The Power That Makes for Peace
“Under certain circumstances a nation will fight if it have left in it a spark of the elemental human virtue. And the remedy for such conditions lies far back of any influences which force or arbitrary restrictions can create.”
Few movements of the last half-century have commended themselves more to thoughtful men than the present organized effort for the establishment of the principle of international arbitration, and through this the securing of a world peace. In the last two decades this cause has gained in strength and coherency, and the world owes a debt which can never be paid to the men who have persistently pressed upon the attention of nations its importance and its feasibility.
The last decade in the history of the peace movement is its best. The establishment of the Hague Tribunal, the gift of Mr. Carnegie for a fitting building for its meetings, and, above all, the focusing of international attention upon the feasibility of and necessity for international arbitration, have marked real progress in the practical solution of the problem of world peace. Every friend of humanity must feel encouraged at these steps, and must have had his faith quickened for the work of the future. That that work shall be a real one; that it shall lead not merely to international gatherings, but to international agreements; that it may make war not only less horrible, but less frequent; that it may bring about a common understanding under which questions of dispute may be adjudicated by reason, not by force; that it may create a public opinion that shall prove a powerful factor in restraining nations from war; all these things we may reasonably hope for. The movement will hasten them in just such measure as it is led wisely, sanely, effectively.
Any such movement, which has to do with the larger relations of mankind and which touches fundamental human tendencies and qualities, is likely to pass through a period of progress followed by a period of depression. It is likely to receive strength from unexpected sources and to be weakened by unexpected defections. It is sure to suffer from the lack of knowledge on the part of those who oppose it; and it is equally sure to suffer from the zeal of its own friends, who expect more of an organized movement than any organization can accomplish. The history of the present-day peace movement is in some respects the analogue of the history of the anti-slavery agitation of a century ago. The movement against slavery appealed, as does the movement against militarism, to the higher moral instincts and inspirations of men. The men of the nineteenth century saw clearly the vast evils of slavery, as the men of the twentieth see clearly the evils of war and of militarism. In proportion as one appreciates such burdens to the social order, one is tempted to be influenced by his emotions and to find himself stirred with indignation at a condition of affairs which he seeks at once to remedy. It is at such times that one is led to overestimate the power of an organization and to assume that it can take the place of the deeper underlying human education which alone can deal with such conditions. It is at such times that men are prone to become the partisans rather than the advocates of a cause, and to lose their perspective of social forces and of human nature. The advocate of peace is likely to be a real force in the progress of the movement for world peace; the partisan of peace has an attitude of mind likely to injure rather than to help the cause he supports. The man who is so eager for world peace that he is ready to fight for it has forgotten for the moment the long history of our race and its rise from savagery to civilization.
As one profoundly interested in this movement, I venture to call attention to certain fundamental human qualities which must inevitably be reckoned with in any such movement, and to point out at the same time certain directions in which our neglect of these considerations may lead us to hinder rather than to further our cause.
When we look back over the history of our race, so far as we know it, it seems clear that man is fundamentally a fighting animal. The fact that he is a fighting animal is perhaps the most important element in his evolution, and has had as much to do as any other quality with the slow process of improvement which has made the world of to-day out of the world of fifty thousand years ago. The whole process of civilization has been a development out of this life of continuous fighting and toward a life of comparative peace.
Just what this power is which has brought men out of a life of warfare into a life of comparative peace is a question about which men differ. Some will answer vaguely that the power is a combination of forces which have evolved the human race; some call it religion; and many have believed during the last two thousand years that it is Christianity. But however our notions may differ as to what the power may be, there is no difference as to the process. We know that the process by which men have passed from a life of warfare to a life of peace is nothing other than the slow and sure process of the education of the minds and of the consciences of men, and we know further that this slow and sure process is the only one that will ever bring a true world peace. There are no short cuts by which men may be made good, or by which men may be made peaceful, though good men have sought in all ages to find such. If the world could have been saved by an organization, it would have been saved a thousand years ago by the Christian church; if it could have been saved by legislative enactment, it would have been saved centuries ago by the parliaments of the nations; if it could have been saved by administrative process, it would have been saved by the rulers who have governed it for two thousand years. There is no such royal road to pace. The world, if it is ever to know universal peace, will find it only through that same slow process by which we have attained our present civilization; and however important peace congresses and international agreements and international tribunals may be, let us not lose our perspective of their true place in this process. They are not the agencies which are to do the real work, but are only the methods by which public opinion is to be influenced and quickened.
Nor can one afford to forget, when he seeks to serve the cause of world peace, the elemental influence to which our human nature responds and the fundamental virtues to which they give rise. To bring about peace we cannot make human nature over; we can hope only to discipline and to refine it. That fighting spirit of our race, the spirit that is in every man, the spirit that has been ingrained in us by hundreds of thousands of years of our race life, and that has played so great a party in our evolution from barbarism to civilization, is not wholly bad. It grew on the one side out of aggressiveness, selfishness, suspicion; but on the other side its roots went deep into the nobler qualities of bravery, courage, loyalty, patriotism. The whole process of civilization has been an effort not to eradicate this spirit, but to discipline and refine it; to retain the old-time virtues while getting rid of the old-time vices. The man of the highest civilization to-day is no less a fighter than his savage ancestor of ten thousand years ago, but he holds the spirit of the fighter under the discipline of self-control and of the law. We could not, if we would, banish from our social and political life the things which appeal to this fighting spirit, because they pervade our whole civilization, our literature, our language, our religion. When a band of scholars rises to its feet and breaks into that martial song, “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” it is partly the appeal to this old-time in-bred human spirit which stirs them, as well as the motive of Christian duty and of Christian service.
For this reason it seems to me unwise in the advocate of world peace to seek to banish such patriotic sentiments and influences. Such a criticism as has been made of the Jamestown Exposition, on account of the naval display which is to be had in connection with it, seems to me, on the whole, to hinder, not to further the cause of universal peace. To make such a criticism and to urge the banishment from our everyday life of all those things which appeal to the fighting spirit of man is to forget the long story of human development. It is to confuse symptoms with causes. For it is not soldiers and cannon and ships which make national quarrels, but the injustice, the greed, the selfishness, the ambitions, and above all the ignorance of man, which sets armies and navies of their dreadful work. If we could to-morrow destroy every war vessel and dissolve every army, it would not insure universal peace, any more than the destruction of all the liquor in the world would bring about universal temperance. We serve best the cause of peace when we recognize frankly the process out of which we have come, when we deal clear-eyed with the universal human spirit and the elemental human tendencies, and when we lend ourselves to that process which the power that makes for righteousness has given us, the process of the education of the great mass of mankind. It is when we take a step in that slow evolution of education that we take a real step toward a true world of peace. A nation helps the cause of peace when it takes official part in a world’s congress for this cause, but it works immeasurably more efficiently when it deals justly and fairly with its own citizens and with other nations. A university does well to send its representatives to a peace congress, but it does a real work for peace when it sends into the world men who deal rightly with their fellow-men. A corporation helps the cause of peace best when it deals fairly, not only with its own interests but with the interests of its employees. A labor union aids the cause of peace most effectively when it develops a policy of unselfishness and fairness instead of a policy of selfishness and greed. A soldier stands for peace when he uses the military power justly, fairly, mercifully. We bring a world peace nearer when we so educate the individual man as to bring about a common understanding between men and between nations. The first step to individual agreement is individual confidence; the first step to international peace is international confidence and respect for the common motives of nations. And the first step in common confidence and respect is common knowledge and acquaintance. Ignorance of the motives, of the ideals, of the purposes of those with whom we have to do is the author, not only of armies and navies, but of wars and battles.
The old-time savage life was a life of isolation. Each man held a suspicion and dread of his neighbor which was in proportion to his ignorance of his neighbor’s purposes and ideals. The first steps of civilization were those which led to association and acquaintance; and these must be the first steps in an international peace which is to be lasting. Intellectual and social isolation has bred more wars than hatred and revenge.
Among the many causes of our Civil War, one which is seldom thought of was the intellectual and political isolation of the Southern States. The Southern leaders sincerely believed in 1860 that they could organize a nation which could go on perpetuating slavery in disregard of the public opinion of the rest of the world. Had these leaders been men in touch with the world’s thoughts and the world’s ideals they would have known that slavery was already dead, that no civilized nation could long maintain it, that the world was already ripe for its abandonment; and they themselves realized before the war was half over that, even if the Southern Confederacy were established, slavery was gone. A nation pays a fearful price for intellectual and moral isolation, a price paid down in centuries of suffering and in the blood of unnumbered battlefields.
However deeply we may regret war, however sincerely we may desire peace, there are probably few men who do not sincerely believe that for years to come our nation, in common with other nations, must maintain an army and navy, whatever limitations may be placed on their development.
So long as an army and a navy are to be maintained, it is important that the men who make up the military service shall be drawn from citizens of the highest character. If we are to place in the hands of men military power, it is above all essential that they shall be men of high intelligence and of high ideals.
There has grown up in Europe, and in America in recent years, amongst those active in the cause of international peace, a disposition to discredit and to belittle the military service; a tendency to discourage by all means young men of high character from entering the service of the army and of the navy.
In the light of our history and of our development this effort also seems to me against the interest of the peace movement, not in favor of it. No citizen or group of citizens can belittle the service of one’s country in any direction without striking a blow at the same time at the deeper human qualities of loyalty and patriotism which lie back of all service and of all devotion.
No man who will look carefully into the work of the army or the navy can fail to realize that a career in either branch of our military service is one to which any man may give himself with the fullest devotion and with the highest ideals. Americans, as a rule, know little about the actual work of either of these services, and few realize that when a man enters the service of the army or the navy, whether as officer or as enlisted man, he enters a great school, a school in which is taught not only the discipline of self-restraint, of cleanliness, of devotion to duty, but also the elements of an education. An enlisted man who enters a regiment of the army, barely able to read and write, comes out, if he be a man of ambition and industry, at the end of three years, in possession of the fundamentals of an English education. His officer stands to him not only in the relation of military director, but in the relation also of a teacher and of a friend. There is no career open to an American boy, unless it be that of a teacher, which offers a larger opportunity than that of the army or navy officer to minister to the service of men.
There are, to be sure, in both services men who do not take their profession seriously; there are men who are lazy and who are indifferent; but the great body of officers are earnest, hard-working, patriotic men. There is no life to which an American boy can give himself better worth his metal than that which he can find in either of these services. To belittle this life, to minimize its value, to seek to place it under social condemnation, is to strike a blow, not for peace but against that inbred spirit which stands for courage and loyalty and patriotism. For one cannot destroy the old-time fighting spirit of the race without weakening at the same time these elemental human virtues.
Of the truth of this statement the world has had an object lesson so striking that he who runs may read. For more than twenty-five centuries the Chinese have developed under a philosophy which led them to belittle in every way the soldier’s life and to exalt in comparison with it the life of commerce and of peace. In this matter the philosophy of Confucius has been accepted by that nation with a completeness and sincerity seldom shown in the history of any religious or philosophical evolution. The Chinese have become essentially a peaceful people. No nation needs to fear their aggressions. Amongst them the profession of the soldier has come to be considered the lowest of all callings.
The result of centuries of education in this philosophy is that China is at the mercy of all the so-called Christian nations; but, what is more serious, the process of eradicating the old fighting spirit has not only banished the worse qualities of that spirit, but it has also rooted out the old-time human virtues of loyalty and patriotism. There are those who have read in the teachings of Jesus Christ a similar lesson. “Blessed are the peace-makers” has been taken to mean “blessed are the peaceful.” As a matter of fact, one can scarcely find a greater contrast than is shown in this respect between the philosophy of Jesus Christ and the philosophy of Confucius. Christ lived at a time when the burdens and horrors of war were felt in every hamlet and in every home. The military power held the social order at its mercy. Yet He never sought to array society against the soldier or the soldier’s calling. On the other hand, looking beneath the surface of things, He dealt with the causes which made men and nations selfish and cruel and warlike, and to the soldier He said, “Live your life as a soldier honestly, justly, mercifully,” knowing full well that he who lived the soldier’s life in this spirit serve the cause of peace as truly as he who advocated peace upon the housetops.
It is in view, too, of this age-long racial history that I cannot make myself believe that the artificial remedies which have been advocated as an antidote for war have serious significance. The idea that war can be made so dangerous that men will not engage in it, or that peace can be arbitrarily brought in by force, fails alike to take account of our racial history and of the underlying influences which move men. Such remedies have the same significance in the social order that the Keeley cure for drunkenness has in medicine.
The nation which should act on such a theory might well expect to share the experience of a doughty Confederate colonel who, after the Civil War, returned with his war-worn and defeated veterans to his native village and was twitted on the fact that four years earlier he had boasted that he and his men could lick the Yankees with popguns. “So we could,” answered the colonel stoutly, “but the Yankees wouldn’t fight that way.”
The truth is, there are no such short cuts to peace. Dreadful as war is, there are some things even worse. Under certain circumstances a nation will fight if it have left in it a spark of the elemental human virtue. And the remedy for such conditions lies far back of any influences which force or arbitrary restrictions can create.
And so I venture, in this day of enthusiasm for organization, to recall the fact that the cause of universal peace which we advocate is really no new thing, that it is nothing other than the cause of universal education; not necessarily the education of the school, but the education which makes man understand man, which makes state understand state, and which brings nations into relations of confidence and trust with other nations. Let us by all means further by these formal gatherings the cause of international organization, but let us not lose our perspective with respect to the organization, and the results which it may accomplish. And let us by all means not forget that the process which is in the end to bring about the result is, after all, the same slow process which is in the end to bring about the result is, after all, the same slow process which has brought us up from savagery to the civilization of our day. That process we may hasten, but it cannot be done by disregarding our age-long racial history or our inbred human nature.
The beginning of the peace movement lies in the promotion of common confidence and better understanding, not in the effort to belittle and to ostracize any class of citizens. The largest result which it may hope to gain is by focusing public attention, by creating a better understanding, by replacing ignorance with knowledge, by creating an international conscience. The real work will always remain the work of educating the consciences and the minds of the great mass of mankind.
It is through this slow process that we may venture to hope that the time will come when international differences shall be in the keeping of international tribunals; and it is by the furthering of this sure process that the peace advocates of to-day may hope to bring about a movement which shall have as its consummation the deliverance of the world from the burden and horror of war. The cause of organized peace is worthy of our race and of its highest representatives. Let us hope that they may go forward in this effort, not only with true enthusiasm, but also with true judgment; that they may preserve a fair perspective, realizing that the causes of war lie far back of armies and navies, in the fundamental qualities of human nature; and that such organized effort will have force and value in proportion as those who direct it preserve a true vision and a serene judgment.