The consensus of intelligent thought throughout the world is to the effect that just as we have established an orderly method for the settlement of disputes between individuals or groups of individuals in any particular nation, we must now move forward and establish such methods for the settlement of disputes among nations. There is no civilised country in the world that any longer permits the individual to take the law into his own hands.
The intelligent thought of the world now demands the definite establishment of a World Federation for the enforcement of peace among nations. It demands likewise the definite establishment of a permanent World Court backed by adequate force for the arbitrament of all disputes among nations - unable to be adjusted by the nations themselves in friendly conference. We have now reached the stage in world development and in world intercourse where peace must be internationalised. Our present chaotic condition, which exists simply because we haven't taken time as yet to establish a method, must be made to give place to an intelligently devised system of law and order. Anything short of this means a periodic destruction of the finest fruits of civilisation. It means also the periodic destruction of the finest young manhood of the world. This means, in turn, the speedy degeneration of the human race. The deification of force, augmented by all the products and engines of modern science, is simply the way of sublimated savagery.
The world is in need of a new dispensation. Recent events show indisputably that we have reached the parting of the ways, the family of nations must now push on into the new day or the world will plunge on into a darker night. There is no other course in sight. I know of no finer words penned in any language - this time it was in the French - to express an unvarying truth than these words by Victor Hugo: " There is one thing that is stronger than armies, and that is an idea whose time has come."
Never before, after viewing the great havoc wrought, the enormous debts that will have to be paid for between two and three hundred years to come, the tremendous disruptions and losses in trade, the misery and degradation that stalks broadcast over every land engaged in the war - scarcely a family untouched - never before have nations been in the state of mind to consider and to long to act upon some sensible and comprehensive method of international concord and adjustments. If this succeeds, the world, including ourselves, is the gainer. If this does not succeed, though the chances are overwhelmingly in its favour, then we can proclaim to the assembled nations that as long as a state of outlawry exists among nations, that then no longer by chance, but by design, we as a nation will be in a state of preparedness broad and comprehensive enough to defend ourselves against the violation of any of the rights of a sovereign nation. It is only in this way that we can show a due appreciation of the struggles and the sacrifices of those who gave us our national existence, it is only in this way that we can retain our self-respect, that we can command the respect of other nations while things are as they are; that we can hope to retain any degree of influence and authority for the diplomatic arm of our Government in the Council of Nations.
Every neutral nation has suffered tremendously by the war. Every neutral nation will suffer until a new world-order among nations is projected and perfected.
We owe a tremendous duty to the world in connection with this great world crisis and upheaval. Diligently should our best men and women, those of insight and greatest influence, and with the expenditure of both time and means, seek to further the practical working out of a World Federation and a permanent World Court. Public opinion should be thus aroused and solidified so that the world knows that we stand as a united nation back of the idea and the plan when the time comes for those in authority formally to present or help in presenting such plan before the assembled representatives of the nations. Within the past twelve months we have heard many clear-cut endorsements of such an ideal and such a plan from leading statesmen in England, in Germany, in France, in Russia, that it would seem impossible that with the right procedure it cannot now be brought into operation. The divine right of kings has gone. It holds no more. We hear now and then, it is true, some silly statement in regard to it, but little attention is paid to it. The divine right of priests has gone except in the minds of the few remaining ignorant and herdable ones. The divine right of dynasties - or rather of dynasties to persist - seems to die a little harder, but it is on the way. We are now realising that the only divine right is the right of the people - and all the people.
Never again should it be possible for one man, or for one little group of men so to lead, or so to mislead a nation as to plunge it into war. The growth of democracy compelling the greater participation of all the people in government must prohibit this. So likewise the close relationship of the entire world now should make it forever impossible for a single nation or group of nations for any cause to plunge a whole world or any part of it into war. These are sound and clear-visioned words recently given utterance to by James Bryce: " However much we condemn reckless leaders and the ruthless caste that live for war, the real source of the mischief is the popular sentiment behind them. The lesson to be learned is that doctrines and deep-rooted passions, whence these evils spring, can only be removed by the slow and steady working of spiritual forces. What most is needed is the elimination of those feelings the teachings of which breed jealousy and hatred and prompt men to defiance and aggression."
Humanity and civilisation is not headed towards Ab the cave-man, whatever appearances, in the minds of many, may indicate at the present time. Humanity will arise and will reconstruct itself. Great lessons will be learned. Good will result. But what a terrific price to pay! What a terrific price to pay to learn the lesson that " moral forces are the only invincible forces in the universe"! It has been slow, but steadily the world is advancing to that stage when the individual or the nation that does not know that the law of mutuality, of cooperation, and still more the law of sympathy and good will, is the supreme law in real civilisation, real advancement, and real gain - who does not know that its own welfare is always bound up with the welfare of the greater whole - is still in the brute stage of life and the bestial propensities are still its guiding forces.
Prejudice, suspicion, hatred, national big-headedness, must give way to respect, sympathy, the desire for mutual understanding and cooperation. The higher attributes must and will assert themselves. The former are the ways of periodic if not continuous destruction - the latter are the ways of the higher spiritual forces that must prevail. Significant are these words of one of our younger but clear-visioned American poets, Winter Binner: