On the fifth night the gods and heroes assembled in the city of Rome.
Their meeting-place was the Forum. The eternal city lay dormant
around them, and Zeus, who had for the time recalled into existence
the magnificent temple built in his honour, which used to adorn the
incomparable centre of Roman might and splendour, sat in front of it,
surrounded by the Flamines and the last Pontifex Maximus aided by the
last Vestal Virgins. On the _via sacra_ there was an unending flow of
thronging Romans and Greeks, and Cicero was seen talking with great
animation with Julius Cæsar, while Augustus seemed to chide Tacitus
with mild irony. Cornelius Scipio Africanus was deeply engaged in a
conversation with Pericles, and Marcus Antistius Labeo discussed law
with Plato. From afar the wind brought the sounds of the bells of the
Vatican, at the hearing of which all conversation stopped; and when
a few minutes later a choir intoned a hymn in a neighbouring church,
the Pontifex and the Flamines veiled their heads in dumb resignation,
and the Vestal Virgins looked up to Zeus as if imploring him for help.
A pause followed. But soon the moon rose over the majestic Palatine
hill; the Graces performed a soulful dance, and finally Zeus asked
Caius Julius Cæsar to entertain them with his experiences during his
third travel in England which, as he said, he had, in addition to his
two landings during his mortal life, recently made after nearly two
thousand years.
Cæsar, standing near the house of the Senate of ancient Rome, thus
addressed the divine Assembly:
“It is, O Jupiter and all the other gods and heroes, a singular
pleasure and honour to me to address you on a topic so important and
interesting. When I arrived in England for the third time (–I started
from Dunkerque to avoid giving offence to the 112 scholars who have,
each to his complete satisfaction, proved 112 different spots on the
French coast between Boulogne and Calais wherefrom I am supposed to
have started for England in my mortal time–) I was received by no
wilder tribe than a few customs officials, who asked me whether I had
any cigars in my toga. On my denying it, they searched me, and finding
none they let me go. Two hours later I arrived in London, which I found
ugly beyond words. I can understand that you, O Canova, cried on seeing
it. What struck me most was its surprising silence, which contrasted
very strongly with the noise of Rome, or Paris. I mentioned this to a
casual acquaintance, who stared at me in despair, exclaiming: ‘Silence,
sir? Why, the noises of London drive half of us to madness. Here, take
that (–he handed me a bunch of printed papers–) read it carefully
and join us.’ On looking into the papers I found that they contained
a prospectus of a vast ‘Society for the Abatement of Street-Noises in
“This made me somewhat thoughtful. It was quite clear to me that the
unattractiveness of London is owing chiefly to its lack of animation,
to its silence. I soon found out that silence is the dominating
institution of that country. To talk is to infringe the principal law
of their language. They want to see their language noiselessly, and
not to hear it. Hence they constantly read printed language on wooden
paper, in a wooden style, on wooden matters. This they call ‘the
daily Press.’ I met one of the chief writers on their most popular
paper, and he assured me that the editor solemnly warns each of his
contributors not to indulge in any attempt at _esprit_ or brilliancy of
any sort; for, should he do so, the editor would be forced to dismiss
him forthwith. All that the contributor is allowed to do is to make
startling headlines, such as:
‘Delicious puddings made out of wood.’
‘New aqueducts full of milk for the people.’
‘Discovery of wireless telegraphy among the
ancient Egyptians.’
‘Discovery of the pin-cushion to Cleopatra’s
‘Trunk murder: a man assassinates his widow.’
That same editor, on my asking him why he allowed such crying
stupidities in the headlines, and nothing but the most platitudinous
stuff in the body of the article, gave me the following answer:
“‘My dear sir, our public has nerves but no intellect. Hence we work
for sudden, rapid shocks to their nerves, and no fatigue to their
intellect. They not only do not think; they do not want to think.
They are practically convinced that thinking is the perdition of
all common-sense. Just let me give you an example. There is among
the younger writers one whose mind is singularly suggestive and
nimble. He really has something to say, and can say it well. However,
unfortunately, he says it in what are, apparently, contradictory and
circuitous terms. This my readers cannot grasp; it fatigues them. They
complain of that man’s writings as being “heavy,” “hard to follow.”
This is the consequence of the vogue of music halls. One may say that
the popular University of this country, where the average man gets most
of his ideas from, is the music hall. What, then, can we editors do
better than imitate the style and substance of the music hall? Shocks
to the nerves–and no fatigue to the intellect. _Voilà!_’
* * * * *
“On my way home I met Columbus. He told me, and no man ever spoke with
more solid right, that he was the greatest benefactor to England. But
for him, who by discovering the New World placed England in the very
centre of the intelligent and wealthy nations, while formerly England
was somewhere on the ‘other end of all the world’; but for him, he
said, England could never have had her unique leverage. ‘You, Cæsar,’
he added, ‘discovered England, as the Vikings discovered America; I did
not discover it, I made it. But would you believe me that thousands
and thousands of Englishmen have scarcely ever heard my name? They
constantly talk of their race as born to rule. But what would they
have ruled without me? The ponds in Lincolnshire. You wonder at their
tongue-tiedness. I will tell you what it means. The English are neither
talkers nor thinkers; they are almost exclusively men of action; or
used to be. They have no intellectual initiative. They have started
neither the Renascence, nor the Great Discoveries of my time, nor the
Reformation, or the three greatest factors in the formation of modern
Europe. All this was first started by us Italians. We can both talk
and think and create; but we are not good at actions. The English are
good only at action. This is the be-all and end-all of their history.
Have you ever seen their Parliament? Do not omit attending it. You will
there learn something that no other Assembly can teach you. It rarely
contains a great orator, for oratory is of little use in an Assembly
with an iron party discipline, and with members every one of whom is
amenable to no argument that has not had the august privilege of being
born in his own mind. And since his mind brings forth none, he moves in
a vicious circle!’
“‘Would you not,’ I asked Columbus, ‘accompany me to the House of
“‘Readily,’ said the great Genoese. And next day we repaired to the
‘first club of the country.’
* * * * *
“The hall was curiously unfit for the business of a national Assembly.
It is neither large, nor light enough. The acoustics are fair, but
superfluous. For, who cares very much what any member other than
himself is saying? In the midst there is a porter’s lodge, in which
sits a gentleman in the attire of the eighteenth century. This, as
behoves a conservative Roman, did not meet with my disapproval.
The only objection I made was that in my opinion he ought to have
been clothed in all the various costumes in use since Magna Charta.
The English, and the rest of the little ones, in utter contrast to
ourselves, constantly vary their dress. We preferred to vary our inner
“The subject of discussion, or rather of a score or so of monologues,
was one of which in my time I have had the amplest experience. They
proposed to give weekly a certain sum of money to anyone of their
citizens who on reaching his seventieth year had arrived at the end
of his financial tether. In my day I had given away millions to
the populace, and my imperial successors had gone even very much
further. The common people was thereby demoralised as is everybody,
even parents, who accepts, year in year out, free gifts from a third
person or his children. Being demoralised, such a recipient of
donations becomes inevitably the most cruel enemy of his donor. Nothing
contributed more to the downfall of Rome. A nation must consist of free
and financially independent citizens, or it loses its most precious
asset. How frequently, O Pericles, have you said to me, how much you
regretted having introduced the same injurious donations into Athens.
But this is the melancholy truth of all history: one learns from
history one thing only, to wit, that no statesman has ever learned
anything from history.
“In the midst of my sad reflections I could yet not help being amused
by the speech of one member of the governing party, who belonged to
that formidable mixture of faddists, formalists, cocksure-ists, and
moral precisians who have in this country an influence that we should
not have given to the members of the most exalted among the Roman
patricians. Much as they are laughed at, they yet have the power of
striking dread into the public and instilling hesitation into the
feeble nerves of statesmen. The name of the orator in question was, if
I am right, Harold Gox. He said:
“‘Mr Speaker, it is with a satisfaction and self-complacency new even
to me that I beg to submit my remarks on a subject than which there is
no greater one; a subject, sir, that has no predicate except that of
immensity; an immensity, sir, that exceeds infinitude itself; and last
not least, an infinitude vaster than all other infinitudes: a moral
infinity. This country, sir, was built up by morals and righteousness.
Righteousness, I say, sir; and I will repeat it: righteousness. How did
we come by our Empire? By righteousness. How did our colonists occupy
vast continents? By righteousness. What was the guiding principle even
of our national debt? Righteousness, in that we contracted it mainly
by paying the foreigner to help us in beating our immoral enemies.
Righteousness is the A and the Z of our glorious polity.
“‘We cannot help being righteous; it is in us, over us, beside,
beneath, and all through us. We have sometimes tried to be unrighteous;
but, sir, we could not. It is not given to us, and we have only what is
given to us.
“‘Well then, sir, if that be so, as it undoubtedly is, beyond the
shadow of a doubt; then I venture to say that any person that opposes
the present bill of Old Age Pensions cannot but be an enemy of England,
in that he is an enemy of righteousness.
“‘What indeed, sir, can be fairer, juster, and more equitable than that
they who have laboriously saved up a few sovereigns, should share them
with those that have done everything in their power to have none?
“‘Where there is nothing, there is death. Can a country introduce
death as a regular constituent organ of its life? What in that case
would righteousness do? She would blush green with shame, sir. Nothing
would remain for her but to leave this country and to go to Germany or
Turkey. Could we allow such a disaster? Would it not be necessary to
hold or haul her back by ropes, strings, or any other instrument of our
party machinery?
“‘Just, pray, represent to yourself, sir, or to any other person, the
actualities of the case. Here is a man of seventy. It is a noble feat
of honourable perseverance to reach that age. It is, I make bold to
submit, an evident proof of the favour and countenance of The Principle
of All RIGHTEOUSNESS that the man was allowed to proceed so far.
“‘He has worked all such days of his long life as he did not spend in
reverential contemplation of the works of the Almighty. Who can blame
him for that?
“‘I go much further: who can possibly blame him for having focussed his
attention rather on the liquid than on the solid bodies of Creation?
“‘Each man has his own way of saying prayers.
“‘Now, after having thus spent a long life in what has at all times
been considered the essence of life; or as the ancient Romans used to
formulate it, after having acted upon the noble doctrine of _ora et
labora_ (pray and work), he finds himself landed, or rather stranded
in the wilderness of penury. Sir, such a state of things is untenable,
unbearable, and unrighteous.
“‘I know full well that people who have never given righteousness the
slightest chance persist in repeating the old fallacy, that a labourer
ought to save up for a rainy day. But, pray, sir, is it not perfectly
clear that this principle is of Egyptian origin, and comes therefore
from a country where there is no rain?
“‘In England, sir, there are 362 rainy days a year; therefore 3620
rainy days in ten years, 18,100 rainy days in fifty years. How shall, I
ask you, that unfortunate labourer, or grocer, or author, save up for
18,100 days? That takes a capital of at least £25,000. Well, who has
that capital? No one. The nation alone has it. Ergo, the nation must
pay for the rain.
“‘I have, sir, in my locker a great many shots like the preceding,
but I will, out of modesty, not use them all. I will only dwell on
one point. Sir, our opponents contend that the money needed for Old
Age Pensions is not available unless it be taken from funds much more
necessary for the public welfare. Now I ask, which are those funds?
The answer I receive is that the nation needs more defensive measures
against possible invasions on the part of a Continental power.
“‘Sir, on hearing such nonsense one is painfully reminded of what Lord
Bacon used to say: “_Difficile est satiram non scribere_.”‘ (A voice
from the Irish bench: ‘Juvenal, and not Lord Bacon!’) ‘Well, Lord
Percival, and not Lord Bacon, it amounts to the same.
“‘An invasion? Sir, an invasion? How, for goodness’ sake, do our
opponents imagine such a thing to be possible? I know they say that
Lord Roberts has declared an invasion of England a feasible thing. But
has Lord Roberts ever invaded England? How can he know? How can anyone
“‘They refer me to William the Conqueror. But, sir, is it not evident
that William could not have done it had he not been the Conqueror?
Being the Conqueror, he was bound to do it. Is there any such William
amongst the Williams of the day? I looked them all up in the latest
_Who’s Who_–but not one of them came up to the requisite conditions.’
(A voice: ‘William Whiteley!’) ‘I hear, sir, the name of William
Whiteley; and I reply that he is now too “Ltd.” to undertake such a
grand enterprise.
“‘And more than anything else militating in my favour is the fact that
the Germans do not so much as dream of doing this country the slightest
harm. Look at the relationship between the Kaiser and the King; nephew
and uncle. Who has ever heard that a nephew made war on an uncle? Take
into consideration how the Kaiser behaved when lately visiting England.
Did he not leave huge tips at Windsor? Did he not stroke children’s
cheeks? Did he not admire our houses? Who else has ever done that? He
talked English all day long, and during part of the night. He read
the _Daily Telegraph_ and took his tub every morning. Can there be
stronger symptoms of his Anglophile soul?
“‘A few weeks after he left England he went so far in his predilection
of everything English that he even curtailed his moustaches.
“‘His moustaches, sir, these the beacons of the German Empire, the
hirsute hymn of Teutonia, her anchor, her lightning rod, her salvation!
“‘To talk of such a man’s hostile intentions against England is to
accuse Dover Cliff, High Cliffe, or Northcliffe, or any other Cliff of
base treachery. No, sir, there is no need of new expenses for defence
on land; and as to the sea, we have only to follow the Chief Admiral’s
advice and go to sleep. Our principal force consists of our power to
sleep on land as well as on sea. Once asleep, we can spend nothing.
In that way there remains plenty of money for the Old Age Pensions,
that glorious corrective of misery, that ventilator of property, and
distillator of other men’s pockets. I have not a word to add; the
subject itself talks to every person of sense in a thousand tongues.’
“When the man had ended,” Cæsar continued, “I asked one of the
officials whether the orator was the clown of the house. The official
looked daggers at me. He explained in a solemn voice that the orator
was a staunch Liberal and Cobraite. The latter name was, I learnt,
a little mistake in pronunciation; it ought to have been Cobdenite.
Cobden, I was told, was a very great man. He succeeded in passing a
measure which under the circumstances of his time was not altogether
bad, although it drove the people away from the plough to the factories.
“However, he, like our Gracchi, imagined that what was good for
his time must necessarily be good for all times. On the basis of a
complete ignorance of the Continent, that is, of the Power that has
always been and always will be the real regulator of the fundamental
policy of England, Cobden thought he had got hold of an absolute truth,
instead of a merely passing and temporary measure. Like all nations
that have never gone through social and political cataclysms and are
necessarily highly conservative, the English are totally lacking in
historic perspective. Men of the class of Cobden, or such as the orator
I had heard, are like their most renowned thinker, Herbert Spencer,
absolutely devoid of historic thinking. They think in categories of
quantity and matter; never in quality made by history.
“Columbus, who was with me, said:
“‘You need not be unusually excited over what you see. Each nation cuts
a different caper to the riddles and problems of life. The French, who
used to be _des hommes_, while at present alas! they are only _des
omelettes_, were in their prime of an aggressive attitude to all that
touched them; the Germans were of an idealising temper, while their
present mood is rather a tampering ideal; the Americans are full of
the exploiting fever; and the English invariably take up a posture of
“‘They pretend to believe what the Spartan King Archidamus always
said: “One cannot by reasoning disentangle the future.” This attitude
pays the English best. First they let it be proved by the Spanish,
Portuguese, Dutch, and more particularly by the French that India can
be conquered, and then–they take it. Even so with Egypt, Canada, the
West Indies, and South Africa. Expectativeness is their motto.
“‘When I came to England trying to persuade them to help me in the
discovery of America, they acted the wise Archidamus, and would not
give me linen for one sail. When I had discovered it, then they took
as much of it, and more than they could swallow. This method of
expectativeness has had much historic quality, to use your words, O
Cæsar, for a time. But I am afraid it is beginning to be worn out.
“‘I for one know (and have you, and Pericles, and Joan of Arc, and
Napoleon, and so many others not told me the same thing when we used to
meet, at the wish of Joan, at Rheims Cathedral?), I for one know what
these little ones do not even dream of, so infatuated are they with the
power of Reason and Science and similar machinery, namely, that our
force to forefeel things of the future is far greater, at least in some
of us, than our capacity to analyse or comprehend things of the present
or the past. Our whole being is not so much an upshot of the past as
a projection of the future. Hence the astounding assurance with which
all of us now assembled in Olympus felt in advance what later on we
actually did carry out. I should have discovered America had it never
existed; as I actually discovered it thinking that I discovered the
eastern side of Asia.’
“I very well see,” said Cæsar, “what you mean. The English have no
forefeeling of things to come. They do not note that their whole
situation in historic space has in the last generation completely
changed, and that therefore their old method of expectativeness, which
lived mainly on the blunders of other nations, has become quite
obsolete. They are where we were after Zama, after the end of the
Second Punic War, or the end of the third century B.C., as they say.
So they are at the end of their second Hundred Years’ War with France.
But while we distinctly felt that after the Carthaginians, whom we
had defeated, we were inevitably compelled to reduce the Macedonians,
and not shrinking from our heavy task we did defeat them, though with
tremendous effort; the English do shrink from doing what the uncommon
sense of the future as well as the common sense of the present but too
clearly tell them to do.
“The blunder of France and Spain which was the chief ally of England in
former times, I mean, the blunder of these great nations in making war
on England only at times when they had four to ten other wars on hand;
that capital blunder the dominating Power of this moment will never
“Germany will not embroil herself in any Continental war while fighting
England. This is indisputable.
“For the first time in modern times England will be at grips with a
first-class Continental Power which is in a position to concentrate
all her strength on England. This completely novel situation requires
completely novel methods of meeting it. Yet, the average Englishman
is quite unaware of all that. What ruined mighty Macedon? Not the
lack of a powerful army, since our oldest generals, such as Æmilius
Paulus, trembled at the thunderlike onslaught of the famous Macedonian
_phalanx_, or infantry. But instead of joining the Carthaginians
full-heartedly while we smarted under the scourge of Hannibal, they
misread the whole situation and waited, and waited, until–we were able
to concentrate upon them, even to incorporate the best Greek forces in
our armies, and the end was disaster for Macedon.
“Just listen to the speech now going on. The Leader of the Opposition
is speaking.
* * * * *
“‘Mr Speaker, I am broadly astonished at the statements of the hon.
member for Alarmville, who has just painted the international horizon
in tints of Indian ink. I cannot imagine where he takes his tints from.
Does he want to pose as a political Tintoretto?’
“(Much applause–most members send for the _Encyclopædia Imperialis_ to
find out what _Tintoretto_ means.)
“‘The horizon, as everybody knows, is only an imaginary line, and each
man has his own horizon. If therefore the horizon of the hon. member be
as black as jet, I have not much to say against it, and will send him
my condolences. But why should he obtrude his horizon on that of all
the rest of peace-loving humanity? I also have my horizon.’
“(The hon. member: ‘Horizons, if you please.’)
“‘Horizons? More than one horizon? Perhaps; it probably needs more than
one to descend to that of the hon. member.’
“(Opposition members: ‘Deucedly clever, by Jove!’)
“‘On my horizon I see no cloud, no vapours, no foundations of any
belief in storms or tempests of any kind. What conceivable reason
should the Germans have for attacking us? I fail, I utterly fail to see
it. I know that my adversaries say that whatever reasons Germany may or
may not have to attack us, we, these people say, we have a plethora of
motives to attack them. This point, this argument is so devoid of point
or argument, that I cannot waste the time of the House in refuting
it. It refutes itself. Why should we attack the Germans? Because we
have no reasons to do so. That is all that one can advance. Do we
want their colonies? Why, we are eternally obliged to them for having
taken them and so rid us of a sterile investment. Do we want part
of Germany? Neither parts nor the whole of it. Have we not ceded to
them Heligoland? Sir, it is, as I said, impossible to detect a single
argument in favour of our attacking Germany. The minds that counsel
such a violent measure are influenced by apprehensions arising out of
future developments. They are anticipative souls to whom the secrets
of the future have been revealed by the timorousness of the present. I
respect souls; I respect timorousness; but I refuse to attribute to it
any oracular wisdom. The future is dark, three shades darker than the
present, which is impenetrable enough as it is.
“‘There remains, then, only the other alternative: Germany seriously
means to attack us. Well, sir, let us analyse this statement. What
earthly good would such an attack do to the Germans? I hear they covet
Denmark and Holland, as the natural outlets of their Empire which at
present is like a muffled head; and since England cannot permit their
taking possession of Denmark and Holland, the Germans must fight
England. This argument, sir, lacks all the elements of truth. It lacks
geographical force, historical momentum, political sense. Denmark, we
all know, is quite in the east of Germany between the Elbe river and
the Lake of Baikal.’
“(Uproarious hilarity in parts of the House. A voice: ‘Lake Baikal is
in Siberia!’)
“‘I hear, sir, Lake Baikal is in Siberia. As if I had not known it,
sir! I say Baikal as the scientific term of Baltic, which is in reality
Bi-Kalic, or rapidly speaking: Baikal.’
“(Opposition members: ‘Deucedly clever–he got out of _that_ scrape!’)
“‘Denmark which, as I said, is in the east of Germany does not muffle
her at all. It is a highly artistic country and in the Bay of Catgut
are fished the best strings for violins.’
“(A voice: ‘Sound of Kattegat!’)
“‘I hear, sir, that it is the Sound of Kattegat, but I think every
patriotic Englishman says Catgut. But to return to my argument: the
Germans being very musical, love violins, and consequently love the
Kattegat, as the hon. voice says, and love the Danes. As long as the
Danes give their fine catguts, the Germans will certainly not think of
doing them any harm.’
“(An angry voice: ‘But Denmark is in the north of Germany!’)
“‘I hear, sir, that Denmark has moved from her ancient moorings. If
that be so, then I can only conclude that Germany has still less reason
to covet the possession of Denmark. For, is it not clear, or _luce
clarius_, that Denmark is a sort of nightcap to Germany? The Germans
themselves typify their nation as a _Deutscher Michel_ (Teuton Michael)
with a nightcap on his head. Why, this nightcap is Denmark. The Teuton
likes a nightcap.’

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“(General laughter.)
“‘All Teutons do.’
“(Renewed laughter.)
“‘Need I say more?
“‘And as to Holland, I am bound to say that it passes my comprehension
how anyone can seriously maintain that Germany covets Holland. I hear
that she covets Holland because it is exasperating to a great Power
like Germany that the entire delta of her greatest river, the Rhine,
belongs to a small and hostile Power. It is asked of me, how I, or
for the matter of that any Englishman, would like to see the mouth
of the Thames in the power of the Belgians? Sir, I should not like
to see that, to be sure. But the case is quite different. We English
have no river like the Rhine, which in its upper course gives the
most generous wine, and in its lower course is nothing but a vile
combination of hydrogen and oxygen, commonly called water. If, for
better illustration, the Thames in her upper course gave the finest
“(Great uproar among two-thirds of the members, all teetotallers.)
“‘Or, I beg your pardon, ginger beer or cyder, we should not greatly
mind to whom the lower course belonged. But, sir, it is a well-known
and a most patriotic fact that the Thames river contains nothing else
than water. Water, sir, is the panacea of this nation!’
“(Violent applause from two-thirds of the House.)
“‘Yes, the panacea, the salvation, the resurrection, and the
rehabilitation of this country.’
“(Cries: ‘Righteousness!–Righteousness!’)
“‘We cannot get enough of it. Water in our throats–in our papers,
books, and speeches. Water in our dramas, novels, drugs; water,
water–three kingdoms for water!’
“(Wild and frantic applause of the whole House.)
“‘Now, sir, I maintain all this does not hold good with our friends
the Germans. They do drink wine and beer and schnapps. They cannot be
without them. Their Rhine gives them wine in plenty in that part of its
course which belongs to them. What does it, what can it matter to them
to whom the lower part of the Rhine, full of mere water, does or does
not belong?’
“(‘Hear! Hear!’)
“‘The Germans are a practical nation. Does any person; I say more than
that, _can_ any person say that the Germans will wage a great war in
order to possess themselves of water, when all that time they already
have excellent wine? I could understand, sir, that if the Germans
occupied the watery mouth of the Rhine only, and not its middle and
upper course full of noble wine—-‘
“(Several voices: ‘Order! Order! Retract noble.’)
“‘Well, well, the House will allow me to say “noble” wine, inasmuch as
wine has not only four or fourteen quarters, but innumerable ones.’
“(Opposition cries: ‘Excellent! deucedly clever!’)
“‘To return to my argument: I could understand that the Germans, if
they had only the lower course of the Rhine, would forthwith wage war
to acquire the middle and upper course of the river. We learn from
Tacitus that they are a very thirsty nation, and this authentic news
is, as readers of more modern authors tell me, not given the lie by the
contemporary Germans either. But under the existing circumstances the
Rhine–or Hock–argument, meant to prove German hostility, falls into
the water near the Dutch border, wherever that may be.
“‘There is finally, sir, another so-called argument _re_ Holland and
Germany. It is stated that the Germans covet Holland on account of the
Dutch colonies in Asia and South America. These colonies, as everybody
knows, are exiguous.’
“(An angry voice: ‘About 800,000 English square miles.’)
“‘I hear, sir, the Dutch colonies are about 800,000 English square
miles. Of course, my information is taken from Tacitus; and no doubt
since his time some additions have been made to the colonial microcosm
of the Dutch. But even if that were so, and if the Dutch actually
possessed 800,000 square miles of colonies, it is quite patent that
these colonies, if not exiguous in extent, are exiguous in value:
otherwise they would long ago have been governed from Downing Street.’
“(Approving laughter–half of the members smile knowingly, while the
other half pat themselves on the backs of their neighbours.)
“‘Do you mean to tell me that the Germans will wage an immense war for
the sake of what we have not deigned to pick up? They are, I know, past
masters in the use of offals for purposes of food and drink. But surely
in matters of politics they want more than offals.
“‘At the risk of wearying hon. members I should like to add just a
remark or two on another argument of the alarmists. We have seen the
Danish argument; the Hock argument; and the Dutch colonies argument.
There remains one more: the aerial argument. I hear from my valet that
one Chaplin or Zebraline has made a flight or two through the air.’
“(Voices: ‘Zeppelin!’)
“‘I hear, sir, his name is Zeppelin; probably an abbreviation of
Mazeppaline, whom Lord Byron has sung so well.’
“(Opposition members: ‘Deucedly clever!’)
“‘The flight of Mazeppa has naturally much agitated the Germans, all of
whom can read English. If they could not, what else would they read? I
have never heard of a German literature.
“‘But to resume: the Germans, excited by _Mazeppa_ behold in Herr
Zeppelin an aerial Mazeppa. That is all, as the French say. But, sir,
is it likely that Herr Zeppelin will so perfect his balloon or airship
as to make it available for the transportation of an army corps or
two to England? Suppose he could do so; what would be simpler than to
render his aerial landing in this country impossible? We have simply to
refuse him a patent for the British Empire, and lo! he can never set
foot on the clouds of England.
“‘But the alarmists say that even if Zeppelin’s airship could not carry
over whole army corps, they might very well serve for German scouts and
spies, who might explore the secret preparations and defensive measures
made by this country on land.
“‘Well, sir, this apparently strong argument has not an atom of
vitality in it; and for the simplest of reasons too. The Germans might
send their trustiest Zeppelin No. 10 or No. 50, with their best trained
scouts in it. These scouts might pry into anything in the shape of
military preparations in England; but they will never discover anything.
“‘Why, sir, this is why we make no preparations. We do that simply to
nullify any possible Zeppelin.’
“(‘Hear! Hear! Deucedly clever.’)
“‘Some critics say that we have lost the old bold imperialist spirit.
But, sir, is it not evident that we are to-day of a greater military
spirit than we ever were formerly? Feeble nations, in order to secure
peace, constantly prepare for war; or as the Latin adage holds it: “_Si
vis pacem para bellum_.” We, on the other hand, make no preparations
for war, because we are so strong as to consider war or peace with
equal equanimity. To sum up: the aerial argument has no more force in
it than the other arguments of the alarmists. If a modern William the
Conqueror should be able to conquer the air, and by a modern battle of
Hazetings (deucedly clever!) enter the mid-air of this country, he will
find Heroes and not Harolds to contest every square inch of Margate
winds, of Lincolnshire rain, or of London smoke. This country, sir, can
be subjugated neither by land, nor by sea, nor by air. Over these three
elements hovers and reigns supreme the indomitable spirit of the race.’
“(Tremendous applause.)
* * * * *
“When the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was ended, Columbus
turned to me,” continued Cæsar, “and said: ‘I have no doubt, O Cæsar,
that you are fairly sickened by that speech. But, pray, consider that
every word of it was framed and uttered, not to discuss seriously the
German danger, but to get back into power. The speaker is neither so
ignorant nor so foolish as he appears. He made a special effort to
appear absolutely ignorant of geography, because the party in power has
won great renown by an imposing ignorance in that subject. You must not
smile. I say deliberately, imposing. The English hate geography, maps,
atlases, globes. Even in the examinations for the diplomatic service
they do not admit geography as a subject.
“‘Being convinced of the exclusive importance of their own country,
they are simply bored with geographical considerations of any other
country. Some time ago it occurred that not one member of the House
knew whether British Guiana was an island or a peninsula. Of course,
it is neither. It belongs to the _bon ton_ to be ignorant of all
geography; that is, to treat Germany or Denmark or Russia as if one
spoke of some internal province of the Chinese Empire. For similar
reasons, the speaker affected not to see the slightest danger from
Germany. The party in power was elected by the people mainly on the
ground that with the Goody-Goody ones “in,” and the Imperialists “out,”
the people were safe not to be embroiled in a European war. In order to
take the wind out of the tattered sail of Pacifism the speaker acted as
if the Germans did not so much as dream of doing England any harm.’
“All this is most disheartening,” said Cæsar. “To treat foreign policy
merely as a card in the little game of electioneering is most injurious
to the interests of a great country. England, like every other country
in Europe, has been made in her Downing Street rather than at the polls
or in Committee-rooms. European currents determine the minor currents
of the home policies of the several countries. You say, and with the
utmost right, O Columbus, that you have given the English their most
powerful leverage. But would you have thought of doing what you did do,
had not a vast event in South-eastern Europe, the coming of the Turk,
driven your countrymen to the discovery of a western route, the eastern
being closed by the Turk?
“I wish the Parthians in mid-Asia, in my time, had been as strong as
the Turks were in your time. We should have had you while I lived, and
by the discovery of America over fifteen hundred years before you did
discover it, the whole trend of the world’s history would have been
different. For you would have given this immense new leverage to the
Roman Empire instead of to little England. It is rather amusing to hear
the English talk of the ‘Unspeakable Turk,’ a nation to whom they are,
if indirectly, more obliged than to any other nation of the past or
present, excepting the French.
“The truth is, that no nation makes itself. It is made by itself only
in so far as it reacts against the powerful influence of the others,
its neighbours and their neighbours. If these neighbours are feeble,
and second-rate nations, the reacting nation itself will remain feeble
and second-rate. The greatness of the present Germans is a veritable
godsend to the English, since the decadence of the French. By reacting
against it properly, England will be newly invigorated.
“The scribblers of the little ones ascribe the downfall of the Empire
which I founded to the rottenness of my Romans. How untrue! My Empire
decayed because, comprising as it did all the then known civilised
nations, it lacked a great adversary by reacting against whom it might
have reinvigorated itself from time to time. They say the Barbarians,
chiefly the Teutons, overpowered us. Alas! I wish they had been much
stronger than they were. They never overpowered us. Had the Greeks and
Macedonians been able to concert great military measures against us, we
should have been forced to give up the fatal idea of an all-compassing
Empire, and should have finally arrived at a fine and vitalising
balance of power in the Mediterranean.
“The English ought to welcome, although to combat the rise of Germany.
They imagine that their principal force comes from their colonies. It
will come, not from their colonies, which is geographically impossible,
but from their perennial rivalry with great Continental Powers. These
rivalries made England, made her colonies. To give up these rivalries,
to cease combating great Continental Powers, will be the end both of
England and her Empire. In my time I, together with all my friends,
gloried in my long-drawn conquest of Gaul, and my final victory over
the leader of the Gauls, Vercingetorix. I now wish I had been defeated
at Alesia, and a strong and united Gaul had been established under my
unlucky adversary. What inestimable centre of healthy rivalry would
Gaul not have been for us! To try to conquer it was right; to have
definitely deprived it of independence was a disaster. Strifeless bliss
prospers only in Olympus.”

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