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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 85/September 1914/War and Peace

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 85‎ | September 1914


A League of Peace

THE futility of war as a means of producing peace between nations has often been dwelt upon. It is really the most futile of all remedies, because it embitters contestants and sows the seeds of future struggles. Generations are sometimes required to eradicate the hostility engendered by one conflict. War sows dragons' teeth, and seldom gives to either party what it fought for. When it does, the spoil generally proves Dead Sea fruit. The terrible war just concluded is another case in point. Neither contestant obtained what he fought for, the reputed victor being most of all disappointed at last with the terms of peace. Had Japan, a very poor country, known that the result would be a debt of two hundred millions sterling loading her down, or had Russia known the result, differences would have been peacefully arbitrated. Such considerations find no place, however, in the fiery furnace of popular clamor; as little do those of cost or loss of life. Only if the moral wrong, the sin in itself, of man-slaying is brought home to the conscience of the masses may we hope speedily to banish war. There will, we fear, always be demagogues in our day to inflame their brutal passions and urge men to fight, as a point of honor and patriotism, scouting arbitration as a cowardly refuge. All thoughts of cost or loss of human life vanish when the brute in man, thus aroused, gains sway.

It is the crime of destroying human life by war and the duty to offer or accept peaceful arbitration as a substitute which need to be established, and which, as we think, those of the church, the universities, and of the professions are called upon to strongly emphasize.

If the principal European nations were not free through conscription from the problem which now disturbs the military authorities of Britain, the lack of sufficient numbers willing to enter the man slaying profession, we should soon hear the demand formulated for a league of peace among the nations. The subject of war can never be studied without recalling this simplest of all modes for its abolition. Five nations cooperated in quelling the recent Chinese disorders and rescuing their representatives in Pekin. It is perfectly clear that these five nations could banish war. Suppose even three of them formed a league of peace—inviting all other nations to join—and agreed that since war in any part of the civilized world affects all nations, and often seriously, no nation shall go to war, but shall refer international disputes, to the Hague conference or other arbitral body for peaceful settlement, the league agreeing to declare non-intercourse with any nation refusing compliance. Imagine a nation cut off to-day from the world. The league also might reserve to itself the right, where non-intercourse is likely to fail or has failed to prevent war, to use the necessary force to maintain peace, each member of the league agreeing to provide the needed forces, or money in lieu thereof, in proportion to her population or wealth. Being experimental and upon trial, it might be deemed advisable, if necessary, at first to agree that any member could withdraw after giving five years' notice, and that the league should dissolve five years after a majority vote of all the members. Further provisions, and perhaps some adaptations, would be found requisite, but the main idea is here.

The Emperor of Russia called the Hague conference, which gave us an international tribunal. Were King Edward or the Emperor of Germany or the President of France, acting for their governments, to invite the nations to send representatives to consider the wisdom of forming such a league, the invitation would no doubt be responded to and probably prove successful.

The number that would gladly join such a league would be great, for the smaller nations would welcome the opportunity.

The relations between Britain, France and the United States to-day are so close, their aims so similar, their territories and fields of operation so clearly defined and so different, that these powers might properly unite in inviting other nations to consider the question of such a league as has been sketched. It is a subject well worthy the attention of their rulers, for of all the modes of hastening the end of war this appears the easiest and the best. We have no reason to doubt that arbitration in its present optional form will continue its rapid progress, and that it in itself contains the elements required finally to lead us to peace, for it conquers wherever it is tried; but it is none the less gratifying to know that there is in reserve a drastic mode of enforcement, if needed, which would promptly banish war. . . .

Let me close by quoting the words of Lincoln. When a young man, employed upon a trading boat, he made a voyage of some weeks' duration upon the Mississippi. He visited a slave market, where men, women and children were not slaughtered, as formerly in war, but were separated and sold from the auction block. His companion tells that after standing for some time Lincoln turned and walked silently away. Lifting his clenched hand, his first words were, "If ever I get a chance, I shall hit this accursed thing hard." Many years passed, during which he never failed to stand forth as the bitter foe of slavery and the champion of the slave. This was for him the paramount issue. He was true to his resolve throughout life, and in the course of events his time came at last. This poor, young, toiling boatman became president of the United States, and was privileged with a stroke of his pen to emancipate the slaves last remaining in the civilized world, four millions in number. He kept the faith, and gave the lesson for all of us in our day, who have still with us war in all its enormity, many of us more or less responsible for it, because we have not hitherto placed it above all other evils and concentrated our efforts sufficiently upon its extinction. Let us resolve like Lincoln, and select man-slaying as our foe, as he did man-selling. Let us, as he did, subordinate all other public questions to the one over-shadowing question, and, as he did, stand forth upon all suitable occasions to champion the cause. Let us, like him, keep the faith, and as his time came, so to us our time will come, and, as it does, let us hit accursed war hard until we drive it from the civilized world, as he did slavery.—Andrew Carnegie in the Popular Science Monthly for May, 1906.



HAVING said thus much in preparation, I will now confess my own utopia. I devoutly believe in the reign of peace and in the gradual advent of some sort of a socialistic equilibrium. The fatalistic view of the war-function is to me nonsense, for I know that war-making is due to definite motives and subject to prudential checks and reasonable criticisms, just like any other form of enterprise. And when whole nations are the armies, and the science of destruction vies in intellectual refinement with the sciences of production, I see that war becomes absurd and impossible from its own monstrosity. Extravagant ambitions will have to be replaced by reasonable claims, and nations must make common cause against them. I see no reason why all this should not apply to yellow as well as to white countries, and I look forward to a future when acts of war shall be formally outlawed as between civilized peoples.

All these beliefs of mine put me squarely into the anti-militarist party. But I do not believe that peace either ought to be or will be permanent on this globe, unless the states pacifically organized preserve some of the old elements of army-discipline. A permanently successful peace-economy can not be a simple pleasure-economy. In the more or less socialistic future towards which mankind seems drifting we must still subject ourselves collectively to those severities which answer to our real position upon this only partly hospitable globe. We must make new energies and hardihoods continue the manliness to which the military mind so faithfully clings. Martial virtues must be the enduring cement; intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command, must still remain the rock upon which states are built—unless, indeed, we wish for dangerous reactions against commonwealths fit only for contempt, and liable to invite attack whenever a center of crystallization for military-minded enterprise gets formed anywhere in their neighborhood.

The war-party is assuredly right in affirming and reaffirming that the martial virtues, although originally gained by the race through war, are absolute and permanent human goods. Patriotic pride and ambition in their military form are, after all, only specifications of a more general competitive passion. They are its first form, but that is no reason for supposing them to be its last form. Men now are proud of belonging to a conquering nation, and without a murmur they lay down their persons and their wealth, if by so doing they may fend off subjection. But who can be sure that other aspects of one's country may not, with time and education and suggestion enough, come to be regarded with similarly effective feelings of pride and shame? Why should men not some day feel that it is worth a blood-tax to belong to a collectivity superior in any ideal respect? Why should they not blush with indignant shame if the community that owns them is vile in any way whatsoever? Individuals, daily more numerous, now feel this civic passion. It is only a question of blowing on the spark till the whole population gets incandescent, and on the ruins of the old morals of military honor, a stable system of morals of civic honor builds itself up. What the whole community comes to believe in grasps the individual as in a vise. The war-function has grasped us so far; but constructive interests may some day seem no less imperative, and impose on the individual a hardly lighter burden.

Let me illustrate my idea more concretely. There is nothing to make one indignant in the mere fact that life is hard, that men should toil and suffer pain. The planetary conditions once for all are such, and we can stand it. But that so many men, by mere accidents of birth and opportunity, should have a life of nothing else but toil and pain and hardness and inferiority imposed upon them, should have no vacation, while others natively no more deserving never get any taste of this campaigning life at all—this is capable of arousing indignation in reflective minds. It may end by seeming shameful to all of us that some of us have nothing but campaigning, and others nothing but unmanly ease. If now—and this is my idea—there were, instead of military conscription a conscription of the whole youthful population to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted against nature, the injustice would tend to be evened out, and numerous other goods to the commonwealth would follow. The military ideals of hardihood and discipline would be wrought into the growing fiber of the people; no one would remain blind as the luxurious classes now are blind, to man's real relations to the globe he lives on, and to the permanently sour and hard foundations of his higher life. To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clothes-washing and window-washing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas. They, would have paid their blood-tax, done their own part in the immemorial human warfare against nature, they would tread the earth more proudly, the women would value them more highly, they would be better fathers and teachers of the following generation.

Such a conscription, with the state of public opinion that would have required it, and the many moral fruits it would bear, would preserve in the midst of a pacific civilization the manly virtues which the military party is so afraid of seeing disappear in peace. We should get toughness without callousness, authority with as little criminal cruelty as possible, and painful work done cheerily because the duty is temporary, and threatens not, as now, to degrade the whole remainder of one's life. I spoke of the "moral equivalent" of war. So far, war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community, and until an equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way. But I have no serious doubt that the ordinary prides and shames of social man, once developed to a certain intensity, are capable of organizing such a moral equivalent as I have sketched, or some other just as effective for preserving manliness of type. It is but a question of time, of skillful propagandism, and of opinion-making men seizing historic opportunities.

The martial type of character can be bred without war. Strenuous honor and disinterestedness abound elsewhere. Priests and medical men are in a fashion educated to it, and we should all feel some degree of it imperative if we were conscious of our work as an obligatory service to the state. We should be owned, as soldiers are by the army, and our pride would rise accordingly. We could be poor, then, without humiliation, as army officers now are. The only thing needed henceforward is to inflame the civic temper as past history has inflamed the military temper. H. G. Wells, as usual, sees the center of the situation. "In many ways," he says, "military organization is the most peaceful of activities. When the contemporary man steps from the street, of clamorous insincere advertisement, push, adulteration, underselling and intermittent employment, into the barrack-yard, he steps on to a higher social plane, into an atmosphere of service and cooperation and of infinitely more honorable emulations. Here at least men are not flung out of employment to degenerate because there is no immediate work for them to do. They are fed and drilled and trained for better services. Here at least a man is supposed to win promotion by self-forgetfulness. and not by self-seeking. And beside the feeble and irregular endowment of research by commercialism, its little short-sighted snatches at profit by innovation and scientific economy, see how remarkable is the steady and rapid development of method and appliances in naval and military affairs! Nothing is more striking than to compare the progress of civil conveniences which has been left almost entirely to the trader, to the progress in military apparatus during the last few decades. The house-appliances of to-day, for example, are little better than they were fifty years ago. A house of to-day is still almost as ill-ventilated, badly heated by wasteful fires, clumsily arranged and furnished as the house of 1858. Houses a couple of hundred years old are still satisfactory places of residence, so little have our standards risen. But the rifle or battleship of fifty years ago was beyond all comparison inferior to those we possess; in power, in speed, in convenience alike. No one has a use now for such superannuated things."[1]

Wells adds[2] that he thinks that the conceptions of order and discipline, the tradition of service and devotion, of physical fitness, unstinted exertion and universal responsibility, which universal military duty is now teaching European nations, will remain a permanent acquisition, when the last ammunition has been used in the fireworks that celebrate the final peace. I believe as he does. It would be simply preposterous if the only force that could work ideals of honor and standards of efficiency into English or American natures should be the fear of being killed by the Germans or the Japanese. Great indeed is fear; but it is not, as our military enthusiasts believe and try to make us believe, the only stimulus known for awakening the higher ranges of men's spiritual energy. The amount of alteration in public opinion which my utopia postulates is vastly less than the difference between the mentality of those black warriors who pursued Stanley's party on the Congo with their cannibal war-cry of "meat! meat" and that of the "general staff" of any civilized nation. History has seen the latter interval bridged over: the former one can be bridged over much more easily.'—William James in the Popular Science Monthly for October, 1910.



THOSE who fall in war are the young men of the nations, the men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, without blemish so far as may be—the men of courage, alertness, dash and recklessness, the men who value their lives as naught in the service of the nation. The man who is left is for better and for worse the reverse of all this, and it is he who determines what the future of the nation shall be.

However noble, encouraging, inspiring, the history of modern Europe may be, it is not the history we should have the right to expect from the development of its racial elements. It is not the history that would have been made by these same elements released from the shadow of the reversed selection of fratricidal war. And the angle of divergence between what might have been and what has been, will be determined by the percentage of strong men slain on the field of glory.

And all this applies, not to one nation nor to one group of nations alone, but in like degree to all nations, which have sent forth their young men to the field of slaughter. As with Greece and Rome, as with France and Spain, as with Mauritania and Turkestan, so with Germany and England, so with all nations who have sent forth "the best they breed" to the foreign service, while cautious, thrifty mediocrity filled up the ranks at home.

In his charming studies of "Feudal and Modern Japan," Mr. Arthur Knapp, of Yokohama, returns again and again to the great marvel of Japan's military prowess after more than two hundred years of peace. This was shown in the Chinese war. It has been more conclusively shown on the fields of Manchuria since Mr. Knapp's book was written. It is astonishing to him that, after more than six generations in which physical courage has not been demanded, these virile virtues should be found unimpaired. We can readily see that this is just what we should expect. In times of peace there is no slaughter of the strong, no sacrifice of the courageous. In the peaceful struggle for existence there is a premium placed on these virtues. The virile and the brave survive. The idle, weak and dissipated go to the wall. "What won the battles on the Yalu, in Korea or Manchuria," says the Japanese, Nitobe, "was the ghosts of our fathers guiding our hands and beating in our hearts. They are not dead, these ghosts, those spirits of our war-like ancestors. Scratch a Japanese, even one of the most advanced ideas, and you will find a Samurai." If we translate this from the language of Shintoism to that of science we find it a testimony to the strength of race-heredity, the survival of the ways of the strong in the lives of the self-reliant.

If after two hundred years of incessant battle Japan still remained virile and warlike, that would indeed be the marvel. But that marvel no nation has ever seen. It is doubtless true that war-like traditions are most persistent with nations most frequently engaged in war. But the traditions of war and the physical strength to gain victories are very different things. Other things being equal, the nation which has known least of war is the one most likely to develop the "strong battalions" with whom victory must rest.

As Americans we are more deeply interested in the fate of our mother country than in that of the other nations of Europe.

What shall we say of England and of her relation to the reversed selection of war?

Statistics we have none, and no evidence of tangible decline that Englishmen will not indignantly repudiate. When the London press in the vacation season fills its columns with editorials on English degeneration, it is something else to which these journalists refer. Their problem is that of the London slums, of sweat-shops and child-labor, of wasting overwork and of lack of nutrition, of premature old age and of sodden drunkenness—influences which bring about the degeneration of the individual, the inefficiency of the social group, but which for the most part leave no trace in heredity and are therefore no factor in the degeneration of the race. Such degradation is at once cause, effect and symptom—a sign of racial inadequacy, a cause of further enfeeblement and an effect of unjust and injurious social, political and industrial conditions in the past.

But the problem before us is not the problem of the slums. What mark has been left on England by her great struggles for freedom and by the thousand petty struggles to impose on the world the semblance of order called "Pax Britannica," the British peace?

To one who travels widely through the counties of England some part of the cost is plain.

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
Who mourns for her only son;
There's a grave by the Pabeng River—
A grave which the Burmans shun.

This is a condition repeated in every village of England, and its history is recorded on the walls of every parish church. Everywhere can be seen tablets in memory of young men—gentlemen's sons from Eton and Rugby and Winchester and Harrow, scholars from Oxford and Cambridge, who have given up their lives in some far-off petty war. Their bodies rest in Zululand, in Cambodia, in the Gold Coast, in the Transvaal. In England only they are remembered. In the parish churches these records are numbered by the score. In the cathedrals they are recorded by the thousand. Go from one cathedral town to another—Canterbury, Winchester, Chidester, Exeter, Salisbury, Wells, Ely, York, Lincoln, Durham, Litchfield, Chester (what a wonderful series of pictures this list of names calls up!), and you will find always the same story, the same sad array of memorials to young men. What would be the effect on England if all of these "unreturning brave" and all that should have been their descendants could be numbered among her sons to-day? Doubtless not all of these were young men of character. Doubtless not all are worthy even of the scant glory of a memorial tablet. But most of them were worthy. Most of them were brave and true, and most of them looked out on life with "frank blue Briton eyes."

This too we may admit, that war is not the only destructive agency in modern society, and that in the struggle for existence the England of to-day has had many advantages which must hide or neutralize the waste of war.

It suggests the inevitable end of all empire, of all dominion of man over man by force of arms. More than all who fall in battle or are wasted in the camps, the nation misses the "fair women and brave men" who should have been the descendants of the strong and the manly. If we may personify the spirit of the nation, it grieves most not over its "unreturning brave," but over those who might have been but never were, and who, so long as history lasts, can never be.

It is claimed that by the law of probabilities as developed by Quetelet, there will appear in each generation the same number of potential poets, artists, investigators, patriots, athletes and superior men of each degree. But this law has no real validity. Its pertinence involves the theory of continuity of paternity, that in each generation a percentage practically equal of men of superior force or superior mentality should survive to take the responsibilities of parenthood. Otherwise Quetelet's law becomes subject to the operation of another law, the operation of reversed selection, or the biological "law of diminishing returns."

In other words, breeding from an inferior stock is the sole agency in race degeneration, as selection natural or artificial along one line or another is the sole agency in race progress.

And all laws of probabilities and of averages are subject to a still higher law, the primal law of biology, which no cross-current of life can overrule or modify: Like the seed is the harvest.

And because this is true, arises the final and bitter truth: "Wars are not paid for in war time. The bill comes later!"—David Starr Jordan in the Popular Science Monthly for January, 1911.



SCIENCE with its applications has been one of the principal factors leading to peace and international good will. Science, democracy and the limitation of warfare are the great achievements of modern civilization. They have advanced together almost continuously from the beginnings of the universities of Bologna, Paris and Oxford in the twelfth century to their great triumphs in the nineteenth century and the present promise of their complete supremacy. It may be urged reasonably that science is the true cause of democracy and that science and democracy together are the influences most conducive to permanent and universal peace.

The applications of science in industry, agriculture and commerce, in the prevention of disease and of premature death, have abolished the need of excessive manual labor. It long ago became unnecessary for the great majority of the people to be held in bondage in order that a few free citizens might have education and opportunity, and slavery has been gradually driven from the world. The vast progress of scientific discovery and invention in the nineteenth century has reduced to a moderate amount the daily labor required from each in order that all may be adequately fed, clothed and housed. The death-rate has been decreased to one half; the ensuing lower birth-rate has freed nearly half the time of women and reduced proportionately the labor of men. The period of childhood and youth may be devoted to universal education, and equality of opportunity can be given to all. It is no longer needful to depend on a privileged class to conduct the affairs of government and to supply men of performance. Those selected from all the people as most fit can be given the preparation and opportunity needed to enable them to become leaders, and every one can take an intelligent share in political affairs and in appreciation of the higher things of life.

In giving us democracy science has made its greatest contribution to the limitation of warfare. It must be admitted that a democratic people may be inflamed into a mob mad for war; but this is not likely to happen in the case of a war of policy or of aggression. In the past wars have been more often due to the ambitions, difficulties and intrigues of kings and princes than to the passions of the people, and the decrease of wars has been largely a result of the establishment of constitutional governments and of the legalization of the methods of conscription and taxation. If a declaration of war or an ultimatum leading to war were subject to a referendum, the vote being taken not too promptly, and if the estimated cost of the war were collected in taxes in advance, there would not be many wars.

We are still far from having a true political and social democracy. The production of wealth has increased rapidly; but we have not learned to distribute it justly or to use it wisely. The education supplied by our schools is inadequate and inept. We may be confident that a complete democracy will be the strongest force for peace that the world has seen. Even now the great mass of the people, most of them having some education and some property, are the true guarantees against wanton war. A king can no longer summon his nobles and the chiefs gather together their retainers to invade a foreign country. A war which, with its accompanying pestilence and famine, would reduce the population of a country to one half, as in the case of the thirty years' war, is now almost inconceivable. And this we owe to social and political democracy, which in turn we owe to science.

As a result of scientific progress and invention, the law of Malthus has been reversed. The means of subsistence increase more rapidly than the population. The sinister voluntary limitation of childbirth, which may give rise to racial deterioration and actual depopulation, is unnecessary. As population increases under a given condition of culture, the number of men of genius and talent competent to make the labor of each more efficient increases in proportion; as their inventions are of benefit to all, the means of subsistence tend to increase as the square of the population. As the level of education and culture is raised, and as democracy is perfected, so that each is given opportunity to do the work for which he is fit, the wealth and means of subsistence increase still more rapidly. The law of Malthus and the law of diminishing returns, like the law of the degradation of energy, may ultimately prevail, but not in any future with which we are concerned. The population of a civilized country, in which science is cultivated, need not be limited by famine, pestilence or war. Over-population and the need of expansion by conquest are obviated by democracy and science; the cause of war which may be regarded as inevitable and legitimate is thus abolished. In providing adequately for the subsistence of an increasing population, science has made a contribution to peace the magnitude of which can not be easily overstated.

Another great service for peace to be credited to science is the development of commerce, travel and intercommunication. Steam and electricity are handmaids of peace. Trade disputes and the misadventures of missionaries, travelers and immigrants may serve as causes or pretexts of wars, but the balance of commerce, travel and immigration is large on the side of peace. With the existing commerce among the nations, each dependent on every other, a war of any kind does injury to all. A nation at war destroys its own property throughout the world, and all the nations suffer. A neutral nation can no more afford to countenance a needless war than mobs burning its own cities and killing its own citizens. In New York, London, Berlin and Paris are business houses and representatives of every country in the world. How could any nation wish to destroy or to permit the destruction of these cities? . . .

Science has given us democracy, it has given us ample means of subsistence, it has given us commerce and intercommunication, and these three achievements are the principal factors which have lessened warfare and will eventually lead to its complete abolition. Other contributions of science, though less momentous, are by no means unimportant. Warfare is now in large measure applied science, and this tends towards its decrease. Wars between nations with scientific equipment and savage and barbarous peoples are no longer waged on equal terms and are of short, duration. The extermination, despoliation and subjugation of the non-Caucasian races may be the world's great tragedy, and in so far as some of these peoples are able to adopt our science there will be a readjustment which may be written in blood or may be a triumph of common sense and justice. However this may be, the invincibility that science has conferred on the western nations has made them safe from attack and invasion, and while it may on occasion have led to wanton aggression, it has, on the whole, limited warfare. If we call to mind the centuries of invasion and threats of invasion by Northmen, Ottomans and Saracens, we can appreciate the value of the means of defense which science has given to the civilized nations.

The making of warfare an applied science by the western nations and by one eastern nation has tended also to prevent war between nations so equipped. When war is a game of skill rather than of chance, it is likely to be undertaken only after careful consideration of the conditions and consequences. The cost is enormous and must be carefully weighed. The interests of the money lenders are usually on the side of peace and become increasingly so as war continues. If war does occur between two great nations it is likely to be of short duration. It can not drag on through tens of years as formerly. Its horrors are also reduced; non-combatants are not so much concerned, and soldiers suffer less from disease—far more dreadful than violence—owing to the shorter duration of wars and to hygiene, medicine and surgery. It may be hoped that science has accomplished, on the whole, more for defense than for aggression; torpedoes, mines, submarines and aeroplanes are more effective for protection than for attack. The cost of modern armaments is so immense that this in itself will lead to their limitation and to the settlement of difficulties otherwise than by appeal to arms.

There is a psychological aspect of modern scientific warfare, which tends to discredit it. The heroism and the bravery, the excitement of personal contact and the exhibition of personal prowess, the romance and the occasional chivalry, are largely gone. Men cooped up in battleships or displayed like pawns on the field are not much greater heroes to themselves or to others than workers in a mine exposed to nearly equal danger. Officers under constant instructions from the seat of government and telegraphing their orders from a point of safety fall to the level of ordinary men of affairs. Tin soldiers will not forever stir the imagination of children in the nursery. Providence is on the side favored by the money lenders and having the best organized commissariat. AYar becomes brutal and disgusting; at its best like the business of the hangman, at its worst like infanticide.—J. McKeen Cattell in the Popular Science Monthly for April, 1912.

  1. "First and Last Things," 1908, p. 215.
  2. Ibid., p. 226.