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In publishing these collected articles in book form (the result of my visits to Flanders, the battlefields of France and divers of the great munition centres), some of which have already appeared in the press both in England and America, I do so with a certain amount of diffidence, because of their so many imperfections and of their inadequacy of expression. But what man, especially in these days, may hope to treat a theme so vast, a tragedy so awful, without a sure knowledge that all he can say must fall so infinitely far below the daily happenings which are, on the one hand, raising Humanity to a godlike altitude or depressing it lower than the brutes. But, because these articles are a simple record of what I have seen and what I have heard, they may perhaps be of use in bringing out of the shadow—that awful shadow of “usualness” into which they have fallen—many incidents that would, before the war, have roused the world to wonder, to pity and to infinite awe.
Since the greater number of these articles was written, America has thrown her might into the scale against merciless Barbarism and Autocracy; at her entry into the drama there was joy in English and French hearts, but, I venture to think, a much greater joy in the hearts of all true Americans. I happened to be in Paris on the memorable day America declared war, and I shall never forget the deep-souled enthusiasm of the many Americans it was my privilege to know there. America, the greatest democracy in the world, had at last taken her stand on the side of Freedom, Justice and Humanity.
As an Englishman, I love and am proud of my country, and, in the years I spent in America, I saw with pain and deep regret the misunderstanding that existed between these two great nations. In America I beheld a people young, ardent, indomitable, full of the unconquerable spirit of Youth, and I thought of that older country across the seas, so little understanding and so little understood.
And often I thought if it were only possible to work a miracle, if it were only possible for the mists of jealousy and ill-feeling, or rivalry and misconception to be swept away once and for all—if only these two great nations could be bonded together by a common ideal, heart to heart and hand to hand, for the good of Humanity, what earthly power should ever be able to withstand their united strength. In my soul I knew that the false teaching of history—that great obstacle to the progress of the world—was one of the underlying causes of the misunderstanding, but it was an American Ambassador who put this into words. If, said he, America did not understand the aims and hopes of Great Britain, it was due to the textbooks of history used in American schools.
To-day, America, through her fighting youth and manhood, will see Englishmen as they are, and not as they have been represented. Surely the time has come when we should try and appreciate each other at our true worth.
These are tragic times, sorrowful times, yet great and noble times, for these are days of fiery ordeal whereby mean and petty things are forgotten and the dross of unworthy things burned away. To-day the two great Anglo-Saxon peoples stand united in a noble comradeship for the good of the world and for those generations that are yet to be, a comradeship which I, for one, do most sincerely hope and pray may develop into a veritable brotherhood. One in blood are we, in speech, and in ideals, and though sundered by generations of misunderstanding and false teaching, to-day we stand, brothers-in-arms, fronting the brute for the freedom of Humanity.
Americans will die as Britons have died for this noble cause; Americans will bleed as Britons have bled; American women will mourn as British women have mourned these last terrible years; yet, in these deaths, in this noble blood, in these tears of agony and bereavement, surely the souls of these two great nations will draw near, each to each, and understand at last.
Here in a word is the fulfilment of the dream; that, by the united effort, by the blood, by the suffering, by the heartbreak endured of these two great English-speaking races, wars shall be made to cease in all the world; that peace and happiness, truth and justice shall be established among us for all generations, and that the united powers of the Anglo-Saxon races shall be a bulwark behind which Mankind may henceforth rest secure.
Now, in the name of Humanity, I appeal to American and to Briton to work for, strive, think and pray for this great and glorious consummation.
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