§ Debate upon the Motion of Lord PARMOOR—viz., To resolve" That this House approves the principle of a League of Nations and the constitution of a Tribunal, whose orders shall be enforceable by an adequate sanction"—resumed (according to Order).
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, by the courtesy of the noble Earl who leads this House, a courtesy for which I desire to thank him cordially, I am permitted to take the place which would have been his in continuing this debate. It will not be necessary for me to recall to your Lordships the earlier stages of the debate, nor to repeat what has been said with so much force and weight by noble Lords who took part on the two previous occasions when this subject was before the House. What was said then by my noble friend Lord Parmoor, the mover; by my noble friends Lord Loreburn, Lord Lansdowne, and Lord Parker of Waddington—whose absence, and the cause of it, we greatly regret—into those things I do not think I need enter. They dealt with various aspects of the question which it is not necessary to pursue further here. Nor shall I enter into the detail of any particular scheme, because I desire, if possible, to make something in the nature of a practical contribution to the question which has been left for a long time in the region of generalities, and to come down to the definite and positive steps which it seems possible to take at this moment.
The Motion of Lord Parmoor asserts that there is some need for action on the part of this country at the present moment, 384 and he recommends in his Motion the principle of a League of Nations, and then goes on from that to suggest the creation of a tribunal. I venture to submit to my noble friend that this is going a little more into detail than it is necessary to do at this moment, and that all that we need do now is to embody the feelings of your Lordships' House in a declaration approving the principle, with one addition which I propose subsequently to suggest. I should like to move an Amendment which I will read when I have concluded the observations I am now going to make, an Amendment which will somewhat modify the Motion of my noble friend Lord Parmoor, but which would be in entire agreement with his principles and with what has been said by those who have supported the Motion.
There is also an Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Sydenham. If Lord Sydenham merely means by his Amendment that we are going too far at present in committing ourselves to a tribunal, I think I should be inclined to agree with him that it would he better not to enter into that at present, because a tribunal such as is suggested would be only part of the machinery that would be needed to give effect to the principle. The difficulty I should feel also in adopting his view is that it seems to discourage the only definite form which the principle has hitherto taken—a principle which has been approved by many and very high authorities. It might look something like a counsel of despair if we were to acquiesce in the Amendment of Lord Sydenham and go no further than to say that the thing deserves some sort of consideration, and leave it in the vague position it has hitherto occupied.
The reason why I think that anything that wavered in its enunciation of the principle would seem to be a counsel of despair is this. I will ask your Lordships what has been the thought that has always been at the back of our mind during the last terrible four years since this war began. All through the sufferings and ravages of the war, all through the private losses which all of us have had to bear, there has been one thought, and it is this. Are we to look upon this war in its gigantic scale and in its unprecedented horror as being the bankruptcy of civilisation? After all that science has done for the world, after all the closer relations between the 385 different parts of the world and the different peoples of the world which commerce and the development of science have established, and after all the enlightenment of which we have been accustomed to boast, are we coming back to savagery, and are the powers of evil to have so far prevailed that right is to be superseded by force in determining the relations of States? I heard in a sermon in Westminster Abbey some inonths ago an expression which struck me very much, coming from one of the deepest of our thinkers. He said the last four years have taught us that it will not be possible for a long time to come for the great enemy of mankind to sham dead once more. That, we must feel. The powers of evil have been more conspicuously at work in the world than they have been any time within recorded history.
This brings us to consider what will happen after the war. When this war is over are we to live under a shadow, a dark shadow brooding over humanity, which threatens the recurrence of calamities such as this from which the world has been suffering? Are we to go on maintaining prodigious armaments, are we to have an armed peace full of suspicion anal hatred, in which the nations of the world will be reckoning when next to witness a recurrence of these horrors? Or can we do anything to secure after this war is over that there shall be some prospect of settled quiet and peace? I will venture to read to your Lordships two or three lines from a remarkable pamphlet which one of the most respected members of your Lordships' House has lately published, Viscount Grey of Fallodon, in which he says—There is more at stake in this war than the existence of individual States or Empires, or the fate of a continent; the whole of modern civilisation is at stake, and whether it will perish and be submerged, as has happened to previous civilisations of older types, or whether it will live and progress, depends upon whether the nations engaged in this war, and even those that are onlookers, learn the lessons that the experience of the war may teach them.Can we then do anything to secure some settled quiet and peace for the world to succeed the calamities we have witnessed and to prevent their recurrence? Now, only one practical suggestion, as far as I know, has been put forward. Some have said, no doubt, that what you want is to change the mind of the world, to substitute an international mind for that over-strained sense of nationality, that 386 over-strained consciousness of the great nationalities which has been one main cause in bringing these misfortunes upon the world. To that we may look forward as an ultimate goal, but we do not seem in recent years to have been approaching it; and after nineteen centuries, how little has even the most powerful of all the influences that have ever been brought to bear upon the world for peace and good will among nations—how little has been accomplished even by Christianity itself? And yet we cannot doubt that the great majority of the peoples of the earth desire peace. These four years that have passed have shown them more clearly than ever what war may mean; and if ever there was a time when humanity ought to be united in desiring peace, it is the year in which we stand.
The one practical suggestion which has been made for securing some enduring peace in the future has been made in the proposal that there should be some sort of combination of peace-loving States which would agree to set up and to maintain a machinery by which wars may be averted in the future. This idea has had the acquiescence, indeed I may say the blessing, of nearly all the leading statesmen in the Allied countries and of many outside. It has had the powerful advocacy of the President of the United States; it has been accepted in France, and it has had the concurrence of at least a large number of our leading statesmen in this country—the present and the last Prime Minister; Viscount Grey of Fallodon, who was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; Mr. Balfour; and I think a very large number of others, whom it would take too long to enumerate, have all expressed their concurrence in the idea and their wish that it should be realised. Indeed, I am not sure that any voice has ever been raised against it outside the circle of the Central Powers. But the plan itself has remained vague; it has been an ideal, an aspiration, which has not yet been brought into the realm of fact and practice.
Now, what steps can we take towards it? Is there anything we can do to move towards this aspiration and to turn the ideal into a possible fact? Let me here draw a distinction which seems to me to be of the greatest importance between two things that are frequently confused. One is the conception of a League pf the present belligerents, an offensive or defensive 387 Alliance of Great Britain and her present Allies in order to resist the designs of any ambitious and aggressive nation, and create a League which would be a warning to any such nation that it will not be permitted again to destroy the peace of the world. That is one plan. The other ideal is the formation of a permanent Peace League which shall go beyond the present belligerents, and which shall regard further aims which are not necessarily concerned with the present war but which belong to a more remote future. I do not deny for a moment that such an offensive and defence alliance of the belligerent Powers as I have indicated may be necessary. It may be necessary for us, if the end of the war should leave Germany and her Allies still animated with the same spirit of aggression, the same faithlessness, and find them still ruled by the same military caste which has been the cause and author of these misfortunes, to form and to maintain such an offensive and defensive alliance. Such an alliance may be indispensable for the safety of ourselves and of all mankind. But it is not the same thing as a permanent Peace League.
There are unfortunately at present very few signs of a better mind in Germany and in Austria. The vague and cloudy utterances of a high authority in Germany which we read in the newspapers this morning do not seem to me to hold out any better hope than we have had hitherto that the German Government is returning to a better mind, and is willing to make peace upon reasonable terms which will ensure peace for the future. That is, however, a subject which I need not pursue. We cannot foresee what the end of the war will be; and although we trust that it will end by discrediting the aggressive spirit to which I have referred, and that it will shake the power of the military caste which dominates Germany, still that must remain for the present among the dim and distant issues of the future, and it is not of the alliance of the now belligerent Allies that I propose to speak. What is contemplated in the Motion before your Lordship's House is something larger, something which may include those Powers that are now neutral as well as the Powers that are now belligerent; something which shall give us a hope of an enduring peace in the future.
The only, plan that has been suggested for the preservation of such an enduring 388 peace is to provide some means for settling disputes without war, some means by which there shall be a compulsion imposed upon those who may meditate war, or at any rate those between whom disputes arise which need to be settled, requiring them to turn to peaceful means of settling their disputes and to refrain from acts of hostility until all means of pacific solution have been exhausted. Any such plan, any such machinery, would need to be accepted by all the peace-loving peoples and guaranteed by their obligation to abide by the arrangement and to enforce it.
Now, the creation of such a machinery as that to which I have referred, the provision of means for the pacific settlement of disputes instead of resorting to war, is a difficult and an infinitely complex question. Attempts have been made heretofore—the one which is most familiar to your Lordships was that made under bad auspices by the Holy Alliance in 1815—to provide some method for permanent peace. That attempt was destined to failure from the false principles upon which it was founded. We must go deeper and found ourselves upon principles compatible with freedom. I do not for a moment underrate the difficulties which must be faced, and I think that we may dismiss all those grandiose notions of what has been called a Federation of the World, an attempt to induce the great States to forego their sovereignty and to submit themselves to some superior authority, and to constitute an international Army. All these schemes, if they ever are realisable, must belong to a very distant future, and it seems needless to contemplate any further limitation of State sovereignty than is necessarily involved in the obligations undertaken by a Treaty. But, however limited and cautious our plans may be, it is not to be denied that the difficulties in the way are very great, and that the questions to be solved are of the utmost complexity. I do not think any one can appreciate how great those difficulties are unless he addresses himself to a close and long-continued study of the subject, and of the various plans that have been advanced.
Without going into detail, I will just indicate to your Lordships briefly what are some of those difficulties which have to be faced. In the first place, you have to consider what are the organs by which machinery for averting war must act.
389 You will want, no doubt, something in the nature of a Court of Arbitration, but that will not go very far. You will want the means, of conciliating disputes, because the disputes which are capable of being referred to a Court that can proceed upon judicial methods are comparatively few, and are not those out of which wars have generally arisen. Conciliation is far more needed in most cases than legal methods of arbitration. Other machinery may also be needed. This subject has been worked out in the United States with such detail that I received recently plans from that country, proceeding from eminent authorities, which constituted no fewer than five organs through which machinery for the prevention of war would have to act. We do not want if we can help it to have a complicated system, but I am afraid it will prove impossible to avoid a good deal more than what the word "arbitration" would cover.
Then there will also have to be considered what are the precise obligations to be undertaker by each State; what the methods of enforcement are to be; how far economic methods as well as military methods are to be applied in order to enforce compliance with the decision of a tribunal or the recommendation of a Court of Conciliation; What executive machinery is to be provided for the enforcement of the obligations which are undertaken; and how far each State is to be bound, whether jointly and severally, to fulfil the obligations undertaken. There is another difficulty which I will be content with merely indicating. It is this. There exist in the world a great many conditions which may produce war, discontents creating dangers from which War may be feared, which it would not be safe to stereotype. It will not be possible to say that any status quo arrived at on the conclusion of this war, for instance, is to be deemed necessarily permanent. We have had examples of the way in which various nationalities have asserted their claims during this war; of the way in which dangers to peace may arise from discontent within the dominions of some particular Power and may, because liable to draw in other Powers, become a fruitful cause of disturbance. It will be necessary, therefore, to consider how to prevent injustices and dangers of discontent which threaten war from the internal arrangements of States, and 390 which are likely to bring other States into the field.
There is another question. Of whom shall any League to enforce peace consist? Who shall be admitted to partnership in it? Of course, we should all desire prima facie that such a League, in order to be as powerful as possible and command the greatest amount of respect in the world, should include all the Great Powers; but if any Power were to seek to enter that League whose past conduct and present dealings give reason to suspect that it would not be entering the League bona fide but rather with its own ulterior designs and possibly with a purpose of wrecking the League and turning that to its own account—if there was reason to suppose that a Power proposing to join in such a League would not abide by and fulfil the obligations undertaken, could it be recognised as a member? That is one of the difficulties which we have to face, but it is a difficulty which it would he idle to discuss at present, because everything depends upon how this war ends, and we cannot foresee what the relations of the Great Powers with one another will be at the time when that happy event arrives.
This, however, does not mean that we cannot do something now. It does not mean we are to wait for the end of the war before we face this problem and endeavour to address ourselves to its solution. There are two reasons why we ought to address ourselves to it at once. The first is that to which I have already adverted—namely, the novelty and extreme complexity of the question. It is so difficult, there are so many alternative proposals that have to be considered and so many possible consequences of any proposal that have to be examined, that it would be impossible to devise a scheme without very long, very careful, and very profound consideration. We must take time to explore every corner of this subject and leave time to discuss any solution which may commend itself to our own statesmen, in consultation with those other nations which have been examining the question, and in particular with the United States, which has already been very seriously addressing itself to the subject, and with our friends in France.
I should like to call your Lordships' attention to what has already been begun or is already in process of being carried through in France. I have here an account— 391 it is too long to read—of a Committee which was appointed by the Government in France just a year ago and which has been occupied ever since then in a careful and minute discussion of the question. It includes a number of the leading statesmen of France, ex-Prime Ministers, lawyers, diplomatists, historians, and men of the highest competence in their several departments, and they are now at work upon a scheme which they are not yet at liberty to make public, but which I have no doubt will throw great light upon the matter. It is eminently desirable that there should be ample time for considering any suggestion which may approve itself to our Government in conjunction with the statesmen of France, the statesmen of America, and the statesmen of Italy and other Allied Powers.
This leads me to suggest that His Majesty's Government ought as soon as possible to take steps to institute an inquiry similar to that which the French Government have been carrying on. I have heard that the Foreign Office has already had the subject under consideration, but I do not know how far the steps which they have taken are quite commensurate with the steps taken in France, nor how far they consider themselves to have advanced towards a solution of the difficulty; but at any rate I am glad to believe that the Foreign Office has recognised the importance of the matter and is anxious to tie what it can towards a solution.
The second reason why it seems very desirable that a forward step should be taken at once is this. An announcement by His Majesty's Government that they were in earnest in the matter, that they saw and recognised its gravity, that they felt the importance of taking action promptly to examine it, would, I feel sure, have very beneficial and wholesome results over the world and particularly in a number of neutral countries. I had assurances from very trustworthy authorities as to the great impression which would be made upon two very important neutral countries if it was known that we were in earnest in this matter. If we were to proclaim, to make it clear to the whole world, that our aims are (as we know them to be) unselfish aims, that what we desire is not gain for ourselves but that which will safeguard our Allies and the world at large, that we desire to prevent a recurrence of any such calamities as we have seen, and 392 that this is the great ultimate object which we have in view, we shall give the best possible answer to the malignant misrepresentations of the purpose of Great Britain which are still being constantly made in neutral countries. I earnestly hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will consider the propriety not only of instituting this inquiry but also of making it widely known. Neutral peoples should be made aware of the sense that we have of the duty that we owe to the world to try to create a Peace League of the nature indicated.
I desire to propose an Amendment to the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Parmoor, which would embody this idea. I hope he may be prepared to accept it, and that it may meet the wishes of my noble friend Lord Sydenham. I will venture to read it to your Lordships. I suggest that we should amend the Motion of my noble friend Lord Parmoor by leaving out all words after the words" League of Nations and", and inserting the words" commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation." The Motion would then run thus—That this House approves the principle of a League of Nations, and commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation.I propose to move that at the proper moment. I hope that His Majesty's Government will favourably consider this Amendment and see no objection to it. Let me repeat that a time has arrived when something must be done. We cannot let the present opportunity slip away. We cannot let it be lost and perish for ever. We cannot, so far as with us lies, let the world relapse again into that nominal peace, which was really a condition of suppressed war, that existed in July, 1914, a time when the nations were living under a dark thundercloud menacing war at every moment. The storm that burst then proved far more terrible than the worst anticipations of it, and if an effort is not put forward now to make some new departure, to endeavour to provide some means by which peace should be secured in the future, we shall have to contemplate a return to those horrors, and be compelled to acquiesce in a prospect of the return of like calamities as something beyond all human cure. The world is weary of the past, 393 weary not only of the four years whose miseries we have been suffering but weary of the conditions out of which those miseries arose. It is for Britain and her Allies, responding to the appeal which America has made and in which France, as I have shown concurs, to do all that wisdom and foresight and a high and honest purpose can do to save the future of mankind.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, the weighty and temperate speech of the noble Viscount is a reminder, if such were needed, that your Lordships' House is singularly well qualified to deal with a matter of this description. Not only are there in your Lordships' House a number of experts in history, in diplomacy, in international jurisprudence, who speak with an authority second to none, but we are fortunate also in having in our midst a number of noble Lords who have devoted a great deal of study and of scholarly research to this individual question and who have in some cases identified themselves with the production of particular schemes. I allude not only to the noble Viscount who has just addressed us, but to Lord Buckmaster, Lord Parmoor, Lord Parker of Waddington, who made such a remarkable contribution to our debate the other evening, and to Lord Shaw of Dunfermline, whom I see on the Cross Benches, and who, I believe, is likely to take part in our discussion this afternoon.
I have seen this discussion upon which we are engaged described as academic. I have seen it suggested that it is not likely to lead to any immediate or practical result. I do not agree with that criticism. On the contrary, whatever the steps that we may be able to take, whatever I may have to announce this afternoon, I think that a debate of this sort, conducted by such speakers as I have referred to, is of the greatest value in the formation of opinion, and that the mere discussion of some of the many difficulties which confront us in dealing with this matter—to certain of which the noble Viscount referred—cannot be thrown away if it leads in any degree to their mitigation or removal. In what I have to say I am not going to refer to bygone history. The idea of a League of Nations is one very familiar to students of the past. It has played a great part in the thought and literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and has been advocated by many authorities and learned men.
394 It has also been tried in practice. We have had at different times of history a number of Leagues of Nations, the last of which, the famous Holy Alliance of 1815, foundered ingloriously, for reasons with which we are all familiar, upon the rocks. Nevertheless, in spite of these failures the conception has steadily survived, and I do not think it an exaggeration to say that to the principle the great majority of thinking men in all nations are converts. What the noble Viscount said in this respect was quite true.
Our conversion, the conversion of the world, has no doubt been hastened by the intolerable cruelties and sufferings of the present war. Man's spirit revolts against a repetition of these atrocities and crimes, and from the sufferings which we, or those who are dear to us, have experienced in this generation we are hopeful that those who follow us may be free. Hence it is true that the idea of a League of Nations has acquired fresh vitality and force from the incidents of this war itself. Indeed, as a political formula—as the noble Viscount reminded us just now—it has received the formal acceptance of the majority of the leading statesmen Who are fighting in the cause of the Allies. He mentioned, without quoting—indeed it is hardly necessary to quote—the many remarkable utterances that have been made upon this subject: the speeches and pronouncements of President Wilson in America; the remarks, more than once repeated, of our Foreign Secretary, Mr. Balfour; the speeches (one of which was quoted, and therefore need not he repeated by me) of the present Prime Minister—quoted, I think, by Lord Lansdowne in the first stage of this debate a few weeks ago. Similarly, Lord Bryce made reference to the utterances which have fallen on more than one occasion from Mr. Asquith, and more recently in the notable pamphlet which has been published by the late Foreign Secretary, Viscount Grey of Falloden.
There was one utterance, however, to which the noble Viscount did not refer, and it may be worth while to remind the House that in the reply of the whole of the Allies to President Wilson, on January 10, 1917, there appeared this passage, which I quote as covering a much wider area and therefore carrying a much greater authority than the individual utterances of the statesmen to whom I refer—They [the Allies] associate themselves whole heartedly with the plan to create a League of 395 Nations to ensure peace and justice throughout the world.So much for the opinions that have been expressed by Allied statesmen.
Among the neutral States we have had similar expressions of opinion from the Pope; and among our enemies lip service has, at any rate, been rendered to the idea in the speeches of Count Hertling and Count Czernin. It is quite unnecessary for me to analyse the difference in motive or phraseology in these various utterances. They may have been animated by different degrees of conviction, and they may have aimed at different results, but I think they do show that the idea itself cannot be ruled out; that it has come into the world of international politics and relations to stay, and that if there are dispositions on the part either of nations or statesmen to treat it as an inconvenient intruder and sweep it on one side, public opinion of the countries they represent would, in all probability, protest and insist on its being maintained in the forefront of the scene. That this is so, I think, may be deduced from the very large number of leagues, societies, associations, committees, and bodies which are devoted to the examination of this subject, and although it may be true that it is easy to criticise, and perhaps in some respects to ridicule their schemes, yet at the same time they do represent a body of opinion, not only in this country, but as the noble Viscount pointed out, in others, which it is impossible to ignore.
It may he said that the present moment is a very unfavourable one even for the discussion of this subject, or, if not for the discussion, at any rate for taking any practical steps. It may be said—I think Lord Bryce said it—that no scheme of international justice or permanent peace can be brought into operation so long as one nation, or group of nations, is pursuing a career of shameless aggrandisement, and with each fresh act of successful cupidity acquires an appetite for more. It is true that the League of Nations cannot be based on a balance of power which has been hopelessly shattered. It can therefore only result, as the noble Viscount pointed out, from a favourable issue of the present war. Again, I have been told that it is our sole duty at the present time to fight, and not to talk—we are very familiar with that proposition—and that we do not shorten by a single hour the duration of the war by giving encouragement to the 396 views of idealism, however exalted. I am quite willing to make full allowance for both these considerations. They are weighty, but I do not think they are decisive. After all, we hope not always to be at war, and I ran see no reason why, even while the war is lasting, we should not in such time as is at our disposal discuss the machinery which ought to be called into existence after the war, whenever it is over, and why we should not even now explore the avenues which may in the future prevent the recurrence of such a crime.
There is one most encouraging reflection to which no allusion has, so far, been made in this debate. It is this. To a large extent a League of Nations is already in existence, or rather I would like to submit to your Lordships that there are two Leagues of Nations in existence at this moment. The first is the League of the British Empire—the various members of the British Empire, comprising something like 450,000,000 of people, or one quarter of the entire population of the globe. No fresh constitution is required to call that League into being. Its governing body is already in existence. It is sitting in London in the shape of the Imperial War Cabinet; there are statesmen from all parts of the world representing the views, the aspirations, the hopes, of this great aggregation of mankind. That is one League of Nations.
There is another League of Nations already in existence—the League of the Allied Nations, who have combined together to resist the militarism of Germany. Those States number something between twenty and thirty. And here again I would ask your Lordships to remember that there is in existence at Paris the machinery by which the representatives of the four most important of these States—Great Britain, France, Italy, and the United States—already meet, already take common action in respect of military and naval matters, finance, shipping, and food. This League possesses its own armaments. Those armaments have actually been placed under a single Commander. The organisation is happily elastic. It has been a good deal perfected in recent times, and it may develop into something larger in the future. It is true that these two Leagues—I am only including in them, in addition to the population of the British Empire, the people of the four Great Empires with their possessions to 397 which I have referred; I am not including China, and the other great Allied States who are not directly represented at Paris—embrace within their ambit something like 700,000,000 people, or about, two-fifths of the human race. It is quite true, as I said, that those Leagues have been designed for the prosecution of the war, but it may be that in the last resort they may be useful for the maintenance of peace, and I concur in one observation among many that fell from my noble friend, that if the larger schemes in which he is interested, in which we are all interested, fail to materialise, here at any rate is a nucleus from which it may be possible to proceed.
The noble Viscount pointed out that there are a great many schemes in existence to constitute a League of Nations. The literature is enormous, and any one of us who attempts to study it is almost swamped by the volume. In one respect I do not think that I need say anything about there, In so far as these various proposals contemplate a more consistent application of the recognised rules of International Law in ordinary international disputes, they are merely an extension of the principle of arbitration which has already made such progress during the last twenty or thirty years. For that kind of work no sanction is required, and it does not much matter, if you are merely going to extend the principle of arbitration, whether you appoint, a new tribunal for the purpose, or whether you have an ad hoc tribunal for individual cases as they arise, or whether you continue your references to the tribunal at The Hague. But I agree with the noble Viscount that we want now and henceforward to go further than arbitration. We want to deal with other cases and with the constitution of a tribunal that may not merely settle disputes when they arise, but that as far as possible may render war, if not impossible, at any rate more difficult and more risky in the future. This we shall not do in all probability merely by measures of persuasion or of arbitration. In the last resort you must contemplate the use of force; in other words, you must, to use the phrase that occurs in the Motion of my noble friend Lord Parmoor, contemplate having some sort of sanction in the background. That is the new element in the situation which differentiates these proposals from earlier schemes for an extended settlement of international disputes by arbitration alone.
398 The kind of cases for which yon want this new body are the cases which the noble Viscount described to us the kind there is no existing law to decide, Which are outside the scope of international Jurisprudence as laid down in definite rules, the kind of cases in which the honour or sentiment or the political ambition of a State is engaged, and which have history, as we all know, been the most prolific source of war. In these schemes I find a general concurrence in certain features. Firstly in the institution of a Court or Conference or Tribunal it does not much matter what word you employ—to which all the signatory parties pledge themselves to refer their disputes before. going to war; secondly, the imposition of a moratorium or delay pending decision, during which no hostilities are to be permitted, any Power commencing or continuing hostilities is to be regarded as an offending party; and, thirdly, the existence of a sanction fie enforcing the decrees of the supreme body.
In the various discussions on the matter, and in the debates in your Lordships' House, the two forms of sanction suggested have been the use of the economic boycott, and the application in the last resort of force. These principles appear in themselves to be sound enough, but they are not very easy of application. The noble Viscount suggested to us some of the difficulties which have to be overcome. The difficulty which confronts us on the threshold is one which has shown itself in every speech to which your Lordships have, listened in this debate—Is the International Court or Conference to consist of all the Great Powers? I say" all the Great Powers"; I will allude presently to the minor Powers. Are the Central Powers, the enemy Powers, to be excluded? Lord Parmoor, in his speech, argued that they must be admitted on the ground that the people whom you want to subject to the compulsion of this tribunal are those from whom violence and force may be expected in the future because they have shown it in the past. Lord Lansdowne expressed his complete disbelief in German pledges, in German good faith, or in the signature to any document of the German name.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
At the same time he argued for the inclusion, if not now, at any rate ultimately, of the 399 enemy Powers in such a scheme. My noble friend Lord Parker gave us on that point what I thought was an absolutely correct description of the situation. This is what, he said—while war lasts, until we know its result, until we knew whether the principles that we are going to adopt ourselves will be adopted by the Central Powers after the war—how they will deal with the Provinces which they have at present apparently annexed, how they will deal with other problems with which we shall be concerned—it is almost impossible to say that they ought to be allowed to join a League formed with the intention of preventing war. The benefit of such a League would be entirely displaced if it admitted into its ranks nations who were not bona fide committed to its principles.I think we shall all agree with that Logically, if this League is to be an effective League and is to carry out the objects which we all have in view, it ought to contain all States, certainly all great States; if we are to have a World League, or even a European League, and if it is to create a World Court, or even a European Court, and if it is to have the sanction behind it to enforce its decrees, it is obvious that theoretically all nations, all States, ought to be included. We all know perfectly well that for the moment this is out of the question. The Allied Powers, I imagine, would be very slow to admit either a triumphant or unrepentant Germany. Germany herself, from such speeches as we have had from her statesmen, treats the idea with scorn, and until she is compelled, either by economic pressure or by the force of arms, to renounce her world dreams it is difficult to contemplate her being admitted to such a League. But bear this in mind. If, for this or for any other reason, it is found impossible, for the present at any rate, or for a considerable space of time, to admit Germany to the League, we are then committeed to a reproduction and stereotyping of the very conditions which now exist. We shall then have two Leagues in existence—what one may call the friendly League, the League of friendly nations, to which I have before referred, of all our Allies, and the League of hostile nations, dividing Europe into two opposing camps. That may be for a time inevitable, but it is not a condition that will make for peace; on the contrary, it is much more likely to provoke a revival of war.
There are a number of smaller difficulties, which I pass over because I agree with my noble friend Lord Bryce that the present occasion is one rather for the dis- 400 cussion of principles than for the examination of details: such questions, for instance, as to whether your League, if you set it up, is to include non-European Powers. Of course, it is essential that it should include America, from whom so much of the impulse springs. But ought it to include China and Japan? Must it include neutral States—Spain, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries, Holland? Theoretically most emphatically Yes, because they are the very States who will most need the protection of the League in future. Then is it to include the minor States, not merely in Europe but in every part of the world? And, if all these are to be admitted, are they to be admitted on equal terms or some of them with a smaller stake? These are a few of the smaller difficulties that have to be examined, and, if possible, overcome.
Now I come to another great difficulty which figured in the debate a few weeks ago, and that is the limitation of armaments. The noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, thought this was essential. On the other hand, my noble friend Lord Lansdowne pointed out the enormous difficulties that lie in the path. He thought that it would he impossible to ration the members of the League in respect to armaments. I venture respectfully to agree with him entirely. I ask this—How could you limit the number of soldiers, guns, ships, aeroplanes in the possession of the different States who would join your League? Are you to prohibit, or are you merely to limit the use of the various dreadful instruments of war which have been developed to such a high degree in the present war—sub-marines, poison gases, armed aircraft attacking from the sky? Or are you to limit the money that is spent by the various members of your League upon these armaments? And, if so, how are you to see that all these limitations are honestly observed and are not evaded? The Court, if it is to limit armaments, must have the power of inspection and control. And what does that mean? It means in practice a complete control of all the sources of production in the various countries concerned. Even if the present generation—which I greatly doubt—would be prepared to accept restrictions of that kind, I do not see how you could impose a similar restraint upon posterity, or how you would compel future generations of Englishmen—and what I say applies equally to the members of every other nationality—to 401 accept the restriction which you might have enforced upon them.
There is a third difficulty which must be faced. It is this. Whatever the result of the present war may be, it is quite clear that the map of Europe, and to a large extent the map of the world, will be rearranged. Nothing will be quite as it was before. How are you to provide—you mast provide—for legitimate territorial expansion and rearrangement in the future? You cannot stereotype the existing condition of affairs. You cannot, to repeat a famous phrase," set bounds to the march of a nation." The fact is, therefore, that a League of Nations presupposes as a condition of its being set up a certain equity and stability of conditions. We can only in Europe get this as a result of victory in the present war. If we were defeated, and if Germany were, for instance, to retain the Western Provinces of Russia, of which she is in forcible occupation, or Alsace-Lorraine—I merely give these as illustrations—how could we possibly by any fixed or stereotyped scheme deny to those States the opportunity to recover their freedom in the future?
Ten I come to the question of the sanction, which also, I think, must be somewhat closely scrutinized. The two forms suggested have been that of economic pressure, or boycott, and that of the use of force. In theory economic pressure, is, of course, the easiest method to adopt, and it would seem prima facie to be likely to be the most effective. You suspend commercial intercourse with the offending nation; you stop her imports and exports so far as you can; you prohibit communication by telegraph, by telephone, by post, by railway, by wireless telegraphy with her; you desist from lending her capital, or from payment of her debt; you blockade her coasts. Well, a good many of these expedients we have adopted; almost the whole of them we are practising in the present war. They did not, it is true, succeed in preventing the war; they have not, at any rate at present, curtailed its duration. But I should like to put it in this way. I doubt very much whether, if Germany had anticipated when she plunged into war the consequences, commercial, financial, and otherwise, which would be entailed upon her by two, three, or four years of war, she would have been as eager to plunge in as she was. Remember this. Though possibly we have not done all that we desired, we have 402 done a great deal, and we could have done a great deal more if our hands had not been tied by certain difficulties. It is naturally a delicate matter for me to allude to this. A good many of them have been removed by the entry of the United States of America into the war, but we have always the task of handling with great and necessary delicacy the neutral States, and this difficulty still remains with us. But observe that this difficulty will not arise if you have a League of Nations to which all the States belong, because then there will be no neutral States whose interests you will have to consider.
This brings me to the final point of the proposed sanction—force. And here I am very much in agreement with what I understood to be the argument of my noble friend Lord Bryce. Some people seem to imagine that you can set up an international Court—or a super-national Court, I suppose it ought to be called—with an international police. The Powers in general under these suggestions are to retain only such forces as the Court may decree; the whole of them are to be at the disposal of the central tribunal; and if that were so, it is clear that such a force would have to be so preponderant in numbers and in the other elements of strength as to exercise an overwhelming superiority in arms over any offending party with whom it might have to deal. Speaking for myself, I doubt not merely the wisdom hut the possibility of setting up an international police. TI doubt very much whether sovereign States would submit to this restriction, almost this derogation, of their sovereignty, and I do not see how an international police, marshalled and set on foot in the way I have described, would be able to cope with the difficulties that might arise, not so much in Europe, but in the heart of the African Continent or elsewhere.
I suggest, in respect of all these schemes, that we should not proceed too quickly or too far. I think that the attempt at this stage to construct a hard and fast juridical system would only be attended with failure; and if you fail now, observe that you not only destroy the chances of the scheme which you may be trying to construct, but you may throw back the movement for generations. That has been the fate—I was alluding to history just now—of these earlier attempts at Leagues of Nations; they were premature; they were presently diverted from their proper object, and they expired in ridicule and scorn.
403 Therefore the two propositions to which I should like to ask your Lordships' assent this afternoon ire these. In the first place, we want to do something to prevent wars, or, if that is too Utopian an aspiration, to reduce the number of wars, to limit their scope, to diminish their horrors in the future. For this purpose a general concurrence of nations is necessary, and if it is to be effective it ought ultimately to include all the important nations and States of the world. The second consideration is this. I believe it to be true that opinion in this country is rather in advance of the opinion of any of our Allies, except possibly the United States of America. I would therefore remind the House that it would be well that we should not go ahead too quickly or too abruptly, or we may incur a rebuff. We must try to get some alliance, or confederation, or conference, to which these States shall belong, no State in which shall be at liberty to go to war without reference to arbitration or to a conference of the League in the first place. Then if a State breaks the contract it will become ipso facto at war with the other States in the League, and they will support each other without any need for an international police; under the scheme I am suggesting they will support each other in punishing and in repairing the breach of contract. Some of them may do it—this may apply, perhaps, to the smaller States—by the economic pressure to which I have referred; others, the larger and more powerful States, may do it by the direct use of naval and military force. In this way we may not, indeed, abolish war, but we can render it a good deal more difficult in the future; and what we should do would he to enable every State before it takes up arms to have discussion; we should open the door to conciliation and compromise; we should at any rate interpose delay. Once you accept the idea that before the sword is unsheathed nations shall bring their quarrels to a conference, and that the nation declining to do so or breaking loose afterwards commits an offence and becomes a moral outlaw, you have done a good deal. Those are the lines which, I think, are the safe and practicable lines upon which it is at the present moment desirable, and upon which His Majesty's Government is disposed, to proceed.
The noble Viscount asked me whether we are in earnest in the matter. Yes. He asked me whether we are exploring the 404 matter. Yes; we are considering it very carefully, and shall continue to do so. Doubtless before long we shall exchange ideas with our Allies. The noble Viscount referred, and with much greater knowledge than I possess, to what has been passing in France. He told us that there a Commission was set up some time ago by the French Government, under the presidency of a very distinguished Frenchman, which has lately reported. I see in the papers that this report has been communicated to the Allied nations. It has not vet reached us, but perhaps it may do so at no distant-date. One thing I notice, however, in the brief account of it that I saw in the papers of yesterday which entirely confirms what I have said this afternoon. The French Commission appears to have pointed out that it would be out of the question to set up an international police, a State above all other States whose aims should be to substitute law for force in the settlement of these national disputes. That is a statement of opinion with which I think we shall all concur.
It only remains for me to deal with the various Motions upon the Paper. The Motion of my noble and learned friend Lord Parmoor originally ended with asking the approval of the House to the constitution of a tribunal whose orders should be enforceable by an adequate sanction. I agree what the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, said upon the matter—namely, that this carries us a great deal further than we are disposed to go at the present moment; it certainly carries us very much further than the Government could themselves accept. The noble Viscount proposes an alternative form of words which were to the effect that the House, approving the principle of a League of Nations, commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation. Those words I am entirely prepared to accept, as they indicate our intention and our action. In these circumstances I hope that my noble friend Lord Sydenham, when he speaks later in the debate, may not ask the House to give assent to the proposals that he has put before them; because, while Lord Parmoor's suggestions go too far for us in one direction, the proposals of my noble friend Lord Sydenham go too far in the other. I am grateful to your Lordships for having listened to these observations, and I think it will be found that these debates in your Lordships' House have had a very useful and practical result.
My Lords, I hope I may he permitted, inasmuch as this debate has so far been largely participated in by the legal talent by which this House is adorned, to speak on this matter with some of the knowledge of an ordinary layman who has given profound study to this question. It is more than twenty-seven years since, almost upon my first entry into political life, I joined with a group of public men in different countries to advance the cause of international arbitration. It was about that time, I think, when there met in Paris, under the Chairmanship of M. Jules Simon, the then French Prime Minister, and associated with him M. Frederic Passy, a most distinguished French economist, and Sir William Randall Cremer, whose name is honoured in connection with this matter, a body which founded what is now known as the Inter-Parliamentary Union. That Union has now grown into, or it had grown into at the time of the outbreak of war, a membership of 3,500, belonging to twenty-four different countries, and I have the supreme honour of being President of that Union. Therefore I think I may without impropriety venture to intervene for a few moments in this debate.
This subject of a League of Nations has been alluded to by most speakers as if it were a new one. To that I must entirely demur. It has been discussed and re-discussed, considered and reconsidered by eminent men in different countries, and in a certain direction at any rate it has made great advance in time constitution of The Hague Tribunal. The Hague Tribunal, I know, is scoffed at in these days as having effected little or nothing. But to lay down the principle of an international tribunal was a distinct and important advance, and it is in that direction that ultimately we must all proceed in the constitution of a tribunal which shall receive authority and sanction. That, I admit, so far has not been accomplished, but in the speech to which we have just listened with so much satisfaction we have received an assurance from the noble Earl on behalf of the Government that this matter has now passed out of the stage of speculation and is to be really taken in hand by the different Allied Governments. We are glad to know that in the case of France a Commission appointed by the French Government and presided over by my distinguished friend Monsieur Leon Bourgeois has already prepared a report 406 upon the subject, and I have every reason to believe that the conclusions of that report, although I have not yet had the privilege of reading it, are very much on the lines of the conclusions given to the House by the noble Earl who has just spoken.
We all agree at least I hope most of us who have considered this matter carefully agree—that we must proceed carefully in this matter. We must not rush into immediate results as if the mere fact that we are eager to see a family of nations, or, as I prefer to call it, a commonwealth of nations, is sufficient to ensure that it can be established simply by decree and shall come at once into operation and avoid all wars in the future. That, I believe, for the time being is, alas! a great ideal, but one which is not possible of immediate realisation. What we can hope for is that at all events we should assert a principle, and that I hope this House is about to do by accepting unanimously the amended motion which has been set down by my noble friend Lord Bryce. That Motion simply asserts the principle of a League of Nations, a principle which we believe will, if properly worked out, lead to immense changes in the whole fraternity of nations.
There are immense difficulties, we all agree, in elaborating a perfect scheme for giving sanction to the conclusions and the decisions of the international body which may thus be set up; and what I want to point out now is this—that while we are here asserting the principle, I think it would be most injudicious on our part to go further than that at the present moment. I think it would be the greatest, possible mistake for us to endeavour to formulate a particular plan, to set up as it were an embryonic League of Nations, and say that it the Germans behave well afterwards they shall be permitted to join it. It is not in that spirit we must approach this question. I look forward to the time when the temper of the German people will be entirely changed and we shall see in Germany itself a desire, and I hope an overwhelming desire, to quit those paths which they have been treading until now and which are merely those of military ascendancy, anti-to join with other nations of the world in establishing a new system and a new order of things in the world. This I believe we may look forward to with some confidence, and it is in that spirit that we ought to deal with this matter. It is not by menacing Germany with all sorts of con- 407 sequences and by holding over Germany threats of economic punishment or results of that kind, hut rather by encouraging the people of Germany to see in this principle the salvation of themselves as well is of others, that we shall succeed. Those are the view which at all events are entertained by that great body about which I have permitted myself to speak—the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This body comprised before the war a large number of German Members of Parliament, of Austrian Members of Parliament, of French and Italian Members of Parliament, and of no fewer than 220 or thereabouts of our own Members of Parliament, and I believe those numbers will he overwhelmingly increased by-and-by, because it will be the anxious desire of every man in Parliament to take a hand in promoting this great cause of international peace, which can he advanced only by concerted action on the part of the peoples of the world. It is in that spirit that, without desiring to continue in detail any observations upon the plan which has been submitted, I have ventured for a few moments to intrude upon the patience of your Lordships.
THE LORD BISHOP OF OXFORD
My Lords, I hope that as a clergyman, and as one quite unversed in International Law, it will not be thought inopportune if I intrude for a few minutes in your Lordships' discussion, because no one at all acquainted with the principles of the Christian religion can doubt the extraordinary affinity between those principles as originally expressed and the aspirations and intentions which under-lie the present scheme for a League of Nations. It is from this point of view that I have taken a great interest—indeed, what thinking man could fail to take a great interest?—in these various proposals, and have given them as much detailed study as I have been able to give to the subject.
From that point of view, listening to the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, speaking to us of the intentions of His Majesty's Government, I could not but feel a certain chill at the heart. I mean that the noble Earl greeted the proposal at the beginning with so much cordiality, but as his speech went on he began to get exactly into that region in which, as I understand it, the proposals of a League of Nations distinguish themselves from the proposals which were already more or less accepted with lip service in connection with The Hague Tribunal.
408 It was then that it seemed to me that what he was disposed to repudiate as impracticable were exactly those points in which the proposals for the League of Nations differentiate themselves in the most important respects from What we formerly used to regard as practical. I mean that, when the noble Earl spoke of the possibility of" sanction," whether in the economic boycott or in an international military force, he certainly was not encouraging; and when he spoke again about the possibility of obligatory arrangements for the limitation of armaments, he was certainly not encouraging. Yet I wonder whether, if you eliminate the idea of any effective" sanction" of an international or super-national kind, and also eliminate any real prospect of the limitation of armaments, much is left which differentiates the League of Nations as it is now contemplated from the old arrangements with regard to which we have realised that our hopes were vain if only one powerful nation is inspired with a contempt for public opinion.
The hopes which the noble Earl did raise in our minds by what seemed to be the cordial acceptance of the principle of the League of Nations were, I cannot but think, a little damped as his speech went on, and the point of wonder which was in my mind as I listened to him was this. I feel, as I suppose every thinking man must feel, the extraordinary difficulties of the proposals. You have only to think of what patriotism means, and of the intense resentment of nations at anything which appears to limit the absoluteness of their sovereignty, in order to realise the extraordinary difficulty of the proposal. But I wonder whether the noble Earl did consider sufficiently the extraordinary change which appears to be passing over the minds of men in masses—over the minds of nations—by the mere effect of the appalling experiences which we are now undergoing. It seems to me that to argue about the League of Nations on the basis of the old assumptions with which we have been familiar in the years immediately past is, indeed, to argue about something which can never come about. Unless there is some really profound conversion of the nations, I do not think there is the slightest, prospect of anything so difficult, involving so inevitably the mortification of national pride, being brought about.
Then I ask myself, Is there something of this profound nature, this profound 409 change, being brought about? It seems to me that the argument is an argument of hope from despair. I remember reading a little while ago in a current journal—I think it was Land and Water— a very clever imaginary description, as from the year 3018, of a recently recovering civilisation, looking back upon the horrors of the dark ages which have followed the great war, partly through internecine, partly through the renewal of international war. It was very cleverly worked out. The ideas with which we are at present familiar in connection with the League of Nations were allowed for, only they were allowed to remain mere ideas, without any sufficient working out or being brought into sufficient connection with practical realities, so that they were not taken account of in the Actual Treaty. Lip homage was done to them, but nothing effective really followed. Then the results were described with, as I think, very great imaginative success; but no one who reads this sort of account could he amused by it, because it had too much verisimilitude. We have been accustomed to contemplate the decadence of civilisation in the remote past as a matter of course, but when it touches ourselves there rises in our minds a feeling of horror which is indescribable.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the minds of many at the present imminent are being touched with a quite new feeling of despair, unless you can, not, merely after the war but in the actual conclusion of the war, arrive at some principle which will be thoroughly new—new, at any rate, in its extent and in its sanctions. And the question I ask myself is this, Is there passing through the minds of the nations of England, France, Italy, America—the Allied nations—a change sufficiently profound to justify us in believing that the nations will submit to restrictions to which they would not have dreamed of submitting in the years before the war? Well, I believe that there is a change so profound, and that unless we can really take account of that and promote it, then, indeed, the talk about the League of Nations is vain. Unless something of this kind with a real "sanction." economic and military, can be arranged, despair is all that does possess our minds.
Besides this argument of hope from despair there is another argument which, I think, though it is of a large and general 410 kind, is of very great practical force, and that is the argument from the progress of democracy—democratic opinion. I have no doubt many of your Lordships are acquainted with the extraordinarily interesting book which exercised a very great influence in the sixteenth century Erasmus's" Complaint of Peace." It is an extraordinarily fascinating impeachment of war, and he was, I dare say, one of the first people to fasten upon dynasties the responsibility of war, and to contrast, in brilliant and forcible language, the pacific tendencies of peoples with the military tendencies of dynasties. We thankfully recognise in this country that it is quite impossible to associate with the hereditary Monarchy with which we are blessed any fears of war to be undertaken for dynastic reasons; and, on the other hand, we are bound to confess that we can imagine democracies animated with militarism; but on the whole I do not think it is possible to doubt that the progress of democracy means the progress of pacific tendencies.
I can but think that democratic influences have been strengthening themselves profoundly, in spite of discouragement, during the war, and this gives us another occasion for hope. It seems to me that if you were to address audiences on this subject at the present time in England the idea would receive welcome altogether out of proportion to what it, would have got two years ago. In the last two years I seem to feel going on around and about me a profound change in the attitude of men about war, and I venture to hope that His Majesty's Government will have more courage in this matter, and that they will feel that the public opinion behind them is totally different from what it would have been two years ago. The general feeling of mankind is growing in the direction of a peremptory demand that mankind shall be saved, even at great loss and by measures which involve great risks, from what otherwise seems to be the imminent prospect of a catastrophe to our civilisation.
I hope that the concentration and efforts of all branches of the Christian Church may co-operate towards this end. Christianity embarked on the most momentous scheme of being supernational and proclaiming the idea of supernationalism. In the strength of St. Paul's argument, and the enthusiasm he put into the proclamation of this idea, you see the force of the opposi- 411 tion with which he was encountered. The whole of the history of the Church has been a struggle against the narrowness of a false nationalism. It is a great mistake to suppose that the division and heresies of the early years of the Christian Church were merely about theological doctrines. They had behind them national movements. In the same way, when the East and the West separated, it was not nearly so much on a matter of doctrine, or on an ecclesiastical question, as it was a division between the political tendencies of the East and the political tendencies of the West. Though the Reformation was at the beginning a great religious protest against scandals and abuses, yet the developed nationalities, which had grown up and strengthened themselves, seized hold of it, and the idea of the Catholic Church was imperiled, overwhelmed, and lost. So it has been ever since that time in England. We have been content with the idea of a national religion. But Christianity itself claims to constitute a tie between nations which shall be closer than the ties of blood and race.
I believe there is an immense call for the Christian Church, and to the divided parts of the Christian Church, to realise what Christianity means, and to bring to bear a united pressure upon all Christian peoples that they should rise again to the height of the great idea. In this matter, it seems to me, we can ignore our divisions and act as one body, and I desire nothing more than that the whole divided forces of the Christian Church should be brought together, so that they may speak with a united voice and the nations might feel what the Christian religion really meant.
I do not wish to delay the debate, but as I listened to the noble Earl I could not but ask myself whether the extraordinary, profound, and deep change which is going on in the minds of men did not warrant a rather more hopeful attitude towards the tremendous problems presented by the proposal of a League of Nations than the noble Earl exhibited. If I rest content with what the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, proposed, and what I think the noble Earl accepted, then it is with the hope that this continued occupation of mind, which the Government has exhibited to the whole problem of the League of Nations, is going to yield before very long some practical proposal. If it is really within practical politics, the proposition of a League of 412 Nations should be embodied. The Allies should have already meditated and reflected upon it and reduced it to practical shape, and then it should be embodied in the peace to which we must look forward as the end of this tremendous strain, without which it will be in vain.
§ LORD SHAW
My Lords, I ask your Lordships to be good enough to suffer a few observations from me on the subject of this Motion. I desire to adopt a tone very different indeed from that of the right rev. Prelate who has just addressed the House with regard to the real inwardness and significance of the speech of the noble Earl. It may be that, having been for some years a member of Governments and having a certain knowledge of the great difficulty in keeping a movement together and yet helping forward its centre of gravity I may have viewed with more complacency the declaration of the noble Earl than the right rev. Prelate. I assure him, representing as I happen for the occasion to do a very large society deeply interested in this League of Nations, that I view with sincere gratitude the declaration of Lord Curzon. It is difficult—it is almost an hostile proposition—to suggest to a Government which is itself a Coalition Government but which, on a problem of this kind, is allied with some of the greatest Governments of the earth, to make a clear cut, a hard-and-fast declaration of the details of a policy so complex and vast as that which is the subject of this Motion. For myself, I see nothing whatsoever to quarrel with in the reservation which accompanied the declaration of the noble Earl. My only other observation is to say that, although no doubt those who advocate, and have advocated for years, the policy of a League of Nations would have wished to go some steps further than the noble Earl, we view with gratitude the length to which he has gone. May I express this difference from the speech of the right rev. Prelate? I do not regard the declaration made on behalf of the Government as in any degree hostile to the idea of economic pressure as one of the weapons of an ultimate alliance or League of Nations, and as time goes forward I am convinced in my own mind that that weapon will become greater than all others, will become the most convincing force in favour of the issue which the League of Nations presents.
Valuable as the speeches upon this Motion have been, I honestly confess, if I may to your Lordships, that the pro- 413 ceedings in this House reflect very faintly, indeed the wide and profound interest in the question which is felt out of doors. I have some means of judging of that. That there is still indifference to it in certain less instructed quarters no one can doubt; but the misconceptions as to both the place and the true objects of the movement are being widely removed. And a great and rapidly increasing section of our public is realising with satisfaction—and this section, I venture to say, will read the speech of the noble Earl with gratification—that in this project of a League of Nations we are advancing side by side With the most enlightened nations of the world. The greatest names of America are already linked with the movement. Only the other day the Legislature of New York voted with acclamation in favour of a Motion by Mr. Taft at least quite as decisive and definite as the Motion which is now to be adopted by this House. The action of French Government last year, and of the Committee presided over by Monsieur Bourgeois, has already been referred to. So that instead of this Motion being inconveniently premature, it has almost a belated look. I would that as a nation we had been the leaders upon this issue, but I trust that in the far-seeing and enlightened course taken by our Allies we shall not at least be slow to follow.
There are still, however, in this country misconception as to the bearing and purpose of this project of a League of Nations. May I, with your Lordships' indulgence, say a few words upon that? The project does not—I state this broadly and at once—mean the slackening of our effort, or the weakening of our forces, or the timidity of our policy in the present war. Did it do that, I myself would not be associated with it for one hour. The cause for which our Empire fights represents for us every one of the principles which we hold dear. All these have been attacked and violated. The moral foundations of civilisation have been as ruthlessly undermined as its material triumphs have been overthrown. International Law, a slow and delicate growth, has been torn up by the roots. Not treaties, conventions, agreements of nations, not these alone, but probity as rule of public life and a bond of society—public probity—has been supplanted by force in the service of a violent ambition. The action of the Germanic Powers makes any common ground of an appeal to reason with them im- 414 possible; for reason must imply some common ground in a respect for right and in reliance on the pledged word. This—and here I introduce a new note into the discussion—this it is which makes pacifism, which after all is but an appeal to reason, also impossible, and at the present juncture, unhappily, a mere beating of the air. I refer, of coarse, to that narrow pacifism which thinks only of a present peace. There are, in short, two classes of opinion which are a real public danger. There are those who think only of immediate war, and there are those who think only of immediate peace. The project of a League of Nations stands for something much greater than either the one or the other, and this is why it is so disconcerting to militarists and pacifists alike.
Let me repeat, then, with regard to the conflict which now so absorbs this Empire, these things. Those Powers abroad, and I hope all those societies at home, which advocate the League of Nations, will not, and cannot, and would not hinder the effective prosecution of the war. This Ger many knows well, and every ten thousand and every hundred thousand of American soldiers who enter Europe as armed men make Germany know that truth better. The movement is not to assist directly or indirectly a craven policy, or to conclude any inconclusive peace. In that region there lurks a real and it may be a growing danger. For, consider the situation. Material exhaustion, the prostration of a nation, may weaken its fibre. And history shows only too well that a nation exhausted, tired of war, is apt to slacken in its resolution if only peace, a peace of any kind, or peace on any terms, be procured. To this the ideal of the League of Nations stands fimly opposed. It must remind our people that we are engaged in more than a war with the Germanic Powers. We are engaged in a war against a system, a system which is materially strong but morally rotten, which is our enemy not only to conquer us but to degrade the world. If people cramp their mind and narrow their vision by excluding from our war aims this most solid and most splendid item; if you take the formula of getting on with the war in this cramped and narrow sense that you are up against an enemy but not against a system then you have Prussianised a great international ideal, and frustrated nine-tenths of the justification for our being still under arms. It is for this reason that I 415 am glad the Government has now announced that it makes no delay in associating our Empire with the United States, and in preparing the way for a greater and permanent victory to crown our arms.
I frankly admit the responsibility of the inclusion of the main proposals with regard to a League into the war aims. But the responsibility of either rejecting them or fighting shy of them is greater still. What Germany has got to know is that this war has raised more than a territorial issue. A greater than a territorial question is afoot. This war is not a mere measuring of material power with material power, of might with might. Right—public right, international right—has got to come to its own, and the programme of the League of Nations will, I think, help to enthrone it. I know perfectly well that criticisms of the details of any programme of the League of Nations such as that formed by the society of which for the time being I have the honour to be president, are as thick as blackberries. But that consideration was treated in a proper spirit, if I may venture to say so, by the noble Earl opposite. The more a society goes into details the greater is the front which it presents for attack and criticism, but His Majesty's Government is, I think, justified in declining at this stage to commit itself to such details.
Let me make this further observation on the subject of details. So far as words are concerned—your Lordships may be surprised to hear this—to express certain main ideas of the League, there will be little difficulty about that. For one thing, you will find them in large abundance in the literature of diplomacy of a hundred years ago. Nothing is more instructive, nothing is more depressing, than to read the declarations and the formulæ of that ghastly catena of international professions beginning with the Holy Alliance and ending with the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna of 1820. I am not sure that the elaborate and carefully detailed category of points for which the House was so greatly indebted to my noble and learned friend Lord Parker could not be largely matched by the very texts of those Treaties culminating in that Final Act.
What was it that made the elaborate structure of a century ago so easily shaken, so easily brought to the ground? It was this, that there was not provided—and the Powers knew perfectly well that there was not provided—an adequate sanction so as to ensure that the practice of the contracting 416 Powers should square with their professions. The Treaty of the Holy Alliance was the laughing-stock of the Chancelleries. The Final Act of Vienna, the great framework of the German Confederation, was ruthlessly and bit by bit destroyed by the uncurbed power of Prussia, at Schleswig, at Sadowa, at Paris, and Europe to-day is reaping the fruits of that failure to provide adequately for international intervention against individual unscrupulous ambition. Other causes there were, of course. The League then—do not let us, especially in this House, forget it—was a League among Governments, with but scant regard to peoples: the League of Nations for which we strive is a League of the peoples themselves. The post-Waterloo League was for a balance of power: the present League must be for a community of power. But those things would require too long to discuss here. That is one reason why I so cordially agree with the noble Earl that the Government will be wise to set afoot on its own behalf and in concert with its Allies, and that promptly, a thorough investigation. There is great historical ground to cover and the lessons of history cannot be ignored.
Do not let us conceive for a moment that we are engaged upon an easy task; enough has been said in this debate to disprove that. Do not let us think that the task could be accomplished in a few afternoons after the last gun of battle has been fired. It would not be so although you had a fresh crop of Metternichs and Talleyrands to meet together; and, all the more, it may not be so, when the issue will be deep in fundamental principle, and not a mere adventure in opportunism. There are two ways of looking at what is called a fight to a finish: the one is to end the war by ending the enemy, and the other is to end the war by ending the system which has brought the war about. Attractive as the former is, and easy as it looks, it is impossible. To overthrow and rend your victim is but a savage gratification. Tear the victim to fragments as you will, these fragments, like the dragon's teeth in the ancient fable, will rise again, and rise in arms, to disturb and scourge the world. If victory only secures that, what a victory it would be ! Extirpation impossible, but, instead, a continuation of the overwhelming burden of armaments and a pitiful legacy of jealousies, hatreds, and fears. This on all sides, until society explodes in revolution or expires by exhaustion. But the larger victory, the 417 victory which would make the world our debtor, is such a victory over the individual military system as would give some opportunity to civilisation to resume its progress and to humanity to heal its wounds, and would give a fair chance for liberty in the earth. The burden of armaments for individual nations we know to be colossal and to be crushing. And here I venture to come very humbly in conflict with one of the observations of the noble Earl opposite. The substitution for individual armaments of a joint collective and international force is, in my judgment, a design which demands and is well worthy of the care of all thoughtful leaders of opinion. This is President Wilson's view—he never speaks without grave and great consideration, and this is his view.
May I venture very respectfully to refer, and in a certain sense to demur, if I may humbly do so, to certain observations which fell, I think, from the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, in the speech with which he enriched the earlier stages of this debate. I allude to the subject of armaments, and of the inclusion of Germany within such a League. The subject has been again referred to and the sense in which it was treated by the noble Marquess was concurred in by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. That makes it all the more necessary that I should say this. These two topics, the subject of armaments and the subject of Germany, are very intimately connected in reference to the issue which we are now discussing. Many Powers would be willing to join the League if its programme were merely a judicial or an arbitral one, with more or less dignified powers of decision, remonstance, or advice. The world has had enough of that: and the experience of 1914 has shown us all too plainly the meaning of a mere "scrap of paper." There must be material guarantees that the decisions shall be respected, and the best of all guarantees that they will be so is, that any Power which desires to stand out against a decision by the force of its arms shall find itself unable to do so effectively or with success against the great contributed forces of the Powers in the League.
Does anybody imagine that Germany, so long as it is under the sway of military leaders and of the ungovernable desire for dynastic and racial pre-eminence, will ever consent so to limit its individual preparations and equipment as to abandon 418 what it looks upon as its destiny, and come down to the level of a contributory Power? Her people may ardently long for such a day, but such a day will never dawn under Germany's present rulers. And that is the answer to the question whether Germany is to be included within the League. There stands the condition. Such a relief from armaments as still leaves the world safe, by the co-operative action of a contributed force: this Germany under her present rulers and in her present temper would never accept. As for the Allies, and the entire Anglo-Saxonrace, I humbly think they will accept no less. To accept less, to admit Germany into a League and leave her the power of arming so as to betray it—experience demonstrates that this would be to compromise with crime.
In the presence of an issue so vast and so imperative for human safety some of us here and elsewhere must be prepared to sacrifice not only possessions but things which are sometimes dearer than possessions—namely, prepossessions. For one thing, the old diplomacy is doomed. It is no use wringing one's hands over that. The world is prepared to bring to an end its clever and its bloody past. And there is one thing more and more clearly appearing in the programme of the League of Nations Societies, and that is the thing which Germany has been quick to see: it may happen that even more effective than international military sanction will be international economic pressure. Let it be known once and for all that from the moment a nation becomes traitor to the League it becomes ipso facto an economic outlaw, then the motive both for being included within and for remaining within the League will be increased a hundred-fold, and wholly for the benefit of mankind. I only adumbrate that idea. It will bear the strictest investigation, and that investigation I sincerely believe will bear rich fruit.
I have spoken of the difficulties which accompany the great necessity of this programme. May I add in a word that there are great and very heartening consolations? I never in my time remember a cause which was supported by a finer and more convincing combination of all the moral and spiritual forces of this country. And keep your eyes upon Labour. There may be verbal criticisms here and there, but the record of Labour in regard to the subject of this Motion has never been 419 excelled for manliness, clearness, and courage by any public pronouncements I can recall.
Your Lordships need not be reminded of the respect we owe upon all the problems of this war to the President of the United States. His penetrating sagacity and his largeness of vision make the world his debtor. He has avoided detail, but the great fundamental principle of the Motion now before your Lordships' House has been clearly and compendiously stated by him. These are his words addressed to the Senate of the United States—It will be absolutely necessary that if force be created as a guarantor of the permanency of the settlement, it must be a force so much greater than the force of any nation now engaged or any alliance hitherto formed or projected, that no nation, no public combination of nations, could face or withstand it. If the peace presently made is to endure it must be a peace made secure by the major force of mankind.This is the programme which I rejoice to believe is substantially to be adopted as part of the war aims of our Empire.
Such an adoption would have, among other vast advantages, this—that, as we need not be reminded, it would be the first, the fitting, and the convincing symbol of the real union of the Anglo-Saxon race. Do not let it be said of us as a nation that, unprepared as we were for war, we were still more unprepared for peace. I repeat what has been said on this subject. We cannot rest satisfied with the overthrow, however colossal, however costly, of our antagonist; we must be ready to end a system which has put all that we hold sacred in peril, and to replace it with new, enlightened, and workable methods for these three things—the adjustment of international disputes, the regulation of national ambitions, and the prevention of international crimes.
My Lords, "League of Nations," is a form of words which embodies such complex conceptions, so intricate and so novel in their character, that a great deal may be said about them, but I think not much can be usefully said on the present occasion or in this debate. I find myself in entire agreement with the noble Earl the Leader of the House in brushing aside all those considerations; and, if he will allow me to say so without presumption, it appeared to me that in his speech the noble Earl adopted an eminently sane attitude to the various questions involved, and that he gave to your Lordships such advice as it was possible to tender to us when 420 we are considering a question of this sort at a moment of this kind.
I feel very much in sympathy with what was said by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, that there is little left upon which to comment, but I wish to touch for a moment on two points in his speech. In his observations he spoke about the necessity and the desirability of educating public opinion upon this matter; and he mentioned the use which a debate of this kind would be in educating public opinion. I think that probably the chief difficulty that has to be faced is precisely the education of public opinion. The idea of a League of Nations involves some reversal to some extent—how far that may go is a question for discussion—of the antagonistic idea of a narrow nationalism. I think everybody will agree to that. The noble Earl has accepted a Motion which invites the Government to investigate this matter and to investigate it with care. I think it is very important to beware, as was said by an earlier speaker, of both the extremes—of the extremes of those who think that a League of Nations can be established now; that Germany can be invited to enter it, and that all will then be well; that we may accept such promises at their face value and settle down to live in a happy world. In my opinion that world would be one of illusion. There are also those who say that in view of what is taking place now, and in view of the selfish motives with which countries are actuated, we cannot hope for any result from a League of Nations. I thought that the right rev. Prelate who spoke earlier in the debate scarcely did justice to the noble Earl the Leader of the House when he said that he was chilled by the speech which the noble Earl had made. We must all recognise, I think, that the position of any member of His Majesty's Government at this moment dealing with this subject, having to consider not only the position of the war and the state of feeling in his own country but the state of feeling of all our Allies, is one in which he must tread very warily; and I confess that I welcomed the utterances of the noble Earl as going as far as one could expect him to go in the circumstances.
There was one other point towards the end of the speech of the noble Earl upon which I should like to touch before I sit down. He said that we could hardly expect that nations would give up their 421 national rights and their national defences in committing themselves to any form of international police. He did go rather beyond what has been previously considered fit matter for arbitration in recognising—I think I am not misrepresenting the noble Earl in saying he recognised—that it would be necessary that any League of this sort should deal with questions which have generally been considered impossible to deal with; such questions as national honour, and things of that sort, which in fact lead to war. That is, of course, giving up a certain portion of national sovereignty. I believe that the analogy should be studied and should be considered of that League of Nations to which the noble Earl referred as constituting the British Empire, where you have no possible division as regards war and peace, or as regards military and naval forces, between one portion of the League and the other. That is the only ultimate condition that can make for a reliable peace.
But I do not want the noble Earl to regard me as an undue optimist. I am inclined to think that the feelings of patriotism, the feelings of nationality, and the feelings of independence of the various nations are hardly likely to reach such a complete internationalisation of their relations under at least a generation or two. I can hardly fook forward to that as a thing likely to happen to-morrow, but I think we should all keep before us that real international view, in which the nations of the world, keeping their independence in all their domestic affairs, should be prepared to sacrifice a portion of that independence for the sake of the general world's peace. That, I think, is the ideal to which a League of Nations must ultimately tend, and I think that in constructing an imperfect approximation to that ideal, either now or hereafter, we should not do anything to make the ultimate realisation of that ideal impossible. I hope the House will not consider that in saying this I am adumbrating that which we cannot look for. I do not drink we can look for it soon, but if that education to which the noble Earl referred is conducted and continued for a considerable time, that must be what we should look for as the ultimate device which alone can make for permanent peace and would unite the world in that Christian peace to which the right rev. Prelate alluded, but which unfortunately has never yet succeeded in uniting it. I wish to say nothing more beyond 422 expressing the pleasure which the acceptance of the Motion, as amended, gives me.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I regret extremely that other engagements made it impossible for me to hear the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House on this important and difficult matter; and I should have thought it presumption in these circumstances to have asked your Lordships to listen to me for a few moments were it not that, having only recently returned from the United States, I feel bound to impress upon the House the fact that there certainly the policy of a League of Nations is regarded as one of the essential aims which that great people have set before themselves in the conduct of this war.
I had opportunities of speaking to, I think, most of the leading men in the United States upon this matter, including the President himself and men of the eminence of Mr. Elihu a Root and ex-President Taft, and I think they would feel that this war had been very much waged in vain unless, as one of the issues of it, there was a provision, in however tentative a form, for some Concert or League of Nations for the preservation of the peace which they hope will be won. As for the attitude of the great bulk of the people, their mind and will at present, with an enthusiasm and a unity which is extraordinarily moving to any one who, like myself, has felt the force of it—their mind and will are set upon winning the war with as much speed and decisiveness as possible, but yet certainly at the back of their minds they all regard as equally a part of the object which the United States has set before itself the creation of some Concert or League of Peace. I cannot remember any great city which I visited, or where I met the leaders of politics, professions, and business, or spoke to great masses of the citizens, in which it did not appear that the ultimate creation of some such Concert or League of Nations was enthusiastically approved. It is not necessary to quote the words—they have already been quoted by the noble Lord—of the President., but I think it may be assumed that President Wilson in this matter, as in so many others, is assured that he has all the strongest elements of the public opinion of his great country behind him.
It is not, I imagine, otherwise with ourselves. I presume that already more 423 than once reference has been made to the very strong words used by the Prime Ministers of this country since the war began, but I would like to refer to some specially emphatic words spoken by Mr. Asquith in another place in December last year, where he recalled a speech which he made in Dublin as early as September, 1914, almost at the beginning of the war, in which he had spoken of—The substitution for force, for the clash of competing ambitions, for groupings and alliances and a precarious equipoise, of a real European partnership, based on the recognition of equal rights established and enforced by a common will.After quoting these words in his Dublin speech, he said that since the entry of America into the war this must be "not only a European but a world-wide partnership." Then he used the words, striking in their emphasis, that a League of Nations was" the avowed purpose, from the very first, of the Government and the people of the United Kingdom, and of the Empire, the purpose for which we entered into the War, and for which we are continuing the War."
It does not, I think, need labouring to make it plain that the acceptance of the principle and policy of a League or Concert of Nations for the preservation and maintenance of peace is one of the declared war aims of both these countries. That being so it would, I think, have been very unfortunate if the Amendment that originally stood in the name of Lord Sydenham had been pressed upon this House, because it seems quite obvious that it is mpossible either for this country or the United States to go back upon declarations so emphatic; and if some such League or Concert as this is to be regarded not as a possible result of a settlement but an admitted part of the settlement itself, it is obvious that there must be in the interval constant and careful inquiry by the Governments concerned and a constant interchange of opinion among them. Governments, who have in all conscience enough to do already, are not likely to take that immense trouble unless the principle and policy itself is kept steadily in the forefront of public opinion and of the minds of the Governments itself.
I think that we should all agree that this was not the time in which to attempt to forecast in any way at all what the ultimate constitution of such a League would be. I 424 feel quite sure—and I think here I am speaking the minds of some of the most thoughtful leaders of public opinion in the United States—that it would be a great mistake to attempt at the beginning to make too great a demand upon the nations to abandon their sovereignty. It would be unfortunate to cumber the conception at the present stage, or even during the settlement of peace, with any elaborate machinery. It would be enough at first—I do not think I am going beyond what I ought to say if I say that this is really in the mind of those who are thinking most on the subject in the United States, and it forms the line which I understand the noble Earl has taken—to make clear that there should be immediately created and kept constantly at work a Council of the Nations; that no Power signatory to the Agreement or Convention should go to war with any other signatory Power without the statement of the case in dispute to this Council, or without waiting until the Council had given its award, recommendation, or report; and that it should be provided that any signatory Power breaking this covenant or agreement should be regarded as having put itself at war with the other Powers who should act with such united resources, military or economic, as they thought best, to the restraint of that covenant-breaking Power. My belief is that those on this side, and certainly those on the other side of the ocean, who are thinking most upon this suggestion believe that if that were secured—the existence of such a Council and a covenant of that kind between the signatory Powers—it would be sufficient to leave to that Council to take further steps with the consent of the Powers which composed it. I believe that in proportion as such a Council justified itself by its weight and authority it would be able to suggest the extension of its powers in a way which would not be possible if it were attempted at the very outset to lay the discharge of those powers upon it.
I should venture to hope that a Council of this kind would not merely act when cases of dispute were submitted to it, but that it might continue and be asked to bring together the nations which composed the League for the discussion of matters affecting generally the economic and moral welfare of the nations concerned. Perhaps one might take the analogy of the Industrial Councils, where we recognise that something much more is needed than their meeting when cases of dispute have actually 425 arisen, and that their authority would be much greater if they were concerned in all matters that pertain to the general welfare of the industry. My hope is that some such Council as this would be continually resorted to as a means of bringing nations together in matters that concern, as I have said, their economic and moral welfare. What I feel is that the powers that can be entrusted to this Council, even by the signatory Powers, will depend very largely upon the authority which it gains. In other words, that here, as elsewhere, we shall make most progress if we trust to evolution and to the result of experience gained and tested.
I believe myself that those in the United States who are most keen upon the policy of a League of Nations would not at the present time, nor even perhaps for some considerable time, press that we should go beyond the lines which, I understand, were indicated by the noble Earl in his speech. It is obvious that not even these powers can be very effectively exercised by such a Council unless all the nations, certainly all the great Powers of the world, were members of the League. It must be obvious to all that the position would be very greatly changed if the Central Powers, or even Germany itself, were not within this partnership. That is a matter on which it is idle at this hour and at this stage of the war to speculate, but I suppose that we should all contemplate it as possible that even if the Central Powers or Germany were not willing to enter or the other Powers were not willing to receive them, into such a partnership, there would be still some advantage in endeavouring to make a League of the Allied nations as like, in its character and constitution, a League of Nations as is possible. Only, I think if the minds of those who are thinking on this matter are working in that direction—and I gather that this is the case of a good many in this country—it is important to remember that such an Alliance, whatever character may be given to it, could never be regarded as the same thing as what is meant by a League of Nations. It would be an Alliance of a group of Powers. If so, there would be—would there not?—a very great danger of Europe, and, indeed, the world, being divided into two groups of great Powers, competing for the support and allegiance of neutral Powers which were not yet members of either group; and, indirectly 426 all the evils associated with the old" balance of power" might reappear.
Further—and this I think is a point of some real importance—it is very doubtful whether the United States of America would be willing to give to any such Alliance the covenants and obligations, as regards the use of its economic and military forces, which it would be quite willing to give to a League of Nations containing practically all the great Powers. Yet, in spite of that, I would venture to hope that even the United States might come to see that there might be an advantage, in case of the failure of any larger League, of there being a League established within the limits of the Allied Powers, because, plainly, such an Alliance would be one of the most effective guarantees of peace. I doubt whether any external Power would venture to challenge an Alliance containing—let us mention them alone—Great Britain and the United States, if there were behind that Alliance the covenanted stength, military and economic, of those Powers. In the second place, if such an Alliance, restricted as it might be for the moment, gave great economic advantages to the Powers which were its members, and imposed economic disadvantages on the Powers which refused to qualify for membership within it, the pressure which would thus be brought to bear on any exterior Powers would be, I think, very difficult to resist.
I venture to add only two observations. One is that any hope for the fulfilment of this ideal obviously depends, as I have no doubt has been often insisted upon in this debate, upon the decisiveness of the military issue. The work of any such Concert or League would be almost impossible—it would be certain to break its activities down—if it had to deal with a large number of difficult questions which ought to be settled at this time. There must be what is often called a" clean" peace, one which does not leave to the settlement of any League or Alliance of Nations the open sores which are at present only too obvious, and which have largely led to the outbreak of the present war. Plainly, the one real enemy to the ideals embodied in the proposals of a League or Concert of Nations is the spirit of militarism which is incarnated in the policy of Germany. I doubt whether any real advance can be made towards time fulfilment of those ideals unless and until that spirit has been completely and finally 427 discredited. Those, therefore, who are in favour of retaining a place for the League of Nations among the declared war aims of the Allies are precisely those who are most interested to urge and press on the vigorous conduct of the war.
The second observation which I would make is that any hope of the fulfilment of this ideal must depend upon the close co-operation of this country and of the United States of America. I feel quite certain that the more constant the intercourse between the two Governments and the two peoples, the more steadily on both sides the principle of a League of Nations is kept before the public mind, the more that co-operation and fellowship will be increased. There will be, and there must be, obvious difficulties, at the first sight almost insoluble, in the way of carrying out any such ideal as is embodied in the words" A League of Nations," but if you can get two great peoples like the peoples of Great Britain and the Empire and the United States really to grasp the ideal with one mind, and press towards it with one will, ultimately these difficulties will very largely disappear. I feel quite certain that the great bulk of the people both here and across the ocean cannot bring themselves to contemplate the possibility of this war corning to an end without a serious and sustained effort to create some machinery by which such an outrage on civilisation as the outbreak of another war may be prevented. Two things it seems are meant by the peoples both here and over there. The first is that the war should end by a complete proof of the failure of the spirit of force and self-assertion which has threatened our existing civilisation; the other is that there should be created an abiding expression, an effective instrument, of the new spirit of international fellowship in which, and by which, a new and better order of civilisation can be built.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I desire to say but a very few words on the Amend-latent to my Motion which has been proposed by the noble Viscount. I should like at the outset to express my cordial gratitude to the noble Earl the Leader of the House, not only for the attitude he assumed, but for the language he used and the principles he enunciated in the speech which he made. When I brought this matter originally to the notice of your Lordships' House I stated that my desire was not to go into matters of detail but to 428 discuss merely the question of principle, Indeed, I want to go further, quite as far as the noble Viscount, in expressing my view that it would be a great mistake to attempt to formulate, prematurely, anything in the nature of a settled plan. I have in my hands what was said by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, on the same occasion. He said—Here is an extraordinarily complicated and delicate piece of machinery. It is inconceivable. I am afraid, that it should be set up while a great war is raging; but there are intermediate stages which I think must occur to every one. There is the possibility of preliminary agreements, of the settlement of some questions, of the acceptance of principles upon which other questions are to be decided.Therefore, I am in cordial agreement with what was said by the noble Earl and by the noble Viscount, that we ought at this stage to deal with matters of principle and certainly not go into matters of detail.
May I say that I consider the words which the noble Viscount has suggested are really preferable to the words of my own Motion. If they are accepted, the Motion will be in this form—That this House approves the principle of a League of Nations—I think that is a matter of the greatest possible importance, and upon this point I agree with all that was said by the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York. Then these words are to be substituted—and commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation.I think those are the best words which can possibly be introduced in order to further the desire of any one who wishes that the great principle of a League of Nations should advance. We not only have the assertion of the principle itself, but we also have this extremely important addendum," and commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation." We all agree that the" study of the conditions required for its realisation" require the greatest care, not only as they affect this country but as they affect our Allies, and more especially that we should work in entire union with the principles that have been laid down on this matter in the United States.
I do not anticipate all the difficulties which the noble Earl did when it comes to a study of the conditions. I think it all depends whether you can get something of the nature of common acquiescence and 429 agreement. If you can, I think the difficulties will pass away. If you cannot, I should regard them as very formidable obstacles indeed. The way, in my own opinion, to get acquiescence and agreement is to have discussions, because the further the discussion has been carried in this matter the further has been the ambit and area of agreement which has emerged among persons who have turned their attention to this topic and the representative statesmen of the various Allied countries. The old saying is:"Force and right govern the world, but force stays until right is ready." It is time we ought to make" right ready" in our international arrangements; and I believe that until we do, w hat is a terrible misfortune in international arrangements, force will stay. Therefore I cordially accept the Amendment of the noble Viscount, and hope that the result may be not only a study of the conditions by His Majesty's Government, but a study that will bring fruitful and valuable results for humanity and civilisation.
To omit all words after the words (" League of Nations") and insert the words (" and commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation").—(Viscount Bryce.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Motion, as amended, agreed to.—