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H. P. Lovecraft critically examines the shifting sentiments on pacifism and military preparedness, asserting the innate combative nature of mankind and challenging the idealistic notions of universal peace.

This is an excerpt from the Arktos edition of H. P. Lovecraft’s journal The Conservative. The article was first published in The Conservative Vol. 1, No. 3 (October 1915).

After the degrading debauch of craven pacificism through which our sodden and feminised public has lately floundered, a slight sense of shame seems to be appearing, and the outcries of peace-at-any-price maniacs are less violent than they were a few months ago. Military training for business and professional men has been provided at Plattsburg, N. Y., and the high schools of Providence, R. I., have established, and despite the wails of the unwarlike, efficient courses in martial instruction and drilling.

Why any sane human being can believe in the possibility of universal peace is more than the CONSERVATIVE can fathom. The essential pugnacity and treachery of mankind is only too evident; and that every nation, even though pledged, would actually abolish means of warfare is absolutely unthinkable. Should the entire civilised world agree simultaneously to disarm, one or more nations would undoubtedly retain secret armaments and at the proper time take advantage of their more altruistic and less astute contemporaries in a wild career of conquest against unarmed victims. To say that higher culture would reason away the causes of war is complete idiocy. Germany, generally conceded to have been the world’s most philosophical and intellectual nation, has achieved an equal fame in martial cruelty and bestiality. No country is, or ever can be “above” warfare, until the basic impulses of the human animal shall have miraculously changed.

Aversion to just war can arise from one of four causes; (1) unconscious physical cowardice engendered by long years of peace, (2) hysterical idealism produced from incomplete training in pure science, (3) mental bias derived from an erratic, temperamental intellect, and (4) that plain, obtuse servility which copies and spreads the opinions of others.

Under the first head of unconscious physical cowards we must group the sobbing sisterhood who sigh forth in melody of questionable musical and poetical value that “They Didn’t Raise Their Boys to be Soldiers”.

Physical cowardice is not always for one’s self; it may be sympathetic cowardice for others; but its unfailing sign is the exaggerated importance and gravity of human suffering. This “cowardice” may sometimes do immense good in lessening the minor discomforts of life, but it must not be allowed to exceed its province and sap the virile vigour of a nation.

Among the hysterical idealists we may group the well-meaning clergyman who, in spite of Martin Luther’s defense of the soldier, declares that “war is un-Christian”; as well as the ethical enthusiast who tells us that “man has outgrown war”. Quite as hysterical is the socialist or anarchist who in his beer-barrel declamation screams out that “war is only the tool of rulers to aggrandise themselves at the expense of the masses”. The Quakers are an organised embodiment of this erratic idealism. The third or mentally biased class of pacificist is seldom to be distinguished from the idealist; perhaps idealism itself is a form of mental bias; but the line must be drawn to distinguish betwixt those whose idealism comes from defective education and those who are idealists from defective comprehension.

Class four, the copyist element, is probably the most abundant of all. It embraces every part of our lower orders, and could be turned into a fiery, militaristic body if the suitable demagogue were provided.

In the opinion of the CONSERVATIVE, Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech of August 25, 1915, marks a momentous change in American public sentiment. It is the beginning of the end of supine submissiveness and womanish ideals on the part of the majority.

Americans will henceforth be less eager to drug themselves with arguments and theories; they will prefer to face bare Truth, and to know that men must fight to keep what they have; that in this world of sin nothing exists unless there exists behind it the stern physical power to defend and preserve it.

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H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937), a stalwart of American literature, showcased a mastery in the horror fiction realm, particularly emphasizing the profound dread of the cosmic unknown. His writings, mirroring the age-old conservative principle of human humility before the grandeur of the cosmos, often underscored mankind’s smallness within it. Although he may not have received the adulation he deserved in his own time, the scales of history have corrected this oversight. Today, Lovecraft stands tall as a titan of horror literature, with his creation of the Cthulhu Mythos testifying to his lasting impact on our cultural landscape. Arktos has published a collection of Lovecraft’s journal The Conservative.

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