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another historic occurrence. As for the havoc wrought by the influence of Cleopatra's nose on the lords of creation, the less said the better.
None of the things which we are now implying could have happened if everyone concerned had been truly peaceable. A man cannot be called peaceable who is willing to do something which may conceivably disturb the peace. A man may steal another's wife or goods and elude the aggrieved person's wrath for ten years. The fact, however, that he engages in no fracas during those ten years does not stamp him as a man of peace. Peace flew out of the window the moment he coveted his neighbor's possessions.
Can the Disarmament Conference abolish war without first abolishing covetousness? The Conference is another of those indirect methods by which the world has throughout the ages striven to produce a millennium. A thousand counterparts can be found for it. For example: we start with an innate conception of something we call justice; we convert this into formal law; we create prosecuting attorneys to pursue those who fail to keep the law, and courts to punish them when caught; as prosecuting attorneys do not pursue and courts do not punish, we pass a statutory enactment reaffirming the original law and redirecting the prosecuting attorneys and the courts to detect and punish criminals; then we pass another statutory enactment, in different words, but merely reaffirming the first; and when the second statutory enactment fails to accomplish what we want, we pass a third reaffirming the second; and so on ad infinitum. Let us hope that the Disarmament Conference is not of that nature.
Still, we shall not know whether or not it is for a very long time. We doubt if the Disarmament Conference is initiated under more favorable conditions than was The Hague Tribunal. If Cleopatra's nose had been shorter The Hague Tribunal would have accomplished wonders. It must be understood, of course, that we are now using Cleopatra's nose as an analogue of all the other causes of war that spring from mere human passion. The Hague Tribunal was a fine pronunciamento, but it never was much more. A few minor disputes which no one had very much at heart came before it, but it never had any real effectiveness in keeping the nations from flying at each other's throats.
Why? Because it was a counsel of perfection and human
nature was not and is not perfect. The Hague Tribunal sat at The Hague and heard cases, while all the time the chancelleries of Europe were working overtime to get each the better of the other. Each of them hoped to accomplish its ends without the expenditure of money and blood.
But the possibility that money and blood might eventually be involved did not stay their hands. They played the game with all its risks. They played it with such desperate ardor that they effected the greatest war in history. Now that every one of them is exhausted, and some indeed are bleeding to death, they desire to make war an impossibility in the future. Their feeling is that which we all have when we are being punished for our sins. We profess to be ashamed of ourselves. We repent in sack cloth and ashes. We vow we never will depart from the path of virtue again. And yet look
But the trouble is, so many of us are like Bill Dakin, of whom Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe tells in one of her novels. Bill was superintendent of a southern plantation before the war, a genuine "nigger driver," a very undesirable person. He always went to camp meeting, however, and every time got religion. He was pictured on one of these occasions as rolling on the ground in a frenzy, and with his friends standing about him and praying, “Oh, Lord take Bill Dakin before he falls from grace again.'
Well, the world fell from grace in a very disgraceful fashion where The Hague Tribunal was concerned. It will not be seemly to repeat that act in connection with the Disarmament Conference. If an agreement to disarm is reached at the Conference, there may be a fairly early show of its being carried into effect. Battleships may be scrapped and armies disbanded. But what each of us in his heart of hearts wants to know is, How long will they stay scrapped and disbanded? If the program of the Conference is at any unexpected moment going to be reversed, will our economic soul condone the extravagance of the scrapping and disbanding? We may as well look at this question in a sensible and direct fashion. Armaments cost in the past all the world could afford, and if the world is going to fight again some other day, what is the earthly use of now discarding our implements of war, only to go to the added and unnecessary expense of renewing them? The world may agree to disarm and there may not be
another war for a long time. But will this be because it does not want to fight, or simply because it has not the strength and the money to fight? It would be well clearly to establish that point before taking too much for granted. One does not want to be cynical, but it would be foolish to overlook the obvious facts of human nature. As human nature is at present constituted, those who sit in the sun are always likely to be envied by those who sit in the shade. One always feels cheerful while sitting in the sun, but sitting in the shade is apt to make one both melancholy and not over-virtuous. We shall be wise to bear this fact constantly in mind.
Perhaps we shall be pardoned if we ask those who are most solicitous for disarmament if "because they are virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?" There are, we suspect, still a great many people in the world who are fond of cakes and ale, and who will not hesitate to secure and enjoy them whenever they think the opportunity right. We must beware of these people. The Disarmament Conference should keep them ever in mind. It is well to remember that there have at all periods been a great many trouble-makers in the world; persons who thrive on the misfortunes of others. That is sometimes a lucrative business, provided the competition is not too great. We do not for a moment suspect that troublemakers are going to be put out of business by a mere proclamation of a Disarmament Conference. They might lie low for a while, but we may be sure that it would be only to bide their time.
But stay. There is one argument for permanent peace which we have overlooked. Let us quote a few words from the philosopher Kant. He says: "Now the republican constitution, apart from the soundness of its origin, since it arose from the pure source of the concept of right, has also the prospect of attaining the desired result, namely, perpetual peace. And the reason is this. If, as must be so under this constitution, the consent of the subjects is required to determine whether there shall be war or not, nothing is more natural than that they should weigh the matter well before undertaking such a bad business. For in decreeing war they would of necessity be resolving to bring down the miseries of war upon their country. This implies: they must fight themselves; they must hand over the costs of the war out of their own property; they must do their poor best to make good
the devastation which it leaves behind; and finally, as a crowning ill, they have to accept a burden of debt which will embitter even peace itself, and which they can never pay off on account of the new wars which are always impending. On the other hand, in a government where the subject is not a citizen holding a vote (i.e., in a constitution which is not republican), the plunging into war is the least serious thing in the world. For the ruler is not a citizen, but the owner of the state, and does not lose a whit by the war, while he goes on enjoying the delights of his table or sport, or of his pleasure palaces and gala days. He can, therefore, decide on war for the most trifling reasons, as if it were a kind of pleasure party. Any justification of it that is necessary for the sake of decency he can leave without concern to the diplomatic corps, who are always only too ready with their services."
That was said 125 years ago. Since then the Republic of the United States of America has gone to war with Great Britain, Mexico and Spain, to say nothing of its part in the war recently ended, and has distinguished itself by the most titanic civil war on record. At no time in the last 125 years could it be truly said that the ruler of this country was not a citizen but the owner of the state.
The fact is, republics as at present constituted seem to be no more successful in staving off war than the old monarchies were. There is a fond belief that if the question of war were put to popular vote it would always be in the negative; but, as a matter of fact, the question never is put to such a vote the facilities seem not to exist for its so being. The republic elects its rulers, and these are apt to be quite as foolish as those who used to rule in monarchies. These rulers decide when there shall be war, and they are aided and abetted by legislators who vote the war and the appropriations therefor; and that in so doing they always voice the feelings and wishes of the majority of the people, may seriously be questioned. At any rate, the only way of telling whether Kant was right in what he said about the citizens' view of war is never to pledge the nation to a war until a plebiscite has been had. But of course that is reducing the question to an absurdity. Wars as a rule cannot wait until plebiscites are taken. If they could wait, very likely by the time the plebiscite was effected the occasion for the war would have ceased.
While the Disarmament Conference deliberates the rest
of the world prays for its success. When engaged in our prayers we should recall that faith will remove mountains. The question is, therefore, how much faith have we with reference to the Disarmament Conference? Is it the kind that would move a mountain? If it is not, what is the outlook for the Disarmament program? Faith is said to be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Does world disarmament loom up in the future in that sense? Can any of us obtain a prevision of it as an accomplished fact?
This is not a flippant question. The success of the Disarmament Conference depends altogether on the spirit in which it was conceived, and with which its members have convened. How much faith in their cause have the people who are now spectacularly working for world disarmament? Seriously, if they have not the faith that moves mountains, may we question the outcome of their proceedings?
The fact is, humanity is now trying to make laws to protect itself against itself. It has always been doing that, but never so vehemently as at present. So long as humanity has to make laws to protect itself against itself we have prima facie evidence that something very serious is the matter with us. A disarmament that is initiated before humanity has got by the need of protecting itself against itself is not likely to excite unbounded confidence.
One of the sages once remarked: "Oh! if men bestowed as much labor in the rooting out of vices and the planting of virtues as they do in the moving of questions, neither would so many evils be done nor so great scandal be given in the world." Perhaps that is not an inappropriate remark to make in connection with the Disarmament Conference. Another philosopher has remarked that the strength of a man's virtue must not be measured by his extraordinary efforts, but by his ordinary life. Now the Disarmament Conference is an extraordinary effort. But perhaps in taking a view of the future it will be well for us to measure the world by its ordinary life.
Heaven knows the world needs peace, and a reasonable portion of it desires peace. But as such has been the case for centuries without peace becoming a permanent institution, can we be confident that it is now about to assume that guise? Of course, one should always remember that while