31 JANUARY 1880, Page 6


AT is the world coming to ?" We confess that perfectly useless and very feminine platitude is the one which rises first to our lips, as we read that Prince Bismarck has asked the Federal Council for another Corps d'Armee, and has stated as his reason that France and Russia are increasing their armaments. Here is the strongest military Empire in the world, which conquered Austria in seven weeks and France in as many months, which can already call all healthy males to battle, for which they have all been trained ; which pos- sesses an Army so officered and so organised, that no Army in Europe would venture to meet it on equal terms ; which is not only great in the world, but so dreaded, that its diplomacy has taken an unfortunate accent of command,—and still its ruler, who himself controls all policy and is the centre of all great political enterprises in Europe, publicly declares that he must have more men, and that the Empire is not safe. And it is certain, in the present condition of German opinion,that he will obtain them, as certain as that when he has obtained them, Russia will add to her artillery, France will begin accumulating cavalry, Austria will call out new regiments of Slays, and Italy will incur fresh debt upon larger and larger supplies of ironclads and cannons. What is to be the end of it all ? Already the whole youth of the Continent gives up three years of its beat working-time to sterile drilling. Already the peace armies number two millions of men, five times the largest army Imperial Rome ever main- tained; already the expenditure exceeds £120,000,000 a year, without counting loss of labour. That is to say, the interest at four per cent. of three thousand millions sterling is wasted upon armaments ; and, if we allow only 10s. a week for the average value of each conscript's labour, /50,000,000 a year more is expended in unproductive toil ; and the total capital sunk in a non-productive enterprise is more than four thousand millions. Imagine what statesmen like Peel or Gladstone, or even De Freycinet, could do for mankind with that sum ; and yet, if they expended it, the interest would be leas than the sums now spent on armies in time of "peace." They could cover Europe with railways, or make enlighten- ment universal, or extinguish the horrors of pauperism, for the cost of the armies only. And what is the result of it all ? Security ? The Kings, as Mr. Bright, with humorous exaggeration, said at Birmingham, pass their time mainly in congratulating each other on their escapes from assas- sination, the nations feel as insecure as if they had no defence, and the working populations are distressed till their irritability shakes all Governments. There is deep unrest everywhere, a sense as of over-fatigue, a popular looking- forward, not for a millennium, but for some colossal catastrophe, such as a European war, in which all prosperity shall be sub- merged, a tension such as half makes statesmen wish that the cataclysm would come and be over. The world is devoting its knowledge, its treasure, and its youth to preparation for war, until, to sum up the situation in one terrible, though mercantile sentence, the stock of hope held by mankind has declined throughout the world by ten per cent. Well may the Peace Party shriek louder than ever. We cannot believe its theories or accept its doctrines, but if ever they seemed true, if ever the facts were on their side, if ever it was impossible for sober men to answer them, yet speak the truth, it is so now. We, who hold that War has been, and may be again, God's instrument for securing the triumph of the Right, are forced, like them, to exclaim that through war the situation of mankind is becoming unendurable.

And we see ahead no prospect of amelioration, no gleam of blue in the sky. Germany will not disarm, and till she dis- arms Europe will go on increasing and perfecting her forces. Prince Bismarek's death may make no difference, for the weaker men than he who will succeed him may lean as much as he does upon material power ; and the nations, all armed, will snarl as fiercely, though the great disturber is at rest. There is no chance, to human eyes, from a religious revival in the interest of peace ; on the contrary, that Christianity which believes in the Sermon on the Mount is temporarily dying down. The hatred of the peoples for the system, though it is growing, till it is full grown does but tempt their rulers to enlarge their means of compulsion and re- pression,—that is, their armies. They arm against their people, as well as against the enemy. The "strain," of which so much is said, and which, according to the Times, is one day to produce disarmament, is felt ; but its influence is not in the direction of fewer battalions; Germany, which feels it most, showing her mental exhaustion not in a decrease of conscripts, but in a decay of political interest, a deepening pessimism in philosophy, an angrier resigna- tion to destiny in the daily business of life. "Strain !" There is strain everywhere visible and recognised, and the Russian autocrat decrees that this year the con- scripts be one hundred thousand more, and the German philosopher argues that there should be forty more batteries, and the Italian tradesman grants another company per regi- ment, and the French peasant, or his representatives, votes that there be a large extension of cavalry, and that- there be no chaplains in the Army. All men share the erase, till we might say that the very trees voted themselves to make carbon for the powder. The strain is like that strain of the muscles which men try to relieve by kicking out. No doubt, the tension is too great to last, but how will it be relieved ? Not by a diminution of numbers, but by that decline in the energy and brain to use them, in that laboriousness of drill and practice, which always follows such efforts, and which reduced the Prussian Army that won Rossbach and Zorndorf to the Prussian Army which lost Jena. There is no hope for mankind in that form of relaxation, which does not diminish the burden, but only saps the strength of the muscles by which, in theory, the burden is at last to be made useful. A bad army burdens the people as much as a good one. Then they talk in the Times, and other such reservoirs of plati- tudes, of the growing wisdom of mankind, which is to limit the armies. We speak of this generation, not of a future Utopia, and ask,—Where are the signs of the wisdom ? Where is the race in Europe, the country, the ruler, which is resolutely refusing to join in the mad struggle, which is diminishing its equipment, or even thinking that it would be well if equipment were reduced. Why, even in England, statesmen, with votes in supply to carry, are ne longer vexed with Mr. Richard ; they know so well that his aggressive peacefulness will be regarded as a mere counsel of perfection, useless for our age and circumstances. It used to be said that "war is a game which, were their subjects wise, kings would not play at ; " but the subjects are tilling, and are spending themselves in preparations for this very game. There is not a country in Europe—not even Russia—where, if the people were convinced of the folly of this wild straining after an impossible security—were "wise " in the poet's sense—the Government could avoid disarmament ; but the people approve, or at all events sanction, every addition to their military power ; and in most countries the rage for it, the craze for more men, more cannons, more fortresses, increases with the subject's- education and experience, that is, with his presumable "wisdom." The meet " educated " people in the world, the Germans, set the example of the largest armies. The growth of lmowledge affords no ground of hope. Science has been seized by the soldiers, till electricity conveys orders for war, and steam is called on to carry commissariat and cannon ; and in the farthest corner of Africa, flying enemies, hiding in caves, are blown up, like Czars of Russia, with dynamite. The- greatest feat in railroad-making of our day has been performed by Sir R. Temple, in laying down 130 miles of railway ha 101 days ; and it is done in order that we may hold down Oandahar, where we have no business to be, and attack. Herat, whither it is almost lunacy to go.

And finally, to exhaust a subject so dreary that readers are reluctant to dwell on it, we see little hope even in the desperate remedy of exhaustion. The military preparations which so press on the nations are not intended for war, but against war, are on so vast a scale that their own authors shrink from using them, and are so perfect that when used the nations are too dazzled by the results to see the cost. Europe may remain twenty years thus loaded down with armour without a war. It is the special aggravation of this new waste of human energies that it is interminable, that it settles nothing finally, that the consequence- of war is not peace, but a condition of further preparation, in which victory and defeat alike are used as argument* for further pre- parations. Germany is victor, and becomes a camp; France is vanquished, and becomes a parade-ground. Germany is united, and must therefore be drilled ;. Italy is united, and must therefore be drilled ; the Balkan peninsula is disunited, and must therefore be drilled. Whatever the circumstances, or the sacrifices, or the hopes, there must be more and ever more men drilled, more expenditure on preparations for war, more devotion by rulers to military work, more surrender of citizens to disciplinary training. It is as if men had agreed once more that war was their primary business, and that all the objects of life ought, in common wisdom, to be postponed to that supreme object of inflicting death so speedily and scientifically that it should be safe to return home,—and devote the re- mainder of life to labour, for the purpose of rewarding more and yet more drill-masters.