Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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Eastern Europe, the growing pressure of whole
communities anxious to migrate immediately,
the influence which is being brought to bear
from all quarters of the world on the Conference
at Paris. But the explanation of these things
is not far to seek. As so often, the moderate
policy of the statesmen of Europe and the


leaders of Zionism is accepted with enthusi-
asm because it means infinitely more to the
masses of Jewry than to its originators. It
matters little by what name statesmen dis-
tinguish their policy ; it matters a great deal
whether or not they offer that policy as a full
satisfaction of a popular aspiration. They have
so offered " the national home," and the aspira-
tion is not modified thereby, it is merely
labelled. Zionism formed no part of the prac-
tical programme of any European statesman in
1914 ; it has had the appearance of forcing itself
upon the world almost without conscious agency
or volition ; and its leaders to-day are still
hardly capable of controlling their own move-
ment or estimating its possible development.
The only thing that can be predicted with
certainty is that it will dominate the whole
family of nations for many years to come.

Such are the rough outlines of the new Europe.
This is not the place to consider in detail those
other problems of the new order in Asiatic
Turkey and Africa, committed by Article 22 of
the Covenant to the care and regulation of
the League. The whole question of the govern-
ment of backward races requires separate
treatment. It is enough to point out here
that the mandatory system enshrined in the
treaty accomplishes nothing of itself and is
but the germ of an idea whose fruits the Confer-
ence has had no time to ripen or gather. In
Africa no comprehensive system of international
obligations or co-operative action has replaced
the obsolete Berlin and Brussels Acts, and the


terms of the mandates can do little more
than apply to a few territories the recognised
principles of British colonial rule. Until the
new Europe itself takes on definite form and
colour, no reshaping of its relations to its de-
pendencies in other continents can be looked
for. The new Europe is launched ; but Age,
not Youth, is at the prow, Age and Experience
uncertain to what disciples they can hand down
the heavy responsibilities of the voyage ; and
at the helm, not Pleasure, but bitter memories
and disillusionment. There is in the voyage,
perhaps, the hope of great discoveries, and we
have at least the guiding star of sacrifices which
surely can not have been wholly vain, but only
the untiring efforts of a generation can prevent
the ship from foundering in uncharted seas.



" There was an undoubted softening of the Roman
character. . . . The labours of the great stoic lawyers
were giving expression to cultivated moral feeling, in a
more liberal recognition of the rights of the weak and
oppressed. Yet a society may be humane and kindly
while it is also worldly and materialised. . . . With all
its humanitarian sentiment and all its material glories
the Roman world had entered on that fatal incline which,
by an unperceived yet irresistible movement, led on to
the . . . petrifaction of Roman society." Dill.

WE have considered the new Europe, with its
outskirts in Asia, country by country, as a
family of nations, a system of separate state
sovereignties, slowly and painfully evolved
out of the ruins of the Roman Empire and the
chaotic elements of mediaeval Christendom.
From this development, the drama of European
political civilisation, we have seen that Britain
and America have stood curiously ajoof ; yet
in the society which is its product they are
now pledged to take a leading and responsible

But this society is something more than the
sum of its political parts. In this family of
nations there have always been forces that



knew no boundaries of sovereignty, moving
Britain herself no less than her neighbours in
Europe. The most remarkable feature of
Britain's aloofness has been that, even where
these international forces have revolutionised
her internal life, they have affected her foreign
policy very little. Like her neighbours in
Europe she owed the birth of her life and thought
to Roman Christianity and like them she resisted
the political encroachments of the Church, but
throughout the Middle Ages she took little part
in the struggle between Guelf and Ghibelline,
between the claims of the Vicar of Christ and
the divine right of kings. At the Reformation
she led the revolt from Rome but, except during
the few years of Cromweirs power and possibly,
in a sense, during the Seven Years' War, she
refused to throw in her political lot with the
Protestant cause in Europe. To-day in
common with Europe, she is shaken by move-
ments no less powerful than these. Like the
earlier revolutions of religion, they transcend
political boundaries. They care nothing for
the historical and racial foundations of the
new political Europe but tend to mould the
future of civilisation as a whole with little
reference to national life or the machinery
of national legislation and administration.
Everyone knows the history of their growth
from the new commercial system inaugurated
by the industrial revolution, yet, profoundly
as Britain has been moved by these forces,
she has been remarkably slow to realise their
effects in moulding international life and policy.


She has been the leader of the industrial revolu-
tion, the pioneer in the field of foreign commerce
and, in a sense, the inventor of modern trade
unionism. Yet she awoke with a shock in
1914 to realise how Germany had turned inter-
national finance and commerce to the account
of her world policy in ways undreamed of by the
City or Whitehall, and not only British labour
but even British socialist thought has remained
extraordinarily untouched by the struggles and
controversies of the continent. For the most
part, Englishmen have remained soberly content,
even in their most radical moods, with the
general idea of democracy and the popular
will. They have hardly been aware of the
growth of the deadly struggle, within the
ranks of European democracy, between the
impulses of nationalism and of social revolution.
That struggle was openly declared half a century
ago in the controversy between Mazzini and
Bakunin, and it hardly stirred our interest.
To-day we see it incarnated in Mazaryk and
Lenin and our whole attitude towards the
affairs of Europe shows that it has taken us
by surprise.

Yet it is with these fundamental movements
in the modern world that we, as members of
the League of Nations, have to deal. In
surveying the state of Europe the personalities
of statesmen and the complexion of parliaments
matter comparatively little. The old " liberal "
thermometers and yardsticks no longer suffice
to measure the temperature or the growth of
political communities. The old issues between


clerical and anti-clerical, trade unions and
employers, landlords' rights and agrarian reform,
are often little but incidental skirmishes on the
flanks of political life. Plebiscites and con-
stituent assemblies, universal suffrage and
responsible ministries, are no longer the ad-
mitted tests of the popular will. We cannot
begin to understand the political world of
which, as members of the League of Nations,
we have constituted ourselves the guardians,
unless we grasp the deeper philosophies which
are dividing Europe before our eyes. We
ourselves may perhaps, after our traditional
British habit, succeed for many years in recon-
ciling contradictory faiths in an illogical but
workable system of government. We may
still continue to use our British apostles of
the international revolution as municipal sediles,
to combine Tory democracy with syndicalism,
to eke out our parliament with Soviets and
to enlist Larkin and the Daily Herald in
the service of Irish nationalism. Our political
genius, hovering always between the lukewarm-
ness of Loadicea and the charity that covers a
multitude of sins, may so cloud the issues by
compromise that we shall forget their existence.
But in Europe, in the world at large, the
swords which have been drawn cannot be
sheathed so easily. At moments of crisis,
truces may be made or temporary bargains
struck. Marx may applaud Bismarck, and Red
and White in Hungary may ally themselves
for national defence or aggression. Lenin may
be astute enough to adopt the doctrine of


national self-determination, for the avowed
purpose of still further disintegrating the state
system of Europe. But, fundamentally there
is an irrepressible conflict. That conflict is
beyond our power or the power of any political
League of Nations to heal ; but, by understanding
it, we and America, who are somewhat, for the
moment, above the battle, can in a measure
moderate it and influence its elements towards
at least some temporary fusion. How long
we shall ourselves be able to blunt the edge
of these opposing faiths in our own countries
may well be doubted, but by labouring to
understand the desperate danger of European
society to-day we may perhaps be better armed
to meet our own hour of trial to-morrow.

It is no part of our purpose to trace the steps
by which the power of international commerce
or the doctrine of the class war has laid hold on
the civilised world. The League of Nations
has much to do in softening or adjusting com-
petition for the control of markets and sources
of wealth ; but for our purpose it is sufficient,
on this point, to express the opinion that the
power of " capital " and " finance " as inde-
pendent international forces has been greatly
exaggerated. On the whole wealth has remained
national, for it is dependent on national laws
and national conditions iar more than on inter-
national relations. It has aimed at influencing
the domestic programmes of governments far
more than their foreign policy. International
aggregations of capital are engines of power
which national statesmen have often, as in the


case of Germany, sought to control for political
ends not independent authorities moulding
statesmen to their will. The " yellow inter-
nationale " to use a current cant phrase has
been used as a tool by ambitious governments,
but it has not, generally speaking, had either
the inclination or the political sense to control
international relations for economic purposes.
It might easily become dangerous, but it is
not dominant.

It is very different with the complex forces
which are commonly lumped together under the
rough definition of the " class war." On this,
the main subject of the present chapter, a
multitude of historians and controversialists
have scrutinised the growth of modern revolu-
tionary movements from the explosions of
1789 and 1848 and the development of modern
industrialism, though socialism and syndicalism,
to the rule of the proletariat in the soviet
republic. We shall not attempt to cover the
same ground and we may be forgiven for
believing that historical criticism and doctrinal
exposition have alike failed to probe the roots
of the revolt or read the hearts of those who
have preached it and followed it as a holy war.

For those and they have been the teachers of
the present generation who hold the accepted
orthodoxies of the later nineteenth century,
who believe in "law and order " and " progress/'
in " nationality " and " representative demo-
cracy," are prone to self-complacent assumptions
too little warranted by history. Anyone who
passed through university or high school in


England or Scotland during the decade pre-
ceding the war is familiar with these assumptions.
The feet of democracy were firmly set on the
path of progress ; the true machinery for the
registration of the popular will had been
ascertained and fixed ; we were the heirs of the
ages, ordained to our ministry by the heir-
archies of reform ; all that remained for us
was to labour in well-marked fields of social
policy, spreading material comfort and the
discoveries of modern science, sure that in due
time we should reap if we fainted not. True,
the school of philosophic radicalism had lost
its authority ; its serenity had given place to a
more passionate temper ; the miseries and
wrongs of the " submerged tenth " were im-
pressed vividly on our imaginations and we
were bidden to gird our sword upon our thigh
to remedy them without too close a scrutiny
of constitutional or economic maxims. But
these newer influences, while they blurred the
principles of orthodox liberalism, in nowise
lessened its self-assurance. We still lived
under the spell cast over political thought by
the scientific theory of evolution. The idea
of cataclysm was inconceivable to us. The
warmth of Mr. Lloyd George's oratory, Pro-
fejsor Hobhouse's ingenious reasoning and Mr.
Massingham's pontifical pharisaism widened
the banks of individualism till its waters,
mingling with the turbulent floods of Christian
socialism, spread themselves impartially over
the whole field of human needs and aspirations,
but no breath of doubt was allowed to enter


our mind that " the remedy for the faults of
democracy was more democracy," that here
and here alone was the true stream of freedom
and progress, bearing the human race irresistibly
from the mists of primitive mountains to the
sea of perfect liberty and limitless opportunity.
It is hardly surprising that any man, nurtured
in such comfortable certainties, should even
to-day cling to his philosophy amid the ruins
of a world, beckoning us to "turn from these
explorations of ' crossways ' the sectional path
of labour, the class path of socialism, the anti-
political path of syndicalism, and the fatal
mule-track of anarchism to survey the straight
path along which the community-as-a-whole
may advance through self-government to peace
and prosperity." It is less surprising because,
since August, 1914, every allied statesman
in Europe and America has preached but one
view of the war, has raised but one standard for
us to follow, has filled the press and the forums
with but one chorused explanation of our aims
and our ideals that our cause was the cause
of democracy and that cause, by itself and of
itself, was worth every sacrifice of life and
happiness that men and women could offer.
With so easy a confidence in their premises
have our leaders been filled that, as the trials
of war deepened and the horizon grew ever
darker, their forecasts become more brilliant
and more sweeping, and the careful student
of their utterances, including those many
millions of simple people who could not quote
them but who remember vaguely their reiterated


purport, may stand assured to-day not only
in M. Bourgeois' phrase, of a " regime of
organised law for the world " and a guarantee
of full rights of self-determination for all
peoples, but even of " a new heaven and a
new earth/' wherein shall dwell, if not
righteousness, at least universal comfort and
prosperity. Never have we been assured more
loudly than at the present moment that " the
one great danger of democracy the only
danger that it need ultimately fear is that it
may fail to be true to itself, that it may forget
its own ideals." Never have we been more
confidently bidden to believe that " the for-
tunes of self-government are bound up with
the fortunes of nationalism, since it is only in
communities unified by national feeling that
genuine self-government is possible."

Even before the war some of us who read
history found our belief in these assumptions
seriously shaken. If there is one well-marked
characteristic of the last days of an era, when
community life is ebbing, when political thought
has lost its freshness, when innate life and faith
are giving place to the paler hopes of reason
and tradition and when the judgment of
violent death and dissolution is about to be
pronounced upon a society, like Laodicea of
old, too blind to realise, amid its claims that
it is " rich and increased with goods and has
need of nothing," that it is " wretched and
miserable and poor and blind and naked "
if there is one sure sign of such times as these
it is the growth of a humanitarian philosophy


springing from a keen realisation of the ills
and injustices of human life, but preaching
a calm belief in the power of a liberalised
system of government, softened by benevolence
and enlightened by education, to right wrongs
and eradicate evils. History never exactly
repeats itself and these features of decay
have varied almost infinitely from age to age,
but they can be recognised again and again on
the eve of revolution and disaster. These
are the times when the Utopias are written
and the noonday genius of statesmanship is
reconstructed and codified into encyclopaedias
of government and philosophies of politics
to guide the careful reformers of the twilight.
It was in such days that the stoicism of Seneca
and Marcus Aurelius laboured to " translate
the stubbornness of fortune into so quiet and
so sweet a style " that " Rome had its touching
charity sermons on occasions of great public
distress ; its charity children in long file, in
memory of the elder Empress Faustina ; its
prototype, under patronage of Aesculapius,
of the modern hospital for the sick/' May it
not be, after all, that the " era of social reform "
in which we were all so proud to live before the
war and which, we are now so often told, has but
been interrupted by the irrelevant upheaval
of the last five years, will be recorded in future
history in the same category with that other
era of active and enlightened benevolence,
little more than a century earlier, when Pombal
and d'Aranda, Turgot and Joseph II, Leopold
of Tuscany and Tanucci, laboured painfully


to heal the festering sores of pre-revolutionary
Europe ? Is it not at least worthy of remark
that the only country left untouched by violent
revolution after 1789 was our own where, alone
among all the states of Europe, social reform had
played no prominent part in the programmes
of eighteenth century statesmanship ?

Whether or not there be any truth in such
misgivings we should do well to formulate
them to ourselves, for, long before the war,
they were already haunting men's minds. The
fact is that many of the assumptions, easily
made by thinkers and politicians, never gained
real currency with the masses of the people.
Democracy as a catchword, a vague ideal,
can rouse the emotions of millions, as this war
has proved ; but as a form of government,
a constitutional system, the consecrated medium
for the progressive reform and improvement
of the race, its claims have never sunk deeply
into the hearts of men. Economists were wont,
a few years ago, to relate to their pupils with
kindly tolerance the wild and abortive attacks
made on their science by Carlyle and Ruskin, yet
they are mistaken if they believe that they enjoy
a secure and acknowledged victor}^ The spirit
of those attacks still lives and works. Idealist
and malcontent, decadent and philistine,
quietist and rebel, alike find in the orthodox
teaching of history, economics or political
science a refinement, a narrow selection of
material and a tendency to stereotyped expla-
nations which satisfy neither their reason nor
their desires. And it is, we venture to think, in


this direction and not in any laborious scrutiny
of modern history and commerce that we must
look for the real anatomy of unrest.

Perhaps the time is past when it is necessary
to insist on this. Even such confident defenders
of the old economic orthodoxies as Mr. Mallock
no longer think that they have dealt with
socialism when they have refuted Marx's logic,
or that they can draw the sting of syndicalism
by demonstrating the ill-success of the general
strike. But this discovery has hardly led to
any serious attempt to reach a better under-
standing of beliefs so powerful and yet so
illusory so little dependent on the intellectual
vehicles by which they have been propagated.
Instead, when argument fails, when Sorel falls
frankly back upon his " myth," our orthodox
thinkers tend to take refuge in the methods
of a former generation ; the heretic is condemned
as contumacious and handed over to the secular
arm. It is indeed curious how exactly we
follow to-day the course of the hierarchy of the
Church four hundred years ago. In both cases
there is a real dilemma : what are you to do
when reason and authority alike fail ? There
is one obvious course to take : remedy the known
and notorious abuses which taint your system.
Ecclesiastical Rome grasped at this policy.
In sixteenth century Italy Pole and Caraffa
laboured on Church reform and awoke to
find their work irrelevant. They met such
charges as Colet's famous invective against
the clergy : " They give themselves to feasts
and banquetings. They spend themselves in


vain babbling. They give themselves to sports
and plays. They apply themselves to hunting
and hawking. They drown themselves in the
delights of the world." Surely the cleansing
of such an Augean stable would satisfy the re-
formers. The Conference of Regensburg supplied
the answer. These things were, after all, beside
the point as, at such moments, all mere reform
is beside the point. The one thing that the
Papacy could not do, the one thing that,
apparently, we cannot do, was to search its
inmost heart and analyse its most cherished
principles, asking itself whether it had failed,
through lack of courage or through lack of faith,
to preach the full truth committed to its charge.
Of course, we have had plenty of justification
for fixing our mind on a detailed reform of
conditions of life and labour in industry. The
intellectual leaders of unrest had for so many
years rested their case upon the doctrine of
economic determinism that we were but follow-
ing them when, before the war, we saw in material
evils the centre of the social problem. But
this, too, is a characteristic feature of all great
revolts. They grow dangerous under the
sting of intolerable material conditions and
their leaders and followers begin by regarding
those conditions as the very foundation of all
the deeper evils and shortcomings of society.
So before the Reformation. Men traced at
first " the universal corruption of the Church
of God " to Colet's drunken clergy, to Dunbar's
nobleman who, none knew how or why, had
" climbed to be a cardinal/' and his illiterate


priests who could not even read the Psalms and
the Testament, to the monster in the bishop's
chair growing fat on the fines paid by poor
priests for the women in their houses. They
ended in a deeper interpretation of their dis-
content, finding, as they believed, that these
things were the fruits of spiritual decay, not its
cause. So again to-day. Having begun by
regarding capitalism as the source of the social
system of the modern State, the rebels of this
generation are now becoming daily more con-
vinced that it is the modern State that is the
source of capitalism. And, this stage reached,
their revolt is more dangerous than at first,
because the object of their attack is more
intangible, a pervading atmosphere rather than
a definite set of concrete abuses. The thing
against which they revolt becomes the whole
political society in which they live and move
and have their being the very matrix in which
their own mind has been formed. If we find
their discontents impossible to meet by argu-
ment, it is largely because they themselves find
it impossible to grasp the object of their hatred ;
like Peer Gynt they struggle with a Boyg which
eludes their blows, envelops and stifles them.
" Tout est grand, tout est beau mais on meurt
dans votre air."

It is not then from the rebels that we can
look for a formulation of grievances ; it is for us
to probe our own beliefs. Surely, before the
war, an honest self-examination would have
shaken our intellectual self -satisfaction. Surely,
indeed, only a blindness as tragic as that of


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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 10 of 20)