Great Speeches of the War/Bottomley
MR. HORATIO BOTTOMLEY
[Speech delivered in the Royal Albert Hall, London, on Thursday, January 14, 1915.]
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:—I have to apologize to you for being so late, but the apologies are really due from the 20,000 people outside the hall, who are the cause of the trouble. It is becoming an ever-increasing problem as to where we can hold a meeting without causing some riot or disturbance. [Laughter.] Although outside there are angry voices describing this as a ticket meeting, I desire to announce that, with the exception of forty seats in front, some of the boxes, and a few chairs on the platform, every seat in this vast audience has been unticketed and free. [Applause.] Well, ladies and gentlemen, the last time I addressed an audience in this great hall was when, some six years ago, I stood aloof from all the parties in the State, viewing public affairs from the standpoint of the plain, blunt man in the street—the man who ignores all shibboleth and doctrine of high politics, and applies to the various questions of the day the touchstone of simple commonsense, and, with the assistance of that mysterious intuition which is inherent in all mankind, looks things in the face and calls them by their correct names. It is true that at times he embellishes them with certain literary emphasis in order to make his meaning clearer—[laughter]—because he regards the calling of a spade simply a spade as the quintessence of virgin purity, and the exhaustion of the obvious. [Laughter.]
Well, I am here to-night in the same capacity, with an equally remarkable gathering before me, brought together from every part of this great metropolis to do me the honour of listening to what I may have to say about the stupendous problems which to-day confront our empire and country. Mr. Chairman, that is a great compliment, and all I can say by way of deserving it is that, think what else of me you may, at least believe that in this time of our country's trial my patriotism is sincere—[cheers]—and that, from the depths of my soul do I believe the words of those verses, which I understand have been recited to you, that we are witnessing something more than a war to-day; that we ought to be hearing, if we don't, a call to the human race, upon the answer to which depends the destiny of that race and of the great branch of it to which we belong, and which, to my mind, will be made or marred for ever, according to our right or wrong conception of the hidden meaning and purpose of the great days through which we are passing.
Now, my mind instinctively reverts to that other meeting; and when I picture it again before my eyes, and when I recall the things which were then said, I begin to wonder whether the nation has not been asleep for the last six years. I marvel how it comes about that, with all the evidences of mischief and of menace which were then before us, and every one of which, as I said at the time, constituted in my view a premonitory declaration of war against the peace of the world, we have waited for the convenience of our enemy until she thought she was in the position to strike a mortal blow at the foundations of our empire, and of the peace and the civilization of mankind. We have waited while she has equipped a Navy, into the possession of which she ought never to have been permitted to enter—[cheers]—for the equipment of a colossal Army, of such a character that there was no justification that could be urged for it; for the widening and deepening of the sinister waterway which to-day affords such welcome refuge to her much-vaunted Fleet. She has exploited and explored the innermost secrets of our own defences and fortifications; appropriated our best horses; misappropriated many of our best inventions; filled her arsenals with munitions and material of war, and stocked her granaries with corn—with the result that to-day, although the end must ever be the same, we have to fight our way through seas of blood and tears, which might have been averted, if we had not closed our eyes to the signs and portents which were written on the skies for every one to read. [Cheers.]
But, ladies and gentlemen, to night I am not here to blame anybody. This is not a time for internal dissension or for domestic discord, and the man who does aught—by word or deed, by pen or tongue—to stir it up ought to be carried off without ceremony or trial, as a traitor, to the Tower—[applause]—or, better still, perhaps, be put into the front of the firing line, there to have a practical demonstration of the humanity and culture of his German friends. [Applause.] An American writer has said that in times of war the motto for the patriot is "My country, right or wrong." [Hear, hear.] Well, I don't quarrel with that; I accept it, although to-day—thank Heaven—we need not have any qualms on the point; but I should also add, "My Government, good or bad." [Cheers.] And so, leaving for the moment, and until the last shot has been fired and the last sword sheathed, all question of criticism and of complaint, I appeal to you—and I know I do not appeal in vain—to stand shoulder to shoulder, as part of a great and mighty Empire united and indivisible, four-square to the common foe. [Loud cheers.]
That being my view of the duty of every patriotic man to-day, it does not follow that, when the time comes, there will not be many matters to be inquired into. There will be much to be said—scandals of feeding, clothing, equipping, paying, camping our recruits, and a score of other things as to which our lips are closed to-day. I suppose no man has been the recipient of more information, more complaints, on those subjects than have I; and I want to assure those soldiers and sailors and their wives and families and dependents who have confided in me their troubles, at least of this: that when the times comes I shall not hesitate to enlighten the nation upon many matters which it ought to know about, and shall not hesitate, regardless of persons or of the powers that be, to insist on the trial by court-martial of every man who has taken advantage of his country's hour of trouble to line his filthy pockets with gold at the expense of the State, and to the injury of the brave and splendid fellows who are fighting for us. [Cheers.] And the other assurance I want to give is that, in the meantime, all the resources which I can control—my staff, my organization—are being placed at the disposal of those who are doing their country's work, for the purpose, first, of investigating their alleged grievances, and, secondly, of bringing them to the notice of the Government and the various authorities with a view to getting them recognized and, to some extent, remedied. Though we do not talk in detail of such things to-day, take it from me that when the war is over we are going to have a searching audit into these affairs. [Applause.] And if I live, whether I sit in the House of Commons or whether I don't, believe me, I intend to be one of the auditors. [Cheers.] After all, ladies and gentlemen, we who are beyond the fighting age cannot do very much for our country to-day. But, in the way I have indicated, coupled with a somewhat extensive and vigorous recruiting campaign in the provinces, which I am happy to say has been most fruitful, and such assistance as one's poor purse can afford I can come here to-night without playing the role of the hypocrite, and ask every man in this hall to do his bit towards his country's job. [Cheers.]
Now, I do not propose to dwell further upon that aspect of the matter. It would be idle to deny that the spirit of some of our troops has been sorely tried, but every one of you knows that Tommy is made of pretty tough stuff, and that he does not mind roughing it. He knows it is a long, long way to Tipperary, but you may be sure of this, that he can be trusted to stay the course. [Cheers.] And there is another reason why I say that it is not right or desirable that we should dwell upon critical aspects of the great crisis in which we stand. There is an old and popular hymn, a line of which, all cant on one side, proclaims a profound truth when it says that "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." And it may be that, after all, in this great upheaval of the world we are merely the creatures of a destiny that we cannot control, and that possibly no human prevision could have prevented the bloodshed and the slaughter that is now occurring. It may be that this will be the last great conflict of blood between so-called civilized nations, and that when it is over we shall see the dawn of that era which at present seems a dream, and which is told in the old hackneyed lines as being the time—
When the war drum beats no longer,
And the battle flag is furled
In the Parliament of man,
The federation of the world.
But, in the meantime, friends, vast changes are occurring around us. There is a new spirit abroad—a new spirit in the social, the political, the religious life of the nation. Things are happening every day under our eyes of a far-reaching character, and we scarcely realize they are occurring. At home, the Government has already taken control of our railways; it has, to a large extent, taken control of our food supplies, and it has taken control of our money. In addition to that we have been taught to put our lights out at reasonable hours; to close our refreshment rooms at what many people consider unreasonable hours—[laughter]—to go to bed in good time. The novel is being superseded by the knitting-pin—[hear, hear]—music by the muffler, and in a thousand other ways there is a quiet change taking place in the habits of the people which lead the student to sometimes reflect how much better, perhaps, the world might have been if it had taken place a little earlier, in the days of peace, and had not been left so late.
How far these changes may affect the permanent life of the community when the war is over is a matter that we need not speculate upon. Personally, I hope we shall some day return to the robust self-dependence and reliance which has always been the characteristic of the British race, and which has been, in my opinion, the secret of its strength in past times. [Cheers.] I am one of those who do not believe in the stamina of a spoon-fed nation. I prefer to remember that from earliest history, from Alfred the Great, from Edward the Confessor, from King John, whenever the British nation has demanded some new measure of freedom, it has always demanded it as an inheritance, and not as a grant. That is the fundamental distinction between the Teutonic and the Anglo-Saxon character. You see it in regard to their possessions and their dependents. Take Alsace, take German Poland today; both yearning to shake off those whom they regard as their oppressors. On the other hand, the glorious spectacle of India, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia—the whole British Empire—rallying to the flag, because they have been nurtured on the principles of freedom. I don't much like reading extracts, but I was tremendously struck the other day by a passage in a speech of Mr. Burke's, delivered nearly 140 years ago, at the time of the American trouble. It is so prophetic and so enlightening that I make no excuse for quoting it:
"As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have. The more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience; slavery they can have anywhere; it is a weed that grows in every soil; they may have it from Spain; they may have it from Prussia; but until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of which you have the monopoly."
Ladies and gentlemen, that was 140 years ago, and it is because we have acted on that principle that we have this glorious spectacle which is now the wonder of the world. There is not a writer or student of current history who does not stand in deep wonderment at the unity and splendid patriotic rally which characterizes every unit to-day of the great British Empire, [Hear, hear.] It is that distinction which goes to the root of this great struggle. It is that distinction of temperament and character which makes the German State a mechanical entity, producing machines, and the British state a human reality, producing human beings. It is that which makes the Germans cry, "Let Deutschland be a great nation," and the British, "Let every Britisher be a free man." Those are the fundamental distinctions and principles which underlie the old martial and traditional spirit of our race, and which explain why our "contemptible little army" has such contempt for its enemies—[cheers]—and which comforts it in its darkest hours in the trenches with the old Jingo reflection, that "our Army may be small, but has shown before to-day, that a little British Army goes a damned long way," [Cheers.] But, ladies and gentlemen, there is a great deal to be done before this dragon of militarism is to be finally slain—before the great nations of the earth are to cease crouching like wild beasts of the field, ever ready to fly at each other's throats. And what I want to do with you all here to-night is to consider whether we fully realize what it is we have to do, whether we fully grasp the meaning of the great titanic struggle in which we are engaged? If we don't, it is about time that the scales fell from our eyes, and that we set about, in grim earnest, to tackle the great problem of the solemn trust which is now resting in our hands. [Cheers.] Whatever we are going to get as the outcome of this war, such is the law of nature—perhaps my friend, the chairman, would say, "Such is the law of God"—we have got to fight for. We shall not come triumphant out of the struggle without a mighty and a stupendous effort. I want you to consider with me how best we can discharge that obligation, and how far, at present, we are falling short of it. Now, ladies and gentlemen, let us remember this: We are not a military nation. It never dawned upon the authorities—never mind to which Party they belonged—that the time might come, when a great expeditionary force would have to be sent out for the benefit of the civilized world. Perhaps—I say this with deliberation and a little hesitation, because one does not want to raise any discordant note—but, perhaps, if we had always had the system of government that I sometimes talk about—if we had always had a soldier at the head of the War Office—things would have been different. [Cheers.] Perhaps, ladies and gentlemen, if we had listened to the voice—now stilled—of a great soldier who recently laid down his arms we should have been better prepared. [Cheers.] But when you reflect that, taking our two great services—the Army and the Navy—we have had no less than eight heads of them in eight years, and four of them lawyers, can you wonder that we are not quite prepared for the great trial of strength to which we are called. [Hear, hear.] I almost wonder that we are alive. [Laughter.] It is a wonderful tribute to the inherent strength and vitality of the British Empire that it can stand a test of such a character. And so it comes about that we have been suddenly called upon, under our voluntary system of service, to ask the manhood of the country to come to its rescue, and to rally round the Flag.
One of the purposes of to-night's meeting is to endeavour to encourage that movement, and to face plainly one or two aspects of it to which I want to call your attention. Now I have said I have come here to look at public affairs as a plain, blunt man. I am not aspiring to office or to any public favour, and I do not go out of my way to humbug a public audience. I say deliberately—and those in authority would say so if they dared—that we are not doing so well as we ought with regard to recruiting. I will tell you in a moment a few startling facts. I do not blame the men altogether, because I do not think we have yet made an adequate, concerted, and satisfactory effort to bring home to their minds the exact gravity of the problem we have to face. I do not forget that, in the early days of recruiting, there were terrible scandals. I know that most young fellows get letters from their pals in the camps and trenches, and there have been all sorts of difficulties which have led many men to hesitate. I know that the terms of treatment and the pay of our soldiers in the past have been scandalously, wretchedly and meanly inadequate. [Loud cheers.] I wonder that a nation which, at a moment's notice, can raise four or five hundred million pounds, should haggle and grumble over a paltry few shillings to the only men who matter in a time of national crisis. [Loud cheers.]
Now just another word about this recruiting. Do you realize that three-quarters of Kitchener's Army, as we call it, consist of married men—seventy-five per cent.!—men who are the stable backbone of the country, who have assumed the responsibilities of citizenship, and whose proper place, if in the line at all, is where our shores are violated while the younger men are at the front. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a startling fact that out of 1,200,000 members of Kitchener's Army, 900,000 are married men, only 300,000 of them being without family ties and obligations. ["Shame."] Aye, it is not only a shame; it is a scandal of a terrible character when you reflect what it means to the nation. If you assume—as you are entitled to do—that every one of these men has two or three persons dependent upon him, each of whom will have to be provided for out of the separation allowance, you get something like three-quarters of a million pounds a week paid to support the wives and dependents of the men who ought to be supporting them themselves, while the more active, free, younger men ought to be doing the fighting work abroad. [Cheers and cries of "Cowards."] I don't care to look at the matter from the point of view of what it is going to cost us for pensions for the families of these patriotic married men who may never come back from the field, but it were infinitely preferable that the men who fight for us should be those who have not too many depending upon them in the homeland. What I want to say is this: I don't profess to know any Cabinet secrets, but I pledge myself to this—that this state of things is not going to continue many weeks longer. If the single men of the country do not come forward in larger numbers than they are doing, it will not be many weeks before, by Act of Parliament, or the operation of the common law of the land, they will be compelled to go and do that which it ought to be their very proudest privilege to rush to do of their own accord. [Loud and prolonged cheers.]
Ladies and gentlemen, I throw out this suggestion—that Lord Kitchener should at once announce the exact number of further men he requires; that he should give a time-limit to the Government, and that, if at the expiration of that time the whole new Army is not ready, then, by the operation of law, every man capable of bearing arms—and the single ones in preference—should be compelled to do their duty to their country as men in other countries are doing. It is mainly owing to lack of appreciation of facts, and from lack of proper campaigning and recruiting, that our men are failing to come forward to-day [Cheers.] But I do not forget that there may be sinister influences at work, which are retarding the progress of recruiting. I read a day to two ago a speech made by a public man, who claims to be a special representative of the workers of this country, in which he told a large gathering of working men that the only reason we became so interested in Belgian neutrality was that we wanted an excuse for our country to go to war. ["Shame."] He told them this war, and all the treaties and all the private compacts and ententes behind them, were nothing more than a conspiracy on the part of the Government and the millionaires of England. [Laughter.]
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to mention the cur's name. [Laughter, cheers, and cries of "Traitor," "Shame," and "Keir Hardie."] I will only say this: that a man who uses such words at such a time as this—[cries of "Traitor" and "The Tower"]—and takes the Nation's money as a member of the King's Parliament, ought not to be at large; he is a public danger. [Hisses and cries: "Shoot him," "Clear them out," etc.] I will only say this further, that, if I were a member of responsible government of this country, a member of Parliament who used such language as that would have very short shrift indeed, and his future speeches would have to be delivered to a much more limited and select audience than those he is in the habit of addressing. [Applause.]
Well, ladies and gentlemen, these are the sort of things that are keeping recruiting back. We want to make it clear to the manhood of this country that this is a life and death struggle between the Anglo-Saxon race and the Teutonic races; the Teutonic is still as brutal, as barbarous, and as base as it has been throughout the whole of its history. I, personally, think the civilization of Germany to-day—despite all its literature and spiritual attractions—[hear, hear]—belongs to a period of a thousand years ago. [Hear, hear.] When I find eminent statesmen telling us that their "spiritual home is in Germany"—[laughter]—I say, first of all that there is no accounting for taste, and, secondly, as a student of psychic matters, I say this: it is a dangerous thing to divorce your astral body from your physical one; and the man whose spiritual home is in Berlin should either call back his spirit as quickly as possible, or transfer its physical encasement there without delay. [Laughter and cheers.]
I was reading the other day—I am not going to read it to-night—the diary of Lady Shelley, who went over the battleground where the Prussians had fought before Waterloo, and I found there page after page of records of the same atrocities, the same brutal and barbarous conduct we have been witnessing in Belgium of late. When you see the illustrations we get every day of the methods this callous enemy adopts, I say there is a call to every British man who values the freedom of his country, and values the freedom and blessing of civilization, to go and help to put such a barbarous foe out of existence for all time. [Loud cheers.]
I am not going to dwell on the tragedy of poor, bleeding Belgium. I am not going to enlarge on the horrible atrocities which we all know have been committed there, in Flanders, and in Northern France. I am not going to dwell for more than a moment on the new method of warfare, which attacks an unfortified town like Scarborough, and gathers in a harvest of helpless, innocent women and children, and calls it a great military feat. But if that is one of the recognized methods of our new enemy, it would not be a bad idea if we distributed all the German prisoners we have among the unfortified coastal towns of the kingdom. And then, perhaps, their countrymen—Heaven knows whether they would or not—might possibly be more reluctant to attack us in the way they have done. [A voice: "Not they."] There is no question that we are dealing with a man in the Kaiser—[A voice: "A what?" and laughter.] Well, a man, shall I say, who is just on the borderland between humanity and barbarism; who inherits all the madness of his ancestors. Nobody knew better than the late King Edward how mad his nephew was. [Cheers.] And so long as he lived he was able to keep the fellow in order. [Laughter.] But from the time we lost that great king—that great ambassador of peace, who did more for the peace of Europe than all the statesmen who ever lived—[applause]—this man has been irresponsible, mad with ambition, only waiting for the opportunity, as he thought, by all sorts of subterfuge and hypocrisy, to catch us unawares, and to give full vent to that ambition, which undoubtedly will now, as Shakespeare says, "o'erleap itself." Let me ask young men there if they would not like, although they have not done much at the present, if they would not like to be in at the death. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the talons of the lion are already getting well into the neck of the vulture, and that you can almost hear the death rattle of his foul and black throat. I want the manhood of England—and London especially—to come forward, so that they will be able to say to their children, and to their children's children, "I was one of those who gave him the finishing touch, and ridded Europe of her greatest menace." Then, if you will do that, if you will strengthen the Army and increase the pressure on the enemy in the field, perhaps our good old friend, Jack Tar, will have a chance of having a go as well, instead of waiting, as he is doing to-day. [Cheers.] After all, the German Fleet cannot remain for ever in its present hiding-place.
We heard a lot about its aspirations for "The Day," and now we know how dearly it prefers "the night." [Laughter.] We heard of its aspirations for "A place in the sun," now it is content with a sneaking refuge up a canal. [Renewed Laughter.] Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is hard luck for our Fleet; it is a tremendous trial for our sailors, and I don't think any of us appreciates the full nature of the magnificent, silent service which these men are rendering us, even as we sit here to-night—waiting, watching, ever on the alert—in having to contend with a new form of warfare which is a disgrace to civilization and a disgrace to all the annals of the world. [Cheers.] This great German fleet, yearning for "The Day," is always looking for fog and smooth water; and its new principle is this: if you can't beat your enemy in fair fight, somehow or other contrive to trip him up. And so the new "kultur" of the fighting world is to be this: In the next championship boxing match when one of the combatants is fearful of his opponent, he will take steps to mine the centre of the ring; the Oxford and Cambridge boat race will be decided by a mine at Mortlake; the Derby will be fatal to the favourite when he gallops over the mine immediately in front of the winning-post. That is the "kultur" of the Teutonic race; that is the new method with which our sailors have to contend. Did a fleet ever maintain the traditions of the ocean—of a great Naval race—better than our sailors are doing to-day? ["No," and cheers.] I don't know whether you recall that little tragedy of a few days ago, when the Formidable was going down to the depths of the sea. What was the survivors' story? "The last thing we saw was a line of sailors saluting the old flag and singing 'Tipperary' as they went down to the bottom of the ocean." [Loud cheers.] And those are the men that you fellows who do not recruit, are allowing to be murdered by these Huns. [Cheers.] If only you would answer your country's call and strengthen Lord Kitchener's forces, then, out of sheer desperation and necessity, the German Fleet will have to sail forth and give battle according to the recognized rules of the game, and test once more, and for ever, whether the British sailor is not still entitled to consider himself the lord of the sea. [Cheers.]
When it comes to the day of reckoning—and it is a heavy reckoning which this enemy has to look to—it will be for us, the people, to consider what that reckoning shall be. It may, after all, be for the best that this Fleet is remaining intact as it is doing, because it may facilitate the settlement when the time comes. And on that point I want to say this: in the name of Heaven, make up your minds, that, just as this is your war and my war, the settlement is to be ours, and is not to be a hole-and-corner affair of the Party politicians in any Cabinet chamber. [Loud and prolonged cheers.] After the Battle of Waterloo, when it came to the terms of settlement, we did not go to the politicians. We sent out to the conference a great soldier. Lord Wellington; and I am going to suggest that we follow that example and that, when it comes to discussing the terms of peace, we give the politicians a temporary rest and say to Lord Kitchener—[cheers, and a voice: "Lord Fisher"]—and, as my friend says, Lord Fisher, or Admiral Jellicoe, the men who have done the work, and say: "You have finished the job; now go over for us and reap the fruit." [Cheers.] We can easily all agree upon the main points of the settlement. Politicians will wrangle and argue about them, but to my mind they are fairly apparent and obvious. I think one or two heads will represent the minimum of the public demand. One of the first things we want to do is to get rid finally of Turkey out of Europe. [Cheers.] We have had this sick man in the family too long—[laughter]—and now the time has come to give him his quietus or send him to more congenial soil. German and Austrian Poland must be added to the new Kingdom of Poland. We will have a composite Poland with an opportunity of building up a national existence and life for itself. Hungary and Bohemia must again be separate States; they hate Germany and are only longing for an opportunity to break away. They must be given their independence and liberty. Germany and Prussia must go back to the position they were in in 1870—a collection of small and harmless States, infinitely happier than they are to-day, many of them yearning to get back into their peaceful avocations, and to be freed from the military dominance which is to-day crushing them almost to the ground. Italy, if she will only do the right thing—and I think she will —must have Trieste back. Alsace and Lorraine will naturally go back to their old friends and parents—France. The Fleet of Germany, if still intact, I once thought might conveniently be added to our own, but, lest that should cause any jealousy among the Allies, would not it be a good idea to make it a nucleus of an International Fleet, manned and commanded by international officers, for the purpose of policing the seas of the world, and helping to keep the ports and commerce of the nations free from molestation? Think over the idea. One of the great things of the war may be an international compact by which the seas shall be kept free and open; and if this German fleet does not rot in the Canal let it earn its living at last by doing something useful. [Cheers.]
There will, of course, be the indemnity, which will have to recoup the Allies, not only the expenditure on the War, but all the cost of compensation and of pensions which will follow the War. We will follow the example of Germany in 1870; we will follow its example whenever it gets hold of a Belgian city and say to her, as the man said who went to the bank manager for an overdraft. "How much do you want?" he was asked and his reply was, "How much have you got?" So, we'll say to Germany when all other matters are settled, "How much have you got, and how much can you raise in the next twenty or thirty years?" And we'll divide that up fairly among the Allies. Of course, the Kaiser and his promising son will have to be dealt with. [Laughter.] They must not be allowed to remain in Germany a day after peace is declared. They can be put up for auction so far as I am concerned, and knocked down to the lowest bidder. [Laughter.] And then, ladies and gentlemen, comes the question: What are you going to do with Belgium? On this, I speak in all seriousness, and I throw out a suggestion for the consideration of what are called responsible statesmen. All Europe and the whole civilized world are indebted to little Belgium to-day. [Cheers.] Politicians tell us we have to restore her integrity, and to renew her shattered treasures and cathedrals. That is only the beginning of it. That is no adequate compensation for us to make in recognition of the enormous debt we owe that little brave people, who stood between chaos and civilization, and whose stand saved France, and, perhaps, saved us, from catastrophes too terrible to contemplate. And I am going to make a suggestion to you that, in addition to compensating Belgium for all material loss, there are two respects at least in which we can pay her something towards the debt we owe. First of all, there is a little province at present in the occupation of Germany which she ought never to have possessed, and which we do not intend her to keep—Schleswig-Holstein. If I were Prime Minister I would write to glorious King Albert: "Would you care to be Prince of Schleswig-Holstein as well as King of Belgium?" That is one little compliment we could pay him, which he has richly earned. There is another respect in which we can compensate Belgium, and in which Belgium can do a great service to the world. There is that little water-way the Kiel Canal, which has got to be denationalized. It has got to be put in the hands of some one in trust for Europe, and I say the natural custodian and trustee of it is King Albert of Belgium. [Cheers.] Let the Canal be put in the custody of Belgium; let Belgium take the tolls which are legitimately demanded for its use, and let there be a notice put up on the road to Heligoland for all the merchant seamen of the world to read: "Short cut to the Baltic, first to the right."
Well, ladies and gentlemen, you may think it a little premature to be talking about the terms of settlement; I am one of those who do not think so. I have said, and say again to-night, this is not going to be the long war that some people anticipate. One does not want to be a military expert to know that you cannot have ten or fifteen million men in the field for an indefinite period without a large number of natural laws coming into play to upset your calculations. I know that when Lord Kitchener announced in the House of Lords, not very long ago, that he had an army of one and a quarter millions in training, that statement gave Germany a shock, and the moment she knows that that army is two millions, and that one million of it is almost ready now, and is on the point of being dispatched to the front—[cheers]—believe me you will soon be hearing of those mysterious overtures, the origin of which no one can ever trace, but the purpose of which is plain to all the world. I therefore say that the time is ripe for considering what is going to happen after this war. I do hope that we shall not be long before we are accepting nothing less than the fullest fruit of the fullest and most complete victory.
This menace has been over us too long, but it has taught us much. We realize now, as perhaps few of us realized before, the thin line that divides civilization from barbarism. How empty, how unstable all our vaunted institutions are! And, after all, you see now that the only man who matters is the man who can shoulder a gun and carry a sword. It is a weird, it is a strange reflection in the twentieth century of civilization and enlightenment, but the fact remains that, in the last resort, we have to depend upon the physical valour and the martial spirit of our race. Perhaps one of the first lessons resulting from this war will be that in future, instead of passing our soldiers by and treating them with indifference, we shall raise our hats to them; we shall salute them, and be proud if they will walk on the same side of the street as ourselves. [Loud and prolonged cheers.] Ladies and gentlemen, this is a mighty struggle. It is a Marathon of the gods of battle, and I confess that, if I were a young man of fighting age, I should yearn to be in it. I feel that those of us who cannot join the Army are placed at a terrible disadvantage, because I cannot think of any prouder boast for any Britisher to make when the war is over—that he took an active and vital part in ridding England and the world of a great, a hideous menace, which, but for his intervention, might have wiped out the civilization of our past ages and everything worth living for or dying for on the earth. [Loud cheers.] I ask those young men if they do not really feel that there is a call to them. I ask them if they cannot hear their comrades calling to them from the trenches, calling to them from the hospitals, calling to them from the decks of the sea-dogs who are guarding our shores day in and night in. If they do not hear that call they are unworthy to claim the name of Englishman. [Cheers.]
After all, we are the greatest martial race the world has ever known. We have had a good time in the past, because we have led in the van of commerce and trade, and perhaps the rising generation has never been sufficiently taught—our system of education is so incomplete that you cannot blame them—has never been sufficiently taught the meaning of the words "the British Empire." Still, I do believe that the day is coming rapidly when the manhood of the nation will realize the call that is being made to them. I wonder if I might not also say that it is something more solemn than even the call of the men in the trenches, I am no religionist, and I would rather cut my tongue from its roots than talk hypocritical cant in the name of religion. I have always said that, and while I respect and esteem the honest priest, I have nothing but contempt for the self-righteous individual, who makes his religion a cloak for hypocrisy and self-interest; and, although, as in politics I stand aloof from party, so in matters of religious principles I stand aloof from sect and creed—it may be my misfortune, but to my poor mind all these shibboleths are so empty, so unsatisfying, and fall so far short of the eternal verities—I say this with all the sincerity of which I am capable, that when I sit and reflect upon this great world conflict in which we are engaged, I cannot help thinking there is something more than a mere human hand behind it. I don't profess to read the meaning of it; I don't profess to comprehend it. I find it hard, as you find it hard—even as the reverend chairman must find it hard—to reconcile the bloodshed, the anguish, the tears, and misery we are witnessing every day, with the design of a beneficent Providence. But while I find it hard to do so, and while I give up the problem in despair, I sometimes think it may be—and I throw this out for your consideration—that this is the last great upheaval of our primitive savagery, a dying demonstration of that barbarism from which we have all risen. And sometimes in the silent hours of the night, when pondering these matters, I feel that perhaps when the roar of the cannon has died away, and the blood has ceased flowing, the scales may drop from our eyes; and that as we look back upon the ghastly scene we have left behind, we may find that mankind has passed the final milestone on the road of human destiny, and may see before us—I say it with all solemnity—a brighter and a clearer road, with the Prince of Peace at its end—pointing to the Star of Bethlehem, which leads us on to God. [Prolonged applause.]