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By G K. CHESTERTON
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l1n all thii s lmere mui llr c is siwept away, there remains a real iiit ire I of phitios(phy about sar; andilll the Ipr’cnt ar Ihas brought it to a htead. It is strictly, perhaps, rather a dihference of sentiment than a dillfer ence of phlosolphIv : but there is nothilng so practical and, 111 t!ihe onI uslil sense, nothing sol busilltesslike a ienttin ent. I think the two isentimllents about swar sork back to a dilference so ultimate that, if I were ai Germanll lunatic, 1 shiould say it was ” beyond good aild cl anld elven ias it is, I think it is often heind plealsure aind pain It is ctoncerned wilth pride and hilnihatlon -that is, with prtie in the good sense and humiliation in the had sense. It is a notabltte polult ftor lour national cause that very many lho honestly beheved that lno war is rnecessary amintet that this war is necessary. Many I laciliits have been guilty of a nosble and chivxalrous apostasy. They have turned their coats, and turned foirth a khaki lintmg on the night ; but the change in itself is no discredit either totheir old uniform or their inew one, or to anys except the bloodstained uniform of Prussia. But among those who thus regard the war ais ilecessary there are somse, I think, who regard
it 1iiit iih atl a ieCcesar evil, u11 t a i leCiesiiarV ii1o11111i. Theiv feel ai if then were going on all nIIII like beat , they dislike the Imuld more than thic blnd “Therel is noi part of the p)roce-s Nihatever of liig h tlhe ian think w ith plea ire except lthe eiid 1 it The whole of their particular conception of inutaH dignity is broken and, as it were, bent double t a degriladttlion The are few, for they are the o11111rity of a Iiniority. But they are perfectCly p1 irl] ot’ic, nld even painfully ,i lcere. In this matter, as in milany others, I ant on the side of the t uligar majority. But I reaise that there is S’itorac oi intellectual w i are quite spt n wanolln and sincere in the dhsgu-t which I describe and who, uhlil they are too intelligent to be content with mlerely ptraisiniig peace, are infuriated by anytlbodyl paislig p ar. I renuilmber talking about the matter Son of the’ two or three nmost brillinot nmen of our
time– a min whose attitude on the war has been somewhat nlsunuderstood, for it is not so much oppoIed to our policy as simply opposed to its popularity. I believe he could tolerate the Army; but lie cannot endure the mob. But, in the very act of urging that the war should be waged until Prussia ,was taught a lesson, he spoke of the war itself as if it were some colossal cosmic jest at the expense of humanity. fIe really felt about soldiers fighting as most men feel about soldiers running away. He could conceive of some vengeance of Nature falling upon us for having despicably dropped below our part. ” If we calnt do better than this,” he said, swith involuntary mysticism, ” something will come out of a bush.” Then he added, with the full effect of such words when they come instinctively from a free-thinker, ” God is not mocked.” This feeling, as a feeling, was in him quite un- questionably unselfish and sincere; but it is exactly this feeling, as a feeling, which I hold to be false, futile, and inhuman. That is the spiritual difference, the deepest spiritual difference of the hour. Pile up all the personal infamies of fighting, and the final
iresllt for me is still a’n imnpersional pride. I do not, oif c5urse, miean pride about myself: say by all means. if you iwill, that I should not support the test, but I amn proud that otheri can support it. I do not exs c meansl merely that I iam prould of my cosuntry, thoulgh this is tile proudest momnlent of her history. I am proud of being alive on two legs; I am proud of geu is hoio in the b oks of biology; I am proud of my fellow creatures, of wlhoml so many hlln- dreds of thousands have sh’iwn themselves able to support the test of iwar. There are people isho talk, even nowl, f mutual ullderstandilng and peace ; in practical psychology there is something much nearer to a msutual understanding in war. [But the ground of our pride il man is precisely in all that such intel- lectuals regard as his retrogression and colapse. We are exalted because man’s sill is still untouched by the oldest instruments of torture; because all the engines of terrorism are brought against hiIms in vain ;
eorcause tile question Iv fire and the question by lurnillng iron are ques- tions which he can still answer, or disdain to answer. lie has still the wild sanity of the saints and mlatyrse; he has not too much horror of horrors. Logically, it may not seenm impossible to reconcile this view with the fastidious view of the reluctant fighter; but spiritually there is a prodigious difterence of proportion. It will be a matter of great import to future generations whether this mountain of dead is mainly a monu- ment or mnerely an eye- sore; and whether this one entry in our chroni- cles appears as a blazon or a blot. But the distinction has a practical point also. It is the purpose of the arti- cle ” On Chivalry in WVar ” to suggest that courtesy and common rules in war- fare were part of a sort of pageant of aristocracy ; and that democracies must be expected to fight more brutally, for the very reason that they fight more reluctantly.
In experience, this seems totally untenable and untrue. The writer in the Nation will hardly maintain that the Prussians are more chivalrous in war than the French. lie certainly will not maintain that the Prussians are more democratic in peace than the French. As a fact, some of the most beautiful instances of modern military courtesy occurred in a war in which both sides were citizens of the same great democracy. They occurred in the American Civil War ; several of them redeemed the rather cynical politics of Grant. and give a glamour like that of Galahad to the great- ness of Robert Lee. But, in any case, the Nation’s doctrine is only tolerable upon some assumption of its own that wars will soon entirely disappear–unless the Nation prefers the supposition that democracies will entirely disappear. Those who, like myself, doubt whether war can ever be impossible unless liberty is impossible, will not easily accept the prospect of battle becoming more bestial every time it is renewed. They will think this view as dangerous as it is false; and count it a curious instance of how all intellectual perceptions, including that of peace, work out in practice to the wickedest of modern tasks-the whitewashing of Prussia.