ON MONDAY morning, just before dawn, our troops entered Mons, the town which the Old Contemptibles held at the beginning of the war against overwhelming odds until they were obliged to withdraw. It was, therefore, dramatically fitting that victory should have been finally achieved on the scene of a former reverse. For within an hour or two of the retaking of Mons the German delegates signed the armistice, and before midday the last shot was fired. Then all the world knew that the fighting was over, and the civilized part of it rejoiced. Thrones were tumbling down, emperors and princes were in flight, and republics were springing up where military autocracies had been; but in the first enthusiasm of Monday these were hardly in our thoughts. The nightmare of war having vanished in the light of that morning, our minds were filled with love and gratitude to those who on and under the sea, in the air, and on land had dared all that England should be free from an invader’s power. The memory of those who had paid the last sacrifice filled every heart, and for many their joy in the glorious news was mingled with the sorrow of bereavement which was all the more poignant in that hour of triumph. But for all of us it was a day to be remembered while life lasts, and a day greater than any that has been recorded in the annals of our country. We are still some distance from the goal of a just and lasting peace, and it is to be feared that there will be obstacles in the path. Nevertheless, we shall press forward to that goal in the hope that, by the grace of God, the world shall no more be devastated by the cruelties of war, and shall be made safe for the growth of religion and civilization.
“THIS is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” So the King, his Parliament, and his faithful subjects interpreted the working out of the great drama which ended on Monday with the signing of the armistice. And so interpreting it, with one accord they fell to prayer and thanksgiving. His Majesty, in his addresses to the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, struck the note of humble gratitude to Almighty God for this great deliverance. The Lords and Commons suspended their sittings on Monday as soon as they heard read the terms of the armistice, and repaired to St Margaret’s Church, there to give God the glory. The Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London went, as their forefathers had always gone in times of national sorrow or rejoicing, to St Paul’s. On Tuesday, again, there was a great offering of thanks, the King and Queen with the two Primates and the great officers of State uniting with a vast crowd of citizens in a solemn act of worship. And, as it was at St Margaret’s and the Cathedral, so it has been in every city and well nigh every village in the land. With one consent, as it were, the people have bent the knee, confessing that this is indeed “the Lord’s doing”. There is also another aspect in which these common acts of worship can be viewed. They give us the feeling that we are one family, united, in whatever corner of the globe its members may be, under the head of our race, his Majesty King George the Fifth. Subjects of the British Empire in India, Australasia, Canada, or wherever they may be, recognize in the Crown of England the link that binds us all together. Men of every shade of political opinion, of many different religions, of diverse races, see in the Crown the symbol of that unity, the sense of which impelled the gallant citizen-soldiers of the Overseas Dominions to risk their lives on the battlefields of Europe. “It is marvellous in our eyes.”
THE terms imposed on Germany are undoubtedly stiff, and it is not surprising to find the German Foreign Secretary appealing to the kind-hearted President of the United States to use his influence in order to mitigate “these fearful conditions”, which, Dr Solf admits, “we had to accept”. They had to be made severe. A nation that cannot keep its word must be tightly held to the fulfilment of imposed conditions. An army that pollutes or poisons wells must, when beaten, be rendered impotent to repeat such deeds of foulness. It is useless to appeal to a charity that is nothing more nor less than soft-hearted and softheaded sentimentality. That is not at all in accord with the present temper of the Allies. As we remarked in a recent leader, to exact justice is not to wreak vengeance in a spirit of hate. And we are glad to find Cardinal Bourne so entirely in agreement with ourselves in this matter. Last Sunday’s Observer contained an interesting interview, in which his Eminence argued that avenging justice is an integral part of charity — the charity which, in the hour of victory, we owe to our enemies. This truth was enforced two years ago by another Cardinal, the great Archbishop of Malines. Cardinal Mercier’s words were:—
There is no Christian justice without charity, and no charity without justice. And, as avenging justice is a part of the virtue of charity, there is no charity without avenging justice. To desire to close our eyes to injustice, under the pretext of heroism in charity, and to allow the enemy to commit crimes with impunity because he is the enemy, is to fail to recognize the sovereign and necessary sway of charity in the organization of the moral, individual, and social life of Christianized humanity.
While, however, the Allies are determined to exact justice, they are not forgetful of the tender side of charity. The precept, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him,” still stands, and starving Germany — starving though she be through her mad effort to starve us — is to be supplied with food during the armistice. We do not know if this lesson in magnanimity will be lost on the German people, but, so far as the Allies are concerned, that is no matter. The law of charity imposes this duty on us.