertheless, or even in consequence of that, he is
very manifestly the leader of his Legislature. The atmosphere was
non-contentious. He was not like a party leader speaking to his
supporters and the opposition. He was much more like America
soliloquizing. His address was a statement of intentions.

I think the President feels that officially he is not so much the elect
of America as the voice of America, and instead of wanting to make that
voice say characteristic and epoch-making things, he tries to get as
close as he can to the national thought and will. What President Harding
says today America will do tomorrow. One human and amusing thing he
did—he was careful to drag in that much-disputed word of his,
“normalcy,” which he has resolved, apparently, shall oust out
“normality” from current English.

And from the point of view of those who are concerned about the dark
troubles of the world outside America it was, I think, a very hopeful
address. It reinforced the impression I had already received of
President Harding as of a man feeling his way carefully but steadily
towards great ends. America’s growing recognition of her “inescapable
relationship to world finance and trade” came early and his little
lecture on the need to give and take in foreign trade was a lecture that
is being repeated in every main street in America.

He spoke of Russia and returned to that topic. “We do not forget the
tradition of Russian friendship” was a good sentence that some countries
in Europe may well mark. The growing belief in America of the
possibility of going into Russia through the agency of the American
Relief Administration and of getting to dealing with the revived
co-operative organizations of Russia is very notable. And though there
was no mention of the Association of Nations as such, there were
allusions to the “world hope centered upon this capital city” and to the
universal desire for permanent peace.

And while I listened I was also thinking of all these men immediately
before me, between four and five hundred men, including the ninety-six
Senators, with whom rested the power of decision upon the role America
will play in the world. I have met and talked now with a number of them,
and particularly with quite a fair sample of the Senatorial body. And I
think now that it is going to be a much better body for international
purposes than my reading about it before I came to Washington has led me
to suppose.

We hear too much in Europe of the rule of “jobs” and “interests” in
Washington. No doubt that sort of thing goes on here, as in every
Legislature, but it has to be borne in mind that it has very little
bearing upon the international situation. It is not a matter affecting
the world generally. I doubt if there is nearly as much business and
financial intrigue in the lobbies of Washington as in the lobbies of
Westminster; but, anyhow, what there is here is essentially a domestic
question. Both Representatives and Senators approach international
questions as comparatively free—if rather inexperienced—men.

Probably the only strong permanent force hitherto in international
affairs here has been the anti-British vote, based on the Irish hate of
Britain. If the Irish settlement weakens or abolishes that, Congress
will deal with the world’s affairs without any perceptible bias at all.
The average Senator is a prosperous, intelligent, American-thinking man,
elected to the Senate upon political grounds that have no bearing
whatever upon international affairs. He is an amateur in matters

A bitter political issue at home may make him do any old thing with
international affairs, and that was the situation during the last years
of President Wilson. Poor, war-battered Europe became a pawn in a
constitutional struggle. But the Harding regime is to be one of
co-operation with the Senate, and the dignity of the Senate is restored.
This very various assembly of vigorous-minded Americans, for that and
other reasons, is getting to grips now with international questions with
all the freshness and vigor of good amateurs, with a detached
disinterestedness, a growing sense of responsibility and the old
peace-enforcing traditions of America strong in it.

If only it does not delay things too long; I doubt if those who desire
to see the peace of the world organized and secure are likely to have
any quarrel with the Senate of the United States. The worst evil I fear
from the American Senate, now that I have seen something of it
individually and collectively, is the impartial leisureliness of the
detached in its dealings with international affairs.

The President finished his discourse and the stir of dispersal began. I
had assisted at America reviewing her position in the world. I thought
the occasion simple and fine and dignified. I found myself leaving the
Capitol in a mood of quite unanticipated respect.


                                                     Washington, Dec. 9.

In a previous paper I wrote of certain “stifled voices” at Washington.
There is yet another stifled voice here that I have heard, and to speak
of it opens up another great group of questions that stand in the way to
any effectual organization of world peace through an Association of
Nations. Until we get some provisional decision about this set of issues
the Association of Nations remains a project in the air.

This stifled voice of which I am now writing is the voice of the colored
people. As a novelist—a novelist in my spare time—and as a man very
curious by nature, about human reactions, the peculiar situations
created by “color” in America have always appealed to me. I do not
understand why American fiction does not treat of them more frequently.
It is the educated, highly intelligent colored people who get my
interest and sympathy. I cannot get up any race feeling about them.

I am particularly proud to have known Booker T. Washington and to know
Mr. Dubois, and this time, in spite of a great pressure of engagements,
I was able to spend two hours last Sunday listening to the proceedings
of the Washington Correspondence Club, an organization which battles by
letter and interview and appeal against the harsh exclusions from
theatres, schools, meetings, restaurants, libraries and the like, that
prevail here.

I will not discuss here the rights and wrongs of a bar that cuts off
most of the intellectual necessities and conveniences of life from many
people who would pass as refined and cultivated whites in any European
country. I mention this gathering merely to note a very interesting
topic upon which I was called to account thereat.

Once or twice in these papers—I do not know if the reader has noted it—I
have mentioned the French training of Senegalese troops and the
objection felt by other European peoples to their extensive employment
in Europe. I was asked at the Correspondence Club whether the objections
I had made to this were not “fostering race prejudice,” and some
interesting exchanges followed.

I was inclined to argue that the importation of African negroes into
Europe for military purposes was as objectionable as their importation
to America for economic services, but some of my hosts, some of the
younger men, did not see it in that light. They are warmed toward the
French by the notable absence of racial exclusiveness in France, and
they see the ideals of that epoch-making book, “La France Negre,” from
an entirely different angle. Why not a black France as big or bigger
than white France and a new people who have learned military discipline,
military service and united action from Europe?

“Why not an African Napoleon presently?” said the young man, a little
wanting, I thought, in that abject meekness which is the American ideal
of colored behavior.

He was imagining, I suppose, something happening in Africa rather after
the fashion of the emancipation of Hayti and of great African armies
pushing their former rulers back to the sea. But Col. Taylor has
recently suggested another possibility, namely, that of France finding
herself in the grip of a black Pretorian Guard. It is a just,
conceivable fancy—a Pretorian Guard, French-speaking and
ultra-patriotic, keeping French Socialists and pacifists and Bolsheviks
in their proper place.

I do not believe very much in either of these possibilities nor even in
the third possibility of European powers fighting each other with black
armies in Africa, but I do perceive that dreams of a world peace will
remain very insubstantial dreams, indeed, until we can work out a scheme
or at least general principles of action for the treatment of Africa
between the Sahara and the Zambesi River, a scheme that will give some
sort of a quietus to the jealousies and hostilities evoked by the
economic and political exploitations of annexed and mandatory
territories upon nationalist and competitive lines in this region of the

For it seems to be the fact that tropical and sub-tropical Africa has
another function in the world than to be the home of the great family of
negro peoples. Africa is economically necessary to European civilization
as the chief source of vegetable oils and fats and various other
products of no great value to the native population. European
civilization can scarcely get along without these natural resources of

Now here we are up against a problem entirely different from the problem
that arises in the case of India, Indo-China and China, which is the
problem of a politically powerless but essentially civilized population
which can be trusted to modernize itself and come into line with the
existing efficient powers if only it is protected from oppressive and
disintegrating forces while it adjusts itself.

Africa is quite incapable of anything of the sort. Negro Africa is
mainly still in a state of tribal barbarism; in the latter half of the
nineteenth century its peoples were in a condition of deepening disorder
and misery due to the spread of European diseases and to the raiding of
the Arab and native adventurers who had obtained possession of modern
firearms. The small village communities of tropical Africa were quite
unable to stand up against the brigand enterprises of mere bands of
ruffians armed with rifles.

The scramble for Africa on the part of the European great powers toward
the close of the nineteenth century—a scramble largely dictated by
economic appetites—did a little to mitigate the miseries and destruction
in progress by establishing a sort of order through large areas of
Africa, a sort of order that in some regions was scarcely less cruel
than the disorders it replaced. But if continuing access to the
resources of Africa is to be maintained, and if a return to the Arab
raider and general chaos and massacres is to be avoided, it is clear
that in some form the control of the central parts of Africa by the
modern civilized world must continue.

But we must be clear upon one point. If that control is to be
maintained, as at present it is maintained by various European powers
acting independently of one another and competing against one another,
in the not very remote future Central Africa is bound to become a cause
of war. Central Africa was one of the great prizes before the German
imagination in 1914, and it is now held in a state of unstable
equilibrium by the chief European victors in the Great War.

As they recuperate the African danger will increase. Africa, next after
Eastern Europe and the Near East, is likely to become in the course of a
dozen years or so the chief danger region of the world.

It behooves all those who are dreaming of an organized world peace
through an Association of Nations to keep this African rock ahead in
mind and to think out the possible method of linking this great region
with the rest of the world in a universal peace scheme.

I submit that it is not premature for those who are concerned with the
future of our race to consider the necessity of three chief things:

(1) The complete abandonment and prohibition now of the enlistment and
military use of the African native population.

(2) The application of the principle of the “open door” and equal
trading opportunities for all comers in the regions between the Sahara
and the Zambesi.

(3) A more organized care of the native African population by a
tightening up of the existing restrictions upon the arms and drink
trades and the development of some sort of elementary education
throughout Africa that will give these very various and largely still
untried peoples a chance of showing what latent abilities they have for
self-government and participation in the general human common weal.

For my own part, it seems to me that any real “League of Nations,” any
effective “Association of Nations,” must necessarily supersede the
existing “empires” and imperial systems and take over their alien
“possessions” and that one commission embodying the collective will of
all the efficient civilized nations of the world is the only practicable
form of security for all those parts of Africa incapable or not yet
capable of self-government.

                       THE FOURTH PLENARY SESSION

                                                    Washington, Dec. 12.

The reader will have seen verbatim reports of the speeches at the fourth
plenary session of the Washington Conference and he will know already
what decisions were handed out to us from the more or less secret
session that prepared them for us.

There has been a good deal of discussion here about the secret sessions
and a certain indignation at their secrecy that I do not share. It is a
matter of decency rather than concealment that men speaking various
languages, representing complicated interests and feeling their way
toward understandings, should not be exposed to embarrassing observation
and comment until they have properly hammered out what they have to say.
It is far better to digest conclusions under cover and to present the
agreed-upon conclusion. This is no offense against democracy, no
conspiracy against publicity. The mischief of secrecy lies in secret
treaties and secret understandings and not in protected interchanges.
There is no sound objection to secret bargaining in committee provided
that finally the public is informed of the agreement arrived at and _of
all the considerations in the bargain_.

The conclusions announced are important enough in themselves; but to all
who care for the peace of the world they are far more important in the
vista of possibilities they open up. Certain notable precedents are
established. The four Root resolutions do put very clearly those ideals
of withdrawal and abstinence which must become the universal rule of
conduct between efficient and politically confused or enfeebled states
if the peace of the world is to be preserved. That is the new way in
international politics. _It is the beginning of the end of all Asiatic

And, following upon its assent to those resolutions, the conference
voted upon certain special applications of them. The abolitions of the
extra territorial grievance, the right of China as a neutral power to
escape the fate of Belgium and the right of China to be informed on the
article of any treaty affecting her were established as far as a
resolution of the conference could establish them.

And then came Senator Lodge. For the fourth plenary session “featured”
Senator Lodge just as previous ones had “featured” Secretary Hughes, Mr.
Balfour and M. Briand. Fifteen years ago I came to Washington and
Senator Lodge showed me a collection of prehistoric objects from Central
America and talked very delightfully about them. Fifteen years have
changed Washington very greatly but they have not changed Senator Lodge.

He seems perhaps just a little slenderer and neater than before, but
that may be a change in my own standards, and it was entirely in
character with my former impressions of him that in putting the
four-power treaty before the conference he should indulge himself and
his hearers in a vision of the realities of the Pacific, the
multitudinous interests of its innumerable islands, its infinite variety
of races, customs, climates and atmospheres.

It was a most curious and attractive phase of the always-interesting
conference to have this gray-headed, cultivated gentleman breaking
through all the abstract jargon of diplomacy and militarism, all the
talk of powers, radii of action, fortifications, spheres of influence,
and so forth, in his attempt to make us realize the physical loveliness
and intellectual charm of this enormous area of the world’s surface that
the four-power treaty may perhaps save now and forevermore from the fear
and horrors of war.

The proposed four-power treaty which thus starts upon its uncertain but
hopeful journey toward ratification by the Senates, Legislatures and
Governments of the world is essentially a departure from the normal
tradition of the treaties of the nineteenth century. It is the first
attempt to realize—what shall I call it?—the American way or the new way
in international affairs. Its distinctive feature is the participation
of two possible antagonists, America and Japan. Instead of a war they
make a treaty and call in Britain and France to assist. It is a treaty
for peace and not against an antagonist.

I think that the difference between “treaties for” and “treaties
against” is one that needs to be stressed. The Anglo-Japanese treaty was
a “treaty against,” a treaty against first Russia, then Germany and then
against some vaguely conceived assailant. It is a great thing to have
Japan and England cordially immolating that treaty now that this
four-power treaty of the new spirit may be born.

After Senator Lodge came M. Viviani with a very fine, if guarded,
speech. M. Viviani is a great speaker but he is not merely eloquent, and
I find people here saying little about his wonderful voice or his
overtones and undertones or his romantic charm but much about the subtle
things he said. In a gathering that is tense with attention one is apt,
perhaps, to transfer one’s own thoughts and expectations to the
gathering as a whole, but it seems to me that when M. Viviani rose to
welcome this great beginning on the Pacific, we were all thinking: “And
how much further and to what other regions of the world are you prepared
to extend this spirit and method of this Pacific bond? There is another
rather threadbare ‘treaty against’ or at least an ‘understanding
against,’ known as the Anglo-French entente. Is the time due yet for the
merger of that also in another and greater bond of peace?”

I do not know how far the question that was in his mind was in the mind
of the meeting, but I think that M. Viviani made it very plain that it
was in the background of his own mind. His speech was designed to bring
the simplicity, the easiness of the Pacific problem into sharp contrast
with the tortured complexity of the Atlantic—the Afro-European problem.
He spoke of the freedom of the Pacific from long established hate
traditions. He reminded us of the twenty centuries of war and trampled
frontiers and outrages and counter-outrages that had left Europe and
North Africa scarred and festering.

He conjured up no bogies; he had nothing to say about those 7,000,000
phantom Germans ready to extract their hidden rifles from 7,000,000
mattresses and haylofts and rush upon France; but he reminded the
conference, gravely and wisely, of the relative complexity of the
European problem, of the new untried nationalities that had been
liberated, of the vast heritage of tradition and suspicion that had to
be overcome. He addressed not only the conference but the impatient
liberal aspirations of the world. “I ask you for forbearance,” he said,
and repeated that—“I ask for forbearance.”

Now that was a great speech, and M. Viviani is manifestly the sort of
Frenchman with whom the new spirit can deal. “Forbearance” might well
serve now as the watchword of Europe. And I wish that Mr. Balfour could
have shown a fuller recognition of what M. Viviani had said. Mr. Balfour
had been so fine on several occasions at this conference that I felt it
is a little ungracious to him to confess, as I must do, that twice in
this day of the fourth plenary session, once in the conference and also
in the evening when he replied for the Allies at the Gridiron Club, he
seemed to be missing an opportunity—the opportunity of holding out a
hand of friendship to liberal France.

For the reactionary France, for the France of submarines and Senegalese
and inflated army and navy estimates, neither Britain nor America nor
any other part of the world has any use, and the more often we say that
and the more distinctly we say it the better for every one; but toward a
France that can teach and practice forbearance and come into great
associations for the common welfare of mankind we ought to hold out both
hands. Most of the bitterness that has been directed towards France of
late is not the bitterness of any natural hatred; it is the bitterness
of acute disappointment that France, the generous leader of freedom upon
both the American and European Continents, no longer leads, seems to
care no longer for either freedom or generosity. And twice I have seen
opportunities lost for an appropriate gesture of reconciliation.

Sooner or later France and England have to say to each other: “We have
been sore and sick and exasperated and suspicious and narrow. Let us
take a lesson from this American plan and set about discussing an
Atlantic treaty, an Afro-European treaty, worthy to put beside this
Pacific treaty.”

And since this has to be said, it was a pity that Mr. Balfour could not
take up M. Viviani’s half lead and begin to say it at the fourth plenary
session of the Washington Conference.

                          ABOUT THE WAR DEBTS

                                                    Washington, Dec. 13.

In the official proceedings of the Washington Conference the war debts
are never mentioned. It is an improper subject.

In the talks and discussions and the journalistic writings round and
about the Washington Conference the war debts are perpetually debated.
The nature of the discussion is so curious and interesting, it throws so
strong a light upon the difficulties that impede our path to any
settlement of the world’s affairs upon the sound democratic basis of a
world-wide will, that some brief analysis of it is necessary if this
outline of the peace situation is to be complete.

In private talk almost universally, in the weekly and monthly
publications that are here called “highbrow,” I find a very general
agreement that the bulk of these war debts and war preparation debts as
between Russia and France, and between the European allies and Britain,
and between Britain and America, and the bulk of the indemnity and
reparation debt of Germany to the Allies, cannot be paid and ought not
to be paid, and that the sooner that this legend of indebtedness is
swept out of men’s imaginations the sooner we shall get on to the work
of world reconstruction.

Only one of these debts is even remotely payable and that is the British
debt to America. But with regard to that debt the situation rises to a
high level of absurdity. The British authorities—it is an open
secret—have been offering to begin the liquidation of their debt now.
They cannot pay in gold, because most of the gold in the world is
already sleeping uselessly in American vaults; but they offer what gold
they have and, in addition, they are willing to get their factories to
work and supply manufactured goods to the American creditor—clothes,
boots, automobiles, ships, agricultural and other machinery, crockery,
and so on, and so on.

Nothing could be fairer. Britain is full of unemployed—they must be fed
anyhow—and if America insists upon her industries being buried under a
pyramid of gold and manufactured articles, the British bankers and
manufacturers believe they can, with an effort, manage the job and pull
through. The exchange may take some strange flights and dives in the
process, the British system may collapse even as the German system seems
to be collapsing, but it is a strained situation anyhow. The British
think the effort worth trying and the risk worth taking. And so behind
the scenes it is Washington rather than London that wants at present to
hold up the payment of the British debt.

Only one other of the outstanding debts looks at all payable at the
present time, and that is so much of the reparation debts of Germany to
France as can be paid in kind, in building material and manufactured
goods not produced in France. The idea of any other European debt
payments in full is just nonsense. The gold is not there and the stuff
is not there, and there is no ability to produce anything like
sufficient stuff under present conditions.

Now the interesting thing about the situation here is that the
understanding people in America do not seem to be explaining this very
simple situation as frankly as they might do to the mass of American
people or at least that this explanation has not got through to the
American people. There is a widespread conviction, which is sedulously
sustained by the less intelligent or less scrupulous organs of the
American press, that the wicked old European countries, and particularly
Britain, that arch deceiver, are trying very meanly and cunningly to
evade the payment of a righteous obligation.

Every effort to present the financial and economic disorder of the world
as a world task in which the prosperous and fortunate American people
may reasonably play a leading, intelligent and helpful part is
misrepresented in this fashion. There is a vast vague clamor for
repayment—aimed at Britain. Dealers in the old Irish hate business and
the German hate business, now a little out of their original stock of
grievances, join with shrill but syndicated Hindus in warning the simple
citizen against counsels of financial sanity as though they were
insidious propaganda. Until at last an Englishman is sorely tempted to
an exasperated, “Well, _take_ your debt!”—which does no justice to the
patience and intelligence of either England or America.

Let us be clear upon one point. So far as the British debt goes, the
Americans can have it if they prefer to take that line. The British here
in Washington and the British writers here are here because the
Americans invited them to come to discuss the world situation and the
possibilities of world peace. They are not here to beg. The time is not
likely to arrive when one English speaking community will beg from
another. It certainly has not arrived now.

However, I am an obstinate believer in the common sense and good will of
the American people, and I do not believe that a press campaign,
designed to make a great people behave after the fashion of some
hysterical back-street Oriental usurer who has struck a bad debt, is
likely to do anything but recoil severely on the heads of those who have
set it going. And I am not a believer in that sort of “tact” which would
avoid reminding the American public of the circumstances under which
these war debts were incurred.

The Russian debt to France was spent largely upon war and war
preparations while Russia was the ally and helper of France; the war
debts of the European Allies to Britain and America and the British debt
to America were spent upon war material. All these debts are for efforts
spent upon a common cause. Each country spent according to its
resources, as good allies should. Russia gave life and blood—and blood.
She gave 4,000,000 men; she smashed up her own social fabric. France and
Britain gave the lives of men beyond the million mark. Also they gave
much material, an enormous industrial effort. So also did Italy,
according to her power.

The British developed a vast production of munitions as the war went on,
using great supplies of material from America, for which they paid high
prices and on which great profits were made in America. At last America
joined the war, with her enormous reserves and strength, and gave not
only great stores of material but the lives of between 50,000 and 75,000
men. And so, altogether, America and the Allied Powers, giving their
lives and substance as they could, saved civilization from imperialism.

The British do not grudge the contribution they have made and all that
they have still to contribute for their share in that colossal victory,
but some of us English here are growing a little irritated at being
dunned as defaulters when we are not going to default, and at having our
attempts to work in co-operation with the Americans for the
rehabilitation of a strained and collapsing civilization explained as
the interested approaches of a cadging poor relation.

I wish that Americans would think of the Europeans more frequently as
people like themselves. The boys who came to Europe saw the European
armies in ranks like their own, good stuff and kindred stuff. They were
their comrades in arms; they fought and died beside them. They saw
countries and a common life very like the American country life; they
discovered that the French and British and Italians were also “just

But these American papers of the hostile sort write of France or Britain
as if they were wicked old spiders. They write of Britain as a monster
with a crown and an eyeglass and such like concomitants loathsome to all
sound democratic instincts. They write of the “designs” of France and
Italy and Britain as if these horrid monsters were all playing a
fearsome game with each other for the soul and body of America. It is
easy enough then to clamor for repayments of war debts. It is easy then
to excite people by a clamor for a war bonus for the veterans of the
Great War to be saddled upon the European debtor.

But let me remind the American soldier that the real European debtor,
the fellow on whom it will fall, the fellow who will have to toil and
pay and want, if you can realize that dream of pitiless exaction, is no
legendary monster France or Britain; it is that other fellow over there
you fought beside, it is the wounded man in blue or khaki you passed by
as you went into action, it is the man who smiled his courage at you as
you blundered against him in the din and confusion of battle.

If you listen to these stay-at-home patriots and these exotic advisers
of yours, it is he who will pay, he and his wife and his child; they
will all pay in toil and privation and worry and stunted lives. It is
they who will pay—but you will not receive. You too will pay in
disorganized business, in restricted production, in underemployment. You
will get nothing else out of it except whatever satisfaction you may
feel in having made those other fellows over there in Europe pay—and pay


                                                    Washington, Dec. 14.

Beginning with the fourth plenary session of the Washington Conference,
the registration of “results” in the Pacific, in disarmament, in China,
has begun. They are good results, assembled on a basis of broad
principles, that may sustain at last an organized permanent peace for
the whole world. If there is one thing to be noted more than another
about the work that has led up to this settlement it is the
adaptability, the intelligent and sympathetic understanding shown by
Japan in these transactions. The Japanese seem to be the most flexible
minded of peoples. They win my respect more and more.

In the days of imperialistic competition they stiffened to a
conscientious selfishness and a splendid fighting energy. Now that a new
spirit of discussion, compromise and the desire for brotherhood spreads
about the world, they catch the new note and they sound it with obvious
sincerity and good will. No people has been under such keen and
suspicious observation here as the Japanese. The idea of them as of a
people insanely patriotic, patriotically subtle and treacherous,
mysterious and mentally inaccessible has been largely dispelled. I
myself have tried that view over in my mind and dismissed it, and
multitudes of the commonplace men have gone through the same experience
here. Our Western world, I am convinced, can work with the Japanese and
understand and trust them.

It will be for other and abler pens to record the detailed working out
of the results of this great conference, this new experiment in human
reasonableness, as far as it affects Shantung and Yap and Hongkong and
Port Arthur and so forth. My time in Washington is drawing to an end,
and I will confine myself now rather to that broader and vaguer question
in which I am more interested—the question of what lies behind and
beyond this most successful and hopeful beginning in open international

Great and important as the conference is, the growth of a real and
understandable project for the steady, systematic development of an
effective international world peace, which has been going on in men’s
minds here and in the world generally in the last two months is a much
greater thing. It is a quite amazing mental growth; something very quiet
and simple and yet astonishing, like a clear crystallization out of a
turbid solution. Before the conference gathered, civilized people
throughout the world were, I think, quite confused about how the peace
of the world could ever be organized and rather hopeless about its being

Now I think there is a widespread and spreading unanimity that there is
a way, a practicable way and a hopeful way, by successive conferences,
by widening peace agreements, by the establishment of permanent joint
commissions, by systematic education and the sedulous cultivation of
confidence, along which humanity may struggle and will struggle out of
its present miseries and dangers toward the dawn of a new life.

The next conferences that are indicated will gather in a mood of
hopefulness and experience that will be the most precious legacy of the
present conference. One that must follow very soon must deal with the
economic rehabilitation of Europe. Here, it seems to me, America,
Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia at least must meet. And soon.
In the Christmas mood, in the phase of relief that radiates from
Washington and Ireland now, we must not let our elation blind us to the
fact that, for all the light that breaks in upon us, we are not yet out
of the woods. Millions are starving today, great masses of men
degenerate physically and morally in unemployment, European
industrialism crawls and staggers still.

We have laid the foundations of a new era, but the building has scarcely
begun. And in addition to the world economic conference there is also
need of another conference to face the still more difficult task of
military disarmament and the re-examination of the factors of conflict
in the Afro-European area. Personally, I want to see America in that
conference also, because I do recognize that the freshness of mind, the
deliberate diplomatic inexperience of America, is a factor of priceless
value in these discussions. I would like to see that conference also
held in an American atmosphere and before an American audience—if only
for the sake of Europe. And if America can be interested in Kwangtung, I
don’t see why America should not also be interested in Silesia, or
Cilicia, or Senegal, or the Congo, which are all very much nearer.

The appetite for conferences, the belief in conferences, will grow with
what it feeds upon. One sees these gatherings, with their accessory
commissions, permanent secretariats and increasing world services,
becoming a customary and necessary peace control of the earth.

And the peace control, growing in this natural fashion, will consist
always and solely of the efficient and willing nations of the world.
There will be no forced conclusions and no premature admission of
incompetent and feeble peoples. The pedantry that would give every
sovereign power, however little or rotten, a vote, a nice, saleable
vote, in the management of the world’s affairs will play no part in this

The Association of Nations will be a growing brotherhood of strong and
healthy and understanding peoples, bound only by a bond of self-denial
and mutual restraint toward the weaker folk of the earth. The
co-operation of the English speaking peoples, and particularly the
American will for peace, must needs play a very conspicuous part in the
crystallization of this Association, and so it is inevitable that a
certain sort of international “expert” will be screaming that the world
is threatened by an Anglo-American imperialism. It may be worth while to
say a word or so to dispel this idea.

Let us bear in mind that the Washington Conference, whose results may be
the cornerstone of the organized peace of the world, is a conference of
withdrawal and abstinence, self-restraint and mutual restraint, with
regard to China and the Pacific; its key idea is the cessation of
aggressions upon weaker or less advantageously circumstanced people. If
America and her kindred nations are most active in pressing for such
results, it is not that they are moved by any thoughts of world
predominance but by liberal ideas that are the monopoly of no race and
people. It is their fortunate lot to have been most accessible to such
ideas and to be able now to play the leading, most powerful part in
establishing them in the world. But these ideas have a broader basis and
claim a wider allegiance than merely that of the English speaking

Liberalism, the idea of great nations of free citizens held together by
bonds of mutual confidence, roots very wide and deep in humanity. It
derives from the great traditions of the Greek and Roman Republics and
from the traditions of freedom of the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples.
The America of today did not grow from American seed. Let America bear
that in mind. The American idea is the embodiment particularly of the
liberal thought of England and France in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. France cannot destroy the greatness of her past or the
greatness of her future by a phase of momentary folly with her
submarines and Senegalese, her Polish ally and all the rest of it.

All peoples have such lapses. A few years ago Britain was disgusting
with her jingoistic imperialism. Let us forget our lapses and get back
to our more enduring selves. Latin America, quite as much as English
speaking America, belongs to that great tradition of Franco-British
liberalism. Liberal Germany in 1848 and again today struggles to take
its fitting place among the emancipated peoples, as Italy did half a
century ago. These are the peoples who can best understand now and help
now. They are all in our system of ideas; they can be brought together
into one purpose.

It is natural and necessary that the peoples most saturated in that
great tradition of European liberalism should be the first full members
of the coming Association and should be prepared to lead the rest of the
world toward the new order. All peoples are not equally prepared. It is
not a question of ascendancy; it is a question of those who are able
doing the task that they alone are prepared to perform.

When I think of an Association of Nations I think, therefore, of a sort
of club or brotherhood, not of every state in the world but of the
peoples who speak English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and
Japanese, as the big brotherhood of the world, with such states as
Holland and Norway and Bohemia, and so forth, great in quality if not
great in power and entirely sympathetic by training and tradition,
associated with them in a great bond for two ends; for peace among
themselves and for restraint and patience toward the rest of mankind. I
think of such a brotherhood as the brain and backbone of the organized
peace of the world, and I cannot see how it is possible to take in the
other peoples of the world as helpers until they respond to the same

I think first of a recovered Russia and then of a unified and educated
China and a freed and reconstructed India and of many other states which
can claim to be of a civilized quality, such as Egypt, gradually winning
their way from a non-participating to a participating level. The
relationship of China to Japan in a developing Association of Nations
will be something rather analogous to the relationship of a Territory to
a State in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Unless there is a strong, well organized collective mentality in a
nation or state, I do not see how there can be anything but a sham
representation of it upon an Association of Nations, nor how it can be
anything but a responsibility and weakness to such an Association.

And outside the system of participating states, and non-participating
states, there are great regions of the earth—tropical Africa is the most
typical case—which must necessarily have a sort of order imposed upon
them from without and for which a joint control by interested associated
nations is probably the best method of government at the present time.

That, I think, is the vision of the political future of mankind that is
opening out before us; a great system of associated states, locked and
interlocked together by fourfold and sixfold and tenfold treaties, open
treaties, of peace and co-operation, ruling jointly the still barbaric
regions of the earth and pledged to respect and to keep and at last to
welcome to their own ranks the now politically enfeebled regions of old
civilization. Such an Association must necessarily supersede the
“empires” of the nineteenth century and put an end forever to the
imperialistic idea. Of such an Association the fourfold treaty may be
the foundation stone. And within the security of such an edifice of
peace mankind will be able to go on to achievements such as we at
present can scarcely imagine.


I have now come to the last paper I shall write about the Washington
Conference. I have tried to give the reader some idea of the nature of
that gathering and a broad view of the issues involved. I have tried to
prevent the sharp discussions of the foreground, the dramatic moments
and eloquent passages, from blinding us to the dark and darkening
background of Old World affairs. I have tried to show that even the
horrors of war are not the whole or the main disaster which results from
human disunion and disorder in the presence of increasing mechanical
power. I have stressed the theme of economic and social dissolution.
Necessarily, I have had to write much of dangers impending and miseries
which gather and increase, and of hates, suspicions and failures to
comprehend. And on the other hand, when one has turned to the
possibilities and methods of escape from the present conflicts and
apprehensions, necessarily one has been very largely in the thin and
unattractive atmosphere of unrealized projects. I have written of the
defects of the League of Nations scheme, its premature explicitness, its
thinly theoretical and imitative forms, its frequent mere camouflage, as
in the mandatory system, of existing wrongs, and I have brought into
contrast with it this newer and I think more natural and hopeful project
of successive Conferences, throwing off Committees, embodying their
results in treaties and Standing Commissions, and growing at last not so
much into a World Parliament, which I perceive more and more clearly is
an improbable dream, as into a living, growing, organic network of World

But now in conclusion I will ask the reader to turn his mind from this
necessary discussion of political devices and administrative
contrivances, these bleak inventions that may form the ladder of escape
from the divisions and bitterness of the present time, and to join in an
attempt to realize what the world may become if men do struggle through
these tiresome and perplexing problems to a working solution, if our
race really does get from these wearisome yet hopeful wranglings and
dealings to an organized world peace, to a disarmed world, to a steady
reduction of racial and national antipathies and distrusts, to a growing
confidence in the permanence of peace and the prevalence of good will
throughout our planet, to a comprehensive system of world controls of
the common interests of mankind. Suppose that after these present
darknesses of famine and almost universal insecurity, these confused and
often conflicting efforts we are making; suppose that in ten, or twenty,
or thirty years we shall begin to realize that the thing is, after all,
getting done, that we are indeed pushing through, moving towards the
light, that human affairs are on the up-grade again and on new and
greater and safer lines; let us suppose that and then let us ask what
sort of world it will be for our kind that we shall be moving towards?

Let us go back to one fundamental fact in the present break-up in human
affairs. That break-up is not a result of debility; _it is a result of
ill-regulated power_. It is important to bear that in mind.
Disproportionate development of energy and overstrain are the immediate
causes of our present troubles; the scale of modern economic enterprise
has outgrown the little boundaries of the European States; science and
invention have made war so monstrously destructive and disintegrative
that victory is swallowed up in disaster; we are in a world of little
nations wielding world-wide powers to the general destruction. And it
follows that if, after all, we do struggle out of our old-fashioned and
now altogether disastrous rivalries and hatreds before they destroy us,
we shall still have all this science and power, which are things that
seem now to increase by a sort of inner necessity, on our hands. So that
getting through to an organized world peace does not mean simply
avoiding death and destruction and getting back to “as you were.” It
means getting hold of power by the right end instead of the wrong end
and going right ahead. We are not struggling simply to escape, we are
struggling for the opportunity to achieve.

Personally, I do not think I would have bothered to come to Washington
or to interest myself in this peace business, and to work and blunder
and feel incompetent and be worried and distressed here, if it meant
working for just peace, flat, empty, simple peace. I do not see why the
killing of a few score millions of human beings a few years before they
would naturally and ingloriously die, or the smashing up of a lot of
ordinary, rather ugly, rather uncomfortable towns, or, if it comes to
that sort of thing, the complete depopulation of the earth, or the
prospect of being killed myself presently by a bomb or a shot or a
pestilence, should move me to any great exertions. Why bother to
exchange suffering for flatness? The worst, least endurable of miseries
is boredom. One must die somewhere; few deaths are as painful as a
first-class toothache or as depressing as a severe fit of indigestion;
you can suffer more on a comfortable death bed than on a battlefield;
and meanwhile, there is a very good chance of sunshine and snatched
happiness here or there. But what does stir me is my invincible belief
that the life I lead and the human life about me are not anything like
the good thing that could be and might be. I am not so much frightened
and distressed by these wars and national clashes and all the rest of
this silly flag-wagging, bragging, shoving business as bored and
irritated by these things. I have had some vision of what science and
education can do for life and I am haunted by the fine uses that might
be made of men and of our splendid possibilities. I do not think of war
as a tragic necessity but as a blood-stained mess. When I think of my
Europe now, I do not feel like a weakling whose world has been invaded
by stupendous and cruel powers; I feel like a man whose promising garden
has been invaded by hogs. There is the pacificism of love, the
pacificism of pity, the pacificism of commercialism, but also there is
the pacificism of utter contempt. This is not a doomed world we live in
or anything so tragically dignified; it is a world idiotically spoilt.

Do any of us fully realize the promise of that garden, the promise that
can still be rescued from the trampling dullness of old animosities and
rivalries which is wrecking it? Given unity of purpose throughout the
world, given a surcease of mutual thwarting and destruction, do we
realize what science has made possible now and here for mankind?

I shall not indulge in any imaginative anticipations of things still
undiscovered in the scientific realm, I will only suppose that things
already known and tested are systematically used all over the world,
that the good knowledge we have already stored in our laboratories and
libraries is really applied with some thoroughness and with some
community of purpose to the needs and enlargement of life.

And first let us deal with the commoner material aspects of life in
which there have been great changes and improvements in recent times and
in which, therefore, it is easiest to imagine still further betterment,
given only an assuagement of strife and blind struggle and a spreading
out of generosity and the feeling of community from international to
social affairs.

Take transport, that very fundamental social concern. It is ripe for
great advances. There is all the labor needed in the world, all the
skill and knowledge needed, and all the material needed, for these
advances. There is everything needed but peace and the recognition of a
common purpose. At present, there are railways only over a part of the
inhabited world; there are vast areas of Asia and Africa and South
America with no railway nor road communication at all and with enormous
natural resources scarcely tapped, in consequence. Roads are as yet not
nearly so widespread as railways, abundant good roads are founded indeed
only in Western Europe and the better developed regions of the United
States; there are a few good main roads in such countries as India,
South Africa, and so forth. And in many parts of Europe now, and
especially in Russia roads and railways are going out of use. Large
parts of the world are still only to be reached by a specially equipped
expedition; they are as inaccessible to ordinary travelling people as
the other side of the moon. And if you will probe into the reasons why
road and rail transport fails to develop and is even over wide areas
undergoing degradation, you will come in nearly every case upon a
political bar, a national or an imperial rivalry. These are the things
that close half our world to us and may presently close most of the
world to us. And consider even the railroads and roads we have; even
those of America or Britain, how poor and uncomfortable they are in
comparison with what we know they might be.

And then take housing. I have been motoring about a little in Maryland
and Virginia and I am astounded at the many miserable wood houses I see,
hovels rather than houses, the abodes very often of white men. I am
astounded at the wretched fences about the ill-kept patches of
cultivation and by the extreme illiteracy of many of the poorer folk,
white as well as colored, with whom I have had a chance of talking. I
have to remind myself that I am in what is now the greatest, richest,
most powerful country in the world. But with this country now as with
every country, army, navy, contentious service, war debt charges and the
rest of the legacy of past wars consume the national revenue. America is
not spending a tithe of what she ought to be spending upon schools, upon
the maintenance of a housing standard and upon roads and transport. She
improves in all these things, but at no great pace, because of the
disunion of the world and the threat of war. England and France, which
were once far ahead of her in these respects of housing, transport and
popular education, are now on the whole declining, through the excessive
fiscal burthens they are under to pay for the late war and prepare for
fresh ones. But I ask you to think what would happen to a world from
which that burthen of preparedness was lifted. The first result of that
relief would be a diversion of the huge maintenance allowance of the
war-God to just these starved and neglected things.

Stanch that waste throughout the earth, and the saved wealth and energy
will begin at once to flow in the direction of better houses, towards a
steady increase in the order and graciousness of our unkempt and
slovenly countrysides, to making better roads throughout the globe,
until the globe is accessible, and to a huge enrichment and invigoration
of education.

How fair and lovely such countries as France and Germany and Italy might
be today if the dark threat of war that keeps them so gaunt and
poverty-struck could be lifted from them. Think of the abundant and
various loveliness of France and the wit and charm of its varied
peoples, now turned sour by the toil and trouble, the fears and bitter
suspicions the threat of further war holds over them. Think of France,
fearless and at last showing the world what France can do and be. And
Italy at last Italy, and Japan, Japan. Think of the green hills of
Virginia, covered with stately homes and cheerful houses. Think of a
world in which travel is once more free and in which every country in
absolute security has been able to resume its own peace-time development
of its architecture, its music and all its arts in its own atmosphere
upon the foundations of its own past. Because world unity does not mean
uniformity; it means security to be different. It is war that forces all
men into the same khaki and iron-clad moulds.

But all this recovery of the visible idiosyncracies of nations, all this
confident activity and progressive enrichment which will inevitably
ensue upon the diversion of human attention from war and death and
conflict and mutual thwarting to peace and development, will be but the
outer indication of much profounder changes. Relieved of our war
burthens, it will be possible to take hold of education as educationists
have been longing to do for many years.

They tell us now that every one could be educated up to sixteen or
seventeen and that most people may be kept learning and growing mentally
all their lives, that no country in the world has enough schools, or
properly equipped schools, nor enough properly educated teachers in the
schools we have. The supply of university resources is still more
meager. There is hardly anyone alive who has not a sense of things that
he could know but cannot attain and of powers he can never develop. The
number of fully educated and properly nurtured people in the world,
people who can be said to have come reasonably near to realizing their
full birth possibilities, is almost infinitesimal. The rest of mankind
are either physically or mentally stunted, or both. This insolvent,
slovenly old world has begotten them, and starved them. Our lives, in
strength, in realized capacity, in achievement and happiness are perhaps
20% or 30% of what they ought to be. But if only we could sweep aside
these everlasting contentions, these hates and disputes that waste our
earth, and get to work upon this educational proposition as a big
business man gets to work upon a mineral deposit or the development of
an invention, instead of a 20% result we might clamber to an 80% or a
90% result in educated efficiency. I ask you to go through the crowded
streets of a town and note the many under-grown and ill-grown, the
under-sized, the ill-behaved; to note the appeals to childish,
prejudiced and misshapen minds in the shop windows, in the
advertisements, in the newspaper headlines at the street corners, and
then to try and think of what might be there even now in the place of
that street and that crowd.

The wealth and energy were there to make schools and give physical and
mental training to all these people, and they have gone to burst shells
and smash up the work of men, the organizing power has been wasted upon
barren disputes; the science was there and it has been cramped and
misused; even the will was there, but it was not organized to effective
application. And scarcely a man in the crowd who begets a child, or a
woman who bears one, but will dream of its growing to something better
than the thwarted hope it will become.

Have you ever examined an aeroplane or a submarine, and realized the
thousand beautiful adjustments and devices that have produced its
wonderful perfection? Have you ever looked at a street corner loafer and
thought of the ten thousand opportunities that have been cast away of
saving him from what he has become?

When we follow this line of thought, it becomes clear that our first
vision of a world-wide net of fine roads, great steady trains on renewed
and broader tracks, long distance aeroplane flights of the securest
sort, splendid and beautiful towns, a parklike countryside, studded with
delightful homes, was merely the scene and frame for a population of
well-grown, well-trained, fully adult human beings. All the world will
be accessible to them, mountains to climb, deserts to be alone in,
tropics to explore in wonder, beautiful places for rest. And they will
be healthy, and happy in the way that only health makes possible. For
surely it is no news to any one that a score of horrible tints and
diseases that weaken and cripple us, a number of infections, a multitude
of ill-nourished and under-nourished states of body, can be completely
controlled and banished from life, they and all the misery they
entail—given only a common effort, given only human co-operation instead
of discussion. The largest visible material harvest of peace is the
least harvest of peace. The great harvest will be health and human

And happiness! Think of the mornings that will some day come, when men
will wake to read in the papers of something better than the great 5–5–3
wrangle, of the starvation and disorder of half the world, of the stupid
sexual crimes and greedy dishonesties committed by the adults with the
undeveloped intelligence of vicious children, of suggestions of horrible
plots and designs against our threadbare security, of the dreary
necessity for “preparedness.” Think of a morning when the newspaper has
mainly _good_ news, of things discovered, of fine things done; think of
the common day of a common citizen in a world where debt is no longer a
universal burthen, where there is constant progress and no
retrogression, where it is the normal thing to walk out of a beautiful
house into a clean and splendid street, to pass and meet happy and
interesting adults instead of aged children obsessed by neglected spites
and jealousies and mean anxieties, to go to some honorable occupation
that helps the world forward to a still greater and finer life. You may
say that a world may be prosperous and men and women healthy and free
and yet there will still be spites and jealousies and all the bitterness
of disputation, but that is no more true than that there will still be
toothache. A mind educated and cared for, quite as well as a body, can
be healed and kept clean and sweet and free from these maddening
humiliations and suppressions that now fester in so many souls. There is
no real necessity about either physical or mental miserableness in human
life. Given, that is, a sufficient release of human energy to bring a
proper care within the reach of all. And consider the quality of
interest in such a world. Think of the mental quality of a world in
which each day the thought and research of a great host of intelligences
turns more and more the opaque and confused riddles of yesteryear into
transparent lucidity. Think of the forces of personal and national
idiosyncracy, of patriotic and racial assertion, seeking and finding
their expression not in vile mutual thwarting and a brutish
destructiveness, but in the distinctive architecture of cities, in the
cultivated and intensified beauty of the countryside, in a hundred forms
of art, in costume and custom. Think of the freedom, the abundance, the
harmonious differences of such a world!

This is not idle prophecy, this is no dream. Such a world is ours
today—if we could but turn the minds of men to realize that it is here
for the having. These things can be done, this finer world is within
reach. I can write that as confidently today as I wrote in 1900 that men
could fly. But whether we are to stop this foolery of international
struggle, this moral and mental childishness of patriotic aggressions,
this continual bloodshed and squalor, and start out for a world of adult
sanity in ten years, or in twenty years, or a hundred years, or never,
is more than I can say. In Washington, I have met and seen hopes that
seemed invincible, and stupidities and habits and prejudices that seemed
insurmountable; I have lived for six weeks in a tangled conflict of
great phrases, mean ends, inspiration, illogicality, forgetfulness,
flashes of greatness and flashes of grossness. I am no moral accountant
to cast a balance and estimate a date. My moods have fluctuated between
hope and despair.

But I know that I believe so firmly in this great World at Peace that
lies so close to our own, ready to come into being as our wills turn
towards it, that I must needs go about this present world of disorder
and darkness like an exile doing such feeble things as I can towards the
world of my desire, now hopefully, now bitterly, as the moods may
happen, until I die.


¶ Mr. WELLS has also written the following novels:


¶ The following fantastic and imaginative romances:


    And numerous Short Stories now collected in One Volume under the
       title of

¶ A Series of books on Social, Religious, and Political questions:


¶ And two little books about children’s play, called:



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Added table of Contents.
 2. Moved ads from before the title page to the end.
 3. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 4. Retained anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as
 5. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Washington and the Riddle of Peace" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.