The New Internationalism, April 16, 1907

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The New Internationalism


This great Peace Conference convened here was called, not merely that we might talk together and prognosticate concerning the fine things which will take place at the next Hague Conference, but largely that we might take stock of our assets, and formulate the new hopes upon which we venture to predict the final coming of Peace.

I take it that I was asked to speak this evening upon "The New Internationalism," not that I might state the internationalism of the scholar which has been so ably set before you, for in all times the scholar has lived in "the kingdom of the mind," and has known no national bounds; nor yet that I might speak of such international congresses as those which meet to consider questions of universal postal service and sanitary science, which also belongs to that higher kingdom; but rather that I might bring news of those humbler people, who have hitherto failed to enter this "kingdom of the mind" because of that traditional attitude towards aliens which Dr. Adler has mentioned. The serf tied to the soil believed that the people on the other side of the mountain had horns and claws; the peasant who never ventured from his home was assured that he would be killed in his neighbor's fields, although they were as fertile and sunny as his own. Only now, during the last one hundred years, are we able to say that the peasant peoples of the earth, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, have at last come into a larger cosmopolitanism [page 2] founded upon community of interests and knowledge. For the first time in the history of the world these humbler people have been able to undertake peaceful travel -- to cross mountains and seas. An Italian neighbor of mine can come from Naples to Chicago for twenty-two dollars, and he can go back from Chicago to Naples for eighteen dollars, and he often does go back to save his winter's coal bill. It is now for the first time that millions of people throughout the earth have been able to read together. We do not realize how short a term of years it is since this same trick of reading has been spread over the face of the nations. We all read practically the same news every morning. We may accuse our newspapers of lack of accuracy in the reports they make, we may accuse them of lack of perception in that they do not print the significant things as they occur over the face of the earth, but certainly we cannot accuse them of lack of enterprise in pushing their circulations. (Laughter.) As a result of this untiring enterprise, thousands of people are brought together each day into a new common kingdom of the mind; it may be narrow, it may concern only the trivial things of life, the sensations of murder and sudden death, but at least for a few minutes after breakfast each morning millions of men come together and consider those events which are of international report. What is happening from this new bringing together of the peoples of the earth? Some of us who live in cosmopolitan neighborhoods are convinced, although I am sure that you would soon learn it for yourselves if you were subjected to the same environment -- that at this moment there is arising in these cosmopolitan centers a sturdy, a virile and an unprecedented internationalism which is fast becoming too real, too profound, too widespread, ever to lend itself to warfare. The rulers who have hitherto urged warfare because of their dynastic ambitions or their religious differences or their imperialistic vanities, or anything else you please, have always been obliged to dress these motives in fine phrases before they could inscribe them on the banners of the multitude; and these same rulers, before they could induce even their own people to follow them, have been forced to portray the enemy as hideous or wicked or barbaric or "weak." At the present moment, however, if the people who have entered into this new internationalism are to be led into warfare, they must be led against their next-door neighbors; and if they cannot tear themselves apart [page 3] from each other long enough to get the alien point of view, then it is impossible for them to obtain the point of view necessary for the soldier, and ambitious rulers will appeal and command in vain.

Ruskin has been quoted here just now to tell us that war alone preserves the sense of detachment, the willingness to sacrifice life for higher aims which the soldier's career has engendered; and yet it is Ruskin who reminds us that we admire the soldier, not because he goes forth to slay, but because he goes forth ready to be slain. When we get down to the real essence of war, whenever we try to find out what it is which we actually admire -- that which has made men extol war through many generations -- we suddenly discover that it is this high carelessness concerning life, that it is the spirit of the martyr who sets his faith above his life. So I believe that when we once apprehend the international goodwill which is gathering in the depths of the cosmopolitan peoples, that we will there discover a reservoir of that moral devotion which has fostered "the cause of the people," so similar in every nation, throughout all the crises in the world's history. All that we need to do for the healing of the nations is to provide channels through which its beneficent waters may flow. If this devotion to unselfish aims were given its ritual, or, if you please, its paraphernalia, the beat of its own drums; if it were made such a spectacle as men like to see and have a right to see, then I believe that we would be in no danger of losing the value of the war virtues, and that we would find their substitutes in a new cosmopolitanism which is developing in the life of the common people. It is too precious a moral asset to be longer overlooked.

It is in some such hope as this, in the desire to make it valid and tangible, to receive new assurance of its power, that some of us have come to this Peace Congress. It is needless to say that it is hard to formulate it; that altogether this power of devotion to the human cause is no mean force, it is difficult to put it over against the pomp of war. Yet it is growing and developing in this America of ours as it is nowhere else, because nowhere else does it have the same opportunity. Unless we recognize it, unless we lead it forth and give it the courageous expression which it deserves, we will be thrown back into the old ideals of warfare, which we ought to give up, not because they are old, but because they do not fit the present moment. It is needless to say [page 4] that it is always dangerous to be forced to abandon old ideals and emotions without any new ones which may be substituted for them.

If any of you feel as a result of this Peace Congress that admiration for warfare is slipping out of your grasp, and as if, for the moment, you have no hero whom you may whole-heartedly admire, permit me to suggest that new admirations too large for national bounds are developing in the life of a cosmopolitan people, that a gigantic hero is awakening there -- turning in his sleep as it were. When this hero is wide awake and has come into his own, it is quite possible that we will be moved to give him, not the traditional laurel wreath of the soldier, but the martyr's crown. It is also possible that in the moment of decorating this hero of the new internationalism, we may discover that we had hitherto admired the soldier only because he too had represented the spirit of the martyr, and had ever been ready to place his life at the service of a great cause.