Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/19

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15
The Imperial Peace

Nationality in the sense of a racial, or in the East a religious, type and ideal has become in modern times an extremely strong force, much more powerful than it was formerly, a force which has often enabled a weaker nation to stand against an apparently stronger state, and decided the victory in more than one great battle. This force sometimes becomes a grave danger in international crises, and threatens or actually causes war. In the future the want of sympathy between Slav and Teuton appears as probably the most serious difficulty in the path of European progress.

Is this development of national individuality a good or an evil? That it constitutes a danger is undeniable: that it is the expression of a feeling which may easily be pushed to exaggerated and mischievous form is also plainly evident. If with Dante we assume peace to be the condition most favourable to and most to be desired by mankind, and if we differ from him (as many do) in regarding peace as a passive state, the mere absence of war, then we should have to condemn the modern growth of national feeling as entirely evil, because it is in present conditions a constant danger to peace. In 1876 it compelled the Czar to declare war on Turkey, against his own wish and judgement. In March 1913 it threatened for some days to force another Czar into an Austrian war. Examples are numberless: the danger is always present and often acute.

For my own part, I should refuse to regard as evil a power which has been steadily growing through modern history. It is a great power, which may be turned (like every vast power) to evil or to good purposes; but to condemn it as evil is to declare that the tide of European development has been for a long time setting steadily towards evil. To pronounce such a condemnation no