The Insane Root

“‘Nothing that anybody can say or write about anything will ever shock me again. You should see what men do. You should see what they suffer.’”

Bain News Service / Library of Congress


Not many months ago an English family was gathered round the fire, reading various newspapers and magazines. In the group was a young officer who had taken part in the battle of Loos and escaped death by a miracle. All the party were silent except for an occasional remark or ejaculation. The officer was the eldest son of a large family and much beloved. In a few days his leave would expire and he would return to a most dangerous part of the line. The family knew well how great the chances were that they would never see him again after his departure. Yet there was no conversation.

The scene was characteristically English, especially in the pervading silence. But in this the party was in some degree under the influence of the young officer himself. He had been strangely reticent during his leave, especially about his own doings and experiences. To his parents and brothers and sisters he had been most affectionate and tender; but, as they would often say to one another, ‘We can get nothing out of him.’ Whenever the war was talked about he would look far into the distance with a strange, solemn expression on his face. But he would say nothing. After a time the family came to feel that his silence was more eloquent than speech, and ceased to ply him with questions.

That night it so happened that one member of the party was reading the Atlantic Monthly, in which there was an article describing the battle of Loos. It was one of the admirable articles on ‘Kitchener’s Mob.’

When the reader has finished, he laid down the magazine and said, ‘Shocking, shocking!’ whereupon the officer, very quietly, took up the magazine and read the article in his turn. ‘Well, what do you think of it?’ somebody asked. ‘Oh,’ he answered, ‘it’s quite true. But it’s not shocking. No, not shocking at all.’

Then silence again fell on the group and the young officer resumed his gazing into the distance. Presently he broke out with some heat. ‘You said the article was shocking. I tell you no description of anything is worth such a word. Fancy being shocked by what a man writes! Nothing that anybody can say or write about anything will ever shock me again. You should see what men do. You should see what they suffer. Oh, how I wish they’d all shut up!’

Ever since this incident occurred, these last words have recurrently echoed in my mind and I have been trying to fathom their meaning. It is a difficult undertaking; and the difficulty is greater because every attempt to say what they mean is at once checked by the words themselves: ‘Oh, how I wish they would all shut up!’ And yet, from the first I could not help feeling that they gave expression to something that was deeply moving, not in my own mind alone but in the minds of the men and women whom I meet every day. It has nothing to do with the articles on ‘Kitchener’s Mob,’ at least not more to do with them than with a dozen articles I have written myself. All this talk about the war, the moralizing about it, the analysis of its causes, the lessons to be drawn from it, the professors’ views of it, the preachers’ views of it, the attempts to reconcile it with this or that, the proof that it is evil, the proof that it is good, all this mass of literature and speech-making to which the war is, before anything else, a theme for discussion—to what does it all amount when set side by side with the realities of the war itself?

In the space of two years, six million human beings have been slaughtered by other human beings, and the slaughter still goes on; thirty-five millions have been mutilated, and the mutilation still goes on; fifteen thousand million pounds’ worth of property has been destroyed, and the destruction still goes on. On the one side a devastating whirlwind, a tempest of elemental forces, a wild chaos of death and ruin; on the other side, a chorus of talkers and speech-makers and article-writers; political philosophers building their cloud-castles; a monotonous sing-song about ‘humanity’ and ‘society’ and the ‘world-state’ and the ‘social whole.’ Visualize the six million slain and the thirty-five million wounded; look for one instant at this madness as a thing in being—and you will understand, even though you cannot express, the meaning of the words, ‘Oh, how I wish they would all shut up!’

In presence of a fact so outrageous, so abominable, so unspeakable, there are moments when one feels that all a reasonable being can do is to hold his peace. There is no theory of human nature, no view of the world, into which such a thing can be fitted. Even if one holds, as I have recently heard it suggested, that man is the lowest of the carnivora, the situation is still inexplicable and meaningless. The carnivora do not make war on their own species; they make war on other species; they make it in a less cruel manner, and for a far better purpose, for their prey is their food. There is nothing in the life of the lowest of the beasts which can be compared for utter senselessness with this mutual rending to pieces of the nations. Even if we admit, as perhaps we must, that war develops the higher faculties of man, what an amazing numbskull man must be, to have found no better way of developing his higher faculties! And if war is the only way in which it can be done, does it follow that a war such as this is the best sort of war for the purpose? Is it necessary to kill and wound to the tune of forty-one millions in order to get our higher faculties into the best possible shape? Are our higher faculties so constituted that they need, not only war to develop them, but just that kind of war which enables you to blow the souls out of a thousand of your fellow men by pressing a button? Would not bows and arrows, and slings, and stone hatchets, and Roman swords develop our higher faculties just as effectively?

And what shall we say of our views of the world? Take the worst of them, and suppose the world to be utterly and irremediably given over to the Devil. What follows? Surely this—that the Devil is an unspeakable idiot. Hell does not make war upon itself. It makes war upon heaven: it conserves its own forces for the destruction of its opposite. This may be immoral, but in point of sanity, there is no comparison with the spectacle before us. No devil has ever been constructed by the human imagination who would not look upon such proceedings with proud contempt. Gehenna itself seems to turn its back upon us.

Looking at the matter in this way, we begin to understand the mood of indignation which breaks loose in the cry, ‘Oh, how I wish they would all shut up!’ After all, the war itself is not the crowning absurdity. The crowning absurdity is that this fools’ business can be reduced to some sort of rational proposition by any manner of talking about it, explaining it, drawing ‘lessons’ from it, or pronouncing moral epigrams over it. ‘The word is ruled by ideas,’ say the talkers, ‘and if only we can get the right idea of this thing all will come well. Let us therefore go on talking till the right idea emerges.’

Well, what kind of an ‘idea’ is it which decreed the killing and the wounding in two years of a number of human beings equal to the total population of the British Isles? Whose sapient brain conceived it? Whose wise discretion carried it into operation? The doctrine of ideas ruling the world is a two-edged sword, for it involves, not only that remedies come from ideas, but that the mischiefs to be remedied spring from the same source. But the facts say no! There never was an idea, either of man or devil, which can rightly be held responsible for the formless hotch-potch of murder which is now being enacted in Europe. It is the negation of all ideas moral or immoral, wise or foolish, that have ever visited the mind of man. As one views it in that light the heart grows hot with indignation against the whole tribe of preachers, philosophers, moralists, and essayists who nourish the delusion of their own importance in this hurly-burly; who think that what they can say about this thing will set it right or exercise any weight or influence whatsoever in a world which now before our eyes is trampling underfoot all that has been said hitherto by them and by their likes in every age.

It is possible that candid observers in America have not yet begun to share the feeling I am trying to describe. I observe from the American newspapers that are sent me that the proposal to form a league of peace among the nations is still being advocated with great ability and enthusiasm on the other side of the Atlantic. I have nothing to say against such a league, and sincerely hope it may be set on foot in some effective form. But just now in England it is difficult to work up much enthusiasm about the league of peace. When I mention it to my friends I often get an answer something like this: ‘Yes—the league of peace is an excellent idea. But ideas far more excellent, proposals far more beneficent have been before the world for nineteen centuries—and they haven’t come to much!’ Or again, the same paper which contains on one side a list of three or four thousand casualties—and we have been searching them through, dreading that a particular name might meet the eye—contains on the other side an admirable epigram by President Wilson which has just been cabled round the world and puts the whole situation in a nutshell. ‘How true!’ we say to one another. But alas, alas! the world is not ruled by moral epigrams. The best that can be done in that line was done by the Lake of Galilee a long time ago—but it did not prevent this war.

To such a pass of skepticism do men come who for two years and more have been gradually growing familiar with a reality whose nature as we come nearer to it seems more and more to baffle speech, and to elude, by its ugliness and irrationality, all the known categories of human thought.

This sort of skepticism, I say, has been growing on us here in England. Two years ago it hardly existed. We were under certain obsessions, which, though they have an academic origin, are by no means confined to academes. We had an unlimited faith in that mode of governing the world which consists in describing how the world ought to be governed. We believed that, if only we went on long enough repeating our sing-song about ‘humanity’ and the ‘social whole,’ something really good would come of it. We believed that the world could be steered into right courses by preaching and pamphleteering and holding conferences and passing resolutions and making speeches. This last especially. When Mr. Asquith or President Wilson made a speech, we devoured it almost before we had read the news of the day, and went home from our clubs depressed or elated as the case might be. We saw that things were in a bad way, but we thought that, if only somebody of sufficient weight would make a certain sort of speech, or issue a certain sort of programme, all would be well. But now! We are growing into tough subjects. When we hear of the ‘lessons’ the war is teaching, we ask, ‘Will the lesson be learned?’ When we hear of programmes for reconstructing the world, we ask, ‘Will the programme be rehearsed?’

We are all more or less like Dante when the women saw him in the streets of Ravenna. We have sniffed the fumes of the pit and been bitterly salted by its fires. In sympathy with those whom we love, we have been through experiences which reveal the vanity of speechmaking. We have learned something from those young men who come back to us now and then after rubbing elbows with death for many months—something, but not a thousandth part of what we shall learn hereafter when the survivors come back in their millions. What is it we have learned? What is it we are going to learn? Not a new theory of life. Not a new view of the universe. Not anything which can be reduced to a doctrine, a formula, a lesson; but an indefinable mood, of which a faint echo may be caught in the words of the young officer, ‘Oh, how I wish they would all shut up!’

This may seem a somewhat lamentable conclusion. But it is not so. Unless I am much mistaken, the mood I am trying to indicate has had something to do with every notable renaissance of the human spirit. ‘Your solemn assemblies my soul hateth. Your hands are full of blood.’ It is an old story, and a promising one from the moment when men begin to feel its significance.


And here I wish to make a recantation—not because I regard my opinions as important to others, but because I observe that many persons, who are wiser than I am and have more to lose by confessing their errors, would be glad to make the same recantation. Two years ago, I thought and wrote that human nature is responsible for the war. A thing is known by its fruits, and since the war was plainly the doing of man, what better evidence could we have of the sort of being man really is? The war seemed to me at the moment to represent both the height and the depth, the best and the worst, of which man is capable—the best in the heroism, courage, sense of duty which are everywhere abundantly displayed, the worst in the ferocity, the hatred, the blood-lust, and the cruelty.

I could not make up my mind as to which of the two sides was preponderant. Sometimes it seemed the one, sometimes the other. But as the war went on and developed its general character and proportions, I began to feel that it could not be interpreted in terms either of the good side or the bad side, either taken singly or taken together. It gradually took on the character of a vast exhibition of insanity, not amenable to the categories either of evil or of good; so that if my original proposition about human nature being responsible were true, the only conclusion I could draw was that man was essentially mad. And it was madness of a curiously complicated kind, of a kind so extraordinary indeed that it may well be doubted if the most experienced alienist has ever encountered anything comparable to it among the most dangerous class of lunatics. Here was a group of great peoples, enlightened by all that science, philosophy, and religion have to teach, slaughtering and mutilating one another to the tune of forty-one millions in two years—and all for what? To settle a type of quarrel which, if it had broken out between six sensible individuals, instead of so many ‘Great Powers,’ might have been amicably settled in a few minutes over a pipe of tobacco.

But that was only half the story. The other half came, not from the war, but from the people who stay at home and discuss the war and think that these Bedlam proceedings can be stopped and prevented for the future by launching programmes or by pronouncing epigrams. It seemed to me incomprehensible that these people should be unaware that their talking method had had its day, had had a fair trial through many centuries, with such results as we are now witnessing; and so, of all the madmen who were making their contributions to the reigning pandemonium, these wiseacres seemed to me the maddest of the lot. So I began to listen with sympathy when I heard people saying ugly things about human nature—as that man is the lowest of all the carnivore, the most irrational of all created beings, the biggest fool in the universe, the one animal who is incapable of managing his own affairs, and so on. All this seemed to follow if I stood firm to my original proposition that human nature is responsible for the war.

Then I looked round on the men and women I knew; I even thought of certain Germans whose friendship had been mine in happier days. I thought of men of other races whom I had met in my travels, men of many religions, of different colors and of skulls with curious shapes. Plainly these people were not mad or bestial. They were far superior to the highest of the carnivore. I was bound to admit some exceptions. But taking them all in all, they were a very decent, kindly, sensible lot. They had no desire to blow one another to pieces. I could not remember meeting one who wanted even to blow me to pieces. I could indeed recall a conversation with an angry German professor who assured me in excellent colloquial English that one of these days ‘Germany would knock the bottom out of the British Empire’; but if I had suggested that he should make a small beginning on the spot by sticking a bayonet through my body, he would have turned sick at the thought. I certainly had no wish to bayonet him. And so all round. The forty-one millions killed and wounded represent what none of these decent, sensible, kindly individuals wants. It represents something which every one of them abhors. If only these men and women were left alone to express their own nature in its own way; if only they were allowed to live without interference from foul spells of one kind or another, they would never be such fools (to use the mildest term) as to make the exhibition of themselves which an astonished universe has now to witness. And I turned aside from my books on ‘The Philosophical Theory of Human Solidarity’ and began repeating the ‘Battle of Blenheim’—about Old Caspar and Little Peterkin.

As I considered these things it suddenly flashed upon me that human nature is not responsible for the war, and that I had been wholly and disastrously wrong in thinking that it was. I saw that human nature has been dragged into the business against its will—dragged into it by some malign power. For something or somebody is plainly responsible for the war—else it could never have taken place. What is it?

Pondering this question, I found a certain indignation rising within me, and it moved in three directions. First it moved against myself for having ever done my species the foul wrong of thinking that human nature is responsible for this war. Secondly, it moved against the writers (of whom again I had formerly been one myself) who are constantly declaring that what the peoples want is a change of heart. Thirdly and chiefly, it moved against our philosophical theorists, — of whom I had never been one, thank God! — who had erected the State into something semi-divine, if not divine altogether. For I had begun to see that it is precisely State-nature, and not human nature, which is rightly responsible for all this devilry. Of this I will try to speak more fully.


The State, as philosophers represent it, is an organization by means of which individuals pool their personalities their wills, their minds, their energies, and their resources for the common good. It appears to be an admirable arrangement, and, in the eyes of many, it is adorable. Not only is the ‘common good’ promoted as it could be by nothing else, but the individual who lends himself to the State, body, soul, and spirit, gets back is individuality enlarged and enriched with the wisdom, the grandeur, the morality of the vast being whom he has thus made his creditor. Thus, the State draws both the selfish and the unselfish into its net and provides salvation for both. To the selfish man who wants to have the best possible time, the State says, ‘Surrender to me and serve me, for only thus can anybody have a really good time.’ To the unselfish man who would sacrifice himself for others, the State says, ‘I am here, a standing opportunity for self-immolation. Serve me!’

All this is true and would be helpful were it not for a single drawback. The State which the philosophers describe exists nowhere on the earth. What does exist is a group of states, whose characteristics, if you take them one by one, and still more if you take them all together, are very different from those of the philosophers’ ‘State,’ and to a large extent its opposite.

To begin with, even if we assume (what is doubtful) that each of the existing states is organized for achieving the highest good of its own members, we must not overlook the fact that some of them are organized for doing the utmost harm to the members of other states. The philosophers tell us very little about this; yet surely it is a point that ought to be taken into consideration before we surrender ourselves to the State in the name of the ‘common good.’ Again, a state may be extremely wise in its dealings with its own members but extremely stupid in its relations with other states; so that my surrender to it will involve me in becoming a party to its external stupidity as well as to its internal wisdom, and perhaps leave me at the end of the chapter a bigger fool than if I had stayed outside altogether and stood on my own individual legs.

And not only do these existing states differ from and contradict the philosophers’ conception, but they differ widely and flagrantly among themselves. Surrendering my individuality to the State is one proposition if I happen to be born a German, or a Mexican; it is another proposition if I happen to be born an American or an Englishman. In either of the latter cases the proposition is one which a wise man may consider on its merits: in either of the former he can only cry, Retro, Sathanas! He would do as well for himself by surrendering his personality to the Devil.

Philosophers do indeed remind us from time to time that the ‘State’ of which they discourse has as yet no actual embodiment on the earth. But they ought to be more explicit in showing us how we can serve this ideal State and surrender ourselves to it, and at the same time do our duty to a real State which contradicts the ideal in so many important respects. My duties to the ideal State of the philosophers require me to promote the good of all mankind; my duties to the actual State to which I belong require me to give up a third of my income and the whole of my energy, not to speak of things more precious still, to help in the work of overthrowing another state and destroying the individuals who are fighting on its behalf.

The two things are not easily reconciled. Even our pacifist friends can hardly claim to have overcome the difficulty. For while in the name of the ideal State they consistently refuse to fight for the actual State, they none the less accept quite contentedly the immense benefit of the protection which the actual State, by fighting, secures for them, and even pay the taxes which provide their defenders with arms. Indeed, I know of no form of conscientious objection or passive resistance which could free us from complicity in the deeds of the State to which we belong. Even the act of speaking the language of one’s country involves us, when we come to think of it, in sharing the guilt, if it be a guilt, of the general proceedings which have made and are still keeping our nation what it is. There is no escape from these responsibilities for any of us. Pacifists and militarists alike, we are all tarred with the same brush—and the hand which wields the brush is not the ideal State of our philosophy but the actual State of our political allegiance. By these actual states the world of to-day will be justified; and by them it will be condemned.

What then is the true character of these states? There are two modes of arriving at the answer and it is highly important that they should be distinguished.

The first mode is to take one of the more advanced of them and consider its internal structure. It is this mode of studying the State which generally leads us to give it a good character. We see before us a public organization which, in spite of many blunderings and much waste of words, is obviously intent on the good of the community, promoting all kinds of arrangements for rendering people as happy and as wise as circumstances will permit. This State, we say, is both moral and intelligent, and on the whole seems to be growing more moral and more intelligent. It is guided by the ablest brains, and is not uninfluenced by noble ideals of humanity. Looked at in isolation, it stands for a splendid achievement, and though no such state has yet fulfilled the ideal of the philosopher, there is good reason to believe that the gulf has been bridged between the actual and the ideal; that, in short, we are on the right road. Seen from this angle of vision the particular State we are studying is an altogether admirable institution. It is the view on which the modern worship of the State stands founded. It comes to us in times of peace, permeates our political philosophy, and is the commonplace of young men’s debating societies. No other view of the State has any currency in normal times.

But there is another mode of determining the character of the State, which yields a very different impression. Instead of looking at the single state in its internal structure we may look at the whole group of states in their external relations to one another. Here we are confronted with a scene of disorder, stupidity, and immorality which, if the actors in it were indivudal men instead of individual ‘powers,’ would at once be recognized as a scene in some asylum for criminal lunatics. ‘The State,’ say the philosophers, ‘is a larger individual.’ Very well then, let some dramatist ‘stage’ the international situation accordingly. Let these large individuals be personified and given names as though they were men: let them appear on the boards before the public eye, and then in dumb show let them faithfully enact the history of European international politics during the last fifty years; let them reveal by their actions and attitudes the absurd and childish misunderstandings, in all their protean imbecility, which have characterized that period, and let them end by dividing into two groups and proceeding to tear one another to pieces, as the States of Europe are now doing. What impression would the play make on any person in the theatre who happened to retain possession of his wits in presence of a spectacle so appalling? ‘This,’ he would unquestionably say, ‘is Bedlam in dumb show.’

Belonging as I do to one of the more advanced states of the world, I am willing to concede to it all the good qualities which it can claim in virtue of its internal structure. I admit further my duty to serve it to the best of my ability. And I question nothing of what the philosophers say of the resulting benefit to me as a man—to wit, that this, my service of the State, makes me more of a man in every essential regard, that it enlarges my individuality and clothes me, according to my faithfulness, with the strength of the whole body politic and the wisdom of the common mind. But unfortunately that is not the end of the matter. This State to which I belong as a member is itself a member of a larger group. It is a state among states; so that I, in belonging to it, becomes involved in the affairs of the whole group to which it belongs. Here, the extension of my personality, the enrichment of my manhood the enlargement of my reason, and so forth, which have gone on merrily enough while my relations to my own State were in question, come to a dead stop. From that point onward the process is reversed. To begin with, I become involved in all sorts of jealousies, misunderstandings, suspicions, and foolish antics, which if they took place between man and man would be disgraceful, if not idiotic. And finally, when the states begin to tear one another to pieces, I am made a party to ferocities of which the very brutes are incapable. In fact, all that has been said about the State being a better and wiser sort of individual vanishes when we come to consider the group which is formed by all the states and by their external relations to one another. All that my humanity has gained by having its place in the single community is not only lost but converted into its opposite by participation in the total chaos of international affairs.

So, then, I can share and indorse every argument which bids me honor the well-ordered State to which I happen to belong; I can extend a like respect to certain other states, as well ordered as my own; I can even understand the condition of mind which runs to state-worship when internal structure is alone in question; but as to worshipping the whole lot in their external relations to one another I would rather, to borrow Huxley’s phrase, ‘worship a wilderness of monkeys.’ And yet the fact remains that, in spite of our reasonable contempt, in spite of the horror with which human nature everywhere shrinks from the business in which it is perforce engaged, there is hardly a man or woman in Europe at the present hour who is not in some sense a party to the appalling antics of this ‘wilderness.’ It was well said the other day by a German prisoner (and better said by a German than by anybody else) to one of his captors, ‘A spell has been cast over human nature. We are all mad together.’

The State of which philosophers discourse is essentially a pacific individual, who possesses arms, indeed, but is too much intent on the ‘common good’ to brandish them in anybody’s face; is in fact somewhat ashamed of them as incompatible with its character of general benevolence. It represents the common will embodied to our imagination as a wise and fatherly governor, full of tender solicitude for his charges, attentive to our just demands, a civil personage, somewhat imperious perhaps, but gaining his ends by argument and reasonable entreaty. The war has suddenly revealed the actual states of the world in a very different character. It has shown us that in their relations to one another they are essentially fighting units. As fighting units they negotiate with one another. If a conference of the states of Europe were called to-morrow we should therefore wholly misconceive its character by picturing a group of benevolent frock-coated gentlemen at a round table. We should be nearer the truth if we were to think of a group of wild men armed to the teeth, whose mere proximity to one another, with nothing but the breadth of a table between them, would inevitably cause the shooting to begin. What would happen to a peace conference so constituted is well indicated by the remark which an Irishman once offered as a crowning argument in favor of Home Rule: ‘When we get a United Ireland, and a Parliament of our own, begorra, we’ll have a row!’

To this view of the matter the objection may be taken that it fails to discriminate between the different parts played by the various states involved in the complications of European diplomacy, and lays upon all the iniquity of one. There is truth in the objection, and as the partisan of my own country—not of that discredited abstraction called ‘the State’—I would be the last to deny it. But the truth contained in the objection only enhances the tragedy—if the word tragedy can be given to iniquity so formless. As the states of the world have hitherto stood related to one another, it is enough hat one of them goes mad to drag all the others down with itself into the abyss. If five peaceable states have in their midst a sixth state which chooses to arm itself to the teeth for aggression, — a design all the more promising in view of the peaceable intentions of its neighbors, — the five have no resource but to arm themselves in the same way, and when all the six are armed to the teeth together, a general mêlée becomes sooner or later inevitable, no matter what diplomacy may do to keep the peace.

This, you in America are beginning to find out. Your peaceable intentions are no safeguard to you, so long as the other states of the world maintain their character as fighting units. There is nothing analogous to this in the relations of individual men and women who are capable of reasonable intercourse with one another. Among the lowest savages, or among civilized men who have reverted to the savage state, some analogy might perhaps be found; but not in any group whose members are prepared to deal with one another as reasonable beings. Nothing confirms me more strongly in the belief that human nature, instead of being represented at its best in a world of state relations, is not represented there at all, no, not to the extent of one grain of common sense. And it was in the world of state relations that the present war was born.

What then is to be done? It seems to me that the alternatives before us may be reduced to two which may be briefly described as more government and less government.

1. By ‘more government’ I refer to that whole class of proposals which aim at controlling the destinies of the nations by some kind of league, federation, or agreement which can enforce peace upon mankind, or at least regulate the occurrence of war, and can otherwise legislate for all matters in whciht he interests of ‘all humanity’ are supposed to be concerned. The states in short are to be brought together into some kind of unitary state.

2. Of this class of proposals I will only say that its success depends upon one condition. Before the states can effectually form such a corporation, they must divest themselves of their character as fighting units. A federation composed of fighting units cannot do otherwise than fight—and the proposal thus becomes a contradiction. It looks as if the proposal were involved in a circle. To divest themselves of their fighting character is the first object for which the states are to come together. And yet unless the states had already dropped their fighting character before they came together, it is doubtful if they would agree upon anything.

The character of the existing states as fighting units is overlooked in every argument in favor of International Federation which has so far come under my notice, and seems to me to destroy entirely the analogy on which these arguments are based. The question is usually raised in this form: since individuals have found a way of adjusting their disputes without fighting, by means of national law, why should not states do the same by means of international law? But the great difference is forgotten, that the individuals who settle their disputes in court come into court unarmed. If a court of the nations were formed to-morrow, every member composing it, judge, jury, counsel, plaintiff, and defendant, would have loaded gun in his pocket. Every component state would be in a posture, more or less formidable, for resisting the findings of the court. And the idea that all the other members of the court would automatically combine to shoot down any dangerous member who threatened to draw his weapon, is a pure fiction of the imagination. Almost every question submitted to international jurisdiction would have a tendency to split the court into fairly even halves, just as happens in national party politics. The ordinary relations of majority and minority would indeed be repeated, but with this important difference—that both sections would be armed. And history does not suggest that armed minorities can be stopped from fighting by the fear of armed majorities—especially if the two happen to be nearly equal.

2. By ‘less government’ I refer to something which it is not easy to formulate into any kind of definite proposal. It is not negative, for it involves the tremendous effort required to turn one’s back on the whole idolatrous state-worship, with its rites and mummeries, which has held possession of us for ages; the effort of resolutely refusing to interfere with matters which are beyond human control, but which at the same time our meddlesome habits of mind, encouraged by centuries of false philosophy, are constantly leading us to interfere with. I refer to the gradual abolition of the whole cumbrous machinery of Chancelleries, Foreign Offices, and ministries of all sorts of things that cannot be ministered to, which in their joint action prevent the natural relations between man and man and produce that intolerable mess of stupidity known as international politics.

My own sympathies, I need hardly say, are with the second alternative, and I imagine it has more sympathizers than have yet made themselves heard. With human nature there is nothing fundamentally wrong, but with state nature there is something fundamentally wrong which can be better remedied, perhaps, by ending than by mending. At all events, whatever we may be thinking and planning at home, there are millions of men now at the war who will presently come back with the cobwebs shaken from their brains, and who will have something to say in these matters. What will they say? I think they will address themselves to all this array of gold-laced pretense and verbosity; and their words will be summed up in the ejaculation of the young officer, ‘Oh, how I wish they would all shut up!’