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The Spectator at war

The Spectator at war: A pacifist replies

13 August 2014

2:00 PM

13 August 2014

2:00 PM

‘A pacifist protest’, a letter from the 15 August 1914 Spectator in response to a piece in the 8 August edition:

SIR, – One is willing to believe that your article in last week’s issue called “Keep Your Temper” was not intentionally provocative, but it shows some lack of justice and of courtesy towards the pacifist. You divide pacifists into three classes. The first consists of obstinate fools who refuse to think their own country can do right; the second consists of cowards; and the third, which you are generous enough to admit to be a small one, of knaves. One would like to ask to which class you consign those pacifists par excellence, the members of the Society of Friends. Their sane and noble appeal Christian patriotism and Christian brotherhood had not appeared when the article was written, but with their long record of quiet and solid philanthropy and public service you would hardly stigmatize them as stupid, timid, or base. I am not a Quaker, nor do I hold their views as to the duty of passive resistance, though I think such an attitude consistent with a vigorous courage and intelligence. But I dislike the principle of war more than the average person seems to do. I am one of those who, while they think that, things being as they are, England had on this occasion no choice but to take up arms to maintain her honour and her independence, yet strongly believe that war is a totally un-Christian, very uncivilized, and hitherto a remarkably unsuccessful method of settling international differences, and very earnestly hope that the outcome of this terrible struggle may be the death of militarism with its appeal to brute force, and that a constructive peace based on the co-operation of the nations of Europe, instead of this difficult balancing of rival antagonisms, may take its place. The holder of such opinions must be called a pacifist if the word has any meaning. But if such opinions cannot yet be said to represent public opinion, I am quiet certain that in holding them I do not belong to a “minute body” or a negligible minority, but to an ever-increasing number of true patriots who think their opinions worth living and dying for. – I am,Sir,&c.,


[We are sorry to have hurt our correspondent’s feelings. The article was not intended to wound him or anyone. The signature he has chosen represents exactly out own point of view. We hate war as much as he does, but we want to prepare against it, not to pretend that is has disappeared off the earth because we dislike it. That is the only difference between us. –ED. Spectator.]

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