(Written in September, 1912.)
A conflict between England and Germany exists already, a conflict of aims.
England rich, prosperous, with all that she can possibly assimilate already in her hands, desires peace on present conditions of world power. Those conditions are not merely that her actual possessions should remain intact, but that no other Great Power shall, by acquiring colonies and spreading its people and institutions into neighboring regions, thereby possibly affect the fuller development, of those pre-existing British States. For, with England equality is an offense and the Power that arrives at a degree of success approximating to her own and one capable of being expanded into conditions of fair rivalry has already committed the unpardonable sin. As Curran put it in his defense of Hamilton Rowan in 1797, “England is marked by a natural avarice of freedom which she is studious to engross and accumulate, but most unwilling to impart: whether from any necessity of her policy or from her weakness, or from her pride, I will not presume to say.”
Thus while England might even be the attacking party, and in all probability, will be the attacking party, she will embark on a war with Germany at an initial disadvantage. She will be on her defense. Although, probably, the military aggressor from reasons of strategy, she will be acting in obedience to an economic policy of defense and not of attack. Her chief concern will be not to advance and seize, always in war the more inspiring task, but to retain and hold. At best she could come out of the war with no new gain, with nothing added worth having to what she held on entering it. Victory would mean for her only that she had secured a further spell of quiet in which to consolidate her strength and enjoy the good things already won.
Germany will fight with far other purpose and one that must inspire a far more vigorous effort. She will fight, not merely to keep what she already has. but to escape from an intolerable position of inferiority she knows to be unmerited, and enforced not by the moral or intellectual superiority of her adversary or due to her own shortcomings, but maintained by reason of that adversary’s geographical position and early seizure of the various points of advantage.
Her effort will be not merely military, it will be an intellectual assertion, a fight in very truth for that larger freedom, that citizenship of the world England is studious “to engross and accumulate” for herself alone and to deny to all others. Thus, while English attack at the best will be actuated by no loftier feeling than that of a man who, dwelling in a very comfortable house with an agreeable prospect, resists an encroachment on his outlook from the building operations of his less well-lodged neighbor, Germany will be fighting not only to get out of doors into the open air and sunshine, but to build a loftier and larger dwelling, fit tenement for a numerous and growing offspring.
Whatever the structure Germany seeks to erect England objects to the plan and hangs out her war sign “Ancient Lights.”
Who can doubt that the greater patriotism and stronger purpose must inspire the man who fights for light, air and freedom, the right to walk abroad, to learn, to teach, aye, and to inspire others, rather than him whose chief concern it is to see that no one but himself enjoys those opportunities. The means, moreover, that each combatant will bring to the conflict are, in the end. on the side of Germany. Much the same disproportion of resources exists as lay between Rome and Carthage.
England relies on money, Germany on men. And just as Roman men beat Carthagian mercenaries, so must German manhood, in the end, triumph over British finance. Just as Carthage in the hours of final shock, placing her gold where Romans put their gods, and never with a soul above her ships, fell before the people of United Italy, so shall the mightier Carthage of the North Seas, in spite of trade, shipping, colonies, the power of the purse and the hired valor of the foreigner (Irish, Indian, African), go down before the men of United Germany.
But if the military triumph of Germany seems thus likely, the ultimate assurance, nay even the ultimate safety of German civilization can only be secured by a statesmanship which shall not repeat the mistake of Louis XIV and Napoleon. The military defeat of England by Germany is a wholly possible achievement of arms, if the conflict be between these two alone, but to realize the economic and political fruits of that victory, Ireland must be detached from the British Empire. To leave a defeated England still in the full possession of Ireland would be, not to settle the question of German equal rights at sea or in world affairs, but merely to postpone the settlement to a second and possibly far greater encounter. It would be somewhat as if Rome, after the first Punic War had left Sicily still to Carthage. But Ireland is far more vital to England than Sicily was to Carthage, and is of far more account to the future of Europe on the ocean than the possession of Sicily was to the future of the Mediterranean.
If Germany is to permanently profit from a victory over England, she must free the narrow seas, not only by the defeat of British fleets in being, but by ensuring that those seas shall not again be closed by British fleets yet to be. The German gateway to a free Atlantic can only be kept open through a free Ireland. For just as the English Channel under the existing arrangement, whereby Ireland lies hidden from the rest of Europe, can be closed at will by England, so with Ireland no longer tied to the girdle of England, that channel cannot be locked. The key to the freedom of European navigation lies at Berehaven and not at Dover. With Berehaven won from English hands, England might close the Channel in truth, but Ireland could shut the Atlantic. As Richard Cox put it in 1689, quaintly but truly, in his dedication to King William III and Queen Mary of his “History of Ireland from the Earliest Times”:
“But no cost can be too great where the prize is of such value, and whoever considers the situation, ports, plenty, and other advantages of Ireland will confess that it must be retained at what rate soever; because if it should come into an enemy’s hands, England would find it impossible to flowrish and perhaps difficult to subsist without it. To demonstrate this assertion it is enough to say that Ireland lies in the Line of Trade and that all the English vessels that sail to the East, West and South must, as it were, run the gauntlet between the Harbors of Brest and Baltimore; and I might add that the Irish Wool being transported would soon ruin the English Clothing Manufacture. Hence it is that all Your Majesty’s Predecessors have kept close to this fundamental Maxim of retaining Ireland inseparably united to the Crown of England.”
The sole and exclusive appropriation of Ireland and of all her resources has indeed formed, since the Recorder of Kinsale wrote, the mainstay and chief support of British greatness.
The natural position of Ireland lying “in the line of trade,” was possibly its chief value, but that “Irish wool,” which was by no means to be allowed free access to world markets typifies much else that Ireland has been relentlessly forced to contribute to her neighbor’s growth and sole profit.
I read but yesterday—”Few people realize that the trade of Ireland with Great Britain is equal to that of our trade with India, is 13,000,000 pounds greater than our trade with Germany, and 40,000,000 pounds greater than the whole of our trade with the United States.” How completely England has laid hands on all Irish resources is made clear from a recent publication that Mr. Chamberlain’s “Tariff Commission” issued towards the end of 1912.
This document, entitled “The Economic Position of Ireland and its Relation to Tariff Reform,'” constitutes, in fact, a manifesto calling for the release of Ireland from the exclusive grip of Great Britain. Thus, for instance, in the section “External Trade of Ireland,” we learn that Ireland exported in 1910, £63,400,000 worth of Irish produce. Of this Great Britain took £52,600,000 worth, while some £10,800,000 went either to foreign countries, or to British colonies, over £4,000,000 going to the United States. Of these £11,000,000 worth of Irish produce sent to distant countries, only £700,000 was shipped direct from Irish ports.
The remainder, more than £10,000,000 although the markets it was seeking lay chiefly to the West, had to be shipped East into Great Britain and to pay a heavy transit toll to that country for discharge, handling, agency, commission, and reloading on British vessels in British ports to steam back past the shores of Ireland it had just left. While Ireland, indeed, lies in the “line of trade,” between all Northern Europe and the great world markets, she has been robbed of her trade and artificially deprived of the very position assigned to her by nature in the great tides of commercial intercourse. It is not only the geographical situation and the trade and wealth of Ireland that England has laid hands on for her own aggrandizement, but she has also appropriated to her own ends the physical manhood of the Island. Just as the commerce has been forcibly annexed and diverted from its natural trend, so the youth of Ireland has been fraudulently appropriated and diverted from the defense of their own land to the extension of the power and wealth of the realm that impoverished it at home. The physical qualities of the Irish were no less valuable than “Irish wool” to Empire building, provided always they were not displayed in Ireland.
So long ago as 1613 we find a candid admission in the State papers that the Irish were the better men in the field. “The next rebellion, whenever it shall happen, doth threaten more danger to the State than any heretofore, when the cities and walled towns were always faithful; (1) because they have the same bodies they ever had and therein they have and had advantage of us; (2) from infancy they have been and are exercised in the use of arms; (3) the realm by reason of the long peace was never so full of youths: (4) that they are better soldiers than heretofore, their Continental employment in wars abroad assures us, and they do conceive that their men are better than ours.”
This testimony to Irish superiority, coming as it does from English official sources just three hundred years ago, would be convincing enough did it stand alone. But it is again and again reaffirmed by English commanders themselves as the reason for their failure in some particular enterprise. In all else they were superior to the Irish; in arms, armament, munitions, supplies of food and money, here the long purse, settled organization and greater commerce of England, gave her an overwhelming advantage. Moreover, the English lacked the moral restraints that imposed so severe a handicap on the Irish in their resistance. They owned no scruple of conscience in committing any crime that served their purpose. Beaten often in open tight by the hardier bodies, stouter arms and greater courage of the Irishmen, they nevertheless won the game by recourse to means that no Irishman, save him who had joined them for purposes of revenge or in pursuit of selfish personal aims, could possibly have adopted. The fight from the first was an unequal one. Irish valor, chivalry, and personal strength were matched against wealth, treachery and cunning. The Irish better bodies were overcome by the worse hearts. As Curran put it in 1817—”The triumph of England over Ireland is the triumph of guilt over innocence.”
The Earl of Essex, who came to Ireland in 1599 with one of the largest forces of English troops that, up to then, had ever been dispatched into Ireland (18,000 men), ascribed his complete failure, in writing to the Queen, to the physical superiority of the Irish:
“These rebels are more in number than your Majesty’s army and have (though I do unwillingly confess it), better bodies, and perfecter use of their arms, than those men whom your Majesty sends over.”
The Queen, who followed the war in Ireland with a swelling wrath on each defeat, and a growing fear that the Spaniards would keep their promise to lend aid to the Irish Princes, O’Neill and O’Donnell, issued “Instructions” and a set of “Ordinances” for the conduct of the war in Ireland, which, while enjoining recourse to the usual methods outside the field of battle—(i. e. starvation, “politic courses,” [assassination of leaders], and the sowing of dissension by means of bribery and promises), required for the conflict, that her weaker soldiers should be protected against the onslaught of the unarmored Irishman by head pieces of steel. She ordered “every soldier to be enforced to wear a murrion, because the enemy is encouraged by the advantage of arms to come to the sword wherein he commonly prevaileth.”
One of the Generals of the Spanish King, Phillip III, who came to Ireland in the Winter of 1601 with a handful of Spanish troops (200 men), to reinforce the small expedition of de Aguila in Kinsale, thus reported on the physical qualities of the Irish in a document that still lies in Salamanca, in the archives of the old Irish College. It was written by Don Pedro de Zubiarr on the 16th of January, 1602, on his return to the Asturias. Speaking of the prospect of the campaign, he wrote: “If we had brought arms for 10,000 men we could have had them, for they are very eager to carry on the war against the English. The Irish are very strong and well shaped, accustomed to endure hunger and toil, and very courageous in fight.”
Perhaps the most vivid testimony to the innate superiority of the Irishman as a soldier is given in a typically Irish challenge issued in the war of 1641. The document has a lasting interest, for it displays not only the “better body” of the Irishman of that day, but something of his better heart as well, that still remains to us.
One, Parsons, an English settler in Ireland, had written to a friend to say that, among other things, the head of the Colonel of an Irish regiment then in the field against the English, would not be allowed to stick long on its shoulders. The letter was intercepted by the very regiment itself, and a Captain in it, Felim O’Molloy, wrote back to Parsons:
“I will do this if you please: I will pick out sixty men and fight against one hundred of your choice men if you do but pitch your camp one mile out of your town, and then if you have the victory, you may threaten my Colonel; otherwise, do not reckon your chickens before they are hatched.”
The Anglo-Saxon preferred “politic courses” to accepting the Irish soldier’s challenge, even where all the advantage was conceded by the Irishman to his foe and all the risks, save that of treachery (a very necessary precaution in dealing with the English in Ireland), cheerfully accepted by the Celt.
This advantage of the “better bodies” the Irish retained beyond all question up to the Famine. It was upon it alone that the Wexford peasantry relied in 1798, and with it and by it alone that they again and again, armed with but pike and scythe swept disciplined regiments of English mercenaries in headlong rout from the field. This physical superiority of his countrymen was frequently referred to by O’Connell as one of the forces he relied on. With the decay of all things Irish that has followed the famine, these physical attributes have declined along with so much else that was typical of the nation and the man.
It could not to-day be fearlessly affirmed that sixty Irishmen were more than a match for one hundred Englishmen; yet depleted as it is by the emigration of its strongest and healthiest children, by growing sickness and a changed and deteriorated diet, the Irish race still presents a type, superior physically, intellectually and morally to the English. It was on Irish soldiers that the English chiefly relied in the Boer War, and it is no exaggeration to say that could all the Irishmen in the ranks of the British army have been withdrawn, a purely British force would have failed to end the war and the Dutch would have remained masters of the field in South Africa.
It was the inglorious part of Ireland to be linked with those “methods of barbarism” she herself knew only too well, in extinguishing the independence of a people who were attacked by the same enemy and sacrificed to the same greed that had destroyed her own freedom.
Unhappy, indeed, is it for mankind as for her own fate and honor that Ireland should be forced by dire stress of fortune to aid her imperial wrecker in wrecking the fortune and freedom of brave men elsewhere!
That these physical qualities of Irishmen, even with a population now only one tenth that of Great Britain are still of value to the Empire, Mr. Churchill’s speech on the Home Rule Bill made frankly clear (February, 1913). We now learn that the First Lord of the Admiralty has decided to establish a new Training Squadron, “with a base at Queenstown,” where it is hoped to induce by the bribe of “Self-Government” the youth of Cork and Minister to again man the British fleet as they did in the days of Nelson, and we are even told that the prospects of brisk recruiting are “politically favorable.”
Carthage got her soldiers from Spain, her seamen, her slingers, from the Balearic Islands and the coasts of Africa, her money from the trade of the world. Rome beat her, but she did not leave a defeated Carthage to still levy toll of men and mind on those external sources of supply.
Germany must fight, not merely to defeat the British fleet of to-day. but to neutralize the British fleet of tomorrow. Leave Ireland to Great Britain and that can never be. Neutralize Ireland and it is already accomplished.
One of the conditions of peace, and for this reason the most important condition of peace that a victorious Germany must impose upon her defeated antagonist is that Ireland shall be separated and erected into an independent European State under international guarantees. England obviously would resist such conditions to the last, but then the last has already come before England would consent to any peace save on terms she dictated.
A defeated England is a starved England. She would have to accept whatever terms Germany imposed unless those terms provoked external intervention on behalf of the defeated Power.
The price Germany seeks to win from victory is not immediate territorial aggrandizement obtained from annexing British possessions, nor a heavy money indemnity wrung from British finance and trade (although this she might have), but German freedom throughout the world on equal terms with Britain. This is a prize worth fighting for, for once gained the rest follows as a matter of course.
German civilization released from the restricted confines and unequal position in which Britain had sought to pen it, must, of itself, win its way to the front, and of necessity acquire those favored spots necessary to its wider development.
“This is the meaning of his (the German’s) will for power; safety from interference with his individual and national development. Only one thing is left to the nations that do not want to be left behind in the peaceful rivalry of human progress—that is to become the equals of Germany in untiring industry, in scientific thoroughness, in sense of duty, in patient persistence, in intelligent, voluntary submission to organization.” (“History of German Civilization,” by Ernst Richard, Columbia University, New York.)
Once she had reduced Great Britain to an opposition based on peaceful rivalry in human progress, Germany would find the path of success hers to tread on more than equal terms, and many fields of expansion now closed would readily open to German enterprise without that people incurring and inflicting the loss and injury that an attempted invasion of the great self-governing dominions would so needlessly involve. Most of the British self-governing colonies are to-day great states, well able to defend themselves from over-seas attack. The defeat of the British navy would make scarcely at all easier the landing of German troops in, say, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand. A war of conquest of those far distant regions would be, for Germany, an impossible and a stupidly impossible task.
A defeated England could not cede any of those British possessions as a price of peace, for they are inhabited by freemen who, however they might deplore a German occupation of London, could in no wise be transferred by any pact or treaty made by others, to other rule than that of themselves. Therefore to obtain those British Dominions. Germany would have to defeat not merely England, but after that to begin a fresh war, or a series of fresh wars, at the ends of the earth, with exhausted resources and a probably crippled fleet.
The thing does not bear inspection and may be dismissed from our calculation.
The only territories that England could cede by her own act to a victorious Power are such as, in themselves, are not suited to colonization by a white race. Doubtless, Germany would seek compensation for the expenses of the war in requiring the transfer of some of these latter territories of the British Crown to herself. There are points in Tropical Africa, in the East, islands in the ocean to-day flying the British flag that might, with profit to German trade and influence, be acquired by a victorious Germany. But none of these things in itself, nor all of them put together, would meet the requirements of the German case, or ensure to Germany that future tranquil expansion and peaceful rivalry the war had been fought to secure. England would be weakened, and to some extend impoverished by a war ending which such results; but her great asset, her possession beyond price would still be hers—her geographical position. Deprive her today, say, of the Gold Coast, the Niger. Gibraltar, even of Egypt, impose a heavy indemnity, and while Germany would barely have recouped herself for the out-of-pocket losses of the war. England in fact would have lost nothing, and ten years hence the Teuton would look out again upon the same prospect, a Europe still dominated beyond the seas by the Western Islanders.
The work would have to be done all over again. A second Punic war would have to be fought with this disadvantage—that the Atlantic Sicily would be held and used still against the Northern Rome by the Atlantic Carthage.
A victorious Germany, in addition to such terms as she may find it well to impose in her own immediate financial or territorial interests, must so draft her peace conditions as to preclude her great antagonist from ever again seriously imperilling the freedom of the seas. I know of no way save one to make sure the open seas. Ireland, in the name of Europe, and in the exercise of European right to free the seas from the over-lordship of one European island must be resolutely withdrawn from British custody. A second Berlin conference, an international Congress must debate, and clearly would debate, with growing unanimity the German proposal to restore Ireland to Europe.
The arguments in favor of that proposal would soon become so clear from the general European standpoint that save England and her defeated allies, no Power would oppose it.
Considerations of expediency no less than naval, mercantile, and moral claims would range themselves on the side of Germany and a free Ireland. For a free Ireland, not owned or exploited by England, but appertaining to Europe at large, its ports available in a sense they never can be while under British control, for purposes of general navigation and overseas intercourse, would soon become of such first rank importance in Continental affairs as to leave men stupified by the thought that for five hundred years they had allowed one sole member of their community the exclusive use and selfish misappropriation of this, the most favored of European islands.
Ireland would be freed, not because she deserved or asked for freedom, not because English rule has been a tyranny, a moral failure, a stupidity and a sin against the light; not because Germany cared for Ireland, but because the withdrawal of Ireland from English control appeared to be a very necessary step in international welfare and one very needful to the progress of German and European expansion .
An Ireland released from the jail in which England had confined her would soon become a populous state of possibly 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 people, a commercial asset of Europe in the Atlantic of the utmost general value, one holding an unique position between the Old and New Worlds, and possibly an intellectual and moral asset of no mean importance. This, and more a sovereign Ireland means to Europe. Above all it means security of transit, equalizing of opportunity, freedom of the seas—an assurance that the great waterways of the ocean should no longer be at the absolute mercy of one member of the European family, and that one the least interested in general European welfare.
The stronger a free Ireland grew the surer would be the guarantee that the role of England “consciously assumed for many years past, to be an absolute and wholly arbitrary judge of war and peace” had gone forever, and that at last the “balance of power” was kept by fair weight and fair measure and not with loaded scales.