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Principles of Freedom by Terence J. MacSwiney

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something which the mere logician can never deduce, and that mysterious
something is the explanation of his transformed life. He was a doubter,
a falterer, a failure; he has become a believer, a fighter, a conqueror.
You miss his significance completely when you take him for a theorist.
The theorist propounds a view to which he must convert the world; the
philosopher has a rule of life to immediately put into practice. His
spirit flashes with a swiftness that can be encircled by no theory. It
is his glory to have over and above a new penetrating argument in the
mind--a new and wonderful vitality in the blood. The unbeliever, near
by, still muddled by his cold theories, will argue and debate till his
intellect is in a tangle. He fails to see that a man of intellectual
agility might frame a theory and argue it out ably, and then suddenly
turn over and with equal dexterity argue the other side. Do we not have
set debates with speakers appointed on each side? That is dialectic--a
trick of the mind. But philosophy is the wine of the spirit. The
capacity then to argue the point is not the justification of a
philosophy. That justification must be found in the virtue of the
philosophy that gives its believer vision and grasp of life as a whole,
that warms and quickens his heart and makes him in spirit buoyant,
beautiful, wise and daring.

III

Let us come now to that burning question of consistency. "Very well, you
won't acknowledge the English Crown. Why then use English coins and
stamps? You don't recognise the Parliament at Westminster. Why then
recognise the County Councils created by Bill at Westminster? Why avail
of all the Local Government machinery?"--and so forth. The argument is a
familiar one, and the answer is simple. Though no guns are thundering
now, Ireland is virtually in a state of war. We are fighting to recover
independence. The enemy has had to relax somewhat in the exigencies of
the struggle and to concede all these positions of local government and
enterprise now in question. We take these posts as places conceded in
the fight and avail of them to strengthen, develop and uplift the
country and prepare her to carry the last post. Surely this is adequate.
On a field of battle it is always to the credit of a general to capture
an enemy's post and use it for the final victory. It is a sign of the
battle's progress, and tells the distant watchers on the hills how the
fight is faring and who is going to win. There would be consternation
away from the field only if word should come that the soldiers had gone
into the tents of the enemy, acknowledging him and accepting his flag.
That is the point to question. There can be no defence for the occupying
of any post conceded by the enemy. It may be held for or against
Ireland; any man accepting it and surrendering his flag to hold it
stands condemned thereby. That is clear. Yet it may be objected that
such a clear choice is not put to most of those undertaking the local
government of Ireland, that few are conscious of such an issue and few
governed by it. It is true. But for all that the machinery of local
government is clearly under popular control, and as clearly worked for
an immediate good, preparing for a greater end. Men unaware of it are
unconsciously working for the general development of the country and
recovering her old power and influence. Those conscious of the deeper
issue enter every position to further that development and make the end
obvious when the alien Government--finding those powers conceded to sap
further resistance are on the contrary used to conquer wider
fields--endeavours to force the popular government back to the purposes
of an old and failing tyranny. That is the nature of the struggle now.
At periods the enemy tries to stem the movement, and then the fight
becomes general and keen around a certain position. In our time there
were the Land Leagues, the Land War, fights for Home Rule,
Universities, Irish; and these fights ended in Land Acts, Local
Government Acts, University Acts, and the conceding of pride of place to
the native language in university life. Every position gained is a step
forward; it is accepted as such, and so is justified. For anyone who
grasps the serious purpose of recovering Ireland's independence all
along the line, the suggestion that we should abandon all machinery of
local government and enterprise--because they are "Government
positions"--to men definitely attached to the alien garrison is so
foolish as not to be even entertained. When our attitude is questioned
let it be made clear. That is the final answer to the man who challenges
our consistency: we are carrying the trenches of the enemy.

IV

Even while dismissing a false idea of consistency we have to make clear
another view still remote from the general mind. If we are to have an
effective army of freedom we must enrol only men who have a clear
conception of the goal, a readiness to yield full allegiance, and a
determination to fight always so as to reflect honour on the flag. The
importance of this will be felt only when we come to deal with concrete
cases. While human nature is what it is we will have always on the
outskirts of every movement a certain type of political adventurer who
is ready to transfer his allegiance from one party to another according
as he thinks the time serves. He has no principle but to be always with
the ascendant party, and to succeed in that aim he is ready to court and
betray every party in turn. As a result, he is a character well known to
all. The honest man who has been following the wrong path, and after
earnest inquiry comes to the flag, we readily distinguish. But it is
fatal to any enterprise where the adventurer is enlisted and where his
influence is allowed to dominate. It may seem strange that such men are
given entry to great movements: the explanation is found in the desire
of pioneers to make converts at once and convince the unconverted by the
confidence of growing numbers. We ignore the danger to our growing
strength when the adventurer comes along, loud in protest of his
support--he is always affable and plausible, and is received as a "man
of experience"; and in our anxiety for further strength we are apt to
admit him without reserve. But we must make sure of our man. We must
keep in mind that an alliance with the adventurer is more dangerous than
his opposition; and we must remember the general public, typified by the
man in the street whom we wish to convince, is quietly studying us,
attracted perhaps by our principles and coming nearer to examine. If he
knows nothing else, he knows the unprincipled man, and when he sees such
in our ranks and councils he will not wait to argue or ask questions; he
will go away and remain away. The extent to which men are ruled by the
old adage, "Show me your company and I'll tell you what you are," is
more widespread than we think. Moreover, consistency in a fine sense is
involved in our decision. We fight for freedom, not for the hope of
material profit or comfort, but because every fine instinct of manhood
demands that man be free, and life beautiful and brave, and surely in
such a splendid battle to have as allies mean, crafty profit-seekers
would be amazing. Let us be loyal in the deep sense, and let us not be
afraid of being few at first. An earnest band is more effective than a
discreditable multitude. That band will increase in numbers and strength
till it becomes the nucleus of an army that will be invincible.

V

The fine sense of consistency that keeps us clear of the adventurer
decides also our attitude to the well-meaning man of half-measures. He
says separation from England is not possible now and suggests some
alternative, if not Home Rule, Grattan's Parliament, or leaving it an
open question. In the general view this seems sensible, and we are
tempted to make an alliance based on such a ground; and the alliance is
made. What ensues? Men come together who believe in complete freedom,
others who believe in partial freedom that may lead to complete freedom,
and others who are satisfied with partial freedom as an end. Before long
the alliance ends in a deadlock. The man of the most far-reaching view
knows that every immediate action taken must be consistent with the
wider view and the farther goal, if that goal is to be attained; and he
finds that his ultimate principle is frequently involved in some action
proposed for the moment. When such a moment comes he must be loyal to
his flag and to a principle that if not generally acknowledged is an
abiding rule with him; but his allies refuse to be bound by a principle
that is an unwritten law for him because the law is not written down for
them. This is the root of the trouble. The friends, thinking to work
together for some common purpose, find the unsettled issue intrudes, and
a debate ensues that leads to angry words, recriminations, bad feeling
and disruption. The alliance based on half measures has not fulfilled
its own purpose, but it has sown suspicion between the honest men whom
it brought together; that is no good result from the practical proposal.
There is an inference: men who are conscious of a clear complete demand
should form their own plans, equally full of care and resolution, and go
ahead on their own account. But we hear a plaintive cry abroad: "Oh,
another split; that's Irishmen all over--can never unite," etc. We will
not turn aside for the plaintive people; but let it be understood there
can be an independent co-operation, where of use, with those honest men
who will not go the whole way. That independent co-operation can serve
the full purpose of the binding alliance that has proved fatal. Above
all, let there be no charge of bad faith against the earnest man who
chooses other ways than ours; it is altogether indefensible because we
disagree with him to call his motives in question. Often he is as
earnest as we are; often has given longer and greater service, and only
qualifies his own attitude in anxiety to meet others. To this we cannot
assent, but to charge him with bad faith is flagrantly unjust and always
calamitous. In getting rid of the deadlock we have too often fallen to
furiously fighting with one another. Let us bear this in mind, and
concern ourselves more with the common enemy; but let not the hands of
the men in the vanguard be tied by alien King, Constitution, or
Parliament. All the conditions grow more definite and seem, perhaps, too
exacting; remember the greatness of the enterprise. Suppose in the
building of a mighty edifice the architect at any point were careless or
slurred over a difficulty, trusting to luck to bring it right, how the
whole building would go awry, and what a mighty collapse would follow.
Let us stick to our colours and have no fear. When all these principles
have been combined into one consistent whole, a light will flash over
the land and the old spirit will be reborn; the mean will be purged of
their meanness, the timid heartened with a fine courage, and the
fearless will be justified: the land will be awake, militant, and
marching to victory.

VI

This is, surely, the fine view of loyalty. Let us write it on our
banners and proclaim it to the world. It is consistent, _honourable_,
fearless and immutable. What is said here to-day with enthusiasm,
exactness and care, will stand without emendation or enlargement, if in
a temporary reverse we are called to stand in the dock to-morrow; or if,
finely purged in the battle of freedom, we come through our last fight
with splendid triumph, our loyalty is there still, shining like a great
sun, the same beautiful, unchanging thing that has lighted us through
every struggle--perhaps now to guide us in framing a constitution and
giving to a world, distracted by kings, presidents and theorists, a new
polity for nations. A waverer, half-caught between the light, half
fearful with an old fear, pleads: "This is too much--we are men, not
angels." Precisely, we are not angels; and because of our human
weakness, our erring minds, our sudden passions, the most confident of
us may at any moment find himself in the mud. What, then, will uplift
him if he has been a waverer in principle as well as in fact? He is
helpless, disgraced and undone. Let him know in time we do not set up
fine principles in a fine conceit that we can easily live up to them,
but in the full consciousness that we cannot possibly live away from
them. That is the bed-rock truth. When the man of finer faith by any
slip comes to the earth, he has to uplift him a staff that never fails,
and to guide him a principle that strengthens him for another fight, to
go forth, in a sense Alexander never dreamed of, to conquer new worlds.
'Tis the faith that is in him, and the flag he serves, that make a man
worthy; and the meanest may be with the highest if he be true and give
good service. Let us put by then the broken reed and the craft of little
minds, and give us for our saving hope the banner of the angels and the
loyalty of gods and men.

CHAPTER VIII

WOMANHOOD

"And another said: I have married a wife and therefore
I cannot come."

Yes, and we have been satisfied always to blame the wife, without
noticing the man who is fond of his comfort first of all, who slips
quietly away to enjoy a quiet smoke and a quiet glass in some quiet
nook--always securing his escape by the readiest excuse. We are coming
now to consider the aspect of the question that touches our sincere
manhood; but let no one think we overlook that mean type of man who
evades every call to duty on the comfortable plea: "I have married a
wife."

I

When the mere man approaches the woman to study her, we can imagine the
fair ones getting together and nudging one another in keen amusement as
to what this seer is going to say. It is often sufficiently amusing when
the clumsy male approaches her with self-satisfied air, thinking he has
the secret of her mysterious being. I have no intention here of entering
a rival search for the secret. But we can, perhaps, startle the gay ones
from merriment to gravity by stating the simple fact that every man
stands in some relationship to woman, either as son, brother, or
husband; and if it be admitted that there is to be a fight to-morrow,
then there are some things to be settled to-day. How is the woman
training for to-morrow? How, then, will the man stand by that very
binding relationship? Will clinging arms hold him back or proud ones
wave him on? Will he have, in place of a comrade in the fight, a burden;
or will the battle that has too often separated them but give them
closer bonds of union and more intimate knowledge of the wonderful thing
that is Life?

II

I wish to concentrate on one heroic example of Irish Womanhood that
should serve as a model to this generation; and I do not mean to dwell
on much that would require detailed examination. But some points should
be indicated. For example, the awakening consciousness of our womanhood
is troubling itself rightly over the woman's place in the community, is
concentrating on the type delineated in "The Doll's House," and is
agitating for a more honourable and dignified place. We applaud the
pioneers thus fighting for their honour and dignity: but let them not
make the mistake of assuming the men are wholly responsible for "The
Doll's House," and the women would come out if they could. We have
noticed the man who prefers his ease to any troubling duty: he has his
mate in the woman who prefers to be wooed with trinkets, chocolates, and
the theatre to a more beautiful way of life, that would give her a
nobler place but more strenuous conditions. Again, the man is not always
the lord of the house. He is as often, if not more frequently, its
slave. Then there are the conventions of life. In place of a fine sense
of courtesy prevailing between man and woman, which would recognise with
the woman's finer sensibility a fine self-reliance, and with the man's
greater strength a fine gentleness, we have a false code of manners, by
which the woman is to be taken about, petted and treated generally as
the useless being she often is; while the man becomes an effeminate
creature that but cumbers the earth. Fine courtesy and fine comradeship
go together. But we have allowed a standard to gain recognition that is
a danger alike to the dignity of our womanhood and the virility of our
manhood. It is for us who are men to labour for a finer spirit in our
manhood: we cannot throw the blame for any weakness over on external
conditions. The woman is in the same position. She must understand that
greater than the need of the suffrage is the more urgent need of making
her fellow-woman spirited and self-reliant, ready rather to anticipate a
danger than to evade it. When she is thus trained, not all the men of
all the nations can deny her recognition and equality.

III

For the battle of to-morrow then there is a preliminary fight to-day.
The woman must come to this point, too. In life there is frequently so
much meanness, a man is often called to acknowledge some degrading
standard or fight for the very recognition of manhood, and the woman
must stand in with him or help to pull him down. Let her understand this
and her duty is present and urgent. The man so often wavers on the verge
of the right path, the woman often decides him. If she is nobler than
he, as is frequently the case, she can lift him to her level; if she is
meaner, as she often is, she as surely drags him down. When they are
both equal in spirit and nobility of nature, how the world is filled
with a glory that should assure us, if nothing else could, of the truth
of the Almighty God and a beautiful Eternity to explain the origin and
destiny of their wonderful existence. They are indispensable to each
other: if they stand apart, neither can realise in its fulness the
beauty and glory of life. Let the man and woman see this, and let them
know in the day that is at hand, how the challenge may come from some
petty authority of the time that rules not by its integrity but by its
favourites. We are cursed with such authority, and many a one drives
about in luxury because he is obsequious to it: he prefers to be a
parasite and to live in splendour than be a man and live in straits. He
has what Bernard Shaw so aptly calls "the soul of a servant." If we are
to prepare for a braver future, let us fight this evil thing; if we are
to put by national servitude, let us begin by driving out individual
obsequiousness. This is our training ground for to-morrow. Let the woman
realise this, and at least as many women as men will prefer privation
with self-respect to comfort with contempt. Let us, then, in the name of
our common nature, ask those who have her training in hand, to teach the
woman to despise the man of menial soul and to loathe the luxury that is
his price.

IV

I wish to come to the heroic type of Irish Womanhood. When we need to
hearten ourselves or others for a great enterprise, we instinctively
turn to the examples of heroes and heroines who, in similar difficulties
to ours, have entered the fight bravely, and issued heroically, leaving
us a splendid heritage of fidelity and achievement. It is little to our
credit that our heroes are so little known. It is less to our credit
that our heroines are hardly known at all; and when we praise or sing
of one our selection is not always the happiest. How often in the
concert-hall or drawing-room do we get emotional when someone sings in
tremulous tones, "She is far from the Land." There is a feeling for
poetry in our lives, a feeling that patriotism will not have it, a
melting pity for the love that went to wreck, a sympathy for ourselves
and everybody and everything--a relaxing of all the nerves in a wave of
sentiment. This emotion is of the enervating order. There is no sweep of
strong fire through the blood, no tightening grip on life, no set
resolve to stand to the flag and see the battle through. It is well,
then, a generation that has heard from a thousand platforms, in
plaintive notes, of Sarah Curran and her love should turn to the braver
and more beautiful model of her who was the wife of Tone.

V

When we think of the qualities that are distinctive of the woman, we
have in mind a finer gentleness, sensibility, sympathy and tenderness;
and when we have these qualities intensified in any woman, and with
them combined the endurance, courage and daring that are taken as the
manly virtues, we have a woman of the heroic type. Of such a type was
the wife of Tone. We can speak her praise without fear, for she was put
to the test in every way, and in every way found marvellously true. For
her devotion to, and encouragement of, her great husband in his great
work, she would have won our high praise, even if, when he was stricken
down and she was bereft of his wonderful love and buoyant spirits, she
had proved forgetful of his work and the glory of his name. But she was
bereft, and she was then found most marvellously true. Her devotion to
Tone, while he was living and fighting, might be explained by the
woman's passionate attachment to the man she loved. It is the woman's
tenderness that is most evident in these early years, but there is
shining evidence of the fortitude that showed her true nobility in the
darker after-years. It was no ordinary love that bound them, and reading
the record of their lives this stands out clear and beautiful. Tone,
whom we know as patient organiser, tenacious fighter, far-seeing
thinker, indomitable spirit--a born leader of men--writes to his wife
with the passionate simplicity of an enraptured child: "I doat upon you
and the babes." And his letters end thus: "Kiss the babies for me ten
thousand times. God Almighty for ever bless you, my dearest life and
soul." (This from the "French Atheist." I hope his traducers are
heartily ashamed of themselves.) Nor is it strange. When, in the
beginning of his enterprise, he is in America, preparing to go to France
on his great mission, he is troubled by the thought of his defenceless
ones. In the crisis how does his wife act? Does she wind clinging arms
around him, telling him with tears, of their children and his early
vows, and beseeching him to think of his love and forget his country?
No; let the diary speak: "My wife especially, whose courage and whose
zeal for my honour and interests were not in the least abated by all her
past sufferings, supplicated me to let no consideration of her or our
children stand for a moment in the way of my engagements to our friends
and my duty to my country, adding that she would answer for our family
during my absence, and that the same Providence which had so often, as
it were, miraculously preserved us, would, she was confident, not desert
us now." It is the unmistakable accent of the woman. She is quivering as
she sends him forth, but the spirit in her eyes would put a trembling
man to shame--a spirit that her peerless husband matched but no man
could surpass. Her fortitude was to be more terribly tried in the
terrible after-time, when the Cause went down in disaster and Tone had
to answer with his life. No tribute could be so eloquent as the letter
he wrote to her when the last moment had come and his doom was
pronounced: "Adieu, dearest love, I find it impossible to finish this
letter. Give my love to Mary; and, above all, remember you are now the
only parent of our dearest children, and that the best proof you can
give of your affection for me will be to preserve yourself for their
education. God Almighty bless you all." That letter is like Stephens'
speech from the dock, eloquent for what is left unsaid. There is no
wailing for her, least of all for himself, not that their devoted souls
were not on the rack: "As no words can express what I feel for you and
our children, I shall not attempt it; complaint of any kind would be
beneath your courage and mine"--but their souls, that were destined to
suffer, came sublimely through the ordeal. When Tone left his children
as a trust to his wife, he knew from the intimacy of their union what we
learn from the after-event, how that trust might be placed and how
faithfully it would be fulfilled. What a tribute from man to wife! How
that trust was fulfilled is in evidence in every step of the following
years. Remembering Tone's son who survived to write the memoirs was a
child at his father's death, his simple tribute written in manhood is
eloquent in the extreme: "I was brought up by my surviving parent in all
the principles and in all the feelings of my father"--of itself it would
suffice. But we can follow the years between and find moving evidence of
the fulfilment of the trust. We see her devotion to her children and her
proud care to preserve their independence and her own. She puts by
patronage, having a higher title as the widow of a General of France;
and she wins the respect of the great ones of France under the Republic
and the Empire. Lucien Buonaparte, a year after Tone's death, pleaded
before the Council of Five Hundred, in warm and eloquent praise: "If
the services of Tone were not sufficient of themselves to rouse your
feelings, I might mention the independent spirit and firmness of that
noble woman who, on the tomb of her husband and her brother, mingles
with her sighs aspirations for the deliverance of Ireland. I would
attempt to give you an expression of that Irish spirit which is blended
in her countenance with the expression of her grief. Such were those
women of Sparta, who, on the return of their countrymen from the battle,
when with anxious looks they ran over the ranks and missed amongst them
their sons, their husbands, and their brothers, exclaimed, 'He died for
his country; he died for the Republic.'" When the Republic fell, and in
the upheaval her rights were ignored, she went to the Emperor Napoleon
in person and, recalling the services of Tone, sought naturalization for
her son to secure his career in the army; and to the wonder of all near
by, the Emperor heard her with marked respect and immediately granted
her request. She sought only this for her surviving son. She had seen
two children die--there was moving pathos in the daughter's death--and
now she was standing by the last. Never was child guarded more
faithfully or sent more proudly on his path in life. One should read the
memoirs to understand, and pause frequently to consider: how she
promised her husband bravely in the beginning that she would answer for
their children, and how, in what she afterwards styled the hyperbole of
grief, she was called to fulfil to the letter, and was found faithful,
with an unexampled strength and devotion; how she saw two children
struck down by a fatal disease, and how she drew the surviving son back
to health by her watchful care to send him on his college and military
career with loving pride; how, when a Minister of France, irritated at
her putting by his patronage, roughly told her he could not "take the
Emperor by the collar to place Mr. Tone"--she went to the Emperor in
person, with dignity but without fear, and won his respect; how the
suggestion of the mean-minded that her demand was a pecuniary one, drew
from her the proud boast that in all her misfortunes she had never
learned to hold out her hand; how through all her misfortunes we watch
her with wonderful dignity, delicacy, courage, and devotion quick to
see what her trust demanded and never failing to answer the call, till
her task is done, and we see her on the morning when her son sets out on
the path she had prepared, the same quivering woman, who had sent her
husband with words of comfort to his duty, now, after all the years of
trial, sending her son as proudly on his path. It is their first
parting. Let her own words speak: "Hitherto I had not allowed myself
even to feel that my William was my own and my only child; I considered
only that Tone's son was confided to me; but in that moment Nature
resumed her rights. I sat in a field: the road was long and white before
me and no object on it but my child.... I could not think; but all I had
ever suffered seemed before and around me at that moment, and I wished
so intensely to close my eyes for ever, that I wondered it did not
happen. The transitions of the mind are very extraordinary. As I sat in
that state, unable to think of the necessity of returning home, a little
lark rushed up from the grass beside me; it whirled over my head and
hovered in the air singing such a beautiful, cheering, and, as it
sounded to me, approving note, that it roused me. I felt in my heart as
if Tone had sent it to me. I returned to my solitary home." It is a
picture to move us, to think of the devoted woman there in the sunshine,
bent down in the grass, utterly alone, till the lark, sweeping
heavenward in song, seems to give a message of gentle comfort from her
husband's watching spirit. Our emotion now is of no enervating order. We
are proud of our land and her people; our nerves are firm and set; our
hearts cry out for action; we are not weeping, but burning for the
Cause. How little we know of this heroic woman. We are in some ways
familiar with Tone, his high character, his genial open nature, his
daring, his patience, his farsightedness, his judgment--in spirit
tireless and indomitable: a man peerless among his fellows. But he had
yet one compeer; there was one nature that matched his to depth and
height of its greatness--that nature was a woman's, and the woman was
Wolfe Tone's wife.

VI

It is well this heroic example of our womanhood should be before not
only our womanhood but our manhood. It should show us all that
patriotism does not destroy the finer feelings, but rather calls them
forth and gives them wider play. We have been too used to thinking that
the qualities of love and tenderness are no virtues for a soldier, that
they will sap his resolution and destroy his work; but our movements
fail always when they fail to be human. Until we mature and the poetry
in life is wakening, we are ready to act by a theory; but when Nature
asserts herself the hard theorist fails to hold us. Let us remember and
be human. We have been saying in effect, if not in so many words: "For
Ireland's sake, don't fall in love"--we might as well say: "For
Ireland's sake, don't let your blood circulate." It is impossible--even
if it were possible it would be hateful. The man and woman have a great
and beautiful destiny to fulfil together: to substitute for it an
unnatural way of life that can claim neither the seclusion of the
cloister nor the dominion of the world is neither beautiful nor great.
We have cause for gratitude in the example before us. The woman can
learn from it how she may equal the bravest man; and the man should
learn to let his wife and children suffer rather than make of them
willing slaves and cowards. For there are some earnest men who are
ready to suffer themselves but cannot endure the suffering of those they
love, and a mistaken family tenderness binds and drags them down. No
one, surely, can hold it better to carefully put away every duty that
may entail hardship on wife and child, for then the wife is, instead of
a comrade, a burden, and the child becomes a degenerate creature,
creeping between heaven and earth, afraid to hold his head erect, and
unable to fulfil his duty to God or man. Let no man be afraid that those
he loves may be tried in the fire; but let him, to the best of his
strength, show them how to stand the ordeal, and then trust to the
greatness of the Truth and the virtue of a loyal nature to bring each
one forth in triumph, and he and they may have in the issue undreamed of
recompense. For the battle that tries them will discover finer chords
not yet touched in their intercourse; finer sympathies,
susceptibilities, gentleness and strength; a deeper insight into life
and a wider outlook on the world, making in fine a wonderful blend of
wisdom, tenderness and courage that gives them to realise that life,
with all its faults, struggles, and pain is still and for ever great and
beautiful.

CHAPTER IX

THE FRONTIER

I

Our frontier is twofold, the language and the sea. For the majesty of
our encircling waters we have no need to raise a plea, but to give God
thanks for setting so certain a seal on our individual existence and
giving us in the spreading horizon of the ocean some symbol of our
illimitable destiny. For the language there is something still to be
said; there are some ideas gaining currency that should be
challenged--the cold denial of some that the unqualified name Irish be
given to the literature of Irishman that is passionate with Irish
enthusiasm and loyalty to Ireland, yet from the exigencies of the time
had to be written in English; the view not only assumed but asserted by
some of the Gael that the Gall may be recognised only if he take second
place; the aloofness of many of the Gall, not troubling to understand
their rights and duties; the ignoring on both sides of the fine
significance of the name Irishman, of a spirit of patriotism and a
deep-lying basis of authority and justice that will give stability to
the state and secure its future against any upheaval that from the
unrest of the time would seem to threaten the world.

II

Consider first the literature of Irishmen in English. From the attitude
commonly taken on the question of literary values, it is clear that the
primary significance of expression in writing is often lost. What is
said, and the purpose for which it is said, take precedence of the
medium through which it is said. But from our national awakening to the
significance of the medium so long ignored we have grown so excited that
we frequently forget the greater significance of the thing. The
utterance of the man is of first importance, and, where his utterance
has weight, the vital need is to secure it through some medium, the
medium becoming important when one more than another is found to have a
wider and more intimate appeal; and then we do well to become insistent
for a particular medium when it is in anxiety for full delivery of the
writer's thought and a wide knowledge of its truth. But we are losing
sight of this natural order of things. It is well, then, the unconvinced
Gall should hear why he should accept the Irish language; not simply to
defer to the Gael, but to quicken the mind and defend the territory of
what is now the common country of the Gael and Gall. Davis caught up the
great significance of the language when he said: "Tis a surer barrier,
and more important frontier, than fortress or river." The language is at
once our frontier and our first fortress, and behind it all Irishmen
should stand, not because a particular branch of our people evolved it,
but because it is the common heritage of all. One who has a knowledge of
Irish can easily get evidence of its quickening power on the Irish mind.
Travel in an Irish-speaking district and hail one of its old people in
English, and you get in response a dull "Good-day, Sir." Salute him in
Irish and you touch a secret spring. The dull eyes light up, the face
is all animation, the body alert, and for a dull "good-day," you get
warm benedictions, lively sallies, and after you, as you pass on your
road, a flood of rich and racy Irish comes pouring down the wind. That
is the secret power of the language. It makes the old men proud of their
youth and gives to the young quickened faculties, an awakened
imagination and a world to conquer. This is no exaggeration. It is not
always obvious, because we do not touch the secret spring nor wander
near the magic. But the truth is there to find for him who cares to
search. You discover behind the dullness of a provincial town a bright
centre of interest, and when you study the circle you know that here is
some wonderful thing: priests, doctors, lawyers, teachers, tradesmen,
clerks--all drawn together, young and old, both sexes, all enthusiasts.
Sometimes a priest is teaching a smith, sometimes the smith is teaching
the priest: for a moment at least we have unconsciously levelled
barriers and there is jubilation in the natural life re-born. Out of
that quickened life and consciousness rises a vivid imagination with a
rush of thought and a power of expression that gives the nation a new
literature. That is the justification of the language. It awakens and
draws to expression minds that would otherwise be blank. It is not that
the revelation of Davis is of less value than we think, but that through
the medium of Irish other revelations will be won that would otherwise
be lost. Again, in subtle ways we cannot wholly understand, it gives the
Irish mind a defence against every other mind, taking in comradeship
whatever good the others have to offer, while retaining its own power
and place. The Irish mind can do itself justice only in Irish. But still
some ardent and faithful spirits broke through every difficulty of time
and circumstance and found expression in English, and we have the
treasures of Davis, Mitchel, and Mangan; yet, the majority remained
cold, and now, to quicken the mass, we turn to the old language. But
this is not to decry what was won in other fields. In the widening
future that beckons to us, we shall, if anything, give greater praise to
these good fighters and enthusiasts, who in darker years, even with the
language of the enemy, resisted his march and held the gap for Ireland.

III

On this ground the Gael and Gall stand on footing of equality. That is
the point many on both sides miss and we need to emphasise it. Some
Irishmen not of Gaelic stock speak of Irish as foreign to them, and
would maintain English in the principal place now and in the future. We
do well then to make clear to such a one that he is asked to adopt the
language for Ireland's sake as a nation and for his own sake as a
citizen. If he wishes to serve her he must stand for the language; if he
prefers English civilisation he should go back to England. There only
can he develop on English lines. An Irishman in Ireland with an English
mind is a queer contradiction, who can serve neither Ireland nor England
in any good sense, and both Ireland and England disown him. So the
Irishman of other than Gaelic ancestors should stand in with us, not
accepting something disagreeable as inevitable, but claiming a right by
birth and citizenship, joining the fine army of the nation for a brave
adventurous future, full of fine possibility and guaranteed by a fine
comradeship--owning a land not of flattery and favouritism, but of
freedom and manhood. This saving ideal has been often obscured by our
sundering class names. This is why we would substitute as common for all
the fine name of Irishman.

IV

But in asking all parties to accept the common name of Irishman, we find
a fear rather suggested than declared--that men may be asked in this
name to put by something they hold as a great principle of Life; that
Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter will all be asked to find agreement
in a fourth alternative, in which they will not submit to one another
but will all equally belie themselves. There is such a hidden fear, and
we should have it out and dispose of it. The best men of all parties
will have no truck with this and they are right. But on what ground,
then, shall we find agreement, the recognition of which Irish
Citizenship implies? On this, that the man of whatever sincere
principles, religious or civic, counts among his great duties his duty
as citizen; and he defends his creed because he believes it to be a safe
guide to the fulfilling of all duties, this including. When, therefore,
we ask him to stand in as Irish Citizen, it is not that he is to abandon
in one iota his sincere principles, but that he is to give us proof of
his sincerity. He tells us his creed requires him to be a good citizen:
we give him a fine field in which he can be to us a fine example.

V

In further consideration of this we should put by the thought of finding
a mere working agreement. There is a deep-lying basis of authority and
justice to seek, which it should be our highest aim to discover. Modern
governments concede justice to those who can compel justice--even the
democracy requires that you be strong enough to formulate a claim and
sustain it; but this is the way of tyranny. A perfect government should
seek, while careful to develop its stronger forces and keep them in
perfect balance, to consider also the claims of those less powerful but
not less true. A government that over-rides the weak because it is safe,
is a tyranny, and tyranny is in seed in the democratic governments of
our time. We must consider this well, for it is pressing and grave; and
we must get men to come together as citizens to defend the rights as
well of the unit which is unsupported as of the party that commands
great power. So shall we give steadiness and fervour to our growing
strength by balancing it with truth and justice: so shall we found a
government that excesses cannot undermine nor tyranny destroy.

VI

We have to consider, in conclusion, the unrest in the world, the war of
parties and classes, and the need of judging the tendencies of the time
to set our steps aright. With the wars and rumours of wars that threaten
the great nations from without and the wild upheavals that threaten them
within, it would be foolish to hide from ourselves the drift of events.
We must decide our attitude; and if it is too much to hope that we may
keep clear of the upheavals, we should aim at strengthening ourselves
against the coming crash. We cannot set the world right, but we can go a
long way to setting things in our own land right, by making through a
common patriotism a united people. What if we are held up occasionally
by the cold cries shot at every high aim--"dreamer--Utopia"; cry this
in return: no vision of the dreamer can be more wild than the frantic
make-shifts of the Great Powers to vie in armaments with one another or
repress internal revolts. Consider England in the late strike that
paralysed her. It was only suspended by a step that merely deferred the
struggle; the strife is again threatening. All the powers are so
threatened and their efforts to defer the hour are equally feverish and
fruitless; for the hour is pressing and may flash on the world when 'tis
least prepared. Let who will deride us, but let us prepare. We may not
guide our steps with the certainty of prophets, nor hope by our
beautiful schemes to make a perfect state; but we can only come near to
perfection in the light of a perfect ideal, and however far below it we
may remain, we can at least, under its inspiration, reach an existence
rational and human: our justification for a brave effort lies in that
the governments of this time are neither one nor the other. He who
thinks Ireland's struggle to express her own mind, to give utterance to
her own tongue, to stand behind her own frontier, is but a sentiment
will be surprised to find it leads him to this point. Herein is the
justification and the strength of the movement. Men are deriding things
around them, of the significance of which they have not the remotest
idea. Ireland is calling her children to a common banner, to the defence
of her frontier, to the building up of a national life, harmonious and
beautiful--a conception of citizenship, from which a right is conceded,
not because it can be compelled, but because it is just: to the
foundation of a state that will by its defence of the least powerful
prove all powerful, that will be strong because true, beautiful because
free, full of the music of her olden speech and caught by the magic of
her encircling sea.

CHAPTER X

LITERATURE AND FREEDOM--THE PROPAGANDIST PLAYWRIGHT

I

A nation's literature is an index to its mind. If the nation has its
freedom to win, from its literature may we learn if it is passionately
in earnest in the fight, or if it is half-hearted, or if it cares not at
all. Whatever state prevails, passionate men can pour their passion
through literature to the nation's soul and make it burn and move and
fight. For this reason it is of transcendent importance to the Cause.
Literature is the Shrine of Freedom, its fortress, its banner, its
charter. In its great temple patriots worship; from it soldiers go
forth, wave its challenge, and fight, and conquering, write the charter
of their country. Its great power is contested by none; rather, all
recognise it, and many and violent are the disputes as to its right use
and purpose. I propose to consider two of the disputants--the
propagandist playwright and the art-for-art's-sake artist, since they
raise issues that are our concern. It is curious that two so violently
opposed should be so nearly alike in error: they are both afraid of
life. The propagandist is all for one side; the artist afraid of every
side. The one lacks imagination; the other lacks heart; they are both
wide of the truth. The service of the truth requires them to pursue one
course; in their dispute they swerve from that course, one to right, one
to left. Because they leave the path on opposite sides, they do not see
how much alike is their error; but that they do both leave the path is
my point, and it is well we should consider it. It would be difficult to
deal with both sides at once; so I will consider the propagandist first.
What I have to charge against him is that his work is insincere, that he
is afraid to do justice to the other side, that he makes ridicule of our
exemplars, that he helps to keep the _poseur_ in being; and to conclude,
that only by a saving sense of humour can we find our way back to the
truth.

II

When we judge literature we do so by reference to the eternal truth, not
by what the writer considers the present phase of truth; and if
literature so tested is found guilty of suppression, evasion or
misinterpretation, we call the work insincere, though the author may
have written in perfect good faith. That is a necessary distinction to
keep in mind. If you call a man's work insincere, the superficial critic
will take it as calling the man himself insincere; but the two are
distinct, and it needs to be emphasised, for sincere men are making
these propagandist plays, of which the manifest and glaring untruth is
working mischief to the national mind. A type of such a play is familiar
enough in these days when we like to ridicule the West Briton. We are
served up puppets representing the shoneen with a lisp set over against
the patriot who says all the proper things suitable to the occasion.
Now, such a play serves no good purpose, but it has a certain bad
effect. It does not give a true interpretation of life; it enlightens no
one; but it flatters the prejudices of people who profess things for
which they have no zeal. That is the root of the mischief. Many of us
will readily profess a principle for which we will not as readily
suffer, but when the pinch comes and we are asked to do service for the
flag, we cover our unwillingness by calling the man on the other side
names. Where such a spirit prevails there can be no national awakening.
If we put a play before the people, it must be with a hope of arresting
attention, striking their imagination, giving them a grip of reality,
and filling them with a joy in life. Now, the propagandist play does
none of these things; it has neither joy nor reality; its characters are
puppets and ridiculous; they are essentially caricatures. This is
supposed to convert the unbeliever; but the intelligent unbeliever
coming to it is either bored or irritated by its extravagant absurdity,
and if he admits our sincerity, it is only at the expense of our
intelligence.

III

A propagandist play for a political end is even more mischievous--at
least lovers of freedom have more cause for protest. It makes our heroes
ridiculous. No man of imagination can stand these impossible persons of
the play who "walk on" eternally talking of Ireland. Our heroes were
men; these are _poseurs_. Get to understand Davis, Tone, or any of our
great ones, and you will find them human, gay, and lovable. "Were you
ever in love, Davis?" asked one of his wondering admirers, and prompt
and natural came the reply: "I'm never out of it." We swear by Tone for
his manly virtues; we love him because we say to ourselves: "What a fine
fellow for a holiday." A friend of Mitchel's travelling with him once
through a storm, was astonished to find him suddenly burst out into a
fine recitation, which he delivered with fine effect. He was joyous in
spirit. For their buoyancy we love them all, and because of it we
emulate them. We are influenced, not by the man who always wants to
preach a sermon at us, but by the one with whom we go for a holiday. Our
history-makers were great, joyous men, of fine spirit, fine imagination,
fine sensibility, and fine humour. They loved life; they loved their
fellow man; they loved all the beautiful, brave things of earth. When
you know them you can picture them scaling high mountains and singing
from the summits, or boating on fine rivers in the sunlight, or walking
about in the dawn, to the music of Creation, evolving the philosophy of
revolutions and building beautiful worlds. You get no hint of this from
the absurd propagandist play, yet this is what the heart of man craves.
When he does not get it, he cannot explain what he wants; but he knows
what he does not want, and he goes away and keeps his distance. The play
has missed fire, and the playwright and his hero are ridiculous. Let us
understand one thing: if we want to make men dutiful we must make them
joyous.

IV

It is because we must talk of grave things that we must preserve our
gaiety; otherwise we could not preserve our balance. By some freak of
nature, the average man strikes attitudes as readily as the average boy
whistles. We know how the _poseur_ works mischief to every cause, and we
can see the _poseur_ on every side. In politics, he has made the
platform contemptible, which is a danger to the nation, needing the
right use of platform; in literature--well, we all know bourgeois, but
who has done justice to the artist who gets on a platform to talk about
the bourgeois?--in religion, the _poseur_ is more likely to make
agnostics than all the Rationalist Press; and the agnostic _poseur_ in
turn is very funny. Now all these are an affliction, a collection of
absurdities of which we must cure the nation. If we cannot cure the
nation of absurdity we cannot set her free. Let it be our rule to
combine gaiety with gravity and we will acquire a saving sense of
proportion. Only the solemn man is dull; the serious man has a natural
fund of gaiety: we need only be natural to bring back joy to serious
endeavour. Then we shall begin to move. Let us remember a revolution
will surely fail when its leaders have no sense of humour.

V

But our humour will not be a saving humour unless it is of high order. A
great humorist is as rare as a great poet or a great philosopher. Though
ours may not be great we must keep it in the line of greatness.
Remember, great humour must be made out of ourselves rather than out of
others. The fine humorist is delightfully courteous; the commonplace
wit, invariably insulting. We must keep two things in mind, that in
laughter at our own folly is the beginning of wisdom; and the keenest
wit is pure fun, never coarse fun. We start a laugh at others by getting
an infallible laugh at ourselves. The commonplace wit arranges incidents
to make someone he dislikes ridiculous; his attitude is the attitude of
the superior person. He is nearly always--often unintentionally--offensive;
he repels the public sometimes in irritation, sometimes in amusement, for
they often see point in his joke, but see a greater joke in him, and they
are often laughing, not at his joke, but at himself. Let us for our
salvation avoid the attitude of the superior person. Don't make sport
of others--make it of yourself. Ridicule of your neighbour must be
largely speculation; of the comedy in yourself there can be no doubt.
When you get the essential humour out of yourself, you get the infallible
touch, and you arrest and attract everyone. You are not the superior
person. In effect, you slap your neighbour on the back and say, "We're
all in the same boat; let us enjoy the joke"; and you find he will come
to you with glistening eye. He may feel a little foolish at first--you
are poking his ribs; but you cannot help it--having given him the way to
poke your own. By your merry honesty he knows you for a safe comrade,
and he comes with relief and confidence--we like to talk about
ourselves. He will be equally frank with yourself; you will tell one
another secrets; you will reach the heart of man. That is what we need.
We must get the heart-beat into literature. Then will it quiver and
dance and weep and sing. Then we are in the line of greatness.

VI

It is because we need the truth that we object to the propagandist
playwright. Only in a rare case does he avoid being partial; and when he
is impartial he is cold and unconvincing. He gives us argument instead
of emotion; but emotion is the language of the heart. He does not touch
the heart; he tries to touch the mind: he is a pamphleteer and out of
place. He fails, and his failure has damaged his cause, for it leaves us
to feel that the cause is as cold as his play; but when the Cause is a
great one it is always vital, warm and passionate. It is for the sake of
the Cause we ask that a play be made by a sincere man-of-letters, who
will give us not propagandist literature nor art-for-art's-sake, but
the throbbing heart of man. The great dramatist will have the great
qualities needed, sensibility, sympathy, insight, imagination, and
courage. The special pleader and the _poseur_ lack all these things, and
they make themselves and their work foolish. Let us stand for the truth,
not pruning it for the occasion. The man who is afraid to face life is
not competent to lead anyone, to speak for anyone, or to interpret
anything: he inspires no confidence. The one to rouse us must be
passionate, and his passion will win us heart and soul. When from some
terribly intense moment, he turns with a merry laugh, only the fool will
take him as laughing at his cause; the general instinct will see him
detecting an attitude, tripping it up, and making us all merry and
natural again. In that moment we shall spring up astonished,
enthusiastic, exultant--here is one inspired; we shall enter a
passionate brotherhood, no cold disputes now--the smouldering fire along
the land shall quicken to a blaze, history shall be again in the making.
We shall be caught in the living flame.

CHAPTER XI

LITERATURE AND FREEDOM--ART FOR ART'S SAKE

I

Art for art's sake has come to have a meaning which must be challenged,
but yet it can be used in a sense that is both high and sacred. If a
gifted writer take literature as a great vocation and determine to use
his talents faithfully and well, without reference to fee or reward; if
prosperity cannot seduce him to the misuse of his genius, then we give
him our high praise. Let it still not be forgotten that the labourer is
worthy of his hire. But if the hire is not forthcoming, and he knowing
it, yet says in his heart, "The work must still be done"; and if he does
it loyally and bravely, despite the present coldness of the world,
doing the good work for the love of the work and all beautiful things;
and if with this meaning he take "art for art's sake" as his battle-cry,
then we repeat it is used in a sense both high and sacred.

II

But there are artists abroad whose chief glory seems to be to deny that
they have convictions--that is, convictions about the passionate things
of life that rouse and move their generation. Now that they should not
be special pleaders is an obvious duty, but unless they have a
passionate feeling for the vital things that move men, heart and soul,
they cannot interpret the heart and soul of passionate men, and their
work must be for ever cold. When literature is not passionate it does
not touch the spirit to lift and spread its wings and soar to finer air.
That is the great want about all the clever books now being turned
out--they often give us excitement; they never give us ecstasy. Then
there is an obvious feeling of something lacking which men try to make
up with art; and they produce work faultless in form and fastidious in
phrase, but still it lacks the touch of fire that would lift it from
common things to greatness.

III

If we are to apply art to great work we must distinguish art from
artifice. We find the two well contrasted in Synge's "Riders to the Sea"
and his "Playboy." The first was written straight from the heart. We
feel Synge must have followed those people carrying the dead body, and
touched to the quick by the _caoine_, passed the touch on to us, for in
the lyric swell of the close we get the true emotion. Here alone is he
in the line of greatness. This gripped his heart and he wrote out of
himself. But in the other work of his it was otherwise. He has put his
method on record: he listened through a chink in the floor, and wrote
around other people. It is characteristic of the art of our time. Let it
be called art if the critics will, but it is not life.

IV

No, it is not life. But there is so much talk just now of getting "down
to fundamentals," of the poetry of the tramp "walking the world," and
the rest of it, that it would be well if we _did get_ down to
fundamentals; and this is one thing fundamental--the tramp is a deserter
from life. He evades the troubled field where great causes are fought;
he shuns the battle because of the wounds and the sacrifice; he has no
heart for high conflict and victory. Let him under the cover of darkness
but secure his share of the spoils and the world may go to wreck. Yes,
he is the meanest of things--a deserter. On the field of battle he would
be shot. If we let him desert the field of life, go his way and walk the
world, let us not at least hail him as a hero.

The Repertory Theatre is the nursery of this particular art-cult, and
'twould relieve some of us to talk freely about it. The Repertory
Theatre has already become fashionable, and is quite rapidly become a
nuisance. Men are making songs and plays and lectures for art's sake,
for the praise of a coterie or to shock the bourgeois--above all shock
the bourgeois. A certain type of artist delights in shocking the
bourgeois--a riot over a play gives him great satisfaction. In passing,
one must note with exasperation, perhaps with some misgiving, how men
raise a riot over something not worth a thought, and will not fight for
things for which they ought to die. But he likes the bourgeois to think
him a terrible person; in his own esteem he is on an eminence, and he
proceeds to send out more shock-the-bourgeois literature; and 'tis
mostly very sorry stuff. Sometimes he tries to be emotional and is but
painfully artificial; sometimes he tries to be merry and gives us
flippancy for fun. And we feel a terrible need for getting back to a
standard, worthy and true. Great work can be made only for the love of
work; not for money, not for art's sake, not for intellectual appeal nor
flippant ridicule, but for the pure love of things, good, true and
beautiful. With the best of intentions we may fail; and this should be
laid down as a safe guiding principle; a dramatist should be moved by
his own tragedy; the novelist should be interested in his own story; the
poet should make his song for the love of the song and his comedy for
the fun of the thing.

VI

We naturally think of the Abbey Theatre when we speak of these things,
and as the Abbey work has certainly suffered from overpraise we may
correct it by comparison with Shakespeare. Before the Abbey we were so
used to triviality that when clever and artistic work appeared we at
once hailed it great. We _did_ get one or two great things, a fact to
note with hearty pleasure and pride. But the rest was merely clever; and
now that we are getting nothing great we must insist, and keep on
insisting, that 'tis merely clever. But let us remember that value of
the word great. Let it be kept for such names as Shakespeare and
Moliere; and lesser men may be called brilliant, talented or
able--anything you will but great. Consider the scenes from the supreme
plays of Shakespeare and compare with them the innumerable plays now
coming forth and note a vital difference. These give us excitement,
where Shakespeare gave us vision. We may be reminded of Shakespeare's
duels and brawls and battles and blood; his generation revelled in
excitement. Yes, they craved it, and he gave it to them, but shot
through with wonder, subtlety, ecstasy; and his splendid creations, like
mighty worlds, keep us wondering for ever. We must get back that supreme
note of blended music and wonder, that makes the spirit beautiful and
tempts it to soar, till it rise over common things and mere commotion,
spreading its wings for the finer air where reason faints and falls to
earth.

VII

A dramatist cannot make a great play out of little people. His chief
characters at least must be great of heart and soul--the great hearts
that fight great causes. When such are caught, in the inevitable
struggle of affections and duties and the general clash of life their
passionate spirits send up all the elements that make great literature.
The writer who cannot enter into their battles and espouse their cause
cannot give utterance to their hearts; and we don't want what he thinks
about them; we want what they think about themselves. He who is in
passionate sympathy with them feels their emotion and writing from the
heart does great things. The artist who is in mortal dread of being
thought a politician or suspected of motives cannot feel, and will as
surely fail, as the one who sits down to play the role of politician
disguised as play-right. That is what the artist has got to see; and he
has got to see that while the Irish Revolution for centuries has
attracted the greatest hearts and brains of Ireland, for him carefully
to avoid it is to avoid the line of greatness. For a propagandist to sit
down to give it utterance would be as if a handy-man were to set out to
build a cathedral. The Revolution does not need to be argued; it
justifies itself--all we need is to give it utterance--give it utterance
once greatly. Then the writer may proceed to give utterance to every
good thing under the sun. But our artists are making, and will continue
to make, only second-class literature, for they are afraid of the
Revolution, and it is all over our best of life; they are afraid of that
life. But to enter the arena of greatness they must give it a voice.
That is the vocation of the poet.

VIII

Yes, and the poet will be unlike you, gentlemen of the fastidious
phrase. He will not be careless of form, but the passion that is in him
will make simple words burn and live; never will he in the mode of the
time go wide of the truth to make a picturesque phrase; his mind rapt on
the thing will fix on the true word; his heart warm with the battle will
fashion more beautiful forms than you, O detached and dainty artist; his
soul full of music and adventure will scale those heights it is your
fate to dream of but not your fortune to possess. Yet, you, too, might
possess them would you but step with him into the press of adventurous
legions, and make articulate the dream of men, and make splendid their
triumph. He is the prophet of to-morrow, though you deny him to-day. He
is not like to you, supercilious and aloof--he would have you for a
passionate brother, would raise your spirit in ecstasy, flood your mind
with thought, and touch your lips with fire. Because of his
sensitiveness he knows every mood and every heart and gives a voice and
a song to all. You might know him for a good comrade, where freedom is
to win or to hold, over in the van or the breach; able to deal good
blows and take them in the fine manner, a fine fighter; not with
darkened brow crying, "an eye for an eye"--for who _could_ give him
blow for blow or match his deed with a deed?--but one of open front and
open hand who will count it happiness to have made for a victory he may
not live to enjoy, as ready to die in its splendour as he had been to
live through the darkness before the dawn; remembering with soldier
tenderness the comrades of old battles, forgetting the malice of old
enemies; a high example of the magnanimous spirit, happily not yet
unknown on earth; with fine generosity and noble fire, full of that
great love the common cry can never make other than humanising and
beautiful, not without a gleam of humour more than half divine, he will
pass, leaving to the foe that hated him heartily equally with the friend
that loved him well, the wonder of his thought and the rapture of his
melody.

CHAPTER XII

RELIGION

I

It ought to be laid down as a first principle that grave questions which
have divided us in the past, and divide us still with much bitterness,
should not be thrust aside and kept out of view in the hope of harmony.
Where the attitude is such, the hope is vain. They should be approached
with courage in the hope of creating mutual respect and an honourable
solution for all. Religion is such a question. To the majority of men
this touches their most intimate life. Because of their jealous regard
for that intimate part of themselves they are prepared for bitter
hostilities with anyone who will assail it; and because of the
unmeasured bitterness of assaults on all sides we have come to count it
a virtue to bring together in societies labelled non-sectarian, men who
have been violently opposed on this issue. It will be readily allowed
that to bring men together anyhow, even suspiciously, is somewhat of an
advance, when we keep in mind how angrily they have quarrelled. But 'tis
not to our credit that in any assembly a particular name hardly dare be
mentioned; and it must be realised that, whatever purpose it may serve
in lesser undertakings, in the great fight for freedom no such attitude
will suffice. No grave question can be settled by ignoring it. Since it
is our duty to make the War of Independence a reality and a success, we
must invoke a contest that will as surely rouse every latent passion and
give every latent suspicion an occasion and a field. That is the danger
ahead. We must anticipate that danger, meet and destroy it. Perhaps at
this suggestion most of us will at once get restive. Some may say with
irritation: Why raise this matter? Others on the other side may prepare
forthwith to dig up the hatchet. Is not the attitude on both sides
evidence of the danger? Does anyone suppose we can start a fight for
freedom without making that danger a grimmer reality? Who can claim it a
wise policy merely for the moment to dodge it? For that is what we do.
Let us have courage and face it. At what I have to say let no man take
offence or fright--it commits no one to anything. It is written to try
and make opponents understand and respect one another, not to set them
at one another, least of all to make them "liberal," that is, lax and
contemptible, ready to explain everything away. We want primarily the
man who is prepared to fight his ground, but who is big enough in heart
and mind to respect opponents who will also fight theirs. In the
integrity and courage of both sides is the guarantee of the independence
of both. That should be our guiding thought. But as on this question
most people abandon all tolerance, it is quite possible what may be
written will satisfy none; still, it may serve the purpose of making a
need apparent. To repeat, we must face the question. But whoever elects
to start it, should approach the issue with sympathy and forbearance.
These are as necessary as courage and resolution; yet, since many often
sacrifice firmness to sympathy, others will take the opposite line of
riding roughshod over everyone, a harshness that confirms the weakling
in his weakness. To note all this is but to note the difficulty; and if
what is now written fails in its appeal, it need only be said to walk
unerringly here would require the insight of a prophet and the balance
of an angel.

II

What everyone should take as a fair demand is that all men should be
sincere in their professions, and that we should justify ourselves by
the consistency of our own lives rather than by the wickedness of our
neighbours: which is nothing new. It is our trouble that we must
emphasise obvious duties. To approach the question frankly with no
matter what good faith will lead to much heart-burning, perhaps, to no
little bitterness; but if we realise that all sides are about equally to
blame, we may induce an earnestness that may lead to better things. It
is in that hope I write. Catholics and Protestants, instead of saying to
one another the things with which we are familiar, should look to their
own houses; and if in this age of fashionable agnosticism, they should
conclude that the general enemy is the atheist, socialist, and the
syndicalist, they should still be reminded to look to their own houses;
and if the agnostic take this to justify himself, he should be reminded
he has never done anything to justify himself. It may seem a curious way
for inducing harmony to set out to prove everyone in the wrong; but the
point is clear, not to attack what men believe but to ask them to
justify their words by their deeds. The request is not unreasonable and
it may be asked in a tone that will show the sincerity of him who makes
it and waken a kindred feeling in all earnest men. The world will be a
better place to live in, and we shall be all better friends when every
man makes a genuine resolve to give us all the example of a better life.

III

A development that would require a treatise in itself I will but touch
on, to suggest to all interested a matter of general and grave
concern--the growing materialism of religious bodies. On all sides
self-constituted defenders of the faith are troubling themselves, not
with the faith but with the numbers of their adherents who have jobs,
equal sharers in emoluments, and so forth. A Protestant of standing
writes a book and proves his religion is one of efficiency; a Catholic
of equal standing quickly rejoins with another book to prove his
religion is also efficient; each blind to the fact that the resulting
campaign is disgraceful to both. When religion ceases to represent to us
something spiritual, and purely spiritual, we begin to drift away from
it. "Where thy treasure is, there thy heart is also." "No man can serve
God and Mammon." The modern rejoinder is familiar: "We must live." This,
our generation is not likely to forget. The grave concern is that
well-meaning men are accustoming themselves to this cry to sacrifice all
higher considerations for the "equal division of emoluments." Let us as
citizens and a community see that every man has the right and the means
to live; but when self-interested bodies start a rivalry in the name of
their particular creeds, we know it ends in a squalid greed and fight
for place, in a pursuit of luxury, the logical outcome of which must be
to make the world ugly, sordid and brutal. It would be a mistake to
overlook that high-minded men are allowing themselves to be committed
by plausible reasons to this growing evil. It is misguided enthusiasm.
There is a divine authority that warns us all: "Be zealous for the
better gifts."

IV

I wish to examine the attitude of the average Christian to the Agnostic.
"The world is falling away from religion," he will cry when depressed,
without thinking how much he himself may be a contributing cause. Let
him study it in this light. What is his attitude? When he comes to speak
of the tendency of the age he will indulge in vague generalities about
atheism, socialism, irreligion, and the rest; always the cause is
outside of him, and against him; he is not part of it. I ask him to pass
by the atheist awhile and take what may be of more concern. There is a
type of Catholic and Protestant who has as little genuine religion in
him as any infidel, who does not deny the letter of the law, but who
does not observe its spirit, whose only use for the letter is to
criticise and harass adversaries. Observe the high use he has for
liberty--drinking, card-playing, gambling, luxury; he has no place in
his life for any worthy deeds, nay, only scorn for such. Still he passes
for orthodox. If he is a Catholic, he secures that by putting in an
appearance at Mass on Sundays. His mind is not there; he arrives late
and goes early. His Protestant fellow in his private judgment finds more
scope: "Let the women go listen to the parson." This is the sort of
saying gives him such a conceit of himself. We have the type on both
sides, so all can see it. Now it is not in the way of the Pharisee we
come to note them, but to note that, strange as it may appear, either or
both together will come to applaud the denouncing of the atheist. We
gather such into our religious societies, and flatter them that they are
adherents of religion and the bulwark of the faith, and they forthwith
anathematise the atheist with great gusto. The one so anathematised is
often as worthless as themselves with a conceit to despise priest and
parson alike. But it sometimes happens he is a fine character who has no
religion as most of us understand it, but who has yet a fine spiritual
fervour, ready to fight and make sacrifices for a national or social
principle that he believes will make for better things, a man of
integrity and worth whom the best of men may be glad to hold as a
friend. Yet we find in the condition to which we have drifted such a one
may be pilloried by wasters, gamblers, rioters, a crew that are the
curse of every community. We lash the atheist and the age but give
little heed to the insincerity and cant of those we do not refuse to
call our own. What an example for the man anathematised. He sees the
vice and meanness of those we allow to pass for orthodox, and when he
sees also the complacency of the better part, he is unconvinced. We
praise the sweetness of the healing waters of Christ-like charity, but
despite our gospel he never gets it, never. We give him execration,
injustice; if we let him go with a word, it is never a gentle word, but
a bitter epithet; and we wonder he is estranged, when he sees our
amazing composure in an amazing welter of hypocrisy and deceit. There
is, of course, the better side, the many thousands of Catholics and
Protestants who sincerely aim at better things. But what has to be
admitted is that most sincerely religious people adopt to the man of no
established religion the same attitude as does the hypocrite: they join
in the general cry. They should look to their own houses; they should
purge the temple of the money-lender and the knave; they should see that
their field gives good harvest; they should remember that not to the
atheist only but to the orthodox was it written: "Every tree therefore
that doth not yield good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the
fire."

V

There is a word to be said to the man for whom was invented the curious
name agnostic. I'm concerned only with him who is sincere and
high-minded. Let us pass the flippant critics of things they do not
understand. But all sincere men are comrades in a deep and fine sense.
What the honest unbeliever has to keep in mind is that the darker side
is but one side. If he stands studying a crowd of the orthodox and finds
therein the drunkard, the gambler, the sensualist; and if he says bitter
things of the value of religion and gets in return the clerical fiat of
one who is more a politician than a priest; and if he rejoins
contemptuously, "This is fit for women and children," let him be
reminded that he can also study the other side if he care. If he has the
instinct of a fighter he must know every army has in its trail the
camp-follower and the vulture, but when the battle is set and the danger
is imminent, only the true soldier stands his ground. Because some who
are of poor spirit are in high place, let him not forget the old spirit
still exists. Not only the women but the best intellects of men still
keep the old traditions. Newman and Pascal, Dante and Milton, Erigena
and Aquinas, are all dead, but in our time even they have had followers
not too far off. In the same spirit Gilbert Chesterton found wonder at a
wooden post, and Francis Thompson, in his divine wandering, troubled the
gold gateways of the stars. Let our friend before he frames his final
judgment pause here. He may well be baffled by many anomalies of the
time, his eye may rest on the meaner horde, his ear be filled with the
arrogance of some unworthy successor of Paul; and if he says: "Why
permit these things?" he may be told there are some alive in this
generation who will question all such things, and who, however hard it
go with them, have no fear for the final victory.

VI

Perhaps the conventional Christian and conventional non-Christian may
rest a moment to consider the reality. Between the bitter believer and
the exasperated unbeliever, Christianity is being turned from a practice
to a polemic, and if we are to recall the old spirit we must recall the
old earnestness and simplicity of the early Martyrs. We do not hear that
they called Nero an atheist, but we do hear that they went singing to
the arena. By their example we may recover the spirit of song, and have
done with invective. If we find music and joyousness in the old
conception, it is not in the fashion of the time to explain it away in
some "new theology," for he to whom it is not a fashion, but a vital
thing, keeps his anchor by tradition. To him it is the shining light
away in the mists of antiquity; it is the strong sun over the living
world; it is the pillar of fire over the widening seas and worlds of the
unknown; it is the expanse of infinity. When he is lost in its mystery
he adverts to the wonder about him, for all that is wonderful is touched
with it, and all that is lovely is its expression. It is in the breath
of the wind, pure and bracing from the mountain top. It is in the song
of the lark holding his musical revel in the sunlight. It is in the
ecstasy of a Spring morning. It is in the glory of all beautiful things.
When it has entered and purified his spirit, his heart goes out to the
persecuted in all ages and countries. None will he reject. "I am not
come to call the just but sinners." He remembers those words, and his
great charity encompasses not only the persecuted orthodox, but the
persecuted heretics and infidels.

VII

I will not say if such an endeavour as I suggest can have an immediate
success. But I think it will be a step forward if we get sincere men on
one side to understand the sincerity of the other side; and if in
matters of religion and speculation, where there is so much difficulty
and there is likely to be so much conflict of opinion, there should be
no constraint, but rather the finest charity and forbearance; then the
orthodox would be concerned with practising their faith rather than in
harassing the infidel, and the infidel would receive a more useful
lesson than the ill-considered tirades he despises. He may remain still
unconvinced, but he will give over his contempt. This question of
religion is one on which men will differ, and differing, ultimately they
will fight if we find no better way. We must remember while freedom is
to win we are facing a national struggle, and if we are threatened
within by a civil war of creeds it may undo us. That is why we must face
the question. That is why I think utter frankness in these grave matters
is of grave urgency. If we approach them in the right spirit we need
have no fear--for at heart the most of men are susceptible to high
appeals. What we need is courage and intensity; it is gabbling about
surface things makes the bitterness. If in truth we safeguard the right
of every man as we are bound to do we shall win the confidence of all,
and we may hope for a braver and better future, wherein some light of
the primal Beauty may wander again over earth as in the beginning it
dawned on chaos when the Spirit of God first moved over the waters.

CHAPTER XIII

INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM

I

It will probably cause surprise if I say there is, possibly, more
intellectual freedom in Ireland than elsewhere in Europe. But I do not
mean by intellectual freedom conventional Free-thought, which is,
perhaps, as far as any superstition from true freedom of the mind. The
point may not be admitted but its consideration will clear the air, and
help to dispose of some objections hindering that spiritual freedom,
fundamental to all liberty.

II

I have no intention here of in any way criticising the doctrine of
Free-thought, but one so named cannot be ignored when we consider
Intellectual Freedom. This, then, has to be borne in mind when speaking
of Free-thought, that while it allows you latitude of opinion in many
things, it will not allow you freedom in all things, in, for example,
Revealed Religion. I only mention this to show that on both sides of
such burning questions you have disputants dogmatic. A dogmatic "yes"
meets an equally dogmatic "no." The dogmas differ and it is not part of
our business here to discuss them: but to come to a clear conception of
the matter in hand, it must be kept in mind, that if you,
notwithstanding, freely of your own accord, accept belief in certain
doctrines, the freethinkers will for that deny you freedom. And the
freethinkers are right in that they are dogmatic. (But this they
themselves appear to overlook.) Freedom is absolutely dogmatic. It is
fundamentally false that freedom implies no attachment to any belief, no
being bound by any law, "As free as the wind," as the saying goes, for
the wind is not free. Simple indeterminism is not liberty.

III

We must, then, find the true conception of Intellectual Freedom. It is
the freedom of the individual to follow his star and reach his goal.
That star binds him down to certain lines and his freedom is in exact
proportion to his fidelity to the lines. The seeming paradox may be
puzzling: a concrete example will make it clear. Suppose a man,
shipwrecked, finds himself at sea in an open boat, without his bearings
or a rudder. He is at the mercy of the wind and wave, without freedom,
helpless. But give him his bearings and a helm, and at once he recovers
his course; he finds his position and can strike the path to freedom. He
is at perfect liberty to scuttle his boat, drive it on the rocks or do
any other irrational thing; but if he would have freedom, he must follow
his star.

IV

This leads us to track a certain error that has confused modern debate.
A man in assumed impartiality tells you he will stand away from his own
viewpoint and consider a case from yours. Now, if he does honestly hold
by his own view and thinks he can put it by and judge from his
opponent's, he is deceiving both himself and his opponent. He can do so
_apparently,_ but, whatever assumption is made, he is governed
subconsciously by his own firm conviction. His belief is around him like
an atmosphere; it goes with him wherever he goes; he can only stand free
of it by altogether abandoning it. If his case is such that he can come
absolutely to the other side to view it uninfluenced by his own, then he
has abandoned his own. He is like a man in a boat who has thrown over
rudder and bearings: he may be moved by any current: he is adrift. If he
is to recover the old ground, he must win it as something he never had.
But if instead of this he does at heart hold by his own view, he should
give over the deception that he is uninfluenced by it in framing
judgment. It is psychologically impossible. Let the man understand it as
a duty to himself to be just to others, and to substitute this principle
for his spurious impartiality. This is the frank and straightforward
course. While he is under his own star, he is moving in its light: he
has, if unconsciously, his hand on the helm: he judges all currents
scrupulously and exactly, but always from his own place at the wheel and
with his own eyes. To abandon one or the other is to betray his trust,
or in good faith and ignorance to cast it off till it is gone, perhaps,
too far to recover.

V

If we so understand intellectual freedom, in what does its denial
consist? In this: around every set of principles guiding men, there
grows up a corresponding set of prejudices that with the majority in
practice often supersede the principles; and these prejudices with the
march of time assume such proportions, gather such power, both by the
numbers of their adherents and the authority of many supporting them,
that for a man of spirit, knowing them to be evil and urgent of
resistance, there is needed a vigour and freedom of mind that but few
understand and even fewer appreciate or encourage. The prejudices that
grow around a man's principles are like weeds and poison in his garden:
they blight his flowers, trees and fruit; and he must go forth with fire
and sword and strong unsparing hand to root out the evil things. He
will find with his courage and strength are needed passion and patience
and dogged persistence. For men defend a prejudice with bitter venom
altogether unlike the fire that quickens the fighter for freedom; and
the destroyer of the evil may find himself assailed by an astonishing
combination--charged with bad faith or treachery or vanity or sheer
perversity, in proportion as those who dislike his principles deny his
good faith; or those who profess them, because of his vigour and candour
denounce him for an enemy within the fold. But for all that he should
stand fast. If he has the courage so to do, he gives a fine example of
intellectual freedom.

VI

It will serve us to consider some prejudices, free-thinking and
religious. First the free-thinker. He has a prejudice very hard to kill.
If I believe in the beginning what Bernard Shaw has found out thus late
in the day, that priests are not as bad as they are painted, the
free-thinker would deny me intellectual freedom. The fact of my right to
think the matter out and come to that conclusion would count for
nothing. On the other hand, if I were known to have professed a certain
faith and to have abandoned it, he would acclaim that as casting off
mental slavery. This is hopelessly confusing. If a man has ceased to
hold a certain belief he deserves no credit for courage in saying so
openly. If he thinks what he once believed, or is supposed to have
believed, has no vitality, surely he can have no reason for being afraid
of it, and to speak of dangerous consequences from it to him, can be
_for him_ at least only a bogey. His simple denial is, then, no mark of
courage. Courage is a positive thing. Yet he may well have that courage.
Suppose him in taking his stand to have taken up some social faith that
for him has promise of better things. He will find his new creed
surrounded by its own swarm of prejudices, and if he refuse to worship
every fetish of the free-thinker, declaring that this stands to him for
a certain definite, beautiful thing, and fighting for it, he will find
himself denied and scouted by his new friends. He may find himself often
in company with some supposed enemies. He will surely need in his
sincere attitude to life a freedom of mind that is not a name merely but
a positive virtue that demands of him more than denunciation of
obscurantism, the recognition of a personal duty and the justification
of personal works.

VII

The religious prejudice will be no less hard to kill. Indiscriminate
denunciation of unbelievers as wicked men serves no good purpose and
leads nowhere. There are wicked men on all sides. Our standard must be
one that will distinguish the sincere men on all sides; and our loyalty
to our particular creeds must be shown in our lives and labours, not in
the reviling of the infidel. We are justified in casting out the
hypocrite from every camp, and when we come to this task we can be sure
only of the hypocrites in our own; and we should lay it as an injunction
on all bodies to purge themselves. The burden will be laid on all--not
one surely of which men can complain--that they shall prove their
principles in action and lay their prejudices by. Christians might well
find exemplars in the early martyrs, those who for their principles went
so readily to the lions. One may anticipate the complacent rejoinder:
"This is not so exacting an age; men are not asked to die for religion
now"--and one may in turn reply, that, perhaps our age may not be
without occasion for such high service, but that we may be unwilling to
go to the lions. Our time has its own trial--by no means unexacting let
me tell you--but we quietly slip it by: it is much easier to revile the
infidel. This as a test of loyalty should be pinned: we shall shut up
thereby the hypocrite. And the earnest man, more conscious of his own
burden, will be more sympathetic, generous and just, and will come to be
more logical and to see what Newman well remarked, that one who asks
questions shows he has no belief and in asking may be but on the road to
one. If to ask a question is to express a doubt, it is no less, perhaps,
to seek a way out of it. "What better can he do than inquire, if he is
in doubt?" asks Newman. "Not to inquire is in his case to be satisfied
with disbelief." We should, acting in this light, instead of denouncing
the questioner, answer his question freely and frankly, encourage him to
ask others and put him one or two by the way. Men meeting in this manner
may still remain on opposite sides, but there will be formed between
them a bond of sympathy that mutual sincerity can never fail to
establish. This is freedom, and a fine beautiful thing, surely worth a
fine effort. What we have grown accustomed to, the bitterness, the
recriminations, the persecutions and retaliations, are all the evil
weeds of prejudice, growing around our principles and choking them. They
are so far a denial of principle, a proof of mental slavery. Our freedom
will attest to faith: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
Liberty."

VIII

This, in conclusion, is the root of the matter: to claim freedom and to
allow it in like measure; rather than to deny, to urge men to follow
their beliefs: only thus can they find salvation. To constrain a man to
profess what we profess is worse than delusion: should he give lip
service to what he does not hold at heart, 'twere for him deceitful and
for us dangerous. Where his star calls, let him walk sincerely. If his
creed is insufficient or inconsistent, in his struggle he shall test it,
and in his sincerity he must make up the insufficiency or remove the
inconsistency. This is the only course for honourable men and no man
should object. To repeat, it puts an equal burden on all--the onus of
justifying the faith that is in them. Life is a divine adventure and he
whose faith is finest, firmest and clearest will go farthest. God does
not hold his honours for the timid: the man who buried his talent,
fearing to lose it, was cast into exterior darkness. He who will step
forward fearlessly will be justified. "All things are possible to him
who believeth." Many on both sides may be surprised to find suddenly
proposed as a test to both sides the readiness to adventure bravely on
the Sea of Life. The free-thinker may be astonished to hear, not that he
goes too far, but does not go far enough. He may gasp at the test, but
it is in effect the test and the only true one. The man who does not
believe he is to be blotted out when his body ceases to breathe, who
holds all history for his heritage and the wide present for his
battle-ground, believes also the future is no repellent void but a
widening and alluring world. If in his travel he is scrupulous in
detail, it is in the spirit of the mariner who will neither court a
ship-wreck nor be denied his adventure. He cannot deny to others the
right to hesitate and halt by the way, but his spirit asks no less than
the eternal and the infinite. Yes, but many good religious people are
not used to seeing the issue in this light, and those who make a trade
of fanning old bitterness will still ply their bitter trade, crying that
anarchists, atheists, heretics, infidels, all outcasts and wicked men,
are all rampant for our destruction. It may be disputed, but, admitting
it, one may ask: Is there no place among Christian people for those
distinctive virtues on which we base the superiority of our religion?
When the need is greatest, should the practice be less urgent? It is not
evident that the free-thinker is obliged by any of his principles to
give better example. It is evident the Christian is so obliged. Why is
he found wanting? If human weakness were pleaded, one could understand.
It is against the making a virtue of it lies the protest. How many noble
things there are in our philosophies, and how little practised. No
violent convulsions should be needed to make us free, if men were but
consistent: we should find ourselves wakening from a wicked dream in a
bloodless and beautiful revolution. We are in the desert truly and a
long way from the Promised Land. But we must get to the higher ground
and consider our position; and if one by one we are stripped of the
prejudices that too long have usurped the place of faith, and we find
ourselves, to our dismay, perhaps lacking that faith that we have so
long shouted but so little testified, and tremble on the verge of panic,
there is one last line that gives in four words with divine simplicity
and completeness a final answer to all timidity and objections: "Fear
not; only believe."

CHAPTER XIV

MILITARISM

I

To defend or recover freedom men must be always ready for the appeal to
arms. Here is a principle that has been vindicated through all history
and needs vindication now. But in our time the question of rightful war
has been crossed by the evil of militarism, and in our assertion of the
principle, that in the last resort freemen must have recourse to the
sword, we find ourselves crossed by the anti-militarist campaign. We
must dispose of this confusing element before we can come to the ethics
of war. Of the evil of militarism there can be no question, but a
careful study of some anti-militaristic literature discloses very
different motives for the campaign. I propose to lay some of the
motives bare and let the reader judge whether there may not be an
insidious plot on foot to make a deal between the big nations to crush
the little ones. For this purpose I will consider two books on the
question, one by Mr. Norman Angell, "The Great Illusion," and one by M.
Jacques Novikow, "War and Its Alleged Benefits." In the work of Mr.
Angell the reader will find the suggestion of the deal, while in the
work of M. Novikow is given a clear and honest statement of the
anti-militarist position, with which we can all heartily agree. Those of
us who would assert our freedom should understand the right
anti-militarist position, because in its exponents we shall find allies
at many points. But with Mr. Angell's book it is otherwise. These points
emerge: the basis of morality is self-interest; the Great Powers have
nothing to gain by destroying one another, they should agree to police
and exploit the territory of the "backward races"; if the statesmen take
a different view from the financiers, the financiers can bring pressure
to bear on the statesmen by their international organisation; the
capitalist has no country. Well, our comment is, the patriot has a
country, and when he wakens to the new danger, he may spoil the
capitalist dream, and this book of Mr. Angell's may in a sense other
than that the author intended be appropriately named "The Great
Illusion."

II

The limits of this essay do not admit of detailed examination of the
book named. What I propose to do is make characteristic extracts
sufficiently full to let the reader form judgment. As we are only
concerned for the present with the danger I mention, I take particular
notice of Mr. Angell's book, and I refer the reader for further study to
the original. But the charge of taking an accidental line from its
context cannot be made here, as the extracts are numerous, the tendency
of all alike, and more of the same nature can be found. I divide the
extracts into three groups, which I name:

1. The Ethics of the Case.

2. The Power of Money.

3. The Deal.

Where italics are used they are mine.

1. THE ETHICS OF THE CASE.--"The real basis of Social Morality is
self-interest." ("The Great Illusion," 3rd Ed., p. 66.) "Have we not
abundant evidence, indeed, that the passion of patriotism, as divorced
from material interest, is being modified by the pressure of material
interest?" (p. 167.) "Piracy was magnificent, doubtless, but it was
not business." (Speaking of the old Vikings, p. 245.) "The pacifist
propaganda has failed largely because it has not put (and proven) the
plea of interest as distinct from the moral plea." (p. 321.)

2. THE POWER OF MONEY.--"The complexity of modern finance makes New
York dependent on London, London upon Paris, Paris upon Berlin, to a
greater degree than has ever yet been the case in history." (p. 47.)

"It would be a miracle if already at this point the whole influence of
British Finance were not thrown against the action of the British
Government." (On the assumed British capture of Hamburg, p. 53).

"The most absolute despots cannot command money." (p. 226.)

"With reference to capital, it may almost be said that it is organised
so naturally internationally that _formal organisation is not
necessary_." (p. 269.)

3. THE DEAL.--"France has benefited by the conquest of Algeria,
England by that of India, because in each case the arms were employed
not, properly speaking, for conquest at all, but _for police
purposes_." (p. 115.)

"While even the wildest Pan-German has never cast his eyes in the
direction of Canada, he has cast them, and does cast them, in the
direction of Asia Minor.... _Germany may need to police Asia Minor_."
(pp. 117, 118.)

"_It is much more to our interest to have an orderly and organised
Asia Minor under German tutelage than to have an unorganised and
disorderly one which should be independent_." (p. 120.)

"Sir Harry Johnston, in the 'Nineteenth Century' for December, 1910,
comes a great deal nearer to touching the real kernel of the
problem.... He adds that the best informed Germans used this language
to him: '_You know that we ought to make common cause in our dealings
with backward races of the world_!'"

The quotations speak for themselves. Note the policing of the "backward
races." The Colonies are not in favour. Mr. Angell writes: "What in the
name of common sense is the advantage of conquering them if the only
policy is to let them do as they like?" (p. 92.) South Africa occasions
bitter reflections: "The present Government of the Transvaal is in the
hands of the Boer Party." (p. 95.) And he warns Germany, that, supposing
she wishes to conquer South Africa, "she would learn that the policy
that Great Britain has adopted was not adopted by philanthropy, but in
the hard school of bitter experience." (p. 104.) We believe him, and we
may have to teach a lesson or two in the same school. It may be noted in
passing Mr. Angell gives Ireland the honour of a reference. In reply to
a critic of the _Morning Post_, who wrote thus: "It is the sublime
quality of human nature that every great nation has produced citizens
ready to sacrifice themselves rather than submit to external force
attempting to dictate to them a conception other than their own of what
is right." (p. 254.) Mr. Angell replied: "One is, of course, surprised
to see the foregoing in the _Morning Post_; the concluding phrase would
justify the present agitation in India, or in Egypt, or in Ireland
against British, rule." (p. 254.) Comment is needless. The reading and
re-reading of this book forces the conclusion as to its sinister
design. Once that design is exposed its danger recedes. There is one at
least of the "backward races" that may not be sufficiently alive to
self-interest, but may for all that upset the capitalist table and
scatter the deal by what Ruskin described in another context as "the
inconvenience of the reappearance of a soul."

III

We must not fail to distinguish the worth of the best type of
anti-militarist and to value the truth of his statement. It is curious
to find Mr. Angell writing an introduction to M. Novikow's book, for M.
Novikow's position is, in our point of view, quite different. He does
not draw the fine distinction of policing the "backward races." Rather,
he defends the Bengalis. Suppose their rights had never been violated,
he says: "They would have held their heads higher; they would have been
proud and dignified, and perhaps might have taken for their motto, _Dieu
et mon droit_." ("War and Its Alleged Benefits," p. 12.) He can be
ironical and he can be warm. Later, he writes; "The French (and all
other people) should vindicate their rights with their last drop of
blood; so what I write does not refer to those who defend their rights,
but to those who violate the rights of others." (Note p. 70.) He does
not put by the moral plea, but says: "Political servitude develops the
greatest defects in the subjugated peoples." (p. 79.) And he pays his
tribute to those who die for a noble cause: "My warmest sympathy goes
out to those noble victims who preferred death to disgrace." (p. 82.)
This is the true attitude and one to admire; and any writer worthy of
esteem who writes for peace never fails to take the same stand. Emerson,
in his essay on "War," makes a fine appeal for peace, but he writes: "If
peace is sought to be defended or preserved for the safety of the
luxurious or the timid, it is a sham and the peace will be base. War is
better, and the peace will be broken." And elsewhere on "Politics," he
writes: "A nation of men unanimously bent on freedom or conquest can
easily confound the arithmetic of the statists and achieve extravagant
actions out of all proportions to their means." Yes, and by our
unanimity for freedom we mean to prove it true.

CHAPTER XV

THE EMPIRE

I

With the immediate promise of Home Rule many strange apologists for the
Empire have stepped into the sun. Perhaps it is well--we may find
ourselves soon more directly than heretofore struggling with the Empire.
So far the fight has been confused. Imperialists fighting for Home Rule
obscured the fact that they were _not_ fighting the Empire. Now Home
Rule is likely to come, and it will serve at least the good purpose of
clearing the air and setting the issue definitely between the nation and
the Empire. We shall have our say for the nation, but as even now many
things, false and hypocritical, are being urged on behalf of the
Empire, it will serve us to examine the Imperial creed and show its
tyranny, cruelty, hypocrisy, and expose the danger of giving it any
pretext whatever for aggression. For the Empire, as we know it and deal
with it, is a bad thing in itself, and we must not only get free of it
and not be again trapped by it, but must rather give hope and
encouragement to every nation fighting the same fight all the world
over.

II

One candid writer, Machiavelli, has put the Imperial creed into a book,
the examination of which will--for those willing to see--clear the air
of illusion. Now, we are conscious that defenders of the Empire profess
to be shocked by the wickedness of Machiavelli's utterance--we shall
hear Macaulay later--but this shocked attitude won't delude us. Let
those who have not read Machiavelli's book, "The Prince," consider
carefully the extracts given below and see exactly how they fit the
English occupation of Ireland, and understand thoroughly that the Empire
is a thing, bad in itself, utterly wicked, to be resisted everywhere,
fought without ceasing, renounced with fervour and without
qualification, as we have been taught from the cradle to renounce the
Devil with all his works and pomps. Consider first the invasion.
Machiavelli speaks:--"The common method in such cases is this. As soon
as a foreign potentate enters into a province those who are weaker or
disobliged join themselves with him out of emulation and animosity to
those who are above them, insomuch that in respect to those inferior
lords no pains are to be omitted that may gain them; and when gained,
they will readily and unanimously fall into one mass with the State that
is conquered. Only the conqueror is to take special care that they grow
not too strong, nor be entrusted with too much authority, and then he
can easily with his own forces and their assistance keep down the
greatness of his neighbours, and make himself absolute arbiter in that
province." Here is the old maxim, "Divide and conquer." To gain an entry
some pretence is advisable. Machiavelli speaks with approval of a
certain potentate who always made religion a pretence. Having entered a
vigorous policy must be pursued. We read--"He who usurps the government
of any State is to execute and put in practice all the cruelties which
he thinks material at once." Cromwell rises before us.

"A prince," says Machiavelli, "is not to regard the scandal of being
cruel if thereby he keeps his subjects in their allegiance." "For," he
is cautioned, "whoever conquers a free town and does not demolish it
commits a great error and may expect to be ruined himself; because
whenever the citizens are disposed to revolt they betake themselves, of
course, to that blessed name of Liberty, and the laws of their
ancestors, which no length of time nor kind usage whatever will be able
to eradicate." An alternative to utter destruction is flattery and
indulgence. "Men are either to be flattered and indulged or utterly
destroyed." We think of the titles and the bribes. Again, "A town that
has been anciently free cannot more easily be kept in subjection than by
employing its own citizens." We think of the place-hunter, the King's
visit, the "loyal" address. To make the conquest secure we read: "When a
prince conquers a new State and annexes it as a member to his old, then
it is necessary your subjects be disarmed, all but such as appeared for
you in the conquest, and they are to be mollified by degrees and
brought into such a condition of laziness and effeminacy that in time
your whole strength may devolve upon your own natural militia." We think
of the Arms Acts and our weakened people. But while one-half is disarmed
and the other half bribed, with neither need the conqueror keep faith.
We read: "A prince who is wise and prudent cannot, or ought not, to keep
his parole, when the keeping of it is to his prejudice and the causes
for which he promised removed." This is made very clear to prevent any
mistake. "It is of great consequence to disguise your inclination and
play the hypocrite well." We think of the Broken Treaty and countless
other breaches of faith. It is, of course, well to seem honourable, but
Machiavelli cautions: "It is honourable to seem mild, and merciful, and
courteous, and religious, and sincere, and indeed to be so, provided
your mind be so rectified and prepared, that you can act quite contrary
upon occasion." Should anyone hesitate at all this let him hear: "He is
not to concern himself if run under the infamy of those vices, without
which his dominion was not to be preserved." Thus far the philosophy of
Machiavelli. The Imperialist out to "civilise the barbarians" is, of
course, shocked by such wickedness; but we are beginning to open our
eyes to the wickedness and hypocrisy of both. To us this book reads as
if a shrewd observer of the English Occupation in Ireland had noted the
attending features and based these principles thereon. We have reason to
be grateful to Machiavelli for his exposition. His advice to the prince,
in effect, lays bare the marauders of his age and helps us to expose the
Empire in our own.

III

There is a lesson to be learnt from the fact that this book of
Machiavelli's, written four centuries ago in Italy, is so apt here
to-day. We must take this exposition as the creed of Empire and have no
truck with the Empire. It may be argued that the old arts will be no
longer practised on us. Let the new supporters of the Empire know that
by the new alliance they should practise these arts on other people,
which would be infamy. We are not going to hold other people down; we
are going to encourage them to stand up. If it means a further fight we
have plenty of stimulus still. Our oppression has been doubly bitter
for having been mean. The tyranny of a strong mind makes us rage, but
the tyranny of a mean one is altogether insufferable. The cruelty of a
Cromwell can be forgotten more easily than the cant of a Macaulay. When
we read certain lines we go into a blaze, and that fire will burn till
it has burnt every opposition out. In his essay on Milton, Macaulay
having written much bombast on the English Revolution, introduces this
characteristic sentiment: "One part of the Empire there was, so
unhappily circumstanced, that at that time its misery was necessary to
our happiness and its slavery to our freedom." For insolence this would
be hard to beat. Let it be noted well. It is the philosophy of the
"Predominant Partner." If he had thanked God for having our throats to
cut, and cut them with loud gratitude like Cromwell, a later generation
would be incensed. But this other attitude is the gall in the cup.
Macaulay is, of course, shocked by Machiavelli's "Prince." In his essay
on Machiavelli we read: "It is indeed scarcely possible for any person
not well acquainted with the history and literature of Italy to read
without horror and amazement the celebrated treatise which has brought
so much obloquy on the name of Machiavelli. Such a display of
wickedness, naked, yet not ashamed, such cool, judicious, scientific
atrocity, seemed rather to belong to a fiend than to the most depraved
of men." But, later, in the same essay, is a valuable sidelight. He
writes of Machiavelli as a man "whose only fault was that, having
adopted some of the maxims then generally received, he arranged them
most luminously and expressed them more forcibly than any other writer."
Here we have the truth, of course not so intended, but evident:
Machiavelli's crime is not for the sentiments he entertained but for
writing them down luminously and forcibly--in other words, for giving
the show away.

Think of Macaulay's "horror and amazement," and read this further in the
same essay: "Every man who has seen the world knows that nothing is so
useless as a general maxim. If it be very moral and very true it may
serve for a copy to a charity boy." So the very moral and the very true
are not for the statesman but for the charity-boy. This perhaps may be
defended as irony; hardly, but even so, in such irony the character
appears as plainly as in volumes of solemn rant. To us it stands out
clearly as the characteristic attitude of the English Government. The
English people are used to it, practise it, and will put up with it; but
the Irish people never were, are not now, and never will be used to it;
and we won't put up with it. We get calm as old atrocities recede into
history, but to repeat the old cant, above all to try and sustain such
now, sets all the old fire blazing--blazing with a fierceness that will
end only with the British connection.

IV

Not many of us in Ireland will be deceived by Macaulay, but there is
danger in an occasional note of writers, such as Bernard Shaw and Stuart
Mill. Our instinct often saves us by natural repugnance from the
hypocrite, when we may be confused by some sentiment of a sincere man,
not foreseeing its tendency. When an aggressive power looks for an
opening for aggression it first looks for a pretext, and our danger lies
in men's readiness to give it the pretext. Such a sentiment as this from
Mill--on "Liberty"--gives the required opening: "Despotism is a
legitimate mode of government in dealing with Barbarians, provided the
end be their improvement"; or this from Shaw's preface to the Home Rule
edition of "John Bull's Other Island": "I am prepared to Steam-roll
Tibet if Tibet persist in refusing me my international rights." Now, it
is within our right to enforce a principle within our own territory, but
to force it on other people, called for the occasion "barbarians," is
quite another thing. Shaw may get wrathful, and genuinely so, over the
Denshawai horror, and expose it nakedly and vividly as he did in his
first edition of "John Bull's Other Island," Preface for Politicians;
but the aggressors are undisturbed as long as he gives them pretexts
with his "steam-roll Tibet" phrase. And when he says further that he is
prepared to co-operate with France, Italy, Russia, Germany and England
in Morocco, Tripoli, Siberia and Africa to civilise these places, not
only are his denunciations of Denshawai horrors of no avail--except to
draw tears after the event--but he cannot co-operate in the civilising
process without practising the cruelty; and perhaps in their privacy the
empire-makers may smile when Shaw writes of Empire with evident
earnestness as "a name that every man who has ever felt the sacredness
of his own native soil to him, and thus learnt to regard that feeling in
other men as something holy and inviolable, spits out of his mouth with
enormous contempt." When, further, in his "Representative Government"
Mill tells the English people--a thing about which Shaw has no
illusions--that they are "the power which of all in existence best
understands liberty, and, whatever may have been its errors in the past,
has attained to more of conscience and moral principle in its dealing
with foreigners than any other great nation seems either to conceive as
possible or recognise as desirable"--they not only go forward to
civilise the barbarians by Denshawai horrors, but they do so unctuously
in the true Macaulayan style. We feel a natural wrath at all this, not
unmingled with amusement and amazement. In studying the question we read
much that rouses anger and contempt, but one must laugh out heartily in
coming to this gem of Mill's, uttered with all Mill's solemnity:
"Place-hunting is a form of ambition to which the English, considered
nationally, are almost strangers." When the sincerest expression of the
English mind can produce this we need to have our wits about us; and

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