"Our own century, commencing with the thunder of Napoleon's cannon on the plains of Marengo, and drawing to its close with similar reverberations from both the Orient and Occident, has not known a single year of peace. Since 1800 England has had fifty-four wars, France forty-two, Russia twenty-three, Austria fourteen, Prussia nine--one hundred and forty-two wars by five nations, with at least four of whom the gospel of Christ is a state religion.
"At the dawn of the Christian era, the standing army of the Roman Empire, according to Gibbon, numbered about four hundred thousand men, and was scattered over a vast extent of territory, from the Euphrates to the Thames. Today the standing armies of Europe exceed four millions, while the reserves, who have served two or more years in the barracks, and are trained soldiers, exceed sixteen millions, a number whose dimensions the mind can neither appreciate nor imagine. With one-tenth of the able-bodied men on the Continent in arms in time of peace, and one-fifth of its women doing the laborious, and at times loathsome, work of man in the shop and field, one can sadly say with Burke, 'The age of chivalry has gone...The glory of Europe has departed.' In the last twenty years these armies have been nearly doubled, and the national debt of the European nations, mainly incurred for war purposes, and wrung from the sweat of the people, has reached the inconceivable total of twenty-three thousand millions of dollars. If one is to measure the interests of man by his expenditures, then assuredly the supreme passion of civilized Europe in this evening of the nineteenth century is war, for one-third of all the revenues that are drained from labor and capital is devoted to paying merely the interest on the cost of past wars, one-third for preparations for future wars, and the remaining third to all other objects whatsoever.
"The spear, the lance, the sword, the battle-axe have been put aside by modern man as playthings of his childhood. We have in their stead the army rifle, which can be
fired ten times without reloading and can kill at three miles, and whose long, nickel-plated bullet can destroy three men in its course before its work of destruction is stayed. Driven as it is by smokeless powder, it will add to past horrors by blasting a soldier as with an invisible bolt of lightning. Its effectiveness has practically destroyed the use in battle of the calvary. The day of 'splendid charges' like that of Balaklava is past, and Pickett's men, if they had to repeat today their wondrous charge, would be annihilated before they could cross the Emmitsburg road. The destructive effects of the modern rifle almost surpass belief. Experiments have shown that it will reduce muscles to a pulp, and grind the bone to powder. A limb struck by it is mangled beyond repair, and a shot in the head or chest is inevitably fatal. The machine gun of today can fire eighteen hundred and sixty shots a minute, or thirty a second, a stream so continuous that it seems like a continuous line of lead, and whose horrible noise is like a Satanic song. A weapon of Titans is the modern twelve-inch cannon, which can throw a projectile eight miles and penetrate eighteen inches of steel, even when the latter is Harveyized, a process by which the hard surface of the steel is carbonized so that the finest drill cannot affect it. Of the present navies with their so-called 'commerce destroyers,' nothing need be said. Single ships cost four millions dollars to build, and, armed with steel plates eighteen inches thick, can travel through water with their engines of eleven thousand horsepower at a rate of twenty-four miles an hour. One such vessel could have scattered the combined Spanish, French and English fleets, numbering over one hundred ships, at Trafalgar, like a flock of pigeons, or put the Spanish Armada to flight like a hawk in a dovecote; and yet in the unceasing warfare of arms and armament these leviathans of the deep have been instantaneously destroyed, as with a blast of lightning, by a single dynamite torpedo.
"If these preparations for war, which cover our waters and darken our lands, mean anything, they indicate that civilized man is on the verge of a vast cataclysm, of which he is apparently as unconscious as were the people of Pompeii on the last, fatal day of their city's life, when they witnessed
with indifference the ominous smoke curl from the crater's mouth. Our age has sown, as none other, the dragon's teeth of standing armies, and the human grain is ripe unto the harvest of blood. It needs but an incendiary like Napoleon to set the world on fire.
"To deny that such is the evident tendency of these unprecedented preparations is to believe that we can sow thistles and reap figs, or expect perennial sunshine where we have sown the whirlwind. The war between China and Japan, fought only in part with modern weapons, and with men who but imperfectly understood their use, in no way illustrates the possibilities of the future conflict. The greatest of all war correspondents, Archibald Forbes, has recently said, 'It is virtually impossible for any one to have accurately pictured to himself the scene in its fullness which the next great battle will present to a bewildered and shuddering world; we know the elements that will constitute its horrors, but we know them only as it were academically. Men have yet to be thrilled by the weirdness of wholesale death, inflicted by missiles poured from weapons, the whereabouts of which cannot be ascertained because of the absence of powder smoke.' He concludes, 'Death incalculable may rain down as from the very heavens themselves.' When we recall that in one of the battles around Metz the use of the mitrailleuse struck down 6,000 Germans in ten minutes, and that at Plevna, in 1877, Skobelleff lost in a short rush of a few hundred yards 3,000 men, and remember that the mitrailleuse and needle gun have since quintupled in their capacity for destruction, the prospect is one at which the mind stands aghast and the heart sickens. Suffice it to say that the great strategists of Europe believe that the future mortality of battles will be so great that it will be impossible to care for the wounded or bury the dead, and many of them will carry as a necessary part of military equipment a moving crematorium to burn those who have fallen in battle.
"You may suggest that this dreadful visitation will pass over peaceful America, as the angel that slew the first-born of Egypt spared the bloodsplashed portals of the Israelites. God grant that it prove so! Whence, however, is our assurance?
So wonderfully have steam and electricity united men in a community of thought, interest and purpose, that it is possible, that if a great continental war should come, in which England would almost necessarily become involved, before it would be ended, the civilized world might be lapped in universal flame. Apart from this, upon the world's horizon is now discernible a cloud, at present no bigger than a man's hand, but which may some day overcast the heavens. In the Orient are two nations, China and Japan, whose combined population reaches the amazing total of five hundred millions. Hitherto these swarming ant-hills have been ignorant of the art of war, for it is strangely true that the only two countries, which since the birth of Christ have experienced in their isolation comparative 'peace on earth,' are these once hermit nations upon whom the light of Christianity had never shone. But thirty years ago a mere handful of Englishmen and Frenchmen forced their way, at the point of the bayonet, to Peking. All this is changed. Western civilization has brought to the Orient Bibles and bullets, mitres and mitrailleuses, godliness and Gatling guns, crosses and Krupp cannon, St. Peter and saltpetre: and the Orient may some day say with Shylock: 'The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it will go hard, but I will better the instruction.' Already they have learned the lesson so well as to play with deadly effect the awful diapason of the cannonade. Let once the passion for war, which distinguishes the Occident, awaken the opulent Orient from its sleep of centuries, and who shall say that another Genghis Khan, with a barbaric horde of millions at his back, may not fall upon Europe with the crushing weight of an avalanche?
"It may be argued, however, that these preparations mean nothing and are guarantees of peace, rather than provocative of war, and that the very effectiveness of modern weapons makes war improbable. While apparently there is force in this suggestion, yet practically it is contradicted by the facts, for the nations that have the least armies have the most peace, and those who have the largest forces tremble on the verge of the abyss. Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and the United States live in substantial
amity with the world, while France, Russia, Germany, Austria and Italy, armed to the teeth and staggering under their equipments, are forever scowling at each other across their frontiers. In them is found the vast magazine of martial spirit and international hatred whose explosion requires but the spark of some trivial incident. Thus when the Empress Augusta recently visited Paris for pleasure her presence alarmed the world, caused prices to fall upon the bourses and exchanges and hurried an earnest and nervous consultation of all European cabinets. A single insult offered to her by the most irresponsible Parisian would have caused her son, the young German Emperor, to draw his sword. It was thus in the power of the idlest street gamin to have shaken the equilibrium of the world. What a frightful commentary upon civilization that the prosperity, and even lives, of millions of our fellow-beings may depend upon the pacific sentiments of a single man!
"No fact can be more clear than that humanity is at the parting of the ways. The maximum of preparation has been reached. In Europe men can arm no further. Italy has already fallen under the burden of bankruptcy thereby occasioned, and may be at any day plunged into the vortex of revolution. Many thoughtful publicists believe that the European nations must therefore either fight or disarm. Well did the Master predict: 'Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity...Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.'"