Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/35

This page has been validated.
The Bohemian Review

Where We Stand To-day


Events are following fast one upon another. Things that three years ago would have been sensational or would have caused unusual agitation, today are accepted quietly and calmly, if not with indifference.

When Secretary Lansing a while ago declared that this country is being brought to the very verge of war, he was severely criticised. Yet today we are standing on the very brink. On the docket of the recording angel of history a new case has been registered, that of the United States of America vs. The German Empire. While our movement originated in the hope of contributing to freeing the land of our ancestors from foreign yoke, yet our first duty now is to declare unequivocally where we stand in this latest of world controversies.

It is indeed strange what a superficial view people occasionally take of matters of supreme importance. Not a few voices have arisen in this country that President Wilson erred in severing diplomatic relations with the German Empire because of the ruthless German methods of submarine warfare. People taking this position do not seem to realize that beneath the questions of violation of international law and of the laws of humanity lie matters of even deeper import. Very likely the violation of international law of itself would be justification enough for the step the president has taken. Even in times of war there are certain things that should be observed. The tendency has been at least to attempt to mitigate the very barbarities of war, and any government or nation reverting to primitive methods of warfare is guilty of a crime against civilization which cannot be condoned. But Germany by its last decree arrogates to itself sovereign powers over the nations of the earth. America and American citizens on the high seas have certain rights which cannot be invaded by any other power, and if another power attempts to abridge them, that power is invading the sovereignty of the United States of America, and attempting to make of it a vassal nation. When Germany attempts to dictate to this country that only one vessel a week shall pass between American and English ports, marked with certain stripes, she is invading American sovereignty, she is attempting to do a thing which only a sovereign can attempt to dictate to a subject, and when the president takes measures to show that this nation has not become a subject nation of Germany, we are with him to the end.

I am willing to go even farther than that. We are all opposed to unjust wars of aggression. But the verdict of mankind is that during the last two and one-half years Germany has conducted a struggle for world dominion. I would be the last man to underestimate the influence of such factors as economic considerations in bringing on wars. Yet it requires a peculiar sort of narrow-mindedness to declare that this war has been brought on by munition makers and profit-seekers, and nothing else; that the United States have been brought to the very verge of war by munition makers and profit-sekers, and nothing else. This conflict is a good deal more than all that; it is also a clash of conflicting ideas and conflicting civilizations. Possibly the supreme question raised by this war is whether the Prussian drillmaster shall govern Europe with his rod and perhaps the major part of the world. The issue of such a conflict cannot be a matter of indifference to Americans.

Pacifists resent to be called peace at any price people; yet most of them are crying out against war under any circumstances, and under any conditions; they want war stopped, apparently regardless of terms. In the abstract they undoubtedly want justice done; in the abstract they undoubtedly want right to prevail, but they have only themselves to blame if those of us who do not agree with them in all respects hear at the present time only their cry of peace, peace and peace, when there is no peace, and there can be no peace until all the questions which led to the present conflict are solved, solved right and solved permanently.

Our pacifists would do well to recall the words of Wendell Phillips at the outbreak of the Civil War: “In my view, the bloodiest war ever waged is infinitely better than the happiest slavery which ever fattened men into obedience. And yet I love peace. But it is real peace; not peace such as we have had, not peace that meant lynch-law in the Carolinas, and mob-law in New York; not