War, War: What is it good for?

Column by George Cooper.

June 28, 1914: Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Serbian terrorist group the Black Hand, assassinated the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. A month later, on July 28, Austria declared war on Serbia. Then, in antagonistic repartee, the Great War had begun. Germany declared war on Russia Aug. 1. Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium Aug. 3. Britain declared war on Germany Aug. 4. And from there, all hell broke loose in what we now call World War I, the First World War, the War To End All Wars — the result of which was a peace that historian David Fromkin has called a peace to end all peace.

In the July 3, 1914, opening number of The Chautauquan Daily, there is no mention of the approaching turmoil, but the European situation was on Chautauquan minds. The Aug. 3 number of the Daily announced a “EUROPEAN WAR SYMPOSIUM,” a gathering of scholars on the grounds or from nearby to discuss the situation from divergent points of view. The announcement said, “In view of the war just opening in Europe, which seems likely to be the most awful conflict since the Napoleonic Era, a symposium on various problems involved has been arranged for next week.”

Chautauqua was hardly caught unaware. In his book, Chautauqua: A Center for Education, Religion, and the Arts in America, Theodore Morrison wrote, “In keeping with its tradition of free and open discussion of current issues, Chautauqua had heard the question of peace or war agitated on its platform for well over a decade before war broke out in Europe.”

Much emphasis had been placed on peace.

On July 8, 1912, two years before outbreak of war, David Starr Jordan, president of Leland Stanford Jr. University, made “The Case Against War.” The aim of the peace movement was to “keep unreasoning anger out of the councils of the world,” he said. The Daily reported, “International peace means mutual respect and mutual trust, a condition in which the boundary line between states is not a line of suspicion and hate, but, like the boundaries of provinces, a convenience in judicial and administrative adjustments.”

Arbitral settlement. Judicial decision. Mutual tolerance. A world without such phrasings and capacities was savage.

“The only place where killing on a large scale is legalized is on the line where great nations meet. Along these borders today, the most crushing burdens of war machinery the world has ever imagined are steadily piling up,” all in the interest of final peace, Jordan said.

But war would not happen, Jordan said. Missionary work had provided agency for peace. Commercial travelers, “the board of trade, the international commission, the world congress,” all provided greater common ground for mutual trust. “The unification of international life is a guarantee, obvious to all save the politicians, that international war among civilized nations has already come to an end.”

Later in the 1912 Season, on July 31, Baroness Bertha von Suttner of Austria, the third recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, advanced her arguments against war in an address titled “International Peace.”

The Daily reported that “the Baroness is a distinguished looking woman, tall and of stately bearing. She speaks excellent English. She was greeted with the Chautauqua salute, announced by Bishop Vincent, who introduced her.”

Von Suttner spoke about the peace movement. Peace workers, she said, believe in the possibility of peace. Not to do so would be crazy: “The road to destruction cannot be indefinitely pursued, the mad race toward ruin in which the nations are engaged with their ever-increasing armaments must be abandoned — for there is a limit to the resources of the people — and there is — we see the signs of it — a limit to their patience,” she said.

Working for peace was a religion, a science and a war. It dealt with duties toward God and man; it based its arguments on history, on statistics, on political economy and natural law; it roused hearts, the energy for contest, the resolution for victory, and, von Suttner said, “the passion of contempt for the lies and the follies and the cruelties of the other side.”

If the audience thought the talk of peace came adorned with too much bellicose vocabulary, von Suttner said she used such terms “because this fighting vocabulary most clearly expresses that our work is a struggle, that the defenders of peace must be armed … that they must act.”

In France — a country in which she saw the strongest war movement — daily papers contained articles that fomented the spirit of war. “In every column there is an essay or an anecdote, or a rumor which either insinuates or openly speaks of war with Germany.”

In response, peace workers must “try to mold the public mind by the same powerful instrument — the daily press,” von Suttner said.

The following year, 1913, the opening number of the Daily included an article titled “A World Without War,” by Rev. Madison C. Peters. But sounding a different note that same summer, Dr. H.H. Powers gave a series of lectures on socialism in Europe, among which was one on the different French and German versions, warning of dangerous areas and causes of conflict.

In a similar vein, the 1913 lecturer most prescient of future events spoke to a large audience in the Amphitheater on Friday, July 11. Prince Lazarovich Hrebelianovich of Serbia took as his subject “Nation Building in Central and Eastern Europe.”

The situation hinged on control and access between Europe and Asia. The prince said, “All of the nations of Europe that have interests in the East have tried at one time or another to get control of the Balkans.“ Austria had always wanted to dominate the important military points.

And Austria had been getting bigger.

“There are Germans, Greeks, Magyars, Servians, Italians, Romanians, Croats, Poles and others under the government of Austria-Hungary. The only way that the government has held itself together is by keeping these people weak by differences among themselves,” the prince said.

Germany would soon want the territory and control of those people, as would the “Servians, the Greeks, the Italians and the Poles.” Such was the work of European nation building.

The prince asked not to be called a savage, just because Serbians wanted to fight for what was theirs. “Opinions are often founded upon what appears in the press, from stories written by men who know nothing of the true conditions of the Balkans.” He said he had once met a man said to be an authority on his country, a man who had written two books on the subject.

“He had spent a little over two months in Servia, and almost the only people whom he met were the train porters and hotel clerks, yet he claimed to be an authority,” the paper reported.

The prince said, “There are no beggars in Servia, and we have no poorhouses. If civilization means poorhouses, crime, and the forced work of little children, I am glad we are savages.”

The article continued for another five paragraphs. After his lecture, the prince had spoken individually to a Daily reporter. He predicted war in Europe, one that will involve all “the principal nations on that side of the Atlantic.” It would start with a revolt of the Poles, Germany would enter the war, Italy too. “The downfall of the Hapsburg is also sure to come,” the Prince said.