Stead, William Thomas: Europa

But if Europe without France would be unthinkable, and if Europe without Germany would be Europe without reflective brain and the mailed hand, what could we think of Europe without England? It does not become me as an Englishman to say much in praise of my own people. But this I may say, that Europe without England would be Europe without the one Power the expansive force of whose colonizing and maritime genius has converted Asia and Africa into European vassals and has secured the American and Australian continents as receptacles for the overflow of Europe’s population. And this also may be added, that Europe without England would be Europe without the one Power whose sovereignty of the seas is nowhere exerted for the purpose of securing privilege or favor for English flag or English trade. Nor must it be forgotten that Europe without England would be Europe without the one country which for centuries has been the inviolable asylum alike of fugitive kings and of proscribed revolutionists, the sea-girl citadel of civil and religious liberty, whose Parliamentary institutions have been imitated more or less closely by almost every civilized land. Europe without England would be Europe without her wings, a Europe without the sacred shrine where in every age the genius of Human Liberty has guarded the undying flame of Freedom.

The Federation of Europe at the present moment is like an embryo in the later stages of gestation. It is not yet ready to be born. But it has quickened with conscious life, and already the Continent feels the approaching travail.

It has been a slow process. The great births of Time need great preparations. Under the foundations of the Cathedral of St.Isaac at St. Petersburg a whole forest of timber was sunk in piles before a basis strong enough for the mighty dome could be secured. The Federation of Europe is a temple far vaster than any pile of masonry put together by the hands of man. In the morass of the past its foundations have been reared, not upon the spoils of the forest, but upon generation of living men who have gone down into the void from red battlefield and pest-smitten camp and leaguered city in order that upon their bones the Destinies might lay the first courses of the new State. Carlyle’s famous illustration of the Russian regiment at the siege of Zeidnitz, which was deliberately marched into the fosse in order that those followed after might march to victory over a pavement of human heads, represents only too faithfully the material on which these great world fabrics are reared.

Nor is it only the individuals who have perished by the million, in blind struggling towards they knew not what, which have supplied the substratum upon which the United States of Europe were slowly to be built. Political systems, laboriously constructed by the wisdom of statesmen and minutely elaborated to meet the ever-varying exigencies of their day, royal dynasties and great empires have all equally been flung into the abyss like rubble, after having served their turn to make foundation material for that which is to come. In preparing great political events Nature works with the same almost inconceivable patience and inexhaustible profusion that may be witnessed in the formation of the crust of the earth or in the evolution of a highly organized species. For, as Ibsen has said, Nature is not economical. And in the preparation of the foundation of Europe she has hurled into the deep trench so much of the finished workmanship of preceding ages as to provoke a comparison with the work of the barbarians, who made hearthstones of the statues chiseled by the pupils of Praxiteles, and who utilized the matchless sculpture of the temples of the gods in the construction of their sites.

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