Essays in War-Time: Further Studies in the Task of Social Hygiene

Produced by Eric Eldred, Beth Trapaga and PG Distributed Proofreaders








From the point of view of literature, the Great War of to-day has
brought us into a new and closer sympathy with the England of the past.
Dr. Woods and Mr. Baltzly in their recent careful study of European
Warfare, Is War Diminishing? come to the conclusion that England
during the period of her great activity in the world has been “fighting
about half the time.” We had begun to look on war as belonging to the
past and insensibly fallen into the view of Buckle that in England “a
love of war is, as a national taste, utterly extinct.” Now we have
awakened to realise that we belong to a people who have been “fighting
about half the time.”

Thus it is, for instance, that we witness a revival of interest in
Wordsworth, not that Wordsworth, the high-priest of Nature among the
solitary Lakes, whom we have never forsaken, but the Wordsworth who
sang exultantly of Carnage as God’s Daughter. To-day we turn to the
war-like Wordsworth, the stern patriot hurling defiance at the enemies
who threatened our island fortress, as the authentic voice of England.

But this new sense of community with the past comes to us again and
again on every hand when to-day we look back to the records of the past.
I chance to take down the Epistles of Erasmus, and turn to the letters
which the great Humanist of Rotterdam wrote from Cambridge and London
four hundred years ago when young Henry VIII had just suddenly (in 1514)
plunged into war. One reads them to-day with vivid interest, for here
in the supple and sensitive brain of the old scholar we see mirrored
precisely the same thoughts and the same problems which exercise the
more scholarly brains of to-day. Erasmus, as his Pan-German friends
liked to remind him, was a sort of German, but he was, nevertheless,
what we should now call a Pacifist. He can see nothing good in war and
he eloquently sets forth what he regards as its evils. It is interesting
to observe, how, even in its small details as well as in its great
calamities, war brought precisely the same experiences four centuries
ago as to-day. Prices are rising every day, Erasmus declares, taxation
has become so heavy that no one can afford to be liberal, imports are
hampered and wine is scarce, it is difficult even to get one’s foreign
letters. In fact the preparations of war are rapidly changing “the
genius of the Island.” Thereupon Erasmus launches into more general
considerations on war. Even animals, he points out, do not fight, save
rarely, and then with only those of other species, and, moreover, not,
like us, “with machines upon which we expend the ingenuity of devils.”
In every war also it is the non-combatants who suffer most, the people
build cities and the folly of their rulers destroys them, the most
righteous, the most victorious war brings more evil than good, and even
when a real issue is in dispute, it could better have been settled by
arbitration. The moral contagion of a war, moreover, lasts long after
the war is over, and Erasmus proceeds to express himself freely on the
crimes of fighters and fighting.

Erasmus was a cosmopolitan scholar who habitually dwelt in the world of
the spirit and in no wise expressed the general feelings either of his
own time or ours. It is interesting to turn to a very ordinary, it may
be typical, Englishman who lived a century later, again in a period of
war and also of quite ordinary and but moderately glorious war. John
Rous, a Cambridge graduate of old Suffolk family, was in 1623 appointed
incumbent of Santon Downham, then called a town, though now it has
dwindled away almost to nothing. Here, or rather at Weeting or at
Brandon where he lived, Rous began two years later, on the accession of
Charles I, a private diary which was printed by the Camden Society sixty
years ago, and has probably remained unread ever since, unless, as in
the present case, by some person of antiquarian tastes interested in
this remote corner of East Anglia. But to-day one detects a new streak
of interest in this ancient series of miscellaneous entries where we
find that war brought to the front the very same problems which confront
us to-day.

Santon Downham lies in a remote and desolate and salubrious region, not
without its attractions to-day, nor, for all its isolation, devoid of
ancient and modern associations. For here in Weeting parish we have the
great prehistoric centre of the flint implement industry, still lingering
on at Brandon after untold ages, a shrine of the archaeologist. And here
also, or at all events near by, at Lackenheath, doubtless a shrine also
for all men in khaki, the villager proudly points out the unpretentious
little house which is the ancestral home of the Kitcheners, who lie in
orderly rank in the churchyard beside the old church notable for its
rarely quaint mediaeval carvings.

Rous was an ordinary respectable type of country parson, a solid
Englishman, cautious and temperate in his opinions, even in the privacy
of his diary, something of a country gentleman as well as a scholar, and
interested in everything that went on, in the season’s crops, in the
rising price of produce, in the execution of a youth for burglary or the
burning of a woman for murdering her husband. He frequently refers to
the outbreak of plague in various parts of the country, and notes, for
instance, that “Cambridge is wondrously reformed since the plague there;
scholars frequent not the streets and taverns as before; but,” he adds
later on better information, “do worse.” And at the same time he is full
of interest in the small incidents of Nature around him, and notes, for
instance, how a crow had built a nest and laid an egg in the poke of the
topsail of the windmill.

But Rous’s Diary is not concerned only with matters of local interest.
All the rumours of the world reached the Vicar of Downham and were by
him faithfully set down from day to day. Europe was seething with war;
these were the days of that famous Thirty Years’ War of which we have so
often heard of late, and from time to time England was joining in the
general disturbance, whether in France, Spain, or the Netherlands. As
usual the English attack was mostly from the basis of the Fleet, and
never before, Rous notes, had England possessed so great and powerful a
fleet. Soon after the Diary begins the English Expedition to Rochelle
took place, and a version of its history is here embodied. Rous was kept
in touch with the outside world not only by the proclamations constantly
set up at Thetford on the corner post of the Bell Inn—still the centre
of that ancient town—but by as numerous and as varied a crop of reports
as we find floating among us to-day, often indeed of very similar
character. The vicar sets them down, not committing himself to belief
but with a patient confidence that “time may tell us what we may safely
think.” In the meanwhile measures with which we are familiar to-day were
actively in progress: recruits or “voluntaries” were being “gathered up
by the drum,” many soldiers, mostly Irish, were billeted, sometimes not
without friction, all over East Anglia, the coasts were being fortified,
the price of corn was rising, and even the problem of international
exchange is discussed with precise data by Rous.

On one occasion, in 1627, Rous reports a discussion concerning the
Rochelle Expedition which exactly counterparts our experience to-day. He
was at Brandon with two gentlemen named Paine and Howlet, when the
former began to criticise the management of the expedition, disputing
the possibility of its success and then “fell in general to speak
distrustfully of the voyage, and then of our war with France, which he
would make our King the cause of”; and so went on to topics of old
popular discontent, of the great cost, the hazard to ships, etc. Rous,
like a good patriot, thought it “foul for any man to lay the blame upon
our own King and State. I told them I would always speak the best of
what our King and State did, and think the best too, till I had good
grounds.” And then in his Diary he comments that he saw hereby, what he
had often seen before, that men be disposed to speak the worst of State
business, as though it were always being mismanaged, and so nourish a
discontent which is itself a worse mischief and can only give joy to
false hearts. That is a reflection which comes home to us to-day when we
find the descendants of Mr. Paine following so vigorously the example
which the parson of Downham reprobated.

That little incident at Brandon, however, and indeed the whole picture
of the ordinary English life of his time which Rous sets forth, suggest
a wider reflection. We realise what has always been the English temper.
It is the temper of a vigorous, independent, opinionated, free-spoken
yet sometimes suspicious people among whom every individual feels in
himself the impulse to rule. It is also the temper of a people always
prepared in the face of danger to subordinate these native impulses. The
one tendency and the other opposing tendency are alike based on the
history and traditions of the race. Fifteen centuries ago, Sidonius
Apollinaris gazed inquisitively at the Saxon barbarians, most ferocious
of all foes, who came to Aquitania, with faces daubed with blue paint
and hair pushed back over their foreheads; shy and awkward among the
courtiers, free and turbulent when back again in their ships, they were
all teaching and learning at once, and counted even shipwreck as good
training. One would think, the Bishop remarks, that each oarsman was
himself the arch-pirate.[1] These were the men who so largely went to
the making of the “Anglo-Saxon,” and Sidonius might doubtless still
utter the same comment could he observe their descendants in England
to-day. Every Englishman believes in his heart, however modestly he may
conceal the conviction, that he could himself organise as large an army as
Kitchener and organise it better. But there is not only the instinct to
order and to teach but also to learn and to obey. For every Englishman
is the descendant of sailors, and even this island of Britain seemed to
men of old like a great ship anchored in the sea. Nothing can overcome
the impulse of the sailor to stand by his post at the moment of danger,
and to play his sailorly part, whatever his individual convictions may
be concerning the expedition to Rochelle or the expedition to the
Dardanelles, or even concerning his right to play no part at all. That
has ever been the Englishman’s impulse in the hour of peril of his island
Ship of State, as to-day we see illustrated in an almost miraculous
degree. It is the saving grace of an obstinately independent and
indisciplinable people.

Yet let us not forget that this same English temper is shown not only in
warfare, not only in adventure in the physical world, but also in the
greater, and—may we not say?—equally arduous tasks of peace. For to
build up is even yet more difficult than to pull down, to create new
life a still more difficult and complex task than to destroy it. Our
English habits of restless adventure, of latent revolt subdued to the
ends of law and order, of uncontrollable freedom and independence, are
even more fruitful here, in the organisation of the progressive tasks of
life, than they are in the organisation of the tasks of war.

That is the spirit in which these essays have been written by an
Englishman of English stock in the narrowest sense, whose national and
family instincts of independence and warfare have been transmuted into a
preoccupation with the more constructive tasks of life. It is a spirit
which may give to these little essays—mostly produced while war was in
progress—a certain unity which was not designed when I wrote them.

[1] O’Dalton, Letters of Sidonius, Vol. II., p. 149.



The Great War of to-day has rendered acute the question of the place of
warfare in Nature and the effect of war on the human race. These have
long been debated problems concerning which there is no complete
agreement. But until we make up our minds on these fundamental questions
we can gain no solid ground from which to face serenely, or at all
events firmly, the crisis through which mankind is now passing.

It has been widely held that war has played an essential part in the
evolutionary struggle for survival among our animal ancestors, that war
has been a factor of the first importance in the social development of
primitive human races, and that war always will be an essential method
of preserving the human virtues even in the highest civilisation. It
must be observed that these are three separate and quite distinct
propositions. It is possible to accept one, or even two, of them without
affirming them all. If we wish to clear our minds of confusion on this
matter, so vital to our civilisation, we must face each of the questions
by itself.

It has sometimes been maintained—never more energetically than to-day,
especially among the nations which most eagerly entered the present
conflict—that war is a biological necessity. War, we are told, is
a manifestation of the “Struggle for Life”; it is the inevitable
application to mankind of the Darwinian “law” of natural selection.
There are, however, two capital and final objections to this view. On
the one hand it is not supported by anything that Darwin himself said,
and on the other hand it is denied as a fact by those authorities on
natural history who speak with most knowledge. That Darwin regarded war
as an insignificant or even non-existent part of natural selection must
be clear to all who have read his books. He was careful to state that he
used the term “struggle for existence” in a “metaphorical sense,” and
the dominant factors in the struggle for existence, as Darwin understood
it, were natural suitability to the organic and inorganic environment
and the capacity for adaptation to circumstances; one species flourishes
while a less efficient species living alongside it languishes, yet they
may never come in actual contact and there is nothing in the least
approaching human warfare. The conditions much more resemble what, among
ourselves, we may see in business, where the better equipped species,
that is to say, the big capitalist, flourishes, while the less well
equipped species, the small capitalist, succumbs. Mr. Chalmers Mitchell,
Secretary of the London Zoological Society and familiar with the habits
of animals, has lately emphasised the contention of Darwin and shown
that even the most widely current notions of the extermination of one
species by another have no foundation in fact.[1] Thus the thylacine or
Tasmanian wolf, the fiercest of the marsupials, has been entirely driven
out of Australia and its place taken by a later and higher animal, of
the dog family, the dingo. But there is not the slightest reason to
believe that the dingo ever made war on the thylacine. If there was any
struggle at all it was a common struggle against the environment, in
which the dingo, by superior intelligence in finding food and rearing
young, and by greater resisting power to climate and disease, was able
to succeed where the thylacine failed. Again, the supposed war of
extermination waged in Europe by the brown rat against the black rat is
(as Chalmers Mitchell points out) pure fiction. In England, where this
war is said to have been ferociously waged, both rats exist and
flourish, and under conditions which do not usually even bring them into
competition with each other. The black rat (Mus rattus) is smaller
than the other, but more active and a better climber; he is the rat of
the barn and the granary. The brown or Norway rat (Mus decumanus) is
larger but less active, a burrower rather than a climber, and though
both rats are omnivorous the brown rat is more especially a scavenger;
he is the rat of sewers and drains. The black rat came to Northern
Europe first—both of them probably being Asiatic animals—and has no
doubt been to some extent replaced by the brown rat, who has been
specially favoured by the modern extension of drains and sewers, which
exactly suit his peculiar tastes. But each flourishes in his own
environment; neither of them is adapted to the other’s environment;
there is no war between them, nor any occasion for war, for they do not
really come into competition with each other. The cockroaches, or
“blackbeetles,” furnish another example. These pests are comparatively
modern and their great migrations in recent times are largely due to
the activity of human commerce. There are three main species of
cockroach—the Oriental, the American, and the German (or Croton
bug)—and they flourish near together in many countries, though not with
equal success, for while in England the Oriental is most prosperous, in
America the German cockroach is most abundant. They are seldom found in
actual association, each is best adapted to a particular environment;
there is no reason to suppose that they fight. It is so throughout
Nature. Animals may utilise other species as food; but that is true of
even, the most peaceable and civilised human races. The struggle for
existence means that one species is more favoured by circumstances than
another species; there is not the remotest resemblance anywhere to human

We may pass on to the second claim for war: that it is an essential
factor in the social development of primitive human races. War has no
part, though competition has a very large part, in what we call
“Nature.” But, when we come to primitive man the conditions are somewhat
changed; men, unlike the lower animals, are able to form large
communities—”tribes,” as we call them—with common interests, and two
primitive tribes can come into a competition which is acute to the point
of warfare because being of the same, and not of two different, species,
the conditions of life which they both demand are identical; they are
impelled to fight for the possession of these conditions as animals of
different species are not impelled to fight. We are often told that
animals are more “moral” than human beings, and it is largely to the
fact that, except under the immediate stress of hunger, they are better
able to live in peace with each other, that the greater morality of
animals is due. Yet, we have to recognise, this mischievous tendency to
warfare, so often (though by no means always, and in the earliest stages
probably never) found in primitive man, was bound up with his superior
and progressive qualities. His intelligence, his quickness of sense, his
muscular skill, his courage and endurance, his aptitude for discipline
and for organisation—all of them qualities on which civilisation is
based—were fostered by warfare. With warfare in primitive life was
closely associated the still more fundamental art, older than humanity,
of dancing. The dance was the training school for all the activities
which man developed in a supreme degree—for love, for religion, for
art, for organised labour—and in primitive days dancing was the chief
military school, a perpetual exercise in mimic warfare during times of
peace, and in times of war the most powerful stimulus to military
prowess by the excitement it aroused. Not only was war a formative and
developmental social force of the first importance among early men, but
it was comparatively free from the disadvantages which warfare later on
developed; the hardness of their life and the obtuseness of their
sensibility reduced to a minimum the bad results of wounds and shocks,
while their warfare, being free from the awful devices due to the
devilry of modern man, was comparatively innocuous; even if very
destructive, its destruction was necessarily limited by the fact that
those accumulated treasures of the past which largely make civilisation
had not come into existence. We may admire the beautiful humanity, the
finely developed social organisation, and the skill in the arts attained
by such people as the Eskimo tribes, which know nothing of war, but we
must also recognise that warfare among primitive peoples has often been
a progressive and developmental force of the first importance, creating
virtues apt for use in quite other than military spheres.[2]

The case is altered when we turn from savagery to civilisation. The new
and more complex social order while, on the one hand, it presents
substitutes for war in so far as war is a source of virtues, on the
other hand, renders war a much more dangerous performance both to the
individual and to the community, becoming indeed, progressively more
dangerous to both, until it reaches such a climax of world-wide injury
as we witness to-day. The claim made in primitive societies that warfare
is necessary to the maintenance of virility and courage, a claim so
fully admitted that only the youth furnished with trophies of heads or
scalps can hope to become an accepted lover, is out of date in
civilisation. For under civilised conditions there are hundreds of
avocations which furnish exactly the same conditions as warfare for the
cultivation of all the manly virtues of enterprise and courage and
endurance, physical or moral. Not only are these new avocations equally
potent for the cultivation of virility, but far more useful for the
social ends of civilisation. For these ends warfare is altogether less
adapted than it is for the social ends of savagery. It is much less
congenial to the tastes and aptitudes of the individual, while at the
same time it is incomparably more injurious to Society. In savagery
little is risked by war, for the precious heirlooms of humanity have not
yet been created, and war can destroy nothing which cannot easily be
remade by the people who first made it. But civilisation possesses—and
in that possession, indeed, civilisation largely consists—the precious
traditions of past ages that can never live again, embodied in part in
exquisite productions of varied beauty which are a continual joy and
inspiration to mankind, and in part in slowly evolved habits and laws of
social amenity, and reasonable freedom, and mutual independence, which
under civilised conditions war, whether between nations or between
classes, tends to destroy, and in so destroying to inflict a permanent
loss in the material heirlooms of Mankind and a serious injury to the
spiritual traditions of civilisation.

It is possible to go further and to declare that warfare is in
contradiction with the whole of the influences which build up and
organise civilisation. A tribe is a small but very closely knit unity,
so closely knit that the individual is entirely subordinated to the
whole and has little independence of action or even of thought. The
tendency of civilisation is to create webs of social organisation which
grow ever larger, but at the same time looser, so that the individual
gains a continually growing freedom and independence. The tribe becomes
merged in the nation, and beyond even this great unit, bonds of
international relationship are progressively formed. War, which at first
favoured this movement, becomes an ever greater impediment to its
ultimate progress. This is recognised at the threshold of civilisation,
and the large community, or nation, abolishes warfare between the units
of which it is composed by the device of establishing law courts to
dispense impartial justice. As soon as civilised society realised that
it was necessary to forbid two persons to settle their disputes by
individual fighting, or by initiating blood-feuds, or by arming friends
and followers, setting up courts of justice for the peaceable settlement
of disputes, the death-blow of all war was struck. For all the arguments
that proved strong enough to condemn war between two individuals are
infinitely stronger to condemn war between the populations of two-thirds
of the earth. But, while it was a comparatively easy task for a State to
abolish war and impose peace within its own boundaries—and nearly all
over Europe the process was begun and for the most part ended centuries
ago—it is a vastly more difficult task to abolish war and impose peace
between powerful States. Yet at the point at which we stand to-day
civilisation can make no further progress until this is done. Solitary
thinkers, like the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, and even great practical
statesmen like Sully and Penn, have from time to time realised this
fact during the past four centuries, and attempted to convert it into
actuality. But it cannot be done until the great democracies are won
over to a conviction of its inevitable necessity. We need an
international organisation of law courts which shall dispense justice as
between nation and nation in the same way as the existing law courts of
all civilised countries now dispense justice as between man and man; and
we further need, behind this international organisation of justice, an
international organisation of police strong enough to carry out the
decisions of these courts, not to exercise tyranny but to ensure to
every nation, even the smallest, that measure of reasonable freedom and
security to go about its own business which every civilised nation now,
in some small degree at all events, already ensures to the humblest of
its individual citizens. The task may take centuries to complete, but
there is no more urgent task before mankind to-day.[3]

These considerations are very elementary, and a year or two ago they
might have seemed to many—though not to all of us—merely academic,
chiefly suitable to put before schoolchildren. But now they have ceased
to be merely academic; they have indeed acquired a vital actuality
almost agonisingly intense. For one realises to-day that the
considerations here set forth, widely accepted as they are, yet are not
generally accepted by the rulers and leaders of the greatest and
foremost nations of the world. Thus Germany, in its present Prussianised
state, through the mouths as well as through the actions of those rulers
and leaders, denies most of the conclusions here set forth. In Germany
it is a commonplace to declare that war is the law of Nature, that the
“struggle for existence” means the arbitration of warfare, that it is by
war that all evolution proceeds, that not only in savagery but in the
highest civilisation the same rule holds good, that human war is the
source of all virtues, the divinely inspired method of regenerating and
purifying mankind, and every war may properly be regarded as a holy war.
These beliefs have been implicit in the Prussian spirit ever since the
Goths and Vandals issued from the forests of the Vistula in the dawn of
European history. But they have now become a sort of religious dogma,
preached from pulpits, taught in Universities, acted out by statesmen.
From this Prussian point of view, whether right or wrong, civilisation,
as it has hitherto been understood in the world, is of little
consequence compared to German militaristic Kultur. Therefore the German
quite logically regards the Russians as barbarians, and the French as
decadents, and the English as contemptibly negligible, although the
Russians, however yet dominated by a military bureaucracy (moulded by
Teutonic influences, as some maliciously point out), are the most humane
people of Europe, and the French the natural leaders of civilisation as
commonly understood, and the English, however much they may rely on
amateurish methods of organisation by emergency, have scattered the
seeds of progress over a large part of the earth’s surface. It is
equally logical that the Germans should feel peculiar admiration and
sympathy for the Turks, and find in Turkey, a State founded on military
ideals, their own ally in the present war. That war, from our present
point of view, is a war of States which use military methods for special
ends (often indeed ends that have been thoroughly evil) against a State
which still cherishes the primitive ideal of warfare as an end in
itself. And while such a State must enjoy immense advantages in the
struggle, it is difficult, when we survey the whole course of human
development, to believe that there can be any doubt about the final

For one who writes as an Englishman, it may be necessary to point out
clearly that that final issue by no means involves the destruction, or
even the subjugation, of Germany. It is indeed an almost pathetic fact
that Germany, which idealises warfare, stands to gain more than any
country by an assured rule of international peace which would save her
from warfare. Placed in a position which renders militaristic
organisation indispensable, the Germans are more highly endowed than
almost any people with the high qualities of intelligence, of
receptiveness, of adaptability, of thoroughness, of capacity for
organisation, which ensure success in the arts and sciences of peace, in
the whole work of civilisation. This is amply demonstrated by the
immense progress and the manifold achievements of Germany during forty
years of peace, which have enabled her to establish a prosperity and a
good name in the world which are now both in peril. Germany must be
built up again, and the interests of civilisation itself, which Germany
has trampled under foot, demand that Germany shall be built up again,
under conditions, let us hope, which will render her old ideals useless
and out of date. We shall then be able to assert as the mere truisms
they are, and not as a defiance flung in the face of one of the world’s
greatest nations, the elementary propositions I have here set forth. War
is not a permanent factor of national evolution, but for the most part
has no place in Nature at all; it has played a part in the early
development of primitive human society, but, as savagery passes into
civilisation, its beneficial effects are lost, and, on the highest
stages of human progress, mankind once more tends to be enfolded, this
time consciously and deliberately, in the general harmony of Nature.

[1] P. Chalmers Mitchell, Evolution and the War, 1915.

[2] On the advantages of war in primitive society, see W. MacDougal’s
Social Psychology, Ch. XI.

[3] It is doubtless a task beset by difficulties, some of which are set
forth, in no hostile spirit, by Lord Cromer, “Thinking Internationally,”
Nineteenth Century, July, 1916; but the statement of most of these
difficulties is enough to suggest the solution.



In dealing with war it is not enough to discuss the place of warfare in
Nature or its effects on primitive peoples. Even if we decide that the
general tendency of civilisation is unfavourable to war we have scarcely
settled matters. It is necessary to push the question further home.
Primitive warfare among savages, when it fails to kill, may be a
stimulating and invigorating exercise, simply a more dangerous form of
dancing. But civilised warfare is a different kind of thing, to a very
limited extent depending on, or encouraging, the prowess of the
individual fighting men, and to be judged by other standards. What
precisely is the measurable effect of war, if any, on the civilised
human breed?
If we want to know what to do about war in the future,
that is the question we have to answer.

“Wars are not paid for in war-time,” said Benjamin Franklin, “the bill
comes later.” Franklin, who was a pioneer in many so fields, seems to
have been a pioneer in eugenics also by arguing that a standing army
diminishes the size and breed of the human species. He had, however, no
definite facts wherewith to demonstrate conclusively that proposition.
Even to-day, it cannot be said that there is complete agreement among
biologists as to the effect of war on the race. Thus we find a
distinguished American zoologist, Chancellor Starr Jordan, constantly
proclaiming that the effect of war in reversing selection is a great
overshadowing truth of history; warlike nations, he declares, become
effeminate, while peaceful nations generate a fiercely militant
spirit.[1] Another distinguished American scientist, Professor Ripley,
in his great work, The Races of Europe, likewise concludes that
“standing armies tend to overload succeeding generations with inferior
types of men.” A cautious English biologist, Professor J. Arthur
Thomson, is equally decided in this opinion, and in his recent Galton
Lecture[2] sets forth the view that the influence of war on the race,
both directly and indirectly, is injurious; he admits that there may
be beneficial as well as deteriorative influences, but the former
merely affect the moral atmosphere, not the hereditary germ plasm;
biologically, war means wastage and a reversal of rational selection,
since it prunes off a disproportionally large number of those whom the
race can least afford to lose. On the other hand, another biologist, Dr.
Chalmers Mitchell, equally opposed to war, cannot feel certain that the
total effect of even a great modern war is to deteriorate the stock,
while in Germany, as we know, it is the generally current opinion,
scientific and unscientific, equally among philosophers, militarists,
and journalists, that not only is war “a biological necessity,” but that
it is peace, and not war, which effeminates and degenerates a nation. In
Germany, indeed, this doctrine is so generally accepted that it is not
regarded as a scientific thesis to be proved, but as a religious dogma
to be preached. It is evident that we cannot decide this question, so
vital to human progress, except on a foundation of cold and hard fact.

Whatever may be the result of war on the quality of the breed, there can
be little doubt of its temporary effect on the quantity. The reaction
after war may create a stimulating influence on the birth-rate, leading
to a more or less satisfactory recovery, but it seems clear that the
drafting away of a large proportion of the manhood of a nation
necessarily diminishes births. At the present time English Schools are
sending out an unusually small number of pupils into life, and this is
directly due to the South-African War fifteen years ago. Still more
obvious is the direct effect of war, apart from diminishing the number
of births, in actually pouring out the blood of the young manhood of
the race. In the very earliest stage of primitive humanity it seems
probable that man was as untouched by warfare as his animal ancestors,
and it is satisfactory to think that war had no part in the first birth
of man into the world. Even the long Early Stone Age has left no
distinguishable sign of the existence of warfare.[3] It was not until
the transition to the Late Stone Age, the age of polished flint
implements, that we discern evidences of the homicidal attacks of man
on man. Even then we are concerned more with quarrels than with
battles, for one of the earliest cases of wounding known in human
records, is that of a pregnant young woman found in the Cro-magnon Cave
whose skull had been cut open by a flint several weeks before death, an
indication that she had been cared for and nursed. But, again at the
beginning of the New Stone Age, in the caverns of the Beaumes-Chaudes
people, who still used implements of the Old Stone type, we find skulls
in which are weapons of the New Stone type. Evidently these people had
come in contact with a more “civilised” race which had discovered war.
Yet the old pacific race still lingered on, as in the Belgian people
of the Furfooz type who occupied themselves mainly with hunting and
fishing, and have their modern representatives, if not their actual
descendants, in the peaceful Lapps and Eskimo.[4]

It was thus at a late stage of human history, though still so primitive
as to be prehistoric, that organised warfare developed. At the dawn of
history war abounded. The earliest literature of the Aryans—whether
Greeks, Germans, or Hindus—is nothing but a record of systematic
massacres, and the early history of the Hebrews, leaders in the world’s
religion and morality, is complacently bloodthirsty. Lapouge considers
that in modern times, though wars are fewer in number, the total number
of victims is still about the same, so that the stream of bloodshed
throughout the ages remains unaffected. He attempted to estimate the
victims of war for each civilised country during half a century, and
found that the total amounted to nine and a half millions, while, by
including the Napoleonic and other wars of the beginning of the
nineteenth century, he considered that that total would be doubled. Put
in another form, Lapouge says, the wars of a century spill 120,000,000
gallons of blood, enough to fill three million forty-gallon casks, or
to create a perpetual fountain sending up a jet of 150 gallons per hour,
a fountain which has been flowing unceasingly ever since the dawn of
history. It is to be noted, also, that those slain on the battlefield by
no means represent the total victims of a war, but only about half of
them; more than half of those who, from one cause or another, perished
in the Franco-Prussian war, it is said, were not belligerents. Lapouge
wrote some ten years ago and considered that the victims of war, though
remaining about absolutely the same in number through the ages, were
becoming relatively fewer. The Great War of to-day would perhaps have
disturbed his calculations, unless we may assume that it will be
followed by a tremendous reaction against war. For when the war had
lasted only nine months, it was estimated that if it should continue at
the present rate (and as a matter of fact its scale has been much
enlarged) for another twelve months, the total loss to Europe in lives
destroyed or maimed would be ten millions, about equal to five-sixths of
the whole young manhood of the German Empire, and nearly the same number
of victims as Lapouge reckoned as the normal war toll of a whole
half-century of European “civilisation.” It is scarcely necessary to add
that all these bald estimates of the number of direct victims to war
give no clue to the moral and material damage—apart from all question
of injury to the race—done by the sudden or slow destruction of so
large a proportion of the young manhood of the world, the ever widening
circles of anguish and misery and destitution which every fatal bullet
imposes on humanity, for it is probable that for every ten million
soldiers who fall on the field, fifty million other persons at home are
plunged into grief or poverty, or some form of life-diminishing trouble.

The foregoing considerations have not, however, brought us strictly
within the field of eugenics. They indicate the great extent to which
war affects the human breed, but they do not show that war affects the
quality of the breed, and until that is shown the eugenist remains

There are various circumstances which, at the outset, and even in the

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