Wars for Territorial Expansion and How Free Trade Would be a Great Peacemaker

Stephen Bell

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, January-February 1940]

And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth.

In mine ears, said the Lord, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. ...

Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.


All the wars of conquest waged in recent years, and all previous wars of conquest, have been the natural result of permitting the laying of field to field till there be no place for growing populations, and then trying to create employment by holding domestic markets against "foreigners," by which the economic life of all nations is choked in greater or lesser degree. Nations deficient in natural resources, though failing to adequately develop the resources they have, see supplies and markets abroad which they need, but see no way of acquiring them except by the might of their arms, though each and every one of them has it within its own power to remove half or more of the obstacles in its way by abolishing its own trade barriers.

There can be no doubt that Woodrow Wilson's outline of peace terms which embodied his famous Fourteen Points for a just and durable peace, the third of which called for "the elimination as far as possible of economic barriers," did much to break down the military morale of Germany and shorten the World War. As the German people realized what the old Imperial German Government had gotten them into they rose in revolution against it and it fell. It was the German Republic which sent its delegates to Versailles, where Wilson's Fourteen Points were cast into the discard and the Treaty of Vengeance was imposed on the German Republic.

I need not recite the many years during which the democratic and conciliatory elements in Germany sought ameliorations and concessions from the impossible terms of that treaty. In 1923 a young Austrian housepainter who had been discharged from the Army with the rank of sergeant, led a movement to overthrow the German Republic, declaring that conciliation would win nothing for Germany, and that Germany would get no relief until she was strong enough to take it by force. He failed and was imprisoned. He wrote a book, Mein Kampf, and after his release from prison continued his efforts.

He had little success until in 1931. In that year, Germany and Austria decided to provide a little relief for themselves by abolishing the tariff wall between them which was hampering their trade, and to form a customs union. This they invited their neighbors to join, pointing out that it was in line with the efforts of Briand of France and Stresemann of Germany to form a United States of Europe. It certainly did afford a nucleus for such a federation.

This undertaking required the consent of the League of Nations, to which the German Republic had adhered. Britain was complaisant, but France and Czechoslovakia, both strong citadels of the "Protectionist" superstition, interposed their imperative veto. Such a customs union could lead only to the political union of Germany and Austria, and they scented danger in that, though it is not easy to see what danger there could be in such a union if it were brought about amid general good feeling. As for Czechoslovakia, self interest should have dictated her joining the union, due to her geographical position. But the undertaking had to be abandoned.

That settled it. Germany thereafter lent a more willing ear to the preachings of the Austrian ex-sergeant and ex-housepainter, and two years later Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.

Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. I will repay!

When the Allied representatives at Versailles and in the League of Nations decided on their policy of vengeance, confusing it with justice, they usurped the prerogative of God, and the consequences of this usurpation has come back to plague them.

The manner in which the present war is being conducted, each side "pulling its punches" as it were, like two gladiators in the prize ring, each knowing the other packs a twenty-mule team kick in either hand and anxious to avoid it, suggests that none of the warring nations really want the war, and that an early peace of some kind may yet be possible. But it must be an economic peace, such as was outlined by former President Wilson in his Fourteen Points, and also in a resolution passed by the German Reichstag in July, 1917, to which neither the Imperial German Government nor the Allied governments paid any attention.

They join house to house, lay field to field.

Why is Russia attacking Finland?

For ages Russia, with nearly half the territory and material resources of Europe and Asia, and in no need of territory in itself, has been seeking a commercial outlet on warm water, her vast extent of seacoast on the Arctic Ocean being useless. This was the main reason for her war on Turkey in 1878. This was the reason for her leasing Port Arthur from China, which aroused Japan's fears and resulted in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Britain and Germany deprived her of her aims in 1878, and no one knows what would have been the result in 1905 had not President Theodore Roosevelt intervened and brought about a peace by which she lost Port Arthur and its hinterland to Japan. And now this desire for an outlet to the sea is driving Russia on to Finland. Is such laying of field to field necessary? Would not free trade accomplish the same thing?

"Free trade is the best peacemaker," said Richard Cobden a century ago. It is it is the only peacemaker. But Richard Cobden uttered another epigram which every one should paste in his hat where he can see it frequently:

"Free trade is the international law of the Almighty!"

Trade is the mother of civilization, for without trade none of us could have anything except what he could make himself unaided by others a condition of savagery lower than anything we have seen. To broaden trade is to extend and deepen civilization. To restrict trade is to narrow and retard civilization.

Free trade teaches us that there are others in the world with whom we must seek relationships on an equal basis. The destructive course the nations today are pursuing is "that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth." If they persist in this damnable policy of "Beggar my Neighbor," civilization is doomed.

Sonnet The Peace Maker

There is one way to checkmate future wars: Take down the spite-wall tariffs! Let in trade, Peace-loving Commerce. Her, the sons of Mars, With all their bluster, cannot quite evade. But they will start their "dumping" we are told These foreigners, whose cunning we concede: Well, let them dump! for my part I won't scold, If they fill my back yard with things I need.

For we are bargain hunters all of us: Only a few are Robber Tariff pets: If most of us become necessitous, Our loss is what the Tariff baron gets. Down with the tariff! For every boat load in, One must go out and Trade Revival win!