The future historian of the first decade of the twentieth century will be puzzled. He will find that the world at the opening of the century was an extraordinarily belligerent mood, and that the mood was well-nigh universal, dominating the New World as well as the Old, the Orient no less than the Occident. He will find that preparations for war, especially among nations which confessed allegiance to the Prince of Peace, were carried forward with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, and that the air was filled with prophetic voices, picturing national calamities and predicting bloody and world-embracing conflicts.
Alongside of this fact he will find another fact no less conspicuous and universal, — that everybody of importance in the early years of the twentieth century was an ardent champion of peace. He will find in incontestable evidence that the King of England was one of the truest friends of peace who ever sat on the English throne, that the German Emperor proclaimed repeatedly that the cause of peace was ever dear to his heart, that the President of the United States was so effective as a peacemaker that he won a prize for ending a mighty war, that the Czar of Russia was so zealous in his devotion to peace that he called the nations to meet in solemn council to consider measures for ushering in an era of universal amity and good will, and that the President of France, the King of Italy, and the Mikado of Japan were not a whit behind their royal brethren in offering sacrifices on the altar of the Goddess of Peace. A crowd of royal peacemakers in a world surcharged with thoughts and threats of war, a band of lovers strolling down an avenue which they themselves had lined with lyddite shells and twelve-inch guns, this will cause our historian to rub his eyes.
In his investigations he will find that the world’s royal counselors and leading statesmen were also, without exception, wholeheartedly devoted to the cause of conciliation. He will read with admiration the speeches of Prince Bülow, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Mr. H. H. Asquith, Mr. John Hay, and Mr. Elihu Root, and will be compelled to confess that the three leading nations of our Western world never in the entire course of their history had statesmen more pacific than these in temper, or more eloquent in their advocacy of the cause of international good will. A galaxy of peace-loving statesmen under a sky black with the thunder-clouds of war, this is certain to bewilder our historian.
His perplexity will become no less when he considers the incontrovertible proofs that never since time began were the masses of men so peaceably inclined as in just this turbulent and war-rumor-tormented twentieth century. He will find that science and commerce and relations together, that the wage-earners in all the European countries had begun to speak of one another as brothers, and that the growing spirit of fraternity and coöperation had expressed itself in such organizations as the Interparliamentary Union, with a membership of twenty-five hundred legislators and statesmen, and various other societies and leagues of scholars and merchants and lawyers and jurists. He will find delegations paying friendly visits to neighboring countries, and will read, dumbfounded, what the English and German papers were saying about invasions, and the need of increased armaments, at the very time that twenty thousand Germans in Berlin were applauding to the echo the friendly greetings of a company of English visitors. And he will be still more nonplussed when he reads that, while ten thousand boys and girls in Tokio were singing loving greetings to our naval officers, there were men in the United States rushing from city to city urging the people to prepare for an American-Japanese war. It will seem inexplicable to our historian that when peace and arbitration and conciliation societies were multiplying in very land, and when men seemed to hate war with an abhorrence never known in any preceding era, there should be a deluge of war-talk flowing like an infernal tide across the world.
His bewilderment, however, will reach its climax when he discovers that it was after the establishment of an international court that all the nations voted to increase their armaments. Everybody conceded that it was better to settle international disputes by reason rather than by force, but as soon as the legal machinery was created, by means of which the sword could be dispensed with, there was a fresh fury to perfect at once all the instruments of destruction. After each new peace conference there was a fresh cry for more guns. Our historian will read with gladness the records of the meetings of the Hague Conference, and of the laying of the foundation of a periodic Congress of Nations and of a permanent High Court. He will note the neutralization of Switzerland, Belgium, and Norway; the compact entered into by the countries bordering on the North Sea, to respect one another’s territorial rights forever; the agreement of the same sort solemnly ratified by all the countries bordering on the Baltic; the signing of more than eighty arbitration treaties, twenty of these ratified by the United States government; the creation of an International Bureau of American Republics, embracing twenty-one nations; the establishment of a Central American High Court; the elaboration and perfection of legal instruments looking toward the parliament of man, the federation of the world.
He will note also that, while these splendid achievements of the peace-spirit were finding a habitation and a name, the nations were thrilled as never before by dismal forebodings, and the world was darkened by whispers of death and destruction. While the Palace of Peace at The Hague was building, nations hailed the advent of the airship as a glorious invention, because of the service it could render to the cause of war. This unprecedented growth of peace sentiment, accompanied by a constant increase of jealousy and suspicion, of fear and panic, among the nations of the earth, will set our historian at work to ascertain the meaning of this strange phenomenon, the most singular perhaps to be met with in the entire history of the world.
It will not take him long to discover that the fountains from which flowed these dark and swollen streams of war-rumor were all located within the military and naval encampments. It was the experts of the army and navy who were always shivering at some new peril, and painting sombre pictures of what would happen in case new regiments were not added to the army and additional battleships were not voted for the fleet. It was Lord Roberts, for instance, who discovered how easily England could be overrun by a German army; and it was General Kuropatkin who had discernment to see that the Russo-Japanese war was certain to break out again. The historian will note that the magazine essays on “Perils” were written for the most part by military experts, and that the newspaper scare articles were the productions of young men who believed what the military experts had told them. Many naval officers, active and retired, could not make an after-dinner speech without casting over their hearers the shadow of some impending conflict.
It was in this way that legislative bodies came to think that possibly the country was really in danger; and looking round for a ground on which to justify new expenditures for war material, they seized upon an ancient pagan maxim, — furnished by the military experts, — “If you wish peace, prepare for war.” The old adage, once enthroned, working with the energy of a god. The love of war had largely passed away. The illusion which for ages it had created in the minds of millions had lost its spell. Men had come to see that war is butchery, savagery, murder, hell. They believed in reason. Peace was seen to be the one supreme blessing for the world; but to preserve the peace it was necessary to prepare for war. This lay at the centre of the policy of the twentieth century. No guns were asked for to kill men with—guns were mounted as safeguards. No battleships were launched to fight with—they were preservers of the peace. Colossal armies and gigantic navies were exhibited as a nation’s ornaments— beautiful tokens of its love of peace. And following thus the Angel of Peace, the nations increased their armaments until they spent upon them over two billions of dollars every year, and amassed national debts aggregating thirty-five billions. The expenditure crushed the poorest of the nations and crippled the richest of them, but the burden was gladly borne because it was a sacrifice for the cause of peace. It was a pathetic and thrilling testimony of the human heart’s hatred of war and longing for peace, when the nations became willing to bankrupt themselves in the effort to keep from fighting.
But at this point our historian will begin to ask whether there might have been any relation between the multiplication of the instruments of slaughter and the constant rise of the tide of war-talk and war-feeling. He will probably suspect that the mere presence of the shining apparatus of death may have kindled in men’s hearts feelings of jealousy and distrust, and created panics which even Hague Conferences and peaceful=minded rulers and counselors could not possibly allay. When he finds that it was only men who lived all their life with guns who were haunted by horrible visions and kept dreaming hideous dreams and that the larger the armament the more was a nation harassed by fears of invasion and possible annihilation, he will propound to himself these questions: Was it all a delusion, the notion that vast military and naval establishments are a safeguard of the peace? Was it a form of national lunacy, this frenzied outpouring of national treasure for the engines of destruction? Was it an hallucination, this feverish conviction that only by guns can a nation’s dignity be symbolized, and her place in the world’s life and action be honorably maintained?
These are questions which our descendants are certain to ponder, and why should not we face them now? If this preparing for war in order to keep the peace is indeed a delusion, the sooner we find it out the better, for it is the costliest of all obsessions by which humanity has ever been swayed and mastered. There are multiplying developments which are leading thoughtful observers to suspect that this pre-Christian maxim is a piece of antiquated wisdom, and that the desire to establish peace in our modern world by multiplying and brandishing the instruments of war is a product of mental aberration. Certainly there are indications pointing in this direction. The world’s brain may possibly have become unbalanced by a bacillus carried in the folds of a heathen adage. The most virulent and devastating disease now raging on the earth is militarism.
The militarist of our day betrays certain symptoms with which the student of pathology is not altogether unfamiliar. There are obsessions which obtain so firm a grip upon the mind that it is difficult to banish them. For example, a man who has the impression that he is being tracked by a vindictive and relentless foe is not going to sit down and quietly listen to an argument the aim of which is to prove that no such enemy exists, and that the sounds which have caused the panic are the footfalls of an approaching friend. The militarist will listen to no man who attempts to prove that his “perils” are creations of the brain. Indeed, he is exceedingly impatient under contradiction; and, here again, he is like all victims of hallucinations. To deny his assumptions or to question his conclusions, is to him both blasphemy and treason, a sort of profanity and imbecility worthy of contempt and scorn. He alone stands on foundations which cannot be shaken, and other men who do not possess his inside information, or technical training for dealing with such questions, are living in a fool’s paradise. The ferocity with which he attacks all who dare oppose him is the fury of a man whose brain is abnormally excited.
Recklessness of consequences is a trait which physicians usually look for in certain types of mental disorder, and here again the militarist presents the symptoms of a man who is sick. What cares he for consequences? The naval experts of Germany are dragging the German Empire ever deeper into debt, unabashed by the ominous mutterings of a coming storm. The naval experts of England go right on launching Dreadnoughts, while the number of British paupers grows larger with the years, and all British problems become increasingly baffling and alarming. The naval experts of Russia plan for a new billion-dollar navy, notwithstanding Russia’s national debt is four and one-quarter billion dollars, and to pay her current expenses she is compelled to borrow seventy-five million dollars every year. With millions of her people on the verge of starvation, and beggars swarming through the streets of her cities and round the stations of her railways, the naval experts go on asking new appropriations for guns.
The terror of a patient who is suffering from mental derangement is often pathetic. Surround him with granite walls, ten in number, and every wall ten feet thick, and he will still insist that he is unprotected. So it is with the militarist. No nation has ever yet voted appropriations sufficient to quiet his uneasy heart. England’s formula of naval strength has for some time been: The British navy in capital ships must equal the next two strongest navies, plus ten per cent. But notwithstanding the British navy is to-day in battleships and cruisers and torpedo boats almost equal to the next three strongest navies, never has England’s security been so precarious, according to her greatest military experts, as to-day. It has been discovered at the eleventh hour that her mighty navy is no safeguard at all, unless backed up by a citizen army of at least a million men. It was once the aim to protect England against probable combinations against her. The ambition now is to protect her against all possible combinations. In the words of a high authority in the British army, she must protect herself not only against the dangers she has any reason to expect, but also against those which nobody expects.
Like many another fever, militarism grows by what it feeds on, and unless checked by heroic measures is certain to burn the patient up. Men in a delirium seldom have a sense of humor. The world is fearfully grim to them, and life a solemn and tragic thing. They express absurdities with a sober face, and make ridiculous assertions without a smile. It may be the militarists are in a sort of delirium. At any rate, they publish articles entitled, “Armies the Real Promoters of Peace,” without laughing aloud at the grotesqueness of what they are doing.
The militarist is comic in his seriousness. He says that if you want to keep the peace you must prepare for war, and yet he knows that where men prepare for war by carrying bowie knives, peace is a thing unheard of, and that where every man is armed with a revolver, the list of homicides is longest. He declares his belief in kindly feelings and gentle manners, and proceeds at once to prove that a nation ought to make itself look as ferocious as possible. In order to induce nations to be gentlemen, he would have them all imitate the habits of rowdies. To many persons this seems ludicrous, to a militarist it is no joke. He is champion of peace, but he wants to carry a gun. The man who paces up and down my front pavement with a gun on his shoulder may have peaceful sentiments, but he does not infuse peace into me. It does not help matters for him to shout out every few minutes, “I will not hurt you if you behave yourself,” for I do not know his standard of good behavior, and the very sight of the gun keeps me in a state of chronic alarm. But the militarist says that, for promoting harmonious sentiments and peaceful emotions, there is nothing equal to an abundance of well-constructed guns.
A droll man indeed is the militarist. What matters it what honeyed words the King of England and the German Kaiser interchange, so long as each nation hears constantly the launching by the other of a larger battleship? And even though Prince Bülow may say to Mr. Asquith a hundred times a week, “We mean no harm,” and Mr. Asquith may shout back, “We are your friends,” so long as London and Berlin are never beyond earshot of soldiers, who are practicing how to shoot to kill, just so long will England and Germany be flooded with the gossip of hatred, and thrown into hysteria by rumors of invasion and carnage.
Like many other diseases, militarism is contagious. One nation can be infected by another until there is an epidemic round the world. A parade of battleships can kindle fires in the blood of even peaceful peoples, and increase naval appropriations in a dozen lands. Is it possible, some one asks, for a world to become insane? That a community can become crazy was proved by Salem, in the days of the witchcraft delusion; that a city can lose its head was demonstrated by London, at the time of the Gunpowder Plot; that a continent can become the victim of an hallucination was shown when Europe lost its desire to live, and waited for the end of the world in the year 1000. Why should it be counted incredible that many nations, bound together by steam and electricity, should fall under the spell of a delusion, and should act for a season like a man who has gone mad? But it is not true that the world has gone mad. The masses of men are sensible; but at present the nations are in the clutches of the militarists, and no way of escape has yet been discovered. The deliverance will come as soon as men begin to think and examine the sophistries with which militarism has flooded the world.
Certain facts will surely, some day, burn themselves into the consciousness of all thinking men. The expensiveness of the armed peace is just beginning to catch the eye of legislators. The extravagance of the militarists will bring about their ruin. They cry for battleships at ten million dollars each, and Parliament or Congress votes them. But later on it is explained that battleships are worthless without cruisers, cruisers are worthless without torpedo boats, torpedo boats are worthless without torpedo-boat destroyers, all these are worthless without colliers, ammunition boats, hospital boats, repair boats; and these all together are worthless without deeper harbors, longer docks, more spacious navy yards. And what are all these worth without officers and men, upon whose education millions of dollars have been lavished? When at last the navy has been fairly launched, the officials of the army come forward and demonstrate that a navy, after all, is worthless unless it is supported by a colossal land force. Thus are the governments led on, step by step, into a treacherous morass, in which they are at first entangled, and finally overwhelmed.
All the great nations are to-day facing deficits, caused in every case by the military and naval experts. Into what a tangle the finances of Russia and Japan have been brought by militarists is known to everybody. Germany has, in a single generation, increased her national debt from eighteen million dollars to more than one billion dollars. The German Minister of Finance looks wildly round in search of new sources of national income. Financial experts confess that France is approaching the limit of her sources of revenue. Her deficit is created by her army and navy. The British government is always seeking for new devices by means of which to fill a depleted treasury. Her Dreadnoughts keep her poor. Italy has for years staggered on the verge of bankruptcy because she carries an overgrown army on her back. Even our own rich republic faces this year a deficit of over a hundred million dollars, largely due to the one hundred and thirty millions we are spending on our navy. Mr. Cortelyou has called our attention to the fact that while in thirty years we have increased our population by 85 per cent, and our wealth by 185 per cent, we have increased our national expenses by 400 per cent.
It is within those thirty years that we have spent one billion dollars on our navy. And the end is not yet. The Secretary of the Navy has recently asked for twenty-seven new vessels for the coming year, four of which are battleships at ten million dollars each, and he is frank to say that these twenty-seven are only a fraction of the vessels to be asked for later on. We have already, built or building, thirty-one first-class battleships, our navy ranking next to Great Britain, Germany standing third, France fourth, and Japan fifth: but never has the naval lobby at Washington been so voracious and so frantic for additional safeguards of the peace as to-day.
The militarists are peace-at-any-price men. They are determined to have peace even at the risk of national bankruptcy. Everything good in Germany, Italy, Austria, England, and Russia is held back by the confiscation of the proceeds of industry carried on for the support of army and navy. In the United States the development of our resources is checked by this same fatal policy. We have millions of acres of desert land to be irrigated, millions of acres of swamp land to be drained, thousands of miles of inland waterways to be improved, harbors to be deepened, canals, to be dug, and forests to be safeguarded, and yet for all these works of cardinal importance we can afford only a pittance. We have not sufficient money to pay decent salaries to our United States judges, or to the men who represent us abroad. We have pests, implacable and terrible, like the gypsy moth, and plagues like tuberculosis, for whose extermination millions of money are needed at once.
On every hand we are hampered and handicapped, because we are spending two-thirds of our enormous revenues on pensions for past wars, and on equipment for wars yet to come. The militarists begrudge every dollar that does not go into army or navy. They believe that all works of internal improvement ought to be paid for by the selling of bonds, even the purchase of sites for new post-offices being made possible by mortgaging the future. They never weary of talking of our enormous national wealth, and laugh at the niggardly mortals who do not believe in investing it in guns. Why should we not spend as great a proportion of our wealth on military equipment as the other nations of the world? This is their question, and the merchants and farmers will answer it some day.
This delusion threatens to become as mischievous as it is expensive. Every increase in the American navy strengthens the militarists in London, Berlin, and Tokio. The difficulty of finding a reason for an American navy increases the mischief. There is a reason why Japan has a navy, for she was driven to it by Russia. There is an excuse for Germany encasing herself in armor, for she has done things which awakens fears of retribution. One can find justification for England covering the oceans with her guns, for her policy has been domineering and exasperating and being an island kingdom she might be starved to death if she did not have command of the sea. But why should the United States have a colossal navy? No one outside the militarists can answer. Because there is no ascertainable reason for this un-American policy, the other American countries are becoming frightened. Brazil has just laid down an extravagant naval programme, for the proud Republic of the South cannot consent to lie at the mercy of the haughty Republic of the North. The new departure of Brazil has bewitched Argentina from the vision which came to her before the statue of Christ, which she erected high up amid the Andes, and has fired her with a desire to rival in her battleships her ambitious military neighbor. We first of all have established militarism in the Western world, and are by our example dragging weaker nations into foolish and suicidal courses, checking indefinitely the development of two continents.
Our influence goes still further. It sets Australia blazing, and shoves Japan into policies which she cannot afford. But we cannot harm foreign nations without working lasting injury on ourselves. The very battleships which recently kindled the enthusiasm of children in South America, Australia, and Japan, also stirred the hearts of American boys and girls along our Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, strengthening in them impulses and ideals of an Old World which struggled and suffered before Jesus came. It is children who receive the deepest impressions from pageants and celebrations; and who can measure the damage wrought upon the world by the parade of American battleships? Children cannot look upon symbols of brute force, extolled and exalted by their elders, without getting the impression that a nation’s power is measured by the calibre of its guns, and that its influence is determined by the explosive force of its shells. A fleet of battleships gives a wrong impression of what America is, and conceals the secret which has made America great. Children do not know that we became a great world-power without the assistance of either army or navy, building ourselves up on everlasting principles by means of our schools and our churches. The down-pulling force of our naval pageant was not needed in a world already dragged down to ow levels by the example of ancient nations, entangled by degrading traditions from which they are struggling to escape. The notion that this exhibition of battleships has added to our prestige among men whose opinion is worthy of consideration, or has made the world love us better, is only another feature of the militarist delusion.
There are delusions which are fatal, and this may be one of them. The most important drama to be acted within the next five hundred years will be played around the Pacific. In this drama our republic is destined to take an important part. At present we are the most influential nation bordering on its waters. It is for us chiefly to determine what the future shall be. We can make the pacific what it is in name, a peaceful sea. Both the Japanese and the Chinese are peace-loving peoples. They will not fight unless driven to it. They need all their money for schools and internal improvements. We can make treaties with both countries which will render war an impossibility. The Philippines can be neutralized as Switzerland has been neutralized as Switzerland has been neutralized, so that they shall be safe without the protection of a single gun. Why not do this? We cannot flourish a deadly bludgeon without Japan doing the same. What Japan does, China must do also. She is already adding yearly twenty-five thousand soldiers to her army, and by and by she will build a fleet which will rival those of the United States and Japan combined. An empire of four hundred million people will not lie supine indefinitely, allowing armed nations to trample upon her at their own sweet pleasure. Our present policy will compel China to build battleships, and into these ships will go the bread of millions of Chinamen, and the education of tens of millions of Chinese boys and girls. And then what? One never knows what a peaceable nation may do when once the slumbering devils of the heart are stirred to action by the sight of guns and the thought of blood. China has suffered grievous wrongs. She, like other nations, may find that revenge is sweet.
Militarists assure us that some day a clash between the white and yellow races is inevitable. They say, “Whet your swords, multiply your battleships, prepare your shells, get ready for the fateful hour.” The militarists have good reason to be frightened if America must meet the Orient on the battlefield. Gunpowder and lyddite obliterate social and racial distinctions, and put men on an equal footing. The Chinese coolie can, after a little practice, shoot a gun as accurately as can the graduate from Yale or Harvard. The follower of Confucius is the peer of the follower of Jesus when both men are armed with rifles. In the realm of force intellectual distinctions count for little, and spiritual attainments are less than nothing. If the Christian West consents to fight the Pagan East with swords and guns, she abdicates the advantage which she has won by the struggle of a thousand years, and comes down to fight upon the same level on which men stood in the days of Cæsar. Array a thousand Christian boys against a thousand Confucian boys, give the orders, “Fire!” and when the smoke has cleared away you will find among the dead as many Christian boys as boys whose skin is yellow. In the realm of carnage, victory goes to superior numbers, and not to character and culture. We have the culture, China has the numbers, but numbers outweigh the virtues and graces of a Christian heart.
The yellow peril is indeed portentous if we propose to meet China on the battlefield. Why not make such a meeting an impossibility? Why not do for the Pacific what our fathers did for the Canadian border? They prepared for peace and got it. Why not spend millions of dollars in cementing the friendship of Orient and Occident, and work without ceasing to keep the temper of the two worlds fraternal and sweet? Instead of sending on battleships, at an enormous cost, a few thousand young men who represent neither the brain nor the culture of our country, why not send to China and Japan at governmental expense delegations of teachers and publicists, editors and bankers, farmers and lawyers, physicians and labor leaders, men who can give the Orient an idea what sort of people we are? We can send a thousand such representatives across the Pacific every year for the next hundred years for less money than we are spending this year on our navy. No such blundering and extravagant method of exchanging international courtesies has ever been devised as that of sending to foreign capitals naval officers and sailors on battleships and cruisers.
Countries never fight whose influential citizens know one another. Why not get acquainted with our Eastern neighbors? In the arts of peace we are their superior. In the art of war China can become our equal in a single generation, just as Japan in one generation has risen to the military level of Russia. Military virtues are simple, and can be rapidly developed. They run through the stages of their evolution swiftly and come to perfection early. The virtues of a Christlike spirit are the beautiful growths of a thousand years, and we are insane if we are willing to jeopardize what we have gained by infinite sacrifice and effort, by entering a field upon which victory depends upon neither beauty of spirit nor nobility of heart, but upon the shrewd manipulation of physical forces. The thing we ought to say to the Orient again and again, both by word and by deed, is, “We believe in peace! We abhor war! It is contrary to our nature, opposed by our religion, hostile to our ideals and traditions. We do not believe in settling disputes by force. We believe in reason. See our hands, we carry no bludgeons. Search us, we own no concealed weapons. Trust us, for we are going to trust you. Let us work together for our mutual advantage, and the progress of humanity!”
But, delusion or not, can one nation hold aloof from this dance of death so long as other nations keep on dancing? Of course, America will limit her armament provided other nations do the same. But—we are asked—is it wise or safe for our republic, isolated and alone, to say boldly, “We will go no further in this business. Let other nations do what they will, America at any rate is going to pour her gold hereafter into the channels of education and economic development.” Why not say this? To be sure it would be a risk, but why not run the risk? We are incurring far greater risks by our present policy. We are running the risk of changing the temper of our people, introducing structural changes in our form of government, and embroiling ourselves with nations which are now friendly. Preparing for war is hazardous business. It is not time, we all admit, for disarmament. America must do her part in the policing of the seas. It is not the hour to discuss even a reduction in armaments. Our battleships are not going to be sold at auction. We all agree that America must have a navy adequate to her needs. But has not the time arrived to call a halt in this indefinite expansion of an ever bigger navy? The militarists are just now asking Congress for 26,000-ton battleships carrying 14-inch guns, and a high naval authority says that the advisability of building even 40,000 or 50,000 or 60,000-ton battleships is “the mature opinion of many of the ablest and most conservative officers of our navy to-day.” What the radicals want is not yet disclosed.
Much has been written about the horrors of war; the time has come to write of the horrors of an armed peace. In many ways it is more terrible than war. War is soon over, and the wounds heal. An armed peace goes on indefinitely, and its wounds gape and fester and poison all the air. War furnishes opportunity for men to be brace; an armed peace gives rise to interminable gossip about imaginary goblins and dangers. In war, nations think of principles, but in an armed peace the mind is preoccupied exclusively with devising ways of increasing the efficiency of the implements of slaughter. War develops men, but an armed peace rots moral fibre.
It Is possible to buy peace at too high a price. Better fight and get done with it than keep nations incessantly thinking evil thoughts about their neighbors. Playing with battleships is a sorry business. The magnetic needle, disturbed by metal, loses its fidelity to the north, and the ship may go to pieces on the rocks. The heart of a nation, pressed close to steel armor, becomes abnormal in its action. Battleships blind the eyes to ideals which are highest. They draw the heart away from belief in the potency of spiritual forces. They quench faith in the power of justice, mercy, love. They minister to the atheism of force. They blur the fact that America became a world-power without a navy. They educate men to put reliance on reeds, which will break when the crisis comes. They fan the flames of vanity and self-seeking. They are deceivers. They seem to be the dominating forces of history, when in fact they are bubbles blown on a current which they did nothing to create. They delude men by inducing them to accept them as solutions of problems, whereas they create problems more serious than any already on hand. They strain international relations and fill the papers with gossip, debilitating to adults and demoralizing to the young. They feed the maw of panic-mongers, and darken the heavens with swarms of falsehoods and rumors.
Militarism has foisted upon the world a policy which handicaps the work of the church, cripples the hand of philanthropy, blocks the wheels of constructive legislation, cuts the nerve of reform, blinds statesmen to dangers which are imminent and portentous, such as poverty and all the horde of evils which come from insufficient nutrition, and fixes the eyes upon perils which are fanciful and far away. It multiplies the seeds of discord, debilitates the mind by filling it with vain imaginations, corrodes the heart by feelings of suspicion and ill-will. It is starving and stunting the lives of millions, and subjecting the very frame of society to a strain which it cannot indefinitely endue. A nation which buys guns at seventy thousand dollars each, when the slums of great cities are rotting, and millions of human beings struggle for bread, will, unless it repents, be overtaken soon or late by the same divine wrath which shattered Babylon to pieces, and hurled Rome from a throne which was supposed to be eternal.
The world is bewildered and plagued, harassed and tormented, by an awful delusion. Who will break the spell? America can do it. Will she? To ape the customs of European monarchies is weakness. Why not do a fine and original thing? Our fathers had an intuition that the New World should be different from the Old, that it had a unique destiny, and that it must pursue an original course. That is the spiritual meaning of the Monroe doctrine—that no foreign influence shall be permitted to thwart the development of America along original lines. Alas, the Old World has broken into our Paradise, and we are dethroning ideals for which our fathers were willing to die.
Peace hath her victories
No less renowned than war,
Said Milton to Cromwell long ago, and humanity is waiting for a nation which will win the victories that Milton saw. Will America devote herself to the work of winning these victories of peace? Will she spend half as much the next ten years in preparing for peace, as she has spent the last ten years in preparing for war? Experience has demonstrated that swollen navies multiply the points of friction, foster distrust, foment suspicion, fan the fires of hatred, become a defiance and a menace, and lie like a towering obstacle across the path of nations toilsomely struggling along the upward way. The old policy is wrong. The old leaders are discredited. The old programme is obsolete. Those who wish for peace must prepare for it. Our supreme business is not the scaring of rivals, but the making of friends.
Will America become a leader? At present we are an imitator. How humiliating to tag at the heels of Great Britain in the naval procession, haunted always by the fear that we may fall behind Germany! Why not choose a road on which it will be possible to be first? Why not head the procession of nations whose faces are toward the light? This is America’s opportunity. Will she, by setting a daring example, arrest the growth of armaments throughout the world? The nation which does this is certain of an imperishable renown.