Friends of truth and humanity are few in these days, but all of them will be indignant at the prosecution of Mr. E.D. Morel. Of those who criticised the policy of the Government in connection with the war, Mr. Morel is the one who has suffered most from calumny and misrepresentation. The Press, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, has devoted itself to stating, or insinuating, that he is an agent of Germany, until at last through sheer reiteration it has produced an unshakable belief in his wickedness in the great bulk of the population, and a measure of suspicion even among many who should know better. He is, as I can testify from personal intimacy and friendship, a man actuated to an extraordinary degree by horror of cruelty and love of truth. These passions are criminal nowadays, and those in whom they are strong can hardly avoid committing illegal actions.
Mr. Morel’s “ill-judged activities began with his successful campaign to make known and to put an end to the atrocities in the Congo, in the course of which he necessarily made enemies of the British, French and Belgian Governments. The Clerical Party in Belgium was associated with King Leopold, and opposed tooth and nail any reform which might diminish the revenue derived from the the tortures of helpless negroes. The French Government dreaded an exposure, because a not dissimilar system existed in the French Congo. The British Government objected to Mr. Morel’s activities because of the official attitude of France. Nevertheless, he succeeded in so rousing public opinion that the necessary reforms were instituted and the old, bad system was brought to an end. Public men who knew of his activities mostly assumed he must have some sinister motive, for they held that no man does anything in politics from disinterested reasons – a view presumably based on self-examination. The harder it was to discover a wicked purpose, the more deep and cunning his plans were assumed to be.
It is hardly to be wondered as if on his side, with his experience of the unwillingness of the Allied Governments to put an end to atrocities far more systematic and widespread, and quite as horrible, as those of the Germans in Belgium, was unable, when the war broke out, to adopt quite the usual romantic view of it. His book on Moroccan diplomacy, published before the war, has shown conclusively how large a share of blame must be attached to the Entente. Whoever has made a disinterested study of the cause of the war must agree with the man Morel in thinking that, if wars are be brought to an end, the nations will have learn some deeper understanding of their causes than is involved in merely attributing them to the wickedness of the enemy. Mr. Morel has devoted himself to the dissemination of the truth, both here and abroad, but in these days it is illegal to attempt to communicate the knowledge of facts, even to so eminent a writer as Monsieur Romain Roland.
The use of punishment instead of argument is proof to all thinking people that the authorities are unable to refute Mr. Morel’s assertions amd have to rely upon brute force to prevent their being heard. Every honest man who loves truth and humanity would be willing to commit Mr. Morel’s “crime.” If honest men were not so rare, all the prisons in the country would be too few to hold the criminals who preferred truth to the encouragement of butchery.