There are many people in England to-day who praise the thoroughness of the Germans, and their devotion to systematic thought. Has any one ever taken the trouble to trace the development of the thesis habit, and its influence on their national life? They theorize everything, and they believe in their theories. They have solemn theories of the English character, of the French character, of the nature of war, of the history of the world. No breath of scepticism dims their complacency, although events steadily prove their theories wrong. They have courage, and when they are seeking truth by the process of reasoning, they accept the conclusions attained by the process, however monstrous these conclusions may be. They not only accept them, they act upon them, and, as every one knows, their behaviour in Belgium was dictated to them by their philosophy.
Thought of this kind is the enemy of the human race. It intoxicates sluggish minds, to whom thought is not natural. It suppresses all the gentler instincts of the heart and supplies a basis of orthodoxy for all the cruelty and treachery in the world. I do not know, none of us knows, when or how this war will end. But I know that it is worth fighting to the end, whatever it may cost to all and each of us. We may have peace with the Germans, the peace of exhaustion or the peace that is only a breathing space in a long struggle. We can never have peace with the German idea. It was not the idea of the older German thinkers—of Kant, or of Goethe, who were good Europeans. Kant said that there is nothing good in the world except the good will. The modern German doctrine is that there is nothing good in the world except what tends to the power and glory of the State. The inventor of this doctrine, it may be remembered, was the Devil, who offered to the Son of Man the glory of all the kingdoms of the world, if only He would fall down and worship him. The Germans, exposed to a like temptation, have accepted the offer and have fulfilled the condition. They can have no assurance that faith will be kept with them. On the other hand, we can have no assurance that they will suffer any signal or dramatic reverse. Human history does not usually observe the laws of melodrama. But we know that their newly purchased doctrine can be fought, in war and in peace, and we know that in the end it will not prevail.
An Address to the Union Society of University College, London, March 22,1917
When Professor W.P. Ker asked me to address you on this ceremonial occasion I felt none of the confidence of the man who knows what he wants to say, and is looking for an audience. But Professor Ker is my old friend, and this place is the place where I picked up many of those fragmentary impressions which I suppose must be called my education. So I thought it would be ungrateful to refuse, even though it should prove that I have nothing to express save goodwill and the affections of memory.