Address to the International Peace Congress
July 28, 1908 — London UK
Lord Courtney spoke of the inevitable war, and proved to us that this is a fallacy. I should like to speak of the inevitable peace. We always seem to apologise for peace, to say that it is possible, that it would be useful, that it would be righteous, that it would be more agreeable than war. But we stand on this platform with the faith and the persuasion that peace is not only possible, but that it is necessary. It has for its help the laws of nature. Our adversaries always say that war is a natural law. Struggle certainly is, but war is not. Unity is the natural law. The present time is a transition from one civilisation to another. All the weight of error and of crime that we have inherited is pushing us on the verge of great calamities, but on the other side the wakening conscience of Society can avert these dangers, and can bring salvation. It is a work of salvation on which many forces are bent now.
Forces Making for Peace
A quantity of these forces can be comprised in the·name of “Peace movement,” but this great movement has spread wide abroad, wider than our modest societies, and our congresses, and resolutions and speeches. Agencies work for it which often do not know that they work for peace. All movements, social and economic, and even of women’s enfranchisement, work for peace without being with our societies. But there are more even than these anonymous workings. The movement is already embodied in many substantial institutions. It is embodied in the Hague Tribunal–in the different treaties between the States, in the aspirations and the principles of democracy. In this country it is embodied, too, in the Government. You have just heard one who is Minister of the Exchequer, and who delivered a very brilliant speech, more brilliant than was ever pronounced in our Peace Congresses; and even higher than that, it has been embodied in the actions of King Edward the Peacemaker. Still, our movement is not yet superfluous. The task of changing the pervading ignorance of our motives and of our mission into a sympathising knowledge, this task is still incumbent on the leaders and the members of Peace Societies. So we must continue to work and struggle, because you must know that the peace struggle is also a sort of war, but one which is not waged by weapons. It is waged with as much courage, perhaps, as is wanted to go to war. It is not so very courageous to go to the front if you have a pistol at your back that would throw you down if you did not advance, but we have no pistols at our backs. Still, we have the storm, and the indifference and the misconstructions which are put on our motives, and we have to fight against all that; and we must do it, and give an example also of courage. There are other things that push us on, not only the wish to fight against war, but the wish to show the world that all good causes must be won by good means.
Forces Against Us
Our adverse forces, I mean those who are standing for ever increasing armaments and for ever threatening wars, those forces are supported by the ignorance and by the apathy and by the scepticism and the inertia of the masses. I don’t speak of the masses of the people, I speak of the masses of the educated people. Then the ancient war system has a very great advantage over the new peace system, in that it is in the established order. It is an accustomed evil; and so it is protected by the Conservatives of the whole world; because there are Conservatives who are so very anxious that nothing should be changed in the world that they think they should also conserve cholera and tigers. Speaking of tigers, one lady a few days ago said to me, “It would be all very well if one could get rid of war, but do tell me what would you put in the place of it?” I answered, “My dear lady, it is a misfortune there are so many tigers in the jungle, what would you put in their place?” I think that is the same question. As Lord Courtney has said, one must put justice in the place of war. That is the only way for settling quarrels because, as an American wise man has said, I think it was Abraham Lincoln, “Nothing is settled unless it is settled right.” Can you settle anything right with bullets, with mines, or perhaps with explosives coming from balloons?
Mr. Lloyd-George said in his speech that we did not know the Daily Mail. I must say for myself I do know it. I have read it today, and I found there some advice given us. They told us that it was quite superfluous to think about all these great dreams of abolishing war, and that we had better use our energies for mitigating war. They said, it is excessively cruel to have mines under the water by which ships with innocent people can be destroyed. I ask you now: Are we not all when we are sent into war, we and our enemies, are we not all innocent people? In our struggle our aim is not to cut the nails of the monster, but to kill the monster. It is just the same as if, when the war was being waged against slavery, they had said it is impossible to abolish slavery; you must have slaves who will work for you, but try to treat them a little better! Instead of giving them twenty-five lashes, given them only twenty! I think that the Daily Mail only means to say that war is necessary, and therefore wishes to make it look more humane; but one cannot humanise massacre. If men are humane they abolish massacre. That is not my own thought, it is the conception of a great French peace man, who, alas, is not here; I mean Frédéric Passy.
Wether the Conservatives admit it or not, everything in us and around us is always changing. The mentality of the people changes, the conditions of life change, and what is changing more perhaps than everything else is war itself. By the growing of all these infernal implements of destruction, by the growing of armaments, it has become a new thing which ought to be designated by some other name, because for new conceptions the language must find new words. Let me illustrate my meaning. If, for instance, you kept on warming a bath until the water boiled, and the person who went into the bath was scalded to death, would you still call this little amusement a bath? An American general who has won battles has found a very adequate name. He has said, “Hell is war, and war is hell.” This is not a polite word, I know, and it has not been adopted. If it had been adopted, then Governments would not continue to organise Hell Departments – and Princes would not be so proud as they are of their titles if they similarly translated their titles of “war lords.”
But it is not by vilifying war that we can work for peace. The best way to bring in the new order is to build un something new, and not to violently pull down the old. By the building up of the new the old vanishes, and the old method is softly supplanted. The constructing business is already more advanced than many of us suspect. The plans are already delineated, the foundations are laid, and in some countries, especially in the English speaking countries, in America and here, the first stories of these constructions are already emerging above the soil. Some fifteen or twenty years ago we peace advocates had our ideals and aims suspended in the clouds, but now they have taken substance, so that there is a very concrete and practical task before us to proclaim and to accelerate what we have already achieved.
More Ententes Needed
The historical process of which we are the witnesses, and which the twentieth century, I fondly and devoutly hope, will see the accomplishment, is nothing else than what was, as Lord Courtney told us, a name thirty or forty years ago, and which is so much the fashion now, the entente cordiale, not between one and two or two and three nations, but the entente cordiale of all the civilised world. The only great obstacle against arriving at this is the ignorance of the people. They do not know, they do not see, they do not realise, and where a step is generously taken in this direction, instead of rousing the enthusiasm and the thankfulness of the people it rouses suspicion. For so many thousand years people have learned that the greatest political wisdom is falsehood, so they never believe something good has been done. This education has still to be gained. Not the education only of youths and children, but the education of all of us. We must learn that righteousness and generosity and goodness are not unwise things, but are the best things. Kings have begun to do it, Governments have begun to do it, the universities do it, the industrial classes do it, the working classes do it. It is coming from every side, except perhaps a certain class of Press who want a permanent war, or war always threatened, and except perhaps also the builders of ironclads. But I do not except the soldier. I know that many intelligent and good men in the army sympathise with our movement. As long as their duty calls they will fulfil it, but they also will hail the time when they will have their duties on another field, and they certainly will not do anything to hinder the coming of peace. As a woman myself I appeal also to the women here to be one of the rising forces that will help us; and to all of you who say you can do but little I would say, do only the little that you can, and remember the English proverb which has given me encouragement in my own feeble efforts, “The greatest things have been done by the aid of the smallest.”