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Chapter 6

ATTITUDE OF MEN OF THE PRESENT DAY TO WAR.

People do not Try to Remove the Contradiction between Life and
Conscience by a Change of Life, but their Cultivated Leaders Exert
Every Effort to Obscure the Demands of Conscience, and justify
their Life; in this Way they Degrade Society below Paganism to a
State of Primeval Barbarism--Undefined Attitude of Modern Leaders
of Thought to War, to Universal Militarism, and to Compulsory
Service in Army--One Section Regards War as an Accidental
Political Phenomenon, to be Avoided by External Measures only--
Peace Congress--The Article in the REVUE DES REVUES--Proposition
of Maxime du Camp--Value of Boards of Arbitration and Suppression
of Armies--Attitude of Governments to Men of this Opinion and What
they Do--Another Section Regards War as Cruel, but Inevitable--
Maupassant--Rod--A Third Section Regard War as Necessary, and not
without its Advantages--Doucet-Claretie-Zola-Vogüé.


The antagonism between life and the conscience may be removed in
two ways: by a change of life or by a change of conscience. And
there would seem there can be no doubt as to these alternatives.

A man may cease to do what he regards as wrong, but he cannot
cease to consider wrong what is wrong. Just in the same way all
humanity may cease to do what it regards as wrong, but far from
being able to change, it cannot even retard for a time the
continual growth of a clearer recognition of what is wrong and
therefore ought not to be. And therefore it would seem inevitable
for Christian men to abandon the pagan forms of society which they
condemn, and to reconstruct their social existence on the
Christian principles they profess.

So it would be were it not for the law of inertia, as immutable a
force in men and nations as in inanimate bodies. In men it takes
the form of the psychological principle, so truly expressed in the
words of the Gospel, "They have loved darkness better than light
because their deeds were evil." This principle shows itself in
men not trying to recognize the truth, but to persuade themselves
that the life they are leading, which is what they like and are
used to, is a life perfectly consistent with truth.

Slavery was opposed to all the moral principles advocated by Plato
and Aristotle, yet neither of them saw that, because to renounce
slavery would have meant the break up of the life they were
living. We see the same thing in our modern world.

The division of men into two castes, as well as the use of force
in government and war, are opposed to every moral principle
professed by our modern society. Yet the cultivated and advanced
men of the day seem not to see it.

The majority, if not all, of the cultivated men of our day try
unconsciously to maintain the old social conception of life, which
justifies their position, and to hide from themselves and others
its insufficiency, and above all the necessity of adopting the
Christian conception of life, which will mean the break up of the
whole existing social order. They struggle to keep up the
organization based on the social conception of life, but do not
believe in it themselves, because it is extinct and it is
impossible to believe in it.

All modern literature--philosophical, political, and artistic--is
striking in this respect. What wealth of idea, of form, of color,
what erudition, what art, but what a lack of serious matter, what
dread of any exactitude of thought or expression! Subtleties,
allegories, humorous fancies, the widest generalizations, but
nothing simple and clear, nothing going straight to the point,
that is, to the problem of life.

But that is not all; besides these graceful frivolities, our
literature is full of simple nastiness and brutality, of arguments
which would lead men back in the most refined way to primeval
barbarism, to the principles not only of the pagan, but even of
the animal life, which we have left behind us five thousand years
ago.

And it could not be otherwise. In their dread of the Christian
conception of life which will destroy the social order, which some
cling to only from habit, others also from interest, men cannot
but be thrown back upon the pagan conception of life and the
principles based on it. Nowadays we see advocated not only
patriotism and aristocratic principles just as they were advocated
two thousand years ago, but even the coarsest epicureanism and
animalism, only with this difference, that the men who then
professed those views believed in them, while nowadays even the
advocates of such views do not believe in them, for they have no
meaning for the present day. No one can stand still when the
earth is shaking under his feet. If we do not go forward we must
go back. And strange and terrible to say, the cultivated men of
our day, the leaders of thought, are in reality with their subtle
reasoning drawing society back, not to paganism even, but to a
state of primitive barbarism.

This tendency on the part of the leading thinkers of the day is
nowhere more apparent than in their attitude to the phenomenon in
which all the insufficiency of the social conception of life is
presented in the most concentrated form--in their attitude, that
is, to war, to the general arming of nations, and to universal
compulsory service.

The undefined, if not disingenuous, attitude of modern thinkers to
this phenomenon is striking. It takes three forms in cultivated
society. One section look at it as an incidental phenomenon,
arising out of the special political situation of Europe, and
consider that this state of things can be reformed without a
revolution in the whole internal social order of nations, by
external measures of international diplomacy. Another section
regard it as something cruel and hideous, but at the same time
fated and inevitable, like disease and death. A third party with
cool indifference consider war as an inevitable phenomenon,
beneficial in its effects and therefore desirable.

Men look at the subject from different points of view, but all
alike talk of war as though it were something absolutely
independent of the will of those who take part in it. And
consequently they do not even admit the natural question which
presents itself to every simple man: "How about me--ought I to
take any part in it?" In their view no question of this kind even
exists, and every man, however he may regard war from a personal
standpoint, must slavishly submit to the requirements of the
authorities on the subject.

The attitude of the first section of thinkers, those who see a way
out of war in international diplomatic measures, is well expressed
in the report of the last Peace Congress in London, and the
articles and letters upon war that appeared in No. 8 of the REVUE
DES REVUES, 1891. The congress after gathering together from
various quarters the verbal and written opinion of learned men
opened the proceedings by a religious service, and after listening
to addresses for five whole days, concluded them by a public
dinner and speeches. They adopted the following resolutions:

"1. The congress affirms its belief that the brotherhood of man
involves as a necessary consequence a brotherhood of nations.

"2. The congress recognizes the important influence that
Christianity exercises on the moral and political progress of
mankind, and earnestly urges upon ministers of the Gospel and
other religious teachers the duty of setting forth the
principles of peace and good will toward men. AND IT RECOMMENDS
THAT THE THIRD SUNDAY IN DECEMBER BE SET APART FOR THA
PURPOSE.

"3. The congress expresses the opinion that all teachers of
history should call the attention of the young to the grave
evils inflicted on mankind in all ages by war, and to the fact
that such war has been waged for most inadequate causes.

"4. The congress protests against the use of military drill in
schools by way of physical exercise, and suggests the formation
of brigades for saving life rather than of a quasi-military
character; and urges the desirability of impressing on the
Board of Examiners who formulate the questions for examination
the propriety of guiding the minds of children in the
principles of peace.

"5. The congress holds that the doctrine of the Rights of Man
requires that the aboriginal and weaker races, their
territories and liberties, shall be guarded from injustice and
fraud, and that these races shall be shielded against the vices
so prevalent among the so-called advanced races of men. It
further expresses its conviction that there should be concert
of action among the nations for the accomplishment of these
ends. The congress expresses its hearty appreciation of the
resolutions of the Anti-slavery Conference held recently at
Brussels for the amelioration of the condition of the peoples
of Africa.

"6. The congress believes that the warlike prejudices and
traditions which are still fostered in the various
nationalities, and the misrepresentations by leaders of public
opinion in legislative assemblies or through the press, are
often indirect causes of war, and that these evils should be
counteracted by the publication of accurate information tending
to the removal of misunderstanding between nations, and
recommends the importance of considering the question of
commencing an international newspaper with such a purpose.

"7. The congress proposes to the Inter-parliamentary Conference
that the utmost support should be given to every project for
unification of weights and measures, coinage, tariff, postage,
and telegraphic arrangements, etc., which would assist in
constituting a commercial, industrial, and scientific union of
the peoples.

"8. The congress, in view of the vast social and moral
influence of woman, urges upon every woman to sustain the
things that make for peace, as otherwise she incurs grave
responsibility for the continuance of the systems of
militarism.

"9. The congress expresses the hope that the Financial Reform
Association and other similar societies in Europe and America
should unite in considering means for establishing equitable
commercial relations between states, by the reduction of import
duties. The congress feels that it can affirm that the whole
of Europe desires peace, and awaits with impatience the
suppression of armaments, which, under the plea of defense,
become in their turn a danger by keeping alive mutual distrust,
and are, at the same time, the cause of that general economic
disturbance which stands in the way of settling in a
satisfactory manner the problems of labor and poverty, which
ought to take precedence of all others.

"10. The congress, recognizing that a general disarmament would
be the best guarantee of peace and would lead to the solution
of the questions which now most divide states, expresses the
wish that a congress of representatives of all the states of
Europe may be assembled as soon as possible to consider the
means of effecting a gradual general disarmament.

"11. The congress, in consideration of the fact that the
timidity of a single power might delay the convocation of the
above-mentioned congress, is of opinion that the government
which should first dismiss any considerable number of soldiers
would confer a signal benefit on Europe and mankind, because it
would, by public opinion, oblige other governments to follow
its example, and by the moral force of this accomplished fact
would have increased rather than diminished the conditions of
its national defense.

"12. The congress, considering the question of disarmament, as
of peace in general, depends on public opinion, recommends the
peace societies, as well as all friends of peace, to be active
in its propaganda, especially at the time of parliamentary
elections, in order that the electors should give their votes
to candidates who are pledged to support Peace, Disarmament,
and Arbitration.

"13. The congress congratulates the friends of peace on the
resolution adopted by the International American Conference,
held at Washington in April last, by which it was recommended
that arbitration should be obligatory in all controversies,
whatever their origin, except only those which may imperil the
independence of one of the nations involved.

"14. The congress recommends this resolution to the attention
of European statesmen, and expresses the ardent desire that
similar treaties may speedily be entered into between the other
nations of the world.

"15. The congress expresses its satisfaction at the adoption by
the Spanish Senate on June 16 last of a project of law
authorizing the government to negotiate general or special
treaties of arbitration for the settlement of all disputes
except those relating to the independence or internal
government of the states affected; also at the adoption of
resolutions to a like effect by the Norwegian Storthing and by
the Italian Chamber.

"16. The congress resolves that a committee be appointed to
address communications to the principal political, religious,
commercial, and labor and peace organizations, requesting them
to send petitions to the governmental authorities praying that
measures be taken for the formation of suitable tribunals for
the adjudicature of international questions so as to avoid the
resort to war.

"17. Seeing (1) that the object pursued by all peace societies
is the establishment of judicial order between nations, and (2)
that neutralization by international treaties constitutes a
step toward this judicial state and lessens the number of
districts in which war can be carried on, the congress
recommends a larger extension of the rule of neutralization,
and expresses the wish, (1) that all treaties which at present
assure to certain states the benefit of neutrality remain in
force, or if necessary be amended in a manner to render the
neutrality more effective, either by extending neutralization
to the whole of the state or by ordering the demolition of
fortresses, which constitute rather a peril than a guarantee
for neutrality; (2) that new treaties in harmony with the
wishes of the populations concerned be concluded for
establishing the neutralization of other states.

"18. The sub-committee proposes, (1) that the annual Peace
Congress should be held either immediately before the meeting
of the annual Sub-parliamentary Conference, or immediately
after it in the same town; (2) that the question of an
international peace emblem be postponed SINE DIE; (3) that the
following resolutions be adopted:

"a. To express satisfaction at the official overtures of the
Presbyterian Church in the United States addressed to the
highest representatives of each church organization in
Christendom to unite in a general conference to promote the
substitution of international arbitration for war.

"b. To express in the name of the congress its profound
reverence for the memory of Aurelio Saffi, the great Italian
jurist, a member of the committee of the International
League of Peace and Liberty.

"(4) That the memorial adopted by this congress and
signed by the president to the heads of the civilized states
should, as far as practicable, be presented to each power by
influential deputations.

"(5) That the following resolutions be adopted:

"a. A resolution of thanks to the presidents of the various
sittings of the congress.

"b. A resolution of thanks to the chairman, the secretaries,
and the members of the bureau of the congress.

"c. A resolution of thanks to the conveners and members of
the sectional committees.

"d. A resolution of thanks to Rev. Canon Scott Holland, Rev.
Dr. Reuen Thomas, and Rev. J. Morgan Gibbon for their pulpit
addresses before the congress, and also to the authorities
of St. Paul's Cathedral, the City Temple, and Stamford Hill
Congregational Church for the use of those buildings for
public services.

"e. A letter of thanks to her Majesty for permission to
visit Windror Castle.

"f. And also a resolution of thanks to the Lord Mayor and
Lady Mayoress, to Mr. Passmore Edwards, and other friends
who have extended their hospitality to the members of the
congress.

"19. The congress places on record a heartfelt expression of
gratitude to Almighty God for the remarkable harmony and
concord which have characterized the meetings of the assembly,
in which so many men and women of varied nations, creeds,
tongues, and races have gathered in closest co-operation, and
for the conclusion of the labors of the congress; and expresses
its firm and unshaken belief in the ultimate triumph of the
cause of peace and of the principles advocated at these
meetings."

The fundamental idea of the congress is the necessity (1) of
diffusing among all people by all means the conviction of the
disadvantages of war and the great blessing of peace, and (2) of
rousing governments to the sense of the superiority of
international arbitration over war and of the consequent
advisability and necessity of disarmament. To attain the first
aim the congress has recourse to teachers of history, to women,
and to the clergy, with the advice to the latter to preach on the
evil of war and the blessing of peace every third Sunday in
December. To attain the second object the congress appeals to
governments with the suggestion that they should disband their
armies and replace war by arbitration.

To preach to men of the evil of war and the blessing of peace!
But the blessing of peace is so well known to men that, ever since
there have been men at all, their best wish has been expressed in
the greeting, "Peace be with you." So why preach about it?

Not only Christians, but pagans, thousands of years ago, all
recognized the evil of war and the blessing of peace. So that the
recommendation to ministers of the Gospel to preach on the evil of
war and the blessing of peace every third Sunday in December is
quite superfluous.

The Christian cannot but preach on that subject every day of his
life. If Christians and preachers of Christianity do not do so,
there must be reasons for it. And until these have been removed
no recommendations will be effective. Still less effective will
be the recommendations to governments to disband their armies and
replace them by international boards of arbitration. Governments,
too, know very well the difficulty and the burdensomeness of
raising and maintaining forces, and if in spite of that knowledge
they do, at the cost of terrible strain and effort, raise and
maintain forces, it is evident that they cannot do otherwise, and
the recommendation of the congress can never change it. But the
learned gentlemen are unwilling to see that, and keep hoping to
find a political combination, through which governments shall be
induced to limit their powers themselves.

"Can we get rid of war"? asks a learned writer in the REVUE DES
REVUES.

"All are agreed that if it were to break out in Europe, its
consequences would be like those of the great inroads of
barbarians. The existence of whole nationalities would be at
stake, and therefore the war would be desperate, bloody,
atrocious.

"This consideration, together with the terrible engines of
destruction invented by modern science, retards the moment of
declaring war, and maintains the present temporary situation,
which might continue for an indefinite period, except for the
fearful cost of maintaining armaments which are exhausting the
European states and threatening to reduce nations to a state of
misery hardly less than that of war itself.

"Struck by this reflection, men of various countries have tried
to find means for preventing, or at least for softening, the
results of the terrible slaughter with which we are threatened.

"Such are the questions brought forward by the Peace Congress
shortly to be held in Rome, and the publication of a pamphlet,
Sur le Désarmement.'

"It is unhappily beyond doubt that with the present
organization of the majority of European states, isolated from
one another and guided by distinct interests, the absolute
suppression of war is an illusion with which it would be
dangerous to cheat ourselves. Wiser rules and regulations
imposed on these duels between nations might, however, at least
limit its horrors.

"It is equally chimerical to reckon on projects of disarmament,
the execution of which is rendered almost impossible by
considerations of a popular character present to the mind of
all our readers. [This probably means that France cannot
disband its army before taking its revenge.] Public opinion is
not prepared to accept them, and moreover, the international
relations between different peoples are not such as to make
their acceptance possible. Disarmament imposed on one nation
by another in circumstances threatening its security would be
equivalent to a declaration of war.

"However, one may admit that an exchange of ideas between the
nations interested could aid, to a certain degree, in bringing
about the good understanding indispensable to any negotiations,
and would render possible a considerable reduction of the
military expenditure which is crushing the nations of Europe
and greatly hindering the solution of the social question,
which each individually must solve on pain of having internal
war as the price for escaping it externally.

"We might at least demand the reduction of the enormous
expenses of war organized as it is at present with a view to
the power of invasion within twenty-four hours and a decisive
battle within a week of the declaration of war.

"We ought to manage so that states could not make the attack
suddenly and invade each other's territories within twenty-four
hours."

This practical notion has been put forth by Maxime du Camp, and
his article concludes with it.

The propositions of M. du Camp are as follows:

1. A diplomatic congress to be held every year.

2. No war to be declared till two months after the incident
which provoked it. (The difficulty here would be to decide
precisely what incident did provoke the war, since whenever war
is declared there are very many such incidents, and one would
have to decide from which to reckon the two months' interval.)

3. No war to be declared before it has been submitted to a
plebiscitum of the nations preparing to take part in it.

4. No hostilities to be commenced till a month after the
official declaration of war.

"No war to be declared. No hostilities to be commenced," etc.
But who is to arrange that no war is to be declared? Who is to
compel people to do this and that? Who is to force states to
delay their operations for a certain fixed time? All the other
states. But all these others are also states which want holding
in check and keeping within limits, and forcing, too. Who is to
force them, and how? Public opinion. But if there is a public
opinion which can force governments to delay their operations for
a fixed period, the same public opinion can force governments not
to declare war at all.

But, it will be replied, there may be such a balance of power,
such a PONDÉRATION DE FORCES, as would lead states to hold back of
their own accord. Well, that has been tried and is being tried
even now. The Holy Alliance was nothing but that, the League of
Peace was another attempt at the same thing, and so on.

But, it will be answered, suppose all were agreed. If all were
agreed there would be no more war certainly, and no need for
arbitration either.

"A court of arbitration! Arbitration shall replace war. Questions
shall be decided by a court of arbitration. The Alabama question
was decided by a court of arbitration, and the question of the
Caroline Islands was submitted to the decision of the Pope.
Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, and Holland have all declared that
they prefer arbitration to war."

I dare say Monaco has expressed the same preference. The only
unfortunate thing is that Germany, Russia, Austria, and France
have not so far shown the same inclination. It is amazing how men
can deceive themselves when they find it necessary! Governments
consent to decide their disagreements by arbitration and to
disband their armies! The differences between Russia and Poland,
between England and Ireland, between Austria and Bohemia, between
Turkey and the Slavonic states, between France and Germany, to be
soothed away by amiable conciliation!

One might as well suggest to merchants and bankers that they
should sell nothing for a greater price than they gave for it,
should undertake the distribution of wealth for no profit, and
should abolish money, as it would thus be rendered unnecessary.

But since commercial and banking operations consist in nothing but
selling for more than the cost price, this would be equivalent to
an invitation to suppress themselves. It is the same in regard to
governments. To suggest to governments that they should not have
recourse to violence, but should decide their misunderstandings in
accordance with equity, is inviting them to abolish themselves as
rulers, and that no government can ever consent to do.

The learned men form societies (there are more than a hundred such
societies), assemble in congresses (such as those recently held in
London and Paris, and shortly to be held in Rome), deliver
addresses, eat public dinners and make speeches, publish journals,
and prove by every means possible that the nations forced to
support millions of troops are strained to the furthest limits of
their endurance, that the maintenance of these huge armed forces
is in opposition to all the aims, the interests, and the wishes of
the people, and that it is possible, moreover, by writing numerous
papers, and uttering a great many words, to bring all men into
agreement and to arrange so that they shall have no antagonistic
interests, and then there will be no more war.

When I was a little boy they told me if I wanted to catch a bird I
must put salt on its tail. I ran after the birds with the salt in
my hand, but I soon convinced myself that if I could put salt on a
bird's tail, I could catch it, and realized that I had been
hoaxed.

People ought to realize the same fact when they read books and
articles on arbitration and disarmament.

If one could put salt on a bird's tail, it would be because it
could not fly and there would be no difficulty in catching it. If
the bird had wings and did not want to be caught, it would not let
one put salt on its tail, because the specialty of a bird is to
fly. In precisely the same way the specialty of government is not
to obey, but to enforce obedience. And a government is only a
government so long as it can make itself obeyed, and therefore it
always strives for that and will never willingly abandon its
power. But since it is on the army that the power of government
rests, it will never give up the army, and the use of the army in
war.

The error arises from the learned jurists deceiving themselves and
others, by asserting that government is not what it really is, one
set of men banded together to oppress another set of men, but, as
shown by science, is the representation of the citizens in their
collective capacity. They have so long been persuading other
people of this that at last they have persuaded themselves of it;
and thus they often seriously suppose that government can be bound
by considerations of justice. But history shows that from Caesar
to Napoleon, and from Napoleon to Bismarck, government is in its
essence always a force acting in violation of justice, and that it
cannot be otherwise. Justice can have no binding force on a ruler
or rulers who keep men, deluded and drilled in readiness for acts
of violence--soldiers, and by means of them control others. And
so governments can never be brought to consent to diminish the
number of these drilled slaves, who constitute their whole power
and importance.

Such is the attitude of certain learned men to the contradiction
under which our society is being crushed, and such are their
methods of solving it. Tell these people that the whole matter
rests on the personal attitude of each man to the moral and
religious question put nowadays to everyone, the question, that
is, whether it is lawful or unlawful for him to take his share of
military service, and these learned gentlemen will shrug their
shoulders and not condescend to listen or to answer you. The
solution of the question in their idea is to be found in reading
addresses, writing books, electing presidents, vice-presidents,
and secretaries, and meeting and speaking first in one town and
then in another. From all this speechifying and writing it will
come to pass, according to their notions, that governments will
cease to levy the soldiers, on whom their whole strength depends,
will listen to their discourses, and will disband their forces,
leaving themselves without any defense, not only against their
neighbors, but also against their own subjects. As though a band
of brigands, who have some unarmed travelers bound and ready to be
plundered, should be so touched by their complaints of the pain
caused by the cords they are fastened with as to let them go
again.

Still there are people who believe in this, busy themselves over
peace congresses, read addresses, and write books. And
governments, we may be quite sure, express their sympathy and make
a show of encouraging them. In the same way they pretend to
support temperance societies, while they are living principally on
the drunkenness of the people; and pretend to encourage education,
when their whole strength is based on ignorance; and to support
constitutional freedom, when their strength rests on the absence
of freedom; and to be anxious for the improvement of the condition
of the working classes, when their very existence depends on their
oppression; and to support Christianity, when Christianity
destroys all government.

To be able to do this they have long ago elaborated methods
encouraging temperance, which cannot suppress drunkenness; methods
of supporting education, which not only fail to prevent ignorance,
but even increase it; methods of aiming at freedom and
constitutionalism, which are no hindrance to despotism; methods of
protecting the working classes, which will not free them from
slavery; and a Christianity, too, they have elaborated, which does
not destroy, but supports governments.

Now there is something more for the government to encourage--
peace. The sovereigns, who nowadays take counsel with their
ministers, decide by their will alone whether the butchery of
millions is to be begun this year or next. They know very well
that all these discourses upon peace will not hinder them from
sending millions of men to butchery when it seems good to them.
They listen even with satisfaction to these discourses, encourage
them, and take part in them.

All this, far from being detrimental, is even of service to
governments, by turning people's attention from the most important
and pressing question: Ought or ought not each man called upon for
military service to submit to serve in the army?

"Peace will soon be arranged, thanks to alliances and congresses,
to books and pamphlets; meantime go and put on your uniform, and
prepare to cause suffering and to endure it for our benefit," is
the government's line of argument. And the learned gentlemen who
get up congresses and write articles are in perfect agreement with
it.

This is the attitude of one set of thinkers. And since it is that
most beneficial to governments, it is also the most encouraged by
all intelligent governments.

Another attitude to war has something tragical in it. There are
men who maintain that the love for peace and the inevitability of
war form a hideous contradiction, and that such is the fate of
man. These are mostly gifted and sensitive men, who see and
realize all the horror and imbecility and cruelty of war, but
through some strange perversion of mind neither see nor seek to
find any way out of this position, and seem to take pleasure in
teasing the wound by dwelling on the desperate position of
humanity. A notable example of such an attitude to war is to be
found in the celebrated French writer Guy de Maupassant. Looking
from his yacht at the drill and firing practice of the French
soldiers the following reflections occur to him:

"When I think only of this word war, a kind of terror seizes
upon me, as though I were listening to some tale of sorcery, of
the Inquisition, some long past, remote abomination, monstrous,
unnatural.

"When cannibalism is spoken of, we smile with pride,
proclaiming our superiority to these savages. Which are the
savages, the real savages? Those who fight to eat the
conquered, or those who fight to kill, for nothing but to kill?

"The young recruits, moving about in lines yonder, are destined
to death like the flocks of sheep driven by the butcher along
the road. They will fall in some plain with a saber cut in the
head, or a bullet through the breast. And these are young men
who might work, be productive and useful. Their fathers are
old and poor. Their mothers, who have loved them for twenty
years, worshiped them as none but mothers can, will learn in
six months' time, or a year perhaps, that their son, their boy,
the big boy reared with so much labor, so much expense, so much
love, has been thrown in a hole like some dead dog, after being
disemboweled by a bullet, and trampled, crushed, to a mass of
pulp by the charges of cavalry. Why have they killed her boy,
her handsome boy, her one hope, her pride, her life? She does
not know. Ah, why?

"War! fighting! slaughter! massacres of men! And we have now,
in our century, with our civilization, with the spread of
science, and the degree of philosophy which the genius of man
is supposed to have attained, schools for training to kill, to
kill very far off, to perfection, great numbers at once, to
kill poor devils of innocent men with families and without any
kind of trial.

"AND WHAT IS MOST BEWILDERING IS THAT THE PEOPLE DO NOT RISE
AGAINST THEIR GOVERNMENTS. FOR WHAT DIFFERENCE IS THERE
BETWEEN MONARCHIES AND REPUBLICS? THE MOST BEWILDERING THING
IS THAT THE WHOLE OF SOCIETY IS NOT IN REVOLT AT THE WORD WAR."

"Ah! we shall always live under the burden of the ancient and
odious customs, the criminal prejudices, the ferocious ideas of
our barbarous ancestors, for we are beasts, and beasts we shall
remain, dominated by instinct and changed by nothing. Would
not any other man than Victor Hugo have been exiled for that
mighty cry of deliverance and truth? 'To-day force is called
violence, and is being brought to judgment; war has been put on
its trial. At the plea of the human race, civilization
arraigns warfare, and draws up the great list of crimes laid at
the charge of conquerors and generals. The nations are coming
to understand that the magnitude of a crime cannot be its
extenuation; that if killing is a crime, killing many can be no
extenuating circumstance; that if robbery is disgraceful,
invasion cannot be glorious. Ah! let us proclaim these
absolute truths; let us dishonor war!'

"Vain wrath," continues Maupassant, "a poet's indignation. War is
held in more veneration than ever.

"A skilled proficient in that line, a slaughterer of genius,
Von Moltke, in reply to the peace delegates, once uttered these
strange words:

"'War is holy, war is ordained of God. It is one of the most
sacred laws of the world. It maintains among men all the great
and noble sentiments--honor, devotion, virtue, and courage, and
saves them in short from falling into the most hideous
materialism.'

"So, then, bringing millions of men together into herds,
marching by day and by night without rest, thinking of nothing,
studying nothing, learning nothing, reading nothing, being
useful to no one, wallowing in filth, sleeping in mud, living
like brutes in a continual state of stupefaction, sacking
towns, burning villages, ruining whole populations, then
meeting another mass of human flesh, falling upon them, making
pools of blood, and plains of flesh mixed with trodden mire and
red with heaps of corpses, having your arms or legs carried
off, your brains blown out for no advantage to anyone, and
dying in some corner of a field while your old parents, your
wife and children are perishing of hunger--that is what is
meant by not falling into the most hideous materialism!

"Warriors are the scourge of the world. We struggle against
nature and ignorance and obstacles of all kinds to make our
wretched life less hard. Learned men--benefactors of all--
spend their lives in working, in seeking what can aid, what be
of use, what can alleviate the lot of their fellows. They
devote themselves unsparingly to their task of usefulness,
making one discovery after another, enlarging the sphere of
human intelligence, extending the bounds of science, adding
each day some new store to the sum of knowledge, gaining each
day prosperity, ease, strength for their country.

"War breaks out. In six months the generals have destroyed the
work of twenty years of effort, of patience, and of genius.

"That is what is meant by not falling into the most hideous
materialism.

"We have seen it, war. "We have seen men turned to brutes,
frenzied, killing for fun, for terror, for bravado, for
ostentation. Then when right is no more, law is dead, every
notion of justice has disappeared. We have seen men shoot
innocent creatures found on the road, and suspected because
they were afraid. We have seen them kill dogs chained at their
masters' doors to try their new revolvers, we have seen them
fire on cows lying in a field for no reason whatever, simply
for the sake of shooting, for a joke.

"That is what is meant by not falling into the most hideous
materialism.

"Going into a country, cutting the man's throat who defends his
house because he wears a blouse and has not a military cap on
his head, burning the dwellings of wretched beings who have
nothing to eat, breaking furniture and stealing goods, drinking
the wine found in the cellars, violating the women in the
streets, burning thousands of francs' worth of powder, and
leaving misery and cholera in one's track--

"That is what is meant by not falling into the most hideous
materialism.

"What have they done, those warriors, that proves the least
intelligence? Nothing. What have they invented? Cannons and
muskets. That is all.

"What remains to us from Greece? Books and statues. Is Greece
great from her conquests or her creations?

"Was it the invasions of the Persians which saved Greece from
falling into the most hideous materialism?

"Were the invasions of the barbarians what saved and
regenerated Rome?

"Was it Napoleon I. who carried forward the great intellectual
movement started by the philosophers of the end of last
century?

"Yes, indeed, since government assumes the right of
annihilating peoples thus, there is nothing surprising in the
fact that the peoples assume the right of annihilating
governments.

"They defend themselves. They are right. No one has an
absolute right to govern others. It ought only to be done for
the benefit of those who are governed. And it is as much the
duty of anyone who governs to avoid war as it is the duty of a
captain of a ship to avoid shipwreck.

"When a captain has let his ship come to ruin, he is judged and
condemned, if he is found guilty of negligence or even
incapacity.

"Why should not the government be put on its trial after every
declaration of war? IF THE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD THAT, IF THEY
THEMSELVES PASSED JUDGMENT ON MURDEROUS GOVERNMENTS, IF THEY
REFUSED TO LET THEMSELVES BE KILLED FOR NOTHING, IF THEY WOULD
ONLY TURN THEIR ARMS AGAINST THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN THEM TO THEM
FOR MASSACRE, ON THAT DAY WAR WOULD BE NO MORE. BUT THAT DAY
WILL NEVER COME" [Footnote: "Sur l'Eau," pp. 71-80].

The author sees all the horror of war. He sees that it is caused
by governments forcing men by deception to go out to slaughter and
be slain without any advantage to themselves. And he sees, too,
that the men who make up the armies could turn their arms against
the governments and bring them to judgment. But he thinks that
that will never come to pass, and that there is, therefore, no
escape from the present position.

"I think war is terrible, but that it is inevitable; that
compulsory military service is as inevitable as death, and that
since government will always desire it, war will always exist."

So writes this talented and sincere writer, who is endowed with
that power of penetrating to the innermost core of the subjects
which is the essence of the poetic faculty. He brings before us
all the cruelty of the inconsistency between men's moral sense and
their actions, but without trying to remove it; seems to admit
that this inconsistency must exist and that it is the poetic
tragedy of life.

Another no less gifted writer, Edouard Rod, paints in still more
vivid colors the cruelty and madness of the present state of
things. He too only aims at presenting its tragic features,
without suggesting or forseeing any issue from the position.

"What is the good of doing anything? What is the good of
undertaking any enterprise? And how are we to love men in
these troubled times when every fresh day is a menace of
danger?...All we have begun, the plans we are developing, our
schemes of work, the little good we may have been able to do,
will it not all be swept away by the tempest that is in
preparation?...Everywhere the earth is shaking under our feet
and storm-clouds are gathering on our horizon which will have
no pity on us.

"Ah! if all we had to dread were the revolution which is held
up as a specter to terrify us! Since I cannot imagine a
society more detestable than ours, I feel more skeptical than
alarmed in regard to that which will replace it. If I should
have to suffer from the change, I should be consoled by
thinking that the executioners of that day were the victims of
the previous time, and the hope of something better would help
us to endure the worst. But it is not that remote peril which
frightens me. I see another danger, nearer and far more cruel;
more cruel because there is no excuse for it, because it is
absurd, because it can lead to no good. Every day one balances
the chances of war on the morrow, every day they become more
merciless.

"The imagination revolts before the catastrophe which is coming
at the end of our century as the goal of the progress of our
era, and yet we must get used to facing it. For twenty years
past every resource of science has been exhausted in the
invention of engines of destruction, and soon a few charges of
cannon will suffice to annihilate a whole army. No longer a
few thousands of poor devils, who were paid a price for their
blood, are kept under arms, but whole nations are under arms to
cut each other's throats. They are robbed of their time now
(by compulsory service) that they may be robbed of their lives
later. To prepare them for the work of massacre, their hatred
is kindled by persuading them that they are hated. And
peaceable men let themselves be played on thus and go and fall
on one another with the ferocity of wild beasts; furious troops
of peaceful citizens taking up arms at an empty word of
command, for some ridiculous question of frontiers or colonial
trade interests--Heaven only knows what...They will go like
sheep to the slaughter, knowing all the while where they are
going, knowing that they are leaving their wives, knowing
that their children will want for food, full of misgivings, yet
intoxicated by the fine-sounding lies that are dinned into
their ears. THEY WILL MARCH WITHOUT REVOLT, PASSIVE,
RESIGNED--THOUGH THE NUMBERS AND THE STRENGTH ARE THEIRS, AND
THEY MIGHT, IF THEY KNEW HOW TO CO-OPERATE TOGETHER, ESTABLISH
THE REIGN OF GOOD SENSE AND FRATERNITY, instead of the
barbarous trickery of diplomacy. They will march to battle so
deluded, so duped, that they will believe slaughter to be a
duty, and will ask the benediction of God on their lust for
blood. They will march to battle trampling underfoot the
harvests they have sown, burning the towns they have built--
with songs of triumph, festive music, and cries of jubilation.
And their sons will raise statues to those who have done most
in their slaughter.

"The destiny of a whole generation depends on the hour in which
some ill-fated politician may give the signal that will be
followed. We know that the best of us will be cut down and our
work will be destroyed in embryo. WE KNOW IT AND TREMBLE WITH
RAGE, BUT WE CAN DO NOTHING. We are held fast in the toils of
officialdom and red tape, and too rude a shock would be needed
to set us free. We are enslaved by the laws we set up for our
protection, which have become our oppression. WE ARE BUT THE
TOOLS OF THAT AUTOCRATIC ABSTRACTION THE STATE, WHICH ENSLAVES
EACH INDIVIDUAL IN THE NAME OF THE WILL OF ALL, WHO WOULD ALL,
TAKEN INDIVIDUALLY, DESIRE EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY
WILL BE MADE TO DO.

"And if it were only a generation that must be sacrificed! But
there are graver interests at stake.

"The paid politicians, the ambitious statesmen, who exploit the
evil passions of the populace, and the imbeciles who are
deluded by fine-sounding phrases, have so embittered national
feuds that the existence of a whole race will be at stake in
the war of the morrow. One of the elements that constitute the
modern world is threatened, the conquered people will be wiped
out of existence, and whichever it may be, we shall see a moral
force annihilated, as if there were too many forces to work for
good--we shall have a new Europe formed on foundations so
unjust, so brutal, so sanguinary, stained with so monstrous a
crime, that it cannot but be worse than the Europe of to-day--
more iniquitous, more barbarous, more violent.

"Thus one feels crushed under the weight of an immense
discouragement. We are struggling in a CUL DE SAC with muskets
aimed at us from the housetops. Our labor is like that of
sailors executing their last task as the ship begins to sink.
Our pleasures are those of the condemned victim, who is
offered his choice of dainties a quarter of an hour before his
execution. Thought is paralyzed by anguish, and the most it is
capable of is to calculate--interpreting the vague phrases of
ministers, spelling out the sense of the speeches of
sovereigns, and ruminating on the words attributed to
diplomatists reported on the uncertain authority of the
newspapers--whether it is to be to-morrow or the day after,
this year or the next, that we are to be murdered. So that one
might seek in vain in history an epoch more insecure, more
crushed under the weight of suffering" [footnote: "Le Sens de
la Vie," pp.208-13].

Here it is pointed out that the force is in the hands of those who
work their own destruction, in the hands of the individual men who
make up the masses; it is pointed out that the source of the evil
is the government. It would seem evident that the contradiction
between life and conscience had reached the limit beyond which it
cannot go, and after reaching this limit some solution of it must
be found.

But the author does not think so. He sees in this the tragedy of
human life, and after depicting all the horror of the position he
concludes that human life must be spent in the midst of this
horror.

So much for the attitude to war of those who regard it as
something tragic and fated by destiny.

The third category consists of men who have lost all conscience
and, consequently, all common sense and feeling of humanity.

To this category belongs Moltke, whose opinion has been quoted
above by Maupassant, and the majority of military men, who have
been educated in this cruel superstition, live by it, and
consequently are often in all simplicity convinced that war is not
only an inevitable, but even a necessary and beneficial thing.
This is also the view of some civilians, so-called educated and
cultivated people.

Here is what the celebrated academician Camille Doucet writes in
reply to the editor of the REVUE DES REVUES, where several letters
on war were published together:

"Dear Sir: When you ask the least warlike of academicians
whether he is a partisan of war, his answer is known
beforehand.

"Alas! sir, you yourself speak of the pacific ideal inspiring
your generous compatriots as a dream.

"During my life I have heard a great many good people protest
against this frightful custom of international butchery, which
all admit and deplore; but how is it to be remedied?

"Often, too, there have been attempts to suppress dueling; one
would fancy that seemed an easy task: but not at all! All that
has been done hitherto with that noble object has never been
and never will be of use.

"All the congresses of both hemispheres may vote against war,
and against dueling too, but above all arbitrations,
conventions, and legislations there will always be the personal
honor of individual men, which has always demanded dueling, and
the interests of nations, which will always demand war.

"I wish none the less from the depths of my heart that the
Congress of Universal Peace may succeed at last in its very
honorable and difficult enterprise.

"I am, dear sir, etc.,
"CAMILLE DOUCET."

The upshot of this is that personal honor requires men to fight,
and the interests of nations require them to ruin and exterminate
each other. As for the efforts to abolish war, they call for
nothing but a smile.

The opinion of another well-known academician, Jules Claretie, is
of the same kind.

"Dear Sir [he writes]: For a man of sense there can be but one
opinion on the subject of peace and war.

"Humanity is created to live, to live free, to perfect and
ameliorate its fate by peaceful labor. The general harmony
preached by the Universal Peace Congress is but a dream
perhaps, but at least it is the fairest of all dreams. Man is
always looking toward the Promised Land, and there the harvests
are to ripen with no fear of their being torn up by shells or
crushed by cannon wheels...But! Ah! but----since philosophers
and philanthropists are not the controlling powers, it is well
for our soldiers to guard our frontier and homes, and their
arms, skillfully used, are perhaps the surest guarantee of the
peace we all love.

"Peace is a gift only granted to the strong and the resolute.

"I am, dear sir, etc.,
"JULES CLARETIE."

The upshot of this letter is that there is no harm in talking
about what no one intends or feels obliged to do. But when it
comes to practice, we must fight.

And here now is the view lately expressed by the most popular
novelist in Europe, Émile Zola:

"I regard war as a fatal necessity, which appears inevitable
for us from its close connection with human nature and the
whole constitution of the world. I should wish that war could
be put off for the longest possible time. Nevertheless, the
moment will come when we shall be forced to go to war. I am
considering it at this moment from the standpoint of universal
humanity, and making no reference to our misunderstanding with
Germany--a most trivial incident in the history of mankind. I
say that war is necessary and beneficial, since it seems one of
the conditions of existence for humanity. War confronts us
everywhere, not only war between different races and peoples,
but war too, in private and family life. It seems one of the
principal elements of progress, and every step in advance that
humanity has taken hitherto has been attended by bloodshed.

"Men have talked, and still talk, of disarmament, while
disarmament is something impossible, to which, even if it were
possible, we ought not to consent. I am convinced that a
general disarmament throughout the world would involve
something like a moral decadence, which would show itself in
general feebleness, and would hinder the progressive
advancement of humanity. A warlike nation has always been
strong and flourishing. The art of war has led to the
development of all the other arts. History bears witness to
it. So in Athens and in Rome, commerce, manufactures, and
literature never attained so high a point of development as
when those cities were masters of the whole world by force of
arms. To take an example from times nearer our own, we may
recall the age of Louis XIV. The wars of the Grand Monarque
were not only no hindrance to the progress of the arts and
sciences, but even, on the contrary, seem to have promoted and
favored their development."

So war is a beneficial thing!

But the best expression of this attitude is the view of the most
gifted of the writers of this school, the academician de Vogüé.
This is what he writes in an article on the Military Section of
the Exhibition of 1889:

"On the Esplanade des Invalides, among the exotic and colonial
encampments, a building in a more severe style overawes the
picturesque bazaar; all these fragments of the globe have come
to gather round the Palace of War, and in turn our guests mount
guard submissively before the mother building, but for whom
they would not be here. Fine subject for the antithesis of
rhetoric, of humanitarians who could not fail to whimper over
this juxtaposition, and to say that 'CECI TUERA CELA,'
[footnote: Phrase quoted from Victor-Hugo, "Notre-Dame de
Paris."] that the union of the nations through science and
labor will overcome the instinct of war. Let us leave them to
cherish the chimera of a golden age, which would soon become,
if it could be realized, an age of mud. All history teaches us
that the one is created for the other, that blood is needed to
hasten and cement the union of the nations. Natural science
has ratified in our day the mysterious law revealed to Joseph
de Maistre by the intuition of his genius and by meditation on
fundamental truths; he saw the world redeeming itself from
hereditary degenerations by sacrifice; science shows it
advancing to perfection through struggle and violent selection;
there is the statement of the same law in both, expressed in
different formulas. The statement is disagreeable, no doubt;
but the laws of the world are not made for our pleasure, they
are made for our progress. Let us enter this inevitable,
necessary palace of war; we shall be able to observe there how
the most tenacious of our instincts, without losing any of its
vigor, is transformed and adapted to the varying exigencies of
historical epochs."

M. de Vogüé finds the necessity for war, according to his views,
well expressed by the two great writers, Joseph de Maistre and
Darwin, whose statements he likes so much that he quotes them
again.

"Dear Sir [he writes to the editor of the REVUE DES REVUES]:
You ask me my view as to the possible success of the Universal
Congress of Peace. I hold with Darwin that violent struggle is
a law of nature which overrules all other laws; I hold with
Joseph de Maistre that it is a divine law; two different ways
of describing the same thing. If by some impossible chance a
fraction of human society--all the civilized West, let us
suppose--were to succeed in suspending the action of this law,
some races of stronger instincts would undertake the task of
putting it into action against us: those races would vindicate
nature's reasoning against human reason; they would be
successful, because the certainty of peace--I do not say PEACE,
I say the CERTAINTY OF PEACE--would, in half a century,
engender a corruption and a decadence more destructive for
mankind than the worst of wars. I believe that we must do with
war--the criminal law of humanity--as with all our criminal
laws, that is, soften them, put them in force as rarely as
possible; use every effort to make their application
unnecessary. But all the experience of history teaches us that
they cannot be altogether suppressed so long as two men are
left on earth, with bread, money, and a woman between them.

"I should be very happy if the Congress would prove me in
error. But I doubt if it can prove history, nature, and God in
error also.

"I am, dear sir, etc.
"E. M. DE VOGÜÉ."

This amounts to saying that history, human nature, and God show us
that so long as there are two men, and bread, money and a woman--
there will be war. That is to say that no progress will lead men
to rise above the savage conception of life, which regards no
participation of bread, money (money is good in this context) and
woman possible without fighting.

They are strange people, these men who assemble in Congresses, and
make speeches to show us how to catch birds by putting salt on
their tails, though they must know it is impossible to do it. And
amazing are they too, who, like Maupassant, Rod, and many others,
see clearly all the horror of war, all the inconsistency of men
not doing what is needful, right, and beneficial for them to do;
who lament over the tragedy of life, and do not see that the whole
tragedy is at an end directly men, ceasing to take account of any
unnecessary considerations, refuse to do what is hateful and
disastrous to them. They are amazing people truly, but those who,
like De Vogüé and others, who, professing the doctrine of
evolution, regard war as not only inevitable, but beneficial and
therefore desirable--they are terrible, hideous, in their moral
perversion. The others, at least, say that they hate evil, and
love good, but these openly declare that good and evil do not
exist.

All discussion of the possibility of re-establishing peace instead
of everlasting war--is the pernicious sentimentality of
phrasemongers. There is a law of evolution by which it follows
that I must live and act in an evil way; what is to be done? I am
an educated man, I know the law of evolution, and therefore I will
act in an evil way. "ENTRONS AU PALAIS DE LA GUERRE." There is
the law of evolution, and therefore there is neither good nor
evil, and one must live for the sake of one's personal existence,
leaving the rest to the action of the law of evolution. This is
the last word of refined culture, and with it, of that
overshadowing of conscience which has come upon the educated
classes of our times. The desire of the educated classes to
support the ideas they prefer, and the order of existence based on
them, has attained its furthest limits. They lie, and delude
themselves, and one another, with the subtlest forms of deception,
simply to obscure, to deaden conscience.

Instead of transforming their life into harmony with their
conscience, they try by every means to stifle its voice. But
it is in darkness that the light begins to shine, and so the
light is rising upon our epoch.


Leo Tolstoy

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