Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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body, however great, however commanding.
Any tendency on the part of the League to
substitute its own authority for that of the
constitutional centres in each state would in
fact amount to a vindication of sectionalism
and group rights and must result in anarchy.
The League has no long history of common
effort behind it ; it cannot for generations to
come command any real allegiance as embody v
ing the general will ; it cannot symbolise
to men the daily obligations of self-sacrifice.
And hence it should proceed with the greatest
caution in its protection of national minorities.


Special rights for Jews in Poland, special auto-
nomies for the Ruthenian province of Czecho-
slovakia, or for East Galicia under Polish rule
are not methods by which the new Europe seeks
to preserve certain groups in a state of suspended
animation, in trust for some future claimant.
They are fundamentally different from the idea
of mandatory government as a step towards
independence. They are to be regarded rather
as signposts directing the steps of new states
away from the policy of assimilation, absorp-
tion or subjugation towards the policy of com-
monwealth and union. It would be fatal to
convert them into a general system applicable
to all states, for this would be at best to fall
into the old error of fixed constitutions rooted in
the citizen's distrust of his own government.
It will even prove fatal to maintain them for all
time. The League cannot force the new states
into the right road, and whether they take the
right road or the wrong one, the signpost will
become useless in time. Moreover, these special
rights should also be regarded as warnings to
the minorities themselves that their future lies,
not in selfish independence, but in union. They
receive protection in the stage of transition in
order that they may enter their commonwealth
as free men.

But while this doctrine affirms the sovereignty
of states in their relation to the League, it does
not affirm their equality. While it prescribes
unanimity as the general rule of all international
action, it does not entitle every state to claim
either a voice in all international business or


exactly the same treatment as its neighbours.
No commonwealth can be more than the sum
of its parts ; no general will can weigh more
than the individual wills fused in it. We have
emerged from the region of metaphysical abstrac-
tions ; we see around us peoples engaged in
the slow labour of realising a common life, not a
number of mysterious corporate creatures
pulsating with a natural life of their own. We
must indeed refuse to weigh them against each
other by a mere standard of power or a mere
counting of noses, forgetting less tangible
values ; but the smaller members of the family
of nations will be well advised not to reject
even such measurements as these for many
practical purposes. The League cannot protect
the weak or assist the inexperienced if it is
enjoined to ignore all differences between them,
and, whether or not the American Senate
eventually attaches reservations to its con-
firmation of the Covenant in respect of article
10, it is absolutely certain that neither the
British nor the American people will in the long
run accept unlimited responsibilities for the
protection alike of weak and strong. The
Covenant as a matter of fact makes an enormous
advance upon the old diplomacy in giving
weight to smaller states. They are indeed now
obliged to recognise formally by their signature
to a definite international constitution the
subordination in which they were before merely
driven to acquiesce by force of circumstances,
but the Covenant takes them from the ante-
room of the Great Powers, where diplomacy


has kept them for generations, into the inner
counsels of the family of nations. The League
has no more important task than to make this
admission a reality, not merely a form. But
the theory of equality is a legal fiction which
will hinder this task rather than help it, and the
smaller states will be well advised to forget it.

There are other lessons of caution that the
League should learn from the doctrine of com-
monwealth and union. The constitution-
mongers who have played so large a part in
Europe since the French Revolution are anxious
to provide the League at once with a full panoply
of representative institutions, to elaborate each
of its organs according to a perfect pattern,
and to win respect for its authority by the
imposing symmetry of its organisation. But
true constitutional machinery is not evolved
by any such methods. The search for the
perfect constitution in Europe during the nine-
teenth century has been largely responsible for
the popular discredit into which the representa-
tive system has fallen. That system has been
elevated into an almost sacred principle, and
as such, as a matter of a priori argument, its
superiority to a soviet system is not evident to
the popular mind. But in commonwealth and
union its justification is clear because its pur-
pose is practical. It exists for the restriction
of individual and group freedom of choice, and
it provides a vehicle for the expression of per-
sonal and sectional wills in the attainment of a
larger liberty. The authority of the League to
restrict the action of its members is very small ;


unanimity is rightly made the law of its whole
procedure. It can, as yet at any rate, offer no
prospect of more far-reaching liberties than
those secured to their citizens by common-
wealth and union. Its advocates too often
forget that the failures of the Conference at
Paris, while partly due to lack of wisdom and
to defective organisation, did also indicate an
inherent tendency in international action to
delay and compromise. This tendency must
persist in the League. It is the price paid by
the more enlightened nations for peaceful
progress ; but that price must not be enhanced
by any forcing of international consultation into
stiff constitutional forms. The League will,
for the present, accomplish more by what
may be called the civil service organisation
sketched in the last chapter practical but
flexible and almost informal than by any
ambitious elaboration of constitutional bodies.
True, bureaucracy must not be left uncontrolled,
and this organisation must be closely supervised
by the Council, but the popular check upon
it and upon the Council must rest for many
years to come in the hands, not of some nicely
devised international Convention, but of the
national parliaments. It is impossible to
exaggerate the importance of this point. The
League is the instrument of national " self-
governing " sovereignties, and it is the popular
will concentrated at the centre of each com-
monwealth that must therefore direct it. The
Council must not be a body of ambassadors,
however distinguished in the political life of


their countries ; Englishmen have to resist the
temptation to entrust their representation to
brilliant independent figures like Lord Robert
Cecil or Lord Reading. The Council must be
composed of the chief Cabinet Ministers of the
nations ; the policy of the League must be an
essential part of the responsibilities they assume
in taking office. Only thus can foreign policy
be brought home to the mind of every citizen
and become a recognised part of everyday

And these considerations lead us to the main
conclusion of our argument. The success of the
League depends comparatively little on any
rules adopted by it to regulate its own activities.
The future of the new Europe lies far more in the
development of government in the members of
the League. It rests with them to prove against
the claims of Bolshevism that men can realise in
commonwealth and union a fuller liberty and
develop a greater power for good than by un-
limited self-determination and the ambitions of
the class war. The true function of the League
is to create among its members a consciousness
of their common responsibility in this task a
realisation that by their acts, each in its own
national sphere, the doctrine of commonwealth
and union will be judged by the peoples of the
Western world, by the seekers and the rebels,
who will compare its fruits with those promised
by the social revolution. There are few enough
signs among the members of the League at
present of any such sense of responsibility.
Poland, for instance, does not realise that her


own domestic policy, not a common frontier with
Rumania, is the only real barrier against Bolshe-
vism. The teaching and the example can only
come from Britain and America. Again, the
success of the League depends almost wholly on
the development of domestic politics in these
two countries.

In Britain we seem indeed at present far
enough from the calmness of mind and clarity
of thought necessary to teach such lessons
or set an example in them. Our dangers
and our weaknesses are so present to our mind
at this moment that it is needless to enlarge
upon them, but our national life suffers from
one special defect which is too often ignored
and which has a peculiar importance in this
connection. It has already been said that the
feebleness of our propaganda during the war was
largely due to the absence of any coherent
policy in our government, but it was also due in
large measure to the fact that the British press is
perhaps a weaker instrument of publicity than
the press of any other great country. We are
accustomed to laugh at the feverishness of the
American press, yet, in spite of flamboyant head-
lines and apparent sensationalism, American
newspapers are far superior to ours in their
power of conveying a definite sense of the state
of the nation, of the issues before it, and the
tendencies of its policy. The tendency of the
British press on the other hand is to reproduce,
and often to initiate, spasmodic campaigns on
certain burning questions of the hour, and it
lacks that highly developed system of collecting


information which enables the American press
to frame such momentary campaigns in their
true setting of continuous national life and
activity. The British newspaper is indeed at
its weakest in conveying news. This weakness
arises very largely from defects of organisation.
We have failed to develop the high class of
political correspondent who in America gives
tone and direction to his paper by his reports
on political affairs, and to whom is due the fact
that, even in the heat of a Presidential campaign,
the partisanship of an American first-class
newspaper rarely slops over from its editorial
into its news columns. It is, in short, peculiarly
difficult for a British Government to " get its
policy across " to the public even when that
policy is definitely formed. In our days the
fusion of wills in commonwealth and union
depends to an extraordinary degree on the power
of publicity, and publicity becomes even more
essential when it is a question of conveying the
mind and the example of one country to its
fellow members in the family of nations. The
task of the League, and above all things the task
of Britain in the League, is that of healing and
settling, and it behoves us to beware lest we add
to the unrest and the doubts of the new Europe
the fevers and fluctuations of our own political



" Let us therefore be more considerate builders, more
wise in spiritual architecture, when great reformation is
expected. ' ' Milton.

" A partnership in all science, a partnership in all art, a
partnership in every virtue and in all perfection." Burke.

IT is easy to guess how disappointing to
many ardent advocates of the League must be
any such line of reasoning as that sketched in
the last two chapters. We have seen the League
as an essential instrument for the safeguarding
of common interests and the development of
common prosperity in the new Europe, but the
tasks which lie before it here are comparatively
humble and obscure. It seems little more than
the centre of numerous joint committees ; it
does not appear as a commanding authority
among the nations. We have seen it again as
the focus of a common doctrine of government
and of the common responsibility arising from
that doctrine, but that doctrine is a doctrine of
national, not of international, government, and
the responsibility for applying it falls neces-
sarily upon the members of the League separ-
ately and individually. It confirms their
sovereignty and enhances their prestige. The



League can only influence their action by bring-
ing together their statesmen, their jurists, their
civil servants, their technical experts, and, in
time, representatives of their people ; it can
only provide a forum where each may learn from
the practical experience of the others, and may
come to realise in what manner and to what
extent its failures affect the safety and the
health of all. All this might satisfy, and does
satisfy, the most ardent " Covenanters " as a
first step, but how is any further step to be
taken ? The doctrine of commonwealth and
union has, indeed, the effect of marking still
more clearly the gap between common citizen-
ship and mere co-operation. How is that gap
to be bridged ? If the popular tendency to-day
is really, as has been suggested above, to press
constantly towards a wider field of effort, by
what road, however long, however gradual,
can national sovereignties become the instru-
ments of a wider union ?

That question must in some way be answered,
for it goes very deep. It represents hopes which
have sustained the peoples through five years of
war, and are now plunging them into disap-
pointment, impatience and the first stirrings of
revolt. It is by this standard that the peace
is really judged by millions who can give no
articulate account of the grounds of their dis-
content. This has been the origin alike of the
enthusiasm for a " war to end war/' and of the
unrest which threatens our peace. Like all
deep aspirations, it contradicts, apparently at
least, many demands which are much more


strongly urged because they lie much nearer
the surface of men's minds. In England, at
any rate, the vast majority who feel the need of
a wider association would absolutely refuse to be
bound by any wider authority than the govern-
ment of Britain itself. Universal brotherhood
is a potent ideal, but universal law would find
few to obey it. Yet this fact, though it justifies
unanswerably the moderation of the Covenant
and the caution of its authors, does not dis-
pose of the problem. The deeper aspiration
persists, not only as a piece of intangible
idealism, but as a very real revolutionary force.
Law and authority are remote ideas to men who
inherit and instinctively accept a national life
created by the process of generations ; they
have no conception of the agonies through which
a society must pass before it can create a
government, and if they have read of such things
in history they dismiss them from their mind as
the barbarities of unenlightened ages. But even
when, as in the case of Russia to-day, they are
presented forcibly with a picture of these
agonies, the lesson impresses them little. To
many it seems a price almost worth paying.
" At the birth of a child or a star there is pain,"
and it is not only in Russia that thousands are
found willing to " give another year of famine
for the Revolution/'

True, we can point out, on the basis of the
argument in the last chapter, that Bolshevism,
no less than nationalism, is proving the in-
variable tendency of all " self-determination "
towards a selfish imperialism. But it is


precisely imperialism that tempts men who are
groping blindly for wider fields of activity, and
it is really a" moral equivalent " for imperialism
that we are seeking in the interests of world
peace. From this point of view the popular
instinct is right. We can hardly hope to satisfy
it ; the answer to its questionings cannot be
completely supplied by political treatises and
calculations. But some notes may be made
upon it, and at least it must be recognised and
considered by all to whom the idea of the
League is something more than an amiable
experiment in philanthropy.

If, as Mr. Wells has suggested in one of his
short sketches, the Recording Angel is both a
humorist and a literary artist, one of his most
interesting tasks must be to trace the part
played by human historians in encouraging
among their contemporaries the sins they
denounce in their fathers. There have perhaps
been no more powerful propagators of the
heresy that might is right than the liberal and
enlightened historians of the nineteenth century.
Starting from the unquestioned postulate of
' progress/* they have depicted every defeat
as the downfall of stupidity and reaction, every
victory as the triumph of right and freedom.
Success is the only key to the heart of the
biographer. No one cares to spend time or
study on the work of the political failures of the
last hundred years the Gagerns, the Sper-
anskis and the de Serres whose very names are
now almost forgotten. The life of Napoleon is
never written as a tragedy, but as a chapter in


the history of the " regeneration " of Europe.
And this tendency is nowhere more remarkable
than in dealing with the great revolutions.
The historian's sympathies have been so wholly
with the rebels that he has usually ignored the
fact that it has in every case been the fallen
system itself that generated the forces of revolt
and nourished the germs of progress. It is this
attitude that has built up between the modern
and the mediaeval worlds the historical barrier
of the Reformation and has darkened to our
eyes the whole European society to which the
reformers owed their training and from which
they drew their inspiration. Like Milton's
contemporaries, though in a different sense,
" we have looked so long upon the blaze that
Zwinglius and Calvin have beaconed up to us
that we are stark blind."

This tendency has been natural enough, for the
conflict of the Reformation has continued down
to our own day. The claim of religious
authority to temporal power, the claim of the
priest to the throne, has persisted in various
forms, and the whole movement of emancipation
has centred round the denial of that claim. It
was this criterion that determined alike Vol-
taire's attitude towards the wars of Frederick
the Great and the sympathies of our fathers for
Italian unity. But there have been two great
exceptions to this general interpretation of the
modern history of Europe. While the French
Revolution itself had deep roots in the religious
conflict, that conflict had little or nothing to
do with the Napoleonic wars, and in our own


day the very neutrality of Rome has pointed to
the same fact in regard to the war from which
we have just emerged. These two great up-
heavals have been wilder and more universal
than any that followed upon the religious
schism of Europe ; they have been wars of
freedom in the strict sense, rather than wars of
liberation. Political power, freed from all
religious control, has come into its own and is
seeking an outlet for its untrammelled energies.
In this hour, as we survey the wreckage wrought
by this freedom, we may well look back beyond
the struggle of emancipation which we have left
behind us and measure the progress we have
made since that struggle began.

This idea will not of course be accepted by
many believers in current orthodoxies. Was
not this war rather the final stage of emancipa-
tion, the vindication of democracy against the
divine right of kings ? Does not Mr. J. A.
Hobson still see in the Anglican clergy the
gravest menace to democracy ? To the first
of these questions it must be replied that
the conflict between democracy and the divine
right of kings is a very ambiguous one, and
has many and varied implications, but by no
stretch of imagination can it be identified with
the historic struggle for political emancipation.
The king at the altar is not the priest upon the
throne, and the Papacy from which the Re-
formers revolted finds no comfortable refuge in
the Germany of the Kulturkampf. Democracy
and monarchy may be in the most violent
opposition to each other, or again, they may be


almost at the point where extremes meet, but
only confusion of thought can obscure the fact
that they are both means for the assertion of
State sovereignty and for the concentration of
political power. The example of Germany
indeed shows the concurrent development of
both autocratic and democratic principles for
this purpose. As for the reactionary influence
of any section of the Christian Church in modern
politics, that influence certainly cannot be
denied in many countries ; but it is equally
certainly no longer a determining factor in
political life. No outside influence threatens
the independence of political institutions ; no
theocratic claims are concerned in the conflict
between those institutions as now established
and the aspirations of the social revolution-
aries for a yet more comprehensive organisa-
tion of political power. Now for the first
time Macchiavelli has come fully into his own
and statecraft has become the sole arbiter of
the destinies of civilisation.

That neither statesmen nor peoples are
satisfied with this consummation is proved by
the aspirations we are discussing. It is demon-
strated by the establishment of the League.
Emancipation has, in fact, been bought at a
price greater than the Reformers had ever
meant to pay. They planned the overthrow of
Rome, but not the destruction of Christendom
a schism of religious allegiance but not of
civilisation and while the mediaeval Rome
against which they rebelled has no modern
defenders, the Christendom they divided lives


in the memory as a state of society to which
many to-day would fain return. There is
indeed nothing easier or more misleading than
to idealise the Middle Ages. The romance of
chivalry has long faded at the touch of the
historian, and not much remains to-day of the
credulity which, in the early years of the co-
operative and socialist movements, constructed
a picture of harmony and brotherly kindness out
of the bitter feuds and tyrannies of the guild
system. Yet if Europe and America have
to-day any seeds of union and common life in
them, those seeds were planted in the days
before the schism of civilisation when Europe
had not only a common faith, but a common
science, a common philosophy, and a common
culture. The authority of Rome may have
hindered political development, the teaching of
the schoolmen may have forced thought into
blind alleys, but the organisation they built up
provided channels for the new learning of the
Renaissance and the universities of Italy became
the source whence the influence of humanism
spread into every corner of Europe. It would
be difficult to say how deeply this cultural unity
penetrated into the lower strata of European
society, but we know that scholarship and art
were within the reach of poverty as they have
perhaps never been since the Reformation, and,
even apart from definite learning, the Church was
the vehicle of a community of spirit, intangible
perhaps, but real and potent. Without the
community of learning the international forces
which made the Reformation could never have


combined in a common revolt ; without the
community of spirit the Reformers could have
accomplished little more than local secessions
and temporary heresies.

Among all the records of signal failure which
have been left untouched by modern historians,
the greatest is perhaps the abortive Catholic
Reformation of the early sixteenth century. It
runs from the spiritual revival wrought by men
like Gaetano da Thiene, through the story of the
Oratory of Divine Love, the narrower reform-
ing energy of Pole and Caraffa and the hopes
and labours of Contarini, to the failure of the
Conference of Regensburg, the arrival of Loyola
in Rome, and the conversion of the surviving
reformers to the policy of the Inquisition. A

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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 17 of 20)