The Great Pacifist

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The Great Pacifist: an Autobiographical Character Sketch

W. T. Stead, 1912, (published posthumously in The Review of Reviews for Australasia, August, 1912) pp. 609-620

All my lifelong I have been a passionate advocate of arbitration, not as the ultimate solution of the difficulties, but as an ideal the advocacy of which would strengthen the sentiment in favour of the creation of the United States of Europe. The thought which has always dominated my mind has been that of establishing a High Court of Justice among the nations, whose decrees would not merely be the recommendations of Arbitrators, but would be enforced by the authority of the Court. My reading of history always pointed to the same conclusion — the successive stages by which mankind has emerged from that anarchic savagery when every man’s hand was against his neighbour, and it was lawful to kill any stranger at sight, up to the present slate of things when the right to make war is practically confined to half a dozen great Powers, who are all governed by the same law. It was not by the abandonment of force on the part of the advocates of law and of peace that anything could be done, but by the use of force in the defence of law and for the suppression of anarchy.


This conception has always separated me from the majority of the propagandists of peace. I was as earnest as any of them to cast out militarism and dethrone the soldier, but my observations and reflections crystallised in one phrase—you can only exorcise the soldier by the aid of the policeman. I was therefore ever anxious to aid in the development and strengthening of the principle of the European Concert, which seemed to me the germ of the United Stales of Europe; and I aIways wrote and spoke in favour of the European Concert being used, not only for the purpose of consolidation, but also for the purpose of action. For instance, when in 1876 the European Powers meeting in conference at Constantinople had unanimously decreed that autonomy should be given to the Bulgarians, I used every means at my disposal in order to urge upon the Powers not to allow their unanimous mandate to be set at defiance by the Turks. What I wished to see was the use of the Allied Forces of all the European Powers to compel the Turks by the use of their overwhelming force to obey the mandate of civilisation as formulated by the nearest approach to an International Court that the world had yet seen. Unfortunately England, under Lord Beaconsfield, refused to support Russia in the coercion of Turkey for the liberation of Bulgaria, and the Russo-Turkish War was the result. Looking back upon the period when I was a young man of seven-and-twenty, I remember with gratitude the part which I was able to play in rousing the North of England, and in supporting Mr. Gladstone in his protests against the threatened war against Russia on behalf of the Turks. Both Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright repeatedly recognised the service which I rendered to the cause of peace in that campaign, and it was my proud privilege to be one of the three Englishmen who received the thanks of the first Bulgarian Assembly for the services which I had rendered to the cause of Bulgarian Independence.


All my life long I have been a thoroughgoing opponent of the Russophobist war spirit which has plunged Europe into the Crimean War, and which has repeatedly brought about war both in Europe and in Asia. By advocating constantly the principle of the European Concert, and demanding the enforcement, if need be, by the armies and navies of Europe, of the treaty-guaranteed rights of the unfortunate Christians of the East, I was always more or less at variance with the orthodox Peace Party, whose one idea was non intervention and abstention from all European complications. I protested against this doctrine because I believed it to be an abdication of the responsibility which we owed to those for whose good government we had made ourselves responsible by the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Berlin; and whenever the chronic misgovernment of Turkey became acute in massacres and atrocities I never ceased to urge upon England and upon the other Powers to use the overwhelming strength which they possessed for the purpose of compelling the Turks to carry out their treaty obligations.


I applied the same principle impartially to all disturbers of the Peace in the East. I protested against the attitude taken by the Powers at the outbreak of the Græco-Turkish war, and maintained that it was their duty to have restrained Greece by force of arms, if need be, from precipitating war which terminated so disastrously, and I rejoiced exceedingly when, a little later, an international fleet and an international army were employed for the purpose of wresting Crete from the grasp of the Sultan. Always and everywhere I asserted that it was the imperative duty of the Powers who had undertaken the settlement of the Eastern Question to make their will effective by all the means at their disposal.


The same order of ideas led me to be for several years one of the foremost, if not the foremost, advocate of what I may call the Imperialism of Responsibility, as opposed to the Jingoism, which is the imperialism of pride and avarice, on the one hand, and to Little-Englandism, which seemed to me to be almost as selfish and unworthy a policy, on the other. When in my teens I shrank from any extension of English authority over the dark-skinned races of the world, but the experience of Fiji convinced me that it would be an abdication of duty for England to refuse to use her imperial power for maintaining peace, and putting down piracy and the slave trade among the weaker dark-skinned races of the world. It seemed to me that the European nations have no right to breed filibusters and adventurers, to permit them freely to go to Africa and Asia, armed with the weapons and the poisons of modern civilisation, and to leave them free to prey upon the native races. In Fiji the policy of abstention was carried to its extreme logical limit. The natives implored England to send them a Governor in order to protect them from the white men who were kidnapping them into slavery. Mr. Gladstone refused; but a year or two later the horrible results which followed from this refusal of the plea of the natives compelled him reluctantly to undertake the responsibility of governing the islands.


It was then I summed up my conclusion in the phrase, “It is necessary to follow up the filibuster by the policeman.” I became enamoured of the idea that the British Imperial power was the instrument for maintaining peace among races which would otherwise have been cursed by internecine warfare, and of putting down the horrors of slavery and of other barbarous works in vast regions. The maintenance of the Roman peace throughout the 300 millions of India by an army which was much fewer in numbers than the force maintained in a small European country seemed to me an end for which it was worth while to make many sacrifices. From the Himalayas to Ceylon, among one-fifth of the population of this planet, no cannon could be fired except by permission of the supreme Government. Brigandage was suppressed; civil war disappeared, and we maintained absolute peace in that vast country by what was little better than an armed police force. I became an impassioned Imperialist, but my Imperialism was always an Imperialism of Responsibility, or, as I phrased it nearly thirty years ago, an Imperialism plus common sense and the Ten Commandments.


Against Jingoism in every shape and form I always waged unceasing war. Empire was to me not a source of pride, excepting so far as it was the emblem of duty done, of burdens borne for the benefit of humanity. I applied the same principle with absolute impartiality to other countries. I claimed nothing for England that I did not claim with equal vehemence for Russia, whose progress through Central Asia seemed to me a great gain for civilisation and a benefit for humanity. The suppression of the slave-trade in the Khanates of Turkestan, and the establishment of law and order in the midst of marauding tribes, seemed to me a desirable end in the interest of peace; and although I deplored the incidental bloodshed of a brief campaign, I regarded that as a small price to pay for the great advantages which could not otherwise have been obtained.


It is obvious that this conception of the civilising sovereignty of a great Power, as well as my conception of the importance of strengthening the authority of the European Concert, brought me into constant opposition with those whose ideal was that of the disuse of all force, of general disarmament, and the adoption of what are usually recognised as peace principles. When I succeeded Mr. Morley as editor of the Pall Mall Gazelle I preached this doctrine of a beneficent Imperialism and the necessity for using the policeman to exorcise the soldier with the utmost energy and enthusiasm. Alfred Milner, now High Commissioner at the Cape, was my assistant and worked with me on these lines, and together we reared a school of journalists and politicians whose influence has been felt in every corner of the Empire.


It was as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette that I succeeded in compelling the Government to send out General Gordon to evacuate the Soudan, believing that it was shameful on our part to proclaim the abandonment of the country and to take no adequate steps to secure the safe retirement of the abandoned garrisons. General Gordon being besieged in Khartoum, I insisted upon the despatch of Lord Wolseley to rescue him from the perilous position in which he was placed by a Government which had refused either to allow him a free hand or to supply him with an adequate force to carry out his instructions. This led many to hold me responsible for the war in the Soudan, but an examination of everything that I wrote in those days will vindicate me from such an accusation. When Gordon fell, I was the first to protest against the wild cry for vengeance which was raised in this country, and no one felt more humiliated than myself at the horrible blasphemy perpetrated ten years later by Lord Kitchener when he desecrated the tomb of the Mahdi and held a solemn Christian service of thanksgiving in the midst of the corpses of those who were slain in the avenging of Gordon.


That my Imperialism was really conditioned by moral considerations, and was in no way to be confounded with Jingoism, may be proved by the fact that I was a vehement advocate for the restoration of self-government to the Boers before and after the battle of Majuba Hill. A still more signal illustration was afforded by the part which it was my privilege to play in 1885, when Mr. Gladstone, with the whole country at his back, prepared for war with Russia on the subject of the Afghan frontier. It was my glory at that time to have been the only English journalist who maintained day after day, in the heart of a hostile country, the cause of peace. The part which I played in averting war on that occasion has been gratefully recognised both in England and in Russia, and is bitterly denounced by those who were thirsting for war.


I had always been a strong opponent of conscription. Compulsory military service seemed to me detestable, but in 1884 I realised with horror that the British Navy had sunk to such a condition of comparative weakness that conscription might any day become inevitable owing to the collapse of our first line of defence. I wrote a series of articles, entitled “The Truth About the Navy,” which led to the rebuilding of the British Navy, and so averted a threatened danger. But the demand for an increased navy, which alone stood between us and the curse of compulsory military service, was bitterly resented by those whose one idea of peace was to cut down armaments.


In those days I made the acquaintance of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, to whom I was naturally attracted on account of the liberality with which he supported the Irish in their struggle for Home Rule. Mr. Rhodes in those days was the great champion of the Dutch of South Africa. He was distrusted by the English Tories on the ground of his sympathies with the Africander Bond. But I recognised with delight that there was in South Africa an Imperialist statesman who had the sagacity to perceive that the strength and prosperity of the British Empire in that continent depended upon the conciliation of the Dutch, and for the years during which he was faithful to that policy I was his most strenuous supporter on the English Press.


At the same lime as I was preaching those doctrines in the Pall Mall Gazette I was ever passionately pleading for the removal of every cause of friction between the two great halves of the English-speaking race. I never ceased to deplore the infatuation which led George III. and his advisers in the last century to drive the American colonists into revolt, and I laboured in season and out of season for the re-union of the English-speaking race. So far was I from indulging in any of the vainglory of nationalism of the Jingoistic type, that I have repeatedly declared that to secure the re-union of the English-speaking race I would willingly merge the independent existence of the British Empire in the American Republic, if that union could be brought about in no other way. Always and everywhere I argued for the elimination of points of difference, the establishment of a federal system which would secure the peaceful reign of law in the place of the existing régime in which rival States pursued antagonistic policies, dependent for their execution solely upon the force of arms.


My first peace mission to the Continent took place in 1888 at a time when the popularity of General Boulanger seemed to threaten Europe with war. I went to St. Petersburg, and was received by the Emperor Alexander III. at an interview which has contributed not a little to allay the fear of an armed conflict. I do not think it is too much to say that, as the result of my conversation, I succeeded in establishing the true character of Alexander III. as the peacekeeper of Europe. I was laughed at when I returned, but years afterwards, when Alexander III. died, I had the honour of being told by the British Prime Minister of the day that I had been absolutely right, and that he and others who had laughed at me had been absolutely wrong.


The permanent danger to the peace of Asia, and not of Asia alone, lies in the antagonism between Russia and England. For thirty years I have constantly laboured to promote a better understanding between the two countries. On two occasions, at least, when Russia and England were on the verge of war, my task was one of no little difficulty and danger ; but the long and passionate apostolate of peace has at least succeeded in convincing all the more thoughtful Englishmen that the true interests of both countries is to be found in a good understanding and friendly relations. In 1890 I founded the Review of Reviews in London and New York and Melbourne, for the avowed purpose of promoting the re-union of the English-speaking race and of preaching the doctrine of the imperialism of Responsibility as opposed to the jingoism of passion, prejudice, and pride. The next service which I was able to render to the cause of peace was when President Cleveland threatened England with war on the subject of the Venezuelan frontier.


In the year 1892 I had the privilege of taking a leading part in the agitation in England in favour of a proposition which even at that time I knew was strongly favoured by the Emperor Alexander III., for what was afterwards known as the Standstill of Armaments. An influential meeting was held, and a memorial was largely and influentially signed, which was presented to the Government of the day urging them to co-operate with Russia in securing, if possible, an international agreement in favour of arresting the movement in favour of the continually increased armaments. This movement was the pioneer of the Hague Conference. I took a leading part in conjunction with Dr. Darby, of the Peace Society, who has always been most useful in all this work.


A year or two later President Cleveland threatened Great Britain with war if she refused to allow the question of the Venezuelan frontier to be referred to arbitration, and it was again my privilege to take a leading part in organising the demonstrations in favour of arbitration in this country. By public meetings and memorials we succeeded in producing such an expression of public opinion in favour of arbitration that Lord Salisbury gave way, and the question was amicably settled by reference to a Court of Arbitration subsequently held in Paris. Of course, I could have done nothing in these things without the loyal and enthusiastic support which was given me by such men as Mr. W. Randal Cremer, of the Interparliamentary Conference, and Dr. Darby, of the Peace Society.


And here let me say that my ideas about Arbitration differ considerably from those of others. It is always assumed that when a question is sent to arbitration, both Powers must bind themselves in advance to accept the award, whatever it may be. The net effect of this is that questions of vital interest are never sent to arbitration. Now the true policy, it has seemed to me, which I set forth in a pamphlet entitled “Always Arbitrate Before You Fight,” is the necessity for insisting that every question, no matter whether it may affect vital interests or not. should always be sent to arbitration before there is an appeal to arms. Always arbitrate before you fight, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred you will never fight at all; but if nations are required to repudiate all appeal to the ultimate tribunal of war before going to arbitration, they will in all important cases refuse to allow the question to be sent to arbitration. Always arbitrate before you fight seems to me a much more practical formula than always arbitrate instead of fighting.


During all this time the South African question was beginning to create unrest. The influx of European population to the gold mines of the Transvaal boded ill for the peace of South Africa unless some means were found whereby the claims of the Outlanders, who paid three-fourths of the taxation, could be recognised by President Kruger and the Boers. President Kruger held a position in the Transvaal very much like that of our House of Lords in this country. The Boers, constituted a landed oligarchy, and the Outlanders, who were taxed without representation, seemed to me to have a grievance of which I made myself the spokesman. I was, therefore, for years the advocate of reforms in the Transvaal which would obviate a conflict that threatened to become inevitable. But although I constantly advocated reform in the Transvaal, I was resolute in opposing any action which would alienate the Dutch of the Free State and of the Cape Colony. A policy of steady pressure on the one hand, coupled with the sedulous cultivation of the Dutch majority in South Africa, seemed to me to promise a peaceful solution of the difficulty.


Unfortunately Mr. Rhodes was impatient. He feared that the Outlanders would make a revolution on their own account, and that they would establish a Republic which would be more hostile to Great Britain than that of President Kruger. He also believed that he could carry with him the Dutch of the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State in supporting a revolution which would upset President Kruger, and pave the way for a more liberal Government at Pretoria. His plans were spoiled by Mr. Chamberlain, who insisted that Dr. Jameson should go in under the British flag, and that the Transvaal should be annexed to the British Empire. This policy destroyed all chance of a successful revolution, and the conspiracy might have been dropped if it had not been for Mr. Chamberlain urging Mr. Rhodes to hurry up, as delay was dangerous and American and European complications might ensue if the matter was not put through promptly. Thus, goaded by Mr. Chamberlain, Dr. Jameson made his lamentable Raid, which resulted in overwhelming disaster. From that moment I used every effort in order to prevent Mr. Chamberlain from avenging his defeat by making war upon the Transvaal.


I had known Sir Alfred Milner for years, and believed him to be a thoroughly level-headed man, who understood the impossibility of governing South Africa except with the aid of the Dutch, and I pressed upon the Government his appointment as High Commissioner at Capetown in the belief that he would be strong enough to keep Mr. Chamberlain from going to war. My advice was followed; Alfred Milner was appointed, and he left London with every assurance that he would prevent any attack upon the Transvaal. The result, alas! proved how terribly we had been mistaken. For a season he acted in accordance with our hopes, but afterwards he suddenly changed front, and became the most ardent advocate for war, and succeeded in bringing both Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Chamberlain to support a policy which has resulted in the present disastrous conflict. My responsibility both for training Alfred Milner and for pressing for his appointment as High Commissioner must be taken into account as a very heavy set-off against any work which I have been able to do in the cause of peace.


Nor is this by any means the only set-off against any action which I have taken in recent years in defence of the cause of peace. I cannot conceal from myself the fact, however sad it may be for me to admit it, that the earnestness and enthusiasm with which I insisted upon the importance of the position of the English-speaking race, and the emphasis which I laid upon the immensity of our Imperial responsibilities, contributed not a little to swell the tide of Jingoism which of late has carried everything before it. My disciples accepted so much of my teaching as ministered to their own pride and vainglory, and left unassimilated the moral considerations which were the indispensable corrective. Nay, more, the very effort which I made to present the moral aspect of imperialism was used by the Jingoes as a kind of virtuous cloak behind which they could carry out their designs.


The same tendency may he noticed in relation to what I have written about Cecil Rhodes. Because I knew and appreciated Mr. Rhodes’ devotion to a highly ideal conception of the Empire, and also because I believed in his devotion to the Dutch of South Africa, I supplied him with a certain moral status in public estimation which he would otherwise have lacked, and thereby enormously increased his influence in London; and from the effects of this the cause of peace is still suffering. My only consolation in meditating upon this disastrous misapplication of my teaching when it had been stripped of its moral ingredients is that this has been the fate of nearly all those who have laboured for the moral improvement of their kind. Of this the most conspicuous illustration is supplied by the way in which Christianity has been used to defeat the Objects of its founder.


We now come to the time when I first appeared conspicuously before Europe as an advocate of peace. In the autumn of 1898 the Emperor of Russia issued his famous Peace Rescript, which seemed to me to afford an unexampled opportunity for rousing popular attention to the need for arresting the portentous growth of militarism. I made a tour of Europe visiting most of the capitals in order to ascertain what was thought of the proposal and to pave the way for an International Agitation in favour of the Tsar’s scheme. In order to satisfy myself as to the ideas of the Emperor. I went to Livadia, where I was twice received by Nicholas II., and discussed the subject with him at length. I was satisfied as to the sincerity of his desire to cope with the evils from which civilisation is suffering; I returned to London, and proclaimed with the hearty support of all the friends of peace, all the organised Peace Societies, and all the friends of peace in every country, a great crusade in favour of the Tsar’s proposal. The so-called “Peace Crusade” was launched in London at a great meeting in St. James’s Hall, and was prosecuted more or less Vigorously in concert with the active assistance of friends of peace in America, France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Norway and Sweden, although in those latter countries the agitation owed little if anything to the impetus from London. The friends of peace in Scandinavia were so well organised that memorials and meetings went on almost spontaneously. In Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Austria the popular agitation in favour of peace was largely carried on in connection with the Crusade movement.


But the full development of the Crusade, which embraced a pilgrimage through all the capitals of Europe with a view to presenting them with a memorial, was checked by diplomatic considerations, confidentially communicated to me, to the effect that any attempt to carry out such an international pilgrimage in the existing state of European affairs might defeat the very end which we had in view. Demonstrations were, however, held everywhere, memorials signed by hundreds of thousands of persons were forwarded to Russia, or presented to the President of the Hague Conference, from various countries. The cardinal secretary to the Pope formally expressed the sympathy of the Holy See with the movement, and everywhere public attention was roused, and the nations were interested in a peace propaganda to an extent that had never before been believed to be possible. For nearly three months I travelled backwards and forwards throughout the length and breadth of England and Scotland, addressing crowded meetings at which resolutions were passed calling upon our Government to support the movement against militarism and in favour of peace and arbitration. Altogether in England and Scotland memorials with 160,000 signatures were presented. The Bishop of London headed a deputation to Her Majesty’s Government presenting the result of the movement, and received from Mr. Balfour the gratifying assurance that the Government would do their utmost to support the cause at the Hague.


The Peace Crusade in England was remarkable on account of the unanimity with which all sections of the community and all the different associations— religious, socialist and industrial—worked together for the common end. It was also remarkable from a financial point of view. The sum of between £4,000 and £5,000 was subscribed for carrying on the agitation. In addition to this, I published and edited for three months a weekly paper, entitled War Against War. Both in size and circulation War Against War was an advance upon anything that has yet been issued in the way of a peace newspaper. As soon as the Crusade was closed in England I was commissioned to proceed to Russia to present the signatures of the Memorial to the Emperor. I was received by Nicholas II. at Tsarskoe Selo, and reported in detail concerning the movement, about which I found he was very well informed and extremely sympathetic. He asked me to report to him personally every week the progress of the discussions at the Hague.


From St. Petersburg I returned to the Hague, where I remained during the whole meeting of the Conference. Besides reporting the proceedings direct to the Emperor, I hired a portion of a local daily paper, the Dagblad, and published therein in French and Dutch the chronique of the Conference from day to day. Great difficulties were thrown in my way, but I succeeded in overcoming them, and the publication of the Dagblad did much to keep up the interest of the delegates in their own work as well as keeping the local public informed as to what was going on in their midst. I also reported the Hague Conference for the Manchester Guardian, and cabled a weekly letter to the United States, where it was published by newspapers from New York to San Francisco. During my stay at the Hague I was in constant communication with the delegates of England, Russia, France, Sweden and Norway, and I think I may, without boasting, say that there was no delegate present at the Conference who did not feel in one way or another the impact of the energy generated by the Peace Crusade.

On the advice of Mr. Konow, the Norwegian delegate at the Conference supported strongly by Lord Pauncefote Baron d’Estournelles and others, I travelled direct from the Hague to Christiania in order to impress upon the members of the Inter-parliamentary Conference the message of those delegates who were most earnest in promoting the success of the Conference. The message which I had to bring was that the Conference had met and made a good machine, but that it would depend absolutely upon the friends of peace in the various countries to generate the steam by which alone it could be made to work. After receiving my message, the Inter-parliamentary Conference passed a strong resolution declaring its intention to undertake this work, and the members of the various groups undertook to organise in their respective countries groups for inculcating a knowledge in the people of what had been done at the Hague and creating public opinion in favour of Arbitration as against war.


Returning home to my own country, I was at once confronted by the terrible prospect that the troubles :a South Africa would culminate in war. The men who were hurrying on the war, Milner, Rhodes, Jameson and others, at the Cape, were all my own personal friends and it is not too much to say that they owed no small measure of their position in public esteem to the way in which I had written about them in past years. They were enabled to avail themselves of the popular feeling against President Kruger which I had also done much to generate in my advocacy of reforms in previous years. But the moment I realised the use, or rather the abuse, they were making of their position, I threw myself with my whole soul into the agitation against the war. Both on the platform and in the press, publicly and privately I exerted myself to the uttermost to induce the English Government to apply the principles of the Hague Conference to the settlement of the dispute. Passion, however, was too much excited, and the plaintive appeals of President Kruger for arbitration were roughly rejected by Sir Alfred Milner and Mr. Chamberlain. Parliament was summoned, the reserves were called out, troops were hurried to South Africa. President Kruger issued his ultimatum, making one last despairing appeal for arbitration. This was rejected, and war began.


The outbreak of war led to the immediate abandonment of the cause of peace by the majority of our friends in England, including the President of the Peace Society, Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, who declared that nothing could be done but for England to carry on the war with vigour. The actual outbreak of hostilities paralysed most of those who, before Kruger’s ultimatum, offered strenuous resistance to the policy which threatened a breach of the peace. It did not seem to me, however, that the mere fact that war had begun rendered it less criminal than we believed it to be before the first shot was fired. I published a series of pamphlets which were widely circulated through the length and breadth of the land. The first, which was published in the Review of Reviews in the form of a catechism, was entitled “Shall We Let Hell Loose m South Africa?” The first pamphlet, published as such, was entitled “Shall I Slay My Brother Boer?” This was succeeded by another as soon as war broke out, entitled “Are We in the Right? An Appeal to Honest Men.” I then began the publication of a weekly paper, War Against War in South Africa, which I continued to publish for nine months.


I also published a pamphlet exposing Mr. Chamberlain’s share in the Jameson Conspiracy, entitled “Mr. Chamberlain, Conspirator or Statesman?” Besides this, I published a great number of leaflets and smaller pamphlets. The most effective broadsheet which I published was entitled “Hell Let Loose in South Africa.” It contained letters from a British officer in command at the front, describing house-burning and similar atrocities by which the British violated the laws of civilised warfare. This was followed up by the publication of another pamphlet entitled “How Not to Make Peace in South Africa,” which contained a collection of evidence illustrating the method in which war was being waged by the British forces in South Africa. I took an active part in the organisation of the Stop-the-War Committee, which has afforded uncompromising resistance to the war in all its stages. There has never before in any war in modern times been so direct and vigorous a demand made for the stoppage of the war and so unsparing an impeachment of its criminality as that of which the Stop-the-War Committee has been the organ.

I wrote a history of the Hague Conference, which is in the press at the Hague, and has been in the press for the last eighteen months, the Dutch printers appearing to find much difficulty in bringing out the French book.


I was too heartsick during the first twelve months of a war brought on by England’s refusal of arbitration, and waged in defiance of the Rules of War to which all the Powers had agreed at the Hague, to undertake much international work on behalf of the principles of the Hague Conference. No Englishman could appear on a foreign platform without shame at the contrast between the professions of his country and its practices; but when the Interparliamentary Conference met in Paris it seemed that a time had come for an attempt to renew the effort begun at the Peace Crusade to organise the forces of peace in all countries upon an international basis, and to secure the harmonious co-operation of all the existing elements in an organised effort to popularise the principles of the Hague Conference, and to secure their adoption by the Government. With this end in view, the International Union was formed at a meeting held in Paris in August, 1900. Mr. Cremer and other leading members of the Interparliamentary Conference were present on the occasion. M. Passy was the first speaker, and the proceedings were unanimous and enthusiastic. Professor Charles Richet accepted the presidency of the Provisional Committee, which was constituted of representatives of the leading friends of peace in all countries, including M. de Bloch, M. Passy, Mr. Lund, Mr. Hodgson Pratt, Mr. Ducommun, Baroness von Suttner and others. The work of organising National groups was necessarily slow, and meantime the provisional Committee took action, protested against the atrocities perpetrated in China and in South Africa, and began the collection of evidence illustrating the realities of war as waged at present in China, the Philippines, and South Africa. It also undertook to secure, if possible, a simultaneous celebration of the opening of the Hague Conference on May 18th by demonstrations in all countries represented.


Such is a brief statement of what I have done or tried to do in the cause of peace. In the last two or three years I have neither spared my health nor my purse in the advocacy of the cause. The action which I have taken has been extremely unpopular, and has affected me seriously from a business point of view, for it is impossible to adopt the most unpopular of all attitudes on a question on which national passion is aroused without feeling the consequences in the conduct of a popular magazine. The cost of my pamphlets and War Against War papers, with my subscriptions to the Crusade and Stop-the-War movement, has been over £4,000; but by this means I was able to raise other subscriptions for the Crusade and Stop-the-War amounting to between £5,000 and £6,000. Altogether the expenditure in the last two years of campaign, of which I may fairly claim to have been the originator, may be estimated at little short of £12,000.

I hope you will not consider that this narrative is written in any way in a boastful spirit. I am quite sure that its accuracy would be confirmed both by friends and foes so far as relates to my public action in this matter. I have endeavoured to set down the truth and to endeavour to let you see both the mischief that I have done and the good that I have tried to do. I am afraid you will say that the former largely out-balances the latter, and up to the present I am not disposed to deny that. I only say that the end is not yet.


The foregoing narrative brings down the story to the time when I was engaged heart and soul in battling for the cause of peace and justice against the Chamberlain Government of that day. The pro-Boers of England kept up the protest to the last, although in the latter stages it was impossible to hold public meetings anywhere, owing to the fact that the mobs would have broken the windows, and the proprietors of the public halls refused to run the risk. During the closing stages of the war I did not hesitate to place myself in constant communication with the Boer leaders in Europe, with President Kruger and Dr. Leyds, thereby exposing myself to a charge of high treason; but as I reported all my doings at the time to Lord Salisbury, who expressed himself as very interested in my communications, I suppose he recognised that my action was really in the interest of peace.


On the eve of the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War[,] Sir W. R. Cremer asked me to join him in sending a telegram to the Tsar of Russia and the Mikado of Japan, reminding these potentates of the existence of the Hague Tribunal, and urging them to submit their disputes to arbitration. It was a forlorn and belated attempt, in which I confess I took part merely to oblige my colleague Sir W. R. Cremer. It produced, as might be expected, no result. I afterwards learned from Mr. Maartens (sic) that months before the outbreak of the war he had drawn up a memorandum for the Emperor pointing out that the points in dispute with Japan were quite capable of judicable settlement, and suggesting that they should be referred to the Hague. The Emperor wrote on the margin, “I agree that this should be done.” Unfortunately, he put it off. The Japanese did not put it off; the chance of finding Russia unprepared was too good to be lost, and war followed.


When the Boer War was over I paid my first visit to South Africa in 1904. My health was broken down in an attempt to found a daily paper, and I was ordered to South Africa by the doctor. As soon as I arrived there I began an active propaganda among the Boers in favour of a policy of peace and reconciliation. I do not think I am claiming too much when I say that my public speeches and my private conversations contributed considerably to the ultimate settlement by convincing the Boers of the good faith of the British Liberals and their sincerity in promising the Boers full control in South Africa if only they would accept the grant of independence and self-government under the British flag. My conduct was violently denounced by the Jingoes; Lord Milner cancelled his promise to receive me, and my action in inducing the Boers to resume the singing of their old Volkslied created much scandal. But I maintained that it was my mission to interpret to the Boers the privileges and the liberties which everyone enjoyed under the British flag. That was in 1904. I had not to wait long for my vindication. As soon as a general election took place, Mr. Chamberlain and his friends were hurled from power, and Mr. Campbell-Bannerman came back to office, and in the programme the restoration of self-government to the South African States occupied a prominent place. Seldom has an unpatriotic action such as that of the pro-Boers during the Boer War been so triumphantly and speedily vindicated. The opposition which the pro-Boers offered to the Tory Government that made the war was perhaps the most striking illustration that has been afforded us of recent times in which the citizens have carried their opposition to a war in which their Government was engaged to such extreme lengths as that of holding meetings, publishing books, making speeches, and writing letters in support of those with whom they are at war. No such freedom of action would have been allowed in any other country but ours; but the result has singularly vindicated the liberty which was permitted by the law, although it was somewhat severely modified by the violence of the mob.


The year after I came back from South Africa the Tsar proclaimed his intention to establish a representative assembly in his country. I went over to St. Petersburg and saw the Emperor. I pointed out to him that the granting of a representative assembly without the concession of the liberty of public meeting, liberty of association, liberty of the press, and a Habeas Corpus Act, was granting a horse without any legs. The Emperor told me that he intended to concede the four legs of the Duma, and on that basis I undertook to address meetings throughout the country, setting out what I considered to be the English point of view, and pleading for the acceptance of the Duma as a pledge of peace and reconciliation between the people and their dictators. It was a forlorn hope which ended in failure. But, as M. Milyukoff said when I returned to Russia some years afterwards, “The secret of the failure was not in the lack of wisdom on the part of the man who gave the advice; it was due to the lack of wisdom on the part of those who ought to have received it.” A general railway strike and revolutionary movement followed, but ultimately, when the revolution was suppressed, the Duma came into being. I only mention this episode to show that my desire to maintain peace has not been confined to international questions, but that I went boldly into the revolutionary centres of Russia on the eve of an outbreak of revolution in order to plead with them to accept the offer which seemed to me to afford a basis for a pacific settlement for the internal trouble of Russia.


The next service which I endeavoured to render to the cause of international peace was the promotion of what I called “Decimal point one,” which, being interpreted, means a proposal that for every £1,000 spent by the nations on the army and navy they should spend £1 for international hospitality and the promotion of international peace. I obtained the signatures of more than 100 Members of Parliament to a memorial to Campbell-Bannerman in favour of this idea, and secured the adhesion of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Lloyd George, and I succeeded in getting a beginning made in an annual grant for the purpose of international hospitality, which figures in the Estimates each year. I did my best to secure the acceptance of the principle in Paris as well as in London, and the idea met with considerable success in America, where it was taken up by others, but it has never been fully carried out at all. I saw Lloyd George immediately after his entering the Treasury. He told me he entirely approved of the idea and would give it effect. When it came before the Cabinet the sum voted was less than 10s. for £1,000, and was confined to the cost of international hospitality. The next step which I took was to promote an interchange of visits between the journalists of Germany and England. I first proposed and finally carried out an arrangement by which twenty or thirty German editors were invited to England for a week. The English editors paid a return visit to Germany in 1908. It was followed by visits between the clergy of both countries, and Prince von Billow, then Imperial Chancellor, told me that he considered that the promotion of international visits and the exchange of international hospitality were the most hopeful and the most effective of all methods of promoting peace.


At the end of 1907 I wrote a letter to all the newspapers of the world in which I called attention to the forthcoming meeting of the Hague Conference and urged that the Powers should instruct their delegates to concentrate upon practical things. One practical suggestion which I put forward was that of the Peace Budget of £1 per £1.000 to be spent on promoting peace, and the other was that they should place any State under an interdict that went to war without first appealing to arbitration. The chief point of my letter was to show that it was absolutely impossible to get anything done about the question of armaments at the Hague Conference. That unanimity was necessary, and that unanimity was, on the face of it, impossible, seeing that Germany refused absolutely to enter into any agreement to the limitation or standstill of armaments. Before dispatching this letter I sent it to Sir Edward Grey, who sent for me and asked me to omit from the letter the reference to armaments. He said that, whatever I might say in my letter, it was his fixed determination to bring the question of armaments before the Conference. I remarked to him that it was running his head against a stone wall. He said he was amazed to hear such a thing from me; that if it was not possible to carry a resolution in favour of the reduction of armaments, the reason was that if public opinion was not ripe, it needed to be ripened, and there was no method of ripening it better than by a serious debate at an international parliament. He said that the only question that people cared anything about was the question of armaments, that if nothing was done about armaments the Conference would become a farce, and we should become the laughing stock of the world. I said that it was the first time that I had ever been upbraided by a Foreign Minister for lack of faith in the cause of peace, but since he was determined to take such a line I thought it was very necessary to advise our friends of peace in Europe and our own country as to the line he was going to take. I then went to Campbell-Bannerman, who confirmed what Sir Edward Grey said. He said that Grey was very earnest about armaments, and Campbell- Bannerman thought my idea of going round Europe was a very good and useful one. He asked me when I returned to go to him and report as to what I found out as to how the land lay.


I then began my tour. I found that in the House of Commons pacifists like Sir W, R, Cremer had not the slightest ghost of an idea that Grey was going to take such a strong line, and that the public knew nothing of the policy he was about to pursue. It was the same in every other country that I visited. I found that no British ambassador had received any instructions from Sir Edward Grey urging him to communicate with the other Powers concerning the line that Sir Edward Grey told me he was adopting. My statements were received with incredulity and in some cases with indignation and resentment; but I was faithful to my self-imposed mission. I went from Paris to Rome, from Rome to Vienna, from Vienna to Buda Pesth, from Buda Pesth to Berlin, from Berlin to Copenhagen, from Copenhagen to Stockholm, from Stockholm to Christiania, and from Christiania back to Berlin, and so home, I then went over to America, and saw Mr. Root and Mr. Roosevelt, and addressed meetings in several of the large cities, setting forth the idea of the Peace Budget and the Peace Pilgrimage, for the purpose of affording the delegates at the Hague with a demonstration in favour of Sir Edward Grey’s programme. I found everywhere that the smaller States would be delighted with such a proposal, and would agree to any proposal for the arrest of armaments, but that Germany and Austria would not listen to any such proposal, and were determined to exclude the question of armaments from practical consideration. I reported to Sir Edward Grey and Sir Henry Campbell- Bannerman exactly how I found the situation. I told Sir Edward Grey that I considered that some of the British Ambassadors, notably Sir Francis Bertie, were the worst enemies of his policy to be found anywhere in Europe.


On my return from America I accompanied the British journalists, who made a return visit to their German colleagues, and then went straight to the Hague, where I published and edited the Courrier de la Conference, an illustrated four-page daily paper, which I produced every day at my own expense during the time of the sitting of the Conference. My son Henry and myself remained at the Hague during the whole time of the second Conference, gratuitously devoting much labour to the production of the paper, which was the only unofficial record of the proceedings of the Conference. I used my influence as editor strenuously in favour of arbitration, but my own Government gave it very lukewarm support. My paper was the organ of militant pacifism. I was in constant touch with all the leading members of the Conference, with the exception of the British delegates, with whom I was in more or less opposition owing to the extraordinary instructions which they seemed to have received for the Hague Conference. Everything that Sir Edward Grey said to me he would do he appears to have told them not to do, and instead of leading the van of progress in the cause of peace, the British delegates hung back behind, leaving the first place to be scrambled for by Germany and the United States of America. A more miserable and scandalous débácle I have seldom seen.


At the close of the Hague Conference I proposed that a Pilgrimage of propaganda should be made across the world. What the Hague Conference had done was very considerable, but what it had left undone was still more considerable. The constitution of a permanent tribunal was left over, and there were many other questions upon which it was felt that public opinion was not yet ripe. In order to ripen public opinion I proposed that some, say a dozen, members of the Conference should devote themselves for six months lo a tour round the world. In every capital they should explain what the Conference had done, and state also the problems that were left over to solve at the approaching Conference. The scheme met with great approval, and at one time I thought it might have succeeded in obtaining a grant of the Nobel Prize money for defraying the expenses of a tour, but a domestic bereavement prevented me from prosecuting the idea any further. The death of my eldest son rendered it impossible for me to leave London as I had done before, so the idea came to nothing.


My next sphere of international activity was in Turkey in the year 1911. I twice visited Constantinople, the first time before the war, and I seized the opportunity of presenting as vigorously as I could upon the attention of the Sultan and the Grand Vizier the absolute necessity for following the policy of peace and reform, and avoiding any collision with the Balkan States. My second visit was after the Italian War had broken out, when I went to see what could be done towards demanding that the Powers should refuse to recognise any change in the status quo before an International Tribunal. My visit was an active propaganda for arbitration in Constantinople, which met with great support, and when I left everything was arranged for the departure of a band of Ottoman pilgrims representing all the races and religions of the Empire, which would go round Europe protesting against violated Treaties, demanding the establishment of an International Tribunal before which it would be possible to arraign such an international malefactor as the Italian Government. On my return home I summoned a meeting at Whitefield’s Tabernacle, for the purpose of rendering an account of my stewardship, and setting forth the result of my pilgrimage. The meeting was a great success. Afterwards I took the chair at another meeting, when Mr. McCullagh lectured upon the Italian atrocities in Tripoli. But other issues, notably that of the Anglo- German dispute over Morocco, and the question of Anglo-Russian policy in Persia submerged the Tripolitaine question. The Turks themselves broke up into parties, the Pilgrimage never started from Constantinople, and the war is going on to this day.


Such is a brief survey of my activities in the cause of international or domestic peace since I wrote the foregoing memorandum. It may be said that it is little better than a series of failures. In some cases the failure was complete, in others it was partial. The effort was always in the same direction, and if it did not succeed it may at least be said that I was the only person who had sufficient faith and courage even to try to achieve ideals so far in advance of the average opinion of the time. Let me say, however, that during all these years I have maintained unhesitatingly the fundamental principles of the pacifists’ work. I have worked for the organisation of a World State whose tribunals would render the maintenance of armaments unnecessary.


I have as sedulously maintained that until such a World State comes into existence it is necessary for Great Britain to maintain on an unassailable foundation the superiority of her naval power. I have crystallised this into a phrase in which I demand a standard of two keels to one, by which I mean that Great Britain’s Navy should be twice as large as that of the strongest European Power. I have done this as much in the interests of Germany as in the interests of Great Britain. Without such a supreme fleet we should have no security for our national independence and even our national existence. The maintenance of a two-to-one naval superiority has been the very corner-stone of the European State system since the battle of Trafalgar.

She is now threatened by the German ambition to possess two keels to three, a proportion which, when we remember the much more extended area over which the British Government has to operate, would deprive us of that naval supremacy in the North Sea which it is of vital interest should be unassailable by any other Power.


I may be quite wrong — most pacifists believe that I am wrong — but I have always maintained, and maintain to this hour, the doctrine that you can do no greater disservice to the cause of international peace than to weaken the British Navy, and that if the British Empire is to continue to afford the International World State the most effective example of liberty with justice, of independent self-governing states united in fraternal union, each leaving the other to pursue its own destinies, securing for all the strength that comes from the co-operation of all, the British fleet must be maintained at a standard of two keels to one, whatever the cost may be. To have a weak Navy is to invite attack, to lead your neighbours into temptation, and to remove the only security which we possess against a possible aggressor.