At a Meeting on War Aims, Folkestone



15 February 1918

by Rudyard Kipling
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Background
If there was some special occasion for this speech about war aims and war loans, it is not known. Mrs Kipling’s diary for .31 January' 1918 reports that “Rud works on his Folkestone speech which may or may not come off’ (Rees extracts). Afterwards Kipling wrote that he hoped it would "be quoted here and go to America” (Letters, IV, 483), and he tried unsuccessfully to get Lord Beaverbrook to circulate it through the Ministry ot Information that Beaverbrook had just taken over (Letters, IV, 485).

The speech was published in two separate pamphlet editions as “Kipling’s Message”; one bv W. H. Smith and Son, London, the other by the American YMCA in Paris.
[T.P.]




If you will allow me, 1 will tell you a story. Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there was a large and highly organised community in India who lived by assassination and robbery. They were educated to it from their infancy; they followed it as a profession, and it was also their religion. They were called Thugs. Their method was to disguise themselves as pilgrims, or travellers, or merchants, and to join with parties of pilgrims, travellers, and merchants moving about India. They got into the confidence of their victims, found out what they had on them, and in due time—after weeks or months of acquaintance—they killed them by giving them poisoned foods—sweetmeats for choice—or by strangling them from behind as they sat over the fire of an evening, with [a] knotted towel or a specially prepared piece of rope. They then stripped the corpse of all its valuables, threw it down a well or buried it, and went on to the next job.

At last things got so bad that the Government of India had to interfere. Like all Governments, it created a Department—the Department of Thuggee—to deal with the situation. Unlike most Departments this Department worked well, and after many years of tracking down and hanging up the actual murderers, and imprisoning their spies and confederates, who included all ranks of society, it put an end to the whole business of Thuggee.

The world has progressed since that day. Bv present standards of crime those Thugs were ineffective amateurs. They did not mutilate or defile the bodies of the dead; they did not torture, or rape, or enslave people; they did not kill children for fun, and they did not burn villages. They merely killed and robbed in an unobtrusive way as a matter of education, duty, and religion, under tbe patronage of their goddess. Kali the Destroyer. Very good.

German International Thuggee.


At the present moment all the Powers of the world that have not been bullied or bribed to keep out of it have been forced to join in one International Department to make an end of German international Thuggee, for the reason that if it is not ended life on this planet becomes insupportable for human beings. Even now there are people in England who find it hard to realise that the Hun has been educated by the State from his birth to look upon assassination and robbery, embellished with every treachery and abomination that the mind of man can labouriously think out, as a perfectly legitimate means to the national ends of his country. He is not shocked by these things. He has been taught that it is his business to perform them, his duty to support them, and his religion to justify them. They are, and for a long time past they have been, as legitimate in his eyes as the ballot is in ours. This, remember, was as true of tbe German in 1914 as it is now.

People who have been brought up to make organised evil in every form their supreme good, because they believe that evil will pay them, are not going to change their belief till it is proved that evil does not pay. So far, the Hun believes that evil has paid him in the past, and will pay him better in the future. He has had a good start. Like the Thug, the Hun knew exactly what he meant to do before he opened his campaign against mankind. As we have proof now, his poisoned sweetmeats and knotted towels were prepared years beforehand, and his spies had given him the fullest information about all tbe people he intended to attack. So he is doing what is right in his own eyes. He thought out the hell he wished to create; he built it up seriously and scientifically with his best hands and brains; he breathed into it his own spirit that it might grow with his needs; and at the hour that he judged best he let it loose on a world that till then had believed there were limits beyond which men born of women dared not sin.

When the Veil Is Lifted


Nine-tenths of the atrocities Germany has committed have not been made public. I think this is a mistake. But one gets hints of them here and there—Folkestone has had more than a hint. For instance, we were told the other day that more than 14,000 English non-combatants—men, women, and children—had been drowned, burned, or blown to pieces since the war began. But we have no conception—and till the veil is lifted after the war we shall have no conception—of the range and system of these atrocities.

Least of all shall we realise, as they realise in Belgium and occupied France just across the water, the cold organised miseries which Germany has laid upon the populations that have fallen into her hands, that she might break their bodies and defile their souls. That is part of the German creed. What understanding is possible with a breed that has worked for and brought about these things? And so long as the Germans are left with any excuse for thinking that such things can pay, can any peace be made with them in which men can trust? None. For it is the peculiar essence of German kultur, which is the German religion, that it is Germany’s moral duty to break every tie, every restriction, that binds man to fellow-man, if she thinks it will pay. Therefore all mankind is against her. Therefore all mankind must be against her till she learns that no race can make its way or break its way outside the borders of humanity.

“A Hell without Hope”


The more we have suffered in this war the more clearly do we see this necessity. Our hearts, our reason, even, instinct in us that lifts us above the mere brute, show us that the war must go on. Otherwise earth becomes a hell without hope. The men, the ships, the munitions must go forward to the war, and behind them must come the money, without which nothing can move. Where our hearts are there must our treasure be also.

There has been a great deal of money spent in England lately, several millions a day for the twelve hundred days. That means that many people have had the chance of earning more money—in some cases very much more money—than they could have earned in peace time. But all the money in the world is no use to a man or his country if he spends it as fast as he gets it. All he has left is his bills and the reputation of being a fool, which he can get much more cheaply in other ways. There’s nothing fine or funny in throwing away cash on things you don’t want merely because the cash is there. We’ve all done it in our time and we’ve all had to pay for it. The man who says he never worries about money is the man who has to worry about it most in the long run, and goodness knows there’s enough worry in the world already without our going out of our way to add to it. Just now we all have the opportunity of protecting ourselves against private and public anxieties by investing as much as ever we can in War Loans.

“Money Sits Up All Through the Year”


Money is a curious article. Have you ever thought that invested money is the only thing in the world, outside the Army, the Navy, and the Mercantile Marine, that will work for you while you sleep? Everything else knocks off, or goes to bed, or takes a holiday at intervals, but our money sits up all through the year, working to fetch in the 5 per cent interest that the Government gives on every pound it borrows from us. I am not a financier. But I do know that much, and I do know that a man who has an income, however small, from money he has saved, is free of worry and anxiety for himself, his wife, and his children, up to the extent of that income. It gives him self-respect, a more even temper, a reason for looking at the future with calm and confidence. A man who has wasted or muddled all his pay at the end of the week is the servant of the whole world for his next week’s pay. The man who has his bit in hand is independent of the whole world as far as that bit goes, and that knowledge at the back of one’s head must make life a different affair to every thinking man or woman. Savings represent much more than their mere money value. They are proof that the saver is worth something in himself. Any fool can waste, any fool can muddle; but it takes something of a man to save, and the more he saves the more of a man does it make him. Waste and extravagance unsettle a man’s mind for every crisis; thrift, which means some form of self-restraint and continence, steadies it. And we need steady minds just now.

Remember, too, that everything we waste in the way of manufactured goods, from a match upwards, as well as everything we buy that isn’t absolutely necessary to get on with, means diverting some man or woman’s time and energy from doing work connected with the war. And war work, which means supplies, food, munitions, ships, is the only thing that is of the least importance now. Everything outside that necessity is danger and waste.

So you see we are all in a splendid position to invest. Not only is there more money going about and fewer things to buy with it, but it is also wrong to spend money on what there is available. The road has been cleared of all obstacles to saving. The interest on what we save helps to make us personally independent; the money we lend to the Government helps to set our land and our world free. Our security for our loan is not only the whole of the British Empire, but also the whole of civilisation, which has pooled its resources in men, money, and material to carry on this war to victory. Nothing else under heaven matters today except that the war should go on to that end.

The Personal War Aim


From time to time the representatives of the Allies meet together and lay down what the war aims of the Allies are. From time to time our statesmen repeat them. They all agree we are fighting for freedom and liberty, for the right of small States to exist, and for nations to decide for themselves how they are to be governed. All this we understand and perfectly believe. That is the large view of the situation. What is the personal aspect of the case for you and me? We are fighting for our lives, the lives of every man, woman, and child, here and everywhere else. We are fighting that we may not be herded into actual slavery such as the Germans have established by force of their arms in large parts of Europe. We are fighting against eighteen hours a day forced labour under the lash or at the point of the bayonet, with a dog’s death and a dog’s burial at the end of it. We are fighting that men, women, and children may not he tortured, burned, and mutilated in the public streets, as has happened in this town, and in hundreds of others. And we will go on fighting till the race that has done these things is in no position to continue or repeat the offence.

If for any reason whatever we fall short of victory—and there is no half-wav house between victory and defeat—what happens to us? This. Every relation, every understanding, every decency upon which civilisation has been so anxiously built up will go—will be washed out, because it will have been proved unable to endure. The whole idea of Democracy—which at bottom is what the Hun fights against—will he dismissed from men’s minds, because it will have been shown incapable of maintaining itself against the Hun. It will die; and it will die discredited, together with every belief and practice that is based on it. The Hun ideal, thehanded Hun-root-notions of life, will take its place throughout the world.

If We Fail-


Under that dispensation man will become once more the natural prey, body and goods, of his better-armed neighbour. Women will be the mere instrument for continuing the breed: the vessel of man's lust and man’s cruelty; and labour will become a thing to be knocked on the head if it dares to give trouble, and worked to death if it does not. And from this order of life there will be no appeal, no possibility of any escape.

This is what the Hun means when he says he intends to impose German kultur—which is the German religion—upon the world. This is precisely what the world has banded itself together to resist. It will take every ounce in us; it will try us out to the naked soul. Our trial will not be made less by the earnest advice and suggestions that we should accept some sort of compromise, which means defeat, put forward by Hun agents and confederates among us. They are busy in that direction already. But be sure of this: Nothing—nothing we may have endured now will weigh one featherweight compared with what we shall most certainly have to suffer if for any cause we fail of victory.

—“Kipling’s Message,” London: W. H. Smith and Son [1918], .