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Hermann Hagedorn: Leave God out of the game!

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Hermann Hagedorn: Selections against war

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Hermann Hagedorn
From Makers of Madness
A Play in One Act and Three Scenes

PRIME MINISTER

Your Majesty, I have served you for fifteen years and I served your exalted father for twenty. You are right. This war may be avoided. In two days this war-cloud could be so utterly dissipated that men would laugh here and in the great Republic that for a day they had talked so hotly of war. Dissipated. For a year, for two years. For always? No. The war must come sooner or later. It is a matter, in the first place, of prestige, of national honor. But, more emphatically, it is a question of mathematics, birth-rate, death-rate, revenue, taxes, industries, imports, exports.

[Crossing to left.

There is a map of the world, your Majesty. This stretch of land there we need as a safety-valve. If we get that we are safe. If we fail to get it we explode. Not at once. But sooner or later. Our army and navy have never been in better shape. These two gentlemen can give your Majesty their word for that. But you can take mine, too. The enemy’s army is politically rotten, and enfeebled by sentimental peace propaganda. Their defenses are inadequate and their navy likewise. Those things will change. Strike today – and they never raise their heads again. Wait – and it is you who may be crushed.

KING

[Sharply.

That is a theory. Not a fact. Ten years may change the aspect of things entirely, particularly if we use those ten years in preparations not for war but for peace, honest at home and abroad, just, open, civil, to our neighbors.

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KING

You have thought of our national honor, our prestige, our commercial growth, our dynastic life. Have you given no thought at all to the men you send to death to purchase these?

PRIME MINISTER

A man has no higher privilege than to die for his country. I beg your Majesty – the paper?

KING

[Tearing the paper once across.

And the women?

PRIME MINISTER

[Grimly.

We’ll find them new husbands, your Majesty. The paper, if you please.

KING

[Tearing the paper into shreds.

I forbid this war!

PRIME MINISTER

[With controlled anger.

My God, your Majesty! You are letting a sentiment master you. There are worse things than war. There are possibilities in peace infinitely worse than any war, or there would be no war. War may kill a million bodies, but a wicked peace can snuff out unnumbered souls!

KING

I will take my chances with peace.

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KING

[To CHIEF OF STAFF.

But you always detested war. You called yourself my Minister not of War, but of Peace.

MINISTER OF WAR

[Rigidly.

When the honor of our country is at stake –

KING

[Impatiently.

But nobody is attacking our honor!

PRIME MINISTER

[Bluntly.

The case is as I said. We need this war, and we must have it.

KING

[Torn by his conflicting desires.

I cannot let you resign. There is no one else I can trust as I trust you three. But not war, not war!

PRIME MINISTER

I am a lover of peace, but the time has come when we must have war.

CHIEF OF STAFF

It is our sacred duty, your Majesty, to draw our swords for light and justice when God calls!

CHIEF OF STAFF

And God has always been with us. God will be with us now!

KING

[White and tense.

You are three strong men against me. I want peace, but I am helpless without you three. For I am an anachronism. Not nature but human force, fighting against nature, keeps me on my throne. If you must have war, have it. But I tell you this: God has no part in it. Leave God out of the game!

[He sinks into the chair by the desk.

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