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England's Effort: Letters to an American Friend. Ward, Humphry, Mrs., 1851–1920.
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ENGLAND'S EFFORT Six Letters to an American Friend





1916All rights reserved
page: v


I AM bidden to write a preface to this little book, though it is impossible, I think, to add any interest to these vivid and helpful letters. By writing them, Mrs. Humphry Ward has struck an effective blow for our country. What she writes is, of course, sure to find readers. But literary charm is not the purpose of this book, though it lends an incidental attraction. It is intended to inform the mind of Americans as to the efforts and sacrifices of Great Britain in this war. As to these, American opinion is, in some quarters at any rate, said to be not fully informed, and sometimes wholly misinformed. It would appear, indeed, that the branch of organisation in which for a time we were least successful was that of presenting our case to neutral States; and yet the moral importance of this operation can scarcely be exaggerated. The Prussians, as consummately prepared for war as we were unprepared, have not neglected this branch of business, and have carried it out with their usual unscrupulousness.

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The consummate preparation of Prussia for this war is, indeed, at the base of all argument as to its authors. It is of no use then, as Mrs. Ward points out, for their Chancellors and pamphleteers to assert that a perfidious Albion engineered this war for its own base, and it may be added, inscrutable purposes. For the one simple incontrovertible proof of our innocence is that we were wholly unprepared for such a conflict, while Germany was armed to the teeth and prepared in every detail of organisation. It is not for the Army of 150,000 to scheme war against the Army of millions. Our exertions have been since the war began; and from that point of view alone they are superhuman.

Why were we not prepared? In the first place because our Government could not be persuaded of the imminence of the danger. But above all, because democracies never prepare for war. There are always prophets to preach that civilisation has put an end to such a barbarous method of settling disputes, and multitudes to be tickled by so agreeable a doctrine. There are always politicians anxious to postpone military to more popular forms of expenditure.

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These letters then are primarily intended to make known to those Americans who are disposed to think of us as laggards the gigantic and unparalleled efforts which we are making in this gigantic and unparalleled war. To the American public we feel that we have a right to appeal. We do not presume to measure or criticise the attitude of the Government of the United States and its anxiety to keep clear of the hideous conflagration. But none the less do we feel that we may claim the sympathy of the disinterested American people for the unselfish but heroic part that our nation is playing in defence of the liberties of the world. For let none mistake. If Prussian ideals should be victorious in this conflict it means the definite abasement of Europe, and an infamous invasion of freedom and public law which would not be restricted to the old world. To mention only one case, it is clear that Prussian supremacy would imply a constant and imminent danger from the ‘hyphenated’ Americans who preserve Prussian sympathies and methods in the bosom of the Great Republic, methods which have already been abundantly manifest in plot and outrage.

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It is better not to dwell on this aspect of the case, for it does not immediately concern us. We stand foursquare to the world, and appeal with confidence to all impartial opinion. There Prussia has not a friend. She has indeed purchased Bulgaria, which owes everything to Russia. But elsewhere the condemnation has been signal and severe, nowhere more so than in the United States. The juries of civilisation have everywhere pronounced her guilty, even in cases where fear of sharing the fate of Belgium might enjoin silence.

But it is not merely to America that these letters should appeal. Among neutral and even allied Powers there is much ignorance as to the part that our country is playing; ignorance which these letters in their scope and power should dispel. I know of friendly and intelligent critics among our allies who believe that we have only put 200,000 men into the field. If that were true, that would mean that we have done exactly what was expected of us at the outset. But, as Mrs. Ward reminds us on the authority of the Prime Minister, we have raised five millions of men in arms. And yet that is only a page: ix part of our contribution. We have raised by votes of credit £2,382,000,000 during the war. We are spending nearly five millions a day. We have advanced at least five hundred millions sterling to our Allies, and are daily advancing more. We are supplying them with munitions to an extraordinary extent. Without these advances, we are authoritatively told, the war could not be carried on. More than all, our vast Armada, silent and ubiquitous, remains the vigilant guardian of the seas. And it has already fulfilled the supreme task of all. It cannot indeed protect every part of every ocean against murderous and relentless piracy. But it has secured the food supply of Great Britain and her Allies. It is well that all the populations concerned should realise this.

Surely these facts speak for themselves. A supreme fleet, five millions of men in arms; a million and a half of men and a quarter of a million of women turning out munitions; a daily expenditure approaching five millions; a debt which is piling up so formidably that by next March at its present rate it will have reached the almost incalculable figure of £3,440,000,000; these are not a trivial effort page: x for a population of some forty millions (for the purpose of this computation we are not counting the Dominions).

May we not indeed say more, that the history of the world produces nothing comparable? Just as there is no parallel to an Empire which, though scattered and worldwide, acts as a unit in this struggle.

These figures record a prodigious sacrifice. We do not grudge it in a war for liberty and existence. But we cannot understand how in face of these facts we can be suspected of not doing our part. How long indeed could the war be carried on without us?

It is not merely Americans or neutrals who will do well to ponder these figures. Many among our Allies imagine that they are bearing the brunt and that we are watching the war without material inconvenience or giving material support. The well-informed know better. I think that some misapprehension has been caused by recent discussions about attested married men, which may have caused the grotesque impression that our married men have hitherto been excluded from service. But it is well that those who do not know should realise the herculean page: xi exertions of Great Britain. Nay, there are some among our own people to whom Mrs. Ward's facts may come as a surprise.

One further question arises which is poignant enough: what has Great Britain obtained in return for these tremendous sacrifices? The bitter question of Marullus occurs:
  • What conquest brings he home?
  • What tributaries follow him to Rome?
The answer is not yet quite what we should wish it to be. We have given full powers, a blank cheque, the best of our men. Our material acquisitions, so far, are outside Europe, won with admirable valour and skill. Our Fleet holds the sea, and the German flag has been driven from it. The heroism of our soldiers and sailors, the stubborn tenacity which in the first act of the war saved the situation, the chivalrous humanity and unsullied honour we have opposed to rank barbarism:—these may seem little in a debit and credit account, but they make us proud. As for the ultimate victory no soldier allows even a momentary doubt. And we at home set our teeth doggedly and wait with confidence for the inevitable end, though not page: xii unmindful of the daily sacrifice involved by delay.

There is another consideration which vitally concerns all of us in the Empire, but especially those within these islands. What is to be the outcome of this war as regards our own future? We are enveloped in a mist of war which bites into our bones. We strain our eyes to penetrate it and to see what lies beyond. Is it a settled gloom or the grey haze which precedes the dawn and the sunrise? What effect will this war with its heroism abroad and its sacrifice at home have on ourselves? We seem justified in thinking that we shall have found ourselves. Glorious as our race has been in the past we may look forward to something nobler still. We see our warriors returning to us a new nation, raised by the stress and anguish of warfare to higher conceptions of duty, citizenship and patriotism. They will have proved themselves fitted for great things, they will be encompassed with glory and honour, they will lead the country. Comrades in arms of all ranks and classes, they will be united by memories of sublime endurance, they will feel a new fellowship, and the page: xiii nation will be braced to face its future in a new spirit. May we not hope, indeed, that all of us, combatants or non-combatants, may rise to a higher level, and that out of the sorrows, distresses and bereavements of the war we may find higher ideals and a closer union?

And what of the Empire? If this opportunity of making imperial relations more intimate and businesslike be lost, we deserve that it should never recur. But it will not be lost.

Lastly we may ask a question which concerns all mankind. Will this terrible convulsion when it has subsided bequeath war or peace as its heritage? In any case one would think there must be a generation of exhaustion. But will that generation bestir itself to find some guarantee against the recurrence of the curse or will it silently pile up armaments for hoarded vengeance? That is the question on which depends the future of the human race.


May 1916
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THESE letters are the first fruit of all of an urgent call from America, and then of three months' travelling, thinking, and writing. They have had necessarily to be written in haste. But I may certainly plead that all the care that was possible has been given to them—short of delays that would have made them useless. The title has caused me much trouble! Will any son of gallant Scotland, or loyalist Ireland, or of those great Dominions, whose share in the war has knit them closer than ever to the Mother-Country—should he come across this little book—forgive me that I have finally chosen ‘England’ to stand for us all? ‘Gott strafe England!’ has been the Germans cry of hate. I have given what I conceive to be ‘England's’ reply. ‘Britain’—‘Great Britain’ are words that for all their profound political significance have still to be steeped a good deal longer in life and literature before they stir the same fibres in us as the old national names. And ‘England’ as the seat of British Government has, it is admitted, a representative and inclusive force. Perhaps my real reason is still simpler. Let any one try the alternatives which suggest themselves, and see how they roll—or do not roll—from the tongue. He or she will, I think, soon be reconciled to ‘England's Effort’!

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