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THE SUN. SUNDAY. AUGUST IS. 1918.
Great World War Has Become a Relig ion With Fighters of Democratic Nations 10 By PROF. PHILIP SAGNAC of the UnWersIty of Bordeaux, Francs. '"70R the first time in history a war J- has descended upon humanity -which has gradually, directly or indirectly, ex tended to all the earth. This cataclysm brought about by the military empires of central Europe, above all by Germany, is the most terrible as well as the most costly that mankind has ever known. Only a,few secondary nations still remain neutral in 191S. But these neutrals them selves arc hardly less interested than the Itclligerents in the resultf the conflict, of which they feel the effects profoundly. I. Economic, political, moral, even racial causes have been assigned for this gen eral war. But there is one issue which ilominatcs'all others: It is a fight to the death of two regimes, military despotism and democracy. All the history of humanity since the close of the eighteenth century is filled with the conflict between these two con ceptions of life. It is necessary to recall how this conflict had its birth, how it de veloped and what were the tragic ac companiments of it. Democracy, animated with the passion for liberty and the desire for peace among men, was menaced toward the end of the eighteenth century by imperialist nations or sovereigns. It triumphed in North America and in France. It proclaimed its principles in the United States in 177C ud 1787; in France in 17S9 and later. Napoleon Ignored Boundaries. tout after the greats-French victories and the confiscation of the Revolution of Napoleon the principles of democracy were more and more constantly violated. Napoleon annexed territories without con sulting their populations and passed be 'yond natural boundaries, such as the Alps and the Rhine. He went far beyond what the state of Europe made possible and thus prepared a general reaction, which attained the proportions of another rcvo lutkm. The great Powers, aristocratic and feudal, meeting together at the Congress of Vienna in 3815, divided a mass of ter ritory without a thought of souls. For them there was no right between nations. '"What has international right to do here!" asked a Prussian plenipotentiary. 'The expediencies of Europe are the right.'' another proclaimed brutally. Utter arbitrariness had the force of law. Belgium was joined to Holland and Nor way to Sweden without the consent of their populations. The Rhine lands, from Cologne to Treves, to Sarrelouis and Sar rebruck, found themselves handed over to Prussia despite their social and religious traditions. Poland was cut up onoe more accord ing to the interests and caprices of the dividing Powers, and Warsaw, indiffer ent, passed like any simple object of ex change from Prussia to Russia. Milan ml Vcnetia were split up for the benefit of Austria, who even under the ancient regime had not been so well endowed. No justice; no thought of the liberty of nations; the most cynical materialism brooded over territories, crushing souls; the brutal triumph of might. "These are the nobles who have conquered," cried u German after Waterloo. In fact the ancient regime was reestablished every where. Despotism on Top in 1850. The struggle between democracy ami military despotism continued after 1815. Democracy appeared to triumph several time, in 1830 and 184S; but after these attempts at weakening the ancient meth ods de-potism in 1850 again resumed complete- control. Disconcerted for a moment in 1850 and SG0 by the liberation of Italy and the formation of a new nation founded upon the will of the people, it became prepon derant in the relations between peoples in 1804 by the conquest of the Danisli duchies, invaded by three German armies f ipl raited into a petty Stale; in 1SG0 by the seizure of Hanover and its duchies by Pntssia; finally in 1871 by the annexing to tiie German Empire of Alsace and half of Lorraine. This last was not simply a violation of the rights of ''France. It was an utter denial of eternal "justice. In reality it touched all humanity. But mankind did not understand this until later. The war of 1914 was the sequence of all the conflicts for more than a century between conquering despotism and pacific democracy. For western Europe, France, Belgium, the British Empire, Italy, Portugal, it was indeed the contest of de mocracies against the German military autocracy, of the revolution against the ancient regime, as in the eighteenth cen tury. America Could Not Refuse Aid The entrance of the United States upon the stage in April, 1917, following the persuasive efforts of President Wilson, that noble standard. bearer of the intellect ual and idealistic classes of the New Eng land, gave to the war, now become world wide, its highest significance. The United States could not refuse to hearken to the appeal of justice and right, oppressed ip Belgium, in France, in Alsace-Lorraine and in all Europe. Since 1912 we flad predicted America's part in the great conflict then preparing; it did not seem possible to us that the greatest democracy in the world, which was the first to be established", with the help of France, could remain in splendid indifference and isolation during a long and terrible war in which the very foun dations of civilization would be concerned. In March, 1912, at a conference at the conclusion of a series of studies of Ger many mado by our colleagues in the fac ulty of letters of the University of Lille, we said: "When the German people de sires more territory the conflict can not be stopped by any sovereign calling him self pacific, for it will be all fhcTiation, a really imperialistic nation, which- will force it. And then it will be a universal conflagration. But if Germany triumphs it will not be for long, for she will end by being conquered by a coalition of all the European Powers and possibly even the American Powers." It seems as if the great facts of his tory have their logical conclusion some times, i IL Thus the two antagonistic principles which have been in conflict for 150 years are clearly defined. , German military despotism is the op pressor of conquered nations the Poles of Poland, the Danes of Sehleswig, the Alsatians and Lorrainians, the Italians of Trente and Trieste, the Czecks of Bo hemia, the Slovaks of northern Hungary. tli6 Rumanians of Transylvania, the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Croa tians of Agram, the Slovenes of Istria. For these fragments of nations torn away by force, -kept by force, profoundly at tached to their traditions, to their 'heroes, to their civilization, there has been no jus tice but the mailed fist, sometimes ex--proportionate, as in Prussian Poland, al ways persecution, even in language and thought. The Germanic despotism shows absolute disregard of all treaties, those "scraps of paper," lis the German Chancellor called them in August, 1914. As "necessity knows no law" according to the same high authority, the German Empire did not hesitate to invade the territory of Bel gium, thus erasing its own signature to a treaty three-quarters of a century old, which guaranteed the neutrality of that little independent State. In 1907 at the Peace Conferences at The Hague it refused to he a party to ob ligatory arbitration between nations; for its disagreements were to be settled by war alone. Moreover is not war a national industry for Prussia? It is even a divine institution. In August, 1914, war '"fresh and joy ful" was let loose upon Belgium and France, amid the fires and massacres of Louvain, of Tcrmonde, of Dinant and Senlis. It is military terrorism for the great good of humanity and at the order of God: "God so wills it! God is with us!" So German despotism sets up the violation of international law as a rule, just as it refuses to conquered peoples the enjoy ment of national law. In justice is sover eign. No liberty for nations; their will does not count; they should have no other de sire than that of the master. The con queror cries that there is no Alsace-Lorraine question; there, is no Sehleswig question, no Polish question. Nor is there equality between nations, for all is a mut ter of force. Seeks Supremacy of the Large. There are large and small states; the future belongs to the large; everything m the world tends to concentration; the small nations must be sacrificed to neces sity; it is the decree of fate, the end of evolution. Thus must disappear Belgium, Serbia, and awaiting their turn Denmark, Holland, &c. And when there are only four or five great states left, or less, then Germany, having absorbed the small ones politically and economically, will conquer the large states, ruin them and dominate the world. "Deutsehland iiber Alles!" And that will be justice, she already declares, because her kultur is superior to all others and her organization is the model dreamed of by all humanity. Democracy has principles utterly op posed to all this. In England, in the United States, in France and in all the states of the western world which have Utvn modelled upon these three great na tions, civil and political liberty and equal ity arc.the chief motors of public life. All citizenst arc free and have equal rights; all are equally admitted to their function?, whether they arc Prot&tants, Catholics or Jews. As to other rations, democracy is pro foundly respectful of all its treaties With perfect loyalty it keeps its agree Community Service Flag Stirs East Side Patriots ANEW idea in symbolism for foster ing neighborhood loyalty appeared at tho Liberty festival held on the eve of the Fourth in East Nineteenth street. A community service Hag, the lir.-t of its kind, called by tho-e who planned it "The flag of a thousand stars, sewed in a thousand homes," w:n hung across the street and dedicated. By request of the People's In-titutc and the Wingate Community Centre, the principals -of Public Schools 40 and 50, which are close together in lvat Twen tieth street, at the heart of the neighbor hood in question, had called on the assem bled school children for a show of the hands of those ho.-c families hae mem bers with the color". Each youngster thus dif-tingui-hcd was given a square of white bunting to take home, with as many blue bunting stars as the home service (lag was entitled to. The children were asked to get their mothers or big sisters to .-c.v the stars on. The squares returned were pieci d together, iflaking the field of the Hag, and a three foot red border was added. The resulting emblem of service meas ures roughlv sixteen feet bv twonlv-two. It docs bear a thousand stars and the sewing was actually done in as many homes or nearly. It does not of course begin to represent nlHhe men in service from the East Side area that sends chil dren to the two schools. But it gave at least a thousand wiveS"and mothers a personal contrihutive interest in the festival. A few of the children had to bring their bunting back unsewed with the mes sage that mother was sorry, but hadn't time now that one of the breadwinners was away and would somebody please do the sewing for her. On the other hand, one woman, a widow with two grown up sons in khaki, toluntcercd to help!' The festival, under the auspices of t lie inrtitute and the centre, was a block jmrty. East Nineteenth street was Closed for it between First and Second avenues. The climax of the programme was the un furling of the Hag. The district that turned out for the fes tival includes citizens of several racial stocks, notably Italian, Jewish, Irish and Polish. It was their party, not the insti tute's, according to the community move ment policy of assisting a neighborhood to genuine solf-cxpression. ment. It knows that frankness is worth more than all secret diplomacy Demo cratic states do not hesitate to confirm their signatures, if need be, to reassure a loyal nation, weak and timid, situated between three powerful neighbors. Thus in 1914 France and England recognized afresh the neutrality of Belgium, guaran teed by them in 1839; and so in 1917 France gave her word of honor to Switz erland, which had been made uneasy by German propaganda. Tbe democracies admit the right of peoples to dispose of themselves. For them a nation is a sacred person. It is made up neither of the soil nor the for tresses, nor the rivers natural trenches for the German who dreams of nothing hut war and annexation. It is not even the language, the habits and customs; it is above all the will. Nation Seen as Sacred Person. The democracies hold all nations as equal, no matter what may be the extent of their territory and the strength of their army; all are sovereign and independent; all have a right to their place in the sun. The great democracies suffer from tho attacks made upon the liberty and rights of small nations. And in 1917 we may say that this suffering became intolerable and the great American Republic, fol lowed by the Republic of Brazil, came to the assistance of oppressed nations. Thus democracy becomes justice. It is also peace, labor, the fruitful emulation of peoples in material and moral progress. On the one side stands force, the con quest of the world, the coarsest material ism; on the other, right, peace, idealism, founded upon that which is left to us of the noblest and most humane of ancient Greece, of Christianity, of the Italian renaissance and the French revolution. III. "He will kill him." That the champions of might still think of victory after all their defeats on the Marne, on the Yscr and before Verdun, is possible; in reality it is chiefly the great military heads who assert this. How can the faith of an en tire nation still rest upon its militaristia kultur when forty-five years of prepara tion have resulted onfy in that miserablo failure on the Marne? The Germanio peoples themselves can hardly still have blind confidence to-dny in an armed force which failed in the first grand shock and which, even when delivered from Russian attack in 1918, gained some ground only by leaving on the battlefields of Picardy and Flanders a large part of its best sol diers. Confidence on the Side of Right. Confidence is altogether upon the sido of the champions of right. The soldier of the western democracies understands and feels more and morn the living purpose of this war. and amid the fortunate or un fortunate accidents of the struggle, tho solidarity of nations. He knows, he sees, he believes that the league of democratic nations will prevail over military autocracies. And the last to enter the lists, the Americans are not the lent fervent apostles of this belief, nor are they the least insistent in their demands for justice. This war, just like the French revolu tion, has become almost a religion. Eery where among the small nations of the centre of Europe and of the Orient it is exciting the same passions which were aroused in all hearts by the revolution of 1789. The Czechs of Bohemia, the Poles, the Jugo-Slavs (Serbs and Croatians), the Rumanians, the Greeks, the Syrians, tho Jews of Palestine, the Armenians, tho Arabs, &c, all have their eyes turned to ward the Occident whence have come since the eigthecnth century all liberating words . and deeds. ' What has succeeded in giving a quasi religions aspect to this terrible war for all humanity that is really civilized is the ele vated aim which the combatants of the league of democratic nations pursues: it is their faith in the eternal progress of civilization. After jicacc the nations, we sincerely believe, will continue to cooper ate with the same generous ardor as dur ing the war. Then will come the reign of justice. Military despotism will disappear. That will be the end of these periodic but. her-ie- This war will prove the great war against war.