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Title: Washington and the Riddle of Peace

Author: H. G. (Herbert George) Wells

Release Date: February 12, 2019 [EBook #58877]

Language: English

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Washington and the Riddle of Peace

New York
All rights reserved
Copyright, 1921,
Copyright, 1922,
Set up and electrotyped. Published January, 1922.
Printed in the United States of America



These twenty-nine papers do not profess to be a record or description of the Washington Conference. They give merely the impressions and fluctuating ideas of one visitor to that conference. They show the reaction of that gathering upon a mind keenly set upon the idea of an organized world peace; they record phases of enthusiasm, hope, doubt, depression and irritation. They have scarcely been touched, except to correct a word or a phrase here or there; they are dated; in all essentials they are the articles just as they appeared in the New York World, the Chicago Tribune, and the other American and European papers which first gave them publicity. It is due to the enterprise and driving energy of the New York World, be it noted, that they were ever written at all. But in spite of the daily change and renewal of mood and attitude, inevitable under the circumstances, vithey do tell a consecutive story; they tell of the growth and elaboration of a conviction of how things can be done, and of how they need to be done, if our civilization is indeed to be rescued from the dangers that encompass it and set again upon the path of progress. They record—and in a very friendly and appreciative spirit—the birth and unfolding of the “Association of Nations” idea, the Harding idea, of world pacification, they note some of the peculiar circumstances of that birth, and they study the chief difficulties on its way to realization. It is, the writer believes, the most practical and hopeful method of attacking this riddle of the Sphinx that has hitherto been proposed.

H. G. Wells.




Washington, Nov. 7.

The conference nominally for the limitation of armaments that now gathers at Washington may become a cardinal event in the history of mankind. It may mark a turning point in human affairs or it may go on record as one of the last failures to stave off the disasters and destruction that gather about our race.

In August, 1914, an age of insecure progress and accumulation came to an end. When at last, on the most momentous summer night in history, the long preparations of militarism burst their bounds and the little Belgian village Vise went up in flames, men said: “This is a catastrophe.” But they found it hard to anticipate the nature of the catastrophe. They 2thought for the most part of the wounds and killing and burning of war and imagined that when at last the war was over we should count our losses and go on again much as we did before 1914.

As well might a little shopkeeper murder his wife in the night and expect to carry on “business as usual” in the morning. “Business as usual”—that was the catchword in Britain in 1914; of all the catchwords of the world it carries now the heaviest charge of irony.

The catastrophe of 1914 is still going on. It does not end; it increases and spreads. This winter more people will suffer dreadful things and more people will die untimely through the clash of 1914 than suffered and died in the first year of the war. It is true that the social collapse of Russia in 1917 and the exhaustion of food and munitions in Central Europe in 1918 produced a sort of degradation and enfeeblement of the combatant efforts of our race and that a futile conference at Versailles settled nothing, with an air of settling everything, but that was no more an end to disaster than it 3would be if a man who was standing up and receiving horrible wounds were to fall down and writhe and bleed in the dust. It would be merely a new phase of disaster. Since 1919 this world has not so much healed its wounds as realized its injuries.

Chief among these injuries is the progressive economic breakdown, the magnitude of which we are only beginning to apprehend. The breakdown is a real decay that spreads and spreads. In a time of universal shortage there is an increasing paralysis in production; and there is a paralysis of production because the monetary system of the world, which was sustained by the honest co-operation of Governments, is breaking down. The fluctuations in the real value of money become greater and greater and they shake and shatter the entire fabric of social co-operation.

Our civilization is, materially, a cash and credit system, dependent on men’s confidence in the value of money. But now money fails us and cheats us; we work for wages and they give us uncertain paper. No one now dare make 4contracts ahead; no one can fix up a stable wages agreement; no one knows what one hundred dollars or francs or pounds will mean in two years’ time.

What is the good of saving? What is the good of foresight? Business and employment become impossible. Unless money can be steadied and restored, our economic and social life will go on disintegrating, and it can be restored only by a world effort.

But such a world effort to restore business and prosperity is only possible between governments sincerely at peace, and because of the failure of Versailles there is no such sincere peace. Everywhere the Governments, and notably Japan and France, arm. Amidst the steady disintegration of the present system of things, they prepare for fresh wars, wars that can have only one end—an extension of the famine and social collapse that have already engulfed Russia to the rest of the world.

In Russia, in Austria, in many parts of Germany, this social decay is visible in actual ruins, in broken down railways and suchlike 5machinery falling out of use. But even in Western Europe, in France and England, there is a shabbiness, there is a decline visible to any one with a keen memory.

The other day my friend Mr. Charlie Chaplin brought his keen observant eyes back to London, after an absence of ten years.

“People are not laughing and careless here as they used to be,” he told me. “It isn’t the London I remember. They are anxious. Something hangs over them.”

Coming as I do from Europe to America, I am amazed at the apparent buoyancy and abundance of New York. The place seems to possess an inexhaustible vitality. But this towering, thundering, congested city, with such a torrent of traffic and such a concourse of people as I have never seen before, is, after all, the European door of America; it draws this superabundant and astounding life from trade, from a trade whose roots are dying.

When one looks at New York its assurance is amazing; when one reflects we realize its tremendous peril. It is going on—as London is 6going on—by accumulated inertia. With the possible exception of London, the position of New York seems to me the most perilous of that of any city in the world. What is to happen to this immense crowd of people if the trade that feeds it ebbs? As assuredly it will ebb unless the decline of European money and business can be arrested, unless, that is, the world problem of trade and credit can be grappled with as a world affair.

The world’s economic life, its civilization, embodied in its great towns, is disintegrating and collapsing through the strains of the modern war threat and of the disunited control of modern affairs.

This in general terms is the situation of mankind today; this is the situation, the tremendous and crucial situation, that President Harding, the head and spokesman of what is now the most powerful and influential state in the world, has called representatives from most of the states in the world to Washington to discuss.

Whatever little modifications and limitations 7the small cunning of diplomatists may impose upon the terms of reference of the conference, the plain common sense of mankind will insist that its essential inquiry is, “What are we to do, if anything can possibly be done, to arrest and reverse the slide toward continuing war preparation and war and final social collapse?” And you would imagine that this momentous conference would gather in a mood of exalted responsibility, with every conceivable help and every conceivable preparation to grasp the enormous issues involved.

Let us dismiss any such delusion from our minds.

Let us face a reality too often ignored in the dignified discussion of such business as this Washington Conference, and that is this: that the human mind takes hold of such very big questions as the common peace of the earth and the general security of mankind with very great reluctance and that it leaves go with extreme alacrity.

We are all naturally trivial creatures. We do not live from year to year; we live from day 8to day. Our minds naturally take short views and are distracted by little, immediate issues. We forget with astonishing facility. And this is as true of the high political persons who will gather at Washington as it is of any overworked clerk who will read about the conference in a street car or on the way home to supper and bed. These big questions affect everybody, and also they are too big for anybody. A great intellectual and moral effect is required if they are to be dealt with in any effectual manner.

I find the best illustration of this incurable drift toward triviality in myself. In the world of science the microscope helps the telescope and the infinitely little illuminates the infinitely great.

Let me put myself under the lens: Exhibit 1—If any one has reason to focus the whole of his mental being upon this Washington Conference it is I. It is my job to attend to it and to think of it and of nothing else. Whatever I write about it, wise or foolish, will be conspicuously published in a great number of newspapers 9and will do much to make or mar my reputation. Intellectually, I am convinced of the supreme possibilities of the occasion. It may make or mar mankind. The smallest and the greatest of motives march together; therefore my self-love and my care for mankind. And the occasion touches all my future happiness.

If this downward drift toward disorder and war is not arrested, in a few years’ time it will certainly catch my sons and probably mutilate or kill them; and my wife and I, instead of spending our declining years in comfort, will be involved in the general wretchedness and possibly perish in some quite miserable fashion, as thousands of just our sort of family have already perished in Austria and Russia. This is indeed the outlook for most of us if these efforts to secure permanent peace which are now being concentrated at Washington fail.

Here surely are reasons enough, from the most generous to the most selfish, for putting my whole being, with the utmost concentration, into this business. You might imagine I think 10nothing but conference, do nothing but work upon the conference.

Well, I find I don’t.

Before such evils as now advance upon humanity, man’s imagination seems scarcely more adequate than that of the park deer I have seen feeding contentedly beside the body of a shot companion.

I am, when I recall my behavior in the last few weeks, astonished at my own levity. I have been immensely interested by the voyage across the Atlantic; I have been tremendously amused by the dissertations of a number of fellow-travellers upon the little affair of Prohibition; I have been looking up old friends and comparing the New York City of today with the New York City of fifteen years ago. I spent an afternoon loitering along Fifth Avenue, childishly pleased by the shops and the crowd, I find myself tempted to evade luncheon where I shall hear a serious discussion of the Pacific question, because I want to explore the mysteries of a chop suey without outside assistance.

Yet no one knows better than I do that this 11very attractive, glitteringly attractive, thundering, towering city is in the utmost danger. Within a very few years the same chill wind of economic disaster that has wrecked Petersburg and brought death to Vienna and Warsaw may be rusting and tarnishing all this glistening, bristling vitality. In a little while, within my lifetime, New York City may stand even more gaunt, ruinous, empty and haunted than that stricken and terrible ruin, Petersburg.

My mind was inadequate against the confident reality of a warm October afternoon, against bright clothes and endless automobiles, against the universal suggestion that everything would shine on forever. And my mind is something worse than thus inadequate; I find it is deliberately evasive. It tries to run away from the task I have set it. I find my mind, at the slightest pretext, slipping off from this difficult tangle of problems through which the Washington Conference has to make its way.

For instance, I have got it into my head that I shall owe it to myself to take a holiday after the conference, and two beautiful words have 12taken possession of my mind—Florida and the Everglades. A vision of exploration amidst these wonderful sun-soaked swamps haunts me. I consult a guide book for information about Washington and the procedure of Congress, and I discover myself reading about Miami or Indian River.

So it is we are made. A good half of those who read this and who have been pulling themselves together to think about the hard tasks and heavy dangers of international affairs will brighten up at this mention of a holiday in the Everglades—either because they have been there or because they would like to go. They will want to offer experiences and suggestions and recommend hotels and guides.

And apart from this triviality of the attention, this pathetic disposition to get as directly as possible to the nearest agreeable thoughts which I am certain every statesman and politician at the conference shares in some measure with the reader and myself, we are also encumbered, every one of us, with prejudices and prepossessions.

13There is patriotism—the passion that makes us see human affairs as a competitive game instead of a common interest; a game in which “our side,” by fair means or foul, has to get the better—inordinately—of the rest of mankind. For my own part, though I care very little for the British Empire, which I think a temporary, patched-up thing, I have a passionate pride in being of the breed that produced such men as Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, Cromwell, Newton, Washington, Darwin, Nelson and Lincoln. And I love the peculiar humor and kindly temper of an English crowd and the soft beauty of an English countryside with a strong, possessive passion.

I find it hard to think that other peoples matter quite as much as the English. I want to serve the English and to justify the English. Intellectually I know better, but no man’s intelligence is continually dominant; fatigue him or surprise him, and habits and emotions take control. And not only that I have this bias which will always tend to make me run crooked in favor of my own people, but also 14I come to Washington with deep, irrational hostilities.

For example: Political events have exasperated me with the present Polish Government. It is an unhappy thing that Poland should rise from being the unwilling slave of German and Russian reaction to become the willing tool of French reaction. But that is no reason why one should drift into a dislike of Poland and all things Polish, and because Poland is so ill-advised as to grab more than she is entitled to, that one should be disposed to give her less than she is entitled to. Yet I do find a drift in that direction.

And prejudice soon breaks away into downright quarrelsomeness. It is amusing or distressing, as you will, to find how easily I, as a professional peacemaker, can be tempted into a belligerent attitude. “Of course,” I say, ruffled by some argument, “if Japan chooses to be unreasonable”—

I make no apologies for this autobiographical tone. It is easier and less contentious to dissect one’s self than to set to work on any one 15else for anatomical ends. This is Exhibit No. 1. We are all like this. There are no demigods or supermen in our world superior to such trivialities, limitations, prejudices and patriotisms. We have all got them, as we have all got livers.

Every soul that gathers in Washington will have something of that disposition to get away to the immediately pleasant, will be disposed to take a personal advantage, will have a bias for race and country, will have imperfectly suppressed racial and national animosities, will be mentally hurried and crowded. That mental hurrying and crowding has to be insisted upon.

This will be a great time for Washington, no doubt, to have a very gay and exciting time. It becomes the focus of the world’s affairs. All sorts of interesting people are heading for Washington, bright-eyed and expectant. There will be lunches, dinners, receptions and such like social occasions in great abundance, dramatic, and encounters, flirtations, scandals, jealousies and quarrels. Quiet thought, reconsideration—will Washington afford any hole or cover for such things? A most distracting time 16it will be and it will be extraordinarily difficult to keep its real significance in mind.

So let us repeat here its real significance.

The great war has struck a blow at the very foundations of our civilization; it has shattered the monetary system which is the medium of all our economic life. A rotting down of civilization is spreading now very rapidly and nothing is being done to arrest it. Production stagnates and dwindles. This can only be restored by the frank collective action of the chief powers of the world.

At present the chief powers of the world show no signs of the collective action demanded. They are still obsessed by old-fashioned ideas of national sovereignty and national competition, and though all verge on bankruptcy, they maintain and develop fresh armies and fleets. That is to say, they are in the preparatory stage of another war. So long as this divided and threatening state of affairs continues there can be no stability, no real general recovery; shortages will increase, famine will spread; towns, cities, communications will decay; increasing 17masses of starving unemployed will resort to more and more desperate and violent protests, until they assume a quasi-revolutionary character. Education will ebb, and social security dwindle and fade into anarchy. Civilization as we know it will go under and a new Dark Age begin.

And this fate is not threatening civilization; it is happening to civilization before our eyes. The ship of civilization is not going to sink in five years’ time or in fifty years’ time. It is sinking now. Russia is under the water line; she has ceased to produce, she starves; large areas of Eastern Europe and Asia sink toward the same level; the industrial areas of Germany face a parallel grim decline; the winter will be the worst on record for British labor. The pulse of American business weakens.

To face which situation in the world’s affairs, this crowd of hastily compiled representatives, and their associates, dependents and satellites, now gathers at Washington. They are all, from President Harding down to the rawest stenographer girl, human beings. That is to 18say, they are all inattentive, moody, trivial, selfish, evasive, patriotic, prejudiced creatures, unable to be intelligently selfish even, for more than a year or so ahead, after the nature of our Exhibit No. 1.

Every one has some sort of blinding personal interest to distort the realities that he has to face. Politicians have to think of their personal prestige and their party associations; naval and military experts have to think of their careers.

One may argue it is as good a gathering as our present circumstances permit. Probably there is some good will for all mankind in every one who comes. Probably not one is altogether blind to the tremendous disaster that towers over us, but all are forgetful.

And yet this Washington Conference may prove to be the nearest approach the human will and intelligence has yet made to a resolute grapple against fate upon this planet. We cannot make ourselves wiser than we are, but in this phase of universal danger we can at least school ourselves to the resolve to be 19charitable and frank with one another to the best of our ability, to be forgiving debtors, willing to retreat from hasty and impossible assumptions, seeking patience in hearing and generosity in action. High aims and personal humility may yet save mankind.



Washington, Nov. 8.

It would seem that the peculiar circumstances of its meeting demand that the Washington Conference should begin with a foregone futility, the discussion of the limitation of armaments and of the restrictions of warfare in certain directions, while nations are still to remain sovereign and free to make war and while there exists no final and conclusive court of decision for international disputes except warfare.

A number of people do really seem to believe that we can go on with all the various states of the earth still as sovereign and independent of each other as wild beasts in a jungle, with no common rule and no common law, and yet that 21we can contrive it that they will agree to make war only in a mild and mitigated fashion, after due notice and according to an approved set of regulations. Such ideas are quite seriously entertained and they are futile and dangerous ideas. A committee of the London League of Nations Union, for example, has been debating with the utmost gravity whether the use of poison gas and the sinking of neutral ships to enforce a blockade should be permitted and whether “all modern developments” in warfare should not be abolished. “The feasibility of preventing secret preparations and the advantages of surprise were also considered.” It is as if warfare was a game.

It is a little difficult to reason respectfully against that sort of project. One is moved rather to add helpful suggestions in the same vein. As for example, that no hostilities shall be allowed to begin or continue except in the presence of a League of Nations referee, who shall be marked plainly on the chest and pants with the red cross of Geneva and who—for the convenience of aircraft—shall carry an open 22sunshade similarly adorned. He shall be furnished with a powerful whistle or hand trumpet audible above the noise of modern artillery, and military operations shall be at once arrested when this whistle is blown. Contravention of the rules laid down by the League of Nations shall be penalized according to the gravity of the offense, with penalties ranging from, let us say, an hour’s free bombardment of the offender’s position to the entire forces of the enemy being addressed very severely by the referee and ordered off the field.

In the event of either combatant winning the war, outright by illegitimate means, it might further be provided that such combatant should submit to a humiliating peace, just as if the war had been lost.

Unhappily war is not a game but the grimmest of realities, and no power on earth exists to prevent a nation which is fighting for existence against another nation from resorting to any expedient however unfair, cruel and barbarous to enforce victory or avert disaster. Success justifies every expedient in warfare, and you 23cannot prevent that being so. A nation, hoping to win and afterward make friends with its enemy or solicitous for the approval of some powerful neutral, may conceivably refrain from effective but objectionable expedients, but that is a voluntary and strategic restraint. The fact remains that war is an ultimate and illimitable thing; a war that can be controlled is a war that could have been stopped or prevented. If our race can really bar the use of poison gas it can bar the use of any kind of weapon. It is indeed easier to enforce peace altogether than any lesser limitation of war.

But it is argued that this much may be true nevertheless, that if the nations of the world will agree beforehand not to prepare for particular sorts of war or if they will agree to reduce their military and naval equipment to a minimum, that this will operate powerfully in preventing contraventions and in a phase of popular excitement arresting the rush toward war. The only objection to this admirable proposal is that no power which has desires or rights that can only be satisfied or defended, so 24far as it knows, by war, will ever enter into such a disarmament agreement in good faith.

Of course countries contemplating war and having no serious intention of disarming effectually will enter quite readily into conferences upon disarmament, but they will do so partly because of the excellent propaganda value of such a participation and mainly because of the chance it gives them of some restriction which will hamper a possible antagonist much more than it will hamper themselves. For instance, Japan would probably be very pleased to reduce her military expenditure to quite small figures if the United States reduced theirs to the same amount, because the cost per head of maintaining soldiers under arms is much less in Japan than in America; and she would be still more ready to restrict naval armament to ships with a radius of action of 2,000 miles or less because that would give her a free hand with China and the Philippines. That sort of haggling was going on between Britain and Germany at The Hague at intervals before the great war. Neither party believed in the peaceful intentions 25of the other nor regarded these negotiations as anything but strategic moves. And as things were in Europe it was difficult to regard them in any other way.

No, the limitation of armaments quite as much as the mitigation of warfare is impossible until war has been made impossible, and then the complete extinction of armaments follows without discussion; and war can only be made impossible when the powers of the world have done what the thirteen original States of American Union found they had to do after their independence was won, and that is set up a common law and rule over themselves. Such a project is a monstrously difficult one no doubt, and it flies in the face of great masses of patriotic cant and of natural prejudices and natural suspicion, but it is a thing that can be done. It is the only thing that can be done to avert the destruction of civilization through war and war preparation. Disarmament and the limitation of warfare without such a merging of sovereignty look, at the first glance, easier and more modest proposals, but they suffer from 26the fatal defect of absolute impracticability. They are things that cannot be made working realities. A world that could effectually disarm would be a world already at one, and disarmament would be of no importance whatever. Given stable international relations, the world would put aside its armaments as naturally as a man takes off his coat in winter on entering a warm house.

And as a previous article has pointed out, wars, preparations for war and the threat of war are only the more striking aspect of human disunion at the present time. The smashing up of the world’s currency system and the progressive paralysis of industry that follows on that is a much more immediate disaster. That is rushing upon us. This war talk between Japan and America may end as abruptly as the snarling of two dogs overtaken by a flood. There may not be another great war after all, because both in Japan and America social disruption may come first. Upon financial and economic questions the powers of the earth must get together very quickly now or perish; 27the signs get more imperative every day; and if they get together upon these common issues, then they will have little reason or excuse for not taking up the merely international issues at the same time.

There is a curious exaggeration of respect for patriotism and patriotic excesses in all these projects for disarmament and the mitigation of warfare. We have to “consider patriotic susceptibilities”; that is the stereotyped formula of objection to the plain necessity of overriding the present barbaric sovereignty of separate states by a world rule and a world law protecting the common interests of the common people of the world. In practice these “patriotic susceptibilities”; will often be found to resolve themselves into nothing more formidable than the conceit and self-importance of some foreign office official. In general they are little more than a snarling suspiciousness of foreign people. Most people are patriotically excitable, it is in our human nature, but that no more excuses this excessive deference to patriotism than it would excuse a complete tolerance of 28boozing and of filthy vices and drunken and lustful outrages because we are all more or less susceptible to thirst and desire. And while there is all this deference for the most ramshackle and impromptu of nationalisms there is a complete disregard of the influence and of the respect due to one of the greatest and most concentrated interests of our modern world, the finance, the science, the experts, the labor, often very specialized and highly skilled, of the armament and munitions and associated trades and industries.

So far as I can ascertain, the advocates of what I may call mere disarmament propose to scrap this mass of interests more or less completely, to put its tremendous array of factories, arsenals, dockyards and so forth out of action, to obliterate its wide-reaching net of financial relationships, to break up its carefully gathered staffs, and to pour all its labor, its trained engineers and sailors and gunners and so forth into the great flood of unemployment into which our civilization is already sinking. And they do not seem to grasp how subtle, various 29and effective the resistance of this great complex of capable human beings to any such treatment is likely to be. In my supply of League of Nations literature I find only two intimations of this real obstacle to the world common weal. One is a suggestion that there should be no private enterprise in the production of war material at all, and the other that armament concerns shall not own newspapers. As a Socialist I am charmed by the former proposal, which would in effect nationalize, among others, the iron and steel and chemical industries, but as a practical man I have to confess that the organization of no existing state is yet at the level of efficiency necessary if the transfer is to be a hopeful one, and so far as the newspaper restriction goes, it would surely pass the wit of man to devise rules that would prevent a great banking combination from controlling armament firms on the one hand while it financed newspapers on the other.

Yet the fact remains that this great complex of interests, round and about the armaments interest, is the most real of all the oppositions to 30a world federation. It supplies substance, direction and immediate rewards to the frothy emotions of patriotism; it rules by dividing us and it realizes that its existence in its present form is conditional upon the continuance of our suspicions and divisions. It does not positively want or seek war, but it wants a continuing expectation of and preparation for war. On the other hand its ruling intelligences must be coming to understand that in the end it cannot escape sharing in the economic and social smash down to which we are all now sliding so rapidly. It is too high a type of organization to be altogether blind and obdurate. It will not, of course, be represented officially at Washington for what it is, but in the form of pseudo-patriotic, naval, military and financial experts it will be better represented than any other side of human nature. One of the most interesting things to do at the conference will be to watch its activities.

How much can we common men ask for and hope for from this great power? Self extinction is too much—even if it were desirable. 31But it is reasonable to demand a deflection of its activities to meet the urgent needs of our present dangers. We do not want the extinction of this great body of business, metallurgical, chemical, engineering and disciplined activities, but we do want its rapid diversion from all too easily attained destructive ends to creative purposes now. A world peace scheme that does not open out an immediate prospect for the release of financial and engineering energy upon world-wide undertakings is a hopeless peace scheme. Enterprise must out. Were this world one federated state concerned about our common welfare there would be no overwhelming difficulty in canalizing all this force now spent upon armament in the direction of improved transport and communications generally into the making of great bridges, tunnels and the like, into the rebuilding of our cities upon better lines, into the irrigation and fertilization of the earth’s deserts and so forth. The way to world peace lies not in fighting and destroying the armament interests but in turning them to world service.

32But to do such a thing requires a united financial and economic effort; it cannot be done nationally by little groups of patriots all scheming against one another. It must be big business for world interests, unencumbered by national frontiers, or it is impossible.

All these considerations you see converge on the conclusion that there is no solution of the problem of war, no possibility of a world recovery, no possibility of arresting the rapid disintegration of our civilization, except a Pax Mundi, a federated world control, sufficiently authoritative to keep any single nation in order and sufficiently coherent to express a world idea. We need an effective world “Association of Nations,” to use President Harding’s phrase, or we shall perish. And even in this fantastic dream of Mere Disarmament, of a world of little independent states, all sovereign, all competing against each other and all carrying on a mean financial and commercial warfare against each other to the common impoverishment, all standing in the way of any large modern-spirited handling of modern needs, yet 33all remaining magically disarmed and never making actual war on each other—even if this dream were possible, it is still utterly detestable—more detestable even than our present dangers and miseries. For if there are any things in life worse than pain, fear and destruction, they are boredom, pettiness and inanity, and such would be the quality of such a world. However much the diplomatists at Washington may seek to ignore the fact, may fence their discussion within narrowly phrased agenda, and rule this, that and the other vital aspect outside the scope of the conference, the fact remains that there is no way out, no way of escape for mankind from the monstrous miseries and far more monstrous dangers of the present time except an organized international co-operation, based upon a frank and bold resolve to turn men’s minds from ancient jealousies and animosities to the common aims and the common future of our race.

If the Washington Conference cannot rise to the level of that idea, then it were better that the Conference never gathered together.



Washington, the guide books say, was planned by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant in imitation of Versailles. If so, it has broken away from his intentions. I know Versailles pretty well, and I have gone about Washington looking vainly for anything more than the remotest resemblance. There is something European about Washington, I admit, an Italianate largeness, as though a Roman design has been given oxygen and limitless space. It is a capital in the expanded Latin style. It has none of the vertical uplift of a real American city. But Versailles!

Versailles was the home and embodiment of the old French Grand Monarchy and of a Foreign Policy that sought to dominate, Frenchify 35and “Versaillize” the world. A visit to Versailles is part of one’s world education, a visit to the rather faded, rather pretentious magnificence of its terraces, to that Hall of Mirrors, all plastered over with little oblongs of looking-glass, which was once considered so wonderful, to the stuffy, secretive royal apartments with their convenient back stairs, to the poor foolishness of the Queen’s toy village, the Little Trianon. A century and a half ago the people of France, wasted and worn by incessant wars of aggression, weary of a Government that was an intolerable burden to them and a nuisance to all Europe, went to Versailles in a passion and dragged French Policy out of Versailles for a time.

Unhappily it went back there.

In 1871, when Germany struck down the tawdry imperialism of Napoleon III (who was also for setting up Emperors in the New World) the Germans had the excessive bad taste to proclaim a New German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors. So that Versailles became more than ever the symbol of the age-long, 36dreary, pitiful quarrel of the French and Germans for the inheritance of “the Empire” that has gone on ever since the death of Charlemagne. There the glory of France had shone; there the glory of France had been eclipsed. I visited Versailles one autumnal day in 1912, and it was then a rather mouldy, disheartened, empty, picturesque show place, pervaded by memories of flounces, furbelows, wigs and red heels and also by the stronger, less pleasant flavor of that later Prussian triumph.

It was surely the least propitious place in the whole world for the making of a world peace in 1919. It was inevitable that there the Rhine frontier should loom larger than all Asia and that the German people should be kept waiting outside to learn what vindictive punishment victorious France designed for them.

The Peace of Versailles was not a settlement of the world, it was the crowning of the French revanche. And since Russia had always been below the horizon of Versailles it was as inevitable that the Russian people, who had saved France from utter defeat in 1914, who had given 37far more dead to the war than France and America put together, and who had collapsed at last, utterly exhausted by their stupendous war efforts, should be considered merely as the defaulting debtors of France. Their Government had incurred vast liabilities chiefly in preparation for this very war which had restored France to her former glorious ascendancy over Germany. And now a new, ungracious Government in Russia not only declared it could not pay up but refused to pretend that it had ever meant to perform this impossible feat. There could be no dealing with such a Government. The German people and the Russian people alike had no voice at Versailles, and the affairs of the world were settled with a majestic disregard of these outcast and fallen powers.

They were settled so magnificently and badly that now the Washington Conference, whatever limitations it may propose to set upon itself, has in effect to review and, if it can, mend or replace that appalling settlement. The Washington conference has practically to revise the 38verdicts of Versailles, in a fresher air and with a wider outlook.

I do not know how near future historians may come to saying that the Washington conference was planned in imitation of that Versailles conference, but it certainly does start out with one most unfortunate resemblance. There seems to be the same tacit assumption that it is possible to come to some permanent settlement of the world’s affairs with no representation of either the German or the Russian people at the conference. The Japanese, the Italians, the French, the Americans and the British, assisted by modest suggestions from such small sections of humanity as China and Spanish America, are sitting down to arrangements that will amount practically to a settlement of the world’s affairs, and they are doing so without consulting these two great peoples, and quite without their consent and assistance. This surely runs counter to the fundamental principle of both American and British political life—that is to say, the principle of government with the consent of the governed—and it is indeed 39an altogether deplorable intention. In some form these two great peoples will have to be associated with any permanent settlement, and it will be much more difficult to secure their assent to any arrangement arrived at without even their formal co-operation.

It is necessary to remind ourselves of certain elementary facts about Germany and Russia and their position in the world today. They are facts within the knowledge of all, and yet they seem to be astonishingly forgotten in very much of the discussion of the Washington conference.

First, let us recall certain points about Germany. The German people occupy the most central position in Europe; they exceed in numbers any other European people except the Russians; their educational level has been as high or higher than any other people in the world; they are, as a people, honest, industrious, and intelligent; upon their social and political well-being and economic prosperity the prosperity of Britain, Scandinavia, Russia, Italy—and in a lesser degree France—depends. It is impossible 40to destroy such a people, it is impossible to wipe them off the map, but it is possible to ruin them economically and socially. And if Germany is ruined most of Europe is ruined.

Germany has been overthrown in a great war and it will be well to recall here certain elementary facts about that war. Under a particularly aggressive and offensive imperialism system the Germans were plunged into conflict with most of the rest of the civilized world. But it was repeatedly declared by the British and by the Americans, if not by others of the combatants, that they fought not against the German people but against this German imperialism. The British war propaganda in particular did its utmost to saturate Germany with that assurance and to hold out the promise of generous treatment and a complete restoration of friendship provided there was a German renunciation of imperialism and militarism.

Germany, exhausted and beaten, surrendered in 1918 upon the strength of these promises and upon the similar promises implied in President Wilson’s Fourteen Points. The declared ends 41of the war had been achieved. The Kaiser bolted, and Germany repented of him publicly and unequivocally.

But the conference at Versailles treated these promises that had been made to Germany as mere “scraps of paper.” The peace imposed upon the young German republic was a punitive peace, exactly as punitive as though there were still a Kaiser in Berlin; it was a vindictive reversal of the Franco-German treaty of 1871 without a shred of recognition or tolerance for the chastened Germany that faced her conquerors. The Germans were dealt with as a race of moral monsters, though no one in his senses really believes they are very different, man for man, from English, French or American people; every German was held to be individually responsible for the war, though every Frenchman, Englishman and American knows that when one’s country fights one has to fight, and it is quite natural to fight for it whether it is in the right or not; and a sustained attack of oppressive occupations, dismemberment, and impossible demands was begun and still goes on 42upon the shattered German civilization—which is at least as vitally necessary to the world as the French. The British and French nationalist press openly confess that they do not intend to give Germany a chance of recovery. The European Allies have now been kicking the prostrate body of Germany for three years; in a little while they will be kicking a dead body; and since they are linked geographically to their victim almost as closely as the Siamese twins were linked together, they will share that victim’s decay.

It is high time that this barbaric insanity, this prolongation of the combat after surrender, should cease and that the best minds and wills of Germany and the very reasonable republican government she has set up for herself should be called into consultation. I could wish that Washington could so far rise above Versailles as presently to make that invitation. Sooner or later it will have to be made if the peace of the world is to be secured.

The absence of Russia from the Washington conference is an even graver weakness. People 43seem to have forgotten altogether how the Russians bore the brunt of the opening years of the great war. Their rapid offensive in 1914 saved Paris and saved the little British Army from a disastrous retreat to the sea. The debt of gratitude Britain and France owe to Russia’s “Unknown Warrior,” that poor unhonored hero and martyr, is incalculable. But for Russia Germany would probably have won the war outright before the end of 1916. It was the blood and suffering of the Russian people saved victory for the Allies; those incredible soldiers fought often without artillery support, without rifle ammunition, without boots or food, under conditions almost inconceivable to the well-supplied French and British and Americans of the western front. And their tale of killed and wounded exceeds enormously that of any other combatant. In 1917 Russia collapsed; she was bled white, and she remained collapsed in spite of the sedulous kicking of her allies to rouse her to further efforts. The intolerable Rasputin-Czarism went down in the disaster. After a phase of extreme disorder, 44and very largely because of the British hesitation to support the Kerensky Government by bold naval action in the Baltic, the hard, tyrannous, doctrinaire government of the Bolsheviki took control.

That government is a bad government; its faults are indeed of a different order but on the whole, I will admit, it is almost as bad as the former Czarist Government it superseded. Yet let us remember certain plain facts about it. It has remained in power to this day because it is a Russian-speaking government standing for a whole and undivided Russia, and the Russian people support it because it has defended Russia against the subsidized raiders of France and Britain, against the Poles and against the Esthonians and against the Japanese and against every sort of outside interference with their prostrate country. They prefer fanatics to foreigners and Bolsheviks to brigands. Frenchmen or Americans in the same horrible position would probably make the same choice. The Entente, the Poles, a miscellany of adventurers, have given the Russians no breathing 45time to deal with their own Government in their own fashion. And now, caught by the misadventure of an unprecedented drought, millions of Russians in the regions disorganized by Kolchak, Denikene and Wrangel, are starving to death—while Canada and America have wheat and corn to burn. There is even food to spare in some parts of Russia, but no adequate means of getting it to the starving provinces without outside assistance. And the Western World is letting these Russian millions starve because of the argumentative obstinacy of the Moscow Government, which hesitated for a time to acknowledge debts incurred by Russia—very largely for the military preparations which saved Europe—debts it is now inconceivable that Russia can ever under any circumstances pay, because of the pitiless resentment of the creditors of Russia. Yet the suffering of Russia cannot help the western money lender; they merely give him his revenge.

But even if some millions of Russian men, women and children die this winter and are added to the count of those who have already 46perished through the war—the war that saved Paris from Berlin—it does not follow that Russia will die. Peoples are not killed in this fashion. These distresses will not alter the fact that the Russians are the most numerous people in Europe, and a people of unexampled gifts and tenacity. Their magnificent resistance to outside interference since 1914 and their toleration of the Bolshevik Government when division would have been as fatal to them as it has been in China, is a proof of their solidarity and instinctive political wisdom. There are as many Russians as there are people in the United States of America, and they occupy an area as great and far richer in undeveloped resources. In spite of the monstrous Czarist Government which treated elementary education as an offense against the State, the prose literature, the drama, the music, the pictorial art—even the science of the Russians during the last hundred years—all this compares favorably with that of the United States. These Russians are indeed one of the very greatest of people and they have survived tragic experiences 47that might well have destroyed any other race. And Washington, I gather, proposes to settle the peace of Europe, Asia and the Pacific without them.

There is, I know, a very strong case to excuse Washington from sending an invitation to the existing Russian Government. I would be the last person in the world to minimize the difficulties the Bolshevik Government puts in the way of any fair dealings with the western powers; it is bound by its Communist theory not to recognize them fairly and to make gestures of preparation for their overthrow. In addition to its general theoretical obduracy Moscow is also afflicted with a particularly obdurate, pedantic, argumentative and disastrous Foreign Minister, Chicherin. But practical necessity knows no theories and the Bolshevik Government, if only it can save its face, is now extraordinarily anxious for recognition from and dealings with the western Governments.

I do not see why the western Governments, having regard to the needs of Russia, should try to outdo the Bolsheviks in obstinacy, pedantry 48and cruelty, nor why they should not make an honest attempt to get along with the de facto government until it develops naturally into something else. For such a development only a rough working peace is wanted. Given that, and a release from impossible debts, Russia, relieved forever from the black curse of Czarism, will go right on to become a land of restored cultivation, of resuscitated mines and presently of reawakening towns, a democratic land of common people more like the free, poor, farming, prospecting and developing United States of 1840 than anything else in history.

So long as Russia suffers the Bolshevik Government I think Washington ought to suffer it, but perhaps in that opinion I go beyond the possibilities of the case. Then I suggest that at least Washington ought to set up some well-informed lawyer, some bureau, to play the part of the Russian advocate at the conference. If Russia is not to be allowed a vote in the decision of things, let her at least be heard.

Consider what the future must hold for this great people, and mark the amazing folly of the 49insults and evils we heap upon their land. Look it up in an atlas or encyclopaedia. Measure what it is we ignore. In a score of years Russia may be a renascent land as vigorous as the United States in 1840. In a century she may be as great and powerful and civilized as any state on earth. For such powers as France and Britain and Japan to sit in council upon the fate of the world without her is as if, in the dark years of 1863 and 1864, they had sat in council upon the future of America without the United States. Indeed, something of the sort did happen in those dark years; France, I recall, sent troops and munitions into Mexico, as recently she has sent them into Poland and South Russia. And somewhere in the world there is a grave, the grave of a “white hope,” a reactionary puppet who was to have restored Mexico to the European system—the friend of the Emperor Napoleon the Third, the Emperor Maximilian.

When I was a small boy learning the rudiments of geography, the earth was presented to me in two hemispheres, the Old World and the 50new. Not once or twice only has America vindicated her right to that title. Will Washington confirm that great tradition and open a way of escape now from the tangled narrowness of Versailles? Are Germany and Russia to perish amid the incurable quarrels of the Old World or find their salvation in the New?



Washington, Nov. 11.

Britain, France, Italy and now the people of the United States, have honored and buried the bodies of certain Unknown Soldiers, each according to their national traditions and circumstances. Canada, I hear, is to follow suit.

So the world expresses its sense that in the great war the only hero was the common man. Poor Hans and poor Ivan lie rotting yet under the soil of a hundred battlefields, bones and decay, rags of soiled uniform and fragments of accoutrements, still waiting for monuments and speeches. Yet they too were mothers’ sons, kept step, obeyed orders, went singing into battle, and knew the strange intoxication of soldierly fellowship and the sense of devotion to something much greater than themselves.

52In Arlington Cemetery soldiers of the Confederate South lie honored equally with the Federal dead, the right or wrong of their cause altogether forgotten and only their sacrifice remembered. A time will come when we shall cease to visit the crimes and blunders and misfortunes of their Governments upon the common soldiers and poor folk of Germany and Russia, when our bitterness will die out and we shall mourn them as we mourn our own, as souls who gave their lives and suffered greatly in one universal misfortune.

A time will come when these vast personifications of conflict, the Unknown British Soldier, the Unknown American Soldier, the Unknown French Soldier, etc., will merge into the thought of a still greater personality, the embodiment of 20,000,000 separate bodies and of many million broken lives, the Unknown Soldier of the great war.

It would be possible, I suppose, to work out many things concerning him. We could probably find out his age and his height and his weight and such like particulars very nearly. 53We could average figures and estimates that would fix such matters within a very narrow range of uncertainty. In race and complexion, I suppose he would be mainly North European; North Russian, German, Frankish, North Italian, British and American elements would all have the same trend toward a tallish, fairish, possibly blue-eyed type; but also there would be a strong Mediterranean streak in him, Indian and Turkish elements, a fraction of Mongolian and an infusion of African blood—brought in not only through the American colored troops but by the free use by the French of their Senegalese.

None of these factors would be strong enough to prevent his being mainly Northern and much the same mixture altogether as the American citizen of 1950 is likely to be. He would be a white man with a touch of Asia and a touch of color. And he would be young—I should guess about twenty-one or twenty-two—still boyish, probably unmarried rather than married, with a father and mother alive and with the memories and imaginations of the home he was born 54in still fresh and vivid in his mind when he died. We could even, I suppose, figure in general terms how he died. He was struck in daylight amid the strange noises and confusion of a modern battlefield by something out of the unknown—bullet, shell fragment or the like. At the moment he had been just a little scared—every one is a little scared on a battlefield—but much more excited than scared and trying hard to remember his training and do his job properly. When he was hit he was not so much hurt at first as astonished. I should guess that the first sensation of a man hard hit on a battlefield is not so much pain as an immense chagrin.

I suppose it would be possible to go on and work out how long it was before he died after he was hit, how long he suffered and wondered, how long he lay before his ghost fell in with that immense still muster in the shades, those millions of his kind who had no longer country to serve nor years of life before them, who had been cut off as he had been cut off suddenly from sights and sounds and hopes and passions. But rather let us think of the motives and feelings 55that had brought him, in so gallant and cheerful a frame of mind, to this complete sacrifice.

What did the Unknown Soldier of the great war think he was doing when he died? What did we, we people who got him into the great war and who are still in possession of this world of his, what did we persuade him to think he was doing and what is the obligation we have incurred to him to atone for his death, for the life and sunlight he will know no more?

He was still too young a man to have his motives very clear. To conceive what moved him and what he desired is a difficult and disputable task. M. George Nobelmaire at a recent meeting of the League of Nations Assembly declared that he had heard French lads whisper “Vive la France!” and die. He suggested that German boys may have died saying, “Colonel, say to my mother, ‘Vive l’Allemagne!’” Possibly. But the French are trained harder in patriotism than any other people. I doubt if it was the common mood. It was certainly not the common mood among the British.

56I cannot imagine many English boys using their last breath to say “Rule Britannia!” or “King George for Merry England!” Some of our young men swore out of vexation and fretted; some, and it was not always the youngest, became childish again and cried touchingly for their mothers; many maintained the ironical flippancy of our people to the end; many died in the vein of a young miner from Durham with whom I talked one morning in the trenches near Martinpuich, trenches which had been badly “strafed” overnight. War, he said, was a beastly job, “but we’ve got to clean this up.” That is the spirit of the lifeboat man or fireman. That is the great spirit. I believe that was far nearer to the true mind of the Unknown Soldier than any tinpot Viva-ing of any flag, nation or empire whatever.

I believe that when we generalize the motives that took the youth who died in the great war out of the light of life and took them out at precisely the age when life is most desirable, we shall find that the dominating purpose was certainly no narrow devotion to the “glory” or “expansion” of any particular country, but a 57wide-spirited hostility to wrong and oppression. That is clearly shown by the nature of the appeals that were made in every country to sustain the spirit of its soldiers.

If national glory and patriotism had been the ruling motive of these young men, then manifestly their propaganda would have concerned themselves mainly with national honor and flag idolatry. But they did not do so. Nowadays flags fly better on parades and stoop fronts than on battlefields. The war propagandas dwelt steadily and insistently upon the wickedness and unrighteousness of the enemy, upon the dangers of being overwhelmed by foreign tyranny, and particularly upon the fact that the enemy had planned and made the war. These boys fought best on that—everywhere.

So far as the common men in every belligerent country went, therefore, the great war was a war against wrong, against force, against war itself. Whatever it was in the thoughts of the diplomatists, it was that in the minds of the boys who died. In the minds of these young and generous millions who are personified in the Unknown Soldier of the great war, in the 58minds of the Germans and Russians who fought so stoutly, quite as much as the Americans, British, French or Italians, the war was a war to end war.

And that marks our obligation.

Every speech that is made beside the graves of these Unknown Soldiers who lie now in the comradeship of youthful death, every speech which exalts patriotism above peace, which hints at reparations and revenges, which cries for mean alliances to sustain the traditions of the conflict, which exalts national security over the common welfare, which wags the “glorious flag” of this nation or that in the face of the universal courage and tragedy of mankind, is an insult and an outrage upon the dead youth who lies below. He sought justice and law in the world as he conceived these things, and whoever approaches his resting place unprepared to serve the establishment of a world law and world justice, breathing the vulgar cants and catchwords of a patriotism outworn and of conflicts that he died to end, commits a monstrous sacrilege and sins against all mankind.



Washington, Nov. 11.

I am writing this just after my return from the funeral, in the National Cemetery, of the American Unknown Soldier at Arlington, a very stately and moving ceremony, under the bright blue sky and the cold, keen air of a Virginia November day. The body had been lying in state at the Capitol and it was carried through Washington to the cemetery at the head of a great procession in which the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, Senators, members of the House of Representatives, war veterans and a multitude of societies marched on foot, a march of nearly two hours and a half duration. Much of this gathering was of the substance of all such processions, but one or two of the contingents were rich with association and suggestion.

60There were fifty or sixty, I should guess, very old men, bent, white-headed—one with a conspicuous long, white beard—veterans of a civil war that was fought out to an end before I was born. They came close to a contingent of men who had been specially decorated in the great war, erect and eager, still on the better side of the prime of life. These older men had fought in a great fight against a division, a separation that today, thanks to their sacrifice, has become inconceivable. They had fought to seal the Federal Union of what were else warring States. The young men who marched before them had fought in a war upon the greater stage of the whole world. Some day the tale of those abundant heroes will have shrunken to the dimensions of that little band of pathetic and glorious old men. Will they live to as complete an assurance that their cause also has been won forever, the newer veterans of the greater union that has yet to come?

There were many points of contrast between the ceremony I have just witnessed in the graceful marble amphitheatre in the beautiful Virginian 61open country and the burials that have taken place in the very hearts of London, Paris and Rome. In the face of a common identity of idea, they mark an essential difference in the nature of the occasion.

Thursday I went to see the people who were filing past the flag-covered coffin. It was a crowd fairly representative, I thought, of the Washington population as one sees it on the streets; all classes were represented, but chiefly it consisted of that well-dressed, healthy looking middle class sort of people who predominate in the streets of most American cities. They came to honor a national hero, the personification of American courage and loyalty. Few, I think, were actual mourners of a dead soldier. The couples and groups of people I saw hurrying up the sloping paths to the entrance of the Capitol, filing up the steps to the rotunda or dispersing on the other side were characterized by a sort of bright eagerness and approval.

They contrasted very strongly with my memory of the great column of still and mournful people under the dark London sky, eight deep, 62stretching all up Whitehall and down Northumberland Avenue and along the Embankment for a great distance, a column which moved on slowly, step by step, and which faded away at night to be replaced by fresh mourners on the morrow to do honor to the Unknown Warrior in London. That crowd, with its wreaths and flowers, represented the families, the lovers, the sisters and friends of perhaps a quarter of a million of dead men from London and the south and centre of England; the massed, mute tragedy of its loss was overwhelming. It reduced all the ceremony that had gathered it to comparative unimportance. But the remote distances of America forbade any such concentration of sorrow. There may have been the relations and friends of perhaps a thousand men upon the scene at Arlington. The loss to the District of Columbia itself was less than six hundred killed. A group of wounded men in the amphitheatre struck the most intimate note. The rest of the gathering at Arlington shared a less personal grief. They were sympathizers rather than sufferers.

63Because of this emotional difference, the Arlington ceremony presented itself primarily as a ceremony. For most there it was a holiday, a fine and noble holiday, but a holiday. By it, America did not so much mourn the tragedy of war as seek to arouse itself to that tragedy. Everywhere the Stars and Stripes, the most decorative and exhilarating of national flags, waved and fluttered, and an irresistible expression of America’s private life and buoyant well-being mingled in the proceedings. For most of the gathering that coffin under the great flag held nothing they had ever touched personally; it was not America’s lost treasure of youth, but rather a warning of the fate that may yet overtake the youth of America if war is not to end. At Arlington, throughout the length and breadth of America, when for two minutes at mid-day all work and movement stopped and America stood still, an innumerable host of fathers and mothers and wives and friends could whisper thanks to God in their hearts that their sons and their beloved remained alive.

64And I suppose it is largely because America is still so much less war-stricken than any of the other belligerents of the great war that so much more powerful a sense of will was apparent in all these proceedings. The burial of the Unknown Soldier in America was not a thing in itself as it was in London, in Paris or Rome; it was a solemn prelude to action, the action of the great conference which is to seek peace and enduring peace for all mankind. This note was struck even in the Chaplain’s opening invocation. He said:

“Facing the events of the morrow, when from the workbench of the world there will be taken an unusual task, we ask that Thou wilt accord exceptional judgment, foresight and tactfulness of approach to those who seek to bring about a better understanding among men and nations to the end that discord, which provokes war, may disappear and that there may be world tranquillity.”

And the very fine oration of President Harding, following closely upon this line.

I saw the President for the first time at Arlington. 65He is a very big, fine-looking man and his voice is a wonderful instrument. He spoke slowly and very distinctly, his gestures admirably controlled. He is—how can I say it?—more statuesque than any of the American Presidents of recent times, but without a trace in his movements or appearance of posturing or vanity. Men say he is a sincerely modest man, determined to do the best that is in him and at once appalled and inspired by the world situation in which he finds himself among the most prominent figures. Not only in its main circumstances but in many of its incidents is the position of the President of the United States appalling. The President stood in the apse to the right of the Unknown Soldier and to the other side of him was a black box upon a stand, a box perhaps two feet by one. This was the receiver that was to carry his voice, intensely amplified, to still greater gatherings in New York, in San Francisco and over the whole United States. Never was human utterance so magnified. Every syllable, every slip was recorded. He slipped once at an antithesis and 66was obliged to repeat. From the Atlantic to the Pacific that slip was noted.

I have heard much detraction of the President both before I came to America and since I have been here, but here I have found also a growing and spreading belief in him. And this address of his, rhetorical though it was in a simple and popular American way, was nevertheless a very dignified address and one inspired by a spirit that is undeniably great. Here is a fine saying:

“His patriotism was none less if he craved more than triumph of country; rather, it was greater if he hoped for a victory for all human kind. Indeed, I revere that citizen whose confidence in the righteousness of his country inspired belief that its triumph is the victory of humanity.

“This American soldier went forth to battle with no hatred for any people in the world, but hating war and hating the purpose of every war for conquest.”

We are to seek “the rule under which reason and righteousness shall prevail.” There is to 67be “the commanding voice of a conscious civilization against armed warfare,” “a new and lasting era of peace on earth.” And with a fine instinct for effect the President ended his oration with the Lord’s Prayer, with its appeal for one universal law for mankind: “Thy kingdom come on earth....”

Every other gossip tells you that President Harding comes from Main Street and repeats the story of Mrs. Harding saying: “We’re just folk.” If President Harding is a fair sample of Main Street, Sinclair Lewis has not told us the full story and Main Street is destined to save the world.



Washington, Nov. 13.

It was difficult at first to imagine the conference as anything more than an admirably well managed social occasion.

Continental Hall is a quite charming building, not too big for intimacy, not too small for a sufficient gathering of people. The chief members of the delegations had still to assemble; they were to sit at green baize covered tables in the body of the hall. About this central arena sat the massed attaches, and under the galleries the press representatives. In the boxes clustered the ladies of the diplomatic world. Members of the House of Representatives, the Senators, their friends and a sprinkling of privileged people occupied the big galleries above.

There was a great chatter of conversation 69when I entered. Everybody was greeting friends, flitting from group to group. It was one of those gatherings where everybody seemed to know everybody. Socially, it was extraordinarily like a very smart first night in a prominent London theatre.

“Last time I came to America,” I found myself saying, “I brought a silk hat and morning coat, and never wore them once. Now everybody seems to be wearing a morning coat and a silk hat.” It was the sort of occasion one dresses for. And that was the tone of the conversation.

It was difficult to believe that this gathering could be the beginning of anything of supreme historical importance.

Came a slight hush in the conversation. The delegates appeared, all with tremendously familiar faces taken out of the illustrated papers. They disposed themselves in their seats in leisurely fashion. One seat remained vacant for a time—the seat of the President. Then appeared President Harding, and there was a great clapping of hands. It became more 70and more like a first night. Then a hushing of enthusiasm, and silence, and he spoke.

It was a fine speech, less ornate and more direct than the Arlington oration. And the galleries above, behaving more and more like a first night audience, interrupted with rounds of applause whenever there were definite allusions to disarmament. He finished and declared the conference open and departed. Mr. Balfour followed, echoing the President’s sentiments in a few well chosen words and proposing Secretary Hughes for the Chairman of the conference.

The Hall became aware of a check in the onward flow of the proceedings. An interpreter got up and repeated Mr. Balfour’s speech in French for the benefit of the French delegation. He had made a shorthand note as Mr. Balfour spoke. This, we learned, was to be the procedure throughout the conference. Every speech, question and interruption was to be dealt with in this interlinear manner. Fortunately, it was not necessary to do this in the case of the President’s address, nor was it 71necessary in the case of the address of Secretary Hughes, which was now impending because these had already been printed and distributed and a translation made of them.

Their linguistic isolation is likely to prove unfortunate for the French. The Belgian, the Dutch, the Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese delegations all speak in English and listen to the English speeches. Consequently, the French are in a position in which they seem to be the most foreign people present. This must be disconcerting to them now.

It will be much more disconcerting if, at a later stage, German delegates speaking English should appear upon some extension or side committee of the conference. But I do not see how it can be avoided. The French are a little out of touch in the conference because of this; they must be much more out of touch with the incessant conversation in clubs and at dinner tables and everywhere in Washington, which makes the atmosphere in which the conference is working.

72This, however, is a note by the way. Secretary Hughes took the chair and delivered his address. It was a very carefully arranged surprise and its effect was really dramatical. It jumped the conference abruptly from the fine generalizations that had hitherto engaged it to immediately practical things. Secretary Hughes sketched out what was evidently a carefully worked out scheme, a most explicit scheme, for the complete cessation of naval armament competition.

America wanted at the very outset, he said, to convince the world that she meant business in the conference, and so she had taken this unexpected step of putting immediate practical proposals upon the table. She would scrap completely all the ships she had still under construction and all her older ships and she would discontinue all naval construction for ten years if Britain and Japan would do the same.

She proposed that the naval strength of the three powers concerned should remain for ten years in the ratio of: Britain, 22; America, 18, and Japan, 10. In other words, she proposed 73so to fix things that no two of these three powers can wage a conclusive naval war against each other, but with America and Britain in a position to do so jointly against Japan and with Japan at a great disadvantage against America, even if she were to risk an inconclusive war with America on the chance of Britain’s not coming in. And having unfolded this scheme, Secretary Hughes concluded.

We were a little stunned. We had expected the opening meeting to be preliminary, to stick to generalities. After Secretary Hughes had finished, there was a feeling that we wanted to go away and think. But the members of the House of Representatives were enjoying an unwonted sense of being in the gallery, quite irresponsibly in the gallery, with somebody else upon the floor. They burst in upon our statesmanlike thoughts below with loud cries for “Briand!”

The atmosphere of friendly festival was reestablished. M. Briand spoke eloquently—saying nothing whatever about the proposals of Secretary Hughes—and sat down, and his still 74quite abstract praises of peace were translated into English.

“Japan!” shouted the members of the House of Representatives, a theatre gallery now in full cry. Japan spoke in English and its sentiments were translated into French for the benefit of the foreigners. Japan expressed admirable sentiments and said nothing whatever about the proposals of Secretary Hughes.

Thereafter it would have been discourteous not to call for something from Italy, China, Belgium, Holland and Portugal. They all spoke in English, even Belgium spoke in English, and what they said was translated into French. Nobody said anything whatever about the proposals of Secretary Hughes. The gallery applauded each speech heartily and the atmosphere of a first night was completely restored. We dispersed to luncheons and tea parties and to talk before we wrote about it. And as we tried to get it into focus in our minds it became clear that much more than a ceremonial opening of the conference had occurred.

Secretary Hughes has made proposals that 75challenge the whole situation in the Pacific. For if Japan accepts them—I do not see how they could be otherwise than acceptable to the British—it puts Japan to so definite and permanent a disadvantage that it amounts to an abandonment on the part of Japan of the idea of fighting a war on the Pacific except as the last desperate defensive resort under the pressure of an unavoidable attack, and Japan can abandon that idea only if she can see her way clearly without a war to all that she believes to be vitally necessary to her.

It is possible to say that Secretary Hughes has narrowed down the work of the conference by this sudden focusing of attention upon naval warfare and Japan. But I do not think that is the case. The challenge he has made cannot be taken up until a number of associated issues are settled. Certainly his proposals have precipitated the work of the conference from the clouds and beautiful generalities to the earth and very concrete realities.

“You accept these proposals,” America says in effect. “If not, why not?”

76Japan must accept or reply so and so. So from armaments we shall get to the aims behind armaments; for no battleship is launched except against a specific antagonist and for a specific end. And in the matter of aims also the conference will presently have to consider what each power must scrap for the common good and what it may be permitted to keep for its own satisfaction.

Since Secretary Hughes made it clear that the conference is to approach the inevitable general discussion of world peace by way of the sea and the Pacific, since for a time France and Europe generally will sit somewhat out of the limelight, it will be well, perhaps, if in my next article I discuss a few elementary considerations about Japan.



Washington, Nov. 15.

Of all the national delegations assembled here in Washington, the most acutely scrutinized, the most discussed and probably the least understood is the Japanese. The limelight gravitates toward it, moved, one feels, not so much by an extreme respect as by an inordinate curiosity.

Of only one other people—I write as a spectator from overseas—does one feel the same sense of the possibility of dramatically unexpected things, and that is the Americans. The Japanese, we feel, we have not found out, and the Americans, we feel, have not found out themselves. Already the Americans have sprung one great surprise upon the conference. Britain, France, Italy and the other powers in attendance are comparatively calculable—so 78far as their representation goes. But Japan is different; it is not built upon the same lines, it follows different laws.

I went on Sunday night to the press reception at the Japanese headquarters. The Ambassador is a buoyant man of the world, speaking excellent English and thoroughly acclimatized to an American press gathering. But many of the Japanese faces about him set my imagination busy, putting them back into the voluminous robes and the sashes holding the double swords with which I had first met them long ago in Japanese prints, and which would have become them so much better.

Admiral Kato spoke in Japanese and Prince Tokugawa in English; they welcomed the Hughes proposals with warm generalities and hopes for peace—as we all hope for peace—with insufficient particulars. I got no conversation with any Japanese; they were not talking to us; they did not want to talk; it was a reception of hearty politeness and no exchanges. I found myself falling back upon an earlier impression.

79Some weeks ago I had a very illuminating talk in my garden at home with two Japanese visitors, Mr. Mashiko and Mr. Negushi, who had come to discuss various educational ideas with me. And they told me things that seem to me to be fundamentally important in this question. “We build up our children,” said Mr. Mushiko, “upon a diametrically different plan from yours. We turn them the other way round. Obedience and devotion are our leading thoughts. All our sentiment, all our stories and poetry, the traditions of centuries, teach loyalty, blind, unquestioning loyalty, of wife to husband, of man to his lord, of every one to the monarch.

“The loyalty is religious. So far as political and social questions go, it is fundamental. But your training cultivates independence, free thought, the unsparing criticism of superiors, institutions, relationships. Perhaps it is better in the end and more invigorating; but it seems to us wild and dangerous. * * * We begin to have a sort of public opinion, but it is still diffident and timid.”

80An American and an Englishman, he said, cared for his country because he believed it belonged to him. A Japanese cared for his country because he believed he belonged to it. One could not pass from one habit of mind to the other, he thought, without grave risks and dangers. It is easier to destroy obedience than to create responsibility.

I was reminded of that conversation the other day by a remark made by a fellow journalist on the train to Washington:

“A Chinese will tell you what he thinks—like an American—but a Japanese always feels he is an agent, even if he isn’t an accredited one.”

Now, this is very interesting and probably a very fundamental comparison. This difference in spirit will make the Japanese people a very different instrument from the American and English or French people. It will make the Japanese Government a different thing from the Governments it will be meeting in Washington. A people built up on obedience can be held and wielded as no modern democratic people can be held and wielded. It is different in kind.

81Unless this point is kept in mind, there are certain to be great and possibly dangerous misunderstandings in the Washington discussions. There have possibly been very dangerous misunderstandings already of the European powers by the Japanese. The Japanese are likely to think the Atlantic Governments are more free to decide than they really are, and that what they say is more conclusive than it really is, and the Atlantic peoples are likely to think too much of the appearance of a liberal public opinion in Japan and to imagine that a Japanese Government may be thrown out and its policy changed much more easily than is the case. But indeed Japan is a Government, a military Government, holding its people in its hand like a staff or a weapon, while America and France and Britain are people operating the Governments, more or less imperfectly. In no relationship is confusion upon this point more probable and more dangerous than between Japan and Britain or France at the present time, and in no connection is there greater need of perfectly plain statement.

82Seeing that Britain is still a monarchy with many aristocratic forms, it is fatally easy for a Japanese statesman to fall into the belief that the British Government is as completely in control, and its officials as able to bind or loose, as the Japanese Government and officials, and because of this belief to trust to the private assurance and general attitude of personages in high places far more than they are justified in doing. The British democracy is very like the American democracy in its inability to keep watching what is happening overseas; it is preoccupied by domestic questions and things that are near to it. You cannot expect a Wiltshire farmer or a Lancashire cotton spinner to keep up, day by day, with the concession-hunting game in Persia or South China. But if that game of concession hunting piles up to sufficiently serious consequences, these democracies are likely to wake up in a manner quite outside the Japanese range of possibilities. And to a large extent the same is true of France.

It is the blessed privilege of an irresponsible 83journalist to say things that no diplomatist could ever say, and upon the relations of Japan, America and England there are certain truths that seem to need saying very plainly at the present time. But though I am an irresponsible journalist, it is also to be noted that I am a very English Englishman and that I know the way of thinking of my people.

The British people have been sleeping happily upon the belief that war with America is impossible. And for them it is impossible. In this matter the British have a special and extraordinary instinct. They will not fight the United States of America. I will not go into the peculiar feelings that produce this disposition; they are feelings great numbers of Americans do not understand and have indeed taken great pains not to understand. But to the common British, fighting Americans would have much the same relation to fighting other peoples that cannibalism would have to eating meat.

I hear a certain type of American over here slowly and heavily debating the Hughes proposals 84on the assumption that there may be a war of America against Britain and Japan. Such an assumption is—if I may be permitted the word—idiotic. As a people, the British have not been thinking very much about the Pacific question. They have been preoccupied by Ireland and their own economic troubles. But if that question presently moves toward a level of intensity where war is possible, let there be no mistake about it in Japan, the ordinary English will be thinking with the Americans. They will read much the same stuff because they have the same language, and think in the same way because they have kindred habits of thought.

It will not matter then what assurances and sentiments the Japanese may have had for official personages in Great Britain. For we are dealing here not with a matter of agreements but with a kind of moral gravitation. If there is a conflict the British masses will want to come in on the American side, and if it seems likely to be in the least an inconclusive conflict they will certainly come in. If the rulers of the 85Japanese dream that any other combination is possible in the Pacific they are under as dangerous a delusion as ever lured a great nation to disaster.

But there are many signs that if ever the ruling people of Japan entertained this delusion they are being disillusionized and that they begin to realize that a war with America in the Pacific will mean a war with America, Britain, and possibly—to judge from the recent astonishing remark by that able writer “Pertinax”—France. France may use her influence at Washington on behalf of Japan in certain matters, but that is all Japan will get from France. The Japanese, I believe, now fully realize this, and the trend of recent Japanese utterances is all in the direction of discussion and the disavowal of any belligerent dreams.

Yet, Japan continues to arm, and though she now disavows war as her method, she sits very proudly and stiffly in her weapons at the parley. She may have limited and restrained her dreams, but there is still some minimum in her mind beyond which she will not retreat without 86a struggle. What is that minimum which will satisfy her without war? Will it satisfy her for good, will it seem so permanently satisfactory to her that she will be willing not only to set aside the thought of and preparation for an immediate war, but—what is of far more importance—enter into such a binding contract for her future international relationships as will enable her to beat the swords of her Samurai into ploughshares for good and all?

Is Japan peculiarly an obstacle to the practical, if informal, federation of the world to which we all hope that things are moving?

When I try to frame a hopeful answer to that question, it occurs to me with added force that Japan is not a people trying to express itself through a Government as we Atlantic peoples are, but a Government, a small ruling class, in effective possession of an obedience-loving people. And I remember that that small ruling class has a long tradition of romantic and chivalrous swordsmanship. Is that ruling class going to keep its power and is it going to preserve 87its tradition? No one would be more urgent than I for the complete disarmament of the entire world, but no one could be more convinced of the unwisdom of disarmament by America or any other power while any single country in the world maintains a spirit that must lead at last to a resumption of warfare. TO DISARM IN SUCH A SITUATION IS TO LEAVE THE TROUBLE TO ACCUMULATE UPON OUR GRAND-CHILDREN; TO PATCH UP A TEMPORARY PEACE BASED ON THE PERMITTED “EXPANSION” OF SUCH A POWER IS SIMPLY TO PREPARE FOR AN EXPANDED WAR IN THE FUTURE.

But is that Japanese ruling class resolved at any cost, even at the cost of another World War and at the risk of destroying Japan, to hold onto its present power and to adhere rigidly to its tradition? In the last hundred years Japan, because of her aristocracy and because of her general obedience, has achieved feats of adaptation to new conditions that are unparalleled in history. As we have noted, there have recently 88been indications of further changes in the spirit of Japan.

She is said to be pressing forward with the education of the common people and the liberation of thought and discussion. In the long run, what is happening in the schools of Japan is of more importance to mankind than what is happening in her dockyards. But at present we do not know what is happening in the schools of Japan. One hears much of New Japan and Liberal Japan, and there is even an unofficial representative of the Japanese Opposition in Washington. But, so far as we can judge at this distance, we must be guided by the policy and methods of the Japanese Government.

Before we can judge these we must consider the nature of the field in which they seem to clash most with American ideas and with American and European interests, namely, China and Eastern Asia generally. In my next paper I will ask, “What is China?” and consider the nature of the needs and claims of Japan in regard to China and the prohibitions 89and the renunciations the Western powers want to impose upon her. For it is on account of these restrictions and prohibitions that Japan has been building her battleships. Her fighting fleet is to secure her a free hand in China and Siberia; it can have no other purpose. And I shall take up the question whether the prohibitions and renunciations we want to force upon Japan are not prohibitions and restrictions that we are bound in fairness to impose equally upon all powers concerned with China and the Far East. If the other powers are not prepared for extreme general retractions and renunciation in China; if they want to bar out Japan from aggressive practices and exclusive advantages that other powers retain; if we cling to any sort of racial distinction in these matters, then I shall submit, we are asking impossible things from Japan and we are forcing her toward what must must be indeed a very desperate gamble for her, a refusal to enter into this proposed disarmament agreement—and that means war.



Washington, Nov. 16.

The Chinese propaganda in America and Western Europe seems on the whole to be conducted more efficiently than the Japanese. And the Chinese student, it seems to me, gets into closer touch with the educated American and European because his is a democratic and not an aristocratic habit of mind. He has an intensely Western sense of public opinion.

The masses of China may be destitute, ignorant and disordered, but in their mental habits they are modern and not mediæval, in the same sense that the Japanese are mediæval and not modern. The Chinese seem to “get on” with their Western social equivalents better than any of the Asiatic people. And increasing multitudes of Chinese are learning English today; it is the second language in China.

91Now, if Japan is the figure in the limelight at Washington today, China is the giant in the background and scene of the present Pacific drama. We have had so much in the papers lately about these two countries, we have been treated to such a feast of particulars about them, that most of us have long since forgotten very thoroughly the broad facts of the case, and it will be refreshing to recall them here and now.

Let us remind ourselves that China is a country with a population amounting at the lowest estimate to between twice and three times the population of the United States, or of France and England put together. This population has the longest unbroken tradition of peaceful industry in the world. It is essentially civilized; it respects learning and civility profoundly. A common literature and ancient traditions keep its people one.

In the past China has been divided again and again—always to reunite. But it has become “old-fashioned,” dangerously old-fashioned, perhaps by reason of its very stability; it has 92lagged behind most of the world in the development of its transport and economic possibilities. In mineral deposits and other natural resources and in the industrial capability of its sturdy and intelligent population it has more undeveloped wealth than any other single people in the world. It is only in the last century or so that China has lagged behind.

Only a few centuries ago China was as civilized as Europe and politically more stable. In a century or so she may be again the most civilized and intelligent power in the world, flourishing in fellowship and perfect understanding with the great states of America and Europe.

She may be—if she is not torn to pieces and kept in a state of enfeeblement and disorder by the hostile action of external powers.

But at present China is in a state of political impotence. Her Manchu imperialism has proved itself to be hopelessly inefficient and China is now struggling to reconstruct upon modern republican lines, obviously suggested by the American example. A few decades ago 93Japan astonished the world by Europeanizing herself upon Prussian lines. China now, under far less favorable conditions and with a vaster country and a less disciplined people, is struggling to Americanize herself.

But it is no easy task to make over a people at one stride from a mediæval autocracy to a modern democracy. It is far easier to Prussianize than to Americanize, for in the one case you have only to train an official class and in the other you must educate a whole people. China is torn by dissensions; the south jars with the north; she has two or more Governments, each claiming to be THE Chinese Government, and whole provinces have fallen under the sway of military adventurers. It is a distressing spectacle, but it was probably an inevitable phase in the development of New China.

Before we fall a prey to anti-Chinese propaganda it is well to recall how long it has always taken to build up the necessary understandings and habits of association upon which a new political system rests.

94France, for example, was a land of revolutions and political instability for nearly a century after the Great Revolution. America wrangled feebly and dangerously for several years after the War of Independence, before she established her Federal Government; she only cemented her union after a colossal struggle; she was not really and securely one until a century had elapsed.

During these long decades of probation foreign observers preached endlessly about the fickleness of the French and the political inefficiency of the Americans and foretold the certainty of a break-up of the United States, just as today they sneer at Young China and foretell the political disintegration of the Chinese. And we have to bear in mind that the forces of reorganization and renewal in China struggle against peculiar difficulties and interferences quite outside the happier experiences of France and America. In particular, they struggle against an intolerable and paralyzing amount of foreign interference.

The brilliant series of adventures and accidents 95by which a London trading company added the Empire of Great Mogul as a picturesque but incongruously big jewel to the British Crown set an extraordinarily bad precedent in Asiatic affairs. It obsessed European political thought with the impossible dream of carving up all Asia into similar domains. The Mogul’s empire was itself an empire of conquest in a land saturated by ideas of caste, and this gave all these European adventurers the attitude of high caste men benevolently consuming inferior races.

In that spirit, Europe—with Japan coming in presently as a hopeful student of European methods—had been trying to cook, carve up and fight for the portions of China for nearly a century, treating these wonderful people as an inferior race. The very worst that can be said about Japan with regard to China is that she has been too vigorously European.

Consider how it would have been with the United States in the years of discord that led up to the Civil War if these difficulties had been complicated by three such embarrassments as 96these: First, that most foreigners, except now the Germans and Austrians, are outside the reach of the native courts, that their disputes with Chinese go before special foreign courts, that they are specially favored in regard to property and shipping; secondly, that the Chinese Government is restricted from raising revenue by any tariff above a flat rate of 5 per cent., and that they are also strictly restricted to 2½ per cent. in their interior dues upon foreign (but not Chinese) trade, so that they are in fact unable to raise enough revenue to maintain an efficient Government; and thirdly, that nearly all the Chinese railways—and as every American knows, transport is the very life of modern state—are in the grip of this foreign country or that.

These are the open and manifest inconveniences of the situation, but behind these more open aspects there is a vast tangle of intervention between Chinamen and Chinese affairs—schemes for further exploitation, financial entanglements, vast concession plans and projects for “spheres of influence” for this aggressive 97foreign nation or that. And this foreign influence is not the influence of one foreign power pursuing a single and consistent policy but a number of competing powers, all pursuing different ends and pulling things this way and that. How could any country reconstruct itself while it was entangled in such a net of interference? No people on earth could do such a thing.

The plain fact is that if China is to reconstruct herself that net has to be cut away. It is not enough to warn Japan out of China or to say “open door” for China. The open door is good for the ventilation of that great apartment, but what is also needed is a clearing out of the encumbrance inside. These encumbrances are not primarily Japanese.

The five great powers sit at a green table in the form of a horseshoe in the conference and the four lesser powers are at a straight table like the armature of a horseshoe magnet. At the left hand corner, next the Japanese, are the three Chinese representatives. I gather they will be allowed to say “Shantung” at the conference 98in moderation but not Thibet nor Tonquin nor the East China—or indeed any—railway. I doubt if either Mr. Balfour or M. Briand will nerve himself to say these forbidden words. But an irresponsible journalist may write them.

If there is to be a real end to war and disarmament there has to be release of China to free Chinese control, and that means a self-denying ordinance from ALL the great powers. It will be an easy one for America and Italy to accept, but it will be a difficult sacrifice indeed for those two hoary leaders in the break-up of China, Great Britain and France. Neither country has a bad heart, but long ago in the East they acquired some very bad habits. This is a time when bad habits lead very quickly to disaster.

The real test of the quality of the conference will appear when some issue arises which involves an assertion or denial of the principle of “Unhand and keep your hands off China.” If the Chinese are worth while, the conference has to establish that principle. It cannot be 99gracefully advanced by America because America has so little to relinquish. It CAN be established at the initiative of either Britain or France.

It seems plain to me that official America is waiting for some move in this direction from either or both of these powers. If that principle of a free China is established at the Washington Conference the way will have been opened in the not very remote future to a healthy and vigorous United States of China, a great modern, pacific and progressive power. And when I write “China” I mean what any sensible man means when he writes “China”—I mean all those parts of Asia in which the Chinese people and the Chinese culture prevail. I include at least South Manchuria, which is as surely Chinese as Texas is American, and which can no more be GIVEN to any other power without the consent of China than my overcoat can be given by one passerby to another.

The plain alternative to a released and renascent China is the cutting up of China among 100the aggressive powers to the tune of that popular American air “The Open Door,” the demoralization and disintegration of the Chinese, international elbowing, competition, quarrels among the powers who have “shared” China, and, at last, the next great war—which it will be just as easy for America to keep out of as the great war of 1914–1918.



Washington, Nov. 18.

If we adopt as our guiding principle that China is “worth while,” if we make up our minds—and it seems to me that the American public at least is making up its mind—that China is to bring itself up to date and to reorganize itself as a great union of states under purely Chinese control, and that it is to be protected by mutual agreement among the powers from outside interference during the age of reorganization, then it is clear that all dreams of empire in China or any fragments of China on the part of any other power must cease.

This building up of a united, peaceful China by the conscious, self-denying action of the chief powers of the world is evidently, under present conditions, the only sane policy before the powers assembled at Washington, but it is, 102unhappily, quite diametrically opposed to all traditions of competitive nationality. And I find a most extraordinary conflict going on in men’s minds here in Washington between the manifest sanities of the world situation and those habits of thought and action in which we have all been bred. Competitive nationalism and the long established competitive traditions of European diplomacy have gone far toward wrecking the world; and they may yet go far toward wrecking the Washington Conference. We have all got these traditions strong in us, every one of us. These traditions, these ideas of international intercourse as a sort of game to beat the other fellow, have as tough a vitality as the appetite of the wasp, which will go on eating greedily after its abdomen has been cut off. Indeed, some of the representatives of the powers at Washington seem still to be clinging to the ambition of finally devouring China, or large parts of China—a feast which they will not have the remotest prospect of digesting.

If that sort of thing goes on, a continuation 103of war preparation, a renewal of war and the consummation of the social smash now in progress is inevitable. Yet, on the face of that plain, inevitable consequence, my diplomatic friends in Washington go on talking about such insane projects as that of ceding Manchuria to Japan right down the Great Wall; of giving Japan practical possession of the mines of China; of giving “compensation” in the matter of Chinese railways to France; of getting this “advantage” or that for Great Britain, and so forth and so on. I remain permanently astounded before the Foreign Office officials. They have such excellent, brilliant minds, but, alas! so highly specialized—so highly specialized—that at times one doubts whether they have, in the general sense of the word, any minds at all.

In the face of the universal hopefulness for satisfactory results from the conference I find myself full of doubts. The naval disarmament proposal of Secretary Hughes was obviously meant only as the opening proposition, the quite splendid opening proposition, of the conference. 104The second meeting, I felt, would find Mr. Balfour and Admiral Kato and M. Briand in eloquent sympathy, saying: “Certainly. All this and more also we can do on the understanding that a stable, explicit, exhaustive, permanent Pacific agreement can be framed by this conference that will remove all causes of war whatever.” But the second meeting was disappointing. One nation after another agreed, as Mr. Balfour, that “old parliamentary hand,” put it, “in principle. But”——And now we are all playing four-handed chess with reservations about dockyards, naval stations, cruisers, large submarines, and the like. We are all trying to put the effective disarmament onto the other fellow. Meanwhile the nine powers are sitting in secret session on the Pacific question, and it is clear from the rumors that nine-handed chess is in progress there.

Yet the fact, plain enough to any one who is not lost in the game of diplomacy, is that this conference is an occasion for generosity and renunciation. There is no way out of the Pacific imbroglio except to disentangle China and 105form a self-denying ordinance of all the powers concerned to leave her alone while she reconstructs. I submit that even Japan, most intent of all the chess players, will do best to fall in line with such a plan.

Would a world covenant to protect China from aggression and to concede her the progressive abolition of extra-territorial privileges and the same unlimited rights over her own railways and soil and revenue that are enjoyed by the Americans and Japanese over theirs be any serious harm to Japan? Would it not release Japan from her imitative career as a pseudo-Britain or a pseudo-Germany and enable her to get on with her own proper business, which is to be, to the fullest, completest and richest extent, Japan?

For what, after all, is it that Japan wants? She wants safety, she declares—just as France wants safety. She wants safety to be Japan, just as France wants safety to be France and England wants safety to be England. And she makes these declarations with considerable justification. For 300 years she believed she had 106that safety, and we must admit she was the least dangerous state in the whole world. For 300 years Japan waged no foreign wars; she was a peaceful, self-contained hermit. It was American enterprise that dragged her out of her seclusion and fear of Europe that drove her to the practices of modern imperialism. They are not natural Japanese practices. She fought China and grabbed Corea, because otherwise Russia would have held it like a pistol at her throat; she fought Russia, because otherwise Russia would have held Manchuria and Port Arthur against her; she fought in the Great War to oust Germany from Shantung. She is now pursuing an entirely “European” policy in China, intriguing to get a free hand in Manchuria and Eastern Siberia; scheming for concessions, privileges and the creation of obedient puppet governments in a dismembered China; planning to divert the natural resources of China to her own use, primarily because she fears that otherwise these things will be done by rival powers and she will be cut off from trade, from raw materials and all prosperity 107until at last, when she is sufficiently starved and enfeebled, she will be attacked and Indiaized. These are reasonable, honorable fears. They oblige her to keep armed and aggressive; hers is an “offensive defensive.” There is no other way of allaying her reasonable, just fears except by a permanent binding association of world powers to put an end forever to the headlong scramble for Asia that began a century and a half ago in India between the French and English, to recognize frankly and to put it upon record that that phase of history has closed, and to provide some effective means of restoration now and the prevention of fresh aggressions in the future.

No doubt there is a military caste in Japan loving war and not even dreading modern war. We have to reckon with that. When we ask Japan to release China, we ask for something very much against Japanese habits of thought. Her dominant military note is due both to ancient traditions and recent experience. Japan had most of the fun and little of the bitterness of the Great War and her people may conceivably 108have a lighter attitude toward aggressive war than any European nation. But if the alternatives presented to her were on the one hand disarmament and a self-denying ordinance of the powers in relation to China, and on the other war against the other chief powers of the world, I doubt if the patriotism of even the most war-loving Japanese would not outbalance his war lust. And I cannot imagine any other permanent settlement of the Pacific situation except a self-denying ordinance to which Japan, America and the European powers can ever possibly agree.

Now, Japan, disarmed and pledged and self-restrained by treaties and associations against aggression on the mainland of Asia, would nevertheless reap enormous benefits from the liberation of China. Given just and reasonable treaties, she can do very well without armaments. Her geographical position would make her naturally and properly the first merchant and the first customer of a renascent China. She would have the first bid for all the coal and ore and foodstuffs she needed. American 109goods and European goods would have to come past her over thousands of miles of sea. Chinese goods that didn’t come to her would go elsewhere up a steep hill of freight charges. It is a preposterous imagination that China would refuse to sell to her nearest and best customer. Moreover, Japan’s artistic and literary culture, at once so distinctive and so sympathetic with that of China, would receive enormous stimulation, as it has done in the past, by a Chinese revival. Japan would be able to keep in the van of nations not by that headlong imitation and adoption of European devices into which circumstances have forced her hitherto, but by a natural and orderly development of her own idiosyncracies in the face of the enhanced power that modern resources supply. An association of Japan with other nations to insure uninterrupted development to China would insure that to Japan also. It would be a mutual assurance of peace and security.

But there is one set of facts, and one only, that militates against this idea of a pacific and progressive Japan, a splendid leader in civilization 110amidst a brotherhood of nations, and that is this, that Japan is already overpopulated, she has to import not only food but industrial raw material, and that her population increases now by the tremendous figure of half a million a year. That is the reality that gives substance to the aggressive imperialism of Japan. That is why she casts about for such regions for expansion as Eastern Siberia—a region not represented at the conference, and so beyond its purview, and that is why she covets some preferential control in Chinese metals and minerals and food. Were it not for this steady invasion of the world by hungry lives, the principle of Japan for the Japanese, China for the Chinese, England for the English, Eastern Siberia for its own people, would give us the simplest, most satisfactory principle for international peace. But Japan teems.

Has any country a right to slop its population over and beyond its boundaries or to claim trade and food because of its heedless self-congestion? Diplomacy is curiously mealy mouthed about many things; I have made a 111British official here blush at the words of birth control, but it is a fact that this aggressive fecundity of peoples is something that can be changed and restrained within a country, and that this sort of modesty and innocence that leads to a morbid development of population and to great wars calls for intelligent discouragement in international relations.

Japan has modernized itself in many respects, but its social organization, its family system, is a very ancient and primitive one, involving an extreme domestication of women and a maximum of babies. While the sanitation and hygiene of Japan were still mediæval, a sufficient proportion of these babies died soon and prevented any overpressure of population, but now that Japan has modernized itself in most respects it needs to modernize itself in this respect also.

I submit that the troubles arising from excessive fecundity within a country justify not an aggressive imperialism on the part of that country, but a sufficient amount of birth control within its proper boundaries.



Washington, November 20.

The new and really quite beautiful catchword that dominates the Washington Conference is “security.” The word was produced originally, I believe, in France. France wants nothing in the world now but security; she has abandoned all dreams of conquest or glory, all aggressive economic intentions; she is the white lamb of international affairs, washed and redeemed by the Great War. Only—she must be secure.

Great Britain, Japan are in complete unison with France on this subject. Great Britain asks for nothing but a predominant fleet and naval arsenals in perfect going order. Mr. Balfour’s eloquent speech at the second session 113of the conference made the necessity of this for security incontrovertible. Japan wants East Siberia, the special control of raw material in Manchuria, a grip upon China, because she is driven by the same passionate craving for peace and rest. We have had this explained to us very clearly here in Washington by representative Japanese.

All these powers will accept every proposal Secretary Hughes makes, or is prepared to make, eloquently and sincerely—“in principle.” They then proceed to state their minimum requirements for that feeling of security which is the goal of all peoples at the present time. When these requirements have been stated it becomes plain that these states are not to be so much disarmed as stripped for action, with highly efficient instead of unwieldy and overwhelmingly expensive equipment. They do not so much propose to give up war as to bring it back by a gentlemanly agreement within the restricted possibilities of their austere bankruptcy.

The French conception of security is particularly 114attractive. France stipulates, I gather, for a dominant army upon the Continent of Europe, for a Germany retained permanently by agreement among the powers at the extremest pitch of wretchedness and feebleness, for an outcast Russia, or a series of alliances by which such countries as Poland will be militarized in the French interest rather than industrialized in their own. And France, in further pursuit of the idea of perfect peace (for France), is training great masses of barbaric Senegalese for war, with the view of using them to police white populations and sustain their millennium in Europe. They can have no other use now.

If they return to Africa, these trained soldiers will accumulate as a new and interesting element in African life until some black Napoleon arises to demand “security” for Africa.

At present France displays an astonishing confidence in the British, but no doubt, if her amazing peasants and her wonderful soil presently lead to partial recuperation, she will realize the need of bringing her now neglected fleet up to “security” standards also. And it is 115axiomatic among the experts that no power with a coast line is really secure unless it has a fleet at least the double of any other fleet that can possibly operate upon that coast.

These statements are not the facetious inventions of an irresponsible writer; they are fair samples of the sort of thing that the various deputations have brought with them to Washington. These are the things we talk of and are gradually talking out of sight. And if the Washington Conference served no other purpose at all in the world, it would have been quite worth while in order to get together all these totally incomparable conceptions of security and by that approximation to demonstrate their utter absurdity. Along the lines of either unregulated or regulated armament there can be no security for any race or people.

The only security for a modern state now is a binding and mutually satisfactory alliance with the power or powers that might otherwise attack. The only real security for France against a German revenge is a generous and complete understanding between the French 116and German Republics so that they will have a mutual interest in each other’s prosperity. Germany is naturally a rather bigger country than France, and nothing on earth can alter that. Other powers or all the powers may come into such a treaty as guarantors, but the essential thing for peace between France and Germany is peace made good and clear between them, a cessation of mutual injuries and hostile preparations.

The only effectual security for the communications of the British Empire is the recognition by all mankind that this great system of English-speaking states round and about the world is a good thing for all mankind and a resolute effort of these states to keep to that level. There is no other real security.

This is not “lofty idealism”; it is common sense; and the idea of “security” by armament and by the enfeeblement of possible rivals is not a “practical recognition of present limitations,” but a feeble surrender to entirely vicious tendencies of the human mind.

I believe that for a little while yet Washington 117will continue its researches into the meaning of armed “security,” and that then it will turn its attention to the alternative idea, with which the nimble French mind has also been playing, and that is security by treaty. The French have been disposed in the past to welcome an Anglo-American-French treaty to guarantee France against attack. The idea in that form is dead, but the possibility of a far more comprehensive agreement, a loose-fitting but effectual association of all the nations of the world to keep the peace and arrange their differences by conference, is bound to recur again as the impossibility of disarmament without settlement becomes increasingly apparent.

There drifts into my memory here a curious feast of “security” which occurred long ago in some Eastern equivalent of Versailles. The great Abbassid family had suffered many things from the Ommayyad Caliphs, and at last it rose against them and overcame them and secured the leadership of Islam. The remnants of the Ommayyad clan were summoned to witness and celebrate the new peace. But some of the 118Abbassids, inspired by quite modern ideas of “security,” had all the Ommayyads massacred before the banquet began. A beautiful carpet was spread over the dead and dying and the Abbassids feasted thereon. Here was “security” to satisfy the most exacting modern European ideals. Yet the Abbassids made little of their security. They never rose to the glory of the Ommayyads; the drive and strength seemed to have gone out of Arab Islam; their history for all this “security” is one of division, decline, decay. It takes all men to make a world.

Let us get through with this futile haggling for national advantages and securities and let us get on to the organization of that brotherhood which can alone save the world.



Washington, November 21.

The first session of the Washington Conference featured, as the cinematograph people say, President Harding and Mr. Secretary Hughes; the second day was Mr. Balfour’s day; this third, from which I have just come, was the session of M. Briand.

The four personalities contrast very strikingly. President Harding was a stately figure making a very noble oration in the best American fashion; Mr. Hughes was hard, exact, clear-cut, very earnest and explicit; Mr. Balfour slender and stooping, silvery-haired and urbane, made his carefully worded impromptu speech with a care that left no ragged end to a sentence and no gap for applause. All three are taller and neater men than M. Briand, whose mane of hair flows back from his face in 120leonine style, whose mobile face and fluent gestures reinforce the stirring notes of his wonderful voice. His eloquence was so great that many Congressmen in the gallery above, quite innocent of French, were moved to applause by the sheer grace and music of the performance.

Eloquence could not save the day or the occasion. M. Briand spoke to a gathering that was saturated with scepticism for the cause he had to plead. I watched the quiet, scrutinizing countenances of the six men he turned about to face as he spoke—Root, Lodge and Hughes, as immobile as judges; Balfour trying to look like a sympathetic ally in the face of a discourse that insultingly ignored Great Britain as a factor of the European situation; Lord Lee, obliquely prostrate and judicial; Geddes, with that faintly smiling face of his, the mask of an unbeliever.

The voice of the orator rose and fell, boomed at them, pleaded, sought to stir them—like seas breaking over rocks. Their still implacable faces, hardly or politely, retained the effect of listening to a special pleader—a special pleader 121doing his best, his foamy best, with an intolerably bad case.

M. Briand put before the conference no definite proposals at all. After Mr. Hughes, with that magnificent discourse of his, punctuated by “we propose to scrap,” M. Briand was an anticlimax. France proposed to scrap nothing. France does not know how to scrap. She learns nothing and forgets nothing. It is her supreme misfortune. He explained the position of France in a melodious discourse of apologetics and excuses. The French contribution to the Disarmament Conference is that France has not the slightest intention of disarming. She is reducing her term of service with the colors from three years to two. In a Europe of untrained men this is not disarmament, but economy.

The great feature of M. Briand’s discourse was his pretense of the absolute unimportance of England in European affairs. France, for whom, as Mr. Balfour in a few words of infinite gentleness reminded M. Briand, France, for whom the British Empire lost a million dead—very 122nearly as many men as France herself lost; France, to whose rescue from German attack came Britain, Russia and presently Italy and America; France, M. Briand declared, was alone in the world, friendless and terribly threatened by Germany and Russia. And on the nonsensical assumption of French isolation, M. Briand unfolded a case that was either—I hesitate to consider which—and how shall I put that old alternative?—deficient in its estimate of reality, or else—just special pleading.

The plain fact of the case is that France is maintaining a vast army in the face of a disarmed world and she is preparing energetically for fresh warlike operations in Europe and for war under sea against Great Britain. To excuse this line of action M. Briand unfolded a fabulous account of the German preparation for a renewal of hostilities; every soldier in the small force of troops allowed to Germany is an officer or non-commissioned officer, so that practically the German Army can expand at any moment to millions, and Germany is not morally disarmed because Ludendorff—M. 123Briand quoted him at some length—is still writing and talking militant nonsense.

Even M. Briand has to admit that the present German Government is honest and well meaning, but it is a weak Government. It is not the real thing. The real Germany is the Germany necessary for M. Briand’s argument. And behind Germany is Russia. He conjured up a great phantom of Soviet Russia which would have conquered all Europe but for the French Armies and Poland. That iniquitous attack of Poland upon Russia last May was, he assured his six quiet-eyed auditors and the rest of us, a violent invasion of Western civilization by Russia.

“There were those in Germany,” he said in a voice to make our flesh creep, “who beckoned them on.” The French had saved us from that. The French Army, with its gallant Senegalese, was the peacemaker and guardian of all Europe.

One listened incredulous. One waited still incredulous to hear it over again from the interpreter. Yes, we were confirmed; he really 124had said that. Poor, exhausted Russia, who saved Paris, desiring nothing but to be left alone; bled white, starving, invaded by a score of subsidized adventurers; invaded from Esthonia, from Poland, from Japan, in Murmansk, in the Crimea, in the Ukraine, on the Volga, incessantly invaded, it is this Russia which has put France on the offensive-defensive!

One is reminded of the navvy who kicked his wife to death to protect himself from her violence.

(It is interesting to recall here that one of the Kaiser’s favorite excuses for German armament, when it was Germany and not France which aspired to dominate Europe, was his acute dread of the Yellow Peril.)

When he talked to the journalists in preparation for this display, M. Briand excused France for wanting submarines in quantity because, he said, she was liable to attack upon three coasts, but maturer reflection omitted this aspect of the French case from M. Briand’s attention. It was too thick even for an American 125audience. And even Mr. Balfour, with all his charming tenderness for a fellow-statesman, could not well have avoided the plain question, “From whom does France anticipate a sea attack?”

France is in about as much danger of an attack upon her three coasts as the United States of America is upon her Canadian frontier. Her ships are as safe upon the sea as a wayfarer on Fifth Avenue. If she builds submarines now, she builds them to attack British commerce and for no other reason whatever. All the Ludendorffs and Soviets in the world do not justify a single submarine. Every submarine she launches is almost as direct a breach of the peace with Britain as though she were to start target practice at Dover Harbor across the straits, and every one in England will understand the aim of her action as clearly. As M. Briand, in his discourse to the journalists, argued that the empire of France was as far-flung as that of Britain, her need to protect her communication was as great. This was in the face of Mr. Balfour’s reminder that Britain 126can feed its people only for seven weeks if its overseas supplies are cut off. France can feed from her own soil all the year round. The argument was not good enough for a boys’ debating society, and M. Briand, who is prepared to scrap nothing else, was at least well advised to scrap that.

I will confess that I am altogether perplexed by the behavior of France at the present time. I do not understand what she believes she is doing in Europe and I do not understand her position in this conference. Why could she not have co-operated in this conference instead of making it a scene of special pleading? I have already said that the French here seem to be more foreign than any other people and least in touch with the general feeling of the assembly. They seem to have come here as national advocates, as special pleaders, without any of that passionate desire to lay the foundations of a world settlement that certainly animates nearly every other delegation. They do not seem to understand how people here regard either the conference or France.

127There is indeed a great and enduring enthusiasm for France in America. Marshal Foch has gone about in America as the greatest of heroes and the most popular figure. He has been overwhelmed by hospitality and smothered by every honor America could heap upon him. The French flag is far more in evidence than the British in both New York and Washington. This may easily give French visitors the idea that they are exceptional favorites here and that France can count upon American backing in any quarrels she chooses to pick with the British or the Germans or Russians.

There could be no greater error. The enthusiasm for Foch is largely personal; he was the General of all the Allies. The enthusiasm for France is largely traditional and it does not extend to the French nationals or the present day. America loves, as all liberal and intelligent men throughout the world must love, France the great liberator of men’s minds; France of the great Revolution; the France of art and light, France, the beautiful and the gallant. It is hard to write bitterly of a country 128that can give the world an Anatole France, sane and smiling, or so brave and balanced a gentleman as the late Robert d’Humiers. But where is that France today? None of that France has come to the Washington Conference, but only an impenitent apologist for three years of sins against the peace of the world, an apologist for national aggression posturing as fear, and reckless greed disguised as discretion.

Here in New York and Washington I find just the same steady change of opinion about France that is going on in London. I want to write it down as plainly as I can. I want to get it over to my friends in France, because I have loved France greatly, and I do not think the French people realize what is going on among the English-speaking peoples. People here want to see Europe recuperating, and they are beginning to realize that the chief obstacle to a recuperating Europe is the obstinate French resolve to dominate the Continent, to revive and carry out the antiquated and impossible policy of Louis XIV., maintaining an ancient and intolerable quarrel, setting Pole against 129German and brewing mischief everywhere in order to divide and rule, instead of entering frankly into a European brotherhood.

Feeling about Germany and Austria is changing here, even more rapidly than in England, to pity and indignation; feeling about Russia is drifting the same way. One detects these undercurrents in the minds of the most unlikely people. People are recalling the France of Napoleon III., that restless and mischievous France, which came so near to a conflict with America in Mexico and which kept Europe in a fever for a quarter of a century. It is an enormous loss to the Washington Conference, it is a misfortune to all the world, that the great qualities of the French people, their clear-headedness, their powerful and yet practical imaginations seem at present to be entirely subordinated to the merely rhetorical and emotional side of the French character.



Washington, Nov. 22.

How are we getting on in Washington?

The general mood is hopefulness tempered by congestion, mental and physical, and by sheer fatigue. There is no rest in Washington, no cessation. Last winter I was a happy invalid at Amalfi, I sat in the Italian sunshine, the hours were vast globes of golden time, my mind and my soul were my own. Now I live to the tune of a telephone bell and the little feverish American hours slip through my hot, dry hands before I can turn my thoughts around. I wish I could attend to everything.

The conference has evolved two committees, one on disarmament and one on Pacific affairs, which meet behind closed doors, so that one has three or four divergent reports of what has happened to choose from; delegates at all hours 131and in devious ways call together the press men to make more or less epoch-making statements; there are particular conferences with representative business men of this country and educationists of that, and so forth; one is called upon by a multitude of well informed people insistent upon this fact or that point of view, eloquent sidelights from South China, Albania, Czecho-Slovakia clamor for attention. And there is a terrible multitude of mere pesterers who want to do something—they know not what. The weather here is unusually warm and inclined to be cloudy, a brewhouse atmosphere, due entirely, one humorist declares, to the tremendous fermentation that is going on.

The fermenting vat overflows with the press of all the world. All the world, we feel, is present in spirit at Washington.

Three questions stand out as of importance and significance. The naval disarmament discussion, as one could have foretold, becomes a haggle for advantages. Each power seeks to disarm the other fellow. Great Britain detests 132the big raider submarine and wants none of it; it is America’s only effective long range weapon. A clamor comes to us from across the ocean from the French Senate for unlimited submarines. These will be to attack Great Britain; there can be no other possible use for them. Perhaps the French Senate does not really want war with Britain, but this is the way to get it.

Japan is asking for a seven to ten instead of a six to ten basis for herself. And so on. So long as unsettled differences remain, disarmament discussions are bound to degenerate in this fashion. Settlements and sincere disarmament are inseparably interwoven. The French, however, have led in an important pronouncement, promising evacuations and renunciations in the Chinese area on the part of France, provided Britain and Japan follow suit. Lord Riddle, on behalf of Britain, has followed suit; Britain is ready to relinquish everything, with the justifiable exception of Hongkong, a purely British creation. And M. Briand has explained why France must have an awful army to overawe 133Europe, but that still leaves certain possibilities of military restraint open for consideration. We are still discussing whether we may not hope to see conscription banished from the earth.

When such things swim up through the boiling activities of the Washington vat, not merely as passing suggestions and happy ideas but embodied in more or less concrete proposals, we cannot fail, however jaded we may feel, from also feeling hopeful. The conference has got only to its third session and we already seem further from war in the Pacific and nearer security there than at any time in the last two years.

And these intimations of success in this world discussion, of which Washington is the controlling nucleus, turn our minds naturally enough to the continuation and final outcome of this great initiative of President Harding’s. The more fruitful the conference seems likely to be in agreements and understandings the more evident is the necessity for something permanent arising out of it, to hold and maintain, 134in spirit and in fact, this accumulation of agreements and understandings.

The Washington Conference before it breaks up and disperses must in some way lay an egg to reproduce itself. In some fashion it must presently return. Because we have had to bear in mind that in the final and conclusive sense of the word the conference can decide nothing. It has produced a fine and generous atmosphere about it; it will probably arrive at an effectual temporary solution of a large group of problems, but the power of final decision rests with Governments and Legislatures far away.

The American proposals are only suggestive and they have no value as a treaty, unless they are accepted by the powers and until the American Senate has confirmed them by a two-thirds majority. M. Briand may have wished to be generous and broadminded here, but in Paris is this French Senate, inspired by a mad patriotism that would even now begin to arm France for an “inevitable” war with Britain. The French Senate has made a warlike gesture 135directly at England, has set its feet in a path that can end only in a supreme disaster for both France and England, and it did so, one guesses, in order to remind M. Briand that if he dared to be reasonable, if he dared to be pacific, if he acted for Great France and mankind, instead of at the dictates of Nationalist France, he did so at his peril. He would have been accused of betraying his country. “Conspuez Briand!” they would have cried in their pretty way. So M. Briand has played the patriot’s role.

In Tokio and in London it is an open secret that the same conflict goes on; the cables are busy with the struggle between reason and fierce patriotism. * * * Every concession made by every country at Washington will go back to the home land to be challenged as “weakness,” as “want of patriotism,” as “treason.”

In America and Britain the ugly side of this business has still to come, the outbreak of the patriotic fanatics, of the disappointed politicians who wanted to come here, of the wrecker 136journalists, the dealers in suspicion, the evil minds of a thousand types. And the lassitude that follows great expectations has also to be reckoned with. What Washington decides will not be the ultimate outcome; what the world will get at last in treaties ratified and things accomplished will be the mangled and tangled remains of the Washington decisions.

For that reason it is imperative that the Washington Conference should meet again. Its work is not done until its decisions are realized. After it has sent over its reports to the Goverments and Parliaments it will adjourn, but it must not cease. With perhaps rather fuller powers, with perhaps a wider or a different representation of the world, it must come again to a renewed invitation, to restore once more that atmosphere of international good will that has been created here, and to go over the attempts to realize, or the failures to realize, the settlement it has already worked out. And there will be many questions ripening then for solution that it cannot deal with now.

Much remains to be done by the Washington Conference, most of its work, indeed, is still to 137be done, but enough has been demonstrated already here to convince any reasonable man that a new thing, a new instrument, a new organ, has come into human affairs and that it is a thing that the world needs and cannot do without again. This thing has to recur, has to grow. It has to become a recurrent world conference. And this being clear, it is time that public discussion, public opinion, direct itself to the problem of the renewal of the conference in order that before it disperses we may be assured that it will meet again.

As a temporary, transitory thing, it will presently fade out of men’s memories and imaginations; but as a thing going on and living, which has gone, but which, like the King in circuit, will come again to try the new issues that have arisen and to try again the experiments that have fallen short of expectation, it may become the symbol and rallying point of all that vast amount of sane, humanitarian feeling and all that devotion to mankind as a whole, and to peace and justice, that has hitherto been formless and ineffectual in the world, for the need of such a banner.



Washington, November 23.

The Washington Conference, after its tremendous opening, seems now to be running into slack water. It has had its three great days, in which Secretary Hughes and Mr. Balfour and M. Briand have respectively played the leading parts. The broad lines of a possible naval reduction and of a possible Chinese and Pacific settlement are shaping themselves in men’s minds.

M. Briand has spoken and now departs. France will not disarm until she has a binding treaty which her former allies are not yet prepared to give her. She ignores the assurances of her proved allies and the experiences of the Great War. She goes in fear of desolate Russia and bankrupt Germany and she is “assailable 139on three coasts.” So she retains her great armies, and especially her “colonial” army. M. Briand’s departure has something of the effect of France shaking the dust from her feet and departing from the conference.

But France cannot step out of her share in the leadership of peace in this fashion. France has not finished with the conference yet. She will speak now at Washington with a voice perhaps less romantically impressive but more practically helpful. She has explained the terrors of her position and the assembled delegates have said “There! There!” to her as politely and soothingly as possible. But nobody really believes in the terrors of her position. Mr. Hughes is a man of great tenacity of purpose, and his chief reply to M. Briand’s speech is to keep military disarmament upon the agenda. A third committee of five powers has been added to the two already in existence to deal with land disarmament. It is doubtful if it can get very far unless it can bring in German and Russian representatives to reply to the alarmist charges of M. Briand.

140With the formation of this third committee the Washington Conference would seem to have got as much before it as it is likely to handle. The Hughes impetus has done its work and done its work well. The conference has followed his rigorous lead almost too rigorously. It has cut off a manageable part of the vast problem of world peace and seems well on the way to manage it. That is exemplary—if limited. To manage a sample is to go some way toward demonstrating that the whole is manageable. A war on the Pacific has been averted, I think, at least for some years. But the more general problem of world peace as one whole, the problem of ending war for good, still remains untouched, and it is well to bear in mind that that is so.

It is impossible not to contrast this phase in the life of the Washington Conference with the great propositions of the opening days, when President Harding was speaking at Arlington and in the Continental Building of making an end to offensive—and with that of defensive—war forever in the world. It is impossible to 141ignore this shrinkage of aim and to refrain from measuring the vast omissions. That prelude, one perceives, was the prelude to something greater than this present conference, and more than this conference must ensue from it. The haggling and adjustment that is now going on in the committee of five powers on naval limitation and in the committee of nine powers on the Pacific settlement I will not attempt to follow. It is a matter for the experts and diplomatists; the public is concerned not with the methods of the wrangle but with the general purport and practical outcome.

We of the general public are incapable of judging upon the merits of battle cruisers and the possible limits to the size of submarines. Our concern is to see such things grow rarer and rarer until they disappear. I will not apologize, therefore, for going outside the conference chamber for the matter of my next few papers. I will go back from Mr. Secretary Hughes and his proposals and their consequences to President Harding and to the great expectations with which the conference assembled.

142These expectations looked not merely to an arrest of international competition on the Pacific, and to giving threatened China a breathing time to bring itself up to modern conditions; they looked frankly toward the establishment of a world peace. But so far as Europe goes, where as M. Briand’s speech reminded us, the nations are locked together in a state of extreme danger, the conference has as yet done nothing. It is quite possible to believe that it will do very little. It is doubtful if the peace of Europe can ever be dealt with effectually in Washington. The troubles of the European Continent are an old, intricate story, and I believe the attitude ascribed here to the American Centre and West, the attitude of “let Europe solve her own international problems and not bother us with them,” is a thoroughly sound and wise one. America has neither the time and attention to spare nor the particular understandings needed to grasp the tangled difficulties of Europe. Such initiatives as those of President Wilson about Danzig and Fiume settle nothing and leave rankling sores. It is 143up to Europe to clear up and simplify itself before it comes into the world arena with America.

It is just within the range of possibility, therefore, that some sort of European conference may arise out of the Washington gathering. Such a conference is becoming necessary. The divergence in spirit and aim of France and Britain that Washington has brought out is not a divergence to be smoothed over. Better it should flare now than smoulder later. I have done my own small best to exacerbate it, because I believe that a brisk quarrel and some plain speaking may clear the air for a better understanding. Europe needs ventilation. When France, Britain, Italy and Germany meet together to discuss their common interests, cut through their impossible entanglements and get rid of their mutual suspicions and precautions with the frankness of this Washington gathering, with as open and free a discussion and as ample a public participation, European affairs will be on the mend.

But there is another issue which America 144cannot keep out of as she can keep out of the Franco-German-British situation, and upon this second issue the world looks to her for some sort of leadership. So far the Washington Conference has excluded any consideration of the economic and financial disorder of the world. But that consideration cannot be indefinitely delayed; it is becoming pressingly necessary. All the while we are debating here about Japanese autocracy and ambitions, and what we really mean by the “open door,” and whether we shall have 40,000 or 90,000 tons of submarines, and so on, the economic dissolution of the world goes on.

The immediate effect of partial disarmament, indeed, both in Britain and Japan, may be even to increase the economic difficulties of these countries by throwing considerable masses of skilled labor out of work. I propose in my next paper to discuss this process of economic and social dissolution which is now going on throughout the world, beneath the surface of our formal international relations. It is the 145larger reality of the present world situation which the brighter, more dramatic incidents of the earlier sessions at Washington have for a time thrust out of our attention.



Washington, Nov. 25.

In the opening paper of this series I said that Western civilization was undergoing a very rapid process of disorganization, a process that was already nearly complete in Russia and that was spreading out to the whole world. It is a huge secular process demanding unprecedented collective action among the nations if it is to be arrested and I welcome the Washington Conference as the most hopeful beginning of such concerted action.

Now that the Washington Conference has defined its scope and limitations and got down to a definite scheme of work it will be well to return to this ampler question of the decline in the world’s affairs.

Now there are great numbers of people, more particularly in America, who still refuse to recognize 147this intermittent and variable process, which resumes and goes on again and rests steady for a time and then hurries, which is taking all that we know as civilization in Europe toward a final destruction. The mere statement that this is going on they call “pessimism,” and with a sort of genial hostility they oppose any attempt to consider the possibility of any action to turn back the evil process.

I suppose they would call the note of a fire alarm or the toot of a motor horn “pessimism”—until the thing hit them good and hard. It would have the same effect of a disagreeable warning and interruption to the even tenor of their ways. They argue that this alleged decadence is not going on, or, what is from a soundly practical point of view the same thing, that it is never going to reach them or anything that they really care for.

The starvation of Russia down to an empty shell, the break up of China, the retrogression of Southeastern Europe to barbarism, the sinking of Constantinople to the level of a drunken brothel, the steadily approaching collapse of 148Germany, is nothing to these “optimists.” America is all right, anyhow, and am I my brother’s keeper? It is just a phase of misfortune “over there” and the people must get out of it as they can.

Wait for the swing of the pendulum, the turn of the tide. Things will come right again—over the heaps of dead. There have been such slumps before in those countries away over there, notoriously less favored by God, as they are, than America.

It may be well therefore to go over this matter a little more fully and to give my grounds for supposing that there is a rot, a coming undone, going on in our system, that will not necessarily recover—that the movement isn’t the swing of a pendulum, nor this ebb an ebb that will turn again. And further, that this rotting process is bound to affect not merely Europe and Asia, but ultimately America.

Now let us recapitulate in the most general terms what has happened and is happening at the present time to impoverish and disorganize the world. First, there has been a very 149great destruction of life through the war, especially in Europe. Mostly this has been the killing of young men who would otherwise have been the flower of the working mass of these countries at the present time. This in itself is a great loss of energy, but it is a recoverable loss. A new generation is already growing up to replace these millions of dead and to efface the economic loss of this tragic and sorrowful destruction.

Nor is the extraordinary waste of property, of energy and raw material spent in mere destruction, an irreplaceable loss. Given toil, given courage, devastated areas can be restored, fresh energies found to replenish the countless millions and millions of foot pounds of work wasted upon explosives. Many beautiful things, buildings, works of art and the like have gone, never to be gotten again, but their place may conceivably be taken by new efforts of creative, artistic energy, given toil, given confidence and hope.

Far more serious, from the point of view of the future, than the destruction of either things 150or lives, are certain subtler destructions, because they strike at that toil, that courage and hope and confidence which are essential to any sort of recuperation.

And foremost is the fact of debt, everywhere, but particularly in the European countries. All the billions worth of material that was smashed up and blown to pieces on the front had to be bought from its owners and to secure it every belligerent Government had to incur debts. Lives cost little, but material much. The European combatants are overwhelmed with debts, every European worker and toiler, every European business man, is a debtor; every European enterprise goes on under a crushing burden of taxation because of these debts. An attempt has been made to shift this unendurable burden from the victors to the vanquished, but the vanquished already had as much as they could carry.

Now when first mankind began to experiment with money and credit the lot of the debtor was an intolerable one. He might become the slave of his creditor, he might be subjected to imprisonment 151and frightful punishments. But it was early discovered that it was not to the general advantage, it was not even to the advantage of the creditor, to drive the debtor to despair. Processes of bankruptcy were devised to clear him up, get what was possible from him and then release him to a fresh start and hope.

But we have not yet extended the same leniency to national bankruptcy because national insolvencies have been rare. And so we have whole nations in Europe so loaded with debts and punitive charges that every worker, every business man, will be under his share in this burden from the cradle to the grave. He will be a debt serf to the domestic or foreign creditor and all his enterprises will be weighed and discouraged by this obligation. Debt is one immense and universal discouragement now throughout all Europe.

But even that might not prevent the recovery of Europe. There is yet another and profounder evil in operation to prevent people “getting to work” to reconstruct their shattered economic life. That is the increasing failure 152of money to do its work. Europe cannot get to work, cannot get things going again, because over a large part of the world the medium of exchange has become untrustworthy and unusable. That is the immediate thing that is destroying civilization in the Old World.

We have to remember that our whole economic order is based on money. We do not know any way of working a big business, a manufactory, a large farm, a mine, except by money payments. Payment in kind, barter and the like are ancient and clumsy expedients; you cannot imagine a great city like New York getting along with its industrial and business life on any such clumsy basis. Every modern city, London, Paris, Berlin, is built on a money basis and will collapse into utter ruin, as Petersburg has already collapsed, if money fails. But over large and increasing areas of Europe money is now of such fluctuating value, its purchasing power is so uncertain, that men will neither work for it, nor attempt to save it, nor make any monetary bargains ahead.

Such a thing has never occurred to anything 153like the same extent in all history, and it is killing business enterprise altogether and throwing whole masses of working people out of employment.

Europe without trustworthy money is as paralyzed as a brain without wholesome blood. She cannot act, she cannot move. Employment becomes impossible and production dies away. The towns move steadily toward the starvation that has overtaken Petersburg and the peasants and cultivators cease to grow anything except to satisfy their own needs. To go to market with produce, except to barter, is a mockery. The schools are not working, the hospitals, the public services; the teachers and doctors and officials cannot live upon their pay, they starve or go away.

This state of affairs has been brought about by the reckless manufacture of paper money by nearly every European Government; we can measure their recklessness roughly by comparing their pre-war and post-war exchanges. It is only now that we are beginning to realize the enormity of the disaster which this demoralization 154of money is bringing upon the world.

We have weakened the link of cash payments, which has hitherto held civilization together, to the breaking point. As the link breaks, the machine stops. The modern city will become a formless mob of unemployed men and the countryside will become a wilderness of food-hoarding peasants—and since the urban masses will have no food and no means of commanding it, we may expect the most violent perturbations before they are persuaded to accept their fate in a philosophical spirit.

Revolutionary social outbreaks are not the results of plots; they are symptoms of social disease. They are not causes but effects. This is what I mean when I write of a breakdown of civilization. I mean the death of town life, which cannot go on without money and the cessation of organized communications. I mean a breakdown of the organizations for keeping the peace. I mean an end to organized education.

I mean the smashing of this social order in 155which we live, through the smashing of money, which has already occurred to a large extent in Russia, which is going on in many parts of Eastern Europe, which seems likely to occur within a few months in Germany, which may spread into Italy and France, and so to Britain, and even to the American continent, and which can only be arrested by the most vigorous collection action to restore validity to money.

Of which vigorous collective action there is in Washington at the present moment no sign.



Washington, November 26.

In a previous paper I have set out the plain facts of the condition of Central and Eastern Europe. It is a break-up of the modern civilization system, due to the smashing up of money, without which organized town life, factory production, education and systematic communications are unworkable. If it goes on unchecked to its natural conclusion, Central and Eastern Europe will follow Russia to a condition in which the towns will be dying or dead, empty and ruinous, the railroads passing out of use, and in which few people will be left alive except uneducated and degenerating peasants and farmers, growing their own food and keeping a rough order among themselves in their own fashion. We are faced, indeed with a return 157to barbarism over all these areas. They are going back to the conditions of rural Asia Minor or the Balkans.

How far is this degeneration going to spread?

Let us recognize at once that it need spread no further. It is not an inevitable process. It could be arrested, it could be turned back and a rapid restoration of our shattered civilization could be set going right away if the leading powers of the world, sinking their political ambitions for a time, could meet frankly to work out a bankruptcy arrangement that would release the impoverished nations from debt and give them again a valid money, a stable money with a trustworthy exchange value, that could be accepted with confidence and saved without deterioration. Upon that things could be set going again quite hopefully. Education has not so degenerated as yet, habits of work and trading and intercourse are still strong enough to make such a recovery possible.

Except perhaps in Russia. Russia, for all we know, may have sunken very deep.

158But if there is no vigorous world effort made soon the trading class, the foreman class, the technically educated class, the professional class, the teachers, and so forth, will have been broken up and dispersed. These classes are comparatively easy to destroy, extremely hard to reconstruct. Modern civilization will really have been destroyed, if not for good, for a long period, over great areas if these classes go.

And the process is at present still spreading rapidly. If it gets Germany—and it seems to be getting Germany—then Italy may follow. Italy is linked very closely to Germany economically and financially. The death of Germany will chill the economic blood of Italy. Italy is passionately anxious to disarm on land and sea. But Italy cannot disarm while France maintains a great army and makes great naval preparations. France’s refusal to disarm prevents Italy from disarming. The lira sways and sinks; its value fluctuates not perhaps so widely as do marks and kronen but much too widely for healthy industrial life and social security. And Italy is troubled by its restless 159nationalists, a whooping flag-waving crew of posturing adventurers without foresight or any genuine love of country. If nothing is done, I think I would give Germany about six months and North Italy two years before a revolutionary collapse occurs.

And France?

This new rhetorical France which remains heavily armed while no man threatens, which builds new ships to fight non-existent German armies and guards itself against the threats of long dead German Generals—one of M. Briand’s hair-raising quotations is to be found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and must be nearly twenty years stale—the renascent France which jostles against Italy and England and believes that it can humbug America for good and all while it does these things, will it pull through amid the general disaster of Europe? Will it achieve its manifest ambition and remain dominant in Europe, the dominance of the last survivor, the cock upon the dunghill of a general decay? I doubt it.

Watch the franc upon the exchange as the 160true meaning of the French search for “security” dawns upon the world. Watch the subscription to the next French loan to pay for more submarines and more Senegalese. It may prove to be too difficult a feat, after all, for France to wreck the rest of Europe, to destroy her commerce by destroying her customers, and yet to save herself. When France begins to break, she may break very quickly. Under the surface of this exuberant French patriotism runs a deep tide of Communism, raw and red and insanely logical.

We talk of the saner, graver France, the substantial France, that is masked by the rhetoric of M. Briand and the flag-waving French nationalists, of a France generous enough to help a fallen foe and great enough to think of the welfare of mankind. I wish we could hear more of that saner France. And soon. I can see nothing but a warlike orator, empty and mischievous, leading France and all Europe to destruction. I do not see that it is possible for a France of armaments and adventures to dance along the edge of the abyss without falling in.

161When we pass out of the Continental to the Atlantic system and consider the case of Britain we find a country with a stabler exchange and a tradition of social give and take stronger and deeper than that of any other country in Europe. But she is not a self-maintaining country. Her millions live very largely on overseas trade. She is helplessly dependent upon the prosperity of other countries, and particularly of Europe; the ebb of prosperity abroad means ebb for her at home. No other country feels so acutely the economic prostration of Germany; no other country suffers so greatly from the restless activities of France. She is struggling along now with unprecedented masses of unemployed workers, and the state of affairs abroad offers no hope of any diminution of this burden. The housing of her great population has degenerated greatly since the war began; she cannot continue to feed, clothe nor educate her people as she used to do unless the decay of Continental Europe is arrested.

I do not know what political form of expression 162a great distress in Britain might take. The tendency toward revolutionary violence is not very evident in the British temperament, but people who are slow to move are often slow to stop. The slow violence of the English might not find expression in revolution and might not expend itself internally. They might get resentful about France—and perhaps Germany might be feeling resentful about France too. But I will confess that I cannot yet imagine what an acutely distressed Britain might or might not do. Yet it is plain to me that the shadow that lies so dark over Petrograd stretches as far as London.

Such, compactly, is the condition of Europe today. I submit to the reader that it is a fair statement of facts in common knowledge. This is not the Europe of the diplomatists and publicists; it is the Europe of reality and the common man. It is a process of decline and fall going on under our eyes, swifter and more extensive than the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. Its immediate cause is the destruction of the monetary 163system under the burden of war expenditure and war debts. And the only possible hope that it may be arrested lies in a prompt and vigorous world conference to put an end to war expenditures, including even these French war expenditures that M. Briand’s admirers find so justifiable; to extinguish debts and reinstate stable and trustworthy money in the world.

There is no evidence yet that the Washington Conference will take up this task or will even contemplate this task. I find myself in the trough of the waves today and less confident of the outcome, even the limited outcome, of things here. I am increasingly doubtful whether the conference will get as far in the direction of a stabilized Pacific as I hoped a few days ago.



Washington, November 28.

In my next article I will report progress of the Washington Conference; in this I will go on with my account in general terms of what is happening in the world.

I have written of a progressive rapid dissolution of our civilized organization as the dominant fact of the present time. It is very hard indeed to keep it in one’s mind here in this city of plenty and lavish light that anything of the sort is going on. It is amazing how they splash light about here; the Capitol shines all night like a full moon, an endless stream of light pours down the Washington Obelisk, light blinks and glitters and spins about and spills all over the city.

I find it hard to realize the reality of the collapse here myself, and yet I have seen the 165streets of one great European city in full daylight as dead and empty as a skull. I have sought my destination in the chief thoroughfare of another European capital at night by means of a pocket electric torch. I at least ought to keep these memories of desolation clear before me.

I do not see how Americans who have never seen anything of the wrecked state of Eastern Europe and the shabbiness and privation of the Centre can be expected to feel and see the vision I find it so hard to keep vivid in my thoughts. Here is a country where money is still good; the $10 notes in my pocket assure me I can go down to the Treasury here and get gold for them whenever I think fit. (I believe them so thoroughly that I do not even think fit.) My intimations of the progressive dissolution over there must read like a gloomy fiction. And it is the hardest, most important fact in the world.

Everywhere here there is festival. I go to splendid balls, to glittering receptions; I am whirled off to a most hilarious barbecue, an ox 166in chains, roasts and drips over a wood fire—think of that in Russia! Thanksgiving Day was an inordinate feast. The portions of food they give you in hotels, clubs and restaurants are enormous, by present European standards; one seems always to be eating little bits and throwing the rest away.

Neither New York nor Washington shows a trace yet, that I can see, of the European shadow. There is much unemployment, but not enough yet to alarm people. Nothing of it has struck upon my perceptions either here or in New York. In the midst of this gay prosperity comes a letter from my wife describing how the police had to censor the bitter inscriptions upon the wreaths that were laid upon the London cenotaph on Armistice Day and how the veterans of the Great War who marched in the unemployed processions in London wore pawn tickets in the place of their medals.

I am forced by these contrasts to the question: “Suppose America patches up a fairly stable peace with Japan; lets Japan accumulate in Manchuria, Siberia, and finally China; cuts 167her naval expenditure to nothing, and allows the rest of the world, including the old English-speaking home, to slide and go over into the abyss—apart from the moral loss, will she suffer very greatly?”

That is a very interesting speculation.

I think she may adjust herself to a self-contained system and, in a sense, pull through. It may involve some very severe stresses. At present she grows more food than she can eat or waste; she exports foodstuffs. The American farmer sells so much of his produce for export, not a very great percentage, but enough to form an important item in his affairs. Given a Europe and Asia too impoverished and broken up to import food stuffs, that trade goes. The American farmer will have to sell to a shrunken demand; he will have either to shrink himself or undersell his fellow farmer. This will mean bad times for the American farmer as Europe sinks; farmers will be unable to buy as freely as usual; many agriculturists will be going out of business.

Firms like Ford will be embarrassed by overproduction. 168American manufacturers are also, to a very marked but not overwhelming extent exporters and much of their internal trade is to the farmers—whose purchasing power will be diminishing. Bad times for the industrial regions also will follow the European disaster, perhaps even very bad times. New York and the Eastern cities, so far as the overseas traffic goes, may suffer exceptionally. For them there may be less power of recovery, for with the fall of Europe into barbarism, the centre of American interests will shift to the interior. But after a series of crises, a lot of business failures and so on, I do not see why the United States—if there is no war with Japan—very little reduced from the large splendor of its present habits, should not still be getting along in a fashion. America is not tied up to the European system, to live and die with it, as France or Britain is tied.

And there is a limit also to the areas of the Old World affected by the collapse of the cash and credit system in Europe. Outside the European seacoast towns, Asia Minor is not likely 169to go much lower than it is at present, though most of Europe sink to the level of the Balkans and Asia Minor. The dissolution of Asia Minor resulted from the great wars of the Eastern Empire and Persia; all that land was ruined country before the days of Islam. It has never recovered and Europe may never recover.

Given an enfeebled Britain, there will probably be a collapse into conflict and discord throughout most of India; and China, unhelped, may continue in a state of confusion which is steadily destroying her ancient educated class and her ancient traditions without replacing them by any modernized educational organization. But here again upon the Western Pacific there may be regions which need not go the whole way down to citylessness, illiteracy and the peasant life.

Japan is still solvent and energetic, the war has probably strained her very little more than it has strained America, and her participation in the world credit system is still so recent that, like America, she may be able to draw herself 170together and maintain herself and expand her rule and culture, unimpeded, over the whole of Eastern Asia. She will be the more able to do this if a phase of disarmament gives her time to rest and consolidate before her expansion is resumed. A war between Japan and America would be a long and costly affair and it would no doubt topple both powers into the same process of dissolution in which Europe now welters, but I am assuming that America takes no risk of such a war for the sake of China or suchlike remote cause and that Japan is not eager for California. An America indifferent to the fall of Europe would probably not trouble itself seriously if presently Australia came under Japanese domination. It would not trouble—until the Monroe Doctrine was invaded. And it would get along very comfortably and happily.

So far as material considerations go, therefore, there is not much force in an appeal to the ordinary plain man in America to interest himself, much less to exert himself, in the tangled troubles of Europe and Asia now. He 171can remain as proudly “isolated” as his fathers; he can refuse help, he can “avoid entangling alliances,” and rely on his own strength; he can weather the smash, insist on pressing any sparks of recovery out of the European debtor, and so far as he and his children, and possibly even his children’s children, are concerned, America can expect to go on living an extremely tolerable life. There will still be plenty of Fords, plenty of food, movies and other amusing inventions; seed time, harvest and thanksgiving; no armament and very light taxation and as high a percentage of moral, well-regulated lives as any community has ever shown upon this planet. Until that long-distant time when the great Asiatic Empire of Japan turns its attention seriously to expansion in the New World.

So far as present material considerations go....

But I belong to one of the races that have populated America. I know the imagination of my own people and something of most of the peoples who have sent their best to this land, I 172have watched the people here, and listened to them and read about them; there has been no degeneration here but progress and invigoration, and I will not believe that the American spirit, distilled from all the best of Europe, will tolerate this surrender of the future, this quite hoggish abandonment of the leadership of mankind that continuing isolation implies.

The American people has grown great unawares; it still does not realize its immense predominance now in wealth, in strength, in hope, happiness and unbroken courage among the children of men. The cream of all the white races did not come to this continent to reap and sow and eat and waste, smoke in its shirtsleeves in a rocking-chair, and let the great world from which its fathers came go hang. It did not come here for sluggish ease. It came here for liberty and to make the new beginning of a greater civilization upon our globe. The years of America’s growth and training are coming to an end, the phase of world action has begun. All America is too small a world for the 173American people; the world of their interest now is the whole round world.

I have no doubt of the heart and enterprise of America—if America understands.

But does America understand the scale and urgency of the present situation? Is she prepared to act now? This decadence of Europe is urgent—urgent. So far, this Washington Conference has not touched more than the outer threads of the writhing international tangle that has to be dealt with if European civilization is to be saved.

So far, these economic and financial troubles which are already at a crisis of disaster in Europe have been treated as though they did not exist. But they are the very heart of the trouble across the Atlantic, and with America, the rich creditor of all Europe and the holder of most of the gold in the world, lie enormous possibilities of salvation. The political situation becomes more and more subordinated to the economic.

If America is willing, America is able to reinstate Europe and turn back the decline, and she 174is in so strong a position that she can make the effectual permanent disarmament of Europe a primary condition of her assistance. If she have the clearness of mind to set aside the eloquent apologetics of that one power that is still militant, adventurous and malignant among the ruins, she can oblige the remnant of Europe to get together and settle outstanding differences by the sheer strength of her financial controls. She can demand a “League to Enforce Peace,” and she can enforce it.

Will she do that now, or will she let this occasion pass from her—never to return?



Washington, Nov. 28.

The League of Nations was the first American initiative toward an organized world peace. Its beginning, the world-wide enthusiasm evoked by its early promise, its struggle to exist, its abandonment by America, its blunders and omissions and the useful, incomplete body that now represents it at Geneva, are the material of an immense conflicting literature. For a time at least the League is in the background. It has not kept hold of the popular imagination of the world.

I will not touch here upon the mistakes and disputes, the possible arrogance, the possible jealousies, the inadvisable compromises, the unnecessary concessions that made the League a lesser thing than it promised to be. I will not 176discuss why so entirely American a project, into which many nations came mainly to please America, failed to retain the official support of the American Government. Of such things the historian or the novelist may write but not the journalist. The fact remains that the project was a project noble and hopeful in its beginnings, a very great thing indeed in human history, a dawn in the darkness of international conflict and competition, an adventure which threw a halo of greatness about the Nation that produced it and about that splendid and yet so humanly limited man who has been chiefly identified with its promise and its partial failure.

It was, I insist, very largely an American idea, and only America, because of her freedom from the complex and bitter-spirited traditions of the European Foreign Offices, could have brought such a proposal into the arena of practical politics. The American Nation is exceptionally free from ancient traditions of empire, ascendancy, expansion, glory and the like. It is haunted by a dream, an obstinate recurrent 177dream, of a whole world organized for peace. It comes back to that with a notable persistence.

The League of Nations stands now, as it were, on the shelf, an experiment not wholly satisfactory, not wholly a failure, destined for searching reconsideration at no distant date. Meanwhile, the American mind, with much freshness and boldness, has produced this second experiment, in a widely different direction, the First Washington Conference for the Limitation of Armaments. The League of Nations was too definite and cramped in its constitution, too wide in its powers. It was a premature superstate. One standard objection, and a very reasonable one, was that America might be outvoted by quite minor powers and be obliged to undertake responsibilities for which it had no taste. The second experiment, therefore, has been tried, very properly, with the loosest of constitutions, and the most severely defined and limited of aims. We are beginning to see that it too is an experiment, likely to be successful within its limits but again not wholly 178satisfactory. Instead of a world constitution we have had a world conversation.

That conversation has passed from the open sessions of the conference to the two committees of five upon the limitation of land and sea armaments and the Pacific Committee of nine. In all these committees there are wide fluctuations of thought and temper. There are daily communications to the press from this committee or that, from this delegation or that, from a score of propagandas. It is really not worth the while of the ordinary citizen to follow these squabbles and flights and recriminations and excitements. Certain broad principles have been established. The ordinary citizen will be advised to hold firmly to these and see that he gets them carried through.

And now there has been a decided ebb in the high spirit of the conference. These disputes about details have produced a considerable amount of fatigue, attention is fatigued and the exploit of M. Briand has for a time shattered and confused the general mentality. The American public was in a state of pure and simple 179enthusiasm for peace and disarmament and quite unprepared for the exploit of M. Briand. Like all serious shocks, it did not at first produce its full result.

The mood was so amiable here, so eager for cheering and emotional human brotherhood, that when France, in the person of M. Briand, snapped her fingers at the mere idea of disarmament and quoted a twenty-year-old passage from a dead German Field Marshal to justify a vast army and an aggressive naval programme in the face of an exhausted Europe, there was a touching disposition on the part of a considerable section of the American press to greet this display as in some way conducive to our millennial efforts. Only a few of us called a spade a spade right away and declined to pretend that the irony and restrained indignation of Mr. Balfour and Signor Schanzer were “indorsements” of M. Briand’s stupendous claim that France with her submarines and Senegalese might do as she pleased in Europe.

The facts that the caustic and restrained utterances 180of these gentlemen could be so construed, and that the London Daily Mail should attempt to break and mutilate my comments on the French attitude, demonstrate beyond doubt the need there was for the utmost outspokenness in this matter. But the situation is now better realized. The air is already clearer for the outburst. France, we realize, has to stop bullying Germany and threatening Italy; Europe can only be saved by the honest and unreserved co-operation of Italy, France and Britain for mutual aid and reassurance.

The repercussion of the Franco-British clash was immediately evident upon the other issues of the conference. The practical refusal of France to join in the generous renunciations of America and Britain, the feeling of insecurity created in Western Europe weakened Britain in her ability to work with America on the Pacific for a secure China and for restraint upon the possible imperialism of Japan. Britain cannot do that with a hostile neighbor behind her and an uncertain America at her side, and the prospects of a free China and for an effective 181limitation of the Japanese naval strength were greatly imperilled. Japanese demands stiffened. “Ten to six,” said America. “Ten to seven,” answered Japan.

The effect upon what I might call the Washington state of mind throughout the world was depressing. The easy onrush of the opening days was checked. Here was hard work ahead, complications, the traditions and mental habits of two great European peoples were in conflict and had somewhat to be adjusted if we were to get on. The Anglo-French Entente, we discovered, was in a very unsatisfactory state; it had suddenly to be sent to the wash and the washing had to be done in public, and this happened at a phase of lassitude. In the ebb of the great enthusiasm all sorts of buried rocks and shoals became apparent again. Party politics reappeared—and remained showing.

I am an innocent child in American politics; I know that I make my artless remarks upon these things at considerable peril. But I gather from the self-betrayals of one or two influential people that things are somewhat in this 182frame. The Democrats feel that so far they have been almost supernaturally “good” about the conference. They haven’t said a word by way of criticism; they have hailed and helped and smiled and cheered. Still——If things should so turn out that a kind of insufficiency should appear, and if people’s minds should revert thereupon toward the Democratic League of Nations idea, so much under a cloud at present, it would be rather more than human not to feel a faint gleam of pleasure and perhaps even to give the gentlest of pushes to the process of disillusionment.

And on the other hand, there betrays itself now and then a slight nervous eagerness on the part of loyal rather than good Republicans to call anything that happens a success and to become indignant when, as in the case of the Briand oration, a spade is called a spade. And that childish, undignified and dwindling tendency of certain American types to regard all foreign powers in general, and Britain in particular, as forever engaged in diabolical machinations against the peace and purity of 183American life is also increasingly evident. There is an open, if incoherent, press campaign against disarmament, against the British, against foreigners generally, against—any troublesome thing you like.

These are ebb tide phenomena. These are the limitations of our poor humanity under fatigue. None the less, matters have to be thrashed out and will be thrashed out. As I said in the beginning, it is hard to keep hold.

And so it was high time that the President, who embodies so much of the simplicity and strength of that real America, in which I am a profound and obstinate believer, should come back into the limelight from which he receded after delivering his great speech and leaving the chair on the opening day of the conference. In the indirect way customary with Presidents here he has been making some very important pronouncements.

My friend Mr. Michelson some days ago published a sketch of very important proposals that had already received wide support in the informal discussions that pervade Washington—for 184partial rescinding of the Allied debts, subject to disarmament conditions, to be considered by a second conference to be presently assembled. Following on this news the President has been talking for publication of a third experiment in the form of a second Washington Conference to take up these issues. And he has also been talking of a third conference to confirm and go on with the disarmament arrangements, a conference at which Germany and the Spanish-speaking powers, if not Russia, are apparently to have a voice. Such a periodic repetition of the conference would presently organize itself for a continuing life and so develop gradually and naturally into that Association of Nations we are all seeking.

These are refreshing promises in these days of ebb; they show that the impulse that began so splendidly two weeks ago is not dead, that the tide rises toward world discussion and world organized peace will flow again presently, wider and stronger than its previous flow. And meanwhile these frank discussions of attitude and detail must go on; they cannot be ignored, but 185at the same time they must not be magnified into incurable quarrels and insurmountable difficulties. They are unavoidable and necessary things, but not the big things, the main things. While the tide is out our main projects, stranded in this estuary that leads perhaps to the ocean of peace, must needs keel over and look askew; we must scrape our keels, calk leaks and wait for the great waters to return.



Washington, Nov. 30.

The power of the American impulse toward a world peace is undeniable. It has produced in succession the great dream of a League of Nations and now this second great dream of a gradually developing Association of Nations arising out of a series of such conferences as this one. No other nation could have raised such hopes and no other political system has the freedom of action needed to give these projects the substance and dignity which the initiative of the head of the state involves.

But if these projects are to carry through into the world of accomplished realities, if in a lifetime or so this glorious dream of a world peace—going on, as a world at peace must now inevitably do, from achievement to achievement—if 187that dream is to be realized, certain peculiarities of the American people and the American situation have at no very distant date to be faced.

All such gatherings and conferences as this are haunted by a peculiar foggy ghost called “Tact,” which is constantly seeking to cover up and conceal and obliterate some vitally important but rather troublesome reality in the matter. “Tact” is apparently a modern survival of the ancient “Tabu.” For example, a pleasant Indian gentleman sits among the British delegates at the conference; “Tact” demands that no one shall ever ask him or of him, “What do you conceive will be the place of India in that great World Association half a century ahead? Will it still be a British appendix?” And “Tact” becomes hysterical at the slightest whisper of the word “Senegalese,” or any inquiry about the possible uses of the French submarine. And a third question, hitherto veiled by “Tact” under the very thickest wrappings of fog, to which, greatly daring, I propose to address myself now, is: “How far is America 188really prepared to fix and adhere to any wide schemes for the permanent adjustment of the world’s affairs that may be arrived at by this conference or its successors?”

The other day a friend of mine in New York made a profoundly wise remark to me. “I have found,” she said, “that one can have nothing and do nothing without paying for it. If you do well or if you do ill, just the same you have to pay for it. If a mother wants to do her best by her children, she must pay for it, in giving up personal ambitions, dreams of writing or art, throughout the best years of life. If a man wants to do his best in business or politics, he must sacrifice dreams of travel and adventure.” And whatever America does with herself in the next few years, she too must be prepared to pay.

If she desires isolation, moral exaltation, irresponsibility and self-sufficiency, “America for the Americans and never mind the consequences,” she must be prepared to witness the decline and fall of the white civilization in Europe and the consolidation of a profoundly 189alien system across the Pacific. If, on the other hand, she now takes up this task for which she seems so inclined, as the leader and helper of white civilization, the task of organizing the permanent peace of the world upon the lines of the system of civilization to which she belongs, then for that nobler role also there is a price to be paid. She has to assume not only the dignity but the responsibilities of leadership. She has not merely to express noble sentiments, but to lay hold upon the difficulties and intricacies of the problem before her. She has not merely to criticise but to consider and sympathize and help, and she has to make decisions and abide by them.

When America really makes decisions, she abides by them—vigorously. The Monroe Doctrine was such a decision. It has saved South America for South Americans; it has saved Europe from a ruinous scramble for the Spanish inheritance. It was the first great feat of Americanism in world politics. The exponents of “Tact” will, I know, be outraged by the reminder that for a long time tacit approval of 190Britain and the existence of the British fleet provided a support and shield to the Monroe Doctrine, and also by the further reminder that the one serious attack upon it was made by Napoleon III. during the American Civil War—at which time, I admit, the attitude of Great Britain to the disunited States was also far from impeccable. But helped or assailed, the Monroe Doctrine held good.

The Washington Conference has developed a position with regard to the Pacific that calls for an American decision of equal vigor. It is as plain as daylight that Japanese liberal tendencies can be supported and the aggressive ambitions of Japanese imperialism can be restrained, that China can be saved for the Chinese and Eastern Siberia from foreign conquest, provided America places herself unequivocally side by side with Great Britain and France in framing and sustaining a definite system of guarantees and prohibitions in Eastern Asia. The Anglo-Japanese agreement could be ended in favor of such a new peace-pact and an enormous step forward toward world peace 191be made. It would mark an epoch in world statecraft.

But this means an agreement of the nature of a treaty; a mere Presidential declaration, which means some later President might set aside or some newly elected Senate reverse, is not enough. If the reader will study the position of Australia and of the British commitments in Eastern Asia, he will see why it is not enough. Britain is not strong enough to risk being left alone as the chivalrous protector of a weak, if renascent, China. She has her own people in Australia to consider. And besides, Britain alone—as the protector of China—after all that has happened in the past.... It is moral as well as material help in sustaining the new understanding that the British will require.

The plain fact of the Pacific situation is that there are only three courses before the world—either unchallenged Japanese domination in Eastern Asia from now on, or a war to prevent it soon, or an alliance of America, Britain and Japan, with whatever government China may 192develop, and with the other powers concerned, though perhaps less urgently concerned—an alliance of all these, for mutual restraint and mutual protection. And it is an equally plain fact, though “Tact” cries “Hush!” at the words, that the tradition of America for a hundred years, a tradition which was sustained in her refusal to come into the League of Nations, has been against any such alliance.

George Washington’s advice to his countrymen to avoid “permanent alliances” for the balance of power and suchlike ends, and Jefferson’s reiterated council to his countrymen to avoid “entangling alliances” have been interpreted too long as injunctions to avoid any alliances whatever, entangling or disentangling. The habit of avoiding association in balance-of-power schemes and the like has broadened out into a general habit of non-association. But alliances which are not aimed at a common enemy but only at a common end were not, I submit, within the intention of George Washington.

193At any rate, I do not see how the disarmament proposals of Mr. Secretary Hughes can possibly he accepted without a Pacific settlement, nor how that settlement can be sustained except by some sort of alliance, meeting periodically in conference to apply or adapt the settlement to such particular issues as may arise. If America is not prepared to go as far as that, then I do not understand the enthusiasm of America for the Washington Conference. I do not understand the mentality that can contemplate world disarmament without at least that much provision for the prevention of future conflicts.

And similarly, I do not see how any effectual disarmament is possible in Europe or how any dealing with the economic and financial situation there can be possible unless America is prepared to bind itself in an alliance of mutual protection and accommodation with at least France, Germany, Britain and Italy to sustain a similar series of conferences and adjustments. At the back of the French refusal 194to disarm there is a suppressed demand for a protective alliance. That is an entirely reasonable demand. The form of this alliance that the French have demanded hitherto is an entangling alliance, an alliance of America and Britain and France against, at least, Germany and Russia. The necessary alliance to which France and Britain will presently assent, and which America will come to recognize as the only way to its peacemaking aims, will be against no one; it is an alliance of an entirely beneficial character, an alliance not to entangle but to release.

The disposition of the European delegations and of the British and foreign writers at Washington to treat the idea of America making treaties of alliance as outside the range of possibility, as indeed an idea tabu, seems to me a profoundly mistaken one. It is “Tact” in its extremest form. I have heard talk of the “immense inertia” of political dogmas held for a hundred years. For “immense inertia” I would rather write “expiring impulse.” The 195policy of non-interference in affairs outside America was an excellent thing, no doubt, for a young Republic in the self-protective state; it is a policy entirely unworthy of a Republic which has now become the predominant state in the world.



The futility of the idea of a limitation of armaments or any limitation of warfare as a possible remedy for the present distresses of mankind, without some sort of permanent settlement of the conflicts of interest and ambition which lie at the root of warfare, has grown clearer and clearer with each day’s work of the Washington Conference. And the conviction that no permanent settlement is conceivable without a binding alliance to sustain it also grows stronger each day. For security and peace in the Pacific an alliance of at least America, Britain and Japan is imperative, and Britain cannot play her part therein unless Europe is safe also, through a binding alliance of at least France, Germany, Britain and America. To arrest the economic decadence of the world a still wider bond is needed.

197So the inflexible logic of the situation brings us back to the problem of a world alliance and a world guarantee, the problem of which the League of Nations was the first attempted solution. The conference is being forced toward that ampler problem again, in spite of the severe restrictions of its agenda. After President Wilson’s “League” comes President Harding’s “Association.” Senator Borah, in alarm, emerges from the silence he has hitherto kept during the conference to declare that this “Association” is only another name for the “League.” On that we may differ from him. Association and League are alike in seeking to organize the peace of the world but in every other respect they are different schemes, differing in aims, scope and spirit.

The primary difference is that, while the League was a very clearly defined thing, planned complete from the outset, a thing as precise and inalterable as the United States Constitution, the Harding project is a tentative, experimental thing, capable of great adaptations by trial and corrected error, a flexible and 198living thing that is intended to grow and change in response to the needs of our perplexing and incalculable world.

The Harding idea, as it is growing up in people’s minds in Washington, seems to be something after this fashion: That this present conference shall be followed by others having a sort of genetic relationship to it, varying in their scope, in their terms of reference, in the number of states invited to participate. A successor to the present one seems to be already imminent in the form of a conference on the economic and financial disorder of the world. Such a conference would probably include German and Spanish, and possibly Russian, representatives, and it might take on in addition to its economic discussion any issues that this present conference may leave outstanding.

These Washington Conferences, it is hoped, will become a sort of international habit, will grow into a world institution in which experience will determine usages and usage harden into a customary rule. They will become 199by insensible degrees a World Parliament, with an authority that will grow or decline with the success or failure of the recommendations.

One advantage of having experiments made will occur at once to those who have been present at the plenary sittings of the present conference. The method of trial and error will afford an opportunity of working out the grave inconveniences of the language difficulty. It is plain that, with only three languages going, French, Japanese and English, proceedings may easily become very tedious; there is no true debate, no possibility of interpolating a question or a comment, no real and vivid discussion. The real debating goes on in notes and counter notes, in prearranged speeches, communications to the press representatives, and so forth.

The plenary sessions exist only to announce or confirm. They are essentially ceremonial. In any polyglot gathering it seems inevitable that this should be so. The framers of the League of Nations constitution, with its Council 200and Assembly, seem to have been far too much influenced by the analogy of single language governing bodies in which spontaneous discussion is frequent and free. World conferences are much more likely to do their work by translated correspondence and by private sessions of preparatory committees, and to use the general meeting only for announcement, indorsement and confirmation.

But the preparatory committees are only the first organs developed by the conference. Certain other organs are also likely to arise out of it as necessary to its complete function. Whatever agreements are arrived at here about either the limitation of armaments or the permanent regulation of the affairs of China and the Pacific, it is clear that they will speedily become seed beds of troublesome misunderstanding and divergent interpretation unless some sort of permanent body is created in each case, with very wide powers intrusted to it by the treaty making authorities of all the countries concerned to interpret, defend and apply the provisions of the agreement. Such permanent 201commissions seem to me to be dictated by the practical logic of the situation. Quite apart from the later conferences that President Harding has promised, a standing Naval Armament Commission and a Pacific Commission, with very considerable powers to fix things, seems to be a necessary outcome of the First Washington Conference.

But these two commissions will not cover all the ground involved. This conference cannot leave European disarmament and the European situation with its present ragged and raw ends. Nothing has been more remarkable, nothing deserves closer study by the thoughtful Americans, than the fluctuations of the British delegation at this conference with regard to a Pacific settlement. I see that able writer upon Chinese affairs, Dr. John Dewey, comments upon these changes of front and hints at some profound disingenuousness on the part of the British. But the reasons for these fluctuations lie on the surface of things. They are to be found in the European situation.

Britain, secure in Europe, unthreatened on 202her Mediterranean routes, can play the part of a strong supporter of American ideals in China. She seems, indeed, willing and anxious to do so—in spite of her past. But threatened in Europe, she can do nothing of the sort. She cannot extend an arm to help shield China while a knife is held at her throat. So the Pacific is entangled with the Mediterranean and the coasts of France, and it becomes plain that a Peace Commission for Europe is a third necessary consequence of this conference, if this conference is to count as a success.

Suppose now that this present conference produces the first two commissions I have sketched and gives way to a second conference, with an ampler representation of the European powers, which will direct its attention mainly to the reassurance and disarmament of France and Germany and Britain, a second conference whose findings may be finally embodied in this third commission I have suggested; and suppose, further, that an International Debt and Currency Conference presently gets to effective work, surely we may claim that the 203promised Association of Nations is well on its way towards crystallization.

Simply and naturally, step by step, the President of the United States will have become the official summoner of a rudimentary World Parliament. By the time that stage is reached a series of important questions of detailed organization will have arisen. Each executive commission, as the successive conference brings these commissions into being, will require in its several spheres agents, officials, a secretariat, a home for its archives, a budget. These conferences cannot go on meeting without the development of such a living and continuing body of world administration through the commissions they must needs create. Presumably that body of commissions will grow up mainly in and about Washington. If it does, it will be the most amazing addition to Congress conceivable; it will be the voluntary and gradual aggregation of a sort of loose World Empire round the monument of George Washington.

But I do not see that all these commissions and Parliaments need sit in Washington or that 204it is desirable that they should. A world commission for land disarmament might function in Paris or Rome, a world commission for finance in New York or London. And meanwhile, at Geneva or in Vienna, to which place there is some project of removal, the League of Nations, that first concrete realization of the American spirit, will be going on in its own rather cramped, rather too strictly defined lines.

It also will have thrown out world organizations in connection with health, with such world interests as the white slave traffic, and so forth. It will be conducting European arbitrations and it will be providing boundary commissions and the like. And somewhere there will also be a sort of World Supreme Court getting to work upon judicial international differences.

Now this, I submit, is the way that world unity is likely to arise out of our dreams into reality, and this partial, dispersed, experimenting way of growth is perhaps the only way in which it can come about. It is not so splendid and impressive a vision as that of some World Parliament, some perfected League, suddenly 205flashing into being and assuming the leadership of the world. It will not be set up like a pavilion but it will grow like a tree. But it is a reality and it comes. The Association of Nations grows before our eyes.

And meanwhile there is an immense task before teachers and writers, before parents and talkers and all who instruct and make and change opinion, and that is the task of building up a new spirit in the hearts of men and a new dream in their minds, the spirit of fellowship to all men, the dream of a great world released forever from the obsession of warfare and international struggle; a great world of steadily developing unity in which all races and all kinds of men will be free to make their distinctive contributions to the gathering achievements of the race.



If we are to have any fundamental improvements in the present relations of nations, if we are to achieve that change of heart which is needed as the fundamental thing for the establishment of a world peace, then we must look the facts of international friction squarely in the face. It is no good pretending there is no jar when there is a jar. This business of the world peace effort, of which the Washington Conference is now the centre, is not to smooth over international difficulties; it is to expose, examine, diagnose and cure them.

Now here is this Franco-British clash, a plain quarrel and one very disturbing to the American audience. The Americans generally don’t like this quarrel. They are torn between a very strong traditional affection for the French and 207a kind of liking for at least one or two congenial things about the British. They would like to hear no more of it, therefore. They just simply want peace. But there the quarrel is. Was it an avoidable quarrel? Or was it inevitable? Perhaps it is something very fundamental to the European situation. Perhaps if we analyze it and probe right down to the final causes of it we may learn something worth while for the aims and ends of the Washington Conference.

Now, let us get a firm hold upon one very important fact, indeed. This clash is a clash between the present French Government and the present British Government, but it is not a clash between all the French and all the British. It is not an outbreak of national antipathy or any horrible, irreconcilable thing of that sort. There are elements in France strongly opposed to the French Government upon the issues raised in this dispute. There is a section of the English press fantastically on the “French” side and bitterly opposed even to the public criticism of the public speeches of the French 208Premier in English. The party politics of both France and Britain and, what is worse, those bitter animosities that centre upon political personalities have got into this dispute.

It may help to clear the issue if we disregard the attitude of the two Governments in naming the sides to the dispute, and if instead of speaking of the “French” or the “British” sides we speak of the “Keep-Germany-down” and the “Give-Germany-a-chance” sides, or better, if we call them the “Insisters,” who insist upon the uttermost farthing of repayment and penitence from Germany, and the “Believers,” who don’t. For it is upon Germany that the whole dispute turns.

There is a very powerful “Insister” party in Great Britain; there is a growing “Believer” party in France. And while France has been steadily “Insister” since the armistice, Britain and the British Government have changed round from “Insister” to “Believer” in the last year or so. This change has produced extraordinary strains and recriminations between French and British political groups and individuals, 209as such changes of front must always do. Such disputes often make far more noise than deep and vital national misunderstandings, and it is well that the intelligent observer, and particularly the American observer, should distinguish the note of the disconcerted party man in a rage from the note of genuine patriotic anger.

The beginnings of the present trouble are to be found in the Versailles Conference. There the only “Relievers” seem to have been the American representatives. Those were the days of the British Khaki election, when “Hang the Kaiser” and “Make the Germans Pay!” were the slogans that carried Mr. Lloyd George to power. For about four months the dispute went on between moderation and overwhelming demands. America stood alone for moderation. The British insisted upon the uttermost farthing, at least as strenuously as the French, and it was Gen. Smuts, of all people, who added the last straw to the intolerable burden of indebtedness that was then piled upon vanquished and ruined Germany. And both America and Britain 210were parties to the arrangements that give France the power, the Shylock right, of carving into Germany and disintegrating her more and more if Germany fail to keep up with the impossible payments that were then fixed upon her.

The position of the French Government in this business is therefore a perfectly legal and logical one. France can adhere, as M. Briand says she will, to the Treaty of Versailles, she can flout and disregard any disposition of the Washington Conference to qualify or revise that treaty, and the British Government, in a hopelessly embarrassed and illogical position, can appeal only to the hard logic of reality.

Britain is much more dependent upon her overseas trade than France, and so the British have earlier realized the enormous injury that the social and economic breakdown of Russia has done and the still more enormous injury that the breaking up of Central European civilization will do.

“You are quite within your rights,” these newly converted “Relievers” say to the obdurate 211“Insisters,” “but you will wreck all Europe.”

That idea that the possible destruction of civilization has not yet entered so many minds in France as it has in Britain. Germany is nearer to France than to Britain, and the fear of a renascent and vindictive Germany is greater in France than in Britain. In the French mind, the possibility of a German invasion for revenge twenty years hence still overshadows the possibility of an economic breakdown in a year or two years’ time. The British are nearer the breakdown and further from the Germans. That is the reality of this Franco-British clash.

Upon that reality bad temper, party feeling, personal spites, irrational prejudices, are building up a great mass of nasty, quarrelsome matter. And the French Government and the French nationalist majority are pressing on to naval and military preparations that distinctly threaten Britain. It is no good pretending that they do not do so when they do. The French submarines are aimed at Britain.

212Empty civilities between France and Britain are of no value in a case of this sort. Both countries are being worried by their infernal politicians and both are in a state of financial distress and raw nerves. It is not a time when deliberation and clear reasoning are easy. But when we get down to the fundamentals of the case we find that the antagonism comes out to these two propositions that are not necessarily irreconcilable:

(I) That Germany, for the good of the whole world, must not be destroyed further, but, instead, assisted to keep upon her feet (“Relievers”), and

(II) That Germany must nevermore become a danger to France (“Insisters”).

And these two propositions are completely reconcilable, and this particular clash can be entirely cured and ended by one thing and by one thing only, a binding alliance, watched and sustained by a standing commission of France, Germany, Britain, America, and possibly Italy and Spain, to guarantee France and Germany from further invasions and internal interference, 213if France follows the dictates of her better nature and the advice of her wiser citizens, foregoes her impossible claims and lets up on Germany from now on.

And from no country can the initiative of such an alliance come more effectively than from the United States of America, the universal creditor, who can bring home to France, as no other power can, the beauty and desirability of financial mercifulness.

I submit that these are the broad lines, the elements, the A B C of the present situation and that there is nothing whatever between France and Britain that is not entirely secondary and subordinate to this issue between Insistence and Relief.

And moreover the issue between France in general and Britain in general is an issue that is going on in parallel forms all over the world. Old Japan insists upon the Versailles treaty; young Japan would relieve China,—how much is not yet clear. The American scene is a conflict between those who insist fiercely upon the British debt and those who would devise 214relieving conditions. It is nowhere a struggle between peoples and races, it is everywhere a struggle between logic and reason, between the stipulated thing, the traditional thing and the humane and helpful thing, between old ways of thinking and new, between the letter and the spirit. Old Shylock was the supreme insister, and since Portia was the triumphant reliever, we may reasonably look to the woman voter and the women’s organizations of Britain and America for a particular impetus towards relief. And the sooner relief comes the better, for once Shylock’s knife has cut down sufficiently to the living flesh, the cause of the reliever and of civilization will have been lost forever.



Washington, December 5.

An examination of the situation that has arisen in Europe between France, England and Germany brings us out to exactly the same conclusion as an examination of the Pacific situation. There is no other alternative than this: Either to fight it out and establish the definite ascendancy of some one power or to form an alliance based on an explicit settlement, an alliance, indeed, sustaining a common executive commission to watch and maintain the observance of that settlement. There is no way out of war but an organized peace. Washington illuminates that point. We must be prepared to see an Association of Nations in conference growing into an organic system of world controls for world affairs and the keeping 216of the world’s peace, or we must be prepared for—a continuation of war. So it is worth considering what that continuation of war will be like. If you will not organize peace through some such association, then organize for war, for certainly war will come again to you, or to your children.

And for reasons set out in my earlier papers, reasons amply confirmed by the experiences of the Washington gathering, a mere limitation of armaments can be little more than a strategic truce. It may indeed even cut out expensive items and so cheapen and facilitate war.

Let me note here in passing that the case for some Association of Nations to discuss and control the common interests of mankind rests on a wider basis than the mere prevention of war; the economic and social divisions and discords of mankind provide, perhaps, in the long run, a stronger and more conclusive argument for human unity than the mere war evil, but in this paper I will narrow the issue down to war, simply, and ask the reader to consider the probable nature of war in the future if the development 217of warfare is not checked by deliberate human effort.

And I will not deal with the ill-equipped cut-throat war that has been going on, and, thanks to the divisions and rivalries of France and Britain, is likely still to go on in Eastern Europe for some time to come; the wars of the little, self-determined nations that the Treaty of Versailles set loose upon each other; the raids of Poland into Ukrainia, and of Roumania into Hungary; and of Serbia into Albania; the old-fashioned game enlivened by rape and robbery that was brought to its highest perfection long ago in the Thirty Years’ War. These are not so much wars as spasms of energy, phases of accelerated destruction, in the rotting body of East European civilization.

But I mean the sort of war that will come if presently France attacks England, or if America and Japan start in for a good, long, mutually destructive struggle. You may say that war between France and England is unthinkable, but so far from that being the case, certain worthy souls in France have been thinking 218about it hard. Hard but not intelligently. They do not understand the moral impossibility of Britain fighting America, they have never heard of Canada, they have never examined the text of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and so they dream of a wonderful time when America will be fighting England and Japan, and when France, with magnificent gestures and with submarines and Senegalese at last gloriously justified, will “come to her aid.” So France will divide and rule and clamber to dizzy destinies. Blushing and embarrassed American statesmen have already had to listen, I guess, to some insidious whispers. Even among our distresses there is something amusing in the thought of this hot breath of Old World diplomacy on the fresh American cheek. I do not say that these are the thoughts and acts of France, or of any great section of the French people, but they are certainly the thoughts and proceedings of a noisy Nationalist minority in France which is at present in a position of dangerous ascendancy there.

Still, apart from the fact that the British will 219always refuse to fight America, there does seem to be no real reason why, in the absence of a developing peace alliance to prevent it, either of the other two matches I have cited should not be played. In the long run, you cannot avoid fighting if you avoid comprehensive alliances and standing arrangements for the settlement of differences with the people you may otherwise fight.

So let us try and imagine a war between a pair of these four powers, five or ten years ahead. They have avoided any entangling alliances, or agreements, or settlements, kept their freedom of action and are thoroughly—prepared.

Let us not fall into the trap of supposing that these wars will follow the lines of the Great War of 1914–18 and that we shall have a rapid line-up of great entrenched armies, with massed parks of artillery behind them, tank attacks and all the rest of it. That sort of war is already out of fashion, and the fact that these wars that we are considering will be overseas wars puts any possibility of such a dead 220lock of land armies out of the case. The combatants will have to set about getting at each other in quite other fashions.

Let us recall the maxim that the object of all fighting is to produce a state of mind in the adversary, a state of mind conducive to a discontinuance of the struggle and to submission and acquiescence to the will of the victor. Old-time wars aimed simply at the small antagonist army and at the antagonist Government, but in these democratic days the will for peace or war has descended among the people and diffused itself among them, and it is the state of mind of the whole enemy population that has become the objective in war. The old idea of an invading army marching on a capital, gives place, therefore, to a new conception of an attack through propaganda, through operations designed to produce acute economic distress, and through the air, upon the enemy population.

I will take the latter branch first. Few people have any clear ideas at present of the possibilities of air warfare. The closing years of the Great War gave the world only a very slight 221experience of what aerial offensives can be. Always, air operations were subsidiary to the vast surface engagements of the European belligerents; they were scouting, irritating, raiding operations; there were neither the funds nor the energy available to work them out thoroughly. In these possible overseas wars we are considering, the land armies and the big guns will not be the main factors and the air and sea forces will. The powers we have considered will therefore push their air equipment on a quite different scale; they will be bound to deliver their chief blows with it; we may certainly reckon on the biggest long-range airplanes possible, on the largest bombs and the deadliest contents for them. We may certainly reckon that, within three or four hours of a declaration of war between France and England, huge bombs of high explosive, or poison gas, or incendiary stuff, will have got through the always ineffectual barrage and be livening up the streets of Paris and London. Because it is the peculiarity of air warfare that there are no fronts and no effectual parries. You bomb the 222other fellow almost anywhere, and similarly he bombs you.

Many people seem to think that America and Japan are too far from each other for this sort of thing, but I believe there is nothing insurmountable in these distances for an air offensive. It will be a question of days instead of hours, that is all, before the babies of Tokio or San Francisco get their whiffs of the last thing in gas. The job will be a little more elaborate; it will involve getting the air material to a convenient distance from the desired objective by means of a submersible cruiser; that is all the difference.

All the fleets in the world could hot prevent a properly prepared Japan from pouncing upon some unprotected point of the California or Mexican coast, setting up a temporary air base there, and getting to work over a radius of a thousand miles. She might even keep an air base at sea. And it would be equally easy for America to do likewise to Japan. The citizen of Los Angeles, as he blew to pieces, or coughed up his lungs and choked to death, or was 223crushed under the falling, burning buildings, could at least console himself by the thought that America was so thoroughly prepared that his fellow man in Tokio was certainly getting it worse, and that he blew to pieces on the soundest American lines unentangled by any alliances with decadent Old World powers. And an air war between America and Japan need not be confined to the Pacific Slope. I do not see anything to prevent Japan, if she wanted to do so, with the aid of a venial neutral or so, getting around into the Atlantic to New York and testing the stability of the great buildings downtown with a few five-ton bombs. The submarine would certainly be able to prevent any armies landing on either side of the Pacific to stop the preparation and launching of such expeditions.

I do not know how American populations would stand repeated bombing. In the late war there was not a single intrusion of air warfare into American home life. The hum of the Gotha and the long crescendo of the barrage as the thing gets near were not in the list of familiar 224American war sounds. Some of the European populations subjected to that kind of thing got very badly “rattled.” And yet, as I have noted, the whole force of the combatants was not in the air operations in Europe. One result in nearly every country was an outbreak of spy mania; everybody with a foreign name or a foreign look in England, for example, was suspected of “signalling.” There was much mental trouble; London possesses now a considerable number of air raid lunatics and air raid defective children, and these are only the extreme instances of a widespread overstrain. As the war went on, air stress interwoven with the acute stresses produced in public life by the development of propaganda. Public life in France, Germany and England got more and more crazy about propaganda; there was a fear of insidious whispering mischief afoot, more like the fear of witchcraft than anything else; until at last it became dangerous and ineffective to make any utterance at all except the most ferocious threats and accusations against the enemy. And a kind of paralysis of suspicion 225even affected the adoption of inventions. All this mental and moral confusion and deterioration is bound to happen in any highly organized community that goes into a well prepared war again. The only difference will be that it will all be larger, and intenser, and bitterer, and worse. And I will not even attempt to elaborate the consequences of the economic attack by submarines, upon shipping, and by raids of airplane fleets, assisted possibly by spies and traitors, upon the bridges, factories, depots, grain stores, ports and so forth, of the combatant countries.

If such things are not practicable across the Pacific now they will be practicable in ten years’ time.

But my subject at Washington is peace, and not war. I think it was Nevinson’s recent account of the new things in poison gas that set my imagination wandering into these possibilities of the Great Alternative to entangling treaties and difficult settlements. I will return to certain neglected problems of the Peace Conference in my next article.



Washington, December 6.

I do not think my outline sketch of the Washington Conference will be complete if I do not give an account of certain figures and groups in this simmering Washington gathering who have no official standing whatever and who are here in the unpopular role of qualifications and complications of the simpler conception of the Washington issues. They are not conspicuous absentees as are Germany and Russia. They come upon the scene but they come rather like that young woman with the baby who stands reproachfully at the church door watching the wedding in the melodramatic picture. They are full of reproaches—and intimations of troubles yet in store.

The other evening, for example, I found myself dining with a comfortably housed Corean 227delegation and listening to the tale of a nation overwhelmed.

Corea is as much of a nation as—Ireland. She had so recent an independence that she has treaties with the United States recognizing and promising to respect her independence. Yet she is now gripped, held down and treated as Posen was in the days of Prussian possession. She is being “assimilated” by Japan. “What is to be done about us?” my hosts asked.

One fellow guest thought nothing could be done because the Corean vote in the United States is not strong enough to affect an election.

Amid the tumult of voices here one hears ever and again an appeal for something to be done for Corea. Such appeals are addressed chiefly to American public opinion, but it is also felt to be worth while to let Britain know, at least to the extent of letting me in on this occasion. I was introduced to an editor of a Corean paper which had recently been suppressed, and I listened to an account, an amazing account, of the freedom of the press as it is understood in Corea under Japanese rule.

228Yet it sounded very familiar to me. Indeed, I had listened to much the same story of suppressions, rather worse suppressions, the night before. Then I had been the host of two friends of mine, Mr. Houssain and Mr. Sapre, who have had extensive experiences of suppression in India. They are both here in much the same spirit as the Coreans.

Whenever I talk to Mr. Houssain we always get to a sort of polite quarrel in which he treats me more and more like the Indian Government in its defense, and I become more and more like the British ascendancy. I adopt, almost inadvertently, as much as is adoptable of the manner and tone of the late Lord Cromer and say: “Yes, yes. But are you ripe for self-government?” These gentlemen say frankly that the British rule in India has displayed so much stupidity in such cases as the Amritsar massacre, and the recent suffocation of the Moplah prisoners, and that its complete suppression of any frank public discussion of Indian affairs in India is so intolerable, that it is becoming unendurable.

229Everybody is talking of insurrection in India now; nobody talked of it three years ago. These have been three years of stupid “firmness.” Now that that dinner party is past and gone, I can confess that I think Mr. Houssain’s argument that under British rule India has no chance of getting politically educated, because she is prevented from airing her ideas, and that if her discontent is incoherent and disorderly it is because of the complete suppression, completer now than ever before, of discussion, is a very strong argument indeed.

India and Britain cannot talk together about their common future if India remains gagged and without ever a chance of learning to talk. If a break comes in India it is likely to be a bad and hopeless one, because of her lack of worked-out political conceptions, due to her long mental restraint, while all the rest of the world from Corea to Peru has been trying over political self-expression.

But it is interesting and perhaps not quite so pathetically hopeless as it seems at the first glance to find these two men in this city, side 230by side with the Coreans, trying to get “something done about it” at the Washington assembly. And a day or so ago I had a call from another unofficial delegate, a Syrian Moslem who wanted to talk over the education of his people, also fretting beneath the wide surfaces of the Treaty of Versailles, with the ambition to manage the affairs of Syria for themselves.

And as another case of the stifled voice here are the representatives of the Cantonese Chinese Government, who made a scene the other day when the Peking representatives went into secret session with the Japanese. There was an assembly of hostile Chinese shouting “Traitor!” and things—apparently very disagreeable things—in Chinese. Here again there is a clamor for attention that gets short drift from the official conference.

And, lest these stifled outcries should fill the American reader with self-righteousness, I will note in passing that the entrance to the second plenary conference was besieged by an array of banners reminding us that that evidently most gentle and worthy man, Mr. Debs, is still 231in prison for saying his honest thought about conscription, and also that I have received, I suppose, over twenty letters about an unfortunate young Englishman, a minor poet named Mr. Charles Ashleigh, who seems to have come into America looking like a person of advanced views, to have done some publicity work for the I. W. W., and to have been caught in a gale of indiscriminate suppression and given a sentence of ten years for nothing at all. The offense of Mr. Debs and the alleged offense of Mr. Ashleigh, I may note further, were a premature craving for universal peace which might have weakened the will for war.

All these suppressions of opinion strike me as black sins against civilization, which can only maintain itself and grow and flourish through the free expression and discussion of ideas. The temptation to ride off from the main business of the conference upon some Quixotic championship of Corea or India or Mr. Ashleigh is therefore very considerable. But when we consider that all these particular injustices are incidents in that general disorder 232which permits the aggression of nation upon nation and which blinds justice with cruel passion and urgent necessities of war, these cases appear in a different light.

Corea and the suppressed and imprisoned Indian Liberals and Mr. Ashleigh are like people hit casually in a great combat, and the immediate work of the ordinary combatant is surely not to specialize upon these special cases but to go on with the general fight for world peace which will render the atmosphere that created these particular wrongs impossible. Japan is attempting to crush and assimilate Corea because Japan wants to be bigger and stronger, and she wants to be bigger and stronger because of the fear of war and humiliation. Britain holds down India and is reluctant to loose her hold on Ireland for the same cause; if she relax, some one else may seize and use. America also crushes out the anti-conscriptionist because otherwise he may embarrass the conduct of the next war.

In the present conference the liberal forces of the world may be able to establish a precedent 233that will at once reflect upon the position of both Corea and India, and to open such a prospect of peace as will make the release of Messrs. Debs and Ashleigh inevitable. But that can only be if we stick to the main business of the conference and do not fuss things up at present with too much focusing upon Corea or India or the case of Mr. Debs.

The precedent that may be established through the conference is the liberation of China, when China is militarily impotent and politically disordered, not only from fresh foreign aggression but from existing foreign domination. The establishment of such a precedent is a thing of supreme importance to all men. If the conference does not get so far as that—so far as to establish the principle that an Asiatic people has a right to control its own destinies and to protection while it adjusts these destinies, in spite of the fact that it cannot as an efficient power defend that right—it will have made a very wide step indeed not only toward world peace but toward a general liberation of Asiatic peoples held in tutelage.

234It is so important to mankind that that step should be made that I grudge any diversion of energy to minor injustices, however glaring, or any complication of the issue whatever. So far as the conference goes, I am convinced that “Stick to the freedom of China” is the watchword for all liberal thinkers. By the extent to which China is liberated and secured the conference will have to be judged. Even the vast problem of India cannot overshadow that issue.



Washington, Dec. 7.

It is difficult to think of any subject more completely out of the agenda of the Washington Conference than the future of India. But none demands our attention more urgently, if we are to build up anything like a working conception of an Association of Nations.

Some days ago Senator Johnson declared he had received assurances from President Harding that no further steps toward a definite organization of an Association of Nations were to be taken for the present; but these assurances will not hinder the drift of thoughts and events toward such a developing system of understandings as must at last, in fact if not in name, constitute a World Association. Indeed, the less we try to fix such a thing at present, 236and the more we think it out, the more probable and safe is its coming.

Let the President go on, therefore, taking no steps directly toward his Association but proceeding, as he must do very soon, with some sort of international conference upon the economic disorders of the world, and also with the creation of some arrangement, permanent understanding or whatever other name may be given to that commission which is inevitable if the peace of the Pacific is to be made secure. Let us who are dealers in the flimsier preparatory stuff of ideas and public opinion get on with our discussion of the wider stabilizing understanding that looms behind.

I have already said that from every country world peace and universal prosperity will demand a price. The price America will need to pay if she is to impose her conception of a universal peace upon the world is a great intellectual effort—an effort of sympathy, an abandonment of some venerated traditions. And in addition she must nerve herself to what may seem at first very great financial generosities. 237France must pay by laying aside an ancient and cherished quarrel, her glorious and tragic militarism and the last vestige of her imperial ambition. The thought of predominance and the thought of revenge must be the German sacrifice. And Britain also must pay in an altered attitude to those wide “possessions” of hers inhabited by alien peoples that have hitherto constituted the bulk of her empire.

The destiny of all the English speaking democracies that have risen now from being British colonies to semi-independent states seems fairly clear. They will go on to nationhood; their links to Great Britain, continually less formal and legal and more and more strongly sympathetic, will be supplemented by their attraction toward America, due to affinity and a common character. All the mischief makers in the world cannot, I think, prevent the Dutch-English of South Africa, the English-French of Canada, the English-French of Australia, the English-Scotch of New Zealand, the Americans, this new emancipated Ireland and Britain, being drawn together at last by all their common 238habits of thought and speech, and even by the mellowed memories of their past conflicts, into a conscious brotherhood of independent but co-operative nations.

The day has come for the Irish to recognize that the future is of more value than the past. Even without any other states, this girdle of English speaking states about the globe could be of a great predominant association. Within this English speaking circle of peoples a whole series of experiments in separation, independent action, readjustment, co-operation and federation have been made in the last century and a half, and are still going on, of the utmost significance in the problem of human association.

No other series of communities have had such experiences. No other communities have so much to give mankind in these matters. The German coalescences have been marred by old methods of force, methods which have usually failed in the English cases. Spain and Latin America are at least half a century behind the English speaking world in the arts and experience of political co-operation.

239But when we turn to India we turn to something absolutely outside the English speaking world girdle.

One of the many manifest faults of that most premature project the League of Nations was the fiction that brought in India as a self-governing nation, as if she were the same sort of thing as these self-governing Western states. It was indeed a most amazing assumption. India is not a nation, or anything like a nation. India is a confused variety of states, languages and races, and so far from being self-governing, her peoples are under an amount of political repression which is now perhaps greater there than anywhere else in the world.

Politically she is a profound mystery. We do not know what the political thoughts of these peoples are, nor indeed whether they have in the mass any political concepts at all parallel to those of the Western civilizations. The Indian representative at the Washington Conference, Mr. Srinivastra Sastri, is obviously a British nominee; he is not so much a representative as a specimen Indian gentleman. We do not know 240what national forces there are behind him, or indeed if there is any collective will behind him at all. But it would be hard to substitute for him anything very much more representative.

What constituency is there, what Electoral College, to send any one? India is not in fact so constituted as to send a real representative to a conference or an Association of Nations at the present time. She is a thing of a different kind, a different sort of human accumulation. She belongs to a different order of creature from the English speaking and European states and from Japan. She is as little fitted to deal on equal terms with them as a jungle deer, let us say, is to join a conference of the larger Cetacea in the North Polar seas.

India is far less able to play an effective and genuine part as a member of an Association of Nations even than China. She has no real democratic institutions and she may never develop them in forms familiar to European and American minds. We American and English are too apt to suppose that our own democratic methods, our voting and elections and debates 241and press campaigns and parliamentary methods, which have grown up through long ages to suit our peculiar idiosyncracies, are necessarily adaptable to all the world. In India they may prove altogether misfitting.

India, were she given freedom of self-government, under the stimulus of modern appliances and modern thought, would probably induce an entirely different series of institutions from those of Europe, institutions perhaps equally conducive to freedom and development but different in kind. And China also, with untrammelled initiatives, may invent methods of freedom and co-operation at once dissimilar and parallel to Western institutions.

But the mention of China brings us back to the possibility of applying the precedent of China to India. The discussions and perplexities of the last two or three years which have culminated in the Washington Conference have slowly worked out and made clear the possibility of a new method in Asia. This is the method of concerted abstinence and withdrawal, the idea of a binding agreement of all 242the nations interested in China and tempted to make aggressions upon China to come out of and to keep out of that country while it consolidated itself and develops upon its own lines.

This new method, which has had its first trial at the Washington Conference, is a complete reversal of the method of dealing with politically confused or impotent countries and regions adopted at Versailles. It is an altogether more civilized and more hopeful method.

Versailles and the League of Nations were ridden by the idea of mandates. All over the world where disorder or weakness reigned a single mandatory power was to go in, making vague promises of good behavior, to rule and exploit that country. It was the thinnest, cheapest camouflage for annexation; it was a hopeless attempt to continue the worst territory-seizing traditions of the nineteenth century while seeming to abandon them. It was Pecksniff imperialism. So we had the snatching of Syria, of Mesopotamia, and so forth. 243But any soundly constituted League or Association of Nations should render that sort of thing unnecessary and inexcusable.

The reason lying at the base of the British occupation of India, of the Japanese occupation of Corea, of the French in Indo-China, and so forth, is a perfectly sound reason so long as there is no Association of Nations, and it is an entirely worthless one when there is such an association—it is that some other power may otherwise come into the occupied and dominated country and use it for purposes of offense. The case of the British in India, that they have kept an imperial peace for all the peoples of that land, that they warded off the Afghan raiders who devastated India in the early eighteenth century and afterward the long arm of Russia, is a very good one indeed. The British have little cause to be ashamed of their past in India and many things to be proud of. But they have very good cause, indeed, for being ashamed of their disregard of any Indian future. They have sat tight and turned peace into paralysis. They have not educated enough 244or released enough. Always the excuse for suppression has been that fear of the rival.

Well, the whole purpose of an Association of Nations is to eliminate that fear of a rival and all that that fear entails in war possibilities.

The Asiatic “empires” over alien peoples, these “possessions” of other people’s lands and lives, have played their part in the world’s development. They have become tyrannies and exasperations and tawdry grounds for rivalry. A real Association of Nations can have no place for “possessions,” “mandates” or “subject peoples” within its scheme.



Washington, Dec. 9.

I went to hear the President address Congress on its reassembling on Tuesday. He spoke to a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives held, as is customary, in the chamber of Representatives because it is the larger of the two chambers.

Hitherto my observations have centred upon the Continental Building and the Pan-American Building, up by the White House, and they have concerned the good intentions and great projects that glow and expand like great iridescent bubbles about the conference that is going on in this region.

But the conference, whatever freedom it has 246to think and discuss, has no power to act. Until the Senate by a two-thirds majority has indorsed the recommendations of the President, the United States cannot be committed to any engagement with the outside world. This is a fact that needs to be written in large letters as a perpetual reminder in the editorial rooms and diplomatic offices of all those Europeans who write about or deal with the foreign relations of the United States. For the Constitution of the United States is as carelessly read over there as the Anglo-Japanese alliance has been read here, and it is as dangerously misconceived. Through that first disastrous year of the peace Europe imagined that the President was the owner rather than the leader of the United States.

It was with great interest and curiosity, therefore, that I went down to this assembly at the Capitol to see the President dealing with his Legislature. Here was the place not of suggestions but of decisions. What goes through here is accomplished and done—subject only to one thing, the recognition by the Supreme 247Court, if it is challenged, that the thing is constitutional.

I went down with—what shall I say?—some prejudiced expectations. The Americans resemble the English very closely in one particular—they abuse their own institutions continually. Prohibition and the police—but these are outside my scope! I have heard scarcely a good word for Congress since I landed here, and the Senate, by the unanimous testimony of the conversationalists of the United States, combines the ignoble with the diabolical in a peculiarly revolting mixture. Even individual Senators have admitted as much—with a sinister pride.

It is exactly how we talk about Parliament in London—though with more justice. But this sort of talk soaks into the innocent from abroad, and, though one takes none of it seriously, the whole of it produces an effect. I had the feeling that I was going to see a gathering of wreckers, a barrier, perhaps an insurmountable barrier, in the way to the realization of any dream of America taking her place as the 248leading power in the world, as the first embodiment of the New Thing in international affairs.

It puts all this sort of feeling right to see these two bodies in their proper home and to talk to these creatures of legend, the Representatives and the Senators. One perceives they are not a malignant sub-species of mankind; one discovers a concourse of men very interested about and unexpectedly open-minded upon foreign policy. They are critical but not hostile to the new projects and ideas. One realizes that Congress is not a blank barrier but a sieve, and probably a very necessary sieve, for the new international impulse in America.

The ceremonial of the gathering was simple and with the dignity of simplicity. The big galleries for visitors, which always impress the British observer by their size, were full of visitors after their kind, ladies predominating, and particularly full was the press gallery, which overhangs the Speaker and the Presidential chair. Some faint vestige of a sound religious upbringing had reminded me that the 249first are sometimes last and the last first; I had fallen into the tail of the procession of my fellow newspaper men from their special room to the House of Representatives, and so I found myself with the overflow of the journalists, not with everything under my chin but very conveniently seated on the floor of the House behind the Representatives, and feeling much more like a Congressman than I could otherwise have done.

Away to the right were the members of the Cabinet—the British visitor always has to remind himself that they cannot be either Representatives or Senators. Presently the ninety-odd Senators came in by the central door, two by two, and were distributed upon the seats in front of their hosts; the Representatives.

There was applause, and I saw Sir Auckland Geddes, with that large, bare smile of his, and the rest of the British delegation entering from behind the Chair, for the delegations had also been invited to come down from the unrealities of the conference and had been assigned the 250front row of seats. Other delegations followed and seated themselves. At last came a hush and the clapping of hands, and the President entered and went to his place, looking extremely like a headmaster coming in to address the school assembly at the beginning of the term. He is more like George Washington in appearance, I perceive, than any intervening President.

He read his address in that effective voice of his which seems to get everywhere without an effort. I listened attentively to every sentence of it, although I knew that upstairs there would be a printed copy of it for me as soon as the delivery was over. Yet, although I was listening closely, I also found I was thinking a great deal about this most potent gathering, for potent it is, which has been raised up now to a position of quite cardinal importance in human affairs.

President Harding is on what are nowadays for a President exceptionally good terms with Congress. He means to keep so. In his address he reiterated his point that even the full 251constitutional powers of the President are too great and that he has no intention to use them, much less to strain them. Nevertheless, or even in consequence of that, he is very manifestly the leader of his Legislature. The atmosphere was non-contentious. He was not like a party leader speaking to his supporters and the opposition. He was much more like America soliloquizing. His address was a statement of intentions.

I think the President feels that officially he is not so much the elect of America as the voice of America, and instead of wanting to make that voice say characteristic and epoch-making things, he tries to get as close as he can to the national thought and will. What President Harding says today America will do tomorrow. One human and amusing thing he did—he was careful to drag in that much-disputed word of his, “normalcy,” which he has resolved, apparently, shall oust out “normality” from current English.

And from the point of view of those who are concerned about the dark troubles of the 252world outside America it was, I think, a very hopeful address. It reinforced the impression I had already received of President Harding as of a man feeling his way carefully but steadily towards great ends. America’s growing recognition of her “inescapable relationship to world finance and trade” came early and his little lecture on the need to give and take in foreign trade was a lecture that is being repeated in every main street in America.

He spoke of Russia and returned to that topic. “We do not forget the tradition of Russian friendship” was a good sentence that some countries in Europe may well mark. The growing belief in America of the possibility of going into Russia through the agency of the American Relief Administration and of getting to dealing with the revived co-operative organizations of Russia is very notable. And though there was no mention of the Association of Nations as such, there were allusions to the “world hope centered upon this capital city” and to the universal desire for permanent peace.

253And while I listened I was also thinking of all these men immediately before me, between four and five hundred men, including the ninety-six Senators, with whom rested the power of decision upon the role America will play in the world. I have met and talked now with a number of them, and particularly with quite a fair sample of the Senatorial body. And I think now that it is going to be a much better body for international purposes than my reading about it before I came to Washington has led me to suppose.

We hear too much in Europe of the rule of “jobs” and “interests” in Washington. No doubt that sort of thing goes on here, as in every Legislature, but it has to be borne in mind that it has very little bearing upon the international situation. It is not a matter affecting the world generally. I doubt if there is nearly as much business and financial intrigue in the lobbies of Washington as in the lobbies of Westminster; but, anyhow, what there is here is essentially a domestic question. Both Representatives and Senators approach international 254questions as comparatively free—if rather inexperienced—men.

Probably the only strong permanent force hitherto in international affairs here has been the anti-British vote, based on the Irish hate of Britain. If the Irish settlement weakens or abolishes that, Congress will deal with the world’s affairs without any perceptible bias at all. The average Senator is a prosperous, intelligent, American-thinking man, elected to the Senate upon political grounds that have no bearing whatever upon international affairs. He is an amateur in matters international.

A bitter political issue at home may make him do any old thing with international affairs, and that was the situation during the last years of President Wilson. Poor, war-battered Europe became a pawn in a constitutional struggle. But the Harding regime is to be one of co-operation with the Senate, and the dignity of the Senate is restored. This very various assembly of vigorous-minded Americans, for that and other reasons, is getting to grips now with international questions with all the freshness 255and vigor of good amateurs, with a detached disinterestedness, a growing sense of responsibility and the old peace-enforcing traditions of America strong in it.

If only it does not delay things too long; I doubt if those who desire to see the peace of the world organized and secure are likely to have any quarrel with the Senate of the United States. The worst evil I fear from the American Senate, now that I have seen something of it individually and collectively, is the impartial leisureliness of the detached in its dealings with international affairs.

The President finished his discourse and the stir of dispersal began. I had assisted at America reviewing her position in the world. I thought the occasion simple and fine and dignified. I found myself leaving the Capitol in a mood of quite unanticipated respect.



Washington, Dec. 9.

In a previous paper I wrote of certain “stifled voices” at Washington. There is yet another stifled voice here that I have heard, and to speak of it opens up another great group of questions that stand in the way to any effectual organization of world peace through an Association of Nations. Until we get some provisional decision about this set of issues the Association of Nations remains a project in the air.

This stifled voice of which I am now writing is the voice of the colored people. As a novelist—a novelist in my spare time—and as a man very curious by nature, about human reactions, the peculiar situations created by “color” in 257America have always appealed to me. I do not understand why American fiction does not treat of them more frequently. It is the educated, highly intelligent colored people who get my interest and sympathy. I cannot get up any race feeling about them.

I am particularly proud to have known Booker T. Washington and to know Mr. Dubois, and this time, in spite of a great pressure of engagements, I was able to spend two hours last Sunday listening to the proceedings of the Washington Correspondence Club, an organization which battles by letter and interview and appeal against the harsh exclusions from theatres, schools, meetings, restaurants, libraries and the like, that prevail here.

I will not discuss here the rights and wrongs of a bar that cuts off most of the intellectual necessities and conveniences of life from many people who would pass as refined and cultivated whites in any European country. I mention this gathering merely to note a very interesting topic upon which I was called to account thereat.

258Once or twice in these papers—I do not know if the reader has noted it—I have mentioned the French training of Senegalese troops and the objection felt by other European peoples to their extensive employment in Europe. I was asked at the Correspondence Club whether the objections I had made to this were not “fostering race prejudice,” and some interesting exchanges followed.

I was inclined to argue that the importation of African negroes into Europe for military purposes was as objectionable as their importation to America for economic services, but some of my hosts, some of the younger men, did not see it in that light. They are warmed toward the French by the notable absence of racial exclusiveness in France, and they see the ideals of that epoch-making book, “La France Negre,” from an entirely different angle. Why not a black France as big or bigger than white France and a new people who have learned military discipline, military service and united action from Europe?

“Why not an African Napoleon presently?” 259said the young man, a little wanting, I thought, in that abject meekness which is the American ideal of colored behavior.

He was imagining, I suppose, something happening in Africa rather after the fashion of the emancipation of Hayti and of great African armies pushing their former rulers back to the sea. But Col. Taylor has recently suggested another possibility, namely, that of France finding herself in the grip of a black Pretorian Guard. It is a just, conceivable fancy—a Pretorian Guard, French-speaking and ultra-patriotic, keeping French Socialists and pacifists and Bolsheviks in their proper place.

I do not believe very much in either of these possibilities nor even in the third possibility of European powers fighting each other with black armies in Africa, but I do perceive that dreams of a world peace will remain very insubstantial dreams, indeed, until we can work out a scheme or at least general principles of action for the treatment of Africa between the Sahara and the Zambesi River, a scheme that will give some sort of a quietus to the jealousies and hostilities 260evoked by the economic and political exploitations of annexed and mandatory territories upon nationalist and competitive lines in this region of the earth.

For it seems to be the fact that tropical and sub-tropical Africa has another function in the world than to be the home of the great family of negro peoples. Africa is economically necessary to European civilization as the chief source of vegetable oils and fats and various other products of no great value to the native population. European civilization can scarcely get along without these natural resources of Africa.

Now here we are up against a problem entirely different from the problem that arises in the case of India, Indo-China and China, which is the problem of a politically powerless but essentially civilized population which can be trusted to modernize itself and come into line with the existing efficient powers if only it is protected from oppressive and disintegrating forces while it adjusts itself.

Africa is quite incapable of anything of the 261sort. Negro Africa is mainly still in a state of tribal barbarism; in the latter half of the nineteenth century its peoples were in a condition of deepening disorder and misery due to the spread of European diseases and to the raiding of the Arab and native adventurers who had obtained possession of modern firearms. The small village communities of tropical Africa were quite unable to stand up against the brigand enterprises of mere bands of ruffians armed with rifles.

The scramble for Africa on the part of the European great powers toward the close of the nineteenth century—a scramble largely dictated by economic appetites—did a little to mitigate the miseries and destruction in progress by establishing a sort of order through large areas of Africa, a sort of order that in some regions was scarcely less cruel than the disorders it replaced. But if continuing access to the resources of Africa is to be maintained, and if a return to the Arab raider and general chaos and massacres is to be avoided, it is clear that in some form the control of the central parts of 262Africa by the modern civilized world must continue.

But we must be clear upon one point. If that control is to be maintained, as at present it is maintained by various European powers acting independently of one another and competing against one another, in the not very remote future Central Africa is bound to become a cause of war. Central Africa was one of the great prizes before the German imagination in 1914, and it is now held in a state of unstable equilibrium by the chief European victors in the Great War.

As they recuperate the African danger will increase. Africa, next after Eastern Europe and the Near East, is likely to become in the course of a dozen years or so the chief danger region of the world.

It behooves all those who are dreaming of an organized world peace through an Association of Nations to keep this African rock ahead in mind and to think out the possible method of linking this great region with the rest of the world in a universal peace scheme.

263I submit that it is not premature for those who are concerned with the future of our race to consider the necessity of three chief things:

(1) The complete abandonment and prohibition now of the enlistment and military use of the African native population.

(2) The application of the principle of the “open door” and equal trading opportunities for all comers in the regions between the Sahara and the Zambesi.

(3) A more organized care of the native African population by a tightening up of the existing restrictions upon the arms and drink trades and the development of some sort of elementary education throughout Africa that will give these very various and largely still untried peoples a chance of showing what latent abilities they have for self-government and participation in the general human common weal.

For my own part, it seems to me that any real “League of Nations,” any effective “Association of Nations,” must necessarily supersede the existing “empires” and imperial systems and take over their alien “possessions” 264and that one commission embodying the collective will of all the efficient civilized nations of the world is the only practicable form of security for all those parts of Africa incapable or not yet capable of self-government.



Washington, Dec. 12.

The reader will have seen verbatim reports of the speeches at the fourth plenary session of the Washington Conference and he will know already what decisions were handed out to us from the more or less secret session that prepared them for us.

There has been a good deal of discussion here about the secret sessions and a certain indignation at their secrecy that I do not share. It is a matter of decency rather than concealment that men speaking various languages, representing complicated interests and feeling their way toward understandings, should not be exposed to embarrassing observation and comment until they have properly hammered out what they have to say. It is far better to digest conclusions under cover and to present the agreed-upon conclusion. 266This is no offense against democracy, no conspiracy against publicity. The mischief of secrecy lies in secret treaties and secret understandings and not in protected interchanges. There is no sound objection to secret bargaining in committee provided that finally the public is informed of the agreement arrived at and of all the considerations in the bargain.

The conclusions announced are important enough in themselves; but to all who care for the peace of the world they are far more important in the vista of possibilities they open up. Certain notable precedents are established. The four Root resolutions do put very clearly those ideals of withdrawal and abstinence which must become the universal rule of conduct between efficient and politically confused or enfeebled states if the peace of the world is to be preserved. That is the new way in international politics. It is the beginning of the end of all Asiatic imperialisms.

And, following upon its assent to those resolutions, the conference voted upon certain special 267applications of them. The abolitions of the extra territorial grievance, the right of China as a neutral power to escape the fate of Belgium and the right of China to be informed on the article of any treaty affecting her were established as far as a resolution of the conference could establish them.

And then came Senator Lodge. For the fourth plenary session “featured” Senator Lodge just as previous ones had “featured” Secretary Hughes, Mr. Balfour and M. Briand. Fifteen years ago I came to Washington and Senator Lodge showed me a collection of prehistoric objects from Central America and talked very delightfully about them. Fifteen years have changed Washington very greatly but they have not changed Senator Lodge.

He seems perhaps just a little slenderer and neater than before, but that may be a change in my own standards, and it was entirely in character with my former impressions of him that in putting the four-power treaty before the conference he should indulge himself and his hearers in a vision of the realities of the Pacific, 268the multitudinous interests of its innumerable islands, its infinite variety of races, customs, climates and atmospheres.

It was a most curious and attractive phase of the always-interesting conference to have this gray-headed, cultivated gentleman breaking through all the abstract jargon of diplomacy and militarism, all the talk of powers, radii of action, fortifications, spheres of influence, and so forth, in his attempt to make us realize the physical loveliness and intellectual charm of this enormous area of the world’s surface that the four-power treaty may perhaps save now and forevermore from the fear and horrors of war.

The proposed four-power treaty which thus starts upon its uncertain but hopeful journey toward ratification by the Senates, Legislatures and Governments of the world is essentially a departure from the normal tradition of the treaties of the nineteenth century. It is the first attempt to realize—what shall I call it?—the American way or the new way in international affairs. Its distinctive feature is the 269participation of two possible antagonists, America and Japan. Instead of a war they make a treaty and call in Britain and France to assist. It is a treaty for peace and not against an antagonist.

I think that the difference between “treaties for” and “treaties against” is one that needs to be stressed. The Anglo-Japanese treaty was a “treaty against,” a treaty against first Russia, then Germany and then against some vaguely conceived assailant. It is a great thing to have Japan and England cordially immolating that treaty now that this four-power treaty of the new spirit may be born.

After Senator Lodge came M. Viviani with a very fine, if guarded, speech. M. Viviani is a great speaker but he is not merely eloquent, and I find people here saying little about his wonderful voice or his overtones and undertones or his romantic charm but much about the subtle things he said. In a gathering that is tense with attention one is apt, perhaps, to transfer one’s own thoughts and expectations to the gathering as a whole, but it seems to me 270that when M. Viviani rose to welcome this great beginning on the Pacific, we were all thinking: “And how much further and to what other regions of the world are you prepared to extend this spirit and method of this Pacific bond? There is another rather threadbare ‘treaty against’ or at least an ‘understanding against,’ known as the Anglo-French entente. Is the time due yet for the merger of that also in another and greater bond of peace?”

I do not know how far the question that was in his mind was in the mind of the meeting, but I think that M. Viviani made it very plain that it was in the background of his own mind. His speech was designed to bring the simplicity, the easiness of the Pacific problem into sharp contrast with the tortured complexity of the Atlantic—the Afro-European problem. He spoke of the freedom of the Pacific from long established hate traditions. He reminded us of the twenty centuries of war and trampled frontiers and outrages and counter-outrages that had left Europe and North Africa scarred and festering.

He conjured up no bogies; he had nothing to 271say about those 7,000,000 phantom Germans ready to extract their hidden rifles from 7,000,000 mattresses and haylofts and rush upon France; but he reminded the conference, gravely and wisely, of the relative complexity of the European problem, of the new untried nationalities that had been liberated, of the vast heritage of tradition and suspicion that had to be overcome. He addressed not only the conference but the impatient liberal aspirations of the world. “I ask you for forbearance,” he said, and repeated that—“I ask for forbearance.”

Now that was a great speech, and M. Viviani is manifestly the sort of Frenchman with whom the new spirit can deal. “Forbearance” might well serve now as the watchword of Europe. And I wish that Mr. Balfour could have shown a fuller recognition of what M. Viviani had said. Mr. Balfour had been so fine on several occasions at this conference that I felt it is a little ungracious to him to confess, as I must do, that twice in this day of the fourth plenary session, once in the conference and also in the 272evening when he replied for the Allies at the Gridiron Club, he seemed to be missing an opportunity—the opportunity of holding out a hand of friendship to liberal France.

For the reactionary France, for the France of submarines and Senegalese and inflated army and navy estimates, neither Britain nor America nor any other part of the world has any use, and the more often we say that and the more distinctly we say it the better for every one; but toward a France that can teach and practice forbearance and come into great associations for the common welfare of mankind we ought to hold out both hands. Most of the bitterness that has been directed towards France of late is not the bitterness of any natural hatred; it is the bitterness of acute disappointment that France, the generous leader of freedom upon both the American and European Continents, no longer leads, seems to care no longer for either freedom or generosity. And twice I have seen opportunities lost for an appropriate gesture of reconciliation.

Sooner or later France and England have to 273say to each other: “We have been sore and sick and exasperated and suspicious and narrow. Let us take a lesson from this American plan and set about discussing an Atlantic treaty, an Afro-European treaty, worthy to put beside this Pacific treaty.”

And since this has to be said, it was a pity that Mr. Balfour could not take up M. Viviani’s half lead and begin to say it at the fourth plenary session of the Washington Conference.



Washington, Dec. 13.

In the official proceedings of the Washington Conference the war debts are never mentioned. It is an improper subject.

In the talks and discussions and the journalistic writings round and about the Washington Conference the war debts are perpetually debated. The nature of the discussion is so curious and interesting, it throws so strong a light upon the difficulties that impede our path to any settlement of the world’s affairs upon the sound democratic basis of a world-wide will, that some brief analysis of it is necessary if this outline of the peace situation is to be complete.

In private talk almost universally, in the weekly and monthly publications that are here called “highbrow,” I find a very general agreement that the bulk of these war debts and war 275preparation debts as between Russia and France, and between the European allies and Britain, and between Britain and America, and the bulk of the indemnity and reparation debt of Germany to the Allies, cannot be paid and ought not to be paid, and that the sooner that this legend of indebtedness is swept out of men’s imaginations the sooner we shall get on to the work of world reconstruction.

Only one of these debts is even remotely payable and that is the British debt to America. But with regard to that debt the situation rises to a high level of absurdity. The British authorities—it is an open secret—have been offering to begin the liquidation of their debt now. They cannot pay in gold, because most of the gold in the world is already sleeping uselessly in American vaults; but they offer what gold they have and, in addition, they are willing to get their factories to work and supply manufactured goods to the American creditor—clothes, boots, automobiles, ships, agricultural and other machinery, crockery, and so on, and so on.

276Nothing could be fairer. Britain is full of unemployed—they must be fed anyhow—and if America insists upon her industries being buried under a pyramid of gold and manufactured articles, the British bankers and manufacturers believe they can, with an effort, manage the job and pull through. The exchange may take some strange flights and dives in the process, the British system may collapse even as the German system seems to be collapsing, but it is a strained situation anyhow. The British think the effort worth trying and the risk worth taking. And so behind the scenes it is Washington rather than London that wants at present to hold up the payment of the British debt.

Only one other of the outstanding debts looks at all payable at the present time, and that is so much of the reparation debts of Germany to France as can be paid in kind, in building material and manufactured goods not produced in France. The idea of any other European debt payments in full is just nonsense. The gold is not there and the stuff is not there, and there is 277no ability to produce anything like sufficient stuff under present conditions.

Now the interesting thing about the situation here is that the understanding people in America do not seem to be explaining this very simple situation as frankly as they might do to the mass of American people or at least that this explanation has not got through to the American people. There is a widespread conviction, which is sedulously sustained by the less intelligent or less scrupulous organs of the American press, that the wicked old European countries, and particularly Britain, that arch deceiver, are trying very meanly and cunningly to evade the payment of a righteous obligation.

Every effort to present the financial and economic disorder of the world as a world task in which the prosperous and fortunate American people may reasonably play a leading, intelligent and helpful part is misrepresented in this fashion. There is a vast vague clamor for repayment—aimed at Britain. Dealers in the old Irish hate business and the German hate business, now a little out of their original stock of 278grievances, join with shrill but syndicated Hindus in warning the simple citizen against counsels of financial sanity as though they were insidious propaganda. Until at last an Englishman is sorely tempted to an exasperated, “Well, take your debt!”—which does no justice to the patience and intelligence of either England or America.

Let us be clear upon one point. So far as the British debt goes, the Americans can have it if they prefer to take that line. The British here in Washington and the British writers here are here because the Americans invited them to come to discuss the world situation and the possibilities of world peace. They are not here to beg. The time is not likely to arrive when one English speaking community will beg from another. It certainly has not arrived now.

However, I am an obstinate believer in the common sense and good will of the American people, and I do not believe that a press campaign, designed to make a great people behave after the fashion of some hysterical back-street Oriental usurer who has struck a bad debt, is 279likely to do anything but recoil severely on the heads of those who have set it going. And I am not a believer in that sort of “tact” which would avoid reminding the American public of the circumstances under which these war debts were incurred.

The Russian debt to France was spent largely upon war and war preparations while Russia was the ally and helper of France; the war debts of the European Allies to Britain and America and the British debt to America were spent upon war material. All these debts are for efforts spent upon a common cause. Each country spent according to its resources, as good allies should. Russia gave life and blood—and blood. She gave 4,000,000 men; she smashed up her own social fabric. France and Britain gave the lives of men beyond the million mark. Also they gave much material, an enormous industrial effort. So also did Italy, according to her power.

The British developed a vast production of munitions as the war went on, using great supplies of material from America, for which they 280paid high prices and on which great profits were made in America. At last America joined the war, with her enormous reserves and strength, and gave not only great stores of material but the lives of between 50,000 and 75,000 men. And so, altogether, America and the Allied Powers, giving their lives and substance as they could, saved civilization from imperialism.

The British do not grudge the contribution they have made and all that they have still to contribute for their share in that colossal victory, but some of us English here are growing a little irritated at being dunned as defaulters when we are not going to default, and at having our attempts to work in co-operation with the Americans for the rehabilitation of a strained and collapsing civilization explained as the interested approaches of a cadging poor relation.

I wish that Americans would think of the Europeans more frequently as people like themselves. The boys who came to Europe saw the European armies in ranks like their own, good stuff and kindred stuff. They were their comrades in arms; they fought and died beside 281them. They saw countries and a common life very like the American country life; they discovered that the French and British and Italians were also “just folk.”

But these American papers of the hostile sort write of France or Britain as if they were wicked old spiders. They write of Britain as a monster with a crown and an eyeglass and such like concomitants loathsome to all sound democratic instincts. They write of the “designs” of France and Italy and Britain as if these horrid monsters were all playing a fearsome game with each other for the soul and body of America. It is easy enough then to clamor for repayments of war debts. It is easy then to excite people by a clamor for a war bonus for the veterans of the Great War to be saddled upon the European debtor.

But let me remind the American soldier that the real European debtor, the fellow on whom it will fall, the fellow who will have to toil and pay and want, if you can realize that dream of pitiless exaction, is no legendary monster France or Britain; it is that other fellow over 282there you fought beside, it is the wounded man in blue or khaki you passed by as you went into action, it is the man who smiled his courage at you as you blundered against him in the din and confusion of battle.

If you listen to these stay-at-home patriots and these exotic advisers of yours, it is he who will pay, he and his wife and his child; they will all pay in toil and privation and worry and stunted lives. It is they who will pay—but you will not receive. You too will pay in disorganized business, in restricted production, in underemployment. You will get nothing else out of it except whatever satisfaction you may feel in having made those other fellows over there in Europe pay—and pay bitterly.



Washington, Dec. 14.

Beginning with the fourth plenary session of the Washington Conference, the registration of “results” in the Pacific, in disarmament, in China, has begun. They are good results, assembled on a basis of broad principles, that may sustain at last an organized permanent peace for the whole world. If there is one thing to be noted more than another about the work that has led up to this settlement it is the adaptability, the intelligent and sympathetic understanding shown by Japan in these transactions. The Japanese seem to be the most flexible minded of peoples. They win my respect more and more.

In the days of imperialistic competition they stiffened to a conscientious selfishness and a 284splendid fighting energy. Now that a new spirit of discussion, compromise and the desire for brotherhood spreads about the world, they catch the new note and they sound it with obvious sincerity and good will. No people has been under such keen and suspicious observation here as the Japanese. The idea of them as of a people insanely patriotic, patriotically subtle and treacherous, mysterious and mentally inaccessible has been largely dispelled. I myself have tried that view over in my mind and dismissed it, and multitudes of the commonplace men have gone through the same experience here. Our Western world, I am convinced, can work with the Japanese and understand and trust them.

It will be for other and abler pens to record the detailed working out of the results of this great conference, this new experiment in human reasonableness, as far as it affects Shantung and Yap and Hongkong and Port Arthur and so forth. My time in Washington is drawing to an end, and I will confine myself now rather to that broader and vaguer question in 285which I am more interested—the question of what lies behind and beyond this most successful and hopeful beginning in open international co-operation.

Great and important as the conference is, the growth of a real and understandable project for the steady, systematic development of an effective international world peace, which has been going on in men’s minds here and in the world generally in the last two months is a much greater thing. It is a quite amazing mental growth; something very quiet and simple and yet astonishing, like a clear crystallization out of a turbid solution. Before the conference gathered, civilized people throughout the world were, I think, quite confused about how the peace of the world could ever be organized and rather hopeless about its being done.

Now I think there is a widespread and spreading unanimity that there is a way, a practicable way and a hopeful way, by successive conferences, by widening peace agreements, by the establishment of permanent joint commissions, by systematic education and the 286sedulous cultivation of confidence, along which humanity may struggle and will struggle out of its present miseries and dangers toward the dawn of a new life.

The next conferences that are indicated will gather in a mood of hopefulness and experience that will be the most precious legacy of the present conference. One that must follow very soon must deal with the economic rehabilitation of Europe. Here, it seems to me, America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia at least must meet. And soon. In the Christmas mood, in the phase of relief that radiates from Washington and Ireland now, we must not let our elation blind us to the fact that, for all the light that breaks in upon us, we are not yet out of the woods. Millions are starving today, great masses of men degenerate physically and morally in unemployment, European industrialism crawls and staggers still.

We have laid the foundations of a new era, but the building has scarcely begun. And in addition to the world economic conference there is also need of another conference to face the 287still more difficult task of military disarmament and the re-examination of the factors of conflict in the Afro-European area. Personally, I want to see America in that conference also, because I do recognize that the freshness of mind, the deliberate diplomatic inexperience of America, is a factor of priceless value in these discussions. I would like to see that conference also held in an American atmosphere and before an American audience—if only for the sake of Europe. And if America can be interested in Kwangtung, I don’t see why America should not also be interested in Silesia, or Cilicia, or Senegal, or the Congo, which are all very much nearer.

The appetite for conferences, the belief in conferences, will grow with what it feeds upon. One sees these gatherings, with their accessory commissions, permanent secretariats and increasing world services, becoming a customary and necessary peace control of the earth.

And the peace control, growing in this natural fashion, will consist always and solely of the efficient and willing nations of the world. 288There will be no forced conclusions and no premature admission of incompetent and feeble peoples. The pedantry that would give every sovereign power, however little or rotten, a vote, a nice, saleable vote, in the management of the world’s affairs will play no part in this evolution.

The Association of Nations will be a growing brotherhood of strong and healthy and understanding peoples, bound only by a bond of self-denial and mutual restraint toward the weaker folk of the earth. The co-operation of the English speaking peoples, and particularly the American will for peace, must needs play a very conspicuous part in the crystallization of this Association, and so it is inevitable that a certain sort of international “expert” will be screaming that the world is threatened by an Anglo-American imperialism. It may be worth while to say a word or so to dispel this idea.

Let us bear in mind that the Washington Conference, whose results may be the cornerstone of the organized peace of the world, is a conference of withdrawal and abstinence, self-restraint 289and mutual restraint, with regard to China and the Pacific; its key idea is the cessation of aggressions upon weaker or less advantageously circumstanced people. If America and her kindred nations are most active in pressing for such results, it is not that they are moved by any thoughts of world predominance but by liberal ideas that are the monopoly of no race and people. It is their fortunate lot to have been most accessible to such ideas and to be able now to play the leading, most powerful part in establishing them in the world. But these ideas have a broader basis and claim a wider allegiance than merely that of the English speaking peoples.

Liberalism, the idea of great nations of free citizens held together by bonds of mutual confidence, roots very wide and deep in humanity. It derives from the great traditions of the Greek and Roman Republics and from the traditions of freedom of the Scandinavian and Teutonic peoples. The America of today did not grow from American seed. Let America bear that in mind. The American idea is the 290embodiment particularly of the liberal thought of England and France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. France cannot destroy the greatness of her past or the greatness of her future by a phase of momentary folly with her submarines and Senegalese, her Polish ally and all the rest of it.

All peoples have such lapses. A few years ago Britain was disgusting with her jingoistic imperialism. Let us forget our lapses and get back to our more enduring selves. Latin America, quite as much as English speaking America, belongs to that great tradition of Franco-British liberalism. Liberal Germany in 1848 and again today struggles to take its fitting place among the emancipated peoples, as Italy did half a century ago. These are the peoples who can best understand now and help now. They are all in our system of ideas; they can be brought together into one purpose.

It is natural and necessary that the peoples most saturated in that great tradition of European liberalism should be the first full members of the coming Association and should be 291prepared to lead the rest of the world toward the new order. All peoples are not equally prepared. It is not a question of ascendancy; it is a question of those who are able doing the task that they alone are prepared to perform.

When I think of an Association of Nations I think, therefore, of a sort of club or brotherhood, not of every state in the world but of the peoples who speak English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese, as the big brotherhood of the world, with such states as Holland and Norway and Bohemia, and so forth, great in quality if not great in power and entirely sympathetic by training and tradition, associated with them in a great bond for two ends; for peace among themselves and for restraint and patience toward the rest of mankind. I think of such a brotherhood as the brain and backbone of the organized peace of the world, and I cannot see how it is possible to take in the other peoples of the world as helpers until they respond to the same ideals.

I think first of a recovered Russia and then of a unified and educated China and a freed and 292reconstructed India and of many other states which can claim to be of a civilized quality, such as Egypt, gradually winning their way from a non-participating to a participating level. The relationship of China to Japan in a developing Association of Nations will be something rather analogous to the relationship of a Territory to a State in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Unless there is a strong, well organized collective mentality in a nation or state, I do not see how there can be anything but a sham representation of it upon an Association of Nations, nor how it can be anything but a responsibility and weakness to such an Association.

And outside the system of participating states, and non-participating states, there are great regions of the earth—tropical Africa is the most typical case—which must necessarily have a sort of order imposed upon them from without and for which a joint control by interested associated nations is probably the best method of government at the present time.

293That, I think, is the vision of the political future of mankind that is opening out before us; a great system of associated states, locked and interlocked together by fourfold and sixfold and tenfold treaties, open treaties, of peace and co-operation, ruling jointly the still barbaric regions of the earth and pledged to respect and to keep and at last to welcome to their own ranks the now politically enfeebled regions of old civilization. Such an Association must necessarily supersede the “empires” of the nineteenth century and put an end forever to the imperialistic idea. Of such an Association the fourfold treaty may be the foundation stone. And within the security of such an edifice of peace mankind will be able to go on to achievements such as we at present can scarcely imagine.



I have now come to the last paper I shall write about the Washington Conference. I have tried to give the reader some idea of the nature of that gathering and a broad view of the issues involved. I have tried to prevent the sharp discussions of the foreground, the dramatic moments and eloquent passages, from blinding us to the dark and darkening background of Old World affairs. I have tried to show that even the horrors of war are not the whole or the main disaster which results from human disunion and disorder in the presence of increasing mechanical power. I have stressed the theme of economic and social dissolution. Necessarily, I have had to write much of dangers impending and miseries which gather and increase, and of hates, suspicions 295and failures to comprehend. And on the other hand, when one has turned to the possibilities and methods of escape from the present conflicts and apprehensions, necessarily one has been very largely in the thin and unattractive atmosphere of unrealized projects. I have written of the defects of the League of Nations scheme, its premature explicitness, its thinly theoretical and imitative forms, its frequent mere camouflage, as in the mandatory system, of existing wrongs, and I have brought into contrast with it this newer and I think more natural and hopeful project of successive Conferences, throwing off Committees, embodying their results in treaties and Standing Commissions, and growing at last not so much into a World Parliament, which I perceive more and more clearly is an improbable dream, as into a living, growing, organic network of World Government.

But now in conclusion I will ask the reader to turn his mind from this necessary discussion of political devices and administrative contrivances, these bleak inventions that may 296form the ladder of escape from the divisions and bitterness of the present time, and to join in an attempt to realize what the world may become if men do struggle through these tiresome and perplexing problems to a working solution, if our race really does get from these wearisome yet hopeful wranglings and dealings to an organized world peace, to a disarmed world, to a steady reduction of racial and national antipathies and distrusts, to a growing confidence in the permanence of peace and the prevalence of good will throughout our planet, to a comprehensive system of world controls of the common interests of mankind. Suppose that after these present darknesses of famine and almost universal insecurity, these confused and often conflicting efforts we are making; suppose that in ten, or twenty, or thirty years we shall begin to realize that the thing is, after all, getting done, that we are indeed pushing through, moving towards the light, that human affairs are on the up-grade again and on new and greater and safer lines; let us suppose that and then let us ask what sort of world it will 297be for our kind that we shall be moving towards?

Let us go back to one fundamental fact in the present break-up in human affairs. That break-up is not a result of debility; it is a result of ill-regulated power. It is important to bear that in mind. Disproportionate development of energy and overstrain are the immediate causes of our present troubles; the scale of modern economic enterprise has outgrown the little boundaries of the European States; science and invention have made war so monstrously destructive and disintegrative that victory is swallowed up in disaster; we are in a world of little nations wielding world-wide powers to the general destruction. And it follows that if, after all, we do struggle out of our old-fashioned and now altogether disastrous rivalries and hatreds before they destroy us, we shall still have all this science and power, which are things that seem now to increase by a sort of inner necessity, on our hands. So that getting through to an organized world peace does not mean simply avoiding death and 298destruction and getting back to “as you were.” It means getting hold of power by the right end instead of the wrong end and going right ahead. We are not struggling simply to escape, we are struggling for the opportunity to achieve.

Personally, I do not think I would have bothered to come to Washington or to interest myself in this peace business, and to work and blunder and feel incompetent and be worried and distressed here, if it meant working for just peace, flat, empty, simple peace. I do not see why the killing of a few score millions of human beings a few years before they would naturally and ingloriously die, or the smashing up of a lot of ordinary, rather ugly, rather uncomfortable towns, or, if it comes to that sort of thing, the complete depopulation of the earth, or the prospect of being killed myself presently by a bomb or a shot or a pestilence, should move me to any great exertions. Why bother to exchange suffering for flatness? The worst, least endurable of miseries is boredom. One must die somewhere; few deaths are as 299painful as a first-class toothache or as depressing as a severe fit of indigestion; you can suffer more on a comfortable death bed than on a battlefield; and meanwhile, there is a very good chance of sunshine and snatched happiness here or there. But what does stir me is my invincible belief that the life I lead and the human life about me are not anything like the good thing that could be and might be. I am not so much frightened and distressed by these wars and national clashes and all the rest of this silly flag-wagging, bragging, shoving business as bored and irritated by these things. I have had some vision of what science and education can do for life and I am haunted by the fine uses that might be made of men and of our splendid possibilities. I do not think of war as a tragic necessity but as a blood-stained mess. When I think of my Europe now, I do not feel like a weakling whose world has been invaded by stupendous and cruel powers; I feel like a man whose promising garden has been invaded by hogs. There is the pacificism of love, the pacificism of pity, the pacificism of 300commercialism, but also there is the pacificism of utter contempt. This is not a doomed world we live in or anything so tragically dignified; it is a world idiotically spoilt.

Do any of us fully realize the promise of that garden, the promise that can still be rescued from the trampling dullness of old animosities and rivalries which is wrecking it? Given unity of purpose throughout the world, given a surcease of mutual thwarting and destruction, do we realize what science has made possible now and here for mankind?

I shall not indulge in any imaginative anticipations of things still undiscovered in the scientific realm, I will only suppose that things already known and tested are systematically used all over the world, that the good knowledge we have already stored in our laboratories and libraries is really applied with some thoroughness and with some community of purpose to the needs and enlargement of life.

And first let us deal with the commoner material aspects of life in which there have been great changes and improvements in recent times 301and in which, therefore, it is easiest to imagine still further betterment, given only an assuagement of strife and blind struggle and a spreading out of generosity and the feeling of community from international to social affairs.

Take transport, that very fundamental social concern. It is ripe for great advances. There is all the labor needed in the world, all the skill and knowledge needed, and all the material needed, for these advances. There is everything needed but peace and the recognition of a common purpose. At present, there are railways only over a part of the inhabited world; there are vast areas of Asia and Africa and South America with no railway nor road communication at all and with enormous natural resources scarcely tapped, in consequence. Roads are as yet not nearly so widespread as railways, abundant good roads are founded indeed only in Western Europe and the better developed regions of the United States; there are a few good main roads in such countries as India, South Africa, and so forth. And in 302many parts of Europe now, and especially in Russia roads and railways are going out of use. Large parts of the world are still only to be reached by a specially equipped expedition; they are as inaccessible to ordinary travelling people as the other side of the moon. And if you will probe into the reasons why road and rail transport fails to develop and is even over wide areas undergoing degradation, you will come in nearly every case upon a political bar, a national or an imperial rivalry. These are the things that close half our world to us and may presently close most of the world to us. And consider even the railroads and roads we have; even those of America or Britain, how poor and uncomfortable they are in comparison with what we know they might be.

And then take housing. I have been motoring about a little in Maryland and Virginia and I am astounded at the many miserable wood houses I see, hovels rather than houses, the abodes very often of white men. I am astounded at the wretched fences about the ill-kept patches of cultivation and by the extreme 303illiteracy of many of the poorer folk, white as well as colored, with whom I have had a chance of talking. I have to remind myself that I am in what is now the greatest, richest, most powerful country in the world. But with this country now as with every country, army, navy, contentious service, war debt charges and the rest of the legacy of past wars consume the national revenue. America is not spending a tithe of what she ought to be spending upon schools, upon the maintenance of a housing standard and upon roads and transport. She improves in all these things, but at no great pace, because of the disunion of the world and the threat of war. England and France, which were once far ahead of her in these respects of housing, transport and popular education, are now on the whole declining, through the excessive fiscal burthens they are under to pay for the late war and prepare for fresh ones. But I ask you to think what would happen to a world from which that burthen of preparedness was lifted. The first result of that relief would be a diversion of the huge maintenance allowance 304of the war-God to just these starved and neglected things.

Stanch that waste throughout the earth, and the saved wealth and energy will begin at once to flow in the direction of better houses, towards a steady increase in the order and graciousness of our unkempt and slovenly countrysides, to making better roads throughout the globe, until the globe is accessible, and to a huge enrichment and invigoration of education.

How fair and lovely such countries as France and Germany and Italy might be today if the dark threat of war that keeps them so gaunt and poverty-struck could be lifted from them. Think of the abundant and various loveliness of France and the wit and charm of its varied peoples, now turned sour by the toil and trouble, the fears and bitter suspicions the threat of further war holds over them. Think of France, fearless and at last showing the world what France can do and be. And Italy at last Italy, and Japan, Japan. Think of the green hills of Virginia, covered with stately homes and cheerful houses. Think of a world in 305which travel is once more free and in which every country in absolute security has been able to resume its own peace-time development of its architecture, its music and all its arts in its own atmosphere upon the foundations of its own past. Because world unity does not mean uniformity; it means security to be different. It is war that forces all men into the same khaki and iron-clad moulds.

But all this recovery of the visible idiosyncracies of nations, all this confident activity and progressive enrichment which will inevitably ensue upon the diversion of human attention from war and death and conflict and mutual thwarting to peace and development, will be but the outer indication of much profounder changes. Relieved of our war burthens, it will be possible to take hold of education as educationists have been longing to do for many years.

They tell us now that every one could be educated up to sixteen or seventeen and that most people may be kept learning and growing mentally all their lives, that no country in the 306world has enough schools, or properly equipped schools, nor enough properly educated teachers in the schools we have. The supply of university resources is still more meager. There is hardly anyone alive who has not a sense of things that he could know but cannot attain and of powers he can never develop. The number of fully educated and properly nurtured people in the world, people who can be said to have come reasonably near to realizing their full birth possibilities, is almost infinitesimal. The rest of mankind are either physically or mentally stunted, or both. This insolvent, slovenly old world has begotten them, and starved them. Our lives, in strength, in realized capacity, in achievement and happiness are perhaps 20% or 30% of what they ought to be. But if only we could sweep aside these everlasting contentions, these hates and disputes that waste our earth, and get to work upon this educational proposition as a big business man gets to work upon a mineral deposit or the development of an invention, instead of a 20% result we might clamber to an 80% or a 90% result 307in educated efficiency. I ask you to go through the crowded streets of a town and note the many under-grown and ill-grown, the under-sized, the ill-behaved; to note the appeals to childish, prejudiced and misshapen minds in the shop windows, in the advertisements, in the newspaper headlines at the street corners, and then to try and think of what might be there even now in the place of that street and that crowd.

The wealth and energy were there to make schools and give physical and mental training to all these people, and they have gone to burst shells and smash up the work of men, the organizing power has been wasted upon barren disputes; the science was there and it has been cramped and misused; even the will was there, but it was not organized to effective application. And scarcely a man in the crowd who begets a child, or a woman who bears one, but will dream of its growing to something better than the thwarted hope it will become.

Have you ever examined an aeroplane or a submarine, and realized the thousand beautiful 308adjustments and devices that have produced its wonderful perfection? Have you ever looked at a street corner loafer and thought of the ten thousand opportunities that have been cast away of saving him from what he has become?

When we follow this line of thought, it becomes clear that our first vision of a world-wide net of fine roads, great steady trains on renewed and broader tracks, long distance aeroplane flights of the securest sort, splendid and beautiful towns, a parklike countryside, studded with delightful homes, was merely the scene and frame for a population of well-grown, well-trained, fully adult human beings. All the world will be accessible to them, mountains to climb, deserts to be alone in, tropics to explore in wonder, beautiful places for rest. And they will be healthy, and happy in the way that only health makes possible. For surely it is no news to any one that a score of horrible tints and diseases that weaken and cripple us, a number of infections, a multitude of ill-nourished and under-nourished states of body, can be completely 309controlled and banished from life, they and all the misery they entail—given only a common effort, given only human co-operation instead of discussion. The largest visible material harvest of peace is the least harvest of peace. The great harvest will be health and human vigor.

And happiness! Think of the mornings that will some day come, when men will wake to read in the papers of something better than the great 5–5–3 wrangle, of the starvation and disorder of half the world, of the stupid sexual crimes and greedy dishonesties committed by the adults with the undeveloped intelligence of vicious children, of suggestions of horrible plots and designs against our threadbare security, of the dreary necessity for “preparedness.” Think of a morning when the newspaper has mainly good news, of things discovered, of fine things done; think of the common day of a common citizen in a world where debt is no longer a universal burthen, where there is constant progress and no retrogression, where it is the normal thing to walk out of a beautiful 310house into a clean and splendid street, to pass and meet happy and interesting adults instead of aged children obsessed by neglected spites and jealousies and mean anxieties, to go to some honorable occupation that helps the world forward to a still greater and finer life. You may say that a world may be prosperous and men and women healthy and free and yet there will still be spites and jealousies and all the bitterness of disputation, but that is no more true than that there will still be toothache. A mind educated and cared for, quite as well as a body, can be healed and kept clean and sweet and free from these maddening humiliations and suppressions that now fester in so many souls. There is no real necessity about either physical or mental miserableness in human life. Given, that is, a sufficient release of human energy to bring a proper care within the reach of all. And consider the quality of interest in such a world. Think of the mental quality of a world in which each day the thought and research of a great host of intelligences turns more and more the opaque and confused riddles 311of yesteryear into transparent lucidity. Think of the forces of personal and national idiosyncracy, of patriotic and racial assertion, seeking and finding their expression not in vile mutual thwarting and a brutish destructiveness, but in the distinctive architecture of cities, in the cultivated and intensified beauty of the countryside, in a hundred forms of art, in costume and custom. Think of the freedom, the abundance, the harmonious differences of such a world!

This is not idle prophecy, this is no dream. Such a world is ours today—if we could but turn the minds of men to realize that it is here for the having. These things can be done, this finer world is within reach. I can write that as confidently today as I wrote in 1900 that men could fly. But whether we are to stop this foolery of international struggle, this moral and mental childishness of patriotic aggressions, this continual bloodshed and squalor, and start out for a world of adult sanity in ten years, or in twenty years, or a hundred years, or never, is more than I can say. In Washington, I have met and seen hopes that seemed invincible, and 312stupidities and habits and prejudices that seemed insurmountable; I have lived for six weeks in a tangled conflict of great phrases, mean ends, inspiration, illogicality, forgetfulness, flashes of greatness and flashes of grossness. I am no moral accountant to cast a balance and estimate a date. My moods have fluctuated between hope and despair.

But I know that I believe so firmly in this great World at Peace that lies so close to our own, ready to come into being as our wills turn towards it, that I must needs go about this present world of disorder and darkness like an exile doing such feeble things as I can towards the world of my desire, now hopefully, now bitterly, as the moods may happen, until I die.

313¶ 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 on Social, Religious, and Political questions:


¶ And two little books about children’s play, called:



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  3. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
  4. Retained anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as printed.

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