departments from unscrupulous financial intrigues, and the band of dangerous lobbyists, concession-mongers, and journalistes d'affaires whose power over successive ministries has attained in the last decade alarming proportions: a menace to the health and security of the French nation, and, assuredly, a menace to France's friends.

But have we nothing to investigate and to alter here at home in the face of these revelations of the past few months? Even in 'autocratic' Germany, with its mistakes born of youth and realisation of prodigious industrial progress, the upshot of these events has been a strengthening, for the future, of the controlling power of the elected assembly of the nation over the foreign policy of the Empire. Are the British people alone to remain content with a system under which they can be led blindfold to the edge of the precipice of war with little, if any, greater knowledge of the direction in which they are stumbling, and why, than they would have possessed three hundred years ago?

The above was written before the resignation, first of M. de Selves, then of the Caillaux Ministry; and before a further increase in the German navy became, as I fear it has now become, a virtual certainty. The curse of a secret diplomacy works out its inevitable course. The late French Premier may have made mistakes. But his was a position of singular difficulty. A man of broad and logical mind, he was faced, as his predecessors had been faced, with the fundamental contradiction between M. Delcassé's secret arrangements with Spain and Britain (taken in conjunction) and the public engagements of France towards the world, which, in the concrete, meant towards Germany, under the Algeçiras Act. Whereas his predecessors flinched before, or toyed with the issue, he realised that the only way out was a frank, full, and thorough understanding with Germany. As M. Rouvier had found in 1905, so M. Caillaux found in 1911, that the head of the French Government must react against the warlike element in his Cabinet if peace was to be preserved. As in 1905, so in 1911, the peace party in the French Ministry of the day experienced embarrassments and obstacles in the influence wielded against it from centres of British foreign policy in Paris, Vienna, and Berlinespecially in Paris-operating through the columns of famous newspapers. That influence, in 1905, had striven desperately against the Algeciras Conference in 1911 it determined the events of the 21st of July. Yet on both occasions the peace party in the French Ministry was not one whit less patriotic, or less sensible to the true interests of France, than the men in the opposite camp. I assert with deliberation what I know to be the truth, and many thoroughly reliable Frenchmen, partisans

of the entente-but such as it has been sanctioned by the British and French peoples, and not as it has been distorted by recent diplomacy-also know to be the truth-viz., that powerful influences, not wielded from British Cabinet circles but connected with the British diplomatic machine over which they exercise at present very considerable sway-are and have been using their utmost endeavours to prevent the growth of cordial relations between France and Germany, greatly assisted therein by the admittedly chaotic state of the French Foreign Office.

As for the further probable increase in the German navy, already denounced here in the anti-German Press as a further aggressive challenge against Britain, it would seem to be the necessary consequence of the events of the past summer and autumn as determining factor, coupled, doubtless, with the Russian shipbuilding programme, the conceivable consequences of the Tripoli affair, and the activity of the Spanish dockyards under British supervision. The 'indiscretions' of 1905 in regard to plans for seizing the Kiel Canal and the landing of 100,000 British troops in Schleswig-Holstein were followed by the cry for ships, ships, ships.' So the 'indiscretions' of 1911 as to the mobilisation of the British fleet and the landing of 150,000 British troops in Belgium have had the same results. The Germans feel themselves menaced-that is the plain truth of the matter. The whole of Germany is seething with the conviction that British foreign policy is inspired by deliberately aggressive intentions, and that the genuine popular feeling in Britain favouring improved relations is powerless to cope with the influences at work. Moderate men, men of business standing and experience with heavy stakes to lose, even the Socialists, have become, since last July, imbued with this conviction. It is no use Englishmen protesting, and with the utmost sincerity, against these suspicions. The nation harbours no such designs. But it is time that the nation made up its mind, quietly and firmly, to have done with the diplomatic methods which have caused a belief in such designs to become an article of faith in the breast of every patriotic German, to the detriment of the British national interest.



'My firm belief is that ... were ̧ Ireland detached from her political connexion with this country and left to her own unaided agencies, it might be that the strife of parties would then burst forth in a form calculated to strike horror throughout the land.'-W. E. GLADSTONE, 17th of February 1866.

MEMBERS of Parliament, irrespective of parties, who take their duties seriously and still cherish some respect for the functions of the House of Commons, look forward to the coming Session with the utmost foreboding. They are convinced that if the programme for 1912, as foreshadowed before Christmas, takes shape without modification, the Parliamentary machine will be smashed for all time. Of this far-reaching calamity some persons will be glad; more will be sorry, but all will recognise in it the one enduring monument to Mr. Asquith's Coalition Ministry. Payment of members' does not, unfortunately, stop at 4001. a year from the State. The Prime Minister has other bills due. for payment in various quarters of the House of Commons on account of value received; hence Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment and Manhood Suffrage (with Female Suffrage thrown in, perhaps, and Redistribution probably shelved in the preamble) are to be rushed through our Single-Chamber Parliament in the course of one brief year; leaving but the dregs of time and energy for the discussion of really urgent and serious problems connected with Finance, India, the Navy and the Army. It goes without saying that every one of these questions of vast Imperial moment will suffer incalculably by such a process, and it is more than doubtful whether real justice can possibly be done either to Ireland or to Wales whilst such manifest injustice is being meted out to the Empire as a whole.

But, given that three Bills of such magnitude are to be presented to Parliament before Easter, it is impossible to understand how the mere physical difficulty is to be surmounted which requires the representatives of the people to be in constant attendance at Westminster during the passage of these measures whilst, at the same time, their constituents will be most properly anxious to have detailed expositions and explanations from their members of Bills which vitally affect the political and social life of the

nation, but of which absolutely nothing is known to the nation up to the present time. The art of government,' says an old French proverb, 'is to foresee'; the new English practice re-writes the maxim, 'the art of government is to tell nothing.' Whilst there is time, however, and before these measures are thrown at the head of the House of Commons, it may perhaps be worth while to examine some of the reasons why one of them, the Home Rule Bill, should be rejected in the name of Justice to Ireland.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

One is sometimes inclined to despair of ever making Home Rulers believe that we who are Unionists do not spend the whole of our lives imagining how best we can throttle Irish aspirations or shackle Irish liberty; that we are quite as anxious as they are to foster the former and to protect the latter, but that we are convinced that both these objects can be achieved by methods far less revolutionary yet more progressive than those suggested by Mr. Gladstone and his successors. It is idle to answer that eighty Home Rule members sent over to the British Parliament year after year must surely know best what is good for their country.' It does not follow at all. I do not suppose that seventy of them will either have been consulted or will have the faintest inkling of what is in the Bill until they see it in print; but they will, nevertheless, say ditto' to Mr. Redmond and his three or four intimates who form the Nationalist Cabinet. Nor does it follow that the bulk of the Irish party represent in any true sense the voters in the constituencies for which they sit; for all that happens at election time is that they are nominated, and the United Irish League, with its well-known methods, does the rest. Whilst such tyranny is stalking unchecked through the land, it is not safe to vote against its candidates, and every Irish landlord, farmer, shopkeeper and peasant knows it. But if it were, even approximately, true that Irish Home Rulers know best what is for the good of Ireland, it is surely extraordinary that no Nationalist since the Act of Union was passed has himself drawn up and presented a Home Rule Bill to Parliament.' They hold themselves free to write ' pro tanto' across one of Mr. Gladstone's Bills, provisional' across the other, and to fling Mr. Birrell's Irish Council Bill into the gutter, but they do not appear to know so accurately what the Irish want that they can formulate their desires on paper; so they leave the work to be done by a Saxon and despise him for his pains.

Nothing is more exasperating than the vague language used by the leader of the Nationalist party in explanation of what he


''It is a grave difficulty that there is no public opinion in Ireland as to the form of the Irish Constitution' (p. 191, The Framework of Home Rule, by Erskine Childers).

really means by Home Rule. On English platforms he begs his audiences to take their courage in both hands, just to add one more Parliament to the twenty-eight now existing within the British Empire, and thus to make Ireland loyal by making her a 'nation.' Such words always secure, I am told, generous applause from a generous people. But the audiences are not really wiser until they discover that among the twenty-eight Parliaments referred to are Assemblies so enormously different in powers and composition as those of the Dominion Parliament of Canada, the Provincial Parliament of Quebec, the Crown Colony Parliament of the Bahamas, and the microscopic Parliaments of Guernsey and the Isle of Man! Mr. Redmond's hearers then appreciate the fact that he has been playing with them, and has left them to guess whether the Parliament which he asked them. to secure for him would make Ireland a nation like Canada, a province like Quebec, a dependant of the Colonial Office like the Bahamas, or a small and quite efficient administration under the Home Secretary like the Isle of Man. This much, however, they do see that if Mr. Redmond & Co. are out for a Parliament like that of Canada or Australia, they cannot expect subsidies from or representation in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster; for neither Canada, Australia, nor South Africa demand any such privileges.

And there are other tangles, too, which must be unravelled before the ordinary lay mind in Great Britain can fully understand what Home Rule really signifies to the brain of the Nationalist party; for the definitions of that wonderful phrase 'Home Rule are capable of such infinite variety. We learn, for instance, from Mr. Hugh Law, M.P., at Ilkley, that it means Irish control of purely Irish affairs, such as Irish education, public works, local government, drainage of Irish rivers and afforestation of Irish waste lands.' But, we argue to ourselves, these powers, which Ireland already possesses in the main, will not per se convert Ireland into a nation if she is not one already. So, leaving the follower, we turn to listen to his Master's voice and we hear Mr. John Redmond telling the Gaelic League, in September of last year, that their ideals will soon be realised, when Ireland will not only be self-governing-and will not be self-governing as a province of a foreign nation, but in the sense of a fully selfgoverned and self-reliant nation.' These are sentiments which the orator ought to express on British platforms; they are so much more easily comprehended of the people than a vague desire to be allowed to shine as the twenty-ninth Parliament-star in the British firmament of twenty-eight constitutional bodies. So far, then, we have the 'drainage' and the 'self-reliant nation definitions of Home Rule, but there are others from within the

« VorigeDoorgaan »