3 SEPTEMBER 1898, Page 10

A WARLESS WORLD. T HE Emperor of Russia's pathetic plea for

peace has set all men wondering whether or not a warless world would in reality be a better world. At first sight one is in- clined to say that the question is one that is not worth consider- ing, because it is so remote, and so improbable that mankind will ever, once and for all, beat their swords into ploughshares and give up making war on each other. It is waste of breath to consider what will never be. Possibly ; but, at the same time, mankind is always considering, and with interest, what will never 133 in other regions of social and religions action. We shall never, it may fairly be urged, all cease from wickedness and crime, and lead blameless and saintly lives; and yet we do not for that reason refuse to con- template a world without evil, A warless world is, then, a state of things which it is not unreasonable to discuss. Would mankind improve or degenerate if war could be banished from the earth P The advocates of peace tol). us that it would be enormously improved by the absena€ of bloodshed and by the total discouragement of thole fierce passions which get their way when war is let loofse on mankind. Private war, they tell us, has ceased ; the duel is dead, or dying; and yet mankind has not degenerated, but improved, physically and morally. Why, then, should n6t the stoppage of public war be as little detrimental to characteiF There is no reason, it will be argued, why man-slaying should be regarded as the only means of keeping alive the spirit of enterprise and of manliness, and why those who give up taking human life in battle should degenerate into a set of effeminate weaklings who shudder at the thought of a sword and faint when they hear even of battles long ago. The saving of human life and the struggle with Nature, always ready to overwhelm and destroy, will be enough to maintain the knightly qualities. In the first place, the policeman will still be wanted to keep down the criminal classes, for though war, it will be alleged, is the prime cause of crime, the dread inheritance of evil received from the wars of the past will take many generations to eradicate. And the police will not be the only school of heroism. The fireman, the sailor, the surgeon, the nurse, will each and all have to show physical and moral courage in a high degree, and s the old

heroic tradition will be maintained, only on a higher level. We shall give immense honour to courage still, only we shall respect not the man who has killed a dozen foes, but he who Ina saved a hundred friends. The climbing of high moun- t. ias, the exploration of desert places, the sailing of perilous seat in ships, or of the more perilous fields of air in a winged machine, and a hundred sports and games re- quiring endurance and daring, will prevent any undue softness taking hold of mankind. Competition, again— the battles of the mart and the Stock Exchange—will stir the nation's blood and give it that stimulus and excite- ment which is perhaps necessary for the social health. We shall cease, it is true, to watch "from the window of some high castle " armies struggling in the plain below ; but the sight of another "young Mr. Leiter " grappling in deadly earnest with some great captain of produce or industry will be equally exhilarating and stimulating. The world without war will not go to sleep, but be kept alive by the excursions and alarms of commercial armies and mercantile fleets.

Against this view of the needlessness of war as a trainer of men in manliness and courage must be put what may be called the safety-valve view of war. We shall be told by the advocates of this school that men are creatures of passion, and that if their passions are not periodically purged by war they will eat inward, and breed many and foul corruptions in the body politic. A little blood-letting, it will be argued, is absolutely necessary for a healthy State. But the scorners of universal peace will not be eontent with this pictur- esque, if somewhat dangerous, analogy from the art of surgery ; they will say, and we fear will say truly, that human experience shows that the world has tried uni- versal peace and found it more demoralising than bloodshed. During the reign of the Antonines the world, not merely " from the Orcade Isles to the moun- tains Pyrenee," but from Hadrian's Wall in Scotland to the Cataracts of the Nile, from Palmyra to the Tagus, was lapped in a dream of peace. The waves of war had been stilled, and hardly a ripple raffled the placid bosom of the lake or murmured round the steps of the Caesarian throne. But though the cynically, or shall we not say the " clammily," minded Gibbon longed to live under the rule of the Antonines, and to enjoy that brooding calm would have exchanged the satin breeches, the purple-velvet coat, the clouded cane, and even his own well-printed quartos for a toga, bare legs, a stylus, and a scroll, we cannot think that a free and generous spirit could desire the dreadful hush of content which drove Hadrian to those "wild enormities of ancient magnanimity " which still litter the world, and appalled even the saintly melancholy of Marcus Aurelius. Assuredly the world of the Antonines, when good men felt it necessary to persecute the religion of Christ lest the comfort of mankind should be disturbed by those who brought not peace but a sword, was not a world on which those who love their fellow-men can look with longing and regret. From the moral and mental catalepsy into which mankind had fallen, the incursion of the barbarians was a relief. Who can say that out of the universal peace of the Antonines came aught that was worthy or noble, unless it be the uprising of Christianity, and that came not through peace but by conflict? When the Caesar looked on the world beneath his feet the only minute points of storm and violence visible were those round the Christian converts. That strife alone marred the peaceful prospect, and yet that strife was the one wholesome and worthy sign, the one proof of life and health in a land free from bloodshed and war. Other epochs of peace, if examined in detail, might be shown to offer little more encouragement. The Incas of Pere kept peace in their land, but who will assert that the Peruvian Kingdom, even judged by the savage standard, was worthy or morally profitable ? There was no poetry worthy the name, no true art, no learning, while freedom was the very last thing that was thought of by the dreary Socialists of the Andes. If we look at the other side of the shield, and ask what are the effects on a nation of the very opposite of universal peace, we are obliged to admit that war seems far better able to produce something worth producing than universal peace. Look at the history of the Hebrews and of the land of the children of Israel. It is one long record of bloodshed, of battle and siege, of conquest and revolt. Tacitus in a lightning flash sums up the history of the Jews when he describes Jerusalem as Templum et Arx,—at once a shrine and a fortress. Round the blood-stained hill of Zion the waves of war beat continuously. Ruin upon ruin, battle on battle, is the history of the city and the race. Yet from those blood- cemented walls and from that race of fighting mountaineers came not only the noblest poetry, the highest eloquence, the keenest wisdom, political as well as religious, but the light that lightened the Gentiles,—the Prince of Peace who brought, not peace, bat a sword.

What, then, is to be said of a warless world P We admit that in theory war cannot be defended, and that in practice, and if looked at in detail, war seems to bring out the brute in man, that nations for a time always appear to degenerate after a great war, and that between crime and insanity and the miseries of war there is a clear connection. But at the same time we cannot ignore the fact that when war has been banished from the world mankind has not grown better, and that a warless world has been a sodden and soulless world, if not worse. What a paradox it seems, and how- doubly paradoxical when stated by one who has never seen actual war, and in all human probability never will see it ! One almost seems driven to the soul-withering conclusion placed before us by the sinister genius of Bacon :-

" Wars with their noise affright us. When they cease We are worse in peace."

But is that pessimistic resolution really necessary ? We da not believe it. We would say rather that, though war may be a terrible evil, it has also something of good in it, and that peace, though a good, may have something of evil. Man was meant for neither condition wholly, and must accept both. It may be, and we most sincerely think it is, his duty to avoid war and seek for peace, but we know that he will never succeed entirely, nor must we wish him to do so. The onlyinstrument for obtain- ing a universal peace is a universal tyranny. Without it the clash of mind on mind and the difference of aims and hopes will every now and then produce the friction of war. Thus universal peace, though it would be well worth having if achieved by mutual forbearance, is not worth purchasing at the price of universal despotism. If, as seems true, we can banish war by banishing freedom, we must refuse the benefits of universal peace. Peace we may and should strive after, but, as we have said, we shall not reach it as our ultimate goal. Our consolation must be that it is only universally and absolutely obtainable by a sacrifice which we dare not make,—the sacrifice of freedom.