THE DUKE OF ATHOLL
My Lords, I feel sure that I am voicing the opinion of your Lordships' House when I say that in the gracious Speech to which we have listened from the Throne we have a summons to efforts even greater and more united than we have yet been called upon to make. The superiority so unmistak- 5 ably established by our troops on the Western Front, the victories of our Armies in Mesopotamia and Palestine, the conquest of the last and most important of the German Colonies, combined with the ceaseless pressure of our Navy, might reasonably have led its to expect that at this stage of the war we might have been dictating the terms of a victorious peace. But the lamentable turn that events have taken in Russia has to a considerable extent neutralised the gains of the past year, and our enemies to-day, with their rear secured and the difficulties of their inland transport relieved, find themselves able to make a concentration, not only of men, but of guns, ammunition, and of mechanical and scientific power, greater than even before.
The situation is, therefore, a serious One. But when we look back on the record of our soldiers during the past three years, we cannot fist that there is any reason for despondency. The annals of war can show us nothing finer than the stand made by that thin British line against the German hordes in the early months of the war; and the steady and substantial progress since made by our new Armies in the face of the most terrific armament and expenditure of man-power that the world has ever known, shows that they are worthy successors of our original Expeditionary Force. Nor Can I personally ever forgot the dogged courage awl endurance with which the troops in the Dardanelles faced months of hardship and disease, under incessant fire at close range, with no respite and little or no shelter. Even the loss of 10,000 men in one night from cold and exposure did not break their spirit or quench their ardour. It is these men—the very salt of the earth—who have formed the nucleus of the Army which, under that gallant Cavalry leader, general Allenby, has ploughed its way through the desert of Sinai—an epoch-making achievement which reflects the greatest credit alike on those who planned it and those who carried it out.
Turning to other fields of war, I think it is unnecessary for me to remind your Lordships of how our soldiers have helped to save the situation in Macedonia, of what they have done and endured in Mesopotamia, or of the privations that they have faced to free the native population in German East Africa from the thrall of the Hun. But, magnificent as is the spirit of our soldiers, the achievements of the past year would have been absolutely impossible 6 unless the troops concerned had had the most complete and justified confidence in their leaders in the field and in the General Staff at home. Now, my Lords, such confidence cannot be maintained unless the Armies know that their leaders are trusted by the country as a whole, and unless the leaders themselves know that they retain that confidence. Speaking as one who has held a very humble command in this war, I known that I could not have carried on for one day if I had felt that my men did not believe in me, or that I was not trusted by my superior officers. There is nothing more resented by soldiers of all ranks than attacks in the Press and elsewhere on leaders whom they trust. They feel that if the Government have reason to doubt the capacity of officers of the Higher Command, it is their bounden duty to remove them. The officers concerned would expect neither more nor less. But so long as these officers are retained in their office, it is the duty of the nation, from the Government, downwards, to support them in the appalling responsibilities which they have to face. It may be said that other men have to shoulder great burdens. That is quite true. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has great responsibilities, but those responsibilities extend only to material things—to pounds, shillings, and pence. They are as nothing compared to the responsibility resting on a commander in the field, who is dealing daily in the very flesh and blood of his own kith and kin, and on whose failure or success the safety of the Empire may depend. I cannot help thinking that the appeal of our military leaders at the present moment might well be, "Trust me not at all, or all in all."
I have reminded your Lordships of some of the deeds of our Army. But no soldier could speak on such an occasion and forget what the Army and the country owe to the Navy and to the Mercantile Marine. Your Lordships know something of what the Navy is doing in home waters. I have been privileged to see something of their work in more distant seas. One could not have crossed the Mediterranean and Ægean Seas as often as I have done in this war without having realised something of the courage, the resourcefulness, and the ceaseless vigilance of all that is to-day included in the term "British Navy." From the "Queen Elizabeth" and the "Agamemnon" to the smallest torpedo boat, or from the "Olympic" and "Transylvania" to the little steamboat which, belying its 7 pacific name of "Sir Joseph Pease," used to carry troops and ammunition across Mudros Bay, all were imbued with the same spirit, and all brought home vividly to one's mind what is implied in the term "Sea Power."
My Lords, as I have said, we have no reason to be downhearted so far as our Services are concerned; but the Nation must also do its share. The ranks of the Army and the complements of the Navy must be kept full, and there must be no slacking off of supply. The people of this country have responded magnificently, hitherto, to the call made upon them; and I am convinced that, seeing that the great mass of the population have given up their sons, their brothers, and their husbands, for the greatest cause that has ever stirred humanity, this great majority will never stand by and let any one small section of the community or another escape its fair share of the burden. They only ask the Government to be firm and just, and they will support them. Surely, too, the people at home, realising what our soldiers are enduring and have endured, and the urgent necessity for conserving shipping for the supply of our Armies abroad, will readily submit to the comparative inconvenience of a compulsory reduction in the consumption of food, which we hope will ensure that the poor shall have an equal chance with the rich of obtaining the necessities of life.
In my humble opinion there is but one new danger which we at home have to face. I do not fear it for the Army. A drowning man will clutch at a straw. The Germans know they cannot win. They are but fighting for terms. We may therefore expect a campaign of intense and insidious propaganda, having as its object the disheartening of our people and the influencing of public opinion in favour of an early and inconclusive peace. I feel that there is nothing at the present time against which the Government should make a firmer stand than this; and the gossips, the pessimists, and the pacifists will only have themselves to blame if they are classified with the Boloists.
The intention announced in the gracious Speech from the Throne of again inviting representatives from the Dominions and India to share the councils of the War Cabinet is a further proof, if any were needed, of the unity of purpose and effort to which the present gigantic struggle has inspired the Empire, and which I think we 8 are justified in looking upon as a very happy augury for future days of peace. But if we are conscious of the unity which permeates the Empire, we know that each of our Allies is imbued with the same spirit and the same purpose. And if we have to lament the defection of Russia, we now, on the other hand, see the whole English-speaking race taking part in this great fight for liberty and civilisation. Once more, to quote Canning's famous saying, the New World has been called in to redress the balance of the Old. When the final contest begins, the Allied Nations, strong in the justice of their cause, confident in the valour of their troops, possessed of inexhaustible resources and commanding the greatest engineering and scientific skill, may well look forward, with God's blessing, to a decisive victory leading to an honourable and enduring peace.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth.—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(The Duke of Atholl.)
§ LORD TREOWEN
My Lords, in rising to second the Motion that your Lordships' thanks be conveyed to His Majesty for the gracious Speech which he has been pleased to deliver from the Throne, I desire in the first place to associate myself, as an old soldier, with the feelings that have inspired the eloquent and most impressive words of the noble Duke who moved this Motion in relation to the officers and men of His Majesty's Forces. It has not fallen to my lot to take an active part in the operations of the present war, and I gladly cede to the noble Duke whatever special privileges may attach to seniority, acknowledging the right which he has earned by his conspicuous service in the face of the enemy to be the spokesman of the officers and men in the field. Their welfare will always remain for me an abiding interest. And I cannot withhold a few words in support of what he has said in regard to the absolute trust which we owe to those who have borne the brunt of this great war for these past years.
9 His Majesty has been pleased, to remind your Lordships of the emphatic approval which has greeted the statement made by his Government of the aims for which this country and her Allies are contending. By a fortuitous circumstance another statement on the same subject was made almost simultaneously by the head of the Government of the youngest but not the least formidable member of our Alliance. Thus there has been placed before the world a most exhaustive expression of the considerations which are now actuating the Allied Governments in the prosecution of the war. I will not go into the details of these weighty documents, which are fresh in your Lordships' memories. Suffice it to say that they have met with acceptance by all the Allied peoples, and that the approval accorded to them within His Majesty's Dominions testifies to the steadfast purpose of all His Majesty's subjects to continue in the work which they have set themselves to do, repugnant though war must ever be to their peace-loving character. That approval shows that in no part of the British Empire is there any departure from those high motives and noble ideals which, blazing like beacon fires from end to end of the British Empire, summoned together those hosts which for three and a-half years have stood in arms against a military despotism as champions of the fundamental rights of peoples and of the public law of nations.
We did not enter upon this war with any nefarious idea of using its misery and horrors for the purpose of aggressive conquest, nor with the grimly altruistic object, contemplated by a certain school of thought, of creating a new heaven upon an earth regenerated by bloodshed. We had no desire, we have no desire, to destroy any nation, no intention of imposing upon any people a form of government other than that of their own choice. We went to war that the rights of small nations should not be again ruthlessly violated, that those small nations should be permitted to enjoy their individual existence equally with their more powerful neighbours, and that it should be still possible in the future, as it has been in the past, for nations, small indeed in numbers and limited in territory, to lead the way of the world along the road of progress. It is for this purpose, my Lords, for the buttressing of the principles of justice, of honour, and of right—the only sure foundations of civilised existence—that our fellow-subjects of the great Dominions have 10 crossed thousands of miles of sea, that our people at home have accepted a common liability to military service, and that the great unions of our workers have unselfishly waived for a time the exercise of advantages won in the course of years of patient constitutional action. When this purpose has been attained, by whatsoever methods it may demand, our people, which has shown itself terrible in war, will have no desire other than to return to the ways of peace, and to direct its energies to making the world a better place for all to live in.
But, my Lords, the elementary justice of our aims has elicited no other response from the third Imperial German Chancellor, or from his master, than fresh outbursts of truculent militarism. If the voice of their dependent partner has been heard, it has been in vague and somewhat hesitating accents. The peoples of the Central Empires sigh for peace and pray for an end to their bitter sufferings, but there is no change of heart in the ruling caste. The fruits of violence are still exhibited as the palladium of Germanic imperialism; force is still to be the measure of right; the scales of international justice are to be eternally weighted with the Prussian sword. Europe is to have no choice between the submission of the vanquished or the further destruction of all that has been held sacred, be it the pride of national existence or the cherished monuments of piety and culture. Is there, my Lords, any justification in fact for this arrogant assumption of victory? I will follow the example of the noble Duke who preceded me and will not indulge in any arrogant boasting of our feats of anus, whose far-reaching effect can appear only when the whole course of military operations can be viewed in a true perspective; but it is no rash prophecy to say that history will record, as the most compete victory of this war, that which will be achieved by the nation whose vitality and recuperative forces, whose moral, physical, and mental energy enable it to rise most quickly from the exhaustion inevitable from the prolonged waste of its best blood and its economic rescources.
The question that I find myself constantly asking is this, How is civilisation going to come out of this war? At best it must be weighed down and checked for generations in its development. At worst—and the example, my Lords, is before 11 our eyes it may give place to chaos. We may see further extended that direct form of reaction a reversion from ordered liberty to unbridled license. A great responsibility rests on all Governments in this regard, for they are the trustees of civilisation charged to hand down unimpaired to posterity its priceless heritage of the ages, And the last word of responsibility cannot be spoken in a speech, however eloquent, by Chancellor, President, or Prime Minister. Speeches such as these are but the prelude, the overture, in which we may discern the leading motifs which later on will be caught up, repeated, combined in subdued tones, and developed into one splendid melody, and, let us hope, lead on to perfect harmony. For the attainment of such an end no instrument can be neglected, and no willing collaborator should be turned away who brings to its accomplishment a record of ripe experience or the authority of a unique, an exalted, and a sacred office.
I will not attempt to forecast the possible events of this opening year, but, whatever they may be, whatever the course events or Governments may take, one thing is certain—we as a nation, as a member of a great Alliance, must be strong, and to he strong we must be united. His Majesty has given expression to his confidence in the continued unselfish devotion of his people at home, and his gracious words will find an echo in the hearts of his people, wherever their homes may be. The happiness of home is ever associated with thoughts of peace, and in the homes of all the countries now engaged in war there must linger a dream of peace. But of this country it may be truly said that in the homes that have been darkened by the grim spectre of war there is a burning desire amongst those who have suffered, whatever their station in life, to prove themselves worthy of the glorious renown earned by those dearest to them in their supreme sacrifice for duty and honour.
Efforts are now being made to allot impartially to each of the various needs created by the war its due share of the manpower of the nation, and in this difficult task the Government is being helped by the organisations of employers and employed. Of one important group of workers—the coal-miners of South Wales—I can speak with confidence from intimate acquaintance. I have witnessed their sacrifices; I know their courage and their character; and I believe that the sturdy miners of the 12 North are no whit behind them. In the great army of railway workers, upon whom has fallen a great strain in this war, the spirit is the same; and if, in the more complex organisation of yet another great class of workers, there must inevitably be more difficulty in the accurate adjustment of its many ramifications, I have confidence that the sound sense and the patriotic feeling of its members will find an honourable issue.
There is one characteristic of our people of which they are justly proud. It is their capacity for keeping their heads in moments of danger. We must ever bear in mind that in dealing with large numbers of men who have never been dragooned into servility we must always maintain a broad outlook over a field that offers many points of view, and must preserve unshaken, under all circumstances, our trust in the loyalty of our fellow-countrymen. My Lords, when I look upon the picture of desolation caused by three and a-half years of war, if I am not appalled by its horrors it is because, through the mass of human suffering, I see flowing over the uneven surface of society a new tide of mutual sympathy, softening old asperities, modifying harsh contrasts, bringing together all ranks of life into closer union, which will strengthen them to brave the further burdens of war, and help them to prepare new, and, I trust, happier, conditions to be heralded ere long by the dawn of an enduring peace. With great confidence in the future, my Lords, I beg to second the Motion.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, it is a time-honoured custom in your Lordships' House that from these Benches recognition should be made of the speeches of the mover and the seconder of the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I can do so to-day in no perfunctory terms and in no perfunctory spirit, on behalf, I am certain, of the wholes House. This year His Majesty's Government have followed the fortunate custom of entrusting this important work to distinguished representatives of our Imperial Defence Forces, and we have all listened, not merely with pleasure but with much illumination, to the statements which my two noble friends opposite have made. Both my noble friends have served with distinction, the one in the Household Cavalry and the other in the Brigade of Guards. Both have seen much service abroad—both, I think, 13 in Egypt, and both it, South Africa. Both have in different spheres had important work to do during the present war. Each in differing degrees has known the sorrow and the anxiety which dog the footsteps of those whose relatives have gone to the war.
There is no need on this occasion to address either of my noble friend in those terms of encouragement which one has heard applied to young Peers winning their spurs in public life. Both noble Lords have sat with distinction on the benches in another place facing each other, and I have no doubt that they will in future days continue to give this House the benefit of the experience which they gained there. We listened with attention and with real profit to what was said by both the noble Lords. Each one expressed the unfaltering determination to stand firm for those principles on behalf of which we first entered the war, and on behalf of which we continue to be in it. Both, too, paid affecting tributes to the splendid valour of all ranks in the Army and Navy during the long-drawn months and years in which the war has continued. I will not attempt this afternoon to follow them in any repetition of what, with so touch greater authority than I can claim, they then said.
But I desire to remind the House that the gracious Speech in its terms points to the failure of the Central Powers, by the mouth of their two spokesmen on January 24 last, to make any substantial reply to the statement of aims which was expressed on behalf of this country by the Prime Minister on January 5, and was expressed on behalf of the United States—and indeed in both cases on behalf of all the Allies—by President Wilson to Congress on the 8th of last month. That was the occasion when President Wilson mentioned those fourteen points on which the Allies would demand to be satisfied. The gracious Speech also repeats the phrase which was used in the statement of what passed at the Supreme War Council at Versailles—namely that that Council had been unable to find any real approximation in to the moderate conditions laid down by all the Allied Governments, and that therefore the only immediate task of the Allies lay in the prosecution of the military effort until the pressure of that effort has brought about a change of temper in the aggressive and unrepentant militarism of the Central Powers.
Again to-day we see the masterly 14 analysis of the situation by President Wilson to which the noble Lord, Lord Treowon, made special allusion. That speech was an analysis, or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say a dissection, of the two statements of Count Hertling and Count [...] President Wilson drew the necessary distinction between those two speeches, but he definitely concluded that no immediate hope of a return to reason on the part of the Central Powers is to be expected from either. And it is also worthy of note that two or three days ago the German Emperor, speaking at Hamburg, alluded in flamboyant terms to the necessity of ending the war by what he described as a "German peace." I am bound to say that the deduction drawn by all the statesmen who spoke with authority from the utterances of the German Chancellor and the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs appears to me to be inevitable. Nor, what in some respects is even more important, is there any present evidence whatever that in Germany the leadership of the military chiefs is in any way discredited, or that the system which those military leaders represent does not still hold the field in the estimation of the German people as well as of the German Army. But the phases of war are rapid; they may be sudden in the actual fighting; and phases of popular feeling may also undergo a rapid change. Therefore I do not think we need take any of these declarations that have been made as meaning that an Allied restatement of our aims is to be indefinitely postponed, or that it is to wait on some further statement of views by the leading statesmen of Germany or of Austria-Hungary. The indescribable tragedy of the Russian defection from the side of the Allies has, at any rate, this one small redeeming feature—that it makes a joint statement of the kind more easy than would have been the case in the earlier years of the war. I do not believe, therefore, that it can be possible—certainly that it ought to be possible—to avoid stating in due course the irreducible minimum of terms upon winch the Allies can agree, and without obtaining which they will announce their intention of fighting on so long as they have a man or a gun or a crown-piece between them.
I spoke just now of the statement that was made from Versailles on behalf of the Supreme War Council there, and it is worthy of note that that statement is 15 essentially political in its terms. I think that His Majesty's Government must be aware—they cannot fail to be aware—that the public has been not a little puzzled by the precise status of that Supreme War Council at Versailles ever since the Prime Minister's speech at Paris on November 14, and the amplification or explanation of that speech which he made in the House of Commons on November 19. We were clearly informed that, whatever that Supreme War Council was to do or was not to do, it was in no circumstances to undertake any executive functions, and in the absence of any information to the contrary we are entitled to presume that such is still the case. But there have been disturbing reports, which have affected—I fear there is no doubt of it—public moral to a certain extent—disturbing reports of the relations between the civilian and military authorities responsible for the conduct of the war. I need make no special reference; we need merely say, as they do in the Latin grammar, vide the Press passim. You could hardly take up a newspaper within the last week without finding something to prove the truth of what I say.
Now, the delimitation of spheres between the civil and military authorities in war time is no easy matter. It must be understood, to put it broadly but truly, that the statesmen representing the people of the different countries must have the final word in absolutely everything. That, I think, must be conceded without an atom of reserve. Further than that, there are undoubtedly moments in war when a great political prospective advantage will justify the incurring of military risks which soldiers would in the abstract be unwilling to undertake. One need only say that the German attempt, which failed, to occupy Paris; that our attempt, which failed, to occupy Constantinople, may have come under that definition. Undoubtedly the capture and occupation of Warsaw by the Germans, and our recent feat of the capture and occupation of Jerusalem come under that heading, in the sense that the advantage in respect of the war to be won from them in both cases was infinitely greater than the mere military advance.
But I venture to say that there the function of statesmen stops. I hold to the fullest extent that there should be frequently recurring conferences between the public men of the different countries and 16 the Commanders in the field, where possible, and the General Staffs, and that, if possible, those conferences should not be—what we were obliged to make them in the early stages of the war—somewhat casual and haphazard. It was stated, I think, in another place the other day that Lord Kitchener had expressed a desire for more regular communications of the kind. I can confirm that statement. It undoubtedly was so. I remember myself making a proposition to some of my prominent colleagues in the early stages of the war, suggesting that we should arrange with the French Government, and later, if possible, with the Italian Government, for regular meetings once a fortnight at any rate, sometimes once a week, to take place on the one hand either at Calais or Boulogne, or on the other at Folkestone or Dover, the former being the more ordinary meeting place from its greater nearness to the scene of action. That proposition—although I do not know that it was not favoured—came to nothing; and one principal difficulty was, of course, that if it were to represent anything like a uniform direction of the conduct of the war in all fields, the representation of Russia at such meetings was physically, I will not say impossible, but exceedingly difficult; and I do not know that the Russian Government of that day were prepared to take steps to forward it. Anyhow, it came to nothing. But I am as convinced as anybody that frequent meetings of that kind are as valuable as possible.
On the other hand, an experience of a great many years on the Committee of Imperial Defence and an experience of two years and more on war committees or councils since the war began, has left me very much alive to the attractions, and also to the dangers, of what has been described as amateur strategy. There is no reason, of course, why civilians should not obtain by hard work a profound knowledge of strategy. Some have done so, as can be found in the case of some of the distinguished historians of past warfare. Politicians, however, have not as a rule time to acquire knowledge of that kind : but the fascination of the exercise of amateur strategy is almost like absinthe to an active and fertile-minded politician, a taste against the growth of which he ought to guard himself to the very utmost. I will ask your Lordships to consider what happens. I will illustrate it by an old story of a gentleman, very popular but highly 17 quick-tempered, who was a prominent figure in London life in my younger days. It was told of him that on one occasion he believed that something was on fire. He rang the bell, which was answered by a servant to whom he said, "See if there is not a smell of burning." The servant went round the room and the neighbouring passage, using his nostrils to the best of his ability. He then returned and said that he could notice nothing. That was too much for the quick-tempered gentleman, who called out to the servant, "You are a qualified fool. If you cannot smell burning, go and get somebody who can." That is the temptation of the amateur strategist. He is very much tempted to send for "somebody who can "; and the mischief of it is that "somebody who can" may very often be found. Because, after all, the science of warfare in its application is not exact; there is room for differences of opinion, and there are advantages and disadvantages attaching to every item in it. But what is essential, permanently essential—and here I find myself in very complete accord with the noble Duke who moved the Address—is that the statesmen and the responsible soldiers in every country must work uniformly together and that they must maintain absolute confidence in each other. If it is not so, that indispensable trust without which no nation or Army can fight out a war to the end is liable to become dissipated in a cloud of questionings and doubts such as those to which we have lately been listening.
I hope very much that the noble Earl who leads the House will be able to reassure the country on this particular matter, which, as he can well perceive from such study of the newspapers as his many occupations may leave him time to undertake, is very serious. It will be possible, I trust, for him to sweep away those doubts and suspicions altogether. I say—merely repeating what has been said by noble Lords opposite, and by some (though not by all) of His Majesty's Ministers—that the country retains the most absolute confidence both in Sir Douglas Haig and in Sir William Robertson.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (THE EARL OF DERBY)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
We believe that, as the conditions now exist, they are the best men, so far as our information allows us to judge, to see the country 18 through in the hard conditions—because, as my noble friend opposite pointed out, they are hard military conditions, now that Germany (as he put it) finds her rear with no need of protection—that in those conditions our present military leaders are the best men that we can find to carry us on to a final victory.
There was a short passage which, by an unlucky accident, was omitted from the printed Speech as we have it—which, however, was read by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack—announcing that the Imperial War Cabinet, including representatives of the Dominions and of India, would be again called together to assist His Majesty's Government in their deliberations. That is an announcement which all your Lordships will have received with satisfaction. The essential unity of the Empire, as we all know, and as has been said a hundred times, has been exemplified during the war in a manner for which there is no precedent; and we rejoice indeed that those links should have been joined so closely as they have been by these terrible events.
I will not attempt to dilate to-day on any of those domestic problems which the noble Lord, Lord Treowen, mentioned in appropriate terms. He dealt with force and with much conviction upon the difficulties which His Majesty's Government have to meet in allotting our man-power at home to different branches of national work. It is a tremendously difficult task, and the noble Lord was, if I may say so, entirely correct in asking that allowance should be made for those men who do not entirely appreciate what perhaps seems obvious to those who have studied the question more deeply and perchance with a wider view, and in showing that patience is one of the qualities most necessary to settle this difficult problem. I can assure His Majesty's Government that in this they have our most full and complete sympathy, and that any assistance which any of us are able to render them in Parliament in the prosecution of this most difficult task will be willingly and cheerfully given.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, so brief an interval—less indeed than five days—has elapsed between the last occasion when we met in your Lordships' House and the opening of this new session, that it seems difficult to realise that we have had any respite whatever 19 from our Parliamentary labours. In fact, it can hardly be said that any such respite has been granted to us at all; and even now the financial exigencies that prevail in another place have compelled us to resume our sittings here at a time which has practically deprived your Lordships of anything in the nature of a holiday. This situation of affairs relieves me of a good deal of the duty which might otherwise devolve upon me this afternoon. In pre-war days we were all accustomed to the situation in which, after the lapse of something like six months, the Leader of the Opposition was in the habit of rising in his place and asking a number of questions, passing a number of criticisms, and generally reviewing the events that had happened in the preceding half-year. He was then followed by the Leader of the House, with such replies to those questions and criticisms, and such exposition of the policy of the Government, as might be deemed necessary. Even in the early days of the war, my Lords, when there was an interval of a few weeks between one session of Parliament and another, this practice could be and was to some extent, observed; but at the present moment we have passed from one session to another with as much rapidity and with as little disturbance of ordinary routine as if we were passing from one sitting to another. I am therefore dispensed, as I have said, from a good deal of the task which I might otherwise have had to undertake.
The noble Marquess, in the speech which he has just delivered, has put to me one or two questions on points of great importance, to which I will endeavour to reply, but he has made no attempt to survey the whole situation. Neither shall I attempt to do so. But my Lords, there is one pleasant duty from which I seek no relief, and that is joining the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition in the language, so happily chosen and so generally applauded by the House, in which he congratulated my two noble friends behind me upon the manner in which they discharged their not too easy tasks. The noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, made his maiden speech in your Lordships' House, but he is no Parliamentary maiden in another place, and for seven years he has rendered valuable and useful services there. He reminded your Lordships with extreme modesty of a military career in the course of which he has served in Egypt, in South Africa, in Gallipoli, 20 and in France, everywhere doing honour to the uniform of his Sovereign which he wore, and rendering no small services to his country. The noble Lord who followed him, although, as he reminded us, he has not been engaged in active service during the war, can point to a longer record of military service; and I venture to say, my Lords, that no one who listened to Lord Treowen this afternoon and who looks upon him now would believe for a moment that the noble Lord has nearly half a century of military service to his credit. He has been engaged, as the noble Marquess reminded us, in active service on the Nile; he has commanded the Dominion forces in Canada; and he has represented His Majesty's Government as Military Attaché at Petrograd. The choice of those two noble Lords—the uniform in which they stood up to address your Lordships this afternoon—was a sufficient reminder, as was indeed His Majesty's gracious Speech, unexampled as it was for brevity and conciseness, of the fact that not merely are we at war, but that the only important consideration which appeals to our minds at the opening of this new session of Parliament is the prosecution of the war. Our duty is, of course, as they have pointed out, to devote every effort to that object, and our one aim is to carry it to a successful conclusion.
My Lords, the noble Duke expressed himself with, if I may say so, exceptional felicity of language, and with, as I said before, perfect modesty of tone, in what he said about his fellow soldiers in France. Upon that I shall have a word to say in a moment. The noble Lord who followed him struck an even deeper note when, in language of genuine eloquence and emotion, he alluded to the great moral issues which lie behind the struggle in which we are engaged. Then the Duke of Atholl alluded to that passage in the gracious Speech which, by some unfortunate and unexplained accident, dropped out of the printed version of the Speech which His Majesty read from the Throne this morning. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition also alluded in tones of satisfaction to this reference to an impending session of the Imperial War Cabinet. Although this impending event occupies but two or three lines in the Speech from the Throne. I hope your Lordships realise—indeed, I am sure you do—that it marks a great and important forward step, not merely in the activities that are being directed to 21 the prosecution of the war, but in the constitutional development of the British Empire to which we belong. Rather more than a year ago the invitation was extended to the representatives not only of our principal Dominions over the sea but of the Indian Empire also, to attend as members, not of an Imperial Conference on the old lines, but of an Imperial War Cabinet on new lines at home. It was in that capacity that these statesmen attended. They sat at the Table in the old historic Chamber in Downing-street under the presidency of the Prime Minister; they took part in the everyday deliberations, not varied from the ordinary routine, of the Cabinet; and they were as much members for the time being of the governing body of the Empire as were my noble friend Lord Milner and myself, who happened to be members of the Administration at home. Towards the close of our proceedings a unanimous desire was expressed by these distinguished men that the experiment, so successful as it had been, should be repeated, and it was then that the announcement was made by our Prime Minister that it was in contemplation to make these meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet an amoral institution, with meetings, if necessary, on intermediate occasions. My Lords, it is obvious that these occasions cannot be very frequent in occurrence because of geographical conditions. Last year we were unfortunate in not having any representative of the Australian Commonwealth. This year we entertain the hope—I trust it will not be disappointed—that Mr. Hughes may be able to attend our deliberations.
You can well imagine, my Lords, that many great questions remain for discussion with them. The prosecution of the war, the continuous supply of men, the future of the German colonies, the conditions of peace, post-war problems— all these are matters upon which we shall be the gainers if we deliberate with our fellow-subjects from across the seas. Of one thing we may be confidently certain. There neither has been, nor is, nor is likely to be, any wavering in the spirit with which they regard the conflict in which we are still engaged. There are no more resolute soldiers in any field of war than the men in their picturesque distinctive costume whom we so often see from day to day in the streets of London. It is as essential to our Dominions across the seas as it is to ourselves in Europe that militarism should 22 perish from the earth. It is essential to them that they should be given free scope for that development to which they look forward in the future. A German victory would mean enslavement and bondage to many of them, and the denial of all their high aspirations. Therefore, my Lords, of this I think we may be certain, that our Dominions across the seas and in India will be with us to the end.
The two noble Lords who have spoken have touched a little on the various theatres of war. I was glad to hear the noble Duke speak in tones of well-deserved commendation of the campaign that has been so brilliantly conducted by General Allenby in Palestine. The capture of Jerusalem by that eminent officer and the troops whom he has commanded has aroused the enthusiasm of the whole Christian world. It is regarded by all of us as an expiation of the affront which Christendom has had to endure for centuries and as a sacred symbol of the victory which we hope will crown our cause; and, my Lords, whatever fate may befall Palestine in the future, whatever decisions as to it may be arrived at by the Peace Conference, your Lordships I am sure will be united in the hope that Jerusalem shall never again be allowed to revert to the Turk. The operations of General Allenby, which are being continually pressed, have been much facilitated by railway access to Jerusalem, which is now complete from Egypt—completed during the past few days—and is further much assisted by the successful operations of the Arab forces engaged in the districts to the east and south-east of the Dead Sea—the Arab forces belonging to the King of the Hejaz—which, working alongside of our own, have during the past ten days inflicted two very serious defeats upon the enemy. I observe that these side-shows, as they are sometimes called, are much criticised and even condemned in some quarters. I venture to think that that is a short-sighted view of the war as a whole. It may be easy to say that the war will not be concluded at Jerusalem and will be fought out in other battlefields nearer home, but equally true is it to say that Jerusalem would never have been emancipated on the battlefields of France or Flanders.
One word I should like to say, in passing, upon a country and a people to whom no reference has been made, but to whom our sympathy must, I think, go out in full 23 measure in the distressing circumstances in which they are placed. I am speaking of the little, gallant, unhappy country of Rumania. She has shown throughout a steadfast loyalty to the cause, while her soldiers, after their early reverses, have fought with a spirit, a devotion, and a courage not surpassed by those of any other combatant force during the War. At the present moment her position, her unhappy position, is due to no failure on the part of her Western Allies to support her. It is due to her geographical isolation, which renders it impossible for us to send the particular forms of assistance that would be of the greatest value to her. It is due to the manner in which she has been deserted by Russia, and to the defection of the Ukraine. I hesitate to speak of the manner in which Rumania has been treated by her old protector and friend. But for Russia, Rumania would in all probability not have entered the war; and now it has been reserved for that Power to desert her in her hour of need, to expel her Minister, to declare war against her, to endeavour to force her into a complete and pitiable surrender. My Lords, this is not the least tragic result of the melancholy events which have been passing in the last few weeks in the Eastern parts of Europe. We view the matter with a distress that I cannot exaggerate, and anything that we can do we shall do—and, indeed, we have done it—to aid Rumania in the difficult position in which she is placed.
The position in France was alluded to by the noble Duke. There our Army is in a position of expectancy, the lull before the storm. What form the attack will take, or when it will be delivered, if it is delivered at all, none of us know, but we do know that the Allied Forces there have the men with which to meet the onset, have munitions equal, if not superior, to those of the enemy, while the spirit and morale of our troops never were higher than at the present moment. And here let me say that I entirely endorse what fell from the noble Duke as to the confidence which is felt by our Forces out there in their Commanders and in the military authorities at home. I think the noble Duke laid down a perfectly sound doctrine in the words he used about the responsibility of officers in both these positions, and the measure of support to which they are entitled by the Government whom they loyally serve. I do not find one word or 24 one idea in what the noble Duke so eloquently said on the subject with which I would wish to disagree.
Mention of France leads me to pursue, for a few moments, the important subject of the meetings of the Supreme War Council in Paris, to which the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition called our attention. As he justly pointed out, the institution of this Council is a feature in the policy of ever-increasing co-operation between the various Allied Powers which has been going on since the beginning of the war. I fully endorse his description of the old position of affairs. He used the words "casual" and "haphazard" as applying to the situation which prevailed when he and I were members of the same Administration. I think it is true to say that in the earlier days of the war the political action of the various Allied Powers was largely independent, whilst the military action was almost completely so. Each General treated his Army as his own, operating in his own sphere of action, without co-ordinating it with the military forces that were being employed by the Allies elsewhere, and, both in the spheres of strategy and diplomacy, there was nothing like that co-ordination which ought to prevail. The noble Marquess will remember the conferences that used to take place in his day and mine, attended very often by large numbers of officials, where in a comparatively short space of time an immense number of questions had to be discussed and agreements arrived at which were sometimes more superficial than they were practical in real results. I can truthfully say that since the present Government came into power an effort has been made to improve that situation, and in no respect, I think, has the present Prime Minister rendered greater service to this country than in the unceasing activity with which, without any regard to personal comfort or convenience, he has been ready, over and over again at a moment's notice, to leave our shores and go to Italy and France, or wherever it might be, in order to enter into consultation with the representatives of our Allies.
As to the Council at Paris—the institution of which was explained by the Prime Minister in his speech in another place, I think in November last—that Council, as your Lordships will remember, is a Council in the main political in character 25 consisting of the Prime Ministers or other Ministers representing the various Allied States, assisted by military experts, or a military secretariat if you like to use that term. My noble friend Lord Milner knows more about the actual working of the system than I do, but I can truthfully say, from my own experience, seeing the questions that have been referred for examination to these officers at Versailles, that they have devoted to their work a zeal and ability, attended by practical consequences, which have really more than justified the most sanguine anticipations when that Council was set up. Be it remembered that the decisions of the Council are taken by the Prime Ministers and Ministers of the Allied States, and when they take these decisions it is above all things important that the military ground should have been prepared for them by experts working together in the manlier I have described.
In this way we have arrived at a situation in which there is no comparison whatever between the methods which now prevail and those which existed a year or a year and a-half ago. There is now such a thing as a single strategy, a single mind—although it is a composite mind—and unity of effort as applied to the military direction of the war. I take leave to deprecate the pictures that have been drawn, I think without a shadow of foundation, in many organs of the Press with regard to what is supposed to be passing at this Council in Paris. Most of these pictures are an absolute travesty and caricature of anything which goes on. We are told that there is a body of soldiers in Paris whose object is to override the military authorities at home. There is not a word of truth in that suggestion. Then, again, we are sometimes told that the creation of this Council was a plan to enable the politicians to get the better of the soldiers. The noble Marquess pointedly called our attention in his speech just now to the dangers of amateur strategy. I endorse what he said on that point, but I do not know, at any rate from my own recent experience, to what he was alluding. I can truthfully say that I doubt very much whether a war ever was waged—I am speaking of what has happened during the year in which I have had close personal responsibility—in which greater weight has been consistently attached to the opinions and advice of the soldier than during the present war; and I am confident that my noble friend Loyd Derby 26 will endorse what I say, that when the records of this time come to be written it will be found how surprisingly small a part (indeed I deny its existence altogether) amateur strategy has played in the operations of the war itself. But, as regards the Council at Paris, surely we cannot forget the simple facts that we are a body of Allies; that we are fighting, not in our own country; that we happen to be fighting on the land of Flanders, of Italy, and of France. We want to defeat the enemy, and we are much more likely to do it by one plan of campaign than we are by several.
The noble Marquess alluded more specially to the session of this Council from which my noble friend Lord Milner and the Prime Minister have just returned. I would like, in pursuit of my argument, to mention something about that meeting. In the earlier conferences, as your Lordships may remember, the military members were not always present; they used to pursue their deliberations apart, but were sometimes invited into the Council Chamber.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am speaking of the meeting of the Supreme War Council that has taken place in Paris during the last fortnight. At that Conference, my Lords, not only were the leading statesmen, members of the Council, present, but the Commanders-in-Chief and the Chiefs of the General Staff were in the room and took part in the deliberations. Both Sir Douglas Haig and Sir William Robertson were, I believe, present at all the meetings of the Council and took an active part in the deliberations, and on the main lines of strategical policy then laid down there was absolute agreement between all these parties, both political and military.
Before passing from this point, let me ask your Lordships' attention to what is the position in France at the present moment. A great offensive is threatened in that quarter. The Russian Army is out of action. Millions of the enemy are gathering from the East upon the Eastern side of France. Therefore, my Lords, the centre of military gravity is inevitably for the time being shifting to that part of the world. There must be greater concentration of effort and more unity of action so as to bring the forces of tie Allied Powers into 27 operation at the point of danger wherever it may be. In these circumstances, I think that it will be found inevitable that the military representatives at Paris should be invested with somewhat greater powers as time goes on. They have to deal promptly and efficaciously with the situation in a manner which will not always admit of reference to Governments and bodies existing at a distance and separated by many hours of time. That, I believe, quite correctly describes the situation as regards the Supreme Council at Paris. My points are that it has served its purpose well; that the particular suspicions levelled against it by the noble Marquess are, so far as my own knowledge is concerned, without foundation; and that if it is assuming a wider scope, it arises from the peculiar circumstances of the hour which I have ventured in cautious language to place before your Lordships.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I ask a question arising out of what the noble Earl has just said? I take it that the statement to which I alluded, that this Council was to have no executive functions, is somewhat modified for the reasons and in the manner which the noble Earl has just described, and that it will have certain executive functions.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
If by "executive functions" the noble Marquess alludes to military dispositions, I would answer that question in the affirmative. In any other sense I should have been disposed to say "No." The noble Marquess devoted another portion of his observations to the speeches which were delivered on January 25 last, I think, by Count Hertling on behalf of the German Government, and by Count Czernin on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian Government. He fairly pointed out the difference in character and tone between those speeches, and I think that he agreed, in spite of that difference of tone, that the general deduction drawn from them by President Wilson and by responsible statesmen in the various Allied countries was the true one—that there was no present evidence in them that there is any serious change in the war aims or war views of the Central Powers.
I wonder whether your Lordships have clearly in mind what were the views put forward in those speeches by Count Hertling and Count Czernin. It is imperative that you should bear them in mind 28 before you attempt to give an answer to the further question put by the noble Marquess namely, whether a revision or a restatement of our war aims is in the circumstances possible and desirable. What did Count Herding say? I can summarise in a very few sentences the propositions which, on behalf of his Government, he put forward. Firstly, he did not see in what Mr. Lloyd George has said any trace of a sincere desire for peace. Secondly, he called upon England to renounce at the Peace Conference Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Hong-Kong, and the Falkland Islands. Thirdly, he did not discuss the question of the German colonies which are in our possession, but suggested a reconstruction of the colonial possessions of the world. Fourthly, he declined to discuss the evacuation of the occupied Russian territories because it was a case which concerned Russia and the Central Powers alone, and he only expressed the hope—a somewhat sanguine hope—that Germany might be on good terms with those territories in the future. Fifthly, he said that no discussion of the Belgian question was possible until peace negotiations took place, and until the territorial integrity of Germany and her Allies was accepted by the Entente Powers. Sixthly, he would accept no surrender of any portion of Alsace-Lorraine, and the occupied territories of France were only to be surrendered on conditions. Seventhly, he quoted explicit assurances as having been given to Turkey for the integrity of the Turkish Dominions. Eighthly, the future of Poland was to be determined by Germany and Austria and Poland herself. Ninthly, he poured unconcealed contempt on the "catchwords" and "formulas," as he called them, which are in popular use; and as regards the League of Nations, which finds so much support in this and other allied countries, he said that he was prepared to investigate the principle of it after all the other questions in suspense had been settled. Meanwhile, he said that he and the Germans would rely upon what he described as the "unbroken joy of battle." My Lords, in the whole of this speech there was no hint of reparation, restitution, reformation; no guarantees whatever for the future. The Chancellor spoke in the accents of an injured innocent who has been unwarrantably accused of crime.
Now we pass to the other speech—that of Count Czernin. It is quite true, as the noble Marquess remarked, that 29 it was much more moderate and concilatory in tone. I think that President Wilson used the phrase in regard to it that it displayed a clearer vision. There was a good deal of lip service whether sincere or not, it is not for me to say—to democratic formulas, and a good deal of compliment of President Wilson himself. But observe the salient points even of that speech. They were as follows. Count Czernin said that Poland, which is now in enemy occupation, must settle her own destiny. If she wanted to go to Austria, Austria would willingly welcome her. As regards Belgium and Turkey, he said that Austria-Hungary would defend the pre-war possessions of her Allies as she would her own territory. Mark, my Lords, that that covers the case of Alsace-Lorraine, and covers the case of Palestine and of Mesopotamia. As regards Italy, Serbia, Montenegro, and Rumania, he refused to make "one-sided" arrangements; and he refused all outside interference with the autonomy of the subject races of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It would be easy to descant upon and perhaps to magnify the differences between those two speeches, but the value of any such apparent discrepancy is largely discounted by the fact that the performance was known to be a collusive one between the two statesmen. Each of those two actors had studied his part in advance and rehearsed the words which he was to employ. Each had time text of the speech made by the other in his pocket while he was speaking himself. It was by design that Count Hertling, with an eve upon Berlin, set himself to hearten the German people; it was by design that Count Czernin, with an eye upon Vienna, where there have been many strikes and much war weariness, set himself to pacify the Austrians, and to throw a fly to President Wilson. Both statesmen were really more concerned—the one confining himself to our Prime Minister, the other confining himself to President Wilson—to drive a wedge between the Allies than they were to ensure peace. And, more important still—and to this I call the attention of the noble Marquess—neither speech contained any indication of a desire on the part of either speaker of those belligerent Powers to meet in any degree the minimum demands of the Allies. Neither contained any statement of the war aims of the Central Powers. In these circumstances I confess that I do not think the noble Marquess could find 30 any substantial justification for the question that he addressed to the Government. He said in substance, Has not the time arrived for yet another statement of the Allies' terms?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
No. I must correct the noble Earl, as the point is of some importance. I did not say the time had arrived. What I said was that the idea of a re-statement ought not to be dismissed until some fresh statement of a different character had been made by the two German and Austrian statesmen; that circumstances might occur—"phases rapidly alter" was the phrase I used—which might make it desirable for us to state our minimum terms, and that therefore it was desirable to be sure what they are.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am glad that the noble Marquess has made that correction, because it is quite clear that I had misinterpreted what he said when I spoke before. It now transpires from what the noble Marquess says that he agrees that a statement of terms by the enemy must precede any statement of our own. I am only too glad to accept that position.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am very sorry that I failed to make myself understood. The speeches of the two statesmen of the Central Powers do not, I agree, justify an immediate statement on our part, but I do not wish it to be supposed that it is necessary to wait for a renunciation on their part before a re-statement of our own war aims. Circumstances may easily arise which would render it desirable to make an independent statement of our minimum terms before anything more is said by either Germany or Austria; and for that reason it is, I ventured to point out, desirable that the Allies should finally, so far as is possible, know among themselves what the absolute minimum is.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I think that the last explanation given by the noble Marquess approximates very closely to the idea that I originally entertained of his point. I do not think that I 31 seriously misinterpreted it. The noble Marquess now thinks that circumstances may arise which will demand from us a restatement of our minimum war terms. I do not know what those circumstances are; I do not think they are visible on the horizon at present. The response which has been made, both to the statement of our own Prime Minister and to the statement of President Wilson, is so discouraging that I do not think it justifies us in taking any steps at the present moment to make a re-statement of what is so clearly known to the whole world.
I think I have now dealt with the whole of the subjects to which my attention was called in the speeches that have preceded my own. The last words of the King's Speech bring before us in moving terms the gravity of the situation with which we are faced, and which I do not desire, by anything that I may say, to minimise. In His Majesty's mouth have been placed these words—
"The struggle on which we are engaged has reached a critical stage, which demands more than ever Our united energies and resources. I confidently commend to your patriotism the measures which will be submitted to you, and I pray that the Almighty may bestow his blessing on your labours."
We invoke the blessing of the Almighty, I trust not merely on the labours of these two Houses of Parliament, but upon the efforts of the nation. It is true that critical times—more critical than any we have yet confronted—lie before us. The military problem will be difficult. I do not think, for the reasons I have named, that it is dangerous. I certainly do not think—our military advisers do not think—that it is by any means insurmountable. The food problem, about which something, although little, has been said to-night, will become more serious both in supply and in distribution. The population must face the fact that, for the first time since the commencement of the war, it will be subject to something more than inconvenience. I do not say that it will suffer privation—I hope it will not—but I should like it to remember, in any fresh sacrifices which it is called upon to endure, that it is being asked to bear nothing now in the fourth year of war that is not inferior to that which the Germans have been bearing from the first six months of the struggle.
I dare say that, as time goes on, we 32 shall have more discontent. I dare say there may be more grumbling among sections of the people. I myself, however, look with a spirit of confidence to the future. I endorse, so far as I have the right to do so, what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Treowen. Speaking with an intimate knowledge of the labour conditions that prevail in South Wales, from which country he hails, and of which I had the pleasure of hearing something during a visit which I paid to that part of the kingdom a few days ago, he told us that the heart of Labour there was sound. I believe, broadly speaking, that this is true of Labour throughout the United Kingdom. I do not enter for the moment into questions as to man-power, as to disputes between one union and other unions—they are small matters compared with the broad fact that the general spirit of our labouring classes in England is reliable and sound. And surely it must be so, because how can they hope to realise the ideals which they have in view unless they assist in the work of crushing this militarism which is the one foe they have to fear? They have, no doubt, in their minds the victory of Labour, but the victory of Labour will never be accomplished without the victory of their country in this struggle, and about that I believe they are resolutely and unanimously convinced. During the forthcoming session of Parliament we shall have to put every ounce of effort into the common cause, and the nation will have to put every grain of grit in the national character into the continuance of this struggle.
I am not one of those who complain for a moment of any treatment that the Government have received. On the contrary, I think that we owe a debt of gratitude to the country. During the fourteen or fifteen months during which we have existed as a Government we have received an amount of loyal and continuous support, not merely from this House, not merely from both Houses of Parliament, but from the country at large, for which we are deeply grateful. If we are true to ourselves, if we are true to the principles upon which this Government was formed—and of which, I hope, it has not lost sight—I think that we may confidently rely upon the people of the country in general to continue to us their support, so necessary, not merely for the victory of our country or our Empire, but for the continued existence of civilisation and of freedom itself.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My Lords, I wish to be allowed to make a few remarks on what has been said by Lord Treowen and the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. There is no doubt that we have arrived at the crisis of the war; but are the Government going the right way to win the war? I wish to refer to what I must call the cowardly, malignant, and discreditable attacks which have been made on the Chief Command of the Army. These attacks have been carried out by the Press, and have had a terrible effect not only in the trenches but in the Fleet. The Government can stop these attacks, as they ought to be stopped, under the Defence of the Realm Act; in fact, the Prime Minister could stop them by holding up his little finger.
What has occurred? We have seen one if our gallant Admirals attacked in the Press. I called the attack cowardly because this officer had no right of reply. Not a word was said in his defence, and he was superseded. The Cabinet, of course, is the ruling authority. The Cabinet has the right to say whether an Admiral or a, General should be superseded if he proves to be inefficient; but the Cabinet should not allow attacks to be made on those officers in the Press. It really requires a Service man to know what effect this sort of thing has upon the men. What we read in the morning the men in the trenches read in the evening. The idea they have in their heads is that they have inefficient commanders, and that thousands of men have been killed who ought not to have been killed.
I was disappointed in the speech of the noble Earl who leads the House, because it passed over this matter without any remark. After all, it is the soldiers and the sailors who will win the war. It is the duty of the politician to dictate the policy; but when that policy has to be carried out it should be turned over to the soldiers and the sailors with effective forces to carry it out. There is no doubt that what has been called "amateur strategy," at any rate at the beginning of the war, cost thousands of lives; notably Antwerp, Mesopotamia, and the Dardanelles and Gallipoli "gamble." I do not believe that that sort of thing is being done now; but what is being done now will lose the war as surely as I stand here. I mean that if you get the officers and men who are fighting our battles to believe that they are being badly led and thus cause them to lose confidence in their 34 leaders, you will lose the war. I was amazed at my noble friend, who must know this.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My noble fiend knows what is going on in the Press. He must have read it. What is the position? You have the two great Press proprietors of the world in this House—Viscount Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere. They are in the Government. Do you mean to say that the Prime Minister has had no conversation with them about this? It will have to be stopped, either he the Defence of the Realm Act or by the power of the Cabinet. Everybody wants the Prime Minister to remain where he is, but what I deplore about him is that he is weakening himself through the people he puts around him. Who are the dominating personalities in the Cabinet? They are Mr. Winston Churchill, Lord Northcliffe, Lord Rothermere, and now Lord Beaver-brook. If you want to know the qualifications of the last named for governing here, you had better go to Canada, where I was, and found them. These people are going to weaken the Government, and to bring the Prime Minister down. If the Prime Minister comes down we shall be like the Bolsheviks. We shall have a Unionist Party, an Asquith Party, two or three Labour Parties, Pacifist Parties; and we shall lose the war. I warn the Government and the Prime Minister that there is a great deal of unrest in the country, and that there is a great deal worse in the trenches and in the Fleet, because of the power that the Press has to make or to unmake officers in the Services. I was very disappointed that my noble friend did not answer the question put by the noble Duke.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
It is very difficult to be criticised for what you did not say in your speech. My recollection is that I endorsed in the fullest possible terms the language employed by the noble Duke, which I said represented sound military doctrine; and if I did not put it more strongly than that, it was because I expressed my views only a fortnight ago at a public meeting in the country, which views were correctly reported in almost every newspaper in the kingdom.
§ LORD BERESFORD
That is a very pretty way of putting it; but why does not my noble friend stop what I have been referring to, and say that it shall not occur again? It will occur again unless it is stopped, and we want the noble Earl and the Government to say that it shall be stopped. I was glad to hear the noble Earl say that the Paris Council is a success, but I was very sorry to hear him add that it is going to be given executive power. You are going to have two military hierarchies. That sort of thing is bound to fail. Let me give to the house an illustration. Suppose that you sent an Admiral to Aberdeen who was to vise the strategy of the Admiralty and the tactics of the Commander-in-Chief there, and send what he thinks to the politician. That must produce friction. As far as the political heads of the Allies go, it was an excellent thing for them to meet together. But directly you bring in the soldier you create friction. What might happen—I do not say that it will happen—is that you may have the Chief of Staff here relieved and a man come over from Paris and put into his place because he has been working in Paris with the politicians. These things are fatal to the war; and I am certain that my noble friend Lord Derby must agree with me. He must agree that the Press attacks were wrong. He is a Service man himself, and he must be of opinion that such things have a bad effect in the trenches, and put into the heads of the men a lack of confidence in their leaders.
I have ventured to make these few remarks to your Lordships because I regard the present moment as the crisis of the war. There is a condition of high tension, and whichever side wavers the least bit now 36 will be knocked out. We shall want every ounce of the pluck and the grit hereditary to our race in order to win the war. But you are not going to win the war if you put doubt into the minds of the soldiers and the sailors as to the capability of their leaders to win it. I trust that my noble friend Lord Derby will get up and tell your Lordships that these attacks in the Press will not occur again, no matter what may be the power and influence of noble Lords in this House who happen to rule the Press as they do at present.
On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.