Above the Battle/Chapter 10




In a recent article, in which I put before the readers of the Journal de Genève the fine manifesto of the Catalonian intellectuals "For the Moral Unity of Europe," I stated that after this appeal from the Mediterranean South I would make known those of the North. Amongst the latter here is the voice of Holland:—

The Nederlandsche Anti-Oorlog Raad (Dutch Anti-War Council) is perhaps the most important attempt that these last months has seen to unify pacifist thought. Whilst recognising the value of what has been done for some years past in favour of peace, the N.A.O.R. is convinced that "all this work could have been much more effective, and could even have prevented the present catastrophe, if it had been better taken in hand." There has been lack of co-operation, wastage of energy, lack of penetration to the mass of the people. The problem is to discover if this internal defect cannot be remedied. "Will the world-wide tragedy of rivalry continue even inside the pacifist movement, or will this war teach those who are fighting against it the necessity of an energetic organization and preparation?"

To this task the N.A.O.R. is devoting itself. Founded on October 8, 1914, it had succeeded by January 15th in securing the adhesion of 350 Dutch societies (official, political, of all parties, religious, intellectual, labour), and its manifestoes brought together the signatures of more than a hundred of the most illustrious names of the Netherlands—statesmen, prelates, officers, writers, professors, artists, business men, etc. It therefore represents a considerable moral force.

Let it be said at once that the N.A.O.R. does not look for an immediate end of the war by a peace at any price. On the one hand, it declares itself "it has formed no presumptuous idea of its strength; it has no naïve confidence in vague peace formulæ, nor even in well-defined mutual obligations. The universal war of to-day has, alas! taught it much in this respect also." And, moreover, it is quite aware that a peace at any price, under present conditions, would only be a consecration of injustice. The great public meetings which it has organised on December 15th in the chief towns of the Netherlands have unanimously declared that such a peace seemed neither possible nor even desirable. I will add that certain of the articles of the N.A.O.R. suggest, with all the reserve necessitated by its attitude of neutrality and its profound desire for impartiality, the direction of its suppressed sympathies. Especially the following:—

"To repair the harm done by this war to the prestige of law in international relations. To bow before the law, whether customary or codified in treaties is a duty, even where sanction is wanting. Reform will be in vain: if there is not respect for law, and nations refuse to keep their word, a durable peace is out of the question."

The object of the N.A.O.R. is especially to study the conditions in which we can realise a just, humane, and durable peace, which will secure for Europe a long future of fruitful tranquillity and of common work, and to interest the public opinion of all nations in securing such a peace. I cannot analyse here, owing to lack of space, the various public manifestoes, the Appeal to the People of Holland (October 1914), or the Appeal for Co-operation and the Preparation of Peace, a kind of attempt to mobilise the pacifist armies (November). The latter of these contains ideas which agree in many cases with those of the Union of Democratic Control (the abolition of secret diplomacy, and a larger control of foreign affairs by Parliaments; the prohibition of special armament industries; the establishment of the elementary principle of international law, that no country shall be annexed without the consent, freely expressed, of the population). I will content myself here with publishing the manifesto addressed to the thinkers, writers, artists, and scientists of all nations. In this manifesto we shall find support for the tasks which we ourselves have undertaken in working to keep the thought of Europe sheltered from the ravages of the war, and in continually recalling it to the recognition of its highest duty, which is, even in the worst storms of passion, to safeguard the spiritual unity of civilized humanity.

R. R.

February 7, 1915.


Immediately after the European war had broken out, several groups of intellectuals belonging to the warring nations have advocated the justice of their country's cause in manifestoes and pamphlets, which they have scattered in great numbers throughout the neutral states.[1] And this still goes on; side by side with the war of the sword a no less vehement war is carried on with the pen.

Those writings have also reached us, the undersigned, all subjects of a neutral state. We have read them with the greatest interest, as they enable us to form a clear opinion not only of the frame of mind brought about by the outbreak of the war among the intellectuals of the warring nations, but also of the opinions they hold about the causes and the nature of the present war.

It has not surprised us neutrals to see that the spokesmen of the opposing nations are equally convinced of the justice of their cause. Neither has it surprised us that those spokesmen evince such a strong inclination to advocate their rights before the neutral states. Indeed, in such a terrible struggle it is a psychologic necessity for all the nations concerned that they should believe implicitly in the justice of their cause; they must ardently desire to testify to their faith before others. Only an unshakable confidence in the absolute justice of their cause can keep them from wavering or despairing during the gigantic struggle.

But we have perceived with great sorrow that the greater part of those writings are absolutely lacking in the slightest effort to be just towards opponents; that the meanest and most malicious motives are ascribed to them.

We respect the conviction of every one of the warring nations that they are fighting for a just cause. Even if we should have formed an opinion about the origin of the war, we should yet not think the present a fit moment to oppose different opinions or arguments to each other. This should be the work of the future, when scientific research will be able to consider all the facts quietly, when national passions will have subsided and the nations will listen with more composure to the verdict of history.

Yet we think it our duty and we consider it a privilege given to us as neutrals to utter a serious warning against the systematic rousing of a lasting bitterness between the now warring parties.

Though fully aware that the late events have irritated the feeling of nationality to the utmost, yet we believe that patriotism should not prevent any one from doing justice to the character of one's enemy; that faith in the virtues of one's own nation need not be coupled with the idea that all vices are inherent in the opposing nation; that confidence in the justice of one's own cause should not make one forget that the other side cherishes that conviction with the same energy.

Besides, no one should forget that the question: "What nations will be enemies?" depends on political relations, which vary according to unexpected circumstances. To-day's enemy may be to-morrow's friend.

The tone, in which of late not only the papers to which we referred higher up, but also the newspaper-press of the warring nations has written about the enemy threatens to arouse and to perpetuate the bitterest hatred.

To the evils directly resulting from the war, will be added the regrettable consequence that co-operation between the belligerent nations in art, science, and all other labours of peace will be delayed for some time, nay, even made quite impossible. Yet the time will come after this war, when the nations will have to resume some form of intercourse, social as well as spiritual.

The fewer fierce accusations have been breathed on either side, the less one nation has attacked the character of the other: in short, the less lasting bitterness has been roused, so much the easier will it be afterwards to take up again the broken threads of international intercourse.

This rousing of hatred and bitterness is also an impediment in the way that leads our thoughts towards peace.

Every one who in word or writing rails at the enemy or excites national passions is responsible for the longer duration of this horrible war.

Therefore, we the undersigned, appeal to all those of the same mind, especially among those belonging to the warring nations, to co-operate for this purpose: that in word and writing everything be avoided that may rouse lasting animosity.

We especially address this appeal to those who influence public opinion in their own country, to men of science and to artists, to those who long ago have realised that in all civilised countries there are men and women with the same notions of justice and morality as they have themselves.

May the representatives of all countries—according to the saying of a Dutch statesman—remember what unites them and not only what separates them!

Signed:—H.-C. Dresselhuys, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice, President of the N.A.O.R. J.-H. Schaper, member of the Second Chamber, Vice-President. Madame M. Asser-Thorbeke, secretary of the Dutch League for Women's Suffrage. Professor Dr. D. van Embden, Professor of the law at Amsterdam. Dr. Koolen, member of the Second Chamber. V.-H. Rutgers, member of the Second Chamber. Baron de Jong van Beek en Donk, Secretary of the N.A.O.R. (and also subscribed to by 130 politicians, intellectuals, and artists, including Frederik van Eeden, Willem Mengelberg, etc.). Bureau: Theresiastraat, 51, The Hague.

Journal de Genève, February 15, 1915.

  1. The famous "Appeal to the Civilised Nations" had been sent out shortly before this by the ninety-three German intellectuals.