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Title: The Idea of a League of Nations
Author: H.G. Wells
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Language: English
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The Idea of a League of Nations


H.G. Wells

First published in The Atlantic Monthly, Jan 1919

A small group of qualified Englishmen have long been working toward Universal Peace from an angle of their own. Forming the League of Free Nations Association they have divided the principal problems among experts, for extended study, appraisal and suggestions for solution. These inquiries, eventually to be published in book form, will, in the Atlantic’s belief, form a highly important treatise on World Peace; but, in the meantime, the group has united in the compilation of the following article, which may well serve as an introduction to all attempts at a League of Nations. The composite authorship of the paper is especially interesting, the names of the collaborators being—

H.G. Wells, Chairman

H. Wickham Steed, Viscount Grey, Gilbert Murray, Lionel Curtis, J. A. Spender, William Archer, Secretary, A.E. Zimmern, Viscount Bryce


Part One

Part Two



UNIFICATION of human affairs, to the extent at least of a cessation of war and a worldwide rule of international law, is no new idea; it can be traced through many centuries of history. It is found as an acceptable commonplace in a fragment, De Republica, of Cicero. It has, indeed, appeared and passed out of the foreground of thought, and reapeared there, again and again.

Hitherto, however, if only on account of the limitations of geographical knowledge, the project has rarely been truly world-wide, though in some instances it has comprehended practically all the known world. Almost always there has been an excluded fringe of barbarians and races esteemed as less than men.

The Roman Empire realized the idea in a limited sphere and in a mechanical, despotic fashion. It was inherent in the propaganda of Islam — excluding the unbeliever. It may be said that the political unity of Christendom overriding states and nations was the orthodox and typical doctrine of the Middle Ages. The individual states were regarded as being, in the nature of things, members of one great body politic, presided over by the Pope, or the Emperor, or both. It was the idea of the world supremacy of the Empire which inspired Dante’s De Monarchia; but, as Lord Bryce has remarked, ’Dante’s book was an epilogue instead of a prophecy.’

It cannot be claimed that history shows any continuously progressive movement of human affairs from a dispersed to a unified condition. Rather it tells a story of the oscillating action of separatist and unifying forces. And the process of civilization itself, if we use the word in its narrower and older sense of the elaboration of citizenship in a political and social organization, and exclude mechanical and scientific progress from it, has on the whole been rather on the side of fragmentation. It was, for example, much easier for loosely organized tribes and village communities scattered over wide areas to coalesce into vague and often very extensive ‘nations,’ like the Scythians and Thracians, or to cooperate in ‘amplictyonics,’ or federations, like the small peoples of central Greece, than for highly developed city-states or fully organized monarchies, possessing a distinctive culture and religion and definite frontiers, to sink these things in any larger union. For such higher forms of political organization, enlargement occurred mainly through conquest., which created unstable empire systems of subject and subordinate peoples under the sway — which might of course be the assimilative sway — of a dominant nation, rather than real unifications.

The Renaissance presents a phase in history in which a large vague unification (Christendom) is seen to be breaking up simultaneously with the appearance of a higher grade of national organization. Machiavelli, with his aspiration toward a united Italy, involving a distintegration of the Empire, opened the phase of the national state in Europe, which reached its fullest development in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Before the Renaissance Europe was far more of a unity than it was at the close of the reign of Queen Victoria, when it consisted mainly of a group of nations, with their national edges sharpened and hardened almost to a maximum, each aspiring to empire and each acutely suspicious of and hostile to its neighbors. The idea of international organization for peace seemed far more Utopian to the normal European intelligence in 1900 than it would have done eight hundred years before.

But while those political and social developments which constitute civilization in the narrower sense of the word were tending to make human societies, as they became more elaborately organized, more heterogeneous and mutually unsympathetic, there were also coming into play throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for the first time, upon a quite unprecedented scale, another series of forces diametrically opposed to human separations. They worked, however, mutely, because the world of thought was unprepared for them. Unprecedented advances in technical and scientific knowledge were occurring, and human cooperation and the reaction of man upon man, not only in material but also in mental things, was being made enormously more effective than it had ever been before. But the phrases of international relationship were not altering to correspond. Phrases usually follow after rather than anticipate reality, and so it was that at the outbreak of the Great War in August, 1914, Europe and the world awoke out of a dream of intensified nationality to a new system of realities which were entirely antagonistic to the continuance of national separations.

It is necessary to state very plainly the nature of these new forces. Upon them rests the whole case for the League of Nations as it is here presented. It is a new case. It is argued here that these forces give us powers novel in history and bring mankind face to face with dangers such as it has never confronted before. It is maintained that, on the one hand, they render possible such a reasoned coordination of human affairs as has never hitherto been conceivable, and that, on the other, they so enlarge and intensify the scope and evil of war and of international hostility as to give what was formerly a generous aspiration more and more of the aspect of an imperative necessity. Under the lurid illumination of the world war, the idea of world- unification has passed rapidly from the sphere of the literary idealist into that of the methodical, practical man, and the task of an examination of its problems and possibilities, upon the scale which the near probability of an actual experiment demands, is thrust upon the world.

All political and social institutions, all matters of human relationship, are dependent upon the means by which mind may react upon mind and life upon life, that is to say upon the intensity, rapidity, and reach of mental and physical communication. In the history of mankind, the great phases seem all to be marked by the appearance of some new invention which facilitates trade or intercourse, and may be regarded as the operating cause of the new phase. The invention of writing, of the wheel and the road, of the ship, of money, of printing, of letters of exchange, of joint-stock undertakings and limited liability, mark distinct steps in the enlargement of human intercourse and cooperation from its original limitation within the verbal and traditional range of the family or tribe.

A large part of the expansion of the Roman Empire, apart from its overseas development, may be considered, for example, as a process of road-making and bridge-building. Even its trans-Mediterranean development was a matter of road-making combined with ship-building. The Roman Empire, like the Chinese, expanded on land to an extremity determined by the new method of road- communication; and sought to wall itself in at last at the limits of its range from its centres of strength. The new chapter of the human story again, which began with the entry of America and the Oceanic lands upon the stage of history, was the direct outcome of that bold sailing out upon the oceans which the mariner’s compass, and the supersession of the galley by the development of sails and rigging, rendered possible. The art of printing from movable types released new powers of suggestion, documentation, and criticism, which shattered the old religious organization of Christendom, made the systematic investigations and records of modern science possible, and created the vast newspaper-reading democracies of to-day. The whole of history could, indeed, be written as a drama of human nature reacting to invention.

And we live to-day in a time of accelerated inventiveness and innovation, when a decade modifies the material of inter-communication far more extensively than did any century before, in range, swiftness, and intensity alike. Within the present century, since 1900, there have been far more extensive changes in these things than occurred in the ten centuries before Christ. Instead of regarding Around the World in Eighty Days as an amazing feat of hurry, we can now regard a flight about the globe in fifteen or sixteen days as a reasonable and moderate performance. The teaching of history compels us to recognize in these new facilities factors which will necessarily work out into equally revolutionary social and political consequences. It is the most obvious wisdom to set ourselves to anticipate as far as we can, so as to mitigate and control, the inevitable collisions and repercussions of mankind that are coming upon us. Even if we were to suppose that this rush of novel accelerating contrivances would be presently checked, — and there is little justification for any such supposition, — it would still behoove us to work out the influence which the things already achieved will have upon our kind.

And it is not simply an increase of range and swiftness that we have to consider here, though these are the aspects that leap immediately to the eye. There has also been, for example, a very great increase in the possible vividness of mental impact. In education and in the agencies of journalism and propaganda, there has been an increase of power at present incalculable, owing to vast strides in the printing of pictures, and to the cinematograph, the gramaphone, and similar means of intense world-wide information and suggestion.


While all these things, on the one hand, point plainly now to such possibilities of human unification and world unanimity as no one could have dreamed of a hundred years ago, there has been, on the other hand, a change, an intensification, of the destructive processes of war which opens up a black alternative to this pacific settlement of human affairs. The case as it is commonly stated in the propaganda literature for a League of Nations is a choice between, on the one hand, a general agreement on the part of mankind to organize a permanent peace, and on the other, a progressive development of the preparation for war and the means of conducting war which must ultimately eat up human freedom and all human effort, and, as the phrase goes, destroy civilization. We shall find as we proceed that these simple oppositions do not by any means state all the possibilities of the case; but for a moment or so it will be convenient to confine our attention to this enhancement of the cost, burden, and destructiveness of belligerence which scientific and technical progress has made inevitable.

What has happened is essentially this, that the natural limitations upon warfare which have existed hitherto appear to have broken down. Hitherto there has been a certain proportion between the utmost exertion of a nation at war and the rest of its activities. The art and methods of war have had a measurable relation to the resources of the community as a whole, so that it has been possible for nations to be well armed by the standards of the time and yet to remain vigorous and healthy communities, and to wage successful wars without exhaustion.

To take a primitive example, it was possible for the Zulu people, under King Chaka, to carry warfare as it was then understood in South Africa — a business of spearmen fighting on foot — to its utmost perfection, and to remain prosperous and happy themselves, whatever might be the fate they inflicted upon their neighbors. And even the armies of Continental Europe, as they existed before the Great War, were manifestly bearable burdens, because they were borne. But the outbreak of that struggle forced upon the belligerents, in spite of the natural conservatism of all professional soldiers, a rapid and logical utilization of the still largely neglected resources of mechanical and chemical science; they were compelled to take up every device that offered, however costly it might be; they could not resist the drive toward scientific war which they had themselves released. In warfare the law of the utmost immediate exertion rules; the combatant who does not put in all his possible energy is lost. In four brief years, therefore, Europe was compelled to develop a warfare monstrously out of proportion to any conceivable good which the completest victory could possibly achieve for either side.

We may take as a typical instance of this logical and necessary exaggeration which warfare has undergone the case of the ‘tank.’ The idea of a land ironclad was an old and very obvious one, which had been disliked and resisted by military people for many years. The substantial basis of the European armies of 1914 was still a comparatively inexpensive infantry, assisted by machineguns and field-guns and cavalry. By 1918 the infantry line is sustained by enormous batteries of guns of every calibre, firing away an incredible wealth of ammunition; its structure includes the most complicated system of machine-gun nests and strong posts conceivable, and every important advance is preceded by lines of aeroplanes and sustained by fleets of these new and still developing weapons, the tanks. Every battle sees scores of these latter monsters put out of action. Now, even the primitive tank of 1917 costs, quite apart from the very high running expenses, something between seven and ten thousand pounds. At that stage it was still an expedient on trial and in the rough. But its obvious corollary in movable big-gun forts with ammunition tenders — forts which will probably be made in parts and built up near to the point of use, however costly they may be — is practically dictated if war is to continue. So too is a production of light and swift types of tank that will serve many of the purposes of cavalry.

If war is to continue as a human possibility, this elaboration of the tank in scale and species follows inevitably. A mere peace of the old type is likely to accelerate rather than check this elaboration. Only a peace that will abolish the probability of war from human affairs can release the nations from the manifest necessity of cultivating the tank, multiplying the tank, and maintaining a great manufacture and store of tanks, over and above all the other belligerent plants which they had to keep going before 1914. And these tanks will supersede nothing — unless perhaps, to a certain extent, cavalry. The tank, growing greater and greater and more numerous and various, is manifestly, therefore, one new burden — one of many new burdens — which must rest upon the shoulders of mankind henceforth, until the prospect of war can be shut off from international affairs. It is foolish to ignore these grimly budding possibilities of the tank. There they are, and they cannot be avoided if war is to go on.

But the tank is only one of quite a multitude of developments, which are bound to be followed up if the modern war-process continues. There is no help for it. In every direction there is the same story to be told — if war is still to be contemplated as a possibility — of an unavoidable elaboration of the means of war beyond the scale of any conceivable war end.

As a second instance, let us take the growth in size, range, and destructiveness of the air war. Few people realize fully what a vast thing the air-service has become. A big aeroplane of the raider type may cost anything up to twenty thousand pounds; the smallest costs not much less than a thousand. The pilot and the observer are of the very flower of the youth of the country; they have probably cost society many thousands of pounds’ worth of upbringing and education, and they have made little or no productive contribution to human resources. And these costs units have been multiplied enormously. From a poor hundred or so of aerial planes at the outset of the war, Great Britain alone has expanded her air forces until she has an output of thousands of new machines a month, aerodromes abound throughout the country, and there is scarcely a corner of England where the hum of the passing aeroplane is not to be heard. Now all this vast plant of aeroplane factories and instruction aerodromes must be kept up, once it has been started, war or no war, until war is practically impossible. It may be argued, perhaps, that during a peace-spell some portion of this material may be applied to civil air-transport; but the manufacturers have made it abundantly clear that this project does not strike them as reasonable or desirable; their industry has been created as an armament industry and an armament industry they wish it to remain. And besides this opposition of the interested profiteer, we have to remember that the aeroplane has imported into warfare possibilities of surprise hitherto undreamed of. So long as a sudden declaration of war, or an attack preceding a declaration of war, is possible, it is imperative now, not only that the air force of a country should be kept always in striking condition, but that the whole vast organization of coastal and frontier anti-aircraft defenses should be equally ready. Tens of thousands of men, most of them economically very valuable, must keep watch day and night, prepared at any moment to flash into warfare again.

The same story of a tremendous permanent expansion of war-equipment could be repeated in a score of parallel instances drawn from the land war and sea war. Enormous new organizations of anti-submarine flotillas, of minefield material and its production, of poison-gas manufacture and the like, have been called into existence, and must now remain as going concerns so long as war is likely to be renewed.

But enough examples have been cited here to establish the reality of this present unrestricted, illimitable, disproportionate growth of the war-process in comparison with all other human processes. Mars has become the young cuckoo in the nest of human possibilities, and it is — to state the extreme alternatives — a choice before mankind, whether we will drift on toward a catastrophe due to that overgrowth, or so organize the world as effectually to restrain and reduce warfare.

It is not impossible to adumbrate the general nature of the catastrophe which threatens mankind if war-making goes on. Modern warfare is not congenial to the working masses anywhere. No doubt the primitive form of warfare, a murderous bickering with adjacent tribes, is natural enough to uneducated men; but modern warfare, and still more the preparation for it, involves distresses, strains, and a continuity of base and narrow purpose quite beyond the patience and interest of the millions of ordinary men who find no other profit in it but suffering. The natural man is more apt for chaotic local fighting than for large-scale systematic fighting. Hatred campaigns and a sustained propaganda are needed to keep up the combatant spirit in a large modern state, even during actual hostilities; and in the case of Russia we have a striking example of the distaste a whole population may develop for the war-strain, even during the war and with the enemy at its gates.

What is likely to happen, then, when the working masses of Central and Western Europe, being no longer sustained by the immediate excitement of actual war, find themselves still obliged to go on, year after year, producing vast masses of war-material, pledged to carry a heavy burden of war loan rentiers on their backs, and subjected to an exacerbated conscription? Possibly, so far as the rentier burden on the worker goes, a great rise in prices and wages will relieve the worker to some extent, but only at the cost of acute disappointment and distress at another social level. There is a dangerously narrowing limit now to the confidence of the common man in the intelligence and good faith of those who direct his affairs; and the probability of a cruel confused class-war throughout Europe, roughly parallel in its methods to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and released by a similar loss of faith in leaders and government, appears at the end of the vista of waste of directive energy and natural resources, completing that waste of energy and resources into which the belligerent systems of Europe, the German Empire being the chief and foremost, have led mankind. Systematic force, overstrained and exhausted, will then give place to chaotic force, and general disorganization will ensue. Thereafter the world may welter in confusion for many generations, through such ruinous and impoverished centuries as close the Roman imperial story, before it develops the vitality for an effective reorganization.

Such, roughly, is the idea of the phrase ‘downfall of civilization’ as used in discussions like these. It is a vision of the world as a social system collapsing chaotically, not under the assault of outer barbarians, but beneath the pressure of this inevitable hypertrophy of war.


Let us now look a little more closely between the two extremes of possibility we have stated in the preceding section, between a world-unanimity for peace, on the one hand, — Everyman’s World League of Nations, — and a world-collapse under the overgrowth of war-organization and material, on the other.

The affairs of the world are now in a posture which enables us to dismiss the idea of a world hegemony for Germany, or for any other single power, as a fantastic vanity.

We have to consider, however, the much greater probability of a group of the more powerful states, including perhaps a chastened Germany, agreeing among themselves to organize and enforce peace in the world for ever. This would give us still a third type of league which we may call the League of the Senior States. It is perhaps the most probable of all the possibilities.

And, on the other hand, we have assumed, quite crudely, in the first section that the forces of popular insurrection are altogether destructive of organization, whereas there may be as yet unmeasured constructive and organizing power in the popular mind. There is a middle way between a superstitious belief in unguided democracy and a frantic hatred of it. Concurrently, for example, with the earlier phases of Bolshevik anarchy in Petrograd and Moscow, there seems to have been for a time a considerable development of cooperative production and distribution throughout European and Asiatic Russia. Mingled with much merely destructive and vindictive insurrectionism, there may be a popular will to order, reaching out to cooperate with all the sound and liberal forces of the old system of things. We can only guess as yet at the possibilities of a collective will in these peasant and labor masses of Europe which now read and write and have new-born ideas of class-action and responsibility. They will be ill-informed, they may be emotional, but they may have vast reserves of common sense. Much may depend upon the unforeseeable accident of great leaders. Nearly every socialist and democratic organization in the world, it is to be noted, now demands the League of Nations in some form, and men may arise who will be able to give that stir quite vague demand force and creative definition. A failure to achieve a world guaranty of peace on the part of the diplomatists at a peace conference may lead, indeed, to a type of insurrection and revolution not merely destructive but preparatory. It is conceivable. The deliberate organization of peace, as distinguished from a mere silly clamor for peace, may break out at almost any social level, and in the form either of a constructive, an adaptive, or a revolutionary project.

We have not, therefore, here, a case of a clear cut choice of two ways; there is a multitude of roads which may converge upon the permanent organization of world peace, and an infinitude of thwarting and delaying digressions may occur. Complicating and mitigating circumstances may, and probably will, make this antagonism of war and peace a lengthy and tortuous drama. There may be many halts and setbacks in the inevitable development of war; belligerence may pause and take breath on several occasions before its ultimate death flurry.

Such delays, such backwater phases and secondary aspects, must not confuse the issue and hide from us the essential fact of the disappearance of any real limitation upon the overgrowth of war in human life. That unlimited overgrowth is the probability which is driving more and more men to study and advocate this project of a League of Nations, because they are convinced that only through counter-organization of the peace-will in mankind can the world be saved from a great cycle of disasters, disorder, and retrogression.

And it does not follow, because the origins and motives of the will for such a world-league are various, that they involve a conflict over essentials, as to the character of the final result. It is the declared belief of many of the promoters of the world-league movement that a careful analysis of the main factors of its problems, a scientific examination of what is possible, what is impossible, what is necessary, and what is dangerous, must lead the mass of reasonable men in the world, whatever their class, origins, traditions, and prejudices, to a practical agreement upon the main lines of this scheme for the salvation of mankind. It is believed that the clear, deliberate, and methodical working out of the broad problems and riddles of the world-league idea will beve a sufficient compelling force to bring it within the realm of practical possibility.


But at this point it is advisable to take up and dispose of a group of suggestions which contradict our fundamental thesis, which is, that war is by its nature illimitable. War is, we hold here, a cessation of law, and in war therefore, it is impossible to prevent permanently the use of every possible device for injury, killing, and compulsion which human ingenuity can devise or science produce. Our main argument for a League of Nations rests on that. But there are people who do not accept as a fact the illimitable nature of war. They fall back upon the theory that the horrors of the Great War are due to a sort of accidental relapse into savagery on the part of the German people, and that future wars can and will be conducted under restrictions imposed by humanity and chivalry. They believe that war can become a conventional Ordeal by Battle, in which the nations shall deliberately refrain from putting forth their full strength, and shall agree to abide by the decision of a struggle between limited armies, operating, like the champions in a tournament or a prize-fight, under an accepted code of rules.

This is, we hold, a delusion. Our case is that the nations can agree far more easily to abolish war than to restrict war.

It is true that in the Great War Germany has carried her theories of ruthlessness to self-defeating extremes. She has done many deeds which recoiled upon herself — deeds inspired by a sort of ferocious pedantry which inflicted very small material damage upon the Allies, but hardened their resolution and brought thousands, nay, millions of recruits to their ranks. None the less must we face the fact that, individual stupidities apart, the German theory of war is the only logical one.

If it be said that, in past times, nations fought with comparatively small armies, and often accepted defeat without having thrown anything like their full strength into the struggle — the objection is met by a twofold answer. Firstly, the logic of war, the law — as we have termed it elsewhere — of the utmost effort, had not yet been thoroughly thought out. Primitive peoples in general — and the same applies to all but the most civilized and sophisticated of modern states — are guided in matters of war and peace more by their emotions than by their reason. They are lazy, as peoples, and muddle-headed. They fight because they are angry; they stop because they are tired; they cease pursuing the enemy because they want to attend to the harvest. It is the mark of a highly organized and intellectualized government to subordinate national emotions to the remorseless logic of the case. And the logic of war was reserved for Napoleon to express in practice and Clausewitz to formulate in theory.

But the second answer goes more to the root of the matter: namely, that the strength which a nation can put into the field is limited by many conditions both material and psychological, and that, if we examine into these conditions, we shall often find that what may seem to us, on the face of it, an insignificant effort, was in very truth the greatest of which, at the given moment, the nation was capable. It is a quite new social fact, a creation of the last fifty years, to have a central government supplied with exact information about all its resources in men, money, and material, and with means of organization and control which enable it, at the cost of some delay and friction, to exploit those resources to the last inch. When Babylon was captured by the Medes, we are told, there were parts of the city itself which were unaware of the fact for several days; and there must have been vast islands of population in the country which, so far as their personal experience went, never knew. But that sort of thing has passed.

If we look into the history of warfare, we find that it has completed a cycle and is now returning to its starting-point. A nomadic horde of the barbarous ages was ‘a nation in arms’ in the full sense of the word. Having no fixed place of abode, it had no civil — as distinct from military — population. The whole people — old men, women, and children included — took part in the toils and perils of war. There were no places of security in which the weak and the defenseless could take refuge. Everyone’s life was forfeit in case of disaster; therefore everyone took part in the common defense. Modern warfare, with its air fleets, its submarines, and its ‘big Berthas,’ is more and more restricting the area of immunity from military peril and reverting to these primitive conditions.

Agricultural life and city settlements brought with them the distinction between combatants and non-combatants; but still, in the normal state, every able-bodied citizen was a soldier. The citizen took his place as a matter of course in the militia of his country, leaving to old men and women, or to slaves and captives, the guardianship of field and vineyard, flock and herd. Only when wealth and luxury had reached a certain pitch did the habit of employing denationalized mercenaries creep in. Then came the time when the mercenaries encountered nomadic or thoroughly mobilized ‘nations in arms,’ and civilization went to the wall.

In the Middle Ages, the feudal chief, the dominant, soldierly, often predatory personality, gathered his vassals around him for purposes of offense and defense, while the cultivation of the soil devolved on the villains or serfs. Thus war became the special function of a military caste, and, as in the Wars of the Roses, campaigns were often carried on with comparatively little disturbance to the normal life of the country. When the royal power crushed or absorbed that of the barons, the centralized monarchy everywhere recruited a standing army, often consisting largely of foreign mercenaries, as the bulwark of its security and the instrument of its will. It was quite natural that dynastic wars, and wars in which the common people of the contending nations had little or no interest, should be fought out on a restricted scale by these specialized military machines. Frederick the Great employed a mercenary army as the nucleus for a national militia; and so lately as the beginning of the last century, this system was celebrated as ideal by the noted military authority who was the immediate predecessor of Clausewitz.

With Napoleon came the Nation in Arms; and the military history of the intervening years has consisted of the ever completer concentration upon warlike purposes of the whole powers and resources of the great European peoples.

If it be asked why this logical evolution of the idea of war has taken so many centuries to work itself out, the main reason — among many others — may be stated in two words: munitions and transport. Before the age of machines, it was impossible to arm and clothe immense multitudes of men; before the days of McAdam and Stephenson, it was impossible to move such multitudes and, still more, to keep them supplied with food and munitions. Again we find ourselves insisting upon the vital importance of transit methods in this, as in nearly all questions of human interaction. The size of armies has steadily grown with the growth of means of communication. The German wars of 1863-70 were the first in which railways played any considerable part, and the scale of operations in 1870-71 was quite unprecedented. See “The Idea of a League of Nations, Part II”

What is the chief new factor since the days of St. Privat and Sedan? The aeroplane, most people would reply; possibly it may become so, but thus far a less picturesque invention has been of even greater influence — the motor-lorry. No one can go anywhere near the Western Front without realizing that the gigantic scale of this struggle is almost wholly dependent upon motor-traction. Had not the internal-combustion engine been invented, the war would probably have been over long ago; and at all events millions of men would still be alive and well who now lie dead or crawl mutilated over the face of the earth.

Seen in this light, the invention of the motor may appear to have been due to a special interference of Satan in human affairs. But that is an unphilosophical view to take. Our race must perfect its power over matter before it can wisely select the ends to which it will apply that power. The idea of war had to work itself out to the full and demonstrate its own immpossibility, before man could find the insight and the energy to put it behind him and have done with it. Thanks to Prussian ambition and Prussian philosophy, the demonstration has now been completed. The idea of war has revealed itself in its full hideousness. All the world has come to look upon it as a sort of mythological monster which, if left to itself, will periodically reemerge from hell, to devour the whole youth and the whole wealth of civilized mankind. It is useless to dream of clipping the wings or paring the claws of the dragon. It must be slain outright if it is not to plan unthinkable havoc with civilization; and to that end the intelligence and the moral enthusiasm of the world are now, as we see, addressing themselves.



ANY people have said to themselves like Jeannette in the touching old ballad, —

If I were King of France, or, still better, Pope of Rome,
I'd have no fighting men abroad, no weeping maids at home;
All the world should be at peace, or, if kings must show their might,
Then let those who make the quarrels be the only men to fight.

But even Jeannette evidently realized that the idea of making the fate of a tribe or a nation depend upon the fortunes of one or two selected champions was but a pious aspiration, which not even the King of France or the Pope of Rome could translate into practical politics.

There is one theory, indeed, which, if we accept its initial postulate, would make limited warfare logical. If battle be regarded as the trial of a cause before the judgment-seat of God, there is no sound reason for pouring huge armies into it. It is manifest that God can deliver his verdict in the result of a duel of one against one, quite as well as in the result of a war between whole nations in arms. On this theory, war would be an extension to politics of the 'wager of battle' between individuals — a method of obtaining a supernatural ruling, indistinguishable in principle from the drawing of lots or tossing of a coin. But although men have always talked, and still talk, of 'appealing to the God of Battles,' they have never shown any disposition to accept, save at the last gasp, a judgment which ran counter to their passions or their cupidities. Whatever may have been their professions, their practical belief has always been that 'God is on the side of the big battalions,' or, in other words, that war is a part of the natural order of things, the immeasurable network of cause and effect, and no more subject to special interventions of Providenec than commerce, or navigation, or any other form of human activity. Nor is there any reason to suppose that they will ever believe otherwise. If it be difficult to conceive them, in their disputes, abiding by the awards of impartial reason, it is a hundred times more difficult to conceive them accepting the wholly unreasonable awards of artificially and arbitrarily restricted violence.

These truths are so obvious that it may seem idle to insist upon them. Nobody, it may be said, proposes that Paris and Berlin should in future settle their disputes, like Rome and Alba Longa, by selecting three champions apiece and setting them to cut each others' throats. In this crude and elementary form, indeed, the proposal does not appear; but disguised applications of the same principle are constantly commended in the writings of those who, holding war to be eternally inevitable, seeks refuge from sheer despair in the belief that it is possible to subject it to rule and limit, and say to it, 'Thus far shalt thou go and no further.' They cannot or will not see that any conventional limitation is foreign to its very essence. It is perfectly possible, and consonant with human nature that nations should agree not to appeal to force, and should hold to that agreement even when one or the other believes itself to have suffered injustice. But it is utterly impossible and inconsistent with human nature that, having appealed to force, they should agree to exercise it only within limits, and accept impoverishment, humiliation, servitude, — in a word, defeat, — rather than transgress the stipulated boundaries.

It may be objected that codes of law have in fact been devised for the partial humanization of war, and that not until the present time has any civilized belligerent made a practice of disregarding them. But these so-called laws of war have always been conventions of mutual advantage — rules which all parties held it to be, on the whole, to their own interest to observe. The German WarBook quite frankly places the chief sanction of such trammels upon military action not in humanity, but in the fear of reprisals. We do not deny that man is an emotional being, and even in the midst of his fiercest fighting there are horrors from which the decent man, and even the decent multitude, instinctively recoils. Decent men do not, as a rule want to hurt their wounded prisoners, they rather like to pet them; and they regard people who do otherwise as blackguards. And no doubt it is largely these emotional mercies and generosities which have brought about those rules of chivalry or scruples of religion which form the supposed 'redeeming features' of war. But the necessities of war completely override all such weaknesses as soon as these begin to endanger actual military interests. And the logic of war tolerates them only as cheap concessions to a foolish popular psychology. It must be remembered that undisguised atrocities on a stupendous scale — such, for instance as the massacre in cold blood of whole regiments of helpless prisoners would be too strong for the stomach of even the most brutalized people, and would tend to bring war into discredit with all but its monomaniac votaries. If we look closely enough, we shall find that all Geneva Conventions and such palliative ordinances, though excellent in intention and good in their immediate effects, make ultimately for the persistence of war as an institution. They are sops to humanity, devices for rendering war barely tolerable to civilized mankind, and so staving off the inevitable rebellion against its abominations.


Criticisms of thc project of a League of Nations have consisted hitherto largely of the statement of difficulties and impediments, rather than of reasons for rejection of the project. All such criticisms are helpful in so far as they enable us to map out the task before us, but none are adequate as conclusive objections. Few of the advocates of an organized world-peace fail to recognize the magnitude of the task to which they invite men to set themselves. But their main contention is that there is really no alternative to the attempt but resignation to long years of human suffering and disaster, and therefore that, however difficult the enterprise may be, it has to be faced. The recital of the difficulties is, they say, a stimulus to thought and exertion rather than a deterrent.

And there are certain objections to the undertaking as such that must be taken up and dealt with in a preliminary discussion.

There is, first, an objection which it will be convenient to speak of as the 'Biological Objection.' It is stated in various forms, and it peeps out and manifests itself in the expressed thoughts and activities of quite a number of people who do not seem to have formulated it completely. But what many of these objectors think and what still more feel may be expressed in some such phraseology as this: —

Life is conflict and is begotten of conflict. All the good qualities of life are the result of the tragic necessities of survival. Life, stripped down to its fundamental fact, is the vehement urgency of individuals or groups of individuals to survive, and to reproduce and multiply their kind. The pressure of individual upon individual and of species upon species sharpens the face of life and is the continuing impetus and interest in life. The conception of life without war is a collection, therefore, not simply utopian but millennial. It is a proposal that every kind and sort and type of humanity should expand and increase without limit in a small world of restricted resources. It is, in fact, absurd. It is an impossible attempt to arrest and stereotype a transient phase of human life. It is inviting paralysis as a cure for epilepsy. It is a dream of fatigued minds. Terrible as the scope and nature of human warfare have become, it has to be faced. The more destructive it is, the more rapid the hardening and evolution of the species life and history move cyclically from phase to phase, and perhaps such an apparent retrogression as we mean when we talk of the breakdown of civilization, may be only part of a great rhythm in the development of the species. Let us gather together with our own kind, and discipline and harden ourselves, in a heroic resolve to survive in the unavoidable centuries of harsh conflict ahead of us.

Now, here is a system of objection not lightly to be brushed aside. True, the element of mutual conflict in life is often grossly overstated and the element of mutual help suppressed. But, although overstated, there are valid criticisms here of any merely negative league of nations project, any mere proposal to end war without replacing it by some other collective process. There do seem to be some advocates of the league whose advocacy is little more than a cry of terror at the disappearance of established wealth, the loss of wasted leisure, and the crumbling of accepted dignities. Those who have faith in the possibility of a world league are bound — just as the Socialist is bound — to produce some assurances of a control over the blind pressure of population, that may otherwise swamp the world with prolific low grade races. They are bound to show that their schemes are compatible with a series of progressive readjustments, and not an attempt to restore and stereotype the boundaries, the futile institutions, and the manifest injustices of the world of 1914, with only armaments abolished. They are bound to show that exceptional ability and energy will have, not merely scope, but fuller scope for expression, achievement, and perpetuation, in the new world to which they point us, than in the old. In the years to come, as in the whole past history of life, individual must compete against individual, type against type.

But having made these admissions, we may then go on to point out two fundamental misconceptions which entirely vitiate the biological argument as an argument for the continuation of war as a method of human selection. It is falsely assumed, first, that modern war is a discriminatory process, selecting certain types as against certain other types; whereas it is largely a catastrophic and indiscriminate process and secondly, that belligerent states are in the nature of biological units super-individuals, which either triumph or are destroyed; whereas they are systems of political entanglement of the most fluid, confused, and transitory description. They neither reproduce their kind nor die; they change indefinitely: the children of the defeated state of to-day may become the dominant citizens of its victorious competitor in a generation or so. They do not even embody traditions or ideas: France, which went into the Revolutionary wars at the end of the eighteenth century to establish the Republican idea throughout Europe, emerged as an empire; and the defeat of the Russian by the German imperialism led to Lenin's 'dictatorship of the proletariat.'

The essence of success in the biological struggle for existence is preferential reproduction; whereas the modern war process takes all the sturdier males to kill and be killed haphazard, while it sends all the more intelligent and energetic girls into munition factories, substitute work, and suchlike sterilizing occupations. If it prefers any type for prosperity and multiplication, it is the alert shirker, the able tax-dodger, and the war profiteer; if it breeds anything it breeds parasites. The vital statistics of Germany, which is certainly the most perfect as a belligerent of all the belligerent states engaged, show already tremendous biological injuries. Germany in the first four years of the war had lost by the fall in her birth- rate alone nearly 2,600,000 lives, approximately 40,000 per million of the population; Hungary, in the same period, lost 1,500,000 (about 70,000 per million), the United Kingdom 500,000 (or about 10,000 per million). Add to this loss of lives the under-nutrition of the millions that were born and their impoverished upbringing. These things strike at the victors as well as at the vanquished. They are entirely indiscriminate as among good types and bad, while on the whole the battlefield destroys rather the good than the 'unfit for service,' who remain at home to breed.

The whole process which, on a vaster scale, has brought Europe to its present plight may be seen in miniature among the tribes of the Indian frontier. Go up the Khyber Pass and stand on the ridge above Ali Masjid. In front lies a desolate valley, flanked by barren mountains under a blistering sun. On the slopes to right and left, at intervals of about a thousand yards, are oblong inclosures each with brown walls and a little loop-holed tower at one corner. These inclosures are the villages of the Pathan tribes which inhabit the valley, and in the towers are men with rifles, waiting their chance to shoot man or boy who may rashly expose himself outside a neighboring village. For all or nearly all of them are at feud with each other, and though the causes of their warfare are forgotten, it is a point of honor and pride with them never to become reconciled. There have been, roughly, three stages in the history of these feuds. In the first, men fought with knives, daggers, and other primitive weapons, and the result may have been, as a German would argue, 'biologically good.' The fittest survived, the population was kept from increasing beyond the number which an inhospitable soil would support, the arts of peace, such as they were, could be pursued without serious interruption.

The second stage was reached when the flint-lock rifle came on the scene and took the place of knife and dagger. With this the vendetta necessarily became more of a national industry; but the weapon was short of range and irregular in its killing power, and there was still a fair chance of survival, and a certain presumption that the better or more skillful man would escape. But before the end of the nineteenth century the village marksmen had possessed themselves of the Martini-Henry and other long range, high-velocity rifles, brought from Europe by the gunrunners of the Persian Gulf. At this, the third stage, the biological merits of village warfare manifestly began to disappear. The village marksman in his mud-tower now makes the whole valley his zone of fire. Cultivation becomes impossible in the no-man's land between village and village: only behind the cover of the village wall can men sow or plough or reap, tether their cattle, or graze their sheep. Every village must be provided with a communication-trench, so that its inhabitants may pass under cover to the sanctuary — guaranteed twice in the week — of the government-protected road which runs down the centre of the valley. The question now is, not whether the vendetta is biologically good, but whether the tribes can at all survive under it; and weary officials, at a loss to solve the vexed problem which they offer to the government of India, have been heard to suggest that if a few machine guns could be conveyed to the village marksmen and installed in the mudtowers, there would soon be no frontier problem at all.

The question which the cilivized world has how to consider is, whether it can survive, or its life be more tolerable than that of these tribesmen under a vendetta of high explosives.

So that when the biological critics says, 'Life is conflict,' we reply, without traversing his premises, that war has ceased to be conflict and has become indiscriminate catastrophe, and that the selective processes that enlarge and enrich life can go on far more freely and effectively in a world from which this blundering, disastrous, non-selective, and even possibly dysgenic form of wastage is banished. But we have to bear in mind that this reply puts upon those who are preparing schemes for a League of Nations the onus of providing for progress, competition, and liberty under the restraints of such a scheme.


It may be worth while to take up and consider here a group of facts that are sometimes appealed to as a justification of war. It is alleged that there has been an extraordinarily rapid development of mechanical, chemical, and medical science since 1914, and a vast and valuable accumulation of experience in social and industrial organization. There has been great mental stimulation everywhere; people have been forced out of grooves and idle and dull ways of living into energetic exertion; there has been, in particular, a great release and invigoration of feminine spirit and effort. The barriers set up by the monopolization of land and material by private owners for selfish ends have been broken down in many cases.

There can be no denying the substantial truth in these allegations. Indisputably there has been such a release and stimulation. But this is a question of proportion between benefits and losses. And all this stir, we argue, has been bought at too great a cost. It is like accelerating the speed of a ship by burning its cargo and timbers as fuel. At best, it is the feverish and wasteful reaping of a long accumulated harvest.

We must remember that a process may be evil as a whole, while in part it is beneficial. It would be stupid to deny that for countless minds the Great War has provided an enlightening excitcment that could have been provided in no other way. To deny that, would be to assert the absolute aimlessness and incoherence of being. But while this harvest of beneficial by-products of the war is undeniable, there is no evidence of any fresh sowing, or, if the process of belligerence and warlike preparation is to continue, of any possibility of an adequate fresh sowing of further achievements. The root from which all the shining triumphs of technical and social science spring, we must remember, is the quiet and steadfast pursuit of pure science and philosophy and literature by those best endowed for these employments. And if the greedy expansion of the war-process is to continue, — and we have shown that without an organized world-peace it must continue, — there is nothing to reassure us of the cotinuance of that supply of free and vigorous educated intelligence, in which alone that root can flourish. On the contrary, it is one of the most obvious and most alarming aspects of the war-process that university education has practically ceased in Europe; Europe is now producing only schoolboys, and the very schools are understaffed and depleted. The laboratories of the English public schools are no longer making the scientific men of the future, they are making munitions. It is all very well for the scientific man of fifty to say that at last he has got his opportunity; but that is only a momentary triumph for science. Where now is the great scientific man for the year 1930? Smashed to pieces in an aeroplane, acting as a stretcher-bearer, or digging a trench. And what, unless we can secure the peace of the world, will become of the potential scientific men of 1950? Suppose it to be possible to carry on this a present top-heavy militarist system for so long a period as that, what will have happened then to our potential Faradays, Newtons, and Darwins? They will be, at best, half educated; they will be highly trained soldiers, robbed of their intellectual inheritance and incapable of rendering their gifts to the world. The progress of knowledge will be slowing down toward stagnation.


A considerable amount of opposition to the League of Nations movement may be classified under the heading of Objections from precedent and prepossession. The mind is already occupied by the idea of attachment to some political sytem which stands in the way of a world-league. These objections vary very much in intellectual quality. Nevertheless, even the most unintelligent demand some attention, because numerically these antatgonists form considerable masses. Collectively, in their unorganized way, they produce a general discouragement and hostility far more formidable than any soundly reasoned case against an organized world-peace.

The objection from prepossession is necessarily protean; it takes various forms because men's prepossessions are various: but 'There never has been a League of Nations, and there never will be,' may be regarded as the underlying idea of most of these forms. And the objector relapses upon his pre-possession as the only possible thing. A few years ago people were saying 'Men have never succeeded in flying, and they never will.' And we are told, particularly by people who have obviously never given human nature ten minutes thought in their lives, that world-unity is 'against human nature.' To substantiate these sweeping negatives, the objector will adduce a heterogeneous collection of instances to show the confusions and contradictions of the human will, and a thousand cases of successful mass-cooperations will be ignored: we are moved to doubt at last whether human beings did ever suppress piracy, develop a railway system, or teach a whole population to read and write. If the individual objector is carefully examined, it will be found at times that he is under the sway of some narrow and intense mental inhibition, based on personal habits or experiences. Some of these inhibitions, if they are traced to their source, will be found to be even absurdly narrow. The objector dislikes the idea of a World-League of Nations because it is 'international,' or, worse, 'cosmopolitan,' and he has got into the habit of associating these words with shady finance or anarchist outrages or the white-slave traffic. Or he has had uncomfortable experiences in hotels abroad, or he has suffered in his business from foreign competition. Many of the objections that phrase themselves in some such formulas as 'People will never stand it,' or 'You do not understand the intensity of feeling,' are indeed rather cases for Jung and Freud than for serious dialectics. But from such levels of unreasoned hostility we can ascend to much more reasoned and acceptable forms of prepossessions which must be met with a greater respect.

Most human beings are 'patriotic.' They have a pride, quite passionate in quality, in the race or nation to which they belong: an affection identical in nature with, and sometimes as intense as, that which they feel for family and home, for a certain atmosphere of thought and behavior, for a certain familiar landscape and atmosphere, for certain qualities none the less real because they are often exquisitely indefinable. And they are jealous for this 'national' quality of theirs — at times almost as men are jealous for their wives. Now, how far does this group of feelings stand in the way of a League of Nations project? A number of vigorous speakers and writers do certainly play upon this jealousy. They point out that the League of Nations project, as it develops, involves controls, not merely of military, but of economic concerns — controls by councils or committees upon which every country will see a majority of 'foreigners,' and they exaggerate and intensify to the utmost the suggestion of unlimited interference on the part of these same 'foreigners,' with the most intimate and sacred things.

One eloquent writer, for example (Mr. Belloc), declares that the League of Nations would place us all 'at the mercy of a world-police'; and another (Mr. I. D. Colvin) declares that the council of a League of Nations would own all our property as the British now 'own' the empire; an unfortunate parallel, if we consider the amount of ownership exercised by the British Government over the life and affairs of a New Zealander or a Hindu.

Perhaps the most effective answer to this sort of thing is to be found in current instances. One might imagine from these critics that at present every government in the world was a national government; but in spite of such instances as Sweden and France, national governments are the exception rather than the rule. There are very few nationalities in the world now which are embodied in a sovereign government. There is no sovereign state of England, for example. The English, the Scotch, and the Welsh, all strongly marked and contrasted nationalities, live in an atmosphere of mutual criticism and cordial cooperation. (Consider again the numerous nations in the British Empire, which act in unison through the Imperial Government, imperfect and unrepresentative as it is; consider the dissolving nationalities in the American melting-pot; consider the Prussians and Saxons in the German Empire. What is there in common between an Australian native, a London freethinker, a Bengali villager, a Uganda gentleman, a Rand negro, an Egyptian merchant, and a Singapore Chinaman, that they should all be capable of living as they do under one rule and one peace, and with a common collective policy, and yet be incapable of a slightly larger cooperation with a Frenchman, a New Englander, or a Russian? The Welshman is perhaps the best instance of all, to show how completely participation in a great political synthesis is compatible with intense national peculiarity and self-respect.

But if one looks closely into the objections of these 'anti-foreign' alarmists, it will usually become clear that the real prejudice is not a genuine patriotism at all: the objection is not to interference with the realities of national life, but to interference with national aggression and competition, which is quite a different thing. The 'British' ultra-patriot, who begins by warning us against the impossibilitv of having 'foreigners' interfering in our national life, is presently warning us against the interference of 'foreigners' with 'our ' empire or 'our' predominant over-seas trade.

It is curious to see in how many instances certain conventional ideas never properly analyzed, dominate the minds of the critics of the League of Nations project. Many publicists, it becomes evident, think of international relations in terms of 'Powers,' mysterious entities of a value entirely romantic and diplomatic. International politics are for them only thinkable as a competition of those powers; they see the lives of states as primarily systems of conflict. A 'power' to them means the sort of thing which was brought to perfection in Europe in the eighteenth century, in the courts of Versailles, Potsdam, St. Petersburg, and at St. James's, and it means nothing else in the world to them. It is, in fact, a conspiracy against other and competing powers, centering round an aggressive Foreign Office and availing itself of nationalist prejudice rather than of national self-respect. Patriotism is, indeed, not something that the power represents: it is something upon which the power trades. To this power idea the political life of the last two centuries has schooled many otherwise highly intelligent men and by it their minds are now invincibly circumscribed and fixed. They can disregard the fact that the great majority of men in the world live out of relation to any such government with astonishing ease. The United States, Canada, China, India, Australia, South America, for example, show us masses of mankind whose affairs are not incorporated in any 'power,' as the word is understood in diplomatic jargon; and quite recently the people of Russia have violently broken away from such an idea of the state, and show small disposition to revert to it. These objectors are in fact thinking still in terms of the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe — a very special phase in history. But the fixity of their minds upon this old and almost entirely European idea of international politics as an affair of competitive foreign offices has its value for those who are convinced of the need of a new order of human relationships, because it opens up so clearly the incompatibility with the pressing needs of the present time of the European conceptions of a foreign office and of diplomacy as a secretive chaffering for advantages.

Upon this point we cannot be too clear: it is not nationality that is threatened by the League of Nations, it is this 'power' obsession, which used national feeling in an entirely Machiavellian spirit. And this power idea carries with it much more mischief than the threat of sudden war and the attendant necessities of armament. It is about the nuclei of these European power systems that the current conceptions of economic warfare and territorial exploitation have grown. It is to them that we owe the conception of peace as a phase of military preparation during which there is a systematic attempt to put rivals at an economic disadvantage. And it will be clear that an abandonment of the idea of the world as a conflict of powers involves not merely the abandonment of ideas essentially militarist, but also the abandonment of the idea of the world as a conflict of economic systems.

So, as we penetrate these common prepossessions of an age which is now drawing to a close, the positive as compared with the negative side of the League of Nations proposal opens out. Behind the primarily negative project of 'no war upon earth,' appears as a necessary corollary a new economic phase in history, in which there will be a collective regard for the common weal of mankind. The examination and elaboration of the possibilities of economic world-control, already immensely foreshadowed by the gigantic poolings that have been forced upon the powers allied against Germany, is one of the most rapidly expanding chapters in the study of the League of Nations project.


Another considerable body of criticism hostile to the League of Nations proposal is grouped about certain moral facts. Before concluding these introductory remarks, it is advisable to discuss this, not merely in order to answer so much of it as amounts to an argument against the world-league project, but also because it opens out before us the real scope of the League of Nations proposal. There seems to be a disposition in certain quarters to underestimate the scale upon which a League of Nations project can be planned. It is dealt with as if it were a little legal scheme detached from the main body of human life. It seems to be assumed that some little group of 'jurists,' sitting together in a permanent conference at The Hague or in New York, will be able to divert the whole process of humanity into new channels, to overcome the massive, multitudinous, and tremendous forces that make for armed conflict and warfare among men, and to inaugurate a new era of peace throughout the world.

The change we contemplate here is not to be so easily achieved. It is a project of world-politics, and there is no modest way of treating such a project. It would be better left alone than treated timidly. It is a change in which nations and political and educational svstems are the counters, and about which we must think, if we are to think effectively, in terms of the wealth of nations and millions of men. It is a proposal to change the life and mentality of everyone on earth.

Now the thought of those who direct their attention to the moral probabilities of a world-peace turns largely upon the idea of loyalty. They apprehend man as a creature of intense essential egotism, who has to be taught and trained very painfully and laboriously to unselfishness, and the substitution of great and noble ends for base and narrow ones. They argue that he was in his origins a not very social creature who has been forced by his own inventions into a larger circle of intercourse. He had learned his first unselfishness from his mother in the family group; he had been tamed into devotion by the tribe and his tribal religion; the greater dangers of a solitary life had enforced these subjugations upon him. But he still relapses very readily into base self-seeking. His loyalty to his nation may easily become a mere extension of his personal vanity; his religious faith a cloak for hatred of and base behavior toward unbelievers. In times of peace and security, the great forms in which he lives do so tend to degenerate. And the great justification of war from this point of view is that it creates a phase of national life in which a certain community of sacrifice to a common end, a certain common faithfullless and helpfulness, is exacted as a matter of course from every citizen. Men are called upon to die, and all are called upon to give help and suffer privations. War gives reality to loyalty. It is the fire that makes fine the clay of solidarity Thc war-phase has been hitherto a binding and confirming phase in the life of communities, while peace has been a releasing and relaxing phase. And if we are to contemplate a state of the world in which there is to be no warfare, we must be prepared also, these critics argue, for a process of moral disintegration.

The late Professor William James found enough validity in this line of thought to discuss it very seriously. In his essay on 'The Moral Equivalent of War' he deals very illuminatingly with this question. He agrees that to relieve the consciousness of ordinary men from the probability of war without substituting any other incentive to devotion, may be a very grave social loss. His own suggestion for giving every citizen a sense of obligation and ownership in the commonwealth for weaving the ideas of loyalty and service, that is, into every life, is to substitute the collective war of mankind against ignorance, confusion, and natural hardships, for the war between man and man; to teach this, not only theoretically, but by the very practical expedient of insisting upon a period of compulsory state service for every citizen, male or female. He proposes to solve at the same time this moral problem and an equally grave social problem by making the unskilled or semi-skilled part of the labor in the (nationalized) mines, in the (nationalized) fisheries, in hospitals, in many types of factory, and so forth a public service. Personal freedom, he insists, has invariably been bought, and must always be bought by responsible participation in the toils and cares of that system of law and service which constitutes the framework of human liberty. See "The Idea of a League of Nations, Part I"

It would be idle to deny the substantial truth in this type of criticism of peace. To recognize it is to sweep out of one's mind all dreams of a world-peace contrived by a few jurists and influential people in some odd corner of the world's administrative bureaus. Permanent world-peace must necessarily be a great process and state of affairs, greater, indeed, than any warprocess, because it must anticipate, comprehend, and prevent any warprocess, and demand the understanding, the willing and conscious participation of the great majority of human beings. We, who look to it as a possible thing, are bound not to blind ourselves to, or conceal from others, the gigantic and laborious system of labors, the immense tangle of cooperations, which its establishment involves. If political institutions or social methods stand in the way of this great good for mankind it is fatuous to dream of compromises with them. A world peace organization cannot evade universal relationships.

It is clear that, if a world-league is to be living and enduring, the idea of it and the need and righteousness of its service must be taught by every educational system in the world. It must either be served by, or be in conflict with, every religious organization; it must come into the life of everyone, not to release men and women from loyalty, but to demand it for itself.

The answer to this criticism that the world-peace will release men from service, is therefore, that the world-peace is itself a service. It calls, not as war does, for the deaths, but for that greater gift, the lives, of men. The League of Nations cannot be a little thing; it is either to be a great thing in the world, an overriding idea of a greater state, or nothing. Every state aims ultimately at the production of a sort of man, and it is an idle and a wasteful diplomacy, a pandering to timidities and shams, to pretend that the World-League of Nations is not ultimately a state aiming at that ennobled individual whose city is the world.


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