Page:Great Speeches of the War.djvu/339

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
301
Great Speeches of the War

war may be the means of bringing near the day of universal peace. There have been, as there must be at a time when people's feelings and sympathies are excited, efforts in some quarters to inflame hate and passion. Above all else this is a danger we ought to avoid, for we must remember that, if the settlement of this war is going to be on lines which at present all sensible people desire, namely a permanent peace based upon satisfaction and goodwill, we must try to keep down the passions of hatred and malice. I was very glad to see the Times newspaper, in a remarkable leading article some time ago, urged the great importance of this point, and that the late Lord Roberts, just before his death, made a similar appeal to the British people.

I venture to urge this counsel also because I do so earnestly desire that when the time comes for the consideration of the terms of peace, as I hope it may speedily come, all parties may meet in a spirit and temper suitable for a successful settlement of the serious work they will have to do.

There are certain features of this question of the causes of the war which I do not think it is either desirable or profitable to discuss at this moment. When a war is in progress the people's minds are not in a fit state to calmly and dispassionately consider and discuss the question of who is to blame. There never was a war when the popular opinion as to its causes was the same which history, looking at the questions through an atmosphere unclouded by the smoke of battle, afterwards endorsed. It was so in recent times in the two last great wars in which Britain fought—the Crimean War and the Boer War. No good can come now from any attempt to attach blame to this individual or to that. But we can and must endeavour to discover and to discuss in a tolerant spirit the general causes and policies responsible for the war, because, as I said just now, that is necessary in order to come to a conclusion as to what must be done to avoid such a catastrophe in the future.

To set down the war as being due to one simple cause, as for instance the teaching of a German University professor who died twenty years ago, may be easy and convenient, but it is unconvincing and foolish. Not one of the many causes which have been put forward would of itself be sufficient to explain the war, not one of these suggested causes would of itself have brought about the war, but a number of causes jointly operating have had the cumulative effect of bringing