« VorigeDoorgaan »
he does not occupy the isolated position which an ordinary reader of Mr. Churchill's Minute might suppose him to occupy.
Leisure to reflect upon the great and novel issues which are constantly presented . . . and, above all, to visit the Fleets themselves, and by personal observation and practical contact with the working of the latest types to satisfy himself about the improvements which are possible in future designs, are opportunities which the First Lord desires to provide in future for Controllers of the Navy. Such leisure and action would be of great value if they were attainable. My conviction is, however, that the appointment of an Additional Civil Lord and the most complete fulfilment of duties assigned to him in the Minute of the First Lord possible under unavoidable limitations, will not and cannot give an amount of leisure such as is anticipated. The Controller of the Navy, as was said above, comes from and returns to the sea-service after occupying his post at the Admiralty for three to five years. There have been occasionally longer periods of service, but the results of these departures from custom have not been satisfactory, and the general feeling in the Navy appears to favour continuance of the practice by which the Controller never loses touch of the service afloat, because he is not long enough absent from it to do so. From the nature of the case, as it appears to me, no Controller can find leisure for continuous study or for long visits to the Fleet during his period of office, because duties pressing upon him personally, and incapable of devolution, make demands upon time and energy which are incompatible with such leisure. Even when all possible relief has been given, either in the manner now to be tried or in any other way conceivable to me, if the Controller is to remain responsible for the matériel of our great naval service he must be very hard worked. His personal responsibility cannot be lessened or subdivided without serious risk of diminished efficiency in naval administration. There is no suggestion or evidence that, up to date, the work of the Controller's Department, heavy as it is, has not been well done. The staff of that department has been increased considerably as work has grown; it should never be permitted to become inadequate for the due fulfilment of the duties. Subject to the provision of ample assistance and to devolution by the Controller to his assistants of such work as he may decide thus to deal with, the organisation which has met the strain and stress of the last twenty-five years will not fail to meet demands which will arise in the future.
It will be understood that the foregoing remarks have been made in no hostile spirit, either to the action taken by the First Lord or to the appointment of Sir Francis Hopwood to the position
of Additional Civil Lord. Sir Francis Hopwood's past career and
. achievements make it certain that everything possible will be done to make the new system work smoothly and efficiently. No one more heartily wishes success to the First Lord in his administration of the Navy than myself. His responsibility is great, and his courage in facing difficult problems is undoubted. Experience and study of the past history of the Admiralty have led me to form the opinions expressed above : if the course of events should prove my forecast to have been mistaken, I should rejoice in any increase of efficiency of Admiralty administration which may result from the changes above described.
W. H. WHITE.
ELEVEN YEARS OF FOREIGN POLICY
Recent events have forced foreign policy very prominently into the foreground. We have emerged from a crisis that brought us to the threshold of a great European conflict, the consequences of which would have been beyond human foresight to gauge ; and although the tension of the situation is now relieved, the event has provoked a general desire to survey the field of international affairs and to take a general review of foreign policy.
The functions of diplomacy cannot escape analysis and criticism in the process of such an inquiry.
Diplomacy has hitherto resolved itself into an affair of single combat on a secret and secluded arena. The long period during which Parliament and the nation have been content to leave the direction of this sphere of policy purely to foreign ministers has, however, passed away with a rapidity which is startling. To-day we are faced with a growing demand for less secrecy. The people are becoming impatient to know what is being done behind the scenes. The point is taken that our foreign policy is shaped by the few for the many, and that by means of secret treaties a democracy is left in ignorance of momentous obligations.
It will be obvious that difficult and delicate negotiations can never be popularly controlled. Peace would indeed be imperilled if foreign policy were left to the sec-saw of a popular vote. It may, in fact, be vital to the interests of peace that democracy should be blindfolded and left in the street while treaties are being made behind closed doors; but it is equally certain that this can only continue to be possible so long as the masses have the conviction that the foreign policy of the day is directed on lines which correctly interpret their wants and desires.
Time Was when the minister who hit foreign Powers the hardest was the best beloved of our own people. Nowadays the Palmerston method is out of favour, and the fashion in negotiating has swung round so far that the studied policy of some politicians has involved them in the charge of being the friends of every country but their own. This seems to originate in a recognition that the democracies of the Western world are claiming kinship, and that there exists a subtle and invisible fraternal chain along which waves of sympathy pass. VOL. LXXI-No. 420
It cannot be denied that there is evidence of international class combinations, and that foreign policy has to take note of growing social forces and requires to make 'crowd study' part of its diplomatic equipment. No statesman can to-day ignore that the world's peace depends on the world's content, and that a closer sympathy and sentiment with the social problems that touch us as they touch European countries may lessen the danger of possible conflict; but in this process no Power can afford to surrender any of its conceptions of nationality, least of all the members of the British Empire. It is only on national lines that the British Empire can hope to reach the fulness of its development, and it is only in the fulness of that development that we see the prospect of other world-Powers existing and expanding alongside of ours without any fear of a collision of interests.
If these may be taken as the master-lines of British statesmanship, it is interesting to examine the course that British foreign policy has taken during recent years. To grasp the position fairly some recapitulation is necessary.
A new course was set to British foreign policy, which may roughly be said to date from the conclusion of the South African War. It was the hinge of our future policy.
In the hour of trial England began to broaden and congeal into an Imperial organisation which, as it solidified, should assure the independence of the several democracies and the safety of our Imperial administration. But it also exposed the animosities of all the Western Powers to England. With that war the landmarks of the Salisburian epoch and régime vanished. The war, indeed, showed England in a flash that she had not a friend on the Continent, with the possible exception of Italy.
In a word, ‘splendid isolation’ was very nearly spelling a concerted attack by a coalition of opposition. The United States, it is true, met us in a spirit of neutrality, but coincident with her attitude followed the surrender of our rights over the Panama Canal. The official attitude of Germany was correct throughout, but national sentiment flamed out and could not be restrained. A statesman even having behind him the relative naval power we possessed at the beginning of this century could not regard such a prospect without grave anxiety.
A new departure was inevitable, and the policy of alliances and ententes at once began to formulate itself. The dual alliance of Russia and France, with their ambitions running counter to our interests, became a matter of first concern. The Russian menace in the Far East wa's met by the counterpoise of the Japanese Alliance, and to attain this object no sacrifice of our Pacific interests was regarded as too great. Here we pursued our traditional conception of preventing Russia obtaining her outlet to the
sea. The then Government's apprehension of danger nearer home was met by an entente with France and the settlement in 1904 of our outstanding Colonial disagreements.
The prospects of a European coalition being formed against us were thus effectually dispelled. Russia was kept busy in the Far East, while France wa's successfully detached to England's side; to effect this object, great sacrifices were made. Lastly, the existing Mediterranean differences between France and Italy were also dispelled, largely by this country's good offices.
In all this there has been no word of Germany; yet Germany is the pivot on which the change in our diplomatic action turns.
The industrial expansion of Germany was but dimly recognised in this country, and whatever prosperity she derived from the unrestricted access to British markets was readily and unstintingly extended to her. Moreover, no conflicting territorial interests stood between us and Germany to interfere with our cordial relations. Going back as far as 1862, no occasion arose for any estrangement between this country and Prussia. Bismarck, whose mind remained concentrated to the end on the field of his greatest triumphs, and who cared little for colonial adventures, always acted on the assumption that we could best be made to subserve his European ends if friendly relations were maintained with us.
But a series of circumstances have recently intervened which have suggested to both nations uneasiness and grave suspicion. To many minds in England even the German sympathy for the Boers was merely an episode and not the beginning of a new departure in policy. What really first aroused attention in this country was the floating of the great Navy Law in 1900 during the height of German feeling over the Boer War. In a moment all seemed changed. Until the advent of a new continental naval Power into the field there was no imperative necessity upon England to blanket Russia in Manchuria or to placate France in Morocco.
There can be no question that in this country the new departure in Germany aroused a feeling of intense surprise, and in some quarters apprehension and anger. French attacks during the war were regarded as not unnatural, coming from a country with which we had twice in the 'nineties been on the verge of war. To British opinion, German action on the contrary savoured of aggressive assertion and perilous opportunism in an hour when British pregtige had suffered a set-back.
The changes in the relations between certain Powers necessitated the adjustment of the others to the new conditions. These adjustments were natural in themselves, but were viewed with apprehension by those who watched them. England had thought