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MPRESSIVE beyond any possibility of news, so far as I could find, appeared in the
description has been the demeanor of English daily papers concerning the British
the English under the strain of war. Expeditionary Force (consisting of troops sent London, of course, is the place where this to the Continent to help the Belgians and strain has been most tense. All along Fleet the French), persistent oral accounts of their Street and the Strand, in the region about going by night from Charing Cross Station, Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, of their transportation in great steamships Haymarket, Piccadilly Circus, and Piccadilly, across the Channel, and even of the return down by Victoria Station and Westminster of the wounded to hospitals in England, were Abbey, the cry of the news-vender all day from the beginning to be encountered everylong, and in the residence districts late into where. On all sides people talked of the the night, makes it impossible to forget the war even before there was war ;
some of fact of war. Before the locked gates of them with heartsick dread of its evils, not for Somerset House, ordinarily open, two armed themselves, but for the world, hoping that it sentries pace back and forth. Occasionally might be averted; others consumed with the bus on which one is riding suddenly anxiety lest England might be too late. One stops to wait till a company of Territorials in man, a Liberal, officially connected with a khaki uniform pass by. Six or eight little humane society, almost denounced the Govragamuffins bearing wooden swords and ernment because they had not had English wearing paper caps march along the Strand troops in Antwerp by the 3d of August. with utmost seriousness in the midst of the One who has not had the experience of being traffic, bearing a banner with the device : a passive spectator in a belligerent country WE WILL FIGHT FOR
at a time like this can scarcely imagine the OUR COUNTRY AND
mental and nervous strain of it all. It was DEFEND THE KING
as if we were all dreaming the same evil
dream, and waking to find it true. And and the passers-by look on them gravely through it all the English, high and low, without even an indulgent smile. Along were imperturbable. Downing Street there is likely to be a crowd It was during the first few days that the waiting to see some official or some member strain was
severest. Monday, the 3d of of the Cabinet drive to or from the Govern- August, was Bank Holiday. The danger of ment offices. Along Whitehall there is an- war had come so suddenly that few were other crowd, composed of men waiting their prepared for the financial stress. Very chance to reach the War Office in order to wisely the Government decided to extend the enlist. But London is not the only place Bank Holiday until Friday. On Tuesday, where the signs of war keep pulling at one's therefore, the banks remained closed, but nerves. One acquaintance has told me of the shops were open. On one of these days playing, or trying to play, golf at North I went with a friend into a shop in WestBerwick, and of the impossibility of keep- minster to buy a trifle. The shop was empty ing one's eye, even less one's mind, on the of customers. The shopkeeper tried to sell ball while in the waters near by, in full view, us some watches. He urged us to buy. He gunboats ply, and from over their decks rise took off twenty per cent of the price. Fiwar aeroplanes. Another acquaintance has nally he admitted that he had to have gold reported his experience of living for a few to meet his obligations, and offered us the days in a quiet place in rural England. watches for a ridiculously small sum.
We During the day all seemed normal, he did not know how long we should have to said, but after nightfall there began a stay in England or how our money would procession of railway trains carrying troops hold out. When we left without buying, I -passing along one by one, at five-min- felt as if I was turning my back on a drownute intervals, invisible in the darkness be- ing man. Before the Bank Holiday was cause all their lights were out. Then there ended, however, England had recovered her are the rumors and stories that pass from financial equilibrium. Ten-shilling and onemouth to moutk Although noi a word of pound bank notes were in circulation. They did not look like money to an Englishman, England bound by moral obligation to help but of course they were accepted.
enforce the pledge that Germany had made Except for the orderly crowds that to respect that neutrality ?" thronged Trafalgar Square and gathered There were two answers that he made to about Buckingham Palace to cheer the King that. One was that England would have and Queen during the culmination of the been in a stronger position if she had stood crisis, there were no signs of anything aside, let Germany and France, with Russia, approaching excitement. I read of some fight it out, then, when both combatants were alleged cases of the rough handling of Ger- exhausted, been ready to step in fresh and mans, but I saw nothing of the kind and met strong and dictate to Germany the terms of no one who had seen anything of the kind. peace and the penalty for the violation of The people went about their business as her word. The other answer that he made usual. Newspapers urged their readers to was that England had always pursued the continue their outings, and to keep life as policy of " splendid isolation,” and in departnormal as possible. On the Sunday after ing from that by joining in with Continental war was declared I went by steamboat down Powers in Continental quarrels she had the Thames from Hampton Court to Kew. opened the way for incalculable future perils. In the houseboats moored along the banks What if Germany has broken her pledge?” the people were taking their accustomed he asked. “We have no right to fight her for Sunday recreation. Young men in white that. England has in the past broken pledges flannels and young women in light dresses too. No; we are committing a crime to enter were rowing and punting in boats as during
This is the work of the Liberal the days of peace. Unquestionably many of jingoes who have been preaching a big navy these English families who seemed totally and have been entangling us with Continental undisturbed had already seen
alliances. It is an astounding thing that brothers go to join the Territorials ; unques- Parliament should have been kept ignorant of tionably many of the young men on the river what is wirtually a secret agreement with would themselves soon be in camp or on the France that, if she sent her fleet to the Medmarch; but that made no difference. iterranean, we should defend her from any
What bound Great Britain together in all attack upon her coasts. Mark my words. this was the conviction that the cause of Public opinion will not support this war. Great Britain was just. I had occasion to talk The North of England is solidly against it. with various types of men—members of Par- He seemed to ignore the implications of liament, waiters, business men, policemen, fel- his statement—that England by remaining low-travelers in the train, shopkeepers ; every- neutral would have left brave little Belgium where there was the one conviction that in the lurch, would have given Germany a Great Britain was bound by duty to herself, chance to get a foothold in the Low Counand even more by her duty to Belgium and tries where she could be a constant menace France, to take her part in the war. The to England's shores, would have acquiesced only English people who showed signs of in the German attempt to reduce France to disturbance were those who had committed a third-rate Power, and, so far from atoning themselves in some prominent way to the for the former breach of pledges of which he cause of peace—and these were not disturbed accused his own country, would have given by fear, but by the burial of their hopes. to England's enemies another occasion of
The one exception to this universal ap- charging her with perfidy. proval of England's course was furnished by In not a single other case did I find an a member of the so-called “ Peace Group” in Englishman who is not convinced of the Parliament. At first he was inclined to be- righteousness of England's action ; and even lieve that England had been forced into war my good friend of the Parliamentary “ Peace by the aggressiveness of the Kaiser and his Group” admitted the force of the view that clique. In a day or two, however, he had arms could be put to no better service than turned back to his original peace view. in enforcing treaty obligations and in with
“England was under no obligation to take standing a policy of conquest. up arms," he said. England should have If Germany had been counting on aid for remained neutral, as Italy did."
herself from the English advocates of peace, " What of Germany's violation of Bel- she was destined to be disappointed in this, gium's neutrality ?” I asked.
“ Was not as she certainly was disappointed in finding
that the Irish question had not disrupted Englishmen do not hate the Germans," Great Britain and that commercial prudence he explained ; " indeed, they like them very had not expelled or obscured British love of well. There is much we have in common fair play. In the London - Times” for Sat- with the German-much more than we have urday, August 8, there appeared two bits of in common with our Russian allies. The evidence on this point. Mr. Andrew Car- hideous thing about this war is that, as far as negie, who is known in Great Britain as well England is concerned, it is a war without as in America as one of the foremost - advo- hatred.” cates of heavenly peace and foes of hellish This feeling I found expressed again and war" (to use his own phrase), sent a tele- again. Not only journalists, but all sorts of gram which was published in that issue men, have said to me repeatedly : which contains the following sentence : “ Her not fighting the German people ; we Peace Conference having been rejected by fighting the Prussian war party. It is the Germany, I feel that Britain only did her Kaiser, not the German people, that must be duty when she promptly refused Germany's held responsible for this war.” counter-proposal to be permitted to invade Sooner or later almost every Englishman Belgium to attack France, and declared she with whom I talked expressed the opinion would protect Belgium by land and sea.” that the Kaiser was insane. “ He's a stark,
The other bit of evidence was the publica- staring lunatic," was the way the proprietor tion of a two-column advertisement con- of a little news shop put it. Mad," " Crazy," sisting of a message from the Religious " Off his head”—these are the terms in which Society of Friends which contains the follow- Englishmen of various stations offered the ing paragraph :
only explanation they could think of for the We recognize that our Government has made
Kaiser's course. most strenuous efforts to preserve peace, and
Another common opinion, shared by a waiter has entered into the war under a grave sense of in a restaurant, a London “bobby," and a duty to a smaller state towards which we had writer of serials for the lighter London weeklies, moral and treaty obligations. While, as a Society, is that before the war ends there will be revowe stand firmly to the belief that the method of
lution in Germany. Most of them expect to force is no solution of any question, we hold
see a republic emerge from this war of the that the present moment is not one for criticism,
nations. This is not merely an opinion of but for devoted service to our nation.
ignorance. One man who had spent several Of course the men who control the utter- years in Germany took this view. He could ances of the Conservative press are upholders not see that the existence of a number of of the war with Germany ; but I was espe- monarchies within the Federal Empire formed cially interested in getting the opinions of Lib- necessarily any obstacle to such a result. eral journalists who are traditionally against Not the least impressive factor in public all that savors of militarism as a hindrance sentiment in England is the lack of enthusito the expenditure of effort and money on asm for one of England's allies—Russia. behalf of social reform. To a man, the Unbounded admiration for the Belgians and Liberal journalists with whom I talked warm-hearted friendship for the French were recognized the necessity for the present war. everywhere evident; but no interest in the Not one of them but said, when Germany Russians. The boys who were selling penny violated Belgium's neutrality, that England flags on the street had the French tricolor in must fight. One of them I met at his almost as large quantities as the Union Jack, office. It was before war was declared. He and after the fighting at Liège displayed a was still hoping for peace, hoping that Mr. goodly stock of Belgian flags; but so far as Asquith, the Prime Minister, and Sir Edward I remember they had no Russian flags for Grey, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, sale. Again and again when I mentioned would find some way of keeping Germany to Russia there was a shaking of the head, and her pledges without war ; but he confessed whenever I ventured an opinion that after that there was a price which England could not this war was over England would have to be pay for peace—the price of her honor and ready to reckon with the great Slav Empire, safety. Another I met after war had broken there was immediate assent. Frankly, the out. He was a representative of one of the English do not like to be in the position of best-known Liberal journals in the United fighting on Russia's side. They all admit the Kingdom. He declared the war was imperative. necessity, but they deplore it.
This scarcely veiled distrust of the Slav homes had been demolished in that way. ally is, however, but a very small element in Even when compensated, the owners of such English feeling. The one supreme factor is property must suffer great loss; but the the common Englishman's determination to spirit of the Englishman at this time was of resist what he believes to be the ambition to pride that he could offer a sacrifice. gain dominion at the expense of others which A few days after war was declared I haphas obsessed the Prussian military clique, pened to be in a printing office in London. and has at last set Europe aflame with the One of the partners in the firm told me of most terrible war in history. Not the least his experiences that day. He had been on of Sir Edward Grey's achievements as a the coast for his holiday, and had received a statesman has been his success in so conduct- message from the other members of his firm ing the negotiations prior to the war as to calling him to London. He came up on his convince his fellow-subjects of the King that motor cycle-seventy miles in just over two Germany has had but one reason for going hours. to war—the determination to dominate Eu- “ The constables along the road would rope. At times in past years there has been have stopped me,” he said, “except that a sort of nervous apprehension among the they thought I was on the King's business. English people about Germany's plans. One All along the road were Boy Scouts. They day when I was in London there was a single were watching the telegraph posts to see that loud crash of thunder. One thought seemed the wires were not cut; at every post or two to spring up in everybody's mind—a bomb there was a Scout, and they meant business." from a Zeppelin air-ship. That, however, This testimony about the Scouts was conwas but a heritage from the period of vague firmed by what a Boy Scout himself told me. fantastic fears. Now that war has come, all He himself had been on duty watching the those fears seem to have been suddenly telegraph lines, had been in the squad that banished. In their place there are a calm had discovered a wire tapped, and after confidence and a ready determination to deal report was made to the military authorities with the Prussian King and his group of had learned that the tapping had been done war lords as they deserve. There was no by the military, but that somehow a record sign of panic. Some people, it is true, had not been made. As can be seen, the started to stock up with tinned food and gro- Boy Scouts are doing real service to their ceries as if they expected British coasts to be country. at once blockaded ; but they were not typical. “ The anxiety is over, now that war has They were laughed at, and some of them, I begun," continued the Englishman in the know, felt very foolish when they found printing office. Perhaps the Germans are themselves stocked up as for an Arctic expe- better men, but we are ready. And the dition while their neighbors were living on French will fight. The man who has had fresh food just as usual. Of course this does sorrow in his soul for forty years is bound to not mean that the ordinary Englishman is fight. The Germans—the poor beggars ! taking this war lightly. Far from it. He is they don't want to fight. It's the Kaiser's taking it with grim seriousness. He knows doing. He expected to be in Paris by very well something of what it means already. August 6, and now it's the 12th. I'm too The lady who, while driving to the village from old for the army; but I can be useful. I her country house, has her favorite pair of can do police work. With my motor cycle I horses seized and commandeered for the can be very useful. Yes, yes, every Englisharmy, faces a fact of war, even though she man would take a musket if needed.” And does not hear a shot. And there are many
I believed him. people over England who have had to face Never, I suppose, have Englishmen been that fact. Some English families are pulling prouder of their country. They are proud up their flower beds and planting vegetables of its patience, its unwearying effort to instead. There is, however, very little com- avoid war, its restraint when Germany proplaint. I heard not a word of it. Instead posed to bribe it into neutrality at the cost there is pride in what England has proved of France and Belgium ; proud of its unhesiherself ready to do.
tating acceptance of war when the time came; Along the coast woods and houses in proud of the silence of the press when news the line of gun fire were razed. More than of military movements was suppressed, not one Englishman told me of friends whose by exercise of authority, but by co-operation