In the Fourth Year: Anticipations of a World Peace

By H. G. Wells

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Title: In The Fourth Year
       Anticipations of a World Peace (1918)

Author: H.G. Wells

Release Date: November 26, 2003 [EBook #10291]

Language: English


Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Brett Koonce and PG Distributed Proofreaders

Mr. WELLS has also written the following novels:


The following fantastic and imaginative romances:


And numerous Short Stories now collected in One
Volume under the title of


A Series of books upon Social, Religious and Political questions:


And two little books about children's play, called:









In the latter half of 1914 a few of us were writing that this war was a
"War of Ideas." A phrase, "The War to end War," got into circulation,
amidst much sceptical comment. It was a phrase powerful enough to sway
many men, essentially pacifists, towards taking an active part in the
war against German imperialism, but it was a phrase whose chief content
was its aspiration. People were already writing in those early days of
disarmament and of the abolition of the armament industry throughout the
world; they realized fully the element of industrial belligerency behind
the shining armour of imperialism, and they denounced the "Krupp-Kaiser"
alliance. But against such writing and such thought we had to count, in
those days, great and powerful realities. Even to those who expressed
these ideas there lay visibly upon them the shadow of impracticability;
they were very "advanced" ideas in 1914, very Utopian. Against them was
an unbroken mass of mental habit and public tradition. While we talked
of this "war to end war," the diplomatists of the Powers allied against
Germany were busily spinning a disastrous web of greedy secret treaties,
were answering aggression by schemes of aggression, were seeing in the
treacherous violence of Germany only the justification for
countervailing evil acts. To them it was only another war for
"ascendancy." That was three years and a half ago, and since then this
"war of ideas" has gone on to a phase few of us had dared hope for in
those opening days. The Russian revolution put a match to that pile of
secret treaties and indeed to all the imperialist plans of the Allies;
in the end it will burn them all. The greatest of the Western Allies is
now the United States of America, and the Americans have come into this
war simply for an idea. Three years and a half ago a few of us were
saying this was a war against the idea of imperialism, not German
imperialism merely, but British and French and Russian imperialism, and
we were saying this not because it was so, but because we hoped to see
it become so. To-day we can say so, because now it is so.

In those days, moreover, we said this is the "war to end war," and we
still did not know clearly how. We thought in terms of treaties and
alliances. It is largely the detachment and practical genius of the
great English-speaking nation across the Atlantic that has carried the
world on beyond and replaced that phrase by the phrase, "The League of
Nations," a phrase suggesting plainly the organization of a sufficient
instrument by which war may be ended for ever. In 1913 talk of a World
League of Nations would have seemed, to the extremest pitch, "Utopian."
To-day the project has an air not only of being so practicable, but of
being so urgent and necessary and so manifestly the sane thing before
mankind that not to be busied upon it, not to be making it more widely
known and better understood, not to be working out its problems and
bringing it about, is to be living outside of the contemporary life of
the world. For a book upon any other subject at the present time some
apology may be necessary, but a book upon this subject is as natural a
thing to produce now as a pair of skates in winter when the ice begins
to bear.

All we writers find ourselves engaged perforce in some part or other of
a world-wide propaganda of this the most creative and hopeful of
political ideas that has ever dawned upon the consciousness of mankind.
With no concerted plan we feel called upon to serve it. And in no
connection would one so like to think oneself un-original as in this
connection. It would be a dismaying thing to realize that one were
writing anything here which was not the possible thought of great
multitudes of other people, and capable of becoming the common thought
of mankind. One writes in such a book as this not to express oneself but
to swell a chorus. The idea of the League of Nations is so great a one
that it may well override the pretensions and command the allegiance of
kings; much more does it claim the self-subjugation of the journalistic
writer. Our innumerable books upon this great edifice of a World Peace
do not constitute a scramble for attention, but an attempt to express in
every variety of phrase and aspect this one system of ideas which now
possesses us all. In the same way the elementary facts and ideas of the
science of chemistry might conceivably be put completely and fully into
one text-book, but, as a matter of fact, it is far more convenient to
tell that same story over in a thousand different forms, in a text-book
for boys here, for a different sort or class of boy there, for adult
students, for reference, for people expert in mathematics, for people
unused to the scientific method, and so on. For the last year the writer
has been doing what he can--and a number of other writers have been
doing what they can--to bring about a united declaration of all the
Atlantic Allies in favour of a League of Nations, and to define the
necessary nature of that League. He has, in the course of this work,
written a series of articles upon the League and upon _the necessary
sacrifices of preconceptions_ that the idea involves in the London
press. He has also been trying to clear his own mind upon the real
meaning of that ambiguous word "democracy," for which the League is to
make the world "safe." The bulk of this book is made up of these
discussions. For a very considerable number of readers, it may be well
to admit here, it can have no possible interest; they will have come at
these questions themselves from different angles and they will have long
since got to their own conclusions. But there may be others whose angle
of approach may be similar to the writer's, who may have asked some or
most of the questions he has had to ask, and who may be actively
interested in the answers and the working out of the answers he has made
to these questions. For them this book is printed.


_May_, 1918.

It is a dangerous thing to recommend specific books out of so large and
various a literature as the "League of Nations" idea has already
produced, but the reader who wishes to reach beyond the range of this
book, or who does not like its tone and method, will probably find
something to meet his needs and tastes better in Marburg's "League of
Nations," a straightforward account of the American side of the movement
by the former United States Minister in Belgium, on the one hand, or in
the concluding parts of Mr. Fayle's "Great Settlement" (1915), a frankly
sceptical treatment from the British Imperialist point of view, on the
other. An illuminating discussion, advocating peace treaties rather than
a league, is Sir Walter Phillimore's "Three Centuries of Treaties." Two
excellent books from America, that chance to be on my table, are Mr.
Goldsmith's "League to Enforce Peace" and "A World in Ferment" by
President Nicholas Murray Butler. Mater's "Société des Nations" (Didier)
is an able presentation of a French point of view. Brailsford's "A
League of Nations" is already a classic of the movement in England, and
a very full and thorough book; and Hobson's "Towards International
Government" is a very sympathetic contribution from the English liberal
left; but the reader must understand that these two writers seem
disposed to welcome a peace with an unrevolutionized Germany, an idea to
which, in common with most British people, I am bitterly opposed.
Walsh's "World Rebuilt" is a good exhortation, and Mugge's "Parliament
of Man" is fresh and sane and able. The omnivorous reader will find good
sense and quaint English in Judge Mejdell's "_Jus Gentium_," published
in English by Olsen's of Christiania. There is an active League of
Nations Society in Dublin, as well as the London and Washington ones,
publishing pamphlets and conducting propaganda. All these books and
pamphlets I have named happen to lie upon my study table as I write, but
I have made no systematic effort to get together literature upon the
subject, and probably there are just as many books as good of which I
have never even heard. There must, I am sure, be statements of the
League of Nations idea forthcoming from various religious standpoints,
but I do not know any sufficiently well to recommend them. It is
incredible that neither the Roman Catholic Church, the English Episcopal
Church, nor any Nonconformist body has made any effort as an
organization to forward this essentially religious end of peace on
earth. And also there must be German writings upon this same topic. I
mention these diverse sources not in order to present a bibliography,
but because I should be sorry to have the reader think that this little
book pretends to state _the_ case rather than _a_ case for the League of











            IN GREAT BRITAIN






More and more frequently does one hear this phrase, The League of
Nations, used to express the outline idea of the new world that will
come out of the war. There can be no doubt that the phrase has taken
hold of the imaginations of great multitudes of people: it is one of
those creative phrases that may alter the whole destiny of mankind. But
as yet it is still a very vague phrase, a cloudy promise of peace. I
make no apology therefore, for casting my discussion of it in the most
general terms. The idea is the idea of united human effort to put an end
to wars; the first practical question, that must precede all others, is
how far can we hope to get to a concrete realization of that?

But first let me note the fourth word in the second title of this book.
The common talk is of a "League of Nations" merely. I follow the man who
is, more than any other man, the leader of English political thought
throughout the world to-day, President Wilson, in inserting that
significant adjective "Free." We western allies know to-day what is
involved in making bargains with governments that do not stand for their
peoples; we have had all our Russian deal, for example, repudiated and
thrust back upon our hands; and it is clearly in his mind, as it must be
in the minds of all reasonable men, that no mere "scrap of paper," with
just a monarch's or a chancellor's endorsement, is a good enough earnest
of fellowship in the league. It cannot be a diplomatist's league. The
League of Nations, if it is to have any such effect as people seem to
hope from it, must be, in the first place, "understanded of the people."
It must be supported by sustained, deliberate explanation, and by
teaching in school and church and press of the whole mass of all the
peoples concerned. I underline the adjective "Free" here to set aside,
once for all, any possible misconception that this modern idea of a
League of Nations has any affinity to that Holy Alliance of the
diplomatists, which set out to keep the peace of Europe so disastrously
a century ago.

Later I will discuss the powers of the League. But before I come to
that I would like to say a little about the more general question of its
nature and authority. What sort of gathering will embody it? The
suggestions made range from a mere advisory body, rather like the Hague
convention, which will merely pronounce on the rights and wrongs of any
international conflict, to the idea of a sort of Super-State, a
Parliament of Mankind, a "Super National" Authority, practically taking
over the sovereignty of the existing states and empires of the world.
Most people's ideas of the League fall between these extremes. They want
the League to be something more than an ethical court, they want a
League that will act, but on the other hand they shrink from any loss of
"our independence." There seems to be a conflict here. There is a real
need for many people to tidy up their ideas at this point. We cannot
have our cake and eat it. If association is worth while, there must be
some sacrifice of freedom to association. As a very distinguished
colonial representative said to me the other day: "Here we are talking
of the freedom of small nations and the 'self-determination' of peoples,
and at the same time of the Council of the League of Nations and all
sorts of international controls. Which do we want?"

The answer, I think, is "Both." It is a matter of more or less, of
getting the best thing at the cost of the second-best. We may want to
relax an old association in order to make a newer and wider one. It is
quite understandable that peoples aware of a distinctive national
character and involved in some big existing political complex, should
wish to disentangle themselves from one group of associations in order
to enter more effectively into another, a greater, and more satisfactory
one. The Finn or the Pole, who has hitherto been a rather reluctant
member of the synthesis of the Russian empire, may well wish to end that
attachment in order to become a free member of a worldwide brotherhood.
The desire for free arrangement is not a desire for chaos. There is such
a thing as untying your parcels in order to pack them better, and I do
not see myself how we can possibly contemplate a great league of freedom
and reason in the world without a considerable amount of such
preliminary dissolution.

It happens, very fortunately for the world, that a century and a quarter
ago thirteen various and very jealous states worked out the problem of a
Union, and became--after an enormous, exhausting wrangle--the United
States of America. Now the way they solved their riddle was by
delegating and giving over jealously specified sovereign powers and
doing all that was possible to retain the residuum. They remained
essentially sovereign states. New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, for
example, remained legally independent. The practical fusion of these
peoples into one people outran the legal bargain. It was only after long
years of discussion that the point was conceded; it was indeed only
after the Civil War that the implications were fully established, that
there resided a sovereignty in the American people as a whole, as
distinguished from the peoples of the several states. This is a
precedent that every one who talks about the League of Nations should
bear in mind. These states set up a congress and president in Washington
with strictly delegated powers. That congress and president they
delegated to look after certain common interests, to deal with
interstate trade, to deal with foreign powers, to maintain a supreme
court of law. Everything else--education, militia, powers of life and
death--the states retained for themselves. To this day, for instance,
the federal courts and the federal officials have no power to interfere
to protect the lives or property of aliens in any part of the union
outside the district of Columbia. The state governments still see to
that. The federal government has the legal right perhaps to intervene,
but it is still chary of such intervention. And these states of the
American Union were at the outset so independent-spirited that they
would not even adopt a common name. To this day they have no common
name. We have to call them Americans, which is a ridiculous name when we
consider that Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil are all of them also in
America. Or else we have to call them Virginians, Californians, New
Englanders, and so forth. Their legal and nominal separateness weighs
nothing against the real fusion that their great league has now made

Now, that clearly is a precedent of the utmost value in our schemes for
this council of the League of Nations. We must begin by delegating, as
the States began by delegating. It is a far cry to the time when we
shall talk and think of the Sovereign People of the Earth. That council
of the League of Nations will be a tie as strong, we hope, but certainly
not so close and multiplex as the early tie of the States at Washington.
It will begin by having certain delegated powers and no others. It will
be an "_ad hoc_" body. Later its powers may grow as mankind becomes
accustomed to it. But at first it will have, directly or mediately, all
the powers that seem necessary to restrain the world from war--and
unless I know nothing of patriotic jealousies it will have not a scrap
of power more. The danger is much more that its powers will be
insufficient than that they will be excessive. Of that later. What I
want to discuss here now is the constitution of this delegated body. I
want to discuss that first in order to set aside out of the discussion
certain fantastic notions that will otherwise get very seriously in our
way. Fantastic as they are, they have played a large part in reducing
the Hague Tribunal to an ineffective squeak amidst the thunders of this

A number of gentlemen scheming out world unity in studies have begun
their proposals with the simple suggestion that each sovereign power
should send one member to the projected parliament of mankind. This has
a pleasant democratic air; one sovereign state, one vote. Now let us run
over a list of sovereign states and see to what this leads us. We find
our list includes the British Empire, with a population of four hundred
millions, of which probably half can read and write some language or
other; Bogota with a population of a million, mostly poets; Hayti with a
population of a million and a third, almost entirely illiterate and
liable at any time to further political disruption; Andorra with a
population of four or five thousand souls. The mere suggestion of equal
representation between such "powers" is enough to make the British
Empire burst into a thousand (voting) fragments. A certain concession
to population, one must admit, was made by the theorists; a state of
over three millions got, if I remember rightly, two delegates, and if
over twenty, three, and some of the small states were given a kind of
intermittent appearance, they only came every other time or something of
that sort; but at The Hague things still remained in such a posture that
three or four minute and backward states could outvote the British
Empire or the United States. Therein lies the clue to the insignificance
of The Hague. Such projects as these are idle projects and we must put
them out of our heads; they are against nature; the great nations will
not suffer them for a moment.

But when we dismiss this idea of representation by states, we are left
with the problem of the proportion of representation and of relative
weight in the Council of the League on our hands. It is the sort of
problem that appeals terribly to the ingenious. We cannot solve it by
making population a basis, because that will give a monstrous importance
to the illiterate millions of India and China. Ingenious statistical
schemes have been framed in which the number of university graduates and
the steel output come in as multipliers, but for my own part I am not
greatly impressed by statistical schemes. At the risk of seeming
something of a Prussian, I would like to insist upon certain brute
facts. The business of the League of Nations is to keep the peace of the
world and nothing else. No power will ever dare to break the peace of
the world if the powers that are capable of making war under modern
conditions say "_No_." And there are only four powers certainly capable
at the present time of producing the men and materials needed for a
modern war in sufficient abundance to go on fighting: Britain, France,
Germany, and the United States. There are three others which are very
doubtfully capable: Italy, Japan, and Austria. Russia I will mark--it is
all that one can do with Russia just now--with a note of interrogation.
Some day China may be war capable--I hope never, but it is a
possibility. Personally I don't think that any other power on earth
would have a ghost of a chance to resist the will--if it could be an
honestly united will--of the first-named four. All the rest fight by the
sanction of and by association with these leaders. They can only fight
because of the split will of the war-complete powers. Some are forced to
fight by that very division.

No one can vie with me in my appreciation of the civilization of
Switzerland, Sweden, or Holland, but the plain fact of the case is that
such powers are absolutely incapable of uttering an effective protest
against war. Far less so are your Haytis and Liberias. The preservation
of the world-peace rests with the great powers and with the great powers
alone. If they have the will for peace, it is peace. If they have not,
it is conflict. The four powers I have named can now, if they see fit,
dictate the peace of the world for ever.

Let us keep our grip on that. Peace is the business of the great powers
primarily. Steel output, university graduates, and so forth may be
convenient secondary criteria, may be useful ways of measuring war
efficiency, but the meat and substance of the Council of the League of
Nations must embody the wills of those leading peoples. They can give an
enduring peace to the little nations and the whole of mankind. It can
arrive in no other way. So I take it that the Council of an ideal League
of Nations must consist chiefly of the representatives of the great
belligerent powers, and that the representatives of the minor allies and
of the neutrals--essential though their presence will be--must not be
allowed to swamp the voices of these larger masses of mankind.

And this state of affairs may come about more easily than logical,
statistical-minded people may be disposed to think. Our first impulse,
when we discuss the League of Nations idea, is to think of some very
elaborate and definite scheme of members on the model of existing
legislative bodies, called together one hardly knows how, and sitting
in a specially built League of Nations Congress House. All schemes are
more methodical than reality. We think of somebody, learned and
"expert," in spectacles, with a thin clear voice, reading over the
"Projected Constitution of a League of Nations" to an attentive and
respectful Peace Congress. But there is a more natural way to a league
than that. Instead of being made like a machine, the League of Nations
may come about like a marriage. The Peace Congress that must sooner or
later meet may itself become, after a time, the Council of a League of
Nations. The League of Nations may come upon us by degrees, almost
imperceptibly. I am strongly obsessed by the idea that that Peace
Congress will necessarily become--and that it is highly desirable that
it should become--a most prolonged and persistent gathering. Why should
it not become at length a permanent gathering, inviting representatives
to aid its deliberations from the neutral states, and gradually
adjusting itself to conditions of permanency?

I can conceive no such Peace Congress as those that have settled up
after other wars, settling up after this war. Not only has the war been
enormously bigger than any other war, but it has struck deeper at the
foundations of social and economic life. I doubt if we begin to realize
how much of the old system is dead to-day, how much has to be remade.
Since the beginnings of history there has been a credible promise of
gold payments underneath our financial arrangements. It is now an
incredible promise. The value of a pound note waves about while you look
at it. What will happen to it when peace comes no man can tell. Nor what
will happen to the mark. The rouble has gone into the Abyss. Our giddy
money specialists clutch their handfuls of paper and watch it flying
down the steep. Much as we may hate the Germans, some of us will have to
sit down with some of the enemy to arrange a common scheme for the
preservation of credit in money. And I presume that it is not proposed
to end this war in a wild scramble of buyers for such food as remains in
the world. There is a shortage now, a greater shortage ahead of the
world, and there will be shortages of supply at the source and transport
in food and all raw materials for some years to come. The Peace Congress
will have to sit and organize a share-out and distribution and
reorganization of these shattered supplies. It will have to Rhondda the
nations. Probably, too, we shall have to deal collectively with a
pestilence before we are out of the mess. Then there are such little
jobs as the reconstruction of Belgium and Serbia. There are considerable
rectifications of boundaries to be made. There are fresh states to be
created, in Poland and Armenia for example. About all these smaller
states, new and old, that the peace must call into being, there must be
a system of guarantees of the most difficult and complicated sort.

I do not see the Press Congress getting through such matters as these in
a session of weeks or months. The idea the Germans betrayed at Brest,
that things were going to be done in the Versailles fashion by great
moustached heroes frowning and drawing lines with a large black
soldierly thumbnail across maps, is--old-fashioned. They have made their
eastern treaties, it is true, in this mode, but they are still looking
for some really responsible government to keep them now that they are
made. From first to last clearly the main peace negotiations are going
to follow unprecedented courses. This preliminary discussion of war aims
by means of great public speeches, that has been getting more and more
explicit now for many months, is quite unprecedented. Apparently all the
broad preliminaries are to be stated and accepted in the sight of all
mankind before even an armistice occurs on the main, the western front.
The German diplomatists hate this process. So do a lot of ours. So do
some of the diplomatic Frenchmen. The German junkers are dodging and
lying, they are fighting desperately to keep back everything they
possibly can for the bargaining and bullying and table-banging of the
council chamber, but that way there is no peace. And when at last
Germany says snip sufficiently to the Allies' snap, and the Peace
Congress begins, it will almost certainly be as unprecedented as its
prelude. Before it meets, the broad lines of the settlement will have
been drawn plainly with the approval of the mass of mankind.



A Peace Congress, growing permanent, then, may prove to be the most
practical and convenient embodiment of this idea of a League of Nations
that has taken possession of the imagination of the world. A most
necessary preliminary to a Peace Congress, with such possibilities
inherent in it, must obviously be the meeting and organization of a
preliminary League of the Allied Nations. That point I would now

Half a world peace is better than none. There seems no reason whatever
why the world should wait for the Central Powers before it begins this
necessary work. Mr. McCurdy has been asking lately, "Why not the League
of Nations _now_?" That is a question a great number of people would
like to echo very heartily. The nearer the Allies can come to a League
of Free Nations before the Peace Congress the more prospect there is
that that body will approximate in nature to a League of Nations for the
whole world.

In one most unexpected quarter the same idea has been endorsed. The
King's Speech on the prorogation of Parliament this February was one of
the most remarkable royal utterances that have ever been made from the
British throne. There was less of the old-fashioned King and more of the
modern President about it than the most republican-minded of us could
have anticipated. For the first time in a King's Speech we heard of the
"democracies" of the world, and there was a clear claim that the Allies
at present fighting the Central Powers did themselves constitute a
League of Nations.

But we must admit that at present they do so only in a very rhetorical
sense. There is no real council of empowered representatives, and
nothing in the nature of a united front has been prepared. Unless we
provide beforehand for something more effective, Italy, France, the
United States, Japan, and this country will send separate groups of
representatives, with separate instructions, unequal status, and very
probably conflicting views upon many subjects, to the ultimate peace
discussions. It is quite conceivable--it is a very serious danger--that
at this discussion skilful diplomacy on the part of the Central Powers
may open a cleft among the Allies that has never appeared during the
actual war. Have the British settled, for example, with Italy and
France for the supply of metallurgical coal after the war? Those
countries must have it somehow. Across the board Germany can make some
tempting bids in that respect. Or take another question: Have the
British arrived at common views with France, Belgium, Portugal, and
South Africa about the administration of Central Africa? Suppose Germany
makes sudden proposals affecting native labour that win over the
Portuguese and the Boers? There are a score of such points upon which we
shall find the Allied representatives haggling with each other in the
presence of the enemy if they have not been settled beforehand.

It is the plainest common sense that we should be fixing up all such
matters with our Allies now, and knitting together a common front for
the final deal with German Imperialism. And these things are not to be
done effectively and bindingly nowadays by official gentlemen in
discreet undertones. They need to be done with the full knowledge and
authority of the participating peoples.

The Russian example has taught the world the instability of diplomatic
bargains in a time of such fundamental issues as the present. There is
little hope and little strength in hole-and-corner bargainings between
the officials or politicians who happen to be at the head of this or
that nation for the time being. Our Labour people will not stand this
sort of thing and they will not be bound by it. There will be the plain
danger of repudiation for all arrangements made in that fashion. A
gathering of somebody or other approved by the British Foreign Office
and of somebody or other approved by the French Foreign Office, of
somebody with vague powers from America, and so on and so on, will be an
entirely ineffective gathering. But that is the sort of gathering of the
Allies we have been having hitherto, and that is the sort of gathering
that is likely to continue unless there is a considerable expression of
opinion in favour of something more representative and responsible.

Even our Foreign Office must be aware that in every country in the world
there is now bitter suspicion of and keen hostility towards merely
diplomatic representatives. One of the most significant features of the
time is the evident desire of the Labour movement in every European
country to take part in a collateral conference of Labour that shall
meet when and where the Peace Congress does and deliberate and comment
on its proceedings. For a year now the demand of the masses for such a
Labour conference has been growing. It marks a distrust of officialdom
whose intensity officialdom would do well to ponder. But it is the
natural consequence of, it is the popular attempt at a corrective to,
the aloofness and obscurity that have hitherto been so evil a
characteristic of international negotiations. I do not think Labour and
intelligent people anywhere are going to be fobbed off with an
old-fashioned diplomatic gathering as being that League of Free Nations
they demand.

On the other hand, I do not contemplate this bi-cameral conference with
the diplomatists trying to best and humbug the Labour people as well as
each other and the Labour people getting more and more irritated,
suspicious, and extremist, with anything but dread. The Allied countries
must go into the conference _solid_, and they can only hope to do that
by heeding and incorporating Labour ideas before they come to the
conference. The only alternative that I can see to this unsatisfactory
prospect of a Peace Congress sitting side by side with a dissentient and
probably revolutionary Labour and Socialist convention--both gatherings
with unsatisfactory credentials contradicting one another and drifting
to opposite extremes--is that the delegates the Allied Powers send to
the Peace Conference (the same delegates which, if they are wise, they
will have previously sent to a preliminary League of Allied Nations to
discuss their common action at the Peace Congress), should be elected
_ad hoc_ upon democratic lines.

I know that this will be a very shocking proposal to all our able
specialists in foreign policy. They will talk at once about the
"ignorance" of people like the Labour leaders and myself about such
matters, and so on. What do we know of the treaty of so-and-so that was
signed in the year seventeen something?--and so on. To which the answer
is that we ought not to have been kept ignorant of these things. A day
will come when the Foreign Offices of all countries will have to
recognize that what the people do not know of international agreements
"ain't facts." A secret treaty is only binding upon the persons in the
secret. But what I, as a sample common person, am not ignorant of is
this: that the business that goes on at the Peace Congress will either
make or mar the lives of everyone I care for in the world, and that
somehow, by representative or what not, _I have to be there_. The Peace
Congress deals with the blood and happiness of my children and the
future of my world. Speaking as one of the hundreds of millions of "rank
outsiders" in public affairs, I do not mean to respect any peace treaty
that may end this war unless I am honestly represented at its making. I
think everywhere there is a tendency in people to follow the Russian
example to this extent and to repudiate bargains in which they have had
no voice.

I do not see that any genuine realization of the hopes with which all
this talk about the League of Nations is charged can be possible, unless
the two bodies which should naturally lead up to the League of
Nations--that is to say, firstly, the Conference of the Allies, and then
the Peace Congress--are elected bodies, speaking confidently for the
whole mass of the peoples behind them. It may be a troublesome thing to
elect them, but it will involve much more troublesome consequences if
they are not elected. This, I think, is one of the considerations for
which many people's minds are still unprepared. But unless we are to
have over again after all this bloodshed and effort some such "Peace
with Honour" foolery as we had performed by "Dizzy" and Salisbury at
that fatal Berlin Conference in which this present war was begotten, we
must sit up to this novel proposal of electoral representation in the
peace negotiations. Something more than common sense binds our statesmen
to this idea. They are morally pledged to it. President Wilson and our
British and French spokesmen alike have said over and over again that
they want to deal not with the Hohenzollerns but with the German people.
In other words, we have demanded elected representatives from the German
people with whom we may deal, and how can we make a demand of that sort
unless we on our part are already prepared to send our own elected
representatives to meet them? It is up to us to indicate by our own
practice how we on our side, professing as we do to act for democracies,
to make democracy safe on the earth, and so on, intend to meet this new

Yet it has to be remarked that, so far, not one of the League of Nations
projects I have seen have included any practicable proposals for the
appointment of delegates either to that ultimate body or to its two
necessary predecessors, the Council of the Allies and the Peace
Congress. It is evident that here, again, we are neglecting to get on
with something of very urgent importance. I will venture, therefore, to
say a word or two here about the possible way in which a modern
community may appoint its international representatives.

And here, again, I turn from any European precedents to that political
outcome of the British mind, the Constitution of the United States.
(Because we must always remember that while our political institutions
in Britain are a patch-up of feudalism, Tudor, Stuart, and Hanoverian
monarchist traditions and urgent merely European necessities, a patch-up
that has been made quasi-democratic in a series of after-thoughts, the
American Constitution is a real, deliberate creation of the
English-speaking intelligence.) The President of the United States,
then, we have to note, is elected in a most extraordinary way, and in a
way that has now the justification of very great successes indeed. On
several occasions the United States has achieved indisputable greatness
in its Presidents, and very rarely has it failed to set up very leaderly
and distinguished men. It is worth while, therefore, to inquire how this
President is elected. He is neither elected directly by the people nor
appointed by any legislative body. He is chosen by a special college
elected by the people. This college exists to elect him; it meets,
elects him, and disperses. (I will not here go into the preliminary
complications that makes the election of a President follow upon a
preliminary election of two Presidential Candidates. The point I am
making here is that he is a specially selected man chosen _ad hoc_.) Is
there any reason why we should, not adopt this method in this new
necessity we are under of sending representatives, first, to the long
overdue and necessary Allied Council, then to the Peace Congress, and
then to the hoped-for Council of the League of Nations?

I am anxious here only to start for discussion the idea of an electoral
representation of the nations upon these three bodies that must in
succession set themselves to define, organize, and maintain the peace
of the world. I do not wish to complicate the question by any too
explicit advocacy of methods of election or the like. In the United
States this college which elects the President is elected on the same
register of voters as that which elects the Senate and Congress, and at
the same time. But I suppose if we are to give a popular mandate to the
three or five or twelve or twenty (or whatever number it is) men to whom
we are going to entrust our Empire's share in this great task of the
peace negotiations, it will be more decisive of the will of the whole
nation if the college that had to appoint them is elected at a special
election. I suppose that the great British common-weals over-seas, at
present not represented in Parliament, would also and separately at the
same time elect colleges to appoint their representatives. I suppose
there would be at least one Indian representative elected, perhaps by
some special electoral conference of Indian princes and leading men. The
chief defect of the American Presidential election is that as the old
single vote method of election is employed it has to be fought on purely
party lines. He is the select man of the Democratic half, or of the
Republican half of the nation. He is not the select man of the whole
nation. It would give a far more representative character to the
electoral college if it could be elected by fair modern methods, if for
this particular purpose parliamentary constituencies could be grouped
and the clean scientific method of proportional representation could be
used. But I suppose the party politician in this, as in most of our
affairs, must still have his pound of our flesh--and we must reckon with
him later for the bloodshed.

These are all, however, secondary considerations. The above paragraph
is, so to speak, in the nature of a footnote. The fundamental matter, if
we are to get towards any realization of this ideal of a world peace
sustained by a League of Nations, is to get straight away to the
conception of direct special electoral mandates in this matter. At
present all the political luncheon and dinner parties in London are busy
with smirking discussions of "Who is to go?" The titled ladies are
particularly busy. They are talking about it as if we poor, ignorant,
tax-paying, blood-paying common people did not exist. "L. G.," they say,
will of course "_insist_ on going," but there is much talk of the "Old
Man." People are getting quite nice again about "the Old Man's
feelings." It would be such a pretty thing to send him. But if "L. G."
goes we want him to go with something more than a backing of intrigues
and snatched authority. And I do not think the mass of people have any
enthusiasm for the Old Man. It is difficult again--by the dinner-party
standards--to know how Lord Curzon can be restrained. But we common
people do not care if he is restrained to the point of extinction.
Probably there will be nobody who talks or understands Russian among the
British representatives. But, of course, the British governing class has
washed its hands of the Russians. They were always very difficult, and
now they are "impossible, my dear, perfectly impossible."

No! That sort of thing will not do now. This Peace Congress is too big a
job for party politicians and society and county families. The bulk of
British opinion cannot go on being represented for ever by President
Wilson. We cannot always look to the Americans to express our ideas and
do our work for democracy. The foolery of the Berlin Treaty must not be
repeated. We cannot have another popular Prime Minister come triumphing
back to England with a gross of pink spectacles--through which we may
survey the prospect of the next great war. The League of Free Nations
means something very big and solid; it is not a rhetorical phrase to be
used to pacify a restless, distressed, and anxious public, and to be
sneered out of existence when that use is past. When the popular mind
now demands a League of Free Nations it demands a reality. The only way
to that reality is through the direct participation of the nation as a
whole in the settlement, and that is possible only through the direct
election for this particular issue of representative and responsible



If this phrase, "the League of Free Nations," is to signify anything
more than a rhetorical flourish, then certain consequences follow that
have to be faced now. No man can join a partnership and remain an
absolutely free man. You cannot bind yourself to do this and not to do
that and to consult and act with your associates in certain
eventualities without a loss of your sovereign freedom. People in this
country and in France do not seem to be sitting up manfully to these
necessary propositions.

If this League of Free Nations is really to be an effectual thing for
the preservation of the peace of the world it must possess power and
exercise power, powers must be delegated to it. Otherwise it will only
help, with all other half-hearted good resolutions, to pave the road of
mankind to hell. Nothing in all the world so strengthens evil as the
half-hearted attempts of good to make good.

It scarcely needs repeating here--it has been so generally said--that
no League of Free Nations can hope to keep the peace unless every member
of it is indeed a free member, represented by duly elected persons.
Nobody, of course, asks to "dictate the internal government" of any
country to that country. If Germans, for instance, like to wallow in
absolutism after the war they can do so. But if they or any other
peoples wish to take part in a permanent League of Free Nations it is
only reasonable to insist that so far as their representatives on the
council go they must be duly elected under conditions that are by the
standards of the general league satisfactorily democratic. That seems to
be only the common sense of the matter. Every court is a potential
conspiracy against freedom, and the League cannot tolerate merely court
appointments. If courts are to exist anywhere in the new world of the
future, they will be wise to stand aloof from international meddling. Of
course if a people, after due provision for electoral representation,
choose to elect dynastic candidates, that is an altogether different

And now let us consider what are the powers that must be delegated to
this proposed council of a League of Free Nations, if that is really
effectually to prevent war and to organize and establish and make peace
permanent in the world.

Firstly, then, it must be able to adjudicate upon all international
disputes whatever. Its first function must clearly be that. Before a war
can break out there must be the possibility of a world decision upon its
rights and wrongs. The League, therefore, will have as its primary
function to maintain a Supreme Court, whose decisions will be final,
before which every sovereign power may appear as plaintiff against any
other sovereign power or group of powers. The plea, I take it, will
always be in the form that the defendant power or powers is engaged in
proceedings "calculated to lead to a breach of the peace," and calling
upon the League for an injunction against such proceedings. I suppose
the proceedings that can be brought into court in this way fall under
such headings as these that follow; restraint of trade by injurious
tariffs or suchlike differentiations or by interference with through
traffic, improper treatment of the subjects _or their property_ (here I
put a query) of the plaintiff nation in the defendant state, aggressive
military or naval preparation, disorder spreading over the frontier,
trespass (as, for instance, by airships), propaganda of disorder,
espionage, permitting the organization of injurious activities, such as
raids or piracy. Clearly all such actions must come within the purview
of any world-supreme court organized to prevent war. But in addition
there is a more doubtful and delicate class of case, arising out of the
discontent of patches of one race or religion in the dominions of
another. How far may the supreme court of the world attend to grievances
between subject and sovereign?

Such cases are highly probable, and no large, vague propositions about
the "self-determination" of peoples can meet all the cases. In
Macedonia, for instance, there is a jumble of Albanian, Serbian,
Bulgarian, Greek and Rumanian villages always jostling one another and
maintaining an intense irritation between the kindred nations close at
hand. And quite a large number of areas and cities in the world, it has
to be remembered, are not homogeneous at all. Will the great nations of
the world have the self-abnegation to permit a scattered subject
population to appeal against the treatment of its ruling power to the
Supreme Court? This is a much more serious interference with sovereignty
than intervention in an external quarrel. Could a Greek village in
Bulgarian Macedonia plead in the Supreme Court? Could the Armenians in
Constantinople, or the Jews in Roumania, or the Poles in West Prussia,
or the negroes in Georgia, or the Indians in the Transvaal make such an
appeal? Could any Indian population in India appeal? Personally I should
like to see the power of the Supreme Court extend as far as this. I do
not see how we can possibly prevent a kindred nation pleading for the
scattered people of its own race and culture, or any nation presenting a
case on behalf of some otherwise unrepresented people--the United
States, for example, presenting a case on behalf of the Armenians. But I
doubt if many people have made up their minds yet to see the powers of
the Supreme Court of the League of Nations go so far as this. I doubt
if, to begin with, it will be possible to provide for these cases. I
would like to see it done, but I doubt if the majority of the sovereign
peoples concerned will reconcile their national pride with the idea, at
least so far as their own subject populations go.

Here, you see, I do no more than ask a question. It is a difficult one,
and it has to be answered before we can clear the way to the League of
Free Nations.

But the Supreme Court, whether it is to have the wider or the narrower
scope here suggested, would be merely the central function of the League
of Free Nations. Behind the decisions of the Supreme Court must lie
power. And here come fresh difficulties for patriotic digestions. The
armies and navies of the world must be at the disposal of the League of
Free Nations, and that opens up a new large area of delegated authority.
The first impulse of any power disposed to challenge the decisions of
the Supreme Court will be, of course, to arm; and it is difficult to
imagine how the League of Free Nations can exercise any practical
authority unless it has power to restrain such armament. The League of
Free Nations must, in fact, if it is to be a working reality, have power
to define and limit the military and naval and aerial equipment of every
country in the world. This means something more than a restriction of
state forces. It must have power and freedom to investigate the military
and naval and aerial establishments of all its constituent powers. It
must also have effective control over every armament industry. And
armament industries are not always easy to define. Are aeroplanes, for
example, armament? Its powers, I suggest, must extend even to a
restraint upon the belligerent propaganda which is the natural
advertisement campaign of every armament industry. It must have the
right, for example, to raise the question of the proprietorship of
newspapers by armament interests. Disarmament is, in fact, a necessary
factor of any League of Free Nations, and you cannot have disarmament
unless you are prepared to see the powers of the council of the League
extend thus far. The very existence of the League presupposes that it
and it alone is to have and to exercise military force. Any other
belligerency or preparation or incitement to belligerency becomes
rebellion, and any other arming a threat of rebellion, in a world League
of Free Nations.

But here, again, has the general mind yet thought out all that is
involved in this proposition? In all the great belligerent countries the
armament industries are now huge interests with enormous powers. Krupp's
business alone is as powerful a thing in Germany as the Crown. In every
country a heavily subsidized "patriotic" press will fight desperately
against giving powers so extensive and thorough as those here suggested
to an international body. So long, of course, as the League of Free
Nations remains a project in the air, without body or parts, such a
press will sneer at it gently as "Utopian," and even patronize it
kindly. But so soon as the League takes on the shape its general
proposition makes logically necessary, the armament interest will take
fright. Then it is we shall hear the drum patriotic loud in defence of
the human blood trade. Are we to hand over these most intimate affairs
of ours to "a lot of foreigners"? Among these "foreigners" who will be
appealed to to terrify the patriotic souls of the British will be the
"Americans." Are we men of English blood and tradition to see our
affairs controlled by such "foreigners" as Wilson, Lincoln, Webster and
Washington? Perish the thought! When they might be controlled by
Disraelis, Wettins, Mount-Battens, and what not! And so on and so on.
Krupp's agents and the agents of the kindred firms in Great Britain and
France will also be very busy with the national pride of France. In
Germany they have already created a colossal suspicion of England.

Here is a giant in the path....

But let us remember that it is only necessary to defeat the propaganda
of this vile and dangerous industry in four great countries. And for the
common citizen, touched on the tenderest part of his patriotic
susceptibilities, there are certain irrefutable arguments. Whether the
ways of the world in the years to come are to be the paths of peace or
the paths of war is not going to alter this essential fact, that the
great educated world communities, with a social and industrial
organization on a war-capable scale, are going to dominate human
affairs. Whether they spend their power in killing or in educating and
creating, France, Germany, however much we may resent it, the two great
English-speaking communities, Italy, Japan China, and presently perhaps
a renascent Russia, are jointly going to control the destinies of
mankind. Whether that joint control comes through arms or through the
law is a secondary consideration. To refuse to bring our affairs into a
common council does not make us independent of foreigners. It makes us
more dependent upon them, as a very little consideration will show.

I am suggesting here that the League of Free Nations shall practically
control the army, navy, air forces, and armament industry of every
nation in the world. What is the alternative to that? To do as we
please? No, the alternative is that any malignant country will be free
to force upon all the rest just the maximum amount of armament it
chooses to adopt. Since 1871 France, we say, has been free in military
matters. What has been the value of that freedom? The truth is, she has
been the bond-slave of Germany, bound to watch Germany as a slave
watches a master, bound to launch submarine for submarine and cast gun
for gun, to sweep all her youth into her army, to subdue her trade, her
literature, her education, her whole life to the necessity of
preparations imposed upon her by her drill-master over the Rhine. And
Michael, too, has been a slave to his imperial master for the self-same
reason, for the reason that Germany and France were both so proudly
sovereign and independent. Both countries have been slaves to Kruppism
and Zabernism--_because they were sovereign and free_! So it will always
be. So long as patriotic cant can keep the common man jealous of
international controls over his belligerent possibilities, so long will
he be the helpless slave of the foreign threat, and "Peace" remain a
mere name for the resting phase between wars.

But power over the military resources of the world is by no means the
limit of the necessary powers of an effective League of Free Nations.
There are still more indigestible implications in the idea, and, since
they have got to be digested sooner or later if civilization is not to
collapse, there is no reason why we should not begin to bite upon them
now. I was much interested to read the British press upon the alleged
proposal of the German Chancellor that we should give up (presumably to
Germany) Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, and suchlike key possessions. It
seemed to excite several of our politicians extremely. I read over the
German Chancellor's speech very carefully, so far as it was available,
and it is clear that he did not propose anything of the sort. Wilfully
or blindly our press and our demagogues screamed over a false issue. The
Chancellor was defending the idea of the Germans remaining in Belgium
and Lorraine because of the strategic and economic importance of those
regions to Germany, and he was arguing that before we English got into
such a feverish state of indignation about that, we should first ask
ourselves what we were doing in Gibraltar, etc., etc. That is a
different thing altogether. And it is an argument that is not to be
disposed of by misrepresentation. The British have to think hard over
this quite legitimate German _tu quoque_. It is no good getting into a
patriotic bad temper and refusing to answer that question. We British
people are so persuaded of the purity and unselfishness with which we
discharge our imperial responsibilities, we have been so trained in
imperial self-satisfaction, we know so certainly that all our subject
nations call us blessed, that it is a little difficult for us to see
just how the fact that we are, for example, so deeply rooted in Egypt
looks to an outside intelligence. Of course the German imperialist idea
is a wicked and aggressive idea, as Lord Robert Cecil has explained;
they want to set up all over the earth coaling stations and strategic
points, _on the pattern of ours._ Well, they argue, we are only trying
to do what you British have done. If we are not to do so--because it is
aggression and so on and so on--is not the time ripe for you to make
some concessions to the public opinion of the world? That is the German
argument. Either, they say, tolerate this idea of a Germany with
advantageous posts and possessions round and about the earth, or
reconsider your own position.

Well, at the risk of rousing much patriotic wrath, I must admit that I
think we _have_ to reconsider our position. Our argument is that in
India, Egypt, Africa and elsewhere, we stand for order and civilization,
we are the trustees of freedom, the agents of knowledge and efficiency.
On the whole the record of British rule is a pretty respectable one; I
am not ashamed of our record. Nevertheless _the case is altering_.

It is quite justifiable for us British, no doubt, if we do really play
the part of honest trustees, to remain in Egypt and in India under
existing conditions; it is even possible for us to glance at the
helplessness of Arabia, Palestine, and Mesopotamia, as yet incapable of
self-government, helpless as new-born infants. But our case, our only
justifiable case, is that we are trustees because there is no better
trustee possible. And the creation of a council of a League of Free
Nations would be like the creation of a Public Trustee for the world.
The creation of a League of Free Nations must necessarily be the
creation of an authority that may legitimately call existing empires to
give an account of their stewardship. For an unchecked fragmentary
control of tropical and chaotic regions, it substitutes the possibility
of a general authority. And this must necessarily alter the problems not
only of the politically immature nations and the control of the tropics,
but also of the regulation of the sea ways, the regulation of the coming
air routes, and the distribution of staple products in the world. I will
not go in detail over the items of this list, because the reader can
fill in the essentials of the argument from what has gone before. I
want simply to suggest how widely this project of a League of Free
Nations swings when once you have let it swing freely in your mind! And
if you do not let it swing freely in your mind, it remains nothing--a
sentimental gesture.

The plain truth is that the League of Free Nations, if it is to be a
reality, if it is to effect a real pacification of the world, must do no
less than supersede Empire; it must end not only this new German
imperialism, which is struggling so savagely and powerfully to possess
the earth, but it must also wind up British imperialism and French
imperialism, which do now so largely and inaggressively possess it. And,
moreover, this idea queries the adjective of Belgian, Portuguese,
French, and British Central Africa alike, just as emphatically as it
queries "German." Still more effectually does the League forbid those
creations of the futurist imagination, the imperialism of Italy and
Greece, which make such threatening gestures at the world of our
children. Are these incompatibilities understood? Until people have
faced the clear antagonism that exists between imperialism and
internationalism, they have not begun to suspect the real significance
of this project of the League of Free Nations. They have not begun to
realize that peace also has its price.



I was recently privileged to hear the views of one of those titled and
influential ladies--with a general education at about the fifth standard
level, plus a little French, German, Italian, and music--who do so much
to make our England what it is at the present time, upon the Labour idea
of an international control of "tropical" Africa. She was loud and
derisive about the "ignorance" of Labour. "What can _they_ know about
foreign politics?" she said, with gestures to indicate her conception of

I was moved to ask her what she would do about Africa. "Leave it to Lord
Robert!" she said, leaning forward impressively. "_Leave it to the
people who know._"

Unhappily I share the evident opinion of Labour that we are not blessed
with any profoundly wise class of people who have definite knowledge and
clear intentions about Africa, that these "_people who know_" are mostly
a pretentious bluff, and so, in spite of a very earnest desire to take
refuge in my "ignorance" from the burthen of thinking about African
problems, I find myself obliged, like most other people, to do so. In
the interests of our country, our children, and the world, we common
persons _have_ to have opinions about these matters. A muddle-up in
Africa this year may kill your son and mine in the course of the next
decade. I know this is not a claim to be interested in things African,
such as the promoter of a tropical railway or an oil speculator has;
still it is a claim. And for the life of me I cannot see what is wrong
about the Labour proposals, or what alternative exists that can give
even a hope of peace in and about Africa.

The gist of the Labour proposal is an international control of Africa
between the Zambesi and the Sahara. This has been received with loud
protests by men whose work one is obliged to respect, by Sir Harry,
Johnston, for example, and Sir Alfred Sharpe, and with something
approaching a shriek of hostility by Mr. Cunninghame Graham. But I think
these gentlemen have not perhaps given the Labour proposal quite as much
attention as they have spent upon the details of African conditions. I
think they have jumped to conclusions at the mere sound of the word
"international." There have been some gross failures in the past to set
up international administrations in Africa and the Near East. And these
gentlemen think at once of some new Congo administration and of
nondescript police forces commanded by cosmopolitan adventurers. (See
Joseph Conrad's "Out-post of Civilization.") They think of
internationalism with greedy Great Powers in the background outside the
internationalized area, intriguing to create disorder and mischief with
ideas of an ultimate annexation. But I doubt if such nightmares do any
sort of justice to the Labour intention.

And the essential thing I would like to point out to these authorities
upon African questions is that not one of them even hints at any other
formula which covers the broad essentials of the African riddle.

What are these broad essentials? What are the ends that _must_ be
achieved if Africa is not to continue a festering sore in the body of

The first most obvious danger of Africa is the militarization of the
black. General Smuts has pointed this out plainly. The negro makes a
good soldier; he is hardy, he stands the sea, and he stands cold. (There
was a negro in the little party which reached the North Pole.) It is
absolutely essential to the peace of the world that there should be no
arming of the negroes beyond the minimum necessary for the policing of
Africa. But how is this to be watched and prevented if there is no
overriding body representing civilization to say "Stop" to the
beginnings of any such militarization? I do not see how Sir Harry
Johnston, Sir Alfred Sharpe, and the other authorities can object to at
least an international African "Disarmament Commission" to watch, warn,
and protest. At least they must concede that.

But in practice this involves something else. A practical consequence of
this disarmament idea must be an effective control of the importation of
arms into the "tutelage" areas of Africa. That rat at the dykes of
civilization, that ultimate expression of political scoundrelism, the
Gun-Runner, has to be kept under and stamped out in Africa as
everywhere. A Disarmament Commission that has no forces available to
prevent the arms trade will be just another Hague Convention, just
another vague, well-intentioned, futile gesture.

And closely connected with this function of controlling the arms trade
is another great necessity of Africa under "tutelage," and that is the
necessity of a common collective agreement not to demoralize the native
population. That demoralization, physical and moral, has already gone
far. The whole negro population of Africa is now rotten with diseases
introduced by Arabs and Europeans during the last century, and such
African statesmen as Sir Harry Johnston are eloquent upon the necessity
of saving the blacks--and the baser whites--from the effects of trade
gin and similar alluring articles of commerce. Moreover, from Africa
there is always something new in the way of tropical diseases, and
presently Africa, if we let it continue to fester as it festers now, may
produce an epidemic that will stand exportation to a temperate climate.
A bacterium that may kill you or me in some novel and disgusting way may
even now be developing in some Congo muck-heap. So here is the need for
another Commission to look after the Health of Africa. That, too, should
be of authority over all the area of "tutelage" Africa. It is no good
stamping out infectious disease in Nyasaland while it is being bred in
Portuguese East Africa. And if there is a Disarmament Commission already
controlling the importation of arms, why should not that body also
control at the same time the importation of trade gin and similar
delicacies, and direct quarantine and such-like health regulations?

But there is another question in Africa upon which our "ignorant" Labour
class is far better informed than our dear old eighteenth-century upper
class which still squats so firmly in our Foreign and Colonial Offices,
and that is the question of forced labour. We cannot tolerate any
possibilities of the enslavement of black Africa. Long ago the United
States found out the impossibility of having slave labour working in the
same system with white. To cure that anomaly cost the United States a
long and bloody war. The slave-owner, the exploiter of the black,
becomes a threat and a nuisance to any white democracy. He brings back
his loot to corrupt Press and life at home. What happened in America in
the midst of the last century between Federals and Confederates must not
happen again on a larger scale between white Europe and middle Africa.
Slavery in Africa, open or disguised, whether enforced by the lash or
brought about by iniquitous land-stealing, strikes at the home and
freedom of every European worker--_and Labour knows this_.

But how are we to prevent the enslavement and economic exploitation of
the blacks if we have no general watcher of African conditions? We want
a common law for Africa, a general Declaration of Rights, of certain
elementary rights, and we want a common authority to which the black man
and the native tribe may appeal for justice. What is the good of trying
to elevate the population of Uganda and to give it a free and hopeful
life if some other population close at hand is competing against the
Baganda worker under lash and tax? So here is a third aspect of our
international Commission, as a native protectorate and court of appeal!

There is still a fourth aspect of the African question in which every
mother's son in Europe is closely interested, and that is the trade
question. Africa is the great source of many of the most necessary raw
materials upon which our modern comforts and conveniences depend; more
particularly is it the source of cheap fat in the form of palm oil. One
of the most powerful levers in the hands of the Allied democracies at
the present time in their struggle against the imperial brigands of
Potsdam is the complete control we have now obtained over these
essential supplies. We can, if we choose, cut off Germany altogether
from these vital economic necessities, if she does not consent to
abandon militant imperialism for some more civilized form of government.
We hope that this war will end in that renunciation, and that Germany
will re-enter the community of nations. But whether that is so or not,
whether Germany is or is not to be one of the interested parties in the
African solution, the fact remains that it is impossible to contemplate
a continuing struggle for the African raw material supply between the
interested Powers. Sooner or later that means a renewal of war.
International trade rivalry is, indeed, only war--_smouldering_. We
need, and Labour demands, a fair, frank treatment of African trade, and
that can only be done by some overriding regulative power, a Commission
which, so far as I can see, might also be the same Commission as that we
have already hypothesized as being necessary to control the Customs in
order to prevent gun-running and the gin trade. That Commission might
very conveniently have a voice in the administration of the great
waterways of Africa (which often run through the possessions of several
Powers) and in the regulation of the big railway lines and air routes
that will speedily follow the conclusion of peace.

Now this I take it is the gist of the Labour proposal. This--and no more
than this--is what is intended by the "international control of tropical
Africa." _I do not read that phrase as abrogating existing sovereignties
in Africa_. What is contemplated is a delegation of authority. Every one
should know, though unhappily the badness of our history teaching makes
it doubtful if every one does know, that the Federal Government of the
United States of America did not begin as a sovereign Government, and
has now only a very questionable sovereignty. Each State was sovereign,
and each State delegated certain powers to Washington. That was the
initial idea of the union. Only later did the idea of a people of the
States as a whole emerge. In the same way I understand the Labour
proposal as meaning that we should delegate to an African Commission the
middle African Customs, the regulation of inter-State trade, inter-State
railways and waterways, quarantine and health generally, and the
establishment of a Supreme Court for middle African affairs. One or two
minor matters, such as the preservation of rare animals, might very well
fall under the same authority.

Upon that Commission the interested nations, that is to say--putting
them in alphabetical order--the Africander, the Briton, the Belgian, the
Egyptian, the Frenchman, the Italian, the Indian the Portuguese--might
all be represented in proportion to their interest. Whether the German
would come in is really a question for the German to consider; he can
come in as a good European, he cannot come in as an imperialist brigand.
Whether, too, any other nations can claim to have an interest in African
affairs, whether the Commission would not be better appointed by a
League of Free Nations than directly by the interested Governments, and
a number of other such questions, need not be considered here. Here we
are discussing only the main idea of the Labour proposal.

Now beneath the supervision and restraint of such a delegated
Commission I do not see why the existing administrations of tutelage
Africa should not continue. I do not believe that the Labour proposal
contemplates any humiliating cession of European sovereignty. Under that
international Commission the French flag may still wave in Senegal and
the British over the protected State of Uganda. Given a new spirit in
Germany I do not see why the German flag should not presently be
restored in German East Africa. But over all, standing for
righteousness, patience, fair play for the black, and the common welfare
of mankind would wave a new flag, the Sun of Africa representing the
Central African Commission of the League of Free Nations.

That is my vision of the Labour project. It is something very different,
I know, from the nightmare of an international police of cosmopolitan
scoundrels in nondescript uniforms, hastening to loot and ravish his
dear Uganda and his beloved Nigeria, which distresses the crumpled
pillow of Sir Harry Johnston. But if it is not the solution, then it is
up to him and his fellow authorities to tell us what is the solution of
the African riddle.



§ 1

It is idle to pretend that even at the present time the idea of the
League of Free Nations has secure possession of the British mind. There
is quite naturally a sustained opposition to it in all the fastnesses of
aggressive imperialism. Such papers as the _Times_ and the _Morning
Post_ remain hostile and obstructive to the expression of international
ideas. Most of our elder statesmen seem to have learnt nothing and
forgotten nothing during the years of wildest change the world has ever
known. But in the general mind of the British peoples the movement of
opinion from a narrow imperialism towards internationalism has been wide
and swift. And it continues steadily. One can trace week by week and
almost day by day the Americanization of the British conception of the
Allied War Aims. It may be interesting to reproduce here three
communications upon this question made at different times by the
present writer to the press. The circumstances of their publication are
significant. The first is in substance identical with a letter which was
sent to the _Times_ late in May, 1917, and rejected as being altogether
too revolutionary. For nowadays the correspondence in the _Times_ has
ceased to be an impartial expression of public opinion. The
correspondence of the _Times_ is now apparently selected and edited in
accordance with the views upon public policy held by the acting editor
for the day. More and more has that paper become the organ of a sort of
Oxford Imperialism, three or four years behind the times and very ripe
and "expert." The letter is here given as it was finally printed in the
issue of the _Daily Chronicle_ for June 4th, 1917, under the heading,
"Wanted a Statement of Imperial Policy."

Sir,--The time seems to have come for much clearer statements of outlook
and intention from this country than it has hitherto been possible to
make. The entry of America into the war and the banishment of autocracy
and aggressive diplomacy from Russia have enormously cleared the air,
and the recent great speech of General Smuts at the Savoy Hotel is
probably only the first of a series of experiments in statement. It is
desirable alike to clear our own heads, to unify our efforts, and to
give the nations of the world some assurance and standard for our
national conduct in the future, that we should now define the Idea of
our Empire and its relation to the world outlook much more clearly than
has ever hitherto been done. Never before in the history of mankind has
opinion counted for so much and persons and organizations for so little
as in this war. Never before has the need for clear ideas, widely
understood and consistently sustained, been so commandingly vital.

What do we mean by our Empire, and what is its relation to that
universal desire of mankind, the permanent rule of peace and justice in
the world? The whole world will be the better for a very plain answer to
that question.

Is it not time for us British not merely to admit to ourselves, but to
assure the world that our Empire as it exists to-day is a provisional
thing, that in scarcely any part of the world do we regard it as more
than an emergency arrangement, as a necessary association that must give
place ultimately to the higher synthesis of a world league, that here we
hold as trustees and there on account of strategic considerations that
may presently disappear, and that though we will not contemplate the
replacement of our flag anywhere by the flag of any other competing
nation, though we do hope to hold together with our kin and with those
who increasingly share our tradition and our language, nevertheless we
are prepared to welcome great renunciations of our present ascendency
and privileges in the interests of mankind as a whole. We need to make
the world understand that we do not put our nation nor our Empire before
the commonwealth of man. Unless presently we are to follow Germany along
the tragic path her national vanity and her world ambitions have made
for her, that is what we have to make clear now. It is not only our duty
to mankind, it is also the sane course for our own preservation.

Is it not the plain lesson of this stupendous and disastrous war that
there is no way to secure civilization from destruction except by an
impartial control and protection in the interests of the whole human
race, a control representing the best intelligence of mankind, of these
main causes of war.

(1) The politically undeveloped tropics;

(2) Shipping and international trade; and

(3) Small nationalities and all regions in a state of political
impotence or confusion?

It is our case against the Germans that in all these three cases they
have subordinated every consideration of justice and the general human
welfare to a monstrous national egotism. That argument has a double
edge. At present there is a vigorous campaign in America, Russia, the
neutral countries generally, to represent British patriotism as equally
egotistic, and our purpose in this war as a mere parallel to the German
purpose. In the same manner, though perhaps with less persistency,
France and Italy are also caricatured. We are supposed to be grabbing at
Mesopotamia and Palestine, France at Syria; Italy is represented as
pursuing a Machiavellian policy towards the unfortunate Greek
republicans, with her eyes on the Greek islands and Greece in Asia. Is
it not time that these base imputations were repudiated clearly and
conclusively by our Alliance? And is it not time that we began to
discuss in much more frank and definite terms than has hitherto been
done, the nature of the international arrangement that will be needed to
secure the safety of such liberated populations as those of Palestine,
of the Arab regions of the old Turkish empire, of Armenia, of reunited
Poland, and the like?

I do not mean here mere diplomatic discussions and "understandings," I
mean such full and plain statements as will be spread through the whole
world and grasped and assimilated by ordinary people everywhere,
statements by which we, as a people, will be prepared to stand or fall.

Almost as urgent is the need for some definite statement about Africa.
General Smuts has warned not only the Empire, but the whole world of the
gigantic threat to civilization that lies in the present division of
Africa between various keenly competitive European Powers, any one of
which will be free to misuse the great natural resources at its disposal
and to arm millions of black soldiers for aggression. A mere elimination
of Germany from Africa will not solve that difficulty. What we have to
eliminate is not this nation or that, but the system of national shoving
and elbowing, the treatment of Africa as the board for a game of
beggar-my-neighbour-and-damn-the-niggers, in which a few syndicates,
masquerading as national interests, snatch a profit to the infinite loss
of all mankind. We want a lowering of barriers and a unification of
interests, we want an international control of these disputed regions,
to override nationalist exploitation. The whole world wants it. It is a
chastened and reasonable world we live in to-day, and the time for white
reason and the wide treatment of these problems is now.

Finally, the time is drawing near when the Egyptian and the nations of
India will ask us, "Are things going on for ever here as they go on now,
or are we to look for the time when we, too, like the Africander, the
Canadian and the Australian, will be your confessed and equal partners?"
Would it not be wise to answer that question in the affirmative before
the voice in which it is asked grows thick with anger? In Egypt, for
example, we are either robbers very like--except for a certain
difference in touch--the Germans in Belgium, or we are honourable
trustees. It is our claim and pride to be honourable trustees. Nothing
so becomes a trustee as a cheerful openness of disposition. Great
Britain has to table her world policy. It is a thing overdue. No doubt
we have already a literature of liberal imperialism and a considerable
accumulation of declarations by this statesman or that. But what is
needed is a formulation much more representative, official and permanent
than that, something that can be put beside President Wilson's clear
rendering of the American idea. We want all our peoples to understand,
and we want all mankind to understand that our Empire is not a net about
the world in which the progress of mankind is entangled, but a
self-conscious political system working side by side with the other
democracies of the earth, preparing the way for, and prepared at last to
sacrifice and merge itself in, the world confederation of free and equal

§ 2

This letter was presently followed up by an article in the _Daily News_,
entitled "A Reasonable Man's Peace." This article provoked a
considerable controversy in the imperialist press, and it was reprinted
as a pamphlet by a Free Trade organization, which distributed over
200,000 copies. It is particularly interesting to note, in view of what
follows it, that it was attacked with great virulence in the _Evening
News_, the little fierce mud-throwing brother of the _Daily Mail_.

The international situation at the present time is beyond question the
most wonderful that the world has ever seen. There is not a country in
the world in which the great majority of sensible people are not
passionately desirous of peace, of an enduring peace, and--the war goes
on. The conditions of peace can now be stated, in general terms that are
as acceptable to a reasonable man in Berlin as they are to a reasonable
man in Paris or London or Petrograd or Constantinople. There are to be
no conquests, no domination of recalcitrant populations, no bitter
insistence upon vindictive penalties, and there must be something in the
nature of a world-wide League of Nations to keep the peace securely in
future, to "make the world safe for democracy," and maintain
international justice. To that the general mind of the world has come

Why, then, does the waste and killing go on? Why is not the Peace
Conference sitting now?

Manifestly because a small minority of people in positions of peculiar
advantage, in positions of trust and authority, and particularly the
German reactionaries, prevent or delay its assembling.

The answer which seems to suffice in all the Allied countries is that
the German Imperial Government--that the German Imperial Government
alone--stands in the way, that its tradition is incurably a tradition of
conquest and aggression, that until German militarism is overthrown,
etc. Few people in the Allied countries will dispute that that is
broadly true. But is it the whole and complete truth? Is there nothing
more to be done on our side? Let us put a question that goes to the very
heart of the problem. Why does the great mass of the German people still
cling to its incurably belligerent Government?

The answer to that question is not overwhelmingly difficult. The German
people sticks to its militarist imperialism as Mazeppa stuck to his
horse; because it is bound to it, and the wolves pursue. The attentive
student of the home and foreign propaganda literature of the German
Government will realize that the case made by German imperialism, the
main argument by which it sticks to power, is this, that the Allied
Governments are also imperialist, that they also aim at conquest and
aggression, that for Germany the choice is world empire or downfall and
utter ruin. This is the argument that holds the German people stiffly
united. For most men in most countries it would be a convincing
argument, strong enough to override considerations of right and wrong. I
find that I myself am of this way of thinking, that whether England has
done right or wrong in the past--and I have sometimes criticized my
country very bitterly--I will not endure the prospect of seeing her at
the foot of some victorious foreign nation. Neither will any German who
matters. Very few people would respect a German who did. But the case
for the Allies is that this great argument by which, and by which alone,
the German Imperial Government keeps its grip upon the German people at
the present time, and keeps them facing their enemies, is untrue. The
Allies declare that they do not want to destroy the German people, they
do not want to cripple the German people; they want merely to see
certain gaping wounds inflicted by Germany repaired, and beyond that
reasonable requirement they want nothing but to be assured, completely
assured, absolutely assured, against any further aggressions on the
part of Germany.

Is that true? Our leaders say so, and we believe them. We would not
support them if we did not. And if it is true, have the statesmen of the
Allies made it as transparently and convincingly clear to the German
people as possible? That is one of the supreme questions of the present
time. We cannot too earnestly examine it. Because in the answer to it
lies the reason why so many men were killed yesterday on the eastern and
western front, so many ships sunk, so much property destroyed, so much
human energy wasted for ever upon mere destruction, and why to-morrow
and the next day and the day after--through many months yet,
perhaps--the same killing and destroying must still go on.

In many respects this war has been an amazing display of human
inadaptability. The military history of the war has still to be written,
the grim story of machinery misunderstood, improvements resisted,
antiquated methods persisted in; but the broad facts are already before
the public mind. After three years of war the air offensive, the only
possible decisive blow, is still merely talked of. Not once nor twice
only have the Western Allies had victory within their grasp--and failed
to grip it. The British cavalry generals wasted the great invention of
the tanks as a careless child breaks a toy. At least equally remarkable
is the dragging inadaptability of European statecraft. Everywhere the
failure of ministers and statesmen to rise to the urgent definite
necessities of the present time is glaringly conspicuous. They seem to
be incapable even of thinking how the war may be brought to an end. They
seem incapable of that plain speaking to the world audience which alone
can bring about a peace. They keep on with the tricks and feints of a
departed age. Both on the side of the Allies and on the side of the
Germans the declarations of public policy remain childishly vague and
disingenuous, childishly "diplomatic." They chaffer like happy imbeciles
while civilization bleeds to death. It was perhaps to be expected. Few,
if any, men of over five-and-forty completely readjust themselves to
changed conditions, however novel and challenging the changes may be,
and nearly all the leading figures in these affairs are elderly men
trained in a tradition of diplomatic ineffectiveness, and now overworked
and overstrained to a pitch of complete inelasticity. They go on as if
it were still 1913. Could anything be more palpably shifty and
unsatisfactory, more senile, more feebly artful, than the recent
utterances of the German Chancellor? And, on our own side--

Let us examine the three leading points about this peace business in
which this jaded statecraft is most apparent.

Let the reader ask himself the following questions:--

Does he know what the Allies mean to do with the problem of Central
Africa? It is the clear common sense of the African situation that while
these precious regions of raw material remain divided up between a
number of competitive European imperialisms, each resolutely set upon
the exploitation of its "possessions" to its own advantage and the
disadvantage of the others, there can be no permanent peace in the
world. There can be permanent peace in the world only when tropical and
sub-tropical Africa constitute a field free to the commercial enterprise
of every one irrespective of nationality, when this is no longer an area
of competition between nations. This is possible only under some supreme
international control. It requires no special knowledge nor wisdom to
see that. A schoolboy can see it. Any one but a statesman absolutely
flaccid with overstrain can see that. However difficult it may prove to
work out in detail, such an international control _must_ therefore be
worked out. The manifest solution of the problem of the German colonies
in Africa is neither to return them to her nor deprive her of them, but
to give her a share in the pooled general control of mid-Africa. In
that way she can be deprived of all power for political mischief in
Africa without humiliation or economic injury. In that way, too, we can
head off--and in no other way can we head off--the power for evil, the
power of developing quarrels inherent in "imperialisms" other than

But has the reader any assurance that this sane solution of the African
problem has the support of the Allied Governments? At best he has only a
vague persuasion. And consider how the matter looks "over there." The
German Government assures the German people that the Allies intend to
cut off Germany from the African supply of raw material. That would mean
the practical destruction of German economic life. It is something far
more vital to the mass of Germans than any question of Belgium or
Alsace-Lorraine. It is, therefore, one of the ideas most potent in
nerving the overstrained German people to continue their fight. Why are
we, and why are the German people, not given some definite assurance in
this matter? Given reparation in Europe, is Germany to be allowed a fair
share in the control and trade of a pooled and neutralized Central
Africa? Sooner or later we must come to some such arrangement. Why not
state it plainly now?

A second question is equally essential to any really permanent
settlement, and it is one upon which these eloquent but unsatisfactory
mouthpieces of ours turn their backs with an equal resolution, and that
is the fate of the Ottoman Empire. What in plain English are we up to
there? Whatever happens, that Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back as it was
before the war. The idea of the German imperialist, the idea of our own
little band of noisy but influential imperialist vulgarians, is
evidently a game of grab, a perilous cutting up of these areas into
jostling protectorates and spheres of influence, from which either the
Germans or the Allies (according to the side you are on) are to be
viciously shut out. On such a basis this war is a war to the death.
Neither Germany, France, Britain, Italy, nor Russia can live
prosperously if its trade and enterprise is shut out from this
cardinally important area. There is, therefore, no alternative, if we
are to have a satisfactory permanent pacification of the world, but
local self-development in these regions under honestly conceived
international control of police and transit and trade. Let it be granted
that that will be a difficult control to organize. None the less it has
to be attempted. It has to be attempted because _there is no other way
of peace_. But once that conception has been clearly formulated, a
second great motive why Germany should continue fighting will have

The third great issue about which there is nothing but fog and
uncertainty is the so-called "War After the War," the idea of a
permanent economic alliance to prevent the economic recuperation of
Germany. Upon that idea German imperialism, in its frantic effort to
keep its tormented people fighting, naturally puts the utmost stress.
The threat of War after the War robs the reasonable German of his last
inducement to turn on his Government and insist upon peace. Shut out
from all trade, unable to buy food, deprived of raw material, peace
would be as bad for Germany as war. He will argue naturally enough and
reasonably enough that he may as well die fighting as starve. This is a
far more vital issue to him than the Belgian issue or Poland or
Alsace-Lorraine. Our statesmen waste their breath and slight our
intelligence when these foreground questions are thrust in front of the
really fundamental matters. But as the mass of sensible people in every
country concerned, in Germany just as much as in France or Great
Britain, know perfectly well, unimpeded trade is good for every one
except a few rich adventurers, and restricted trade destroys limitless
wealth and welfare for mankind to make a few private fortunes or secure
an advantage for some imperialist clique. We want an end to this
economic strategy, we want an end to this plotting of Governmental
cliques against the general welfare. In such offences Germany has been
the chief of sinners, but which among the belligerent nations can throw
the first stone? Here again the way to the world's peace, the only way
to enduring peace, lies through internationalism, through an
international survey of commercial treaties, through an international
control of inter-State shipping and transport rates. Unless the Allied
statesmen fail to understand the implications of their own general
professions they mean that. But why do they not say it plainly? Why do
they not shout it so compactly and loudly that all Germany will hear and
understand? Why do they justify imperialism to Germany? Why do they
maintain a threatening ambiguity towards Germany on all these matters?

By doing so they leave Germany no choice but a war of desperation. They
underline and endorse the claim of German imperialism that this is a war
for bare existence. They unify the German people. They prolong the war.

§ 3

Some weeks later I was able, at the invitation of the editor, to carry
the controversy against imperialism into the _Daily Mail_, which has
hitherto counted as a strictly imperialist paper. The article that
follows was published in the _Daily Mail_ under the heading, "Are we
Sticking to the Point? A Discussion of War Aims."

Has this War-Aims controversy really got down to essentials? Is the
purpose of this world conflict from first to last too complicated for
brevity, or can we boil it down into a statement compact enough for a
newspaper article?

And if we can, why is there all this voluminous, uneasy, unquenchable
disputation about War Aims?

As to the first question, I would say that the gist of the dispute
between the Central Powers and the world can be written easily without
undue cramping in an ordinary handwriting upon a postcard. It is the
second question that needs answering. And the reason why the second
question has to be asked and answered is this, that several of the
Allies, and particularly we British, are not being perfectly plain and
simple-minded in our answer to the first, that there is a division among
us and in our minds, and that our division is making us ambiguous in our
behaviour, that it is weakening and dividing our action and
strengthening and consolidating the enemy, and that unless we can drag
this slurred-over division of aim and spirit into the light of day and
_settle it now_, we are likely to remain double-minded to the end of the
war, to split our strength while the war continues and to come out of
the settlement at the end with nothing nearly worth the strain and
sacrifice it has cost us.

And first, let us deal with that postcard and say what is the essential
aim of the war, the aim to which all other aims are subsidiary. It is,
we have heard repeated again and again by every statesman of importance
in every Allied country, to defeat and destroy military imperialism, to
make the world safe for ever against any such deliberate aggression as
Germany prepared for forty years and brought to a climax when she
crossed the Belgian frontier in 1914. We want to make anything of that
kind on the part of Germany or of any other Power henceforth impossible
in this world. That is our great aim. Whatever other objects may be
sought in this war no responsible statesman dare claim them as anything
but subsidiary to that; one can say, in fact, this is our sole aim, our
other aims being but parts of it. Better that millions should die now,
we declare, than that hundreds of millions still unborn should go on
living, generation after generation, under the black tyranny of this
imperialist threat.

There is our common agreement. So far, at any rate, we are united. The
question I would put to the reader is this: Are we all logically,
sincerely, and fully carrying out the plain implications of this War
Aim? Or are we to any extent muddling about with it in such a way as to
confuse and disorganize our Allies, weaken our internal will, and
strengthen the enemy?

Now the plain meaning of this supreme declared War Aim is that we are
asking Germany to alter her ways. We are asking Germany to become a
different Germany. Either Germany has to be utterly smashed up and
destroyed or else Germany has to cease to be an aggressive military
imperialism. The former alternative is dismissed by most responsible
statesmen. They declare that they do not wish to destroy the German
people or the German nationality or the civilized life of Germany. I
will not enlarge here upon the tedium and difficulties such an
undertaking would present. I will dismiss it as being not only
impossible, but also as an insanely wicked project. The second
alternative, therefore, remains as our War Aim. I do not see how the
sloppiest reasoner can evade that. As we do not want to kill Germany we
must want to change Germany. If we do not want to wipe Germany off the
face of the earth, then we want Germany to become the prospective and
trust-worthy friend of her fellow nations. And if words have any meaning
at all, that is saying that we are fighting to bring about a Revolution
in Germany. We want Germany to become a democratically controlled State,
such as is the United States to-day, with open methods and pacific
intentions, instead of remaining a clenched fist. If we can bring that
about we have achieved our War Aim; if we cannot, then this struggle has
been for us only such loss and failure as humanity has never known

But do we, as a nation, stick closely to this clear and necessary, this
only possible, meaning of our declared War Aim? That great, clear-minded
leader among the Allies, that Englishman who more than any other single
man speaks for the whole English-speaking and Western-thinking
community, President Wilson, has said definitely that this is his
meaning. America, with him as her spokesman, is under no delusion; she
is fighting consciously for a German Revolution as the essential War
Aim. We in Europe do not seem to be so lucid. I think myself we have
been, and are still, fatally and disastrously not lucid. It is high
time, and over, that we cleared our minds and got down to the essentials
of the war. We have muddled about in blood and dirt and secondary issues
long enough.

We in Britain are not clear-minded, I would point out, because we are
double-minded. No good end is served by trying to ignore in the fancied
interests of "unity" a division of spirit and intention that trips us
up at every step. We are, we declare, fighting for a complete change in
international methods, and we are bound to stick to the logical
consequences of that. We have placed ourselves on the side of democratic
revolution against autocratic monarchy, and we cannot afford to go on
shilly-shallying with that choice. We cannot in these days of black or
white play the part of lukewarm friends to freedom. I will not remind
the reader here of the horrible vacillations and inconsistencies of
policy in Greece that have prolonged the war and cost us wealth and
lives beyond measure, but President Wilson himself has reminded us
pungently enough and sufficiently enough of the follies and
disingenuousness of our early treatment of the Russian Revolution. What
I want to point out here is the supreme importance of a clear lead in
this matter _now_ in order that we should state our War Aims

In every war there must be two sets of War Aims kept in mind; we ought
to know what we mean to do in the event of victory so complete that we
can dictate what terms we choose, and we ought to know what, in the
event of a not altogether conclusive tussle, are the minimum terms that
we should consider justified us in a discontinuance of the tussle. Now,
unless our leading statesmen are humbugs and unless we are prepared to
quarrel with America in the interests of the monarchist institutions of
Europe, we should, in the event of an overwhelming victory, destroy both
the Hohenzollern and Hapsburg Imperialisms, and that means, if it means
anything at all and is not mere lying rhetoric, that we should insist
upon Germany becoming free and democratic, that is to say, in effect if
not in form republican, and upon a series of national republics, Polish,
Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, and the like, in Eastern Europe,
grouped together if possible into congenial groups--crowned republics it
might be in some cases, in the case of the Serb for example, but in no
case too much crowned--that we should join with this renascent Germany
and with these thus liberalized Powers and with our Allies and with the
neutrals in one great League of Free Nations, trading freely with one
another, guaranteeing each other freedom, and maintaining a world-wide
peace and disarmament and a new reign of law for mankind.

If that is not what we are out for, then I do not understand what we are
out for; there is dishonesty and trickery and diplomacy and foolery in
the struggle, and I am no longer whole-hearted for such a half-hearted
war. If after a complete victory we are to bolster up the Hohenzollerns,
Hapsburgs, and their relations, set up a constellation of more cheating
little subordinate kings, and reinstate that system of diplomacies and
secret treaties and secret understandings, that endless drama of
international threatening and plotting, that never-ending arming, that
has led us after a hundred years of waste and muddle to the supreme
tragedy of this war, then the world is not good enough for me and I
shall be glad to close my eyes upon it. I am not alone in these
sentiments. I believe that in writing thus I am writing the opinion of
the great mass of reasonable British, French, Italian, Russian, and
American men. I believe, too, that this is the desire also of great
numbers of Germans, and that they would, if they could believe us,
gladly set aside their present rulers to achieve this plain common good
for mankind.

But, the reader will say, what evidence is there of any republican
feeling in Germany? That is always the objection made to any reasonable
discussion of the war--and as most of us are denied access to German
papers, it is difficult to produce quotations; and even when one does,
there are plenty of fools to suggest and believe that the entire German
Press is an elaborate camouflage. Yet in the German Press there is far
more criticism of militant imperialism than those who have no access to
it can imagine. There is far franker criticism of militarism in Germany
than there is of reactionary Toryism in this country, and it is more
free to speak its mind.

That, however, is a question by the way. It is not the main thing that I
have to say here. What I have to say here is that in Great Britain--I
will not discuss the affairs of any of our Allies--there are groups and
classes of people, not numerous, not representative, but placed in high
and influential positions and capable of free and public utterance, who
are secretly and bitterly hostile to this great War Aim, which inspires
all the Allied peoples. These people are permitted to deny--our peculiar
censorship does not hamper them--loudly and publicly that we are
fighting for democracy and world freedom; "Tosh," they say to our dead
in the trenches, "you died for a mistake"; they jeer at this idea of a
League of Nations making an end to war, an idea that has inspired
countless brave lads to face death and such pains and hardships as outdo
even death itself; they perplex and irritate our Allies by propounding
schemes for some precious economic league of the British Empire--that is
to treat all "foreigners" with a common base selfishness and stupid
hatred--and they intrigue with the most reactionary forces in Russia.

These British reactionaries openly, and with perfect impunity, represent
our war as a thing as mean and shameful as Germany's attack on Belgium,
and they do it because generosity and justice in the world is as
terrible to them as dawn is to the creatures of the night. Our Tories
blundered into this great war, not seeing whither it would take them. In
particular it is manifest now by a hundred signs that they dread the
fall of monarchy in Germany and Austria. Far rather would they make the
most abject surrenders to the Kaiser than deal with a renascent
Republican Germany. The recent letter of Lord Lansdowne, urging a peace
with German imperialism, was but a feeler from the pacifist side of this
most un-English, and unhappily most influential, section of our public
life. Lord Lansdowne's letter was the letter of a Peer who fears
revolution more than national dishonour.

But it is the truculent wing of this same anti-democratic movement that
is far more active. While our sons suffer and die for their comforts and
conceit, these people scheme to prevent any communication between the
Republican and Socialist classes in Germany and the Allied population.
At any cost this class of pampered and privileged traitors intend to
have peace while the Kaiser is still on his throne. If not they face a
new world--in which their part will be small indeed. And with the utmost
ingenuity they maintain a dangerous vagueness about the Allied peace
terms, _with the sole object of preventing a revolutionary movement in

Let me put it to the reader exactly why our failure to say plainly and
exactly and conclusively what we mean to do about a score of points, and
particularly about German economic life after the war, paralyses the
penitents and friends and helpers that we could now find in Germany. Let
me ask the reader to suppose himself a German in Germany at the present
time. Of course if he was, he is sure that he would hate the Kaiser as
the source of this atrocious war, he would be bitterly ashamed of the
Belgian iniquity, of the submarine murders, and a score of such stains
upon his national honour; and he would want to alter his national system
and make peace. Hundreds of thousands of Germans are in that mood now.
But as most of us have had to learn, a man may be bitterly ashamed of
this or that incident in his country's history--what Englishman, for
instance, can be proud of Glencoe?--he may disbelieve in half its
institutions and still love his country far too much to suffer the
thought of its destruction. I prefer to see my country right, but if it
comes to the pinch and my country sins I will fight to save her from the
destruction her sins may have brought upon her. That is the natural way
of a man.

But suppose a German wished to try to start a revolutionary movement in
Germany at the present time, have we given him any reason at all for
supposing that a Germany liberated and democratized, but, of course,
divided and weakened as she would be bound to be in the process, would
get better terms from the Allies than a Germany still facing them,
militant, imperialist, and wicked? He would have no reason for believing
anything of the sort. If we Allies are honest, then if a revolution
started in Germany to-day we should if anything lower the price of peace
to Germany. But these people who pretend to lead us will state nothing
of the sort. For them a revolution in Germany would be the signal for
putting up the price of peace. At any risk they are resolved that that
German revolution shall not happen. Your sane, good German, let me
assert, is up against that as hard as if he was a wicked one. And so,
poor devil, he has to put his revolutionary ideas away, they are
hopeless ideas for him because of the power of the British reactionary,
they are hopeless because of the line we as a nation take in this
matter, and he has to go on fighting for his masters.

A plain statement of our war aims that did no more than set out honestly
and convincingly the terms the Allies would make with a democratic
republican Germany--republican I say, because where a scrap of
Hohenzollern is left to-day there will be a fresh militarism
to-morrow--would absolutely revolutionize the internal psychology of
Germany. We should no longer face a solid people. We should have
replaced the false issue of Germany and Britain fighting for the
hegemony of Europe, the lie upon which the German Government has always
traded, and in which our extreme Tory Press has always supported the
German Government, by the true issue, which is freedom versus
imperialism, the League of Nations versus that net of diplomatic roguery
and of aristocratic, plutocratic, and autocratic greed and conceit which
dragged us all into this vast welter of bloodshed and loss.



Here, quite compactly, is the plain statement of the essential cause and
process of the war to which I would like to see the Allied Foreign
Offices subscribe, and which I would like to have placed plainly before
the German mind. It embodies much that has been learnt and thought out
since this war began, and I think it is much truer and more fundamental
than that mere raging against German "militarism," upon which our
politicians and press still so largely subsist.

The enormous development of war methods and war material within the last
fifty years has made war so horrible and destructive that it is
impossible to contemplate a future for mankind from which it has not
been eliminated; the increased facilities of railway, steamship,
automobile travel and air navigation have brought mankind so close
together that ordinary human life is no longer safe anywhere in the
boundaries of the little states in which it was once secure. In some
fashion it is now necessary to achieve sufficient human unity to
establish a world peace and save the future of mankind.

In one or other of two ways only is that unification possible. Either
men may set up a common league to keep the peace of the earth, or one
state must ultimately become so great and powerful as to repeat for all
the world what Rome did for Europe two thousand years ago. Either we
must have human unity by a league of existing states or by an Imperial
Conquest. The former is now the declared Aim of our country and its
Allies; the latter is manifestly the ambition of the present rulers of
Germany. Whatever the complications may have been in the earlier stages
of the war, due to treaties that are now dead letters and agreements
that are extinct, the essential issue now before every man in the world
is this: Is the unity of mankind to be the unity of a common freedom, in
which every race and nationality may participate with complete
self-respect, playing its part, according to its character, in one great
world community, or is it to be reached--and it can only be so reached
through many generations of bloodshed and struggle still, even if it can
be ever reached in this way at all--through conquest and a German

While the rulers of Germany to-day are more openly aggressive and
imperialist than they were in August, 1914, the Allies arrayed against
them have made great progress in clearing up and realizing the instincts
and ideals which brought them originally into the struggle. The German
government offers the world to-day a warring future in which Germany
alone is to be secure and powerful and proud. _Mankind will not endure
that_. The Allies offer the world more and more definitely the scheme of
an organized League of Free Nations, a rule of law and justice about the
earth. To fight for that and for no other conceivable end, the United
States of America, with the full sympathy and co-operation of every
state in the western hemisphere, has entered the war. The British
Empire, in the midst of the stress of the great war, has set up in
Dublin a Convention of Irishmen of all opinions with the fullest powers
of deciding upon the future of their country. If Ireland were not
divided against herself she could be free and equal with England
to-morrow. It is the open intention of Great Britain to develop
representative government, where it has not hitherto existed, in India
and Egypt, to go on steadfastly increasing the share of the natives of
these countries in the government of their own lands, until they too
become free and equal members of the world league. Neither France nor
Italy nor Britain nor America has ever tampered with the shipping of
other countries except in time of war, and the trade of the British
Empire has been impartially open to all the world. The extra-national
"possessions," the so-called "subject nations" in the Empires of
Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, are, in fact, possessions held in
trust against the day when the League of Free Nations will inherit for

Is it to be union by conquest or is it to be union by league? For any
sort of man except the German the question is, Will you be a free
citizen or will you be an underling to the German imperialism? For the
German now the question is a far graver and more tragic one. For him it
is this: "You belong to a people not now increasing very rapidly, a
numerous people, but not so numerous as some of the great peoples of the
world, a people very highly trained, very well drilled and well armed,
perhaps as well trained and drilled and equipped as ever it will be. The
collapse of Russian imperialism has made you safe if now you can get
peace, and you _can_ get a peace now that will neither destroy you nor
humiliate you nor open up the prospect of fresh wars. The Allies offer
you such a peace. To accept it, we must warn you plainly, means refusing
to go on with the manifest intentions of your present rulers, which are
to launch you and your children and your children's children upon a
career of struggle for war predominance, which may no doubt inflict
untold deprivations and miseries upon the rest of mankind, but whose end
in the long run, for Germany and things German, can be only Judgment and

In such terms as these the Oceanic Allies could now state their war-will
and carry the world straightway into a new phase of human history. They
could but they do not. For alas! not one of them is free from the
entanglements of past things; when we look for the wisdom of statesmen
we find the cunning of politicians; when open speech and plain reason
might save the world, courts, bureaucrats, financiers and profiteers



From the very outset of this war it was manifest to the clear-headed
observer that only the complete victory of German imperialism could save
the dynastic system in Europe from the fate that it had challenged. That
curious system had been the natural and unplanned development of the
political complications of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Two
systems of monarchies, the Bourbon system and the German, then ruled
Europe between them. With the latter was associated the tradition of the
European unity under the Roman empire; all the Germanic monarchs had an
itch to be called Caesar. The Kaiser of the Austro-Hungarian empire and
the Czar had, so to speak, the prior claim to the title. The Prussian
king set up as a Caesar in 1871; Queen Victoria became the Caesar of
India (Kaisir-i-Hind) under the auspices of Lord Beaconsfield, and last
and least, that most detestable of all Coburgers, Ferdinand of Bulgaria,
gave Kaiserism a touch of quaint absurdity by setting up as Czar of
Bulgaria. The weakening of the Bourbon system by the French revolution
and the Napoleonic adventure cleared the way for the complete ascendancy
of the Germanic monarchies in spite of the breaking away of the United
States from that system.

After 1871, a constellation of quasi-divine Teutonic monarchs, of which
the German Emperor, the German Queen Victoria, the German Czar, were the
greatest stars, formed a caste apart, intermarried only among
themselves, dominated the world and was regarded with a mystical awe by
the ignorant and foolish in most European countries. The marriages, the
funerals, the coronations, the obstetrics of this amazing breed of idols
were matters of almost universal worship. The Czar and Queen Victoria
professed also to be the heads of religion upon earth. The
court-centered diplomacies of the more firmly rooted monarchies steered
all the great liberating movements of the nineteenth century into
monarchical channels. Italy was made a monarchy; Greece, the motherland
of republics, was handed over to a needy scion of the Danish royal
family; the sturdy peasants of Bulgaria suffered from a kindred
imposition. Even Norway was saddled with as much of a king as it would
stand, as a condition of its independence. At the dawn of the twentieth
century republican freedom seemed a remote dream beyond the confines of
Switzerland and France--and it had no very secure air in France.
Reactionary scheming has been an intermittent fever in the French
republic for six and forty years. The French foreign office is still
undemocratic in tradition and temper. But for the restless disloyalty of
the Hohenzollerns this German kingly caste might be dominating the world
to this day.

Of course the stability of this Teutonic dynastic system in
Europe--which will presently seem to the student of history so curious a
halting-place upon the way to human unity--rested very largely upon the
maintenance of peace. It was the failure to understand this on the part
of the German and Bulgarian rulers in particular that has now brought
all monarchy to the question. The implicit theory that supported the
intermarrying German royal families in Europe was that their
inter-relationship and their aloofness from their subjects was a
mitigation of national and racial animosities. In the days when Queen
Victoria was the grandmother of Europe this was a plausible argument.
King, Czar and Emperor, or Emperor and Emperor would meet, and it was
understood that these meetings were the lubrication of European affairs.
The monarchs married largely, conspicuously, and very expensively for
our good. Royal funerals, marriages, christenings, coronations, and
jubilees interrupted traffic and stimulated trade everywhere. They
seemed to give a _raison d'être_ for mankind. It is the Emperor William
and the Czar Ferdinand who have betrayed not only humanity but their own
strange caste by shattering all these pleasant illusions. The wisdom of
Kant is justified, and we know now that kings cause wars. It needed the
shock of the great war to bring home the wisdom of that old Scotchman of
Königsberg to the mind of the ordinary man. Moreover in support of the
dynastic system was the fact that it did exist as the system in
possession, and all prosperous and intelligent people are chary of
disturbing existing things. Life is full of vestigial structures, and it
is a long way to logical perfection. Let us keep on, they would argue,
with what we have. And another idea which, rightly or wrongly, made men
patient with the emperors and kings was an exaggerated idea of the
insecurity of republican institutions.

You can still hear very old dull men say gravely that "kings are better
than pronunciamentos"; there was an article upon Greece to this effect
quite recently in that uncertain paper _The New Statesman_. Then a kind
of illustrative gesture would be made to the South American republics,
although the internal disturbances of the South American republics have
diminished to very small dimensions in the last three decades and
although pronunciamentos rarely disturb the traffic in Switzerland, the
United States, or France. But there can be no doubt that the influence
of the Germanic monarchy up to the death of Queen Victoria upon British
thought was in the direction of estrangement from the two great modern
republics and in the direction of assistance and propitiation to
Germany. We surrendered Heligoland, we made great concessions to German
colonial ambitions, we allowed ourselves to be jockeyed into a phase of
dangerous hostility to France. A practice of sneering at things American
has died only very recently out of English journalism and literature, as
any one who cares to consult the bound magazines of the 'seventies and
'eighties may soon see for himself. It is well too in these days not to
forget Colonel Marchand, if only to remember that such a clash must
never recur. But in justice to our monarchy we must remember that after
the death of Queen Victoria, the spirit, if not the forms, of British
kingship was greatly modified by the exceptional character and ability
of King Edward VII. He was curiously anti-German in spirit; he had
essentially democratic instincts; in a few precious years he restored
good will between France and Great Britain. It is no slight upon his
successor to doubt whether any one could have handled the present
opportunities and risks of monarchy in Great Britain as Edward could
have handled them.

Because no doubt if monarchy is to survive in the British Empire it must
speedily undergo the profoundest modification. The old state of affairs
cannot continue. The European dynastic system, based upon the
intermarriage of a group of mainly German royal families, is dead
to-day; it is freshly dead, but it is as dead as the rule of the Incas.
It is idle to close our eyes to this fact. The revolution in Russia, the
setting up of a republic in China, demonstrating the ripeness of the
East for free institutions, the entry of the American republics into
world politics--these things slam the door on any idea of working back
to the old nineteenth-century system. People calls to people. "No peace
with the Hohenzollerns" is a cry that carries with it the final
repudiation of emperors and kings. The man in the street will assure you
he wants no diplomatic peace. Beyond the unstable shapes of the present
the political forms of the future rise now so clearly that they are the
common talk of men. Kant's lucid thought told us long ago that the peace
of the world demanded a world union of republics. That is a commonplace
remark now in every civilized community.

The stars in their courses, the logic of circumstances, the everyday
needs and everyday intelligence of men, all these things march
irresistibly towards a permanent world peace based on democratic
republicanism. The question of the future of monarchy is not whether it
will be able to resist and overcome that trend; it has as little chance
of doing that as the Lama of Thibet has of becoming Emperor of the
Earth. It is whether it will resist openly, become the centre and symbol
of a reactionary resistance, and have to be abolished and swept away
altogether everywhere, as the Romanoffs have already been swept away in
Russia, or whether it will be able in this country and that to adapt
itself to the necessities of the great age that dawns upon mankind, to
take a generous and helpful attitude towards its own modification, and
so survive, for a time at any rate, in that larger air.

It is the fashion for the apologists of monarchy in the British Empire
to speak of the British system as a crowned republic. That is an
attractive phrase to people of republican sentiments. It is quite
conceivable that the British Empire may be able to make that phrase a
reality and that the royal line may continue, a line of hereditary
presidents, with some of the ancient trappings and something of the
picturesque prestige that, as the oldest monarchy in Europe, it has
to-day. Two kings in Europe have already gone far towards realizing
this conception of a life president; both the King of Italy and the King
of Norway live as simply as if they were in the White House and are far
more accessible. Along that line the British monarchy must go if it is
not to go altogether. Will it go along those lines?

There are many reasons for hoping that it will do so. The _Times_ has
styled the crown the "golden link" of the empire. Australians and
Canadians, it was argued, had little love for the motherland but the
greatest devotion to the sovereign, and still truer was this of Indians,
Egyptians, and the like. It might be easy to press this theory of
devotion too far, but there can be little doubt that the British Crown
does at present stand as a symbol of unity over diversity such as no
other crown, unless it be that of Austria-Hungary, can be said to do.
The British crown is not like other crowns; it may conceivably take a
line of its own and emerge--possibly a little more like a hat and a
little less like a crown--from trials that may destroy every other
monarchial system in the world.

Now many things are going on behind the scenes, many little indications
peep out upon the speculative watcher and vanish again; but there is
very little that is definite to go upon at the present time to
determine how far the monarchy will rise to the needs of this great
occasion. Certain acts and changes, the initiative to which would come
most gracefully from royalty itself, could be done at this present time.
They may be done quite soon. Upon the doing of them wait great masses of
public opinion. The first of these things is for the British monarchy to
sever itself definitely from the German dynastic system, with which it
is so fatally entangled by marriage and descent, and to make its
intention of becoming henceforth more and more British in blood as well
as spirit, unmistakably plain. This idea has been put forth quite
prominently in the _Times_. The king has been asked to give his
countenance to the sweeping away of all those restrictions first set up
by George the Third, upon the marriage of the Royal Princes with
British, French and American subjects. The British Empire is very near
the limit of its endurance of a kingly caste of Germans. The choice of
British royalty between its peoples and its cousins cannot be
indefinitely delayed. Were it made now publicly and boldly, there can be
no doubt that the decision would mean a renascence of monarchy, a
considerable outbreak of royalist enthusiasm in the Empire. There are
times when a king or queen must need be dramatic and must a little
anticipate occasions. It is not seemly to make concessions perforce;
kings may not make obviously unwilling surrenders; it is the indecisive
kings who lose their crowns.

No doubt the Anglicization of the royal family by national marriages
would gradually merge that family into the general body of the British
peerage. Its consequent loss of distinction might be accompanied by an
associated fading out of function, until the King became at last hardly
more functional than was the late Duke of Norfolk as premier peer.
Possibly that is the most desirable course from many points of view.

It must be admitted that the abandonment of marriages within the royal
caste and a bold attempt to introduce a strain of British blood in the
royal family does not in itself fulfil all that is needed if the British
king is indeed to become the crowned president of his people and the
nominal and accepted leader of the movement towards republican
institutions. A thing that is productive of an enormous amount of
republican talk in Great Britain is the suspicion--I believe an
ill-founded suspicion--that there are influences at work at court
antagonistic to republican institutions in friendly states and that
there is a disposition even to sacrifice the interests of the liberal
allies to dynastic sympathies. These things are not to be believed, but
it would be a feat of vast impressiveness if there were something like
a royal and public repudiation of the weaknesses of cousinship. The
behaviour of the Allies towards that great Balkan statesman Venizelos,
the sacrificing of the friendly Greek republicans in favour of the
manifestly treacherous King of Greece, has produced the deepest shame
and disgust in many quarters that are altogether friendly, that are even
warmly "loyal" to the British monarchy.

And in a phase of tottering thrones it is very undesirable that the
British habit of asylum should be abused. We have already in England the
dethroned monarch of a friendly republic; he is no doubt duly looked
after. In the future there may be a shaking of the autumnal boughs and a
shower of emperors and kings. We do not want Great Britain to become a
hotbed of reactionary plotting and the starting-point of restoration
raids into the territories of emancipated peoples. This is particularly
desirable if presently, after the Kaiser's death--which by all the
statistics of Hohenzollern mortality cannot be delayed now for many
years--the present Crown Prince goes a-wandering. We do not want any
German ex-monarchs; Sweden is always open to them and friendly, and to
Sweden they ought to go; and particularly do British people dread an
irruption of Hohenzollerns or Coburgers. Almost as undesirable would be
the arrival of the Czar and Czarina. It is supremely important that no
wind of suspicion should blow between us and the freedom of Russia.
After the war even more than during the war will the enemy be anxious to
sow discord between the great Russian-speaking and English-speaking
democracies. Quite apart from the scandal of their inelegant
domesticities, the establishment of the Czar and Czarina in England with
frequent and easy access to our royal family may be extraordinarily
unfortunate for the British monarchy. I will confess a certain sympathy
for the Czar myself. He is not an evil figure, he is not a strong
figure, but he has that sort of weakness, that failure in decision,
which trails revolution in its wake. He has ended one dynasty already.
The British royal family owes it to itself, that he bring not the
infection of his misfortunes to Windsor.

The security of the British monarchy lies in such a courageous severance
of its destinies from the Teutonic dynastic system. Will it make that
severance? There I share an almost universal ignorance. The loyalty of
the British is not to what kings are too prone to call "my person," not
to a chosen and admired family, but to a renascent mankind. We have
fought in this war for Belgium, for France, for general freedom, for
civilization and the whole future of mankind, far more than for
ourselves. We have not fought for a king. We are discovering in that
spirit of human unity that lies below the idea of a League of Free
Nations the real invisible king of our heart and race. But we will very
gladly go on with our task under a nominal king unless he hampers us in
the task that grows ever more plainly before us. ... That, I think, is a
fair statement of British public opinion on this question. But every day
when I am in London I walk past Buckingham Palace to lunch at my club,
and I look at that not very expressive façade and wonder--and we all
wonder--what thoughts are going on behind it and what acts are being
conceived there. Out of it there might yet come some gesture of
acceptance magnificent enough to set beside President Wilson's
magnificent declaration of war. ...

These are things in the scales of fate. I will not pretend to be able to
guess even which way the scales will swing.



Great as the sacrifices of prejudice and preconception which any
effective realization of this idea of a League of Free Nations will
demand, difficult as the necessary delegations of sovereignty must be,
none the less are such sacrifices and difficulties unavoidable. People
in France and Italy and Great Britain and Germany alike have to subdue
their minds to the realization that some such League is now a necessity
for them if their peace and national life are to continue. There is no
prospect before them but either some such League or else great
humiliation and disastrous warfare driving them down towards social
dissolution; and for the United States it is only a question of a little
longer time before the same alternatives have to be faced.

Whether this war ends in the complete defeat of Germany and German
imperialism, or in a revolutionary modernization of Germany, or in a
practical triumph for the Hohenzollerns, are considerations that affect
the nature and scope of the League, but do not affect its essential
necessity. In the first two cases the League of Free Nations will be a
world league including Germany as a principal partner, in the latter
case the League of Free Nations will be a defensive league standing
steadfast against the threat of a world imperialism, and watching and
restraining with one common will the homicidal maniac in its midst. But
in all these cases there can be no great alleviation of the evils that
now blacken and threaten to ruin human life altogether, unless all the
civilized and peace-seeking peoples of the world are pledged and locked
together under a common law and a common world policy. There must rather
be an intensification of these evils. There must be wars more evil than
this war continuing this war, and more destructive of civilized life.
There can be no peace and hope for our race but an organized peace and
hope, armed against disturbance as a state is armed against mad,
ferocious, and criminal men.

Now, there are two chief arguments, running one into the other, for the
necessity of merging our existing sovereignties into a greater and, if
possible, a world-wide league. The first is the present geographical
impossibility of nearly all the existing European states and empires;
and the second is the steadily increasing disproportion between the
tortures and destructions inflicted by modern warfare and any possible
advantages that may arise from it. Underlying both arguments is the fact
that modern developments of mechanical science have brought the nations
of Europe together into too close a proximity. This present war, more
than anything else, is a violent struggle between old political ideas
and new antagonistic conditions.

It is the unhappy usage of our schools and universities to study the
history of mankind only during periods of mechanical unprogressiveness.
The historical ideas of Europe range between the time when the Greeks
were going about the world on foot or horseback or in galleys or sailing
ships to the days when Napoleon, Wellington, and Nelson were going about
at very much the same pace in much the same vehicles and vessels. At the
advent of steam and electricity the muse of history holds her nose and
shuts her eyes. Science will study and get the better of a modern
disease, as, for example, sleeping sickness, in spite of the fact that
it has no classical standing; but our history schools would be shocked
at the bare idea of studying the effect of modern means of communication
upon administrative areas, large or small. This defect in our historical
training has made our minds politically sluggish. We fail to adapt
readily enough. In small things and great alike we are trying to run the
world in areas marked out in or before the eighteenth century,
regardless of the fact that a man or an army or an aeroplane can get in
a few minutes or a few hours to points that it would have taken days or
weeks to reach under the old foot-and-horse conditions. That matters
nothing to the learned men who instruct our statesmen and politicians.
It matters everything from the point of view of social and economic and
political life. And the grave fact to consider is that all the great
states of Europe, except for the unification of Italy and Germany, are
still much of the size and in much the same boundaries that made them
strong and safe in the eighteenth century, that is to say, in the
closing years of the foot-horse period. The British empire grew and was
organized under those conditions, and had to modify itself only a little
to meet the needs of steam shipping. All over the world are its linked
possessions and its ports and coaling stations and fastnesses on the
trade routes. And British people still look at the red-splashed map of
the world with the profoundest self-satisfaction, blind to the swift
changes that are making that scattered empire--if it is to remain an
isolated system--almost the most dangerous conceivable.

Let me ask the British reader who is disposed to sneer at the League of
Nations and say he is very well content with the empire, thank you, to
get his atlas and consider one or two propositions. And, first, let him
think of aviation. I can assure him, because upon this matter I have
some special knowledge, that long-distance air travel for men, for
letters and light goods and for bombs, is continually becoming more
practicable. But the air routes that air transport will follow must go
over a certain amount of land, for this reason that every few hundred
miles at the longest the machine must come down for petrol. A flying
machine with a safe non-stop range of 1500 miles is still a long way
off. It may indeed be permanently impracticable because there seems to
be an upward limit to the size of an aeroplane engine. And now will the
reader take the map of the world and study the air routes from London to
the rest of the empire? He will find them perplexing--if he wants them
to be "All-Red." Happily this is not a British difficulty only. Will he
next study the air routes from Paris to the rest of the French
possessions? And, finally, will he study the air routes out of Germany
to anywhere? The Germans are as badly off as any people. But we are all
badly off. So far as world air transit goes any country can, if it
chooses, choke any adjacent country. Directly any trade difficulty
breaks out, any country can begin a vexatious campaign against its
neighbour's air traffic. It can oblige it to alight at the frontier, to
follow prescribed routes, to land at specified places on those routes
and undergo examinations that will waste precious hours. But so far as I
can see, no European statesman, German or Allied, have begun to give
their attention to this amazing difficulty. Without a great pooling of
air control, either a world-wide pooling or a pooling at least of the
Atlantic-Mediterranean Allies in one Air League, the splendid peace
possibilities of air transport--and they are indeed splendid--must
remain very largely a forbidden possibility to mankind.

And as a second illustration of the way in which changing conditions are
altering political questions, let the reader take his atlas and consider
the case of that impregnable fastness, that great naval station, that
Key to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar. British boys are brought up on
Gibraltar and the Gibraltar idea. To the British imagination Gibraltar
is almost as sacred a national symbol as the lions in Trafalgar Square.
Now, in his atlas the reader will almost certainly find an inset map of
this valuable possession, coloured bright red. The inset map will have
attached to it a small scale of miles. From that he will be able to
satisfy himself that there is not an inch of the rock anywhere that is
not within five miles or less of Spanish land, and that there is rather
more than a semicircle of hills round the rock within a range of seven
or eight miles. That is much less than the range of a sixteen-inch gun.
In other words, the Spaniards are in a position to knock Gibraltar to
bits whenever they want to do so, or to smash and sink any ships in its
harbour. They can hit it on every side. Consider, moreover, that there
are long sweeps of coast north, south, and west of the Rock, from which
torpedoes could be discharged at any ship that approached. Inquire
further where on the Rock an aeroplane can land. And having ascertained
these things, ask yourself what is the present value of Gibraltar?

I will not multiply disagreeable instances of this sort, though it would
be easy enough to do so in the case both of France and Italy as well as
of Great Britain. I give them as illustrations of the way in which
everywhere old securities and old arrangements must be upset by the
greater range of modern things. Let us get on to more general
conditions. There is not a capital city in Europe that twenty years from
now will not be liable to a bombing raid done by hundreds or even
thousands of big aeroplanes, upon or even before a declaration of war,
and there is not a line of sea communication that will not be as
promptly interrupted by the hostile submarine. I point these things out
here only to carry home the fact that the ideas of sovereign isolation
and detachment that were perfectly valid in 1900, the self-sufficient
empire, Imperial Zollverein and all that stuff, and damn the foreigner!
are now, because of the enormous changes in range of action and facility
of locomotion that have been going on, almost as wild--or would be if we
were not so fatally accustomed to them--and quite as dangerous, as the
idea of setting up a free and sovereign state in the Isle of Dogs. All
the European empires are becoming vulnerable at every point. Surely the
moral is obvious. The only wise course before the allied European powers
now is to put their national conceit in their pockets and to combine to
lock up their foreign policy, their trade interests, and all their
imperial and international interests into a League so big as to be able
to withstand the most sudden and treacherous of blows. And surely the
only completely safe course for them and mankind--hard and nearly
impossible though it may seem at the present juncture--is for them to
lock up into one unity with a democratized Germany and with all the
other states of the earth into one peace-maintaining League.

If the reader will revert again to his atlas he will see very clearly
that a strongly consolidated League of Free Nations, even if it
consisted only of our present allies, would in itself form a
combination with so close a system of communication about the world, and
so great an economic advantage, that in the long run it could oblige
Germany and the rest of the world to come in to its council. Divided the
Oceanic Allies are, to speak plainly, geographical rags and nakedness;
united they are a world. To set about organizing that League now, with
its necessary repudiation on the part of Britain, France, and Italy, of
a selfish and, it must be remembered in the light of these things I have
but hinted at here, a _now hopelessly unpracticable imperialism_, would,
I am convinced, lead quite rapidly to a great change of heart in Germany
and to a satisfactory peace. But even if I am wrong in that, then all
the stronger is the reason for binding, locking and uniting the allied
powers together. It is the most dangerous of delusions for each and all
of them to suppose that either Britain, France or Italy can ever stand
alone again and be secure.

And turning now to the other aspect of these consequences of the
development of material science, it is too often assumed that this war
is being as horrible and destructive as war can be. There never was so
great a delusion. This war has only begun to be horrible. No doubt it is
much more horrible and destructive than any former war, but even in
comparison with the full possibilities of known and existing means of
destruction it is still a mild war. Perhaps it will never rise to its
full possibilities. At the present stage there is not a combatant,
except perhaps America, which is not now practising a pinching economy
of steel and other mechanical material. The Germans are running short of
first-class flying men, and if we and our allies continue to press the
air attack, and seek out and train our own vastly greater resources of
first quality young airmen, the Germans may come as near to being
"driven out of the air" as is possible. I am a firmer believer than ever
I was in the possibility of a complete victory over Germany--through and
by the air. But the occasional dropping of a big bomb or so in London is
not to be taken as anything but a minimum display of what air war can
do. In a little while now our alliance should be in a position to
commence day and night continuous attacks upon the Rhine towns. Not
hour-long raids such as London knows, but week-long raids. Then and then
only shall we be able to gauge the really horrible possibilities of the
air war. They are in our hands and not in the hands of the Germans. In
addition the Germans are at a huge disadvantage in their submarine
campaign. Their submarine campaign is only the feeble shadow of what a
submarine campaign might be. Turning again to the atlas the reader can
see for himself that the German and Austrian submarines are obliged to
come out across very narrow fronts. A fence of mines less than three
hundred miles long and two hundred feet deep would, for example,
completely bar their exit through the North Sea. The U-boats run the
gauntlet of that long narrow sea and pay a heavy toll to it. If only our
Admiralty would tell the German public what that toll is now, there
would come a time when German seamen would no longer consent to go down
in them. Consider, however, what a submarine campaign would be for Great
Britain if instead of struggling through this bottle-neck it were
conducted from the coast of Norway, where these pests might harbour in a
hundred fiords. Consider too what this weapon may be in twenty years'
time in the hands of a country in the position of the United States.
Great Britain, if she is not altogether mad, will cease to be an island
as soon as possible after the war, by piercing the Channel Tunnel--how
different our transport problem would be if we had that now!--but such
countries as Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, directly they are
involved in the future in a war against any efficient naval power with
an unimpeded sea access, will be isolated forthwith. I cannot conceive
that any of the great ocean powers will rest content until such a
tremendous possibility of blockade as the submarine has created is
securely vested in the hands of a common league beyond any power of
sudden abuse.

It must always be remembered that this war is a mechanical war conducted
by men whose discipline renders them uninventive, who know little or
nothing of mechanism, who are for the most part struggling blindly to
get things back to the conditions for which they were trained, to
Napoleonic conditions, with infantry and cavalry and comparatively light
guns, the so-called "war of manoeuvres." It is like a man engaged in a
desperate duel who keeps on trying to make it a game of cricket. Most of
these soldiers detest every sort of mechanical device; the tanks, for
example, which, used with imagination, might have given the British and
French overwhelming victory on the western front, were subordinated to
the usual cavalry "break through" idea. I am not making any particular
complaint against the British and French generals in saying this. It is
what must happen to any country which entrusts its welfare to soldiers.
A soldier has to be a severely disciplined man, and a severely
disciplined man cannot be a versatile man, and on the whole the British
army has been as receptive to novelties as any. The German generals have
done no better; indeed, they have not done so well as the generals of
the Allies in this respect. But after the war, if the world does not
organize rapidly for peace, then as resources accumulate a little, the
mechanical genius will get to work on the possibilities of these ideas
that have merely been sketched out in this war. We shall get big land
ironclads which will smash towns. We shall get air offensives--let the
experienced London reader think of an air raid going on hour after hour,
day after day--that will really burn out and wreck towns, that will
drive people mad by the thousand. We shall get a very complete cessation
of sea transit. Even land transit may be enormously hampered by aerial
attack. I doubt if any sort of social order will really be able to stand
the strain of a fully worked out modern war. We have still, of course,
to feel the full shock effects even of this war. Most of the combatants
are going on, as sometimes men who have incurred grave wounds will still
go on for a time--without feeling them. The educational, biological,
social, economic punishment that has already been taken by each of the
European countries is, I feel, very much greater than we yet realize.
Russia, the heaviest and worst-trained combatant, has indeed shown the
effects and is down and sick, but in three years' time all Europe will
know far better than it does now the full price of this war. And the
shock effects of the next war will have much the same relation to the
shock effects of this, as the shock of breaking a finger-nail has to the
shock of crushing in a body. In Russia to-day we have seen, not indeed
social revolution, not the replacement of one social order by another,
but disintegration. Let not national conceit blind us. Germany, France,
Italy, Britain are all slipping about on that same slope down which
Russia has slid. Which goes first, it is hard to guess, or whether we
shall all hold out to some kind of Peace. At present the social
discipline of France and Britain seems to be at least as good as that of
Germany, and the _morale_ of the Rhineland and Bavaria has probably to
undergo very severe testing by systematized and steadily increasing air
punishment as this year goes on. The next war--if a next war comes--will
see all Germany, from end to end, vulnerable to aircraft....

Such are the two sets of considerations that will, I think, ultimately
prevail over every prejudice and every difficulty in the way of the
League of Free Nations. Existing states have become impossible as
absolutely independent sovereignties. The new conditions bring them so
close together and give them such extravagant powers of mutual injury
that they must either sink national pride and dynastic ambitions in
subordination to the common welfare of mankind or else utterly shatter
one another. It becomes more and more plainly a choice between the
League of Free Nations and a famished race of men looting in search of
non-existent food amidst the smouldering ruins of civilization. In the
end I believe that the common sense of mankind will prefer a revision of
its ideas of nationality and imperialism, to the latter alternative. It
may take obstinate men a few more years yet of blood and horror to learn
this lesson, but for my own part I cherish an obstinate belief in the
potential reasonableness of mankind.



All the talk, all the aspiration and work that is making now towards
this conception of a world securely at peace, under the direction of a
League of Free Nations, has interwoven with it an idea that is often
rather felt than understood, the idea of Democracy. Not only is justice
to prevail between race and race and nation and nation, but also between
man and man; there is to be a universal respect for human life
throughout the earth; the world, in the words of President Wilson, is to
be made "safe for democracy." I would like to subject that word to a
certain scrutiny to see whether the things we are apt to think and
assume about it correspond exactly with the feeling of the word. I would
like to ask what, under modern conditions, does democracy mean, and
whether we have got it now anywhere in the world in its fulness and

And to begin with I must have a quarrel with the word itself. The
eccentricities of modern education make us dependent for a number of
our primary political terms upon those used by the thinkers of the small
Greek republics of ancient times before those petty states collapsed,
through sheer political ineptitude, before the Macedonians. They thought
in terms of states so small that it was possible to gather all the
citizens together for the purposes of legislation. These states were
scarcely more than what we English might call sovereign urban districts.
Fast communications were made by runners; even the policeman with a
bicycle of the modern urban district was beyond the scope of the Greek
imagination. There were no railways, telegraphs, telephones, books or
newspapers, there was no need for the state to maintain a system of
education, and the affairs of the state were so simple that they could
be discussed and decided by the human voice and open voting in an
assembly of all the citizens. That is what democracy, meant. In Andorra,
or perhaps in Canton Uri, such democracy may still be possible; in any
other modern state it cannot exist. The opposite term to it was
oligarchy, in which a small council of men controlled the affairs of the
state. Oligarchy, narrowed down to one man, became monarchy. If you
wished to be polite to an oligarchy you called it an aristocracy; if you
wished to point out that a monarch was rather by way of being
self-appointed, you called him a Tyrant. An oligarchy with a property
qualification was a plutocracy.

Now the modern intelligence, being under a sort of magic slavery to the
ancient Greeks, has to adapt all these terms to the problems of states
so vast and complex that they have the same relation to the Greek states
that the anatomy of a man has to the anatomy of a jellyfish. They are
not only greater in extent and denser in population, but they are
increasingly innervated by more and more rapid means of communication
and excitement. In the classical past--except for such special cases as
the feeding of Rome with Egyptian corn--trade was a traffic in luxuries
or slaves, war a small specialized affair of infantry and horsemen in
search of slaves and loot, and empire the exaction of tribute. The
modern state must conduct its enormous businesses through a system of
ministries; its vital interests go all round the earth; nothing that any
ancient Greek would have recognized as democracy is conceivable in a
great modern state. It is absolutely necessary, if we are to get things
clear in our minds about what democracy really means in relation to
modern politics, first to make a quite fresh classification in order to
find what items there really are to consider, and then to inquire which
seem to correspond more or less closely in spirit with our ideas about
ancient democracy.

Now there are two primary classes of idea about government in the
modern world depending upon our conception of the political capacity of
the common man. We may suppose he is a microcosm, with complete ideas
and wishes about the state and the world, or we may suppose that he
isn't. We may believe that the common man can govern, or we may believe
that he can't. We may think further along the first line that he is so
wise and good and right that we only have to get out of his way for him
to act rightly and for the good of all mankind, or we may doubt it. And
if we doubt that we may still believe that, though perhaps "you can fool
all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time,"
the common man, expressing himself by a majority vote, still remains the
secure source of human wisdom. But next, while we may deny this
universal distribution of political wisdom, we may, if we are
sufficiently under the sway of modern ideas about collective psychology,
believe that it is necessary to poke up the political indifference and
inability of the common man as much as possible, to thrust political
ideas and facts upon him, to incite him to a watchful and critical
attitude towards them, and above all to secure his assent to the
proceedings of the able people who are managing public affairs. Or
finally, we may treat him as a thing to be ruled and not consulted. Let
me at this stage make out a classificatory diagram of these elementary
ideas of government in a modern country.

CLASS I. It is supposed that the common man _can_ govern:

(1) without further organization (Anarchy);

(2) through a majority vote by delegates.

CLASS II. It is supposed that the common man _cannot_ govern, and that
government therefore must be through the agency of Able Persons who may
be classified under one of the following sub-heads, either as

(1) persons elected by the common man because he believes them to be
persons able to govern--just as he chooses his doctors as persons able
to secure health, and his electrical engineers as persons able to attend
to his tramways, lighting, etc., etc.;

(2) persons of a special class, as, for example, persons born and
educated to rule (e.g. _Aristocracy_), or rich business adventurers
_(Plutocracy)_ who rule without consulting the common man at all.

To which two sub-classes we may perhaps add a sort of intermediate stage
between them, namely:

(3) persons elected by a special class of voter.

Monarchy may be either a special case of Class II.(1), (2) or (3), in
which the persons who rule have narrowed down in number to one person,
and the duration of monarchy may be either for life or a term of years.
These two classes and the five sub-classes cover, I believe, all the
elementary political types in our world.

Now in the constitution of a modern state, because of the conflict and
confusion of ideas, all or most of these five sub-classes may usually be
found intertwined. The British constitution, for instance, is a
complicated tangle of arrangements, due to a struggle between the ideas
of Class I.(2), Class II.(3), tending to become Class II.(1) and Class
II.(2) in both its aristocratic and monarchist forms. The American
constitution is largely dominated by Class I.(2), from which it breaks
away in the case of the President to a short-term monarchist aspect of
Class II.(1). I will not elaborate this classification further. I have
made it here in order to render clear first, that what we moderns mean
by democracy is not what the Greeks meant at all, that is to say, direct
government by the assembly of all the citizens, and secondly and more
important, that the word "democracy" is being used very largely in
current discussion, so that it is impossible to say in any particular
case whether the intention is Class I.(2) or Class II.(1), and that we
have to make up our minds whether we mean, if I may coin two phrases,
"delegate democracy" or "selective democracy," or some definite
combination of these two, when we talk about "democracy," before we can
get on much beyond a generous gesture of equality and enfranchisement
towards our brother man. The word is being used, in fact, confusingly
for these two quite widely different things.

Now, it seems to me that though there has been no very clear discussion
of the issue between those two very opposite conceptions of democracy,
largely because of the want of proper distinctive terms, there has
nevertheless been a wide movement of public opinion away from "delegate
democracy" and towards "selective democracy." People have gone on saying
"democracy," while gradually changing its meaning from the former to the
latter. It is notable in Great Britain, for example, that while there
has been no perceptible diminution in our faith in democracy, there has
been a growing criticism of "party" and "politicians," and a great
weakening in the power and influence of representatives and
representative institutions. There has been a growing demand for
personality and initiative in elected persons. The press, which was once
entirely subordinate politically to parliamentary politics, adopts an
attitude towards parliament and party leaders nowadays which would have
seemed inconceivable insolence in the days of Lord Palmerston. And there
has been a vigorous agitation in support of electoral methods which are
manifestly calculated to subordinate "delegated" to "selected" men.

The movement for electoral reform in Great Britain at the present time
is one of quite fundamental importance in the development of modern
democracy. The case of the reformers is that heretofore modern democracy
has not had a fair opportunity of showing its best possibilities to the
world, because the methods of election have persistently set aside the
better types of public men, or rather of would-be public men, in favour
of mere party hacks. That is a story common to Britain and the American
democracies, but in America it was expressed in rather different terms
and dealt with in a less analytical fashion than it has been in Great
Britain. It was not at first clearly understood that the failure of
democracy to produce good government came through the preference of
"delegated" over "selected" men, the idea of delegation did in fact
dominate the minds of both electoral reformers and electoral
conservatives alike, and the earlier stages of the reform movement in
Great Britain were inspired not so much by the idea of getting a better
type of representative as by the idea of getting a fairer
representation of minorities. It was only slowly that the idea that
sensible men do not usually belong to any political "party" took hold.
It is only now being realized that what sensible men desire in a member
of parliament is honour and capacity rather than a mechanical loyalty to
a "platform." They do not want to dictate to their representative; they
want a man they can trust as their representative. In the fifties and
sixties of the last century, in which this electoral reform movement
began and the method of Proportional Representation was thought out, it
was possible for the reformers to work untroubled upon the assumption
that if a man was not necessarily born a

     "... little Liber-al,
     or else a little Conservative,"

he must at least be a Liberal-Unionist or a Conservative Free-Trader.
But seeking a fair representation for party minorities, these reformers
produced a system of voting at once simple and incapable of
manipulation, that leads straight, not to the representation of small
parties, but to a type of democratic government by selected best men.

Before giving the essential features of that system, it may be well to
state in its simplest form the evils at which the reform aims. An
election, the reformers point out, is not the simple matter it appears
to be at the first blush. Methods of voting can be manipulated in
various ways, and nearly every method has its own liability to
falsification. We may take for illustration the commonest, simplest
case--the case that is the perplexity of every clear-thinking voter
under British or American conditions--the case of a constituency in
which every elector has one vote, and which returns one representative
to Parliament. The naive theory on which people go is that all the
possible candidates are put up, that each voter votes for the one he
likes best, and that the best man wins. The bitter experience is that
hardly ever are there more than two candidates, and still more rarely is
either of these the best man possible. Suppose, for example, the
constituency is mainly Conservative. A little group of pothouse
politicians, wire-pullers, busybodies, local journalists, and small
lawyers, working for various monetary interests, have "captured" the
local Conservative organization. They have time and energy to capture
it, because they have no other interest in life except that. It is their
"business," and honest men are busy with other duties. For reasons that
do not appear these local "workers" put up an unknown Mr. Goldbug as the
official Conservative candidate. He professes a generally Conservative
view of things, but few people are sure of him and few people trust him.
Against him the weaker (and therefore still more venal) Liberal
organization now puts up a Mr. Kentshire (formerly Wurstberg) to
represent the broader thought and finer generosities of the English
mind. A number of Conservative gentlemen, generally too busy about their
honest businesses to attend the party "smokers" and the party cave,
realize suddenly that they want Goldbug hardly more than they want
Wurstberg. They put up their long-admired, trusted, and able friend Mr.
Sanity as an Independent Conservative.

Every one knows the trouble that follows. Mr. Sanity is "going to split
the party vote." The hesitating voter is told, with considerable truth,
that a vote given for Mr. Sanity is a vote given for Wurstberg. At any
price the constituency does not want Wurstberg. So at the eleventh hour
Mr. Sanity is induced to withdraw, and Mr. Goldbug goes into Parliament
to misrepresent this constituency. And so with most constituencies, and
the result is a legislative body consisting largely of men of unknown
character and obscure aims, whose only credential is the wearing of a
party label. They come into parliament not to forward the great
interests they ostensibly support, but with an eye to the railway
jobbery, corporation business, concessions and financial operations that
necessarily go on in and about the national legislature. That in its
simplest form is the dilemma of democracy. The problem that has
confronted modern democracy since its beginning has not really been the
representation of organized minorities--they are very well able to look
after themselves--but _the protection of the unorganized mass of busily
occupied, fairly intelligent men from the tricks of the specialists who
work the party machines_. We know Mr. Sanity, we want Mr. Sanity, but we
are too busy to watch the incessant intrigues to oust him in favour of
the obscurely influential people, politically docile, who are favoured
by the organization. We want an organizer-proof method of voting. It is
in answer to this demand, as the outcome of a most careful examination
of the ways in which voting may be protected from the exploitation of
those who _work_ elections, that the method of Proportional
Representation with a single transferable vote has been evolved. It is
organizer-proof. It defies the caucus. If you do not like Mr. Goldbug
you can put up and vote for Mr. Sanity, giving Mr. Goldbug your second
choice, in the most perfect confidence that in any case your vote cannot
help to return Mr. Wurstberg.

With Proportional Representation with a single transferable vote (this
specification is necessary, because there are also the inferior
imitations of various election-riggers figuring as proportional
representation), it is _impossible to prevent the effective candidature
of independent men of repute beside the official candidates_.

The method of voting under the Proportional Representation system has
been ignorantly represented as complex. It is really almost ideally
simple. You mark the list of candidates with numbers in the order of
your preference. For example, you believe A to be absolutely the best
man for parliament; you mark him 1. But B you think is the next best
man; you mark him 2. That means that if A gets an enormous amount of
support, ever so many more votes than he requires for his return, your
vote will not be wasted. Only so much of your vote as is needed will go
to A; the rest will go to B. Or, on the other hand, if A has so little
support that his chances are hopeless, you will not have thrown your
vote away upon him; it will go to B. Similarly you may indicate a third,
a fourth, and a fifth choice; if you like you may mark every name on
your paper with a number to indicate the order of your preferences. And
that is all the voter has to do. The reckoning and counting of the votes
presents not the slightest difficulty to any one used to the business
of computation. Silly and dishonest men, appealing to still sillier
audiences, have got themselves and their audiences into humorous muddles
over this business, but the principles are perfectly plain and simple.
Let me state them here; they can be fully and exactly stated, with
various ornaments, comments, arguments, sarcastic remarks, and
digressions, in seventy lines of this type.

It will be evident that, in any election under this system, any one who
has got a certain proportion of No. 1 votes will be elected. If, for
instance, five people have to be elected and 20,000 voters vote, then
any one who has got 4001 first votes or more _must_ be elected. 4001
votes is in that case enough to elect a candidate. This sufficient
number of votes is called the _quota_, and any one who has more than
that number of votes has obviously got more votes than is needful for
election. So, to begin with, the voting papers are classified according
to their first votes, and any candidates who have got more than a quota
of first votes are forthwith declared elected. But most of these elected
men would under the old system waste votes because they would have too
many; for manifestly a candidate who gets more than the quota of votes
_needs only a fraction of each of these votes to return him_. If, for
instance, he gets double the quota he needs only half each vote. He
takes that fraction, therefore, under this new and better system, and
the rest of each vote is entered on to No. 2 upon that voting paper. And
so on. Now this is an extremely easy job for an accountant or skilled
computer, and it is quite easily checked by any other accountant and
skilled computer. A reader with a bad arithmetical education, ignorant
of the very existence of such a thing as a slide rule, knowing nothing
of account keeping, who thinks of himself working out the resultant
fractions with a stumpy pencil on a bit of greasy paper in a bad light,
may easily think of this transfer of fractions as a dangerous and
terrifying process. It is, for a properly trained man, the easiest,
exactest job conceivable. The Cash Register people will invent machines
to do it for you while you wait. What happens, then, is that every
candidate with more than a quota, beginning with the top candidate,
sheds a traction of each vote he has received, down the list, and the
next one sheds his surplus fraction in the same way, and so on until
candidates lower in the list, who are at first below the quota, fill up
to it. When all the surplus votes of the candidates at the head of the
list have been disposed of, then the hopeless candidates at the bottom
of the list are dealt with. The second votes on their voting papers are
treated as whole votes and distributed up the list, and so on. It will
be plain to the quick-minded that, towards the end, there will be a
certain chasing about of little fractions of votes, and a slight
modification of the quota due to voting papers having no second or third
preferences marked upon them, a chasing about that it will be difficult
for an untrained intelligence to follow. _But untrained intelligences
are not required to follow it_. For the skilled computer these things
offer no difficulty at all. And they are not difficulties of principle
but of manipulation. One might as well refuse to travel in a taxicab
until the driver had explained the magneto as refuse to accept the
principle of Proportional Representation by the single transferable vote
until one had remedied all the deficiencies of one's arithmetical
education. The fundamental principle of the thing, that a candidate who
gets more votes than he wants is made to hand on a fraction of each vote
to the voter's second choice, and that a candidate whose chances are
hopeless is made to hand on the whole vote to the voter's second choice,
so that practically only a small number of votes are ineffective, is
within the compass of the mind of a boy of ten.

But simple as this method is, it completely kills the organization and
manipulation of voting. It completely solves the Goldbug-Wurstberg-
Sanity problem. It is knave-proof--short of forging, stealing, or
destroying voting papers. A man of repute, a leaderly man, may defy all
the party organizations in existence and stand beside and be returned
over the head of a worthless man, though the latter be smothered with
party labels. That is the gist of this business. The difference in
effect between Proportional Representation and the old method of voting
must ultimately be to change the moral and intellectual quality of
elected persons profoundly. People are only beginning to realize the
huge possibilities of advance inherent in this change of political
method. It means no less than a revolution from "delegate democracy"
to "selective democracy."

Now, I will not pretend to be anything but a strong partizan in this
matter. When I speak of "democracy" I mean "selective democracy." I
believe that "delegate democracy" is already provably a failure in the
world, and that the reason why to-day, after three and a half years of
struggle, we are still fighting German autocracy and fighting with no
certainty of absolute victory, is because the affairs of the three great
Atlantic democracies have been largely in the hands not of selected men
but of delegated men, men of intrigue and the party machine, of dodges
rather than initiatives, second-rate men. When Lord Haldane, defending
his party for certain insufficiencies in their preparation for the
eventuality of the great war, pleaded that they had no "mandate" from
the country to do anything of the sort, he did more than commit
political suicide, he bore conclusive witness against the whole system
which had made him what he was. Neither Britain nor France in this
struggle has produced better statesmen nor better generals than the
German autocracy. The British and French Foreign Offices are old
monarchist organizations still. To this day the British and French
politicians haggle and argue with the German ministers upon petty points
and debating society advantages, smart and cunning, while the peoples
perish. The one man who has risen to the greatness of this great
occasion, the man who is, in default of any rival, rapidly becoming the
leader of the world towards peace, is neither a delegate politician nor
the choice of a monarch and his councillors. He is the one authoritative
figure in these transactions whose mind has not been subdued either by
long discipline in the party machine or by court intrigue, who has
continued his education beyond those early twenties when the mind of the
"budding politician" ceases to expand, who has thought, and thought
things out, who is an educated man among dexterous under-educated
specialists. By something very like a belated accident in the framing
of the American constitution, the President of the United States is more
in the nature of a selected man than any other conspicuous figure at the
present time. He is specially elected by a special electoral college
after an elaborate preliminary selection of candidates by the two great
party machines. And be it remembered that Mr. Wilson is not the first
great President the United States have had, he is one of a series of
figures who tower over their European contemporaries. The United States
have had many advantageous circumstances to thank for their present
ascendancy in the world's affairs: isolation from militarist pressure
for a century and a quarter, a vast virgin continent, plenty of land,
freedom from centralization, freedom from titles and social vulgarities,
common schools, a real democratic spirit in its people, and a great
enthusiasm for universities; but no single advantage has been so great
as this happy accident which has given it a specially selected man as
its voice and figurehead in the world's affairs. In the average
congressman, in the average senator, as Ostrogorski's great book so
industriously demonstrated, the United States have no great occasion for
pride. Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives seem to rise
above the level of the British Houses of Parliament, with a Government
unable to control the rebel forces of Ulster, unable to promote or
dismiss generals without an outcry, weakly amenable to the press, and
terrifyingly incapable of great designs. It is to the United States of
America we must look now if the world is to be made "safe for
democracy." It is to the method of selection, as distinguished from
delegation, that we must look if democracy is to be saved from itself.



British political life resists cleansing with all the vigour of a dirty
little boy. It is nothing to your politician that the economic and
social organization of all the world, is strained almost to the pitch of
collapse, and that it is vitally important to mankind that everywhere
the whole will and intelligence of the race should be enlisted in the
great tasks of making a permanent peace and reconstructing the shattered
framework of society. These are remote, unreal considerations to the
politician. What is the world to him? He has scarcely heard of it. He
has been far too busy as a politician. He has been thinking of smart
little tricks in the lobby and brilliant exploits at question time. He
has been thinking of jobs and appointments, of whether Mr. Asquith is
likely to "come back" and how far it is safe to bank upon L. G. His one
supreme purpose is to keep affairs in the hands of his own specialized
set, to keep the old obscure party game going, to rig his little tricks
behind a vast, silly camouflage of sham issues, to keep out able men and
disinterested men, the public mind, and the general intelligence, from
any effective interference with his disastrous manipulations of the
common weal.

I do not see how any intelligent and informed man can have followed the
recent debates in the House of Commons upon Proportional Representation
without some gusts of angry contempt. They were the most pitiful and
alarming demonstration of the intellectual and moral quality of British
public life at the present time.

From the wire-pullers of the Fabian Society and from the party
organizers of both Liberal and Tory party alike, and from the knowing
cards, the pothouse shepherds, and jobbing lawyers who "work" the
constituencies, comes the chief opposition to this straightening out of
our electoral system so urgently necessary and so long overdue. They
have fought it with a zeal and efficiency that is rarely displayed in
the nation's interest. From nearly every outstanding man outside that
little inner world of political shams and dodges, who has given any
attention to the question, comes, on the other hand, support for this
reform. Even the great party leaders, Mr. Balfour and Mr. Asquith, were
in its favour. One might safely judge this question by considering who
are the advocates on either side. But the best arguments for
Proportional Representation arise out of its opponents' speeches, and to
these I will confine my attention now. Consider Lord Harcourt--heir to
the most sacred traditions of the party game--hurling scorn at a project
that would introduce "faddists, mugwumps," and so on and so on--in fact
independent thinking men--into the legislature. Consider the value of
Lord Curzon's statement that London "rose in revolt" against the
project. Do you remember that day, dear reader, when the streets of
London boiled with passionate men shouting, "No Proportional
Representation! Down with Proportional Representation"? You don't. Nor
do I. But what happened was that the guinea-pigs and solicitors and
nobodies, the party hacks who form the bulk of London's
misrepresentation in the House of Commons, stampeded in terror against a
proposal that threatened to wipe them out and replace them by known and
responsible men. London, alas! does not seem to care how its members are
elected. What Londoner knows anything about his member? Hundreds of
thousands of Londoners do not even know which of the ridiculous
constituencies into which the politicians have dismembered our London
they are in. Only as I was writing this in my flat in St. James's Court,
Westminster, did it occur to me to inquire who was representing me in
the councils of the nation while I write....

After some slight difficulty I ascertained that my representative is a
Mr. Burdett Coutts, who was, in the romantic eighties, Mr.
Ashmead-Bartlett. And by a convenient accident I find that the other day
he moved to reject the Proportional Representation Amendment made by the
House of Lords to the Representation of the People Bill, so that I am
able to look up the debate in Hansard and study my opinions as he
represented them and this question at one and the same time. And, taking
little things first, I am proud and happy to discover that the member
for me was the only participator in the debate who, in the vulgar and
reprehensible phrase, "threw a dead cat," or, in polite terms, displayed
classical learning. My member said, "_Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes_,"
with a rather graceful compliment to the Labour Conference at
Nottingham. "I could not help thinking to myself," said my member, "that
at that conference there must have been many men of sufficient classical
reading to say to themselves, '_Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes_.'" In
which surmise he was quite right. Except perhaps for "_Tempus fugit,"_
"_verbum sap._," "_Arma virumque_," and "_Quis custodiet_," there is no
better known relic of antiquity. But my member went a little beyond my
ideas when he said: "We are asked to enter upon a method of legislation
which can bear no other description than that of law-making in the
dark," because I think it can bear quite a lot of other descriptions.
This was, however, the artistic prelude to a large, vague, gloomy
dissertation about nothing very definite, a muddling up of the main
question with the minor issue of a schedule of constituencies involved
in the proposal.

The other parts of my member's speech do not, I confess, fill me with
the easy confidence I would like to feel in my proxy. Let me extract a
few gems of eloquence from the speech of this voice which speaks for me,
and give also the only argument he advanced that needs consideration.
"History repeats itself," he said, "very often in curious ways as to
facts, but generally with very different results." That, honestly, I
like. It is a sentence one can read over several times. But he went on
to talk of the entirely different scheme for minority representation,
which was introduced into the Reform Bill of 1867, and there I am
obliged to part company with him. That was a silly scheme for giving two
votes to each voter in a three-member constituency. It has about as much
resemblance to the method of scientific voting under discussion as a
bath-chair has to an aeroplane. "But that measure of minority
representation led to a baneful invention," my representative went on
to say, "and left behind it a hateful memory in the Birmingham caucus. I
well remember that when I stood for Parliament thirty-two years ago _we
had no better platform weapon than repeating over and over again in a
sentence the name of Mr. Schnadhorst,_ and I am not sure that it would
not serve the same purpose now. Under that system the work of the caucus
was, of course, far simpler than it will be if this system ever comes
into operation. All the caucus had to do under that measure was to
divide the electors into three groups and with three candidates, A., B.,
and C., to order one group to vote for A. and B., another for B. and C.,
and the third for A. and C., and they carried the whole of their
candidates and kept them for many years. But the multiplicity of ordinal
preferences, second, third, fourth, fifth, up to tenth, which the single
transferable vote system would involve, will require a more scientific
handling in party interests, and neither party will be able to face an
election with any hope of success without the assistance of the most
drastic form of caucus and _without its orders being carried out by the

Now, I swear by Heaven that, lowly creature as I am, a lost vote, a
nothing, voiceless and helpless in public affairs, I am not going to
stand the imputation that that sort of reasoning represents the average
mental quality of Westminster--outside Parliament, that is. Most of my
neighbours in St. James's Court, for example, have quite large pieces of
head above their eyebrows. Read these above sentences over and ponder
their significance--so far as they have any significance. Never mind my
keen personal humiliation at this display of the mental calibre of my
representative, but consider what the mental calibre of a House must be
that did not break out into loud guffaws at such a passage. The line of
argument is about as lucid as if one reasoned that because one can break
a window with a stone it is no use buying a telescope. And it remains
entirely a matter for speculation whether my member is arguing that a
caucus _can_ rig an election carried on under the Proportional
Representation system or that it cannot. At the first blush it seems to
read as if he intended the former. But be careful! Did he? Let me
suggest that in that last sentence he really expresses the opinion that
it cannot. It can be read either way. Electors under modern conditions
are not going to obey the "orders" of even the "most drastic
caucus"--whatever a "drastic caucus" may be. Why should they? In the
Birmingham instance it was only a section of the majority, voting by
wards, in an election on purely party lines, which "obeyed" in order to
keep out the minority party candidate. I think myself that my member's
mind waggled. Perhaps his real thoughts shone out through an argument
not intended to betray them. What he did say as much as he said anything
was that under Proportional Representation, elections are going to be
very troublesome and difficult for party candidates. If that was his
intention, then, after all, I forgive him much. I think that and more
than that. I think that they are going to make party candidates who are
merely party candidates impossible. That is exactly what we reformers
are after. Then I shall get a representative more to my taste than Mr.
Burdett Coutts.

But let me turn now to the views of other people's representatives.

Perhaps the most damning thing ever said against the present system,
damning because of its empty absurdity, was uttered by Sir Thomas
Whittaker. He was making the usual exaggerations of the supposed
difficulties of the method. He said English people didn't like such
"complications." They like a "straight fight between two men." Think of
it! A straight fight! For more than a quarter-century I have been a
voter, usually with votes in two or three constituencies, and never in
all that long political life have I seen a single straight fight in an
election, but only the dismallest sham fights it is possible to
conceive. Thrice only in all that time have I cast a vote for a man whom
I respected. On all other occasions the election that mocked my
citizenship was either an arranged walk-over for one party or the other,
or I had a choice between two unknown persons, mysteriously selected as
candidates by obscure busy people with local interests in the
constituency. Every intelligent person knows that this is the usual
experience of a free and independent voter in England. The "fight" of an
ordinary Parliamentary election in England is about as "straight" as the
business of a thimble rigger.

And consider just what these "complications" are of which the opponents
of Proportional Representation chant so loudly. In the sham election of
to-day, which the politicians claim gives them a mandate to muddle up
our affairs, the voter puts a x against the name of the least detestable
of the two candidates that are thrust upon him. Under the Proportional
Representation method there will be a larger constituency, a larger list
of candidates, and a larger number of people to be elected, and he will
put I against the name of the man he most wants to be elected, 2 against
his second choice, and if he likes he may indulge in marking a third, or
even a further choice. He may, if he thinks fit, number off the whole
list of candidates. That is all he will have to do. That is the
stupendous intricacy of the method that flattens out the minds of Lord
Harcourt and Sir Thomas Whittaker. And as for the working of it, if you
must go into that, all that happens is that if your first choice gets
more votes than he needs for his return, he takes only the fraction of
your vote that he requires, and the rest of the vote goes on to your
Number 2. If 2 isn't in need of all of it, the rest goes on to 3. And so
on. That is the profound mathematical mystery, that is the riddle beyond
the wit of Westminster, which overpowers these fine intelligences and
sets them babbling of "senior wranglers." Each time there is a debate on
this question in the House, member after member hostile to the proposal
will play the ignorant fool and pretend to be confused himself, and will
try to confuse others, by deliberately clumsy statements of these most
elementary ideas. Surely if there were no other argument for a change of
type in the House, these poor knitted brows, these public perspirations
of the gentry who "cannot understand P.R.," should suffice.

But let us be just; it is not all pretence; the inability of Mr. Austen
Chamberlain to grasp the simple facts before him was undoubtedly
genuine. He followed Mr. Burdett Coutts, in support of Mr. Burdett
Coutts, with the most Christian disregard of the nasty things Mr.
Burdett Coutts had seemed to be saying about the Birmingham caucus from
which he sprang. He had a childish story to tell of how voters would not
give their first votes to their real preferences, because they would
assume he "would get in in any case"--God knows why. Of course on the
assumption that the voter behaves like an idiot, anything is possible.
And never apparently having heard of fractions, this great Birmingham
leader was unable to understand that a voter who puts 1 against a
candidate's name votes for that candidate anyhow. He could not imagine
any feeling on the part of the voter that No. 1 was his man. A vote is a
vote to this simple rather than lucid mind, a thing one and indivisible.
Read this--

"Birmingham," he said, referring to a Schedule under consideration, "is
to be cut into three constituencies of four members each. I am to have a
constituency of 100,000 electors, I suppose. How many thousand
inhabitants I do not know. _Every effort will be made to prevent any of
those electors knowing--in fact, it would be impossible for any of them
to know--whether they voted for me or not, or at any rate whether they
effectively voted for me or not, or whether the vote which they wished
to give to me was really diverted to somebody else_."

Only in a house of habitually inattentive men could any one talk such
nonsense without reproof, but I look in vain through Hansard's record
of this debate for a single contemptuous reference to Mr. Chamberlain's
obtuseness. And the rest of his speech was a lamentable account of the
time and trouble he would have to spend upon his constituents if the new
method came in. He was the perfect figure of the parochially important
person in a state of defensive excitement. No doubt his speech appealed
to many in the House.

Of course Lord Harcourt was quite right in saying that the character of
the average House of Commons member will be changed by Proportional
Representation. It will. It will make the election of obscure and
unknown men, of carpet-bag candidates who work a constituency as a
hawker works a village, of local pomposities and village-pump "leaders"
almost impossible. It will replace such candidates by better known and
more widely known men. It will make the House of Commons so much the
more a real gathering of the nation, so much the more a house of
representative men. (Lord Harcourt's "faddists and mugwumps.") And it is
perfectly true as Mr. Ramsay Macdonald (also an opponent) declares, that
Proportional Representation means constituencies so big that it will be
impossible for a poor man to cultivate and work them. That is
unquestionable. But, mark another point, it will also make it useless,
as Mr. Chamberlain has testified, for rich men to cultivate and work
them. All this cultivating and working, all this going about and making
things right with this little jobber here, that contractor there, all
the squaring of small political clubs and organizations, all the
subscription blackmail and charity bribery, that now makes a
Parliamentary candidature so utterly rotten an influence upon public
life, will be killed dead by Proportional Representation. You cannot job
men into Parliament by Proportional Representation. Proportional
Representation lets in the outsider. It lets in the common, unassigned
voter who isn't in the local clique. That is the clue to nearly all this
opposition of the politicians. It makes democracy possible for the first
time in modern history. And that poor man of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald's
imagination, instead of cadging about a constituency in order to start
politician, will have to make good in some more useful way--as a leader
of the workers in their practical affairs, for example--before people
will hear of him and begin to believe in him.

The opposition to Proportional Representation of Mr. Sidney Webb and his
little circle is a trifle more "scientific" in tone than these naive
objections of the common run of antagonist, but underlying it is the
same passionate desire to keep politics a close game for the politician
and to bar out the politically unspecialized man. There is more conceit
and less jobbery behind the criticisms of this type of mind. It is an
opposition based on the idea that the common man is a fool who does not
know what is good for him. So he has to be stampeded. Politics,
according to this school, is a sort of cattle-driving.

The Webbites do not deny the broad facts of the case. Our present
electoral system, with our big modern constituencies of thousands of
voters, leads to huge turnovers of political power with a relatively
small shifting of public opinion. It makes a mock of public opinion by
caricature, and Parliament becomes the distorting mirror of the nation.
Under some loud false issue a few score of thousands of votes turn over,
and in goes this party or that with a big sham majority. This the
Webbites admit. But they applaud it. It gives us, they say, "a strong
Government." Public opinion, the intelligent man outside the House, is
ruled out of the game. He has no power of intervention at all. The
artful little Fabian politicians rub their hands and say, "_Now_ we can
get to work with the wires! No one can stop us." And when the public
complains of the results, there is always the repartee, "_You_ elected
them." But the Fabian psychology is the psychology of a very small group
of pedants who believe that fair ends may be reached by foul means. It
is much easier and more natural to serve foul ends by foul means. In
practice it is not tricky benevolence but tricky bargaining among the
interests that will secure control of the political wires. That is a bad
enough state of affairs in ordinary times, but in times of tragic
necessity like the present men will not be mocked in this way. Life is
going to be very intense in the years ahead of us. If we go right on to
another caricature Parliament, with perhaps half a hundred leading men
in it and the rest hacks and nobodies, the baffled and discontented
outsiders in the streets may presently be driven to rioting and the
throwing of bombs. Unless, indeed, the insurrection of the outsiders
takes a still graver form, and the Press, which has ceased entirely to
be a Party Press in Great Britain, helps some adventurous Prime Minister
to flout and set aside the lower House altogether. There is neither much
moral nor much physical force behind the House of Commons at the present

The argument of the Fabian opponents to Proportional Representation is
frankly that the strongest Government is got in a House of half a
hundred or fewer leading men, with the rest of the Parliament driven
sheep. But the whole mischief of the present system is that the obscure
members of Parliament are not sheep; they are a crowd of little-minded,
second-rate men just as greedy and eager and self-seeking as any of us.
They vote straight indeed on all the main party questions, they obey
their Whips like sheep then; but there is a great bulk of business in
Parliament outside the main party questions, and obedience is not
without its price. These are matters vitally affecting our railways and
ships and communications generally, the food and health of the people,
armaments, every sort of employment, the appointment of public servants,
the everyday texture of all our lives. Then the nobody becomes somebody,
the party hack gets busy, the rat is in the granary....

In these recent debates in the House of Commons one can see every stock
trick of the wire-puller in operation. Particularly we have the old
dodge of the man who is "in theory quite in sympathy with Proportional
Representation, but ..." It is, he declares regretfully, too late. It
will cause delay. Difficult to make arrangements. Later on perhaps. And
so on. It is never too late for a vital issue. Upon the speedy adoption
of Proportional Representation depends, as Mr. Balfour made plain in an
admirable speech, whether the great occasions of the peace and after the
peace are to be handled by a grand council of all that is best and most
leaderlike in the nation, or whether they are to be left to a few
leaders, apparently leading, but really profoundly swayed by the obscure
crowd of politicians and jobbers behind them. Are the politicians to
hamper and stifle us in this supreme crisis of our national destinies or
are we British peoples to have a real control of our own affairs in this
momentous time? Are men of light and purpose to have a voice in public
affairs or not? Proportional Representation is supremely a test
question. It is a question that no adverse decision in the House of
Commons can stifle. There are too many people now who grasp its
importance and significance. Every one who sets a proper value upon
purity in public life and the vitality of democratic institutions will,
I am convinced, vote and continue to vote across every other question
against the antiquated, foul, and fraudulent electoral methods that have
hitherto robbed democracy of three-quarters of its efficiency.



In the preceding chapter I have dealt with the discussion of
Proportional Representation in the British House of Commons in order to
illustrate the intellectual squalor amidst which public affairs have to
be handled at the present time, even in a country professedly
"democratic." I have taken this one discussion as a sample to illustrate
the present imperfection of our democratic instrument. All over the
world, in every country, great multitudes of intelligent and serious
people are now inspired by the idea of a new order of things in the
world, of a world-wide establishment of peace and mutual aid between
nation and nation and man and man. But, chiefly because of the
elementary crudity of existing electoral methods, hardly anywhere at
present, except at Washington, do these great ideas and this world-wide
will find expression. Amidst the other politicians and statesmen of the
world President Wilson towers up with an effect almost divine. But it
is no ingratitude to him to say that he is not nearly so exceptional a
being among educated men as he is among the official leaders of mankind.
Everywhere now one may find something of the Wilson purpose and
intelligence, but nearly everywhere it is silenced or muffled or made
ineffective by the political advantage of privileged or of violent and
adventurous inferior men. He is "one of us," but it is his good fortune
to have got his head out of the sack that is about the heads of most of
us. In the official world, in the world of rulers and representatives
and "statesmen," he almost alone, speaks for the modern intelligence.

This general stifling of the better intelligence of the world and its
possible release to expression and power, seems to me to be the
fundamental issue underlying all the present troubles of mankind. We
cannot get on while everywhere fools and vulgarians hold the levers that
can kill, imprison, silence and starve men. We cannot get on with false
government and we cannot get on with mob government; we must have right
government. The intellectual people of the world have a duty of
co-operation they have too long neglected. The modernization of
political institutions, the study of these institutions until we have
worked out and achieved the very best and most efficient methods whereby
the whole community of mankind may work together under the direction of
its chosen intelligences, is the common duty of every one who has a
brain for the service. And before everything else we have to realize
this crudity and imperfection in what we call "democracy" at the present
time. Democracy is still chiefly an aspiration, it is a spirit, it is an
idea; for the most part its methods are still to seek. And still more is
this "League of Free Nations" as yet but an aspiration. Let us not
underrate the task before us. Only the disinterested devotion of
hundreds of thousands of active brains in school, in pulpit, in book and
press and assembly can ever bring these redeeming conceptions down to
the solid earth to rule.

All round the world there is this same obscuration of the real
intelligence of men. In Germany, human good will and every fine mind are
subordinated to political forms that have for a mouthpiece a Chancellor
with his brains manifestly addled by the theories of _Welt-Politik_ and
the Bismarckian tradition, and for a figurehead a mad Kaiser.
Nevertheless there comes even from Germany muffled cries for a new age.
A grinning figure like a bloodstained Punch is all that speaks for the
best brains in Bulgaria. Yes. We Western allies know all that by heart;
but, after all, the immediate question for each one of us is, "_What
speaks for me?_" So far as official political forms go I myself am as
ineffective as any right-thinking German or Bulgarian could possibly be.
I am more ineffective than a Galician Pole or a Bohemian who votes for
his nationalist representative. Politically I am a negligible item in
the constituency of this Mr. Burdett Coutts into whose brain we have
been peeping. Politically I am less than a waistcoat button on that
quaint figure. And that is all I am--except that I revolt. I have
written of it so far as if it were just a joke. But indeed bad and
foolish political institutions cannot be a joke. Sooner or later they
prove themselves to be tragedy. This war is that. It is yesterday's
lazy, tolerant, "sense of humour" wading out now into the lakes of blood
it refused to foresee.

It is absurd to suppose that anywhere to-day the nationalisms, the
suspicions and hatreds, the cants and policies, and dead phrases that
sway men represent the current intelligence of mankind. They are merely
the evidences of its disorganization. Even now we _know_ we could do far
better. Give mankind but a generation or so of peace and right education
and this world could mock at the poor imaginations that conceived a
millennium. But we have to get intelligences together, we have to
canalize thought before it can work and produce its due effects. To that
end, I suppose, there has been a vast amount of mental activity among
us political "negligibles." For my own part I have thought of the idea
of God as the banner of human unity and justice, and I have made some
tentatives in that direction, but men, I perceive, have argued
themselves mean and petty about religion. At the word "God" passions
bristle. The word "God" does not unite men, it angers them. But I doubt
if God cares greatly whether we call Him God or no. His service is the
service of man. This double idea of the League of Free Nations, linked
with the idea of democracy as universal justice, is free from the
jealousy of the theologians and great enough for men to unite upon
everywhere. I know how warily one must reckon with the spite of the
priest, but surely these ideas may call upon the teachers of all the
great world religions for their support. The world is full now of
confused propaganda, propaganda of national ideas, of traditions of
hate, of sentimental and degrading loyalties, of every sort of error
that divides and tortures and slays mankind. All human institutions are
made of propaganda, are sustained by propaganda and perish when it
ceases; they must be continually explained and re-explained to the young
and the negligent. And for this new world of democracy and the League of
Free Nations to which all reasonable men are looking, there must needs
be the greatest of all propagandas. For that cause every one must
become a teacher and a missionary. "Persuade to it and make the idea of
it and the necessity for it plain," that is the duty of every school
teacher, every tutor, every religious teacher, every writer, every
lecturer, every parent, every trusted friend throughout the world. For
it, too, every one must become a student, must go on with the task of
making vague intentions into definite intentions, of analyzing and
destroying obstacles, of mastering the ten thousand difficulties of

I am a man who looks now towards the end of life; fifty-one years have I
scratched off from my calendar, another slips by, and I cannot tell how
many more of the sparse remainder of possible years are really mine. I
live in days of hardship and privation, when it seems more natural to
feel ill than well; without holidays or rest or peace; friends and the
sons of my friends have been killed; death seems to be feeling always
now for those I most love; the newspapers that come in to my house tell
mostly of blood and disaster, of drownings and slaughterings, of
cruelties and base intrigues. Yet never have I been so sure that there
is a divinity in man and that a great order of human life, a reign of
justice and world-wide happiness, of plenty, power, hope, and gigantic
creative effort, lies close at hand. Even now we have the science and
the ability available for a universal welfare, though it is scattered
about the world like a handful of money dropped by a child; even now
there exists all the knowledge that is needed to make mankind
universally free and human life sweet and noble. We need but the faith
for it, and it is at hand; we need but the courage to lay our hands upon
it and in a little space of years it can be ours.


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