Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

A Favorite Footprint


For more than half a century, or ever since I owned and edited the Peace Advocate, the international peace question, with its inviting aspects and promises, has occupied a primary place in my thoughts and affections. No writer who ever put pen to paper could, or can, or will be able to, adequately describe the losses, sufferings, hatreds, horrors, inhumanities, and atrocities of a single great war. A war commenced for one purpose not infrequently originates or developes other blazing issues, which have to be quenched in blood, if quenched at all. Wars, in fact, very rarely settle questions; but they always settle men, and sometimes scores of thousands of men in a single campaign.
The costs and losses of a war are generally estimated by the amount of treasure expended and the number of men killed and wounded; but these do not include a half or a quarter of the material and moral damage done on both sides, or a half or a quarter of the heritage of evil entailed on future generations. Well may Mr. Hay, the late American Foreign Secretary, describe war as "the most futile and the most ferocious of human follies." War, in fact, has been the great scourge of the human race. It has decimated the race, bred numberless international suspicions, estrangements, and animosities, and strewn the pathway of history with the wrecks of empires and civilisations. It is the rock of offence against which millions of aspirations have been and are being broken, and by which millions of efforts for human improvement have been and are being neutralised. The chief wonder of future ages will be not that in early times men and women were cannibals, but that in after ages, and particularly when boasting of their Christian enlightenment, they met in organised masses scientifically to slaughter each other. And what has been done, in soaking the earth surface with blood and tears by wars, will be repeated unless efficient means are taken to produce a better state of things. What are the means, and who are most likely to use them? The past and present chief wielders of political power in the world, whether they be kings, or emperors, or aristocracies, or plutocracies, or parliaments, have not had the will or the power to prevent wars, or to avoid vast and costly preparations for possible wars, which are almost as crushing and destructive as actual warfare.
The same may be said of Churches; and, strange to say, the most greedy nations are Christian nations But what the classes and Churches could not do or have not done, the masses may accomplish. The common people everywhere suffer most by wars, and can do most to prevent wars, and would be the greatest gainers if wars were prevented. They can make the peace movement popular and powerful by cultivating the peace sentiment in their homes, their workshops, their clubs, their friendly societies, their co-operative combinations and political leagues; by using mediation or arbitration to avoid strikes and settle labour questions; by their votes at municipal and parliamentary elections; by sending greetings on suitable occasions to their fellow workers in other countries, and by welcoming similar greetings in return and by persistently asking for a permanent Hiigh Court of Nations to settle, under the dominion of international law, international disputes. Duelling, or attempt at individual destruction, is, by common consent in this country, regarded and punished as crime, and what one nation like England, with its forty millions of inhabitants, or the United States, with their eighty millions, can do for the benefit of individual citizens, the two nations, or any two or any ten nations, can do collectively for their mutual protection. Substituting reason for violence and judicial methods for war methods, to adjust international questions would make many rough places smooth and unlock undreamed of possibilities of human progress. I plead for peace and good fellowship among men, not merely as an end in itself, but to urge "man's search to vaster issues. The economic benefits derivable from a peace policy would repay, many times over, any labour or sacrifice employed in producing it; but the economic gain would be small in comparison to the consequent moral harvests that would gladden the world. Happily, a hopeful spirit is abroad and manifesting itself in several countries-and particularly in England, France, the United States, and all the smaller nations of Europe-in the increasing number of international conferences to promote peace, education, science, art, social and political questions; in the multiplication and cheapening of means of inter-communication and transit; in the growing impatience of excessive taxation mainly caused by war expenditure; in the developing solidarity of the labouring classes, and the increasing number of workmen representatives in European parliaments. The removal of the spacious war-cloud that shadows the world would enable peoples to breathe more freely, to work and worship with more gladness, and see glimpses and enjoy foretastes of developed duties and destinies.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003