The Beast In Man

A German leader once said, "The oldest right in the world is the right

of the strongest." This is true and will always continue to be true as

long as the world is made up only of inanimate matter and lifeless

forces and of living, thinking beings who consider "the strongest" as

meaning the powers or things that can cause the greatest destruction

and the most terrible evil. The beasts recognize these as the

strongest, and without question admit that the oldest right in the

world is the chief right in the world.

But as men have become civilized, they have come to fear destruction,

and even the loss of life, less and less, and have learned to feel the

strength of beauty, truth, justice, mercy, purity, and innocence. So it

comes to pass that Robert Burns mourns when his plow turns under a

mountain daisy or destroys the home of a field mouse. Because he feels

the influence of the innocent and the helpless, the "wee, modest,

crimson-tipped flower" and the "wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous

beastie," he gives us two of the most beautiful poems in the English

language, poems that, by the power of their tenderness, truth, and

beauty, have brought tears to the eyes of many a strong, brave man who

feared no enemy.

Such was the power of Joan of Arc when she led the French soldiers to

battle and to victory,--simply the power of her belief and her faith,

for she was a simple, untrained peasant girl, knowing nothing of how

battles are to be won.

Such is the power of the English nurse, Edith Cavell, executed by the

Germans as a spy, because she helped English and Belgians to escape

from the German horrors in Belgium by crossing the line into Holland.

Such is the power of the murdered mothers and children on the

Lusitania, the memory of whose wrongs cause English and American

soldiers to go "over the top," crying "Lusitania! Lusitania!"

Such is the power of undaunted Cardinal Mercier, who in the very midst

of German officers and troops, denounces German atrocities in Belgium,

and yet is himself untouched.

The exercise of the right of the strongest, the right which comes

through might, brings about war. General Sherman, who knew the

terrors of war from what he saw in our Civil War, said, "War is hell."

He could not describe its horrors and so he used the one word that

means to most people the most horrible state and place in which human

beings can suffer. For many years most men have realized that war is

the most dreadful scourge of the human race, and that it should be

abolished. But as is always the case, men cannot agree,--which is, of

course, the chief reason why there are wars. In the face of terrible

calamities, disasters, and great crises, men will agree. Perhaps the

World War will prove the great disaster that will lead men to do away

forever with war.

For twenty-five years before the world's peace was rudely broken by the

ambitions of Germany, the people of other countries had been urgently

seeking some means of doing away with war. Peace societies had been

organized and wealthy men had donated money to be used in efforts to

secure the permanent peace of the world. A Peace Palace had been

erected at The Hague from funds donated by the American

multi-millionaire, Andrew Carnegie, who had also set aside a fund of

$10,000,000 for the purpose of keeping the world at peace. The Nobel

prize of $40,000 was awarded annually to the person anywhere in the

world who had done the most for peace. Theodore Roosevelt, while

President, won this by settling the Russian-Japanese War. The Tsar of

Russia had proposed at one of the conferences of nations held at the

Peace Palace that the nations should gradually do away with military

preparations. We can see now why all these efforts failed. Germany had

her mind and heart set on war and on conquering the world.

Most men agree that war is unnecessary, and before the German attack

upon Belgium and upon the liberty of the world, many leaders of thought

in other countries were sure a great war could never occur in modern

times. One group argued that its cost in money would be so great that

no nation could meet it for more than a few months. But the United

States is, in 1918, spending nearly $50,000,000 a day for war, and she

can continue to do so for some years, if necessary. The cost in dollars

will never prevent war nor make a great war a very brief one.

But think of what the cost of the war for one year would accomplish if

spent for the purposes of peace, for construction instead of

destruction. Ten billion dollars, the approximate cost of the war for

the United States for the year 1918, if put at interest at four per

cent, would earn $400,000,000, or about the cost of the Panama Canal.

This interest would send 500,000 young men and women to college each

year, and pay all their necessary expenses. It would do away with all

the slums and poverty of our great cities. If the cost to one nation

for one year would, as a permanent fund, accomplish this, it is easy to

realize that the world could almost be made an ideal one in which to

live, if the money that all the nations spend upon the World War could

have been saved and made a permanent fund for the betterment of world


Another group said, "Modern science has made war so terrible and so

destructive that men will not take part in it, or if this is not true

now, it soon will be." When we think of what has occurred and is

occurring every day in the present war, this seems also unlikely.

When we read of guns that will carry a shell weighing a ton for over

twenty-five miles which will, when it explodes, destroy everything

within an eighth of a mile, and of guns less destructive that will

carry over seventy-five miles, almost wholly destroying a church and

killing sixty-five men, women, and children; when we read of bombs

dropped from the sky, killing innocent women and children, hundreds of

miles from the field of battle; of the terrible work of poison gases

and of liquid fire; of battles above the clouds from which men fall to

death in blazing air-planes, and of battles beneath the waves in which

men sink in submarines to be suffocated to death; of an entire ridge

being undermined and blown up by tons of dynamite, with an explosion

heard nearly one hundred miles away and killing thousands: how can we

believe that war is likely soon to become so terrible that men will not

engage in it, if they are willing to do so now? Sir Gilbert Parker well

says: "Guns have been invented before which the stoutest fortresses

shrivel into fiery dust; shells destroy men in platoons, blow them to

pieces, bury them alive; death pours from the clouds and spouts upward

through the sea; motor-power hurls armies of men on points of attack in

masses never hitherto employed; concealment is made well nigh

impossible. These things, however, have but made war more difficult and

dreadful; they have not made it impossible. They have only succeeded in

plumbing profounder depths of human courage, and evoking higher

qualities of endurance than have ever been seen before."

No, most people who are thinking about the subject to-day are agreed

that wars will not end because of the destructive power of men, but

through the constructive power of human feeling and intellect. When the

great majority of men recognize, as so many do now, that as the world

exists to-day, no nation can ever gain by a war of aggression, but that

the nation at war loses her best, her young and strong, and has left

only the old and defective who cannot fight, that she loses her

industrial and commercial prosperity as well, and through these losses

loses more than she can ever gain by conquest; when all nations realize

that the destruction of great cathedrals like Rheims, of the beautiful

town hall at Lille, of the unique Cloth Market at Ypres, and of a

University like that of Louvain makes the whole world poorer beyond

measure, then will men agree that no small group of men, and no single

nation shall, in the future, be allowed to cause war; and then they

will organize some power strong enough to prevent war.

Then will come the League of Nations to Enforce Peace, or the

Parliament of Man of which Tennyson wrote in "Locksley Hall"

seventy-five years ago. The poet seemed as in a vision to see the

present World War with its terrors and its battles in the air. Perhaps

his vision of the abolition of war and the federation of the world is

equally true.

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,

Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,

Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew

From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rushing warm,

With the standards of the peoples plunging through the thunder storm;

Till the war drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle flags were furled

In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N.Y.]

The Battles Of The Marne The Belgian Prince facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail