Wednesday, 12 February 2014



"The future historian of the first decade of the twentieth century will be puzzled. He will find that the world at the opening of the century was in an extraordinarily belligerent mood, and that the mood was well-nigh universal, dominating the New World as well as the Old, the Orient no less than the Occident. He will find that preparations for war, especially among nations which confessed allegiance to the Prince of Peace, were carried forward with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, and that the air was filled with prophetic voices, picturing national calamities and predicting bloody and world-embracing conflicts."

So writes Charles Edward Jefferson in the "Atlantic Monthly." His subject is "The Delusion of Militarism," and his, article takes a world-wide sweep. He continues thus:—

"Alongside of this fact he will find another fact no less conspicuous and universal—that everybody of importance in the early years of the twentieth century was an ardent champion of peace.


"A crowd of royal peacemakers in a world surcharged with thoughts and threats of war, a band of lovers strolling down an avenue, which they themselves had lined with lyddite shells and twelve inch guns, this will cause our historian to rub his eyes.

"His perplexity will become no less when he considers the incontrovertible proofs that never since time began were the masses of men so peaceably inclined as in just this turbulent and war-rumour tormented twentieth century. He will find that science and commerce and religion had co-operated in bringing the nations together, that the wage-earners in all the European countries had begun to speak of one another as brothers, and that the growing spirit of fraternity and co-operation had expressed itself in such organisations as the Interparliamentary Union, with a membership of twenty-five hundred legislators and statesmen, and various other societies and leagues of scholars and merchants and lawyers and jurists. He will find delegations paying friendly visits to neighbouring countries, and will read, dumbfounded, what the English and German papers were saying about invasions, and the need of increased armaments, at the very time that twenty thousand Germans in Berlin were applauding to the echo the friendly greeting of a company of English visitors.


"His bewilderment, however, will reach its climax when he discovers that it was after the establishment of an international court that all nations voted to increase their armaments. Everybody conceded that it was better to settle international disputes by reason rather than by force, but as soon as the legal machinery was created, by means of which the sword could be dispensed with, there was a fresh fury to perfect at once all the instruments of destruction. After each new peace conference there was a fresh cry for more guns.

"When he finds that it was only men who lived all their life with guns who were haunted by horrible visions and kept dreaming hideous dreams, and that the larger the armament the more was a nation harassed by fears of invasion and possible annihilation, he will propound to himself these questions: Was it all a delusion, the notion that vast military and naval establishments are a safeguard of the peace ? Was it a form of national lunacy, this frenzied outpouring of national treasures for the engines of destruction? Was it an hallucination, this feverish conviction that only by guns can a nation's dignity be symbolised, and her place in the world's life and action be honourably maintained?


"Those are questions which our descendants are certain to ponder, and why should not we face them now? If this preparing for war in order to keep the peace is indeed a delusion, the sooner we find it out the better, for it is the costliest of all obsessions by which humanity has ever been swayed and mastered. There are multiplying developments which are leading thoughtful observers to suspect that this pre-Christian maxim is a piece of antiquated wisdom, and that the desire to establish peace in our modern world by multiplying and brandishing the instruments of war is a product of mental aberration. Certainly, there are indications pointing in this direction. The world's brain may possibly have become unbalanced by a bacillus carried in the folds of a heathen adage. The most virulent and devastating disease now raging on the earth is militarism.

"But it is not true that the world has gone mad. The masses of men are sensible; but at present the nations are in the clutches of the militarists, and no way of escape has yet been discovered. The deliverance will come as soon as men begin to think and examine the sophistries with which militarism has flooded the world.


"Certain facts will surely, some day, burn themselves into the consciousness of all thinking men. The expensiveness of the armed peace is just beginning to catch the eye of legislators. The extravagance of the militarists will bring about their ruin. They cry for battleships at ten million dollars each, and Parliament or Congress votes them. But later on it is explained that battleships are worthless without cruisers, cruisers are worthless without torpedo boats, torpedo boats are worthless without torpedo boat destroyers, all those are worthless without colliers, ammunition, boats, hospital boats, repair boats; and these all together are worthless without deeper harbours, longer docks, more spacious navy yards.   

"And what are all these worth without officers and men, upon whose education millions of dollars have been lavished? When at last the navy has been fairly launched, the officials of the army come forward and demonstrate that a navy, after all, is worthless unless it is supported by a colossal land force. Thus are the Governments led on, step by step, into a treacherous morass, in which they are at first entangled, and finally overwhelmed.


"All the great nations are to-day facing deficits, caused in every case by the military and naval experts. Into what a tangle the finances of Russia and Japan have been brought by militarists is known to everybody. Germany has, in a single generation, increased her national debt from eighteen million dollars to more than one billion dollars. The German Minister of Finance looks wildly round in search of new sources of national income. Financial experts confess that France is approaching the limit of her sources of revenue. Her deficit is created by her army and navy. The British Government is always seeking for new devices by means of which to fill a depleted treasury. Her Dreadnoughts keep her poor. Italy has for years staggered on the verge of bankruptcy because she carries an overgrown army on her back.

"Even our own rich Republic faces this year a deficit of over a hundred million dollars, largely due to the one hundred and thirty millions we are spending on our navy. Mr. Cortelyon has called our attention to the fact that while in thirty years we have increased our population by 85 per cent., and our wealth by 185 per cent., we have increased our national expenses by 400 per cent.

'It is within those thirty years that we have spent one billion dollars on our navy. And the end is not yet. The Secretary of the Navy has recently asked for twenty-seven new vessels for the coming year, four of which are battleships at ten million dollars each, and he is frank to say that these twenty seven are only a fraction of the vessels to be asked for later on.

"The militarists are peace-at-any-price men. They are determined to have peace even at the risk of national bankruptcy. Everything good in Germany, Italy, Austria, England, and Russia is held back by the confiscation of the proceeds of industry.

The Mercury 10 May 1909, 

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