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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Personal Volume

"Peace or War?" "What ought we to do?" Address ... in the Unitarian Church ... January 7th, 1917

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"Peace or War?"

"What ought we to do?"

Address Delivered by

Sir Robert Stout,

Chief Justice of New Zealand,

In the Unitarian Church on Sunday, January 7th, 1917.

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Address by Sir Robert Stout.

The following address on "Peace or War?" was delivered at the Unitarian Church last Sunday evening by Sir Robert Stout, Chief Justice of New Zealand:—

This is the third year of the greatest war that has ever been waged in the world. With the universal development of wealth and of scientific inventions of every kind, war means something to-day that it never meant before. The history of the world has no record of such a war between nations. The number of men fighting was never so great. Millions of men are engaged in actual conflict, and millions are making munitions for the warriors. Machines for the destruction of human life were never so numerous, and never so perfected. One of the combatants boasts of frightfulness, and this is new in human warfare; and on a nation claiming to be cultured, and posing as containing the most civilised people in the world, there has been cast a stain of broken treaties, of murder, of rapine, of disregard of international agreements for the conduct of war that will be ineffaceable. Do I need to give illustra-tions or examples? We have only to remember the report of the able and impartial Commission on Belgian Atrocities, the murders of Nurse Cavell and Captain Fryatt, the treatment of the prisoners of war in Germany, the murders of non-combatants on merchant vessels like the Lusitania the victims of Zeppelin raids on defenceless towns, to realise the atrocious character of Germany s war methods, No nation calling itself civilised has ever sunk so low in ethical conduct.

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It even glories in its crimes. The school children of Germany had a holiday granted when the news of the murder of the Lusitania's victims reached Germany! That incident alone was enough to stamp the nation as an unmoral nation.

The only gleam of goodness one may see in this horrid war is the heroism of the Allies in fighting for liberty and justice. In no war in the world's history has greater heroism been displayed, and we must fee! pride that our sons and daughters as combatants and nurses have shown themselves to be unexcelled.

In this great world upheaval, and in the discussion of peace or war, it is surely necessary that we have a clear idea of what the terms mean so that we may realise our duty and responsibility, What, then, do we mean by "war"? What does the word "peace" signify? If we refer to our dictionaries we will find that war is defined as a contest between nations by force of arms. That is not the full meaning of "war." There can be a war that is not a contest between nations. We have heard, and perhaps have seen "civil war." That is a contest by force between citizens of the same State. If force is used and arms are utilised, we call such a contest civil war. There was civil war in the United States for over four years in 1860 to 1865. Whenever some of the people of a State disobey the laws of the State, and attempt by force of arms to coerce the other citizens war has been proclaimed.

"Far Worse Than Prussian Militarists."

It is not consonant with my subject to discuss whether revolutions are page 4 ever justifiable. It will be held by reasonable men that where the State is under democratic rule, that is, where all citizens have equal rights, where provision is made for the settlement of all disputes by judicial tribunals, whether the dispute may be between citizens, or between citizens and the Government, further, where there is a right to vote granted to all adults, where redress of every kind can be granted by a freely elected Parliament, there is no justification for a revolution. To say that in such a country a revolution was justified would be to proclaim that democracy had failed, and some other form of government was necessary. In a land where human life is sacred, where property is secure, and freedom reigns, to say that some citizens have a right by force of arms to insist on their views being carried out would be to declare that mankind was unfit for social life, and that strength or power must rule, and not freedom and reason. Those who would so contend are not democrats, and they have no right to the name of Socialists used by John Stuart Mill, John Buskin, and other great reformers. On the contrary, they, are militarists of a type worse by far than Prussian militarists. These Prussian military autocrats have the sanction of the laws of their country for their tyrannous military acts. But those who would, in a free democracy, where there is a free Government and universal suffrage, apply force to get their behests carried out, are properly termed military anarchists. The basis of social life is, first, that a majority must rule, and second, that the liberty of the individual is not to be invaded unless it is necessary to do so to protect the liberty of all and and the existence of the State. If page 5 the Executive of a State attempts ta encroach oil this human liberty, those oppressed are not without redress. First, in a country where there is a free Parliament they can appeal to it for redress. If the Parliament gives them no relief, they can wait till the triennial election, and appeal to the people, and a democracy is based on the assumption that the people can be trusted. If the people, cannot be trusted, then we must admit a democracy is not a proper form of government; but Socialists of all kinds have said that the people can be trusted, and that they favour democratic government. In the United States and in the Commonwealth of Australia, and, to a small extent, New Zealand, there are written constitutions which limit the powers of both the Executive Governments and the Parliaments, In such countries the highest judicial tribunals may set aside decrees of the Executive Government and Acts of Parliament. Even in England a few months ago, the highest judicial tribunal of the Empire set aside an Order-in-Council of the King as being contrary to natural justice and to international law. The Order-in-Council interfered with the law as administered in the Prize Courts, and the judgment of the Privy Council was given in favour of Swedish shipowners.

Not Democrats, Not Socialists.

It will be seen from another point of view that war in a democracy by democrate is unthinkable. The aim of democrats is the establishment of brotherhood. It is, to realise the hope of Robert Burns:—

When man to man the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that.

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How is that aim carried out? First, there must be liberty. Where bondage exists there is no true brotherhood. It does not matter much who is the tyrant if citizens are deprived of liberty. It may be one man—for example, an Emperor, or it may be a President; it may be what was sometimes found in ancient cities, an oligarchy—the rule of a few. It may be the rule of some associations or unions. The name of the rulers does not signify if liberty is infringed or denied. How then, is liberty to be maintained and peace and brotherhood assured? I do not think there is or can be any dispute as to the method. The Government and constitution of the State must be democratic. There must be a free Parliament elected by all adults. There must be impartial judicial tribunals to settle differences between citizens, and between the Government and citizens. The day for-settling disputes by duels or by fighting has passed from the social life of a free democratic people. If then we live in a democratic State, having liberty and these social institutions, we will begin to realise practical broth-erhood. Some States have even tribunals for settling wages and salaries between employers and employees. These have been created so that we might have industrial peace. If we are democrats, or call ourselves Socialists, we must in such States obey the laws of the State. If we think the laws wrong, the people can change them, and no citizen and no number of citizens can without violating the law and the basis of social life attempt by force to have their views carried out. If any make such an attempt they are not democrats, they are not Socialists, they are military anarchists, and, as I have said, worse military tyrants than the Prussian military party.

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How to Establish Peace.

In many States peace has been secured and brotherhood established. The human race is far from perfection, but it is going ahead to a better and brighter social state than we have yet had in the world. Its march to this better goal will be hindered by social war, by an appeal to force and not to reason. Those who appeal to force show that they lack the feeling for brotherhood and do not trust the people. Peace in a State can exist only if there is a reverence for the laws we ourselves have made, and if the feeling for brotherhood prevails. How can we obtain peace between nations? Peace is the absence of war. How can nations avoid war? I believe there is only one way of avoiding war, and that is to create for nations what some nations have created for their own citizens. The dream of Auguste Comte was a United States of Europe. He proposed that Europe should be divided into small republics, and these republics confederated as the United States of America are confederated. To settle differences between the States there must be judicial tribunals, and behind these tribunals a Federal Standing Army just as behind the tribunals of a State there stand the policemen or the military to enforce the decrees of the courts. We have seen the uselessness of the Hague Tribunal. It has no power to enforce its decisions, and nations are not bound to appeal to it to settle their differences. It has no jurisdiction unless both disputants agreed to leave the matter to it to settle. And if they did, and a decision was given, the Hague Tribunal could not enforce its decision. It is only by the creation of international tribunals such as courts are in a nation, that peace can be established. There would then have to be an inter- page 8 national police or army, as a "sanction," as it is termed, behind the tribunal.

"Can we Help?"

It will take some time before the peoples of the world will agree to such a method of settling disputes. But that is no reason why those who desire peace should not begin to agitate for such a reform. At first, and perhaps for some time, those who are dissatisfied with the decisions of the court may refuse to obey the court's decree. There will be non-pacifists amongst nations, just as we have amongst ourselves non-pacifists who will not submit, unless there is force, to the decrees even of our industrial courts. Have we not even in New Zealand, where there is a free triennial-elected Parliament and adult suffrage, seen misguided militarists causing riots because they could not get industries under their control? Have we not seen such non-pacifists, some unsocial "Socialists," acting contrary to law? Once the blessings of peace are, however, realised, we will not have amongst nations such military ideas. Brotherhood will win adherents, and force be resorted to only by the criminal or non-normal classes.

Can we help to establish such a peace? I think we can. It was asked by an American how could he train his children to be obedient, respectful and kindly? And the answer given to him by another American was: "Be yourself obedient, respectful and kindly." If, then, our people really desire peace, let them be peaceable. Let them obey our laws, All disputes—even industrial dispute—are by our law to be settled by judicial tribunals. Let the decrees of such tribunals bo obeyed. They may be wrong decrees; no judges are page 9 infallible. If an attempt is made by force to disobey these decrees and stop people working unless they obey, not the decrees of the court, but the decrees of some self-appointed associations or unions, then war is proclaimed and the basis of true democracy is attacked. Such action will make neither for peace nor for brotherhood. If we wish brotherhood and peace, let us act as brothers and be peaceable. A man or woman who calls himself or herself a pacifist and says that he or she is for the brotherhood of humanity, but attempts in our State to set our laws at naught, and to force any portion of our people to act contrary to the law, either misunderstands what peace means or is not honest.

Who Wanted War?

Having made these general observations on peace or war, it may be asked what ought we to do in the present war? Let us consider our position very briefly. First, who is to blame for the war? Did Britain, or France, or Russia, or Serbia, or Belgium want war? No honest man can say that any of those nations did desire the present war. They had not prepared for war. Russia offered to submit her case to The Hague Tribunal; Germany refused. England asked for a conference; so did France, and so did Italy. Germany refused. Poor little Serbia offered anything if she was allowed to remain an independent nation. Belgium's territory was wantonly invaded contrary to Germany's word, plighted by treaty. It was Germany that, having prepared for war, forced war on Europe. I believe Austria would, but for Germany, have agreed to a peaceable settlement of differences with Russia. We have only to read the literature page 10 of Germany to see that Germany wished, and still wishes, world dominance. She desired to rule from Berlin to Baghdad, to attack Egypt, and to destroy England. In such circumstances what could our Empire have done save defend herself? Could she allow the destruction of Serbia, of Belgium, and of France? She knew that the aim of Germany was to destroy Britain, and could her people stand by and see such a crime committed? I believe we did wrong in 1864 in allowing Prussia and Austria to filch the Schleswig and Holstein territories from Denmark. By the Treaty of 1852, signed by Prussia, Denmark was assured in the succession of these duchies, but they were taken from her. We know what wars Prussia has been engaged in since 1864; the war with Austria in 1866; the war with France in 1870—those were wars of conquest, and the war of 1914 had the same end in view. Could British people be so craven as to allow Germany to dominate the world? Was Britain not worth saving?

A Brazilian Tribute to Britain.

Listen to what a Brazilian has said of our Homeland:—

And Great Britain, gentlemen. What man is there, who is really a man, who would not glory in belonging to a race capable of producing this people, that vies with all others in sincerity, virility, and creative power? Spiritually it is from this race that emanates in modern times the world of free humanity. Great Britain's conception of justice has imbued with liberty all those nations which have had the good fortune to be born of her stock, or to have come in touch with her. During a century in her enviable home there page 11 has reigned that peace so intimately coupled with the austere and industrious bent of her subjects. But when her gates were forced open by a transformation of which history knows no equal, the most non-militant of all races under the sun was changed into a real hive of invincible warriors; from her castles came forth the very flower of her nobility to teach her people by a glorious death the grand simplicity of dying in the sacred cause of justice; the most wonderful military organisation enveloped the land in an impenetrable armour: the country, awestruck, beheld arise there, improvised in but two years, an immense army, and from that little island, whose destruction her enemies already looked upon as accomplished, there suddenly arose an unexpected grandeur, unlooked for, serene, clear, and inviolable, before which the myths of ancient Titans pale into obscurity and the mountains of the world sink in insignificance.

Because by the might of her fleets, Britannia rules the waves, her armies are battling in every quarter of the globe where blood is being shed, and with the boundless resources of her wealth, of her credit, and of her invincible determination to prevail, she sways the Titanic struggle like a sleepless genie of victory in the clouds enveloping the world with the fog of war.

These, gentlemen are first and foremost the nations to whom we owe our moral code, ouremancipation, our liberty, our civilisation, from whom we have absorbed the lessons of liberty and justice, who have given us our laws, our government, and our best statesmen, who have instructed us in belles lettres, in statesmanship, in our industries, who with their wealth have given birth to our prosperity and with their sympathy, wisdom, and liberality have enabled us to maintain our credit, and, with it all, they have never coveted our land, have respected our independence have honoured our weakness, and never wavered in their confidence.

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We could wish for no more proven loyal and firm friendships.

Yes, we may use the words of a poet of the United States of America, and say of Britain:—

She hath erected reason's sovereignty, Because wherever human speech is known

The touch of English breath does make thought free;

Therefore, for ever is her glory blown About the hills and flashed beneath the sea.

Germany's "Pay Day" Must Come.

It may be said if Germany now wants peace, why should she not get it. Certainly, give her peace if she admits she is conquered, and is willing to pay indemnities for her many crimes, and to give guarantees for her future conduct. But that is not her attitude. She does not admit that she is conquered and she denies she committed any crime or did any wrong. The "pay day" for her conduct and action must come.

There are some people who think that criminals can be reformed without punishment. They do not realise that the dread of a denial of liberty—and that is all the punishment we inflict on our prisoners—may be the most useful factor in the strengthening of the will of a criminal so that he shall not offend again. So with nations, they must realise that crimes committed and wrong done must meet with their proper reward. No one wishes to see the German people deprived of their country; no one desires to see them in bondage as a vassal nation to any other nations. So far as I know, no one proposes to partition Germany, or to take any portion of the country page 13 that properly belongs to the German people. Germany has talked of freedom to Poland. Is it proposed to retake from the Government of Germany Prussian Poland and set it up as a separate nation? That has not, so far as I have seen, been suggested, and the Polish nation has suffered cruelly from Prussian dominance. The punishment asked by the Allies is only that Germany shall pay for the damage she has done, and that she must cease to terrorise humanity. As to her colonies, to many she had not even the colour of right. Let us take Samoa as an example. It was contrary to the expressed wish of the Samoan people that she seized Upolu and Savaii. This was accomplished by the weakness of our Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr Joseph Chamberlain. In 1885 the Samoans asked to be annexed to New Zealand, and sent two chiefs as delegates making this request to us. The Home authorities refused, however, to grant their request. During the Boer war the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to appease Germany, weakly agreed to allow Germany to take Upolu and Savaii as her territory. It is time that the wrong then done was redressed. It was Britain that had civilised and instructed the Samoans, and they longed to be under British protection. I know this of my own knowledge from conversations I had with the leading chiefs in 1892 whilst in Samoa.

Our Duty is Plain.

Our duty to my mind is plain. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with our kin beyond the seas, as people desiring justice and freedom, and striving for brotherhood. This is our duty. page 14 There may be a few craven souls in our midst who are pro-German, and who care little for the glory, or even the existence, of the British Empire. They are so few as not to be worth considering. The great mass of our citizens have done much to help our Empire; they have gone to fight for her, and they have out of their abundance given her monetary aid. Our young men have done nobly. They have been true heroes. To show you the heroic spirit displayed by some of our New Zealand boys, may I be permitted to give you a short extract from a letter from one who lost his life in France. The letter was written just before he left for his last attack on the German trenches:—

To-morrow night we go forward to the brink, and the next morning at dawn we hop over the parapet on one of the most difficult tasks ever given to a division. There can be only one result—every man will do his clean British bit, and there will be very very many who will never come back. We all know what we are up against; we have heard again and a train of the pitiful handful of men who have returned broken out of whole battalions who have gone forward to push back the Hun. We have seen the ground over which such battalions have fought, and the heaps of dead they have been unable to bury: but, thank God there is not one single man of us New Zealanders who does not welcome this long-awaited chance to do our bit. A wee bit frightened some of us may be; I am a bit afraid myself, and will be more so on the day; but it is our chance, our chance to give one big blow to Germany for all you dear ones back in New Zealand, for you who have given up your sons, who have given up your money, who have suffered deep anxiety and page 15 pain for our sakes—our chance to show that once the old Mother Lion is threatened the young cubs are ready to jump to her help and show the strength of their newly-won manhood—our first chance, and we are going to take it. If we win through it's going to be a big day in the history of New Zealand; if we fail it shall not be through any lack of dash, of go of willingness, of heart in the individual men.

But we are one and all determined to win through, cost what it may—the thought of failure has no place in our minds.

Now Dad, I may be one of the unfortunates. Hence this letter. But I'd like you to know that I'm not frightened of whatever may come my way. In one way I am frightened—for I defy any man, to say that fear does not grip his heart when something big is doing. But I'm not frightened of a wound, and I am not frightened to die. Death must come sooner or later, and death on a battlefield is without a shadow of doubt the most glorious of all ends. [unclear: For] myself, it means nothing more [unclear: than] a snuff of the candle. But for you and for mother, and for the kiddies it means more. More than ever do I wish that I had not a single soul to worry about me, not a soul to mourn my death. A peculiar wish, perhaps: but you will understand how I feel. For myself the worries of what might happen to me are insignificant; but for you, at home, going into hot action means one of the most heartfelt worries I've ever had to face.

But, whatever happens. I'm going to do my duty. I have my boys to think of—men who have seen me tested in other hot corners, and who have come to place upon my leadership a confidence that I cannot betray. I have my country to think of, and I page 16 am determined to prove that I have the blood of a Briton in me.

Much More Yet to do.

We shall have, however, to do much more than we have done. We do not yet fully realise that we are at war. Our pleasures have not been lessened. Useless and wasteful expenditure still goes on. We ought to be saving our means to help the oppressed and to help our Motherland. As far as I can ascertain, we have given up few, if any, of our pleasures. Our newspapers are full of the details of race meetings, of theatres, of sports, and useless expenditure on various things has not been lessened. Can it then be suggested that we have yet risen to the conception of what this world-war is, and that we have done what it is our duty to do for the brotherhood of humanity? We ought to sink all our political and other differences, and fight for this one aim, the salvation of our Empire and of our people, and for the oppressed amongst the nations. If we do so we shall be doing something for peace, something for justice, something for freedom, and hasten the coming of the day—

" . . . . When brotherhood shews stronger
Than the narrow bounds which now distract the world.
When the cannons roar and trumpets blare no longer.
And the ironclad rusts, and battle flags are furled.
When the bars of creed and speech and race, which sever
Shall be fused in one humanity for ever."

"New Zealand Times" Print.