HL Deb 28 November 1911 vol 10 cc361-400

*LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH rose "To call attention to the recent negotiations between France and Germany respecting Morocco and consequential questions, and to the action of His Majesty's Ministers in relation thereto, and to move for Papers."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships are placed to-night in rather a peculiar, almost, I think, an unprecedented, position. Usually when debates arise on foreign affairs they are simultaneously held in both Houses, and the Ministers charged with the conduct of the business in hand make simultaneous statements and simultaneous speeches are made. But on these ordinary occasions the debates arise upon Papers submitted and upon communications antecedently made, and there is ample material for discussion before the debate begins. On the present occasion, however, we have had to wait for that material until last night's debate elsewhere, and so it becomes necessary, and certainly convenient, that your Lordships should consider on the second day matters which, perhaps, have been discussed and first fruit tasted before coming to your Lordships' consideration. But it appears to me that there remains a good deal to be said and a good deal that must be said. I trust, your Lordships will excuse me if I venture therefore to resume, as it must in some measure be a resumption, the debate begun elsewhere, and I crave in advance the toleration of your Lordships if I am found using unexpected or unaccustomed words in connection with the debate now about to begin.

I propose to confine my observations exclusively to the negotiations that recently took place between France and Germany respecting Morocco, the questions consequently arising in the course of those negotiations, by which I mean practically the questions familiarly known as compensation, and the action of His Majesty's Government in relation thereto. I shall not enter into any other matter of foreign policy, except perhaps in a most cursory way to refer to an incident as it may come to illustrate my general observations. In these discussions we have to refer back to the Treaty of 1904 and the Act of Algeciras. When the discussions began between the two great Continental Powers the Prime Minister in another place, speaking of our position, said that we were concerned in respect of the maintenance of Treaty obligations and in reference to the defence of our own interests. These things are apt to be very much interwoven. I think they have been in the consideration of these negotiations very much intermixed. It is well that we should separate them one from the other, and consider, if we can, what are our Treaty obligations and what are the interests which have been involved in these discussions.

On July 18 I put a Question to my noble friend the Leader of the House as to whether he could lay on the Table Papers showing our Treaty obligations in respect to Morocco. I regret that that Question was not pursued and made the commencement of discussion. I think it would have been useful if occasion had been taken to examine pretty strictly what our Treaty obligations were. My noble friend replied to me that they were confined in two documents—the Treaty of 1904 and the Act of Algeciras; and he left me to discover from them what were our Treaty obligations to France in respect of Morocco. No doubt that was an easy way of disposing of the difficulty, but I think it might have been of more use, in reference to the state of public opinion and perhaps to the controversy which arose, if your Lordships had seized the occasion to examine into the precise character of the Treaty obligations contained in the two documents to which I have referred.

Now what was the genesis and what the character of the Treaty of 1904. We had had outstanding difficulties with France, some enduring for a long time, not always chronically active, but appearing and reappearing at intervals, and frequently very vexatious in character. There was, for example, the difficulty with France, arising from the Treaty of Utrecht, on the question of the shores of Newfoundland. The Treaty of 1904 practically settled all our difficulties with France and established what has been called an entente, but which I prefer to describe, using the language of the Foreign Secretary, as a cordial friendship between ourselves and France. It was an escape from difficulties which before had beset us and which occasionally were urgent. The Foreign Secretary, for instance, has said that not long before that Treaty a difficulty arose between us and France in respect to Siam which threatened some peril of war. Speaking of it last night he used an expression which I cannot help, in passing, taking notice of. It would be humorous if it were not a pathetic revelation of what may be called our constant attitude. He said we were in peril of a war about Siam. Viewed in the light of what has since happened, a war such as we then had in prospect about Siam would have been a madness and a crime. My Lords, how many wars, viewed in the light of what happened a few years afterwards, would not seem to calm observers to be at once a madness and a crime? This comparatively petty discussion which has had such results in irritating one nation, if not two nations, in which we have been engaged during the last two or three months, viewed in the light of two or three years hence will scarcely be serious enough, perhaps, to be characterised as a madness and a crime, but surely will come to be regarded as a futility. It is the part of a statesman to attempt to forecast the future so as not to allow years to pass before correctly estimating the character of the controversy which threatens to provoke war.

Now I come to the settlement of 1904 which removed the difficulties between us and France. How was it produced, and how was it received? With the single exception of the noble Earl who usually sits on the Cross Benches, I think it was received with approbation by every person engaged in political life in this country. And Lord Rosebery himself, though he expressed his dissatisfaction with it, did not, I think, at the time enter into any complaint about it, and what he has since said seemed to indicate that his anxiety about it arose from the fact that it might in the future present France and ourselves vis-à-vis as dominating Powers on opposite sides of the Straits of Gibraltar. If that is the danger he apprehended, it has yet to come. It is not out of that view of the Treaty that any difficulty has arisen. The Treaty, as I say, was received by everybody else with acclamation as removing all these difficulties, petty or considerable, which had so long existed between us and France, and as opening up a new prospect for the future; and we rejoice to know, my Lords, that that prospect, as far as France is concerned, has been fulfilled. As was said by the Foreign Secretary last night, seven years have tried that Treaty, and we have remained friends with France throughout. There has been a cordial friendship, a friendship accompanied with tolerance and goodwill, without which qualities I suspect no friendship is possible between, individuals or nations. We hailed it with satisfaction, and we hailed it also as an illustration of what might be expected to be achieved in reference to our relations to other countries. It was not to stand alone. Having thus cleared the way with France, we might go on and clear our relations with other neighbours, and so establish a harmony which should extend throughout Europe, and, indeed, possibly beyond the bounds of Europe. And it has been done.

We accomplished—not the late Government who achieved the Treaty of 1904, but the present Government, following up the inclinations if not the preparations of the noble Marquess opposite—we accomplished a Treaty of friendship with Russia which removed similar occasions of difficulty and discord and has laid the foundations of a friendship between us and Russia. Then, my Lords, that was accompanied with the treatment of some subjects involving difficulties and very nice management, and it may be that that Treaty has not quite fulfilled all that we had hoped from it; but it at all events served for some time to remove difficulties that had existed between Russia and ourselves, and to maintain that tolerance and goodwill which I, for one, would extend to Russia as much as to France or any other country. I hope we may see that Treaty in spirit and in letter continuously maintained. What was done with respect to ourselves and the United States? There also a movement has been made, consequential I think I may say on the Treaty of 1904, towards bringing our relations to the United States into perfect clearness, freed from the many difficulties respecting boundaries, fishery rights, and other causes of dispute between us which appeared and reappeared through many years. These were consequent upon the Treaty of 1904, and in fulfilment of the hope in which that Treaty was produced and the expectations which that Treaty excited; and I ask your Lordships to consider whether there has been, whether there is, any reason why what was done with France, what was done with Russia, what we may say has been achieved with the United States, should not, also be done between us and Germany? Cannot we, in relation to Germany, enter into a similar condition of cordial friendship? Can we not in our dealings with that great Power show something of the same tolerance and goodwill which has made the maintenance of the French understanding so firm and so trustworthy? I ask your Lordships to consider whether it would not have been really a fulfilment of your own expectations when you received with gladness that settlement of the difficulties with France that before this we should have concluded a similar Treaty with Germany?

The Treaty with France was one between us and our neighbours mainly in respect of Morocco and in respect of Egypt. It was of a strictly limited character. It began with the declaration that the independence of Morocco was not to be dealt with, it was to be maintained; but as friends of the French and having newly established friendly relations with France we recognised that France as a conterminous Power had peculiar interests in Morocco, and we undertook to lend France diplomatic support—the adjective was not used unwarily—in extending that influence, in policing the conterminous area, and in developing the resources and trade of Morocco, always, however, without the introduction of any un- equal commercial treatment. That was all. There was a similar agreement—a reciprocal agreement—on the part of France towards ourselves in respect of Egypt, but our agreement was strictly limited to lending diplomatic support to France in relation to the limited subjects I have named. There was no agreement to do anything beyond diplomatic action, and no agreement to extend that diplomatic action beyond the sphere of supporting France in policing the border and in developing the resources of Morocco subject to the condition of equal commercial treatment.

The Treaty between us and France with respect to Morocco could not, of course, affect the rights or interests of any other Power in Morocco. It was a Treaty between ourselves, and binding only upon ourselves. It could not touch the rights or interest of third parties. There was some delay in communicating it to third parties, though one scarcely knows how that arose. Umbrage was taken at that delay, and it was signified by Germany that we and France could not arrange the fortunes of Morocco without considering the rights and interests of outside Powers, and that Morocco, in fact, concerned, other Powers besides France and Great Britain. The Conference of Algeciras was called, which resulted in the Act of Algeciras. It was the second Treaty to which my noble friend below me referred. And what was the character of the Act of Algeciras? My Lords, it affirmed the independence and integrity of the Empire of Morocco. That was affirmed as a thing not to be touched. It made that the interest of united Europe. Instead of being a matter of interest to France and ourselves alone, it became the part of the Concert of Europe to regard and maintain that independence and integrity, and it went on to lay down provisions, subject to that independence, for the development of the trade, the resources, the mines of Morocco, and for the organisation of its police; and all these regulations were most strictly coupled with provisions for the equal treatment of all Powers in respect of commerce with Morocco.

Your Lordships will sec that the Act of Algeciras made the condition of Morocco a matter of European concern, and so far it superseded and made of little account the Treaty of 1904. No doubt that Treaty remained technically alive, but its provisions ceased to be of paramount importance when the Act of Algeciras was agreed upon. That Act was a later document; it affected a larger number of Powers; and our relations with France itself became subject to the conditions which France and ourselves entered into with respect to those other Powers. From that time the Act of Algeciras ought to have been regarded, as it strictly was, as the charter, the dominant charter, of the condition of Morocco, and anything that was attempted to be done by way of change within Morocco ought to have been pursued with a single eye—in the main, at all events—upon the Act of Algeciras. Unfortunately, as I think, the conduct of our Foreign Office leads to the view that the Act of Algeciras was little thought of, and our obligations under the Treaty of 1904 were much thought of. We magnified those Treaty obligations where they were exceedingly little, and we neglected to consider the character of the Act of Algeciras in its bearing on the condition of Morocco. If that had been kept steadily in mind, if our relation to Morocco and the relation of other Powers to Morocco in the light of the Act of Algeciras had been kept steadily in mind, we should, I think, have avoided all, or almost all, the difficulties that have arisen.

Now why do I say that if we had kept the Act of Algeciras steadily in mind we should have avoided most of the difficulties that have happened The Act of Algeciras put the independence and integrity of Morocco under European control. All the Powers were united in declaring that it was a matter of concern to them. Directly, therefore, our friends in France took any action which in any way led up to, or threatened to lead up to, an interference with the integrity and independence of Morocco, that action on the part of France was derogatory to, hostile to, the conditions of the Act of Algeciras; and as friends of France, as bound by these cordial relations which have existed, it would have been easy, it would have been becoming, it would have saved a great deal of trouble, and it would have saved us and France from a false position, if we had pointed out in the most friendly way that steps which threatened the independence of Morocco on the part of France must occasion questions on the part of other Powers who are parties to the Act of Algeciras, and that if France insisted that such infringements or preparations for infringement of independence and integrity were permitted, it would be beyond our power to withstand complaints. We should have had no valid reason for saying there was not ground for complaint in that the Act of Algeciras was threatened. But we did little; we did nothing; we allowed the matter to drift.

Germany entered into conversations with France with respect to these threatened, these probable, attacks on the integrity and independence of Morocco, and we stood by. Indeed, as far as one can discover, it was not until in pursuit of the conversations between Germany and France the "Panther" was despatched to Agadir that we woke up. Then we began to be interested. It was apparent then—it ought to have been apparent before—that something was done which might interfere with the. Act of Algeciras. It ought to have been apparent before that if anything was to be done with respect to that Act, the Powers of Europe must be allowed to say their say about it. The Powers of Europe had, by the consent of them all, taken Morocco in hand. But nothing was done until the appearance of the "Panther" at Agadir, and then, as I say, we woke up. Then it appeared to be considered that our Treaty obligations or our interests were at stake. Treaty obligations, my Lords! It would be difficult to find how those were in any way in peril by that action, except so far as we were, like other Powers who were parties to the Act of Algeciras, bound to maintain the integrity of Morocco, and so ought to have been co-partners with Germany in protesting against an alteration in the status of Morocco to which the other Powers were not parties.

As for interests, I boldly face that question. What is the question of interests raised by the despatch of the "Panther" to Agadir? We were told that the ship went there because certain Germans were alarmed as to person and property, and the ship was sent to protect them, if necessary, against maltreatment. But take it as far as your imagination can go. Take it that the appearance of the "Panther" at Agadir was the first step towards a possible partition of Morocco, in which Germany would have possibly a port on the Atlantic coast, and France would have possibly another port. I ask here whether our interests were really involved in the question supposing a protectorate were to be established, whether the protectorate be vested in one Power or another Power, or supposing that one portion of the country should be under the protectorate of one Power and another portion under the protectorate of another Power. My Lords, our duty was, if possible, to maintain the integrity of Morocco as a whole. Our interest was to insist that, whatever changes happened, the commercial treatment of all countries should be equal, that the open door should be maintained. All these things we might have insisted upon, but we did not. All our action took the form of backing up France in the conversations that followed, of accepting French statements and viewing everything through French spectacles, and whereas Morocco under the Treaty of Algeciras was made a matter of European concern, we took the extraordinary position of maintaining, as it were, against Germany the position of France in Morocco. Well, my Lords, that is something that could not be maintained, and if we look substantially at the question of interest, I reaffirm the statement that as a matter of interest it was to us immaterial which one of two Powers should occupy a portion of the coast of Morocco supposing that it was necessary—and it was not necessary—that that coast should pass under the control of one or the other or of both Powers.

I do not propose to follow the very intricate and interwoven course of negotiations that followed. Our Government thought it necessary on July 3, through the Foreign Secretary, to tell the German Ambassador that the despatch of the "Panther" to Agadir made a new departure, and on the 4th, after a Cabinet meeting, the Foreign Secretary communicated the opinion of the Cabinet that it did constitute a new departure. No inquiry was made at that time of the German Ambassador or of the German Government. A statement was made that in the opinion of His Majesty's Government a new position had been taken—a statement which no doubt invited some response and some explanation, which, unhappily, did not appear to be forthcoming. But the truth appears to have been that the German Government went on conducting their negotiations with the French Government apart. It did turn out some few days later that there was no intention to bring in any third party. They went on conducting their negotiations apart, and Germany, to outward appearances, may seem to have said, "We take note of what has been said, but inasmuch as there is no new departure whatever we have nothing further to say. Things must go on as they were." There are difficulties in the diplomacy of Germany as of other Powers, and I confess I think it much to be regretted that a clear statement was not made then on the part of Germany as to the real intention and limitation—a difficult statement to make, I admit, even with the most perfect honesty on the part of Germany—of the conduct of the "Panther" at Agadir. A difficult statement, because circumstances may require such development that what is started with one idea may lead to the adoption of another idea. But it would have been wise if a communication had been made consequent upon the intimation of July 4.

It is confessed that none was made; and on July 21 the Foreign Secretary sent for the German Ambassador and had a conversation—a somewhat warm conversation—with him. We had a report of that conversation first of all through a communication made by the German Foreign Secretary to a Committee of the Reichstag. I confess that when I read that I felt that there must surely be some considerable misunderstanding if not misrepresentation, some negligence in the statement of the case, because our Foreign Secretary was represented as expressing a strong opinion that the demands made by Germany were unacceptable, that there was a reason for apprehension that the whole negotiations would break down, and other declarations of a similar character. I said to myself when I read this statement, surely the Foreign Secretary could not have gone further than have said, "We understand certain things to be asked which seem to us very unlikely to be accepted, and perhaps it is worth considering whether they can possibly be accepted and what will be the consequence of their rejection." But that our Foreign Secretary should summon the German Ambassador to his presence and tell him that demands had been made which were unacceptable I felt to be quite beyond what would be expected of the Foreign Secretary. But apparently this language was quite accurate. The Foreign Secretary himself now admits that this was the language which he employed in speaking to the German Ambassador. It was the language of France, not our language. How could we say what was unacceptable and what was not unacceptable with respect to a revision of territory in the Congo Basin? How could we lay down beforehand the possibility or otherwise of the acceptance of these proposals? We could only do so secondhand, and only by seeing what was going on through French spectacles, and only by making ourselves partisans of France. The friendship had become a partial affection, and we were taking the line of partisans in that interview.

The German Ambassador left the Foreign Secretary, and it was evident that some further communication would be made. He had after that interview to communicate with his Government and bring back an answer to the observations of the Foreign Secretary; and, in fact, that course was taken. The German Ambassador did send home a report and he got a reply. But before the reply came another thing had happened, to me the most inexplicable act in the whole of this singular drama. After that conversation on the afternoon of July 21 the Foreign Secretary saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was going to meet the bankers in the City, and the Foreign Secretary, with the approval, I am sorry to add, of the Prime Minister, apparently wrote down something which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to say to the bankers in the City. I confess that was to me, and remains, wholly inexplicable. The resources of diplomacy were not exhausted. The matter was in course of diplomatic treatment. We had received no rebuff which made it necessary to go into the streets and utter our complaint. The matter was still in course of strict diplomatic treatment when this statement was given to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer went into the City and made his speech. His was not a very apt fulfilment of the mission so confided to him. It was not his fault so far as one could see, even if it were proper that such a step should be taken. But it was quite unnecessary that such a step should be taken. It was quite unnecessary that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should say anything about the matter; but if he were bound to refer to it, it would have been quite easy to have employed diplomatic language similar to that which Germany herself had employed with reference to the Treaty of 1904—to wit, that though Morocco was the subject of conversation as between Germany and France, and possibly certain proposals had been made by one side to the other and were still under discussion, still Morocco since the Act of Algeciras was a matter of European concern, and it was impossible for two parties to the European compact to enter into new relations apart altogether from the consent and approval of the other parties; and therefore we would wait because we knew that in due course, as on a former occasion, whatever was tentatively agreed upon between Germany and France must come before the Concert of Europe.

But instead of a speech of that kind, which could have been made without, difficulty, without causing irritation, without offence, the Chancellor of the Exchequer went into the City and made what may be coiled a shrill outcry of slighted self-importance, not a dignified thing at all, and of which I confess as an Englishman I did not feel at all proud as the utterance of a representative of His Majesty's Government in respect to a matter of international concern. I do not wish to dwell upon this question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer too much. He probably has not too many friends in this House, and it would be unfair to blame him entirely for what was his first essay, so far as I know, in diplomatic affairs; but it was a deplorable essay, for which excuse seems to be difficult to discover, for which no precedent can be offered, and which provoked the deepest ill-feeling, not merely on the part of the German Government—I do not know what their feelings were; they were apparently more or less impervious—but, what concerns me more, on the part of the German people, and for the first time we were in real peril of something like a warlike feeling springing up between the two nations because of the embittered sense of wrong which got amongst the German people through this utterance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We know, in point of fact, that it was the natural consequence of that speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the communications made by the German Ambassador to the satisfaction of our Government that Germany contemplated no acquisition of land in Morocco were refused to be allowed to be treated otherwise than as confidential, because if we realise the situation we shall see that if that had been given out at that moment as a thing happening the day after Mr. Lloyd George's speech the feeling in Germany towards their Government, which became manifested afterwards in the Reichstag on the part of certain politicians, would have been pretty nearly universal.

Happily we have got over the difficulty. There is a sobriety amongst diplomats and other people which makes them sometimes recoil from following words up with deeds, and as a consequence we did in the end get an agreement established much the same as had been projected apparently from the first between France and Germany with respect to certain possessions in the Basin of the Congo, and Morocco was left free from the peril which had been thrown over her. Had we been faithful to our proper position as a party to the Act of Algeciras we should never have got into that difficulty, and when we got out of it of course our proper act should have been to revert to our position as a party to that Treaty and have rejoiced in the settlement. There is one observation in reference to this twisted and tortuous course of diplomacy which I must venture to make. The resources of civilisation, as I have said, were not exhausted. Supposing the conversations had failed, supposing a deadlock had ensued, still Morocco would have remained a matter of European concern, and still there would have been a possibility of acting upon the suggestion that very properly occurred to the Foreign Secretary of a European Conference to take into consideration the new situation, as a European Conference had taken into consideration the old at Algeciras. But that suggestion was thrown out whilst the negotiations were still pending, and, as a matter of course, the answer to the suggestion was that when made it might not be accepted. When people are engaged in one course of procedure endeavouring to settle in a particular fashion difficulties which have arisen, to enter into their company and say, "Supposing this plan fails, shall we adopt something else?" is to propose something which is certainly ill-timed, and most certainly at that moment would be dismissed as for the moment unacceptable. When failure was accomplished it would be natural to come forward with the suggestion for a conference. But to come forward with that suggestion beforehand is, I conceive, leading up to a rebuff. You must expect to be told that the suggestion is premature and could not be considered at that moment.

We may all rejoice, we do all rejoice, that at length the difficulty was got over. I myself never shared the extreme anxiety of those who thought at one time that we might be at war the next day, but we were in a very bad situation, and in a very bad situation because we had forgotten our proper position, and instead of being, with the other European Powers, protectors of Morocco under the Act of Algeciras, we had become, in pursuit of the supposed obligations of a Treaty, partisans of France in respect of its negotiations. But the thing is over, and, as the Chancellor to the German Empire said, there is a clean slate. My Lords, I would like us to take our stand upon that position. Let the dead past remain dead. But shall we be able to secure that offer of a clean slate. The pain, the grief, that I feel in respect of the situation is that that offer appears unlikely to lead to any immediate, if to any, result. We have not secured the clean slate; we cannot secure the clean slate unless we are prepared to do that which I suggested might have been done after the Treaty with France and after the Treaty with Russia were achieved—to do that with Germany which we have done with them, to enter into a relation of cordial friendship with Germany, reviewing all possible causes of discontent and entering upon a course of conduct marked with that tolerance and goodwill on the part of ourselves and of Germany which have deepened the friendship of France and England during the last seven years.

Was there perceptible in the speech of the Foreign Secretary any desire, any dream of a possibility of entering into with Germany a similar Treaty to that into which we have entered with France? We were told by the Prime Minister—I am glad of the words—that our friendship with France is not exclusive; it admits of friendship with other countries. Those are good words which I wish to press. But the acts of the Foreign Secretary have made that friendship exclusive, and the words of the Foreign Secretary would rather prove that that friendship must remain exclusive. He showed no disposition whatever in the other direction. On the contrary, if his words can be trusted, it would seem that he holds the belief that it is impossible to establish with Germany a state of cordial friendship marked with mutual tolerance and goodwill such as has been established with France. Why does he not make the offer? Why not go back to that position of being friends of all, friends of Germany as of France, and not partial friends? The Foreign Secretary's conception is that of a divided Europe, not of a united Europe. He lost sight of the Act of Algeciras which placed Morocco under European control. I regret to say that in his vision Europe consists of certain Powers which must be massed in two camps. We may treat with civility those in the opposite camp, but it is essential that division and balance should be maintained; and the notion of a complete agreement, a unity of Christendom, a family of nations, a concert of Europe—these are things which he seems rather to have regarded as impossible in the situation of Europe as it is. He made scorn of the old vision of complete aloofness, of nonintervention, which I do not think is held now by many persons. I myself have never held to the possibility of non-intervention in the affairs of Europe on the part of this country. It seems to me that in European affairs each State has its duties as each citizen within a State has his duties, and just as no citizen can disrobe himself of his duties as a citizen so no European Power can renounce and make nought its duties as a European Power. But this conception is not antagonistic. On the contrary, it is in perfect harmony with the suggestions that the different Powers of Europe might be united together in one family, making the affairs of Europe very largely a matter of general and mutual concern.

Consider at this moment—I put it by way of illustration—what has happened from the disunion which has been the result of the interpretation put upon the Anglo-French Treaty by the Foreign Secretary. We do not want to enter into the merits of the underlying controversy; but, my Lords, you must surely feel that no act of our time, of our generation, has been so fatal to the dignity and authority of international law as the commencement of the war between Italy and Turkey. Nothing has been so fatal to the dignity and authority of international law, and that offence would have been impossible had the Concert of Europe been maintained. This much we may say is certain, that Italy would not have taken the step, however justified that step might be in its ultimate concern—I pass no judgment on that—had not she been conscious that with England and Germany divided as they were there was no risk of interference. Had they been united, without a shot fired or deed done the enterprise would have been checked in its very inception.

Now, my Lords, the lesson to be derived from what has gone on for the last two or three months is that the Foreign Secretary—the foreign policy of this Government—should be animated by a new conception of international duty; that it should not be inspired by that notion of the balance of power which has been the bogey of successive generations and which has been made a mockery in the light of subsequent years. What we want is a conception of international duty and a foreign policy based on the alliance and the federation of the Powers of Europe in one body dealing with European concerns—not in the estrangement and allocation of those Powers into two camps, balancing one another, and keeping one another quiet by an exhibition of their great forces. Is this an impossible conception? Is this a matter which a Foreign Secretary should dismiss as a chimerical and quixotic dream? My Lords, I look back a very few years to the time when the seals of the Foreign Office were held by the commanding personality of Lord Salisbury. What was the main principle of Lord Salisbury's foreign policy? It was the maintenance of the European Concert. We sometimes fretted that that policy moved so slowly. It always will move slowly. But the Concert of Europe is a guarantee of European peace compared with which your calculations of the relative strength of this or that combination are idle and frivolous. It is to a European Concert between all nations, and to that alone, that we can look for a restoration of right feeling in European politics.

It is a matter of pain and grief that the Foreign Secretary, with all his charm of personality and all his gifts, should be apparently dead to this conception. What was his attitude last night? It was cold, deadly, correct. The friend of Germany, yes; but warning them not to be too aggressive—a warning which did not come with a better grace because it was preceded by a confession that we were gorged to the full and could swallow no more. A warning not to be too aggressive! This is the conception of meeting the offer of the clean slate This is the vision of division instead of union which negatives the restoration of true European fooling and good-will. Lord Salisbury, as I say, made this the main principle of his policy, and I think we may look to its being revived again as the main principle of the policy of the Foreign Secretary to come. I caught the accent, the great accent, of such a policy only last week in the speech delivered at Bath, not by a member of the Cabinet, but by one of the youngest members of the Government who, however, is exceeded in authority and character by none, and who, I venture to hope, in a short time will be admitted within the innermost councils of the Sovereign. In his message from the common folk of Great Britain to the common folk of Germany he called them the kindred race, and he spoke of their kindred ideals, their kindred career, and kindred progress. Sir John Simon made an invitation, made a response if you like, to offers of friendship on the other side which could not but thrill every German in whatever part of the Fatherland he might be. It is in such appeals, made in such a spirit and in such a spirit alone, that we can look for a real restoration of the peace of Christendom.

I am sorry I have to speak so firmly, so rigidly, as I have been compelled to do, but I think the occasion requires very plain speaking; and the greater our respect for the personal character of the Foreign Secretary, the more we are attracted to him by his grace and charm, the more are we bound to express our dissent from the policy which we trace not only in his words but in every deed of his official career, and we are bound to express a hope that that false conception of foreign policy which is the embodiment of that spirit may disappear from the councils of this nation. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be i presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the recent negotiations between France and Germany respecting Morocco and consequential questions, and to the action of His Majesty's Ministers in relation thereto.—(Lord Courtney of Penwith.)


My Lords, I am as well disposed to the spirit of peace as my noble friend. I have as strong a feeling for the European Concert as my noble friend, and I have stood side by side with him for many a year in hard and difficult battles. But to-night I am bound to say that I have listened with profound regret to the language which my noble friend has thought it right to use about the Foreign Secretary and the policy which he pursues. I also feel this with reference to the language of my noble friend about Italy. He has invited or pressed us to become the allies of Germany, and at the same time to—what shall I say?—trample upon Italy.




It came to that. I do not want to misrepresent what my noble friend said, but I so deplored it when I heard it that I wish it could be forgotten. I cannot imagine a more unfortunate line to take. I have told my noble friend before now that a statesman is a man who sees the whole and not merely the half, and to-night I am sorry to find that my noble friend has not taken your Lordships to a position of commanding eminence where you could see the whole situation. My noble friend has dwelt a great deal on some carefully selected details. But the whole range of questions that he has raised to-night cannot be judged unless you follow them out, I was going to say for hour after hour, into detail, and it is not a desirable way of presenting a set of questions, which I agree to be of momentous importance, to take two or three points. Perhaps he had not the time to go through all the details, but he might have left some of those points, at any rate, out, because they are only intelligible in relation to a whole set of categories of detail.

Then as to his language about the Foreign Secretary, is it not a painful irony that it seems only a few weeks ago—it is perhaps six months ago—since Sir Edward Grey quickened the pulse and kindled the hopes and the imagination—peaceful hopes and peaceful imagination—not only of this country, but of Europe and the United States, and that Sir Edward Grey did that by the spirit in which he addressed the House of Commons on some day or another in March when they were discussing Army Estimates? The Foreign Secretary on that occasion, in I noble passage, not very long but full of importance, begged the House to recognise that the only real and sure relief against the rising flood of military and naval armaments would come—How? When nations did what individuals have done—that is, recognise that in cases of difference they should regard an appeal to law as against an appeal to force as the true remedy and relief. He said that when nations came to regard an appeal to law as the natural course, just as individuals do, then indeed, though it might be Utopian and, as he said, might be called visionary, that was the natural remedy. These are his words— The minds of men are working on arbitration, and if you look back into history you will find there some favourable moments when public opinion has risen to heights which only a generation before seemed impossible. Well, my Lords, I think it is rather hard that a Minister who has used language of that kind should be so attacked. Sir Edward Grey knows as well as any man can how slow, how unsteady advance is; yet I say the man who made that appeal to the spirit of pacific negotiation cannot fairly be attacked in the way he has just been attacked. On that point I would only mention the sincere gratification with which we found, only last night, the new Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons using language which any of us who have, been scouted for years and years as Little Englanders, and I know not what else, might have used. Mr. Bonar Law said— We shall never show ourselves" [the Party opposite, that is] "anxious to prevent Germany from becoming a greater nation than she is; and for ourselves we desire no acquisition of territory, no extension of our Imperial obligations. He said, and I believe with perfect and absolute truth— I am speaking not only for myself and not only for my Party, but I am speaking for the whole nation; and I am perfectly certain, and nobody I think in this House or anywhere else would deny, that all the language used of a friendly character to Germany carries with it the feeling of the whole, nation, My noble friend went briefly into the history of the Convention of 1904, of which the author was the noble Marquess opposite. What he said was perfectly true, that that Convention was received with universal assent and applause. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the House of Commons said the country viewed it with intense satisfaction, and both the noble Marquess opposite and Sir Edward Grey used language which implied that there was to be, or that they hoped there would be an extended application of the method and purpose of the French Entente. The noble Marquess said, and his language is worth recalling— These Agreements deal with questions of the most complicated description, and I hope the arrangements come to in this case may be usefully followed in our dealings with other Powers. Sir Edward Grey said— This Entente with France will be a working model in other cases. There was only one voice, as my noble friend reminded us, hostile to the Entente of 1901, and that, as he said, was the voice of Lord Rosebery, who had been Foreign Secretary and therefore spoke with authority, and his view was a view not to be left out of account. He used very extreme language, as I think, about the Convention of 1904. He said that he had the mournful and supreme conviction that it was a dangerous and needless concession, and that no more one-sided Agreement was ever concluded between two great Powers. He gave a reason. He said he hoped and trusted that the Power which holds Gibraltar might never have cause to regret having handed Morocco over to a great military Power. But all the same he (Lord Rosebery) was as glad as other people that the Convention had been made.

One remark I see made about the Convention is that the Entente of 1904 between England and France was in truth an anti-German alliance. The noble Marquess is better able than I am to defend himself from any imputation of that sort; but it is perfectly obvious to anybody who has followed the foreign policy of Lord Salisbury and of the noble Marquess when Lord Salisbury had abandoned the helm—it is perfectly clear, from the concessions made to Germany, that no Foreign Secretary ever held office more intent upon preserving good terms and a good understanding with Germany than the Government of Lord Salisbury in which the noble Marquess was Foreign Secretary. Do not let us forget that one of the most powerful members of that Government was Mr. Chamberlain, and Mr. Chamberlain said— The natural alliance is between ourselves and the great German Empire Therefore it is ridiculous to say that the authors of the Entente of 1904 had any kind of hostility to Germany in their minds. I am sure that the noble Marquess will support that contention.

My noble friend behind me came naturally to the Algeciras Act, and he used the phrase that the Algeciras Act superseded the Entente Agreement. I do not think it superseded it at all. It developed it, and opened a new chapter that might be fairly considered consequential upon it. When my noble friend says that we neglected it, I really do not know—and I listened with the utmost attention to him—in reference to the Algeciras Act what he is criticising the action of. His Majesty's Government upon. I fail to get the thread of that. But there was. no doubt, by the Algeciras Act a development of great importance. As my noble friend said, it did recognise, in a way that had not been done in the Entente Agreement, the share of a number of small and great Powers. Whether that be wise or not I do not undertake to say. But the Algeciras Act. and its circumstances, though not very old, have long since passed away from people's minds as one of those ephemeral incidents which, common enough in international relations, require most careful and attentive watching by those who are responsible for the conduct of international affairs. I do not admit that this Government since the year 1905 has been guilty of any offence whatever in the way of neglecting the full bearing of either the Entente or the Algeciras Act. Now I want to ask my noble friend this. He used condemnatory language of the Entente as we have interpreted it. I am sure he does not wish us to denounce, or cause to be denounced, that Agreement, or in any way to fail to undertake our full share in upholding its terms.


Hear, hear.


That, of course, would be impossible. If anybody has such an idea—and I have seen language in the Press which implies that that idea is not entirely absent from some minds, or substitutes for minds—I would venture to put this point. What is the pith of the Entente? It-was an Agreement that England, putting it shortly and plainly, should have a free hand in Egypt, and France was to have a free hand in Morocco. We have had our share in the profits of that great transaction, if profits they be, as to which I for one—I am not speaking for the Government—have always had some doubts. But still we have had whatever profits there may be, or may not be, in the case of Egypt; and it would be intolerable that we should now, after taking our own share of the profits, in any way refuse to give France her full share too. There is such a thing as honour, surely, in all these international obligations. I remember a Judge saying once, "Honour is a great national interest"; and hope we shall not forget—I am sure nobody in this House, no responsible man will forget—the honour that is involved in maintaining that Treaty. But that does not in the least prevent our expanding it, as the noble-Marquess when the Treaty was made hoped might be done.

My Lords, I am not going to repeat to your Lordships to-night the long exposition of fact and narrative which the Foreign Secretary last night gave to the House of Commons. It would be idle. He has an authority which I do not pretend to, and he performed the task with a lucidity which I think has commanded admiration even from those who, like my noble friend, find some of the practical conclusions cold, or chilly, or whatever the word is. My noble friend said that Mr. Lloyd George had no friends in this House.


I said not many.


Well, I am one of them. I admit that there may be those who believe that it would have been better if the important declaration which was made to the bankers at the Mansion House had been made through the ordinary diplomatic channels. That is a position that may be taken up. But the Government were of another opinion. The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were of another opinion, and the speech was made. I wonder—if it is not impertinent—hew many of your Lordships have really read that speech or the operative portion of it. It is not very long, and I will not read it all, but the operative part is short enough. It is this— I conceive that nothing would justify a disturbance of international goodwill except questions of the gravest national moment. But if a situation were to be forced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficent position Great Britain has won by centuries of heroism and achievement, by allowing Britain to be of no account in the cabinet of nations, then I say emphatically that peace at that price ' would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure. I know quite well, of course, that the mere words of a speech are not to be construed without regard to the conditions under which they were spoken, the persons to whom they were spoken, and the persons about whom they were spoken. That is quite true. But the reasons given last night by the Foreign Secretary, with which your Lordships are now familiar, seem to me to be a fair answer to the alarm of my noble friend, and the condemnation which he has bestowed upon that speech. I for my part, at all events, think that my noble friend has not said anything which really damages or contradicts any single word which was used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion.

Now I am not one of those who think there is no real conflict of interests between England and Germany, trade rivalries, and so forth, but this I do say—and here I am sure I shall have my noble friend with me—that that conflict is not a conflict that can possibly be averted or opposed or conducted to a hopeful issue either by war or the shock of battle or by diplomacy starting from fixed antipathies and prepossessions, whether those antipathies and prepossessions are in the mind of the Government or in the minds of its agents and informants abroad. Vigilance, alertness, care, will always be needed, with such moderation, good temper, good humour, and cool readiness as will place not the worst but the best construction upon what is said or urged or advanced by the nation with whom you are negotiating.

Let us try to look perfectly fairly at German ideals. My noble friend and many of those who sympathise with him overlook the fact—the very disagreeable fact for many reasons—of the enormous advance of the German Navy during the last ten years. You cannot argue the question that we are discussing here to-day, and which was discussed in the House of Commons last night, if you shut your eyes to a plain and formidable fact of that kind. We cannot really shut our eyes to it because of the tax collector. But in argument I have observed that some political friends of mine do overlook that fact. Friendship for Germany, of course, the whole nation desires immensely. There is no reason why the German naval programme should diminish the desire which I am sure pervades the whole nation. There is nothing in the fact of the gradual extension of their naval power which ought to impair that general feeling of cordial friendship which my noble friend desires. But we must take into consideration all the circumstances. Whether France or Italy or Germany or England has made the greatest contribution in the history of modern civilisation—however that speculative controversy may be settled, this at least is certain, that those are not wrong who hold that Germany's high and strict standard of competency, the purity and vigour of her administration of affairs, her splendid efforts and great success in all branches of science, her glories—for glories they are—in art and literature, and the fixed strength of character and duty in the German people entitle her national ideals to a supreme place among the greatest-ideals that now animate and guide the world. Do not let us forget all that. German ambition is a perfectly intelligible and even lofty ambition. Who can wonder, then, that a community which has made the enormous advances in every field that Germany has made, certainly since 1866, in maritime power and wealth and population should desire to find territories to which her surplus population may emigrate and establish themselves without losing either their nationality or the ideals of the Fatherland? There is the place in the sun. In all these great achievements I have ventured to enumerate the/re is the German place in the sun worth a million times Togoland and even still more Damaraland.

Then, my Lords, what would happen supposing the present state of tension were to last? I need not dwell on the serious and constant increase of armament. That is clear to all of us. In one sense the expenditure on armament is one of the least of the evils. This expenditure will impair our means of removing some of the dark and lamentable blots upon our social system, and we must remember that it is not only ourselves who suffer from this, it is the whole of the nations of Europe. The tension between Great Britain and Germany—as all those who have seriously considered the bearings of the foreign policy of the day know—is one of the main elements in keeping alive that sense of insecurity which is extremely disastrous in many ways. My noble friend used language which I entirely subscribe to about the Concert of Europe. Metternich used it as a phrase of praise of some statesman or another that "he was a good European," and Metternich was the least sentimental of the great foreign statesmen. But there is not a Europe now; there was not, perhaps, at the time at which Metternich spoke. I follow my noble friend step by step in seeing the enormous importance of the restoration of Europe to a continent inhabited by good Europeans, and I believe the first and fundamental and most important step to that desirable end is an understanding between us and Germany.

If the House will allow me to do what I ought to have done earlier, I would like, after what has been said about the Foreign Secretary and about his being chilly, and so forth, the House in a sentence or two to see what he did say. After speaking with approval of the speeches of the German Chancellor he said this— If that is the spirit of German policy, then I am sure that in two or three years the talk about a great European war will have passed away, and there will have been a growth oil goodwill, not only between Germany and England, but between those two countries and the friends of both. There is a great responsibility upon the British Government and the German Government, and upon other Governments, to make the tone and spirit of these speeches, especially of the second speech of the German Chancellor, prevail in the years which are immediately before us. Then he wound up by saying— What we want is not to cease to steer a favourable course, and to steer it straight ahead whenever we can. I say that on the assumption that that is the desire of the German Government too. It is certainly the natural inference from the tone and spirit of the speeches of the German Chancellor. If that is his assumption then we shall respond to it, and in some ways, though public opinion may be adverse at the present moment, excited as it recently has been, in some ways one can already see that the horizon is brightening. I consider that excellent language, worthy of my right hon. friend and worthy of the occasion.

My Lords, I am not going to detain you longer. Those complicated proceedings of last summer and to-day, are of course, open to serious criticisms affecting all the three Governments concerned—England, France, and Germany—criticisms from more sides than one, but they are a million times less open to criticism than they were twenty-four hours ago. That is my own view of the effect of Sir Edward Grey's speech. We and Germany and France have now reached an end of the embarrassments which the three Governments concerned have now every reason to put aside; but that popular discussion in the common controversies of the street and in articles in newspapers should immediately drop is, of course, not to be expected, and it is not to be desired. We must expect public opinion, upon which everything depends, to be active, and in moments, perhaps, adverse. I only make bold to say this, that no Cabinet that ever met in Downing-street was more intent, or could be more intent, than His Majesty's present advisers not to drift into a single unnecessary or impolitic antagonism, and that obligation has been resolutely, persistently, and determinedly adhered to by us, and has been successfully carried through.


My Lords, since the noble Lord opposite who introduced this subject to the House put his Motion upon the Paper we have had the long and interesting debate which took place last night in the House of Commons, a debate which included the speech delivered by the Foreign Secretary—I venture to think one of the most remarkable speeches ever delivered in the British Parliament by any holder of high office in this country. So much of the ground has been covered by what has been brought to our notice in the course of that debate that I should myself have been well content not to add anything to what has been already said upon the question. But the noble Lord on the Back Bench opposite has treated it from a standpoint of his own—a singular standpoint, to my mind, and one which I venture to think will not be found greatly to commend itself to many members of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord traced the origin of all the recent international troubles to the Agreement arrived at between this country and France in the year 1904. He even laid to the charge of that Agreement, unless I am mistaken, the recent occurrences at Tripoli, which I regret as much as he does, and to which I will only refer in order to say that while I deeply regret them I should be very sorry either to pass judgment myself, or to encourage any one else to do so, upon the conduct of the Italian Government.

As to the arrangement between this country and France in the year 1904, I do not think I claim too much when I say that the people of this country have already passed judgment upon it, and that that judgment has upon the whole been a favourable one. I believe that that arrangement will influence for a long time to come the external relations of this country and will remain a dominant factor in those relations. I think it will hold that position because the people of this country have recognised what that Agreement was and what it was not. They recognise that it was not a conspiracy on the part of the two Powers against any other Power or Powers in Europe, and not, as the noble Lord opposite seemed to suppose, an attempt to divide Europe into two camps.




My noble friend used that expression, but perhaps he used it of some other episode in the events we are discussing.


I entirely and absolutely approve of the Treaty of 1904, and I expressed myself so, I think, most fully. What I referred to was the attitude of the Foreign Secretary in abusing that and misconstruing it, and applying it so as to create two camps.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord, and I quite understand his point. No doubt what he said had reference not to the Agreement but to the ulterior consequences of that Agreement.


The misuse made of it.


I gladly accept from him the testimonial which he has just given to the harmlessness, at any rate, if not to the merits, of the Agreement itself. The origin of that Agreement—and I will not labour the point—was in our view entirely legitimate and avowable. An Agreement of the kind had, I believe, been long desired by many people on both sides of the Channel, There had been from time to time recurring conflicts of interests between this country and France at many points. Your Lordships will remember that the Agreement had reference to our relations in Newfoundland, on the Gambia, on the Niger, in Madagascar, and in the New Hebrides. Now the noble Lord, Lord Courtney, referring to Siam, said that the idea of going to war for anything connected with Siam—I think I quote him correctly—was madness or a crime.


Those are the words of the Foreign Secretary, and I adopted them.


But surely in a case of this kind that is not the real question. The question is whether two great Powers can afford to allow a number of questions of this kind, any one of which at any moment may become acute, to remain without solution. We found that trouble was smouldering at all these points, and in one or two cases, as the noble Lord probably is well aware, that trouble became acute. I can remember not only acute trouble with regard to Siam, but trouble that threatened to become acute with regard to Newfoundland and in one or two other cases. There were some of which it is not too much to say that nothing but the tact and good temper of the representatives of the two Powers upon the spot enabled us to avoid the kind of collision which sometimes involves very serious consequences indeed.

Well, my Lords, our opportunity came. It arose, as the House well knows, from the visit and return visit of the late King and the President of the French Republic, and the visit to this country of M. Delcassé, to whom more than to any other one individual is due the credit, if credit is due, for the settlement of these matters. What was the result of the Agreement thus arrived at? It brought about not only a removal of long-standing friction between the two Powers, not only the establishment of a closer friendship between this country and France, but, as the noble Viscount opposite I think suggested, it afforded a very valuable example and precedent for the encouragement of other Powers who might desire to deal in the same manner with their outstanding difficulties. And let me say that if there was any one aspiration that the Government of that day particularly cherished, it was that this Agreement with France should be the precursor of other Agreements with other Powers.

The noble Lord on the Back Bench asked, Why did you not make an Agreement with Germany? Well we did make an Agreement with Germany. We exchanged views with Germany. At that moment there was only one point as to which an opening presented itself, and an Agreement with Germany upon that point did actually follow upon the Agreement between this country and France. It had reference to Egyptian affairs, and other Agreements with other Powers also in regard to Egyptian affairs followed suit. I need not refer to the later Agreement with the United States; or to the Agreement between this country and Russia, an Agreement which some of us are inclined to look upon so far as its details are concerned with a, rather critical eye, but one which has, I hope, rendered it almost inconceivable that we should in future have the kind of anxiety with regard to our relations with Russia which we had immediately before the Treaty of Berlin, or at the time of the Pendjeh incident. I say, therefore, that the whole policy of the late Government was quite inconsistent with the idea of coming to an Agreement with France which should exclude the possibility of Agreements with other Powers, or which should divide the European Powers into two hostile camps.

My Lords, may I say that we congratulate ourselves upon the manner in which our policy has been accepted and continued by our successors? They accepted the Agreement deliberately and upon its merits, and have acted upon it loyally ever since. That seems to me a matter for congratulation, not upon personal or Party grounds, but because I conceive that no greater misfortune could befall this country than that there should be a doubt as to the consistency and continuity of its foreign policy or the stability of its international friendships. What has happened with regard to the Agreement of 1904 is, I think a happy illustration of a principle which on both sides of the House we are fond of insisting upon—I mean, that the foreign affairs of this country should remain as far as possible outside the vortex of Party politics. The noble Lord on the Back Benches opposite would, I understand, prefer to arrangements of this kind, restricted in their operation to the Powers immediately concerned, an attempt to restore what he calls the Concert of Europe. My Lords, I should be sorry to speak disrespectfully of the Concert of Europe, but it does seem to me that in these days when we find Powers insuring and reinsuring by means of alliance and realliance with other Powers, if we are to await the kind of millennium to which the noble Lord looks forward it is likely to go hard with us in the meanwhile. For this country, with its possessions all over the face of the globe, rubbing shoulders at innumerable points with other and competing Powers, it would to my mind be a fatal mistake if we were to rest content with ploughing a lonely furrow across the affairs of the civilised world.

The noble Lord, while he made no complaint of the Agreement of 1904 itself, suggested that this country had gone considerably beyond the legitimate scope of that Agreement. He pointed out that under the ninth Article of the Declaration, all that the contracting Powers are bound to do is to give one another their diplomatic support. That is literally correct. Did we then, in spite of the strict limitation of that engagement, by implication or otherwise, accept a more extended liability? That, I think, is the question which the noble Lord has in his mind. I am glad, may I say in passing, that His Majesty's Government have thought fit to publish the Secret Articles which were attached to the Agreement of 1904. I remain of opinion that we did well at the time to keep those Articles secret, but I fully admit that the time has come when they may well be published. I say so the more because, so long as people knew—and many people did know—that there were Secret Articles, and did not know what those Articles contained, they were not slow to suggest that we had in effect, while contracting a strictly limited engagement in the published Declaration, surreptitiously added to it obligations of a more extended kind. That bubble has been effectively pricked by the publication of the Secret Articles.

But I think it is not unfair to say that, in a case of this kind, an undertaking to give diplomatic support may tend to bring about an obligation to give support of another kind. What happens? Two Powers are drawn together. They enter into closer relations. They accept commercial or political engagements affecting themselves only. Those obligations are honourably fulfilled. There can be no question of receding from them. The relations of the two countries become insensibly closer and more intimate, and in that way, no doubt, a condition of public sentiment does grow up in the face of which it becomes impossible for either Power to be indifferent to the fortunes of the other. Each side, of course, retains its liberty of action. Your friend may become entangled in a foolish or quixotic enterprise; if so he must expect to be left in the lurch. But if he gets into trouble because he loyally observes the terms of his obligation, he will expect that you will not leave him to his fate. But, of course, in every case it is for the contracting Power to judge whether the circumstances and the spirit of the Agreement which has been entered into justify such action and require measures going beyond the strict letter of the recorded obligation.

In this case, however, it certainly appears to me that it would be a mistake for us to rest our case solely upon the letter of Article 9 of the Declaration of 1904. Many things happened after the execution of that Article. There was, in the first place, as Lord Courtney truly said, the Act of Algeciras, which to some extent superseded the Declaration of 1904 and rendered the affairs of Morocco a matter of European concern. Then came the expedition to Fez. Then the sending of a German ship of war to Agadir, which remained for some time unexplained. And in this way there is no doubt that a new situation did come to be developed—a new situation which, I venture to think, was correctly described by the Prime Minister in the speech which he delivered in the House of Commons on July 27, when he pointed out that it had in his opinion become inevitable that this country should become what he called an "active party" to the discussion of the situation. That, Mr. Asquith said, was our right as a signatory to the Treaty of Algeciras; it might be our obligation under the terms of our Agreement of 1904, and it might be our duty in defence of British interests directly affected by further developments. I think that is, to some extent, an answer to what was said by Lord Courtney as to the Treaty of Algeciras. And I notice particularly that when the diplomatic situation became strained—I forget the exact date in the month of July—the Foreign Secretary suggested to the German Ambassador that the moment might have come or be approaching when the difficulties which had arisen could be dealt with by means of a conference. I take it that that was in fact an admission, a recognition by our Foreign Office that the case was one where such action might be taken under the Act of Algeciras. Of course we know that the proposal did not commend itself to the German Government, and that it was not further pressed.

With regard to the course of the negotiations I will only say this. It seems to me that the Foreign Secretary's statement last night let in a great flood of new light upon what took place during the course of those "conversations." There were obscurities which have been removed. There were gaps, serious gaps, which have been filled up, and I think His Majesty's Government have a right to say that it has now been established that, if there was reticence, it was the German Government who kept us waiting for a fuller indication of their policy, and not we who kept the German Government waiting for an indication of ours. When the indication came I am bound to say that I think it was a satisfactory indication, and my only regret is that it was not vouchsafed and was not made public at a somewhat earlier date.

Lord Courtney referred to the memorable speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on July 21 at the Mansion House. As to that, I will only suggest that as a general rule it would be more convenient that an important pronouncement of that kind, governing the foreign policy of this country, should be made by the Secretary of State in his place in Parliament. I say that without suggesting that in Mr. Lloyd George's observations there was anything to which any one could reasonably take exception. A part of what he said has been quoted by the noble Viscount, and, in a sense, may be said to be a little more than a common-place. But common-places, if they are uttered by particular people in particular circumstances, may be charged with a good deal of political electricity, and I for one prefer to see so important an intimation of our foreign policy coming from the. Secretary of State with that admirable coolness and lucidity which invariably characterise his speeches.

My Lords, the crisis which has exercised our minds so much is now, happily, over, and I have no doubt that all concerned, to whatever political camp they belong, will use every effort to render the recurrence of such a period of tension impossible. There seems to be no doubt with regard to the attitude of His Majesty's Government. I do not think there is any doubt with regard to the attitude of what I may term the official Opposition, and I cannot help hoping, judging from the speeches lately delivered by the German Chancellor, of which copies are on your Lordships' Table, that a similar spirit may be exhibited in Germany. But these official efforts will. I am afraid, be of no avail unless they are seconded by public opinion and public language in both countries. There are, I am afraid, fire-eaters on both sides, and there are too many people who are guilty of the offence, which the noble Viscount referred to just now, of placing the worst instead of the best construction upon everything that happens and upon everything that is said. But I do believe that the main current of public opinion amongst reasonable people in both countries is strongly in favour of the kind of friendship between Great Britain and Germany which Lord Courtney so earnestly desires. Feelings on both sides have no doubt been somewhat highly strung of late, and they may take some time to subside. But the two countries are, after all, bound by many ties, and I believe there is a general desire on our side at all events that those ties should be strengthened, a general belief that there is abundant room for both countries in the world, a general readiness to come to an understanding with regard to any difficulties which still remain unsolved, and a conviction that the greatest interest of both Powers is the preservation of international peace.


My Lords, I waited for a few moments before rising to see whether an unofficial member of the Opposition would have some observations to make upon the course of this debate. But it appears to me extremely desirable that some voice, at all events, should be raised in support of the general contentions that have been advanced by my noble friend Lord Courtney; and on this ground. It has been too much assumed in the course of this debate, particularly by my noble friend the noble Viscount, that the course of the negotiations in the matter of Morocco has received universal assent and been objected to by hardly any class of public: opinion. I would point to the Liberal Press of this morning, uninspired and generally most loyally disposed to His Majesty's Government. I can find in no one of those newspapers a sincere appreciation or congratulation of the Government upon the course taken. That hardly looks as if public opinion took the view which my noble friend the noble Viscount below me supposes is the general view, at any rate, of Liberal opinion in the matter of the Morocco negotiations.

The noble Marquess opposite began his speech by a somewhat elaborate defence of the Agreement of 1904. I am not conscious that anybody in this House or anywhere else has ever at any time condemned or even criticised that great act of friendship between France and ourselves. No one with common sense can deny that enormous benefits have accrued to the world by the increasing friendship between France and Great Britain, and nothing that my noble friend or anybody else here or elsewhere has said is in any way derogatory of the great principle that friendship between France and Great Britain makes for the prosperity and peace of the world. But is that inconsistent with a policy of friendship with Germany? That is the question which has been raised by the Motion of my noble friend, and it is the sole question which we are now called upon to consider; because, happily for ourselves, as has been admitted by all speakers to-night, the actual crisis is now over, and we have to consider not the immediate circumstances of the hour but the possibilities of the future and whether or not we can arrive at a more satisfactory understanding between Great Britain and Germany.

On that subject I can only say that I am afraid that, not altogether but in some degree, I share the view of my noble friend as to the course of the Morocco negotiations. We do not seem to have been inspired by what may be called an impartial view of the situation. We appear to have taken rather a one-sided—I say that not at all to the detriment of the Anglo-French Agreement—instead of a larger view of the whole considerations involved in that, after all, matter of European concern. And it is for that reason I deplore, extremely the action of my right hon. friend Mr. Lloyd George when he made his celebrated speech at the Mansion House. I think that speech was a profound mistake. What he said might have been communicated in the ordinary way through official channels, and have been conveyed to those whom it was intended to influence. Remember the circumstances under which that speech was made. It was made at a time of great tension, when public opinion was extremely ill-informed or not informed at all upon the course of the negotiations, and when, in short, it needed but a spark, unfortunately, to inflame it. Consequently a speech of that sort at that time was about the most dangerous thing possible. I hope that in future the Government, when they have such serious pronouncements or communications to make, will use the ordinary methods of diplomacy for the purpose of making them.

I only rose, as I said, to make those few observations in a liberal spirit. I believe, with my noble friend, that the words used by my right hon. friend Sir John Simon the other day at Bath really and effectively gave expression to the general sentiments of all thinking men in this country with regard to Germany. We are anxious to arrive to-day at a direct understanding with Germany, as we did in 1904 with France. What is the difficulty in so doing? There are not very many questions of practical disagreement with Germany. Is it impossible to approach Germany in the same spirit as we approached France and endeavour to bring about an understanding on the same lines? I believe that such an agreement would be in the best interests of France. What greater service could we render to the French people than being a friend who, in cases of difference between France and Germany, could step in to compose them, to attempt to allay their irritation and bring them to a happy understanding? I do not regret that this question has been raised by my noble friend this evening, because I believe it will focus public attention on what is now of supreme importance to this country—namely, to arrive at a complete understanding with Germany. Tranquillity will never be restored to the public mind, our relations abroad will continue to be troublesome, until that standing discontent between two great peoples has been successfully removed.


My Lords, I am not surprised at the disappointment which has been expressed by my noble friend opposite, being well acquainted with his political views; but I confess that if anybody has drawn any hopeful conclusions either from the debate in the other House or from that which has taken place here this evening, he is of an infinitely more sanguine disposition than I am. What is the outstanding fact with regard to all that has recently occurred? It is that in a dispute between France and Germany we have, whether we wished it or not, been compelled to intervene on the part of France, and we have therefore been instrumental in preventing the Germans from obtaining what they desired to obtain. That being so, human nature being what it is and Governments presumably entertaining more or less the same feelings as ordinary human beings, there does not seem to be much hope for the belief that the result of these events will cause a better state of feeling between this country and Germany than has hitherto existed. If there is anybody who does build hopes upon this supposition, I am afraid he will be woefully disappointed.

And I confess that for my part I am unable to obtain much satisfaction from that formula which is so much in fashion at the present moment—namely, that because this country is friends with A, therefore we are friends also with B and C. A view of that kind, although it is uttered frequently by eminent personages, seems to me to be perilously akin to pure nonsense. We are all of us acquainted with persons who are under the delusion that the rest of the world is, so to speak, in love with them. It appears to be the impression of a certain number of distinguished people in this country that if we only say that we like everybody equally everybody ought to be perfectly satisfied, and therefore that if A and B fall out and we are obliged to take the side of A, B has no cause to be dissatisfied with us. It seems to me that the position that you ought to be friends with everybody is an impossible one, and one that will not hold water for a single moment.

With regard to the events which have recently taken place, it is easy for a censorious critic to point out that no party has been entirely free from blame. Everybody must admit that the initial fault, if we are to be fair in this matter, rested with the French Government. As has been pointed out in the course of this debate, the limits imposed by the Algeciras Act were exceeded on several occasions by the French Government. There appears to be a vague delusion in this country that under that Act the French Government was authorised to establish something like a protectorate over Morocco, whereas we know perfectly well that such was not the case at all. These infractions of the limits imposed on the French Government culminated in the expedition to Fez, and it became inevitable, after that expedition had taken place, that German intervention of some kind or another had become a certainty, and German intervention took the form, as we all know, of sending a warship to Agadir. It was an instance of what the Germans in their own language call sabre rattling, and apparently after a, certain interval had elapsed His Majesty's Government thought that it was time they ought to do some sabre rattling on their own account, and they put up Mr. Lloyd George—or I should rather be disposed to think he put himself up—in order to deliver a speech addressed to the German nation; and it is a somewhat singular fact that this emotional politician, whom so many people will persist in considering a statesman, the greater part of whose political career has been passed in denouncing military and naval expenditure, should be the person selected to make a speech which conveyed the impression to the bulk of his fellow-countrymen that we were on the brink of war.

I can quite understand that the German Government—or, in fact, any Government—should resent being lectured by Mr. Lloyd George. It is one thing receiving an intimation from the Foreign Secretary, but it is quite another matter to, as I say, be lectured by a third person. Surely the natural and obvious course would have been, if a warning were really necessary, that that warning should have been addressed either by the Foreign Secretary or by the Prime Minister of this country. It could have been done by means of a Despatch, it could have been done by means of a speech in the House of Commons, or it might even have been done, in default of anything else, by a speech in this House. What I maintain is that an action of this kind, a speech made by a politician of the aggressive type of Mr. Lloyd George, was bound to produce a disastrous effect so far as the relations of the two countries were concerned, and if His Majesty's Government regret that ill-feeling has been aroused between this country and Germany in an unnecessary way, they have only themselves to thank in selecting an inflammatory orator of this description to enunciate their policy.

The noble Lord who initiated this debate announced that something was to be said with regard to what he called consequential questions. There is an obviously consequential question—namely, the question of Tripoli; but I do not intend, in view of the warning conveyed by the noble Marquess, to say anything with regard to the rights and wrongs of that question at the present moment. I merely desire to put a couple of questions to the noble Viscount opposite which I hope he may be able to answer without impropriety. All that I desire to ask him is (1) whether His Majesty's Government received any warning beforehand of a contemplated expedition to Tripoli on the part of Italy; (2) whether His Majesty's Government have received any information as to a proposed blockade of the Dardanelles, and whether there is any foundation for the statement that the Russian and the Austrian Governments have protested in advance against such action. In asking these questions I hope I am not committing an indiscretion, and that the noble Viscount will be able to give me a reply.


I do not think the noble Lord has committed any indiscretion. The reply to both questions is in the negative. The Italian Ultimatum only gave us twenty-four hours' notice, and we were not informed of it beforehand. With regard to the Dardanelles, we have no information, nor do we understand that Austria or Russia has protested against any proposal about the Dardanelles.


My Lords, at the conclusion of my speech I made a Motion for Papers respecting the Morocco negotiations. I do not know whether my noble friend has any Papers to lay on the Table. If he has, the Motion perhaps will be allowed to proceed but otherwise I will withdraw it. I desire to take this opportunity of expressing my indebtedness to my noble friend near me (Lord Weardale) for clearing up the singular misapprehension of my position into which the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition has fallen. I entirely approved of the Treaty of 1904 and of the Act of Algeciras. I only protested against the abuse which had been made, as I thought, of that Act, and against the fact that what was not an exclusive act of friendship had been most unfortunately perverted into an exclusive act of friendship, and I submitted that that was the origin of the difficult position in which we were placed.


As to the Motion for Papers, we consider that it would be premature at this moment to produce Papers, and for this reason. The German and French Governments, who are most immediately concerned, will probably produce Papers of their own. Then, of course, it will be in our power to make our own publication to our own Parliament. But, as I say, it would be premature to produce Papers at this moment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at five minutes past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.