Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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Through lack of men we have been obliged to
leave German troops in the Baltic provinces,
and these are even now undermining the inde-
pendence of the Lettish Government by intrigues
in the interests of the Baltic barons. We may
at any moment be forced to send undisciplined
Greek troops to Smyrna to protect the Christian
population from massacre, or to withdraw our
handful of men from the Caucasus and abandon
the only artery of supplies for Armenia through
Batum to the mismanagement or ill-will of the
Georgian Republic. These are only three in-
stances out of many. If there is any man in
this House who during the last four years has
opposed our military policy in the East and
who has advised us, as many of our best mili-
tary authorities advised us, to restrict our
commitments, both military and political, to
the Western front, I shall not complain if he
opposes this Bill. His opposition would at
least be logical, for our responsibilities were
not of his choosing. But, in fact, this is not


the quarter from which opposition is to be
apprehended. It comes, it has already been
widely voiced, precisely by those, on the con-
trary, who have been ever ready to respond to
the cry for liberation coming from remote
peoples ; who desired, above all other things,
to make this war, if it had to be fought at all,
a war of revolution in the cause of nationality.
It is their policy which has now come to fruition ;
a new system of States based on the principle
of nationality has been created in Europe ;
will they now have the courage to go forth
and labour in the fields they have sown till
they have garnered the grain of peace, or will
they retire to their fireside and leave others
to reap a harvest of new bloodshed and
misery ? '

This imaginary speech, if it had been made
in February, would have laid a sound basis for
our policy, but it would hardly have silenced
opposition. It was too late for that. The
diance of maintaining the unity of Britain
during the period of international reconstruction
had already been missed. The atmosphere of
the general election had sacrificed essential
unity to the imposing facade of an artificial
Parliamentary majority. It would perhaps be
asking too much of human foresight to complain
that such a speech was not delivered in all its
details on the hustings at the end of November,
but our leaders could at least, even then, have
grasped and taught two cardinaljruths ; that
the task of the Allies was only half accom-
plished and that in restoring peace even more


than in making war, the touch of statesman-
ship must be strong and sure. War and peace
are both affairs of power, but while, in the
one case, the power that seeks to overwhelm
must, especially in modern warfare, work by
accumulated pressure, blunt, indiscriminate
and crushing, in the other case the power
that seeks to re-order and resettle must be
exerted only where it is needed and its work-
ings must be simple, precise and obvious.
For this reason the blockade was of all weapons
the worst that we could have used during the
making of peace. The opponents of the Govern-
ment realised this dimly, but they did not
discern the sufficiently obvious fact that they
were themselves responsible for the use of that
weapon. Only the maintenance of our military
power could have enabled us to surrender the
means of pressure which had played so large a
part in the attainment of victory. Public
opinion in November demanded " no conscrip-
tion " and rapid demobilisation. The demand,
natural in itself, was sedulously encouraged
by politicians to whom even the war could
not teach faith in their fellow-citizens. The
blockade, now so constantly on the lips of
the same men, was hardly mentioned. The
Prime Minister and his followers took the easy
course. They gave pledges where pledges were
demanded and fell back limply on the blockade.
The operation of the blockade during the next
two months concentrated against them the com-
bined force of commercial and humanitarian
opinion, while, on the other side of the balance


sheet, it seemed to have made no definite or
demonstrable contribution towards a speedy
and satisfactory peace. The weight of starva-
tion and economic dislocation in Central Europe
was universal and deadening. The purpose
of the policy was too obscure, its effects too
indefinite, to convey any warning or teach
any lesson. By the time that the Military
Service Bill was introduced the country, left
without clear guidance by its leaders, was
inclined to regard every addition to the Govern-
ment's powers as a relapse towards war and the
Opposition, unconscious of its own responsibility
for our failure, used the commercial discontent
and humanitarian disgust with the blockade
to reinforce its demand for disarmament.

In all this agitation no distinction was ever
made between the Government's control over
trade in itself, and the use of that control to
cut off supplies from Central Europe. The duty
of Britain as the leader in allied economic
policy during the war was, in reality, not so
much passively to raise the blockade as actively
to direct allied resources to the points in Europe
most gravely threatened by famine and disorder.
Economically, supply and demand could be
trusted to meet each other in the long run, but
politically it was essential that they should be
adjusted immediately during the critical period
of the armistice, and for this purpose it was
necessary that the allied Governments should
keep control over sources of supply and means
of transportation, or that they should at least
retain the power to reinforce such control


when necessary. Above all it was vital that
they should maintain adequate machinery for
consultation with each other. But none of
these things were done.

The shortcomings of our economic policy
since the Armistice have formed perhaps the
saddest chapter in the history of the last few
months. Responsibility for them must be
shared between Britain and the United States.
Both have alike failed to make the commercial
and financial contributions required of them
by their professions in regard to the League
of Nations. Any attempt to allot the blame
between them would be worse than useless, but
the reasons for their failure are sufficiently
obvious, and some explanation of them is
essential to any true understanding of the
standards by which Europe has condemned
our attitude in the past and will measure it
in the future.

During the year 1918 co-operation between
the Allies and the United States in economic
policy had reached a high level of harmony
and efficiency. It was in this department of
belligerent activity that Britain showed at its
best her ancient capacity for European leader-
ship in war. The United States hung back
for some months from full partnership in the
Allied Maritime Transport Council, the so-
called " programme committees " and the other
organs of joint economic action whose purpose
it was to control and allocate the ever-diminish-
ing resources of the world ; but by the summer
of 1918 she had come to realise their necessity


and was giving the closest and most loyal
co-operation in their work. She took, in-
deed, a leading part in the establishment of
the Food Council in London and the Munitions
Council in Paris. During the last months of
the war, all those who, whatever their
nationality, had borne their part in these new
international departments, became increasingly
impressed with the necessity of working out
in advance a scheme for adapting them to the
requirements of the transition period from war
to peace. The British Government was, how-
ever, too deeply preoccupied with the
immediate problems of war policy to sanction
any such scheme and American statesmen
were not prepared to commit themselves to
any extension of joint action beyond the period
of active hostilities. This American attitude
was not factious though it rested on a mis-
understanding of the intentions of the British
Government. The ill-conceived resolutions of
the Paris Economic Conference in 1916 had
produced a deep impression on American opinion.
The suspicions thus aroused cast their shadow
over all subsequent proposals for joint economic
action between the Allies. Even the rough
scheme outlined in the programme of the Inter-
Allied Labour Conference in 1918 carried with
it, to American palates, a flavour of illiberal
designs. As late as September, 1918, President
Wilson thought it necessary, in a speech ad-
dressed to European statesmen, to purge the
idea of the League of Nations from any possible
taint of boycott or economic exclusion. The


ingrained desire of nearly all Americans to
enter the field of international commerce again
on the morning of peace, untrammelled by
government commitments or obligations,
blinded them to the real economic situation
in Europe and the true intention of British
public men. There were, no doubt, plenty of
mutual commercial jealousies on both sides,
which played their part in preventing a full
understanding. In these circumstances, all
attempts to guard in advance against the
economic dangers of peace were doomed to
failure. Much thought and much hard work
was expended on the problem both in London
and Washington, but the governments could
not arrive at any agreement for common con-
sultation. The armistice caught us unawares
and plunged the whole machinery of inter-
allied action into chaos.

Hostilities had hardly ceased when the
American War Industries Board declared its
policy of abandoning practically all controls
over American industry. The American
experts on the programme committees began
to go home. The British Ministry of Shipping
entered upon a policy of rapid decontrol of
British ships. An agitation for immediate re-
laxation of all government controls grew up
from all quarters in England. A network of
frictions, hesitations and cross purposes tended
for the moment to render the Food Council
impotent in face of the acknowledged duty
of relieving Central and Eastern Europe.
Everyone realised the gravity of the economic


problems confronting the Allies ; there was no
lack of good will and energy ; Mr. Hoover
hurried over to Europe ; many discussions
took place ; but the governments gave little
direction or guidance. Owing to mere lack of
preparation the very machinery of consultation
dissolved during the first weeks of the armis-
tice before they had time to think out their
policy or devise means for its execution. The
main organs of inter -allied action had been
centred in London, but after the armistice the
American representatives were concentrated at
Paris and there was much delay and confusion
before the corresponding British experts could
be transplanted across the Channel. It was
not until the middle of February, after three
wasted months, that the elements of joint action
were reassembled in the Supreme Economic
Council, and Mr. Hoover was given a definite
mandate as Administrator General of Relief.

The ground thus lost could never be regained.
A hundred healing activities which had been
possible or at least conceivable in November
had become impracticable in February. The
German people could not be persuaded that
the failure of the Allies to feed them in accord-
ance with the terms of the armistice had,
broadly speaking, been due, not to ill will,
but to administrative ineptitude failure to
use the existing machinery of the Food Council,
in an adapted form, for the purpose of coping
with the problem of relief, failure to provide
in the original armistice for the surrender of
the German mercantile marine, failure to


summon German representatives immediately
to discuss financial arrangements for the pur-
chase and distribution of food-stuffs. For
the reasons already stated, the Allies hesitated
to abandon the blockade, especially as it
depended for its efficiency on a complicated
system of administration, not only in allied, but
also in neutral countries, which, once dissolved,
could hardly be reconstructed. They preferred
to open channels through the blockade for
purposes of necessary relief and economic
assistance. That policy was in itself a perfectly
reasonable one, but it presupposed the existence
of an inter-allied authority armed with the
necessary powers over shipping, finance, and
supply and actively engaged in the work of
directing relief. Until February nr. such
authority existed ; and there was no one to
indicate to the Allied Blockade Council what
doors it must throw open. As a matter of
fact the Supreme Economic Council and the
Relief Administration were able to get to work
in time to save Austria and Rumania from a
famine revolution, but they were too late
probably just a few days too late to save
Hungary from the same fate.

There is much in the work associated with
the names of Mr. Hoover and Lord Robert
Cecil which has compelled the gratitude and
admiration of Europe and Asia Minor. Much
was accomplished, and if the machinery created
could but be kept in being it might well become
the symbol of that spirit of practical and
benevolent co-operation which can alone give



life to the League. But the same forces in
England and America which led to the great
tragedy of the three wasted months now
threaten to lead us back into our old inaction
and irresponsibility.

It is impossible, within the limits of an essay
like the present, to give more than this rough
indication of the causes of our failure to in-
augurate the League of Nations by an adequate
display of genuine and skilful co-operation in an
urgent work of healing. But this sketch will
not have been wholly inadequate if it serves
to bring out the utter failure of British opinion,
represented in this case only too faithfully by
the British Government, to grasp the true
nature of the problem which confronted it. It
is easy to blame our own statesmen, but what
has been the almost unanimous demand during
the past few months alike of business interests,
small tradesmen, the average consumer and the
daily press ? Decontrol, disbandment of the
bureaucracy, restriction of government action,
repeal of Dora these have been our watch-
words. It is easy to change our statesmen ;
it is more difficult to convert our own hearts.
Let us Englishmen realise the truth about
ourselves high and low, rich and poor, indus-
trialist and workman, tradesman, merchant
and consumer. We did not want to concentrate
our resources for the healing of Europe ; we did
not want our government to assume direct
responsibility for the feeding of Armenians
in the Caucasus or Letts and Esthonians in the
Baltic provinces ; we could not or would not


realise that last winter even the raising of the
blockade could not alone have availed to feed
those who had neither money nor means of
transportation. Our Government and the
Government of the United States bear the
gravest of responsibilities ; but have we held
up their hands or have we not rather encouraged
them in weakness and impelled them to
neglect ?

At least the results of our policy are plain.
Demobilisation and decontrol rendered us im-
potent to attain a true peace at Paris. For
the sure movement of troops on police duty we
substituted the obscure cruelties of the blockade ;
for active consultation between powerful
governments, we substituted hesitating discus-
sions between statesmen torn by our clamour
for the abolition of " restrictions " ; in face of
the infinite variety and complexity of the
European chaos on the morning of peace our
policy has had all the dullness and immobility
of trench warfare. The responsibility for these
things must be borne by the whole people of
Britain, as well as by their leaders, but that
responsibility, shared between Government and
Opposition, falls on none more heavily than
on those who have used their tongues and their
pens to sour the war-weariness of fighting men
and waiting women into impatience, irritability,
and suspicion.

We -have in this chapter been concerned with
the ability of Britain to supply help and leader-
ship to the world in the tasks of peace. It is
one of the gravest signs of British weakness


that it should be possible, and from the imme-
diate practical point of view logical, to treat
this question without reference to perhaps one-
tenth of the whole English-speaking race the
people of the Dominions. In spite of Imperial
War Cabinets and British Empire Delegations,
in spite of the considerable influence exerted
upon the conduct of the war and upon the terms
of peace by Dominion statesmen, the only place
officially occupied by the Dominions in the
League of Nations is that of separate small
states. Represented, as they undoubtedly will
be in strict constitutional theory, by the British
Prime Minister or his nominee in the Council
of the League, that representation is expressed
in no tangible form in the organisation of the
British Commonwealth, and that which has no
local habitation will soon cease to have a name.
The Dominions have thus not yet taken up their
share of the burden which inevitably falls on
Britain and America, or have at least not fitted
themselves to bear it in practice. Yet it is
not on them that the chief blame for this must
fall. They have borne more than their share of
the burden of war immeasurably more than
the United States ; their Parliaments have
shown no such hesitation as the American
Congress to assume the burdens of peace in
principle. But the Britain that was once the
focus and standard of British society overseas,
no longer presents herself in clear-cut outlines
to the eyes of her distant children. The Britain
of the trenches they know, but it is hard for us
to realise in what degree our political life has


become blurred and incoherent to them, how
doubtful appears to them any partnership with
us, how little reliance they feel that they can
place on the uncertainties of our future. It is
here, within the British Commonwealth, that
the effect of any discord or disunion in our
islands is soonest and most clearly seen, but
any such effect will quickly be reproduced in the
family of nations at large. In the progress or
postponement of an organic settlement of the
relations between the partners in the British
Commonwealth we shall find the acid test of
our strength or weakness, both at home and in
the family of nations. So long as the " British
Empire " remains little more than a " geographi-
cal expression/' so long will our power for good
in the League be dangerously limited and
may pass into other hands.



" Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical con-
trivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and
belaboured, contrivances such as ... a policy of ' don't
care ' on a question about which all true men do care."


UNLIKE Britain, the United States has no long
history behind her in the light of which her
present policy can be explained. But during
her brief independent life of one hundred and
forty years she has been always a Simon Stylites
among the nations. She has proclaimed her
isolation from the housetops. Nevertheless
European and British observers, and even
Americans themselves, have understood the
real causes of this isolation too little to be able
to estimate her future course. They are in
constant danger of being deceived by appear-
ances. America's participation in the war and
President Wilson's leadership in the preparation
of peace have aroused expectations which it is
neither in the power of her statesmen nor in
the mind of her people to fulfil.

British* relations with the United States have
probably suffered from a kind of easy belief,



current among all Englishmen, that everyone
knows all the little that there is to know about
American history and the American character.
As a matter of fact there is no country in the
world whose moral and mental origins and
tendencies are so difficult to trace. Now that
the British and American peoples have in a
peculiar way assumed a joint responsibility
for international reform it is worth while to
examine more closely the forces that have
determined America's position among the

The United States has only really assumed
the position of a world power since the beginning
of the twentieth century. The nineteenth cen-
tury was a period of preparation during which her
future course in foreign policy was being pre-
determined by the circumstances of her internal
growth. An understanding of the influences
brought to bear on her during this preparatory
period is therefore essential to a proper estimate
of Her present character.

There is a general tendency to ascribe the
whole foreign policy of the United States to
what is called the " Monroe Doctrine/' As a
matter of fact the Monroe Doctrine was only
a stage, and is now only a factor, in the foreign
policy of the United States. It is indeed only
one facet of her earliest and most engrossing
problem in foreign affairs her relations with
the other states of the American continents.
It is the facet which is turned to the outer
world, but the inner facets, hardly suspected
or examined by Europe or Asia, are probably


of much greater and more enduring importance.
Inside the American continents the United
States has, from her earliest days, had to face
the most difficult and intricate of all the problems
that confront progressive and powerful nations,
the problem of her relations to other states and
races, inferior to her in civilisation and political
capacity. This is, in the modern world, the
very stuff and crux of foreign policy, and in
this most important respect the attitude of
the United States has been determined rather
by the history of the two race problems which
have confronted her within her own borders
than by the fear of European aggression which
called forth the famous message of President

The first of these race problems the Indian
is perhaps the less important, but it was in
dealing with it that America had her first lesson
in the clash of civilisations. If we look behind
the familiar history of the Indian wars, we shall
see that her handling of the problem affords
a remarkable index of the development of
American democratic thought. Americans
began by believing, in the words of the Assembly
of Virginia in 1702, that " no Indian could
hold office, be a capable witness or hunt over
patented land/' In those days Indians " like
slaves were liable to be taken on execution for
the payment of debt/' But the theories on
which the Union was founded required that
these races should be brought into some
definite relation to democratic government.
Owing to the legalistic character of American


institutions, the solution of this problem was
not, as in the British Empire, confided to
administrators and worked out empirically,
step by step, according to common-sense ideas
of justice and policy. Instead, it fell to the
Supreme Court to settle the status of the
Indian tribes by a series of decisions embodying,
at least ostensibly, not the counsels of ex-
pediency but the application of predetermined
constitutional theories. The decision in the
case of the Cherokee Nation v. the State
of Georgia defined their status as that, not of
aliens, but of " domestic dependent nations/'
and democratic theory could in the long run
recognise no " domestic " status but that of
citizenship, and no citizenship not after the
American model. The United States could
not, therefore, continue for ever to deal with the
Indian problem, as was her first opportunist
practice, by the conclusion of " treaties " with
the tribes. So by 1886 the United States
Commissioner of Education reported proudly
of the Five Civilised Tribes of the Indian
Territory that : " Each tribe manages its own
affairs under a constitution modelled upon that
of the United States."

If a democratic organisation of the tribe was
the first ideal, the break-up of the tribe and the
" ultimate absorption (of the Indian) into the
body of our people " was recognised as the next
step. After the Indian wars had almost died
out, the United States took up the task of ad-
ministration somewhat more after the English

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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 4 of 20)