DEMOCRACY IN WAR
AN ADDRESS By REV. DR. ARTHUR GUTTERY
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
November 15, 1918
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--It is a great delight for me today to be among my own kith and kin. For some eight or nine weeks I have been across the border, entertained with unbounded hospitality by the great American people. I have left with them some memories, and most of my voice, but it is a great joy to come once more to this great, beautiful, prosperous and wonderfully loyal city. We have won a great victory, a victory for which you in Canada have nothing to reproach yourselves, for your boys have written a new chapter in the story of chivalry, heroism and victory. You have not to reproach yourselves like some friends over the border that were' a little slow; you went in at once with Britain, the mother country, twenty-four hours after the German cry; you were swift to take up the challenge which German tyranny had hurled in the face of the world. The victory is won, but all is not done; I believe we shall never be content except with the abdication of the Kaiser as a sufficient atonement for the crime he has committed. He is a criminal, not a refugee; he must be brought to trial as a criminal, and must be made to suffer the condemnation and punishment that should justly follow the vilest in famies that ever disgraced the story of civilization. Nor
Mr. Guttery is the Minister of the Primitive Methodist Church of Liverpool and the recognized leader of his denomination. He has a reputation as one of the foremost public speakers in Great Britain. He is President-elect of the National Council of Free Churches in England, and came to America by arrangement between the American and British Departments of Public Information.
will we be disposed to accept a change of government in Germany as a release of the German people from responsibility. What we need is not a change of government but a change of heart. I am not able to agree with some politicians who claim to see a clean-cut distinction between the German government and the German people. That distinction is unreal, and it is designed. The German people gloated over crime and infamy while they were profitable; and they must bear the consequences of their ill-doing. One other thing I demand to see is that in Berlin itself, whence came the seed that bred the crime -in Berlin, there shall be some spectacular pronouncement that shall force Berlin to know for ever the moral verdict of the world. I am not pleading for the destruction of Berlin. There is one avenue in Berlin on which I should like to see all the monuments destroyed; not in vengefulness, but to relieve European art of a cruel nightmare. And I want the voice of the forces that have liberated the world heard in Berlin. When we go to Berlin I don't want the procession headed by British Tommies, or Canadian boys, or American lads, or French poilu, or Italian mountaineers, magnificent as they all are; I would like the procession headed by the brave Belgian troopers. And of course we shall never forget that this is a victory between principles more than nations, between a world democracy and a world principle of autocracy. Autocracy today is in fruitage. When I left England ten weeks ago the world of Europe had its autocrats, five of them. They have all gone, disappeared; and their disappearance is the only decent thing they ever did.
No longer will it be possible in Europe for one man to say, "There is only one master in this country; I am he, and I will tolerate no other. There is only one law; my law, the law which I myself lay down." That blasphemous power is impossible for ever.
Now, let us be quite clear what democracy is, and what is its relationship to war. I am going to ask you to look at it calmly for a while. You know what democracy is, so I need not define it to Canadians. It is the rule of the people by the people for the people; the people's will the origin of political power; the people's good the aim of political government. Democracy is not anarchy; it is order broadly based, firmly established. It is not tyranny, oppression, not even the oppression of a few by the many. It is justice, goodwill, fraternity. Democracy does not lead men into the mad, scramble of selfish greed; it fires them with a zeal for social service. It does not lead men to say in hatred and egotism, "I'm as good as you," but it would lead every man, be he prince or peasant, duke or drudge, mariner or street car driver, to say to every other man, "In the sight of God and in the eternal judgment you are as good as L" And when that day comes-and our boys have bled and died and conquered to bring that day-when it comes, tyranny will have died in its last ditch. Democracy believes in the right of peoples whether great or small, developed or immature, to self-government-their right to make the attempt. There are statesmen in Europe-we have a few in England that we could spare to you, I know not whether they are found here or not-who say, as though it was the last word in political wisdom, that no people ought to have the right to self-government until they have shown their fitness for self-government. Gentlemen, that is political imbecility; it means that the peoples would never have the right at all. It is about as wise as the ancient fool in classic story who said he would never go into the water till he had learned to swim. I see my children learning to walk; the mother starting the little ones; the child slips and falls; the mother picks her up with a laugh and kiss and starts her again; and again the child falls; there is no word of rebuke, and I say to my wife, "Mother, leave our child alone, she has no right to walk till she is able to walk." My wife would say, "You may know a bit about preaching, but leave me to my own business; the child can learn to walk by trying to walk; failure is not defeat, it is a step forward in the mastery of the art of locomotion." A man learns to walk by trying it; a child learns to walk by trying it; nations learn to rule by trying it; and God help us, our boys have died that the little nations shall have the right to try.
The noble principle of this democracy, the principle of freedom, the supreme end in any community, is the right to life; not legalism, not traditionalism, and in this rich city not even property, but the right of life. Constitutions must be judged, must stand or fall, by the way they serve life. The humanity of a nation is more precious than its constitution. I have been saying that in America; I have been rejoicing, in America, at the liberty we have in England. Our constitution in England is fluid, unwritten. It has happened; it has come no man knows whence--thank God no man can dictate whither--for rights of life.
Another principle is the inalienable right of the individual in a democracy to his proper opportunity to live the life that God has meant him to live. A child or a man on a bad street in Liverpool or Toronto has as much right to a chance to live a decent life as the son of a British monarch or a Canadian mariner. A democracy is not a mere political entity; its greatness is its spiritual quality. Bergson, the most acute observer of the War, has said that this War has been a splendid thing for the soul of Europe; that Belgium will live in history for its vindication of the spirituality of national life.
When I left Europe, Belgium was a pathetic figure: a nation without a soil, without a capital: its government in exile: truly bereaved of all the Imperialism and institutionalism of Court and National life. Belgium had nothing left but soul-I remember that striking cartoon-The Prussian bully looking upon King Albert and saying, "You have lost your country!" and King Albert saying, "Yes, I have lost my country, but I have kept my soul!"
Why, gentlemen, nothing delights me more than that the day of little nations is coming back, the nations that have nothing to credential them but spirit. You owe the greatest gifts of history to the little nations-art and learning--to little Greece and not to mighty Egypt; civil justice and liberty to little Switzerland and not Imperial Rome; the redemption of Europe from the horrors of persecution to drab little Holland and not to gorgeous Spain; you owe your religion and your Messiah to little Palestine, the Holy Land that has been liberated by British lads, never to go back to Turkish devils; little Palestine, about as big as Wales and very much like Wales. I made that statement the other day in Swansea to 2,000 Welshmen; you should have seen them put on airs! One speaker said afterwards that I was right; that I was quite correct historically, geographically and theologically. I said it was now admitted that they used to speak Welsh in the Garden of Eden. My answer was that I had always found it difficult to understand the evangelical doctrine of the fall.
And remember in this War what you owe to little Belgium. It was her scorn of bribery, her contempt of bullying, her ten days' stand at Liege, that gave Europe time to arm, and that has saved the world. That is democracy-free, social, spiritual.
And now, gentlemen, democracy is alien from war, eternally antagonistic to war. I declare to you that no democracy ever has moral sanction for war unless there be no other way to peace. I go further. Democracies are naturally unfitted for war. Whenever you have a war between a military autocracy and a free democracy, the military autocracy begins with terrific initial advantage; its close discipline, its centralized government, its compact and servile proletariat, its claim to decide without discussion, and to act without deliberation-all make for power in war. But in democracy the very glories of peace are the weakness of war; our reverence for the rights of the individual, our claim to discuss before we decide, and deliberate before we discuss, and vote before we deliberate-all add to the difficulty. I don't know how it is here-I know nothing of your politics, and so have nothing to fear-but in England, during the last four years, on more than one or two or three occasions, when some decision had to be taken, we positively rejoiced when the House of Commons was out of Session. You cannot win wars by committees; you cannot win wars by discussion; I ventured to tell my friends in America that you never win wars by notes. And so Germany calculated that she would be able to leap upon the free nations of Europe and the governments and carry them before they waked to their peril. And, gentlemen, Germany ought to have been right; her calculation from the military strategic point of view was absolutely sound. Germany ought to have won in the first six months, and won out, and there is not a military expert in Europe knows why she did not win. Belloc said it was a miracle; Cardinal Fyle of Switzerland said, "The spiritual energies have proved mightier than material resources." I am not ashamed, as an old fashioned Methodist with some Toronto training still left to say, "It is the Lord's doings, and marvelous in our eyes." You in Canada, we in England, our friends in America, are naturally nations of workers; we are industrialists, we are agriculturists, we are commercial, we never trained our youth to war, never expected it. Thank God, we never desired it; we never applauded it; we were unready for it. Some people blame us because w e were unready; they say we ought to have had in England, standing armies of millions, we ought to have taught every child in the day school to get a blow in first and hit the foreigner. They blamed us; I am proud of it. Our military unreadiness is our moral vindication before the world. I do not minimize our perils, and when we knew them we set to work. We began in England with 400,000, including irregulars; tonight we are eight millions. We turned our factories into munition works; we learned discipline. We did as we were told; we had the newspapers; we were allowed to read; we traveled when we were permitted to travel; we ate what could be spared; our houses were taken. Democracy, for the time being, shed its liberties, for that is the only way that democracy can conquer tyranny.
I have a dear friend in England-I am not referring to your political divisions-but in England we claim the dear trusted old Tory, the genuine article, always talking about the rights of the individual, and saying that the Englishman's home is the Englishman's castle. This friend went away in 1915 for a holiday, left his beautiful home that he has built on the northeast coast, for three months. When he came back he found his beautiful home occupied by officers and troops. When he went up to his front door they asked him his business, and he was turned away. I said to him, "What a burning shame to talk about the liberty of the subject; the Englishman's home is his castle; why didn't you put them out?" He said, "Don't say that, silly; I couldn't put them out if I would, and what is more, I wouldn't put them out if I could." That is the temper; and, gentlemen, you have lived to see the marvel of history, the miracle of the Marne; you have lived to see boys trained for commerce, for professions, boys that are amateurs, boys that five years ago did not know one end of a gun from another
and you have lived to see those boys at Ypres, at Verdun, at Chateau Thierry, in the Argonne; you have lived to see them grind to powder the pride of this professional militarism. Those boys-how one loves them! Nothing you can do is too good for them-these boys, your boys and mine. We had not seen anything great in them. Some of us were foolish enough to depreciate them because they loved football and baseball and lacrosse. By the way, I would give a good deal to see a first-class lacrosse match. We used to find fault with them because they went to the movies with your sister. They don't sit and look at movie pictures; they have made pictures. They have made pictures of dauntless valor that the world will never lose out of the picture-gallery of its memory-never. You old men, never dare to say to me again that British and Canadian boys are not what they used to be when you were a boy. Thank God, they are not; there has been a big improvement.
And now, gentlemen, if I am not wearying you, I want to complete my argument to this point-that democracy is free, social, spiritual, unfitted for war, alien from war, and yet through this very War its liberties are widened and its authority has grown universal. That is the paradox of our day. Why, this War was planned, plotted by tyranny to destroy democracy; and in the outcome democracy fills the throne. It is so in England: I can only speak of the land I know best. We have made more progress in England towards social democracy in the last four years than in the last three hundred years. Why, they are talking about liberty in England in the most unlikely quarters. I read the London Times every day--and I read it as a punishment for my sins. I put time on its leading articles every day talking about liberty, the rights of democracy, the claims of the people to self-determination, and I rub my eyes to see if I am awake. Aristocrats are talking about liberty as though they loved it. Many of them lived their day, but they are learning the new language-Lord Curzon, for instance, the most typical aristocrat, the bluest of all the blue blood-has just written a little book on the new freedom. Think of Curzon and freedom!-he has been cursing freedom long enough. Wherever you look, it is the same. A new unity has come in the interests of freedom. In England today, at any rate up to the time I left, when the agony of war was upon us, it did not matter whether you were a Liberal, Radical, Tory, Unionist, Socialist; it was enough to be British. Why, ladies and gentlemen, I have been myself in company the last three years such that I have looked around and wondered into what world I had come. In England, if you knew me, I am a Radical Nonconformist, a disturber of the peace; and yet the other week I--was down in a little South of England county town with the Lord Lieutenant of the County in the chair, the Bishop to my right hand and Admiral something or other to my left, and all the squires and squiresses and squirees of the County in front of me, and I said, "My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, you would not have heard me three years ago, and I do not think you will three years from now, but it is enough now to be British." Just before I left home I was met at the railway station of an industrial centre in England by the brass band of the Tory Workingmen's Association! A brass band meeting me! They played me up to the town hall-"See the Conquering Hero Comes." Oh, this new unity; God grant it may abide.
And I say here today, you gentlemen who have so much to do with the creation and guidance of public opinion, if any man forgets the lesson that unity in this War has taught him, if any man preaches sectionalism instead of nationalism, he is the enemy to the common wealth. Men make progress. We have just passed a new Reform bill, the biggest in our history. We doubled our electorate, and did it without any fuss. Every other reform that we had, had brought us almost to civil war. This Reform bill has added eight millions to the electorate, and six millions of them are women. May the women have their rights! We could never have won this victory but for women. Never forget that the heroes of air and sea and land who have saved the world, every one of them, is the gift of a woman; and the women have the moral right to say what kind of a world their boy's shall live in.
In education we have just passed our biggest Education Act. In temperance we are getting on: we are not so far advanced as you are in Canada-I wish we were; I wish we could get rid of the accursed drink, get rid of it not only during the period of reconstruction, but permanently; but don't you believe it when they tell you that England is the drunken nation that she was. She is not. I know our people are spending far too much money on drink-but they are only getting half the quantity, and it is only half the strength, and we have our saloons open five hours a day instead of sixteen. The other day in Leeds a man lifted up his glass of beer and said, "Oh, this Lloyd George beer; it looks right, and it tastes right, and it smells right, but when it gets down it has no authority!"
So gentlemen, that is my argument; this War rivets it upon heart and conscience-democracy, free, social, spiritual, alien to war, unfitted for war, threatened by war, and yet through war itself, by the over-ruling mercy of a Divine Governor, coming to its throne, widening its power. That is the paradox of the hour; it is the irony of the moment. Believe me, it is the paradox of the Cross over again; it is Calvary modernized; that out of darkness there can come light, out of hate a redeeming love, out of crucifixion a coronation of the highest, out of death there can come life, and out of this Warhideous, weltering as it was, there is coming to the world the kingdom of light and freedom and justice, the Kingdom of God.