Sinking of the Leinster

19 October 2018

October 18th, 1918.

MR BALFOUR, for once abandoning the formal diction of diplomacy, preferred in a speech he delivered last week to use the common language of everyday life. “The Germans”, he said, “were brutes when they began the war, and brutes they have remained ever since.” There he certainly employed the right word, but, unless there had been circumstances of a special kind to justify such a downright expression of angry contempt, we may be sure that the Foreign Secretary would have bethought him of some diplomatic euphemism. The immediate cause of this outburst of wrath was the sinking of the Leinster off the Irish Coast, with the appalling loss of life of nearly 600 harmless people sent to their deaths. We like to believe that Mr Balfour’s estimate of the German character is endorsed by his Ministerial colleagues. If it is, there will be no need to fear any weakness on their part when they reply to the Note which President Wilson will, no doubt, shortly address to them. If the sinking of the Leinster would not suffice to harden their hearts towards the German appeal for an armistice, there are the heartrending stories now being related by men who have undergone the horrors of imprisonment in German camps. It is useless, not to say childish, to draw a distinction between the enemy’s military authorities and the people, and to say that we are at war only with the Hohenzollerns and their criminal accomplices, the Junkers. There has never been a single sign that the people are horrified at the ill-treatment of our prisoners and the outrages committed by the German navy. Until they give some sign, they must all be included in Mr Balfour’s description of them as “brutes” from first to last, and must be put and kept under restraint as being dangerous to the civilised communities.


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