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- A Short History of the Great War - 63/63 -


circles, while hundreds of thousands of humble men and women voluntarily stinted and starved themselves beyond the rigid requirements of the law. Lip-service was paid to the principle of equality in sacrifice, and some efforts were made to enforce it. But they failed to remove the inexorable inequalities of human fate, and the war which brought death and distress to millions, brought to others ease and honours, wealth and fame. These are the common property of wars; and if men did more evil in this than in any preceding conflict, it was not because they were worse than their forefathers, but because the war was more comprehensive and they had ampler means of working ill. Even the cruelty with which it was waged by the Germans created horror mainly because they sinned against the higher standards of modern times, and because their cruelty found more scientific and effective methods of expression.

All the nations which fought believed in the justice of their cause and fought as a rule with a courage which belied the alleged degeneracy of the human race. None of the Powers save Russia fell short of their previous fame. France strove at Verdun with a fortitude in adversity unequalled in her annals. German discipline and determination would have evoked unstinted praise but for the cause in which those qualities were displayed. Belgium exhibited a national spirit new in her history, and Serbian heroism was a revelation which earned for the southern Slavs the greatest relative gains in the war. The people of the United States became a nation of crusaders moved by motives at least as high as those which inspired the hearers of Peter the Hermit, Urban II, or St. Bernard; and the British Empire eclipsed its own and all other records. History tells of many a shining example of ancient valour in individuals and in the elect; but here we had heroism in the mass and courage in the common man. Human memory recalls no parallel to that uprising of the spirit which led five million Britons to fight as volunteers for the honour of their country and the liberty of other lands; despite its shortcomings the Conference of Versailles achieved higher ideals than those attained by any preceding congress of peace; and if during the war for its common weal the world paid, in flesh and in spirit, a price greater than that ever paid before, it purchased a larger heritage of hope and laid a surer foundation for its faith.


A Short History of the Great War - 63/63

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