THE SUN. SUNDAY. AUGUST IS. 1918.
Great World War Has Become a Relig ion
With Fighters of Democratic Nations
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.
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
"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
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