Editorial: What we wrote on Nov. 11, 1918 – ‘THE WORLD SET FREE’

On Nov. 11, 1918, the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial page overflowed with jubilation at the defeat of Kaiser Wilhelm. Under the title “The world set free,” writers waxed at length about the end of the “dark forces of evil.” Here is an excerpt from the main editorial:

Kaiser Wilhelm II, German emperor and King of Prussia, has been stripped of the trappings of superstition and barbarism. As William Hohenzollern, he has no more divine right than any other man. It is a fit occasion for rejoicing, for flag flying, singing and cheering. The kaiser represented nothing worth saving from the wreck of autocracy. He reigned as an opponent of goodwill towards men. It is not an eclipse when the kaiser is eliminated, it is the passing of one of the deepest of the dark forces of evil.

The mesmerism of authority by divine right has been shown to be a fraud in the present war. It has failed. It is not worth one thought of regret. As the German people free themselves of their belief in kaiserism, or sentimental memory of it, they can become the more free to enthrone goodwill and right in the place of the diabolical “divine right” of an autocrat.

Hohenzollern, Hapsburg, Romanoff, the thing they represented can have no place in civilization. When people ceased to believe in the werewolf, it disappeared from humankind. The very word is forgotten. So let the kaiser, the apostolic king, the czar, be forgotten.

The Ottawa Citizen front page for November 11, 1918, marking the end of the war.

When peace is signed and the war ended, the great crusade towards the reign of goodwill is just beginning. The way is being opened for world freedom, perhaps as never before, by the unity of purpose among the great nations – especially by the unity between the English-speaking nations and the republic of France. The thought of world freedom may seem utopian. United sacrifice by Great Britain, France and the United States might have seemed to be utopian five years ago. But it has been demonstrated in this war, though the reactionary forces may suggest that there has been no united sacrifice. When comparisons are made to provoke discord, when it is suggested the one particular nation of the allies gave something that another withheld, or that one nation entered for gain, or another came in later for material reasons, this particularly subtle virus will be recognized as a form of enemy suggestion.

The world is rid of the kaiser. He symbolized national pride, lust of power, materialism. The way towards freedom from what the kaiser symbolized is by letting goodwill enter more than ever in the future between man and man. Victory has been won on the battlefield by sacrifices in common among all the armies on the side of right. The great task before the coming peace conference is to give to humanity the fruits of victory in more than material form. With goodwill as the guiding thought, to support the councillors in their task at the peace table, the way can be opened up for great immediate steps towards the world set free.

… The kaiser has gone and with him the monstrosities to which he gave rise – the will to power, the invincibility of the army, the obsession of might and the delusion that the people of Germany had been chosen by God to conquer the world and implant the principles of kultur among the subject peoples. It remains to be seen whether the German people are sane enough to realize their good fortune and wise enough to grasp the opportunity now presented them of rehabilitating themselves in the eyes of civilization.

 

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