A Noble Woman

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14. America's Verdict



Apart from questions of common humanity, Americans are keenly interested in the tragical end of Edith Cavell because of the untiring services of the American Legation in Brussels, first to see that the accused had a fair trial, and, second, their desperate and heroic efforts to gain time in which to formulate a final appeal for clemency. The admiration of all true Americans must be excited by the account of the humane endeavours of their representatives, which lose not a jot because their appeals were made to a cold-blooded, ferocious tribunal that is a stranger to compassion, and does not subscribe to the ordinary decencies of civilized life and practice.

The following press comments indicate the unanimity of the note of detestation with which America views one of the greatest crimes of all time.

New York Herald.

Under the heading 'Nana Sahib in Belgium' was foreshadowed the national abhorrence which will hold Germany to be the moral leper of civilization. Mr. Whitlock's report 'will cause a wave of horror to sweep over the world at the possibility of a nation which is capable of perpetrating such terrible deeds as a mere matter of military routine succeeding in this War and dominating Europe.

'For the consolation of those weaklings who object to the execution of Miss Cavell it is announced that the black act was done according to German military law, and therefore "legal." So the slayings in Louvain, Dinant, and other blood-soaked spots in Belgium were in accordance with military law, and therefore "legal." The sinking of the Lusitania was therefore similarly "legal." The desolation of Armenia was in accordance with Turkish military law, and therefore "legal." The order of Herod, if re-enacted by the military authorities of Germany, would be in accordance with German military law, and therefore "legal." But the civilized world would denounce it just as it denounced the Belgian, Lusitania, and Armenian slaughters, and as it is denouncing the execution of Miss Cavell.'

New York Times.

'In the great tribunal of civilization the Germans have done themselves immeasurable hurt by their savagery against those who opposed them. Putting the interests of State above the interests and rights of the individual, putting the ends Germany seeks to attain above all other things on earth, destroying the peace of the world, bringing on the bloodiest War in history, a War that has brought to their deaths millions of the people of Europe and threatens to impoverish great nations, all for the attainment of ends the world has denounced in themselves, and by means which too often have violated the foundation principles of humanity and justice, Germany has brought herself into a position where the world turns from her in horror, and dreads nothing so much as the success of her arms. Man's love of life, the chivalric sentiment of man for woman, tender consideration for the helplessness of age and of youth, all these she has maimed and bruised and defaced with her mailed fist, all these she has trampled under foot. The execution of Edith Cavell but carried out the spirit and purpose of the Imperial military policy.'

The Sun.

'In spite of the manifestations of "frightfulness" with which the record is already crowded, we are not willing to believe that chivalry to women is dead in the German army. To the rank and file von Bissing can never be a hero. Doubtless his monstrous deed will be justified; nevertheless, it will sicken the soul of many an honest German officer. And the German women--for woman is true to her sex the world over--will deplore the fate imposed upon one who was the victim of her sympathies. Never has there been a war in which women have not played such a part as this Englishwoman did.

'Indeed, to all Germans who have not been corrupted by Prussian militarism, the hurried, stealthy shooting of hapless Edith Cavell in the dead of night behind prison walls will always be a bitter memory. More than all the counts in the Bryce Report of atrocities in Belgium it will weigh in the scale of judgement, for it has struck the world with horror.'

The Tribune.

'Alive, Miss Cavell was but an offender against German military rules; dead, dead after summary conviction, dead under circumstances that give the incident the character of a midnight assassination and the colour of an atrocity, she becomes to all men of English blood a martyr and an inspiration to new patriotic devotion.

'The thing is like the Zeppelin raids, it is like the Louvain slaughter, it is like the Lusitania massacre. The wrongs done to the women and children of a race do not terrify the men. They only serve to rouse the spirit, strengthen the arm, nerve the will. "Terribleness" is but the emptiest of threats and the weakest of weapons. There is something almost pathetic in the German dullness to the things that move the world. It begs, whines, pleads for the goodwill and the approval of neutral mankind. It stands almost as a suppliant for the alms of approval of other races. But in the same moment, without warning, without reason, without anything but an incomprehensible stupidity and folly, it does something that shocks the moral sense, the humanity, of men and women the world over.'

Philadelphia Public Ledger.

'The Administration has a duty in this matter which it should not overlook. Miss Cavell, as a British subject, was under the protection of the American Legation. The American Minister made both an official and a personal request that her life might be spared. This request was not only refused, it was treated with contempt. Mr. Gibson's report is scrupulously restrained in language, but his indignation may easily be read between the lines. The sentence was carried out with a haste that emphasizes the insults to the United States; the procedure from the beginning was marked by insolence to its representatives. To let the matter drop here would be a confession that this country can neither protect its citizens' interests, nor those of other nations whose interests it has undertaken to guard.'

The Baltimore Sun.

'It is difficult to speak in temperate language of the execution of Edith Cavell. ... The world will pronounce this one of the crowning atrocities of cold-blooded brutality. It is impossible to think of it without horror, to speak of it without execration.'

The Chicago Tribune.

'The execution of Edith Cavell should and may be the cause of mental awakening on the part of those who have hitherto remained obstinately secure in the face of a world of terrors.... Civilization is breaking faster and faster. How far the sword and torch will sweep no man can prophesy, but this we know--the American nation has given to the German Empire an offence greater than that furnished by Belgium, and has not as yet taken any step to protect itself from retribution.'