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Essays in War-Time by Havelock Ellis

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From the point of view of literature, the Great War of to-day has
brought us into a new and closer sympathy with the England of the past.
Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly in their recent careful study of European
Warfare, _Is War Diminishing?_ come to the conclusion that England
during the period of her great activity in the world has been "fighting
about half the time." We had begun to look on war as belonging to the
past and insensibly fallen into the view of Buckle that in England "a
love of war is, as a national taste, utterly extinct." Now we have
awakened to realise that we belong to a people who have been "fighting
about half the time."

Thus it is, for instance, that we witness a revival of interest in
Wordsworth, not that Wordsworth, the high-priest of Nature among the
solitary Lakes, whom we have never forsaken, but the Wordsworth who
sang exultantly of Carnage as God's Daughter. To-day we turn to the
war-like Wordsworth, the stern patriot hurling defiance at the enemies
who threatened our island fortress, as the authentic voice of England.

But this new sense of community with the past comes to us again and
again on every hand when to-day we look back to the records of the past.
I chance to take down the _Epistles_ of Erasmus, and turn to the letters
which the great Humanist of Rotterdam wrote from Cambridge and London
four hundred years ago when young Henry VIII had just suddenly (in 1514)
plunged into war. One reads them to-day with vivid interest, for here
in the supple and sensitive brain of the old scholar we see mirrored
precisely the same thoughts and the same problems which exercise the
more scholarly brains of to-day. Erasmus, as his Pan-German friends
liked to remind him, was a sort of German, but he was, nevertheless,
what we should now call a Pacifist. He can see nothing good in war and
he eloquently sets forth what he regards as its evils. It is interesting
to observe, how, even in its small details as well as in its great
calamities, war brought precisely the same experiences four centuries
ago as to-day. Prices are rising every day, Erasmus declares, taxation
has become so heavy that no one can afford to be liberal, imports are
hampered and wine is scarce, it is difficult even to get one's foreign
letters. In fact the preparations of war are rapidly changing "the
genius of the Island." Thereupon Erasmus launches into more general
considerations on war. Even animals, he points out, do not fight, save
rarely, and then with only those of other species, and, moreover, not,
like us, "with machines upon which we expend the ingenuity of devils."
In every war also it is the non-combatants who suffer most, the people
build cities and the folly of their rulers destroys them, the most
righteous, the most victorious war brings more evil than good, and even
when a real issue is in dispute, it could better have been settled by
arbitration. The moral contagion of a war, moreover, lasts long after
the war is over, and Erasmus proceeds to express himself freely on the
crimes of fighters and fighting.

Erasmus was a cosmopolitan scholar who habitually dwelt in the world of
the spirit and in no wise expressed the general feelings either of his
own time or ours. It is interesting to turn to a very ordinary, it may
be typical, Englishman who lived a century later, again in a period of
war and also of quite ordinary and but moderately glorious war. John
Rous, a Cambridge graduate of old Suffolk family, was in 1623 appointed
incumbent of Santon Downham, then called a town, though now it has
dwindled away almost to nothing. Here, or rather at Weeting or at
Brandon where he lived, Rous began two years later, on the accession of
Charles I, a private diary which was printed by the Camden Society sixty
years ago, and has probably remained unread ever since, unless, as in
the present case, by some person of antiquarian tastes interested in
this remote corner of East Anglia. But to-day one detects a new streak
of interest in this ancient series of miscellaneous entries where we
find that war brought to the front the very same problems which confront
us to-day.

Santon Downham lies in a remote and desolate and salubrious region, not
without its attractions to-day, nor, for all its isolation, devoid of
ancient and modern associations. For here in Weeting parish we have the
great prehistoric centre of the flint implement industry, still lingering
on at Brandon after untold ages, a shrine of the archaeologist. And here
also, or at all events near by, at Lackenheath, doubtless a shrine also
for all men in khaki, the villager proudly points out the unpretentious
little house which is the ancestral home of the Kitcheners, who lie in
orderly rank in the churchyard beside the old church notable for its
rarely quaint mediaeval carvings.

Rous was an ordinary respectable type of country parson, a solid
Englishman, cautious and temperate in his opinions, even in the privacy
of his diary, something of a country gentleman as well as a scholar, and
interested in everything that went on, in the season's crops, in the
rising price of produce, in the execution of a youth for burglary or the
burning of a woman for murdering her husband. He frequently refers to
the outbreak of plague in various parts of the country, and notes, for
instance, that "Cambridge is wondrously reformed since the plague there;
scholars frequent not the streets and taverns as before; but," he adds
later on better information, "do worse." And at the same time he is full
of interest in the small incidents of Nature around him, and notes, for
instance, how a crow had built a nest and laid an egg in the poke of the
topsail of the windmill.

But Rous's Diary is not concerned only with matters of local interest.
All the rumours of the world reached the Vicar of Downham and were by
him faithfully set down from day to day. Europe was seething with war;
these were the days of that famous Thirty Years' War of which we have so
often heard of late, and from time to time England was joining in the
general disturbance, whether in France, Spain, or the Netherlands. As
usual the English attack was mostly from the basis of the Fleet, and
never before, Rous notes, had England possessed so great and powerful a
fleet. Soon after the Diary begins the English Expedition to Rochelle
took place, and a version of its history is here embodied. Rous was kept
in touch with the outside world not only by the proclamations constantly
set up at Thetford on the corner post of the Bell Inn--still the centre
of that ancient town--but by as numerous and as varied a crop of reports
as we find floating among us to-day, often indeed of very similar
character. The vicar sets them down, not committing himself to belief
but with a patient confidence that "time may tell us what we may safely
think." In the meanwhile measures with which we are familiar to-day were
actively in progress: recruits or "voluntaries" were being "gathered up
by the drum," many soldiers, mostly Irish, were billeted, sometimes not
without friction, all over East Anglia, the coasts were being fortified,
the price of corn was rising, and even the problem of international
exchange is discussed with precise data by Rous.

On one occasion, in 1627, Rous reports a discussion concerning the
Rochelle Expedition which exactly counterparts our experience to-day. He
was at Brandon with two gentlemen named Paine and Howlet, when the
former began to criticise the management of the expedition, disputing
the possibility of its success and then "fell in general to speak
distrustfully of the voyage, and then of our war with France, which he
would make our King the cause of"; and so went on to topics of old
popular discontent, of the great cost, the hazard to ships, etc. Rous,
like a good patriot, thought it "foul for any man to lay the blame upon
our own King and State. I told them I would always speak the best of
what our King and State did, and think the best too, till I had good
grounds." And then in his Diary he comments that he saw hereby, what he
had often seen before, that men be disposed to speak the worst of State
business, as though it were always being mismanaged, and so nourish a
discontent which is itself a worse mischief and can only give joy to
false hearts. That is a reflection which comes home to us to-day when we
find the descendants of Mr. Paine following so vigorously the example
which the parson of Downham reprobated.

That little incident at Brandon, however, and indeed the whole picture
of the ordinary English life of his time which Rous sets forth, suggest
a wider reflection. We realise what has always been the English temper.
It is the temper of a vigorous, independent, opinionated, free-spoken
yet sometimes suspicious people among whom every individual feels in
himself the impulse to rule. It is also the temper of a people always
prepared in the face of danger to subordinate these native impulses. The
one tendency and the other opposing tendency are alike based on the
history and traditions of the race. Fifteen centuries ago, Sidonius
Apollinaris gazed inquisitively at the Saxon barbarians, most ferocious
of all foes, who came to Aquitania, with faces daubed with blue paint
and hair pushed back over their foreheads; shy and awkward among the
courtiers, free and turbulent when back again in their ships, they were
all teaching and learning at once, and counted even shipwreck as good
training. One would think, the Bishop remarks, that each oarsman was
himself the arch-pirate.[1] These were the men who so largely went to
the making of the "Anglo-Saxon," and Sidonius might doubtless still
utter the same comment could he observe their descendants in England
to-day. Every Englishman believes in his heart, however modestly he may
conceal the conviction, that he could himself organise as large an army as
Kitchener and organise it better. But there is not only the instinct to
order and to teach but also to learn and to obey. For every Englishman
is the descendant of sailors, and even this island of Britain seemed to
men of old like a great ship anchored in the sea. Nothing can overcome
the impulse of the sailor to stand by his post at the moment of danger,
and to play his sailorly part, whatever his individual convictions may
be concerning the expedition to Rochelle or the expedition to the
Dardanelles, or even concerning his right to play no part at all. That
has ever been the Englishman's impulse in the hour of peril of his island
Ship of State, as to-day we see illustrated in an almost miraculous
degree. It is the saving grace of an obstinately independent and
indisciplinable people.

Yet let us not forget that this same English temper is shown not only in
warfare, not only in adventure in the physical world, but also in the
greater, and--may we not say?--equally arduous tasks of peace. For to
build up is even yet more difficult than to pull down, to create new
life a still more difficult and complex task than to destroy it. Our
English habits of restless adventure, of latent revolt subdued to the
ends of law and order, of uncontrollable freedom and independence, are
even more fruitful here, in the organisation of the progressive tasks of
life, than they are in the organisation of the tasks of war.

That is the spirit in which these essays have been written by an
Englishman of English stock in the narrowest sense, whose national and
family instincts of independence and warfare have been transmuted into a
preoccupation with the more constructive tasks of life. It is a spirit
which may give to these little essays--mostly produced while war was in
progress--a certain unity which was not designed when I wrote them.

[1] O'Dalton, _Letters of Sidonius_, Vol. II., p. 149.



The Great War of to-day has rendered acute the question of the place of
warfare in Nature and the effect of war on the human race. These have
long been debated problems concerning which there is no complete
agreement. But until we make up our minds on these fundamental questions
we can gain no solid ground from which to face serenely, or at all
events firmly, the crisis through which mankind is now passing.

It has been widely held that war has played an essential part in the
evolutionary struggle for survival among our animal ancestors, that war
has been a factor of the first importance in the social development of
primitive human races, and that war always will be an essential method
of preserving the human virtues even in the highest civilisation. It
must be observed that these are three separate and quite distinct
propositions. It is possible to accept one, or even two, of them without
affirming them all. If we wish to clear our minds of confusion on this
matter, so vital to our civilisation, we must face each of the questions
by itself.

It has sometimes been maintained--never more energetically than to-day,
especially among the nations which most eagerly entered the present
conflict--that war is a biological necessity. War, we are told, is
a manifestation of the "Struggle for Life"; it is the inevitable
application to mankind of the Darwinian "law" of natural selection.
There are, however, two capital and final objections to this view. On
the one hand it is not supported by anything that Darwin himself said,
and on the other hand it is denied as a fact by those authorities on
natural history who speak with most knowledge. That Darwin regarded war
as an insignificant or even non-existent part of natural selection must
be clear to all who have read his books. He was careful to state that he
used the term "struggle for existence" in a "metaphorical sense," and
the dominant factors in the struggle for existence, as Darwin understood
it, were natural suitability to the organic and inorganic environment
and the capacity for adaptation to circumstances; one species flourishes
while a less efficient species living alongside it languishes, yet they
may never come in actual contact and there is nothing in the least
approaching human warfare. The conditions much more resemble what, among
ourselves, we may see in business, where the better equipped species,
that is to say, the big capitalist, flourishes, while the less well
equipped species, the small capitalist, succumbs. Mr. Chalmers Mitchell,
Secretary of the London Zoological Society and familiar with the habits
of animals, has lately emphasised the contention of Darwin and shown
that even the most widely current notions of the extermination of one
species by another have no foundation in fact.[1] Thus the thylacine or
Tasmanian wolf, the fiercest of the marsupials, has been entirely driven
out of Australia and its place taken by a later and higher animal, of
the dog family, the dingo. But there is not the slightest reason to
believe that the dingo ever made war on the thylacine. If there was any
struggle at all it was a common struggle against the environment, in
which the dingo, by superior intelligence in finding food and rearing
young, and by greater resisting power to climate and disease, was able
to succeed where the thylacine failed. Again, the supposed war of
extermination waged in Europe by the brown rat against the black rat is
(as Chalmers Mitchell points out) pure fiction. In England, where this
war is said to have been ferociously waged, both rats exist and
flourish, and under conditions which do not usually even bring them into
competition with each other. The black rat (_Mus rattus_) is smaller
than the other, but more active and a better climber; he is the rat of
the barn and the granary. The brown or Norway rat (_Mus decumanus_) is
larger but less active, a burrower rather than a climber, and though
both rats are omnivorous the brown rat is more especially a scavenger;
he is the rat of sewers and drains. The black rat came to Northern
Europe first--both of them probably being Asiatic animals--and has no
doubt been to some extent replaced by the brown rat, who has been
specially favoured by the modern extension of drains and sewers, which
exactly suit his peculiar tastes. But each flourishes in his own
environment; neither of them is adapted to the other's environment;
there is no war between them, nor any occasion for war, for they do not
really come into competition with each other. The cockroaches, or
"blackbeetles," furnish another example. These pests are comparatively
modern and their great migrations in recent times are largely due to
the activity of human commerce. There are three main species of
cockroach--the Oriental, the American, and the German (or Croton
bug)--and they flourish near together in many countries, though not with
equal success, for while in England the Oriental is most prosperous, in
America the German cockroach is most abundant. They are seldom found in
actual association, each is best adapted to a particular environment;
there is no reason to suppose that they fight. It is so throughout
Nature. Animals may utilise other species as food; but that is true of
even, the most peaceable and civilised human races. The struggle for
existence means that one species is more favoured by circumstances than
another species; there is not the remotest resemblance anywhere to human

We may pass on to the second claim for war: that it is an essential
factor in the social development of primitive human races. War has no
part, though competition has a very large part, in what we call
"Nature." But, when we come to primitive man the conditions are somewhat
changed; men, unlike the lower animals, are able to form large
communities--"tribes," as we call them--with common interests, and two
primitive tribes can come into a competition which is acute to the point
of warfare because being of the same, and not of two different, species,
the conditions of life which they both demand are identical; they are
impelled to fight for the possession of these conditions as animals of
different species are not impelled to fight. We are often told that
animals are more "moral" than human beings, and it is largely to the
fact that, except under the immediate stress of hunger, they are better
able to live in peace with each other, that the greater morality of
animals is due. Yet, we have to recognise, this mischievous tendency to
warfare, so often (though by no means always, and in the earliest stages
probably never) found in primitive man, was bound up with his superior
and progressive qualities. His intelligence, his quickness of sense, his
muscular skill, his courage and endurance, his aptitude for discipline
and for organisation--all of them qualities on which civilisation is
based--were fostered by warfare. With warfare in primitive life was
closely associated the still more fundamental art, older than humanity,
of dancing. The dance was the training school for all the activities
which man developed in a supreme degree--for love, for religion, for
art, for organised labour--and in primitive days dancing was the chief
military school, a perpetual exercise in mimic warfare during times of
peace, and in times of war the most powerful stimulus to military
prowess by the excitement it aroused. Not only was war a formative and
developmental social force of the first importance among early men, but
it was comparatively free from the disadvantages which warfare later on
developed; the hardness of their life and the obtuseness of their
sensibility reduced to a minimum the bad results of wounds and shocks,
while their warfare, being free from the awful devices due to the
devilry of modern man, was comparatively innocuous; even if very
destructive, its destruction was necessarily limited by the fact that
those accumulated treasures of the past which largely make civilisation
had not come into existence. We may admire the beautiful humanity, the
finely developed social organisation, and the skill in the arts attained
by such people as the Eskimo tribes, which know nothing of war, but we
must also recognise that warfare among primitive peoples has often been
a progressive and developmental force of the first importance, creating
virtues apt for use in quite other than military spheres.[2]

The case is altered when we turn from savagery to civilisation. The new
and more complex social order while, on the one hand, it presents
substitutes for war in so far as war is a source of virtues, on the
other hand, renders war a much more dangerous performance both to the
individual and to the community, becoming indeed, progressively more
dangerous to both, until it reaches such a climax of world-wide injury
as we witness to-day. The claim made in primitive societies that warfare
is necessary to the maintenance of virility and courage, a claim so
fully admitted that only the youth furnished with trophies of heads or
scalps can hope to become an accepted lover, is out of date in
civilisation. For under civilised conditions there are hundreds of
avocations which furnish exactly the same conditions as warfare for the
cultivation of all the manly virtues of enterprise and courage and
endurance, physical or moral. Not only are these new avocations equally
potent for the cultivation of virility, but far more useful for the
social ends of civilisation. For these ends warfare is altogether less
adapted than it is for the social ends of savagery. It is much less
congenial to the tastes and aptitudes of the individual, while at the
same time it is incomparably more injurious to Society. In savagery
little is risked by war, for the precious heirlooms of humanity have not
yet been created, and war can destroy nothing which cannot easily be
remade by the people who first made it. But civilisation possesses--and
in that possession, indeed, civilisation largely consists--the precious
traditions of past ages that can never live again, embodied in part in
exquisite productions of varied beauty which are a continual joy and
inspiration to mankind, and in part in slowly evolved habits and laws of
social amenity, and reasonable freedom, and mutual independence, which
under civilised conditions war, whether between nations or between
classes, tends to destroy, and in so destroying to inflict a permanent
loss in the material heirlooms of Mankind and a serious injury to the
spiritual traditions of civilisation.

It is possible to go further and to declare that warfare is in
contradiction with the whole of the influences which build up and
organise civilisation. A tribe is a small but very closely knit unity,
so closely knit that the individual is entirely subordinated to the
whole and has little independence of action or even of thought. The
tendency of civilisation is to create webs of social organisation which
grow ever larger, but at the same time looser, so that the individual
gains a continually growing freedom and independence. The tribe becomes
merged in the nation, and beyond even this great unit, bonds of
international relationship are progressively formed. War, which at first
favoured this movement, becomes an ever greater impediment to its
ultimate progress. This is recognised at the threshold of civilisation,
and the large community, or nation, abolishes warfare between the units
of which it is composed by the device of establishing law courts to
dispense impartial justice. As soon as civilised society realised that
it was necessary to forbid two persons to settle their disputes by
individual fighting, or by initiating blood-feuds, or by arming friends
and followers, setting up courts of justice for the peaceable settlement
of disputes, the death-blow of all war was struck. For all the arguments
that proved strong enough to condemn war between two individuals are
infinitely stronger to condemn war between the populations of two-thirds
of the earth. But, while it was a comparatively easy task for a State to
abolish war and impose peace within its own boundaries--and nearly all
over Europe the process was begun and for the most part ended centuries
ago--it is a vastly more difficult task to abolish war and impose peace
between powerful States. Yet at the point at which we stand to-day
civilisation can make no further progress until this is done. Solitary
thinkers, like the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, and even great practical
statesmen like Sully and Penn, have from time to time realised this
fact during the past four centuries, and attempted to convert it into
actuality. But it cannot be done until the great democracies are won
over to a conviction of its inevitable necessity. We need an
international organisation of law courts which shall dispense justice as
between nation and nation in the same way as the existing law courts of
all civilised countries now dispense justice as between man and man; and
we further need, behind this international organisation of justice, an
international organisation of police strong enough to carry out the
decisions of these courts, not to exercise tyranny but to ensure to
every nation, even the smallest, that measure of reasonable freedom and
security to go about its own business which every civilised nation now,
in some small degree at all events, already ensures to the humblest of
its individual citizens. The task may take centuries to complete, but
there is no more urgent task before mankind to-day.[3]

These considerations are very elementary, and a year or two ago they
might have seemed to many--though not to all of us--merely academic,
chiefly suitable to put before schoolchildren. But now they have ceased
to be merely academic; they have indeed acquired a vital actuality
almost agonisingly intense. For one realises to-day that the
considerations here set forth, widely accepted as they are, yet are not
generally accepted by the rulers and leaders of the greatest and
foremost nations of the world. Thus Germany, in its present Prussianised
state, through the mouths as well as through the actions of those rulers
and leaders, denies most of the conclusions here set forth. In Germany
it is a commonplace to declare that war is the law of Nature, that the
"struggle for existence" means the arbitration of warfare, that it is by
war that all evolution proceeds, that not only in savagery but in the
highest civilisation the same rule holds good, that human war is the
source of all virtues, the divinely inspired method of regenerating and
purifying mankind, and every war may properly be regarded as a holy war.
These beliefs have been implicit in the Prussian spirit ever since the
Goths and Vandals issued from the forests of the Vistula in the dawn of
European history. But they have now become a sort of religious dogma,
preached from pulpits, taught in Universities, acted out by statesmen.
From this Prussian point of view, whether right or wrong, civilisation,
as it has hitherto been understood in the world, is of little
consequence compared to German militaristic Kultur. Therefore the German
quite logically regards the Russians as barbarians, and the French as
decadents, and the English as contemptibly negligible, although the
Russians, however yet dominated by a military bureaucracy (moulded by
Teutonic influences, as some maliciously point out), are the most humane
people of Europe, and the French the natural leaders of civilisation as
commonly understood, and the English, however much they may rely on
amateurish methods of organisation by emergency, have scattered the
seeds of progress over a large part of the earth's surface. It is
equally logical that the Germans should feel peculiar admiration and
sympathy for the Turks, and find in Turkey, a State founded on military
ideals, their own ally in the present war. That war, from our present
point of view, is a war of States which use military methods for special
ends (often indeed ends that have been thoroughly evil) against a State
which still cherishes the primitive ideal of warfare as an end in
itself. And while such a State must enjoy immense advantages in the
struggle, it is difficult, when we survey the whole course of human
development, to believe that there can be any doubt about the final

For one who writes as an Englishman, it may be necessary to point out
clearly that that final issue by no means involves the destruction, or
even the subjugation, of Germany. It is indeed an almost pathetic fact
that Germany, which idealises warfare, stands to gain more than any
country by an assured rule of international peace which would save her
from warfare. Placed in a position which renders militaristic
organisation indispensable, the Germans are more highly endowed than
almost any people with the high qualities of intelligence, of
receptiveness, of adaptability, of thoroughness, of capacity for
organisation, which ensure success in the arts and sciences of peace, in
the whole work of civilisation. This is amply demonstrated by the
immense progress and the manifold achievements of Germany during forty
years of peace, which have enabled her to establish a prosperity and a
good name in the world which are now both in peril. Germany must be
built up again, and the interests of civilisation itself, which Germany
has trampled under foot, demand that Germany shall be built up again,
under conditions, let us hope, which will render her old ideals useless
and out of date. We shall then be able to assert as the mere truisms
they are, and not as a defiance flung in the face of one of the world's
greatest nations, the elementary propositions I have here set forth. War
is not a permanent factor of national evolution, but for the most part
has no place in Nature at all; it has played a part in the early
development of primitive human society, but, as savagery passes into
civilisation, its beneficial effects are lost, and, on the highest
stages of human progress, mankind once more tends to be enfolded, this
time consciously and deliberately, in the general harmony of Nature.

[1] P. Chalmers Mitchell, _Evolution and the War_, 1915.

[2] On the advantages of war in primitive society, see W. MacDougal's
_Social Psychology_, Ch. XI.

[3] It is doubtless a task beset by difficulties, some of which are set
forth, in no hostile spirit, by Lord Cromer, "Thinking Internationally,"
_Nineteenth Century_, July, 1916; but the statement of most of these
difficulties is enough to suggest the solution.



In dealing with war it is not enough to discuss the place of warfare in
Nature or its effects on primitive peoples. Even if we decide that the
general tendency of civilisation is unfavourable to war we have scarcely
settled matters. It is necessary to push the question further home.
Primitive warfare among savages, when it fails to kill, may be a
stimulating and invigorating exercise, simply a more dangerous form of
dancing. But civilised warfare is a different kind of thing, to a very
limited extent depending on, or encouraging, the prowess of the
individual fighting men, and to be judged by other standards. _What
precisely is the measurable effect of war, if any, on the civilised
human breed?_ If we want to know what to do about war in the future,
that is the question we have to answer.

"Wars are not paid for in war-time," said Benjamin Franklin, "the bill
comes later." Franklin, who was a pioneer in many so fields, seems to
have been a pioneer in eugenics also by arguing that a standing army
diminishes the size and breed of the human species. He had, however, no
definite facts wherewith to demonstrate conclusively that proposition.
Even to-day, it cannot be said that there is complete agreement among
biologists as to the effect of war on the race. Thus we find a
distinguished American zoologist, Chancellor Starr Jordan, constantly
proclaiming that the effect of war in reversing selection is a great
overshadowing truth of history; warlike nations, he declares, become
effeminate, while peaceful nations generate a fiercely militant
spirit.[1] Another distinguished American scientist, Professor Ripley,
in his great work, _The Races of Europe_, likewise concludes that
"standing armies tend to overload succeeding generations with inferior
types of men." A cautious English biologist, Professor J. Arthur
Thomson, is equally decided in this opinion, and in his recent Galton
Lecture[2] sets forth the view that the influence of war on the race,
both directly and indirectly, is injurious; he admits that there may
be beneficial as well as deteriorative influences, but the former
merely affect the moral atmosphere, not the hereditary germ plasm;
biologically, war means wastage and a reversal of rational selection,
since it prunes off a disproportionally large number of those whom the
race can least afford to lose. On the other hand, another biologist, Dr.
Chalmers Mitchell, equally opposed to war, cannot feel certain that the
total effect of even a great modern war is to deteriorate the stock,
while in Germany, as we know, it is the generally current opinion,
scientific and unscientific, equally among philosophers, militarists,
and journalists, that not only is war "a biological necessity," but that
it is peace, and not war, which effeminates and degenerates a nation. In
Germany, indeed, this doctrine is so generally accepted that it is not
regarded as a scientific thesis to be proved, but as a religious dogma
to be preached. It is evident that we cannot decide this question, so
vital to human progress, except on a foundation of cold and hard fact.

Whatever may be the result of war on the quality of the breed, there can
be little doubt of its temporary effect on the quantity. The reaction
after war may create a stimulating influence on the birth-rate, leading
to a more or less satisfactory recovery, but it seems clear that the
drafting away of a large proportion of the manhood of a nation
necessarily diminishes births. At the present time English Schools are
sending out an unusually small number of pupils into life, and this is
directly due to the South-African War fifteen years ago. Still more
obvious is the direct effect of war, apart from diminishing the number
of births, in actually pouring out the blood of the young manhood of
the race. In the very earliest stage of primitive humanity it seems
probable that man was as untouched by warfare as his animal ancestors,
and it is satisfactory to think that war had no part in the first birth
of man into the world. Even the long Early Stone Age has left no
distinguishable sign of the existence of warfare.[3] It was not until
the transition to the Late Stone Age, the age of polished flint
implements, that we discern evidences of the homicidal attacks of man
on man. Even then we are concerned more with quarrels than with
battles, for one of the earliest cases of wounding known in human
records, is that of a pregnant young woman found in the Cro-magnon Cave
whose skull had been cut open by a flint several weeks before death, an
indication that she had been cared for and nursed. But, again at the
beginning of the New Stone Age, in the caverns of the Beaumes-Chaudes
people, who still used implements of the Old Stone type, we find skulls
in which are weapons of the New Stone type. Evidently these people had
come in contact with a more "civilised" race which had discovered war.
Yet the old pacific race still lingered on, as in the Belgian people
of the Furfooz type who occupied themselves mainly with hunting and
fishing, and have their modern representatives, if not their actual
descendants, in the peaceful Lapps and Eskimo.[4]

It was thus at a late stage of human history, though still so primitive
as to be prehistoric, that organised warfare developed. At the dawn of
history war abounded. The earliest literature of the Aryans--whether
Greeks, Germans, or Hindus--is nothing but a record of systematic
massacres, and the early history of the Hebrews, leaders in the world's
religion and morality, is complacently bloodthirsty. Lapouge considers
that in modern times, though wars are fewer in number, the total number
of victims is still about the same, so that the stream of bloodshed
throughout the ages remains unaffected. He attempted to estimate the
victims of war for each civilised country during half a century, and
found that the total amounted to nine and a half millions, while, by
including the Napoleonic and other wars of the beginning of the
nineteenth century, he considered that that total would be doubled. Put
in another form, Lapouge says, the wars of a century spill 120,000,000
gallons of blood, enough to fill three million forty-gallon casks, or
to create a perpetual fountain sending up a jet of 150 gallons per hour,
a fountain which has been flowing unceasingly ever since the dawn of
history. It is to be noted, also, that those slain on the battlefield by
no means represent the total victims of a war, but only about half of
them; more than half of those who, from one cause or another, perished
in the Franco-Prussian war, it is said, were not belligerents. Lapouge
wrote some ten years ago and considered that the victims of war, though
remaining about absolutely the same in number through the ages, were
becoming relatively fewer. The Great War of to-day would perhaps have
disturbed his calculations, unless we may assume that it will be
followed by a tremendous reaction against war. For when the war had
lasted only nine months, it was estimated that if it should continue at
the present rate (and as a matter of fact its scale has been much
enlarged) for another twelve months, the total loss to Europe in lives
destroyed or maimed would be ten millions, about equal to five-sixths of
the whole young manhood of the German Empire, and nearly the same number
of victims as Lapouge reckoned as the normal war toll of a whole
half-century of European "civilisation." It is scarcely necessary to add
that all these bald estimates of the number of direct victims to war
give no clue to the moral and material damage--apart from all question
of injury to the race--done by the sudden or slow destruction of so
large a proportion of the young manhood of the world, the ever widening
circles of anguish and misery and destitution which every fatal bullet
imposes on humanity, for it is probable that for every ten million
soldiers who fall on the field, fifty million other persons at home are
plunged into grief or poverty, or some form of life-diminishing trouble.

The foregoing considerations have not, however, brought us strictly
within the field of eugenics. They indicate the great extent to which
war affects the human breed, but they do not show that war affects the
quality of the breed, and until that is shown the eugenist remains

There are various circumstances which, at the outset, and even in the
absence of experimental verification, make it difficult, or impossible,
that even the bare mortality of war (for the eugenical bearings of
war are not confined to its mortality) should leave the eugenist
indifferent. For war never hits men at random. It only hits a carefully
selected percentage of "fit" men. It tends, in other words, to strike
out, temporarily, or in a fatal event, permanently, from the class of
fathers, precisely that percentage of the population which the eugenist
wishes to see in that class. This is equally the case in countries with
some form of compulsory service, and in countries which rely on a
voluntary military system. For, however an army is recruited, it is only
those men reaching a fairly high standard of fitness who are accepted,
and these, even in times of peace are hampered in the task of carrying
on the race, which the less fit and the unfit are free to do at their
own good pleasure. Nearly all the ways in which war and armies disturb
the normal course of affairs seem likely to interfere with eugenical
breeding, and none to favour it. Thus at one time, in the Napoleonic
wars, the French age of conscription fell to eighteen, while marriage
was a cause of exemption, with the result of a vast increase of hasty
and ill-advised marriages among boys, certainly injurious to the race.
Armies, again, are highly favourable to the spread of racial poisons,
especially of syphilis, the most dangerous of all, and this cannot fail
to be, in a marked manner, dysgenic rather than eugenic.

The Napoleonic wars furnished the first opportunity of testing the truth
of Franklin's assertion concerning the disastrous effect of armies on
the race, by the collection of actual and precise data. But the
significance of the data proved unexpectedly difficult to unravel, and
most writers on the subject have been largely occupied in correcting the
mistakes of their predecessors. Villermé in 1829 remarked that the long
series of French wars up to 1815 must probably reduce the height of the
French people, though he was unable to prove that this was so. Dufau in
1840 was in a better position to judge, and he pointed out in his
_Traité de Statistique_ that, comparing 1816 and 1835, the number of
young men exempted from the army had doubled in the interval, even
though the regulation height had been lowered. This result, however, he
held, was not so alarming as it might appear, and probably only
temporary, for it was seemingly due to the fact that, in 1806 and the
following years, the male population was called to arms in masses, even
youths being accepted, so that a vast number of precocious marriages of
often defective men took place. The result would only be terrible, Dufau
believed, if prolonged; his results, however, were not altogether
reliable, for he failed to note the proportion of men exempted to those
examined. The question was investigated more thoroughly by Tschuriloff
in 1876.[5] He came to the conclusion that the Napoleonic wars had no
great influence on stature, since the regulation height was lowered in
1805, and abolished altogether for healthy men in 1811, and any defect
of height in the next generation is speedily repaired. Tschuriloff
agreed, however, that, though the influence of war in diminishing the
height of the race is unimportant, the influence of war in increasing
physical defects and infirmities in subsequent generations is a very
different matter. He found that the physical deterioration of war
manifested itself chiefly in the children born eight years afterwards,
and therefore in the recruits twenty-eight years after the war. He
regarded it as an undoubted fact that the French army of half a million
men in 1809 increased by 3 per cent. the proportion of hereditarily
infirm persons. He found, moreover, that the new-born of 1814, that is
to say the military class of 1834, showed that infirmities had risen
from 30 per cent. to 45.8 per cent., an increase of 50 per cent. Nor is
the _status quo_ entirely brought back later on, for the bad heredity of
the increased number of defectives tends to be still further propagated,
even though in an attenuated form. As a matter of fact, Tschuriloff
found that the proportion of exemptions from the army for infirmity
increased enormously from 26 per cent. in 1816-17, to 38 per cent. in
1826-27, declining later to 34 per cent. in 1860-64, though he is
careful to point out that this result must not be entirely ascribed to
the reversed selection of wars. There could, however, be no doubt that
most kinds of infirmities became more frequent as a result of military
selection. Lapouge's more recent investigation into the results of the
Franco-Prussian war of 1870 were of similar character; when examining
the recruits of 1892-93 he found that these "children of the war" were
inferior to those born earlier, and that there was probably an undue
proportion of defective individuals among their fathers. It cannot be
said that these investigations finally demonstrate the evil results of
war on the race. The subject is complicated, and some authorities, like
Collignon in France and Ammon in Germany,--both, it may be well to note,
army surgeons,--have sought to smooth down and explain away the dysgenic
effects of war. But, on the whole, the facts seem to support those
probabilities which the insight of Franklin first clearly set forth.

It is interesting in the light of these considerations on the eugenic
bearings of warfare to turn for a moment to those who proclaim the high
moral virtues of war as a national regenerator.

It is chiefly in Germany that, for more than a century past, this
doctrine has been preached.[6] "War invigorates humanity," said Hegel,
"as storms preserve the sea from putrescence." "War is an integral part
of God's Universe," said Moltke, "developing man's noblest attributes."
"The condemnation of war," said Treitschke, "is not only absurd, it is
immoral."[7] These brave sayings scarcely bear calm and searching
examination at the best, but, putting aside all loftier appeals to
humanity or civilisation, a "national regenerator" which we have good
reason to suppose enfeebles and deteriorates the race, cannot plausibly
be put before us as a method of ennobling humanity or as a part of God's
Universe, only to be condemned on pain of seeing a company of German
professors pointing the finger to our appalling "Immorality," on their
drill-sergeant's word of command.

At the same time, this glorification of the regenerating powers of war
quite overlooks the consideration that the fighting spirit tends to
destroy itself, so that the best way to breed good fighters is not to
preach war, but to cultivate peace, which is what the Germans have, in
actual practice, done for over forty years past. France, the most
military, and the most gloriously military, nation of the Napoleonic
era, is now the leader in anti-militarism, altogether indifferent to the
lure of military glory, though behind no nation in courage or skill.
Belgium has not fought for generations, and had only just introduced
compulsory military service, yet the Belgians, from their King and their
Cardinal-Archbishop downwards, threw themselves into the war with a high
spirit scarcely paralleled in the world's history, and Belgian
commercial travellers developed a rare military skill and audacity. All
the world admires the bravery with which the Germans face death and the
elaborate detail with which they organise battle, yet for all their
perpetual glorification of war there is no sign that they fight with any
more spirit than their enemies. Even if we were to feel ourselves bound
to accept war as "an integral part of God's Universe," we need not
trouble ourselves to glorify war, for, when once war presents itself as
a terrible necessity, even the most peaceable of men are equal to the

This consideration brings us to those "moral equivalents of war" which
William James was once concerned over, when he advocated, in place of
military conscription, "a conscription of the whole youthful population
to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted
against _Nature_."[8] Such a method of formally organising in the cause
of civilisation, instead of in the cause of savagery, the old military
traditions of hardihood and discipline may well have its value. But the
present war has shown us that in no case need we fear that these high
qualities will perish in any vitally progressive civilisation. For they
are qualities that lie in the heart of humanity itself. They are not
created by the drill-sergeant; he merely utilises them for his own, as
we may perhaps think, disastrous ends. This present war has shown us
that on every hand, even in the unlikeliest places, all the virtues of
war have been fostered by the cultivation of the arts and sciences of
peace, ready to be transformed to warlike ends by men who never dreamed
of war. In France we find many of the most promising young scientists,
poets, and novelists cheerfully going forth to meet their death. On the
other side, we find a Kreisler, created to be the joy of the world,
ready to be trampled to death beneath the hoofs of Cossack horses. The
friends of Gordon Mathison, the best student ever turned out from the
Medical Faculty of the Melbourne University and a distinguished young
physiologist who seemed to be destined to become one of the first
physicians of his time, viewed with foreboding his resolve to go to the
front, for "Wherever he was he had to be in the game," they said; and a
few weeks later he was killed at Gallipoli on the threshold of his
career. The qualities that count in peace are the qualities that count
in war, and the high-spirited man who throws himself bravely into the
dangerous adventures of peace is fully the equal of the hero of the
battlefield, and himself prepared to become that hero.[9]

It would seem, therefore, on the whole, that when the eugenist takes a
wide survey of this question, he need not qualify his disapproval of war
by any regrets over the loss of such virtues as warfare fosters. In
every progressive civilisation the moral equivalents of war are already
in full play. Peace, as well as war, "develops the noblest attributes of
man"; peace, rather than war, preserves the human sea from putrescence;
it is the condemnation of peace, rather than the condemnation of war,
which is not only absurd but immoral. We are not called upon to choose
between the manly virtues of war and the effeminate degeneracy of peace.
The Great War of to-day may perhaps help us to realise that the choice
placed before us is of another sort. The virtues of daring and endurance
will never fail in any vitally progressive community of men, alike in
the causes of war and of peace.[10] But on the one hand we find those
virtues at work in the service of humanity, creating ever new marvels of
science and of art, adding to the store of the precious heirlooms of the
race which are a joy to all mankind. On the other hand, we see these
same virtues in the service of savagery, extinguishing those marvels,
killing their creators, and destroying every precious treasure of
mankind within reach. That--it seems to be one of the chief lessons of
this war--is the choice placed before us who are to-day called upon to
build the world of the future on a firmer foundation than our own world
has been set.

[1] D.S. Jordan, _War and the Breed_, 1915; also articles on "War and
Manhood" in the _Eugenics Review_, July, 1910, and on "The Eugenics of
War" in the same Review for Oct., 1913.

[2] J. Arthur Thomson, "Eugenics and War," _Eugenics Review_, April,
1915. Major Leonard Darwin (_Journal Royal Statistical Society_, March,
1916) sets forth a similar view.

[3] It is true that in the Gourdon cavern, in the Pyrenees, representing
a very late and highly developed stage of Magdalenian culture, there
are indications that human brains were eaten (Zaborowski, _L'Homme
Préhistorique_, p. 86). It is surmised that they were the brains of
enemies killed in battle, but this remains a surmise.

[4] Zaborowski, _L'Homme Préhistorique_, pp. 121, 139; Lapouge, _Les
Sélections Sociales_, p. 209.

[5] _Revue d'Anthropologie_, 1876, pp. 608 and 655.

[6] In France it is almost unknown except as preached by the Syndicalist
philosopher, Georges Sorel, who insists, quite in the German manner, on
the purifying and invigorating effects of "a great foreign war," although,
very unlike the German professors, he holds that "a great extension of
proletarian violence" will do just as well as war.

[7] The recent expressions of the same doctrine in Germany are far too
numerous to deal with. I may, however, refer to Professor Fritz
Wilke's _Ist der Krieg sittlich berechtigt?_ (1915) as being the work
of a theologian and Biblical scholar of Vienna who has written a book
on the politics of Isaiah and discussed the germs of historical
veridity in the history of Abraham. "A world-history without war," he
declares, "would be a history of materialism and degeneration"; and
again: "The solution is not 'Weapons down!' but 'Weapons up!' With
pure hands and calm conscience let us grasp the sword." He dwells, of
course, on the supposed purifying and ennobling effects of war and
insists that, in spite of its horrors, and when necessary, "War is a
divine institution and a work of love." The leaders of the world's
peace movement are, thank God! not Germans, but merely English and
Americans, and he sums up, with Moltke, that war is a part of the
moral order of the world.

[8] William James, _Popular Science Monthly_, Oct., 1910.

[9] We still often fall into the fallacy of over-estimating the
advantages of military training--with its fine air of set-up manliness
and restrained yet vitalised discipline--because we are mostly
compelled to compare such training with the lack of training fostered
by that tame, dull sedentary routine of which there is far too much in
our present phase of civilisation. The remedy lies in stimulating the
heroic and strenuous sides of civilisation rather than in letting
loose the ravages of war. As Nietzsche long since pointed out (_Human,
All-too-Human_, section 442), the vaunted national armies of modern
times are merely a method of squandering the most highly civilised
men, whose delicately organised brains have been slowly produced
through long generations; "in our day greater and higher tasks are
assigned to men than _patria_ and _honor_, and the rough old Roman
patriotism has become dishonourable, at the best behind the times."

[10] The Border of Scotland and England was in ancient times, it has
been said, "a very Paradise for murderers and robbers." The war-like
spirit was there very keen and deeds of daring were not too scrupulously
effected, for the culprit knew that nothing was easier and safer than to
become an outlaw on the other side of the Border. Yet these were the
conditions that eventually made the Border one of the great British
centres of genius (the Welsh Border was another) and the home of a
peculiarly capable and vigorous race.



There are some idealistic persons who believe that morality and war
are incompatible. War is bestial, they hold, war is devilish; in its
presence it is absurd, almost farcical, to talk about morality. That
would be so if morality meant the code, for ever unattained, of the
Sermon on the Mount. But there is not only the morality of Jesus, there
is the morality of Mumbo Jumbo. In other words, and limiting ourselves
to the narrower range of the civilised world, there is the morality of
Machiavelli and Bismarck, and the morality of St. Francis and Tolstoy.

The fact is, as we so often forget, and sometimes do not even know,
morality is fundamentally custom, the _mores_, as it has been called,
of a people. It is a body of conduct which is in constant motion, with
an exalted advance-guard, which few can keep up with, and a debased
rearguard, once called the black-guard, a name that has since acquired
an appropriate significance. But in the substantial and central sense
morality means the conduct of the main body of the community. Thus
understood, it is clear that in our time war still comes into contact
with morality. The pioneers may be ahead; the main body is in the thick
of it.

That there really is a morality of war, and that the majority of
civilised people have more or less in common a certain conventional
code concerning the things which may or may not be done in war, has
been very clearly seen during the present conflict. This moral code is
often said to be based on international regulations and understandings.
It certainly on the whole coincides with them. But it is the popular
moral code which is fundamental, and international law is merely an
attempt to enforce that morality.

The use of expanding bullets and poison gases, the poisoning of wells,
the abuse of the Red Cross and the White Flag, the destruction of
churches and works of art, the infliction of cruel penalties on
civilians who have not taken up arms--all such methods of warfare as
these shock popular morality. They are on each side usually attributed
to the enemy, they are seldom avowed, and only adopted in imitation of
the enemy, with hesitation and some offence to the popular conscience,
as we see in the case of poison gas, which was only used by the English
after long delay, while the French still hesitated. The general feeling
about such methods, even when involving scientific skill, is that they
are "barbarous."

As a matter of fact, this charge of "barbarism" against those methods
of warfare which shock our moral sense must not be taken too literally.
The methods of real barbarians in war are not especially "barbarous."
They have sometimes committed acts of cruelty which are revolting to us
to-day, but for the most part the excesses of barbarous warfare have
been looting and burning, together with more or less raping of women,
and these excesses have been so frequent within the last century, and
still to-day, that they may as well be called "civilised" as
"barbarous." The sack of Rome by the Goths at the beginning of the
fifth century made an immense impression on the ancient world, as an
unparalleled outrage. St. Augustine in his _City of God_, written
shortly afterwards, eloquently described the horrors of that time. Yet
to-day, in the new light of our own knowledge of what war may involve,
the ways of the ancient Goths seem very innocent. We are expressly told
that they spared the sacred Christian places, and the chief offences
brought against them seem to be looting and burning; yet the treasure
they left untouched was vast and incalculable and we should be thankful
indeed if any belligerent in the war of to-day inflicted as little
injury on a conquered city as the Goths on Rome. The vague rhetoric
which this invasion inspired scarcely seems to be supported by
definitely recorded facts, and there can be very little doubt that the
devastation wrought in many old wars exists chiefly in the writings of
rhetorical chroniclers whose imaginations were excited, as we may so
often see among the journalists of to-day, by the rumour of atrocities
which have never been committed. This is not to say that no devastation
and cruelty have been perpetrated in ancient wars. It seems to be
generally agreed that in the famous Thirty Years' War, which the
Germans fought against each other, atrocities were the order of the
day. We are constantly being told, in respect of some episode or other
of the war of to-day, that "nothing like it has been seen since the
Thirty Years' War." But the writers who make this statement, with an
off-hand air of familiar scholarship, never by any chance bring forward
the evidence for this greater atrociousness of the Thirty Years'
War,[1] and one is inclined to suspect that this oft-repeated allusion
to the Thirty Years' War as the acme of military atrocity is merely a
rhetorical flourish.

In any case we know that, not so many years after the Thirty Years'
War, Frederick the Great, who combined supreme military gifts with
freedom from scruple in policy, and was at the same time a great
representative German, declared that the ordinary citizen ought never
to be aware that his country is at war.[2] Nothing could show more
clearly the military ideal, however imperfectly it may sometimes have
been attained, of the old European world. Atrocities, whether regarded
as permissible or as inevitable, certainly occurred. But for the most
part wars were the concern of the privileged upper class; they were
rendered necessary by the dynastic quarrels of monarchs and were
carried out by a professional class with aristocratic traditions and a
more or less scrupulous regard to ancient military etiquette. There are
many stories of the sufferings of the soldiery in old times, in the
midst of abundance, on account of military respect for civilian
property. Von der Goltz remarks that "there was a time when the troops
camped in the cornfields and yet starved," and states that in 1806 the
Prussian main army camped close to huge piles of wood and yet had no
fires to warm themselves or cook their food.[3]

The legend, if legend it is, of the French officer who politely
requested the English officer opposite him to "fire first" shows how
something of the ancient spirit of chivalry was still regarded as the
accompaniment of warfare. It was an occupation which only incidentally
concerned the ordinary citizen. The English, especially, protected by
the sea and always living in open undefended cities, have usually been
able to preserve this indifference to the continental wars in which
their kings have constantly been engaged, and, as we see, even in the
most unprotected European countries, and the most profoundly warlike,
the Great Frederick set forth precisely the same ideal of war.

The fact seems to be that while war is nowadays less chronic than of
old, less prolonged, and less easily provoked, it is a serious fallacy
to suppose that it is also less barbarous. We imagine that it must be
so simply because we believe, on more or less plausible grounds, that
our life generally is growing less barbarous and more civilised. But
war, by its very nature, always means a relapse from civilisation into
barbarism, if not savagery.[4] We may sympathise with the endeavour of
the European soldiers of old to civilise warfare, and we may admire the
remarkable extent to which they succeeded in doing so. But we cannot
help feeling that their romantic and chivalrous notions of warfare were
absurdly incongruous.

The world in general might have been content with that incongruity. But
Germany, or more precisely Prussia, with its ancient genius for
warfare, has in the present war taken the decisive step in initiating
the abolition of that incongruity by placing warfare definitely on the
basis of scientific barbarism. To do this is, in a sense, we must
remember, not a step backwards, but a step forward. It involved the
recognition of the fact that War is not a game to be played for its own
sake, by a professional caste, in accordance with fixed rules which it
would be dishonourable to break, but a method, carried out by the whole
organised manhood of the nation, of effectively attaining an end
desired by the State, in accordance with the famous statement of
Clausewitz that war is State policy continued by a different method. If
by the chivalrous method of old, which was indeed in large part still
their own method in the previous Franco-German war, the Germans had
resisted the temptation to violate the neutrality of Luxemburg and
Belgium in order to rush behind the French defences, and had battered
instead at the Gap of Belfort, they would have won the sympathy of the
world, but they certainly would not have won the possession of the
greater part of Belgium and a third part of France. It has not alone
been military instinct which has impelled Germany on the new course
thus inaugurated. We see here the final outcome of a reaction against
ancient Teutonic sentimentality which the insight of Goldwin Smith
clearly discerned forty years ago.[5] Humane sentiments and civilised
traditions, under the moulding hand of Prussian leaders of Kultur,
have been slowly but firmly subordinated to a political realism which,
in the military sphere, means a masterly efficiency in the aim of
crushing the foe by overwhelming force combined with panic-striking
"frightfulness." In this conception, that only is moral which served
these ends. The horror which this "frightfulness" may be expected to
arouse, even among neutral nations, is from the German point of view a
tribute of homage.

The military reputation of Germany is so great in the world, and likely
to remain so, whatever the issue of the present war, that we are here
faced by a grave critical issue which concerns the future of the whole
world. The conduct of wars has been transformed before our eyes. In any
future war the example of Germany will be held to consecrate the new
methods, and the belligerents who are not inclined to accept the
supreme authority of Germany may yet be forced in their own interests
to act in accordance with it. The mitigating influence of religion over
warfare has long ceased to be exercised, for the international Catholic
Church no longer possesses the power to exert such influence, while the
national Protestant churches are just as bellicose as their flacks. Now
we see the influence of morality over warfare similarly tending to
disappear. Henceforth, it seems, we have to reckon with a conception of
war which accounts it a function of the supreme State, standing above
morality and therefore able to wage war independently of morality.
Necessity--the necessity of scientific effectiveness--becomes the sole
criterion of right and wrong.

When we look back from the standpoint of knowledge which we have
reached in the present war to the notions which prevailed in the past,
they seem to us hollow and even childish. Seventy years ago, Buckle, in
his _History of Civilisation_, stated complacently that only ignorant
and unintellectual nations any longer cherished ideals of war. His
statement was part of the truth. It is true, for instance, that France
is now the most anti-military of nations, though once the most military
of all. But, we see, it is only part of the truth. The very fact, which
Buckle himself pointed out, that efficiency has in modern times taken
the place of morality in the conduct of affairs, offers a new
foundation for war when war is urged on scientific principle for the
purpose of rendering effective the claims of State policy. To-day we
see that it is not sufficient for a nation to cultivate knowledge and
become intellectual, in the expectation that war will automatically go
out of fashion. It is quite possible to become very scientific, most
relentlessly intellectual, and on that foundation to build up ideals of
warfare much more barbarous than those of Assyria.

The conclusion seems to be that we are to-day entering on an era in
which war will not only flourish as vigorously as in the past, although
not in so chronic a form, but with an altogether new ferocity and
ruthlessness, with a vastly increased power of destruction, and on a
scale of extent and intensity involving an injury to civilisation and
humanity which no wars of the past ever perpetrated. Moreover, this
state of things imposes on the nations which have hitherto, by their
temper, their position, or their small size, regarded themselves as
nationally neutral, a new burden of armament in order to ensure that
neutrality. It has been proclaimed on both sides that this war is a war
to destroy militarism. But the disappearance of a militarism that is
only destroyed by a greater militarism offers no guarantee at all for
any triumph of Civilisation or Humanity.

What then are we to do? It seems clear that we have to recognise that
our intellectual leaders of old who declared that to ensure the
disappearance of war we have but to sit still and fold our hands while
we watch the beneficent growth of science and intellect were grievously
mistaken. War is still one of the active factors of modern life, though
by no means the only factor which it is in our power to grasp and
direct. By our energetic effort the world can be moulded. It is the
concern of all of us, and especially of those nations which are strong
enough and enlightened enough to take a leading part in human affairs,
to work towards the initiation and the organisation of this immense
effort. In so far as the Great War of to-day acts as a spur to such
effort it will not have been an unmixed calamity.

[1] In so far as it may have been so, that seems merely due to its
great length, to the fact that the absence of commissariat arrangements
involved a more thorough method of pillage, and to epidemics.

[2] Treitschke, _History of Germany_ (English translation by E. and C.
Paul), Vol. I., p. 87.

[3] Von der Goltz, _The Nation in Arms_, pp. 14 _et seq._ This attitude
was a final echo of the ancient Truce of God. That institution, which
was first definitely formulated in the early eleventh century in
Roussillon and was soon confirmed by the Pope in agreement with nobles
and barons, was extended to the whole of Christendom before the end of
the century. It ordained peace for several days a week and on many
festivals, and it guaranteed the rights and liberties of all those
following peaceful avocations, at the same time protecting crops,
live-stock, and farm implements.

[4] It is interesting to observe how St. Augustine, who was as familiar
with classic as with Christian life and thought, perpetually dwells on
the boundless misery of war and the supreme desirability of peace as a
point at which pagan and Christian are at one; "Nihil gratius soleat
audiri, nihil desiderabilius concupisci, nihil postremo possit melius
inveniri ... Sicut nemo est qui gaudere nolit, ita nemo est qui pacem
habere nolit" (_City of God_, Bk. XIX., Chs. 11-12).

[5] _Contemporary Review_, 1878.



The cheerful optimism of those pacifists who looked for the speedy
extinction of war has lately aroused much scorn. There really seem to
have been people who believed that new virtues of loving-kindness are
springing up in the human breast to bring about the universal reign of
peace spontaneously, while we all still continued to cultivate our old
vices of international greed, suspicion, and jealousy. Dr. Frederick
Adams Woods, in the challenging and stimulating study of the prevalence
of war in Europe from 1450 to the present day which he has lately
written in conjunction with Mr. Alexander Baltzly, easily throws
contempt upon such pacifists. All their beautiful arguments, he tells
us in effect, count for nothing. War is to-day raging more furiously
than ever in the world, and it is even doubtful whether it is
diminishing. That is the subject of the book Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly
have written: _Is War Diminishing?_

The method adopted by these authors is to count up the years of war
since 1450 for each of the eleven chief nations of Europe possessing an
ancient history, and to represent the results by the aid of charts.
These charts show that certainly there has been a great falling off in
war during the period in question. Wars, as there presented to us, seem
to have risen to a climax in the century 1550-1650 and to have been
declining ever since. The authors, themselves, however, are not quite
in sympathy with their own conclusion. "There is only," Dr. Woods
declares, "a moderate amount of probability in favour of declining
war." He insists on the fact that the period under investigation
represents but a very small fraction of the life of man. He finds that
if we take England several centuries further back, and compare its
number of war-years during the last four centuries with those during
the preceding four centuries, the first period shows 212 years of war,
the second shows 207 years, a negligible difference, while for France
the corresponding number of war-years are 181 and 192, an actual and
rather considerable increase. There is the further consideration that
if we regard not frequency but intensity of war--if we could, for
instance, measure a war by its total number of casualties--we should
doubtless find that wars are showing a tendency to ever-increasing
gravity. On the whole, Dr. Woods is clearly rather discontented with
the tendency of his own and his collaborator's work to show a
diminution of war, and modestly casts doubt on all those who believe
that the tendency of the world's history is in the direction of such a

An honest and careful record of facts, however, is always valuable. Dr.
Woods' investigation will be found useful even by those who are by no
means anxious to throw cold water over the too facile optimism of some
pacifists, and this little book suggests lines of thought which may
prove fruitful in various directions, not always foreseen by the

Dr. Woods emphasises the long period in the history of the human race
during which war has flourished. He seems to suggest that war, after
all, may be an essential and beneficial element in human affairs,
destined to endure to the end, just as it has been present from the
beginning. But has it been present from the beginning? Even though war
may have flourished for many thousands of years--and it was certainly
flourishing at the dawn of history--we are still very far indeed from
the dawn of human life or even of human civilisation, for the more our
knowledge of the past grows the more remote that dawn is seen to be. It
is not only seen to be very remote, it is seen to be very important.
Darwin said that it was during the first three years of life that a man
learnt most. That saying is equally true of humanity as a whole, though
here one must translate years into hundreds of thousands of years. But
neither infant man nor infant mankind could establish themselves firmly
on the path that leads so far if they had at the very outset, in
accordance with Dr. Woods' formula for more recent ages, "fought about
half the time." An activity of this kind which may be harmless, or even
in some degree beneficial at a later stage, would be fatally disastrous
at an early stage. War, as Mankind understands war, seems to have no
place among animals living in Nature. It seems equally to have had no
place, so far as investigation has yet been able to reveal, in the life
of early man. Men were far too busy in the great fight against Nature
to fight against each other, far too absorbed in the task of inventing
methods of self-preservation to have much energy left for inventing
methods of self-destruction. It was once supposed that the Homeric
stories of war presented a picture of life near the beginning of the
world. The Homeric picture in fact corresponds to a stage in human
barbarism, certainly in its European manifestation, a stage also passed
through in Northern Europe, where, nearly fifteen hundred years ago,
the Greek traveller, Posidonius, found the Celtic chieftains in Britain
living much like the people in Homer. But we now know that Homer, so
far from bringing before us a primitive age, really represents the end
of a long stage of human development, marked by a slow and steady
growth in civilisation and a vast accumulation of luxury. War is a
luxury, in other words a manifestation of superfluous energy, not
possible in those early stages when all the energies of men are taken
up in the primary business of preserving and maintaining life. So it
was that war had a beginning in human history. Is it unreasonable to
suppose that it will also have an end?

There is another way, besides that of counting the world's war-years,
to determine the probability of the diminution and eventual
disappearance of war. We may consider the causes of war, and the extent
to which these causes are, or are not, ceasing to operate. Dr. Woods
passingly realises the importance of this test and even enumerates what
he considers to be the causes of war, without, however, following up
his clue. As he reckons them, they are four in number: racial,
economic, religious, and personal. There is frequently a considerable
amount of doubt concerning the cause of a particular war, and no doubt
the causes are usually mixed and slowly accumulative, just as in
disease a number of factors may have gradually combined to bring on the
sudden overthrow of health. There can be no doubt that the four causes
enumerated have been very influential in producing war. There can,
however, be equally little doubt that nearly all of them are
diminishing in their war-producing power. Religion, which after the
Reformation seemed to foment so many wars, is now practically almost
extinct as a cause of war in Europe. Economic causes which were once
regarded as good and sound motives for war have been discredited,
though they cannot be said to be abolished; in the Middle Ages fighting
was undoubtedly a most profitable business, not only by the booty which
might thus be obtained, but by the high ransoms which even down to the
seventeenth century might be legitimately demanded for prisoners. So
that war with France was regarded as an English gentleman's best method
of growing rich. Later it was believed that a country could capture the
"wealth" of another country by destroying that country's commerce, and
in the eighteenth century that doctrine was openly asserted even by
responsible statesmen; later, the growth of political economy made
clear that every nation flourishes by the prosperity of other nations,
and that by impoverishing the nation with which it traded a nation
impoverishes itself, for a tradesman cannot grow rich by killing his
customers. So it came about that, as Mill put it, the commercial
spirit, which during one period of European history was the principal
cause of war, became one of its strongest obstacles, though, since Mill
wrote, the old fallacy that it is a legitimate and advantageous method
to fight for markets, has frequently reappeared.[1] Again, the personal
causes of war, although in a large measure incalculable, have much
smaller scope under modern conditions than formerly. Under ancient
conditions, with power centred in despotic monarchs or autocratic
ministers, the personal causes of war counted for much. In more recent
times it has been said, truly or falsely, that the Crimean War was due
to the wounded feelings of a diplomatist. Under modern conditions,
however, the checks on individual initiative are so many that personal
causes must play an ever-diminishing part in war.

The same can scarcely be said as regards Dr. Woods' remaining cause of
war. If by racialism we are to understand nationalism, this has of late
been a serious and ever-growing provocative of war. Internationalism of
feeling is much less marked now than it was four centuries ago.
Nationalities have developed a new self-consciousness, a new impulse to
regain their old territories or to acquire new territories. Not only
Pan-Germanism, Pan-Slavism, and British Imperialism, like all other
imperialisms, but even the national ambitions of some smaller Powers
have acquired a new and dangerous energy. They are not the less
dangerous when, as is indeed most frequently the case, they merely
represent the ambition, not of the people as a whole, but merely of a
military or bureaucratic clique, of a small chauvinistic group, yet
noisy and energetic enough to win over unscrupulous politicians. A
German soldier, a young journalist of ability, recently wrote home from
the trenches: "I have often dreamed of a new Europe in which all the
nations would be fraternally united and live together as one people; it
was an end which democratic feeling seemed to be slowly preparing. Now
this terrible war has been unchained, fomented by a few men who are
sending their subjects, their slaves rather, to the battlefield, to
slay each other like wild beasts. I should like to go towards these men
they call our enemies and say, 'Brothers, let us fight together. The
enemy is behind us.' Yes, since I have been wearing this uniform I feel
no hatred for those who are in front, but my hatred has grown for those
in power who are behind." That is a sentiment which must grow mightily
with the growth of democracy, and as it grows the danger of nationalism
as a cause of war must necessarily decrease.

There is, however, one group of causes of war, of the first importance,
which Dr. Woods has surprisingly omitted, and that is the group of
political causes. It is by overlooking the political aspects of war
that Dr. Woods' discussion is most defective. Supposed political
necessity has been in modern times perhaps the very chief cause of war.
That is to say that wars are largely waged for what has been supposed
to be the protection, or the furtherance, of the civilised organisation
which orders the temporal benefits of a nation. This is admirably
illustrated by all three of the great European wars in which England
has taken part during the past four centuries: the war against Spain,
the war against France, and the present war against Germany. The
fundamental motive of England's participation in all these wars has
been what was conceived to be the need of England's safety, it was
essentially political. A small island Power, dependent on its fleet,
and yet very closely adjoining the continental mainland, is vitally
concerned in the naval developments of possibly hostile Powers and in
the military movements which affect the opposite coast. Spain, France,
and Germany all successively threatened England by a formidable fleet,
and they all sought to gain possession of the coast opposite England.
To England, therefore, it seemed a measure of political self-defence to
strike a blow as each fresh menace arose. In every case Belgium has
been the battlefield on land. The neutrality of Belgium is felt to be
politically vital to England. Therefore, the invasion of Belgium by a
Great Power is to England an immediate signal of war. It is not only
England's wars that have been mainly political; the same is true of
Germany's wars ever since Prussia has had the leadership of Germany.
The political condition of a country without natural frontiers and
surrounded by powerful neighbours is a perpetual source of wars which,
in Germany's case, have been, by deliberate policy, offensively

When we realise the fundamental importance of the political causation
of warfare, the whole problem of the ultimate fate of war becomes at
once more hopeful. The orderly growth and stability of nations has in
the past seemed to demand war. But war is not the only method of
securing these ends, and to most people nowadays it scarcely seems the
best method. England and France have fought against each other for many
centuries. They are now convinced that they really have nothing to
fight about, and that the growth and stability of each country are
better ensured by friendship than by enmity. There cannot be a doubt of
it. But where is the limit to the extension of that same principle?
France and Germany, England and Germany, have just as much to lose by
enmity, just as much to gain by friendship, and alike on both sides.

The history of Europe and the charts of Mr. Baltzly clearly show that
this consideration has really been influential. We find that there is a
progressive tendency for the nations of Europe to abandon warfare.
Sweden, Denmark, and Holland, all vigorous and warlike peoples, have
long ceased to fight. They have found their advantage in the
abandonment of war, but that abandonment has been greatly stimulated by
awe of their mightier neighbours. And therein, again, we have a clue to
the probable course of the future.

For when we realise that the fundamental political need of
self-preservation and good order has been a main cause of warfare, and
when we further realise that the same ends may be more satisfactorily
attained without war under the influence of a sufficiently firm
external pressure working in harmony with the growth of internal
civilisation, we see that the problem of fighting among nations is the
same as that of fighting among individuals. Once upon a time good order
and social stability were maintained in a community by the method of
fighting among the individuals constituting the community. No doubt all
sorts of precious virtues were thus generated, and no doubt in the
general opinion no better method seemed possible or even conceivable.
But, as we know, with the development of a strong central Power, and
with the growth of enlightenment, it was realised that political
stability and good order were more satisfactorily maintained by a
tribunal, having a strong police force behind it, than by the method of
allowing the individuals concerned to fight out their quarrels between

Fighting between national groups of individuals stands on precisely the
same footing as fighting between individuals. The political stability
and good order of nations, it is beginning to be seen, can be more
satisfactorily maintained by a tribunal, having a strong police force
behind it, than by the method of allowing the individual nations
concerned to fight out quarrels between themselves. The stronger
nations have for a large part imposed this peace upon the smaller
nations of Europe to the great benefit of the latter. How can we impose
a similar peace upon the stronger nations, for their own benefit and
for the benefit of the whole world? To that task all our energies must
be directed.

A long series of eminent thinkers and investigators, from Comte and
Buckle a century ago to Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly to-day, have assured
us that war is diminishing and even that the war-like spirit is
extinct. It is certainly not true that the war-like spirit is extinct,
even in the most civilised and peaceful peoples, and we need not desire
its extinction, for it is capable of transformation into shapes of the
finest use for humanity. But the vast conflagration of to-day must not
conceal from our eyes the great central fact that war is diminishing,
and will one day disappear as completely as the mediaeval scourge of
the Black Death. To reach this consummation all the best humanising and
civilising energies of mankind will be needed.

[1] It has been argued (as by Filippi Carli, _La Ricchezza e la Guerra_,
1916) that the Germans are especially unable to understand that the
prosperity of other countries is beneficial to them, whether or not
under German control, and that they differ from the English and French
in believing that economic conquests should involve political conquests.



During recent years the faith had grown among progressive persons in
various countries, not excluding Germany, that civilisation was building
up almost impassable barriers against any great war. These barriers were
thought to be of various kinds, even apart from the merely sentimental
and humanitarian developments of pacific feeling. They were especially
of an economic kind, and that on a double basis, that of Capital and
that of Labour. It was believed, on the one hand, that the international
ramifications of Capital, and the complicated commercial and financial
webs which bind nations together, would cause so vivid a realisation of
the disasters of war as to erect a wholesomely steadying effect whenever
the danger of war loomed in sight. On the other hand, it was felt that
the international unity of interest among the workers, the growth of
Labour's favourite doctrine that there is no conflict between nations,
but only between classes, and even the actual international organisation
and bonds of the workers' associations, would interpose a serious menace
to the plans of war-makers. These influences were real and important.
But, as we know, when the decisive moment came, the diplomatists and the
militarists were found to be at the helm, to steer the ship of State in
each country concerned, and those on board had no voice in determining
the course. In England only can there be said to have been any show of
consulting Parliament, but at that moment the situation had already so
far developed that there was little left but to accept it. The Great War
of to-day has shown that such barriers against war as we at present
possess may crumble away in a moment at the shock of the war-making

We are to-day forced to undertake a more searching inquiry into the
forces which, in civilisation, operate against war. I wish to call
attention here to one such influence of fundamental character, which has
not been unrecognised, but possesses an importance we are often apt to

"A French gentleman, well acquainted with the constitution of his
country," wrote Thicknesse in 1776,[1] "told me above eight years since
that France increased so rapidly in peace that they must necessarily
have a war every twelve or fourteen years to carry off the refuse of the
people." Recently a well-known German Socialist, Dr. Eduard David,
member of the Reichstag and a student of the population question,
setting forth the same great truth (in _Die Neue Generation_ for
November, 1914) states that it would have been impossible for Germany to
wage the present war if it had not been for the high German birth-rate
during the past half-century. And the impossibility of this war would,
for Dr. David, have been indeed tragic.

A more distinguished social hygienist, Professor Max Gruber, of Munich,
who took a leading part in organising that marvellous Exposition of
Hygiene at Dresden which has been Germany's greatest service to real
civilisation in recent years, lately set forth an identical opinion.
The war, he declares, was inevitable and unavoidable, and Germany was
responsible for it, not, he hastens to add, in any moral sense, but in a
biological sense, because in forty-four years Germans have increased in
numbers from forty millions to eighty millions. The war was, therefore,
a "biological necessity."

If we survey the belligerent nations in the war we may say that those
which took the initiative in drawing it on, or at all events were most
prepared to welcome it, were Russia, Austria, Germany, and Serbia. We
may also note that these include nearly all the nations in Europe with a
high birth-rate. We may further note that they are all nations
which--putting aside their cultural summits and taking them in the
mass--are among the most backward in Europe; the fall in the birth-rate
has not yet had time to permeate them. On the other hand, of the
belligerent peoples of to-day, all indications point to the French as
the people most intolerant, silently but deeply, of the war they are so
ably and heroically waging. Yet the France of the present, with the
lowest birth-rate and the highest civilisation, was a century ago the
France of a birth-rate higher than that of Germany to-day, the most
militarist and aggressive of nations, a perpetual menace to Europe. For
all those among us who have faith in civilisation and humanity, and are
unable to believe that war can ever be a civilising or humanising method
of progress, it must be a daily prayer that the fall of the birth-rate
may be hastened.

It seems too elementary a point to insist on, yet the mists of ignorance
and prejudice are so dense, the cataract of false patriotism is so
thick, that for many even the most elementary truths cannot be
discerned. In most of the smaller nations, indeed, an intelligent view
prevails. Their smallness has, on the one hand, rendered them more open
to international culture, and, on the other hand, enabled them to
outgrow the illusions of militarism; there is a higher standard of
education among them; their birth-rates are low and they accept that
fact as a condition of progressive civilisation. That is the case in
Switzerland, as in Norway, and notably in Holland. It is not so in the
larger nations. Here we constantly find, even in those lands where the
bulk of the population are civilised and reasonably level-headed, a small
minority who publicly tear their hair and rage at the steady decline in
the birth-rate. It is, of course, only the declining birth-rate of their
own country that they have in view; for they are "patriots," which means
that the fall of the birth-rate in all other countries but their own is
a source of much gratification. "Woe to us," they exclaim in effect, "if
we follow the example of these wicked and degenerate peoples! Our nation
needs men. We have to populate the earth and to carry the blessings of
our civilised culture all over the world. In executing that high mission
we cannot have too much cannon-fodder in defending ourselves against the
jealousy and aggression of other nations. Let us promote parentage by
law; let us repress by law every influence which may encourage a falling
birth-rate; otherwise there is nothing left to us but speedy national
disaster, complete and irremediable." This is not caricature,[2] though
these apostles of "race-suicide" may easily arouse a smile by the verbal
ardour of their procreative energy. But we have to recognise that in
Germany for years past it has been difficult to take up a serious
periodical without finding some anxiously statistical article about the
falling birth-rate and some wild recommendations for its arrest, for it
is the militaristic German who of all Europeans is most worried by this
fall; indeed Germans often even refuse to recognise it. Thus to-day we
find Professor Gruber declaring that if the population of the German
Empire continues to grow at the rate of the first five years of the
present century, at the end of the century it will have reached
250,000,000. By such a vast increase in population, the Professor
complacently concludes, "Germany will be rendered invulnerable." We know
what that means. The presence of an "invulnerable" nation among nations
that are "vulnerable" means inevitable aggression and war, a perpetual
menace to civilisation and humanity. It is not along that line that hope
can be found for the world's future, or even Germany's future, and
Gruber conveniently neglects to estimate what, on his basis, the
population of Russia will be at the end of the century. But Gruber's
estimate is altogether fallacious. German births have fallen, roughly
speaking, about one per thousand of the population, every year since the
beginning of the century, and it would be equally reasonable to estimate
that if they continue to fall at the present rate (which we cannot, of
course, anticipate) births will altogether have ceased in Germany long
before the end of the century. The German birth-rate reached its climax
forty years ago (1871-1880) with 40.7 per 1,000; in 1906 it was 34 per
1,000; in 1909, 31 per 1,000; in 1912, 28 per 1,000; in an almost
measurable period of time, in all probability long before the end of the
century, it will have reached the same low level as that of France, when
there will be little difference between the "invulnerability" of France
and of Germany, a consummation which, for the world's sake, is far more
devoutly to be wished than that anticipated by Gruber.

We have to remember, moreover, that this tendency is by no means, as we
are sometimes tempted to suppose, a sign of degeneration or of decay;
but, on the contrary, a sign of progress. When we survey broadly that
course of zoological evolution of which we are pleased to regard Man as
the final outcome, we note that on the whole the mighty stream has
become the less productive as it has advanced. We note the same of the
various lines taken separately. We note, also, that intelligence and all
the qualities we admire have usually been most marked in the less
prolific species. Progress, roughly speaking, has proved incompatible
with high fertility. And the reason is not far to seek. If the creature
produced is more evolved, it is more complex and more highly organised,
and that means the need for much time and much energy. To attain this,
the offspring must be few and widely spaced; it cannot be attained at
all under conditions that are highly destructive. The humble herring,
which evokes the despairing envy of our human apostles of fertility, is
largely composed of spawn, and produces a vast number of offspring, of
which few reach maturity. The higher mammals spend their lives in the
production of a small number of offspring, most of whom survive. Thus,
even before Man began, we see a fundamental principle established, and
the relationship between the birth-rate and the death-rate in working
order. All progressive evolution may be regarded as a mechanism for
concentrating an ever greater amount of energy in the production of ever
fewer and ever more splendid individuals. Nature is perpetually striving
to replace the crude ideal of quantity by the higher ideal of quality.

In human history these same tendencies have continually been
illustrated. The Greeks, our pioneers in all insight and knowledge,
grappled (as Professor Myres has lately set forth[3]), and realised that
they were grappling, with this same problem. Even in the Minoan Age
their population would appear to have been full to overflowing; "there
were too many people in the world," and to the old Greeks the Trojan War
was the earliest divinely-appointed remedy. Wars, famines, pestilences,
colonisation, wide-spread infanticide were the methods, voluntary and
involuntary, by which this excessive birth-rate was combated, while the
greatest of Greek philosophers, a Plato or an Aristotle, clearly saw
that a regulated and limited birth-rate, a eugenically improved race, is
the road to higher civilisation. We may even see in Greek antiquity how
a sudden rise in industrialism leads to a crowded and fertile urban
population, the extension of slavery, and all the resultant evils. It
was a foretaste of what was seen during the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, when a sudden industrial expansion led to an enormously high
birth-rate, a servile urban proletariat (that very word indicates, as
Roscher has pointed out, that a large family means inferiority), and a
consequent outburst of misery and degradation from which we are only now

As we are now able to realise, the sudden expansion of the population
accompanying the industrial revolution was an abnormal and, from the
point of view of society, a morbid phenomenon. All the evidence goes to
show that previously the population tended to increase very slowly, and
social evolution was thus able to take place equably and harmoniously.
It is only gradually that the birth-rate has begun to right itself
again. The movement, as is well known, began in France, always the most
advanced outpost of European civilisation. It has now spread to England,
to Germany, to all Europe, to the whole world indeed, in so far as the
world is in touch with European civilisation, and has long been well
marked in the United States.

When we realise this we are also enabled to realise how futile, how
misplaced, and how mischievous it is to raise the cry of "Race-suicide."
It is futile because no outcry can affect a world-wide movement of
civilisation. It is misplaced because the rise and fall of the
population is not a matter of the birth-rate alone, but of the
birth-rate combined with the death-rate, and while we cannot expect to
touch the former we can influence the latter. It is mischievous because
by fighting against a tendency which is not only inevitable but
altogether beneficial, we blind ourselves to the advance of civilisation
and risk the misdirection of all our energies. How far this blindness
may be carried we see in the false patriotism of those who in the
decline of the birth-rate fancy they see the ruin of their own
particular country, oblivious of the fact that we are concerned with a
phenomenon of world-wide extension.

The whole tendency of civilisation is to reduce the birth-rate, as
Leroy-Beaulieu concludes in his comprehensive work on the population
question. We may go further, and assert with the distinguished German
economist, Roscher, that the chief cause of the superiority of a highly
civilised State over lower stages of civilisation is precisely a greater
degree of forethought and self-control in marriage and child-bearing.[4]
Instead of talking about race-suicide, we should do well to observe at
what an appalling rate, even yet, the population is increasing, and we
should note that it is everywhere the poorest and most primitive
countries, and in every country (as in Germany) the poorest regions,
which show the highest birth-rate. On every hand, however, are hopeful
signs. Thus, in Russia, where a very high birth-rate is to some extent
compensated by a very high death-rate--the highest infantile death-rate
in Europe--the birth-rate is falling, and we may anticipate that it will
fall very rapidly with the extension of education and social
enlightenment among the masses. Driven out of Europe, the alarmist falls
back on the "Yellow Peril." But in Japan we find amid confused
variations of the birth-rate and the death-rate nothing to indicate any
alarming expansion of the population, while as to China we are in the
dark. We only know that in China there is a high birth-rate largely
compensated by a very high death-rate. We also know, however, that as
Lowes Dickinson has lately reminded us, "the fundamental attitude of the
Chinese towards life is that of the most modern West,"[5] and we shall
probably find that with the growth of enlightenment the Chinese will
deal with their high birth-rate in a far more radical and thorough
manner than we have ever ventured on.

One last resort the would-be patriotic alarmist seeks when all others
fail. He is good enough to admit that a general decline in the
birth-rate might be beneficial. But, he points out, it affects social
classes unequally. It is initiated, not by the degenerate and the unfit,
whom we could well dispense with, but by the very best classes in the
community, the well-to-do and the educated. One is inclined to remark,
at once, that a social change initiated by its best social classes is
scarcely likely to be pernicious. Where, it may be asked, if not among
the most educated classes, is any process of amelioration to be
initiated? We cannot make the world topsy-turvy to suit the convenience
of topsy-turvy minds. All social movements tend to begin at the top and
to permeate downwards. This has been the case with the decline in the
birth-rate, but it is already well marked among the working classes, and
has only failed to touch the lowest social stratum of all, too
weak-minded and too reckless to be amenable to ordinary social motives.
The rational method of meeting this situation is not a propaganda in
favour of procreation--a truly imbecile propaganda, since it is only
carried out and only likely to be carried out, by the very class which
we wish to sterilise--but by a wise policy of regulative eugenics. We
have to create the motives, and it is not an impossible task, which will
act even upon the weak-minded and reckless lowest social stratum.

These facts have a significance which many of us have failed to realise.
The Great War has brought home the gravity of that significance. It has
been the perpetual refrain of the Pan-Germanists for many years that the
vast and sudden expansion of the German peoples makes necessary a new
movement of the German nations into the world and a new enlargement of
frontiers, in other words, War. It is not only among the Germans, though
among them it may have been more conscious, that a similar cause has led
to the like result. It has ever been so. The expanding nation has always
been a menace to the world and to itself. The arrest of the falling
birth-rate, it cannot be too often repeated, would be the arrest of all
civilisation and of all humanity.

[1] Ralph Thicknesse, _A Year's Journey Through France and Spain_, 1777,
p. 298.

[2] The last twelve words quoted are by Miss Ethel Elderton in an
otherwise sober memoir (_Report on the English Birth-rate_, 1914, p.
237) which shows that the birth control movement has begun, just where
we should expect it to begin, among the better instructed classes.

[3] J.L. Myres, "The Causes of Rise and Fall in the Population of the
Ancient World," Eugenics Review, April, 1915.

[4] Roscher, _Grundlagen der National—konomie_, 23rd ed., 1900, Bk. VI.

[5] G. Lowes Dickinson, _The Civilisation of India, China, and Japan_,
1914, p. 47.



When we read our newspapers to-day we are constantly met by ingenious
plans for bringing to an end the activities of Germany after the War.
German military activity, it is universally agreed, must be brought to an
end; Germany will have no further need of a military system save on the
most modest scale. Germany must also be deprived of any colonial empire
and shut out from eastward expansion. That being the case, Germany no
longer needs a fleet, and must be brought back to Bismarck's naval
attitude. Moreover, the industrial activities of Germany must also be
destroyed; the Allied opponents of Germany will henceforth manufacture
for themselves or for one another the goods they have hitherto been so
foolish as to obtain from Germany, and though this may mean cutting
themselves aloof from the country which has hitherto been their own best
customer, that is a sacrifice to be cheerfully borne for the sake of
principle. It is further argued that the world has no need of German
activities in science; they are, it appears, much less valuable than we
had been led to believe, and in any case no self-respecting people would
encourage a science tainted by Kultur. The puzzled reader of these
arguments, overlooking the fallacies they contain, may perhaps sometimes
be tempted to ask: But what are Germans to be allowed to do? The implied
answer is clear: Nothing.

The writers who urge these arguments with such conviction may be
supposed to have an elementary knowledge of the history of the
Germans. We are concerned, that is to say, with a people which has
displayed an irrepressible energy, in one field or another, ever since
the time, more than fifteen hundred years ago, when it excited the
horror of the civilised world by sacking Rome. The same energy was
manifested, a thousand years later, when the Germans again knocked at
the door of Rome and drew away half the world from its allegiance to
the Church. Still more recently, in yet other fields of industry and
commerce and colonisation, these same Germans have displayed their
energy by entering into more or less successful competition with that
"Modern Rome," as some have termed it, which has its seat in the
British Islands. Here is a people,--still youthful as we count age in
our European world, for even the Celts had preceded them by nearly a
thousand years,--which has successfully displayed its explosive or
methodical force in the most diverse fields, military, religious,
economic. From henceforth it is invited, by an allied army of
terrified journalists, to expend these stupendous and irresistible
energies on just Nothing.

We know, of course, what would happen were it possible to subject Germany
to any such process of attempted repression. Whenever an individual or a
mass of individuals is bidden to do nothing, it merely comes about that
the activities aimed at, far from being suppressed, are turned into
precisely the direction most unpleasant for the would-be suppressors.
When in 1870 the Germans tried to "crush" France, the result was the
reverse of that intended. The effects of "crushing" had been even more
startingly reverse, on the other side--and this may furnish us with a
precedent--when Napoleon trampled down Germany. Two centuries ago, after
the brilliant victories of Marlborough, it was proposed to crush
permanently the Militarism of France. But, as Swift wrote to Archbishop
King just before the Peace of Utrecht, "limiting France to a certain
number of ships and troops was, I doubt, not to be compassed." In spite
of the exhaustion of France it was not even attempted. In the present
case, when the war is over it is probable that Germany will still hold
sufficiently great pledges to bargain with in safeguarding her own vital
interests. If it were not so, if it were possible to inflict permanent
injury on Germany, that would be the greatest misfortune that could
happen to us; for it is clear that we should then be faced by a yet more
united and yet more aggressively military Germany than the world has
seen.[1] In Germany itself there is no doubt on this point. Germans are
well aware that German activities cannot be brought to a sudden full
stop, and they are also aware that even among Germany's present enemies
there are those who after the War will be glad to become her friends. Any
doubt or anxiety in the minds of thoughtful Germans is not concerning the
continued existence of German energy in the world, but concerning the
directions in which that energy will be exerted.

What is Germany's greatest danger? That is the subject of a pamphlet by
Rudolf Goldscheid, of Vienna, now published in Switzerland, with a
preface by Professor Forel, as originally written a year earlier,
because it is believed that in the interval its conclusions have been
confirmed by events.[2] Goldscheid is an independent and penetrating
thinker in the economic field, and the author of a book on the
principles of Social Biology (_Höherentwicklung und Menschenökonomie_)
which has been described by an English critic as the ablest defence of
Socialism yet written. By the nature of his studies he is concerned
with problems of human rather than merely national development, but he
ardently desires the welfare of Germany, and is anxious that that
welfare shall be on the soundest and most democratic basis. After the
War, he says, there must necessarily be a tendency to approximate
between the Central Powers and one or other of their present foes.
It is clear (though this point is not discussed) that Italy, whose
presence in the Triple Alliance was artificial, will not return, while
French resentment at German devastation is far too great to be appeased
for a long period to come. There remain, therefore, Russia and England.
After the War German interests and German sympathies must gravitate
either eastwards towards Russia or westwards towards England. Which is
it to be?

There are many reasons why Germany should gravitate towards Russia.
Such a movement was indeed already in active progress before the war,
notwithstanding Russia's alliance with France, and may easily become
yet more active after the war, when it is likely that the bonds between
Russia and France may grow weaker, and when it is possible that the
Germans, with their immense industry, economy and recuperative power,
may prove to be in the best position--unless America cuts in--to
finance Russia. Industrially Russia offers a vast field for German
enterprise which no other country can well snatch away, and German is
already to some extent the commercial language of Russia.[3]

Politically, moreover, a close understanding between the two supreme
autocratic and anti-democratic powers of Europe is of the greatest mutual
benefit, for any democratic movement within the borders of either Power
is highly inconvenient to the other, so that it is to the advantage of
both to stimulate each other in the task of repression.[4] It is this
aspect of the approximation which arouses Goldscheid's alarm. It is
mainly on this ground that he advocates a counter-balancing approximation
between Germany and England which would lay Germany open to the West and
serve to develop her latent democratic tendencies. He admits that at some
points the interests of Germany and England run counter to each other,
but at yet a greater number of points their interests are common. It is
only by the development of these common interests, and the consequent
permeation of Germany by democratic English ideas, that Goldscheid sees
any salvation from Czarism, for that is "Germany's greatest danger," and
at the same time the greatest danger to Europe.

That is Goldscheid's point of view. Our English point of view is
necessarily somewhat different. With our politically democratic
tendencies we see very little difference between Russia and Prussia. As
they are at present constituted, we have no wish to be in very close
political intimacy with either. It so happens, indeed, that, for the
moment, the chances of fellowship in War have brought us into a condition
of almost sentimental sympathy with the Russian people, such as has never
existed among us before. But this sympathy, amply justified, as all who
know Russia agree, is exclusively with the Russian people. It leaves the
Russian Government, the Russian bureaucracy, the Russian political
system, all that Goldscheid concentrates into the term "Czarism,"
severely alone. Our hostility to these may be for the moment latent, but
it is as profound as it ever was. Czarism is even more remote from our
sympathies than Kaiserism. All that has happened is that we cherish the
pious hope that Russia is becoming converted to our own ideas on these
points, although there is not the smallest item of solid fact to support
that hope. Otherwise, Russian oppression of the Finns is just as odious
to us as Prussian oppression of the Poles, and Russian persecution of
Liberals as alien as German persecution of War-prisoners.[5] Our future
policy, in the opinion of many, should, however, be to isolate Germany as
completely as possible from English influence and to cultivate closer
relations with Russia.[6] Such a policy, Goldscheid argues, will defeat
its own ends. The more stringently England holds aloof from Germany the
more anxiously will Germany cultivate good relationships with Russia.
Such relationships, as we know, are easy to cultivate, because they are
much in the interests of both countries which possess so large an extent
of common frontier and so admirably supply each other's needs; it may be
added also that the Russian commercial world is showing no keen desire to
enter into close relations with England. Moreover, after the War, we may
expect a weakening of French influence in Russia, for that influence was
largely based on French gold, and a France no longer able or willing to
finance Russia would no longer possess a strong hold over Russia. A
Russo-German understanding, difficult to prevent in any case, is inimical
to the interests of England, but it would be rendered inevitable by an
attempt on the part of England to isolate Germany.[7]

Such an attempt could not be carried out completely and would break down
on its weakest side, which is the East. So that the way lies open to a
League of the Three Kaisers, the Dreikaiserbündnis which would form a
great island fortress of militarism and reaction amid the surrounding sea
of democracy, able to repress those immense possibilities of progress
within its own walls which would have been liberated by contact with the
vital currents outside.

So long as the War lasts it is the interest of England to strike Germany
and to strike hard. That is here assumed as certain. But when the War
is over, it will no longer be in the interests of England, it will
indeed be directly contrary to those interests, to continue cultivating
hostility, provided, that is, that no rankling wounds are left. The
fatal mistake of Bismarck in annexing Alsace-Lorraine introduced a
poison into the European organism which is working still. But the
Russo-Japanese War produced a more amicable understanding than had
existed before, and the Boer War led to still more intimate
relationships between the belligerents. It may be thought that the
impression in England of German "frightfulness," and in Germany of
English "treachery," may prove ineffaceable. But the Germans have been
considered atrocious and the English perfidious for a long time past,
yet that has not prevented English and Germans fighting side by side at
Waterloo and on many another field; nor has it stood in the way of
German worship of the quintessential Englishman, Shakespeare, nor
English homage to the quintessential German Goethe.

The question of the future relations of England and Germany may,
indeed, be said to lie on a higher plane than that of interest and
policy, vitally urgent as their claims may be. It is the merit of
Goldscheid's little book that--with faith in a future United States of
Europe in which every country would develop its own peculiar aptitudes
freely and harmoniously--he is able to look at the War from that
European standpoint which is so rarely attained in England. He sees
that more is at stake than a mere question of national rivalries; that
democracy is at stake, and the whole future direction of civilisation.
He looks beyond the enmities of the moment, and he knows that, unless
we look beyond them, we not only condemn Europe to the prospect of
unending war, we do more: we ensure the triumph of Reaction and the
destruction of Democracy. "War and Reaction are brethren"; on that
point Goldscheid is very sure, and he foretells and laments the
temporary "demolition of Democracy" in England. We have only too much
reason to believe his prophetic words, for since he wrote we have had
a Coalition Government which is predominantly democratic, Liberal and
Labour, and yet has been fatally impelled towards reaction and
autocracy.[8] That the impulse is really fatal and inevitable we cannot
doubt, for we see exactly the same movement in France, and even in
Russia, where it might seem that reaction has so few triumphs to achieve.
"The blood of the battlefield is the stream that drives the mills of
Reaction." The elementary and fundamental fact that in Democracy the
officers obey the men, while in Militarism the men obey the officers,
is the key to the whole situation. We see at once why all reactionaries
are on the side of war and a military basis of society. The fate of
democracy in Europe hangs on this question of adequate pacification.
"Democratisation and Pacification march side by side."[9] Unless we
realise that fact we are not competent to decide on a sound European
policy. For there is an intimate connection between a country's external
policy and its internal policy. An internal reactionary policy means an
external aggressive policy. To shut out English influence from Germany,
to fortify German Junkerism and Militarism, to drive Germany into the
arms of a yet more reactionary Russia, is to create a perpetual menace,
alike to peace and to democracy, which involves the arrest of
civilisation. However magnanimous the task may seem to some, it is not
only the interest of England, but England's duty to Europe, to take the
initiative in preparing the ground for a clear and good understanding
with Germany. It is, moreover, only through England that France can be
brought into harmonious relations with Germany, and when Russia then
approaches her neighbour it will be in sympathy with her more progressive
Western Allies and not in reactionary response to a reactionary Germany.
It is along such lines as these that amid the confusion of the present we
may catch a glimpse of the Europe of the future.

We have to remember that, as Goldscheid reminds us, this War is making
all of us into citizens of the world. A world-wide outlook can no longer
be reserved merely for philosophers. Some of the old bridges, it is true,
have been washed away, but on every side walls are falling, and the petty
fears and rivalries of European nations begin to look worse than trivial
in the face of greater dangers. As our eyes begin to be opened we see
Europe lying between the nether millstone of Asia and the upper millstone
of America. It is not by constituting themselves a Mutual Suicide Club
that the nations of Europe will avoid that peril.[10] A wise and
far-seeing world-policy can alone avail, and the enemies of to-day will
see themselves compelled, even by the mere logic of events, to join hands
to-morrow lest a worse fate befall them. In so doing they may not only
escape possible destruction, but they will be taking the greatest step
ever taken in the organisation of the world. Which nation is to assume
the initiative in such combined organisation? That remains the fateful
question for Democracy.

[1] Treitschke in his _History_ (Bk. I., Ch. III.) has well described
"the elemental hatred which foreign injury pours into the veins of our
good-natured people, for ever pursued by the question: 'Art thou yet on
thy feet, Germania? Is the day of thy revenge at hand!'"

[2] Rudolf Goldscheid, _Deutschlands Grösste Gefahr_, Institut Orell
Füssli, Zürich, 1916.

[3] One may remark that up to the outbreak of war fifty per cent. of
the import trade of Russia has been with Germany. To suppose that that
immense volume of trade can suddenly be transferred after the war from
a neighbouring country which has intelligently and systematically
adapted itself to its requirements to a remote country which has never
shown the slightest aptitude to meet those requirements argues a
simplicity of mind which in itself may be charming, but when translated
into practical affairs it is stupendous folly.

[4] Sir Valentine Chirol remarks of Bismarck, in an Oxford Pamphlet on
"Germany and the Fear of Russia":--"Friendship with Russia was one of
the cardinal principles of his foreign policy, and one thing he always
relied upon to make Russia amenable to German influence was that she
should never succeed in healing the Polish sore."

[5] In making these observations on the Russians and the Prussians, I
do not, of course, overlook the fact that all nations, like

"Compound for sins they are inclined to
By damning those they have no mind to,"

and the English treatment of the conscientious objector in the Great
War has been just as odious as Russian treatment of the Finns or
Prussian treatment of war prisoners, and even more foolish, since it
strikes at our own most cherished principles.

[6] There is, indeed, another school which would like to shut off all
foreign countries by a tariff wall and make the British Empire mutually
self-supporting, on the economic basis adopted by those three old ladies
in decayed circumstances who subsisted by taking tea in one another's

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