Radio Times/1923/11/30/A Plea for World Peace

Plea for World Peace.


A Talk from London. By Sir Hall Caine, C.H.

To each of us, as we look back, the gospel of the war must be according to the way we saw and felt it. Permit me to say how I now and felt the war and what doctrine I draw from it.

Sir Hall Caine, C.H.

I spent a part of the winter of 1910 in the Higher Alps, at a little hotel at the foot of a glacier, and in the midst of the deep snows. One afternoon I saw, in the glistening sunshine, three or four sleighs ploughing their way through the snow-ruts to the half-buried gate of our house. The sleighs contained a number of the rulers and royalties of what we then called the Central Empires. They had sleighed over from a neighbouring winter resort of fashionable people and were to go back after tea.

A slight acquaintance with one of the group led to my being asked to join the party, and going downstairs I found them in the timbered hall before a crackling wood fire, sitting, like ordinary country folk, about a big pine tea-table. Among others, whose names afterwards became known throughout the world, was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the throne of Austria, who was understood to be hostile to England, and a close friend of the German Kaiser. They seemed to be a united company; they laughed and chatted and called each other by their Christian names. The talk was generally about winter sports, but sometimes it touched on serious subjects. War was threatened somewhere, and it was mentioned that at that moment of peace, Austria had eight hundred thousand men under arms.

A Great Gamble.

The impression it left on me was that to certain of the company war, if it came, would be a great gamble, a great game, in which the greatest virtue would be to be strong. I remember that amid the crackle of cup and saucer I thought of the voiceless millions, whose lives lay so lightly in the hands of the little group of men and women then taking tea in the little snow-covered house in the Swiss mountains.

In the early autumn of 1914 I was at home in my native island in the Irish Sea, busy with my work and without much time for reading newspapers. On a bright Sunday morning at the beginning of August I drove into a neighbouring fishing town and came upon numbers of our fishermen, dressed in the blue uniform of the Royal Naval Reserve, shouting hurried adieux to their families and flying off in the direction of the railway station. War had broken out; mobilization had begun during the night, and they were hastening to join their ships.

A Monstrous Plot.

It was like a big thunderclap out of a clear sky. Hardly anybody knew what had happened. But the Archduke Ferdinand had been assassinated in Serbia; the Austrian Emperor (one of the oldest and feeblest of living men) had decided that the crime was a menace to his royal horse; the German Emperor, for his own reasons. had agreed with him, and together they had willed it that the murder of that one Austrian gentleman must be avenged even if all Europe had to be deluged in blood. We of the Western nations had thought it all a plot—a monstrous plot against liberty and justice, which must be stopped or civilisation would be lost. Within three days three-quarters of Europe were at war.

Four years later the war came to an end. What had happened? Ten millions had fallen. As many more had been maimed, blinded, and broken in nerve and brain. Kings and Kaisers had been hurled from their thrones. Not one of the group of rulers I had seen in the Swiss mountains remained. It had been a war of indescribable horrors. Not a war of armies against armies, but of nations against nations, and of guns and bombs against open towns and innocent women and children. At length justice had called America over the ocean to the help of the Allies. Together they had conquered and the enemy were supplicating for peace.

The World on Tiptoe.

And then came Armistice Day. How well we remember it! Some of us had not slept the night before. The world was on tiptoe, waiting for the word that meant either peace or war to extermination. When it came in the morning, and was flashed in a moment to the ends of the earth, it was like a shaft from the unrisen sun. What a storm of emotion! What frantic relief and joy! We can hear them still—the church bells, the guns, the syrens. We can see them even yet—the processions in the parks, and the strangers shaking hands and even kissing in the streets. To us of the Allied nations it was a day of rejoicing, of thanksgiving, and, as we believed, of divine and unfailing promise. There would he no more war. Tyranny had fallen; despotism was dead; the world was free. It was a better world that was to come.

Europe in Chaos.

And now we have reached the fifth anniversary of Armistice Day. Unable to go to that long cemetery of wooden crosses which stretches from the Alps to the Sea, we have gathered, all over the country, about the the symbols of the burial places of our dead, for prayer and consolation. In doing that we have done well. Somewhere and somehow, in the mysterious ways of Providence, our sacrifices will have their reward. If we thought otherwise our faith in God would fail. But has our hope of a better world been fulfilled? What do we see? europe is in chaos. One of its Empires, the one that began the war, has been almost wiped off the map. Another is at this moment struggling with anarchy. A third has been swept by famine and disease. Our own beloved country may have laid down its arms, but it is now fighting a deadlier enemy than Germany—poverty and want. A million and a quarter of our people are unemployed and living on the charity of the State. Nearly four millions are badly housed or not housed at all.

War is not dead.

There are now a million and a half more men under arms in Europe than ever before in times of peace. And the worst shame and shock to our conscience is that the Allied nations, who fought side by ride on the same battlefield, are now quarrelling among themselves, about money, about reparations, about loss of land and houses and business, too often forgetting their far greater loss in human lives which nothing can repair.

An Age-Long Race.

What does it mean? To answer that question we must go back to August 1914. Did the war really begin then? Who will say so now? Long before that time the earth of Europe had been trembling under the tread of a mighty host. Between the greater nations there had been an age-long race in the making of armaments. Every resource of science had horn employed towards the sole end of destroying life. "The right of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done." Is it not possible—I ask, is it not possible—that victors and vanquished alike most share responsibility for the atmosphere that created the war, and for the inhuman powers which made it so sudden, so prolonged, and so terrible?

If we were living in the days of the Hebrew kings and prophets we should say that the Almighty, must be angry with as for following after strange gods after He has given us the victory. We use different language now, but will it wrong the truth to say that God is punishing the whole world for the sin of the war? Think of it. He gave us the earth for our possession, that by our labour we might live on the fruits of it, but during the four years of the war we of the warring nations withdrew millions of men from the cultivation of the soil, leaving vast areas awaste, with the sun to shine and the rain to rain on them in vain. In the years of plenty He bad given on vast reserves of food, but in the course of the war we sent shiploads of precious grain to the bottom of the sea.

The World to Blame.

Above all He had provided for the continuance of the human family, but we sent twenty millions of the young and the strong and the flower of the human family to be destroyed in battle, leaving only the old and the weak to carry on the race. What wonder there is poverty and want and hatred and jealousy in the world still. It is not merely that man committed a crime against man. The whole world committed a sin against God?

What then? If the present condition of Europe means that, where lies the remedy both for friend and foe, for conquered and conqueror? In Parliaments, in Cabinets, in Conferences? No, but in our own souls, and on our knees before the Lord of Hosts. At God's feet there is neither hatred nor jealousy. There is only mercy and forgiveness. Gods law is love, and He has no other law.

What then in the gospel of the war? The gospel of the war as I see it is that war has failed as a judge of human conduct; that the conscience of humanity repudiates it; that there is no safety under the soldier's sword; that the supreme interest of mankind in this hour of the world's peril is pence; and that the further militarization of the world must cease. There will be people enough to tell no that we cannot oppose sentiment to machine guns. What folly! What blindness to the clear lessons of history? Even on the battlefield, said Napoleon, moral force as compared with physical force is as four to one. War has never of itself done anything which has not afterwards been undone. Empires founded on knee pass away; the one thing solid and enduring is the human soul—your soul, mine, the eternal soul, the mightiest thing in the world.

A Final Word.

A final worth—a personal one. My unseen friends. in offering this counsel of pence I have remembered. in all humility, that it has not fallen to me to suffer the bereavements for which so many of you are still watering your pillows with your tears. But I am an old man now; I have fulfilled the allotted span of man's life, and nearly all else that life has to give and take I hove gone through. And with the pity of the present condition of the world heavy upon me, its hatreds and jealousies and their cruel consequences, and with fear for its future, not for me but for them who may live after me, including my own, perhaps it may be permitted to my years to say that of all the words yet spoken to the soul of man, the tenderest, the wisest and the noblest were these—" My little children, love one another."


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.


The author died in 1931, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.