Heretofore in the world’s history the rule of the right of conquest has been indubitable: to the victors all; to the vanquished nothing, or nothing not conceded as a gratuity. In lieu of former tyrannous exactions, it will be for Great Britain to stand steadfast lest floodgates of rapacity open wide; to initiate a new order, not as ethical, but as equitable, correcting the cruel law of might and of greed, by the law of right, not because it is good, but because it is great.
It will be only by the unquestioned forbearance of the West that the East can be effectually restrained. There lies the future’s peril. The wisdom of the first Napoleon was not astray in declaring that Europe was destined to become “all Republican or all Cossack.” It will be for men “of good will,” not apathetically to await fiats of Omnipotence concerning peace on earth, but rather to make and enforce peace themselves in the only way by which permanent peace is possible.
Instances of historical generosity (so bestial is the natural man) are rare indeed. Of the few of record the following may be briefly mentioned: After the defeat of Pompey’s army at Pharsalia Julius Caesar, instead of ordering a general massacre or enslaving of the conquered, issued an order according to every man of his own forces the privilege of ransoming one of the enemy. It was thus that Julius made himself Caesar. After the fall of La Rochelle, the English knights taken prisoners and without means to ransom themselves, were sent under a flag of truce home to England and there set free. The English, not to be outdone, chivalrously restored to the French an equal number of captive knights. From this incident came the custom of exchange of prisoners, so greatly ameliorating war’s horrors.
The interchange of kindly courtesies between Grant and Lee after Appomattox furnishes an American instance of the practical value of generous actions. And another deserves recording: when the greathearted, wise-minded Lincoln, reproaching the vindictive of his cabinet who stigmatized playing the delightful air of “Dixie” as “treasonable,” said: “Not so; we captured that tune with the other effects of the ‘Lost Cause.’”
In the coming readjustment of European affairs, armaments, and frontiers, America will surely be called upon as counsellor or arbitrator. Her opportunity will be splendid. Already into American hands in every capital of the contending nations antagonistic interests have been committed. These, our envoys—ambassadors, ministers, and charges—should be of one mind as to the spirit and purpose of mediation when the time for mediation shall come.
Doubtless it is more difficult for the onlooker to judge justly as to events and policies of his own country and time than of activities of which he is merely a spectator. At this very hour discussion is rampant concerning the course that the United States should assume to