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The League of Nations is Alive
by L. P. Jacks


IF a survey be taken of the various schemes for a league of nations, including the scheme actually embodied in the existing Covenant, three assumptions will be found uniformly present. By most propagandists they are treated as self-evident.

The first assumption is that the necessary instruments through which the nations must establish their League are their existing political governments. It is as politically organized units that the nations enter the League, whose joint action then becomes political action, analogous to that of each of the units. In other words the governments, or their representatives, are the efficient agents to establish the League in the first instance, and to work it in the second. The possibility of acting through any other medium, for example the Church, is not contemplated, and in these days would probably be dismissed as absurd, though it would have seemed wholly reasonable in the fourteenth century. On what other terms, indeed, is the League possible? Can we conceive of our own, or of any nation, entering the League, and operating within it, except by the act of its political government, signed, sealed, and delivered by the political chiefs for the time being? Should we not feel a shock of surprise if the proposal were made to entrust the business to the Archbishop of Canterbury rather than to the Prime Minister? There would have been no surprise at this in the fourteenth century, when the Church was an acknowledged bond of union among mankind.
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The second assumption is that the various contracting governments are all equally competent to carry out the obligations to which, under the terms of the League, they bind themselves or their subjects. When, for example, the stipulation is laid down that the governments (or the 'States') shall agree to restrain their subjects from taking such or such internationally offensive action, it is invariably taken for granted that the governments in question have sufficient control over their subjects to ensure their submission to the stipulated restraint. No account is taken of the wide differences that exist among governments in this respect, some of them clearly having no power, or very little, to guarantee the compliance of their subjects with any conditions that happen to prove unpopular. All the schemes for a league of nations so far put forward resemble one another at this point -- that is to say, they charge the contracting states with obligations in respect of their own subjects which only a powerful and firmly established government could carry out, and which would obviously be worthless if undertaken by a weak one. Ignoring the fact that certain governments can hardly be said to 'govern' at all, being mere temporary committees for the transaction of national business, existing on sufferance, and holding their position by a highly precarious tenure -- ignoring all this, the assumption is made that all governments are competent, and equally competent, to compel their own subjects to keep promises made on their behalf.

One cannot refrain from astonishment at the uncritical assurance of otherwise careful publicists in regard to this matter, and at the light-hearted manner in which weak and subservient forms of government, half their power expended in clinging to power, with the fear of the polls constantly before them, and the knowledge that a single unpopular measure would involve them in downfall, are pictured in these paper schemes as fully able to pledge their nationals to the surrender of their special privileges in the way of trade, and of their promising ambitions in the way of conquest. After reading a catalogue of the responsibilities each 'State' is required to assume for the control of its own subjects, -- of the ports they are to keep open, of the facilities they are to afford, of the free transit they are to give to persons and goods, of the debts they are to discharge, of the information they are to make public, of the general good-will they are to display to their foreign competitors, -- after reading all this, and much more to the same purport, one is tempted to ask where in the modern world are the 'States' to be found, which can lay these commands on their citizens with the faintest prospect that they will be obeyed? The answer is that they exist only in the imagination of the writer. They are mere abstractions -- phantasms whose last embodiment on earth was in the days of Xerxes and Nebuchadnezzar.

The third assumption, which is implied in the other two, goes wider and deeper. Assuming that all nations enter the League in the person, so to speak, of their governments, and that all these are equally competent to carry out their contracts under the League, it naturally follows that the business or function of the League is itself, government. It is a polical machine made out of political material and with a political object -- that namely, of governing the world, or the largest possible portion of it, in a different and presumably better manner than that in which it has been governed heretofore. Were the question raised, 'What benefits will the world enjoy under a League of Nations?' would it not be enough to answer, 'It will be better governed,' all other benefits, which would doubtless be many, being dependent upon and derivative from this? In place of the discordant relationships between nations now existing, the League will substitute harmonious government under international law. What other object, we are tempted to ask, could the League conceivably have? Let the suggestion be made, for example, that the nations might league themselves for the promotion of knowledge, or for the service of God, and our surprise would be hardly less than if it were proposed to substitute the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Prime Minister as our plenipotentiary at the next Conference. Yet the idea of a league of nations for the promotion of knowledge would have commended itself very forcibly to the mind of Plato, and a league for the international service of God was actually outlined by Dante in the De Monarchia. Even Mr. Woodrow Wilson, prior to his fateful journey to Paris, thought that the nations might be leagued for the service of humanity, much to the comfort of the defeated Germans, who did not then know that they were to be excluded. All such conceptions, however, have a very slender hold on the modern mind. If we think of the League at all, we can hardly help thinking of it as of government, by government, and for government. The idea of government is dominant throughout. Such are the three assumptions, each obviously implying the other two. That none of them should be accepted with out criticism has already been suggested. In what follows attention will be mainly confined to the first, but with this safeguard -- that nothing here said be construed as spoken against the essential idea of the League of Nations, which shines as a lodestar in the dark night of our present troubles, and will shine all the clearer when certain mists have fallen from our eyes.


When we turn in thought from the self-renunciations and heroic endeavors of the war to the cupidities and political intrigues which followed it, we are instantly aware of a painful discrepancy. On the first level we are in contact with nations' souls; on the second, with their vulgar minds. It is as if the moral dimensions of nations had suddenly shrunk. Horrible as the war was in many of its aspects, the memory of it leaves a less 'unpleasant taste in the mouth' than the memory of the 'peace.' There was something glorious in the one, there was nothing glorious in the other. If the first was full of dead men's bones, the second overflowed with them.

Is it too much to say that, if a league of nations is ever to come into being, the foundations of it must be laid on the high level of self-renunciation and heroic endeavor which characterized the war, and not on the low level of cupidity and political intrigue which characterized the 'peace'? Is it not obvious that a league of nations which was nothing more than a league of governments such as those that made the 'peace' would inevitably crumble, like a wall built with untempered mortar?

For the last four centuries the combative nationalism of Western civilization has been leading the world deeper and deeper into a sea of troubles, where the great ships of state now manoeuvre precariously, amid cross-currents, hidden shoals, sudden tempests, and impenetrable fogs. To extricate the fortunes of mankind from conditions so unstable will prove no easy task, for they are interwoven with the structure of the modern world -- part, almost, of its substance. In trusting the arts of diplomacy, we are trusting a broken reed. To them, indeed, we are debtors for many a wonderful escape from the peril of the moment; but in their total action through the years their arts increase the tension of the world, and tie the very knots which the sword has subsequently to cut. On that level there is little to be hoped for, and much to be feared. Short of united action on the higher level of self-renunciation and heroic endeavor, of which the nations showed themselves capable in making the war, and their governments incapable in making the peace, nothing will be found adequate to the deliverance of civilization from the present entanglements. Means must be devised to bring the nations together on that ground. The forces exist; the problem is to unite them. Its solution will prove immensely difficult. Talked into existence the League of Nations will never be; it must be wrought into existence by invincible courage and long-enduring travail. In underestimating the difficulty, we postpone the fulfillment.

A league of nations is one thing. A league of governments is another. Until we have learned to distinguish them, there will be no league of nations. We may have the name, but not the reality.

A league of nations, to be worth the name, must be a league of national souls. A mere combination of political machinery, effected by joining up the official governments of all nations, would obviously be a useless contrivance. Unless a unitary soul inspired its workings, it would not work at all.

The assumption is commonly made that a representative government is a kind of quintessence of the nation it represents. Whence it follows, of course, that a league of these quintessences would be a league of nations. To form a league of nations, you begin, so to speak, by boiling them down into so many elected parliaments -- making each of them, in turn, 'safe for democracy.' Then, by a further process of distillation, you extract the essence of these parliaments into cabinets; and the last refinement yields responsible prime ministers and foreign secretaries. You have now obtained the very spirit or soul of each nation, and all that remains is to assemble these quintessences in the persons of the prime ministers and foreign secretaries aforesaid, and set them working together under compact. The result is a league of nations.

All which seems self-evident enough. But the word 'representation' is full of traps for the unwary; and most unquestionably we fall into one of them when we argue in this way. Souls, and national souls most of all, are extremely difficult things to 'represent.' Official machinery can never represent them, not even when the official machinery employed for the purpose bears the august name of government: the reason being that the nature of the soul and the nature of the machine are antithetic. There is a notion abroad that, if a people puts in enough votes at one end of the democratic machine, its soul will come out at the other. That system has its uses, no doubt; but as a process for the extraction of national souls it should never be thought of. Many national souls have been lost in that way. None have been found.

That a freely elected government represents something significant cannot be disputed. But of what government now 'in power' can we confidently say that it represents the soul of the people behind it? Would anyone dare to affirm that the signatures that stand at the foot of the Treaty of Versailles are signatures of nations' souls? Or even of their minds? Or even of their wills? Or even of their hearts? Or even of their common sense? Again, when the British Prime Minister and the French Prime Minister negotiate in Paris, Genoa, or where else, does anybody believe that the soul of Britain is negotiating with the soul of France? And yet what compact between these nations is likely to stand, unless it is a compact of their souls?

I am speaking of the present. But what of the past? Here, too, history affords not many examples of nations whose governments expressed their souls. We seem to come near it in Athens under Pericles, in England under Elizabeth and Cromwell, in the Northern States under Abraham Lincoln -- though even here some allowance must be made for the transfiguring influence of time. On the whole the evidence seems to justify the conclusion that the breach between the souls of the nations and their governments was no wider under a narrow franchise than it is now under a broad one.

In this respect democracy has worked to opposite results. On the one hand, it has made government more representative of those superficial interests which can be statistically computed, and so brought into the arena of debate. On the other hand, it has made government less representative of that deeper national life, that soul of nations, which does not lend itself to parliamentary eloquence, but needs a poet like Dante, a musician like Bach, a painter like Turner, a prophet like Carlyle, to interpret and express it. That governments ever 'represented' much of these things, except at rare moments of history, is more than I would venture to say. But when did they represent less of them than now? Raising the question in that way, we can hardly fail to be conscious of a widening, and not of a narrowing, in the breach between the souls of nations and their governments.

That astonishing document, the Treaty of Versailles, becomes intelligible enough when we think of it as achieved by a group of governments which had lost touch with the souls of the nations on whose behalf they professed to act -- lost touch, that is, with the deeper qualities of national character revealed in art, in literature, in domestic life, in moral idealism, in religion, and even in sport.

What absurd errors a student of human nature would fall into, who should profess to read the souls of the nations implicated from the contribution made by the government of each to that vindictive instrument! How unjust he would be to every one of them! That something was there represented, which truly belongs to each of them, no man can doubt. But, as God lives, it was not the soul! In which respect the Treaty of Versailles compares unfavorably with earlier performances of the same class -- the Treaty of Vienna, for example. When the Duke of Wellington and Lord Castlereagh showed themselves averse to crippling France, and proclaimed the wisdom of making friends with the conquered foe, these two hard fighters, the one a fullblooded autocrat and the other no convert to democracy, were expressing more of the soul of England, as it then was and still is, than found its way into the Treaty of Versailles. Or again, what would a Bostonian say if some traveling Englishman were to assert that the soul of Boston is adequately 'represented' by its municipal government?

Is not the breach widening? Is it not becoming increasingly difficult to establish any kind of correlation between the human characteristics of a people and its political characteristics, as represented by the acts of its official rulers? And if that is so, must we not pause before accepting the common view that a league of governments is necessarily a league of nations? May it not be that the ground of unity between nation and nation, and the growing point of any league between them, is not government at all, but something else?


These doubts are not to be removed by invoking the name of democracy. Leagues of democracies are no easier to maintain than Holy Alliances of kings and emperors. If the truth may be told, they are far more difficult, partly because the voting masses are more wayward and capricious even than kings and emperors, more subject to violent revulsions from love to hate and from hate to love; but also for another reason, which has not received the attention it deserves.

It is true that the soul of a democracy will always respond more readily to the appeal of the highest principles than to any other. But the exigencies of party politics, as interpreted by the leaders of that industry in all countries, and by the newspaper press they control, seldom permit the appeal to be made. And, indeed, from their own point of view the leaders and the newspapers are right. The machinery they are responsible for working is ill adapted to the high pressure of great principles, and would inevitably be wrecked if the steam were turned on from that quarter. Had the pent-up idealism of England been suddenly released at the election of 1918, by the rash appeal of some statesman reckless of his own political life and indifferent to the fate of his colleagues, there would have been a debacle at party headquarters, and our whole parliamentary system would have reeled to its foundation. So the business must be conducted in terms, not of 'what is ideally desirable,' but of 'what is practically possible,' which means, in plainer language, that appeal is made, not to the nation's soul, but to its vulgar mind. Such are the conditions in which the arts of electioneering -- those sinister by-products of democracy -- achieve their triumphs. Their constituency is the vulgar mind, which has virtues of its own -- mostly of the middling order -- but is a poor substitute for the soul.

What more need be said to explain why governments so created are notoriously quarrelsome in their mutual relations, and why the leagues they set up among show a tendency to dissolve? Never are nations more exasperating to one another than when they deal and bargain and negotiate on the level of their vulgar minds. Never do they show up to less advantage in each other's eyes. Never do they mistrust each other so profoundly. Never are repulsions so active and affinities so hard to find. Never are the conditions further of out of which a league of nations could arise.

Is it to be supposed that a group of governments, each knowing what it does of the electioneering habits of its neighbors, as well as of its own, -- of their precarious tenure of office, of their dependence on the suffrage of the vulgar mind, of the national megalomanias that support them, of the national cupidities they dare not defy -- is it to be supposed that these governments, meeting face to face round a table, at Genoa or elsewhere, will at once form a brotherly coalition, evolve a common purpose, and proceed to work for the common good? Can we expect them, from the nature of the case, to have a high opinion of each other's single-mindedness? And without that, how can they get to work? How can they do other than break up with nothing done?

And what of the unofficial public at home? Does the plain Englishman, who has taken a little trouble to acquaint himself with the course of French politics, or of American politics, really desire (member of the League of Nations though he be) to see the fortunes of his country tied up in one bundle with those of other countries controlled by forces such as these? Or, per contra, would the plain Frenchman and the plain American, contemplating the spectacle of the British General Election in 1918, forthwith say to themselves, or to one another, 'Here is a government elected under Heaven to cooperate with my own government in achieving the unity of mankind'? Thus we begin to see that a league of nations is one thing, a league of governments another.

A league of governments might be adequate for the purpose, were it possible so to arrange things that the combining units should always represent the best qualities in the nations behind them -- their generosity, their chivalry, their unselfishness, their willingness to serve mankind; for it is obviously on the side of these qualities only that nations will ever unite in work for the common good. But even in countries where democracy has most firmly established itself, the representation attained is an amorphous mixture of good and bad, of selfish and unselfish in which, when governments deal with one another on the ground of foreign policy, the selfish shows a marked tendency to predominate, thereby exasperating their mutual relationships.

Cases also occur where the worst qualities of nations are precisely those which their governments represent and display to one another on this field, their diplomacy becoming a continual provocation and offense. A notable instance was that of the German Government before the war -- a government not purely democratic, but having a strong, representative element. All the qualities of the German soul to which the world stands most deeply indebted were unrepresented by the German Government of the moment, while those which made Germany obnoxious to mankind were represented with prodigious efficiency. It was an extreme instance of what may be called 'disproportional representation.' Instances less extreme can be found elsewhere.


Under the political civilization that has been evolved in the Western world, a type of government has come into being which may be said to have two faces, the one combative and warlike, the other noncombative and pacific.

As trustee for the nation's power, possessions, territory, and former conquests, as guardian of its military traditions, as protector of its sovereign rights against infringement by other nations similarly organized, each of these Western governments, whether democratic or otherwise, stands for combative nationalism. In this capacity it walks abroad among its foreign neighbors, with armies and navies at its back, sometimes hiding them as much as possible, sometimes displaying them with considerable truculence.

To its own subjects it turns the other face, or, shall we say, the inner side. They see it, not as a fighting institution, but as a repressor of domestic strife, substituting civil procedure for the lawless and violent clash of conflicting aims. They see it occupied with interests that are not combative, promoting education, fostering the arts and sciences, legislating for the public health, mediating in conflicts between labor and capital, and attending, as best it can, to economic prosperity. Normally, the citizens are unaware of any connection between this side of the government and the other, though they know, of course, that the other exists. Now and then, however, they discover the unpleasant fact that all these pacific goods are liable to sudden conscription for the combative purpose.

It may be noted in passing that this phenomenon of the double face is to be found only where civilization has taken a distinctly political or nationalistic turn. When civilization rests on a cultural basis, as it does, or once did in certain Eastern countries, the double face does not exist. The civilization of China, for example, based on a system of education, had no combative side until contact with western nations taught it to acquire one. Now, may we not say that America's aversion to 'entangling alliances' betokens her desire for a noncombative nationalism -- a desire imperfectly fulfilled?

If a league of nations -- a true league, and not a mere cockpit of narrower dimensions -- is ever to arise, how else can it come about than through contact of the peoples on their pacific or noncombative sides? Were it possible for the various governments to meet and confer together, not as representing combative nationalism, but as representing creative humanism, with their inner sides turned outward, so to speak, would not the antinomy between a league of nations and a league of governments at once begin to disappear? Or, phrasing the matter somewhat differently, if these governments would only dismiss the idea, to which they are now wedded, that what they have to do is to make a league among themselves, and take it to heart, instead, that what they have to do is to make a league of the peoples behind them, should we not at least come in sight of the goal? Unfortunately, the habits of governments, in dealing with one another on the field of foreign policy, have fallen into ruts so deep, and acquired a momentum so prodigious, that they are not in the least likely to be turned aside by suggestions of this kind. It was easy enough for Mr. Woodrow Wilson to speak the language of humanism -- so long as he stood outside the machine. But he found a difference after he came to Paris.

It is the profound misfortune of our political civilization, that nations have developed no organ through which they can address each other, as nations, in terms of the human interests they have in common. They speak with one another through the Foreign Office -- which has the War Office next door. They negotiate on the field where their interests have least in common, and their relationships have become most dangerous. Of no nation can it be said that its soul is to be found in its own particular brand of combative nationalism, or that statesmen who address each other with armed hosts behind them are the true representatives of that soul. Is it not a fact that the good-will of each nation toward the others somehow gets spoiled, sterilized, or even poisoned, by having to pass through that medium before it can reach its object? One cannot help wishing it were otherwise. It is an abominable limitation.


The best fruits of political civilization are to be found in the systems of law and order which each government has established in its own territory. In this respect the records of some, notably the Roman and the British, stand exceptionally high, though not uniformly so -- witness the history of Ireland for the last three hundred years. But, while remembering what governments have done in keeping the peace at home, we must not forget what they have done in breaking the peace abroad -- a department of their activities in which the achievements of some of them have been quite remarkable. The wars of the past, with their terrible sequels of lawlessness and disorder. have been mainly their doing. Against their good record for keeping order in the parts of mankind must be set off their bad record for creating disorder in the whole of mankind.

That the balance comes out in their favor is by no means clear. Looking at the facts in this comprehensive manner, may we not say that governments have been, and still continue to be, the chief authors of confusion in the world at large? How much of the disorder now prevalent in Europe, the economic and the moral disorder as well as the political, can be traced directly to the action of governments in their relationships with one another, and to their hostile interferences with each other's business! With such a record standing to their account, a wise man will demand the production of better proof than is forthcoming up to now, before accepting the credentials of existing governments as the appointed peacemakers of the world.

It is said that ex-burglars make good policemen, and ex-poachers good preservers of game. We can well believe it. In the same say, one may suppose, ex-brewers would make good prohibitionists, ex-slave-owners good antislavery men, ex-bookmakers good suppressors of gambling, ex-pagans good promoters of Christianity, ex-sinners good champions of the moral law. Reasoning from analogy, the conclusion would be that ex-governments represented by ex-prime ministers make good preservers of the peace. All turns on the 'ex.' The burglars, the poachers, the brewers, the slave-owners, the bookmakers, the pagans, the sinners, the governments, and the prime ministers, must all prove their conversion, before we can safely dispatch them on their respective errands. Short of that, what do you propose? League them, do you say? But to what purpose? Will the poachers preserve your pheasants by poaching in a band? Will the brewers turn their beer into a nonintoxicant by pouring it into a single vat? Will the sinners establish virtue by pooling their sins? Will the pagans promote Christianity by appointing a common dance round the Golden Calf? Will the bitter fountains of nationalism become the sweet waters of humanism by connecting the taps? A league of ex-prime ministers, if you will, but a league of prime ministers -- no!

Were the choice given me, in the present chaos of Europe, between two leagues, or 'conferences;' one composed of ministers in power (prime or otherwise), and the other of ministers who have been dismissed from office during the past seven years, with no prospect of returning to it, my vote would be given, without a moment's hesitation, for the more unconstitutional form of procedure. And this, not because the ministers out of power are better men than those in (though on the whole I am disposed to think they are), but because the former, having no power of their own to be anxious about, would be relieved from one of the gravest disabilities which beset their successors as heralds of peace. If the affairs of the world are to be managed by a league of governments, or of prime ministers, they should be governments which have fallen to rise no more, of prime ministers who have done forever with their prime ministrations. Even the Kaiser, as a fallen Kaiser, might have something to contribute to the cause of European peace. But these things, of course, are idle dreams.

None the less, they serve to show us where the analogy fails which has so often been drawn between the suppression of private violence in a single state and the suppression of national wars between a group of states. The history of law and order in the single state is the history of the struggle between two elements -- one law-abiding, the other lawless -- in which the first has gradually gained control over the second, the good citizens imposing their will on the bad ones, or winning them over to the adoption of their ways. Thus, the suppression of dueling was not achieved by the duelists themselves, but by pacific persons who had never fought a duel and to whom dueling was abhorrent.

But when we turn to the international parallel, we at once observe the significant fact that the counterpart to this law-abiding element, these good citizens, these pacific persons, is not to be found among the states. The states whose joint action is invoked to suppress combative nationalism are themselves the offenders, all tainted with the offense, and some steeped in it -- the great European states, which are to play the part of chief policemen, being also the chief criminals, the most hardened and inveterate in the ways of that combative nationalism they are here called upon to suppress.

In this there is no analogy to the process by which the law-abiding elements of society deal with dueling or with burglary. A truer image would be that of a group of burglars, enriched by the spoils of their former raids, and each still in possession of a formidable equipment for the picking of locks and the blowing-up of safes, forming a compact to retire from the business and prevent newcomers from entering it. Or, more literally, a group of conquerors agreeing among themselves to rest content with their conquests, to leave each other undisturbed in the enjoyment of them, and at the same time to restrain the younger brethren from imitating the bad example of their own record. This is a new thing under the sun, and nothing heretofore accomplished in the way of substituting civil procedure for private feud affords the least ground for anticipating its success.

Combative nationalism, which has filled the world with turmoil for so many ages, will die as the nations outgrow it one by one. To suppress it by a league of combative nationalisms is not possible. What the movement for a league of nations has so far accomplished is, simply, to announce its coming death -- a great achievement, for it brings us appreciably nearer to the moment when the evil thing will most assuredly die. But it will die through the working of other causes, and by other means than those which the Covenant of the League lays down for its suppression.

It is easy to construct imaginary entities bearing the names of the Great Powers -- 'America,' 'England,' 'France,' and the rest; to picture them as cured of their combative nationalism, and then to draw up schemes on paper (or in fancy) in which these powers are represented as acting together in the renunciation of their former practices, and in preventing their imitation by others. But if we turn to the Covenant of the League, and examine the elaborate machinery therein set up for restraining the war-making habits of states, the inference is irresistible that somewhere in the world there is a number of possible but highly dangerous offenders for whom these restraints are needed, quarrelsome elements calling for higher power to hold them in check.

But who are these possible offenders, and who are the most dangerous of them? They are precisely those Great Powers, whose joint action, in their imaginary character of repentant nationalisms, we were invoking a moment ago to stamp out the offense. Can we wonder any longer that, since the creation of the League, the Great Powers, which made themselves its dominating members, have shown not the least disposition to submit disputes among themselves (which have been serious in the meantime) to its jurisdiction? What else could be expected when the chief offenders are themselves judges of the cause? By leaguing the nations in this form, we do not create a higher power, which will hold their combative nationalism in check. We merely produce a mechanical (and perhaps dangerous) mixture of the powers that already exist. The beer is not turned into water by being poured into a common vat.

The League of Nations, in the form given to it by the Treaty of Versailles, may be defined as a scheme for giving the governments greater collective control over the peoples. But the true aim of the League, as we conceive it here, should be the precise opposite of this, namely, to give the peoples greater collective control over their governments. For the development of combative nationalism has brought the world to this strange and unexpected issue -- that the elements or powers in the world at this moment most ungoverned and lawless in their relations with one another, most provocative of disorder in their mutual reactions, and therefore most in need of government, are the governments themselves.

It is true that, if we take the democratic nations, one by one, we find in each of them means through which the government can be kept in order by its own constituents; though it must be confessed that even these are far less effective than the theory of democracy would lead us to suppose. But when these different governments act, or pretend to act, in concert, under the form of a league, there is no collective check to restrain them, the partial check of each nation over its own government being, obviously, ineffective for the purpose.

By some means or other, this order of things must be inverted if a league of nations is to come into being. Enough for the present, if the point has been made clear that no process of leaguing together such governments as now exist will deliver mankind from their propensity to quarrel with one another, or do more than reduce the dimensions of the cockpit in which they quarrel. Even if we suppose them entering into the most solemn compact 'not to do it again,' no power exists on earth that can keep them faithful to their promise one hour longer than the most treacherous among them is disposed to observe it.

One day it will dawn upon minds politically obsessed that a league of governments is by no means the only form in which the idea of a league of nations can express itself.

Copyright © 1923 by L. P. Jacks. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; February, 1923; Article A League of Nations or of Governments; Volume 131, No. 2; pages 161-171

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