§ Lieutenant-Colonel WALTER GUINNESS
I beg to move, at the end, to add the words:But regrets the absence from, the Gracious Speech of fuller information as to the policy in relation to the interests of Great Britain and the Dominions which is being pressed by British representatives at the Peace Conference.I quite appreciate the difficulty of the Prime Minister in dealing in any detail with the delicate questions which are now under consideration in Paris. I quite appreciate that it would be most undesirable, in view of the difficulty of these negotiations, for the House of Commons at the present stage to attempt to impose any binding conditions upon the British Delegates. I quite recognise how much we should be grateful for the unanimity which has so far characterised the discussions of this Conference, but I do feel that attention must be drawn at the very beginning of this new Parliament to the grave feeling of public disappointment which now exists at the dilatoriness which has been shown at the Paris Conference. The country has got the impression that we are looking on at a lot of professors catching butterflies on a field of buried mines. The capture and classification of butterflies is no doubt a very engrossing pastime, but we should look on it with less anxiety if our professors would first take the precaution of removing the detonators from the mines, which may blow up not only themselves, but us as well. So far although the Conference has been in existence for nearly a month, they have discussed pretty well everything but peace with Germany. They have discussed at very great length the question of the League of Nations; they have discussed the future of Turkey; they have discussed the control of the German colonies; they have discussed the future and the boundaries of all the smaller Powers, but they have failed entirely to get to grips with the question of peace with Germany and the question of German frontiers. I think it is very largely due to the unfortunate procedure. They tried for an impossible ideal of unanimity, not only among the big Powers, but among the small Powers as well. If the large Powers had been set up as an executive committee, and told to fix up peace and then report to the whole body of the Conference, we should have got on very much faster than we have done. After all, the big Powers have 180 got to decide this question, and, as it is, the big five go on sitting day after day, hearing very interesting dissertations from the smaller Powers as to their own particular claims, not laying down any definite principles on these claims, but just referring the matter to a committee without any definite guidance as to what policy they ought to follow. It may be that America can afford the expense which is caused by this delay. America has not been in the War so very long. But the Allies, who have borne the burden and the heat of the day, both as regards manpower and resources and productive industries, are in a state of complete exhaustion, and every day's delay is adding to their burdens and financial embarrassments. They simply cannot afford indefinitely to keep up their armies on a war footing. Even more serious than this financial effect of delay is the very ugly spirit which the unbusinesslike procedure of the Peace Conference is arousing in Germany. This is urgent for the British Empire. We have had far too much of the particular panacea which America is supporting in the Peace Conference. Since the days of Mahomet, I do not think any prophet has been listened to with more superstitious respect than has President Wilson. If he were speaking for a united America I am quite certain the whole of Europe would be willing to accept with the very greatest respect what he put forward, but President Wilson appealed to America on the question of a League of Nations at the recent elections there, and he got a by no means favourable answer. The Prime Minister appealed to this country to finish the War and to have a conclusive peace with Germany, and he had an answer from the country which has no parallel in our previous political history.
Among matters which directly concern the interests of the British Empire on the question of Peace there are at least two where anxiety is felt lest the Prime Minister's election speeches are beginning to fade from his mind. The first of these questions is that of reparation. We see that, although the Armistice has been signed for three months, the committee which is considering that question only last Monday for the first time got to grips with deciding the principle which was to decide the admission of claims. That does not show any very great enthusiasm for making Germany pay. No doubt the 181 Prime Minister, at the time of the Election, held very strong and very strict views on this question. Clearly, from his speeches, he intended that reparation should include the costs of the War, including, presumably, the outlay on men, munitions and pensions, quite apart from strict compensation for material damage. In his speech at Newcastle, on 29th November, he said that Germany must pay the costs of the War up to the limit of her capacity to do so. The whole context of that statement showed that he separated this war cost from the expense of repairing material damage. He went on to distinguish, and he said:Apart altogether from the cost of the conduct of the War there was the actual damage inflicted.That is very satisfactory, so far as it goes, but you cannot open a newspaper with any message from Paris for the last few weeks without reading that the American view of reparation is now holding the field in Paris. The American view, of course, is that a very narrow basis for damage should be adopted, and that reparation should in no way include the cost of the War. Such a narrowing of the definition of compensation would not merely be a direct breach of faith with the electorate of this country, but would be entirely illogical, because there is no difference to the financial embarrassment which is caused to this country or any other country whether they have spent their money on repairs after aeroplane raids or compensation for lost shipping, or whether they have spent it in paying pensions to the relatives of the men killed in the War, or in providing munitions for carrying it on. The only fair system for arriving at reparation is to decide what Germany can pay, and out of that turn to meet in full, as a first charge, the claims for the material damage which has been inflicted on our sorely-tried Allies in France, Belgium, and Serbia. Make her pay right up to the hilt that Germany can possibly produce, and allocate the remainder among the Allies, so as to reduce their war expenditure as far as possible to the same level of sacrifice per head all round. If we limit our compensation to the actual damage done we admit that there should be one law for the Germans and another law for everyone else. When Germany crushed Rumania she imposed terms which in the aggregate amounted to about £800,000,000 from that small country, and if we en- 182 Courage the ides, that Germany when she wins a war can exact not merely the cost but also a further sum in addition, whereas, when she loses she is not even to pay up to the total actual cost of the war, we are going very far in the direction of encouraging her to make another war and trust for better luck next time. The Prime Minister yesterday laid stress on the excellence of the personnel of this Reparation Commission. I agree with him. I think the whole of this House has looked with admiration on the splendid fight which the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, has been making for British interests in Paris. But this Committee is a committee of referees, and not of Plenipotentiaries. Our Plenipotentiaries in Paris are, in the absence of the Prime Minister, Lord Milner, and I understand very shortly we may have the Loader of the Government in this House back there.
§ Colonel GUINNESS
Of these Plenipotentiaries it is very generally believed that both the Leader of the House and Lord Milner are not in favour of reparation being claimed for other than war damages. I see the Leader of the House shakes his head. I am very glad.
§ Colonel GUINNESS
I withdraw the statement. I simply quote the newspaper statement, and I am very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman does not limit the claim to that. There is a great danger that our representatives in Paris, who have not been through the rough-and-tumble of election meetings, as we have done, do not quits realise the strength of feeling in this country on this question of reparation. There as a tremendous feeling in the country, and the feeling is also very strong in this House. You will not get that feeling in this Debate, because we do not want to embarrass the Government. But I may tell the Prime Minister that there was a meeting this afternoon of the Unionist War Committee, who are so keen on this subject, that they are going to send a deputation to him—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not know whether it will shorten debate, but it is quite unnecessary, and I can tell my right hon. Friend it will not embarrass the Government in the least, for they stand by the election pledges that they gave.
§ Colonel GUINNESS
If the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he is going to press to the utmost extent of his power not only for reparation for the actual damage done but to make Germany pay up to the full extent of her financial resources, it certainly will shorten discussion.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is the election pledge I gave after very careful consideration by the Cabinet. The Government stand by every word of that pledge.
§ Colonel GUINNESS
I am sure the House has heard with great relief that there is no foundation for all these newspaper statements. I now come to another subject in regard to which perhaps the Prime Minister will forgive me for saying that he appears to have fallen considerably short of the expectations which were formed from his election speeches. I refer to the subject of Russia. It is a matter of vital importance to this country that we should live on close terms of friendship with that great country. It is perfectly certain that Russia will revive. It is a young people full of great genius and provided with natural resources, probably unrivalled throughout the world. It would be disastrous if, owing to our present attitude towards the various governments in Russia, we should drive the Russian people into the hands of Germany. The Prime Minister in a speech on the 13th December, 1918, made various satisfactory references to Russia. He said thatin Russia you have now got a scheme of government entirely in the hands of one class. They will not even allow other classes to vote, and the result is chaos, anarchy and confusion. There is starvation there. People are dying by scores of thousands for want of food. Credit has gone. There is no work. There are massacres all over the place.After this speech it was with profound Astonishment and consternation that we found the Prime Minister taking the lead in inviting delegates from the Bolshevik Government in Russia to the Peace Conference. This step was only prevented by the French Government, who in the words of M. Pichon, "refused to dally with crime." Being unable to get the Bolshevik Government to Paris, the Prime Minister started a proposal to invite the Russian Governments to Prinkipo, and he has put in the wrong all the more respectable governments from Russia which 184 refused an invitation to meet the assassins. Why should we have any dealings, of any kind whatever with the Bolshevik Government? It is, in its origin, a purely German enterprise. It was founded with German gold and carried on throughout in the interests of our enemies. They have murdered, because of their loyalty to us, from 30,000 to50,000 loyal Russian officers. The criminal responsibility of the Germans for their inhuman atrocities in the War absolutely pale beside the responsibility of the Bolsheviks who massacred not only individuals but whole classes.
Negotiations with such a Government are entirely out of place, and although we certainly cannot send an expedition there we ought not to acknowledge the Bolsheviks, we ought to remain in a state of war with them until we can dictate our terms to them in the same way as we are going to dictate our terms to Germany. Consider the feelings of those Russians who have been so loyal to France and to Great Britain. No country has suffered in the War like Russia, in man-power, in resources, or in the unspeakable horrors of fratricidal war. Yet the Paris Conference, regardless of those appalling sacrifices by the loyal governments in Russia have given representation—two members each—to such Allies as Siam, and Brazil, but have refused to allow representation to our Allies in Russia. I should like also to mention that the Czar and his family were murdered because of their loyalty to us and to those countries which are fighting with us. That statement is not made on the authority of General Ghourko alone, for I came across it over the signature of a well-known Russian revolutionary—Bourtzeff—who, in his own paper, writes that he is satisfied that within a month of the murder of the Czar and the whole of his family the German Emperor sent a German general to offer terms to the Czar—to offer him his life and his throne if he would desert the Allies and go over to Germany. The Russian Czar—all honour to him—refused even to receive that German general. That statement is made on the authority of Bourtzeff, who was put in prison by the Czar, and who perhaps more than anyone else brought about the downfall of Czardom. But we have far less concern with the internal politics of Russia than with our relations with that country, and from this point of view we owean enormous debt of gratitude and respect to the Czar 185 and the loyal Russian officers who stood up for the Alliance and refused to bow the knee to the Bolsheviks.
I think the complete indifference with which the Government and the Press received the news of the murder of the Imperial family—our loyal friends in Russia—was an absolute disgrace to this country. But it is far worse to see our Government now wishing to go still further and make friends with the murderers, by inviting them to the Prinkipo Conference, a proposal which has done untold harm in Russia. Already the Bolsheviks have not been slow to explain our changed attitude by saying it is due to their promise to respect British loans and to give concessions to the capitalists of foreign countries. No gold, no loans, no forests, no concessions can compensate us for the loss of principle involved in associating ourselves with a government of criminals. Let us not attempt to revive this disastrous proposal to recognise the Bolshevik Government. The loyal people in Russia are waiting for the possibility of calling together the various governments there. They realise that none of the Allies are in a position to send a military expedition to them, but they do ask for moral support, and they ask for ammunition with which the Bolsheviks, owing to German help, are well supplied. Let us supply them with it to the utmost of our power and thus place our loyal friends on an equality in resources with the Bolsheviks. Let us remember there is more involved in this than the security of British loans, and that not only gratitude to our Allies, but the safety of civilisation itself demands that we should give every possible support to those who are trying to bring back ordered government and security to the most screly stricken country in the whole Alliance.
§ Colonel Sir SAMUEL HOARE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I should like to say at once that I do so in no controversial spirit, and that I do not wish to press the Prime Minister, or whoever may reply for the Government, with questions which it would be wiser in the national interest to leave unanswered. But having served during the greater part of the War in various parts of Europe I may be pardoned if I make a few observations in support of the Amendment. I, like my hon. Friend who moved, am very anxious as to the course that the Peace 186 Conference is taking. It is three months since the Armistice, and during that time, an far as outsiders can judge, it does not seem to have arrived at any definite decision with reference to what I regard to be the two most important questions upon which it has to decide. After three months' session of the Conference and three months since the Armistice, one looks around Europe and one finds, particularly in the East, disputes cropping up on every side between various members of the Alliance, and one finds most of all the problem of Russia becoming more and more complicated and involved every day. I, like my hon. Friend, would have liked to have seen the Conference begun with, what I believe to be its principal duty, namely, the making of a provisional peace with Germany. I believe that is its first duty, and that it would have been better if it had started with its first duty rather than to have begun with a number of other projects, such, for instance, as the foundation of a League of Nations. I think I am supported in that view by the evidence which Germany provides at the present moment. It seems to me that every day that the Conference delays to impose upon Germany a provisional peace Germany becomes more truculent, and dangerous. The German General Staff is obviously becoming more truculent every day. Ebert, the new President of the German Federation, as fur as one can judge from reports of his speeches in the papers, is beginning to snap his fingers at the Paris Conference. Hindenburg is with eighteen divisions at Danzig and he is challenging the Allies be intervene in Poland, whilst proposals are being considered as to whether the German portion of Austria should not be absorbed into the old German Federation. All that seems to me to show that the longer the Conference puts off the problem of imposing a provisional peace on Germany the more difficult it will be to impose our terms upon Germany and the more dangerous will be the German attitude. I quite realise that it is impossible for the Conference to complete a permanent peace with Germany and to decide all the many problems at once, but short of that I do think it would be possible to make a provisional peace and in that provisional peace to insist, first of all, upon the indemnities to be paid, and, secondly, to insist upon the occupation of more strategic points in the German Empire 187 than have yet been occupied by the Allies. Take one single instance. I am convinced, after some knowledge of Russia, that one of the first conditions for dealing with Russia would be the occupation of the Kiel Canal and by that means to ensure the control of the Baltic and thereby of the Baltic Provinces of Russia. Be that as it may, I am convinced that the first duty of the Conference is not to involve itself in all those many great problems in which recently it has involved itself, but to concentrate upon imposing upon Germany a provisional peace with, as I say, indemnities and the occupation of strategic points.
I pass from that to a subject of which I have more direct personal knowledge. I pass to the question of Russia. During the War I have had the opportunity of spending something like a year and a half in Russia, and, rightly or wrongly, I have come to certain definite conclusions as to the policy which our delegates ought to adopt at the Peace Conference. Looking back it seems to me that the fault of our policy with Russia has been that we have never made up our minds as to which side to back. For some time before the revolution we had certain well-informed persons stating that a revolution was inevitable in Russia, whilst we had other people, particularly in London, who held the opposite opinion. After that the situation became worse. I think any hon. Member who looks back on our policy in Russia since the revolution will agree with me when I say that we have gone on the principle of backing one horse one day and another horse another day. We sent people to deal with the Bolshevists and other people to deal with the anti-Bolshevists. I am certain, whether hon. Members' views favour one side or the other, they will agree with me that what is really required is one consistent policy the whole way through. I make that remark because it seems to me that the Prinkipo proposal is the embodiment of this policy of uncertainty and hesitation. We had the French Foreign Minister only a few weeks ago declaring that on no account must we have any relations with the Bolshevist Government at all, and within a few weeks we make a proposal not only to enter into some sort of relations with the Bolshevists, but to shuffle off the responsibility, which it seems to me is upon our shoulders, to decide which side in Russia we ought to take. We 188 asked the Governments in Russia to go to Prinkipo, and we hoped that after their discussion something will emerge.
In my humble opinion that should not be the policy of the British delegates in Paris. I venture to suggest they have come to a point where they must decide between the Bolshevists and the anti-Bolshevists. On the side of the Bolshevists it may be said that they have been the de facto Government in certain provinces in Russia for a considerable time, and that no other Government has shown itself strong enough to drive them out. I quite acknowledge that that is true, but at the same time I cannot understand how the British delegates can in any way enter into relations with the Bolshevist Government which, apart from all questions of atrocities, was the Government which at the most critical moment in the War made the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and threw over the Allies. I cannot see also how the British delegates, if they have any hope whatever in the League of Nations, can enter into relations with a Government the policy of which is in every way contrary to every one of President Wilson s principles. Why, Sir, the militarism and Prussianism of the Bolshevist Government is ten thousand times worse than the militarism and Prussianism of Prussia. Moreover, even if I am wrong in those two contentions, it seems to me that the Bolshevist Government is economically so unsound that it is doomed to destruction in the near future. I am convinced on that account that it would be folly for the British Government to enter into relations with such a Government at such a moment. How can a Government of the kind hope to exist when during the first six months of last year the deficit on the Budget was 17 milliards of roubles, and during the second six months was 82 milliards of roubles? How can a Government continue to exist when the only national industry that is nourishing at the present moment in Russia is the industry of printing rouble notes? I was told by a Russian only last week that in a village in the North of Russia he was asked by a peasant to change a thousand rouble note. He was rather surprised at the peasant having the note, and he asked him how many of them he had got, and the peasant's answer was that he had fifteen lbs. (avoirdupois) of those thousand rouble notes. A Government so economically unsound, I venture to suggest, cannot possibly last.
189 I would therefore impress, with all the power that I possess, upon the Prime Minister to have no dealings whatever with a Government that entered into the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and a Government which outrages every principle of the League of Nations, and a Government which is economically so unsound. That being so, I would ask him and the Peace delegates in Paris boldly to take sides, and to support the anti-Bolshevist Governments in Siberia and the South of Russia which represent the parties in Russia who, during the whole of the War, were loyal to the Allies, and who represent all that is best in Russian life. When I say that I do not mean all that is best in Conservative Russian life, because many of the members of those Governments are extremely Radical, and are as Socialist as any in the whole of Europe. I would ask him not only to back them in words, but to back them by definite assistance. I am aware that after four years of war it would be quite impossible to begin a new and great campaign in Russia. I see that as clearly as anybody, but, short of military operations, we could give them great and valuable moral support. If it is known that the British delegates in Paris are on the side of the Governments in Omsk and in South Russia, then I am certain it would be a great step forward in bringing back peace and order to Russia. I am quite certain not only could we assist them with munitions, but also with food and economic help of that kind. I believe if it were known that we would, for instance, send quantities of food into Petrograd provided that a representative democratic Government was set up there, the Bolshevist power would fall there to-morrow. That is not my own unsupported opinion. I have had many opportunities of discussing the question with representative Russians in the last few weeks, and I have, as I say, some knowledge of Russia myself. Those are my views, and I much hope that when the Prime Minister replies he will be able to give us some reassurance that the Peace delegates have come to a definite decision to discontinue the policy of first taking one side and then another and are definitely giving their support to the men who have been faithful to the Allies during the War, and the only men who can restore peace and order to Russia.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I must thank my hon. Friends first of all for having exercised a very wise and patriotic dis- 190 cretion in the choice of topics upon which they have invited the Government to give explanations. I think I can give full and explicit explanations about all the questions that have been put without in the least imperilling any interests of the Peace Conference. My hon. Friend on the other side, in complaining of the time we have spent there, gave the impression that we were rather a frivolous crowd of about nine or ten young people who had met together there. He described us, I think, as "professorial butterflies." [An Hon. Member: "Chasing butterflies!"] I know the venerable President of that Conference, M. Clemenceau, and I have heard him compared to a very fierce specimen in the animal world, but never have I heard him compared either to a butterfly or to a chaser of butterflies, and I think those who know him will regard the first as a more appropriate description under certain conditions. I can assure my hon. Friend that we have been devoting our time to trying to speed up peace. There is not a man in that Conference who does not know how important it is to get peace at the earliest moment.
Both my hon. Friends suggested that we have not devoted our time at all to the very important question of making peace with Germany; but they are quite wrong. It may be that they have not read the procès terbal—I do not suppose they have—or it may be that those newspapers referred to by my hon. Friend have not given the information. I am afraid he confines his rending rather too exclusively to certain papers; he might if he had leisure broaden the sphere of his newspaper reading, and he might be able to get a little more information upon these topics. What are the questions we have to settle with Germany? They are first of all territorial, but they are not all territorial. There is the question of indemnities, and there is the question of colonies. My hon. Friend referred to the question of the German colonies as if it had nothing to do with peace with Germany. There is the question, of the responsibility for the War, and there are two or three other questions which for the moment have escaped me, but there is not one of them that we have not considered.
I will take them categorically. Take the question of territorial readjustment. Germany has a Western boundary and an Eastern boundary. With regard to the 191 Western boundary, we have found that the best method of dealing with, that matter is to have confidential talks amongst ourselves lather than to have formal discussions even in the Council of Ten. These informal discussions have taken place, and I am very sanguine that a complete agreement will be arrived at amongst us with regard to the demands to be put forward against Germany in respect of her Western boundaries. When you come to the Eastern boundary it is a different matter. Dealing with the boundaries in the West of Germany, the facts are well known and well established, and we require no Commissions. There are questions of principle and questions of policy, but there are no questions of fact which are not very well established. Therefore no Commission is required to settle any question with regard to the Western boundary, and we have not proceeded by way of investigation there; but when you come to the Eastern boundary it is a very difficult matter. The populations are very mixed; it is a question of delimiting the boundary between the new Republic of Poland and the German Republic. You have got a very mixed population there of Poles and of Germans, and it is very difficult, without the closest investigation, to draw a line and say, "This is Poland, and that is Germany." If you make a big mistake and put a whole slice of what is really Germany into Poland, Alsace-Lorraine is a sufficient warning of doing things of that kind, and that is why we are proceeding carefully and investigating the circumstances. The Poles themselves admit there is a question for investigation there. We have already heard the Polish deputation on the subject, but we have done more than that. We have sent a very powerful Commission to Poland to examine the matter on the spot. We could not do anything more than that at the present moment, and until they have returned—and I do not suppose they will take very long—we shall not be in a position to make our demands upon Germany in respect of territorial readjustments in the East and West, and they are both important.
Now I will take the other question—that of the German colonies. The question of German colonies was the very first we dealt with, and we decided quite unanimously that whatever happened to them, whoever the mandatory should be, they should not be restored to Germany. We all agreed that Germany had forfeited her 192 right to those colonies by the way in which she had treated the natives—we had accumulated a vast store of evidence with regard to her abuse of her powers in those territories—and also from the point of view of the security of the world. There was complete agreement that the German colonies should not be restored to Germany. That is an essential part of peace with Germany. Those are two fundamental questions you have got to consider in the German peace, which we have already dealt with. What is the third? Indemnities. And with regard to indemnities, I have already made an interruption in which I said that the Government stand absolutely by their pledges, in that matter, and not only that, but those are the instructions that they have given their delegates. My hon. Friend complained that it is only within the last week or fortnight that the Commission in Paris startedits investigations. It is no fault of ours. The Committee appointed by the British Government reported, I think, a couple of months ago. There has been no slackness so far as the British Government is concerned, and, as a matter of fact, the British Government was in advance of any Government in this respect. We were the first to appoint a Committee after the conversations we had in London some time before the Conference. We appointed a Committee, and they made their Report. The policy of the Government was founded on that Report, and two out of the three men who were upon that Committee represent us now in Paris. We have moved the Conference of the nations to appoint a similar Committee, but an international one. No single nation can move in a matter of this kind—you must carry all the nations with you. We took the initiative two or three months ago—in fact, within a few days, I think, of the signing of the Armistice. We circulated that Report to the principal nations concerned, and it was our delegation that in Paris moved for the appointment of this Committee, and made it quite clear, in moving it, that reparation included indemnities.
I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend talking in rather a slighting tone about the League of Nations. I think if he had been in Paris attending that Conference—not the Conference of the Great Powers but the Conference of the little nations that were present—he would have realised how much they are relying on the League 193 of Nations. Here we are creating new nations—the Czecho-Slovaks, with a population of eight or nine millions, the Jugo-Slavs, Poland—I will not say it is a new nation, because it is an old nation—but there they are, with great and powerful nations around them, some of them prostrate at the present moment—Russia, Germany; Austria, of course, has disappeared. They are all depending for their lives upon the League of Nations, and at the Conference that was held where thirty nations were represented—thegreatest Conference ever held in the world—the little nations were not merely unanimous, but they were eager about it.
My hon. Friend seems to suggest that President Wilson represents only one party in respect of the League of Nations, but as a matter of fact Mr. Taft was the pioneer in respect of the League of Nations—a great leader of the Republican party. He has gone much further than President Wilson when you come to examine it, and he has gone much further than we can possibly follow on the mandatory question. I was talking to a very able Republican who I think was a member either of President Roosevelt's Cabinet or of President Taft's, and he told me that as far as the League of Nations was concerned the Republican working men of America were just as keen as the democratic working men. So that my hon. Friend is quire wrong in imagining that American public opinion is in the least divided about the League of Nations. There may be some difference of opinion with regard to its functions, and the extent to which it ought to have the power of committing the great nations to war; but all these are questions which we ourselves have got something to say about, and I quite agree that a, nation ought not to be committed to war by any means without having the responsibility considered by itself. But these are questions of detail.
I think the third question that has been raised by both my hon. Friends is the question of Russia. Let me say at once that there has never been any proposal put forward to recognise the Bolsheviks. Never. There has never been a suggestion that they should attend the Peace Conference. That was not the proposal. For better or for worse, that was not the proposal. My hon. Friends do not like the scheme put forward, but that was not the 194 proposal. It is very easy to dogmatise about Russia. It is very difficult indeed to deal with it. The horrors of Bolshevik rule are so great that there is a sense of disgust when you come to deal with its leaders. Do not let that blind us to the real facts of the case. What are they? The first fact I want to get into the mind of every Member and the British public is this, that unless there is peace in Russia, it is no good the Peace Conference separating and saying, "You have made the pence of the world," because you have not. Russia represents an area not far short of half the size of Europe, and it is also very nearly half of Asia, and if you do not make peace there you will have the whole of these immense territories surging with anarchy, with disorder, and with bloodshed. You may not be able to do it, but until it is done by some means or other there will be no peace in the world. That is the first fact to be recognised. How are you to do it?
There are two, and possibly three, methods of doing it. The first is intervention—honest, straight, downright intervention. You may say these men are assassins. So they are. They are guilty of all the crimes that can be laid to their charge by the two hon. Members, who I should say described them with restraint and moderation. That is all I can say about that. You can intervene. You can say, "It is a blot on civilisation, and you must crush it. It does not represent Russian public opinion. It simply governs by terror." Exactly the same was said about the French Revolution, and it was true. We intervened there, and there was a war of twenty-two years. Does anyone propose that? Before anything was ever done by the British Government, we asked our military advisers what it would mean. I could tell the House that, but perhaps on the whole it would not be wise to give the information. If I gave the figures of what intervention meant, there is no sane man in Britain who would advise us, after nearly five years of war, to undertake that enterprise. Supposing yon do intervene. Suppose you crush the Bolshevik military power, which is much greater than it was. It grew at the time when all our resources were devoted to fighting the Germans. They had their leisure. Neither the Germans could attack them, nor could we attack them; they were no strong. Supposing you do intervene, and you overthrow them, how long are you going to 195 occupy Russia? Are you going to remain there until there is a Government you can depend upon? And are you quite sure when you withdraw you get exactly that Government? Are we going to restore order in that vast country? Nobody proposes to do it. I am arguing against the proposition that no one makes.
I come to the second proposition. My hon. Friend (Sir S. Hoare) has said that you ought to make up your mind whom you are going to back. "One day you back the anti-Bolshevist; the next day you back the Bolshevist." Have we ever backed the Bolshevist? What actual recognition of the Bolsheviks have we ever given? What help have we given them? What dealings have we had with them? I will tell my hon. Friend what dealings we have had with them. He evidently does not know, and therefore I am glad of the opportunity of informing him. He seems to think we have done nothing. He said, "Boldly take sides." I waited to see what he meant by "boldly take sides." He said, "By that I do not mean sending troops. I want you to give them moral support." We have given them far more than moral support. Take all those Governments that are trying to hold their own with difficulty in Siberia, and in the Don country, where the Cossacks clearly do not want the Bolsheviks. We have given them substantial support. They have had financial support. It may be right or it may be wrong, but the Allies have done it. They have had support in ammunition and in guns. Pretty much the whole of their equipment—at least a good deal of it—has been supplied by the Allies. My hon. Friend wants us to give moral support. That is the position at the present moment. So that what he asks we should do we have done, and more. We did it at the time, because we were anxious that the Germans should not occupy the rich grain-growing districts of Russia, and get copper and oil, and all those commodities of which they were so short, and the want of which helped towards their collapse. It was part of our campaign against the Germans to assist in equipping those great forces in order to keep Germans and German influences out of those territories. That has been the position up to the present moment. I do not want to go too far, because this is a question which will be under discussion, no doubt, in the next two or three days in Paris, and I 196 do not wish to interfere in the least with the progress of those discussions. They have a serious responsibility before them. Everybody agrees that you cannot intervene. There is not a single Power that proposes it. That is, then, out of the way. The next proposal is "support of the other Powers." What does that support mean? Does it mean men? I should like to know whether there is anyone prepared to say that here. [An Hon. Member: "Yes."] I like my hon. Friend for his courage, because it is very easy to have a good deal of loose talk and say, "You must support these people." It is no use giving them support unless you give them real support. What does that mean? Are you to confine it to money? Are you to confine it to munitions? Or are you to send men? America will send neither men, money, nor material, and therefore it practically falls upon France and ourselves. Has anyone calculated the cost?
The third plan is that of letting the fire burn itself out. It is a brutal policy. My hon. Friend thinks we can send food to Petrograd. Who would distribute the food now? There is no machinery there except theBolsheviks. My hon. Friend says he knows Russia. When did he leave Russia?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Anyone who follows events knows there has been a vast difference in Russia since then. There is no doubt at all about this. The Bolshevist machinery in Russia is deadly, is brutal, is horrible, but there is no doubt about its efficiency for its purpose. It is the only machinery you have got there, and if you send tons of food to Russia, there is no one to distribute it except a Bolshevist government. I can assure the House of Commons that all these suggestions which have been put forward here have been considered by governments individually, and by the representatives of the governments together; and I do not mind saying there are two difficulties in Russia. The first is the intrinsic difficulty. That is bad enough. Everybody who has ever interfered with Russia has come to grief, whether the Swedish Monarch or the French Emperor. The second difficulty with regard to Russia is this: You must get agreement among six Powers. That takes a good bit of doing, and there I only say this. My hon. Friends condemned us for trying to do some- 197 thing short of what is known as allowing the fire to burn itself out, which may take a long time and mean the death of millions of people. We thought we would try the experiment of summoning these people to see whether it was possible to have some accommodation with them which would enable order to be restored in Russia. It is by no means unknown. On the north-west frontier of India, with brigands and assassins to deal with, and when there is turbulence among tribes there, they are summoned very often by our Commissioners to see whether some sort of order can be restored when you want to avoid an expensive expedition.
There is no idea of recognising Bolshevism. It would have been quite impossible to do so unless they abolished their present methods and their present course of action; but we are anxious that when peace comes to the world, it shall be a real peace. All this about promise of repayment of loans, their promise of concessions to Britain and to France, their promise of concessions of territory—all that was for consumption in Russia, and we knew that. It might have been as a bribe. I agree with my hon. Friend these are insignificant compared with the realities, and I hope that my hon. Friend will realise the great difficulty or dealing with that problem. I have not met a man yet who has said confidently that he could do anything short of a big expeditionary force. Every man who came to the Conference said nothing else was of any use.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not want to say too much about that if I can possibly avoid it. We have not denied anything in that respect, but I do not wish to give away military information to the Bolsheviks. I would rather not be pressed. But I do agree with my hon. Friend that a system like this cannot last for ever. Just before coming to the House I met an English workman who had been five years in Russia. He is just back, and what he said contains a warning to this country. His wages were extraordinarily high—£150 a month. He was a printer. That is a paradise, you say. He said a pound of butter cost him £12, and he could not always get it. A pound of sugar, he said, cost him £8. That was somewhat cheaper. For a whole week he could get no bread at all. Yet his pockets were bulging with wages. That in an economic condition 198 that cannot last for ever. Unfortunately, it lasted for a long time in France. I would ask my hon. Friends to turn their minds occasionally from the newspapers—which sometimes are helpful and sometimes are not, which sometimes mean well and sometimes do not—just to read up the story of the French Revolution. All these things happened then. There was all this paper money, all this bankruptcy of France. That country was hopelessly bankrupt in all these years. The same thing happened in France as is happening, according to the military evidence we have got, in Russia. The threat of intervention in the affairs of Russia is driving even the moderate parties in Russia into the hands of the Bolshevists. That is part of the evidence we have got. Some of the officers of the old Armies are actually taking part now in reorganising the Red Army of Russia. Is experience to teach individuals, and never to teach nations? I agree with my hon. and gallant. Friend in a sense of horror at Bolshevism, in the refusal to take it by the hand. That, however, ought not to prevent us, in the interests not merely of Russia, but in the interests of Britain and of the world, from doing, at any rate, our best to restore order and good government to that distracted country.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
May I ask new Members to remember the very important Rule of the House that they should not pass between the hon. Member speaking and the Chair.
§ Colonel GRETTON
Much has been said on the subject of Russia. The future of Russia is of vital importance to the whole of civilisation. The Russian Revolution was fomented by Germany and supported by German gold. If matters are allowed to proceed as they are at present, and the only salvation for Russia is reorganisation by German agents, then we are in danger of facing this position: that, although Germany has in fact been beaten in war, she will have won an economic victory by the absorption of the resources of Russia and the control of her population. This would compensate the German race for all that they have sacrificed in the struggle. The Allies cannot afford to look upon proceedings m Russia in any other light than that which I have ventured to indicate. It is not a matter of 199 sentimentality. It is one of the safety of civilisation. It may mean the German race reorganising with vastly increased power. The Prime Minister's statement on the subject of indemnities was much more definite and much more satisfactory than those which had gone before. This subject is one which has caused the greatest anxiety and the strongest possible feeling amongst our people outside this House. Any deviation from what is believed to be the right attitude in this matter of indemnities and reparation will cause the downfall of any Government of this country, and a most lively expressed indignation amongst our people.
There is one subject, however, which has not been dealt with, and on which I desire information. I do not think it is realised inside this House how interested is the "man in the street," whatever be his station, in the question of the freedom of the seas. British people realise that this War has been won and the nation saved by sea power. The freedom of the seas is a very old story. It has been adopted amongst the Continental nations to avoid the pressure of sea-power. As interpreted by Germany, the doctrine of the freedom of the seas means the destruction of the sea power of this country, because, unless we are able to preserve the freedom of communications between the different parts of our Empire, the safety of the great trade routes to our race across the seas, would be cut, and the resources of the world prevented from being at our disposal. It is folly to rely upon other things for the safety of this great country. History shows that Leagues of Nations have been formed with great hopes and vast expectations. They did not last long. They crumbled away. To sacrifice the foundation of our great power and our safety to the expectations of an unformed League of Nations, in View of the experience of the past, would be the greatest folly. The freedom of the seas, as an American doctrine, is still not clearly formulated. The President of the United States did state very clearly in his fourteen points what he understood at that time by the doctrine. There was to be no armed force brought within three miles of the coast of any territory occupied by any Power. That was one of the doctrines set out in the fourteen points. We have some further enlightenment which is worth some consideration, and it was a pro- 200 vision that no nation should have a fleet so large as to be able alone to keep all the seas. Is that a document which is going to be enforced by the League of Nations, because if it is it means that the power of England will be gone? Another declaration is that the sea rules for the period of belligerency laid down in times of peace shall not be challenged while war is in progress. We have had some experience of that kind of thing in the Declaration of London. The sound doctrine of belligerency at sea has been, proved over and over again. The Declaration of London set up by proclaimation had to be abandoned. The hard facts of war forced this country to return to the old laws of sea-warfare, which are the proved results of centuries of experience.
Another provision is that every nation, whether belligerent or neutral, shall be held to account for the observation of sea rules in time of war. The Prime Minister has given us an illustration of what that means. It has been said that certain action might be taken in the case of Russia, and evidently something of that kind has been discussed at the Peace Conference. No action has been taken, because the Great Powers at the Peace Conference are not agreed on this point. It is also suggested that no ships of a neutral shall attempt to run a blockade established by a belligerent, and the Government of the country to which such ships belong shall be held accountable for such attempts or other infringements of the new rules. That is a most dangerous doctrine to the whole peace of the world. Then there is the present rule as to contraband, which is that the nation waging war can declare what is contraband and publish it to the world. That is a necessary and an unavoidable condition. Goods and materials necessary or useful for carrying on war are constantly varying; they multiply with the progress of each war. The proposal to establish, before hostilities, a rigid list of contraband for all nations is impracticable. The new rules are a most dangerous departure, making for quarrels and broaches of the peace in every direction. The rule made in regard to the discontinuance of the use of submarines will be difficult to carry out. What does freedom of the seas mean to this country? It means that though this country may succeed in defeating in time of war—and we are told that wars will never cease, and the experience of mankind shows that 201 they never will cease—although we may sufficed in battles outside neutral waters not within three miles of the coast-line of some other country, that will be a fruitless victory. The seas will be open to the enemy to send his merchandise across the ocean and to carry on just as if there was no war, and his ports will be open to receive stores.
Our wars have mostly been against Continental Powers which have had at their back their land frontiers connecting them with other countries, and under those circumstances they might make an indefinite war with a sea-power country. This country exists by the maintenance of its sea power. The doctrine of the freedom of the seas as urged by Germany means the absolute destruction of the power of this country. The history of dealing with this question is somewhat curious. When the fourteen points were subjects of correspondence between President Wilson and the German Government the whole fourteen points were accepted by Germany and forwarded to the belligerent Allies for their acceptance. So far as we can ascertain from what has appeared in the Press without contradiction, the British Government absolutely refused to discuss the question of the freedom of the seas in any shape or any of its bearings, and they insisted that that should be kept outside the fourteen points, and I think in that attitude they are supported by the whole of the European Allies.
It appears that at the Paris Conference the matter has been brought up again by the Government of the United States and it has become the subject of discussion. So far as we can learn, though the freedom of the seas has not been determined as an essential part of the League of Nations, and has nothing to do with the terms of peace made with Germany, yet it is still a subject reserved for the discussion of the League of Nations to be set up by the Peace Conference, and that seems to me to be a very disastrous attitude for the British Government to adopt. I think the British Government ought to have adhered to their attitude of refusing to discuss the question of the freedom of the seas, for I am sure that would have been a better course than submitting it to a heterogeneous League of Nations of Land Powers, because that is placing in a very unsatisfactory and dangerous position a question which is so vital to this country. We want more information 202 about this question. I assume the Government that it is not only in this House but outside of it a great deal of interest is taken in this most important matter by a vast number of people, and it is a question in the solution of which they have determined that their voices shall be heard.
Then there are the German colonies. Apparently those colonies are, with certain regulations, placed at the disposal of the League of Nations. The question the world has now to decide is peace with Germany. The German colonies were all conquered and are now in the possession of the Allies, and most of them were conquered by British troops from the British Dominions and the Colonies. If those German colonies are to be handed over to a League of Nations, the best method would be to have a sound understanding as to how they are to be dealt with, and the terms should be made before they are handed over to anybody else. My remarks apply equally to Palestine and Mesopotamia, but to place these German colonies, many of which are of the most vital importance to our own Dominions, at the disposal of a League of Nations, is, to my mind, betraying our own kinsmen across the seas, and adopting a policy which would be disastrous to our Empire in the future.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
There are one or two points which I wish to make with regard to reparation and indemnities. The Prime Minister stated that the word "reparation" included indemnities. If that is the true construction, I am afraid that we are liable to considerable difficulty before we get over the financial questions which will arise at the Conference. I have no doubt that the Germans take the view that the word "reparation" is a word of restrictive meaning and does not include indemnities, and, consequently, as the word "reparation" was used in the negotiations and in the instruments and not the word "indemnities" that we have foregone what right we had in negotiations to ask for indemnities. The view of the United States may naturally be very different from the British view. The President of the United States stated distinctly that in going into the War the United States were not looking after any selfish interests; they were not seeking any indemnities or any compensation. Neither the matter of indemnities nor the matter of annexations was at any time seriously 203 considered as between the United States and the Germans. But these were only two of the parties in the great War. Outside them were all the other Allies. The Prime Minister stated that the word "reparation" included indemnities. It seems to me from what has been transpiring in Paris during the last month or so that that view has more or less prevailed there. I think it is a most dangerous view, and, in the light of the correspondence that took place and the relationships of the parties, a very unfounded view. When the President of the United States made some of his communications to the Allies on the part of the American Government, he pointed out that one of the things that must necessarily be done was the restoration of Belgium. Later he gave his explanation of what he meant by the restoration of Belgium. Again, in communications with the Allies they did not accept that limited signification of "restoration of Belgium," but they said that they understood that "compensation will be made by Germany for all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies and to their property by the aggression of Germany by land, by sea, and from the air." Here was an enlargement of the word "restoration," but only in respect of damages to the civilian population of all countries invaded by Germany. That view, which I contend is the contracted view, does not imply that the right to indemnities does not exist side by side. But if there could be any possible question about the right to indemnities existing, in addition to the right to reparation for damages, it is removed by the terms of the Armistice, because we have in Section 19 words of primal value to us in determining whether we should have indemnities in addition to reparation. I will read the words of Section 19 of the Armistice of 11th November:With reservation that any future claims and demands of the Allies and United States shall remain unaffected, the following financial conditions are required:—(1) Reparation for damages done.I say, and I do not think anyone will differ from me, that here was a distinct differentiation between reparation for damages done and other claims or demands that either the Allies or the United States might have to make in the future. I say, therefore, that both rights are reserved, the right for reparation for 204 damages where injury is done, and the right to claim indemnities. Both are recognised in the Armistice. Therefore, there should be no weakening whatever upon this matter. It was only after examining these clauses very carefully that daring the Election, as early as 19th November, in issuing my Address, I set forth that these were the grounds on which. I would insist and on which I now insist that we are entitled, not only to reparation in the form of damages, but also to indemnities for the cost of this War. I think the great majority of the Members of this House in fighting the recent campaign, whether on one side or the other, were of that view and announced that view. If it is to be limited to-day, and a much lesser meaning given to it, and if our representatives at Paris do not take that ground firmly and maintain it, what position shall we be in when we go back to the electorate? That may look selfish and I do not press that view, but I do say that we must not give away the advantages to which we are entitled. It is our duty to press for them, and, if we have any doubt whatever whether our repretatives at Paris are putting this matter as strongly forward as they should, it is our duty to say so in this House. It is for that reason that I made the remarks that I have made to-day.
The doctrine of the freedom of the seas that has been put forward very vaguely by President Wilson is one that is incomprehensible to the people of this country. It would destroy our supremacy in sea-power. We do not envy the power of other nations—they can build all the fleets they like—but we do say that ours is an Island Empire, and it is absolutely essential to us that the rights of the sea should be preserved for our peaceful commerce without which we could not subsist. That is the view we take, and these attempts at a limitation of that view will not, I am sure, be tolerated by the people of this country.
My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Gretton) put forward a very strong case with regard to the freedom of the seas, and I do not intend to enlarge upon it, but I do wish to say a few words with regard to the position of our Dominions Overseas and how they might be compromised. The Prime Minister did not exhaust the whole position when he said that one of the first things they settled at the Peace Conference was that the colonies should not be 205 restored to Germany. That is all very well, but that is only part of the business. What is to be done with them? What is to be done with them concerns us and concerns those great Dominions. The view of these Dominions Overseas—I have some reason for expressing the opinion—is that these colonies should be transferred to the respective Dominions which conquered them, to Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. That would be the natural thing to do, and it would be far more in the interests of those colonies themselves and our Dominions and of this country. It would safeguard them and us in the future against attacks from these colonies, which might be made the bases of attack by submarines and other warlike engines. Therefore, it is desirable, in the interests of all, that the colonies should be transferred to the Dominions or to the British Empire.
The proposal of a League of Nations is one with which I have a very great deal of sympathy, but it does not seem to me that we have had any development of what the League is to be, and until we see the machine and see it at work, how do we know that it will operate to the advantage of ourselves and of our great Dominions? It is all very well to talk about a thing in theory, but the great question is, how will it work in practice? Above all, why should we adopt it before we know that the scheme actually is? We have been told, and I suppose we shall be told again, that we are to hear of it before Peace is concluded. Assuming that we do hear of it before Peace is concluded, what is the necessity in the meantime of anticipating what the position will be then by saying that these colonies are to be handed over to certain mandatories? Surely there should be no disposition of the German ex-colonies until we know the conditions upon which they are to be handed over at the moment that they will be handed over. I see one great difficulty in placing these ex-German colonies in the hands of mandatories. Who is going to pay the expense of carrying on these colonies? Who is going to provide the means for developing them and for the education and enlightenment of the natives if the holding and tenancy of these colonies is to be subject to revision by a League of Nations of which we know nothing at all? Again, what is to happen if there are two systems of Customs prevailing, one for the mandatory colony and the other in this colony committed to the trust of the mandatory? I see the greatest 206 opportunities for confusion, and also difference of opinion between the members of the subsequent League of Nations. Although President Wilson may be very enthusiastic for securing this League, it must be remembered that the American man is a very practical man and the American woman is a very practical woman, and when it comes to a question of entrusting a section of Asia or Africa or Europe to the custody of the United States of America and to their providing for its administration in dollars and cents, and when it comes to the United States of America being made part of a League of Nations which, if it is to amount to anything, must have the power to act, must have or be able to command an armed force and must provide the money to maintain that force, when the thorough-going thinking American comes to count up the cost of all that and the danger of European entanglements, against which the great President Washington warned his people, I do not think we shall see a great deal of alacrity in the United States of America in favour of the League of Nations. Let us not count too much on that. Nobody desires more than I do the closest possible unity between the Allies and the different branches of the English-speaking races, but we must not count upon the Americans so forgetting their own interests—they usually know what their own interests are—that they will link in with us to incur a liability of which the sense of their people cannot approve.
Have we not got burdens enough already all over the world without getting bound by fresh ties in connection with the League of Nations? We know how to govern ourselves, however much we differ. We know how to leave freedom to our Dominions. We know how to govern our Crown Colonies. We have an enormous Empire which we have succeeded in knowing how to govern and hold together, and the real virility of that Empire has been splendidly proved in the War. Why should we encumber ourselves with these fresh burdens? There is a League of Nations at present in operation, and if that League of Nations, with its trained and disciplined armies, now present on the Rhine, is not able to restore peace at this time to Europe, what little chance there is of this visionary League of Nations at some future time being able to stop a great war or a great revolution. With all respect to 207 those who think differently, we are borrowing trouble. My wisdom no doubt may be very imperfect. In any event, I hope that our representatives at Paris will adopt sound views, and that the result will prove to be satisfactory.
in conclusion, I hope that for our own credit, for the credit of our Government and of our public men, out of respect for the promises that we gave to the people of this country, and out of respect for the confidence which the people of this country reposed in us during the recent election, that the voice of our representatives at the Paris Conference will be firm and strong, that the word of Britain is sacred, and that her word is not analogous to a scrap of paper. There has been a consensus of British, and I believe of Irish opinion too, upon this subject, and the word cannot be broken. I am equally confident that if the word is said firmly, strongly, and respectfully to the Conference at Paris it will receive due recognition. Let us not forget—Europe has not forgotten, and the United States has not forgotten, no part of the world is without knowledge of—the splendid services that our country and our Empire have given in this War, the men they contributed, the risks they took, the ships they ventured, the lives they lost. Shall it be said of us that at the conclusion, as the time approaches for peace, we shall be mealy-mouthed upon what our rights are? No, I trust not. I confidently hope there will be no backsliding, and that our representatives will be firm and strong upon the maintenance of those rights to which I believe we are justly entitled.
§ 9.0 P.M.
I believe the question of the future of the German colonies is one of the very gravest anxiety in the country, and of even greater anxiety in our great Dominions across the seas, it was not very greatly debated at the recent election, for the very good reason that the country at large based its confidence upon the supposed representations and statements of Ministers, that those colonies would remain under British rule. But I should have liked to see the fate of any candidate at that election who had put in his address that the German colonies, which were then conquered by our own fighting men and at present are occupied by our fighting men, would be handed over even to a mandatory of a League of Nations. I think his shrift with the electorate would have 208 been very short indeed, I wish the Government could have been a little more communicative about it. I fully recognise the delicacy of the discussions which are going on at present in France, and no one in this House wishes to embarrass the Government in those discussions, but I think everyone in the House wants to impress upon the Government the fact that this matter is one of the gravest anxiety in the country. I know what the apologists of the mandatory principle say, and this question really has resolved itself into a sort of controversy ranging round the word "mandatory." The apologists of the attitude of the Government upon the mandatory system say that there was a strong movement in the Convention that these territories should be put altogether under the League of Nations and that the mandatory system was invented as a sort of compromise whereby at least certain British interests might be safeguarded in the conquered territory. It was supposed that any national appropriation, so to speak, of these territories, any British appropriation particularly, was a very bitter draught to certain important members of the Convention and that it would facilitate matters if the word "mandatory" was put in as a sort of sugar plum, to allow this draught to be swallowed more easily. They say, in effect, that the word "mandatory" is, after all, merely a word, and that these colonies will in fact be under the sole control of the British Crown and the British Dominions, that they will be in our occupation and will be completely under our dominion and under our control, and that after all it does not matter for the word if that is the reality. It does not matter whether you call the occupying Power a mandatory or a missionary or a cassowary or any sort of big word that is supposed really to please the high-browed fancy and soothe the high-toned conscience in these matters. That is the sort of attitude of the apologists of the mandatory system, that really it is only a word, and that the reality will be that fall British dominion will be possessed over all these territories. I am a very zealous advocate of the League of Nations, but in the interest of the League of Nations itself that is a very undesirable position. No one who wants the League of Nations to be strong, no one who wants it to have real power, to have real officers with real strength—no one 209 wants it to have sham officers and to have sham powers, no one wants the whole thing to be really a matter of names. There is no more ignominious position for a Power that really stands to be a great Power in the world, or a super-Power, as the League of Nations must stand to be, than to have its officers, who are called its mandatories, mere shams and figments. That is tending to bring the whole idea of the League of Nations into contempt and to make the whole thing unreal. Accordingly, if the word "mandatory" is to be a mere word, I think every supporter of the League of Nations and of its place as a real Power in the world ought to be against the mandatory system.
Then there is what I might call a second school of thought on the question of the mandatory system, and that is the school of thought of the plain man who calls a spade a spade, and when he speaks about a mandatory really means a mandatory; and on the other hand, when he hears other people speaking about a mandatory, really imagines that they mean a mandatory. A mandatory, of course, is simply an agent, and his relation with the mandatory Power is simply that of principal and agent. There is no relation of life which is looked upon with more tender affection by lawyers than the relation of principal and agent. There is no relation that bristles more with opportunities of friction and opportunities of every kind of disagreement than the relation between principal and agent, and if there is anything in the relation of a mandate or an agency, it means that the principal has the right to call the agent to account, to interfere with his control, to say, "Give an account of your stewardship," and, if necessary, to revoke the mandate altogether and give it to someone else. If that is the position—and it is a position that could logically be taken up by any Power which had another subordinate Power calling itself a mandatory—certainly that would be looked upon by the British Empire as a very great betrayal of its interests indeed. Everybody knows, and it has been often said, that we did not go into this War to make profit, but as we have come out of the War now we have earned the right to look upon the profit and loss account of the War. The loss of the War is a matter that we can see with the naked eye. The profit of the War at present consists in the claim for indemnity, and we were glad to hear the Prime Minister say to-night 210 that that claim will be urged and pressed forward. But it is in a somewhat uncertain position. Further than that, the profit of the War consists of those territories which have been conquered by our fighting men and are at present occupied under the British Crown. After all our sacrifices we have every right, by the moral right of the Power which has conquered, the right of the Power that can best govern and best administer these new dominions, to claim that these dominions ought to be permanently attached to the British Dominions, and attached not by the shadowy tie of mandatory. Why, for instance, should German South-West Africa be attached to the Union of South Africa? Because it is natural and because it is best for German South-West Africa, best for South Africa, and best for the British Empire. How can that be if South-West Africa, while it is attempting to be made part of the Union of South Africa, is at the same time tied by this illusive tie of the League of Nations, and held under it by the title of mandatory? The whole position would be most unsatisfactory, most illogical, and quite absurd.
We have come out of this War, in which we have made the very greatest sacrifices, and we see various rations putting in their reasonable claim for reasonable extension of territory, and for reasonable extension of power as a result of the War. The United States of America has come out of this War as a creditor of the whole world. She has made tremendous profit out of the War. Greece will get extension of territory. Serbia will get extension of territory. Italy will get extension of territory. France will get extension of territory. Is it to be said of Great Britain that she is to have nothing, or perhaps nothing, out of this War, and that no material asset is to remain to her except the great load of our debt and the graves of our dead, and beyond that, perhaps, the shadowy title of mandatory to the League of Nations? We trust to the Government to urge our case strongly at the Peace Conference. This is a matter of the very gravest importance to our Empire. If it is necessary to quarrel with any Power, do not let us quarrel with our own Dominions. Do not let us quarrel with our own children. Let our foes not be the people of our own household. The Government should go forward perfectly fearlessly in this matter. They have a perfect right and title to go forward, and behind them is the almost unanimous de- 211 sire of the British Empire and the vital interest of our great Dominions across the seas.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
The hon. Member has made an able and interesting speech, and if I do not follow him in his line of argument it is not because I do not sympathise with him, but because I doubt whether the method he has selected is the best means of carrying out what is desired. I think the House is indebted to the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Colonel W. Guinness) for raising this discussion. He has given the Government an opportunity of hearing a good deal of the opinion of their own countrymen in regard to the Peace Conference, and I dare say that what has been said will have some results in the deliberations of the Conference. The first question on which I should like to speak is in reference to Poland. I take that as my first subject, because in any attitude that the representatives of this country may take up at the Conference they ought to have leading principles, and the first is that every nation, small or great, should get the Government it wants.
I see no hope for the future of Europe unless the map is so reshaped and the principle of nationality is so thoroughly recognised that we shall have destroyed the temptations for Governments again to change the map of Europe. I am old enough to remember the last Franco-German war, and I am proud to think that I was one of the minority who at that time thought that Germany was committing not only a crime, but a blunder, in annexing Alsace-Lorraine against the will of its people. I thought then—and events have justified my anticipation—that the seizure of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany would so poison relations in Europe as to ultimately lead to another war. As I have mentioned Alsace-Lorraine, may I say that I hope the Government will refuse the impudent demand that there should be a so-called plebiscite in Alsace-Lorraine. Everybody knows what Alsace and Lorraine want. Through nearly half a century they have resisted every form of pressure put upon them—military pressure, Governmental pressure, bureaucratic pressure—and all the time France has been silent because France could not give Germany any excuse to renew the attack upon her. Alsace-Lorraine has resisted pressure for nearly half a century, and the verdict of Alsace- 212 Lorraine was given in the enthusiastic welcome that her people extended to the French authorities and the French soldiers. There is no ground whatver for a plebiscite in Alsace-Lorraine. The question is settled, and settled for ever.
The first guiding principle of our representatives at the Peace Conference should be the recognition of the principle of nationality. I am not going to preach eternal warfare on Germany. I do not think that is business or morals, but I do think we are perfectly entitled, always subject to the recognition of the principle of nationality, to build up against Germany a series of States that will make a repetition of her crime impossible. I do not know any case in which it is more clear what the policy should be than the case of Poland. Bethmann-Hollweg said a year or two before the War, as a justification for the policy for which he made himself responsible, that there was a struggle in Europe between Deustchtum and Slavtum—between the Germans and the Slavs. That was part of his false philosophy, the falsity of which has cost the world so much blood to undo: the false philosophy that the world should be divided among those nations who govern and those nations who obey, whereas, of course, the true philosophy is that each nation should govern itself and live at peace with others. But, accepting the principle of Bethmann-Hollweg, I insist that it is our interest and our duty to see that the great Slav world shall be so strengthened as to be a buffer against Germany in either her Eastern or Western aggressions. That means a strong Poland.
I do not take a very optimistic view of the present situation of the Continent of Europe from the military and other points of view. Is it or is it not a fact that the Germans have concentrated in Eastern Prussia a large number of troops under the redoubtable Hindenburg? If Germany has collected a large number of troops under one of its greatest and most powerful generals, it must be with an object. What is the object? The Polish part of Prussia is as much part of the new Poland that will have to be created as the Austrian or Russian parts of Poland, and it would be disloyal to our own principles and to the people of Poland if we do not equally insist that all Polish land which has been in either Austrian or Prussian hands shall be secured for the Polish nation. If that be 213 so, what is the meaning of these troops being there? It means that at the back of the German militarist mind, still possessing more power even in a republican Germany than we realise, there is still an idea that by Force, and owing to our unwillingness to enter into a new struggle, they may be able, so to speak, to jump the claim in East Prussia and keep that part of the land of Poland in the hands of Prussia. They must not be allowed to do so.
That leads me to another point in the relations between the new Poland and Prussia. Everybody who has studied the history of Germany will know that she had two methods of pressure. One was military and the other was commercial. Austria, the obedient slave and ally of Germany, bad exactly the same methods. When Austria wanted to squeeze Serbia she did not require to send military forces there. All she had to do was to raise the tariff against Serbian pigs, and as the pigs wore the greatest article of export from Serbia, Austria in this way was able to declare as effective a war against Serbia as if she had sent an army against her. What will be the position of Poland if, placed between Russia and Prussia, she is left at the mercy of the Prussian tariff pressure? Her political liberties will be destroyed by her commercial slavery, and the only safeguard against that oppression and strangling of Poland would be to give Poland an outlet to the sea. What is that outlet to be? Geography and history point to Danzig as the city which must be the port of Poland. Danzig is claimed as a Germancity. I do not think that the claim is historically strong. Danzig was for a long period in the hands of Poland, a great deal of its population is Polish, and many of the people in Danzig who speak German speak German after the Polish fashion, and if we do not secure Danzig as a port for Poland the liberty which we profess to give Poland will be a liberty which will leave her still at the mercy of Germany. If we leave Poland at the mercy of Germany, we will remove one of the greatest protections of the peace of Europe and against further aggression on the part of Prussia all over the East of Europe. If I were a member of the Peace Conference, representing this country, I would be guided by the principle of building up always, of course in accordance with the principle of nationality, the very strongest States I could establish, because every 214 one of these States in my opinion will be a guardian of Europe against attempts in future on the part of Germany to establish domination by military and commercial force.
Coming to Greece, though we remember the trouble that Greek classes gave us in our schoolboy days, we must all have the keenest sympathy with the desire of the Greeks to establish, as far as possible, the ancient glories of their race. Greece has strong claims to the littoral of Asia Minor. For this reason, the littoral of Asia Minor goes back to the very foundations, not merely of historic, but almost of prehistoric times. I believe that Smyrna is regarded as having the best claim among the sever towns which dispute the honour of having been the birthplace of Homer. Smyrna was called all through the period of Turkish domination an infidel city, because it was known to be a Greek city, and I cannot understand any other nation in Europe, especially a nation which has suffered from disunion, standing in the way of the claims of Greece to the littoral of Asia Minor, nor can I understand any opposition to the claim of Greece to have under her control the large Greek population of Thrace. The Dodekanese are still under Turkish control. Everyone who has studied the subject knows that in every one of these islands 100 per cent. of the population is Greek. There is a small number of Mussulmen on some of these islands, but these are people of Greek race who speak the Greek tongue, but who, under the influence of Mahomedan tyranny, lapsed from their religion. I cannot understand how any nation, especially any representatives of this nation, can refrain from insisting that the Dodekanese shall all be restored. I do not want to say anything about the Epirus, because an hon. Friend of mine holds such strong views in regard to the claims of Albania, that I do not like to offend him, but I may say this, that everybody in Greece knows that some of the greatest Greek statesmen, including some of the present Ministry come from Epirus, and are Greek by tongue and by blood, and I think that the case will require a great deal of argument to have the claim refuted.
In regard to what the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has said about the colonies and the management of the colonies, I have said, and I say it again, that I do not think that Germany should 215 not get those colonies back on strategical grounds. I must say I have a fundamental suspicion of arguments that are founded on strategical grounds. I remember it used to be said that Bismarck was opposed to the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine. Bismarck was a man of brutal policy, but he was a man of genius, and if he had survived and remained in power I do not think we should have had the extraordinary folly of the gentleman who took his place, and who has never done anything to the detriment of Germany that Bismarck did not forecast. Because anyone knows, who read his views immediately after his dismissal and his memoirs, that Bismarck, although his policy was brutal, was a statesman, and I believe, in his heart of hearts, he had his doubts as to the wisdom of taking Alsace-Lorraine. But then came along the soldier Moltke who said, "Metz must be taken from France, because Metz is a great fortress and is worth a hundred thousand soldiers"; but they have spent the lives of millions of Germans unsuccessfully in order to defend a city equal to a hundred thousand men. That shows you with what distrust you must take these arguments from the point of view of strategy. That is not the reason why I object to Germany having the colonies. I put it on higher and more rational grounds, and I daresay the hon. Member and I will agree. I think the treatment tinder German rule of the natives of these colonies, the horrors, the slaughter, the spirit of oppression and militarism which existed in these colonies disentitles Germany to have one of them ever again. That being so, the question arises, to which the hon. Gentleman so emphatically referred. Who is to get them and how they are to be got? As we understand, from the somewhat sparse accounts of the Conference rather too sparse, I venture with all respect to think; it is no use talking of the evils of secret diplomacy if this great nation is not allowed to see something of what her Plenipotentiaries are doing in the Peace Conference in France—the colonies are to be given to mandatory Powers, and that is the point which the hon. Gentleman, so sharply criticised. But I do not think anybody has much doubt as to who the mandatory will be. I cannot imagine our great Dominions being refused the right to have those colonies, which are at their very doors, which are part of their natural sphere, 216 and which, in enemy or in alien hands, might be a peril to their security. But here is the point I would make. In this wicked world everybody and every nation is suspected, this nation not the least of all. I am sure that the old tradition of Perfide Albron is dying out, except in a neighbouring Isle. We have gone into the War in defence of right, and we must be very careful that our claim is subject to no suspicion. If in utter disregard for the opinion of other nations, and of the recommendations of as powerful a friend as President Wilson we insisted on taking these, colonies, I am afraid we should subject ourselves to a great deal of suspicion. I think our position will be not weaker but stronger if we go into these colonies as the mandatory of the combined wisdom of all the nations that joined with us in fighting the battle of freedom. Therefore I do not take quite the same view with regard to the mandatory as does the hon. Gentleman.
I regret to have heard the tone of such acrid criticism as was made use of in some of the speeches with regard to the League of Nations. I regret the tone of some of the allusions to President Wilson. I regret still more the tone of some of the newspapers of the country with regard to President Wilson. I do not think they are good manners. I do not think they are good business. I do not think they are good policy. Whatever we may think as to certain pointy in President Wilson's proposals, I believe to-day that the masses of every nation in Europe, of England, of France and of Italy, look to him as the great leader of the plain people in their desire to have a just and peaceful world in the future. What I put to all these critics of the League of Nations is this: Ten millions of human beings, mostly in the flower of life, have died. France has lost a third of her manhood; we, in these Islands, have lost some of the best and bravest of our race. What I want to ask is, can any man contemplate all that precious blood being shed in vain? Will not that blood have been shed in vain unless we have some guarantee of security andorganisation to prevent the recurrence of such a hideous tragedy as that of the last four and a half years? Is there any method of producing that except by a League of Nations? I admit that before we get to the second stage we ought to have the first. I agree that the Powers who fought together for the liberty of the world ought to remain together as long as that liberty 217 is threatened, and I believe the union in heart and in spirit, as well as in words, of England, France, Italy, and America, and of all the other Powers that have fought this War together against Germany and Austria, is the beat security for peace for some time to come. Nobody has a right to use a word that might menace the close co-operation between these Powers, and I cannot help feeling that the rather rancourous criticism I have seen, not only of the policy but of the personality and convictions of President Wilson is not helping towards keeping these Powers together. It is very easy to pick holes in the principle of the League of Nations. But I repeat, if we have not a League of Nations, what guarantee have we that in ten, fifteen, or in twenty years time we shall not have a recurrence of the hideous and terrible sacrifice of the best lives of is very nation in the world. Of course, I must qualify that statement. In the past few days I know there has been a great deal of anxiety in France, and I have profound sympathy with the anxiety of France. She has lost one-third of her manhood. Her losses have been greater than the losses of any other nation in this War. After all, America is remote from Germany. To a lesser degree, but to some degree we are remote from Germany, far more remote from Germany than France. France always has this tiger on her frontier, and she knows, by all her tragic experience in the past, that if the new Germany be anything like the old Germany, the tiger will spring on her back at the first moment she has an opportunity of doing so. Therefore I made great allowance for any criticism of a League of Nations or any other proposal at the peace Conference which does not seem to give France the most absolute guarantee for her future safety against aggression on the part of Germany. I want to make the best of the new Germany. I believe that a Republican Germany will be different from the Imperial Germany. Whatever may be the nature of the individual German, I have not the smallest doubt that democratic institutions in that country will produce a very differen spirit among the people from that servile spirit which obtained under the reign of the Kaiser. But we must take guarantees. There are signs that some of the German people are yet unconverted. The Hindenburg's, the Ludendorf's, the Bernhardi's, and that gang will remain till the end of their days, and we must take 218 adequate precaution against their ever having an opportunity of again plunging Europe into war. But why attempt to disparage the policy of the League of Nations? I think President Wilson has made great sacrifices, in leaving his own country and taking all the risks to his great reputation (which is very high, among his countrymen) in coming into a Conference in which, after all, he is only one man and has to meet the best intellects of Europe. I have the honour of knowing him, and I am sure that only one thought could have brought him from Washington, and that is that he regarded it as in his power, and therefore as his duty, to open up a new and better chapter in the history of mankind.
To which nations can we confidently look as the best guarantors of that new world which is to be the outcome of the League of Nations—as the best guarantors of effective resistance to militarism? My own opinion is we can look most of all to the two great English-speaking nations, and unless we can keep the British Empire and the Republic of the United States well together, not merely now but in the future, the League of Nations will turn out to be an empty dream. I have visited the United States on six occasions. I want to speak quite candidly. I do not think the maintenance of permanent good relations and of a good understanding between America and the British Empire is an easy task. There is not an American of middle age to-day who was not taught in his school the history of the struggle between this coin try and his own at the time of the Revolution, and there will be many recollections of that struggle which excite resentment even to-day. The influences which bear fruit in youth often remain permanently through men's lives. There are certain temperamental differences also between the two nations. There are certain rivalries, and in my opinion the most tactful men in both America and England, the most farsighted, the most prudent, will have all their work cut out to maintain the good relations which ought to exist not merely for the good of Great Britain and America, but in the interests of the future peace of the world. I do not know whether our papers are wise in keeping from us information with regard to what goes on in America. For instance, I saw only the other day that in the American House of Representatives a resolution was carried calling upon the Peace Conference to con- 219 sider the claim of Ireland for independence. Why do our newspapers keep this information from us? Is it wise or businesslike? Is it becoming to the good sense of a practical nation like the English? I could say a good deal about this, but perhaps it would not be unfair to do so in a discussion which is dealing with the larger question of the Peace Conference. I do pray every Member of this House to approach this question of the relations between England and America and of the future of Ireland as part of a great Imperial problem and to try and lift their minds above petty considerations which are calculated to keep Ireland and England apart and at the same time to keep Great Britain and the United States apart.
§ Colonel GUINNESS
I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question again proposed.