« AnteriorContinuar »
his due. He assumed that even if the German General Staff were, as matter of law, guilty of piracy or murder, their guilt was due to a mistake in, or at least a colorable construction of, the law upon their part-that they had, as we would have expressed it, some sort of “a case."
Then suddenly he discovered that he had made an almost incredible mistake. He awoke to the fact that the blows of his opponent were not accidentally but intentionally below the belt, that his adversary was not a misguided gentleman but a cold-blooded and heartless liar, thief, and murderer. In a word, the earthquake has jarred my friend into a realization of the significance of the present struggle, much as it did the English, after they had for a year or so treated the Germans like "good sports." For we now perceive that this war could not have been averted, that it was inevitable, and had circumstances been such that we could have gone into it at the time of the Lusitania incident, peace with victory might be ours by now-not merely an optimistic confidence that the United States is too populous and too rich and too generally lucky not eventually to win. Yet we are to-day as a nation almost as hazy over what we are up against as my technical lawyer friends were two years ago, when they pondered so solemnly Germany's camouflage about international law. For while technically the violating of our rights
as neutrals may have been the basis of our declaration of war against Germany in 1917, just as it was of the war of 1812 with England, and, before that, with the Barbary pirates, we are actually engaged in a death grapple with a malign and conscienceless enemy for the ideals of Christianity as against those of a cruel and remorseless paganism.
We had regarded Germany as a Christian nation whose people believed, as we believe, in the love of God for all men, and in that of all men for each other. We had read the output of her political philosophers with a half-amused tolerance, accepting them as the mere theories of intellectuals as we had the metaphysics of her scholars. It was as if some friend of ours had said half jocularly: "Well, you know that I'm really an anarchist." We would have believed it about as much. We felt that, after all, beneath his bullying manner-his habit of tmponiren-the Teuton had a warm and generous heart. We could not and most of us do not even to-day realize that the teachings of Treitschke, Nietzsche, and Bernhardi-constituting the "Religion of Valor"-the inhuman doctrine of might as right-is "inspired by the pulpits as religion; taught by the universities as philosophy; disseminated by the press as policy and political necessity; embodied in the army as national loyalty and duty, and focussed in the Kaiser as the minister of the Almighty."
What is this philosophy or religion?-this "German Idea"? It is the doctrine that as between states or nations there is no such thing as law or morals; that in the struggle for existence between them war is the supreme and necessary test by which the "fitness" of the survivor must be determined, and that in making war the state need recognize neither truth, decency, nor humanity.
Curiously enough, it was from my lawyer friend that I learned this.
I had gone to dine with him in order that we might quietly discuss the best method of bringing home to the people of the United States the necessity of our rendering prompt and substantial aid to the Allies, and we had retired to his library after a frugal meal quite unlike the lavish hospitality of former years. We still had our pipes, however.
'Stanton," he said gravely as he handed me the matches, "there are two essentials in the campaign of education which you have undertaken. The first is to convince people that the strictest economy must be practised if we are to win the war; the second, surprising as it may seem, is that we must win the warthat no half-way decision is possible that only a peace forced upon a vanquished Germany will end the struggle."
"Don't you think that the people at large understand the necessity of victory?" I inquired.
"No," he replied with earnestness, "I do not. I even doubt if you do."
"What do you mean?" I demanded.
"I mean that, while Washington is alive to the situation, the people as a whole are not, and that individually few of us have grasped the fact that German political philosophy and military practice are one and the same. For example, you recall the turmoil occasioned by Bethmann-Hollweg's reference to a treaty being only 'a scrap of paper'? Well, that was no new thing. It is part of the German creed. The cardinal principle of their statecraft is deceit. Bethmann-Hollweg's now historic phrase is nothing but the echo of the declaration of Frederick William IV in his speech from the throne on April 11, 1847, when he said, 'All written constitutions are only scraps of paper.' The scrap-of-paper theory as well as the phrase itself is an old story in German diplomacy."
"That is rather interesting," I admitted. "And, I confess, new to me. But that sort of thing isn't sincere, is it? I assumed it was mere bluster."
My friend laughed.
"Not much. It's gospel! I've been making a rather careful study of the statements, written and delivered, of Germany's rulers, statesmen, and military leaders, with respect to her aims, policies, and the conduct of war. I propose printing my researches
some time for the benefit of the public.'
"I tell you," he added fiercely, "we are contending against the most damnable philosophy that ever poisoned the body politic of a civilized people! In international relations no such thing as truth or honor is recognized."
"Do you actually mean to say that the Germans do not recognize any sanctions of law or morals whatsoever so far as the state is concerned?" I asked, for the proposition seemed to me preposterous.
"Precisely," he answered. "That is elementary with them. Their fundamental principle is that, according to the laws of evolution by which the world is governed, the Hohenzollerns by divine right should rule Prussia; that Prussia for the good of Germany should rule Germany; and that Germany for the good of the world should rule the world. Any means to accomplish that end are moral."
"Is that what they mean by 'Kultur'?" I asked. "Kultur,' he quoted, "is the spiritual organization of the world, which does not exclude bloody savagery. It raises the demonic to sublimity. It is above morality, reason, science." "
"What nonsense!" I ejaculated.
* "Out of Their Own Mouths" (D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1917), from which admirable compilation much of the material for this chapter has been taken.
† Mann in the Neue Rundschau for November, 1914.