Interview with Edward Marshall, July 11, 1915


[image] Miss Jane Addams (Second from Left in Front Row) and Other Members of American Mission to the International Peace Conference at The Hague.


If the United States Would Call Conference of Neutrals It Would Be the First Step to End War

By Edward Marshall.

JANE ADDAMS, returned from her survey of Europe as the American delegate of the [Woman's] Peace Party to the conference at The Hague, says the women's mission was taken more seriously there than here.

When we had finished a long talk I asked her to briefly summarize those details of her experience which had impressed her most.

"I believe the European peoples, as a whole, are ready and anxious for peace," she answered. "This is not true of the belligerent Governments, but it is true of all the peoples. They are thinking solemnly and are ready to talk seriously of it. They are readier to talk seriously of it with an American than with any one else, for reasons which are obvious. We are the greatest of the neutral nations, and are of definite importance to each one of the warring powers.

"We women delegates to the congress saw and were gravely and courteously received by men of real importance everywhere we went. We were not looked upon as meddlers; no one thought we were amusing.

"The movement was taken there more seriously than it has been taken here. The newspapers of Europe accepted it as something to be reckoned with. There can be [no] doubt of that. We reached the real men everywhere.

"The militarists are not willing to consider peace. They never have been ready to consider peace at any time in any country. But we found in each Governmental group certain notable and important encroachments upon purely military thought.

"We everywhere found more or less definite division between the civil and the military groups, and, while we found both groups patriotic, in each instance, we found important civilians generally opposed to having the end of the war represent a merely military settlement.

"While the militarists are of necessity out of the argument and the Governmental groups are inevitably voiceless, we came away impressed with the belief that probably all of the thinking civil population would welcome advances looking to some settlement and that the most practical and acceptable advance would be some form of conference of neutrals guided by the United States. Personally I am convinced that this is our really great opportunity and our undeniable duty.

"Mediation, in the old sense, I think, would be a failure. It would be impossible for any of the warring powers to accept an offer of the sort from us or any one. But if the United States should call a conference of neutrals I believe the action would be welcomed.

"It is as certain that any Government which asked us to act as mediator would be rent by its own people as it is that any offer on our part to act as mediator would be rebuffed; but a continuous conference of neutral powers, standing ready to act when the opportunity arose, might be of immense value.

"The Pope told us that he would encourage the idea, and several men high in the official life of each of the warring nations expressed approval of the plan.

"Effective American work for the peace of the world, therefore, must mean the organization for the purpose of something bigger than yet has been planned, not designed to try its hand at 'stopping the war,' but to be ready with effective help when Europe herself desires to stop the war. That might be a difficult thing for Europe to do if we, or some one, did not stand ready to offer real assistance.

"It is to be hoped, of course, that this may be brought about without too much delay. The longer the war continues the [page 2] more impregnably [entrenched] in power the military will be in every warring nation; and professional soldiers will not fight for peace.

"In every country that we visited there was, broadly speaking, a clear division between civil and military thought. I think it is fair to say that civilians in general are frightened by the prospect that after the war ends, whatever its result may be, the military will have become as immovably fixed in its Governmental [entrenchments] as it has endeavored to be in its physical [entrenchments] of the battlefield.

"The civilian is really alarmed by the removal of one safeguard after another against permanently dominant militarism. He knows that the longer the war lasts the more difficult it will be for the civil authorities to regain control, and that the longer it lasts the more difficult it will be for them to exercise control when they regain it, even if they succeed in doing so.

"We did not try to see the military people in any of the countries. Our efforts were to come in contact with the Chancellors, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Members of the Parliaments, [etc.] These we met in great numbers.

"An interesting point and a somewhat encouraging one is the fact that the pacifists of now are not the old set, but a different type. In Germany they call themselves the Union for the New Fatherland. In England they call themselves the Union for Democratic Control. In France a group is rapidly organizing, and already shows signs which indicate the certainty of notable strength, along the lines of the English organization. None of these are definite pacifists. Longuet in Paris may be considered the leader, in this direction, of French thought.

"We found in this a definitely hopeful sign. It seemed apparent to me that a constructive movement unmistakably is growing out of the tremendous destruction which has been in progress.

"I consider it, too, an optimistic indication that women and their opinions are being taken very seriously throughout Europe without any relation whatsoever to the suffrage movement. In a few of the warring countries, indeed, there was neither an organized suffrage movement nor an organized council of women, although in each were individuals who espoused these causes.

"In every country we met women, some of them representatives of suffrage and some of them connected with the Council of Women, who somewhat resented our mission, for some women are as definitely upon the offensive as any of the men. They found it impossible to do other than offer reproaches to the women who were endeavoring to further peace.

"But the gravity, even solemnity, with which men and women alike regarded us and our mission was almost universal. Perhaps it is but natural that there, where the red stains of war are close at hand, all efforts to bring peace should be received at least respectfully.

"Not a flippant word was spoken of the Woman's Peace Movement, so far as I know, in all Europe while we were there; not once were we called meddlers. The distinction of thus designating us and of referring to the movement as an amusing episode was reserved for certain American newspapers.

"This seems to me to indicate real progress, for I doubt if, a few months ago, it would have been admitted that such a movement was worth while. But progress usually comes through groups which see a situation and begin discussion of it. If there were fifteen hundred women willing to face the situation as it is -- a hard one to face -- mostly women whose husbands and sons are participating in the war and whose lives continually are influenced by the general hysteria of resentment and belligerence; if there were fifteen hundred women willing to make the effort and bear the expense of time and money necessary to actual participation in our deliberations, then something in the way of a real sentiment toward the ending of the war must be admitted to exist.

"However, I must be cautious in offering positive interpretations of the existing situation. No one can interpret it positively now. It is too loose, it is too anarchistic, it is too much a setting free of the old barbaric fighting instincts to be adequately understood, perhaps, by a person not directly swayed as the European populations now are swayed.

"The war spirit is being fed daily in all the fighting nations by new resentments of the conduct of those upon the other side. In Germany, for example, it is constantly preached and generally believed that England brought the war about by an attempt to starve the German Nation. It is impossible to indicate in calm words the feeling of resentment against England which pervades all Germany.

"In England the situation is as difficult. The tide of hatred against Germany is at the flood, and to the Englishman the German seems capable of nothing except evil. There we heard the reports of the Belgian atrocities endlessly repeated; we heard continual and indescribably bitter comment on the Lusitania's destruction, on the use of poisonous gases, and so on.

"It cannot but be admitted that when one sees only these aspects of the situation in their nakedness, talk of peace seems futile.

"One man told me that on his estate near the Carpathians were thirteen hundred men recovering from frostbite alone -- mostly soldiers whose feet had been frozen. He had reached the point where war to him had become as horrible as it could be to any woman. So men, too, are beginning to resent the slaughter, the maiming, and the waste. He said to me:

"'I am a patriot. I have done my share in this very war, but I do not call such horrors warfare. They are not legitimate. Mankind, since he developed from the ape, has known the wickedness of some things which have been common in this war.'

"But nowhere that we went, among no people with whom we discussed the situation, did we find any division of opinion as to the righteousness of the warfare; and this was a bad sign.

"Each man, each woman with whom we discussed the matter believed that his or her side was the righteous side and that the other side was wholly wrong. Each nation in the war is certain that it is fighting for its legitimate and necessary defense, that it is fighting for its national ideals.

"It is an interesting phenomenon that the citizens of all the warring nations use about the same phrases in speaking of the righteousness of their cause, and the unrighteousness of that of their antagonists.

"An extraordinary feature of the struggle is the curious groupings which we find beneath the various flags. Protestant Germany, Catholic Austria, and Mohammedan Turkey are fighting side by side for the same cause. England and Germany are the bitterest foes, yet the ties of blood brotherhood between them are stronger than the ties which bind either one of them to any other nation.

"The Pope gave us half an hour. He said that from the religious standpoint the hideousness of the conflict meant a tremendous throwing back of civilization, and that he would [cooperate] with any power which led a movement toward a worthy peace.

"It is his belief that the President of the United States is the most logical leader of a movement toward such a peace, and he definitely said that in such a movement, under such leadership, he gladly would [cooperate], and that he even would appoint, if it were so desired, a secular person from a neutral country to be his representative.

"In other words, he definitely declared that he would accommodate himself in every way to the needs of the situation, not offering any ecclesiastical restrictions. Cardinal [Gasparri] spoke in a similar strain.

"The few in the United States who have pooh-poohed the woman's movement may be interested in knowing that in almost every European country the most distinguished men admitted freely that the task of making peace is woman's work.

"I was immensely impressed by the number of German women at the congress. So many were there, indeed, that more than one English newspaper said that the organization had been captured by the Germans.

"This was due merely to the fact that men of any nation seem to be incapable of understanding that at a time like this the women of all nations are animated by about the same impulse -- the horror of destroying human life, the sense of the futility of rearing men children to be cannon food.

"This attitude of men is curiously blind. Some of them seem to believe that no woman could attend a congress of this kind for any other than a nationalistic motive -- that a truly humanitarian impulse leading her to such attendance is impossible.

"The original idea of the conference was the formation of an international suffrage alliance in which all of the forty-two countries in which Parliaments have the right to give the franchise to women should be represented.

"The conference was to have met in Germany, but, of course, this was impossible. The women delegates from Holland were disappointed and suggested the substitution of a congress urging not the suffrage, but peace. Dr. Jacobs of Holland, therefore, really was the founder of the congress."

Miss Addams gave me this talk just before she left for Washington to call upon the President. She felt that at that time it would be improper to quote European men by name, deeming it her duty to first present such quotations to the President himself, but she assured me that she would be able to tell him many things which later might be given to the public.

"We were not official," she went on, "but we were felt. Something in the nature of official receptions occurred almost everywhere we went, and some very notable men took much trouble to participate in them.

"To the President I shall only report, not suggest, telling him how we generally were received. I cannot say that the cordial greetings which everywhere awaited us were of any significance as indicating friendliness toward the United States, for really we represented all nations.

"We went to one Minister who at first said nothing as, grizzled and impressive, he listened to our statement. Presently some one said that our mission at that time might seem to him foolish. He brought his fist down upon the table.

"'Foolish! No! This call is a relief. I am tired of seeing men who ask for nothing but more munitions and more soldiers. Now you come. Fine!'

"I left Europe free from the impression that there is any real racial hatred there. Two German prisoners were taken to an English trench. An Englishman arose and said

"'Ah, our two friends, Hans and Fritz, will now favor us with the '"Hymn of Hate."' It caused laughter, not an attack upon the Germans.

"This impersonality of the whole thing; this fact that men are fighting, not because they want to fight, but because they have been told to fight, is difficult to understand. I came back with a feeling of confusion.

"It seems unbelievable to me that some person, such as the President of the United States, who could not be accused of any personal interest, might not, with a little effort, do much to clear up such a situation.

"At present the civil governments are too united to seem to care for anything but victory, but, nevertheless, one gets the impression that they are agreed that the war must not go on too long. It is possible that they are startled by the dreadful possibilities. It is possible that as they read of trenches which have been concreted and built with carefully planned beams, they are worrying if they do not represent a terrible danger to all civil government.

"I got the feeling in Germany that there was a tremendous feeling against us because of our supplying the Allies with ammunition. I got the feeling in France of strong feeling against us because we had not protested against the Belgian invasion. I believe, however, that the general thought is that America may help toward peace and that there is general hope for it.

"It seems to be the thought in Germany that if the war ends on a military basis, through a Russian victory, the result would be an inevitable and general establishment of militarism of the Russian sort, but that if it should be made through an English victory, this would be less likely to occur. Thus, I think, the Germans believe peace through England to be more hopeful than peace through Russia.

"The Kaiser was in Galicia when we were in Germany, and so, of course, we made no effort to see him, but we were received eagerly by many of the most notable people of the nation.

"In England our reception was very cordial from the most distinguished.

"France could not have done better by us than she did. Among those who greeted us there with great cordiality was the grandson of Lafayette. He thought that in the existing situation lay a great chance for America to be of service to the world.

"But the bitterness of France is most acute. No Frenchman will admit that France ever will stop fighting until the last inch of her soil is free. In France I talked with one old man whose attitude was almost maniacal.

"The German feeling toward America is curious. They are angry, of course, but they seem to be more hurt than incensed by the fact that we are furnishing supplies and ammunition to the Allies. They are bitter, but they are grief-stricken.

"I met one Austrian professor whom I think was convinced that we are well within our rights in trading as we do, and I think that usually I could almost have convinced protesting Germans of the righteousness of our position if I could have had them by themselves.

"The willingness of the Germans for self-sacrifice in the national cause is tremendously impressive. They are content to give everything to help Germany carry on the war. One man whom I have known for years, and whose library was wonderful, has given that.

"I know of nothing more impressive than to watch the young recruits in Germany as they are going forward to the front. I remember one troop of five hundred, none of whom, apparently, was of more than 19 years. Upon their bayonets bouquets were bound, their caps flooded with ribbons.

"It thrilled me, shocked me, horrified me to see them march gayly toward the slaughter.

"I believe the Socialists in Germany are regaining some lost strength, and I think that this is also true in Italy.

"I have spoken of the lack of personal hatred among the troops. One interesting episode was brought to my attention. An officer came back to England for decoration and promotion. He told the story that on one occasion he led his men into unexpected sight of one hundred and fifty German bathers in a stream. He ordered his men to fire upon the bathers, but they refused. His subsequent statement was that he had not intended a real volley, but had given the order merely for the purpose of frightening the Germans."

"What should American women do to help?" I asked.

"I don't know," Miss Addams answered, "except that it seems to me to be their general duty to fix their minds upon the subject. It must be impressed upon their sensibilities that this slaughter has a terrible biological significance.

"In this interview I do not wish to go into that discussion, but I hope that every American woman will give thought to it. Every woman has a right to special interest in it. Would not artists rise in strong revolt at sight of art works battered and destroyed? Life is of woman's making.

"To say that woman's protest is not patriotic is absurd. Women are as earnest in their patriotism as men could be. Even the soldiers cry, almost complaining that we are good to them when sick but send them back to battle in the trenches.

"There is revolt arising among the younger men, as well as among women. Their protest is far more notable than that of older ones.

"To find those who feel that killing men in warfare is akin to murder is not at all unusual, while among the older men the point of view that killing is excusable if done for the preservation of a nationality is more common.

"There is no lack of sentiment against the war, and it is growing. The socialist current is aghast. The Christian thinkers are aghast, and this is as true of thoughtful Jews.

"It may be that we met exceptional persons, but I think I am not mistaken in believing that this sense of protest is quite general.

"I was told, for instance, about five men who were sent back from the hospitals to the fighting line and there committed suicide. They could not endure the horror of again participating in the slaughter of the war. The thought was in their minds of two thousand men killed daily and nothing gained thereby."