No 1 Camp
13th Convalescent Depot B.E.7, France
Monday Feb 25, 1918
Such a pile of mail I have to answer! Thirty two letters and post cards, two papers and four boxes arrived this week, Twenty three letters in one day and the res dribbling in since. There are fifteen letters from Father, Mother, and Marion starting from Dec. 3 to Jan. 11. Then there are several from Bill one from Dorland, from Claire [?] from Naine Lee, from Hartley Cavell, from Haddow, from Mr. & Mrs. Pearen from Jean Bull from Mr. & Mrs, Anderson, and from Beryl Cooke. The Andersons have been extremely kind to me, they sent me a body shield, a knitted vest, and Mrs. Anderson has sent me several boxes of Candy while Mr. Anderson sends me ‘The Nation’ every week.
So much for letters. Now for the boxes. A very belated and depleted box of chocolate from Mr. And Mrs. Pearen came along, followed by a nice box from Beryl, candy from Cathay, and the big box from home and Mother’s letter in it.
Mother, you mustn’t worry about me. I am just as fit for the trenches as lots of other fellows. True it is a bit of a strain – the work some of it is quite heavy, but you see I didn’t have very much and I am glad that I did have the experience. My three weeks here will be up on Saturday but it is likely I shall be kept for at least the same length of time again owing to my present position. Also be quite sure that I shall let you know when I need anything. Socks and handkerchiefs are always acceptable – it int[?] – but don’t send my underwear while I am in France I have had to throw away tons of it. When I was up the line I kept as small a kit as possible. When you have worn a [?] of underwear about a month (perhaps a couple of weeks you have been in the line) you get a bath and a change. You hand in your own beautiful garments and in exchange get odd shirts and drawers of considerable age and eccentric size: but they have been put through the fumigator and are free from animals, which is the one essential thing.
And father I enjoyed your long, wise letters very, very much. They were more than enjoyable. I found them very cheering and helpful in every way. I was interested in what you said about the prosecution of the war to the bitter end. Of course if complete military victory would bring permanent peace I suppose that any price would be worth paying. But it seems to me that we ought to realize, from our knowledge of human nature, our reading of history, and from the numerable problems that will arise in the organization of machinery of machinery for international relations that we cannot guarantee to abolish war forever. The best we can do is to take all precautions against a catastrophe like this occurring again and to try to persuade people to adopt certain measures which will render the possibility of war less probable. We must have some sort of international organization even if it is only a consultative and advisory league without power of enforcing its conclusions. The question then arises if whether a military victory will make it easier to establish international relations. (Of course there is the prior consideration which is extremely important of whether such a victory is possible or can be accomplished without ruining the world.) I for one, feel quite convinced it would not. It seems to me that any complete military victory would mean a victory for militarism. Of course, as you suggest it would mean that certain nationalists would be liberated, but it would also mean that the “consecrated selfishness” of Italy would be gratified that France would get back Alsace Lorraine on the ground that it is ‘stolen goods’ a piece of territory to be transferred without consulting the wishes of its inhabitants and probably that Great Britain would get certain ‘spheres of influence’ in the east which would bring along commercial advantages. Such a peace, moreover, would hopelessly alienate the German people. How can we expect those Germans who wish to abuse international relations upon principle of consent instead of the principle of force to take seriously the professions of a people who are so filled with self righteousness that they expect the ‘lesser breeds’ to make certain concessions but cannot entertain the idea of conceding anything themselves? It would certainly be well they say to neutralize the waters of the Kid canal but what? – in horror stricken accents – to neutralize the straits of Gibraltar? Why the thing is inconceivable! Just look how the forces of aggression have come to the fore in the conduct of the war ( think of the decisions of the Versailles Council coming right after the great strikes in Austria and Germany) and surely a military victory would give them a chance to command the situation absolutely. More and more it is becoming clear to me that the struggle is primarily not between two opposing groups of nations, but between the people who wish to decide international disputes by force (whether on the grounds of biological necessity or belief in divine assistance and favoritism, or a belief that they fight in self defence against an aggressor) and those who wish to concede and consider the welfare of other peoples as well as their own people. All the nations fighting to day believe that they are fighting in self-defence – at least the great masses of the people do – and in a sense it is true. Every war to day –of world wide magnitude – is a war of self defence for every nation involved. Owing to the state of mutual distrust and suspicion which existed among the nations before the war it is impossible to say that anyone nation was altogether actuated by aggressive motives in declaring war – though I believe that the military party in Germany worked upon the fears of the people (partly justifiable) to accomplish their own sinister purposes. Then we have to consider the rivalry for ‘spheres of influence and protectorates (you will probably agree with me that the only way to solve this problem is by the method of the ‘Open Door’ the abolition of excusive and preferential tarrifs and the intermission of the trade and capital of all countries on free & equal grounds in search of spheres and protectorates and in all projected ‘spheres’. The assignment of political influence to the various powers could then be accomplished without great difficulty I think. It seems to me that in the popular presentations of the causes of the war the element of commercial rivalry has not been sufficiently stressed.
However I have rambled too long and used up all my paper. It is getting late, the boys have all come in and are kicking up a row and I haven’t answered any letters yet.
We have our first concert Friday night. It was very successful and is to be repeated this week. Later I think we shall give it in the Casino down town.
Beautiful spring weather and the almond blossoms are coming out in Normandy. We have had an unusually mild winter.
Heaps of love to all,