Is the Peace Movement a Failure?, November 1914

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Is the Peace Movement a Failure?


Jane Addams
Of Hull-House, Chicago


William Jennings Bryan
Secretary of State

IT WAS only a few weeks ago that people were led to believe that never in the history of the world was universal peace among the nations of the earth so nearly attained, when suddenly Europe was hurled into the most gigantic war in the history of the world. Naturally many have tried to square the theory and the fact and have asked themselves: "How about universal peace now?" This question was submitted to the two most prominent advocates of universal peace, Miss Addams and Mr. Bryan, and their statements follow.


THE many advocates of peace will give widely different explanations of the European war, but certainly they will agree that no one ever ventured to claim that arbitration had as yet become firmly established as an International usage.

Although the Tribunal at The Hague gave a concrete and living expression to International law and precedent war did not become impossible simply because International disputes might be adjudicated with honor and just dealing.

The question of International arbitration seems, at moments, to resolve itself into one of time. Its most ardent promoters could never do more than ask themselves if the resort to arbitration without compulsion was psychologically possible for a sufficient length of time so that the custom could be built up between nations, as the resort to law between individuals has already been established in all civilized States.

The occurrence of this great war cannot stamp International arbitration as a failure. The mistake of judging such a situation too hastily may be illustrated from our National experience: When the thirteen original States united, and each agreed to make no attempt to defend its own borders, but to submit all differences to a supreme court of the federated States, the founders of our republic had every right to look forward to centuries of unbroken peace, although in less than seventy-five years these States were engaged in a prolonged civil war. Yet no one would call our Federal Government a failure nor the establishment of the Supreme Court a mistake.

Over and over again the Conferences at The Hague attempted without success to limit, through mutual agreement, the huge standing armies of Europe, whose very existence means that the maneuvers of war become the daily business of thousands of men during the very best years of their lives. If, as the war adherents claim, it is impossible for the world to get along without war in man's present state of development, may it not be because these impressive preparations have themselves made for war? 

ADVOCATES of peace have published elaborate calculations demonstrating that the armed peace of Europe was only less costly than war itself. Millions of idle men supported at public expense, interest on war debts and all the rest, during the current year, cost the various nations of the earth two billions of dollars, according to an estimate of David Starr Jordan, who also insists that the high cost of living all over the world is due to this senseless waste.

Many years ago I heard Professor James, at a great meeting of the International Peace Society, urge the necessity for "moral substitutes" for war. It is doubtless true that "every man should some time in his life make a definite renunciation of ease and comfort for his country's good"; that he should have the stimulation of "fear nobly resisted"; that he should submit to an impersonal discipline and lose himself in "the heart of a people beating with one desire"; but certainly it is possible to achieve all these without warfare, if we have courage to insist that the much of what the past forced us to accept is not good enough for the present. Certainly the increased moral sensitiveness to the outrage and wrong of warfare has been widely expressed in American newspapers and is evinced in cartoons published every day since the war began.

The rulers of the nations involved in the war have each carefully explained that there was no alternative for him, that some one else was responsible for this war. When, even in the excitement of the first weeks, the neutral nations condemned and the warring nations apologized, may we not say that public sentiment has at last turned against war and that the unconscious reservists of the army of peace are reinforcing the vanguard?

Hull-House, Chicago

Jane Addams [signed]

NO, THE peace movement is not a failure. The European war may better be interpreted as the final object lesson needed to convince mankind of the folly of war. This war will teach a truth that will not soon be forgotten, namely, that "preparedness" directly encourages the very carnage which it is supposed to prevent. We have been told that peace rests upon fear. This is in harmony with the views of a school of philosophers whose members contend that nations can be held together in the bonds of amity only when each nation is fully equipped for battle.

If preparedness were a preventive surely Europe had a guarantee of permanent peace, for they were all read to take up arms at a moment's notice. Hereafter preparation for wars -- preparation for wars that should never come -- must be defended upon some other ground than that it preserves peace. The peace argument, based upon preparedness, overlooks the fact that such preparedness cannot be continuous without a cultivation of the war spirit, and the war spirit is impossible unless there is some real or imaginary foe against whom the nation's antagonism can be directed. Passions must be fanned in the name of patriotism, and man-killing devices must be planned in the alleged interest of brotherhood! This war may be worth its awful cost if it buries forever this fallacious theory.

WAR, in so far as it is not a matter of desire, is a state of mind, and it is possible to effect a change in both the desire and the thought of a nation. It is just as easy to stimulate a public favorable to peaceful methods as to cultivate the idea that war is a legitimate means of securing an International advantage. With moral growth it should become more and more easy to substitute the doctrine that Right makes Might for the doctrine that Might makes Right.

See what mediation has done. The possibility of war in the Western Hemisphere has been made more remote by the offer of mediation by Brazil, Argentina and Chile, and its acceptance by the United States and Mexico. Henceforth it will be easier in the Americas to preserve peace and more difficult to excite discord.

A good omen is to be found in the recent ratification of eighteen treaties, binding this country to Central America, to the leading countries of South America and to six of the nations of Europe, by conventions providing that there shall be no war until the matter in dispute is investigated. This Government offered to link itself to any and every other nation, without regard to the size or strength of the nation, in an agreement that there shall be time for deliberation before the beginning of hostilities, and twenty-two treaties of this kind have already been signed.

Here, then, are the two systems: one puts its trust in force, the other reason. Only those of little faith can doubt the triumph of the latter.

DIPLOMACY is the art of keeping cool. We go far toward insuring peace when we agree that there shall be a period during which the real issues may be set forth and questions of honor be separated from questions of fact. Man excited is quite different from man when calm. When we are angry we talk of what we can do; when our anger has passed away we consider what we should do.

Truth is vindicated in two ways -- first by its success when tried, and second by the failure of error when error is put to the test. The truth embodied in the peace movement is receiving a double vindication at this time. The ultimatum will yet give place to the motto: Nothing is final between friends.

Department of State, Washington

William Jennings Bryan [signed]