Signs of the Times

[Dorothy Canfield on Disarmament, in The Woman Citizen]

Cast your eyes back, let us say, to the period of the feudal system; which was to stay forever, so thought the rulers of those times. We of to-day are used to the arguments of "impractical," "against human nature," "utterly impossible," which our rulers use against the idea of international disarmament. The same sort of thing was advanced with the same passion of conviction at the notion that public safety could be secured except by a baron in a castle to whom everybody in the region owed implicit obedience. Nor did the feudal system fall in a day, or a year. Slowly, as it encountered increasing intelligence and cooperation in mankind, it crumbled away to nothingness and oblivion. In the same way, if we all work hard for general intelligence and wider cooperation everywhere, the hideous idea of huge standing armies will crumble away to nothingness. But we must not be discouraged by the slowness of the process.

Or look back at the custom of dueling and going about armed. Two or three centuries ago every man was armed at all moments of the day,—and needed to be. Nobody could conceive the possibility of any police system which would make this unnecessary: "Men are quarrelsome creatures, made so by the Lord." Well, what happened to that idea? It gradually died, because right-minded people steadily, hopefully knew that things could be more sensibly arranged. Such people killed and buried that wrong idea, with their certainty that it was wrong. And we can kill standing armies in the same way. Once or twice history, for a change, shows us our brothers trying to do something of this sort in a hurry. At the time of the French Revolution, people like us, people who believed in the possibilities for good of our race, were as fired with sudden hope and enthusiasm as we were during the war. They struggled and hoped and rejoiced in the success of their right ideas, and told each other thankfully that now the black old notions of the inherent inequality by class were killed, that henceforth the right of every man to share in the government would be recognized, that the absurd, laughable, hypnotic delusion of the divine right of kings was destroyed forever. Just so did we fall on each other's necks on Armistice Day and cry out that those who hated war had conquered.

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June 18, 1921

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