TOPICS OF THE DAY.
.THE DUPES OF FEAR.
IT would be too much to say that at the present moment there is discouragement in the country in regard to the war. There is, however, undoubtedly a great deal of anxiety and perturbation. What is uppermost in the minds of people who entertain such feelings is the dread that the pessimists and the Pacificists may somehow manage to prevail, and that the country will make, though it may actually be in the hour of victory, a feeble and an ignominious peace. Such a peac3 would waste all the sacrifices which have been made by our soldiers in the cause of liberty and demo- cracy, would leave to our children the dreadful inheritance of new wars, and, worst of all, would place the premium of success upon militarism, brutality, falsehood, and Machia- vellian statecraft. It is hardly to be wondered at that the dread of a tragedy so appalling is casting a shadow of gloom over a portion of the nation. Yet in reality there is no cause for alarm. If a majority, or even a very large minority, of the people of this country were craven-hearted, and had come to the conclusion that we could not " stick it out," that we must make peace, and that the sooner we did it the better, then indeed there would be cause for depression, nay, for despair. But of such a state of mind in the British people there is no sign. It is merely that A, who does not want peace for himself and who is willing to make all the necessary sacrifices, is haunted by the fear that his neighbour, B, is going to give way, and that he (A) will therefore be betrayed into a policy which he regards with unspeakable loathing.
This mood of melancholy has only to be faced in the proper spirit to disappear as quickly as it has come. In the first place, the minority who have not the stomach for maintaining the war, who dread the last hard pull upon the rope and would rather give in than risk cutting their hands to the bone, are numerically as well as morally contemptible. They may, and indeed do, make a certain amount of noise, but, like the grasshoppers in Burke's fatuous phrase, what are they when compared to the great cattle who chew the cud in silence ? For example, look at the "British Socialist Party," which last week produced its shameful programme for endorsing Germany's conspiracy against the liberties of Europe and of mankind. That party is said to number sonic ten thousand members. An even more exiguous fraction of the community are the extreme Pacificists, whose ideal appears to be to lie down in front of the Junker car of Juggernaut and ask it to be so kind and generous as to roll over their servile backs. The notion that there is any body of people in these islands possessed of the power of coercing us into peace, or preventing the men willing to make the sacrifices required by a prolongation of the war from making those sacrifices, is utterly ridiculous.
But even if this were not so, and if the minority of faint- hearts and Pacificists were a large minority like that of the 'Copperheads in the last year of the American Civil War, there need be no dread of a peace which would mean an abject surrender to our already more than half-beaten foes. How little influence the Copperheads exercised on the great purpose of Lincoln, and how little they prevented the final victory of the North although they did succeed in producing much depression among half-hearted people, is admirably shown in a letter to the Times of Monday by Mr. E. P. Bell, the well- known correspondent of the Chicago Daily News. If, as is no doubt the ease, there a a group of men banded together in what is almost a conspiracy (though very possibly an un- conscious conspiracy) to help our enemies and to ruin our country, there is a far more numerous and far more powerful body of men and women who are determined at all costs to keep the nation on its true course, to make every sacrifice, and to dare everything to prevent a treasonable capitulation to the enemy. If we have got a few Copperheads in our midst, we have also got men, belonging to every class in the community, who mean to see the war through, and men to whom " seeing it through " is not an empty phrase but a reality. These are men who will not wail, waver, and turn back because of some minor disappointment, because the pace of victory is not so fast as they had hoped, or again because shouting does not prove a substitute for bayonet thrusts. Thank Heaven, too, there is in this matter no division between working men and capitalists, rich men and poor men, hand- workers and brain-workers.
The situation of the moment could not be better illustrated than by a very moving allegory which, in a past generation,
Mr. Justice Fitzjames Stephen used to explain that curious amalgam of Puritanism and Agnosticism which served him for a faith—a faith which, though it would most certainly not have done for mankind as a whole, did undoubtedly provide him with a kind of dumb religion. Such considera- tions, however, have nothing to do with our present purpose. We quote his allegory merely because of its accidental application :-
" I dreamt, after Bunyan's fashion, that I was in the cabin of a sldp, handsomely furnished and lighted. A number of people were expounding the objects of the voyage and the principles of navies. tMn. They were contradicting each other eagerly, but each mein. tatted that the success of the voyage depended absolutely upon the adoption of his own plan. The charts to which they appealed were in many eases confused and contradictory. . . Saddened and confused I escaped. to the deck, and found myself somehow enrolled in the crew. The prospect was unlike the accounts given in the cabin. There was no sun ; we had but a faint starlight, and there were occasional glimpses of land and of what might be lights on atom, which yet were pronounced by rome of the crew to be mere illusions. They held that the beet thing to be done was to let the ship drive as she would, without trying to keep her on what was understood to be her course. For ' the strangest thing on that strange ship wan the fact that there was such a course.' Many theories were offered about this, none quite satisfactory ; but it was understood that the chip was to be steered due north. The best and bravest and wisest of the eras would dare the most terrible dangers, even from their com- rades, to keep her on her course. Putting these things together, and noting that the ship was obviously framed and equipped for the voyage, I could not help feeling that there W. a port somewhere. though I doubted the wisdom of those who professed to know all about it. I resolved to do my duty, in the hope that it would tunt out to have been my duty, and I then felt that there was something bracing in the mystery by which icewere surrounded, and that, at all events, ignorance honestly admitted and courageously faced, and rough duty vigorously done, was far better than the sham knowledge and the bitter quarrels of the sickly cabin and glaring lamplight from which I had escaped."
The sentence which we have italicized is our lesson for the day. Let all who are for the moment unhappy and frightened, not by their own fears, but by fears as to their neighbours' fears, remember that the " best and bravest and wisest " part of the nation will, in the words of the allegory, dare the most terrible dangers, even from their comrades, in order to keep the ship of State on her course and to bring her into port.. Let them remember also that even the present dark- ness before the dawn is, for those who turn their hands to what needs to be done, infinitely better than the quarrels of the " sickly cabin " and the vacillation of the baser type of politicians. These politicians are not seeking to teach the nation to do what is right, but are trying to pick up orders from their followers instead of giving a lead.
Once more, let us banish from our minds the ridiculous theory which seems to haunt some foolish people that Demo- cracy is a kind of dreadful demon which is sure to do wrong, and which is so strong that it is useless to contend against it. Therefore, they argue, we must give in to any " futile, pompous, and pretentious person," to borrow a phrase from the abundant stores of the Prime Minister, who seizes a mask labelled " Democracy " and tells its that we must bow down before him. Democracy is on the right side. We believe whole- heartedly in the rule of the majority, though we do not limit the nation or the Democracy to those who work with their hands, and though we do not believe that a man is precluded from giving his vote and exercising such power as belongs to him individually, merely because he is not a hand-worker. At the same time, we freely admit that nothing has been more inspiring, nothing better calculated to quiet the minds of the anxious, than the splendid way in which the better part and the larger part of the workers of this country have shown that they belong to the bravest and wisest of the crew, and have determined to keep the ship of State on her true course. In spite of the machine-made politics of the so-called Labour Party and the half-invisible workings of such horny- handed sons of toil as Mr. Sidney Webb and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, guided by signals hoisted in the offing by Mr. Morel and his Parliamentary friends, the authentic voice of the workers of England has been unequivocally on the side of national honour and national safety, for freedom against tyranny, and for good faith against falsehood. Such men as Mr. Barnes, Mr. Havelock Wilson, Mr. O'Grady, Mr. Bower- man, Mr. Blatchford, to name only a few, have proved that the honour and the welfare of Britain are safe in their hands. Therefore let those who are timorous, not for themselves but for others, be of good cheer. There is no danger of a small minority being allowed to usurp the helm and to drive the vessel on the rocks. That there are perils and losses, many and heavy, before us may well be, but come what may the voyage will be accomplished :—
"Back fly with wind things that the winds obey, The strong ship follows its appointed way."