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ENGLAND IN TIME OF WAR
MPRESSIVE beyond any possibility of description has been the demeanor of the English under the strain of war. London, of course, is the place where this strain has been most tense. All along Fleet Street and the Strand, in the region about Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square, Pall Mall, Haymarket, Piccadilly Circus, and Piccadilly, down by Victoria Station and Westminster Abbey, the cry of the news-vender all day long, and in the residence districts late into the night, makes it impossible to forget the fact of war. Before the locked gates of Somerset House, ordinarily open, two armed sentries pace back and forth. Occasionally the bus on which one is riding suddenly stops to wait till a company of Territorials in khaki uniform pass by. Six or eight little ragamuffins bearing wooden swords and wearing paper caps march along the Strand with utmost seriousness in the midst of the traffic, bearing a banner with the device:
WE WILL FIGHT FOR
and the passers-by look on them gravely without even an indulgent smile. Along Downing Street there is likely to be a crowd waiting to see some official or some member of the Cabinet drive to or from the Government offices. Along Whitehall there is another crowd, composed of men waiting their chance to reach the War Office in order to enlist. But London is not the only place where the signs of war keep pulling at one's nerves. One acquaintance has told me of playing, or trying to play, golf at North Berwick, and of the impossibility of keeping one's eye, even less one's mind, on the ball while in the waters near by, in full view, gunboats ply, and from over their decks rise war aeroplanes. Another acquaintance has reported his experience of living for a few days in a quiet place in rural England. During the day all seemed normal, he said, but after nightfall there began a procession of railway trains carrying troops -passing along one by one, at five-minute intervals, invisible in the darkness because all their lights were out. Then there are the rumors and stories that pass from mouth to mouth Although not a word of
news, so far as I could find, appeared in the English daily papers concerning the British Expeditionary Force (consisting of troops sent to the Continent to help the Belgians and the French), persistent oral accounts of their going by night from Charing Cross Station, of their transportation in great steamships across the Channel, and even of the return of the wounded to hospitals in England, were from the beginning to be encountered everywhere. On all sides people talked of the war even before there was war; some of them with heartsick dread of its evils, not for themselves, but for the world, hoping that it might be averted; others consumed with anxiety lest England might be too late. man, a Liberal, officially connected with a humane society, almost denounced the Government because they had not had English troops in Antwerp by the 3d of August. One who has not had the experience of being a passive spectator in a belligerent country at a time like this can scarcely imagine the mental and nervous strain of it all. It was as if we were all dreaming the same evil dream, and waking to find it true. And through it all the English, high and low, were imperturbable.
It was during the first few days that the strain was severest. Monday, the 3d of August, was Bank Holiday. The danger of war had come so suddenly that few were prepared for the financial stress. Very wisely the Government decided to extend the Bank Holiday until Friday. On Tuesday, therefore, the banks remained closed, but the shops were open. On one of these days I went with a friend into a shop in Westminster to buy a trifle. The shop was empty of customers. The shopkeeper tried to sell us some watches. He urged us to buy. took off twenty per cent of the price. Finally he admitted that he had to have gold to meet his obligations, and offered us the watches for a ridiculously small sum. We did not know how long we should have to stay in England or how our money would hold out. When we left without buying, I felt as if I was turning my back on a drowning man. Before the Bank Holiday was ended, however, England had recovered her financial equilibrium. Ten-shilling and onepound bank notes were in circulation. They
did not look like money to an Englishman, but of course they were accepted.
Except for the orderly crowds that thronged Trafalgar Square and gathered about Buckingham Palace to cheer the King and Queen during the culmination of the crisis, there were no signs of anything approaching excitement. I read of some alleged cases of the rough handling of Germans, but I saw nothing of the kind and met no one who had seen anything of the kind. The people went about their business as usual. Newspapers urged their readers to continue their outings, and to keep life as normal as possible. On the Sunday after war was declared I went by steamboat down the Thames from Hampton Court to Kew. In the houseboats moored along the banks the people were taking their accustomed Sunday recreation. Young men in white flannels and young women in light dresses were rowing and punting in boats as during the days of peace. Unquestionably many of these English families who seemed totally undisturbed had already seen sons and brothers go to join the Territorials; unquestionably many of the young men on the river would themselves soon be in camp or on the march; but that made no difference.
What bound Great Britain together in all this was the conviction that the cause of Great Britain was just. I had occasion to talk with various types of men-members of Parliament, waiters, business men, policemen, fellow-travelers in the train, shopkeepers; everywhere there was the one conviction that Great Britain was bound by duty to herself, and even more by her duty to Belgium and France, to take her part in the war. The only English people who showed signs of disturbance were those who had committed themselves in some prominent way to the cause of peace—and these were not disturbed by fear, but by the burial of their hopes.
England bound by moral obligation to help enforce the pledge that Germany had made to respect that neutrality?"
There were two answers that he made to that. One was that England would have been in a stronger position if she had stood aside, let Germany and France, with Russia, fight it out, then, when both combatants were exhausted, been ready to step in fresh and strong and dictate to Germany the terms of peace and the penalty for the violation. of her word. The other answer that he made was that England had always pursued the policy of "splendid isolation," and in departing from that by joining in with Continental Powers in Continental quarrels she had opened the way for incalculable future perils.
"What if Germany has broken her pledge?" he asked. "We have no right to fight her for that. England has in the past broken pledges No; we are committing a crime to enter this war. This is the work of the Liberal jingoes who have been preaching a big navy and have been entangling us with Continental alliances. It is an astounding thing that Parliament should have been kept ignorant of what is virtually a secret agreement with France that, if she sent her fleet to the Mediterranean, we should defend her from any attack upon her coasts. Mark my words. Public opinion will not support this war. The North of England is solidly against it."
He seemed to ignore the implications of his statement that England by remaining neutral would have left brave little Belgium in the lurch, would have given Germany a chance to get a foothold in the Low Countries where she could be a constant menace to England's shores, would have acquiesced in the German attempt to reduce France to
third-rate Power, and, so far from atoning for the former breach of pledges of which he accused his own country, would have given to England's enemies another occasion of charging her with perfidy.
In not a single other case did I find an Englishman who is not convinced of the righteousness of England's action; and even my good friend of the Parliamentary "Peace Group admitted the force of the view that arms could be put to no better service than in enforcing treaty obligations and in withstanding a policy of conquest.
If Germany had been counting on aid for herself from the English advocates of peace, she was destined to be disappointed in this, as she certainly was disappointed in finding
ENGLAND IN TIME OF WAR
Englishmen do not hate the Germans," he explained; "indeed, they like them very well. There is much we have in common with the German-much more than we have in common with our Russian allies. The hideous thing about this war is that, as far as England is concerned, it is a war without hatred."
This feeling I found expressed again and again. Not only journalists, but all sorts of men, have said to me repeatedly: "We are not fighting the German people; we are fighting the Prussian war party. It is the Kaiser, not the German people, that must be held responsible for this war."
Sooner or later almost every Englishman with whom I talked expressed the opinion. that the Kaiser was insane. "He's a stark, staring lunatic," was the way the proprietor of a little news shop put it. " Mad,' Crazy," "Off his head "-these are the terms in which Englishmen of various stations offered the only explanation they could think of for the Kaiser's course.
Another common opinion, shared by a waiter in a restaurant, a London "bobby," and a writer of serials for the lighter London weeklies, is that before the war ends there will be revolution in Germany. Most of them expect to see a republic emerge from this war of the nations. This is not merely an opinion of ignorance. One man who had spent several years in Germany took this view. He could not see that the existence of a number of monarchies within the Federal Empire formed necessarily any obstacle to such a result.
Not the least impressive factor in public sentiment in England is the lack of enthusiasm for one of England's allies-Russia. Unbounded admiration for the Belgians and warm-hearted friendship for the French were everywhere evident; but no interest in the Russians. The boys who were selling penny flags on the street had the French tricolor in almost as large quantities as the Union Jack, and after the fighting at Liège displayed a goodly stock of Belgian flags; but so far as I remember they had no Russian flags for sale. Again and again when I mentioned Russia there was a shaking of the head, and whenever I ventured an opinion that after this war was over England would have to be ready to reckon with the great Slav Empire, there was immediate assent. Frankly, the English do not like to be in the position of fighting on Russia's side. They all admit the necessity, but they deplore it.