The purpose and task of this little volume is to contribute to a correct understanding of England's policies in world power politics. It is intended to teach young people how to recognise the methods and objectives always followed by English policies for the past three hundred years. Such an understanding show that England's present-day attitude towards Germany is merely the reflection of the methods invariably resorted to in wartime against other adversaries in the past; that the disillusionment aroused in Germany by England's entry into the ranks of our enemies was merely one result of an incorrect estimation by Germans of English mental habits and courses of action.
In the past, whether directly or indirectly, we Germans have always viewed England, its history and political policies solely and exclusively through the rose-tinted glasses of pro-English writers. This is explained by the fact that the texts and numerous excerpts from English historians selected for the study of English in German schools were selected solely in the service of German policies aimed at an understanding with England -- policies whose unfruitfulness, even pointlessness, were made so painfully clear to us on 4 August 1914. Until that time, English history was always regarded with admiration in Germany -- and with admiration alone -- always -- never critically. Even among the English historians quoted in the present, where is the war of King Philip II of Spain against England shown in its true light? Where are our youth informed that Spain only sent its “Invincible Armada” in self-defense, to obtain relief from decades of plundering and pillaging inflicted on the Spanish coasts and colonies by English privateers, in peacetime, but with the approval of their Queen? Did the wars conducted by Cromwell, Charles II and William III against Holland, Spain and France spring from any more justifiable motives than the wars of conquest of Louis XIV? It will be objected that even Seeley says something similar in his work The Expansion of England. That is correct. But is it not remarkable – explicable only on the grounds of pro-British prejudice, which used to be quite general -- that none of our school editions of Seeley’s book contains the chapter “War and Commerce”, which is so descriptive of the spirit of English power policy? Why do all our English-language reading books contain chapters on Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery, praising the work of this noble humanitarian, while hushing up the fact that the aim to which he dedicated his life’s work was only achieved when the slave trade was no longer profitable to English merchants? Why haven’t we long ago helped to destroy the Big Lie that England is the “protector of oppressed peoples”, when the contrary is proven by the physical and intellectual pauperization of the Irish; the rape of Denmark (1807); the spoliation of Holland (Cape Colony), and the exploitation of Portugal, to cite only a few of many examples? It may be objected that all this may well have been true during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, perhaps even during the first half of the nineteenth century, but that the England of the last fifty years cannot have conducted such a ruthless policy, in violation of international law and human rights. On the contrary! These ignoble characteristics of English policy have become even more pronounced with the increasing democratization of the country. Where these policies used to be paraded openly and brazenly, they are now “tartüffiert” [covered up with hypocrisy]. Over the years, English statesmen have succeeded in bringing the art of “cant” (or shameful hypocrisy, as the word may perhaps best be translated, with Tönnies
(* F. Tönnies, Englische Weltpolitik in englischer Beleuchtung, Berlin 1915, Springer),
to absolute perfection, and have been successful in draping a religious and philanthropic, or at least patriotic, mantle over even the grossest violations of international law and human rights. These policies have often elicited protests from many right-thinking and unprejudiced thinkers of the English nation. Thus, with regards to this “cant”, which filled even Lord Byron with reluctance and bitterness, Sidney Whitman in 1887 published a book which remains refuted (Conventional Cant, Its Results and Remedy), and preceded his remarks with a chapter on “Phariseeism”. Sidney Whitman considered “cant” to be the English national defect, one which -- even more widespread than English bigotry and drunkenness -- is directly or indirectly related to almost every form of selfishness and vice in England. Carlyle (according to Froude, his biographer) is said to have called “cant” the art of making things appear to be what they are not -- an art so toxic to the souls of those who practice it that, in the end, they come to consider their own, originally deliberate, falsifications to be true; and may thus be said to have become “dishonest with a clear conscience”.
By its very nature, “cant” is practiced with particular luxuriousness in the foreign policy and in the wars of England; as early as the year 1913, one of the most highly prominent men in the Kingdom, Lord Comer, raised to an Earldom in 1901 for his services in Egypt, (in his Political and Literary Essays, p. 9) called the term “British spirit of fair play” the cant phrase of the day (Tönnies, Englische Weltpolitik, etc.).
Although occasionally clearly seen for what it is, and condemned by writers and politicians, “Right or Wrong, My Country!” remains, as before, the underlying principle of English policy.
The aim of the present school edition is to expose, before the eyes of our youth, this principle of English policy, so obsequiously concealed by English statesmen and the overwhelming majority of English historians, on the basis of testimonies by outstanding English authors.
Derived from such sources, the present selection will, we hope, protect us from the reproach that of having intentionally set out to stitch together a black image. If we have only included a few, and not even the crassest, cases of the unscrupulousness and egotism of Albion’s policies, this was made necessary by the scope of this little volume. Tönnies’ above mentioned book, to which we are grateful for many references, shows the abundance of the available material. Due to lack of space, however, we have been compelled to abridge the selected texts to some extent.
As a prologue, we have included an article from Herbert Spencer’s collected works, “Facts and Comments” (London 1902), showing the distress with which the old philosopher viewed England’s increasingly cavalier and shameless imperialism and jingoism. A rara avis!
Seeley, the most prominent of the imperialistic flag-waving historians of England, with his two books The Expansion of England and The Growth of English Policy, is too well-known to need an introduction. It should simply be noted that reading his books today, when our eyes have been opened where England is concerned, is truly a revelation. If Seeley’s excerpts describe England’s rise to world power and its struggle with already declining or rival sea powers, and English power politics, which found ruthless, unscrupulous as well as astonishingly generous and tolerant expression in these wars, the excerpts The Rohilla War from Macauley’s Warren Hastings, The Opium War, from J. McCarthy, History of Our Own Times, and The Boer War from the little volume Greater Britain by M.H. Ferrars, included in this collection (English Authors Series, Order No. 123) also contain serious accusations against English policy, dedicated to the interests of its greedy and acquisitive merchant class.
But these accusations fade to nothingness in comparison with England’s guilt where Ireland is concerned. Who can read the chapters drawn from W.H. Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, from Green, A Short History of the English People and Jonathon Swift, A Short View of the State of Ireland without indignation?
Through the extremely skilled employment of expedients and subtle tricks of diplomacy, England succeeded -- before the First World War -- in bringing about the deletion from American anthologies of all trace of the atrocities committed by British troops and their savage [American Indian] auxiliaries during the American War of Independence. It therefore appeared all the more necessary to us to cast light upon the English attitude towards the customs of war and humanity by means of an excerpt from The American Revolution by G.O. Trevelyan (Macaulay’s nephew and biographer).
Richard Price’s essay, On Liberty, which in its day was highly significant, offers an excellent, contemporary, and revealing description of the position of level-headed circles in England on the American struggle as against the small-mindedness and shortsightedness of leading English statesmen.
The manner in which the English mentality, allegedly striving for the full flowering of personal liberty and the freedom of the individual becomes, in reality, an instrument threatening and crushing the life and liberty of non-English peoples with the greatest cruelty wherever the economic interests of Englishmen are concerned, is revealed by the last two extracts, England’s Share in the Slave-Trade (from W.H. Leekey’s above named work), and English Atrocities in Jamaica (from the likewise already mentioned work by J. McCarthy, A History of Our Own Times).
The comments accompanying the mentioned texts are intended to serve a dual purpose. They are first of all intended to clarify the text, and then, in addition, to place the individual extract from English history in the more general context of world history. Our objective in so doing is to broaden the minds of our youth while introducing them into an understanding of world politics.
The little volume is suited to the higher grades of all institutions of higher education, both boys and girls.
We now have another, more agreeable, task to fulfill: through its unhesitating and rapid procurement of the necessary source material, the publishing house of Velhagen & Klasing contributed quite considerably to the completion of this little work, for which we wish to express our warmest thanks.