The American Road to World Peace

By Alfred Zimmern | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 40: The Outlawry of War

WE have seen that, after the rejection of the League of Nations Covenant by the Senate, public opinion in the United States remained unsettled and ill at ease. Instead of experiencing a sense of liberation at having cut themselves loose from the affairs of Europe, Americans were haunted by a sense of duty somehow neglected or evaded. This condition of what may be called "balked idealism" left the American people ready to respond to a fresh initiative taken by the peace movement, provided only that this had nothing to do with the League of Nations. Indeed, such a new effort had all the more chance of exerting a powerful influence on public opinion if it went further than the League of Nations Covenant, in which Woodrow Wilson had been forced to yield on important points to the traditional methods and standards of European diplomacy.

It was against this background that, in the years following the defeat of the League in the Senate, a movement was launched in the Middle West for "the outlawry of war."

The object of the proponents of the outlawry of war was very simple. It was to bring the problem of international relations closer to the people by fixing sole attention on the subject of war. It aimed at disentangling war from the mass of detail with which particular wars are always associated, and so putting war in itself, war alone, in the spotlight, concentrating upon it the whole force of public opinion-particularly religious opinion. Already, under the influence of American pilgrims to Geneva, Geneva delegates were beginning to open their minds to the concept, so much at variance with the traditional "Law of Nations," that war is a crime, an offense against the modern social order. The preachers of outlawry went further: they denounced it as a sin.

The American pilgrims to the League of Nations Assembly of 1924, acting of course, on an unofficial basis, had submitted to that body, for discussion in the relevant committee, a paper bearing

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