HENRY NOEL BRAILSFORD
THE WAR OF STEEL AND GOLD
A STUDY OF THE ARMED PEACE
ONE heard constantly repeated during the period of our antagonism to Germany a statement as irrelevant as it is true. The two peoples, we are told, have no quarrel. There never yet was a war for which the masses of any nation were responsible. Yet wars occur. Over the march of foreign affairs, public opinion can exert only a rare and spasmodic control. It is interested in affairs abroad only when they are striking and spectacular. A revolution, a massacre, an earthquake, a general strike---such happenings excite its attention. But the slow and tedious and often secret procedure by which the Powers conduct their diplomatic chess is rarely interesting, and never fully known. One may doubt whether more than a hundred persons in these islands made any sustained attempt to follow in close detail the elaborate intrigues of the Franco-German struggle for Morocco, though twice at least it came near involving this country in war. Nor does the machinery exist by which public opinion, were it alert and decided, could bring to bear on the Foreign Office a degree of pressure which would seriously modify its attitude. In all European countries foreign affairs are in the hands of a close bureaucracy, which is rarely amenable to any pressure but that of the small governing class and the financial interests allied with it.
Public opinion under representative government has only one direct and effective means of expression, and that is at the polls. Twice only in our day and in that of our fathers have general elections turned even partially on a foreign or Imperial issue. Mr. Gladstone made his opposition to Disraeli's pro-Turkish and Imperialist policy prominent in the Midlothian campaign of 1880. Mr. Chamberlain's electoral strategy brought about an appeal to the country midway in the Boer War. These were broad and human issues, but in neither case was the contest so timed as to affect the conduct of affairs. The Eastern Question had been irrevocably settled for a generation at Berlin when Mr. Gladstone appealed to the verdict of Midlothian, and in spite of the verdict of the country against Imperialism, Mr. Gladstone at once proceeded to occupy Egypt. The "Khaki" election could hardly have modified the course of the war even had it resulted in a defeat for Mr. Chamberlain's policy. It would be hard to name a single bye-election in recent memory, save during the Boer War, in which a foreign question has been seriously raised even as a secondary issue. Nor is this surprising or unnatural. Save in moments of grave crisis, a foreign issue can never compete in the mind of the elector with such issues as tariff reform, industrial insurance, or even Home Rule. For the same reason parties need rarely fear the defection of their followers by reason of the aberrations of their foreign policy. The Denshawai hangings and the Russian understanding provoked much genuine indignation among Liberals. But did the party lose a dozen adherents because of them? It is, in short, in its domestic policy that a Government is judged in the country. So far as any consequences go which can be measured in bye-elections and votes, its leaders in their foreign policy are virtually irresponsible. This is, indeed, much more obviously the case with us than with the Germans, and that for a simple reason. The German Reichstag is busied mainly with Imperial affairs---the army, the fleet and foreign policy---while the greater number of domestic issues are left to the diets of the several Federal States which compose the Empire. With us the same Parliament is busied with the whole range of public policy, and the inevitable result is that parties are formed and Government judged primarily on the lines of domestic policy.
It has of late years been explicitly recognised that foreign affairs stand outside the sphere of party conflict. There must be, it is said, "continuity" in foreign policy, and within certain limits, the doctrine is reasonable. Our position in the world would suffer somewhat, if rival parties alternately denounced or amended each other's alliances and treaties, as they amend or end each other's laws. But in practice this doctrine has so operated as to destroy any possibility of a democratic impulse in foreign affairs. When Lord Rosebery enunciated this principle of "continuity," Liberalism quietly renounced its special traditions in foreign policy, and proclaimed its readiness to follow with docility the lines which Conservatives had laid down. The first consequence of this doctrine was that in selecting his Foreign Secretary a Liberal Premier must choose a candidate who will be acceptable to the Opposition. In other words, whichever party is in power, the Foreign Secretary will always be an Imperialist, a personality whom the Times, the City and the Conservative Party can unreservedly trust. A Radical can no more become Foreign Secretary than a Roman Catholic can become Lord Chancellor. The doctrine of "continuity" means that foreign affairs have in effect been removed from the sphere of party government, and are now influenced only by the opinions of the governing class, of those, that is to say, who move at court and in society, who regard the army and the civil service as careers reserved for their families, and survey the world beyond these islands mainly as a field for the investment of their surplus wealth. The phase of middle-class sentiment expressed by such a newspaper as the Daily News, formidable in Gladstone's day, is now almost as powerless to affect foreign policy as is that of organised labour itself.
The purely bureaucratic character of our foreign policy is to some extent disguised by the existence of a certain number of unofficial leagues or committees which on minor issues do appear in different degrees to possess some influence in Downing Street. They fall into two groups. The Congo Reform Association, the Balkan Committee and the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society do unquestionably exert a real influence. The various Peace Societies, the Friends of Russian Freedom, the Persian, Egyptian and Indian Committees, can hardly be said to exert any influence whatever. The societies in the first group are wealthier and better organised than those of the second. That means primarily that the tendencies which they represent are well entrenched within the governing class. They can always secure peers and bishops for their platforms, and great capitalists sit on the inner executive committees of several of them. The Balkan Committee has no commercial connections, and it owed its measure of success to the unremitting devotion of Messrs. Noel and Charles Buxton, but it can reckon on the Archbishop of Canterbury when it has occasion to send a deputation to the Foreign Office. The Anti-Slavery movement has behind it the traditional support of many powerful families, mainly Quaker in origin, connected with banking and industry. It is, in short, rather the weight of the individuals which support these movements than the numbers behind them which ensures success. They are influential just in so far as they can persuade or delude the Foreign Office into the belief that they speak for society and for capital. An organisation which has large funds and imposing "names" behind it can always make an agitation if it secures a competent secretary. A society which has no funds and relies on unpaid services is seldom a real force. But it is doubtful whether any of these organisations could drive a Minister who had himself no sympathy with their aims, to modify his policy in accordance with their claims. Their function is rather to "strengthen his hands," and to create a public opinion in support of the policy to which he already stands committed. But none of these bodies is concerned with the more vital aspects of British policy. The decisive departures of recent years---the Japanese Alliance, the French and the Russian ententes---lie wholly outside their scope. In the main lines of his policy a British Minister is quite beyond the reach of any organised opinion. It is indeed one of the most curious, and in a sense, creditable aspects of English national psychology that public opinion organises itself and seeks articulate and popular expression only in regions of foreign policy to which some humane instinct leads it. It really cares about negro slavery. Congo horrors and Turkish massacres, and on these questions asserts itself. It will, on the other hand, sit inert and dumb while a Foreign Minister concludes with an almost unknown and not exactly sympathetic Asiatic Power like Japan, a treaty of alliance which may at some distant date force us automatically to bear our share in a war in no way connected with our interests and quite beyond our control. One may admire the generosity of this curious concentration of attention on questions which do not directly concern us, but one cannot justify the neglect of other issues which are of vital moment.
These leagues rather make opinion than express the spontaneous movements of the mass mind. The same thing is roughly true of newspapers. On the broader issues of domestic policy newspapers are some guide to the trend of opinion, for the simple reason that if they took to expressing opinions repugnant to their readers they would cease to "pay." If a newspaper prospers and is widely read, the presumption is that its views about tariff reform or Socialism or religious education are in the main those of the tens or hundreds of thousands of persons who buy it daily. But no such inference can be drawn from its views about the Japanese Alliance or our policy in Persia. Readers rarely have ready-made opinions on such points, and if they have, do not usually penalise a paper which takes the other line. The real importance of newspapers depends less on their leading articles than on their power to present or colour or suppress facts. Here the masses are absolutely at their mercy. In this connection one has to remember that their proprietors are always capitalists, and are sometimes interested in foreign investments or in armaments. They sell news, and it is usually the bureaucrat, the Minister, or the financier who is able to supply news. Occasionally newspapers have been known to accept a service of telegrams gratis or at reduced rates from some individual or organisation which has an interest to serve in forming public opinion. The excitement which produced the Boer War was largely fostered by such methods. A newspaper which takes an anti-Imperialist attitude, even if it keeps its readers, is often penalised by advertisers who withdraw their advertisements to punish it for its "unpatriotic" attitude. Such withdrawals of valuable advertisements have happened, to my knowledge, because a newspaper opposed an increase of the Navy Estimates. A newspaper which opposes a loan to the Russian Government will suffer in the same way. Newspapers, in short, are one of the most powerful means by which capital and the dominant interests can create or suppress opinion. They are not in foreign affairs to any great extent a means by which spontaneous and disinterested opinion makes its power felt. The ability of the Liberal press to influence the Foreign Office has been tested during Sir Edward Grey's long term of office. The Nation, the Manchester Guardian and the Daily News have been steadily critical of the whole trend of his policy, and incidents have sometimes moved them to outspoken indignation. Yet it is only within modest limits, and then only when a section of Conservative opinion was with them, as it was in the later phases of the Persian question, that they have seemed to deflect his course of action.
The Constitution provides three checks by which a Foreign Minister can be restrained from the pursuit of an arbitrary or merely personal policy. They are usually, though not always, powerful enough to prevent a wilful Minister from following an eccentric or individual line of action. But neither any one of them, nor yet all three together, offer any guarantee that his attitude will be a deliberate expression of the national will. The checks in question are those exercised by the Crown, the Cabinet and the House of Commons.
The formal rights of control which the House of Commons enjoys are exceedingly limited. It may question the Foreign Secretary, debate his policy on motions or resolutions, and express dissatisfaction by reducing the estimates for his Department, but there its effective powers end. One has only to compare its rights with those of other Parliaments to realise how unusually meagre they are. In the first place its assent is not required for a declaration of war, which means that it cannot interfere effectually before the event to delay a rupture, to enforce arbitration, or to overthrow a Minister who had failed to exhaust on behalf of peace all the resources of diplomacy. In France the assent of the Chamber, in the United States that of Congress, and in Germany that of the Federal Council (Bundesrath) are required for a formal declaration of war. When once war is declared and the reserves are called up, Parliament must be summoned to vote supplies But the die is already cast, and the friends of peace can then register only an academic protest. Perhaps the worst consequence of this defect in our constitution is that a Government may with ease drift or rush into war during the long months between August and February in which the House does not always sit. If its assent were requisite, a Government would be practically forced to summon it as soon as events became critical, and to submit its conduct of the negotiations to public criticism. In the present condition of party discipline a united Cabinet with a large majority behind it, could usually count on obtaining the assent of its drilled followers to a declaration of war. But the necessity of first submitting its policy to a detailed examination would still tend to restrain it in any provocative course. I have heard experienced politicians argue that the South African War could not have broken out had Parliament been sitting in October, 1899.
Still more important is the impotence of the House of Commons in regard to Treaties. Unless they include financial provisions, there is no obligation to submit them to Parliament, and no discussion can take place upon them until they are already signed, ratified, and published to the world. One consequence of this is that a secret treaty is for us no less binding than a public instrument. A secret treaty duly signed and ratified by one British Government would bind its successors. In theory the King and his Foreign Minister, acting with the consent of his colleagues in the Cabinet, can and do contract the most solemn and vital obligations in the name of the forty millions over whom they rule in these islands, without consulting their elected representatives. They can make war and peace, they can annex or alienate territory, they can assume obligations which may oblige not only us but our children to go to war in support of an ally in a quarrel not our own. Such unchecked authority belongs to few other civilised Governments. In France the consent of the Chamber, in Germany that of the Reichstag, in the United States that of a two-thirds majority of the Senate is required to render a Treaty valid. In practice the American Senate has often used its right to veto Treaties. In France and Germany the obligation is habitually evaded when Treaties of Alliance are contracted. The terms of the Dual and Triple Alliances are not fully known, though their general tenor may be guessed. It may be said that the right of revising or rejecting treaties is unimportant, because a Government can usually circumvent it by concluding secret arrangements. It could do so, however, only if Parliaments were servile and indifferent to their rights, and even so a secret arrangement unconstitutionally concluded by one Minister could always be ignored or modified by his successors. Two recent instances serve to remind us of the immense power which this right of concluding Treaties places in the hands of the Foreign Minister---the Japanese Alliance which compels us to support our ally with arms, if any other Power should attack her, and the Anglo-Russian Agreements which partitioned Persia into two unequal spheres of influence, and so virtually surrendered the destinies of the Persian nation, at a moment when it was struggling to maintain its constitution, to the discretion of the Russian bureaucracy.
The extent to which Parliament may use its general right of criticism and debate to influence Foreign Policy has enormously diminished in recent years. Debates on foreign affairs in the generation of Palmerston and Russell, and even in that of Gladstone and Disraeli, were more frequent, more animated, more influential. It is the doctrine of "continuity," and the growing power of the Cabinet which destroyed both the initiative and the control of the House. It is now an established convention that foreign affairs shall not be made a subject of party controversy. Formerly the acknowledged leaders of public opinion used all their resources of argument and invective to criticise a Minister's foreign policy. To-day the two Front Benches are agreed to exempt all such questions from serious debate. It is left to the Labour Party or to a few incorrigible rebels on the Radical benches to introduce the only real element of criticism which survives. Their speeches are reported in a few lines, and for the most part they speak to empty benches. The physiognomy of one of these discussions makes one despair of the introduction of any really democratic element into foreign affairs. The subject is, let us say, Turkey or Persia. The House empties at once, and a listless remnant of perhaps twenty members waits to encourage a friend or to seize the opportunity to speak. It fills again only when Sir Edward Grey rises to dismiss, with his musical voice and graceful address, criticisms to which few of his hearers had troubled to listen. One sometimes suspects that the House and the governing class generally regard it as an impertinence in any one outside the inner circle to meddle with foreign affairs at all. Punch recorded its opinion of one of these debates in a cartoon which deserves to be remembered. When Mr. Keir Hardie and Mr. John Dillon raised in the House the question of the Denshawai hangings, it depicted Sir Edward Grey, the defender of these panic-stricken methods of barbarism, as a medieval knight in armour mounted on a splendid charger, at whose heels two ill-conditioned curs with the heads of the Labour and the Irish leaders barked and snapped in vain. "The Grey Knight rides on" was the legend beneath it.
The opportunities for these debates grow fewer every year. The House is busy with domestic affairs, and both Front Benches discourage these excursions into distant fields. There are only two or three regular opportunities during the session for formal debate, and even these are sometimes omitted and often curtailed. It is now rarely possible to raise an urgent question by a motion for the adjournment of the House, because the miserable stratagem of the "blocking motion" is freely used to prevent discussion. The subjects which do generally get discussed are those on which Ministers rather like to have their "hands strengthened"; the Congo question, for example, was sometimes debated twice or thrice in a single session. On the other hand the really large and vital questions of public policy are rarely raised, or, if raised at all, raised too late. Thus it was quite impossible before the second Hague Conference to discuss the instructions given by the Foreign Office to our representative, Sir Edward Fry, and in particular to consider whether he should be empowered to support the obsolete barbarism of the capture of private property in wartime at sea. One all-important question has governed all our foreign policy since the Liberals came into office---the antagonism of the two European Groups, and the struggle to maintain a balance of power. Save for brief references in the naval censure debate of 1909, this subject has never been discussed in its general aspects, while the Moroccan crisis led to only one important debate (after the crisis of 1911) and even then it shared an evening with other topics. The practice of other Parliaments is more democratic and less secretive. The French Chamber and the German Reichstag have often in the same period discussed the larger aspects of European policy in debates which continued for two or three days. It is no compensation for the meagreness of our debates that our House of Commons has what other Parliaments lack, the right to "heckle" a Foreign Secretary by question and answer. Questions are invaluable for the clearing up of facts, but they are nearly useless for the discussion of policy.
One other point must be noted. Whatever moral influence the House of Commons may be able to exercise in a vague way by asking questions and making speeches, it is practically debarred from translating this influence into the imperative mood of a vote. A Foreign Secretary may if he pleases allow himself to be guided by the fact that the "tone" of the House was on a given occasion somewhat hostile or critical, or that respected members urged him to take up a certain line of policy. But he need never fear an adverse vote. It would nowadays be considered quite scandalous if the Opposition Whips were to tell against the Foreign Minister in a division. Be the Foreign Minister Liberal or Conservative, it is only the Labour Party and a handful of Radicals who ever do vote against him. The reasons are obvious. A vote against the Foreign Minister is a vote against the entire Government, and his defeat, in almost any conceivable circumstances, would entail a dissolution. Few members, if any, are prepared to jeopardise free trade for the sake of a scruple about Persia, or to risk the future of social reform at home to save the skins of a few Egyptian peasants from an unmerited death or a public flogging. As Lord John Russell once remarked when Palmerston obtained a majority for his highly provocative policy, "the fate of the Government had been staked upon it, and many people voted on that account who would not have supported the foreign policy." (Queen Victoria's Letters, ii. 313)
In plain words members vote for or against a Government ; they do not vote on the merits of any particular foreign issue. While that is so, it is evident that the House of Commons can exercise no serious control over foreign policy.
One is tempted to suppose that however weak the Commons may be as a board of control, the Cabinet is at least in a position to act as a serious check upon a Foreign Secretary. It consists of picked men; it sits in secret; it has all the facts and the documents before it, and it can intervene before an act is irreparably consummated. These are immense advantages, and though the Cabinet represents only one party, it usually contains enough diversity of temperament and opinions to make a real debate possible. It is difficult for an outsider to know how far any given Cabinet exerts its rights of corporate responsibility, but history furnishes some materials for an answer, and they are not reassuring. Much depends on the personality of the Minister. A headstrong and obstinate man will have his way in a Cabinet, as in less august committees, if he is also able and a power in the country. Queen Victoria's letters are a mine of information on this point. It is clear from them that Lord Palmerston, one of the ablest but one of the most reckless Foreign Ministers that this country has ever produced, was on most occasions a law unto himself. No Minister stood more in need of constant control, yet he was usually successful in evading it. It is frankly admitted in these letters that Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister, was quite unable to control Palmerston, who constantly acted in large issues without the authority either of the whole Cabinet or even of his chief. He even went so far as to recognise Louis Napoleon after the coup d'état entirely on his own responsibility, and against the wishes, not only of public opinion, but of the Queen and his own colleagues. To the suggestion that he should be dismissed, Lord John Russell always answered that if he were dismissed, he would avenge himself by going into Opposition and overthrowing the Government. How just this fear was, events showed. He was eventually forced to resign at the end of December, 1851. By February, 1852, he had unseated his late colleagues. A Cabinet which cannot dispense with a Minister must be prepared to give him a free hand.
There is a further difficulty in exerting any real control. A Cabinet is not a simple committee. It is a Committee in which each Minister is the head of a department. His main concern must always be to further the interests of that department. His reputation depends less on the general policy of the Ministry than on the success of his own Bills. If he on his side has to meet some opposition in the Cabinet, he will be the less disposed to rouse further antagonism by interfering with a colleague. A Minister has, let us suppose, concentrated all his dreams on passing a certain Bill. He becomes meanwhile uneasy about the trend of foreign policy. He makes a protest, which passes unheeded. Is he to insist, knowing that insistance may involve his own resignation, and the loss of the Bill on which he has set his heart? The chances are that in such a dilemma he will usually elect to go on doing his own duty in his own department, and to leave the Foreign Secretary to bear the responsibility for his own omissions or mistakes. The tendency will always be to leave a Foreign Secretary alone, if he on his side is equally considerate to others. Thus Lord John Russell, attempting to explain to Queen Victoria why it was so difficult to control Palmerston's vagaries, remarked rather naïvely that he was "a good colleague," a term which he proceeded to define as a Minister who does not interfere with other departments, and demands in return a free hand for himself.`
The Foreign Secretary is indeed, as a rule, much more his own master than any other member of the Cabinet. He makes virtually no demands for money, and therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not called upon to exercise over him the constant vigilance which he is authorised to use towards the great spending departments. But the main reason for his freedom is the simple fact that in most Cabinets, and more particularly in Liberal Cabinets, few Ministers have the requisite knowledge to enable them to check his proceedings. Thus, in 1860, at a time when foreign affairs were intensely interesting, and all England was moved by the resurrection of Italy, Palmerston put it on record, in speaking of his colleagues, that "Mr. Gladstone is almost the only one on the Treasury Bench who follows up foreign questions close enough to take an active part." In a Cabinet so constituted, the Foreign Secretary will certainly have his way, simply because he is the recognised expert. His colleagues may feel a vague disquiet about his doings, brut they lack the detailed knowledge to meet him in debate. In the Liberal Cabinet, as it was formed in 1906, Mr. Bryce was the only member who had studied foreign affairs closely enough "to take an active part," and he left it early to become Ambassador in Washington.
But one is not left to conjecture in estimating the small part which Cabinet control plays in the conduct of foreign affairs. There are instances in modern history which show how slack and nerveless is this control, even when the issue of peace and war is at stake. It may be enough to cite two of them in order to illustrate this point. The history of the negotiations which led up to the Crimean War goes to show that four men and four only were responsible for British policy,---Lord Clarendon, the Foreign Secretary; Lord Aberdeen, the Prime Minister; and Lords John Russell and Palmerston, whose experience made their advice worth seeking. The war was made by these typical representatives of the governing class, and it is especially significant that none of the commoners in the Cabinet seem to have claimed a voice in the negotiations. Mr. Gladstone was one of the silent members in this Cabinet which allowed itself to drift under its aristocratic leaders into this most unnecessary war. His biographer, Lord Morley, makes this comment (Life of Gladstone, vol. I. p. 357, popular edition) :--
The Cabinet as a body was a machine incapable of being worked by anything like daily and some times hourly consultations of this kind, the upshot of which would only become known on the more important occasions to the Ministers at large, especially to those among them charged with the most laborious departments.
In other words the Cabinet as a whole had no real responsibility for the war, and some at least of its members were even content to remain in ignorance of the detailed steps by which war became inevitable. Moreover, Mr. Gladstone and Lord Morley are apparently of opinion that the Cabinet is a machine which cannot be used with effect to control delicate negotiations. Another even more startling illustration is to be found in Lord Morley's Life of Gladstone (vol. II. p. 4). In August, 1865, the Alabama affair entered on a critical phase, when the American Ambassador presented a demand for compensation for the damage done by this privateer during the civil war; should compensation be refused, he suggested that the affair be referred to arbitration. Lord Russell flatly refused all compensation; what was much more serious, he refused no less categorically to submit the question to arbitration---a refusal which was reversed three years later by a Conservative Government. This despatch was written and presented on Lord Russell's sole responsibility. The Cabinet had not so much as discussed the question. If a Foreign Secretary may refuse arbitration without consulting his colleagues, it is hardly too much to say that he may by his own individual act render war inevitable. The modern practice seems to be to leave even the gravest questions to inner circles or sub-committees of the Cabinet. It was admitted, for example, that Mr. Lloyd George's Mansion House speech during the crisis of 1911, in which Germany was publicly warned that we were prepared to go to war over the Moroccan question in support of France, was made without the authority of the Cabinet. It was delivered after a consultation between Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey and Mr. Lloyd George. That speech came near provoking, war, and left a heavy legacy of bitterness behind it. If the Cabinet need not be summoned to consider even such crucial acts of foreign policy as this, it is clear that it cannot be regarded as a trustworthy check upon a Foreign Minister.
There remains a third check, which, unlike the others, is really operative, but it is a check which rather enforces than bridles the normal tendencies of the governing class. The Crown under Queen Victoria succeeded after a long and bitter struggle with Whig Ministers in establishing its right of control over the minutest details of foreign policy, and under King Edward its privileges were more than maintained. Queen Victoria's letters are in the main a record of the immense part which she and the Prince Consort played in determining foreign policy. Her point of view was logical and consistent, and it was almost invariably anti-national and anti-democratic.
The Queen's attitude towards the resurrection of Italy is peculiarly interesting, because it is typical of the mode of thinking which even the most enlightened Monarch would almost always assume in similar circumstances. She was very far from being reactionary, and she uses on occasion very critical phrases about Metternich and the Tsar Nicholas. On the other hand, the world in which she moved was a world of monarchs and governments. Nations she neither knew nor recognised. In the tremendous upheaval between 1848 and 1860, which was creating an Italian people, she saw nothing but a series of aggressions by Sardinia against Austria. All governments, in her eyes, were alike entitled to the same respect and the same fair treatment. She based herself exclusively on treaties and the status quo, and to her the fundamental fact was that Austria had certain "rights" in Italy. Her personal sense of honour was keen and sensitive, and towards other monarchs and other governments she never forgot the golden rule, but her interpretation of history was tinged by an almost legal bias, and she would argue over the fate of an Italian province exactly as a lawyer might argue over the ownership of a freehold. When Palmerston and Louis Napoleon were talking in 1848 of a plebiscite to decide the fate of Lombardy, she declared that "it will be a calamity for ages to come" if peoples are allowed to transfer their allegiance by universal suffrage. Garibaldi's expedition to Sicily filled her with something much deeper than political disapproval, and she tried hard to induce Russell to express "moral reprobation." She had a fellow-feeling with Austria, and it was quite in vain that Russell and Palmerston used to remind her that the King of Sardinia was doing in Lombardy exactly what William of Orange had done in England. Never through this whole period does she seem to have caught glimpse of an Italian nation. She saw only an Austrian Emperor and a Sardinian King. In the main she failed to deflect Whig policy, but she did impose hesitations and delays, and it is just possible that if she had supported Palmerston in 1848, Italy might not have had to wait eleven years for liberation. Sometimes, indeed, she based her caution on a love of peace. But while she loathed the idea of any policy which might conceivably end in armed Anglo-French intervention to free Italy, she wholly approved armed Anglo-French co-operation in 1854 to maintain the integrity of Turkey. Her point of view was not personal. It would be that of any monarch for whom kings and governments are the central realities of politics.
The control exercised by the Crown is in short open to all the objections that may be raised against the control of the House of Lords over legislation. It is almost certain to be anti-popular, and it will almost certainly be one-sided. The Crown throughout the period covered by Queen Victoria's letters used its influence with remarkable steadiness, and always in one sense. There is nothing in these letters to suggest any attempt to hold up the other scale of the balance while the Tories were in office. A constitutional monarch, who regarded himself as a trustee for his people and a permanent force making for continuity, moderation, and peace, would be compelled to argue on occasion for the Whig against the Tories, and for the Tories against the Whigs. But that would imply an almost impossible agility of mind. Nor did the Queen's intervention satisfy the other ideal requirement of a constitutional check---that it should be so far as possible an impersonal vox populi, uttering in secret affairs the unspoken, and perhaps unconscious. opinion of the nation. In all the debates between the Queen and the Whigs, the one argument which she never used was that British opinion was on her side. She argued from prudence, from justice, from legality, but never from public opinion. Indeed it was rather for the monarchs of Europe that she seemed to speak, as Lord John Russell hinted, when he defended Palmerston's policy from her criticisms;
Somewhat of the good opinion of the Emperor of Russia and other foreign Governments may be lost, but the good will and affection of the people of England are retained.
The most determined of several attempts which the Crown made to remove Palmerston from the Foreign Office took place immediately after the great debate on foreign policy, in which his memorable " Civis Romanus Sum," won for him an ovation and an overwhelming vote of confidence. Parliament was more than satisfied, but the Crown still demanded his dismissal. The Crown is certainly a powerful check upon the Foreign Office, but it is necessarily an incalculable and purely personal check. Above all it is a check which tends to make our policy even less democratic and more conservative than it otherwise would be. There is little or nothing in her letters to suggest that Queen Victoria allowed any personal dislike which she might entertain for a foreign monarch to deflect her attitude in politics. But rumours, too numerous and too consistent to be quite disregarded, suggest that the personal antipathy between her successor and the German Emperor played a considerable part in estranging their two Governments. A dangerous constitutional precedent was created when he was allowed to pay what clearly were political visits to foreign monarchs, unaccompanied by the Foreign Secretary.
A survey of the machinery of our foreign relations would be incomplete, which was content to demonstrate the absence of any guarantee that it will broadly interpret national interests and public opinion. The character of the machine itself is at least as important. From Downing Street to Pekin, the diplomatic service is based on the assumption that the relations of States mean in practice the relations of their upper classes. Commerce and finance enter into its calculations as they rarely did in earlier centuries, yet diplomacy continues to be the game of courts. The Foreign Secretary is almost invariably a peer, or if not a peer at least a member of some historic governing family. Entry to the diplomatic service is still by nomination, though nearly every other branch of the Civil Service has been thrown open to competition. No young man can enter it unless he is possessed of private means, By such methods its permeation by democratic sympathies is carefully guarded against. Once within its ranks a young man readily learns that alike at home and abroad he is expected to move in "good society," and in "good society" alone. He becomes familiar only with that aspect of the life of a foreign nation which is normally frivolous and reactionary. He will meet the Ministers and the leaders of fashion of the country to which he is accredited; he will not meet the people. In such a country as Russia it would be fatal to his prospects, if he were even to consort with middle-class Liberals. It happened on one occasion that Professor Miliukoff, the Russian Liberal leader, visited the United States on a lecturing tour. President Roosevelt proposed to receive him. The Russian Ambassador successfully protested, and the visit did not take place. One may infer how little probability there is that our Embassy or any Embassy in St. Petersburg will meet persons who are in bad odour at the Tsar's court. It follows that the views formed by an Ambassador and embodied in his despatches, are views matured in the atmosphere of courts, by a man isolated from popular influences in the country where he lives. It sometimes happens, moreover, that the Ambassador does not know, and does not take the trouble to learn the language of the country in which he lives. He does his work in French. In such a country as Turkey the consuls are commonly better equipped as linguists, more closely in touch with the people, and much more popular in their sympathies than the staff of the Embassy. But it is the Ambassador's opinion in policy and not that of the consular corps which reaches the Foreign Secretary. Diplomacy is in all countries the acknowledged preserve of wealth and birth. The German Emperor actually objected to a man of some eminence and distinction, whom the United States proposed to send as Ambassador to Berlin, on the ground that his private fortune was not large enough to permit him to entertain on a scale as lavish as fashion in the Prussian capital exacts.
The words of an Ambassador or a Foreign Secretary carry weight only because behind them is the force of docile and ignorant masses. To arm him with the prestige which he wields, to back his threats and to execute his promises, they drill, they labour, they are taxed. He is the trustee of their wealth, the director of their strength. For good or for evil by their acquiescence he moulds the fate of distant nations, makes for them enemies and friends, fosters or thwarts the fortunes of popular movements in remote continents, adjusts frontiers, drafts treaties and plays with the issues of peace and war. That power the people place in his hands unchecked and uncontrolled. Nations aspire in vain to fraternity and peace, while the ambitions, the prejudices and the interests of their governing caste dictate their movements and govern their intercourse.(17)
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