Our Drifting Civilization


LORD Bryce, in his Presidential Address to the British Academy, made the following remarks: —

‘ Sometimes one feels as if modern states were growing too huge for the men to whom their fortunes are committed. Mankind increases in volume, in accumulated knowledge, and in a comprehension of the forces of nature; but the intellects of individual men do not grow. The disproportion between the individual ruling men with their personal prejudices and proclivities, their selfish interests and their vanities, and the immeasurable consequences which follow their individual volitions becomes more striking and more tragic. Enormous nations are concentrated under one government and its disasters affect the whole. A great modern state is like a gigantic vessel built without any watertight compartments, which, if it be unskillfully steered, may perish when it strikes a single rock.’

The meaning these words convey to my mind is that the power of control which modern states possess over the course they are taking is inadequate to the immense forces which need direction, and to the magnitude of the issues involved. As states become more and more unmanageable, history becomes more and more of a drift— whither we know not.

If proof were wanting that civilization has really been caught in a drift, what more striking proof could be imagined than that presented by the present war? Looking at the origin of this war, not in the details of its causation but in the broad mass of all the forces, historical, political, economic, which have brought it to pass, I for one cannot resist the conclusion that it is the result of a drift. Every ship has had its steersman who may have done his best to keep a definite course, but the whole fleet has been caught by an invisible current which has swept it on to the final catastrophe.

And the war, of course, is only one instance. If we take the history of the last hundred years, and mark the important points of arrival reached by civilization during that period, we shall find the same conditions. At the end of each great interval of its progress, civilization has waked up with a kind of shock to find itself where it was. From moment to moment, from year to year even, the shock was not felt; but a generation has usually been enough to make civilization rub its eyes and stare about it in wonder. By the end of that time society was always where at the beginning it had not intended to be; and often where it would not have been had it known what was coming. Make your intervals long enough, and the image will rise before you of a sleepy traveler suddenly roused from his slumbers by a jolt of the carriage — which has possibly thrown him into the middle of the road — and calling out to gods and men to tell him where he is.

There is a vast literature at the present day, — I am, alas, only too well acquainted with it, — a literature which threatens to choke our libraries and to cause all quarterly magazines to be published twice a week — a literature to which theologians, philosophers, playwrights, novelists, and sociologists make incessant contributions — which might be truthfully described as the literature of ‘Where are we?’ — or, to be strictly accurate, the literature of ‘Where the devil are we?’ In all this literature we encounter civilization as a drifter at the mercy of currents. Whether some conscious power other than the will of man regulates the course of the drift, is a question I do not here discuss. Enough that it does not appear to be regulated by the conscious will of man.

The war, I repeat, is only a last instance of the drift, — a most impressive instance indeed, which may end by giving civilization a jolt violent enough to wake the dead. If it be objected that the war cannot be set down entirely to drift because there were powerful parties in Europe who wanted war and schemed to bring it about, the answer is that though there were parties who wanted war, there was no party who wanted this war, such as it has turned out to be — not even the gentlemen who rule the roost at Potsdam. The war they wanted and schemed to bring about was a very different sort of war from this. Even they must feel a shock of surprise at finding the world where it now is. Indeed, I doubt if there are any people in Europe in this moment who are more conscious of the small control they have over the course of history than are the gentlemen who rule the roost at Potsdam.


In considering the unmanageableness of the modern state, we must give attention to a point which is not actually mentioned by Lord Bryce, though it is implied in what he says. We must think, not only of the enormous mass of the state, as measured by the number of its people and the variety of its interests, but also of the equally enormous momentum with which it moves forward on its path. A force of control which would have been ample to arrest or deflect the movement of an ancient city-state, would be brushed aside and leave no visible effect in the tremendous onrush of a movement backed by the massed wills, passions, impulses, and habits of a hundred million men. It may be true, as St. James says, that the rudder of a great ship is always a very little thing. But there is a great difference between the rudder of a dreadnought and the rudder of a coracle. I admit that moral forces do not work by the quantitative scale; at the same time there is no denying that a moral force which could deflect a modern state, say from the path of industrial civilization, and set it going in the path of artistic civilization, would have to be of a very unusual kind. To stop or even to turn these tendencies aside is extremely difficult, not merely because the masses engaged are so stupendous, but also because of the incalculable force they have gathered during the long period they have been in motion.

It seems to me that these considerations give a new setting to the ancient question of democracy versus oligarchy.

At first sight we might suppose that the new setting is in favor of democracy. Between the enormous mass, volume, and momentum of a state containing sixty or a hundred million people, and an oligarchic power consisting of the wills of twenty or thirty men, the disparity is preposterous. But when we think of such a state under democratic control, the disparity seems to vanish. Since the community is now self-governing, the masses to be guided and the guiding masses are roughly equal; and however big the community may grow, the controlling forces will grow in an equal proportion. Democratic states therefore can never be too big for their rulers, for the rulers and the ruled are now one.

But this simple formula, which underlies so much of the political reasoning of our time, is not supported by a study of the facts. This will soon convince us that only a very small part of the political forces of a democracy is available for the guidance of the total state, for what I will call ‘mass-policy.’ By far the greater part of those forces, often amounting to nearly the whole, is expended in sectional controversy within the state itself, in the conflict of rival interests and in the warfare of innumerable groups. It is the way of all democracies to become preoccupied with the adjustment of their internal balances, the result being that of the total political force available very little is left over for the work of imperial guidance — far less, in fact, than is sometimes found in oligarchic states. Adequate force for the guidance of the total mass may be there, but it is used up on other things. Much of it indeed is not strictly used at all, being simply nullified by mutual oppositions, and so may be struck out of the account so far as mass-policy is concerned.

This was distinctly the state of things in Great Britain before the war. How much of the immense political energies of the British democracy went into the guidance of the Empire as such? Singularly little; so little, in fact, that had there not been in the country an unacknowledged oligarchy which has done its best to look after these things, they would have been left to take their course. Another instance is afforded by the United States at the present moment. The various currents of opinion in the American democracy regarding the war have canceled one another and produced a virtual equilibrium. The neutrality of the United States does not represent the massed wills of one hundred million citizens resolutely determined to be neutral. ‘Neutralized’ rather than ‘neutral’ would be the correct description of their attitude. It is the negative that remains after the mutual destruction of positives, the President being the interpreter of a state of rest brought about by the action of opposing forces. The state of rest, however, is only relative; for it is precisely when democratic communities are thus brought to an apparent standstill through the action of inner oppositions that they fall into the sweep of invisible world-currents, and drift into situations where they never wished or expected to find themselves. This also is the time when a Napoleon gets his chance, if the state happens to be one that breeds that kind of man. The capture of the entire political forces of a vast democracy by a single man would be an impossible feat if the forces in question were all acting together and concentrated on a single point. But what a Napoleon has to deal with is not the total force of the democracy, but only the feeble residuum which has been left over from the battlefield of internal controversy.

The whole matter, therefore, is one which deserves serious consideration by those who advocate democratic control of mass-policy. To secure effective guidance of the whole, we must first suppose that the democracy takes a real and intelligent interest in the question of its total movement, as well as in that of its internal balance, — a condition which is hardly characteristic of the immense democratic states of modern times; and, furthermore, we must suppose that the democracy, being so deeply interested, is of one heart and will in the matter. This second assumption is more perilous even than the first. The guiding force actually available for mass-policy is most commonly the will of a majority checked and held under restraint by the will of the minority — a very different thing from the combined will of the whole people.

These conditions, which are inherent in all forms of majority rule, may work well enough when the question is one of internal balance, but be wholly inadequate to meet the problems of mass movement, especially when the mass has the enormous bulk and momentum of a modern state. You can neither effectively make war, nor effectively keep the peace, by a majority of one. The almost inevitable result is a policy of ‘watchful waiting,’ which, strictly speaking, is not a policy at all, but only another name for yielding to the drift and observing where it takes you — or not observing, as the case may be.

The American democracy is by no means a solitary example of this. The truth is that all democracies tend to watch and wait upon the results of their mass-movements. The British public, as I have said before, has often done so, and might have settled down into a fixed habit of doing so, had it not waked up one morning to find itself in the midst of a world-war. Be that as it may, the war has served the purpose of showing us all once more that the interests of great states are fundamentally concerned with their mass-movements, and that no adjustment of their internal balance will render them secure, so long as the whole mass is adrift.

How democracy, which is essentially a theory of internal balance, can adapt itself to cover these greater issues, is one of the most challenging political problems ever presented to the mind of man. Needless to say, the immense size of modern states has carried it far beyond the point at which it was left by Aristotle. Meanwhile we must guard ourselves against treating the problem as simpler than it really is.


The general question of the control exercised by states — or society — over the course of their history is far too vast and complicated to be discussed in the space at my disposal. I propose therefore to narrow the discussion within more manageable limits. I shall raise the question so far only as it affects two things, which are closely connected — the growth of knowledge and the growth of wealth.

First then as to the growth of knowledge. Here our question at once divides itself into two. How far is the knowledge we have gained, through the development of the sciences and the spread of education, the kind of knowledge man hoped and intended to gain when he set himself the task of finding out about this universe all he possibly could? Has the discovery corresponded, or approximately corresponded, to expectations? Or has humanity, in its search for knowledge, been like Saul, the son of Kish, who went out to find his father’s asses and found a kingdom? Or, again, have we set out to find a kingdom and found asses? Or, once more, are our actual discoveries to be described in terms intermediate between these extreme figures of speech? Or, lastly, did man set out simply to find, without any expectations at all regarding what he would find, or any questions as to whether it would be worth finding? That is the first half of the question. The second is: having made his discoveries, whatever they may have been, what degree of control has man exercised as to the uses and applications which those discoveries might be made to serve?

Let us begin with the first. When we take the stages in the growth of knowledge one by one, we find that considerable control has de facto been exercised. Men have always asked themselves definite questions and sought definite answers. What is the distance of a given planet from the sun? What is the nature of the cholera bacillus? What is the economic value of free trade? In all these single cases men understood the question they were asking and the kind of answer that would satisfy them. But taking the larger sweeps in the march of mind, we look in vain for anything which can be said to have controlled their length, their direction, and their issue. When Malthus propounded his theory of population nobody foresaw or could foresee that this theory, germinating and fructifying in the mind of Darwin, would gradually lead on to The Origin of Species and the doctrine of biological evolution. When the Cobdenites propounded the doctrine of free trade, nobody foresaw or could foresee the immense number of economic questions which the application of free trade would provoke, or the quality or quantity of economic knowledge resulting from the attempt to answer them. Or, to take an example from another field, when Kant propounded his philosophy he was utterly in the dark with regard to the long series of philosophic reactions which would follow, some of them ending in doctrines which were clean opposite to his own, and which, had they been mentioned to him, he would have found staggering and incredible.

In fact, whenever we consider the growth of knowledge in broad sweeps and masses, we can hardly help being reminded of what Seeley said about the growth of the British Empire: ‘It has grown in a fit of absence of mind.’ You cannot put your finger on any individual statesman, or on any individual generation of Britons, who may be said to have foreseen, or expected, still less to have consciously determined, that the British Empire should be exactly what it is to-day. Nor can you put your finger on any man of science, or on any philosopher, or on any school or group or series of such, who can be held responsible either for the range or the quality of the knowledge now possessed by the human mind. Similarly, if the question be raised of any new idea, doctrine, or discovery, ‘ What will this lead to in the way of further ideas, doctrines, or discoveries?’ the answer must be, ‘God alone knows’; or, if you don’t believe in God, ‘Nobody knows.’

Looking at the matter then, not piecemeal, — for then a different answer would be forthcoming, — but in this large, synthetic, comprehensive way, I think we are justified in saying that man has exercised no control, and been able to exercise none, over the growth of knowledge as a whole. The history of knowledge has been the history of an adventure. Man has embarked on the quest for knowledge without knowing to what issues it would lead. He has assumed, though perhaps with no very clear notion why he assumed it, that whatever knowledge might come his way would be worth having. All our educational efforts, all that we do to promote the march of mind, all the work in our laboratories, all the reflection in our studies, are based on that assumption — that tremendous assumption. As to its grounds I have now nothing to say, for the question would carry us down to the fundamental problems of life. Enough that the history of knowledge as a whole has been a surprise. And I do not see how it can ever be anything else. The presence of controlling purpose which we detect when considering the details, is matched by an equally conspicuous absence of purpose — that is, of human purpose — when we consider the total growth or massmovement, unless we introduce religious considerations which lie beyond the ambit of this paper.

I pause only to indicate, not to discuss, the consequences of this view. It will be granted that the course of human history is largely dependent on the growth of knowledge. The state of the world at any given moment, the events that are happening, and the character of those events, are always to be partly explained, and sometimes wholly explained, by the range and the quality of the knowledge there and then in the possession of man. We all know how a single scientific discovery might at any moment change the face of civilization and cause every statesman, economist, and social reformer to recast his problems. The present war, again, owes something of its magnitude, and many of its most characteristic features, both moral and physical, to knowledge which has been placed at the disposal of the belligerents by the positive sciences. Every great event indeed is unintelligible, and as time goes on becomes more and more unintelligible, until we read it with reference to the existing state of knowledge. What follows then is obvious. If man has no control over the total growth of knowledge, to that extent there must be an element of adventure in the general course of history.


Having given a negative answer to the question whether man, up to date, has controlled the growth of knowledge, I now proceed to the sequel: has man, de facto, controlled the uses and applications to which knowledge has been put?

Here the facts are much more confusing and difficult to bring to focus; and I am afraid I shall be driven to hacking my way through a multitude of distinctions, the full setting out of which would fill a volume. Only the broadest of them can be so much as mentioned.

In the first place we may note that knowledge gained by one set of persons, or by one generation, with a view to a certain application is often appropriated by another set of persons, or by a later generation, for an application quite different from that originally in view. For example, the nature of the cholera bacillus is investigated by a number of bacteriologists for no other purpose than the humane one of checking a fearful disease, and the discoveries are applied accordingly in the cause of sanitation. Later on, however, this same knowledge is made use of by somebody for poisoning wells in wartime. In like manner the nature of chlorine gas was, I believe, originally studied with a view to facilitating a process in manufacture. Had the investigators foreseen that their discoveries might be used later on for a peculiarly hideous form of warfare, I think it not improbable that some of them would have promptly smashed their apparatus and poured the contents of their phials down the sink. One is reminded of the warning which the Psalmist addresses to the man who heapeth up riches and knoweth not who will gather them. The Psalmist warns him that he walketh in a vain show — and we shall presently return to that warning in the concluding part of my paper. But might we not address the same warning to the man of science, or to a scientific age, which heapeth up knowledge and knoweth not who will apply it or to what purpose it will be applied? Of course a great deal of scientific investigation has been undertaken with the avowed aim of inventing high explosives and other such means of making things uncomfortable for our neighbors, and is now being applied to the very purpose for which it was intended. But even here the want of control is manifest, if it be true, as I am told it is, that many of these devilish devices will ultimately be found of use in sanitation, in industry, in the arts, and in other means of promoting the Kingdom of Heaven. On the whole, however, we must admit that most of the scientific work of the century has been undertaken for what we may call good ends, and has been encouraged and supported by the public in the belief that it would be applied accordingly. To a large extent the public has been justified, and the scientists have been rewarded by seeing their work produce the very results that they hoped for — or even better results. And at the same time the unexpected by-products of science have been little less than amazing.

But when once more we look at the facts, not piecemeal, but in their totality; when we remember the long intervals, often amounting to the lifetime of one or two generations, which intervene between the birth of knowledge and its final applications; when we think of the distance and the difference which separate the users of knowdedge from its discoverers, again it seems to me that, so far as the will of man is concerned, we are in the presence of a drift and not of an ordered course. The main illustration of this is to be found in those immense captures of knowledge made by the forces which promote war and carry it on — a fact of the most sinister significance. Of all the single applications made of the immense growths of knowledge since the birth of modern science, this is probably the most extensive, and, I might almost add, the most effective for its purpose. Whoever is responsible for this particular by-product, we may say with confidence that it is not the work of the lovers of knowledge — not the work of the discoverers of knowledge — not the work of those whose stake in knowledge is greatest and rights over it most indefeasible — not the work of those whose motto has been, ‘Let knowledge grow from more to more.’ It is not their work and it does not correspond with their intentions. It has been done, so to speak, behind their backs, while they were looking another way. From their point of view this is something more than a surprise or disappointment — it is a tragedy. Nor can we say that all this diversion of knowledge has been sanctioned by a consensus humani generis. I can think of no form of the common will which has definitely brought it to pass. The public has watched one bit of knowledge after another being captured for these ends without protesting against the capture; but the total result represents something which has not been willed by anybody, — not by any group of states, or by any single state, or by any party of assignable individuals within the state.

You may say that it has been done by militarists. But this again is true only when the process is considered piecemeal. It is true that the German militarists are responsible for the first use of chlorine gas as a means of poisoning and torturing thousands of men, and that they therefore have controlled that particular application. But if you think of the whole scientific apparatus of modern warfare, you will have before you an immense and undesigned monstrosity, which has come into being by small contributions, and which the militarists, now that they have it on their hands, hardly know what to make of. As a whole it is not their doing. It is the result of a drift. And though there have always been people who held that war was the highest state of man, and were quite willing therefore that knowledge should become the handmaid of war, yet even they have never maintained that precisely this sort of war, on this scale, and with this stupendous equipment of destructive apparatus, was the highest state of man. War with bows and arrows and with armies not exceeding ten thousand men on either side would satisfy their thesis just as well as war which puts all knowledge under contribution to make its engines more destructive, and which sweeps men off the earth in millions.

Accumulations of knowledge are public property in a sense in which nothing else is. But they are subject to no effective public control. Every one, broadly speaking, has access to them; and every one, except within certain narrow limits, can make what use of them he will. He can invent new uses which are unaffected by the legislative restrictions upon the known uses up to date. Thus the applications are left to drift.

This appears to me the outstanding anomaly of civilization. For knowledge, as we all know, is the most deadly of weapons as well as the most useful of tools. What one nation gains for humanity by using knowledge as a tool another nation can always undo by using it as a weapon. The idea that the uses of wealth ought to be under public control has of course long been familiar. But few persons have paused to consider how the same argument might be applied to knowledge, which by its nature is public property already. Whatever good you might do — I am not sure myself that you would do much good — by putting wealth under public control, would be liable to be undone at any moment if you left knowledge at large. Controlled wealth and uncontrolled knowledge are an utterly unworkable pair of horses. A single individual armed with superior knowledge may always show himself, and has often shown himself in the past, more than a match for all the laws, regulations, restrictions, social systems and what not, by which the state may try to control his dealings with wealth — or indeed with anything else.

I freely grant that we are now on the borderland of wild ideas, the happy hunting ground of the crank, the maker of abstractions, and the raiser of ghosts. But if we gaze steadily at the wilderness before us we shall presently become aware of certain definite questions which stand out amid the confusion like a few tall and scattered trees growing in the midst of an impenetrable jungle. One of the questions will be this: Is there vested in the race any kind of power which enables it, or might enable it, to control the application of knowledge? If there be such a force, the sooner it wakes up and gets to business the better for humanity. If there be no such power, if the passage from knowledge to application is essentially a drift, then one can only say that the future of civilization is extremely precarious, unless indeed there be some power other than ours which looks after us in matters where we seem so little able to look after ourselves.

To take but one example, no single discovery of modern times is more pregnant with results than that of the means of aerial navigation. But the possible results are of all kinds — some most attractive, others appalling. Must we just take them as they come? Or can we choose? We see what has happened already. Conceivably aircraft might have been used, at once, as a means of greatly increasing the security of human life. As a matter of fact they were at once seized upon for the opposite purpose. It looks as though humanity had merely discovered a new and more effective means of committing suicide; and this or something like it would be the view taken by that excellent friend of sociologists in distress — the visitor from another planet. Are we to rest content with this kind of inadvertence? If so, the day may not be far distant when the further developments of aircraft will be such as to destroy the last vestige of security for civilized life. With such an instrument at their disposal the predatory instincts of men and nations, which are by no means dead, as current events are showing, will have a chance such as they never had in the darkest ages of savagery. ‘How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done.’ I need hardly point out that this saying applies to nations, and to governments, as well as to individuals. It is probably the best single explanation of the present war that could be found. Aircraft, at all events, are potentially a means either of good deeds or of ill. Has humanity no power of deciding for which class of deeds they shall be used? And aircraft, of course, are only one instance among thousands.

That I may not be accused of merely raising phantoms without indicating how they might be exorcised I will here make a practical suggestion; but I do so acutely conscious that I am on the borderland of wild ideas. Is it conceivable that civilized nations should come to an agreement absolutely prohibiting the use of aircraft as weapons of war? I make the suggestion, without committing myself to any view on the likelihood of permanent peace or its desirability. It may be that wars will recur from time to time. It may be that they are in some way necessary to the development of mankind. But even if this be true, it by no means follows that the kind of war we are now witnessing is bound to recur, or that this is the kind of war most necessary to the development of mankind. It does not follow that the wars of the future must be ever more bloody and more destructive. It does not follow that the wars which do most good to human character are precisely those which are waged with the deadliest weapons — the wars in which a single man by pressing the button of a scientific machine can blow the souls out of ten thousand enemies whose faces he has never seen. I know the point is debatable, but certainly all that I have ever heard about the good moral effects of war would be as true or truer if war were still an affair of long knives, slings, tomahawks, catapults, battering rams, and single combats. However, I must content myself with the suggestion about aircraft;1 and leaving to imagination the endless vista of possibilities that lie beyond, I pass to the concluding portion of my paper.


The facts and questions which confront us in the sphere of wealth merely repeat in another form the facts and questions already encountered in the sphere of knowledge. Just as man has deliberately set himself to the pursuit of knowledge, but has not controlled the total knowledge which has resulted, or its form, but has been taken by surprise in regard to both; so too we find that man, industrial man, having deliberately set himself to the pursuit of wealth, has presently found himself in possession of an amount of wealth, and of a kind of wealth, which he never contemplated or designed. Though I have read a great deal in the economists about the laws which govern the production and distribution of wealth, I have never found one of them who tried to conceive the amount of wealth which might have to be dealt with. They argue as if the amount made no difference to the argument. As an outsider I venture to think that it does make a great difference. A community whose annual income is reckoned at two thousand millions will find itself confronted with a vast number of political and economic problems which would not exist if the income were a tenth of that sum. To speak of one or two things only: the more wealth you have, the more danger you run from robbers both domestic and foreign; and the larger and stronger will be the box you require to keep your wealth secure. Again, the more wealth a nation has, the more suspicious it is apt to be about other nations nearly as rich as itself, and the more jealous about those which are somewhat richer. Once again, the more wealth a nation has, the more it wants, and the more determined it is to increase its store.

I ask the reader to save me the trouble of tiresome exposition by using his imagination. He will find that differences of amount make a vital difference to every group of questions before the economist; they bring new questions and change the form of old ones, especially when they are differences to be measured by thousands of millions. When national wealth acquires these stupendous proportions, forces and passions begin to work which were not there before. It follows that, if you lose control over the total amount, to that extent you lose control over the whole economic situation. And my point is that control has been lost, or rather it has never been possessed. No industrial community has ever made up its mind how rich it wished to be. Still less has it asked whether, even if the limit were assigned, it has any power to compel arrest when the limit was reached.

No economist has, so far as I know, ever raised the question whether the process of producing wealth, if pressed beyond a certain point, might not turn out to be self-defeating. Industrial civilization has gone blindfold into the whole enterprise. If anybody could have told J. S. Mill in 1850 that two generations afterwards Europe would be financing a war to the tune of six thousand million pounds a year, — a sum which ‘ is as unrealizable by us as are the distances of the fixed stars,’ — or if he could have been told that in 1915 Great Britain alone would be bearing taxation of nearly four hundred million annually, with the prospect of more to come, I venture to say that Mill would have found the statement as staggering and incredible as Kant would have found that vision of the after-effects of his philosophy which we imagined in the parallel field of knowledge. Could you have persuaded Mill of the truths of these figures, the effect upon him would have been profound. He would have walked over to see Carlyle with a yet whiter face than he had on the night when he came to confess the accidental burning of the first volume of The French Revolution. And Carlyle would have understood his terror; for he, along with Ruskin, saw the trouble ahead, and never doubted that industrial civilization was shooting the rapids and would soon find itself in the whirlpool.

‘The Whirlpool.' That brings me to the final stage of the parallel between knowledge and wealth, which is, that just as civilization has lost control of the applications of knowdedge, so too it has lost control of the applications of wealth. The facts are before our eyes. The accumulated wealth of industrial civilization is at this moment being swept down into a bottomless gulf. That is the application, at the rate of six thousand millions per annum, of the wealth produced and distributed by the labors of uncounted multitudes of brains and hands. Is it the intended application ? Or does it represent something which has been done behind the back of industrial man, which those who produced this wealth — or the great majority of them — never contemplated for a moment, and which, had they ever foreseen it as possible, would have thrown a wet blanket over the whole industrial enterprise of the modern world? It is the latter. What a tragic disillusion of the hopes, aspirations, and theories of those who have put their hands and brains, their intellectual and it may be also their moral endowments into the great industrial enterprise, to have to tell them at the end of their labors that what they were doing all this time was mainly to build up the commissariat of a world-war! Could there be a more conclusive instance of the want of control on the part of society over the application of its wealth ? The words of the Psalmist which I have already quoted seem to me very true when taken as addressed to the industrial age from which we are emerging. ‘ He walketh in a vain show: he heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them.’ They were heaped up in the belief that they would make somebody happy. They have been gathered for the war.

I am aware that this paper raises a question without providing an answer. As the reader has already perceived, the statement of the question has been sufficiently difficult. I am not afraid to confess my ignorance in these matters; and though it is unseemly to infer other people’s ignorance from one’s own, I cannot help thinking that we all know less about these things than we are prone to imagine. In the present confused state of the world it may be that a confession of ignorance is the best contribution one can make to the progress of knowledge. Something will be gained if we can realize the questions before us. For aught any of us knows to the contrary, it may be in accordance with the plan of the world’s history that the present age should end with a note of interrogation. For my own part I should be content to have it so, provided I could read clearly the terms of the question behind that portentous stop. With the question before us we should not be wholly in the dark. And the next age would have its work in providing the answer. These things are not beyond the wit of man.

  1. I have pressed this suggestion on several occasions, and have been told in reply that it is impracticable. But if civilized nations cannot agree about a small matter such as this, is it. in the least likely that they can agree about those vastly greater questions involved in the proposal for a “ League of Peace ” ? I continue therefore to press the point. — THE AUTHOR.