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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Flying Machines in War. (S670: 1909)
Dr. A. R. Wallace Calls to Action.

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor of The Daily News (London) printed on page four of its 6 February 1909 issue. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S670.htm

     Sir,--For several months past I have been hoping to see some protest made in the more advanced journals against the assumption, tacit or openly avowed, that the first and most important use of aeroplanes and other flying machines or dirigible balloons will be to drop explosives or use other implements of destruction, in case of war or as the first act of war.

     No doubt thousands of persons, besides myself, have received a programme of the "Aerial League of the British Empire," whose aims are stated to be: "To secure and maintain for the Empire the same supremacy in the air as it now enjoys on the sea." A preliminary list of vice-presidents of this "League" contains the names of three peers, three bishops, seven members of the House of Commons, and eleven men of "war" from Rear-Admiral and Major-General downwards. Sir Hiram Maxim is quoted as saying that in less than a year there will be machines in Paris which can reach London in four hours carrying a load of half a ton over and above all necessaries, and that such machines will be in use in the very next war.

     It is clear, therefore, what is in preparation, and what is, apparently, held to be inevitable by the great war party at home and abroad; and this culminating iniquity of our civilization will certainly be consummated if the parties of peace, of humanity, of social reform, and of common sense do not at once bestir themselves. Just as we were assured that war with the Boers was "inevitable" by an influential body which had determined to bring on a war for the conquest of the two free Republics (whose freedom we had guaranteed), so now we are inferentially told that this new horror is "inevitable," and that all we can do is to be sure and be in the front rank of the aerial assassins--for surely no other term can so fitly describe the dropping of, say, ten thousand bombs at midnight into an enemy's capital from an invisible flight of airships.

     If there ever was a time to call upon a Liberal Government to dissociate itself from this proposed crime against humanity it is now. If ever there was a time when we should take the initiative against adding this new horror to the horrors of war (which all civilized Governments profess to be eager to diminish) it is now. Surely the peace party, the Labour Party, the Irish Party--all who are Liberals in thought and act as well as in name, the party of humanity--perhaps even the Christians, if such a body still exists among us--will for once unite to declare that Britain shall not disgrace itself by silent acquiescence in this absolutely evil deed--this crowning wickedness of the combined forces of war and capitalism.

     Surely, for this great and holy purpose, the whole body of true womanhood and true manhood will unite, and call upon our Government instantly to open negotiations with other civilized nations, individually, proposing to each one, separately, a mutual agreement or treaty declaring that no airship of theirs shall carry explosives or any destructive implements; that doing so beyond their own territory shall be held to be piracy on the part of non-combatants and an act of war on the part of Governments. Let them propose this agreement, first, with our brothers in race and language across the Atlantic, next with Germany and France, in each case the contracting Powers to support each other in giving effect to this imperative extension of international law.

     If we thus take the initiative, I can hardly conceive the great American people refusing to join us; and then the probability is that the new law will be universally accepted. There are certain considerations which cannot be discussed now which render it probable that the Great Powers have even more to gain than the smaller ones in this restriction of war to the two elements, on which it has raged from time immemorial. But whether or not this is the case, it is quite certain that all must be losers by it to an, at present, incalculable extent; and perhaps this consideration, if all others fail, may cause them to accept the lead of any Great Power which first declares its determination to have no part in this deliberate and almost demoniac extension of the cruelties and the horrors of war.--Yours etc.,

Alfred R. Wallace.
Old Orchard,
Broadstone, Wimborne,
Feb. 4.

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