The Peace Makers

STEPHEN LEACOCK December 1 1915

The Peace Makers

STEPHEN LEACOCK December 1 1915

The Peace Makers






“WAR,” said the Negro President of Haiti, “is a sad spectacle. It shames our polite civilization.”

As he spoke he looked about him at the assembled company around the huge dinner table, glittering with cut glass and white linen, and brilliant with hot-house flowers.

“A sad spectacle,” he repeated, rolling his big eyes in his black and yellow face that was melancholy with the broken pathos of the African race.

The occasion was a notable one. It was the banquet of the Peace Makers’ Conference of 1916, and the company gathered about the board was as notable as it was numerous.

At the head of the table the genial Mr. Jennings Bryan presided as host, his broad countenance beaming with amiability, and a tall flagon of grape juice standing beside his hand. The eye of an observer would have been at once caught (and arrested) by the chiselled features of Miss Jaddams. A little further down the table one saw the benevolent head and placid physiognomy. of Mr. Norman Angelí, bowed forward as if in deep calculation. Within earshot of Mr. Bryan, but not listening to him, one recognized without the slightest difficulty the great ichthyologist, Dr. David Starr Jordan, while the bland features of a gentleman from China, and the presence of a yellow delegate from the Mosquito Coast, gave ample evidence that the company had been gathered together without reference to color, race, religion, education, or other prejudices whatsoever.

Nor were the older, and less valuable, civilizations unrepresented. One’s eye saw with delight, indeed with genuine, if Christian, pleasure, the mild ecclesiastical face of good Dr. Lyttleton, head master of Eton, so entirely Christian in its expression as to be almost devoid of expression altogether, while beside him and engaged in earnest if quiet colloquy was the broad brow and still broader lineaments that could not have belonged (or at least not without protest) to any other than Lord Haldane. The conversation of the ex-Lord Chancellor was pitched too low to reach the ear, but one detected at intervals the word Sittlichkeit, or at least fragments and parts of it, repeated so persistently, that it was evident there must be in it a profound meaning, or perhaps even such profundity as to require no meaning to accompany it.

But it would be out of the question to indicate by name the whole of the notable company. Indeed, certain of the guests, while carrying in their faces and attitudes something -strangely and elusively familiar, seemed in a certain sense to be nameless, and to represent rather types and attractions than actual personalities. Such was the case, for instance, with a member of the company seated in a place of honor near to the host, whose benign countenance made it clear that the designation of “philanthropist” was sufficient for him, without any closer indication of his identity. In front of this guest, doubtless with a view of indicating his extreme wealth and the consideration in which he stood, was placed a floral decoration representing a broken bank, with the figure of a ruined depositor entwined among the debris.

Of these nameless guests, two individuals alone, from the very insignificance of their appearance, from their plain dress, unsuited to the occasion, and from the puzzled expression of their faces, seemed out of harmony with the galaxy of distinction which surrounded them. They seemed to speak only to one another, and even that somewhat after the fashion of an appreciative chorus to what the rest of the company were saying; while the manner in which they rubbed their hands together and hung upon the words of the other speakers in humble expectancy seemed to imply that they were present in the hope of gathering rather than shedding light. To these two humble and obsequious guests no attention whatever was paid, though it was understood, by those who knew, that their names were The General Public and the Man on the Street.

“A sad spectacle,” said the Negro President, and he sighed as he spoke, “one wonders if our civilization, if our moral standards themselves, are slipping from us.” Then, half in reverie, or as if overcome by the melancholy of his own thought, he lifted a spoon from the table and slid it gently into the bosom of his faded uniform.

“Put back that spoon!” called Miss Jaddams sharply.

“Pardon !” said the Negro President humbly, as he put it back. The humiliation of generations of servitude was in his voice.

“Come, come,” exclaimed Mr. Jennings Bryan cheerfully, “try a little more of the grape juice?”

“Does it intoxicate?” asked the President.

“Never,” answered Mr. Bryan. “Rest assured of that. I can guarantee it. The grape is picked in the dark. It is then carried, still in the dark, to the testing room. There, every particle of alcohol is removed. Try it.”

“Thank you,” said the President, “I am no longer thirsty.”

“Will anybody have some more of the grape juice?” asked Mr. Bryan, running his eye along the ranks of the guests.

No one spoke.

“Will anybody have some more ground peanuts ?”

No one moved.

“Or does anybody want any more of the shredded tan bark? No? Or will somebody have another spoonful of sunflower seeds?”

HERE was still no sign of assent. “Very well, then,” said Mr. Bryan, “the banquet, as such, is over, and we now come to the more serious part of our business. I need hardly tell you that we are here for a serious purpose. We are here to do good. That I know is enough to enlist the ardent sympathy of everybody present.”

There was a murmur of assent.

“Personally,” said Miss Jaddams, “I do nothing else.”

“Neither do I,” said the guest who has been designated The Philanthropist, “whether I am building motor cars,—”

“Does he build motor cars?” whispered the humble person called The Man in the Street to his fellow, The General Public.

“All great philanthropists do,” answered his friend. “They do it as a social service, so as to benefit humanity; any money they make is just an accident. They don’t really care about it a bit. Listen to him. He’s going to say so.”

“Indeed, our motor itself,” the Philanthropist continued, while his face lighted up with unselfish enthusiasm, “Our motor itself-”

“Hush, hush!” said Mr. Bryan gently, “We know-”

“Our motor itself,” persisted the Philanthropist, “is one great piece of philanthropy.” Tears gathered in his eyes. “Only yesterday, while I was looking at our new stripped model of 1917-•”

“Hush, hush!” said Mr. Bryan.

“Let him speak,” said the Negro President. “Let him tell us about his new stripped model.”

“No,” said Mr. Bryan firmly, “we must get to business. Our friend here,” he continued, turning to the company at large and indicating the Negro President on his right, “has come to us in great distress. His beautiful island of Haiti is and has been for many years overwhelmed in civil war. Now he learns that not only Haiti, but also Europe is engulfed in conflict. He has heard that we are making proposals for ending the war—indeed, I may say are about to declare that the war in Europe must stop— I think I am right, am I not, Miss Jaddams ?”

Miss Jaddams with her lips tightly pursed up, nodded assent.

“Look at her,” whispered the General Public to his companion. “Isn’t she just splendid, like that, when she keeps her mouth shut!”

“Naturally then,” continued Mr. Bryan, “our friend the President of Haiti, who is overwhelmed with grief at what has been happening in his island, has come to us for help. That is correct, is it not?”

“That’s it, gentleman,” said the Negro President, in a voice of some emotion, wiping the sleeve of his faded uniform across his eyes. “The situation is quite beyond my control. In fact,” he added, shaking his head pathetically as he relapsed into more natural speech, “dis hyah chile, gen’l’m, is clean done beat with it. Dey aint doin’ nuffin’ on the island but shootin’, burnin’, and killin’ somethin’ awful. Lawd a massy! it’s just like a real civilized country, all right, now. Down in our island we colored people is feeling just as bad as youse did when all them poor white folks was murdered on the Lusitania!”

"DUT the Negro President had no sooner used the words, “Murdered on the Lusitania,” than a chorus of dissent and disapproval broke out all down the table.

“My dear sir, my dear sir,” protested Mr. Bryan, “pray moderate your language a little, if you please. Murdered? Oh, dear, dear me, how can we hope to advance the cause of peace if you insist on using such terms?”

“Aint it that? Wasn’t it murder?” asked the President perplexed.

“We are all agreed here,” said Miss Jaddams, “that it is far better to call it an incident. We speak of the ‘Lusitania Incident,’ ” she added didactically, “just as one speaks of the Arabic Incident, and the Cavell Incident, and other episodes of the sort. It makes it so much easier to forget.”

“True, quite true,” murmured good Dr. Lyttleton, “and then one must remember that there are always two sides to everything. There are two sides to murder. We must not let ourselves forget that there is always the murderer’s point of view to consider.”

“A clear case of what one might call Sittlichkeit,” added Lord Haldane. “Shall I explain to our friend from Haiti what the word means?”

But by this time the Negro President was obviously confused and out of his depth. The conversation had reached a plane of civilization which was beyond his reach.

The genial Mr. Bryan saw fit to come to his rescue.

“Never mind,” said Mr. Bryan soothingly, “Our friends here will soon settle all your difficulties for you. I’m going to ask them, one after the other, to advise you. They will tell you the various means that they are about to apply to stop the war in Erope, and you may select any that you like for your use in Haiti. We charge you nothing for it, except of course your fair share of the price of this grape juice and the shredded nuts.”

The President nodded.

“I am going to ask Miss Jaddams to speak first,” said Mr. Bryan.

f i 'HERE was a movement of general expectancy and the two obsequious guests at the foot of the table, of whom mention has been made, were seen to nudge one another and whisper, “Isn’t this splendid?”

“You are not asking me to speak first merely because I am a woman?” asked Miss Jaddams.

“Oh no,” said Mr. Bryan with charming tact.

“Very good,” said Miss Jaddams, adjusting her glasses. “As for stopping the war, I warn you, as I have warned the whole world, that it may be too late. They should have called me in sooner. That was the mistake. If they had sent for me at once and had put my picture in the papers both in England and Germany with the inscription ‘Miss Jaddams, the True Woman of To-day,’ I doubt if any of the men who looked at it would have felt that it was worth while to fight. But, as things are, the only advice I can give is this. Everybody is wrong, (except me). The Germans are a very naughty people. But the Belgians are worse. It was very, very wicked of the Germans to bombard the houses of the Belgians. But how naughty of the Belgians to go and sit in their houses while they were bombarded. It is to that that I attribute,—with my infallible sense of justice,—the dreadful loss of life. So you see the only conclusion that I can reach is that everybody is very naughty and that the only remedy would be to appoint me a committee,—me and a few others, though the others don’t really matter,—to make a proper settlement. I hope I make myself clear.”

The Negro President shook his head and looked mystified.

“Us colored folks,” he said, “wouldn’t quite understand that. We done got the idea that sometimes there’s such a thing as a quarrel that is right and just.” The President’s melancholy face lit up with animation and his voice rose to the sonorous vibration of the negro preacher. “We learn that out of the Bible, we colored folks,—we learn to smite the ungodly,—”

“Pray, pray,” said Mr. Bryan soothinly, “don’t introduce religion, let me beg of you. That would be fatal. We peacemakers are all agreed that there must be no question of religion raised.”

“Exactly so,” murmured the bland Dr. Lyttleton, “my own feelings exactly. The name of — of — the Deity, should never be brought in. It inflames people. Only a few weeks age I was pained and grieved to the heart to hear a woman in one of our London streets raving that the German Emperor was a murderer— her child had been killed that night by a bomb from a Zeppelin,—she had its body in a cloth hugged to her breast as she talked,—Thank heaven, they keep these things out of the newspapers,—and she was calling down God’s vengeance on the Emperor. Most deplorable! Poor creature, unable, I suppose, to realize the Em-

peror’s exalLed situation, his splendid lineage, the wonderful talent with which he can draw pictures of the apostles with one hand while he writes an appeal to his Mahommedan comrades with the other. I dined with him once,” added Dr. Lyttleton, in modest afterthought.

“So did I,” said Lord Haldane. “In fact I dined with him again and again. I may say I dined with him every time he asked me.”

“I dined with him too,” said Dr. Jordan. “I shall never forget the impression he made. As he entered the room accompanied by his staff, the Emperor looked straight at me and said to one of his aides, ‘Who is this?’ ‘This is Dr. Jordan,’ said the officer. The Emperor put out his hand. ‘So this is Dr. Jordan,’ he said. I never witnessed such an exhibition of brain power in my life. He had seized my name in a moment and held it for three seconds with all the tenaciousness of a Hohenzollern.”

“But may I,” continued the ex-University President, “add a word to what Miss Jaddams has said to make it still clearer to our friend. I will try to make it as simple as one of my lectures in Ichthyology. I know of nothing simpler than that.”

Everybody murmured assent. The President put his hand to his ear.

“Theology?” he said.

“Ichthyology,” said Dr. Jordan. “It is better. But just listen to this. War is waste. It destroys the tissues. It is exhausting and fatiguing and may in extreme cases lead to death. Read my book ‘War and Waste,’ which you can get anywhere for fifty cents brand new, or in all second-hand stores for ten cents, practically undamaged.”

The learned gentleman sat back in his seat and took a refreshing drink of rain water from a glass beside him, while a murmur of applause ran round the table. It was known and recognized that the speaker had done more than any living man to establish the fact that war is dangerous, that gunpowder, if heated, explodes, that fire burns, that fish swim, and other great truths without which the work of a college president would appear futile.

“And now,” said Mr. Bryan, looking about him with the air of a successful

toastmaster, “I am going to ask our friend here to give us his views.”

RENEWED applause bore witness to the popularity of the Philanthropist, whom Mr. Bryan had indicated with a wave of his hand.

The Philanthropist cleared his throat. “Our Motor,” he began.

Mr. Bryan plucked him gently by the sleeve. “Never mind the motor just now,” he whispered.

The Philanthropist bowed in assent. “Very good,” he said. “Though I should like to tell the company something about our new sparkless generator. Publicity, we find, is never so good as when mixed in accidentally with philanthropy. But I will come at once to the subject. My own feeling is that the true way to end war is to try to spread abroad in all directions goodwill and brotherly love.”

“Hear, hear!” cried the assembled company.

“And the great way to inspire brotherly love all round is to keep on getting richer and richer till you have so much money that everyone loves you. Money, gentlemen, is a glorious thing.”

At this point Mr. Norman Angelí, who had remained silent hitherto, raised his head from his chest and murmured drowsily:

“Money, money, there isn’t anything but money. Money is the only thing there is. Money and property, property and money. If you destroy it, it is gone; if you smash it, it isn’t there. All the

rest is a great illus-”

And with this he dozed off again into silence.

“Our poor Angeli is asleep again,” said Miss Jaddams.

Mr. Bryan shook his head. “He’s been that way ever since the war began, -—sleeps all the time, and keeps muttering that there isn’t any war, that people only imagine it, in fact that it is all an illusion. But I fear we are interrupting you,” he added, turning to the Philanthropist.

“I was just saying,” continued that gentleman, “that you can do anything with money. You can stop a war with it if you have enough of it, in ten

minutes. I don’t care what kind of war it is, or what the people are fighting for, whether they are fighting for conquest or fighting for their homes and their children, I can stop it, stop it absolutely by my grip on money, without firing a shot or incurring the slightest personal danger.”

The Philanthropist spoke with the greatest emphasis, reaching out his hand and clutching his fingers in the air.

“Yes, gentlemen,” he went on, “I am speaking here not of theories but of facts. This is what I am doing and what I mean to do. You’ve no idea how amenable people are, especially poor people, struggling peop’e, those with ties and responsibilities, to the grip of money. I went the other day to a man I know, the head of a bank, where I keep a little money,—just a fraction of what I make gentlemen, a mere nothing to me but everything to this man because he is still not rich and is only fighting his way up. ‘Now,’ I said to him, ‘you are English, are you not?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered. ‘And I understand you mean to help along the loan to England with all the power of your bank.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, T mean it and I’ll do it.’ ‘Then I’ll tell you what,’ I said, ‘you lend one penny, or help to lend one penny, to the people of England or the people of France, and I’ll break you, I’ll grind you into poverty —you and your wife and children and all that belongs to you.’

' I 'HE Philanthropist had spoken with so great an intensity that there was a deep stillness over the assembled company. The Negro President had straightened up in his seat, and as he looked at the speaker there was something in his erect back and his stem face and the set of his faded uniform that somehow turned him, African though he was, into a soldier.

“Sir,” he said, with his eye riveted on the speaker’s face, “what happened to that banker man?”

“The fool!” said the Great Philanthropist, “he wouldn’t hear—he defied me—he said that there wasn’t money enough in all my business to buy the soul of a single Englishman. I had his Continued on Page 104.

Continued from Page 9.

directors turn him from his bank that day, and he’s enlisted, the scoundrel, and is gone to the war. But his wife and family are left behind: they shall learn what the grip of the money power is—learn it in misery and poverty.”

“My good sir,” said the Negro President slowly and impressively, “do you know why your plan of stopping war wouldn’t work in Haiti?”

“No,” said the Philanthropist.

“Becase our black people there would kill you. Which ever side they were on, whatever they thought of the war—they would take a man like you and lead you out into the town square, and stand you up against the side of an adobe house, and they’d shoot you. Come down to Haiti, if you doubt my words, and try it.”

“Thank you,” said the Great Philanthropist, resuming his customary manner of undisturbed gentleness, “I don’t think I will. I don’t think somehow that I could sell my motors in Haiti.”

THE passage at arms between the Negro President and the Philanthropist had thrown a certain confusion into the hitherto agreeable gathering. Even Lord Haldane and Dr. Lyttleton were seen to be slowly shaking their heads from side to side, an extreme mark of excitement which they never permitted themselves except under stress of passion. The two humble guests at the foot of the table were visibly perturbed. “Say: I don’t like that about the banker,” squeaked one of them. “That aint right, eh what? I don’t like it.”

Mr. Bryan was aware that the meeting was in danger of serious disorder. He rapped loudly on the table for attention. When he had at last obtained silence, he spoke.

“I have kept my own views to the last,” he said, “because I cannot but feel that they possess a peculiar importance. There is, my dear friends, every prospect

that within a measurable distance of time I shall be able to put them into practice. I am glad to be able to announce to you the practical certainty that I shall be president of the United States.”

At this announcement the entire company broke into spontaneous and heartfelt applause. It had long been felt by all present that Mr. Bryan was certain to be president of the United States if only he ran for the office often enough, but that the glad moment had actually arrived seemed almost too good for belief.

“Yes, my friends,” continued the genial host, “I have just had a communication from my dear friend Wilson, in which he tells me that he, himself, will never contest the office again. The presidency, he says, interferes too much with his private life. In fact, I am authorized to state in confidence that his wife forbids him to run.”

“But my dear Jennings,” interposed Dr. Jordan thoughtfully, “what about Colonel Roosevelt?”

“In that quarter my certainty in the matter is absolute. I have calculated it out mathematically that I am bound to obtain, in view of my known principles, the entire German vote,—which carries with it all the great breweries of the country,—the whole Austrian vote, all the Hungarians of the sugar refineries, the Turks,—in fact, my friends, I am positive that Roosevelt, if he dares to run, will carry nothing but the American I vote!”

T OUD applause greeted this an-

' nouncement.

“And now let me explain my plan, which I believe is shared by a great number of sane, and other, pacifists in the country. All the great nations of the world will be invited to form a single international force consisting of a fleet so powerful and so well equipped that no single nation will dare to bid it defiance.

Mr. Bryan looked about him with a glance of something like triumph. The whole company, and especially the Negro President, were now evidently interested. “Say,” whispered the General Public to his companion, “this sounds like the real thing ? Eh, what ? Isn’t he a peach of a thinker?”

“What flag will your fleet fly?” asked the Negro President.

“The flags of all nations,” said Mr. Bryan.

“Where will you get your sailors?”

“From all the nations,” said Mr. Bryan, “but the uniform will be all the same, a plain white blouse with blue insertions, and white duck trousers with the word PEACE stamped across the back of them in big letters. This will help to impress the sailors with the almost sacred character of their functions.”

“But what will the fleet’s functions be?” asked the President.

“Whenever a quarrel arises,” explained Mr. Bryan, “it will be submitted to a Board. Who will be on this Board, in addition to myself, I cannot as yet say.

But it’s of no consequence. Whenever a case is submitted to the Board it will think it over for three years. It will then announce its decision—if any. After 'that, if any one nation refuses to submit, its ports will be bombarded by the Peace Fleet.”

Rapturous expressions of approval greeted Mr. Bryan’s explanation.

“The great thing,” said Lord Haldane, “will be to get the right men for the Board. So far I can only think of one. They must be men trained in the law,— “Or perhaps, better, taken from the Church,” suggested Dr. Lyttleton.

“Or better still, said Dr. Jordan, “men from the Universities—”

“Or do you not think,” said Miss Jaddams, “that the members of the board ought to be fifty per cent, women?”

“But I don’t understand,” said the Negro President, turning his puzzled face to Mr. Bryan. “Would some of these ships be British ships?”

“Oh certainly. In view of the dominant size of the British Navy about onequarter of all the ships would be British ships.”

“And the sailors British sailors?”

“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Bryan, “except that they would be wearing international breeches,—a most important point.” “And if the Board, made up of all sorts of people, were to give a decision against England, then these ships,— British ships with British sailors,— would be sent to bombard England itself.”

“Exactly,” said Mr. Bryan. “Isn’t it beautif-Hy simple? And to guarantee its work’ng properly,” he continued, “just in case we have to use the fleet against England, we’re going to ask Admiral" Jellicoe himself to take command.”

The Negro President slowly shook his head.

“Marse Bryan,” he said, “you notice what I say. I know Marse Jellicoe. I done see him lots of times when he was just a lieutenant, down in the harbor of Port au Prince. If youse folks put up this proposition to Marse Jellicoe, he’ll just tell the whole lot of you to go plumb to-”

But the close of the sentence was lost by a sudden interruption. A servant entered with a folded telegram in his hand.

“For me?” said Mr. Bryan, with a winning smile.

“For the President of Haiti, sir,” said the man.

The President took the telegram and opened it clumsily with his finger and thumb amid a general silence. Then he took from his pocket and adjusted a huge pair of spectacles with a horn rim and began to read:

“Well, I ’clare to goodness!” he said. “Who is it from?” said Mr. Bryan. “Is it anything about me?”

The Negro President shook his head “It’s from Haiti,” he said, “from my military secretary.”

“Read it, read it,” cried the company. “Come back home right away,” read out the Negro President, word by word. “Everything is all right again. Joint British and American Naval Squadron

came into harbor yesterday, landed fifty blue jackets and one midshipman. Perfect order. Banks open. Bars open. Mule cars all running again. Things fine. Going to have big dance at your palace. Come right back.

The Negro President paused. “Gentlemen,” he said, in a voice of great and deep relief. “This lets me out. I guess I wont stay for the rest of the discussion. I’ll start for Haiti. I reckon there’s something in this Armed Force business after all.”