XI ENGLAND UNDER THE STRESS OF WAR
THE months following the outbreak of the war were busy ones for the American Embassy in London. The Embassies of all the great Powers with which Great Britain was contending were handed over to Page, and the citizens of these countries---Germany, Austria, Turkey---who found themselves stranded in England, were practically made his wards. It is a constant astonishment to his biographer that, during all the labour and distractions of this period, Page should have found time to write long letters describing the disturbing scene. There are scores of them, all penned in the beautiful copper-plate handwriting that shows no signs of excitement or weariness, but is in itself an evidence of mental poise and of the sure grip which Page had upon the evolving drama. From the many sent in these autumn and early winter months the following selections are made:
September 22nd, 1914.
MY DEAR HOUSE:
When the day of settlement comes, the settlement must make sure that the day of militarism is done and can come no more. If sheer brute force is to rule the world, it will not be worth living in. If German bureaucratic brute force could conquer Europe, presently it would try to conquer the United States; and we should all go back to the era of war as man's chief industry and back to the domination of kings by divine right. It seems to me, therefore, that the Hohenzollern idea must perish---be utterly strangled in the making of peace.
Just how to do this, it is not yet easy to say. If the German defeat be emphatic enough and dramatic enough, the question may answer itself---how's the best way to be rid of the danger of the recurrence of a military bureaucracy? But in any event, this thing must be killed forever---somehow. I think that a firm insistence on this is the main task that mediation will bring. The rest will be corollaries of this.
The danger, of course, as all the world is beginning to fear, is that the Kaiser, after a local victory---especially if he should yet take Paris---will propose peace, saying that he dreads the very sight of blood---propose peace in time, as he will hope, to save his throne, his dynasty, his system. That will be a dangerous day. The horror of war will have a tendency to make many persons in the countries of the Allies accept it. All the peace folk in the world will say "Accept it!" But if he and his throne and his dynasty and his system be saved, in twenty-five years the whole job must be done over again.
We are settling down to a routine of double work and to an oppression of gloom. Dead men, dead men, maimed men, the dull gray dread of what may happen next, the impossibility of changing the subject, the monotony of gloom, the consequent dimness of ideals, the overworking of the emotions and the heavy bondage of thought---the days go swiftly: that's one blessing.
The diplomatic work proper brings fewer difficulties than you would guess. New subjects and new duties come with great rapidity, but they soon fall into formulas ---at least into classes. We shall have no sharp crises nor grave difficulties so long as our Government and this Government keep their more than friendly relations. I see Sir Edward Grey almost every day. We talk of many things---all phases of one vast wreck; and all the clear-cut points that come up I report by telegraph. To-day the talk was of American cargoes in British ships and the machinery they have set up here for fair settlement. Then of Americans applying for enlistment in Canadian regiments. "If sheer brute force conquer Europe," said he, "the United States will be the only country where life will be worth living; and in time you will have to fight against it, too, if it conquer Europe." He spoke of the letter he had just received from the President, and he asked me many sympathetic questions about you also and about your health. I ventured to express some solicitude for him,
"How much do you get out now?"
"Only for an automobile drive Sunday afternoon."
This from a man who is never happy away from nature and is at home only in the woods and along the streams. He looks worn.
I hear nothing but satisfaction with our neutrality tight-rope walk. I think we are keeping it here, by close attention to our work and by silence.
Our volunteer and temporary aids are doing well---especially the army and navy officers. We now occupy three work-places: (1) the over-crowded embassy; (2) a suite of offices around the corner where the ever-lengthening list of inquiries for persons is handled and where an army officer pays money to persons whose friends have deposited it for them with the Government in Washington---just now at the rate of about $15,000 a day; and (3) two great rooms at the Savoy Hotel, where the admirable relief committee (which meets all trains that bring people from the continent) gives aid to the needy and helps people to get tickets home. They have this week helped about 400 with more or less money---after full investigation.
At the Embassy a secretary remains till bed-time, which generally means till midnight; and I go back there for an hour or two every night.
The financial help we give to German and Austrian subjects (poor devils) is given, of course, at their embassies, where we have men---our men---in charge. Each of these governments accepted my offer to give our Ambassadors (Gerard and Penfield) a sum of money to help Americans if I would set aside an equal sum to help their people here. The German fund that I thus began with was $50,000; the Austrian, $25,000. All this and more will be needed before the war ends.---All this activity is kept up with scrupulous attention to the British rules and regulations. In fact, we are helping this Government much in the management of these "alien enemies," as they call them.
I am amazed at the good health we all keep with this big volume of work and the long hours. Not a man nor a woman has been ill a day. I have known something about work and the spirit of good work in other organizations of various sorts; but I never saw one work in better spirit than this. And remember, most of them are volunteers.
The soldiers here complained for weeks in private about the lethargy of the people---the slowness of men to enlist. But they seemed to me to complain with insufficient reason. For now they come by thousands. They do need more men in the field, and they may conscript them, but I doubt the necessity. But I run across such incidents as these: I met the Dowager Countess of D----- yesterday ---a woman of 65, as tall as I and as erect herself as a soldier, who might be taken for a woman of 40, prematurely gray. "I had five sons in the Boer War. I have three in this war. I do not know where any one of them is." Mrs. Page's maid is talking of leaving her. "My two brothers have gone to the war and perhaps I ought to help their wives and children." The Countess and the maid are of the same blood, each alike unconquerable. My chauffeur has talked all day about the naval battle in which five German ships were lately sunk.(<A NAME="n68"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#68">68</A>) He reminded me of the night two months ago when he drove Mrs. Page and me to dine with Sir John and Lady Jellicoe---Jellicoe now, you know, being in command of the British fleet.
This Kingdom has settled down to war as its one great piece of business now in hand, and it is impossible, as the busy, burdensome days pass, to pick out events or impressions that one can be sure are worth writing. For instance a soldier---a man in the War Office---told me to-day that Lord Kitchener had just told him that the war may last for several years. That, I confess, seems to me very improbable, and (what is of more importance) it is not the notion held by most men whose judgment I respect. But all the military men say it will be long. It would take several years to kill that vast horde of Germans, but it will not take so long to starve them out. Food here is practically as cheap as it was three months ago and the sea routes are all open to England and practically all closed to Germany. The ultimate result, of course, will be Germany's defeat. But the British are now going about the business of war as if they knew they would continue it indefinitely. The grim efficiency of their work even in small details was illustrated to-day by the Government's informing us that a German handy man, whom the German Ambassador left at his Embassy, with the English Government's consent, Is a spy---that he sends verbal messages to Germany by women who are permitted to go home, and that they have found letters written by him sewed in some of these women's undergarments! This man has been at work there every day under the two very good men whom I have put in charge there and who have never suspected him. How on earth they found this out simply passes my understanding. Fortunately it doesn't bring any embarrassment to us; he was not in our pay and he was left by the German Ambassador with the British Government's consent, to take care of the house. Again, when the German Chancellor made a statement two days ago about the causes of the war, in a few hours Sir Edward Grey issued a statement showing that the Chancellor had misstated every important historic fact.---The other day a commercial telegram was sent (or started) by Mr. Bryan for some bank or trading concern in the United States, managed by Germans, to some correspondent of theirs in Germany. It contained the words, "Where is Harry?" The censor here stopped it. It was brought to me with the explanation that "Harry" is one of the most notorious of German spies---whom they would like to catch. The English were slow in getting into full action, but now they never miss a trick, little or big.
The Germans have far more than their match in resources and in shrewdness and---in character. As the bloody drama unfolds itself, the hollow pretence and essential barbarity of Prussian militarism become plainer and plainer: there is no doubt of that. And so does the invincibility of this race. A well-known Englishman told me to-day that his three sons, his son-in-law, and half his office men are in the military service, "where they belong in a time like this." The lady who once so sharply criticized this gentleman to Mrs. Page has a son and a brother in the army in France. It makes you take a fresh grip on your eyelids to hear either of these talk. In fact the strain on one's emotions, day in and day out, makes one wonder if the world is real---or is this a vast dream? From sheer emotional exhaustion I slept almost all day last Sunday, though I had not for several days lost sleep at all. Many persons tell me of their similar experiences. The universe seems muffled. There is a ghostly silence in London (so it seems); and only dim street lights are lighted at night. No experience seems normal. A vast organization is working day and night down town receiving Belgian refugees. They become the guests of the English. They are assigned to people's homes, to boarding houses, to institutions. They are taking care of them---this government and this people are. I do not recall when one nation ever did another whole nation just such a hospitable service as this. You can't see that work going on and remain unmoved. An old woman who has an income of $15 a week decided that she could live on $7.50. She buys milk with the other $7.50 and goes to meet every train at one of the big stations with a basket filled with baby bottles, and she gives milk to every hungry-looking baby she sees. Our American committeeman, Hoover, saw her in trouble the other day and asked her what was the matter. She explained that the police would no longer admit her to the platform because she didn't belong to any relief committee. He took her to headquarters and said: "Do you see this good old lady? She puts you and me and everybody else to shame---do you understand?" The old lady now gets to the platform. Hoover himself gave $5,000 for helping stranded Americans and he goes to the trains to meet them, while the war has stopped his big business and his big income. This is a sample of the noble American end of the story.
These are the saying class of people to whom life becomes a bore unless they can help somebody. There's just such a fellow in Brussels---you may have heard of him, for his name is Whitlock. Stories of his showing himself a man come out of that closed-up city every week. To a really big man, it doesn't matter whether his post is a little post, or a big post but, if I were President, I'd give Whitlock a big post. There's another fellow somewhere in Germany---a consul---of whom I never heard till the other day. But people have taken to coming in my office ---English ladies---who wish to thank "you and your great government" for the courage and courtesy of this consul.(<A NAME="n69"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#69">69</A>) Stories about him will follow. Herrick, too, in Paris, somehow causes Americans and English and even Guatemalans who come along to go out of their way to say what he has done for them. Now there is a quality in the old woman with the baby bottles, and in the consul and in Whitlock and Hoover and Herrick and this English nation which adopts the Belgians---a quality that is invincible. When folk like these come down the road, I respectfully do obeisance to them. And---it's this kind of folk that the Germans have run up against. I thank Heaven I'm of their race and blood.
The whole world is bound to be changed as a result of this war. If Germany should win, our Monroe Doctrine would at once be shot in two, and we should have to get "out of the sun." The military party is a party of conquest---absolutely. If England wins, as of course she will, it'll be a bigger and a stronger England, with no strong enemy in the world, with her Empire knit closer than ever---India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt; under obligations to and in alliance with Russia! England will not need our friendship as much as she now needs it; and there may come governments here that will show they do not. In any event, you see, the world will be changed. It's changed already: witness Bernstorff(<A NAME="n70"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#70">70</A>) and Münsterberg(<A NAME="n71"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#71">71</A>) playing the part once played by Irish agitators!
All of which means that it is high time we were constructing a foreign service. First of all, Congress ought to make it possible to have half a dozen or more permanent foreign under-secretaries---men who, after service in the Department, could go out as Ministers and Ambassadors; it ought generously to reorganize the whole thing. It ought to have a competent study made of the foreign offices of other governments. Of course it ought to get room to work in. Then it ought at once to give its Ambassadors and Ministers homes and dignified treatment. We've got to play a part in the world whether we wish to or not. Think of these things.
The blindest great force in this world to-day is the Prussian War Party---blind and stupid.---Well, and the most weary man in London just at this hour is
Your humble servant,
W. H. R
but he'll be all right in the morning.
[Undated](<A NAME="n72"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#72">72</A>)
I recall one night when we were dining at Sir John Jellicoe's, he told me that the Admiralty never slept ---that he had a telephone by his bed every night.
"Did it ever ring? I asked.
"No; but it will."
You begin to see pretty clearly how English history has been made and makes itself. This afternoon Lady S---- told your mother of her three sons, one on a warship in the North Sea, another with the army in France, and a third in training to go. "How brave you all are!" said your mother, and her answer was: "They belong to their country; we can't do anything else." One of the daughters-in-law of the late Lord Salisbury came to see me to find out if I could make an inquiry about her son who was reported "missing" after the battle of Mons. She was dry-eyed, calm, self-restrained---very grateful for the effort I promised to make; but a Spartan woman would have envied her self-possession. It turned out that her son was dead.
You hear experiences like these almost every day. These are the kinds of women and the kinds of men that have made the British Empire and the English race. You needn't talk of decadence. All their great qualities are in them here and now. I believe that half the young men who came to Katharine's(<A NAME="n73"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#73">73</A>) dances last winter and who used to drop in at the house once in a while are dead in France already. They went as a matter of course. This is the reason they are going to win. Now these things impress you, as they come to you day by day.
There isn't any formal social life now---no dinners, no parties. A few friends dine with a few friends now and then very quietly. The ladies of fashion are hospital nurses and Red Cross workers, or they are collecting socks and blankets for the soldiers. One such woman told your mother to-day that she went to one of the recruiting camps every day and taught the young fellows what colloquial French she could. Every man, woman, and child seems to be doing something. In the ordinary daily life, we see few of them: everybody is at work somewhere.
We live in a world of mystery: nothing can surprise us. The rumour is that a servant in one of the great families sent word to the Germans where the three English cruisers(<A NAME="n74"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#74">74</A>) were that German submarines blew up the other day. Not a German in the Kingdom can earn a penny. We're giving thousands of them money at the German Embassy to keep them alive. Our Austrian Embassy runs a soup kitchen where it feeds a lot of Austrians. Your mother went around there the other day and they showed that they thought they owe their daily bread to her. One day she went to one of the big houses where the English receive and distribute the thousands of Belgians who come here, poor creatures, to be taken care of. One old woman asked your mother in French if she were a princess. The lady that was with your mother answered, "Une Grande Dame." That seemed to do as well.
This government doesn't now let anybody carry any food away. But to-day they consented on condition I'd receive the food (for the Belgians) and consign it to Whitlock. This is their way of keeping it out of German hands ---have the Stars and Stripes, so to speak, to cover every bag of flour and of salt. That's only one of 1,000 queer activities that I engage in. I have a German princess's(<A NAME="n75"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#75">75</A>) jewels in our safe---$100,000 worth of them in my keeping; I have an old English nobleman's check for $40,000 to be sent to men who have been building a house for his daughter in Dresden---to be sent as soon as the German Government agrees not to arrest the lady for debt. I have sent Miss Latimer(<A NAME="n76"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#76">76</A>) over to France to bring an Austrian baby eight months old whose mother will take it to the United States and bring it up an American citizen! The mother can't go and get it for fear the French might detain her; I've got the English Government's permission for the family to go to the United States. Harold(<A NAME="n77"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#77">77</A>) is in Belgium, trying to get a group of English ladies home who went there to nurse wounded English and Belgians and whom the Germans threaten to kidnap and transport to German hospitals---every day a dozen new kinds of jobs.
London is weird and muffled and dark and, in the West End, deserted. Half the lamps are not lighted, and the upper half of the globes of the street lights are painted black---so the Zeppelin raiders may not see them. You've no idea what a strange feeling it gives one. The papers have next to no news. The 23rd day of the great battle is reported very much in the same words as the 3rd day was. Yet nobody talks of much else. The censor erases most of the matter the correspondents write. We're in a sort of dumb as well as dark world. And yet, of course, we know much more here than they know in any other European capital.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
When England, France, and Russia agreed the other day not to make peace separately, that cooked the Kaiser's goose. They'll wear him out. Since England thus has Frenchmen and Russians bound, the Allies are strengthened at their only weak place. That done, England is now going in deliberately, methodically, patiently to do the task. Even a fortnight ago, the people of this Kingdom didn't realize all that the war means to them. But the fever is rising now. The wounded are coming back, the dead are mourned, and the agony of hearing only that such-and-such a man is missing---these are having a prodigious effect. The men I meet now say in a matter-of-fact way: "Oh, yes! we'll get 'em, of course; the only question is, how long it will take us and how many of us it will cost. But no matter, we'll get 'em."
Old ladies and gentlemen of the high, titled world now begin by driving to my house almost every morning while I am at breakfast. With many apologies for calling so soon and with the fear that they interrupt me, they ask if I can make an inquiry in Germany for "my son," or ".my nephew"---"he's--- among the missing." They never weep; their voices do not falter; they are brave and proud and self-restrained. It seems a sort of matter-of-course to them. Sometimes when they get home, they write me polite notes thanking me for receiving them. This morning the first man was Sir Dighton Probyn of Queen Alexandra's household---so dignified and courteous that you'd hardly have guessed his errand. And at intervals they come all day. Not a tear have I seen yet. They take it as a part of the price of greatness and of empire. You guess at their grief only by their reticence. They use as few words as possible and then courteously take themselves away. It isn't an accident that these people own a fifth of the world. Utterly unwarlike, they outlast anybody else when war comes. You don't get a sense of fighting here---only of endurance and of high resolve. Fighting is a sort of incident in the struggle to keep their world from German domination. . . .
October 11, 1914.
There is absolutely nothing to write. It's war, war, war all the time; no change of subject; and, if you changed with your tongue, you couldn't change in your thought; war, war, war---"for God's sake find out if my son is dead or a prisoner"; rumours---they say that two French generals were shot for not supporting French, and then they say only one; and people come who have helped take the wounded French from the field and they won't even talk, it is so horrible; and a lady says that her own son (wounded) told her that when a man raised up in the trench to fire, the stench was so awful that it made him sick for an hour; and the poor Belgians come here by the tens of thousands, and special trains bring the English wounded; and the newspapers tell little or nothing---every day's reports like the preceding days; and yet nobody talks about anything else.
Now and then the subject of its settlement is mentioned---Belgium and Serbia, of course, to be saved and far as possible indemnified; Russia to have the Slay-Austrian States and Constantinople; France to have Alsace-Lorraine, of course; and Poland to go to Russia; Schleswig-Holstein and the Kiel Canal no longer to be German; all the South-German States to become Austrian and none of the German States to be under Prussian rule; the Hohenzollerns to be eliminated; the German fleet, or what is left of it, to become Great Britain's; and the German colonies to be used to satisfy such of the Allies as clamour for more than they get.
Meantime this invincible race is doing this revolutionary task marvellously---volunteering; trying to buy arms in the United States (a Pittsburgh manufacturer is now here trying to close a bargain with the War Office!);(<A NAME="n78"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#78">78</A>) knitting socks and mufflers; taking in all the poor Belgians; stopping all possible expenditure; darkening London at night; doing every conceivable thing to win as if they had been waging this war always and meant to do nothing else for the rest of their lives---and not the slightest doubt about the result and apparently indifferent how long it lasts or how much it costs.
Every aspect of it gets on your nerves. I can't keep from wondering how the world will seem after it is over---Germany (that is, Prussia and its system) cut out like a cancer; England owning still more of the earth; Belgium---all the men dead; France bankrupt; Russia admitted to the society of nations; the British Empire entering on a new lease of life; no great navy but one; no great army but the Russian; nearly all governments in Europe bankrupt; Germany gone from the sea---in ten years it will be difficult to recall clearly the Europe of the last ten years. And the future of the world more than ever in our hands!
We here don't know what you think or what you know at home; we haven't yet any time to read United States newspapers, which come very, very late; nobody writes us real letters (or the censor gets 'em, perhaps!); and so the war, the war, the war is the one thing that holds our minds.
We have taken a house for the Chancery(<A NAME="n79"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#79">79</A>)--almost the size of my house in Grosvenor Square-for the same sum as rent that the landlord proposed hereafter to charge us for the old hole where we've been for twenty-nine years. For the first time Uncle Sam has a decent place in London. We've five times as much room and ten times as much work. Now---just this last week or two---I get off Sundays: that's doing well. And I don't now often go back at night. So, you see, we've much to he thankful for.---Shall we insure against Zeppelins? That's what everybody's asking. I told the Spanish Ambassador yesterday that I am going to ask the German Government for instructions about insuring their Embassy here!
Write and send some news. I saw an American to-day who says he's going home to-morrow." Cable me," said I, "if you find the continent where it used to be."
WALTER H. PAGE.
P. S. It is strange how little we know what you know on your side and just what you think, what relative value you put on this and what on that. There's a new sort of loneliness sprung up because of the universal absorption in the war.
And I hear all sorts of contradictory rumours about the effect of the German crusade in the United States. Oh well, the world has got to choose whether it will have English or German domination in Europe; that's the single big question at issue. For my part I'll risk the English and then make a fresh start ourselves to outstrip them in the spread of well-being; in the elevation of mankind of all classes; in the broadening of democracy and democratic rule (which is the sheet-anchor of all men's hopes just as bureaucracy. and militarism are the destruction of all men's hopes); in the spread of humane feeling and action; in the growth of human kindness; in the tender treatment of women and children and the old; in literature, in art; in the abatement of suffering; in great changes in economic conditions which discourage poverty; and in science which gives us new leases on life and new tools and wider visions. These are our world tasks, with England as our friendly rival and helper. God bless us.
W. H. P.
<CENTER>To Arthur W. Page
London, November 6, 1914.
Those excellent photographs, those excellent apples, those excellent cigars-thanks. I'm thinking of sending Kitty(<A NAME="n80"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#80">80</A>) over again. They all spell and smell and taste of home---of the U. S. A. Even the messenger herself seems Unitedstatesy, and that's a good quality, I assure you. She's told us less news than you'd think she might for so long a journey and so long a visit; but that's the way with us all. And, I dare say, if it were all put together it would make a pretty big news-budget. And luckily for us (I often think we are among the luckiest families in the world) all she says is quite cheerful. It's a wonderful report she makes of County Line(<A NAME="n81"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#81">81</A>)---the country, the place, the house, and its inhabitants. Maybe, praise God, I'll see it myself some day---it and them.
But---but---I don't know when and can't guess out of this vast fog of war and doom. The worst of it is nobody knows just what is happening. I have, for an example, known for a week of the blowing up of a British dreadnaught(<A NAME="n82"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#82">82</A>)---thousands of people know it privately---and yet it isn't published! Such secrecy makes you fear there may be other and even worse secrets. But I don't really believe there are. What I am trying to say is, so far as news (and many other things) go, we are under a military rule.
It's beginning to wear on us badly. It presses down, presses down, presses down in an indescribable way. All the people you see have lost sons or brothers; mourning becomes visible over a wider area all the time; people talk of nothing else; all the books are about the war; ordinary social life is suspended---people are visibly growing older. And there are some aspects of it that are incomprehensible. For instance, a group of American and English military men and correspondents were talking with me yesterday---men who have been on both sides---in Germany and Belgium and in France---and they say that the Germans in France alone have had 750,000 men killed. The Allies have lost 400,000 to 500,000. This in France only. Take the other fighting lines and there must already be a total of 2,000,000 killed. Nothing like that has ever happened before in the history of the world. A flood or a fire or a wreck which has killed 500 has often shocked all mankind. Yet we know of this enormous slaughter and (in a way) are not greatly moved. I don't know of a better measure of the brutalizing effect of war---it's bringing us to take a new and more inhuman standard to measure events by.
As for any political or economic reckoning---that's beyond any man's ability yet. I see strings of incomprehensible figures that some economist or other now and then puts in the papers, summing up the loss in pounds sterling. But that means nothing because we have no proper measure of it. If a man lose $10 or $10,000 we can grasp that. But when nations shoot away so many million pounds sterling every day---that means nothing to me. I do know that there's going to be no money on this side the world for a long time to buy American securities. The whole world is going to be hard up in consequence of the bankruptcy of these nations, the inestimable destruction of property, and the loss of productive men. I fancy that such a change will come in the economic and financial readjustment of the world as nobody can yet guess at.---Are Americans studying these things? It is not only South-American trade; it is all sorts of manufacturers; it is financial influence---if we can quit spending and wasting, and husband our earnings. There's no telling the enormous advantages we shall gain if we are wise.
The extent to which the German people have permitted themselves to be fooled is beyond belief. As a little instance of it, I enclose a copy of a letter that Lord Bryce gave me, written by an English woman who did good social work in her early life---a woman of sense---and who married a German merchant and has spent her married life in Germany. She is a wholly sincere person. This letter she wrote to a friend in England and---she believes every word of it. If she believes it, the great mass of the Germans believe similar things. I have heard of a number of such letters---sincere, as this one is. It gives a better insight into the average German mind than a hundred speeches by the Emperor.
This German and Austrian diplomatic business involves an enormous amount of work. I've now sent one man to Vienna and another to Berlin to straighten out almost hopeless tangles and lies about prisoners and such things and to see if they won't agree to swap more civilians detained in each country. On top of these, yesterday came the Turkish Embassy! Alas, we shall never see old Tewfik(<A NAME="n83"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#83">83</A>) again! This business begins briskly to-day with the detention of every Turkish consul in the British Empire. Lord! I dread the missionaries; and I know they're coming now. This makes four embassies. We put up a sign, "The American Embassy," on every one of them. Work? We're worked to death. Two nights ago I didn't get time to read a letter or even a telegram that had come that day till 11 o'clock at night. For on top of all these Embassies, I've had to become Commissary-General to feed 6,000,000 starving people in Belgium; and practically all the food must come from the United States. You can't buy food for export in any country in Europe. The devastation of Belgium defeats the Germans.---I don't mean in battle but I mean in the after-judgment of mankind. They cannot recover from that half as soon as they may recover from the economic losses of the war. The reducing of those people to starvation---that will stick to damn them in history. whatever they win or whatever they lose.
When's it going to end? Everybody who ought to know says at the earliest next year---next summer. Many say in two years. As for me, I don't know. I don't see how it can end soon. Neither can lick the other to a frazzle and neither can afford to give up till it is completely licked. This way of living in trenches and fighting a month at a time in one place is a new thing in warfare. Many a man shoots a cannon all day for a month without seeing a single enemy. There are many wounded men back here who say they haven't seen a single German. When the trenches become so full of dead men that the living can't stay there longer, they move back to other trenches. So it goes on. Each side has several more million. men to lose. What the end will be---I mean when it will come, I don't see how to guess. The Allies are obliged to win; they have more food and more money, and in the long run, more men. But the German fighting machine is by far the best organization ever made---not the best men,, but the best organization; and the whole German people believe what the woman writes whose letter I send you. It'll take a long time to beat it.
W. H. P.
The letter that Page inclosed, and another copy of which was sent to the President, purported to be written by the English wife of a German in Bremen. It was as follows:
It is very difficult to write, more difficult to believe that what I write will succeed in reaching you. My husband insists on my urging you---it is not necessary I am sure---to destroy the letter and all possible indications of its origin, should you think it worth translating. The letter will go by a business friend of my husband's to Holland, and be got off from there. For our business with Holland is now exceedingly brisk as you may understand. Her neutrality is most precious to us.(<A NAME="n84"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#84">84</A>)
Well, I have of course a divided mind. I think of those old days in Liverpool and Devonshire---how far off they seem I And yet I spent all last year in England. It was in March last when I was with you and we talked of the amazing treatment of your army---I cannot any longer call it our army---by ministers crying for the resignation of its officers and eager to make their humiliation an election cry! How far off that seems, too! Let me tell you that it was the conduct of your ministers, Churchill especially, that made people here so confident that your Government could not fight. It seemed impossible that Lloyd George and his following could have the effrontery to pose as a "war" cabinet; still more impossible that any sane people could trust them if they did! Perhaps you may remember a talk we had also in March about Matthew Arnold whom I was reading again during my convalescence at Sidmouth. You said that "Friendship's Garland" and its Arminius could not be written now. I disputed that and told you that it was still true that your Government talked and "gassed" just as much as ever, and were wilfully blind to the fact that your power of action was wholly unequal to your words. As in 1870 so now. Nay, worse, your rulers have always known it perfectly well, but refused to see it or to admit it, because they wanted office and knew that to say the truth would bring the radical vote in the cities upon their poor heads. It is the old hypocrisy, in the sense in which Germans have always accused your nation: alas! and it is half my nation too. You pride yourselves on "Keeping your word" to Belgium. But you pride yourselves also, not so overtly just now, on always refusing to prepare yourselves to keep that word in deed. In the first days of August you knew, absolutely and beyond all doubt, that you could do nothing to make good your word. You had not the moral courage to say so, and, having said so, to act accordingly and to warn Belgium that your promise was "a scrap of paper," and effectively nothing more. It is nothing more, and has proved to be nothing more, but you do not see that your indelible disgrace lies just in this, that you unctuously proclaim that you are keeping your word when all the time you know, you have always known, that you refused utterly and completely to take the needful steps to enable you to translate word into action. Have you not torn up your " scrap of paper" just as effectively as Germany has? As my husband puts it: England gave Belgium a check, a big check, and gave it with much ostentation, but took care that there should be no funds to meet it! Trusting to your check Belgium finds herself bankrupt, sequestrated, blotted out as a nation. But I know England well enough to foresee that English statesmen, with our old friend, the Manchester Guardian, which we used to read in years gone by, will always quote with pride how they "guaranteed" the neutrality of Belgium.
As to the future. You cannot win. A nation that has prided itself on making no sacrifice for political power or even independence must pay for its pride. Our house here in Bremen has lately been by way of a centre for naval men, and to a less extent, for officers of the neighbouring commands. They are absolutely confident that they will land ten army corps in England before Christmas. It is terrible to know what they mean to go for. They mean to destroy. Every town which remotely is concerned with war material is to be annihilated. Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Northampton are to be wiped out, and the men killed, ruthlessly hunted down. The fact that Lancashire and Yorkshire have held aloof from recruiting is not to save them. The fact that Great Britain is to be a Reichsland will involve the destruction of inhabitants, to enable German citizens to be planted in your country in their place. German soldiers hope that your poor creatures will resist, as patriots should, but they doubt it very much. For resistance will facilitate the process of clearance. Ireland will be left independent, and its harmlessness will be guaranteed by its inevitable civil war.
You may wonder, as I do sometimes, whether this hatred of England is not unworthy, or a form of mental disease. But you must know that it is at bottom not hatred but contempt; fierce, unreasoning scorn for a country that pursues money and ease, from aristocrat to trade-unionist labourer, when it has a great inheritance to defend. I feel bitter, too, for I spent half my life in your country and my dearest friends are all English still; and yet I am deeply ashamed of the hypocrisy and make-believe that has initiated your national policy and brought you down. Now, one thing more. England is, after all, only a stepping stone. From Liverpool, Queenstown, Glasgow, Belfast, we shall reach out across the ocean. I firmly believe that within a year Germany will have seized the new Canal and proclaimed its defiance of the great Monroe Doctrine. We have six million Germans in the United States, and the Irish-Americans behind them. The Americans, believe me, are as a nation a cowardly nation, and will never fight organized strength except in defense of their own territories. With the Nova Scotian peninsula and the Bermudas, with the West Indies and the Guianas we shall be able to dominate the Americas. By our possession of the entire Western European seaboard America can find no outlet for its products except by our favour. Her finance is in German hands, her commercial capitals, New York and Chicago, are in reality German cities. It is some years since my father and I were in New York. But my opinion is not very different from that of the forceful men who have planned this war---that with Britain as a base the control of the American continent is under existing conditions the task of a couple of months.
I remember a conversation with Doctor Dohrn, the head of the great biological station at Naples, some four or five years ago. He was complaining of want of adequate subventions from Berlin. "Everything is wanted for the Navy," he said. "And what really does Germany want with such a navy?" I asked. "She is always saying that she certainly does not regard it as a weapon against England." At that Doctor Dohrn raised his eyebrows. "But you, gnädige Frau, are a German?" "Of course." "Well, then, you will understand me when I say with all the seriousness I can command that this fleet of ours is intended to deal with smugglers on the shores of the Island of Rügen." I laughed. He became graver still. "The ultimate enemy of our country is America;(<A NAME="n85"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#85">85</A>) and I pray that I may see the day of an alliance between a beaten England and a victorious Fatherland against the bully of the Americas." Well, Germany and Austria were never friends until Sadowa had shown the way. Oh! if your country, which in spite of all I love so much, would but "see things clearly and see them whole."
Bremen, September 25, 1914.
London, Sunday, November 15, 1914.
You were very good to sit down in Greensboro, or anywhere else, and to write me a fine letter. Do that often. You say there's nothing to do now in the Sandhills. Write us letters: that's a fair job!
God save us, we need 'em. We need anything from the sane part of the world to enable us to keep our balance. One of the commonest things you hear about now is the insanity of a good number of the poor fellows who come back from the trenches as well as of a good many Belgians. The sights and sounds they've experienced unhinge their reason. If this war keep up long enough---and it isn't going to end soon---people who have had no sight of it will go crazy, too---the continuous thought of it, the inability to get away from it by any device whatever---all this tells on us all. Letters, then, plenty of them---let 'em come.
You are in a peaceful land. The war is a long, long way off. You suffer nothing worse than a little idleness and a little poverty. They are nothing. I hope (and believe) that you get enough to eat. Be content, then. Read the poets, improve a piece of land, play with the baby, learn golf. That's the happy and philosophic and fortunate life in these times of world-madness.
As for the continent of Europe---forget it. We have paid far too much attention to it. It has ceased to be worth it. And now it's of far less value to us---and will be for the rest of your life---than it has ever been before. An ancient home of man, the home, too, of beautiful things---buildings, pictures, old places, old traditions, dead civilizations---the place where man rose from barbarism to civilization---it is now bankrupt, its best young men dead, its system of politics and of government a failure, its social structure enslaving and tyrannical---it has little help for us. The American spirit, which is the spirit that concerns itself with making life better for the whole mass of men---that's at home at its best with us. The whole future of the race is in the new countries---our country chiefly. This grows on one more and more and more. The things that are best worth while are on our side of the ocean. And we've got all the bigger job to do because of this violent demonstration of the failure of continental Europe. It's gone on living on a false basis till its elements got so mixed that it has simply blown itself to pieces. It is a great convulsion of nature, as an earthquake or a volcano is. Human life there isn't worth what a yellow dog's life is worth in Moore County. Don't bother yourself with the continent of Europe any more---except to learn the value of a real democracy and the benefits it can confer precisely in proportion to the extent to which men trust to it. Did you ever read my Address delivered before the Royal Institution of Great Britain?(<A NAME="n87"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#87">87</A>) I enclose a copy. Now that's my idea of the very milk of the word. To come down to daily, deadly things---this upheaval is simply infernal. Parliament opened the other day and half the old lords that sat in their robes had lost their heirs and a larger part of the members of the House wore khaki. To-morrow they will vote $1,125,000,000 for war purposes. They had already voted $500,000,000. They'll vote more, and more, and more, if necessary. They are raising a new army of 2,000,000 men. Every man and every dollar they have will go if necessary. That's what I call an invincible people. The Kaiser woke up the wrong passenger. But for fifty years the continent won't be worth living on. My heavens! what bankruptcy will follow death!
W. H. P.
Sunday, December 20th, 1914.
DEAR OLD MAN:
I envy both you and your mother(<A NAME="n89"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#89">89</A>) your chance to make plans for the farm and the house and all the rest of it and to have one another to talk to. And, most of all, you are where you can now and then change the subject. You can guess somewhat at our plight when Kitty and I confessed to one another last night that we were dead tired and needed to go to bed early and to stay long. She's sleeping yet, the dear kid, and I hope she'll sleep. till lunch time. There isn't anything the matter with us but the war; but that's enough, Heaven knows. It's the worst ailment that has ever struck me. Then, if you add to that this dark, wet, foggy, sooty, cold, penetrating climate---you ought to thank your stars that you are not in it. I'm glad your mother's out of it, as much as we miss her; and miss her? Good gracious! there's no telling the hole her absence makes in all our life. But Kitty is a trump, true blue and dead game, and the very best company you can find in a day's journey. And, much as we miss your mother, you mustn't weep for us; we are having some fun and are planning more. I could have no end of fun with her if I had any time. But to work all day and till bedtime doesn't leave much time for sport.
The farm---the farm---the farm---it's yours and Mother's to plan and make and do with as you wish. I shall be happy whatever you do, even if you put the roof in the cellar and the cellar on top of the house.
If you have room enough (16 X 10 plus a fire and a bath are enough for me), I'll go down there and write a book. If you haven't it, I'll go somewhere else and write a book. I don't propose to be made unhappy by any house or by the lack of any house nor by anything whatsoever.
All the details of life go on here just the same. The war goes as slowly as death because it is death, death to millions of men. We've all said all we know about it to one another a thousand times; nobody knows anything else; nobody can guess when it will end; nobody has any doubt about how it will end, unless some totally improbable and unexpected thing happens, such as the falling out of the Allies, which can't happen for none of them can afford it; and we go around the same bloody circle all the time. The papers never have any news; nobody ever talks about anything else; everybody is tired to death; nobody is cheerful; when it isn't sick Belgians, it's aeroplanes; and when it isn't aeroplanes, it's bombarding the coast of England. When it isn't an American ship held up, it's a fool American-German arrested as a spy; and when it isn't a spy it's a liar who knows the Zeppelins are coming tonight. We don't know anything; we don't believe anybody; we should be surprised at nothing; and at 3 o'clock I'm going to the Abbey to a service in honour of the 100 years of peace! The world has all got itself so jumbled up that the bays are all promontories, the mountains are all valleys, and earthquakes are necessary for our happiness. We have disasters for breakfast; mined ships for luncheon; burned cities for dinner; trenches in our dreams, and bombarded towns for small talk.
Peaceful seems the sandy landscape where you are, glad the very blackjacks, happy the curs, blessed the sheep, interesting the chin-whiskered clodhopper, innocent the fool darkey, blessed the mule, for it knows no war. And you have your mother---be happy, boy; you don't know how much you have to be thankful for.
Europe is ceasing to be interesting except as an example of how-not-to-do-it. It has no lessons for us except as a warning. When the whole continent has to go fighting---every blessed one of them---once a century, and half of them half the time between and all prepared even when they are not fighting, and when they shoot away all their money as soon as they begin to get rich a little and everybody else's money, too, and make the whole world poor, and when they kill every third or fourth generation of the best men and leave the worst to rear families, and have to start over afresh every time with a worse stock---give me Uncle Sam and his big farm. We don't need to catch any of this European fife. We can do without it all as well as we can do without the judges' wigs and the court costumes. Besides, I like a land where the potatoes have some flavour, where you can buy a cigar, and get your hair cut and have warm bathrooms.
Build the farm, therefore; and let me hear at every stage of that happy game. May the New Year be the best that has ever come for you !
W. H. P.