Charles à Court Repington.

After the war; London--Paris--Rome--Athens--Prague--Vienna--Budapest--Bucharest--Berlin--Sofia--Coblenz--New York--Washington; a diary online

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Online LibraryCharles à Court RepingtonAfter the war; London--Paris--Rome--Athens--Prague--Vienna--Budapest--Bucharest--Berlin--Sofia--Coblenz--New York--Washington; a diary → online text (page 16 of 43)
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companies of whatever kind to increase their share capital
by fifteen per cent. He takes these new shares and sells
them back to the companies if they want them, and if
not, then in the open market, or keeps them and his
mortgages as securities to use for any purpose. This avoids
all question of prying into capital and profits. He takes
twenty per cent, of all moneys on deposit in the banks.
He proposes to take two, three, or four years' annual rent
from all estates except the large ones as a capital levy on
them, and if he cannot discover the amount of the rent he
judges by the nearest farm from which figures are avail-
able. From large estates he takes twenty per cent, of the
land and sells it to peasants and small farmers, thus making
an agrarian law of his own ; and from all these sources he
reduces his deficit, which he found when he came in, of


twelve milliards by seven milliards, and proposes to cover
the remaining five milliards deficit by an internal loan.
He has a foreign debt which he places at 130 milliards, and
thinks that as he is the debtor of France and England
these countries will give him time, say ten years, as France
has already undertaken to do, to pay the debt. Before
that time he hopes to have re-established Hungary's
financial stability and to have brought back the crown
nearly to the pre-war parity. The payment of this foreign
debt will not then cost the country what it would cost to
pay it now.

He thought the Treaty, when he first read it, not bad,
but good, because it was so bad that it could not endure.
Had it been better it would have been worse. He has
passed twelve out of some twenty-one Bills which com-
plete his programme, and if he gets through his capital
levy and agrarian schemes he thinks that the whole pro-
gramme will be completed. It is coming up to-day.
Much depends on what he is asked to do about reparations.
He hopes that his efforts to restore Hungary's credit
without appeals for help may be taken into consideration,
and that a fair amount of Hungary's debt may be allocated
to the Succession States which have annexed her territories
and populations. He is against what he calls the mor-
phinisation of a country by foreign loans. He tries to
copy English finance, and by copying England and America
in stopping the printing of notes he hopes to advance in
time to their standards in exchange. He is most ardently
in favour of free trade in the Succession States, and says
that England ought to help as she can sell nothing to them
at the present rates of exchange. He is furious with
Roumania for allowing no letters to go from Hungary to
Magyars now in Transylvania, and says that his relatives
and friends are constantly returning, as they find them-
selves unable to endure Roumanian rule from its cruelties,
exactions, and corruption. He says that the Hungarians
are the only race in Europe who are neither Slavs, Germans,
nor Latins, and would hope that we should extend our


protection to them. He amused me by saying that the
first thing he looked at in the morning was not the state of
the exchange, but the meteorological reports. The recent
slight rain, he said, meant milliards to him. We had
forty-two days of drought before it came.

Whatever the result of all these schemes may be, it
must certainly be admitted that Hungary is facing her
difficulties bravely and helping herself. It is only to be
hoped that the Reparations people when they come here will
not be such a great expense to this little country as they
have been elsewhere, or try to exact payments from a
people who are trying to avoid appeals to Europe. The
best reparation is to allow Hungary to recover economically
and then trade.

Alfred Stead came in late and told me much about his
efforts to galvanise British trade with life again. He too is
doing something, and is one of the few Englishmen really
working here. He gave me his views about the future of
the Danube. Dined with the Greek Minister and his wife.

An interesting visit, and am sorry that it is so short, as
there is much more that I should like to have seen and
done here. The real obstacle to progress in this part of the
world is the racial rivalry of all these people, who are all
embittered by the war, while the vanquished are still more
embittered by the Peace and by the loss of so many of
their people by the transfers of territory. All the same, I
find that Austria and Hungary are ready in principle for
free trade, and I think it was a pity that free trade within
the old Empire was not enforced at the Peace. I expect
that I shall find more objections to sensible economics in
Roumania, Jugo-Slavia, and perhaps Bulgaria than I find
in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. I think that we should
reconsider our attitude to Hungary. It seems to me that
Hungary, Jugo-Slavia, and the Czechs are the strong
people in these parts, and I doubt from all accounts whether
Roumania will prove any serious barrier against Bolshevism
if a barrier be needed. 1 Hungary, I think, will, and all

1 I altered my opinion after visiting llouinunia.


except Jugo-Slavia are horribly afraid of her. Her martial
reputation has survived defeat. Altogether Central Europe
is full of fascinating problems, but one must keep a more
or less open mind till one has visited Bucharest, Sofia, and
Belgrade. Then one can conclude.

Thursday, April 21, 1921. As there was no direct train
to Vienna to-day, I made a virtue of necessity, started at
dawn, and made a long detour through Hungary round
Lake Balaton and so to Vienna by 7 P.M. Very glad to
have seen this country and to have gained this bird's-eye
view of Hungary's wealth. The crops looking better after
the few days of light rain. A general air of content. The
black soil looks amazingly rich. Flocks of sheep, large
droves of pigs, plenty of horses and cattle, extensive vine-
yards, much bee-keeping, and any amount of farmyard
fowls. The houses well built and looked comfortable.
Usually single -storied, brick and tile. Balaton of great
length and fair breadth. Hardly any coal on the railway :
the stations had piles of wood. Went to the Imperial
again, and managed to get dressed in time to dine with
Sir William Goode at the Bristol, where I found a party
of a dozen men, largely Americans, including General
Churchill, U.S.A., Walter D. Hines, just back from looking
into the division of enemy Danubian shipping, the American
Charge d' Affaires, and a few Austrians, like Police -President
Schober and the clever doctor who has done so much for
the Vienna children.

I was glad to see Schober again, and told him that there
were a few things I wanted still to know from him, especially
the value of his police and the gendarmerie, and the com-
position of the crowds which painted Vienna red every
night. Were they foreign or Viennese ? He thought that
his police were very trustworthy, and that he had full
control. The gendarmerie in the Provinces were some
nine thousand and were also good. The so-called Army
was no good at all. Why not abolish it and increase the
police forces ? Schober said that it was a Socialist toy.
They came to him privately and admitted that it was


useless, but publicly they had to support it. Schober
wished that Austria might be allowed to have Militia
service with compulsion. So, no doubt, would Germany.
I then asked him about the night life of Vienna, and told
him how it had disgusted many people in view of Vienna's
food condition. I had heard various explanations given,
what was the right one ? He said that Vienna, like all
great capitals, catered for public wants. Vienna had
always laid herself out to entertain her visitors, and did so
still. He had made a number of perquisitions, i.e. raids,
on the various night haunts and had found that ninety per
cent, of the people attending there were foreigners, and
that the remaining ten per cent, were the new rich, largely
Jew, and not four per cent, real Viennese.

Mr. Hines a thoroughly capable American with a judicial
turn of mind. He thinks that the riparian States will
accept his decision about the ships. The real trouble is
the frontier question. The Danube is only in principle
free. Also the trade is mainly up from Galatz and not
down. But he thinks that there will be a big surplus of
wheat soon, and that if coal were sent out at that moment
the emptied barges could take coal up the river. He and
the American Charge d'Affaires were most bitter about
France who, they say, will soon be cordially detested
everywhere. The French Government, or at least their
Minister here, had committed a folly in protesting here
against the Anschluss vote in the Tyrol, and had declared
that the Reparations Commission would resume its work
and credits be withheld, but .as everybody here knows that
Goode is winding up and going away next week, and that
there are no credits, this leaves the Austrian Government
cold. The result of this folly, to which we weakly adhered,
has been to give an immense fillip to the Pan-German
Party, and there had been a big meeting at Vienna and
the French had been hissed. I think the English too,
and there is going to be another meeting. This is all
exactly contrary to the suggestions which I sent to Lord
Burnham, for I told him that the movement were better


not taken tragically and were best ignored, as it was
platonic and the Government here was quite sound. But
now public feeling has been aroused. It is difficult to cope
with such light-headed policy.

There was a British officer present who was shortly
going to Budapest on the military control to look into
Hungarian armaments, to see the Trianon Treaty ratified.
He asked for my views. I told him that if there were arms
and so on they would have been concealed long ago, and
he would find nothing : also that I did not think it was any
disadvantage to us if Hungary were strong. In any case,
she is entitled to the Armistice scale until the lapse of a
certain period after the Ratification. Goode said that the
Americans here all knew my views and had read my last
book. He had intended to dine with me alone, but the
Americans had insisted upon coming to meet me. Several
of them offered to help me in every possible way. I told
Hines that the Americans would have to come into European
politics again, for we could not do the Atlas business much
longer. We were too small a country and our internal
difficulties were too great. If the Americans did not come
in, things might begin to crumble. Under the rule of
demagogues and agitators, who put the nose of our F.O. out
of joint, we could not control affairs abroad, and they must
see how their own trade was being paralysed. They were
much interested in the financial policy of Hegediis. But
I can never recall his name. I can't get nearer to it than

Vienna, Friday, April 22, 1921. With great difficulty
got a ticket to Paris and a sleeper. Wrote a first article on
Hungary. Wet and cold.

Saturday, April 23, 1921. Li the train for two days and
a night bound for Paris. Met an intelligent Director of an
Anglo-Austrian Bank. We agreed that Central Europe
had not thrown up any man of distinction except in Czecho-
slovakia, and that the inability of the Austrian Government
to impose its will on the Provinces was a very serious
matter, Met also an educated better-class Pole, one of


the many foreigners I have met lately who are travelling
for American firms, not to do business, but to watch and
report events so that the United States may be ready for
any business going. The state of the exchange practically
prohibits business. Many of the traders have suffered
heavily because they have not protected themselves
properly in their contracts against the practice of Eastern
Europe to refuse to pay until the exchange improves. The
United States are flooding Eastern Europe with their
travellers and expert observers, and they choose foreigners
of some position, probably on account of the general
American ignorance of foreign tongues, and because they
find it necessary to deal with leading people who will not
talk to the ordinary trade traveller. My belief is that we
shall need to make a great effort to prevent Germany, with
her depreciated exchange, from dominating all these
markets after reparations are finally regulated.


The conversations at Lympne Upper Silesia, the sanctions, and the
Ruhr Views of Lord Hardinge and Mr. Arnold Robertson Sir Milne
Cheetham on French vigour Colonel Baldwin on Danube affairs Mr.
Robertson on Rhine customs and the proposed occupation of the Ruhr
His alternative proposal Marshal Petain in readiness He invites
me to accompany him His views on subject races The census of
Paris Germany's liabilities fixed at 132 milliards of gold marks Sir
Basil Zaharoff Boucher pictures The business honesty of different
nationalities A story of the Chinese Zaharoff's gold plate Comfort
and civilisation The Dutch Loan Exhibition A conversation with
M. Clemenceau An unchanged host and house He will write nothing
about the past He is opposed to the occupation of the Ruhr France
financially exhausted Views on Marshals Foch and Petain Clemen-
ceau's love of Burma Clemenceau's life His wound His reply to
the Sister of Charity A good story of Clemenceau Prince Ghika and
Count Zamoyski Preparations for a move into Germany The situa-
tion A motor trip to Princess Murat's house The 1919 class called
out, but the Essen coup put off Painful moments at the London
Conference A brief visit to England.

Paris, Sunday, April 24, 1921. Arrived from Vienna about
noon. David Loch dined with me and we exchanged news.
A huge and over-dressed (i.e. under-dressed) crowd at the
Ritz : about seventy per cent. American and ten per cent.
French ; saw a number of friends from England. A perfect
Babel of noise : most strange dresses and precious little of
them, but rivulets of jewels and a blaze of light. Not a
good place to choose for a quiet talk. Had forgotten that
it was Ritz Sunday. What an odd thing humanity is.

Monday, April 25, 1921. Finished my Hungarian articles
and sent them off with my diary to Burnham. The French
correspondents give such excellent accounts of what hap-
pened at Lympne that one might almost have been there.



Berthelot must have posted them up. Conversations not
decisions. The latter are reserved for an Inter- Allied
Supreme Council in London next Saturday. Germany
twisting and turning to evade the French spear. She has
failed to induce America to arbitrate, but is to send her
proposals to Washington and Harding is to send them on
to us if they seem to meet the case. The French fixed upon
the occupation of the Ruhr. A big job. Our Press warmly
supporting them. Lunched with Lord Hardinge and
Evelyn Lady Alington at the Embassy. He is, of course,
not informed yet of anything that passed at Lympne and so
dares not see Briand and admit his ignorance. A fig for
diplomacy !

H. agrees with me that our treatment of Greece is the
greatest disgrace of our diplomatic history. He also agrees
that Hungary and Greece are States worthy of our support.
We discussed Upper Silesia, the sanctions, and the Ruhr.
Robertson, of the Rhineland High Commisson, tells him
that the British can hold the Ruhr with four battalions, but
it will need 250,000 French to hold it. The French propose
to send six divisions and to call out the 1919 class. But I
think that the Germans will meet us and that matters will
be squared. H. told us that he and Grey had bought up
the Constantinople quays in 1906, squaring the French by
half the loot, and at the expenditure of 260,000, which
the Bank of England had advanced, had made 80,000
profit. When the war broke out, Parliament knew nothing
of the transaction. The profits had been spent on secret
service during the war, but now they would be accruing
again. I said that it was Dizzy's Suez Canal coup on a
small scale. H. had made the Ambassadors here transfer
their Rhine responsibility to the R.H.C. because they
were the proper technical authority. A very sound move.
The four battalions of ours sent to Silesia were now in
England and the French were demanding them for the
Rhine. H. says that all the spare troops from Palestine are
also back in England, and that Harington's position in the
Straits is an anxious one because the Greek division at



Ismid is leaving to join its Army and the French have
refused to allow their troops to pass to the Asiatic shore of
the Straits. This is the French idea of giving Harington
the command ! We had a good talk about French politics.
Lady A. not changed in nature since she was a girl. We
talked of the old days at Amington. She remembered every
corner and every picture there. Much talk of my trip and
of events in Central Europe. A meeting of the Conseil
Supe>ieur to-day under Millerand, and then he held a
Conseil des Ministres after Briand's return.

Tuesday, April 26, 1921. Saw Sir Milne Cheetham in
the morning and Mr. Chain's later ; also Spring-Rice, First
Secretary. Cheetham thought the French extraordinarily
vigorous people, for they were pushing their interests
everywhere and seemingly cared nothing for the general
enmity that they were arousing. We thought that a settle-
ment might take place with Germany, but we are still
without the German note to the United States and Harding 's
view of it. Met Lady Juliet Trevor, who is staying with
Princess Murat, and was looking wonderfully well. Also
pretty Mrs. Felix Doubleday. Tried to find Mr. Arnold
Robertson who is at Princess Hotel, Rue de Pressbourg,
and Colonel Baldwin of the Danube Commission at an
hotel, 17 Rue Boissy d'Anglas. Both out. Went on to
the Boulevard des Invalides and saw Millescamps, A.D.C.
to Marshal Petain, who tells me that the Marshal is deborde
just now, so I suppose that they are really fussing to get
ready for the Ruhr.

Colonel Baldwin came in to see me later. He is not only
on the Inter-Allied Conference here, but on the Inter-
national Commissions on the Lower Danube, Elbe, Rhine,
etc. He tells me that the Mannheim-Regensburg Canal
would have to be rebuilt to serve larger barges, and cannot
be deepened owing to technical difficulties. If it is made,
the Germans are bound by the Treaty to apply the inter-
national rules for navigable rivers to it. The rule is that
navigable rivers traversing the territories of more than one
State are free and must be regarded as the sea and not be


subject to dues and rates or obstacles to trade. He finds
the greatest difficulties to arise from the small minds of
Roumania and Serbia, who try to make out that they can
do what they please with a river of which they have the
two banks in certain places. If they do not ratify the Con-
vention, they cannot be made to do so ! Therefore the Con-
vention must be arrived at by agreement. He says that the
Roumanians hate the old Commission, dating from 1856,
which rules from Braila to the Black Sea, but we hold to it
because six thousand ton ships go up to Braila and we have
forty per cent, of this trade. He would like the future H.Q.
of the Commission for the Danube from Ulm to Braila to
be at Budapest, but Czechs, Serbs, and Roumanians resist
this and each wants it in his own territory, i.e. at Bratis-
lava (Pressburg), Belgrade, or Braila. 1 So he hopes to get it
at Vienna, in spite of jealousies, and thinks that if he can
get it there for five years it will remain there. He thinks
that the question of the Iron Gates is most important. He
is interested in the French Strasbourg-Basel Canal, which
will allow two thousand ton barges to go from London to
Basel under their own steam, but as the canal is to have
eight locks and will take from twenty-five to fifty years to
build, the plan is not of any use to trade in the near future.
This section of the Rhine, already bad, would cease to be
navigable, as the French would divert the water into the
Canal in order to secure power. B. says that the London
Chamber of Commerce oppose the scheme, and that so do
the Swiss, who are doing much propaganda in London
through a man called Palliser. I still think that an im-
proved Mannheim-Regensburg Canal, giving us a clear
international water highway from the Port of London to
the Black Sea, would be of great service to us and to all the
riverside States, not only in itself, but as a protection
against high railway rates. I wish it had been in the Treaty
as an obligation upon Germany. He tells me that his French
colleague is a very good fellow and works with him cor-
dially. So would the Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians,
1 The place chosen was Bratislava, for a term of five years.


who will eventually join, but at present have only a right
to attend and express their views, and not to vote. The
Conference will simply tell them what to do. B. thinks that
however difficult the French may be, our best policy is to
maintain the Alliance. He thinks that Austria must go to
Germany. I told him all the grave objections to it. The
Tyrol plebiscite has gone warmly for the Anschluss by
overpowering majorities, some ninety per cent. The
Italians not at all pleased.

Wednesday, April 27, 1921. Mr. Arnold Robertson, the
British Commissioner on the Rhineland High Commission,
lunched with me. His colleagues are still M. Tirard,
the President, who is clever, and the Belgian M. Rolin
Jaequemyns, who is a sound capable lawyer. Tirard is
always in close touch with his Government. Robertson
was never consulted about the customs line, and has not
been consulted upon the pending Ruhr operation. He
has a staff of one hundred and fifty -seven people. He
wants back the missing four battalions very badly. The
customs line is established. It holds up all the main
trade and he is not worrying about small smuggling. He
has taken the Germans' customs laws and has applied
them to the extent of twenty-five per cent. : he will raise it
to fifty per cent, and then to the full figure later, but it
was thought best not to hit the Rhineland too hard at
first. He says that all the German customs, all round all
their frontiers, only brought in twenty millions sterling
last year, and he does not expect more than one and a half
millions from the Rhineland. His own staff are very good
and all speak German as well as English.

He tells me that the fifty per cent, scheme of L. G.'s-has
merely had the effect of arresting German trade, so that
will bring in nothing and only destroy our German trade,
in and out. He disapproves of the proposed occupation of
the Ruhr by the French and says that he expects trouble,
though it is impossible to say how far it will go. He
doubts that the French can manage the mines, and thinks
that they will make as big a mess of it as of the Saar, where


the output has fallen by sixty per cent. He expects the
miners to strike and says that the French will need 200,000
men. He personally would simply hold, administer, and
exploit the line we have now and make the German coal
barges at Ruhrort pay dues. He would take over the whole
Rhineland, and says that it would only mean another fifty
men on his own staff. He would, as a sanction, withdraw
all undertaking to give up the Rhineland and the other
points . He is convinced that the war will recommence and
that we should therefore place ourselves in the most
favourable position. The constant infraction of their
undertakings by the Germans gives us every right to secure
ourselves. He believes that the Germans can pay and
should be made to pay. There were three thousand high-
powered German motor cars at a Rhine race-meeting the
other day. A rich German told him that the capital levy
did not hurt anybody much, as it was based on the capital
of 1917 in gold and was now payable by the same amount
of paper ! Also one of his friends who made his return in
1919 was not assessed yet. Robertson thinks a guerilla
war possible, but regards passive resistance and strikes
as the worst danger. If the Germans do these things the
French may treat the Ruhr as the Germans treated the
French and Belgian factories and mines, and wreck them.
I said that it all seemed to me very grave and as serious
as August 1914.

He does not know whether he will have anything to do
with the Ruhr affair. If he has, he will need one hundred
and twenty more people to keep him informed about

Online LibraryCharles à Court RepingtonAfter the war; London--Paris--Rome--Athens--Prague--Vienna--Budapest--Bucharest--Berlin--Sofia--Coblenz--New York--Washington; a diary → online text (page 16 of 43)