The Writings of Carl Schurz/To Chandler P. Anderson, December 12th, 1904


24 East 91st Street, Dec. 12, 1904.

I am very sorry I cannot comply with your kind invitation summoning me to speak at the meeting to be held in behalf of the cause of international arbitration. The appeals of that cause to the intelligence and moral sense of mankind have of late been so effectual as to put to shame the dreary pessimism which has so long stood in its way. For what else is it than downright pessimism—dull, dismal and mischievous pessimism—which, having no faith in the elevating influences of progressive civilization, insists that there always will and must be wars, and plenty of them, to satisfy the combative and brutish impulses of human nature or to keep up the virility of the human race; pessimism which, with a cynical affectation of superior wisdom, sneers at the advocates of peace as sentimental and weak-minded dreamers; which not many years ago belittled international arbitration as a feeble contrivance applicable only to petty bickerings about trifles, but not to really dangerous disputes among nations; which scoffed at the idea of a permanent international peace tribunal as a “barren ideality,” because it would have no power behind it to enforce its decisions or awards; and which incessantly conjures up imaginary dangers to our safety, to prove the necessity of constant preparation for war, and of keeping up, to this end, vast and costly armaments even in time of peace!

How does this pessimism stand in the light of day? It is true, war has not yet been abolished. But who will deny that the number of wars has grown less from century to century, and that many and many troubles, which at earlier periods would surely have led to war, have been peaceably composed? Who will deny that the abhor rence of war as the cruel scourge of mankind and as an odious relic of barbarism is growing more universal in civilized society every day, and that the terrible conflict now going on in the Far East has immensely intensified that abhorrence and bids fair to serve as a tremendous warning example for all time?

And now behold international arbitration, not many decades ago rarely resorted to as a doubtful experiment, become practically the “fashion” of the time, as an English statesman recently expressed it.

Behold the Hague Court of Peace, suddenly risen into practical activity as by enchantment, and turning the ridicule upon those superwise pessimists who but yesterday, as it were, pronounced such a permanent international tribunal an impossibility dreamed of only by fantastic visionaries!

Behold the prompt reference to that tribunal of such a case as the bloody attack by Russian war-ships upon British fishermen, which at a time not long past would have been very likely to set the guns of the interested Powers booming against each other without much ceremony—a case which even at this day some sincere friends of peace would have hesitated to class among those clearly fit for arbitration.

Truly, the pessimists who believe in war-ships and heavy battalions and not in the moral forces as the most potential factors in human affairs, have been strikingly belied by palpable events. The cause of peace has in its progress outstripped the forecast even of some of its leaders. We may well have faith in the enlightened intelligence and the moral sense of mankind, and in the ennobling tendencies of advancing civilization.

Indeed, there should be no doubt—and I trust there is none—of the speedy confirmation by the United States Senate of the arbitration treaties between this Republic and various Powers which are now pending before that body. There should be no doubt of it even if those treaties were less timidly limited in scope than they are. Let us have faith then—as we well may—that the day will come, and that our children, if not we ourselves, will see it, when the reference of any international dispute to the Hague Tribunal will seem as natural, as much a matter of course, as in private life the reference of a dispute about property to a court of justice is now; when any nation going to war without the extremest necessity, generally recognized, will stand dishonored in the estimation of civilized mankind, and when the spectacle of so-called “armed peace”—a spectacle which would seem ludicrous were it not so sorrowful—each Government watching with nervous anxiety every other Government that may add another battleship or battalion to its armed force, then following suit with hysterical haste, thus continuing and stimulating the ruinous competition and heaping burden after burden upon the necks of suffering peoples—will be a thing of the past to be looked back upon by a wiser generation with curious wonder at the sort of statesmanship which carried on and encouraged so wasteful and oppressive a policy, and at the patience of the peoples that so long tolerated it.

Let us hope that this Republic which, as its history proves, is so singularly blessed with entire exemption from danger of attack or hostile interference, and therefore peculiarly fitted for leadership in this movement toward a higher civilization, will never be unmindful of the duty imposed upon it by this glorious mission.