§ LORD WIMBORNE rose to call attention to the speech of Herr von Kühlmann in the Reichstag on June 24 last; and to move a Resolution. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put this Motion on the Paper three weeks ago, but it has been postponed mainly at the instigation of the noble Earl who leads the House.
§ LORD WIMBORNE
I do not understand the noble Earl. I put the Motion down, and I postponed it at the instigation of the noble Earl who leads the House. We are all aware of the manifold and weighty duties which on the noble Earl the Leader of the House, and we are always very willing, as far as possible, to meet his convenience. In this ease I do not seem to have been very lucky, because, for reasons which we all deplore, the noble Earl is unable to be in his place on this occasion. The effect of the postponement has necessarily been to throw the subject that I wish to raise into a different perspective. Since then Baron von Kühlmann has fallen, and the battle has been resumed in France. On the other hand, a most important statement has been made by Count Hertling in the Reichstag on the 11th of this month, and it has had the effect of re-opening and emphasising what otherwise would have been considered to be a closed question. Therefore I think I shall be right in saying that, whether the present battle develops into the decisive event, or whether it dies clown leaving both parties in more or less relatively the same position, the pronouncements made by enemy statesmen have an independent significance, the consideration and analysis of which impose upon us a constant obligation. The subject, therefore, to which I desire to draw your Lordships' attention are the two speeches delivered in the Reichstag by Baron von Kühlmann on June 24 and by Count Hertling on July 11.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
No notice has been given that the noble Lord intended to refer to the speech of Count Hertling.
§ LORD WIMBORNE
I think that is a small point. The speech of Count Herding really emphasises, and perhaps carries a little further, the speech of Baron von Kühlmann on June 24. As to the former speech, as it is now somewhat remote I will quote from the summary in The Times which appeared at the time of its publication and reads as follows—He said in spite of brilliant German successes no clear desire for peace was recognisable among Germany's enemies. He went on to say Germany's war aims are (1) the boundaries drawn for us by history; (2) oversea possessions corresponding to our greatness; (3) freedom for carrying our trade on the free seas to all continents.Then there was the well-remembered part when he said that "a purely military decision of the war can hardly be expected; against Germany's resources the Entente should realise that their hope of victory is an illusion." Then he said—The Imperial Government had not shut the door to an honourable peace and would listen to plain and unambiguous proposals. He hoped that in due course their opponents would approach them with efforts in correspondence with the situation and satisfactory to German vital needs.That is what von Kühlmann said; but to this Count Herding added in the other speech—Belgium is only a pawn for negotiation; we have no intention of keeping Belgium in any form whatsoever.I think that it will be agreed that those speeches are none the less remarkable from the fact that the strain of them is not entirely unfamiliar in our ears. Since they have been delivered there has been much speculation as to what import could be attached to them. Are they definite bids for peace on the part of Germany, or do they constitute a trap? Do they represent apprehension, if not repentance, on the part of the enemy, or are they merely what is called a peace offensive? I do not intend to invite your attention to the former aspect, or to involve you in a discussion as to what our peace terms should be or should not be. Whether, therefore, these speeches constitute a genuine bid for peace or not, I feel pretty confident that alternatively at any rate they constitute what has been called a peace offensive, and it is to that aspect of the question that I would invite your Lordships' attention.
There is a good deal to make us take this view, because it is clear now that Germany has been nerving herself for a great effort involving doubtless immense sacrifices, and 888 it is a noticeable fact that these military efforts are generally, if not always, preceded by peace talk. That is a coincidence which I think cannot be overlooked. On the assumption that these speeches are peace offensives, I would ask what is a peace offensive? A peace offensive has been defined in another place by the Foreign Secretary on more than one occasion. So late as June 20 he defined it as follows—A peace offensive is any effort, by speech or otherwise, under the disguise of asking for an honourable termination of the present unhappy war, to divide the Allies and to discourage the individual members of the Alliance.I think that there will be general agreement with that definition as far as it goes. But does it go far enough? It seems to me to be incomplete; indeed, it appears to ignore the most essential part of the strategy of the peace offensive. The offensive is not mainly for its foreign effect, but for home consumption. It is not launched so much in the hope of dividing and discouraging the Allies as for stiffening and consolidating war-like sentiments in the Central Empires by throwing upon our shoulders the responsibility for the continuance of the war. For four years, my Lords, enemy diplomacy has failed to produce any external effect, and it is not in the vain hope of accomplishing that now but with the certainty of achieving the domestic result that these offensives are persevered in.
To prove this, let us examine for a moment the psychology of enemy public opinion. It is safe to say, I think, that there exists among them two attitudes towards war in general and to this war in particular. There are those who love war and profit, or hope to profit, by it, and there are those who bate war and suffer, and suffer grievously, from war. I think that these mental attitudes can and often do co-exist in the same individual, and, according to circumstances, alternate as the predominant frame of mind. Of the former attitude we have abundant and striking evidence in Prussian militarism. Of the latter attitude we naturally hear less, but even censorship cannot wholly hide the fact that there is periodic unrest and discontent in Germany, nor can it quite veil the significance of Parliamentary votes and Parliamentary discussion in Germany. I think that the Kühlmann incident fortifies that impression, for whatever else is 889 discernible in von Kühlmann's speech, it is clear that there is a great body of sane, even perhaps pacific, feeling in Germany to which Kühlmann obviously appeals in his speech, and which even the German General Staff cannot afford to ignore.
What has happened—the noble Earl brought me to task for this—in regard to the Kühlmann incident? The General Staff having put up the Foreign Secretary, as doubtless they did—it is generally agreed that they did—to placate the moderates, a fortnight is allowed to elapse before he is disavowed. No answer to his speech being forthcoming in the meantime from the Allies, it can plausibly be asserted that such peace hopes as he voiced are vain and fruitless. That, in fact, is what Count Hertling said when he spoke on the occasion to which I have alluded. The effect of this is that moderate opinion is discouraged or reconciled to the inevitable. Ludendorff triumphs. The "peace offensive" has succeeded. For confirmation of this view let us look at Count Hertling's speech. He asks for—that unity on our internal front which is so tremendously significant to our brothers in the field.Surely we have here a frank admission, not only of the existence of moderate as opposed to military opinion in Germany, but also of the necessity of bringing the latter into line with that military opinion. If this is true, as I think a little consideration shows that it is, it seems to me that we have displayed some lack of penetration and dexterity. The Foreign Secretary has contented himself with exposing the superficial and rather obvious character of the peace offensive fraud, but he has shown less skill in parrying the concealed but more real danger, and has never got in his riposte, or succeeded in turning the incident to our advantage.
In our handling, or perhaps rather lack of handling, of these enemy peace offensives we have consistently played into the hands of the military party in Germany. Consider what our attitude has been. The Foreign Secretary, speaking in another place on February 13, declared that at the present moment diplomacy was entirely out of court. It was with reluctance that on May 16 he admitted that the Government would not decline to listen to conversations of belligerents. There are people who go so far as to advocate the shutting up of the Foreign Office during the 890 continuance of the war. I do not know that Mr. Balfour would go to those lengths, but our attitude has been—if the word is applicable to such a subtle dialectician—a little "stodgy." This is certainly the opinion of friendly and independent observers in neutral countries. Our diplomacy, they think, has failed to exhibit the imagination and insight which it should possess, and many opportunities for diplomatic triumphs have been lost.
But, it may be objected, Supposing this is true, what can we do? I certainly do not suggest that our Foreign Office should descend to the fraud and treachery of which they accuse German diplomatists. If that course were necessary I should not have brought forward this Motion. It is not necessary. To illustrate what I mean let me take a concrete example. I will take the negotiations of Brest-Litovsk, not because that example is peculiar, but because it is the simplest and gives the simplest illustration of what I mean. What happened at Brest-Litovsk at the start of those negotiations? Count Czernin spoke on that occasion for the two allied Governments, the Austro-Hungarian Government and the German Government. He said the Central Empires were prepared to negotiate a general peace on the basis of—no forcible acquisition of territory and without war indemnities, provided that within a suitable period, without exception and without any reserve, all the belligerent Powers bound themselves to such conditions. For "[he added]" it would not do for the Powers of the Quadruple Alliance, negotiating with Russia one-sidedly, to commit themselves to these conditions without a guarantee that Russia's Allies will recognise and will carry out these conditions honestly and without reserve also as regards the Quadruple Alliance.I submit that that is a proposition which, without fraud or chicane on our part, we could at the time have accepted (subject perhaps to some minor adjustments) as constituting at its face value an admission of the main part of our case against Germany. For surely a Germany driven back within her pre-war frontiers without booty or prize of any kind—"all her glories, conquests, triumphs, spoils, shrunk to this little measure"—would have meant the defeat of militarism, and, I think, its permanent discomfiture.
But supposing we had consented to establish negotiations for a general peace on those terms, what would have happened? One of two things would have 891 happened. Perhaps the world would have stumbled into peace. But I am bound to say another result was more likely. Assuming that they are dominant, the Pan-Germans and the Junkers would have taken alarm at this unexpected and undesired turn of events. They would have repudiated their Ministerial spokesman. That would have broken off the negotiations. And with what result? If the jackboot had triumphed then the lust of conquest, cynicism, and brutality of its wearers would have been exposed, not to us who know it, but to the great mass of the German people in unmistakable and unforgettable fashion. The peace offensive would not only have utterly failed, but would have failed with disastrous consequences to its authors. Germany would have been rent in two. That would have been an achievement which would have been worth many victories in the field.
But what did we do? We said nothing, we returned no answer to these proposals, and it was on our silence that the military party were able to ride off to perpetrate the infamy for which the Brest-Litovsk Treaty will always be remembered. I say, therefore, that there have been occasions for rejoinder which we could honourably and profitably have grasped.
The question arises whether the speeches of Herr von Kühlmann and Count Hertling offered such another opportunity. I certainly do not wish to dogmatise, but there are expressions in them which recall the situation at Brest-Litovsk on December 28, and I think that if I have at all made myself clear I may claim that they should not have been left totally unanswered. Three weeks have elapsed since the first was delivered, and yet no reply of any kind has been forthcoming from any responsible Foreign Minister, or, indeed, from any statesman with regard to them. At a critical moment of the enemy's fortunes, both military and domestic, we have allowed the poison of their peace offensives to exert its powerful anodyne on German nerves and consciences. The advantages of countering these effects seem so obvious that one is forced to inquire what objections there are to the course which I suggest. Is it that we are so afraid that the mere mention of the word "negotiations" will spell irresolution among our own people that they could never survive the disappointment, if nothing were to come of it, after their hopes had been raised?
892 I sometimes think the Government is inclined to treat the country too much like children. Things are concealed which certainly would be no news to the enemy. The shipping losses, for instance, were concealed. Now they are published. Has their publication decreased or increased ship production? It has increased ship production. Is our attitude towards peace offensives governed by the same kind of old-fashioned precaution? Does that attitude of mind still linger in the Foreign Office? Or is it that our war objectives (which admittedly have undergone modification from time to time) are still somewhat indeterminate? Is there confusion in our minds between the end in view and the means? Who, for instance, who looks forward to a reign of peace in the world and brotherly love among mankind, can talk of the retention of conquered territory as a precautionary and defensive necessity? Is not that a contradiction of ideas? Is it not also a confusion to think of Balkanizing half Europe and a great part of Asia? The federation of the world and the Parliament of Man will not be reached as the result of the wholesale disintegration of existing units. It is through aggregation, not disintegration, that our ideals will develop and be realised. For instance, how could Mr. Balfour and M. Pichon logically talk of conferring independence on Bohemia? Surely federal autonomy for "dependent nations" (such as I suppose is intended for Ireland some day, and possibly for ourselves) provides a more permanent, progressive, and promising structure. And nothing stops you here. Germany has assented to that in principle—those are her own words—and she might be pinned down to the performance.
It would be no answer to my case to say that the Germans know our peace terms, and that they have often been authoritatively stated. I doubt whether one German in a million knows what our peace terms are. I wonder how many of your Lordships could write them down from memory? But, whether the German "man in the street" knows them or not, repetition is the quintessence of propaganda. Besides, that is not quite my point. What I assert is that, whether our terms are known or not, every war-weary German knows that on three separate occasions at least peace negotiations have been proposed by the Kaiser or his Ministers on terms which to him, a German, must seem accommodating to the verge of surrender, and that on each 893 occasion those proposals have been received in the Allied Chancelleries with a stony and acid silence, and he thinks, therefore, that the Allies wish for nothing short of the total destruction of Germany and that there is nothing for it but for him to fight it out. That is what the average German thinks.
In confirmation of this, let me call your Lordships' attention to this very speech of Count Hertling, and this is what is believed in Germany. Count Hertling says—Mr. Wilson wants war until we are destroyed, and what Mr. Balfour has said must really drive a flush of anger to the cheeks of every German.And, alluding to that, he says further—Behind these insults is a desire for our destruction. As long as a desire for our destruction exists, we must endure together with our faithful nation.And so on, much in the same strain.
Now, as is known to your Lordships, there is a type of simple and somewhat impatient patriot whose perpetual and monotonous refrain consists of, "Stop talking, and get on with the war." Yes, certainly get on with the war, but get on with the objects of the war, too. However much we can prove in the field—as we all believe we shall prove—that militarism does not pay, we shall not have got appreciably nearer to that blessed sense of security which is embodied in the idea of the League of Nations as long as it is possible for the German authorities to assert, as they do assert, and for the German people to believe, as I fear they believe, that we, the Allies, are animated by the same material, commercial, industrial, and Imperialistic designs as they themselves profess. Beaten or unbeaten, Germany will continue a perpetual menace to us and to our children.
This is no pacifist Motion. The war must be won. But this is not an ordinary war. We are fighting not only to overcome Germany in the ordinary sense, but to convert her also. For this you need two weapons—force and argument. They do not conflict; you cannot neglect either. You must din your argument into German heads as much as you may have to plant your bayonets into German breasts. This is what General Smuts told us in a speech, which has not received sufficient attention, delivered at Glasgow on May 17—This war is much more than a military war, and we shall have to use our diplomacy and all the other forces at our disposal in order to bring it to a victorious end. Without private and in- 894 formal comparison of nudes how are you going to know what your enemy is prepared to concede? The highest objects of peace will be secured not only by the gallantry of our Armies but by the weapons of our diploma[...]y when the time is ripe for obtaining a satisfactory peace for the Allies.Yes, but if diplomacy is to play its part its policy must not be obscure. It must be a simple concrete formula without reservations, implications, or complications, easily understanded of the people to whom it is addressed.
Reticence, vagueness, and contradiction are fatal. Let me illustrate this by taking a typical instance. The Prime Minister, addressing American troops the other day from a motor-car, said that the Germans could have peace to-morrow on President Wilson's terms. Your Lordships see from the quotation from Count Hertling's speech what that may be twisted to be. In so far as that declaration involves a modification of the "knock-out blow" policy it is to be welcomed, but I submit that, as a positive statement of our peace aims, it has all the defects so well known to this House of legislation by reference; to determine what the exact import of a clause is you have to hunt up antiquated, and sometimes partly obsolete, Statutes in order to find out where you are. If you are going to deal with a peace offensive, what is needed is a terse, concrete formula embodying the ideals which animate our policy. The Germans have said "no annexations," and even now they speak of "historic frontiers." Whether it is honest or dishonest, you must answer it, and keep on answering it. On every peace offensive you must hurl back your reply. It is not enough to resist stolidly; you must counter-attack. What I ask is that such a formula should be framed and used, and should be stuck to. I hope that we shall not have anything in the nature of a sliding scale here.
That is the case which I desire to submit to the consideration of the House. I have tried to put it in as few words as I could. If I must further compress it within the scope of a Resolution, it would run as follows—
"That in the reception accorded to enemy peace proposals more regard should be paid to the opportunities such occasions afford for defining our own terms and for discrediting militarism in the eyes of the people of the Central Empires themselves."
I beg to move.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, Lord Wimborne informed us that his Motion was postponed at the request of Lord Curzon. Lord Curzon told Lord Wimborne that the Foreign Office was averse from a discussion at the present juncture. Lord Curzon shared that view. He conveyed it to Lord Wimborne, and Lord Curzon's hope was, not that the Motion would be postponed, as Lord Wimborne indicated, but that it would be withdrawn from the Paper. I am not in a position to deal with the Motion which Lord Wimborne has just read to your Lordships. This Notice has been on the Paper for three weeks. Lord Wimborne has not thought it necessary to give notice of his Motion to either the Leader of the House or to the Department to which that Motion—
§ LORD WIMBORNE
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. On the day on which I put the Motion down on the Paper I wrote to the Leader of the House and said that I was willing to tell him exactly what I proposed to say, and I have always been willing to meet him and to give him the whole thing verbatim. There is no question of concealment about it; he did not take the trouble to see me.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Lord Curzon invited the noble Lord to withdraw his Motion, and he has tried on several occasions to see the noble Lord in this House.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
And the Motion on the Paper as it stands to-day is not the Motion just submitted by Lord Wimborne. I submit that under those conditions it is impossible for me to do more now than to reply in the exact terms which Lord Curzon himself would have used had his health permitted him to be present this evening. I must say that I should have liked to advert upon certain attacks made by the noble Lord upon the Foreign Office and certain implications that he made.
Lord Curzon, however, says that he would have been precluded from embarking upon any discussion of the question at the present time, for reasons which he had already stated to Lord Wimborne. Those reasons were that, Herr von Kühlmann having fallen, his views did not now appear 896 to be relevant to the present situation. So strongly wag this view taken in the other House that, when an hon. Member tried to raise a debate on a Motion for the adjournment, the House of Commons thought it so inopportune that not one Member rose to support that hon. Member in moving the adjournment. If it is sought to raise a discussion on these terms in general, it is submitted that the present moment, while a great offensive is in course of being carried out, is singularly ill-chosen for the purpose.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I might further submit that in any case such a discussion could most suitably be raised after due notice to the Foreign Office of the terms of the Motion, and, perhaps, with some knowledge that, in the opinion of the Public Department, public interests would not be prejudically affected by such a discussion. In the present case Lord Wimborne placed his Motion upon the paper without any intimation having been made to the Foreign Office or any such assurance having been received by them. In spite of Lord Curzon's intimation to him that at the present time a debate would not be in the public interests, and that Lord Curzon would not be in a position to reply, no intimation has been received of the particular points to which Lord Wimborne desired replies, and he has concluded with a Motion the terms of which have never been communicated to the Leader of the House.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
I did not quite catch the noble Earl's preface. Is he reading a letter which the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, asked him to read to the House?
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I am speaking from a full note prepared for my guidance by the Leader of the House, and the terms are substantially those which would have been presented to the House had Lord Curzon himself been able to attend.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
I do not think that makes it quite clear. I have been in this House for over forty years. Do I understand that the noble Earl is speaking from the Foreign Office brief which would have been given to Lord Curzon in the event of his being able to be here?
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I have riot been in this House for forty years, but it is quite twenty-five years since I first entered the House of Commons, and from my knowledge of Parliament as a whole I submit that the procedure which I am following is quite correct. I said—and it will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow—that Lord Curzon, being unable to attend to-day, had given me a full note of what he would have said had he been present. This note was not prepared by the Foreign Office, but is part. of the statement I am making on behalf of the Leader of the House and refers to the definite complaint that a Motion has been submitted to the House of which notice has been upon the Paper for three weeks without its terms being communicated either to the Foreign Office or to the Leader of the House, and that the terms of the Motion have only been divulged within the last five minutes. In these circumstances I regret I am not in a position to reply to the specific questions put by Lord Wimborne.
§ LORD WIMBORNE
My Lords, I must contradict the noble Earl on personal points. I myself spoke to the Leader of the House and put myself entirely at his disposal. I offered to put him in possession of everything I wished to say, and it is not my fault if he is not aware of what I wished to say. It is three weeks since I gave not ice of the terms of my Motion.
§ LORD WIMBORNE
Notice of the fact that I intended to make the Motion. I put it down on Thursday fortnight, and it was withdrawn at the request of the noble Earl. I must tell your Lordships that I understand that the noble Earl came down to the House and saw Lord Colebrooke, who went up to the Table and took my Motion off the Paper. That was a most exceptional thing to do, but I make no complaint of it. I was most anxious that the Leader of the House should have nothing to complain of, and that he should be consulted as to the time when he would reply to my observations, but I must protest that it is totally untrue that there was anything clandestine or sprung-upon-the-House in this Motion. If the noble Earl did not know what I was going to say it is not my fault, because I put myself entirely at his disposal.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.