The Food of War, December 13, 1915

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Only serious illness prevented Miss Jane Addams from joining the group of peace advocates who are sailing with Mr. Henry Ford on his idealistic mission. She has already made one peace pilgrimage to Europe during the past year and in the following article she presents some significant observations made on that trip. Miss Addams is National Chairman of the Woman's Peace Party, which recently directed the sending of thousands of telegrams requesting President Wilson to take some action to bring about peace. -- THE EDITOR.

AT the close of the International Congress of Women held at The Hague last April two delegations were commissioned to carry the resolutions of the congress to the various governments. One committee visited the Scandinavian countries and Russia, and another, of which I was chairman, began with the warring nations. We were received in London, in Berlin, in Vienna, in Rome, in Berne, in Paris, in Havre, where the Belgian Government is now established, and at The Hague, and we were also granted an audience with the Pope. Both delegations in every case were accorded an interview by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in almost every case by the Chancellor or Prime Minister, and in all countries we saw members of Parliament and other men who are responsible for governmental policies. Traveling rapidly as we did from one country to another, perhaps nothing was more striking than the diametrically opposing opinions found on each side concerning the identical occurrences or events.

We arrived in London two days after the sinking of the "Lusitania" and read in many columns of the press the indignation against this "crowning outrage of German piracy upon helpless women and children." So profound and national was this indignation that during the next few days, when we were still in London, the English Parliament, following the outrages upon the German bakeshops and other places of business, decided to [intern] the German subjects.

Ten days later, when we reached Berlin, the papers were still rejoicing over the victory which had been achieved by a tiny submarine over "a great auxiliary cruiser of the British navy." We were often reminded of the old phrases in our school books about the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac." Certain data were given over and over again; the "complete destruction of the 'Lusitania' was due to the explosion of her own cargo, she was an armed cruiser, and American passengers had been repeatedly warned."

Inevitably the inferences from these widely divergent facts were irreconcilable. Even reasonable and justice-loving people in both countries who wished to be sure of their data before passing judgment would be quite unable to deal impartially with the situation. As to the large number of people found on both sides who grasp eagerly at any atrocity which may justify or increase the bitter animosity against the enemy, we were unable to determine whether the hate produced the atrocities or the atrocities the hate.

Almost every tale we heard in London of outrages on the part of German soldiers against the helpless Belgians was repeated in Vienna of the brutal behavior of the Cossack soldiers in East Prussia. Our delegation reached Italy ten days after she had declared war against Austria. A Socialist member of Parliament, proud of the fact that his party had stoutly voted against the war appropriation, told us unequivocally that "This was a newspaper-made war," that a campaign conducted [throughout] the winter had culminated in a sensational three days when the people reached the highest degree of excitement. One is of course reminded of the old nursery riddle which is first, the egg or the hen? Does public opinion control the press, or the reverse? It was perhaps inevitable for our Socialist friend to believe that the great Italian banks with their interests in Dalmatia were the power behind the press. Certain cities were placarded with statements and photographs of atrocities and they had not been lacking in D'Annunzio's fiery speeches.

The journals everywhere we went tended to make an entire nation responsible for the crimes of individuals, a tendency which is certainly fraught with awful consequences even [although] the crimes for which the nation is held responsible may have originated in the gross exaggeration of some trivial incident. The very size and extent of the contention acts like a madness.

This perhaps accounts for the impressions left upon our minds that in the various countries the enthusiasm for continuing the war is fed largely on a fund of animosity growing out of the conduct of the war; Germany is indignant because England's blockade was an attempt to starve her women and children, England is on fire over the German atrocities in Belgium.

A young man in France said, "We hope to be able very soon to squirt petroleum into the German trenches so that everything will easily catch fire." I replied, "That seems very terrible." "Yes," he said, "but think of the poisonous gas and the horrible death of our men who were asphyxiated." Constantly one hears that Germany has done this; the Allies have done that; somebody tried to do this and we foiled them by doing that. But after all, great nations, however legitimate the first cause of war may have been, cannot conduct their operations from the standpoint of reprisals, which is not even a permissible method among small groups. Occasionally we met a man who said, "Of course in the end the war must be adjudicated with the original causes as a factor, but we are getting further away from the original causes every day, and more and more the conduct of the war is modifying its aim."

The leading English papers have long since ceased to write about "a war to end war," and [through] a series of gradations some of them have even reached "the crushing of Germany" as a worthy aim. In each country we were told of hideous occurrences of warfare which demonstrated that the continued existence of the enemy was a menace to civilization. Is it because this war has been carried to the very doorsteps of those people in Europe who have reached the stage of sensibility toward human suffering and an understanding of the differing individual which has never been obtained before in human history, that the gathering horror of that knowledge drives them on? A Hungarian owning a large estate near the Carpathian Mountains told me in Budapest that he was sheltering thirteen hundred men whose feet or hands had been frozen during the winter campaign and he bitterly resented the cruelty to which so many of his countrymen had been subjected, and of course held "the enemy" responsible.

It is as if the mind of Europe were submerged under a great emotionalism, as if the love of country had inhibited all normal family affection and daily interests so that thousands of people joyfully surrendered their children and all their possessions. A Frenchman, looking around his library, said to us, "I used to think [page 2] there was something valuable in these books, but I would throw them at once into the trenches, if their burning would so heat the hands of a soldier that he might shoot to kill one man of that nation which is destroying the liberties of Europe." Nevertheless the fanatical patriotism which has risen so high in these countries, and which is essentially so fine and imposing, cannot last. The waves will come down, the crest cannot be held indefinitely. Then men must see the horrible things which are taking place not as causes for continuing the war, but as that which must never be allowed to occur again. At last they must soberly count up the loss of life and the debts they have assumed for the generations to come. An old man said to me, "Some day the people will cease to think of the nation and will think of their children and grandchildren."

Curiously, however, at the present moment such an accounting seems only to increase the demands. Many Germans who originally justified the war on the ground of self defense and the mobilization of Russia, have come to feel that Belgium or other territory must be retained as a justification for the expenditure of life and treasure; so in France, which was originally fighting to clear her invaded territory, there is talk not only of recovering the lost provinces, but of pushing the boundary to the river Rhine, that the flower of France may not have died in vain.

Such plans readily find expression in the press, but the man whose burning heart can find no slightest justification for the loss of the finest youth of Europe unless it results in the establishment of such international courts as will make war forever impossible, finds it difficult to discover a vehicle [through] which he may express this view. International ideals for the moment are treated not only with derision and contempt, but as dangerous to patriotism.

Perhaps I may be permitted to close this article with a recent personal experience.

In an address in New York City given the week of my return from Europe I was presenting data which to my mind indicated a revolt against war, taking place in the midst of the war itself. I cited the loathing against the use of the bayonet felt by a certain type of young man, to overcome which "We were told in several countries" that stimulants were administered before a bayonet charge was ordered!

It never occurred to us who heard this statement nor to those who made it, that this was done because the men lacked courage. It was taken for granted that the stimulants inhibited the sensibilities of a certain type of modern man to whom primitive warfare was especially abhorrent, [although] he was a brave soldier and serving his country with all his heart. The giving of stimulants was a quicker process than that incitement to reprisals and revenge which in actual warfare often serves as an immediate incentive. We were in fact told of this substitution, once by a Frenchman who said, "That since the use of poisonous gases by the Germans, no further stimulants could possibly be needed for a [thoroughly] indignant and aroused soldiery," and again by an Englishman who spoke of the difficulties in the early months of the war in overcoming the camaraderie unhappily evinced by certain British troops for the Saxons long established in an opposite trench, and the relief when the Bavarians, against whom no incitement to hostility was needed, took their places.

I used no illustration for the statement in my New York address, and speaking broadly and without notes I unfortunately gave a mistaken impression as to the extent to which I myself believed stimulants had been used in connection with bayonet charges. The statement, much exaggerated in the reporting and without any qualifying clauses, was made the subject of much unfriendly comment, especially in those journals which had been unalterably opposed to the woman's meeting at The Hague from its inception.

Several weeks ago, therefore, I took advantage of an interview on the subject with an Associated Press man to make clear two points: first the authority for my statement that "we have been told in several countries." I instanced three occasions upon which my friend Dr. Alice Hamilton and myself heard the statement when we were together, so that we have since been able to confirm each other's impressions. We distinctly recall a French governmental official, an English professor and a convalescing German soldier. The latter, who was on sick leave in Switzerland after three months in the trenches, was an exceptionally intelligent young man. He said to us, "A bayonet charge does not show courage, but madness. Men must be brought to the point by stimulants, and once the charge is begun they are like insane men. I have been in it, and after it was over I was utterly dazed. I did not know what had happened to me any more than if I had been picked up from the water after an explosion on shipboard." He said that the stimulant given to the German soldiers contained [sulfuric] ether.

I remember at the time Dr. Hamilton remarked to me that she knew from the medical journals that it had been found necessary in both the German and the English armies to abandon the idea of total abstinence and serve rations of alcohol to the soldiers.

I should also like to quote from the journal Stampa the impressions of a French soldier, who writes:

"You act and fight as in a dream; you have lost the sense of time and place and feel yourself to be merely a part of a monstrous whole that twists itself convulsively. It is as if the life of sensation had been cut off. And later on, when you are yourself again, you think you have been shut up in a cage, out of which you have been desperately trying to escape, but in vain. It is not true that you never are afraid, but proximity robs death of its terrors. Many soldiers experience an irresistible loathing of the use of their bayonets, of rushing on a living human being with such a weapon. They simply cannot do it."

The second point I made in my interview with the Associated Press man was that the soldier for whom stimulants might be necessary represented a type of sensitive man doubtless found in each army. Such assertions as I made in regard to the use of stimulants were confined to this type of man, and it never occurred to me to make any generalizations in regard to the "average" soldier, as I was reported to have done. One of the hideous results of war is the inveterate tendency of the "average" man to fall into the spirit of hot retaliation. We were told in two countries that the soldiers were being supplied as fast as possible with short knives because they could not advantageously use their bayonets in the occasional hand to hand encounters within the trenches themselves, and we of course know of the men who said of the bayonet charge, "Ah, that is fighting -- when the primitive man lets himself go and does the sort of fighting which is obvious and definite."

It is furthest from my wish and intention to add one word to the campaign of calumny, to disparage either the motives or the courage of the long line of fighting men, to repeat one tale of horror which might increases that poverty of heart induced by hatred. One returns from Europe this year in a much too serious frame of mind to wish to utter one word which might increase the confusion and misunderstanding or undermine the respect for our common human nature in these trying times.

Hull House, Chicago