The War and the British Realms
By A. F. Pollard
[The Yale Review, January 1916]
Towards the end of June there appeared in the "Kölnische Zeitung" an article by Professor Schröer, an erudite student of English philology, on the effect of the war upon the relations between Great Britain and her colonies. It was an extended comment, somewhat on the lines of a lament that was published in "Der Tag" in April. "We expected,"' said "Der Tag," "that British India would rise when the first shot was fired in Europe, but in reality thousands of Indians came to fight with the British against us. We anticipated that the whole British Empire would be torn in pieces, but the colonies appear to be closer than ever united with the mother country. We expected a triumphant rebellion in South Africa, yet it turned out nothing but a failure. We expected trouble in Ireland, but instead she sent her best soldiers against us. Those who led us into all these mistakes and miscalculations have laid upon themselves a heavy responsibility."
From the point of view of the genesis of the war, it would be interesting to discover by whom and with what object the German people were thus misled and deceived; but Professor Schröer's purpose is to explain the behavior of Great Britain's allies and colonies. So irrational and paradoxical does their attitude appear to the German political theorists that Herr Schröer is driven back on a supernatural interpretation, and he discovers the secret in English witchcraft! So bewitching are our beaux jeux, or rather our "evil eye," that our rebels fall on our neck, and our rivals, forgetting the crimes of perfidious Albion, rush to its assistance. In this war it was a case of Great Britain rushing to the assistance of Belgium, France, and Russia rather than the reverse; but we may pass over that trifle in our search for a more rational account of the phenomena than that which commends itself to the professor. We are not in England quite so convinced of our powers of fascination, whether for good or evil, and we suspect that our allies, and perhaps even our colonies, are fighting by our side not so much because they love us the more, as because they like Germany less.
In this paper I am not so much concerned with Great Britain's allies as with her colonies—their relations to the causes of the war and their probable relation to its settlement. I use the term "colonies" without prejudice: it is unpopular in the great dominions of the British Crown because it fails to express their undoubted national status; and a far better term would be "realms." The United States has set the example of a plurality in unity, and the "British Realms" would not be singular in the sphere of political terminology. It represents a better tradition and a truer conception of facts than "British Empire." Nor is it without reluctance that I write even of probabilities in connection with the settlement after the war. In a British university which attaches great importance to political science, I recently ventured to propound the question, "Of what value is political science to political prophecy?" The question was regarded as something of a slur upon the scientific character of the study of politics, but the answers were pitched in a modestly minor key. It is clear that anyone who forms or commits to print a forecast of the effects of this war upon the correlation of British realms, runs risks which angels avoid.
So far as the causes of the war are concerned, the problem is more simple, though this simplification does not help to dispel the bewilderment of our German critics. For this war had no colonial causes. Unlike the Seven Years' War of the eighteenth century and the Boer War of 1899, it had no roots in a great rivalry in other continents than Europe; and Canadians, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, and Indians have not trooped to the colors because they were menaced within their borders. Great Britain has during the last half century had colonial difficulties with France, Russia, and the United States, and some of them have threatened to bring war within measurable distance. But she has had none such with Germany. The partition of Africa in 1890 was effected without any serious friction, and the friction that arose in Algeciras and Agadir had no reference to British colonies. When war broke out in August, 1914, there was hardly a cloud on the horizon of British dominions across the sea. The war arose over questions that were purely European, and Great Britain intervened because she could not afford to remain neutral while Germany swept away Belgian neutrality and proceeded to conquer France. What, it may be asked, was there here to stir Indian princes, Boer statesmen, or the miners and farmers of Canada and Australia?
There were, no doubt, particular causes of offense which tended to provide a common bond of antipathy to the ubiquitous German. Indian princes, with a lineage older than that of the Hohenzollerns and with a culture more humane, had during the Boxer expedition been termed and treated as "niggers"; and more recently the German Crown Prince had, on a visit to India, behaved in such a way to his fellow guests and hosts that only his character as a guest saved him from public resentment. Australians, too, looked with no friendly eye on their neighbors in Kaiser Wilhelm's Land and the Bismarck Archipelago. But there was nothing in this to make war. Neither Canadians nor Australians were fond of the Japanese, and it needed a good deal of provocation to range Australians and Japanese, Canadians and Hindus in a common cause against the Kaiser. It has often been remarked that our primitive ancestors felt no need to state and define their customs in written codes until they were brought into contact with the habits and thoughts of strange nations. That contact revealed to their minds the contrast between them and the strangers, and also made them appreciate their own common inheritance. In some such way the pushing emissaries of Kultur brought home to the British realms the fact that behind all their idiosyncrasies of constitution, policy, and circumstance there was a community of spirit which only grew conscious by contrast, and can best be described in terms of contradiction. It would be vainglorious to say that the British realms are everything which the German Empire is not, but it is a sufficient source of satisfaction that they are little what that empire is. The violation of Belgium's neutrality and the wanton attack upon France lit up by a flash the gulf between British and German politics, and in the inevitable clash the British realms were united. None but a few extremists in Canada and South Africa protested that those dominions should observe a "national" neutrality while the empire was at war. Herzog, Delarey, Beyers, and de Wet cherished a blind but not incomprehensible passion for revenge in South Africa; but the handful of French nationalists in Canada, who wanted to seize the particular occasion when the British Empire and France were at one to establish their nationality by standing aloof, present a more complex psychological problem.
This community of spirit was fortified by a community of interest. There were no particular colonial interests in the war, or causes for colonial intervention; but there was a common colonial cause which is best described as naval. It left the dominions no choice. They might or they might not approve Great Britain's scruples about scraps of paper or her refusal to regard with idle indifference the German spoliation of France. In point of fact they felt less hesitation than some of the slow-witted folk at home. But whether or no they approved of British intervention, there could be no doubt of their action when once the die was cast. For the event must decide between British and German naval supremacy, and upon that issue depended the liberty and the existence of each and all of the British realms.
It is also contended by Germany—or at least by her apologists—that her existence is likewise involved in the struggle; and one of them, a professor of physiology, has lately referred to this war as a "death grapple of the English for continued supremacy and of the Germans for existence." The phrase is a curious illustration of the extent to which men of science may go wrong, when dealing with politics, for lack of a little history. Germany does not now, and never has depended upon sea-power for existence; and no British triumph, however complete, could put an end to the German Empire. It was created by Bismarck, and maintained by him for twenty years as the greatest power in Europe without the help of a single man-of-war; and the Germany navy is a whim of the present Kaiser, who overthrew Bismarck to give it free indulgence. England, on the other hand, had to establish her naval supremacy by beating the Spanish Armada before she could found a single colony; without British sea-power there could have been no British Empire, and incidentally no United States of America. Sea-power is of Germany's life a thing apart; it is Britain's whole existence. The contention betrays the same mental attitude as does the German cry for a "place in the sun." I think I do Americans no injustice when I suggest that they consider the United States a very considerable "place in the sun." Britons regard their little islands in a similar light. But Germany, it appears, with an area eighty per cent and a population fifty per cent greater than that of the British Isles, is not a "place in the sun." Its people sit in darkness without hope of the sun except in realms that belong to others; the sunshine is not within them, and they seek to take it by force.
Their object is not a place in the sun, but control of the sunshine; and hence their objection to British sea-power. Their complaint has been plausibly put by the former Secretary of State for the Colonies, Herr Dernburg. "The whole fight and all the fight," he says, "is on one side for the absolute dominion of the seven seas; on the other side for a free sea—the traditional mare liberum. A free sea will mean the cessation of the danger of war and the stopping of world wars. The sea should be free to all. It belongs to no nation in particular—neither to the British, nor to the Germans, nor to the Americans. The rights of nations cease with the territorial line of three miles from low tide. Any dominion exercised beyond that line is a breach and an infringement of the rights of others."
In the light of history and of the most recent events, it is difficult to share Herr Dernburg's optimistic belief that "a free sea will mean the cessation of the danger of war." For what had the freedom of the seas to do with the German wars against Denmark in 1864, against Austria in 1866, and against France in 1870, or with Austria's ultimatum to Serbia and the Kaiser's to Russia in July, 1914? Can Herr Dernburg mean that if the sea were rid of British dominion, no European state could rely on her aid and thus venture to challenge the Kaiser's dominion on land? But Herr Dernburg's following statements are unimpeachable.
It is true that the sea should be free to all; it is a fact that it belongs to no particular nation, and that Great Britain's sovereignty, like that of every other nation, ceases with her territorial waters. Where, then, is the dominion of which he complains, and what is the German grievance? There is no sovereignty of the sea, and the "traditional mare liberum" has long been an established fact. Great Britain enjoys thereon no right and exercises no authority that is not enjoyed and exercised by all peoples that go down to the sea in ships. Germany has least of all cause to complain. Upon that freedom of the sea, enjoyed during British supremacy, she has built up a vast fabric of oceanic trade and domestic prosperity without let or hindrance; her great liners have freely used even British ports and territorial waters, and drawn not a little profit from British traffic and passengers; and she has been given a freedom of trade which she has herself denied to Great Britain.
Other peoples had explored and charted the waters of the globe, and had given the lives of some of the noblest of their sons in the cause of discovering passages here and passages there, and revealing the hidden dangers of the deep. In the days of the merchant adventurers and chartered companies, mariners had sailed with their lives in their hands, and the risks that the trader ran made heavy demands on his profits. They cleared the waters of pirates and made the high seas a secure and familiar highway. Germany contributed nothing to the science of navigation, the discovery of new worlds, or the pacification of the ocean. She has entered into the inheritance of other men's labors and sacrifice without paying toll or fee. No German Franklin or Gilbert braved the Atlantic in sixty-ton barques or left his bones to bleach on the Arctic ice. The German has ever been the peddler and not the pioneer of civilization, the follower of the camp and not the leader of the van. He bred neither conquistadores nor Pilgrim Fathers; and in these latter days, while the eagles of enterprise-—Peary, Amundsen, Scott—winged their flight to the poles, the vultures swooped down upon Belgium. Is the mare liberum to be a sea for similar German liberties? The inhuman use Germany has made of her one submarine talent illumines the path she would tread if she possessed the ten talents of naval supremacy.
In default of German naval predominance, however, Herr Dernburg would be content with peace on the ocean and protection from British power. "To prevent wars in the future," he declares, "we must establish that the free seas shall be plied exclusively by the merchant marine of all nations. Within their territory people have the right to take such measures as they may deem necessary for their defense, but the sending of troops and war machines into the territory of others or into neutralized parts of the world must be declared a casus belli.... If that be done, the world as it is divided now would come to permanent peace."
Again, he is optimistic. In 1839 Belgium was declared by all the great powers of Europe—including Prussia—to be a "neutralized part of the world," and the breach of its neutrality was pronounced a casus belli. But where is the "permanent peace," and with what assurance can the violators of Belgian neutrality appeal for the neutralization of the sea? The appeal is sublime in its colossal simplicity. The German grievance against British "dominion" on sea is that it saves other continents from the interpretations of neutrality which the Kaiser applied to Belgium and Luxemburg; a "neutral" state was to give German armies free passage for their offensive, and a "neutral" sea is to protect them during their progress. Herr Dernburg's proposed prohibition of the transport of armed forces across the sea would leave Belgium and France at the mercy of German invasion by land, while forbidding British assistance from over the water; and Germany would thus derive from a mare liberum the advantage of real liberty in Europe! The scheme might, indeed, from the purely insular point of view have some attractions for Britons—if only they could rely on scraps of paper. For presumably Germany would be precluded, as well as Great Britain, from the use of the seas for other than mercantile objects. Great Britain and all her dominions would thus be secure from German invasion. We imagine, too, that Herr Dernburg would extend his benevolence to the air, and give it the benefit of the neutrality with which he aims at endowing the sea. But would he voluntarily have left German colonies in Africa open to military attack from their French and British neighbors and precluded himself from the possibility of sending assistance by sea? Would he, clothed in his mantle of naval neutrality have philosophically left Tsing-tau to be recovered by China, and Luderitz Bay by the Herreros? Possibly even these sacrifices might have been made in the hope of seeing Canada and India cut off from British assistance by the isolating sea, though one may doubt whether Herr Dernburg really desires just now to see either an American Canada or a Russian Empire of India.
It is to be feared that Herr Dernburg does not pay his readers the compliment of exaggerating their intelligence; and his naval pacifism is somewhat belated and lopsided. It would have been more useful at the time when Great Britain was suggesting in vain "naval holidays" and a limitation of armaments; and it would have been more logical had it included armies as well as navies. The world can hardly be expected to impose peace in spheres of Germany's weakness, and to leave free to her mailed fist and shining armor the spheres of her strength. We all of us hope for a limitation of armaments, and most of us think that this war will have been fought in vain unless it results in an increase of arbitration and a restriction of force. But in view of what has happened, we are bound to be more solicitous about protecting the little nations in times of peace than about protecting German commerce from the consequences of a war which she has provoked. There is much to be said for abolishing altogether the weapons of war, but nothing at all for confining fleets to territorial waters and leaving armies free to roam at large over other people's land. Armies on land produce greater "starvation" than fleets at sea, and the Central Empires have far more effectively prevented Russia from selling her harvests to western Europe than the British fleet has excluded supplies from Germany.
Apart from this motive of neutralizing British sea-power and thus liberating German militarism from restraint, Herr Dernburg's scheme is an invitation to neutrals to assist, by means of a new-fangled law of the sea, in the dismemberment of the British Empire. He knows that the sea is the spinal cord of that empire, and that his policy of isolation would, by neutralizing its communications, leave it as invertebrate as the German Empire would be, if the roads and railways were cut which link up Prussia with Saxony and Bavaria; and his proposal is as naïf, as would be an international commission to neutralize the communications of the component parts of the German Empire. His suggestion helps us, however, to understand the whole-hearted cooperation of the British realms in this European war. Mahan's words have not fallen on deaf ears in British dominions. No compulsion, no suggestion even, was required from Downing Street to evoke lavish offers of service from every quarter. Had Great Britain been compelled to rely on compulsion, she would have been powerless.
She could not have extracted by force a man or a dollar from Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or India. Help was forthcoming because every dominion and colony knew that upon the supremacy of the British navy and the maintenance of these communications by sea depended the very existence of the British Empire and the freedom of each of its realms to develop its own unfettered future. That is why the old vaticinations about the disruption of the empire have proved so signally false; that is why, even amid the horrors and venom of war, we can feel indebted to Germany. The greater the threat to British naval power, the stronger the bond of unity between British dominions. To the Kaiser and von Tirpitz we owe not a little of the modern growth of British imperial sentiment; and the disappearance of every danger would test the unity of the British realms more severely than any German ambitions. They are protected, but not held together by force; and nothing binds closer the bonds of consent than the threat of forcible dissolution.
That is the secret of British witchcraft and German bewilderment. The votaries of the gospel of might are blind to the strength of affection, and German publicists and philosophers have frankly confessed their complete inability to understand the British Empire. How we could afford, within five years of the conclusion of a bitter war, to allow the Boers far more liberty than Germany could after forty grant to Alsace-Lorraine, how we could govern three hundred millions in India with smaller forces than Germany could govern four millions across the Rhine, were questions beyond the scope of their political conception.
Some even saw in that contrast a proof of British impotence, thinking no doubt that force is the only foundation of power, and ignoring the fact that military strength is a common symptom of moral weakness. The misunderstanding was naturally most comprehensive in the militarist mind; but it is not confined to militarists or even to Germany, It is not, indeed, easy to explain the British Empire to Britons themselves; and the difficulty arises from a conservative clinging to obsolete views and a failure to grasp the significance of modern developments. Some people still think of the British Empire as unchanged since the days of George the Third; and as late as 1840, the Duke of Wellington affirmed that its two fundamental principles—the responsibility of colonial executives to colonial parliaments, and imperial unity—were incompatible. The term "empire" is itself unhappy and incorrect, for nothing less like an empire than the British realms could well be conceived. Empire implies absolute rule and militarist methods; it is a scientific description of the Kaiser's Germany, but it has no relevance to the realms of George the Fifth. As "emperor" he possesses no legal or constitutional powers whatever, and "empire" defines neither his nor any other Briton's authority. In the British Isles and colonies he is simply king, and the Act which made Queen Victoria Empress of India conferred but a high-sounding title.
The singular word obscures a vital diversity. In Professor Cramb's popular but shallow book, which attempts to transplant the teachings of Treitschke to British soil, it is laid down that the purpose of the British Empire is to give everyone of its citizens an English mind. Nothing could be more fatuous or more false. If it were true, there might be a difference in degree, but there would be none in essence, between the British and the German Empires, and British might stand in the dock with German Kultur. For the fundamental objection to German Kultur is not its barbarity, but its uniformity and its insolence, its belief in a single superior type, and its claim to force that type upon others; while the essence of the British Empire is heterogeneity, a lack of system, and the mutual forbearance of its component parts. Possibly that is why it angers as well as puzzles the German mind. To Potsdam, if not to Vienna, the British Empire must seem a loose and ramshackle affair, with no logical claim to existence in a world of scientific bureaucracy. Its function is not to impose an English mind on Irishmen, Scots, and Welshmen, Boers, Moslems, and Hindus; and we no more expect to turn Australians into Englishmen than to convert them into French-Canadians. Its function is to enable them all to develop a mind of their own. We believed, indeed, in uniformity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, just as we tried an irresponsible government—like the Kaiser's—under the Stuarts, and sought to colonize Ireland with the same methods and results as Germany is seeking to-day to settle her Polish provinces. But we—or most of us—learnt better in time; and Germany, too, will learn better when she is rid of her twentieth-century despots with their seventeenth-century notions of government. It is the German ex-Chancellor himself who quotes with approval another German statesman to the effect that the Germans are "political asses;" and Bernhardi expresses the mind of the General Staff when he says that no people are less fitted to govern themselves than the Germans.
Here lies another reason for colonial cooperation in the war. All self-governing communities are vitally interested in resistance to this German political atavism, just as English liberalism was concerned in the successful resistance of the American colonies to coercion by George the Third. Had he succeeded in that attempt, he would without doubt have also succeeded in riveting personal rule on England; and if the Kaiser wins this war, junkerdom will be supreme in Germany and in Europe for at least a generation, and countries outside Europe will either have to fight or submit to a dictation to which they have not been accustomed, and from which the British navy has so far afforded protection. For, after all, the Monroe Doctrine is not even a scrap of paper, and its value depends to-day and to-morrow either upon the British navy or upon an American navy which is willing to fight and able to conquer the German fleet.
British colonies cannot, of course, rely upon the United States navy; they have no option but to rely on the British Empire if they wish to avoid the Procrustean bed of German Kultur. "Every state," writes Treitschke, "must have the right to merge into one the nationalities contained within itself." That is the fundamental distinction between the two empires. British naval supremacy does not mean the merging of any nationality. It does not subject British colonies or anyone else to dominion. It is their guarantee of freedom, and it is by no chance collocation of events that the century of complete British naval supremacy has witnessed the greatest growth of nationalities that the world has ever seen.
Dominion, in fact, is not the characteristic of the British Empire, but rather the absence of it. The German foible is to see dominion everywhere and to want to grasp it. Great Britain does not own Canada or Australia or South Africa; they are owned by the people who live there. Even the waste lands in British colonies were long ago recognized as the property of the colony and not of the mother country; and there is not an acre of land outside the British Isles from which the British government derives a farthing of revenue. The colonies do, indeed, help to support the British navy, and they have sent large contingents to its armies in this war; but all is done by free gift and not by imposition. The colonies are free to govern themselves and even to tax British imports and exclude British subjects from their borders. Only thus could the British Empire exist, because it is based on freedom. The denial of responsible self-government to the British realms, as the Hohenzollerns have denied it to the German people, would have broken up the empire long ago. The Kaiser envies and wishes to emulate the British realms; but he declines to make that self-sacrifice of will without which there cannot be political salvation; and he does not see that it has only been through that sacrifice, through the recognition of the right of each British realm to govern itself by means of its own responsible ministers, that the British Empire maintains its unity and strength. He wills the end but not the means; he craves for British world-power, but repudiates the conditions of its existence. Germans attribute British success to scandalous good luck. Had they possessed all Great Britain's initial advantages, they would have thrown them all away through their will-to-power and their lust for absolute dominion. We believe in no power that is not based on service and guarded by responsibility; they base power on prerogative and guard it by lèse-majesté. Government by consent is the secret of empire which Germany will be taught by the present war. It is a simple matter of recognizing the liberties of others, and purging one's soul of the poison that any man, dynasty, or nation has the right to govern another against its will.
There is no peculiar British witchcraft in this lore of statesmanship, though we cannot forbear admiration of its working when we behold Boer generals, who were fighting us in the field fifteen years ago, turning Germans out of South Africa and then volunteering to serve with British armies in Europe. They had their choice and they made it, because they had had experience of German and British government; and not for their lives would they substitute one for the other. For one is dominion and the other is liberty. Even on the high seas British "dominion" has made and maintained mare liberum. In peace there is no discrimination, and ships of all nations frequent the waters with equal security. In war Great Britain does not sink neutral vessels nor take toll of neutral lives. She merely exercises the belligerent rights which all powers have used in turn and are expressly sanctioned by international consent. Britannia rules the waves only in patriotic poems, and in the sense that she is stronger than any other naval power; her "dominion" consists in the free course of international law and in the exercise of rights which are common to all. In peace she claims no rights and does no acts of sovereignty; but when the peace is broken she cannot defend herself and others if she waives the rights, and refrains from the acts, of war.
The cause she conceives herself to be defending is the liberty of little nations and the freedom of British realms. The liberty of Belgium and Serbia is an issue which few can mistake; but the freedom of the British realms is a stumbling block to other than German intellects. An American, who has lived much among us, proclaims that he has great respect for the English people but none for the British Empire; and another writer in a work on "Alexander Hamilton" avers that "a democracy pretending to a sovereignty over other democracies is either a phantom or the most intolerable of all oppressions." The general truth of this aphorism we do not dispute, but it has no relevance to the British realms, which do not consist of a democracy pretending to a sovereignty over other democracies. Canada is no more ruled by Mr. Asquith than England is by Sir Robert Borden, and Britons never by any chance speak of colonists as their subjects. They are our fellow subjects, or rather, our partners in the sovereignty we exercise and enjoy. That sovereignty is not the dominion of one over other British realms any more than the sovereignty of the United States is the dominion of Connecticut over Texas. The concern is a joint-stock enterprise, and the Crown is the capital of the firm, John Bull and Co. John Bull is, indeed, the senior partner, but the other realms are partners too. Each has a call on the resources of the company, and each has behind it the reserves of the British Empire. The partnership is none the less real because it is undefined and because the partners have not written out and proclaimed to the world their articles of agreement. A written, inflexible constitution is only required when the tradition, and habit of cooperation are weak; and the unity of the British realms is one of the spirit and not of the letter, a bond of blood and sympathy and not a parchment deed. Its terms are nowhere stated, but they are everywhere understood.
The war may provoke in impatient minds attempts at further definition. Some, who fail to discern the spirit except through material manifestations, are ever pressing for the crystallization of British unity in paper Acts of Union or Federation. But while the British realms are eager for cooperation, they will not tolerate uniformity, and nothing would tend more surely towards disintegration than efforts to impose a constitution. The essential features in their government have grown and not been made; and our cabinet systems and prime ministers were never created by Acts of Parliament. Even responsible government itself was not conferred by statute; it is a mere practice adopted step by step for convenience and adapted to the changing mood of circumstance; and the fundamentals of our constitutions are not their laws, but their customs. It is not by formal federation that the British realms will gather the fruits of their common sacrifice, or express the common aims to which the war has added impulse. The "councils" of the empire will continue to resemble those mediaeval English "counsels" rather than the formal bodies into which they have been converted in imagination by mistranslation of the ambiguous Latin concilia of the chroniclers.
The imperial conference may develop into the imperial cabinet; but it will not become a federal council, and like its prototypes throughout the empire it will remain unknown to the statute law of the British realms. It will become a custom of the constitution long before it becomes an Act of Parliament.
The material, and still more the moral, value of the assistance rendered by his junior partners to John Bull constitutes, however, an increase of their stake in the joint concern, and involves a corresponding increase of weight in the counsels of the empire and the world. This consideration will affect some of the details in the settlement. Australia will certainly not be content to relinquish the German colonies in the Pacific conquered by the arms of the Commonwealth, nor South Africa those subdued by the Union. From her own particular point of view Great Britain might have preferred an indemnity to any extension of territory; but regard for the peace of her partners will probably compel her to shoulder the financial burden of the war without relief from the compensation which Germany will have to pay for her sins against Belgium and civilization. But these gains in the Pacific and in Africa will be trifling compared with the fruits of earlier victories and the colossal sacrifice of men and treasure in this war. Australia and New Zealand will have nothing material to show for the thousands of gallant lives they have lost at the Dardanelles, and Canada will have no territorial recompense for her heroic sacrifice in Flanders. If there are to be material gains in the reduction of armaments, the destruction of militarism, and the promised reign of peace, the British realms will share them on no more than equal terms with the rest of the world.
War might have paid a victorious Germany; it will not pay a triumphant British Empire, and we are content that it should not. It was not for profit that the British realms interposed. "Had we counted the cost?" asked the German Chancellor on the eve of our intervention. In a sense we had, in a sense we had not. In either case the cost was not the material point. The British realms stood in August, 1914, where Luther stood at the Diet of Worms—they could do no other than they did. They could not afford to fall short of the standard set by Belgium and her heroic king, and ignobly ignore his appeal against might. Nor, in the face of that example, are they anxious to boast of their virtue; compared with Belgium's temptation to peace and her sacrifice for the sake of her honor, their own temptations and sufferings have been slight. "Above all the nations stands humanity" is a famous legend in a great American university; and the merit of the British realms consists merely in this: they set enough store on humanity to strike a blow in its defense, and in its cause they did not hesitate to fight.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald