* * * * *
5. A neutral power
must not allow any of the acts referred to
in Articles 2 to 4 to occur on its territory.
This pledge the German Empire had solemnly made only seven years ago. It would seem that Prof. Burgess may accept the distinction ably made by Prof. Muensterberg between “pledges of national honor” and mere “routine agreements,” placing Hague treaties in the latter category.
The allegation that France and England secretly did unneutral acts in Belgium is as yet without proof of any sort, and must be interpreted by the commonsense consideration that a neutral Belgium was a defensive bulwark for France and England. To have tampered with her neutrality would have been motiveless folly. How much more decent and moral than Prof. Burgess’s meticulous weighing of national reincorporation as a means of evading national obligations is Chancellor Hollweg’s robust plea of national necessity! Prof. Burgess’s whole moral and mental attitude in this case seems to be that of a corporation lawyer getting a trust out of a hole under the Statute of Limitations or by some reorganizing dodge.
FRANK JEWETT MATHER, Jr.
Princeton, N.J., Nov. 4, 1914.
By William M. Sloane.
Late Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University; ex-President National Institute of Arts and Letters and of the American Historical Association; was secretary of George Bancroft, the historian, in Berlin, 1873-5; author of works on French History.
The American public has been carefully trained to avoid entanglement with foreign affairs. This European war was so unexpected, so entirely unforeseen, that we were at first bewildered, and then exasperated, by our unreadiness to meet our own emergencies.
In our effort to fix responsibility we then became partisan to the verge of moral participation and had to be called to our senses by the wise proclamation and warning of our Chief Magistrate.
Western Europe is a nearer neighbor than either Central or Eastern, and what stern censors permit us to know is nicely calculated to arouse our prejudice on one side or the other. Believing that, owing to cable cutting and neutrality restrictions of wireless, as yet the plain truth is not available, we ask for a suspension of judgment on both sides in order that our Government may enjoy the undivided support of all American citizens in its desire to secure a minimum of disturbance to the normal course of our commercial, industrial, and agricultural life by convulsions that are not of our making.
Fairness to ourselves means justice in the formation and expression of opinion about not one or two but all the participants in a struggle for European ascendency, with which we have nothing to do except as overwhelming victory for either side might bring on a struggle for world ascendency, with which, unhappily, we might have much to do. To contemplate such a terrible event should sober us; the best preparation for it is absolute neutrality in thought, speech, and conduct.