- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 May 1915, p. 197-207
- Harper, Dr. J.M., Speaker
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- Item Type
- The need for the war that is on in Europe at the present moment to be fought out to a finish with the Hohenzollerns of Germany. The need to deal with the militant marauders of Germany as were the pirates and ruthless iconoclasts of old. Taking up the plea for some arrangement that may be made to come after the present war is done with—some ethical understanding in our contentions, so that all our national and international battles royal may be made to stop short of the shedding of blood. Some illustrative anecdotes of battlefield ethics. Some comments on Colonel Roosevelt and his last book on this world's war. Asking whether statesmanship can restrain the nations from indulging in bloodshed in their strivings to win in the race of international ascendancy. Two phases of warfare: peace demanding its own by fair and civilised methods, and peace demanding its own by a process of blood-letting and battlefield disaster. Three stages leading up to the latter folly: a breath of etiquette on the part of some nation or other; a breach of conduct; an unstatesmanly disregard of consequences. The time not yet arrived for any direct pleading for peace on the part of Great Britain and her allies; but the time ever with us to consider the question why the warring that involves the shedding of the blood of men should not be eliminated as an ethical prejudice so illogically upheld in our way of doing things.
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- 6 May 1915
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THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
AN ADDRESS BY DR. J. M. HARPER
At the Annual Meeting of the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, May 6, 1915
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,-Since I came in touch with the details of the programme for the evening, I have had to reconsider the scope of my subject, which is set down as " The Gospel of Peace and the Economies of War."
My purpose, therefore, is to take up the time allotted to me with only the first part of my topic, leaving the consideration of the latter part of it for a more convenient season, in order that the speakers to come after me may have an opportunity of expressing themselves on the topics they have chosen to speak on. I am very much pleased to be with you again, even though I cannot be given the time to say all I have to say to you, on one of the most momentous questions of the day. The present meeting puts me in mind of another delightful time I had about a fortnight ago among my brother Canadians down in New York City, where I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Canadian Society. It is not necessary to say that the members of the said society were all glad to meet one of their own Canadian kind, just as I was glad to see them, hailing as they did from all parts of our fair Dominion from Cape Breton to Vancouver. Nor could I keep from saying to myself: Can it be possible that such a society may be of the character of the little leaven that is eventually to leaven the whole lump " of fraternal continentalism? And a like idea I have in my mind, as I stand before you this evening. I do not as yet know you all personally, as you have been called upon to know me by previous announcement; but I hope that before the evening is over, we will all know one another in common, as we call to mind that our Empire Club may safely be taken as a little bit of leaven that is to leaven the whole lump of our broad Canadianism with the notion of a British Empire one and indivisible for all of us.
In the world at large in all of our national systems, there is an over-civilisation and an under-civilisation; and it sometimes seems stranger than fiction how the latter every now and again tries to teach the former a little bit of a lesson in ethics. Such a phenomenon is to be seen in the lesson which Russia and France has lately been giving to the British Empire and the American Republic as well, in the suppression of the manufacture and sale of certain intoxicating beverages, in order to remove a stumblingblock in the way of their ethical advancement. And I have no doubt you are all aware by this time, that, in a more humble way, the Chinese residents of some of our Canadian cities have done away with the celestial pig-tail. Perhaps that olden-time prejudice has disappeared from the streets of Toronto. And though we may laugh at the suppression of such a national prejudice as a very minor matter, it brings us in presence of the fact that the suppression of any kind of a prejudice, great or small, cannot be indulged in without being found fault with. Even the Chinaman has not been able to escape being blamed for dispensing with his pig-tail by our Anglo-Saxon civilisation. At least, the other evening, when I told a lady at a social gathering that the Chinamen of Quebec had lately cut off their pig-tails, she said to me, " Oh, I am so sorry." And when I asked her why she regretted the disappearance of such a conventional prejudice, she made the remark: " Well, you know, the Chinaman's long and carefully plaited queue was so picturesque and nationally romantic." And surely the remark proves to you and to me how hard it is for any civilisation-an over-one or an under-one-to get rid of such a momentous prejudice as the one which claims that, when the logic in an international prejudice fails, there is nothing for it but to have a recourse to the shedding of blood on the battlefield, no matter what Madame Grundy has to say for or against it, as a means to an end.
And I beg of you not to classify me as a mere mollycoddle because I venture to talk to you of peace, after my friend, the preceding speaker, has so eloquently been referring to the patriotism of the battlefield. When I wrote my last book, entitled the Annals of the Way, I devoted a full chapter to " The Peace Coming After," the whole volume being issued as commemorative of the peace that has just entered upon its second century of duration; and possibly on this account, as well as from some things I may say to you to-night, you may be inclined, at first thought, to classify me and all others who are theorising about peace in presence of the terrible war now raging in Europe, as so many molly-coddles. But let me tell you that, while the war of 1812-x¢ was still raging, just as the European War is at present raging-even while Generals Jackson and Pakenham had each other by the throat down at New Orleans-away over yonder in Europe in the little city of Ghent, there were half-a-dozen Sir Edward Greys sitting around a table in one of the chambers of its City Hall, planning and wondering and deliberating how a peace might be formulated and brought about satisfactory to the two nations who were gnashing their teeth at each other, however long their wrath might continue afterwards. And it is a pleading in behalf of such a premeditation on the part of our statesmanship, that I am here to-night to enunciate.
I have said in the hearing of others often enough that the war that is on in Europe at the present moment has to be fought out to a finish with the Hohenzollerns of Germany. The militant marauders of Germany have to be dealt with as were the pirates and ruthless iconoclasts of old. Tonight, however, I cannot refrain from emphasising the lesson which our own hundred years' peace has placed in evidence, and bring it home to our hearts even at the unhinging moment when they are being racked and rent by the echoes of disaster from our own boys at the front. We of the other cities of Canada have a high opinion of the over-civilisation to be met with in Toronto; and, whenever there is a movement on foot to develop a right kind of Empire notion, we look to Toronto to help it out. Some of you are sure to say, why not wait until the present war is over and done with? But that was not the case previous to the inauguration of the hundred years' peace. Besides quite a number of our prominent publicists have been considering this most momentous question, with the hope throbbing their statesmanship that there is moral energy enough in the civilisation of the twentieth century to bring about a right kind of consensus as to the kind of international peace to be maintained in the future, other than by a challenging rivalry in the amplifying of armaments, and more and more by the cultivating of forbearance in the adjusting of claims between disagreeing nations, as has been the case, in one instance at least near Canada's own door, from the signing of one treaty to another between Britain and the United States, within the last hundred years or so. And so, with you, the men of Toronto, I leave the enunciation and elaboration of the proposition, to be worked out, if you will, along the lines of thought advanced by many of our most astute statesmen, whom you can hardly, by the severest strain on your imagination, set aside as so many molly-coddles.
When I look around this audience I wonder how many of you have ever been in hell. Oh, no, you need not look at me like that! I do not mean to indulge in profanity near or remote. I make no reference to the theoretical orthodox abode of the wicked in the hereafter, which, through the grace of the logic of the late Archdeacon Farrar, so many of us expect to escape. What I mean is, have any of you ever passed through the phases of that complaint which our physicians call nervous prostration, in which the poor victim goes groping around in the cloudland of his despair to find some sort of a justification for the shedding of his own blood; or otherwise in that state of mental aberration in which some half-mad creature who gnashes his teeth and clenches his fists with the passion on him of shedding the blood of some one else, merely because the argument has gone against him. If the Chinaman and the Russian have been found willing to clip off some of their secondary ethical prejudices such as the wearing of pig-tails and the drinking of vodka, surely it is time for our twentieth-century civilisation to set aside the adage, " Whoso sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed," as a worn-out principle of conduct to be followed up as a final step to be taken in the settling of our international disputes, if not as a stupid bit of realism in the idealism of hate, as well as an economic folly. Our universally accepted moral code contains the eternally fixed precept, " Thou shalt not kill "; and when one finds that decree developed in its fuller meaning in the Sermon on the Mount, we cannot but accept it with no molly coddlism in our acceptance-as an established realism in the idealism of " peace on earth and good-will." Listen! " Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment." And what is that judgment? What but the judgment delivered against us by our environment, call it a policeman, or public opinion, or our advancing civilisation, or by any other name you may think of as a promoter or upholder of the public peace. In the war of 1812 there was a shedding of blood being indulged in while the terms of the Treaty of Ghent were being formulated. Had the terms of that treaty been in evidence sooner, would the two nations at loggerheads have refrained from the shedding of blood on the battlefield sooner than they did? That involves a theorising we do not care to indulge in for the moment. But what we know for a certainty is that since that treaty was ratified there have been sundry battles royal between the two nations involved, in which the shedding of blood was omitted. Was there not such a battle royal, whenever a treaty was being formulated in behalf of these same two nations during the hundred years' peace that has, let us hope, entered upon a lease of another hundred years of its prolongation. And it is in face of this fact that I take up the plea for some arrangement that may be made to come after the present war is done with-some ethical understanding in our contentions, so necessary for the world's progress so that all our national and international battles royal may be made to stop short of the shedding of blood. And has not Shakespeare taken us within one of the holy recesses of his dramatic output to give us a pretty broad hint as to how this may be brought about. Has he not told us that "The quality of mercy is not strained: It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed, It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown."
There is no need for me to give the passage in full no more than it is necessary for me to preach a whole sermon to you on the universally accepted precept, " Do unto others as you would wish others to do unto you." You have your Bibles and your Shakespeares at home, and may take more time than there is at my disposal tonight, to deal with the question in the closets of your own hearts, of this " attribute to God himself," which should adorn the overcivilisation of the world that is to be. And if you would have a test of the molly-coddlism that may be found in the above, here it is in concrete form, with bravery as a complement to cruelty of spirit. Here it is on this scrap of paper which I have accidentally picked up on my way to Toronto, with no comment of mine to interrupt your final judgment on the matter. It has a heading in large type of " The Headquarters of the British Army, Northern France," and is published as a true story of the battlefield
" A surgeon found a British soldier lying dying after an unsuccessful German charge. He had a bullet-hole in his head, but refused to be made comfortable. ' For God's sake, doctor, give me one more shot at them: please don't fuss with me until I have had one more chance,' was what he urged. The bullet had completely blinded the poor fellow, and he insisted on being given the range and the direction. When these were given him, he asked the doctor to fix the sight and hold him up. And then he fired and fell back, and in a few minutes was dead."
And there in that heart-thrilling episode of battlefield ethics, one may see for himself, with aid from no one, whether such a trait in our advancing civilisation is right or wrong. I leave the question for you to decide all by yourselves, until I have a chance of addressing you again, on what has been called " The Economies of War," after the war has run its course and Germany has been brought to her senses, with no end of human blood shed to bring it about under the auspices of militancy.
Have you read Colonel Theodore Roosevelt's last book on this world's war. If I had been given the time, I would have been glad to quote one or two of its paragraphs in your hearing. His conclusion that President Wilson has been but marking time since war broke out, with no thought of mobilisation, is otherwise embodied in an anecdote that is going the rounds of late concerning two youthful Scotsmen who had taken their seats in a street car the other day. As they sat conversing with each other, a handsome-looking Scottish maiden entered the car and passed up to a seat in the front. The one Scotsman said to the other: "Eh, man, isna she a braw lassie? " "Of course she is," said the other, " and full weel I ken her." " And why do ye no gang furrit and sit doon beside her? " " Jist ye wait awee: I'll dae that in good time. Ye see she hasna paid her fare yet."
And so it seems to Colonel Roosevelt, and to some of the rest of us too, that President Wilson has been standing apart until Germany or somebody else has been made to pay her fare. We all have an opinion as to what that fare is going to be in the case of Germany. That country is more than likely on the way to being bottled up, with the Hohenzollern dynasty for a stopper in its bottle, and it is not far to seek as to what is going to happen if the ethical gases within the bottle do not drive the said stopper out into the sea of oblivion. If this latter does not happen the bottle itself is sure to be broken up into pieces from the forces within, until there comes into its civilisation a regeneration of present-day German kultur.
Perhaps I ought not to say it, but Colonel Roosevelt seems to be anxious to encourage some kind of a repetition of German militancy in his country. With his coat-tails flapping behind him in the wind of the last presidential election, the valiant colonel seems to think that President Wilson and his ministry have been guilty of falling asleep in the matter of mobilisation of the militant type, for the upholding of the prestige of the United States. He does not believe that statesmanship can conduct a war that stops short of the shedding of blood. Whereas we all know that a rightly-balanced statesmanship can conduct a war that does stop short of the shedding of blood. Statesmanship has actually succeeded in maintaining a peace for fully a hundred years, however near there came to be a shedding of blood in its demand for an international peace and good-will between Britain and the United States.
And the problem stands facing our civilisation this very moment, with the blood of thousands upon thousands of our bravest lads staining the battlefields of Europe; the problem whether it is possible for us to think of statesmanship ever being able to keep the nations from going to war, at least to the obviating of the outrage and folly of drenching some battlefield or other with the best blood in the veins of this nation or that one. In spite of the seemingly inborn germs of ancient and modern Teutonic barbarity, is it ever going to be possible for the nations to settle their disputes otherwise than by the breaking of the universal eternal precept of the decalogue, " Thou shalt not kill." Can statesmanship restrain the nations from indulging in bloodshed in their strivings to win in the race of international ascendency? Is the quality of mercy, the attribute to God himself, able to stand up against such a strain?
The other night in New York I attended the most impressive so-called moving-picture show I have ever seen. It was called " The Birth of a Nation." The pictures and the music played upon the emotion of the vast audience in a marvellous way patriotically emotional for the American citizens present but, Oh! how overcoming to every one, when the climax was reached in the murder of Abraham Lincoln in his box in the theatre. The whole thing was an epic of bloodshed from beginning to near the end, when at last the welcome 'was given by an immense throng to the new nation finally consolidated. And amid that rejoicing throng there came, as if by a miracle of light, the uplift figure of Jesus of Nazareth into view, as if it were an announcement to all of us that the new nation had made up its mind to perpetuate itself by giving heed to that first principle of Christian ethics, peace and good-will. Is it likely that society will ever be brought to decree, even theoretically, against the utter folly of destroying thousands upon thousands of lives as a means to an end of some nation or other getting its own way as it reaches out towards national aggrandisement. If war be but peace demanding its own, there must surely be methods of its getting its own other than by a breach of common sense or by an outburst of economic insanity. A prejudice is a prejudice; and if the Chinaman has been able to bring himself to make short metre of his pig-tail, and the Russian has been able to stay his appetite in the matter of a national beverage, surely our over-civilisation can bring it about to have its disputings and rivalries, so necessary for progress, settled and co-ordinated otherwise than by a process of bloodletting. A fool who hits you in the face, when he has no argument to advance against yours, soon has the policeman on his tracks, with the execration of the whole community against him. In fact he soon has no neighbours. His environment at once passes him on to " the judgment." And can it not be made to come to pass that the nations can be made to grant peace its own without indulging in bloodshed. What more efficient international policeman could the world have than this same bringing of a nation culprit up before the " judgment," and passing the sentence of non-intercourse upon it? An effort has been made to organise our over-civilisation, and our under-civilisations too, in this direction, as in the case of the Hague Council. And sneer as we may at the failure of its decrees to obviate war in face of Germany's rampage, the influence of its advocacies has brought to our twentieth-century civilisation the high hope that some kind of a Supreme Court of Adjudication may eventually be organised, with the enforcement of its findings backed up by this same non-intercourse acting as policeman or deterrent in the way of an appeal to arms. The last time I addressed the Empire Club I tried to make out that the most powerful ethical force in the world for the time being is the commercial spirit, with a forecast as to what the world might become when once the fashion came to be established of having our millionaires developed into mediums for the beneficent distribution of the wealth of the world and the advancing of a patriotic and benevolent consensus in any growing nation. And at this moment it is not necessary for me to say in your hearing what that baton of non-intercourse could be made to do in the hands of our millionaires and the commercial spirit, to provide some other means for bringing peace to its own than the folly of shedding our best blood on the battlefield.
There are, as we all know, two phases of warfare: (1) Peace demanding its own by fair and civilised methods, and
(2) Peace demanding its own by a process of blood-letting and battlefield disaster. And, leading up to the latter folly, there are three stages:. (I) A breach of etiquette on the part of some nation or other; (2) A breach of conduct; and (3) An unstatesmanly disregard of consequences.
The last time Sir Andrew Frazer, the philanthropist, visited Canada, I happened to hear him in your own city tell a story illustrative of these same three stages of the quarrel that too often culminates in a final blow. Two little girls were kneeling down one night at their bedside saying their prayers, when their mischief of a brother carne along with a peacock's feather in his hand and proceeded to tickle the exposed soles of their feet with it. In Johnnie's act there was a breach of etiquette. This was followed by a breach of conduct on the part of the eldest of the sisters as she was heard-say parenthetically in her prayer, " Please God, excuse me for a minute till I catch Johnnie and give him a good cuffing for his naughtiness." And soon after the disregard of consequences was to be seen in the pommelling the two sisters gave their mischievous brother. And so I leave with you in all seriousness, with your laughter to help you out with it, three of the phases of the greatest of all problems of the day in presence of the heart-breaking phases of the most horrible war the world has ever seen. The breach of etiquette came either from the royal family of Austria or from the Serbian assassin of the Grand Duke. The breach of conduct came from the insult to the Belgian neutrality; and last of all, there is the disregard of consequences in the attitude of the misguided Kaiser as he stands before the world with his arms nonchalantly akimbo and tells us that the war he was the direct means of inaugurating is a case of " Me and God." And what a momentous question, say I, is there in these three phases to take up, when our civilisation comes to ponder what is to be its status when once the war is over. And I hope there will be no misunderstanding of my pleading even by those who would turn their backs on any of the precepts fulfilled or filled out by the Sermon on the Mount, or would classify Shakespeare as he enunciates the principles of peace and goodwill and the quality of mercy and forbearance as qualities of God himself, as something belonging to the realm of molly-coddlism. As I have said more than once, the time has not arrived for any direct pleading for peace on the part of Great Britain and her allies. But the time is ever with us to consider the question why the warring that involves the shedding of the blood of men should not be eliminated as an ethical prejudice so illogically upheld in our way of doing things. And, with the veil lifted by the poetic art to show us how war comes to be, the bringing into play a substitute in the processes of statesmanship to secure for peace its own may surely be taken up by any one and every one for discussion without their being classified as so many molly-coddles.
"God's laws are final, storm, or calm, avowed From day to day in love and not in wrath: God's ire, you say, is in the thunderstorm, While others claim--beating about the bush For praise or gain, or playing short of light- That war is offspring of the giddy's pride, Accoutred cock-acrow; whereas war comes From envy, source of every other vice, And fed to a surfeit, on the husks of gain, To men and nations, victims one and all. Ay, put your finger on that throbbing spot, And there you'll find the elemental source of war: Envy for envy plying the storm to come, Until at last the battlefield is reached! Envy, alas, on the village peaceful street, Envy for envy in the trading mart: Envy for envy in the palace hall: Envy among our prophets, priests, and kings. What checking is there for the pesky thing? Ali, would you have it by the neck, say I, Keep nipping it in times of peace, or have it die In its swaddling clothes on the storm-tossed battlefield With its cradle-coverings torn to tawdry rags. There stands the problem, solve it as you may Its gospel yours, not mine, to preach to you! War comes from envy, breeding hate for hate: So, what have you of both within your soul? Nay, do not laugh, since any fool can laugh An answer back, with envy riding aye cock-horse! Have you the germ that makes for war in you? Then beg I of you not to let it spread By feeding it upon the husks of gain; But, soul uplift, blight out its subtleties Giving it nip-for-nag from day to day, Until escape be yours from giving aid, Whate'er ft be, to involve the world in war! "