The Cause and Conduct of the War (5 june 1902)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Cause and Conduct of the War is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 5 june 1902.

It concerns The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct published on 16 january 1902.

The Cause and Conduct of the War

The Times (5 june 1902)


Sir, — The time has come when I can give a final account of this venture, and inform those who subscribed to the fund what I have done, and what I intend to do, with the money which has been entrusted to my care.

Events move so rapidly now that it is already difficult to realise that at the end of the year 1901 the British view of the war and of the causes which led to it was absolutely unstated upon the Continent. Our case was laid forth in Blue-books and in bulky volumes which were inaccessible to the foreign reader and ignored by the foreign Press. Some effort had been made here and there by leaflets to correct some of the more outrageous errors, but these dealt with single points. What seemed to be needed was a statement which should be short and clear, but at the same time should cover the whole field of the controversy. The need of such a book became more apparent when the malignant anti-British campaign in Germany, which had lasted during the whole war, became suddenly more intense, reaching a height which must modify the relations between the two countries for many years.

It was at that period that, with the co-operation of my friend and publisher, Mr. Reginald Smith, I endeavoured to put the British case into an easily-understood form, and to raise a fund which would enable us to place a translated copy of the book in the hands of every man of any importance in the civilised world. We had no delusions, and expected no wholesale conversions, but we would at least ensure that the plea of ignorance could not be used in mitigation of the just resentment which this shameful campaign of slander had produced.

The public responded to our appeal most generously, and sent in over £2,000. The pamphlet was sold at a very low price in the English edition, but even so, the sale was so great that where we had wished to make no profit we found ourselves with a further balance of £2,000. These sums together gave us ample means for carrying out our design.

Editions have appeared in every language and have been sent free, not only to every deputy and journalist, but also to professors, mayors, schoolmasters, regiments, clubs, hotels, and such other people or places as seemed best.

The only hitch in our plans was with the Russian edition, which was vetoed by the local censor in Odessa, and is only now on the eve of appearance. But for this misfortune we have done all, and more than all, that we proposed. A great number of Press notices showed that our work had not been in vain. Such important papers as the Verdensgang in Norway, National-Zeitung in Germany, Tageblatt in Vienna, Indépendance Belge in Brussels, and the whole Hungarian Press gave the book a sympathetic reception. There can be no doubt that during the months which have passed there has been a steady fall in the Anglophobia of the Continent, and that the extreme libels which were once common could not now be issued in any country without ridicule and rebuke from the decent papers. It may be too much for those who have helped us to claim that this is due to our efforts, but at least it is a very pleasing coincidence that it should have so closely followed them.

Finding that we had funds in hand we widened our methods of work. In March, I bought 600 copies of "Recht und Unrecht im Burenkrieg," an excellent Austrian statement of the British case, and I had it distributed where I thought it would be most effective. At the same time I sent free copies of the pamphlet to all the parish priests and municipal councillors in Ireland.

We now find ourselves with the work done and with a considerable sum of money still in hand. This cannot be exactly stated, as the accounts are not yet all to hand, but it will probably be not less than £1,400. Far the greater part of this is money actually earned by the sale of the pamphlet, and we feel that we have a free hand in dealing with it, but that we should like to use it for some public purpose which would meet with the approbation of those who supported the original fund. We propose, therefore, to set apart £1,000, the interest of which shall form a scholarship for enabling some poor South African, Boer or British, to pursue his studies at Edinburgh University. From the sum which remains we hope to send a small souvenir to a few friends of Great Britain abroad who have stood loyally by her at a time when many of her own children played her false. The balance, if any, I should like to retain in my hands and to use at my own discretion for the encouragement of the movement for civilian riflemen.

I thank you, Sir, for your powerful aid in permitting me to use your columns in order to address those who have helped to carry our project to success. Especially I would thank Mr. Reginald Smith for the invaluable help which he has given me. The whole resources of the firm have been used to arrange this complex and difficult business without any question of profit or reward.

Yours faithfully,

The Athenaeum, Pall-mall, S.W.

See also