When the League of Nations was a new phrase, those persons who welcomed it enthusiastically heard themselves dubbed fools by those who were known as skeptics and as wise men.
At that time the skeptics were, as they are always and everywhere, in the majority; for faith is a rare quality, whereas doubt is the most eminently judicious attitude—the attitude in which one runs the least risk of compromising one’s self.
‘A League of Nations! — Tell me, do you believe in it?’ said a French statesman of light and leading to a Dutch journalist, to whom he had granted an interview. To him, the idea was a Utopia—nothing more.
The wise men adopted a less scornful tone; they replied, with sober faces and after mature reflection, ‘The League of Nations is an excellent idea. But before we think of putting it in effect we must bring the war to an end and arrange the terms of peace. Then, and only then, can we give our minds to the creation of any kind of league between all nations. But if we should succeed, doubtless it will mean the entire avoidance of war in the future.’
This dictum of wisdom, which savors of hypocrisy no less than of caution, was that pronounced by Chancellor von Hertling in his reply to President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George. And it may be that this Teutonic interpretation of the idea has brought some valuable additions to the category of fools, who have finally found themselves in most excellent and illustrious company.
Indeed, fools are sadly calumniated: elder brothers of the poets, eager to live what the latter content themselves with singing, they are the men who march in the van on the road whereon mankind progresses only by defying the unknown and believing in the future. It is the fools, the idealists, who guide the world.
One day there arrived in France a message sent by a man who had labored alone and had reflected profoundly in his White House, on the other side of the ocean: it was the noble message of President Wilson concerning the League of Nations.
From that moment the idea began to make headway. The fools have become so numerous that they are now regarded as sensible folk. Now that the heads of the governments of the United States and Great Britain have pronounced in its favor, and the principle has been accepted from the tribune of the French Chamber, by Premier Ribot, no one would venture to call the League of Nations a Utopia.
To-day no one denies the principle; but the criticisms, or reservations, relate simply to the possibility of giving it effect, to the method of applying this scheme to the difficulties of the present situation. Those who put forward these criticisms and reservations consider themselves realists, because they claim to concentrate all their attention on the practical details of a tangible and legal organization. In reality they hypnotize themselves by evoking imaginary obstacles; and we can fairly say of them that they have eyes but see not, and ears but do not hear.
The League of Nations is not yet in power; it is not strong enough; it cannot, to-day, enforce its determination to do justice and its higher law. Nevertheless, it already exists. Its origin and the origin of the present wear derive form the same sources; and it has not ceased to develop pari passu with the development of the war itself.
Let us recall the beginnings of the great conflict which for four years past has drenched with blood all the battlefields of Europe. It began with the attack of the imperialist states, Germany and Austria, upon Serbia, a small nation without adequate means of defense, which was prepared to make all reasonable concessions to preserve the peace. A few weeks later, its scope was broadened because the German army, in utter disregard of treaties, in violation of the law of nations, forced its way into Belgium. And it was because of this violation of Belgian neutrality, because Germany disavowed her own signature, that Great Britain entered the war.
Months, years pass. The war drags on, spreads out. Germany, thinking only of multiplying her means of attack and defense, constantly commits new violations of the law. In contempt of all international agreements, she inaugurates submarine warfare; and then it is that free America, across he Atlantic, rises in her turn in defense of the Right. Thus, by three stages, — because the rights of the free peoples and international law were violated, — the war broke out, and its contagion spread, as a result of the claim of the Central Empires to universal domination established at the expense of all other countries.
On the other hand, why, and in the name of what undying principles, have these Empires, in their aggression, been confronted by an opposition, by a will to fight, ever more powerful and more obstinate to persevere until victory is declared? Of course, the states directly attacked took up arms in defense of their independence; but still, in the course of that defense they have always declared that, if the destiny of arms should turn in their favor, they would use it solely to reestablish outraged Right, never to inflict upon their enemies the evils which the latter had in store for them.
On the day when France, brutally attacked by Germany, issued the decree of mobilization, on that day, when five millions of Frenchmen rushed to the colors, our claim to Alsace-Lorraine was brought to our mind anew—that is to say, the claim of the right of all French peoples to decide their own fate. This right was violated in 1871, when the people of the two conquered provinces heard themselves described as ‘cheap cattle,’ and were compelled to pass under foreign domination. At that time Germany appealed fraudulently to the theory of nationalities, declaring that the Alsace-Lorrainers ought to be incorporated in the German body politic, even against their will, because they were Germans in race and in language. The theory which France alleged in opposition was that of the French Revolution, so clearly and emphatically defined by Fustel de Coulanges.
That which distinguishes one nation from another is neither race nor language. Men feel in their hearts that they are of one and the same people, that they have a community of ideas, of interests, of inclinations, of memories, and hopes. This is what constitutes the country. This is why men wish to march together, to work together, to fight together, to live and die for one another. The country is the thing that we love. It may be that Alsace is German in race and language; but in the spirit of nationality, in love of country, she is French. And do you know what made her French? It was not Louis XIV, but our Revolution of 1789. Ever since that time, Alsace has shared our destiny. She has lived our life. All that we thought, she thought. All that we felt, she felt. She has shared our victories and our defeats, our glory and our errors, all our joys and all our sorrows. She has nothing in common with you. In her eyes the patrie is France. In her eyes, Germany is a foreign land.
These words may be said, at the present moment, to represent the universal thought which is the logical consequence of the whole development of our French Revolution. Just as the preeminent dignity of the human person was recognized then in our laws and our codes, so to-day, in the immense revolution which this war really is, the preeminent dignity of each nation must be recognized, the rights of all nations must be reaffirmed and consecrated.
It is in obedience to this spirit of justice, to reestablish outraged Right, and to restore to the injured nations their national integrity, that great nations like Great Britain and the United States have intervened in the war although not directly attacked. Neither Great Britain nor the United States dreams of setting up its own hegemony in opposition to the hegemony of Germany. With them, as with all the members of the Entente, the essential object of this conflict, its reason for being, is not to bring about the triumph of one domination, European or other, rather than another, but to make Europe and the world, once for all, safe from such disruptions; it is to confront the Right of Might with the Might of Right.
If this spirit of justice did not inspire all the nations of the Entente, — if the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy, entertained the same purposes as the guiding minds of the Central Empires, the same profound contempt for the rights of nations, the same trust in brute force, — it is probable that peace might very easily be made; that it might already have been made. According to the theory on which the old treaties were negotiated, it would have been easy to arrange terms of peace at the time of the Russian breakdown: the states of the Entente had but to be guided by the method adopted by Prussia, Russia, and Austria in a celebrated instance, toward the end of the eighteenth century. They would then have proposed to the Central Empires to divide with them, not a modest little Poland, but the domain, the immense booty of Russia in Europe and in Asia, which would have been practically defenseless against so powerful a combination.
But the bare suggestion of such a detestable solution is enough to disclose how absolutely opposed it would be to all that the nations of the Entente have sought and desired in their action throughout this conflict. Such a solution could be imposed only by violent means upon the peoples who would be the victims of that shameful jockeying. And even if we admit that the efforts of all the states joined and combined could triumph over their victims, how long would such a result endure? How could any twentieth-century people, subjected by force to the domination of this or that power, consent to undergo such a fate? The diplomats of an earlier time had the presumption thus to redraw the map of Europe. In 1815, by the Treaty of Vienna, they disposed arbitrarily of states and peoples. But not many years after, in Germany, in Austria, in Italy, revolutions broke out. The crime of 1815 led very speedily to the convulsions of 1848.
It would be the same to-morrow if the present-day problems should e solved summarily according to the old methods. New disputes would very soon arise—internal disputes, in which the subjugated populations would strive, by insurrections, to make their disregarded rights effective once more; disputes between the nations which had managed the partition and which would all have reasons for fighting among themselves, as do bandits when they come to a division of the spoil.
To arrive at the durable peace which is the common goal of all the nations of the Entente, we must repudiate the method of violence in nay degree whatsoever; we must abandon all idea of founding the guaranties of national security upon force. Even if we should succeed in achieving by military and diplomatic pressure the rehabilitation of the invaded countries, the object that we pursue would not be attained. The destruction of the German army, even the dismemberment of Germany, would not suffice to ensure the safety of France. The past teaches us the worthlessness of the strategic precautions of the conqueror when he is in a position to impose his will upon the vanquished.
In the triumphant hours of 1806, when Napoleon I had Prussia under his heel, eh thought to reduce the Prussian army to helplessness by limiting it to 40,000 men under arms. The Prussian generals who were forced to submit to these harsh conditions speedily caused the whole civilian population to submit to military training; and in 1813, it was a whole militarized nation that confronted the tyrant at Leipzig.
Such is the lesson of history. It teaches us that the Great War, the crusade of the nations of the Entente to ensure the reign of liberty and justice throughout the world, cannot be brought to an end by a peace negotiated after the manner of the treaties of an earlier time.
What confidence could we have in a final treaty analogous to those which our enemies have treated as ‘scraps of paper,’ rather than allow themselves to be impeded by them in their brutal aggression? The moment their validity was put to the test, the treaties bearing the signature of Germany and purporting to guarantee the independence and neutrality of Belgium became, in the eyes of German statesmen, mere scraps of paper. And that shocking phase was not, mark you, a hasty exclamation, uttered in a moment of intense excitement by a minister whose imagination led him to partake of the savage enthusiasm of the invading troops; no, it expressed succinctly the German will and the German purpose, in their conception of the relations of the strongest nation with the weakest.
In the past four years innumerable acts have confirmed and emphasized the iniquitous remark of the German Chancellor; and German jurists have undertaken to justify it in their writings. Listen to the words of a German ‘intellectual,’ Joseph Köhler, Professor of International Law: —
No law is so sacred that it must not yield to necessity; and this act, performed under the pressure of necessity, does not constitute a violation of law. … The irresistible force of war and conquest takes possession of countries and peoples; that is one of the fundamental principles of international law. … Let us not lend an ear to the voices of those who emphasize the difficulties to which annexation would give rise in the victorious state, on the pretext that it would come in collision with alien elements which might offer resistance. That idea may terrify a weak and timid people, but a youthful and sturdy one is contest to thrust aside obstacles of this nature: the great Siegfried does not allow himself to be frightened by a recalcitrant population.
This is the sort of thing that German jurists are writing after four years of war! According to them, justice no longer preoccupies any but weak and timid nations! The great Siegfried, for his part, proposes to crush beneath his heel the liberty of those peoples who attempt to resist him! That is why, when the hour of peace shall have struck, the signature of the great Siegfried will not be enough for us. What we must have is, as President Wilson has said many a time, an international treaty, in which all questions shall be submitted to a supra-national authority which, on the one hand, will be charged with the duty of defining the rights of the nations, and on the other, will have at its disposal the means to secure the recognition of those rights by force.
Face to face with a foe who has not disarmed, who has renounced none of his schemes of domination, the only guaranty is the union of all nations, clothed with the duty and the power to which peace shall seem possible to us. This necessary solution is within our reach, since the essential mutual understanding is already achieved by the impressive union of the greatest nations of the world, leagued together in defense of liberty.
Before studying the first traces of the existence of the League of Nations in the past, and before discussing its probable future, we have thought it well to show that it does already exist. It was born of the very excess of suffering and tyranny imposed upon the world; ti has grown in the bosom of our worst distresses, as the noble prophetic verses of Victor Hugo proclaimed more than a half-century ago: —
Dès à present dans nos misères
Germe l’hymen des peoples frères;
Volant sur nos sombres rameaux,
Comme un frelon que l’aube éveille,
Le Progrès, ténébreuse Abeille,
Fait du Bonheur avec nos maux.1
The experience of Rome in ancient times shows us what the Empire of the Cæsars did for the enfranchisement and peace of the universe, so long as it continued to be a league of nations. The people which made up that Empire did not depend upon an Emperor, but upon a political association, a body of senators, magistrates, and citizens; and they realized that they had at the same time a great and a smaller country.
This happy equilibrium was destroyed on the day when the Roman Empire undertook to transform itself into a single entity; when it ceased to be an organization of different nations and cities, and mingled all that it included in one confused whole, without proper differentiation.
In the Middle Ages we have the example of the Church, which exercised rights of sovereignty in each of the states under its jurisdiction. Its rôle in the termination of wars, in the conclusion of treaties, affords an example of numerous supra-national interventions which were effective down to the period when religious authority was checkmated by the coming of modern times and the development of lay elements.
More recently still, it has been impossible to disregard the scope of international conventions: for example, those which were created to abolish slavery and to establish the Universal Postal Union.
Since the meeting of the Anti-Slavery Conference at London, that is to say, from 1841 to 1910, there have been 175 inter-governmental conferences some of which have met with quasi-regularity; for instance, there have been fifteen geodesic conferences, thirteen sanitary, and eight penological.
Lastly, there have been the conferences at The Hague, where we find a significant alignment of the powers in making important decisions. When, in 1907, the nations had assembled to enter into compulsory arbitration treaties among themselves, the main principle was ratified by thirty-five votes, with only five in opposition—those of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Greece, Roumania, and Turkey. That is to say, only eleven years ago, at the time of signing the arbitration treaties, the Entente stood almost solidly on one side, with the neutrals, while on the other side were the Central Empires and their allies. In these beginnings, made in the face of oppositions, we see the first form of that League of Nations which, since the war began, has resolved itself into the present system of inter-Allied relations. In the federation of all the nations who are fighting for the Right, not one is, at this moment, acting with entire independence. They must, one and all, unite and act together, not only in what concerns their armies, but also in respect to the general conduct of all the diplomatic and political affairs of the Alliance.
In face of the unity of control of the enemy, the restrictions upon their individual sovereignty to which the Allied nations assent go constantly deeper and deeper. Every day further progress is made among them toward a closer and closer bond of union, a subordination of all alike to the common, higher interest which guides them and unites them in this conflict.
This bond of union, freely accepted, and this subordination of all to the general interest, have extended from the general conduct of the war to the domain of supplies, of finances—in a word, step by step, to the whole life of the nations.
The reciprocal oversight thus exercised does not appear in the light of an annoyance or an encroachment but, on the contrary, as a guaranty and constant assurance of the continuity and fair distribution of the efforts of each one of the nations in the common struggle.
In this closely knit bond of the Entente, the smaller nations are neither sacrificed, nor even subordinated more than the greater ones, to the general interest. But they feel that they stand on an equality as to their rights, no less than as to their duties, in the councils which decide upon the common action and upon the means of putting it in execution. It was these councils which reached an agreement to define our war-aims. They will lay down our terms of peace also, which will include no private terms for any member of the Entente.
We see, then, that it has been found to be necessary, in order to bring the war to a successful issue, to establish between the various nations of the Entente a system of international relations, more strictly defined and more restrictive of their individual sovereignty than would be possible in times of peace. And this is the decisive, peremptory argument which answers by anticipation all the objections as to practical obstacles in the way of the creation of the League of Nations. What remains to be solved is nothing in comparison with what has been solved and with the benefits we may expect to derive therefrom.
If the League of Nations had been in existence in August, 1914, Germany probably would not have declared war; but even if she had dared to do so in defiance of the conventions signed by her, all the nations which are willing to guarantee justice and the law would have found themselves compelled to enter at once into the conflict. Instead of intervening without concert and one by one, all the nations of the Entente would have come forward together, at the precise moment in August, 1914, when the crime was committed.
Such is the world-organization at which we aim and which has been proved to be practicable by the experience of four years of war. It is in process of realization; to perfect it, nothing more is needed than perseverance on the part of the governments, and the concurrence of all the free nations.
Then will come true the old dream of all the great minds which in times past have aspired to the enthronement of justice. Listen to Kant, whose thought is distinctly adverse to Germany in the Essay on Perpetual Peace: —
No treaty of peace can be considered as such if either party to it secretly reserves some ground for renewing the war. …
No independent state (whether large or small makes no difference) can be acquired by another, whether by inheritance, exchange, purchase, or gift. …
No state should intervene by force in the polity and government of another state. …
No state, at war with another, should be guilty of such hostile acts as, on the return of peace, would make mutual confidence impossible: as, for example, the employment of murderers or poisoners, the violation of a capitulation, or an attempt to spread treason in the state with which it is at war. …
The civil constitution of every state should be republican. …
The law of nations must be based upon a federation of free states.
All the great revolutionary spirits have declared that the rights of the peoples collectively must be recognized in society, even as the rights of man have been recognized.
It was Victor Hugo who, as a Deputy in the Assembly of 1848, said: ‘The French people have hewn from imperishable granite, and laid, in the centre of the old monarchical continent, the first stone of the vast edifice which will some day be known as the United States of Europe.’ And it was Lamennais who, in his Words of a Believer, replied thus to the question, ‘Young soldier, whither goest thou?’ — ‘I am going to fight for justice, for the holy cause of the nations, for the consecrated rights of the human race.’
This reply our soldiers translated into action, when, in August, 1914, all France rose to defend itself against the German aggression. All our soldiers, all the workingmen, peasants, tradesmen, merchants, and professional men of France, when they were called upon to fight for the freedom and independence of their native land, had another idea as well. When, on receipt of the order of mobilization, they joined their regiments, one and all exclaimed, ‘We propose that this shall be the last war!’ Since then many of them have fallen on the battlefields of the Marne, the Yser, Verdun, and the Somme. But those who remain preserve the memory and the determination of those dead heroes who saved France, and they are resolved to fulfil, over and above the salvation of their country, the noble humane dream of their varnished brothers.
The fulfillment of this dream is the only clearly defined object which the proposed supra-national organization will set before itself at the beginning. Its first duty will be to eliminate, or at all events to reduce as far as possible, the chances of another war. It will succeed in that object by creating a system of rights between nations like that which the State, among civilized peoples, creates between individuals.
It is a difficult task. To progress from the anarchical condition of the world before the war to a complete organization deserving the name of a League of Nations in the fullest sense of the word—that will unquestionably be a long, long road; but we can clearly make out the first stage, which we can traverse during the war.
A court of arbitration must be set up—that is to say, a method of procedure for settling controversies between nations, analogous to that which has already been resorted to in a certain number of cases. But to avoid the repetition of an experiment which was tried in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and of which the acid test of this war has demonstrated the inadequacy, we must invest the tribunal with the function of drawing up the rules to be applied, and reinforce it with the power to execute them.
In reply to President Wilson’s eloquent appeal in favor of compulsory arbitration, we saw last year the Central Empires, and even the Sultan of Turkey himself, give in a solemn adhesion to the principle. There was just one small restriction: the principle of arbitration was accepted by the representatives of our adversaries only with reservation of the ‘vital interests’ of either of the three Empires concerned. We know to-day, by the example of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, what those Empires mean by their ‘vital interests,’ and how far they carry their contempt of the most legitimate interests of other nationalities.
Of course, nations more considerate of the rights of others might refrain from such excesses; but we must recognize none the less that an attitude of distrust with respect to any given system of unconditional arbitration is altogether justifiable, even for states honestly well disposed to the principle.
The supra-national organization should therefore take for its immediate task to establish the essential rights likely to be agreed upon by the participating nations. General formulæ are not enough. Upon general formulæ the whole world may declare itself to be in accord—even Chancellor von Hertling and President Wilson; but as soon as we come to precise applications, unconquerable opposition appears.
The supra-national organization will have to study one after another, in connection with the great principles offered for its scrutiny, the formulæ and the rules capable of transforming a general platonic ideal into a workable law, susceptible of practical judicial execution.
This scheme may seem over-ambitious, and so it would be, in fact, if it were proposed to solve all questions at a single stroke; to secure at the first attempt a complete code of relations between the different states. But we consider, on the contrary, that, in this more surely than in any other matter, the questions to be solved must be divided into categories. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Let us give to this organization, to begin with, the general commission to establish and maintain between its constituents, as well as with regard to all others, the law of nations as defined by parties contracting under it.
This would relieve us from the necessity of bothering our minds immediately about a host of problems, and would also enable us to promulgate the most essential and most urgent rules looking to the conclusion of the present conflict.
But when these rules shall have been once laid down, when the law of nations shall have been formulated, there will still be left for us to face the most serious difficulty of all—the stumbling-block which has thus far caused the breakdown of all the plans of the pacifists: that is to say, the creation of an executive force at the service of this law, and of penalties to be imposed upon those who may be tempted to violate it.
Such penalties are possible; different categories have been suggested. The first, which have sometimes aroused a smile of incredulity, have nevertheless real merit. They take the form of an appeal to be made to public opinion, to the opinion of the whole world. Our adversaries, who, at the beginning of the war, defied this opinion so far as possible, have finally recognized its importance. They have put forth their utmost efforts, by means of a propaganda no less false than frantic, to reverse, not only in neutral countries, but among the Allies, the moral judgment which they saw to be altogether adverse to them. They have resorted to all possible methods to cast upon us the responsibility for the conflict, or, at least, for its continuance. And this fact demonstrates the unquestionable efficacy of moral penalties.
There are also the economic penalties, the most potent of which are the boycott, reprisals, expulsions, sequestrations, judicial isolation, the economic blockade, and the abolition or restriction of international commerce.
All these methods, which have been utilized during the war, must be retained after the war, against powers which might still claim to dominate the world; which should refuse toe recognize the rules and principles established by common action. Our adversaries attach very great importance to this species of coercion. They are tremendously anxious to find out to what extent and for how many years the ‘economic weapon’ will be sued against them after the cessation of hostilities.
It is certain that this economic weapon is to-day, and will remain, a most powerful one in the hands of the Allies. But in order to assure the possibility of its employment as long as may be necessary, we must be prepared to support it at need by military force.
At this point, we have to deal with the problem of creating a military force in the service of the law of nations, whose duty it shall be to compel obedience to the decisions made by the League of Nations; and we find ourselves confronted by two equally vital requirements which seem contradictory. On the one hand, we are convinced that, if this war does not result in lessening for the future the burden of an armed peace, we shall have accepted to no purpose all the sacrifices which it has already cost us. And, on the other hand, unless we are to fall asleep prematurely in the delusions from which our Russian friends have just had such a cruel awakening, we face the necessity of maintaining, in the service of the very peace that we seek to establish, a force strong enough to punish infractions of plighted faith.
But these two requirements are not so incompatible as they seem at first sight. If the limitation of armaments were imposed on every state, we can readily see that the sum of the forces of all the others exerted against an isolated state would be irresistible. It would be essential, of course, that there should be perfect coördination between these forces—a connection so intimate as to assure their immediate, simultaneous, and therefore effective employment. But there would be no need to place all the national armies under a single, absolute supra-national command; it would suffice to maintain, in times of peace, the close relation which already exists between the Allied armies.
Whatever the difficulties in the way of carrying through such a scheme, the fact remains that we cannot evade the problem. If we do not solve it, we shall fall back sooner or later into the condition of rivalry and competition in armaments with which the world was familiar before the present war.
Doubtless the compositions of this international military force will be the most delicate question for the League of Nations to settle. But other essential questions will demand settlement with equal urgency, immediately upon the advent of peace, and even before it is concluded.
Provision will have to be made for the economic life of the nations which have taken part in the conflict, and for distributing among them raw materials and the means of subsistence.
Finally, there will have to be provided a supra-national authority which will be indispensable in the matter of liquidating the finances of the various states and enabling them to return to a normal economic régime after the tremendous upheavals caused by the war in the economic life of the whole world.
Again, it will be necessary to appeal for the intervention of the supra-national authority to settle many peculiarly delicate and complex questions, as, for example, ensuring the neutrality or the freedom of the Dardanelles.
Here, then, are certain very urgent, very clearly defined tasks, which we offer for the action of the League of Nations. It alone can perform them, and reestablish order after the immense upheaval which will leave in utter disarray the men and the bodies politic of the world before the war. On all sides new problems and duties arise, and it is enough to enumerate them, to show that, beside the skeptics who do not believe in the League of Nations, beside the wise men who postpone them to a later date, if we are idealists, — in other words, fools, — we are very positive idealists.
We have not failed for an instant to base our arguments on facts. Always, in every sort of process that we have discussed, we have sought only to continue what has already ben begun during the war and for the purposes of the war, adapting it to the new necessities and to the lasting conditions of a state of peace.
Here is no question of creating, in the air, as it were, and without precedents, institutions still untested, which would justifiably arouse distrust: here is a question of stabilizing the various categories of inter-Allied institutions which are already functioning and growing ever more effective as the war goes on.
Moreover, America has heretofore exhibited a noteworthy example of an international organization in the Pan-American Union, which does not constitute a new state, for it has no supreme tribal or sovereign power; but, thanks to its periodical conferences and to its permanent bureau at Washington, it already forms a sort of administrative, scientific, and economic union, complete in every detail.
There has been a deal of discussion as to whether Germany should be admitted to the League of Nations, or be debarred therefrom. It is for her alone to furnish the reply.
It is quite evident that imperialist and militarist Germany, which assumes to impose her domination upon Europe and to hold the civilization of the twentieth century under the perpetual menace of her big guns, could find no place in a league of nations destined to establish and maintain respect for the Law. But we should commit a serious mistake if we imagined that Germany forms a single mass, inspired solely by the ideal of its General Staff, and sharing all its aspirations. However feeble the reaction in Germany may be, it exists; numerous strikes offer to the observer unmistakable signs of internal disturbances, and presage, if not a revolution, at least an evolution.
It is this evolution which the world awaits. It is this evolution which President Wilson predicts in the masterly address delivered on July 4 last, at the tomb of Washington: —
‘The blinded rulers of Prussia have roused forces they knew little of—forces which, once roused, can never be crushed to earth again; for they have at their heart an inspiration and a purpose which are deathless and of the very stuff of triumph.’
Lord Grey of Fallodon, in a pamphlet recently published, declares that the Allies cannot save the world if Germany herself remembers nothing of the lessons of the war; if she does not realize that militarism is the deadly enemy of mankind.
To the same purpose Lord Curzon said in a recent speech in the House of Lords, ‘It is essential that there shall be a general agreement among the nations; and to obtain a useful result, all the nations on earth must become parties to it.’
From all these solemn and impartial declarations it follows that we must not only conquer Germany, but convert her. And that will be the great, the supreme victory to which President Wilson beckoned us when he defined the principles of the League of Nations.
These same principles were put forward more than a half-century since by the philosopher Jules Barni, at the Peace Congress which he convoked at Lausanne. He made numerous and illustrious converts: Victor Hugo, Edgar Quinet, Élysée Reclus, and the great English philosopher, John Stuart Mill.
But Barni met also with a refusal to accept his ideas from a man whom no one can suspect of mental timidity, but whom we admire to-day rather for his courageous keenness of vision—the Italian revolutionary Mazzini, who argued that peace could not become the law of human society until that society had passed through a conflict which should establish life and association on the foundation of justice and liberty.
Mazzini concluded with these words: ‘Duty points the way to the object we should seek: that is, the triumph of the moral law, and the suppression of whatever stands in the way of its fulfillment; the reconstitution of Europe; the sovereignty of the free and equal associated nations; aid from all to all for the emancipation of those who are oppressed, for the relief of those who suffer, and for the education, the independence, the armament of all.
‘This object—why not say it?—is a last great holy crusade, a battle of Marathon in the service of Europe for the triumph of the principle of progress over the principle of inertia and reaction.’
These admirable sentences point us to the duty we are carrying out to-day. The hour has struck of the last holy crusade for the liberation and independence of all peoples. The consecrated army is forming, majestic and formidable, in the blood-drenched roads leading to the luminous heights of the future. And to bring succor to those who are engaged in the struggle, to acquit our debt to those who will never return, we must strive to instill into all minds, to infuse into all the nations, the two essential virtues, energy and faith.
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- Even now, in our desolation, the union of the brother-nations is germinating; flying over our darksome state, like an insect awakened by the dawn, Progress, an obscure honey-bee transforms our misfortunes into good fortune. ↩