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material interests as a market for British goods and
enterprise, apart from the political complication of
its proximity to Gibraltar ; (c) the question of the
" French shore " in Newfoundland, a question of
rights which the French had retained from the
old time of French ascendancy in what is now
British North America (these rights had become
a source of trouble and conflict since the British

1 See p. 236.

243 R 2


colony of Newfoundland had become a self-
governing dependency and the once desert shores
in question had been reached by the expanding
interests of the island colonists) ; (d) the question
of the New Hebrides, islands which Australians
claimed to be within their sphere of influence, while
France claimed them to be within the sphere of
influence of her New Caledonian possessions, and
which meanwhile were a sort of no-man's-land in
which British and French settlers were exposed to a
dangerous state of anarchy ; (e) the question of Siam,
which had remained a bone of contention between the
British influence on the western side and the French
on the eastern, and where the respective antagonistic
interests involved constantly threatened to develop
into unmanageable incidents.

The arrangement of these difficulties involved con-
cessions by Great Britain which also settled other
difficulties. We had never agreed to the French
change in the economic status of Madagascar. We
now recognised the customs duties imposed by France
in that island. We ceded, moreover, certain islands
to France which fell within the geographical area of
the French Guinea coast, and consented to boundary
rectifications in Central and Western Africa, which,
while giving satisfaction to France, wiped out a
number of points of perennial irritation.

The arrangement resembled a treaty of peace, a
treaty such as the Powers concerned might have
concluded after a costly but undecisive war, such
as an Anglo-French war would probably have been.
More especially, in disposing satisfactorily of the
Egyptian question, it put an end to a difficulty
which the French not only considered a " vital



interest," but had come to regard as involving the

" national honour."


The question of the New Hebrides, which was after-
wards regulated in detail by an Anglo-French joint
commission, settled a matter which might easily
have been fanned into a matter of "national honour,"
complicated by a British colonial view difficult to
manage from London.

I had long been connected with the question of
Anglo-French rivalry in those parts, first as repre-
sentative of the Bank of South Australia and
the Glasgow interest in the New Caledonian
Nickel Company against John Higginson, and after-
wards, when the Glasgow people were bought out,
as the adviser of John Higginson himself.

John Higginson was one of the most interesting
adventurers it has been my lot to know. Born in
New South Wales, son of a small Irish Presbyterian
squatter, he found life, between the austerity of his
home and his inability to be anything but the school
dunce, so intolerable that one day he slipped away to
Sydney, hid himself aboard the first vessel sailing,
and found himself landed at fourteen years of age at
Noumea, in a country of which he did not know the
language. But he was strong of limb and could join
the coolies, and for a couple of years he kept body and
soul together as a lighterman. Then his chance came.
The French Government found it necessary to have a
regiment of cavalry to act as police for the main-
tenance of order among the unruly convict and native
populations. The horses were bought in Australia,
but they had to be broken in and men had to be taught
to ride them. Higginson, who was an expert horse-



man, offered himself for the job, and at ioof. a head
he created the first cavalry regiment in New Caledonia.
With the money earned he opened a store, and by the
time he reached manhood his store had grown to be
the largest in the island, and he had saved enough to
buy certain lands without which Noumea could not
expand. Then followed his famous concessions for
nickel and iron mines. To avoid difficulties in con-
nection with them he naturalised himself French and
married a French girl of fourteen, by whom he had
nineteen children, only one of whom was a boy. In
this, he said, Providence had again been kind to
him, seeing that he could choose his sons-in-law but
not his sons ! To work the immense mineral resources
of New Caledonia, Higginson, who had become the
chief industrial potentate of the island, took into
partnership with him Sir William Morgan, who after-
wards became Premier of New South Wales, and
through whom the New Caledonian nickel interest
reached Glasgow. Though Higginson never learnt to
speak French with perfect ease, his English was full
of French expressions, and he could write in neither
language correctly. But when he talked he was always
interesting. One day he told me that for years he
had been in pawn. One of the largest landowners in
the world, with enough concessions in rich and valuable
ores to keep the money market busy for a season, the
man who at the time held the destinies not only of
Noumea but of the New Hebrides in the palm of his
hand, had to live on promissory notes to pay his
hotel bill at the Mirabeau and borrow from its land-
lord to pay for his journeys to London. Eventually
he succeeded in disposing of his vast interests and
was able to square up all the money transactions



he had meanwhile contracted, but he was only a
free man for a few months. His life of anxiety
had affected his heart, and he died before he
had had time to enjoy the comfort of a steady



In the course of advising Higginson on many of his
complicated dealings, I became familiar with the
chaotic Anglo-French situation in the New Hebrides,
with the difficulties which were constantly cropping up
through the proximity to Australia of the New Cale-
donian convict colony, through the Australian theory
that New Caledonia and the New Hebrides were
within the Australian geographical area, and the con-
tention that, if there were grounds for a Monroe
doctrine within the American area, there were still
more in the case of Australia and the neighbouring
islands. So strong was the feeling on this subject
in New South Wales that preparations were made
at the time of Anglo-French tension in 1898 and
1900 to raid New Caledonia as soon as war was
declared. The island had been carefully surveyed
for landing purposes, and spies on the spot kept
the New South Wales people informed of any
movement, naval or military, on the island. The
distance from Sydney to Noumea is some 1,500 miles.
The ships were to slip round to certain fixed spots
known only to the commanders of the expedition
and to join each other on the island at a spot where
they would establish their base before rushing the

This was the state of things with which Lord
Lansdowne had to grapple in his settlement of the
New Hebrides question. As regards New Caledonia.



the suppression of the convict settlement has now
removed the chief Australian grievance.

w W w w W

There was an element of danger even in the Siamese
difficulty which had brought us within an inch of a
conflict with France, and which, far from being solved,
had been intensified by our Burmese campaign and
the consequent addition to our Burmese possessions.

But the spirit between the two peoples had become
a friendly one, and with popular feeling favourable
to a settlement the task of the negotiators was
uncomplicated by those extraneous considerations
which place their vicissitudes at the mercy of patriotic

The new conventions did not escape criticism, either
in this country or in France.

In the House of Commons, in the following month,
they were criticised adversely by Sir Charles Dilke,
Mr. T. Gibson Bowles, Mr. (now Sir) Joseph Walton,
and Mr. (now Lord) Robson. Sir H. Campbell-
Bannerman and Sir Edward Grey, on the other hand,
speaking with great Liberal authority, expressed
themselves warmly favourable to them. Lord Rose-
bery again in a speech at a meeting of the Liberal
League at the Queen's Hall on June 10, while
approving the object of the agreement between the
two Powers, deprecated the result. According to
him a more one-sided agreement had never been
concluded between two Powers at peace with each
other !

The agreements did not reach parliamentary dis-
cussion in the French Chambers till the following



November. The provisions relating to the " French
shore " and the Newfoundland fisheries had been
more or less severely criticised by different politicians
on the publication of the conventions, and the same
criticism was repeated by those who attacked M.
Delcasse in Parliament. However, on November 3,
after a three days' debate, the ensemble of the agree-
ments was carried by 443 votes to 105 !

■a. Jfe jfe jfe jfe

Among the provisions of the convention relating
to Egypt and Morocco was an article in which the
two Governments stated that " being equally attached
to the principle of commercial liberty, both in Egypt
and Morocco," they undertook " not in those countries
to countenance any inequality either in the imposition
of customs duties or other taxes, or of railway trans-
port charges," and stipulated that this " mutual
agreement " was to " be binding for a period of
thirty years," and thereafter to be extended, if not
denounced at least one year in advance, for further
periods of " five years at a time."

The full importance of this provision did not at
once strike the critics of the Egypt-Morocco con-
vention. That its effect was reciprocal for Egypt and
Morocco seems to have been thought satisfactory by
Governments and their critics on both sides. It gave
both the Egypto-British and the French Governments
power on the expiry of thirty years to impose duties
so far as they were respectively concerned. It was
obvious that, if France retained her protective policy
and her existing practice of regarding her colonies as
more or less exclusively reserved for the importation
of French manufactures, French imports into Morocco
after thirty years would probably be given the benefit



of preferential treatment as against British goods,
unless by raising a similar barrier in Egypt against
French goods (provided we were still entitled to do
so) we could force France to renew the equality-of-
treatment clause. At a time when " retaliation "
was regarded as an " open sesame " for British manu-
factures into all protected markets, this consideration
possibly seemed a sufficient guarantee against the
closing of the Morocco market !

The limitation of the duration of the clause in ques-
tion, however, was obviously not without danger for
our Morocco trade. As regards other countries, though
they were not bound by the agreements between the
two contracting parties, they might nevertheless find
themselves faced by a fait accompli thirty years hence,
closing both the Egyptian and the Morocco markets
to their trade. This was the one truly weak spot in
the conventions, as will be seen in the next chapter.

Immediately after the signature of the conventions
of April 8, 1 had intimations from friends, Lord Brassey,
Lord Alverstone, and M. d'Estournelles de Constant,
that my services in connection with the entente were
to be simultaneously acknowledged by the two
Governments. In June the King conferred a knight-
hood on me and the Republic the officership of the
Legion of Honour. But higher still than these out-
ward appreciations I value the private letters received
from the friends who had worked with me in a cam-
paign which it almost makes me giddy to think of,
now that its object has been attained. But for the
unfailing faith in the cause of my many powerful
collaborators and a Press on both sides which never
flinched in its support, public opinion could not have



been moved as it was. In this connection I may recall
the names already mentioned of Lord Alverstone, 1 Lord
Brassey, Sir William Holland (now Lord Rotherham),
Mr. Ernest Beckett (now Lord Grimthorpe), Sir John
Brunner, Mr. C. P. Scott (editor of the Manchester
Guardian), Lord Avebury, Mr. Hodgson Pratt, and
Mr. W. L. Courtney (editor of the Fortnightly Review),
whose active participation in the work has already
been mentioned. On the French side, the late M.
Frederic Passy, Professor Charles Richet (to whom
the Nobel Prize for Medicine has just been awarded),
M. d'Estournelles de Constant, M. Mascuraud (presi-
dent of the Comite Republicain du Commerce et de
V Industrie), and M. Decugis have all attached their
names to the general work of drawing the two
nations into bonds of union and peace.

# # # # #

From several hundreds of friends and fellow-
workers I received letters of congratulation. If I
select only one, it is not because I value the others
less, but because it marks more particularly the
feeling at the time towards a cause the character
of which has since been most mischievously mis-

Mr. Ernest Beckett, who, as one of the leading
spirits of the movement, could speak with authority,
wrote me : —

" I must send you a word of very hearty congratulation
upon the more than well-deserved honour that has at last
been bestowed upon you.

" I am delighted that your most brilliant and useful services
to humanity at large and your own country in particular
have met with recognition, and I can honestly say that, in

1 See his letter, p. 236.



my opinion, for whatever it may be worth, no honour that has
been conferred upon any individual for many years has been
so entirely merited by work of such value as yours. The
Government in honouring your successful efforts on behalf of
peace and good-will between nations that should always be
friends, in the teeth of difficulties and discouragements that
would have long ago daunted and deterred most men, have
honoured themselves more than you, and I am very glad that
you have been distinguished in the eyes of all men."




That a new era had dawned on Europe was not at
once realised by even the leaders of British public
opinion. It was vaguely felt, however, by some that
an entente with a foreign State, though entailing no
precise or binding engagement, might, nevertheless,
for its own preservation involve us in matters where
our interest was not obvious. What had not occurred
apparently to anybody was the possible lateral effects,
those unforeseen consequences of which Disraeli
subtly bid statesmen never to lose sight. The most
unforeseen of incidents, in fact, soon occurred, and
then we saw that our relation to our new friend's ally
had undergone a change, which has since developed
into a complete redistribution of the political forces
of Europe.

The Fashoda affair was essentially a diplomatic
incident. Lord Salisbury had to excite public opinion
on the subject artificially by the urgent publication
of a White Paper to get the nation to appreciate its
importance. The Dogger Bank incident at once
excited public opinion to such an extent that the
Government very nearly lost control. If war had
been declared or the Russian fleet had been annihilated
in the Channel without declaration of war, I firmly



believe there would have been bonfires from one
end of these islands to the other, as if we had
destroyed another Armada. That no excess occurred
was more than likely due to the Anglo-French

How the Russian fleet had wandered forty or sixty
miles out of its course still remains a mystery. A
Swedish naval officer whom I met on the occasion
of the visit of the Scandinavian parliamentarians to
Paris, and who had been at one time in the Russian
service, attributed it simply to nautical ignorance
and want of skill on the part of the Russian
officers, all the well-trained men in the Russian service
having already gone to the Far East. The explanation
given at the time was that a warning had been given
by Germany to the Russian Government that a
number of Japanese torpedo-boats built at Newcastle
were on the look-out to attack the fleet on its way
through the North Sea. This, however, does not
account for a deviation of forty to sixty miles
from the fleet's direct course through the open
sea, where suspicious craft would have been easily

Admiral Rojdestvensky's own report that two
torpedo-boats without lights had been seen advancing
and had afterwards disappeared, and that a war-
vessel reported to have remained in the vicinity till
morning must have been one of them, was never
substantiated. As Mr. Balfour in his speech at
Southampton on October 28 stated, their own sailing
directions must have warned them that, if they were
exposed to a Japanese attack, the place above all to
avoid was the Dogger Bank. The Admiral's con-
tention that in the circumstances, even in time of



peace, he could not have acted otherwise, the Prime
Minister rightly described as " extraordinary," to
say the least of it. A fleet acting on such a principle
would be a fleet of pirates, which should be hunted
down as enemies of mankind.

Whatever the cause may have been, the newspapers
were full of bellicose ardour, which became still more
intense during the week which followed the ominous
Friday, October 21. It seemed to me that the news-
papers were unnecessarily violent, and that even the
counter-proposal of the more pacific to arbitrate was
beside the mark. If there had been any allegation
of provocation or there had been a conflicting assertion
of right there would have been a case for arbitration.
But England could not have agreed to arbitration
without admitting that Russia had some semblance
of right on her side, which she had not. It was
clearly a case for a judicial inquiry. I thought this
ought to be made clear at once, and I telephoned to
Mr. J. A. Spender, editor of the Westminster Gazette,
on the subject. He saw my point and sent me
an interviewer forthwith. The same afternoon
(October 28) a short article appeared in its columns
under the heading of " Some Pleas in Suspense of
Judgment," the chief passage of which was as
follows : —

" Sir Thomas Barclay, whose labours in the cause of
international arbitration are so well known, had several
remarks pertinent to the crisis to make to a ' Westminster '
representative who saw him this morning. For one thing,
he pointed out that this is not a case for arbitration. Arbitra-
tion can only be resorted to when the facts of a dispute are
known and the issue is absolutely clear. There is. however,



obviously a case for inquiry and precisely such a situation is
provided against in the Hague Convention, under which a
Commission of Inquiry could be appointed by the Joint
Powers. Why should not this solution of the trouble be
resorted to, since before everything else it is exact knowledge
of the facts which is needed at present."

At the Cabinet Council the same afternoon it was
decided to agree to such an inquiry as suggested in
the above article.

There was an outcry, an unjustifiable outcry, at the
adoption of this solution, which was described as a
miserable compromise and anti-climax. Anyhow, a
Commission of Inquiry was appointed, and its report,
published in the following February, was the first great
triumph for the Hague Peace Convention. It was
truly so, but it was a still greater triumph for the
Anglo-French entente.

The influence France exerted as mediator between
her two friends marked the dawn of a new state of
things which required the most delicate handling.
It was obvious that our friendship with France was
destined sooner or later, with its consolidation, to
affect our policy in connection with France's ally.

How was this going to affect Germany ?

Wedged in between France and Russia, with
England dominating all her issues to the outer
world, her frontiers open to all the political winds
that blow, Germany has a geographical position
which forces her statesmen to listen with an anxious
ear to any movements, projects, or combinations of
her neighbours. In a country where military service
is compulsory and the life of every able-bodied



citizen is at stake on the slightest foreign provoca-
tion, public opinion, moreover, is easily excited, and
one of the cares of the Government is to anticipate
possible alarm. This it had done.

The semi-official Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung
had lost no time in reassuring German public opinion
on the effect of the Agreement of April 8, 1904.
German commercial interests, it said on April 10, " in
the North- West African Sultanate are in no peril of
being interfered with. On the contrary, successful
endeavours on the part of France ... to give
greater stability to public affairs in Morocco would
presumably benefit German as well as other com-

The Frankfurter Zeitung felt sure that France and
England had satisfied themselves that " what they
were arranging with each other was in no danger of
encountering opposition or resistance on the part of
Germany. 1

So far from anything in the agreements or in the
relations of France and England having any character
of hostility to Germany, they were too obviously
designed to put an end to strife and of too complicated
character to involve any arriere-pensee warranting
the remotest approach to any such idea. Nor did the
German Chancellor (Count von Bulow) entertain any
suspicion of their having any anti-German character.

1 A fortnight earlier the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, in its weekly
review of foreign policy for the week ending March 25, 1904, had already
remarked : — " So far as we can yet perceive, German interests could not be
affected by exchanges of views relative to Morocco. In view of the repeated
assurance given officially on the French side that France has in view neither
conquest nor occupation, but seeks merely to open up the Sultanate of
North-West Africa to European civilisation, the belief is warranted that
German commercial interests in Morocco are not exposed to any risk. There
is, therefore, no reason, from the German point of view, to regard the Anglo-
French entente in preparation with hostile eyes."

T.Y. 257 S


On April 12, in answer to a question on the subject in
the Reichstag, the Imperial Chancellor, referring to
the Anglo-French Agreement, said : —

" We have no cause to apprehend that this Agreement was
levelled against any individual Power. It seems to be an
attempt to eliminate the points of difference between France
and Great Britain by means of an amicable understanding.
From the point of view of German interests we have nothing
to complain of, for we do not wish to see strained relations
between Great Britain and France, if only for the reason that
such a state of affairs would imperil the peace of the world,
the maintenance of which we sincerely desire. As regards the
most important feature of the Agreement, Morocco, we have
a substantial economic interest there. Therefore, it is
essentially to our interest that peace and order should reign
in that country ; we have no ground to fear that our economic
interests in Morocco will be disregarded or injured by any
other Power." x

Count von Reventlow, in a speech in the Reichstag
two days later (April 14, 1904), referred, however, to
negotiations which had taken place between the
Chancellor and France in which the question of a
cession to Germany of a port on the Atlantic coast
had been mooted. If any such suggestion was really
made, it must have come from Germany, and would
probably not have appeared feasible either to France
or Great Britain.

1 A pan-German organ, the Rbeinisch-Westfdliscbe Zeitung, on the pre-
vious day (April n), however, struck a very different key. "Morocco,"
it said, "is a German concern. Germany must occupy herself with the
question because of her ever-increasing population, Morocco being a suitable
land for colonisation. Moreover, Germany is in need of naval bases. The
Anglo-French entente has made that question acute. If Germany refrains
from making claims, she will go empty-handed away from the partition of
the world. As England is eliminated from the Moorish question, Germany
has only France to deal with. The situation is so favourable that even

Online LibraryThomas BarclayThirty years, Anglo-French reminiscences (1876-1906) → online text (page 18 of 29)