Mr. Nill is doing a good work for Liberalism by furnishing the secular journals of his vicinity with Free Thought articles of a mild character. This one appeared in “The Watertown Herald” as an editorial. He writes: “I think there is much truth in the old saying that ‘you can catch more flies with molasses than with vinegar.'” Mr. Nill has been a liberal supporter of this magazine for many years. — Editor
By John Nill — June, 1901
Are we living in an Age of Barbarism? It was recently stated that in the last ten years, ten thousand murders were committed in the United States. The editor of the paper, properly raised the above question. Considering the mode of punishment of the public on the offenders, the lynching in some parts of our country and the cruel wars now raging among nations, there is but one answer, a decisive Yes. Furthermore, individual murders will increase as long as they are avenged lawfully with a premeditated death penalty.
The execution of murderers is but an endorsement of and acts as a medium for bloody revenge. It becomes impregnated in the perceptible minds of the public and develops into a disease. Every proceeding of the courts stigmatizes the murderers as a criminal who deserves no sympathy. Tender and passionate minds are stimulated for revenge to the extent that they will commit the same deed without realizing until it is over. Especially the youth, before and during the period of progeneration are conceptive to popular practice.
But the greatest promoter to murderous inclinations are national wars, when thousands of men are infused to kill or legitimately murder men on the other side, who never even insulted nor injured them in any way. Wars are the nurseries of murderers, no matter what the cause of a war may be, whether a nation is on the offensive or defensive.
It is not the soldiers that become murderers after their military services. It is more likely they become disgusted with the cruel practice of manslaughter. But through the endorsement of the public in bestowing great honors to the heroes, it becomes an inducement to the inexperienced youth to strive for the same honors.
The inhabitants of the United States may justly excuse themselves for all their warfare, because they have never created any through an unjust demand. But the result of instigating murderous inclinations among her people is just the same, and especially as long as capital punishment is upheld, for every execution is a renewal stimulant to the unbecoming deed of a civilized, notably a Christian people, because the latter’s teachings and pretensions are to the contrary and thereby prove inconsistency.
These facts have been demonstrated by scientific observers and statisticians. It is generally known that the harvest corresponds with the seed sown. Consequently, to produce the opposite effect, we must strive to bring into general practice the principle taught by the Teacher of Nazareth. Science has also repeatedly demonstrated that criminal inclinations are a disease either inherited or cultivated. Therefore it is necessary that criminals are treated with sympathy. They should be brought into confinement for the safety of the public and there placed under proper treatment for reform.
As soon as this principle becomes popular and goes into general practice, the result will be that individuals who suffer insult or injury will, in sympathy and good sense, seek to amend through the arbitration of the law. Nations will no longer do unto others that which they wish not others do unto them. If our Christian nations had always practiced what they preached, war to-day would be one of the barbaric evils of the past. If the thousands of teachers who mount the pulpit and the rostrum, and who write books and pamphlets or periodicals daily, would only study natural cause and effect, they would soon convince themselves of the best utilizing means of reform. If they would take the moral courage to condemn the old barbaric theories they would turn the scale in a very short period, and install general peace, harmony and prosperity among all the children on earth.
These facts and principles should be taught at our public schools. It is very proper indeed, that we exhibit our national flag to the children and let them know that after they have grown to manhood it will be their duty to defend it, because it means to defend their homes. But without a good explanation, without a clear picture of the horrors of war, it merely means to say, Boys, get yourselves ready for trained man-killers. It will stick to the boys and they will do it cheerfully, while a clear picture of war and its consequences would lead them into diplomacy. Good diplomacy will offer and accept every compromise that is honorable, before war is declared or accepted. No one nation could accomplish this change. The same principle would have to be taught in all the schools of all nations on earth.
After the multitudes are properly enlightened it becomes impossible to raise an army. But so long as the people permit adventures for gain and power, by mere brute force, to take the lead, so long will we be subject to the cruel wholesale manslaughter and the consequent individual murders. Here is a great obstacle to be removed; one that has been a bone of contention since the existence of nations. Who is at fault? Is it the people’s governments, or their religious teachers, or the people themselves?
It is the people’s fault. Millions agree with the foregoing argument. All will say it is nothing new, only the way of introduction to the coming generations. Leaders of governments have tried to promote peace, the pulpit has constantly preached it, yet the evil is as great to-day as ever and no idea of the removal of the cause except a faint, fleecy little cloud at The Hague, Holland’s capital city.
Every man, woman and child, who realizes the evil and does not raise its voice or use the pen against it, is at fault. Let us consider the great importance of the question individually, in the family, in every society, from every pulpit and rostrum, as any other public question, until it becomes a rule in all public schools, to teach diplomacy at the same time with patriotism. We must extend our labors and int1uence to all the nations on the globe.
Let no one say it cannot be done. Compare the present condition of the inhabitants on earth with that of the past, as history describes it to us, and you will soon become convinced that man is not so depraved but he can be improved. But wishes and prayers will not alone do it. It requires the strongest of arguments, it requires means, it requires organization throughout the world, made up of all classes and denominations.
It seems really a criminal neglect on the part of the people, that they do not universally rise to the assistance of the Czar of Russia since he proposed the establishment of an international arbitration court. The people must not always wait for the call of their leaders, especially when the latter’s interest is at stake. There are times when the people can justly and rightfully demand the interest of the public at large. If they do their will, their will be done, and God will grant it.
While the horrors of the present cruel wars are fresh on the minds of all civilized nations, there is the best opportunity to appeal to the masses. Our Christian people are degrading themselves in the extreme.
Even if the Chinese were wholly at fault, the treatment they receive is unbecoming to any civilized nation. Had the missionaries guided themselves by the spirit of their own teaching, and our Christian commercial element been honest, the Chinese would never have taken the course they did. Look at our English Christian neighbors. Only for the wealth there is in South Africa they murder to extermination a better Christian people than they ever were themselves. Our difficulty at the Philippines is also a conflict between Christians, and originated through a mismanagement on our side. Take it all in all, they are great evils, without any just cause, except that the United States sent the bloodstained Spain home with a lesson never to be forgotten.
The consequent suffering of all the present conflicts will long be remembered. Let us hope that they will be the last acts of the world’s saddest drama. They will be, if all good thinking people put forth all their influence, most perseveringly, until all nations have adopted the present periodical theory of combination for the benefit of all interested in the scheme. Let the world be the home, humanity the creed and to do good the religion of all the children of God.