Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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realise what the fate of that movement was.
It began with the rejection by the Senate of
the Olney-Pauncefote treaty before the first
Hague Conference. Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Root
and Mr. Taft tried to place America in the
forefront of the " peace " movement, and
Mr. Bryan accustomed the Middle West, and
indeed the bulk of the American people, to
regard the United States as the apostle of
peaceful arbitration. But about the year 1911
a violent reaction set in. In that year the
Senate rejected the arbitration treaties with
France and Great Britain, and in 1912-13 the
bitter controversy in regard to the Panama
Canal tolls further weakened the arbitration
movement. This reaction was largely the pro-
duct of the suspicions already referred to,
and just before the war it had gone the length
of something very like a revolt in Congress
against all long-term treaties, especially com-
mercial treaties, as being intolerable, if not
positively unconstitutional, limitations on
American sovereignty. America's instinct is
still to avoid, as far as possible, any restriction
on the freedom of action of her legislature or
her executive. It was inevitable that what
appeared to American negotiators at Paris as
nothing more than cordial and helpful co-
operation on the part of the British Delegation
should be construed at Washington as British
pressure skilfully applied in furtherance of


ulterior diplomatic designs. It was inevitable
that the League of Nations should awake in the
American mind many of the same suspicions
excited by Bernstorfs diplomacy. American
idealism and American nationalism alike bid the
American strike hard and do his job when it is
forced upon him, but they do not encourage him
to undertake protracted labours or to incur the
obligations inherent in common action.

There remains, however, the third factor to
which we have alluded as influencing America's
entry into the war the impulse towards com-
mercial expansion. Let one thing be clearly
stated at the outset ; economic motives or
ambitions had nothing whatever to do with
America's great choice in 1917. By remaining
neutral she could have continued to make money
out of the war and could have tightened her
hold on Asiatic and South American markets,
which Britain and the other Allies could no
longer serve. At most, if she had been moved
by such selfish considerations, she would have
severed diplomatic relations with Germany and
held herself free to support the financial credit of
the Allies in the American money market by
government influence. Instead, her entry into
the war forced her, slowly indeed and reluc-
tantly, but nevertheless in a substantial degree,
to sacrifice the commercial advantages she
had already won in order to concentrate her
whole strength, especially in the anxious days
of March to June, 1918, on the western front.
But while no motive of economic ambition
threw American troops into the fighting line,


the knowledge of world affairs acquired through
commercial dealings was a considerable factor
in making plain to the American people the
face of the battle. British naval action may
have endangered our relations with the United
States during the first two years of the war,
and censorship and black list may have gone
far to strain those relations to a breaking point
on the very eve of her rupture with Germany,
but it may well be doubted whether, but for the
far-reaching economic activities which were so
rudely disturbed by these blockade measures,
America would ever have been sufficiently
conscious of her fundamental dependence on
world conditions to have realised the full
implications for herself of the struggle in
Europe. As a matter of fact, she has recently
developed a stronger school of economic science
than perhaps any other nation, and economic
statesmanship bids fair to become her speciality.
Her foreign commerce has been extraordinarily
inexpert and unadaptable in comparison with
her manufacturing efficiency, but one of the
main features of her life to-day is a keen realisa-
tion of her shortcomings in this respect and an
anxiety to imitate and emulate British and
German achievements in the foreign field.
This ambition has its darker side. As we saw
in the last chapter, it has made her reluctant
to co-operate fully in allied war policy, and
was largely responsible for the fatal break in
allied consultations from November, 1918, to
January, 1919. It has also marred American
policy in one or two important respects during


the Peace Conference. Indeed, there is no
greater danger to the future peace of the world
than the possibility that Americans may ignore,
or fail actively to remedy, the grave weakness
of their country's present position as a universal
creditor in a world of debtors. There is indeed
in Europe at this moment a somewhat bitter
distrust of American economic statesmanship.
The world, especially a world in debt, looks
inevitably for deeds, and does not appreciate
at its true value the growth of economic opinion
in the United States, as evidenced by speeches,
books and periodical literature. But American
action on the Supreme Economic Council, and
especially Mr. Hoover's management of relief
work, has done much to redeem these short-
comings. America has, on the whole, shown
herself keenly alive to the fatal consequences
of continued economic dislocation in Central
Europe, and to the interdependence of the
whole world as an economic unit, and history
may perhaps judge that her representatives
in Paris have, on the whole, shown themselves
in some respects more far-sighted than their
associates in estimating the economic needs
of the world. These tendencies may carry her
far in the future towards helpful co-operation
in the affairs of a League of Nations.

To these factors an Englishman must add, for
very gratitude, one observation almost too
delicate for treatment in writing. On the one
hand, the fervours of Pilgrim Dinners and the
cult of Anglo-Saxonism are not reliable in-
dications of the state of feeling between Great


Britain and America. They have tended to
give birth to a watery sentiment of friendship
too fragile to survive the touch of rough realities.
On the other hand, the relations between the
two countries are disturbed by many serious
divergencies of aim and method, and by many
intangible jealousies. The proceedings at Paris
have often strained our co-operation and pro-
duced frictions and regrets. Nevertheless it
remains true that during the past three years
Englishmen have been met on all hands in the
United States with evidences of a real affection
and admiration for their country which they
can never remember without emotion. In a
sense, shyly and half expecting a rebuff, a great
mass of American sentiment, never hitherto
touched by the ephemeral fraternisations of
Eastern cities, has been making advances to
Britain which have been too often ignored or
accepted off-hand, good-humouredly, as a matter
of course. Britain, living as of use and wont
in a world society, has troubled herself little
about international friendships, and tends to
accept them merely as the ordinary evidences
of neighbourly feelings on which the every-
day machinery of international intercourse is
naturally based. She has hardly discerned
in these new approaches from America the first
beginnings of a desire to take an equal share in
world affairs in association with a people already
supposed to be well versed in them. That
desire is as yet too tentative and fragile to
bring America into the front line of leadership
in a new system of international relations. It


may, indeed, at any moment give place to
suspicion and hostility, in face of any hasty
attempt on our part to force our views and
policies on American statesmen or the American
public. But it is nevertheless a real force and
Englishmen will incur a grave responsibility if
they ignore it or allow it to fade into disappoint-
ment and resentment.


No more of comfort shall ye get
Than that the sky grows darker yet,
And the sea rises higher." Chesterton.



" Hush ! 'tis the gap between two lightnings. Room
Is none for peace in this thou callest peace,
This breathing-while wherein the breathings cease

Can'st thou endure, if the pent flood o'erflows ? ' *

Francis Thompson.

IN the preceding chapters we have attempted
to bring out certain features in the past policy
of Britain and America, but the name we have
given them must not be misunderstood. As
Mr. Kipling has pointed out, Gallic has been too
often maligned. His children are wise in their
generation. Britain and America have been
wise in skirting the European abyss, in holding
themselves aloof from " words and names " and
" the strife they bring," in caring first for the
development of their own corporate life through
Commonwealth and Union, and in limiting their
foreign policy to more or less mechanical con-
ceptions of stability, law and balance. There
is much misconception as to the doctrine of the
" balance of power/' Wars and revolutions
have been freely traced to it, but it may be
with at least equal force that such


upheavals are rather due to long periods of
slackness in adjusting the scales. If on the
one hand the doctrine involves a non-moral
attitude towards political life it involves also
a tolerant attitude towards conflicting aims and
faiths. If it assumes conflict to be an inevitable
condition of the family of nations as a whole,
it frequently, for that very reason, leads to a
real effort towards the reconciliation of minor
conflicts in certain groups of that family. For
example, Sir Edward Grey, in whom the attitude
of the British Gallic was in some respects seen
at its best, insisted throughout the first year of
the war on the ideal of a Balkan union as a
practical policy, and met the national aspira-
tions of Greece and Bulgaria with an almost
impartial discouragement. The " balance of
power " is, indeed, in itself nothing but the
elementary principle on which all great systems
of government have been based the mainten-
ance of a general equality between citizens, the
reduction of too powerful elements in the State,
the co-ordination of constitutional organs, and
the enforcement of an impartial and even-
handed justice. As a state develops towards full
democracy the nature of the balance changes
the equilibrium between King, Lords and
Commons or between executive, legislature
and judiciary is destroyed and the field of
adjustment shifts to jarring economic interests
and the conflict of classes, but the principle of
balance still operates and political communities
forget or ignore it at their peril. Herein,
perhaps, lies one secret of the comparative


failure of Athens and the success of Rome
Rome, less intent on the " good life," less
inspired by the ideal of corporate citizenship
growing out of a union of hearts, realised to the
last how painful are the continually shifting
processes whereby alone human society attains
stability, and she kept the sense of political
proportion, the view of government as an
arduous art and an end in itself, which that
realisation brings. The true charge against
Gallic is not that the Roman model of matter-
of-fact administration and reasonable toler-
ance, the conscious restriction of the field of
government and the elimination of imponderable
factors, is wrong in ordinary times and as a
general standard. The charge is that at rare
intervals, in great crises, once perhaps in a
thousand years, such a system fails to detect
or adjust itself to the emergence of a new force
of first class magnitude. It matters little that
such an error entails at the time disorders,
injustices and even persecutions and violence ;
it matters much that the system itself, after
years of immobility, is at last swept away
bodily on the current of the new force. The
new is subjected to no healthy restraint, the old
loses balance and proportion. The tragedy is
not in Paul beaten before the judgment seat,
but in the Church enthroned with Constantine
in the eventual emergence of a strange society
compounded of the decay of the old and the
corruption of the new.

To some extent the new Europe is in danger
of this very fate. Britain and America, long


unresponsive to the forces unloosed by the
French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, have
at last been swept away by the current. Having
taken up arms for security, for a standard of
international morality and the " sanctity of
treaties/' they have found themselves plunged
into the vortex of European nationalism. Their
friends and their enemies have changed like
Proteus before their eyes. The map of Europe
has sprung into a hundred colours undreamt of
in their philosophy. Every month of the war
contributed surprises to disturb their calcula-
tions. The Russia they had thought to know
as an autocracy at grips with the enlightened
liberalism of Miliukoff and the Duma has proved
a dynamo of international revolution fringed by
a mottle of unsuspected nationalities. The
Austrian Empire, which they despised, has
passed like a shadow, and half its population
emerges into light as their allies. They are
asked to fraternise with at least two-thirds of
the Ottoman Empire, and to look on the Turkey
they have fought as an obscure people in the
highlands of Anatolia. Central Europe has
become a new medley of Pole, Ukrainian and
Czech. Mr. Set on Watson and his group in
the " New Europe," have laboured for three
years to instruct their compatriots in the
elementary problems of European nationalism,
but with little success. Politicians are still
found on election platforms demanding self-
determination for Fiume in the interests of the
Jugo-Slavs, while the daily press recalls a
fprcible Gerinan colonisation of Upper Silesia,


hitherto unknown to the historians who have
exposed the policy of expropriations in West
Prussia and Posen.

Faced by this accumulation of unfamiliar
facts, British and American statesmen at Paris
had two alternatives. They might have applied
to the settlement the broad conceptions of
balance, economic coherence and territorial
compactness, which, on the whole, appeal to
the common sense of the average Englishman
or American. In that case, while respecting
nationalist aspirations, they would have re-
garded them in the light of Mr. Fisher's judg-
ment on the republican tradition in Europe
three years before the war. ' The republican
movement has done its work. Its ideals have
been appropriated and fused with more or less
of completeness into the political system of
Europe." They would have seen that, in the
absence of sufficient material for the creation
of new constitutional monarchies, and in view
of the extent to which the monarchical idea
had become discredited during the war, the only
way of carrying out the national principle to
the full under present conditions must lie
through the erection of a number of new re-
publics, established at a moment when repub-
licanism had long ceased to satisfy the most
advanced thought of Europe. They would have
realised that such a return to nineteenth century
political ideals might but prepare a breeding
ground for social revolution that in yoking
orthodox socialism to the chariot of nationality,
in making Czech and Slovak socialists, for


instance, responsible for the government of a
new Republic, they would hasten the split
between the older social democracy and the
revolutionaries of the Left and would increase
the power of the latter. They would especially
have hesitated to create new republics not
economically self-supporting, and would have
preferred, in spite of the break-up of the Austro-
Hungarian Empire, the dissolution of Russia
and the apparently indefinite postponement
of any Balkan Union, to aim at a broader
synthesis of races, languages and interests than
a strict adherence to the principle of nationality
would render possible.

They did not take this course and probably
could not have taken it. They were forced
away from such moorings as these by the
current they had so long ignored. They adopted
almost wholesale the doctrines of nineteenth
century Europe, and used their leadership at
Paris merely to give these doctrines the most
reasonable interpretation possible. In this
they may be said to have had their peoples
behind them. Uncomprehending but credulous,
public opinion in both countries has caught
up easily the language of European liberalism.
Phrases like " self-determination " have passed
quickly into the language of our politics.
Being new to us we have failed to realise how
old they are, and we have credited ourselves
with an originality to which we certainly have
no claim. There has been nothing novel or
daring in the treaty provisions worked out by
our statesmen in Paris. On the whole, they


have been content to remake the map of Europe,
as Mazzini wished it remade, on the basis of
nationality, and to fix on ethnic considerations
as the criterion of nationality. In face of all
the charges now being brought against the peace
of Versailles, it is important to emphasise this
fact. Economic factors have here and there
determined frontiers in defiance of ethnology,
but even in these instances the decision has
usually been due, either to a consideration of the
obvious interests of small frontier populations,
as in the case of the Bohemian frontier in the
Grosse Schutt, or to geographical necessity,
as in the case of the German districts in Upper
Silesia and Bohemia. There are many more
cases where economic considerations have been
deliberately disregarded. Ethnology has over-
ruled economic coherence on the Polish-German
frontier, and on nearly all the frontiers of
Hungary. Strategy has been repeatedly ignored,
notably in the case of Schleswig. The whole
Danubian settlement may be regarded as one
vast crime against economic policy, so vast
that it can only be remedied by a new coalescence
between the Danubian states.

The main importance of the League of
Nations lies, indeed, in the fact that it is the
one novel contribution made to the settle-
ment by the Conference at Paris. Historically
the League was the product of a somewhat
vague idealism, but logically, as the chequer of
nationalities was painted into the new map of
Europe, it became the indispensable corollary
to an otherwise impossible partition of the


continent. Mazzini's " great European federa-
tion, whose task it is to unite in one association
all the political families of the old world/' his
' General Council " of the nations, proved,
indeed, to be an even more essential complement
to the principle of nationality than he perhaps
had ever realised. Without the creation of new
forms of international co-operation and control,
no such settlement could stand, even for a few
years. It is from this point of view that the
present chapter is written. Its purpose is to
sketch the character of the members of the
League of Nations, other than Britain and
America, as they will meet in the Assembly and
Council of the League, and to indicate the
range of problems which already call for con-
tinuous action by those bodies.

The starting point of such a sketch must be
the Peace Conference itself. The League is not
an artificial product of the Conference, but
rather an extension of it. Neutrals and enemies
will be added, the new States will acquire a
greater influence than they enjoyed at Paris,
the five Great Powers will be associated with
smaller nations in the Executive Council, but
the essential features of the Conference must
necessarily pass over into the League. We can
look for no sudden change of heart, no far-
reaching new combination of forces.

The Conference was, however, more fortunate
than the League in one respect. The Council
of Four or Five had a freer hand than the
Executive Council can ever hope to have.
Over a very wide field the Great Powers were


absolved from the necessity of securing general
agreement to their decisions. They were in a
position to dictate peace, not only to their
enemies, but to their friends. The new States
might make claims which demanded careful
sifting, but they were hardly yet in being and
were obliged to acquiesce in decisions to which
their representatives could never have taken the
responsibility of agreeing of their own motion.
There was no question of Polish assent to the
Danzig settlement or the plebiscite in Upper
Silesia ; Jugo-Slavia might argue its claims to
Klagenfurt but was hardly allowed to participate
in their adjudication. The task of the Con-
ference would have been even easier if the Great
Powers had been able to settle this field, in
which they were the absolute arbiters, six
months before they did. The delay was due
partly to the capital error of the December
elections in England, but partly also to the pre-
occupations created by those few, but com-
manding, questions touching the Great Powers
themselves in which a settlement could only be
reached by general agreement. It is this
department of the business transacted at Paris
that we have to consider first if we are to grasp
the problems of the future.

There were four main questions of this class
and in each case the settlement has taken the
form of a highly unsatisfactory compromise.
When the full records of the Conference are
disinterred, the Franco-German frontier, Syria,
the Adriatic and Shantung will be found written
on their heart. France, Italy and Japan


emerged from these negotiations with clearly
marked characteristics which foreshadowed
their future course in the family of nations.

Forty-eight years have passed since Lord Acton
wrote that " the most intense desire of all
Frenchmen has been for the acquisition of
territory not their own/' but his judgment
remains true with modifications. It is im-
portant to distinguish the territorial ambition
of France from that of Italy and Japan. It
has frequently been pointed out that French
patriotism is peculiarly a patriotism of the soil.
On its defensive side this sentiment is en-
shrined in the idea of " la belle France/' in the
feeling for the lost provinces of 1871 as an
almost physical mutilation of a beloved body.
But it has also its aggressive side. Territory
one might almost say, landscape seems often
to present itself to the French mind as a thing
inherently desirable, apart from ulterior motives
of security or commercial development. It
has been this sentiment, reinforced by mili-
tary memories and the romance of far-flung
wars, far more than any strategic or economic
considerations, that has turned the eyes of
Frenchmen towards the Rhine, and in a differ-
ent form this curious land hunger perhaps
plays a larger part in the French claim to
Syria than the historic tradition or the capitalist
calculations to which it is usually ascribed.
The result in the case of the Franco-German
frontier has been almost bizarre. The Saar
Valley settlement, nominally determined by
economic considerations, is an economic


absurdity. France can get no appreciable return
in profit from the direct control of its coal-
fields ; she has, indeed, preferred to incur
the very heavy costs of operation where she
might have obtained a safe lien on the product.
The League of Nations has been burdened
with an experiment in government under the
most adverse conditions possible, and France
does not even obtain a permanent increase
of territory. The true significance of the
settlement lies in the fact that the exclusion
of German rule from a frontier tract and the
possibility, however remote, that this tract
may after fifteen years become an integral
portion of France by a vote of its inhabitants,
is a ransom paid to French sentiment for the
freedom of Luxemburg and Landau.

A final settlement of the Syrian problem has
hardly yet been reached, but some similar
compromise appears inevitable. Such anoma-
lies are the measure of French territorial
ambition, as it survives to-day. France is
no longer what she was in Europe before 1870,
what she has shown herself since then in

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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 7 of 20)