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approach wider asunder, instead of making them converge on a common centre.
Besides, the German conception of England was still that of a modern Carthage, a nation of wealth-accumulators; and the course of the South African war did not establish our reputation in their eyes as a military people, in spite of the appreciative verdict given in our favour by their own military experts. The vast resources of an historic world-wide Empire were as little understood by the average German as they were by Napoleon himself.
At a moment, moreover, when our prestige was considered to be in abeyance, and this country was not in a mood for friendly concessions to Germany, it was improbable that a mutually satisfactory understanding could have been achieved. There are occasions indeed when the only way to come to an understanding with a man or a nation is to show at first how objectionable and formidable you can be. These were the circumstances at the time when Lord Lansdowne felt impelled to change our foreign policy and abandon the principle of isolation.
Having decided on this course King Edward, Lord Lansdowne and their advisers bent themselves with indomitable energy, and no little skill, to the policy whose development I have already sketched in outline. They suffered from one nearly fatal weakness in the material at their disposal-the lack of British military strength.
I would venture to suggest that it is to this cause that we must attribute most of the failures and faults of the new diplomatic course. The magician who based the whole city of Parthenope on a single egg was nothing to the Foreign Secretary who approached a continental system with a suggestion of joint action, but with no promises of strong land support in case that joint action should lead to war. The trouble might arise in Thibet or Kiao-Chau, but the issue might have to be decided on the plains of Poland or by the forests of the Vosges.
The Unionist Government missed its opportunity after the war of placing our military forces on a proper footing. From a Liberal Government, presumably, nothing of the kind is to be expected. Hence the two great weaknesses of our recent and present foreign policy.
In the first place, we have to make enormous concessions for the support of foreign Powers-concessions which no nation in arms need have made, because the help of a powerful British army alone would have been ample.
In the second place, after all our sacrifices, we have never got a stable and formal alliance which would make an attack on us to mean an attack on the Dual Alliance.
The logic of events points only to two possible conclusions. Either we must, by strengthening our land forces or by some other means, make the triple entente a military reality, or we must alter in some way a policy that is bringing us to the verge of a war which. we may be left to fight alone. We cannot continue indefinitely the policy of paying tribute to our allies for their hypothetical support, in order that we may drift inevitably into a war in which we shall possess no guarantees of assistance.
My contention is that we must either have the alliance at any price, or we must see whether an accommodation with Germany which is agreeable to France and Russia is beyond the bounds of possibility.
In the last few years the English and German peoples have come by the course of conflict, not of suave assurances or peace deputations, to recognise each other's powers and capacities. This mutual knowledge, contrary to the copy-book maxims of the professional pacificists, might just as well lead to war as to peace. The issue is in the hands of the two peoples. But if we are in for war, let us be ready for it; if we do not mean war, let us make for peace. Nothing is more fatal to a nation than indecision, or attempting ends without contriving means.
Is it not certain that the present pent-up condition of forces and passions on both sides of the German Ocean must lead in the long run to a collision if nothing is done to relieve the tension? But before we make ourselves ready for battle, let us speak for a moment of the prospects of peace.
One might take two instances to prove that a reasonable accommodation with Germany has not always been impossible in cases where we have chosen to pursue an opposite course.
First of all the Bagdad railway. It is natural for Germany to look for new openings for her commerce, her colonisation, and her capital investments. One of these openings she attempted to discover in Asia Minor and in the Bagdad railway. The scheme was frustrated less by the deliberate desire of the British Foreign Office than by the pressure of public opinion. The feeling in England was natural, but I do not think that it was wise, on three grounds:
(1) The great difficulty of dealing with the German Empire is that in case of war she gives to fortune by her defeat at sea nothing but some relatively indifferent Colonies and her sea-borne commerce, on which her livelihood in no way depends. We put on the table everything that makes up our life and our national greatness. But if Germany had had a large colony and vast interests locked up in a country whose bases are on the surrounding seaports and not on land transport, we should have held that vast investment as a hostage in case of a successful naval war. Such a fact would
have been an immense inducement to Germany to keep the peace.
(2) As I have pointed out already, we have not succeeded in maintaining the integrity of Northern Persia by our resistance to the Bagdad railway scheme. We have had to give the game into Russia's hands to secure her doubtful assistance against Germany. Is it not possible that Russo-German competition in that area would have kept Germany and her Eastern neighbour apart in the European field, while neither would have let the other advance an inch into Persia? We should have been left to protect the status quo as the tertius gaudens. In a similar instance Austria and Russia have checkmated each other in the Balkans from the Treaty of Berlin to the Bosnian annexation.
(3) Is it not certain that a vast mass of that superfluous energy, military and civil talent, population and capital with which Germany is now crammed to bursting-point would have found in that work a real channel of utility? I doubt if Germany would be so disinclined to peace if she had all the opportunities abroad which the British Empire has had, of proving that that very peace has its victories no less renowned than war.'
So much for the first instance. It illustrates most of the ways in which German expansion might not only militate in favour of peace, but might be of positive advantage to British local and Imperial interests.
The second instance is the recent crisis, and with this I will deal very briefly.
Admitting at once that the despatch of the Panther to Agadir was a wanton and imprudent performance, was not the diplomatic attitude of this country a contributory cause? The action of France in Morocco, though dictated by local necessities which overrode all other considerations, was a clear breach of the Algeciras Agreement, and Great Britain had recently treated with almost pedantic rigour the setting aside by Austria of that far more obsolete document the Treaty of Berlin. The military action of France, which could portend nothing but a virtual protectorate over and occupation of Morocco, entitled Germany to some compensation for the loss of actual interests or potential influence there. Yet the impression made by Sir Edward Grey's statement in the House was that our Government, so far from contemplating the matter from the point of view of the greatest impartial signatory of the Algeciras Agreement, was entirely engaged in indicating silently to France that, whatever she did, His Britannic Majesty was behind her.
Surely the more natural and dignified part would have been to come forward as an intermediary-to have told Germany that we
desired nothing but justice and the maintenance of the spirit of agreements, and that we would as a friend plead with France for a prompt recognition of compensation claims. Simultaneously the Foreign Secretary should have informed the French Government that we would support her against any German attempt to take advantage of her military action in Morocco, but that we thought Germany had a case which merited prompt attention and a just settlement.
The settlement was come to, but it is no thanks to Sir Edward Grey that war did not come first. Surely the action suggested would have produced a better result than the despatch of the Panther and the speech at the Mansion House. It is this attitude of parti pris on both sides which alarms many patriotic Englishmen, for it is the attitude which can only precede one thing-the sound of cannon.
Are there any general principles on which a pacific agreement with Germany, that would be to the advantage of this country and of the whole of Europe, could be reached?
I think that there is at least a line of suggestion which might be followed by Great Britain.
If Germany after all her experience of our power to hold her up is still unwilling to treat for a reasonable settlement, this country will have no alternative but to prepare herself for the worst, and to do it thoroughly. But it would be reckless not to make the attempt.
I would venture to lay down the following principles as axiomatic in any such attempt:
(1) That nothing must be proposed to Germany without the full previous knowledge and consent of France.
(2) That the question of the limitation of armaments shall not be allowed to enter into the discussion.
(3) That the natural and legitimate desire of Germany to expand her commerce and population into other parts of the world should be recognised as far as is compatible with vital British interests; and that we should express the belief that such an expansion would in many ways be to our interest.
(4) That we should recognise that a restriction of German commerce and the consequent failure to improve the condition of the German working classes is of no business advantage to us, and makes directly both for underselling in this country and for a war which will burden our industries and working classes for years even in the event of success.
(5) That as a corollary of these views we indicate our readiness to assist Germany, wherever we can, to attain her colonial outlets, and that we give a promise that when an Imperial tariff system is
established her products shall be in no way penalised to the advantage of other external Powers; on the understanding, of course, that she likewise will indicate her readiness not to discriminate against us.
The first suggestion will be accepted by any sane and honourable man, and it is conceivable that (3) and (4) might find support among all parties.
The remaining suggestions could not be adopted by any Liberal Government with whole-heartedness. Their adoption would mean the acceptance by Liberalism of a view of national life which is utterly foreign to the whole creed. No Liberal could ever understand what was meant by a national interest-the very term is to the Liberal mind half-jingoism and half-materialism.
Inasmuch as Germany's whole mental attitude in foreign affairs is compounded of a mixture of the two, of the altruism of personal service to the greatness of the nation and of the self-seeking of the industrialist, it is difficult to see how Liberalism can ever come to terms with the German nation-no, not even with its Socialists. To make friends with a man, one must hold some common views, one must be able to sympathise and understand. A party which persistently and no doubt honestly declares that the German tariff, the rock on which modern Germany is built, is the product of a grasping and tyrannical individualism akin to that of the Manchester School, and has suggested to the German Government, every national interest of which it was vehemently opposing at the time, that the limitation of armaments was the solution of the difficulty, is unlikely to be the medium of a mutually satisfactory and lasting understanding between the two Powers.
There can be no discussion of armaments-for that touches the whole question of national honour, organisation, and efficiency at the root, and such suggestions savour to every German, whatever his politics, as the product of hyprocrisy.
Liberalism can understand neither of the two main expressions of the German thought-the industrial tariff or the Imperial army and navy-for both things are to them alien conceptions.
My appeal, then, lies to the Unionist party. If nothing irrevocable falls in the meantime the issue of peace and war will be in their hands. The Unionist party has every reason to sympathise with German aspirations, for it endorses most of the essential principles of the German people. It believes in the tariff as the basis of national life; it believes in a Colonial Empire as part of the full development of a people, for it has always been the great instrument of Imperial expansion; it believes in the doctrine of the national interest, because it has always been both practical and patriotic. It also believes in the elevation of the condition of the