Baltimore Evening Sun (14 March 1914): 6.
All of those gentlemen who praise Dr. Wilson for his policy of virtuous noninterference in Mexico seem to be agreed that war is something we should seek to avoid at any cost. This is another of the fallacies that people subscribe to without thinking about them. As a matter of fact, the net effect of war is usually very beneficial to a nation, particularly if it be marked by crushing reverses. Such grave perils take the national mind off all lesser perils, many of which are imaginary, and so work against that hypochondria which is the curse of prosperous peoples, as it is of prosperous individuals. Just as a fat old gentleman, pursued perchance by footpads, forgets that he has an ounce of uric acid in every pint of his blood, so a fat and wheezy nation, taken in the rear by artillery, forgets that it is full of sin.
Even a civil war, though its cost is many times that of a foreign war, works good as well as evil. How many persons remember that our own war in the sixties knocked out prohibition? And yet it undoubtedly did so. During the forties and fifties the whole country was ravaged by a maudlin wave of teetotalism. State after State went “dry,” and prohibition meetings were actually held on the door of the House of Representatives. But the moment the drums began to roll and the bands began to play, ths nation forget all that mushiness, and a good many of the boys who marched to the front carried flasks in their hip packets. What is more, they came back of the same mind, and so nearly half a century passed before prohibition got on its legs again.
The trouble with the United States today is simply that it is finding life too easy. The inevitable result of such a condition of affairs is a sort of national neurasthenia. Patent medicines are swallowed copiously for imaginary ills: the people begin to notice every little wart and bruise upon the body politic; they are ripe for unhealthy introspection; they listen to all sorts of idiotic reformers. That is precisely what is the matter with us. Our people follow a multitude of Munyons, lay and clerical: they reach out for a degree of virtue that is possible only to valetudinarians and old maids; they run to an anæmic self-accusing, a sclerotic touchiness, a senile seriousness. They no longer enjoy life; they merely suffer it.
A first-class foreign war would cure them of all that softness. The Dowies and Lydia Pinkhams who now rise to prominence and leadership on the ascending waves of the uplift would be forgotten in a moment, and their places would be taken by strong men, tough men, wholly male men. In brief, there would be an end of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a revival of forthright and effective action. With the flags going by and the hospitals filling up, no one would have any attention to waste upon psychical research, the recall of judges and the Montessori method. People would have something better to think about than Billy Sunday and the Anti-Saloon League, and something better to mourn for than the fictitious snaring of imaginary working girls. A man doubled up with rheumatism is too busy to be either for or against the single tax. A nation spending $2,000,000 a day on its army enjoys a healthy forgetting of the bichloride of mercury evil.
The Spanish-American War, of course, was too short to do much good. The Spaniards were safely licked before 20 per cent. of the American troops had got used to wearing shirts without collars. But even so, it gave a temporary setback to the uplift. The most prominent man in the United States in 1896 was the Hon. William Jennings Bryan, and the thing the American people gave most thought to was free silver. But in 1898 they switched suddenly to Dewey and “Remember the Maine!” and that was a very healthy switch. No prohibitionist could get a crowd while the Oregon was rounding the Horn. No one cared a hoot for sex hygiene when Hobson sunk the Merrimac.
Hobson himself, by the way, offers an impressive example of the good effects of war. A man obviously of shallow and silly character, as his celebrated kissing bouts showed, he was yet inspired by the national peril to an act of tremendous heroism--an act almost worthy, indeed, of Horatius. But when peace was restored he returned to his follies, and today he is an ardent prohibitionist, a great whooper in the yap chautauquas, and one of the principal low comedians of the House of Representatives. No doubt there are millions like him. Even some of the vice crusaders, who pursue today the ignominious sport of chasing miserable women, would probably make good soldiers in time of war, and hence good citizens. Their natural ferocity is now directed to a disgusting use; on the battle field it would be directed to a good and noble use.
But, as I say, the Spanish-American War was too short and too easy to work permanent benefits. The Hon. Mr. Bryan was nominated again in 1900, trust-busting was resumed by Colonel Roosevelt (a second case of Hobson!) and the uplift took a fresh start. But a full-length war does better execution. Consider, for example, the war between France and Germany, in 1870. It cured the Germans of the weltschmerz; it converted a nation of hairsplitters and sentimentalists into a nation of hard-headed and super-efficient men; it knocked out Werther as the national type and set up Bismarck. In a word, it created modern Germany. The old Germany was muddle-headed and pedantic; the new Germany is chiefly marked by its enormous practicality, its sharp common sense, its straightforwardness and ruthlessness, its almost alarming fitness to survive. There is not a nation in the world that does not envy this new Germany’s efficiency, and there is not a nation that does not have a healthy respect for its guns.
A war with Mexico might save us from our current hypochondria, but a war with Germany would be ideal. It would rid us of our puerile cockiness, our childish belief in our own prowess, our sneaking contempt for all other peoples. And we wouid probably learn a lot worth knowing from our adversary, just as the people of the South learned a lot from the invading and hated Yankee, and the Boers learned a lot from the English. But of what we might learn thus, more anon.
A DAILY THOUGHT. I would rather be pastor of a graveyard than of some churches.--The Rev. Billy Sunday, D. D.
Come back, Anderson! Come back, dear heart! We miss thee every hour! Life grows dull, gloomy, sad!--Liquor Ring Adv.
Boil your drinking water! Consider Dashing Harry! Revere the Legislature! Swat the fly!